Friday, August 31, 2018


I may have mentioned this before, but I'm too lazy to search back through my ramblings and find out, so I'll just mention it again. Starbucks in Bali has a strange policy of sending people associated with a particular store off to other far flung stores, thus regularly turning over the staff at any given location. Perhaps this is their policy everywhere, but, to me, it seems counterproductive. Of course, I'm not a businessman and I don't own a huge chain of coffee cafes, but it just seems like they would want to maintain the customer-clientele dynamics in a location, especially when they are working out well. In this way, the individual baristas become more than just employees. They become familiar faces, friends. It seems to me that people would be all the more inclined to frequent an establishment in which they have formed friendships and connections that go beyond the level of simple service and transaction. 

Of the delightful people I have come to know over the past couple years at the Renon Starbucks, most have now either been sent away or are about to be sent away. Dharma was sent to Nusa Dua, which is  quite far away, more than an hour long drive for him, and he has therefore quit altogether. Mul was sent to the airport--again, far away and very inconvenient. Agus was sent to Kuta. Today will be Hendra's last day in Renon, and he is going to the old Discovery Mall, also in Kuta (and believe me, no one, except tourists, wants to go to Kuta). Resy is going to Seminyak (same as Kuta), and Adi will quit Starbucks altogether next month rather than be sent to the boonies. 

Of course, my response is selfish on one level. It has been a pleasant group of friends in my own neighborhood, for one thing--people whom I would look forward to seeing every day. Moreover, each was generally inclined to give me either a discount coffee or a free coffee on every visit. Lol. 

Aside from that, however, it seems a mistake to me to dismantle the community feeling between employees and customers at any location. And it seems very odd that Starbucks would seek to send employees far away from their homes rather than find employees that already live near a particular location. 

Anyway, farewell to Hendra today--a tender-hearted, gracious young man full of laughter and good humor. I will miss his teasing and his daily smiles. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Down Mertasari Way

Down Mertasari way, one will find a pleasant little cove on the bank of a stream flowing into the bay. It is shady there beneath an umbrella of leafy trees and there are large, smooth rocks to sit on along the way. People rest in the shade, enjoy a sack lunch, hide from the heat of the noontime sun. There is a little hill of earth and boulders at one end and a sandy dog in every crevasse. The hill belongs to them. On the Bayfront, a walkway plunges into the sea. It used to be the launching pad of a windsurfing business, but this has long since closed. A rusty gate now blocks the way. When it is windy, all the locals com here to fly kites. 

Another Challenge

Yet another facial recognition challenge today. As I entered the Starbucks in Sanur, a woman whom I seem somehow to know but don't know why said, "Hi! You look so awesome these days!"


As I've said, there seemed something familiar about the face, but I don't know how I know her, or from where. Moreover, the fact that she said "these days" would suggest that I have known her for some time, as apparently a comparison is being made with other days--those being days, perhaps, when I didn't look 'so awesome'?

Of course, I'm happy to be awesome, especially in the opinion of this fairly lovely young woman, but I'm discouraged to find, once again, that my brain is decidedly less than awesome. How does one follow up on such a compliment when his brain is stuck on the simple problem of recognition--I know her, but who is she? Not a good place from which to start a conversation. 

Stuck between a rock and a hard place. I cannot say 'Who are you?' because 1) It would make her feel unimportant and 2) It would make me feel stupid. I cannot say the next likely thing, such as 'Are you still working at such-and-such an establishment' or 'Are you still living in this or that place', because I have no idea where she works or if she works or what place she may have lived. 

That was this morning. It is evening now, and I'm still trying to figure out how I know this girl. Is she an employee at one of the Starbucks I frequent? Is she someone I used to know when I lived in Sanur? Is she a friend of my ex-wife's? I have no idea. 

Truly, I should have paid more attention to the investigative techniques in the old Sherlock Holmes stories I used to read, which might have allowed me to deduce this woman's identity. As things stand, however, I will have to be content with just being awesome.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Ghost Story

Here is a mesmerizing film, a story wherein nothing happens while everything is happening. I can't help but be reminded of the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw--and, therefore, this is my kind of ghost story. To say that it is boring would be an understatement, just as to say so would be to fully expose the fact that you've failed to comprehend the tale. Or perhaps you have simply not been around very many ghosts. This is a relentlessly quiet, languishing, often motionless, nearly catatonic cataloging of irredeemable loss played out on the stage of irrepressible life and the resplendency of love. It is a story told through motion and image, color and nuance, protracted periods of stillness interrupted by suddenly dismantled settings, as violently final as life itself. There is very, very little in the way of dialog, yet the silence, like a picture, is often worth a thousand words. There is nothing scary about this movie. Ghosts, after all--real ghosts--aren't scary. They are sad. They are enormously, tragically sad. Don't watch this if you don't have the time. Get the flu first, as I have done, such that you're too weary to move from your chair anyway and are already given to staring into space. And then, when you've finished, preferably after dark, go for a walk, notice all the moving things, listen to the voices on the street corner, through the open window, the teeming proof of the presence of life. Listen, and be silent. Mourn, and be glad. 


I had mentioned my recent discovery of American news shows available on YouTube, and I will say that what I'm finding in the daily coverage of the Trump-Russia-Stormy-mob money-tax evasion-courtroom-flippers-and-back-stabbers drama is pretty much as interesting, or more so, as any television crime series. In my 64 years here on earth, I have really never seen anything like this. I mean, sure, there was the Nixon-Watergate thing, but that was really pretty tedious in comparison; and of course there was the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which possessed the smarmy appeal of illicit sex and infidelity; but truly, this intricate tangle of so many plotlines, what with an adversarial foreign power, collusion, treachery and treason, election interference, funny-money, corporate crime, crooked lawyers and porn star payoffs goes far beyond anything we have seen before. There must be hundreds of mystery novelists and television script writers out there saying, "Damn, why didn't I think of this?" But the answer to that, of course, is that no one would have believed it. Truth is forever stranger than fiction. What strand will be unraveled next, what missing piece of the puzzle discovered, what actions will the prey take as the net draws tighter and tighter? I keep waiting for Columbo to appear with that one small yet critical piece of evidence that cannot be escaped. You almost got away with it, Mr. Trump--but you forget just this one little detail. It is a sad time for America to be sure--but at least it's entertaining. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Day 11

Still slogging through the flu, by my calculations day 11, which has been spent doing pretty much absolutely nothing other than sleeping and watching cable news shows on YouTube (though not at the same time). These, as I gradually remember from times past when I had a TV, involve endless panel of expert discussions of the current day's outrageous political developments in preparation for endless discussions of tomorrow's outrageous political developments, suspending the viewer in an endless state of outrageous irritation. But hey, what else is there to do when one has the flu, being so perfectly disposed for irritation to begin with?  Sound and fury, signifying  nothing? Or is it fire and fury? Later on, I read a piece by a "neuroscientist" regarding Trump's narcissistic personality disorder and an approaching deterioration to narcissistic rage response as the walls close in. Scary stuff.

