Nevertheless some people have ways of coping. For example, one day this week, I had to take my wife out to the repair shop to get her wheelchair worked on and I ended up coming into at about 11:30. With the full force of the August summer sun beating down on me, I passed two elderly guys chillaxin' in the shade of some trees, kicking back in the grass sharing a forty and a joint.
The heat hasn't been so bad on me. Our apartment is air conditioned. My work is air conditioned. The bus I take to work is air conditioned. There is only trouble in paradise at times like last week when the cooling tower at the building where I work broke or like this week when the entire heating/cooling system at my apartment building was turned off to upgrade the boiler by means of replacing it. Of course, my two daughters bore the brunt of that one. They found ways to cope, journeying out to the local mall to shop for four hours or so during the hottest part of the day.
My favorite trick from the bad old days when I didn't have air conditioning is to soak a tee shirt in water, put it in the freezer for ten minutes or so, just long enough for the water to begin to freeze. Then put it on. It takes your breath away. For bonus points, stand in front of a fan until the shirt is dry. Then, if need be, repeat. The same could probably be done boxers. I've not tried that.
I finished Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli this week. It's a very nice read. It did take me two tries to get through it. I don't know why it just didn't catch my fancy the first time by the first few pages just seemed not worth it. A couple of years later, I picked it up off the shelf and it grabbed my attention from the very start. It's a memoir about the year the author spent in exile in a small, rural town in Fascist era Italy. The descriptions of the peasant life of hardship under the hot, Italian sun is profoundly moving in many ways. Levi started to lose me over the few brief pages where he started to make his political commentary explicit rather than to let the absurdity of the situation speak for itself as he does in most places. But those pages are few in number and the rest of the book really shines. My biggest complaint is the abrupt ending with no real closure. But that is something that really that Levi had little control over. After all, when Fascists say that it's time to go home, it really is time to go home.
I think my next casual read will probably be Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. A guy who I once knew only as the guitarist of my favorite punk rock band and whom I became reacquainted with when he popped up on Facebook commenting on the status of the younger sister of ex-girlfriend of mine from high school and who just took the Ohio Bar Exam suggested it to me. He had put up a very nice note on how the particulars of legal cases often lead to room for moral ambiguity. I commented to point out the parallels between what he'd written and my present research into the problem of the universal and the particular as formulated by al-Farabi. In turn, he suggested Notes from Underground. From what he said, the novel deals more with themes of the simple and the complex than with the universal and the particular. Nevertheless there is some overlap and Dostoevsky is my second favorite Russian author (after Chekov). Not to mention, it would be really slick if I could drop some hip literary references into my thesis. The odd thing is that as much as I like Dostoevsky, I've read so little of his writing. I've read far more Tolstoy and I'm not a very big Tolstoy fan.
My grandma fainted while attending Mass this past Sunday. It was the 150th anniversary of the parish that she used to go to with her fiancee back in the days before he became my grandpa. The service was packed. It was a hot summer day in a 150 year old building with an antiquated A/C unit. Fortunately, she was standing between two of her children, one a paramedic and the other a nurse. By Tuesday, she had been sent home from the hospital and seems to be doing fine. My uncle's comment was that either she doing some heavy drinking before the Mass or she took her blood pressure medication without eating anything.
My grandma is a pretty amazing woman. I think she's 85. Given her age, she's in pretty good shape. She's not up to going sky diving like George H.W. Bush did on his birthday this year. nor, like Jack LaLanne, is she ready to swim in chains around Ellis Island. But her mind is still sharp even as her body is slowly giving out. She can't make out the words that her parish priest says from the pulpit, so he prints up his homilies for her. Of her four children that still live in town, they take turns taking her to Church services.
Some of my earliest memories are of her, or at least of playing in her house. I remember building ranch complexes out of Lincoln Logs, driving Matchbox cars around them, and when my grandma ducked her head in from doing laundry or other housework, I told her that when I grew up, I was going to build a log cabin out in the woods and that she could come out and live with me when she got old if she wanted and I would drive her everywhere she needed to go. I also remember playing in the snow on cold winter days and coming in to be greeted by steaming cups of hot chocolate and buttered toast to take the chill out of my bones.
She also sent me a birthday card this year. It arrived in the mail a month late, the day before my daughter's birthday. Of course, I didn't read it until the next day, Sunday. I was probably reading the card she mailed me around the same time she was fainting.
Some days I feel a bit guilty that I don't live close enough to help out with things like mowing her lawn or driving her to mass. I don't beat myself up about it too much. I can't do everything for everyone.
This op/ed piece on Why Atheists Care About Religion caught my eye for a number of reasons, first and foremost because I thought it was an unusually intellectually honest and sober treatment of a topic usually treated with histrionics, hyperbole, and vehement rhetoric on all sides of the question. Soberness and honesty aside, two things really caught my eye. The first is the apparent presentation of the critical method as the only route to truth. The second is the false dichotomy that is presented as a function of this: people are presented as either being critical (rational) or dogmatic (irrational) with nothing in between. It seems to me that one does not have to be in what Husserl would call the philosophical frame of reference in order to be rational, or even to not be in a dogmatic frame of reference. Nevertheless, it's a well written piece.
A few weeks ago, I caught Ridley Scott's GI Jane broadcast late at night on some obscure cable channel or the other. In the film, the question of women in combat came up as an intentional matter of policy spearheaded by a feminist senator. In reality, the question is being solved on the battlefield as a practical question. It seems the old guard of the US Army has to go to war with the army it has and not the army it wishes it had and that this is opening the door for woman soldiers on combat duty.
