Saturday, May 14, 2011

And now for a little whining

O.K., things are serious here. First of all, I'm not eating properly. I'm so sick of eating, period, of having to eat every three hours, of having to endlessly think of things to eat -- of not being able to think of anything new that I want to go to the trouble of preparing, so endlessly eating the same hamburger-patty-rice-green-vegetable, or pork-chop-rice-green vegetable, or baked-fish-rice-green-vegetable, or soup-with-turkey-sandwich meal -- endlessly going to the grocery store, cooking, cleaning up. So I've all but stopped doing it. Pretty much living on McDonald's double quarter pounders with-cheese-but-without-onions these days, with the occasional sausage and pepperoni pizza thrown in. I do like hamburgers and pizza, but obviously these are not good as a steady diet. Expensive, for one thing, add to the growing weight problem for another (also not good for your health, but I'm less concerned with that). Also consuming large amounts of cookies, bagels, candy, corn chips, and coffee, to keep my energy level up. For someone with hypoglycemia (actually, for anybody), not good.

Then there's my wrist, which has been hurting for over four months, without getting any better. I was also having problems with pain in my neck/right shoulder/arm, but the chiropractor I've been seeing for about two months has helped considerably with those areas. However, her "adjustments" and "therapies" haven't touched the painful wrist, except, possibly, to make it worse. I am apparently suffering from a fairly severe case of carpal tunnel syn-drome. For someone who spends as much time as I do at a computer, both at work and at home, this is a real drag.

I finally called my doctor -- who isn't a doctor at all, but a physician's assistant, because the two previous doctors I had at the health center where I go left, to be replaced by... not another doctor...a physician's assistant. (I tried to get switched to one of the two doctors remaining at the center, but both had too many patients already. Definitely a doctor shortage in beautiful, rural Maine.) -- anyway, I finally called my "primary health care provider," and asked for a referral to a physical therapist, for the wrist. That was a couple of weeks ago. When I went in this past Monday to have some blood work done I learned that nothing at all had been done about my request, which really ticked me off. The referrals lady was properly embarrassed by this negligence on their part, and scam-pered to make the necessary calls, so now I do at least have an appointment for next week, though first I have to have a test to deter-mine if I really do have carpal tunnel syndrome (having all the usual symptoms doesn't seem to suffice).

Dealing with constant pain, as all of you out there who have had to do so know, completely colors your outlook. It's distracting, when you're trying to do the things you need/ want to do -- indeed, it can prevent you from doing those things -- and trying to ignore it and "get on with your life" is physically and psychically draining.

And I have virtually no energy, to a large extent, no doubt, because of my current terrible eating habits, and I'm finding it difficult to force myself to do all those mundane things we all have to do -- like get up in the morning, cook, wash dishes, wash clothes, do my checkbook, get my snow tires removed (no, still haven't done that)...and write postings for my blog. My heart just isn't in it. My heart doesn't seem to be "in" much of anything just now, so to spare my readers endless negativity, I think I may take a little break from blogging for a while. Until "things" look up some.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bad guys and tarnished heroes

So, two men in the news lately. The Evil One, Osama bin Laden, whose death caused dancing in the streets here in the U.S., vows of revenge by the fanatical Muslims who, like him, believe the only good American is a dead Amer-ican. We have to be thankful to al-Qeada, though, for independently confirming his death.

I myself did not jump up and down with joy at the news of his death. The expression "grim satisfaction" comes more to mind. Being jubilant about anyone's death seems inappro-priate. The man deserved to die, and at American hands -- simple justice -- and that has been accomplished. But I feel the same way I feel when an American serial killer is put to death (and I am the rare liberal who is in favor of the death penalty, for such cases); I am glad he has received his just reward; I am not "happy."

Besides which, I'm skeptical that his death will make all that much difference in our never-ending War on Terrorism. Still lots of bad guys out there, who think there's nothing wrong with killing innocent people. Someone else will certainly step up to the leadership plate, no doubt someone who does not have to hide out in his bedroom for years on end.

And then there's Greg Mortenson. This is one of the two men I listed as "people who inspire me," on my Facebook page (the other being Gandhi). Even put a link to the organization he founded, Central Asia Institute (CAI), here on my blog, since I thought its mission of building schools in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan was a good one, worthy of support. Like so many other people I was deeply impressed with Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea, that told the story of how building schools in these undeveloped areas came to be his "life's work."

But now, thanks to 60 Minutes, and a strangely vehement John Krakauer, we learn that a number of incidents related in that book were either exaggerated, or simply not true. Likewise some of the claims made by the CAI -- such as the number of schools that it has built and continues to support -- are apparently untrue. And the accounting practices of the organization have been called into question.

I still believe Mortenson has done a lot of good -- even his apparent greatest enemy, Krakauer (who at one time was a big contributor to the CAI) admits that -- but the fact that he has tweaked the truth in a non-fiction book is a dark mark against him. He wrote Three Cups of Tea with a professional writer -- which he was not -- and I wouldn't be surprised if he was encouraged to alter the absolute facts in the interest of "drama." But if this was the case, it was foolish of him to consent. In the reply he made in writing to the questions 60 Minutes had for him (which can be read on CAI's web site), he said that some of the information "was a compressed version of events." My goodness, what does that mean? A non-fiction book needs to be what we librarians tell kids they are: true stories.

