Quick Round Up

Only one post in three weeks. Mentioned I’d enjoyed a weekend in Austin, TX, then spent the whole of the following week in Vegas (well Henderson, NV actually) at a conference – worst place on the planet IMHO, anyway …

Spent one day in New York on the trip home. My first, so I just spent the day walking the streets orienting myself. Starting early morning at Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, up the Empire State, Broadway, Columbus Circle, Central Park, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Hudson River, World Trade Center site, Brooklyn Bridge, The Bridge Cafe, Wall Steet, Battery Park, Staten Island Ferry, and the subway back up to Penn Station, and home to Oslo via Newark.

I was sick for a day or two on the return home, which was a shame because we had vistors this past week. After a few days of rain in Oslo, we drove over to Bergen for a couple of days. Bright clear warm weather worked out fine to see Hardangervidda and Hardangerfjord on the way over and Sognefjord on the way back – many of the lakes still substantially frozen, but lots of meltwater already swelling the many waterfalls. A good break.

Managed to complete Don Quixote (Smollett’s 1760’s translation of Cervantes 1610’s original) Volume 2 in the process. [Previously here.] The thousand pages of slapstick and masqued anecdotes amuses to the end, returning home to die. The knight was often misguided but his aim always true, the whole thrust being to question which is reality and which madness. Sancho Panza gets it; when logic fails, the question is “What is good?”

“Senor, a large river separated two districts of one and the same lordship–will your worship please to pay attention, for the case is an important and a rather knotty one? Well then, on this river there was a bridge, and at one end of it a gallows, and a sort of tribunal, where four judges commonly sat to administer the law which the lord of river, bridge and the lordship had enacted, and which was to this effect, ‘If anyone crosses by this bridge from one side to the other he shall declare on oath where he is going to and with what object; and if he swears truly, he shall be allowed to pass, but if falsely, he shall be put to death for it by hanging on the gallows erected there, without any remission.’ Though the law and its severe penalty were known, many persons crossed, but in their declarations it was easy to see at once they were telling the truth, and the judges let them pass free. It happened, however, that one man, when they came to take his declaration, swore and said that by the oath he took he was going to die upon that gallows that stood there, and nothing else. The judges held a consultation over the oath, and they said, ‘If we let this man pass free he has sworn falsely, and by the law he ought to die; but if we hang him, as he swore he was going to die on that gallows, and therefore swore the truth, by the same law he ought to go free.’ It is asked of your worship, senor governor, what are the judges to do with this man? For they are still in doubt and perplexity; and having heard of your worship’s acute and exalted intellect, they have sent me to entreat your worship on their behalf to give your opinion on this very intricate and puzzling case.”

[ …. ]

“Look here, my good sir,” said Sancho; “either I’m a numskull or else there is the same reason for this passenger dying as for his living and passing over the bridge; for if the truth saves him the falsehood equally condemns him; and that being the case it is my opinion you should say to the gentlemen who sent you to me that as the arguments for condemning him and for absolving him are exactly balanced, they should let him pass freely, as it is always more praiseworthy to do good than to do evil; this I would give signed with my name if I knew how to sign; and what I have said in this case is not out of my own head, but one of the many precepts my master Don Quixote gave me the night before I left to become governor of this island, that came into my mind, and it was this, that when there was any doubt about the justice of a case I should lean to mercy; and it is God’s will that I should recollect it now, for it fits this case as if it was made for it.”

“That is true,” said the majordomo; “and I maintain that Lycurgus himself, who gave laws to the Lacedemonians, could not have pronounced a better decision than the great Panza has given; let the morning’s audience close with this, and I will see that the senor governor has dinner entirely to his liking.”

(PS This quoted text actually from John Ormsby’s 1880’s text in the Project Gutenberg edition.)

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