Of course, much of the news is also concerned with the death of John McCain, whose passing has left the Republican Party quite without a sane representative. Sad. McCain was truly a holdover from what seems now a bygone era, a time when congressmen and women behaved with dignity and integrity, debated rather than insulted, forged policies and measures that would benefit all classes of the citizenry rather than fill their own pockets and those of the very rich. I often disagreed with McCain on an ideological level, but, as many have said, always felt also that he acted honesty and with personal integrity toward ends that he truly felt were proper and helpful. When something was blatantly wrong or morally reprehensible, he always had the guts to stand up and speak out, regardless of party or president. He was not a toady or a weakling, and people respected him for it. Well, most people did. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Arthur Again

Having not seen Arthur, the Bali dog, for what must have been some three weeks now, I had decided that he must surely have become either roadkill or someone's dinner. Imagine my surprise, then, when he showed up this morning during my customary walk with the big fat brown dog! 

"Arthur!" I sung out. 

Arthur ignored me. 

"Arthur, come here, boy." 

Arthur gives me a sidelong glance. 

"Umm … do I know you?"

"Do you know me? Of course you know me. You were at my house every day twice a day for nearly a month!"

"Likely story." 

"I gave you sausage every morning." 

"Sausage?" Arthur says, betraying the first sign of real interest. 

So Arthur followed us back home, to see, I suppose, if there was anything to this intriguing mention of sausage. 

We shall see how long his friendship lasts this time. Or how long his memory persists. 


I happened this morning to see the following meme posted on Facebook: 

"Illegal refugees receive $3,874 per month from the Government".

Apparently this has been floating around Facebook for a while now and I had merely been fortunate enough not to see it. 

Now, my first thought when I see statements such as this one is "Really?" And so I check the statement to see whether it is true or false, especially given that it would surely strike most thinking people as false from the get-go.  Checking such statements is exceedingly easy nowadays, given the glut over the last few years of 'fake' news, Russian trolls, divisive stories, conspiracy theories and so forth. One merely need type the meme into his search engine, which will then produce a debunking of the story from fact gathering sites devoted to debunking false stories. 

As it turns out, there are three rather major problems with what is stated in the meme; 

1) The stated payment concerns policy in Canada, not in the US. 
2)  "Refugees" are not considered 'illegal' in any western democracy, and 
3)  The money was a one-time payment not to an individual but to a family of five and not a monthly stipend. 

In other words, this, like most memes, is bullshit. 

It seems curious to me that even when so much attention has been given to viral falsehoods such as this, when so much free education has been published regarding their existence and the dangers they pose, people continue to brainlessly re-post rather than investigate first for themselves.  Of course, this is because people are inclined to think what they want to think rather than to seek the truth, because the truth may conflict with their prejudices and paranoias. 

But that's really not a good excuse, is it.

Nonetheless, this will be repeated ad infinitum, just as Trump tirelessly repeats his lies (biggest inauguration crowd ever). 

What strange, what irritating times we live in. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018


I am the fortunate recipient today of a gift from America—a two-tier box of See’s Chocolates, all creams or caramels, just as I like it! This may not seem a very big deal, but you must understand that they have no such a thing in Bali. What they have, masquerading as chocolate bars, is an assortment of offerings that are distinctly not chocolate, regardless of the pretense. What these are actually made of, I am not sure. They are brown, but there is where any reasonable relationship with chocolate ends. Although, to be fair, I will say that the situation has improved just a bit in the last 8 years. The Snickers bar is now generally available, and at an affordable price, and I did see 2-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups the other day, although at quite an unaffordable price—about 10 dollars US! But fine boxed chocolates such as See’s are quite unknown in these parts.

Other favorites of mine that are generally unavailable include Poptarts. I get my supply of these, when possible, from visiting friends from Australia. I did see my first ever box of Poptarts in one of the high end markets here the other day, but, again, at an absolutely silly price approaching 20 dollars.

Among other things unavailable in Bali are pancakes. There are restaurants which “claim” to have pancakes, like one called “Funny Pancake”, and that’s just what they are: Funny. These come smothered in whipped cream and little decorative chewy candies, and I was once served ketchup with my pancakes as well. Yes, ketchup. Although much is  lacking in tradition western sweets in Indonesia, they are very big on ketchup, which is served with pretty much everything. Including soup.

If you want to make pancakes at home, you must choose between one available mix, a very thin, sandy stuff that is apparently mostly dried milk and sugar, or make your own from scratch (in which case, good luck with finding baking powder, baking soda, or buttermilk. In fact, forget the buttermilk. There is no such thing here).

There is a waffle place not far from my house, so that’s a step in the right direction—but it is just waffles, and Belgian waffles at that—and but a trickle of syrup is applied in the kitchen before the plate comes out, as maple syrup here is as expensive as … well, as expensive as Poptarts.

There is very little in the way of microwaveable foods (which may be because very few people own a microwave). There is, however, microwave popcorn—which I’m sure I would enjoy if I had any teeth to speak of.

Other things that cannot be had? Let’s see … hashbrown potatoes, toaster waffles, affordable margarine, normal, affordable ice cream, affordable ice cream toppings. They do have rice, however (not rice-a-roni) and it is quite cheap. And it just so happens that people here eat quite a bit of rice. Every day. With everything. In fact, with your MacDonald’s burger or with your KFC order, you receive a ball of rice wrapped in paper.

So, in any case, I am in heaven today with my box of See’s Chocolates.

I’m also beginning to have a stomachache.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Time Then and Now

When you think about it, as I've been doing just now, the amount of damage one can do in his own life, even when so much of his time is occupied with working full-time, raising children, and so on, is really pretty amazing. Somehow, we are able to find that rare slice of free time to devote to the purpose of irreparable self destruction. Ah youth! Conversely, when one is old and retired and has an overabundance of time on his hands (not mentioning any names), it seems that he can no longer so expertly manage anywhere near his former aptitude for self-inflicted catastrophe. Not that I'm complaining. I don't like catastrophe any more than anyone else. It just seems strange that when we have so little time at our disposal we should be able to do so very much more damage with it than we are able to accomplish with all the time in the world. Where did we find the energy? Successfully pouring a bowl of cereal seems sufficiently taxing for me nowadays. And then what to do with the thing when I've finished eating? Before nightfall, that is. Carefully executed betrayals, remarkably thoroughgoing indiscretions, faultlessly executed  blunders seem wholly beyond my strength or grasp just now. All considered, I wish they always had been.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Bad News in General

My flu, rather than continuing to grow better, changed gears and became lousier today, such that I ended up spending most of the day in the house watching news shows online about our ailing government, which also became markedly lousier today with new revelations of crime and corruption and evasion and hush money and conspiracy--and oh, by the way, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There really seems no bottom to this mountain of shit. The one moment of relief in all this oppressive news was when one commentator envisioned a tragicomedy musical in the future featuring titles such as No Collusion, Truth is Not Truth, and Without Me Everyone Would be Very Poor.