The fact that he would not respond to the inquiries of 60 Minutes, until virtually forced to, by the airing of the damning segment, is another black mark. The clip on that program that showed him being approached by represen-tatives of the show, at one of his book signings (because, they said, he had failed to return their calls, and this seemed to be the only way to make contact with him) did not put him in a good light at all. Instead of saying, "OK, gentlemen, I'm in the middle of a book-signing here; if you'll wait a few minutes I'll be glad to meet with you"...and then doing that, he had Security called, to boot them out of the place, cancelled his afternoon talk, and left the hotel. Pretty darn suspicious behavior, if he had nothing to hide.

I am less concerned about the supposed financial impro-prieties. Mortensen did not start building schools to get rich, and as the CAI web site points out, in its response to questions from 60 Minutes, he has donated large sums to the Institute, and he worked for several years for no pay at all. I had thought it was strange that Mortenson should have a separate web site from the Institute's. His site concentrates on his speaking engagement calendar. Now it turns out that all the money from his speaking tours and book sales goes to him, not to the Institute. The Institute, in his defense, has said that these speaking tours, his books, directly help the cause by producing donations from the public. I'm sure that's true, but I hope the current bruhaha encourages them to change this particular way of doing business. A portion of the income from speaking engagements and book sales should automatically go to the Institute, not just what Mortenson chooses to donate.

And here the man is in poor health, with a hole in his heart, major surgery impending. It never rains but it pours. I personally want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I still support his cause. A friend of mine has called into question the wisdom of educating children in these areas, believing that they are indoctrinated from birth in a belief in Mohammed's Koran which commands them to "break the cross and kill the infidels." He thinks a modern education would only make them more dangerous. But I don't buy that all Muslim children in that part of the world are inculcated from birth with a burning hatred of America and Americans. The families in these communities where the schools are being built just want to live their lives in peace and security, like most families everywhere. And having schools (which they want) built with the help of Americans, can only improve their attitude toward us.

On the CAI's web site a lot of people have made statements disputing some of the material presented on 60 Minutes, and supporting Mortenson and his charity. Let's hope they prove to be more right than his accusers. I'd hate to be reduced to only one person who has inspired me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The silver lining

I just returned from a pleasant walk through my lovely neighborhood. I mentioned in my last posting that, as of last Monday, April 21st, spring still had not really arrived in Maine. However, by the time I returned home Wednesday evening -- or more precisely, by the next morning, when I looked out my window -- the grass had turned a deep emerald green, trees and shrubbery were budding, some flowering bushes were even in bloom. And this weekend we at last had warm, sunny days, and now the smiling, sunny faces of daffodils are appearing in many flower beds. At last, at last.

So, some of the positive aspects of my trip to New York. Breakfast the next morning, which just about made up for the disappointing dinner the night before. Especially since it was free. This was because the young people who had checked me in, besides misleading me about the caliber of the cafe, had convinced me to sign up for the Priority Club. "It doesn't cost anything," they said, "and you get all these neat coupons." One of those coupons was for a free breakfast. So I had an excellent breakfast "skillet" -- diced potatoes, green peppers, onions, sausage and bacon bits, topped with scrambled eggs -- along with a pot of hot tea, for nothing. And because there was so much left over, I had the waitress box it up for me; and into my travel cooler it went. That tasty mixture livened up my scrambled eggs next morning, when I made my own breakfast at my friends' house where I had stayed the night, and again on the morning after I returned home. Not bad, for no cost.

Then there was the pleasant, sunny drive from Oneonta to the little town of Gilbertsville, fifteen miles away, where I would again be doing genealogical research at the tiny, adorable stone library there. [See Note of July 16 2010 for my experiences at this library on my last trip.] I was reminded as I drove how much I love this part of the country. I love my Maine, love living there, but bucolic Otsego County, New York has second place in my heart. The tree-covered hills, the little valleys with their fields, the handsome, well-kept farms, the pretty little towns with the big old trees and the big old houses. It never ceases to amaze me that my great-great grandfather, William Cole, left this place, and his family, which was apparently quite close, to live in steamy hot south Texas.

And my research turned up some fascinating new infor-mation about William. I spent most of my time reading through the diary of William's mother, which I discovered last trip. This time what I found was that William (called Willie by his mother) was there, in Gilbertsville -- or more accurately on his parents' farm, out in the country -- May-Sept. 1871. Well, his daughter, my great-grandmother, Ann Willie Cole, was born in April of that year! And not in New York, but in Refugio Co., TX. So it would seem there were problems in the relationship of the young married couple. They had been married for only two years, and there William is, back at home. He returned to Texas in Sept., after he had "packed the big trunk," and gone to pay a goodbye visit to all his married sisters. His mother reports, on Sept. 13: "R [her husband] took Willie to the stage this morning. O how hard to part with him again." And that was the last time she saw him; the following March she received a letter from "Willie's wife" that he had died. He was only 25. Everyone's life is a story.

A big positive of the trip was being able to spend the evening visiting with my friends, Kathy and Bona, an hour up the road from Gilbertsville in Binghamton. Kathy was one of my three roommates in college, and we have remained in touch over the years. I always feel so comfortable at their house -- which i refer to as the K&B Bed & Breakfast -- and it is such a pleasure to be able to enjoy interesting, stimulating conversation with like-minded people, who don't necessarily share all of your opinions, but are able to disagree with civility and good humor. This was one of the things I badly needed, in getting away. The absence of friends in my day-to-day life has become a real drag on my spirits. We all need somebody.

The trip cost more than I expected it to, and was terribly short, and tiring, but I was glad I made it. I needed it.