Saturday, November 17, 2018


Another sudden blizzard of the flying brown bugs just now. They seem to hatch right out from the height of the stifling humidity, as if the air itself had become so dense, so full, so pregnant with heat that it burst into teeming insect form. Wings litter the patio floor, swirl in the dog's water bowl, scatter on the countertop, inspiring the emergence of ant armies from their hiding spots. And the lizards scurry busily from ceiling to wall to floor--all you can eat tonight!

I wonder if trout would like these bugs. I remember how my father used to watch the lake surface and the bushes near the shore, looking to see what sorts of bugs had hatched--mosquitos or black gnats or flying ants or blue uprights--and if the fish were feeding, he'd pull in the line and tie on a similar looking fly from his tackle box. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. Sometimes the fish would just keep feeding on the hatch and ignore the fly my father had tied on the line--not to be fooled by fakes made of fluff and thread. 

"Wise little devils," he'd mutter, chewing his pipe stem. "Clever little sons-a-bitches."

Friday, November 16, 2018


Hit from behind this morning, second time in two weeks. No problem on my end, but the guy who hit me also hit the street and got a fair-sized scrape on his arm. Also broke a couple bits off his bike. There often seems a failure to note what is happening in the traffic ahead, especially in the stop and go traffic on Yeh Aya where you have heavily traveled streets feeding in. 

This came after a rough night last night. I felt for all the world like I had just taken a shot of Avonex--same flu-like myalgias from head to toe. Well, it wasn't as bad as Avonex, but still more than enough to keep one awake. Last time I looked at the clock, it was 2:30 in the morning. Finally went to sleep at some point and then dreamed that all my teeth were falling out (and woke up to find that in fact most of them long since had!). 

This is a recurrent dream for me. The psychologists say it has to do with fear of aging, of becoming less productive--losing your ability to 'fully bite into life'. Kind of a no-brainer, actually. 

So, I seem to be in an active period with MS (the disease being active, not me). My feet have gone more numb than usual and muscular pain in my neck and shoulder is more severe. Time to swallow some prednisone, I guess. Also back on the baclofen, which is helpful. 

I've run out of my frankincense, which I was using, along with hand lotion and wishful thinking, to treat my skin cancer, but Louis is now talking with a medical professional friend in Jakarta and seems to want me to go there for an operation to remove the cancer. Sounds like fun, right? 

The Cleaners

Interesting PBS documentary, The Cleaners. These are the 10s of thousands of social media platform employees who delete inappropriate material. And "inappropriate" is a very mild word for what they see--beheadings, cruelty, rape, child abuse, torture, murder. One that I found particularly chilling was a beheading with a kitchen knife.
And then you have the folks who try to rescue things before they are deleted, working against the social platform standards. Scenes from the Syrian civil war, for instance, of the bodies of children mutilated in a bombing. For them, politically, these are things that need to be seen.
Additionally, you have government representatives who relentlessly lobby the platform CEOs to suppress 'negative' (ie, truthful) material on issues in their countries. And they do eventually get their way.
In any case, it's certainly not a job I could do. Imagine watching this sort of real-life horror day after day, being immersed in the very worst side of life. How can they sleep at night? How can they forget what they've seen?
The film also points up the public appetite for outrage, and how platforms like Facebook gravitate toward the extreme--because it is lucrative. Because it inspires the involvement of more subscribers. Is it any wonder that civility has so swiftly died out?
One can't help but conclude that while the internet was ideally an amazing and useful tool, people have in fact proven themselves not at all up to dealing with the technology in a healthy manner.
"There is real evil in the world," one cleaner said. "In my job, I watch it every day."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Traffic Law

We are told today in a front page Jakarta Post article that "Lawlessness (is the) main cause of deadly road accidents in Indonesia. 

News flash, right? 

"Every year", reads the first paragraph, "at least one million new cars and at least 6 million new motorcycles hit the roads in Indonesia with the drivers having the freedom to break traffic regulations." 

That's kind of like news to me. I did not know we were free to break traffic regulations. I thought the trouble was that there is no enforcement of traffic regulations. Small point, as I guess it amounts to the same thing. 