I guess the good news would be that this farce does seem to be winding down--but then again, I thought it was winding down ever since before the election, so who can say? 

To make things worse, the wrenching fits of coughing that have come with this flu have exacerbated the pain in my right neck and shoulder which had finally, after two years, begun to get so much better, for the coughing has required the excessive use of compromised muscles that have been at the center of the dysfunction from the outset.   

Woe is me. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Return of the Little Mermaid

It was a pleasure yesterday to see young Ratih again, who has now finished her stewardess training course for Garuda Airlines in Jakarta and will be officially beginning her career next week--flying, to begin with, among the Indonesian islands, and then later throughout Southeast Asia. Sadly, this training period was attended also by a lamentable indiscretion, which has led to her separation from my friend Hendra; but all seems well nonetheless and they are now non-bitter friends. Sounds familiar. Ratih herself is bubbly as ever, full of hugs and smiles, and looking forward to an exciting career of exotic travels. I call the photo below "The Return of the Little Mermaid".

Rich People Problems

I've begun to read this--book three in the series by Kevin Kwan, which began with Crazy Rich Asians. Like the first two, this is a consistently entertaining read, though hardly a profound experience. The novels do, however, provide the reader with an intimate look into the lives and lifestyles of the very (very) rich. These are the rich people, in short, who even the rich think of as rich (and think themselves, in comparison, poor). The stories examine both the astounding vacuity of riches as well as the irrepressible intrusion of what is really very 'common'--such as love and tragedy and longing--into what may have seemed unassailable opulence, a purchased immunity to mere mediocrity. Kwan writes well, with an engaging, pointed sense of humor, and, rather magically, makes us care about the careless and the clueless. 

Slowly I Turned

Managed to get out of the house a couple of times today as my zombification from the flu slowly recedes. Exhausting still, but better than lying in bed all day or otherwise staring at the rather uninteresting walls in my house. Perhaps I should decorate a bit in order to provide myself with something more interesting to stare at next time I'm down with the flu? Nah.

So, I had to go down to Sanur this morning anyway to pay my electric bill--God forbid I should be without the AC and feverish at the same time--and took that opportunity to stroll shortly on the beach. Good just to be out among the living with my feet in the sand and the breeze in my hair and the sun baking my skin to a bubbly crisp (though it was slightly less searing today than, say, a cigarette lighter--one of those old fashioned sorts that they used to have in cars). Met a dog down there with a particularly pleasant disposition, who decided to sit with me in the shade for a spell. I didn't catch his name. 

Collapsed for a time upon returning home, but then later in the afternoon was inspired, perhaps by delirium, to go for another walk, this time down to the neighborhood store, and then to pick up my laundry on the way back. This was a bit more challenging and less pleasant than the earlier morning walk, as of course the city streets are much hotter than the open beach. But it was necessary, I felt, to purchase a new package of cheap chicken sausages for the big fat brown dog, as she would certainly be upset, upon her next visit, to find that I had neglected to keep her in supply. 

At the store, I also bought a little bottle of super-vitamin-C drink--one of those pointless, completely superfluous things that come, nonetheless, with a psychological boost--and found a little spot in the shade where I could quaff the thing. 

Now here's something that does not happen in America, folks. As I sat on my little stone with my drink, two different vehicles slowed as they passed by just so that the driver could eagerly wave his hand out the window and sing out "Hello, Mister!" It's a common enough thing here, but I just never get used to it. In America, one will generally be ignored. That's the best scenario. Alternately, someone in a passing car might shout a curse, or even throw something. But 'Hello, Mister'? No. It just doesn't happen. 

Anyway, I've topped this whole dezombification venture off with a coffee at my favorite spot in Renon, and I'm feeling about 50 percent more alive than I felt yesterday. At this rate, I should be well (or at least in my customary state of poor health) by the time September lurches over the horizon. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Brain on Vacation

I am aware lately of a lamentable inability to express myself in a very articulate manner. I'm hoping that this is just a brain fog arising from the flu and its attendant trickle down of mental and physical fatigue. On the other hand, this sort of brain fog is of course common in MS and comes with a range of cognitive challenges and deficits. I am very much aware of searching for the proper word, and very often failing to find it, and of struggling to put sentences together, not only on the level of simple grammar but as parts which combine to convey a process of thought from beginning to end. More often than not, I find myself forgetting halfway through what the thought was supposed to have been. This is all particularly frustrating for me, as it is the general hope and expectation of one who has spent his years writing things down that he will have become ever more cogent and precise rather than less so. It is a bit like trying to play the piano as I did when I was in my 20s but with hands that are now numb in the fingers and as dumb as ham hocks. My apologies, therefore, for the clumsy performance. I am hoping that my keener faculties will soon return from vacation. 

The Atheist Delusions

In a marathon reading session yesterday, thanks to feeling too lousy to go anywhere or do anything, I finished David Bentley Hart's fascinating book, The Atheist Delusions. This is much more than an examination of modern atheist ideology. The book title itself is more of a playful swat at Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and his New Atheist cohorts, and in fact Hart, through his customary clarity of intelligence and grasp of the sweep of philosophy and history, dispenses with them rather perfunctorily in order to delve into the meat of his examination of the pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian eras. 

Most of us no longer have any concept of how the pre-Christian era looked. We are so used to the patterns of life and society that arose from the Christian movement that we kind of assume things had always been more or less this way. Not so. We do not remember, for instance, that it was once common for newborn babies to simply be put out to die through exposure to the elements and wild beasts. We do not remember that huge groups of people were not considered "persons" at all, in a legal or practical sense, and enjoyed no "rights" whatsoever.

Into this world, then, there suddenly came people who took in the babies, to nurture and care for them with the conviction that these lives, and that each individual life, were precious members of the Creator Himself. Here were these strange new people who devoted themselves to caring for the weak and the poor, the orphans and the widows, lepers and blind and crippled, and for each other. This was a revolutionary, world-changing alteration in the way things worked. 

These new behaviors did not arise as a natural progression of mankind, as some sort of next step on the evolutionary ladder, but rather from a Savior, from transcendent love. Of course, the usual evils of power and greed and prejudice attended the new system along the way as it became admixed with old structures of dominance and violence; but, here, Hart is looking at the big picture, at the sea-change that transformed the ancient world to the new world. It is not too much to say that much of what we now ascribe to ourselves as being human, of having individual identity and worth, describes a condition that did not before the Christian era exist. 

As we see in our time the power of the mythology that made us begin slide into the realm of forgetfulness, replaced by the supremacy of the individual will, without need of reason or restraint, one cannot help but wonder whether the goods we take so for granted can be sustained, and if so, by what? Hart ends his book, therefore, on somewhat of a gloomy note.