From the ``seriously, it's not a joke'' department, The Pope, Jimmy Carter, Bob Bar and Susan Sarandon walk into a bar. Okay, so it's not quite a bar. Still, strange bedfellows and all that ...
Ryan Sager doesn't understand the difference between grass roots and astro turf. The distinction, missing from his analysis, is that people (paid or unpaid) to encourage other to write letters or show up at town hall meetings is organizing. This is a different animal than people being paid to write letters or disrupt meetings, people writing letters in other people's names.
I'm not certain what to say when a woman sets herself on fire at store counter and then strolls through mall while ablaze. The story strikes a little close to home for me. A relative of mine died by self-immolation. It was a closed casket funeral. It's also the first funeral I went to that I really remember as a funeral. I remember understanding that he was dead. But I didn't yet understand why that would make so many people sad.
The venerable gray hair periodical Reader's Digest files for bankruptcy. Too bad it's Chapter 11. I've got a chip on my shoulder over their utter lack of fact checking.
Clearly, the Socialist in Chief of the US needs to step it up. Real socialist authoritarians know how deal with dissent. Chavez would certainly know how to deal with anti-government protesters carrying rifles.
And speaking of the Socialist in Chief, artist behind a world famous parody of him was a Kucinich supporter. Of course, the Kucinich guy wasn't the one that added `socialist' as a pejorative. Regardless, the ethnic background of the satirist makes me chuckle over the various allegations of racism.
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews has a review of Aiming at Virtue in Plato by Iakovos Vasiliou which is apparently a book that tries to stand Socrates' theory of ethics on its head. The attempt is an interesting one. He tries to explain the apparent tensions in Plato's Socratic dialogs by distinguishing between two questions: ``what ought we to aim for in our lives?'' and ``how can we determine what will get us there?'' Vasilou's presentation seems to be that Socrates thought the first question answerable (virtue is the end) but the second question is not (we do not know what virtue is, let alone how to attain it). This might end up being very relevant to my MA thesis as al-Farabi's argument for the virtuous political regime is explicitly built on the idea that the philosopher king will be able to answer both of these questions not only for himself, not only for an entire city, not only for an entire nation, but for an entire empire.
I thought that this story was an interesting case of relationship judo. Certainly not the approach usually taken, `Hey, take some time to grow up. Me and the kids will still be here when you do.'
CNN's prediction that oil isn't likely to hit three digits per barrel anytime soon cracks me up. I guess it depends on what means by soon. Personally, I expect oil to be trading normally at three digits per barrel with a couple of years. Of course, my prediction on oil and a sawbuck will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The reason for my prediction, though, is twofold. On the one hand the price of oil per barrel right now is artificially low as many governments subsidize oil production but few governments tax oil or its refined equivalents at a high enough rate to pay for the costs of using oil (roads, environmental cleanup, and etcetera).
What was that you said Mr. Kennedy? that you believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate? I can't imagine anyone that might have been in a position to do something about that in the past three to nine years or so.
So of course being scientifically demonstrated to be not-fat was too much goodness for me to handle. A weekend full of feast days, my eldest daughter's 16th birthday, pizza, hamburgers, cookies, Cheetos™, beers, pseudo-Irish pubs and the like put me right back up at 175 come Monday morning. I was also tired and dragging my corybungus, struggling to stay awake all day. Perhaps I'm catching a cold. Of course, by Tuesday, I started to shed the extra weight. By the end of the week, I shed it all.
Running is mostly uninteresting. With no stop watch, I have no real way to measure progress (or lack thereof). Monday morning, I did see something interesting, some sort of large, winged insect in its death throws on the sidewalk. It's coloring was like that of a cicada, but its body was more wasp shaped. I didn't get close enough to take a good look. As it writhed around in pain and agony, I just ran right on by, putting one foot in front of the other, sweating, and sweating some more.
With regards to weight lifting, my trapezius is killing me again. It started Monday when I woke up. They just hurt. And that was before I started lifting. After I lifted, the pain subsided for a bit, but by afternoon, the pain was back and I hit the medicinal analgesics to good effect. Then they hurt all day Tuesday. It's not a worrisome pain. It's the kind of pain you'd expect if you're building muscle. But it's certainly irritating, irritating enough to make me grouchy. Fortunately by Wednesday, the pain had started to taper off there only to have my sinister rhomboideus major start complaining. Also, my legs finally seem to be getting the hang of the increased weight. My hamstrings are a bit tender but they don't hurt like they have been and I haven't had any signs of shin splints in a few weeks.
Motivating myself has been a challenge recently. Quite a few mornings, I feel like shrugging my shoulders, saying ``forget this'' and getting another hour of sleep before I go to work. I've yet to do that. I find myself asking myself why I'm doing this. The answer is always the same: because it's worth doing.
Speaking of having gone to the faux-Irish pub, it was a fun night out. After a period of indecision followed by threats of the imposition of dastardly punishments of increasing grotesqueness should she not make up her mind post haste, my eldest daughter finally decided that she wanted to eat out at McGinty's in honor of turning sixteen. On the menu was something billed as a traditional Irish breakfast, eggs, bangers, rashers, both black and white pudding, baked beans and a choice of mashed potatoes or chips. It sounded like an awful, terrible lot of food to me so I asked my wife if she were interested in splitting it. She wondered aloud what the black pudding was. I ignored her question and asked her how she wanted her eggs.
While walking home, the truth came out.
`I ATE WHAT? WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE WARN ME!'
And for the rest of the evening she complained about having pains in her stomach and the barbarity of eating clotted blood. Though, she did like the white pudding until she looked up what suet was. I had the baked beans and rashers all to myself. Over all, I wasn't that impressed. On the other hand, I can see how it would make great comfort food.
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