Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chasing Chase

Having this unbelievably frustrating problem with Chase Bank. Been going on for weeks now. The situation is that my ATM cards expired in August. I need new cards. Seems simple, right? Well, turns out it's not simple. In fact, it seems to be impossible.

Now, there is a formula in place for requesting the cards. We must fax the bank with a signed letter of request bearing our address, phone number and etc. We did this some weeks ago. Daily emails ensued wherein they said they had received the fax, but could not send the cards because they were unable to reach the phone number listed. This can only be because they didn't really try. Friends and family in America call the number all the time.

So then they asked us to send another fax with the same information. We did so. Still (you guessed it), they cannot send the cards. They cannot reach the number. I advised that they ask their phone company what they're doing wrong, but they've apparently ignored this suggestion.

At my wit's end here. Every other day, I explain via email what they must do; every other day I receive a form letter saying that it can't be done. No cards.

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home. There's no such thing in Bali, and only a pale attempt by the local 'bule' establishments to acknowledge it for the benefit of the few American expatriates here - which is really only an attempt to make some extra money, anyway. Some of the restaurants catering to westerners offer a 'Thanksgiving Dinner', often having more to do with the European imagination and the American reality. The dishes are wrong, the spices are wrong and, most of all, the price is definitely wrong - 300,000 to 400,000 Rupiah (30-40 dollars) a plate. No thanks. I'll take the nasi campur for 12,000 and simply imagine turkey and dressing.

But Thanksgiving is, ultimately, not so much the food as it is the experience - a yearly gathering of family and friends, an occasion both familiar and new with each year. Parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, children, grandchildren; spiced punch, salted nuts, olives, pickles, sweet pickles; all the windows fogged from the from the heat of oven and stove; the basted turkey, the savory dressing, the boiling potatoes and the candied yams; the pies which wait patiently on the counter, pumpkin pie, chess pie, lemon meringue. Women rubbing shoulders, bumping together from pan to pot in the kitchen; the parade on TV, and then the football; your father's yearly argument with your uncle; the dog which is constantly in the way and doesn't care; and the call, at last, to gather at the table, the ensuing discussion regarding which seat should be whose; and, finally, elbow-to-elbow, young to old, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, father, mother, cousin, fiancĂ©, great uncle and grandfather, and somewhere, milling unseen between the shoes beneath the table,  the dog.

Gone now, and not carried on. It is a memory, almost present yet eternally irrecoverable, a story to tell oneself, marvelous and, from here on, missed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Here's a good link regarding mesothelioma and its relation to asbestos.

Check it out.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Turns Out to be Traffic

Snatching a morsel of time from the jaws of tedium to do a bit of writing in the old blog. Got myself set up at Starbucks in Sanur, free coffee with coupon, electricity working, AC working, and the day not so very humid for a change (not deathly so, at least)  - Sempurna!

I read just now that the governor here is tossing around the idea of banning all new car sales in Bali in order to avoid what must otherwise become, a la Jakarta, eventual gridlock. Honestly, it seems like a sound and sober idea to me. The only thing is, my wife wants a car, and has wanted one for the past four years. Better act now, honey.

While they're at it, perhaps they had better address the condition of the roads as well. Just yesterday a tourist bus fell off a narrow road into a ravine when its engine stalled. Really, that shouldn't happen. Seven people killed, at current count, others in critical condition in various hospitals. Being in critical condition in a Bali hospital is a definite minus. God be with them.

And then lets address the motorists themselves. People here are either unaware of the rules of the road, or they just don't want to bother with them. Why should they? There is no enforcement of the rules whatsoever. The police spend their time setting up roadblocks in the hopes of catching people without a license or registration so that they might collect a quick fee and pocket the same. As far as the madness and chaos that plays out every day right before their eyes is concerned, they care not. I have seen motorists blast through red lights right in front of a police post, and the two posted policemen just standing by their brand new supercharged motorbikes. I guess they don't want to put any strain on the engines. Or maybe it's just too hot to make a fuss.

So this post turned out to be about traffic, didn't it. Well, it's a daily trial here, a daily frustration and a daily peeve. The general disregard for safety is continually astounding. The drivers, and most criminally those in cars, seem to have no conception of what is going to happen if they run into something or someone. You see them tailgating at 50 miles an hour, flashing their damn headlights instead of just backing off a bit. We're all trying to get somewhere, folks, preferably alive.