“A civilization, it seems obvious, is only as great or as wonderful as the spiritual ideals that animate it; and Christian ideals have shown themselves to be almost boundless in cultural fertility and dynamism. And yet, as the history of modernity shows, the creativity of these ideals can, in certain times and places, be exhausted, or at least subdued, if social and material circumstances cease to be propitious for them. I cannot help but wonder, then, what remains behind when Christianity’s power over culture recedes? How long can our gentler ethical prejudices—many of which seem to me to be melting away with fair rapidity—persist once the faith that gave them their rationale and meaning has withered away? Love endures all things perhaps, as the apostle says, and is eternal; but, as a cultural reality, even love requires a reason for its preeminence among the virtues, and the mere habit of solicitude for others will not necessarily long survive when that reason is no longer found. If, as I have argued in these pages, the “human” as we now understand it is the positive invention of Christianity, might it not be the case that a culture that has become truly post-Christian will also, ultimately, become posthuman?”

Good question. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


In the early morning an unseen starling speaks of things that are in the past. The faded brown shirt on the clothesline stops waving its arms a moment to listen, for it, like the starling, remembers something. Silence takes shape in the thin light of the sun. Three chairs recline for no reason at the table. This world is made of absent things and mourns a thousand tiny deaths. And the starling poses his question again--Hello? Who is there? Is someone there?

Fatigue and More

One of my more consistent MS problems over the past couple years has been fatigue. You all know the drill. It's like the engine of your body is constantly running too hot. The gauge creeps relentlessly into the red and you soon begin to sputter and chug, such that you finally have to pull over to the roadside, turn the thing off, and just sit for a while. 

Well, this generally lamentable situation grows much, much worse when combined with the common flu illness. Now you're not just running hot and tired. Now the damn radiator is steaming, boiling over, and the engine block has cracked and you are dead on wheels. Ugh. 

So that's where I'm at. The flu has kicked MS's ass, once again demonstrating that things can be worse! I'm on hold. The virus god has pressed the pause button. And repairs are bound to take days to happen. 

I have made it out for coffee this morning--unlike yesterday, when I did not leave the house at all--but so has what seems to be a pre-school class, each member of which knows no vocal tone other than the shriek, nor is subject to any form of control by the accompanying adults. The earsplitting cacophony, therefore, is blaring within the feverish recesses of my congested, cotton-packed brain, adding a whole new level to the general misery of the morning. 

Again, ugh. 

Methinks it is time to go home. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cells and Apps

Sitting outside this morning, smoking a cigarette and sipping a coffee, scrolling through Facebook posts, I suddenly thought: Why? 

It seemed a pertinent question, pressing enough, as it were, to pierce the fog of daily habit. Why, in fact, do I have a phone at all, loaded with all the apps, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facetime, YouTube, for which I pay around 100.000 Rupiah a month? The fact is, no one ever calls me, unless they've dialed the wrong number. I rarely receive a message through any of the services. Why do I have this iPhone loaded with all these apps sitting with me at the table every morning? Is it just a habit, like smoking itself, or like coffee--a pleasant, cozy, meaningless habit? 

There was a time when I used Facebook to connect with friends--to post and comment, to share ideas and humor--yet for a long while I have done little in the way of posting, or of commenting either. What I have done on Facebook since November 2016 is to scan the news for some decisive correction of our current national disaster. Yet I must admit, finally, that what I see day after day is merely an ongoing description of the disaster, enlarging, expanding, filling in such that disaster becomes only more fully a disaster. The more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same. So tragic, so lamentable, so deplorable. And so what? So nothing. 

And so Facebook itself becomes tedious, boring, an uninterrupted parade of repetition. The story of the story of the story that has no end. 

Why do I have this phone? 

Maybe the flu is just making me feel sluggish and discontented. I don't know. Or maybe I feel that since I have such an expensive phone, I must properly apply the phone, whether the application has any meaning to me or not. 

And now let us imagine that I have put the phone aside, retaining only a bare bones plan that will allow calls in and out in case of emergency. What then?  How will I know the good news if there is good news (for you see I hope despite the growing proof of the hopelessness of hope)?  How will I receive a message if not through Messenger? How should I find such total silence bearable?

Well, hell--what is it we did when there were no cell phones and apps?!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Sweet Dreams

I've been knocked out of the game (of life as we know it) by the flu, otherwise known as masuk angin hereabouts. This is exacerbated, mood-wise, anyway, by ceaseless rain for the last two days. Just about like being back in Oregon, except that the weather in Oregon would likely be quite nice just now. Beam me over, Scotty! It's not supposed to be raining here, actually. That should not start until October at the soonest. So the weather is really transgressing against the seasonal rules. But as Mark Twain said, regarding the weather, everybody complains, nobody does anything about it.

But of course the cabin fever hits me eventually just as hard as the flu, and I must get out for coffee, come hell or high water (both of which did show up in some form along the way). So here I am kind of sopping and dripping in my seat at Starbucks and feeling kind of nostalgic about the dry pleasures of cabin fever. I did remember to bring my rain smock this time around--although fat lot of good it does, because of course as one rides the motorbike through the weather, the rain comes down and sideways and up, finding ways of either dripping down or splashing up into any open area, making the smock more of a fashion statement than a useful device against the rain. It is sitting in the chair opposite mine just now and looking equally drippy and miserable. 

But here's the good news: I read this morning that cinnamon is good for MS, possessing properties, according to the science, that decrease symptoms. This is good news because I love cinnamon! Really. I have a piece of cinnamon toast nearly every day. I hate to think how I'd feel if I didn't.  

Cinnamon has long been known in general for its medicinal qualities. It is high, for instance, in antioxidants (and one does not want to be too oxidated, right?).  It has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to fight infection and to repair tissue damage (although for these maladies, I do not know whether it should be swallowed or bodily wallowed in). It may cut the risk of heart disease (not worried about that). It can improve sensitivity to insulin (something my son may want to consider). It lowers blood sugar levels (again, beneficial for my son). It may have beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases (that's where I come in). It may protect against cancer (well, I've been eating my cinnamon toast and I don't have that problem so far, fingers crossed). It helps fight bacterial and fungal infections (although, again, I do not know if one is supposed to eat it or rub it on the fungus in question). And lastly, cinnamon may help fight the HIV virus (although abstinence has also been found to be helpful). 

Finally, it is very tasty on toast with sugar and goes well with a plate of bacon and eggs. 

Friday, August 17, 2018


My God, what's the world coming to? Cold in Bali? Yes, it is. 21C, and raining. It looked like just a light sprinkle when I started out on the bike for my morning coffee, but by the time I got here, my clothing had soaked the stuff up like a sponge and I was beginning to shiver. Reminds me of the good old days in Oregon. Except that I had a car back then. I have lost track here, really, of the amount of time people spend back home essentially imprisoned in their houses. But here, you get blindsided by the thing, you have not nearly so many entertainments at ready in the house--because generally you don't need them. When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, as is most often the case here in Bali, it kind of sucks you out into the world. So, anyway,  I'm kind of wishing I'd brought my rain smock. As it is, I'm stuck here in the mall either until the rain stops or until I surrender to the idea of getting soaked all over again. 

