Monthly Archives: March 2004

1,000 Year Old Apology for Drunken Behaviour

I’m reading a book about archaeological expeditions in central Asia at the moment called “Foreign Devils on the Silk Road,” primarily because I’ve been spending a lot of time at work lately preparing the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive for delivery via ARTstor, and it’s interesting to find out some of the background behind the material.

Basically the story behind these artifacts is not far from being a real-life version of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones; around the turn of the last century, sundry European adventurers were running around Central Asia excavating ancient sand-covered settlements in various inhospitable deserts (such as the Taklamakan, Lop and Gobi deserts), bribing the locals and shipping back crates of ancient manuscripts, paintings, sculptures and frescoes to museums in Europe, India and Russia.

By far the most famous and controversial haul was that made by Sir Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born British archaeologist who, among many other notable exploits, managed to smuggle out of China the entire library of manuscripts — some 500 cubic feet — from the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas” in Dunhuang, China. To this day, Stein is held by the Chinese in the same regard as Lord Elgin is held by the Greeks.

Apparently, one of the many manuscripts he brought back is a 1,000 year-old “model letter” for an apology to a host for drunken behaviour at a social function, which I found amusing:

“Yesterday, having drunk too much, I was so intoxicated as to pass all bounds; but none of the rude and coarse language I used was uttered in a conscious state. The next morning, after hearing others speak on the subject, I realized what had happened, whereupon I was overwhelmed with confusion and ready to sink into the ground with shame…”

The model letter also provides a helpful template for the host’s response:

Yesterday, Sir, while in your cups, you so far overstepped the observances of polite society as to forfeit the name of gentleman, and made me wish to have nothing more to do with you. But since you now express your shame and regret for what has occurred, I would suggest that we meet again for a friendly talk…”

Anyway, it’s not exactly a blockbuster read, but here’s a filthy lucre link to the book at Amazon anyway:

Top Whistle Blower

Lots of interesting revelations coming out of the publication of Richard Clarke’s new book, Against All Enemies… Basically he’s saying that the Bush administration, far from being “tough” on terrorism, were actually doing very little prior to 9/11:

“Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know. . . I think the way he has responded to al-Qaeda, both before 9/11 by doing nothing, and by what he’s done after 9/11 has made us less safe, absolutely. I think he’s done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.”

From an interview on “60 Minutes,” CBS, 21 March 2004

This is top-quality whistle-blowing which could cause serious damage to the Bush administration; Dick Clarke has been a senior terrorism advisor to 4 successive adminstrations, stretching right back past Daddy Bush to Reagan!

Of course, the Bush administration is now busily engaged in trying to rubbish his allegations, which suggests they’re feeling very ruffled by all this unwanted attention on their pre-9/11 ineptitude. There’s also a great interview where Clarke describes Cheney as an “attack dog” in Salon.

Incidentally, I discovered from Channel 4’s excellent Snowmail service that the Madrid train bombings occurred on 11 March 2004, which in the U.S. could be written as 3/11, and which is exactly 911 days after 9/11!

A Rum Business…

Finally it seems as though Rumsfeld’s lies and duplicity are starting to catch up with him, and his trademark bombastic demeanour is starting to crumble — check out this classic excerpt from Face the Nation on’s website, showing him flailing and backtracking after being stitched up like a kipper for talking out of his arse.

And don’t forget to click the “Tell Congress to Censure Bush” link at the end of the video.

Music Links

A couple of music links to post today…

Just been tipped off about Broken Beat Radio, a “nu jazz and broken beat mix show based in Philadelphia.” Haven’t listened to it much so far, but it currently features a set by Patrick Forge, so that’s good enough for me.

Secondly, my pal Zo? Keating, who is a member of the cello band Rasputina in addition to being a talented solo cello musician, has had an article written about her in something called Tastes Like Chicken.

Funny Links

I’ve been sent links to some very funny websites recently.

The first, from my friend Paul Facer in the UK, is a story about a guy who managed to scam a “419” scammer. If you’ve used e-mail for more than the last 20 minutes or so, you’ll have experienced the 419 scam; it’s when you get a spam e-mail from someone in Nigeria (and it’s always Nigeria) who claims to have a vast sum of money, and they need YOUR help to get it out of the country, because they’ve heard how honest and trustworthy you are. I can’t believe that anybody actually falls for these scams, but apparently it’s something like the 4th biggest industry in Nigeria, and the fact that I get a steady stream of them indicates that they must work. Anyway, here’s a funny story about a guy who scammed a 419 scammer.

The second one is a commercial website that sells anti-motivational products that are parodies of motivational products; you know those cheesy posters with a picture of a mountain climber or an eagle or something, and some kind of positive motivational message underneath? Anyway, check out, especially the “demotivators” product line. Pure genius. Thanks to Scyld Bowring for pointing me to that one.

Bite Correction

I got my teeth cleaned today, and thanks to my dentist Cheryl Tomasulo (who I’ve just Googled and discovered is a well-known sexpot dentist), I was able to see a Dr Gary Ruth, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, just a few hours later. That certainly beats waiting another 2 weeks for the previous appointment I’d made.

Apparently part of my upper jaw has dropped down a millimetre or two as a result of the maxillary fractures (see below), and has now started to set in a position where I have a “maloccluded bite.” According to Dr Ruth, this condition is “not compatible with life,” and needs to be sorted. I couldn’t agree more.

So, now I have to go back and have “bite correction,” which, in addition to sounding a bit like an S&M activity, also sounds like it might be both painful, time-consuming and expensive.

Broken Face

I finally got the results of the CT (Computerized Tomography, a true marvel of modern science) scan of my facial bones on Monday, after getting banged up in a snowboarding collision about a month ago (see St Valentine’s Day Massacre, blog passim).

It turns out my maxilla, which is part of my skull and which my top row of teeth are attached to, has multiple internal fractures. although fortunately they are not LeFort Fractures (LeFort was a French physician who studied facial injuries by dropping heavy objects on cadaver skulls!).

Also, my right sinus is full of some very unpleasant-sounding gunk. Here are some excerpts from the CT scan report:

“There is depression of the right malar eminence in association with evidence for remote comminuted fracture of the posterolateral wall of the right maxillary sinus. There is slight overriding of the fracture fragments. A significantly less striking depressed fracture of the anterior wall of the right maxillary sinus is also evident without overriding of the fracture fragments.”

“Extensive abnormal mucosal thickening is present in the right maxillary sinus in association with extensive mucosal disease in maxillary sinus ostium and ethmoid infundibulum. Soft tissue window settings demonstrate marked hyperdensity within the central portion of the sinus suggesting inspissated secretions and/or saprophytic fungus.”

Both the fractures and the clogged-up sinus can be clearly seen in these CT scans. I’ve highlighted the fractures in yellow (click on the thumbnail for a bigger version; about 160kb):

Amazingly, Dr Zimbler (I found out today that he’s a plastic surgeon!) said that there’s no need for surgery or any further action; the bones and the damaged nerves will eventually heal, my sinus will eventually drain (gross!) and there are no cosmetic requirements since I look completely normal.

The only remaining problem I have is a “maloccluded bite” — my teeth don’t close together properly — so I have to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

And buy a snowboarding helmet.

Miami Vice

I flew straight from Chicago to Miami Beach last friday, to spend a very entertaining weekend with Stuart and Andrew, two old friends that I’ve known since we were at High Storrs school together in Sheffield in 1982. Stuart now lives in Miami Beach, and was a perfect host for the weekend. Miami Beach itself was extremely busy, since it was not only the beginning of the spring break weekend but also coincided with the 2004 Winter Music Conference, which meant that the whole area was full of people and parties.