And people are injured every day (3 times for me, so far), and people die every day. Fewer cars on the road? Sure. Brilliant. But lets get some responsible, honest cops out there, too; and maybe even require that people take a driving tests before they're set loose behind the wheel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shadow Summit

(note: I repost this to coincide with the official release of the book - although, being affected, myself, by the memory glitches associated with MS, I have missed the actual day of launch, which was the 12th of November).

Recently, I was contacted by a publicity agent who wondered if I would read a memoir, in digital galleys, by Jon Chandonnet. Shadow Summit, Making Peace and Prospering with MS, is Mr. Chandonnet's personal story of diagnosis, struggle and transformation.

The author takes us on the journey from his first symptoms and diagnosis through the various stratagems he used in dealing with the disease over the ensuing years -- from a first response of denial, to the medical regimens, a fixation on diet, mind and spirit exercises, "sun gazing", and so on.

This is a man who had done everything with particular devotion and energy even before his diagnosis. A graduate of MIT, the quintessential 'young man with a bright future', Chadonnet soon finds himself battling MS shotgun style, having a certain sense, as I suspect, that a disease with a wide range of possible causes and treatments demanded a wide-ranged, inclusive approach.

Through a single-minded, seemingly tireless employment of various methods, Chadonnet sought to  swallow the beast in small bites, through intense exercise, painful endurance, Spartan diet, rigorous mind and emotion training, philosophical awareness -- you name it.

Personally, I tend to be rather the opposite. The less, the better, one might say. Both  I and this author have made significant recovery from a handful of significant early damages. Whether Mr. Chadonnet's modalities or more or less efficacious than mine, one cannot really say. It is, in my mind, a matter of the whim of MS. Yet, no matter what you do, you must do it in the belief that you have adopted the best course, whether that be exercise, diet, meditation, life-style change or what have you. The author of this book set out to take the victory away from MS, to hold it at bay, and he has certainly done so. More power to him.

In the final analysis, this is a well written, deeply felt book that will be educative, inspirational and thought  provoking for any reader, and especially for those with MS. We all have different stories, but, on some level, they are all the same.

I recommend it as both informative and entertaining.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

They Might be Giants

I once saw a movie called "There Might be Giants," starring George C. Scott. The story was of a mental patient who was convinced that he was Sherlock Holmes, locked in an ongoing game to the death with Professor Moriarty. Any random thing that this "Sherlock" saw could become a significant piece of evidence, leading the finder  another step along the trail of Moriarty. So convincing, however, was the deluded detective, that, ultimately, he was able to convince others of the veracity of his suspicions, most notably the young female psychiatrist who had been assigned to his case.

'George' had a contagious talent for bringing together disparate scraps and clues in such a way that they seemed to be meaningful, somehow. Moriarty became not a delusion, but a reality, lurking behind every tree, around every corner. Moriarty, encompassing the essence of evil, was as real as the goodness, the passion, the devotion in Holmes himself -- a tormented man who just wanted to make things right, not only for himself, but for everybody. At last, the "evidence" gathered seems to lead to the meat department of a 24 hour supermarket, where Moriarty waits in the swaying shadows between the carcasses of cows not yet sectioned for sale.

Well, it was a good movie, in its own way, and it had something to say about what is real and what is not, what is and what might be. The title, of course, is an allusion to Don Quixote, who jousted with windmills, believing them to be giants.

This all comes to mind as a result of the conspiracy theories that I continue to hear from many of the expatriates here, and particularly from my best friend, Mike. From 9/11 to Seal Team 6, the Kennedy assassination to the killing of bin Laden, the theories grow ever more complex and absurd, ever more tangled in their own threads -- and yet you cannot talk the believers out of them! Not amount of factual information will suffice, no amount of good reasoning or logic. They smile and wink. They know something, you see? Something that no one else knows.

In short, it's irritating. And it is also revealing -- not of the truth, but of the human mind, the psychological disposition. What is really behind these theories, I wonder? Fear? Paranoia? Helplessness? Why do people go to outrageous lengths to invent alternative scenarios? What is it that makes them believe the shady rumor in favor of the plain truth? As if what happened, on 9/11, for instance, were not strange enough in itself!

They're right about one thing. Moriarty is out there. No doubt about it. Moreover, he stands before us, in plain sight, needing no obfuscating cloak of shadows. Moriarty is bin Laden. He is Oswald. He is the evil will to inflict destruction and death -- one will with a thousand names and shapes. No need to look any further than that.