Postscript: Two hours later, it is still raining, but my barista buddies take pity on me and bring me a free latte. Truly, we rarely see consistent rain like today's in Bali. More generally, it will rain with a passion for 10 minutes or so, and then cease--but this stuff today has been nonstop since 6 o'clock this morning (and it is now nearly 12:30 in the afternoon). 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bali Mal Galeria

I had not been out to Bali Mal Galeria in quite a long while, basically because the distance exceeds the extent of my energy nowadays, but, feeling pretty well yesterday, I decided to give it a shot. The main reason for this excursion was to purchase a saddle cover for my motorbike, and I remembered having found one in the past at the large Hypermart store in the mall. Unfortunately, as it turns out, they don't carry these any longer, so I will have to be happy for the time being with my decorative duct tape repair job. 

What I did find, however, is that the planners at the mall have found an ingenious way of making the parking situation much worse than it used to be. And it was pretty bad to begin with. 

First off, they have closed the second entry to the parking lot to motorbikes. That's right, if you go on down to the traffic circle, stay to the left, and try to enter the complex from that direction, you will be turned back. This used to be my preferred entry, as you could avoid the usual traffic jam at the main entrance on the bypass, and also avoid going through the covered, pitch black parking lot in order to enter the bike parking area. (My eyes do not adjust quickly to changes in light). 

But yeah, upon approaching the ticket machine at the far entry, I was instructed that I must go back to the first entry. 

"What? You mean the one way back on the Bypass?" 


"You mean that I have to make a U-turn down the road here, go back again past the mall, make another U-turn and then finally get to the right entrance?" 


I gaze longingly at the parking lot in front of me, mere yards away.

"Okay, next time, ya? I enter just this once, ya?" 


So it's back out to the highway, down to the dreadful U-turn, which leads of course to the famous Bali traffic circle of death, back down the highway heading away from the mall, and then another U-turn before the mall finally comes in sight again. 

Here at this end, after poking my way through the darkness of the covered lot, I find that very substantial efforts have also been carried out to render the motorbike parking situation very much worse than it used to be, for they have somehow found a way of taking the same amount of square footage that already existed and making it accommodate far fewer bikes. It is no longer a question of finding an open space. It is a question of finding a sliver of light between two bikes and forcing yours in. It's good exercise, I'll admit, but not really the time or place for that. How they have managed to create this situation, or why they have done so, I do not understand. That's where the genius of the thing comes in. 

So I spend an exhausted time in the mall looking for an item they do not have, return before long to the lot, and of course I cannot find my bike. But I am not the only one, as several people can be seem aimlessly wandering up and down the rows, floating along like ghosts, each looking for his own needle in a haystack. 

I and another hopeless seeker pass one another. 

"I rost my bike," he says. 

"Yeah, I rost mine too." 

"I want to go home," he says, and chuckles. 

"I'll tell you what," I suggest, "I'll look for your bike and you look for mine." 


It might just work. In any case, it couldn't hurt, for we are getting nowhere in our efforts thus far. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


One amazing though less than admirable thing about MS is that it always replaces one problem with another; or maybe this is admirable in its own way, speaking as it does to the incredible inventiveness that lies in the disease processes of humankind. Suffering hates a vacuum? 

Anyway, as the pain in my neck and shoulders generally subsides, becoming more of a grumble than a shriek, reinforcements arrive in the form of other pains and discomforts. Two have lately raised their venomous heads to make certain that I should not rest or, God forbid, feel well. 

The first is a resurgent intolerance to heat. Even though the weather here is not nearly as hot as usual, the problem is that, in MS, the body no longer bothers to regulate core temperature according to ambient temperature. Therefore, as the heat of the day becomes more intense, the system makes no adjustment in body temperature. Instead of saying, "Gee, it's hot outside today", we say "Gee, who lit the damn furnace at the center of my soul!" It truly feels like you've got this roaring fire inside of you, rising to your chest and neck and face. It would be a little bit of a relief if smoke could escape from your nostrils and ears, but of course it doesn't. The only relief I can find is to just get under cold shower water, though the relief is temporary. It's kinda like pouring water on a grease fire and expecting that to really help any. Naturally (or is it unnatural?), the inner boiling eventually results in fatigue and headache, and also exacerbates the pain problem that had been trying to go away. 

The second new, or rather familiar old problem has been in a renewal (is that the right word?) of cognitive dysfunction. This is irritating on a number of levels, but most particularly, in the last couple of days, in that it makes me look stupid or senile. Suddenly, I am unable to find words. All the trouble I've taken to learn Indonesian, and now the language has vanished! Hell, even English is vanishing!  And there's more. I'm sitting here talking to Hendra about our friends and acquaintances who work at Starbucks or are otherwise related to our conversation, and I'll be damned if I can remember their names! It's like, "Oh, I was talking yesterday to … uh … whozit? … you know, the girl … umm …. "

Holy crap. How embarrassing. Poor guy has Alzheimer's or something. Poor old feeble Pak Will. 

Of course, once you get back home, the name pops back into your head. Fat lot of use that is now, right?  


I have here at the house a number of old towels--ragged, rectangular things which I have long used as floor mats--and when I was washing these things this morning, I suddenly had to ask myself this question: Why? 

Why am I washing these ragged, chewed up (thanks to the parade of dogs that have hung out at the house over the years), frayed and discolored floor mats? It's not as if I'm going to use one next time I take a bath. Or as if I'm going to use the edge of one as a napkin. What will I be using these for? Well, to step on. Or to wipe water off the floor. Or to keep the entryway dry when it is raining outside.

But here I am filling up the washing machine, dumping in detergent, putting the thing on whirl, draining the tank, refilling it, and even adding fabric softener … Why? Lol. 

Honestly, I cannot give myself credit for this sudden fit of good reasoning--for I had merely noticed, you see, that the maid, who comes one day a week, is in the habit of rinsing the towels in water and then just hanging them in the sun. It was she, therefore, who had exhibited good reasoning, where I had only, and rather belatedly, acknowledged the thing. 

I can't help but wonder how many other pointless things I have been doing as a matter of habit. 

Simplify, simplify, simplify. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lost Cause

Yesterday, I bought a computer game about the battle of Gettysburg. Probably a mistake. I have, to begin with, a curious fascination with the battle, which borders on a fixation really. I can't say why. It's just there. Often enough, I will lay awake at night going over the historical details of the battle in my head, with generally a focus on what Lee could have done differently to win the battle. Why do I try to find ways for Lee to win this battle? That I do not know either. 