The article explains that motorcyclists driving without helmets, driving in the wrong direction, and driving when they are not old enough to drive, as well as car drivers exceeding the speed limit and so on account for 105,000 traffic accidents a year--an average of 287 accidents per day--and 25,589 traffic related deaths, injuring a further 22,939. 

These statistics inspired the government to launch a recent traffic law enforcement operation that lasted two weeks and was dubbed "Operation Zebra". The operation showed that "the more the law is enforced, the lower the number of traffic accidents." 

Welcome to the 21st century! Who knew that the enforcement of traffic laws would decrease the number of traffic accidents? Luar biasa!

During the course of the two week trial period, it was found that far fewer traffic accidents, injuries and deaths occurred. So, if you were driving during that time, you were, statistically, safer than usual. 

At all other times, one should probably, as far as possible, avoid driving at all. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Still Hot

5 pm here in Bali and 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity factored in. Just been sitting in front of the fan all afternoon watching YouTube. The big fat brown dog has also been sacked out here all day in my son's old room. I've noticed that there is no salad making stuff left in the fridge, so will need to run out to the store once the sun goes down. Or maybe I'll just pop down to the warung and get some chicken and rice. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Christoph for coffee this morning--two people with MS living in the same neighborhood on an island where people have never heard of MS. How weird is that? We seem to have a very similar approach in regard to the disease and our attitude toward the disease.  A very nice chat with a very kind seeming man. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Stranger

7 pm in Renon, and still nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sitting naked and drippy in the backyard, waiting for that rare, delicious breath of breeze to brush across my skin. Heaven. 

Having nothing else to do, I happened to read an old movie review on Facebook, and this in turn led me to a review of another movie--I don't know why or how. Just the way Facebook works, I guess. 

This was an article from a few years ago regarding the banning of the movie Noah in Indonesia. A ridiculous response to a rather ridiculous, fanciful treatment of the Biblical story (which also, of course, appears in the Koran). But what surprised me about this article is that it was written by a certain Richard Boughton. Hey, I thought, that's me. But then again, it could not have been me, for this article seemed keenly intelligent, critically perspicacious, and did not sound like me at all. 

I noted, however, comments attached to the article from several of my friends here in Bali, and I realized that this must indeed have been me. 

I have no recollection of the thing. I cannot think now why I would have even been interested in the subject. And yet it was clear that at the time of the writing, I, or whomever I was then, was acutely engaged. 

I have met this night a stranger, and the stranger is me. 

Neon Rainbow

I remember that it began to snow in the morning before the first bell rang. Every student rushed to the long cold window to watch the big soggy flakes fall past and flutter down to the grass at street level. It was early in the season, early in December, and the snowflakes were too wet to stick. They kissed the grass briefly, then dissolved, as suddenly as dreams upon waking fly away. Nonetheless, we had our hopes. Each of us had his and her hopes and watched together for that one vigorous, high-spirited, cold-hearted flake to take hold, to linger, to join with another of like-minded ideal and thus become the first weave of a thick white bell muffling traffic stopping school terminating carpet of snow.

But there was more than this. 

We had all just come in from the cold, ears nipped by the chill and still tingling, noses pink and probably running, tennis shoes squeaking and stocking caps steaming, and there seemed something newly minted about us, fresh-baked, an unusual glimmer, a glaze.  Someone had turned on a transistor radio, allowed before the sounding of the bell, and the song playing was Neon Rainbow, by the Box Tops. 

All the people going places
Smiling with electric faces
What they find the glow erases
What they lose the glow replaces, 
And life is love ... 

And moreover, and most of all, and most importantly there was the red-haired girl, singing along to that song, my favorite song--and Ah! Hers too! Surely we were meant for each other, surely we were meant to marry someday (but how to speak? How to say such a thing?) What flurry of snow, I wondered then, could match the flurry of freckles on her face? What greater future than to count them all?

I fell in love, for the first time, that very day.

And later it rained. 

But I've never forgotten what might have been. Through all the years that have drifted down and melted away, there remains that uniquely minted moment, frozen in time, honest, true, irreproachable. 

As pure as driven snow.