Someone once theorized that I must have been a participant in the battle in a past life, likely as a Confederate soldier, I suppose. And indeed, I still remember a dream from many years ago wherein I, seemingly a junior officer, was killed whilst leading a charge against a Yankee position. It is the only dream, to my recollection, in which I have died. It was a very vivid dream, and, as I say, it has remained with me all these years. 

Nonetheless, I do not believe in reincarnation, and so I surely could not have died in the battle of Gettysburg (unless, of course, I am wrong about my insistence that there is no such thing as reincarnation). 

More likely, though, this is of a psychological nature, something to do with patterns and struggles deep in the murky soup of my own psyche. Is there within me a deep-seated attachment, a strange bonding to lost causes?  Do I charge over and over against the impregnable hill (as William Faulkner once theorized regarding the character of southern manhood) in hopes that there will be that one time, finally and forevermore, wherein the position is carried and the day is won? 

What is it about lost causes that seems to so capture, urge, torment my soul? I certainly have no affection for the Southern cause, ideologically or historically. In fact, of all the causes in the world, few would seem to have been less worthy, or indeed less reasonable. And so what is affective in the 'complex' would seem not to be its specific application  to history or ideology, but the very essence of its lost-ness, without reference to anything other than lost-ness. 

see how I get when it comes to Gettysburg? Lol. 

Having played the game before going to bed, I proceeded, of course, to dream of the thing all night long, such that I woke this morning in an exhausted state of mind, aware that I had not so much been restfully sleeping as charging up and down dream ridges against the teeth of musket and cannon. 

Too bad, as Lee himself said at the conclusion of the affair. Oh too bad.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Shopping for clothing at the Matahari department store in Denpasar is quite simply and easily accomplished--right up the moment (or rather the hour) when you actually make the payment, at which point you find yourself wishing you had never started. 

Matahari employs a virtual army of young men and women to stand at a distance of perhaps five feet from one another, like a military picket line before the tables and racks of clothing, each one ready to rush forth and assist the shopper. As it happened, I was wanting a pair of jeans, and this, in appropriate size and preferred price range, was found with the utmost speed and alacrity--and off I was sent to the dressing room. 

You do not take this to the cashier for payment, however. You take it to the girl or the boy who found it for you, surrender the item to him or her, and are given a note. This you take to the cashier. 

Notice here the use of the singular: cashier. For whereas you face an army at the beginning of your campaign, you now face a single employee behind a single cash register. Or rather, you don't face her, because you are able to see her only dimly in the distance at the head of an unmoving line of customers, each of whom holds his note in hand--or uses the note to fan himself. 

The cashier, you discover, is apparently using some ancient form of calculation for each purchase--an abacus, perhaps--a time consuming art of calculation that is now lost in the West. There is much manipulation of keys and tagging and untagging and stapling and reams of paper involved in this process. It's quite quaint. 

Upon reaching the front of the line, along about late afternoon or so, I found that no part of the army, formerly so quick and eager, had yet delivered my jeans to the counter. A complicated series of communications proceeded, wherein the cashier summoned a manager via intercom, who then sent another employee to find the employee with the jeans, whom herself could be seen from where we stood at the counter. But everything must be done just so, and I felt it improper, therefore, to muddy up the process by simply waving at the girl. 

My jeans arrived in due time, and after a painfully slow flurry of calculating and cataloging and shuffling and stapling, a receipt about the length of the Constitution and its amendments raveled out of the register and my purchase, praise God, was made! 

I'm hoping that these jeans will last for years. 

A Coincidental Cure

I seem accidentally to have discovered the cure for restless leg syndrome. Perhaps I will soon be recognized by the American Medical Association. Or, then again, perhaps my cure is a matter of coincidence and will be short-lived. All I know at present is that for the last three nights, the RLS has been absent. 

Here's what happened: 

The weather, providing its own sort of coincidence, had been quite chilly for some days--something which had not happened before in my seven years here--such that it actually occurred to me to sleep under a blanket rather than just a sheet. The only blanket in the house happened to be of a quite heavy sort (and why it had even come here with us to Indonesia, I cannot now imagine). 

In any case, being under this heavy blanket, and rather toasty, seems to have ended the nightly dance of RLS throughout my body. What a pleasure it has been to lie down and sleep through the night without suffering the wakeful conniptions of RLS! 

The trouble with this "cure" is that the Bali temperatures will surely return to stifling soon, in which case a heavy blanket will surely be quite as uncomfortable as the RLS itself. 

Moreover, as I have said, the cure may be an illusion to begin with--a product of happy though unsustainable coincidence.

But ah well--even night-long cures are better than no cures at all.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Our Story

I was thinking last night (although only because I couldn't sleep) about something William Faulkner once said about fitting everything into one sentence, or one paragraph (and most of his sentences are of paragraph length anyway), such that nothing will have been left out, not the slightest shade or nuance of meaning lacking, no question unanswered, no information wanting--nothing partial or incomplete or obscure. Of course it can't be done, and of course Faulkner knew this--although he did try mightily. 

It is like that with the things that we write. They are always partial, only pieces of something much larger, only one angle, one reflection, one shade. We know this perfectly well. We know we have failed to express what we intended to express. Yet he who reads what has been written may well give us more credit than we deserve, or even desire. 

It is like this with living, too. We meant to be complete, comprehensive, accomplished, clear and well composed, yet we have ended up in a chaotic, incomplete, often clumsy, sometimes lamentable narrative that must surely be misinterpreted by those who read us. And we say inwardly No, no--this is not what I meant at all! 

On the other hand, the reader--he who sees and appraises--actually prefers what is partial and incomplete, because the narrative is simpler that way. What appears, divested of the peripheral complications of what was wanted or intended, is good enough. We reduce, simplify, pigeonhole in order that we may have a useful narrative, a general sort of judgment. We end of with reductive caricatures, and we like it that way--though of course would feel the same method applied in summation of ourselves outrageous. 

Well … these are the things I think about at night, rather than sleeping. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018


I realized late yesterday that it was the 2 year anniversary of my neck, shoulder and back pain--not exactly a call for celebration and song, but just something that popped into my mind. 

In fact, however, there is good news (guardedly), in that the pain has of late dramatically decreased generally from what it had been, and certainly very profoundly from what it was two years ago. I look back now and remember just lying on the living room floor in a fetal position, groaning and on the verge of tears, feeling as if there were a Bowie knife stuck in my back just under my right shoulder blade. 

For two years I explored medication options and experimented with stretching exercises. No medicine that I found had an effect on the pain, per se, but merely helped by putting me to sleep (Baclofen and Xanax). My feeling always was that tendons needed to be stretched and muscles re-trained, and so I relied upon intuitive measures to accomplish these goals. 

Ernest Hemingway once said something like this--that when something good or fortuitous comes along, acknowledge it quietly, but don't put your mouth on it. It's a bit of a superstitious thing, I suppose, but I have always kind of identified with the thought. If you leap up and shout that you are healed, fate itself may be offended and decide to give you a poke in order to show you who is (still) boss. 

And, in fact, a new thorn in the side has been provided in order that the retreat of pain should not leave too comfortable a space to rest in. This is in the form of restless leg syndrome--not a new thorn, actually, but a recurring one, showing up and leaving by a whim its own. So while I am now able to lie on my back or on either side without searing pain, and thus to rest much more easily than I've been able to do in a long time, RLS has stepped in to make certain that I do not rest well. 

I must say, too, that the term RLS does not do justice to this nightly electrification of the body. Restless Body Syndrome would be much more accurate. I mean, I'm appropriately tired when I go to bed, but within ten minutes of lying down, my body decides that it is time to break-dance. Most folks who know me in the day really have no idea that I am able to move with such boundless contortionate energy. Too bad this symptom never occurs on the dance floor. In fact, it never occurs at any time other than nighttime when I would prefer to be sleeping. 

Nonetheless, I'll take RLS over the pain any day of the week. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mission Accomplished

Another earthquake yesterday afternoon, this around 5.5 on the scale. The curious thing about yesterday's quake is that you could hear the sound of its occurrence in sequence, from house to house, from the end of the street, where my house is located, to the head of the street, rattling each front gate along the way as it proceeded. (Note that nearly every house here has a heavy iron front gate that either slides on a runner or swings on hinges). Whenever this happens, men shout and women and children scream and everyone rushes outside to see what they can see, which is nothing, of course. And happily so, too--for if there were damage to be seen, they had probably best not be outside to begin with! 

So, yesterday I had a lunch date with Louis, my ex-wife (though still not legally so). This actually turned into a dinner date, as she forgot about the appointment till late afternoon. If there is one thing I have learned about myself in this long life, it is that I am nearly perfectly forgettable. 

And as I stood talking to her in the mall before parting, it struck me that she was finally truly gone, that my self-imposed mission to help her along her way had been accomplished, and that I was suddenly in a place where I could experience, with immediacy, with finality, the fact that I am totally alone, that she's not coming home, that I shall see very little of her from this time forward, that silence is not temporary or odd, like an earthquake, but permanent and eternal. It is finished. 

You see, since Louis left, in January of this year, after a two year affair of which I had become only gradually aware, I had committed myself to being a positive influence in the course she had decided upon. I felt that I had done my part in the marriage as best as I was able, I had brought us here to Bali, had set up our household, taken care of and raised her son, Sasha, had seen him on his way back to America a couple of years ago, and had found myself, at last, poor in both health and finances. What had I left to offer but for love? 

And what is marital love other than devotion, regardless of whether devotion is received in kind? 

I was determined to help and also to protect, because I know all too well that Louis is not a stable person. When you live long enough with a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder and know first hand the terror of dealing with an attempted suicide, you understand that you can never relax, you can never be careless. You take into account at all times what might happen (because it has already happened). You stand guard, on yourself and on her. You stand between yourself and otherwise normal, allowable emotions such as anger and remonstrance.  

It seemed that there could hardly have been a more dangerous scenario Louis could have gotten herself into than becoming involved in the stress of an extramarital affair, and with a married man at that, for particular to the disorder itself is the inability to deal with stress in a healthy manner. I committed myself to helping, counseling, advising, encouraging, because I was concerned about her safety, I worried about what she might do. And because I love her. 

I have found myself in the odd situation over the last eight months of refereeing her difficulties with her boyfriend, of befriending him such that he may trust in my good intentions, and in my neutrality, and such that he may benefit from my experience, of talking to them separately and together and of appearing before her friends and peers, our old acquaintances, to reassure that all is well, to deter any unkind judgement that might occur if I seemed broken or angry or anguished. 

This is love: to insist on the happiness of the one you love. 

And so, as I say, it is also, ultimately, isolation. What does the soldier do when the mission is done? What does the general do when the war is over? I see them now beginning to come together, beginning to adjust and commit and become one, whose counsel, from here forth, will be conducted, and rightly so, among themselves. She speaks now of seeing me again in November, and of eventually moving to Holland or Spain. Frantic, tearful calls in the middle of the night will become fewer, and then none. New alliances will be formed, new support systems. What we were will be no longer applicable except as an element of memory.  

The course of love is rocky at  best, and even more so when both parties are coming straight out of a previous marriage, hers of 11 years, his of 40. Indeed, the course of my relationship with Louis was rocky from early on, and love soon changed, as love does, to conform to circumstance and situation. It became what it needed to be, rather than what I may have wanted it to be. 

But I see myself soon removed, and standing alone where we left off--that peak, that end to which we climbed. And indeed we climbed to reach an end, and face now nothing but sky and the old horizons of the past. There alone stand I, with suddenly nothing more to attain. I breathe the restful, untouched air, yet tremble at the vast emptiness all around. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Arthur's Eviction

Most of us have one house, and that is the house we live in. Often, we don't own the house, but are merely renting from the owner, but we think of it, nonetheless, as our house. Generally speaking, we make the rules for the house we live in--who comes and goes, who is welcome and who is not, and so on. I note these conditions as prefatory to the following. 

The big fat brown dog has several houses, though she owns none of them (she is a dog, after all). She lives in one or another according to her whim, and for each residence, she makes the rules. 

For this reason, the skinny little brown dog, whom had visited for a while and whom I had temporarily named "Arthur" (to which he had no objection) has been evicted by the big fat brown dog. From my house, mind you, which, as far as she is concerned, is her house. One of her houses. Her reason? She doesn't like him. 

Oh, she liked him just fine whilst she was in heat, but now that has ended, and so has his welcome. 

Arthur did make some attempt to stand up for his rights (of which he, like she, has none, but that's neither here nor there); but these objections came to a painful end (for poor Arthur), and so he has given up and permanently removed himself. 

I feel badly for Arthur, but I am told by the big fat brown dog that I do not have enough food in the house for both him and her--or rather, that no amount would be quite enough for her but any amount is too much for him. There is also, she says, insufficient space for two dogs in the house (or, I suspect, in the world). 

"Isn't that a bit selfish of you?" I asked. 

"Yes," she said. "Thank you." 

For some days, I saw nothing at all of Arthur, and had begun to fear the worst. Then, just yesterday, I spied him heading around the corner at the intersection of Yeh Aya and Yeh Sungi--in a hurry to get somewhere, so much so that he did not even acknowledge me as I passed. He seemed none the worse for wear, and not without purpose or goal, And so I guess that the big fat brown dog has things just about right. Life goes on. Live and let live--as long as you live somewhere else. 

I'm just hoping she will continue my own contract. 
                                             (happier days)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

My Rebellious Eyes

My eyes have now become so bad that I'm finding it impossible to read the news in the morning, as I am accustomed to doing. Perhaps this is the  higher powers' answer to the depression I generally experience upon reading the morning news. If I can't read it, it can't depress me, right? (What you don't know can't hurt you). Of course, I can still be depressed by my inability to read, but of course that's a different subject, and one, on the plus side, that doesn't give me a headache. But these letters that refuse to stand still, that refuse to focus--now that gives me a headache. Instantly. It is also giving me a headache to read what I write on this screen, but I trust that will not be the case for the my followers as well.

I trust also that, if the past is any indication, my vision will improve somewhat bye-and-bye and thus provide me once again with the opportunity to be depressed by the news--although I can't think what I will do if the news becomes non-depressing. But I guess that's not likely to happen anytime soon. 

It has become difficult as well to read print in books. Needs just the right sort of light--not bright, oddly enough, but rather dim. Thankfully, I am able to read without problem on my iPad, because of course one can make the print as large as he pleases and can also vary the print and background color. One is able, in other words, to tweak the media toward focus rather than one's own eyes. 

Reading is chief among the simple joys in my life--always has been, and therefore, when taken away, leaves a yawning cavity in the landscape of my pleasure. It is also, therefore, fortuitous in this case that I have not found a good book to read since finishing Yu Hua's Brothers. I have tried a couple (The God of Small Things and The Golden Compass) that proved not worth focusing on anyway. 

I suppose I could convert altogether to the iPad, but there are two problems with that: 1) that I actually prefer to read in the Indonesian language and 2) that I actually prefer the tactile and sensory experience of books written on paper. The electronic media makes the material seem distant and aloof.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Yet another earthquake last night. I don't know yet what the Richter number was. Seemed smaller than the one the night before, but then again I was in bed this time around, so it was more like a rocking boat than a rocking earth. I do know that tourists are now being evacuated from Lombok (the epicenter). 

I suppose that if this were happening in America, some dimwit would be saying that it's God's punishment of the wicked. In fact, I just read this morning about a pastor saying that the California fires are a punishment for that state's liberal attitude toward homosexuality. Lol. Good Lord, save us not from the homosexuals but from the ignorance of so-called religious people. Consider, by the way, that on Lombok, homosexuality is legally forbidden. So hey, they're doing their part, God, why strike them with earthquakes? Pfft. 

Why is it, I wonder, that men keep trying to press God into the confines of their own miniscule capacity for thought and reason? What God is he, then, other than the god of stupidity and smallness? 

Well, as a fortuitous antidote to all this foolishness, I happen to be reading David Bentley Hart's wonderfully intelligent (and intelligently hilarious) book, The Atheist Delusions, wherein one of the most interesting things he points out, so far as I've read, is that there is often no essential difference between the atheist and the "Christian" (so-called), for they are quite equal in their own special form of simple-mindedness. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Earthquake on the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Another earthquake last night, and a pretty good shake at that! 6.8 on the Richter scale, they say, originating in the area of Lombok (again). Sadly, I read this morning that 38 were killed. My ex-wife happened to be at the house at the time this occurred, and was fairly panicked, such that she clung to me as if I were the only stable object in the universe. (Strangely, I am the only stable object in her current universe, but I'm hoping that will change for the better down the road). 

After the earthquake, I found that a little baby bird had been deposited on my front porch. We brought it out to the backyard and sat it on the table, where it stayed for a couple hours. Later, it was gone from the table, but then reappeared, somehow, inside the house, sort of skittering/flapping back and forth across the floor. At that point, I sat the little critter on the tall statue in the front yard, and I find him gone this morning.

In an unrelated incident (or I assume it is unrelated), I found two tiny ants in the sealed Tupperware sugar container--which is a bit of a mystery to me. I had just recently poured the sugar into this plastic container with a screw-on lid for the very purpose of keeping out the ants, legions of which hide in my backyard and kitchen, ready to rush out at the first hint of a crumb or droplet to be devoured. 

But these two lone ants, doubtlessly brothers or at least first cousins, somehow found a way into the container, and I found them running hither and thither on the vast field of sweet snow this morning. The thing is, sugar granules here in Bali are not nearly as small as the sand-like sugar we find in the States; and these ants are in fact so small, that the individual granule is larger than they. What then are they to do with the stuff? 

"Praise God!" the one was heard to say. "We're in heaven, Oscar!" 

"Quite the contrary, Walter," retorted the other as he faced the nearest boulder on the slope of this great and unassailable rock candy mountain, "for we are surely in hell, where one hungers but cannot consume, thirsts but cannot be quenched!"

Well, I plucked the first from bliss and the second from torment, and transferred the sugar to a new Tupperware option. Take that! 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Language, My Dear, Language!

It is admirable, I suppose, that more and more Indonesians, especially in the service industry, are learning to speak some English. At the same time, it is unfortunate, given their accents and their choice of phraseology, that they still cannot be understood. 

Of course, that is partly my own fault, because 1) I'm kind of stupid, 2) I will often enough have trouble comprehending speech in any language (thanks, MS!), and 3) I begin by expecting Indonesian and therefore try to interpret what I'm hearing as Indonesian, when in fact it is English (more or less). 

One major problem that we English speakers encounter in communicating in Indonesian is a native phraseology that is unlike the forms we are accustomed to in English. Or, as my wife used to tell me, 'That's not the way we say it'. One attempts to directly convert English to Indonesian, naturally enough, but it just doesn't work that way. By the same token, the same dynamic would seem to be work when an Indonesian speaker attempts to express a thought, coming from his or her Indonesian head, directly to English. What comes out is at best unusual and at worst gibberish. 

For one thing, everything is backward in Indonesian (or, for the Indonesian, backward in English). 'The black dog,' for instance, is 'dog black'. 'Where are you going?' is 'Want to where?' 'My handsome husband' is 'Husband handsome my'. Therefore, one is looking not only for the plain words in the language but for the order of words proper in that language. 

In the end, though sometimes frustrating, this sort of thing keeps life interesting and challenging, for me anyway. It seems amazing, and somehow delightful, that something as basic and essential as language should remain so elusive.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


I've posted here today my Wego Nomination for Jim Dandy. To be honest, I wasn't sure what Wego is, so I looked it up:)

The WEGO Health Awards program was created to recognize and honor those making a difference in the online health community. It provides the opportunity for community members to thank and support the Patient Leaders and patient-centric initiatives they admire. Since its inception in 2011, the WEGO Health Awards have proven to be one of the best ways to connect the healthcare industry with top patient influencers. It is the only awards program that recognizes Patient Leaders across all condition areas and platforms, with over 2,000 nominations last year alone.

I would have to say that if I'm making a difference in the health (MS) community, it is rather by accident--but it's a happy accident in any case. Jim Dandy itself started as a blog devoted to negotiating the sudden, life changing manifestations of a disease--understanding it, examining it, interpreting its effect on my life, my health, my future, my frame of mind, and so on. In the years that followed, and especially after moving to the island of Bali, Jim Dandy gradually expanded his outlook and his interests, becoming less focused, yet perhaps more interesting. If my musings have, in all this and in any way, served to amuse or encourage or divert or commiserate, I count this as a happy coincidence. 

And so, as the Aussies here in Bali say, Cheers!