Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yes, here it is Christmas day and 33C here. I just finished making 98% raspberry jam (I had to add a couple of strawberries and a few boysenberries to make the 5 cups of fruit called for). I am all alone and have done no Christmas preparations since I continued to be sick until this week, and even now I get tired even more easily than I used to. My dear MIL is coming down tomorrow afternoon for the weekend so I'll have some company for a few days. Everyone else seems to have retreated into their families so I am left to my Internet family.

Book reports: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman was fascinating and I raced through it while recuperating. It's not about bad doctors per se although he has personal experience with a string of surgeons that may ring a bell with some people. It's more a case of why doctors fall into diagnostic ruts, why too many tests can be a bad thing, why some doctors are better at patient care than others. I've had experience with surgeons who were very bad at patient care; my eye surgeon was brilliant but not a people person. Once I figured that out I knew how to get my voice heard. My first knee surgeon didn't perform the procedure he told me he was going to, and, then when I didn't recover "properly", confessed that he was better with hands than knees. But the failure of tests to do what the patient expects or to give more information than can be really valuable is interesting, especially for someone contemplating knee replacement.

BBBB: In Confident Hope of a Miracle by Neil Hanson, subtitled "the true story of the Spanish Armada." Despite its 600+ pages, it was quite interesting and tells a very different story than the one most of us remember (if anything) about the fate of the Spanish Armada. There were massive delays and incompetence on both sides, financial penny-pinching or outright lack of funds, bad weather, poor ship design, bad tactics, not to mention that the Armada was supposed to lead the way for an invasion of England from the Netherlands. I always wondered why all the silver that came into Spain from the New World seemed to vanish without effect. Philip II spent vast amounts of it on this plan to eradicate Protestantism from Europe and have it become a completely Catholic continent. He believed that God had chosen him to do this, so it would happen. His own military leaders tried to point out the holes in his plan but he refused to listen because he knew God would help him. Thousands died at sea or on the coast of Ireland carrying out this belief.

The other thing that has been on my mind which I am not ready to talk about is my future as a widow in Australia. This year with its long trip in the States and its long lonely sickness and holiday make me wonder what I'm doing here. But nothing can be accomplished by stewing now because it's all a moot point until I can retire which still lies 5 years in the future. My financial status and the fate of the American economy will have a much stronger bearing in the issue than missing the smell of a real Christmas tree and the taste of eggnog with family.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's berry time here in Canberra, loganberries, and boysenberries mostly but a surprisingly large crop of raspberries too. I'd like to get enough to make raspberry jam but that will be pushing it. Besides, raspberries are so wonderful to eat on their own. To the left you have a small portion of one evening's picking and the first of the world famous mixed berry jam. To th
e right you have the Imp in the sink of the remodeled bathroom. She is trying to figure out her relationship with this bathroom since I am using it while the toilet in the ensuite leaks. Plumber arrived this AM and supposedly fixed leak. She doesn't like this sink as much as the other one but she loves the bathtub.

Obviously I am alive and 90% recovered. I still have a sore throat and a nagging little cough which I hope means nothing. I am still very short on energy and get tired very quickly. I think I'm going to forget about planting corn and may plant more beans or something else easy. I have little energy for gardening and earlier this week I fell onto the driveway while trying to tug down some dying foliage (or as our bus driver in Kaui kept calling it, foilage). I have another spectacular bruise on my left thigh/hip and felt very shaken up.

Book report: I just finished the 4th volume in S.M. Stirling's post-apocalyptic series that begins with Dies the fire. The next volume is out but only in hardback so I await... Very compelling plot with lots of action. Tends to revel in gore, however. Have moved on to Iain M. Banks's Matter, which is one of his Culture novels. I looked at the size of it and doubted my attention span but I find myself on page 262. As usual there are multiple stories played out simultaneously and at differing levels of the Culture. I really like these novels but they are like nothing else I've ever read in sci-fi. They are beautifully written and complex, yet the characters make the whole complexity make sense. Any reader who is not familiar with his work should be made aware that his novels written as Iain Banks are in a different style and setting from these. The confusion must have gotten to somebody because this one is the first I've seen labeled as a Culture novel on the front. Start with Consider Phlebas or The Use of Weapons.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm sorry to go silent on you but apparently what I have is the "summer flu" and it has completely knockend me out. If I can ever stop coughing, I may return to life as we know it. Meanwhile I cough and watch TV and knit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I am sitting here rereading some of my posts from the trip and feel like I inhabit two different worlds. Here I am at home in the summer with birds singing (and dogs barking) having just picked a sizable quantity of mixed berries. I hung out two loads of laundry and I managed to plant beans and more cucumbers today and do some preliminary pruning of the bay tree and the middle plum. After 90 minutes at that I was pooped and came in to collapse. Tomorrow I am due to go back to work. My legs hurt and my knees are unreliable.

But then I just spent two months in another life where it is winter and Christmas is a really traditional holiday (which I have never felt here) and people are both worrying about their jobs and trying to do Christmas shopping. I felt comfortable there again probably because the Bear is gone and he was my tie to Australia. I am having some difficulty in my own mind figuring out where I am in my life. The physical part is obviously here and I like buying mangoes and lovely cherries. But I have no trouble whatsoever switching over to US mode. I never get confused about which side of the road to be on, or money, and there were only a few words of Australian that remained stuck in my vocabulary (petrol). Australia sometimes seems so terribly provincial and the US so incredibly egotistical. I don't know how to balance the two sides of my life, especially when there are people I care about on both sides of the Pacific.

I really wish I could shake this illness and feel like I have some degree of energy but it hasn't happened yet, although the cough is less draining and my nose needs blowing less often.

Friday, December 05, 2008

This shows what a couple of week's change in location made. The snow was along I-68 in West Virginia and the lovely coast of Kauai was at the end of the cruise as we sailed back to Oahu and Honolulu. Now that I'm home it seems like a bit of a dream. Everyone said I was doing too much but, when I got beaten down, it was at the end of the trip when I had just been on the road too long. I've already gotten 2 of the boxes mailed from Maryland and I forgot Quarantine's dislike of spiced tea and they confiscated my Constant Comment. But I have Cascade Sierra (a wool & cotton blend) and one of the 2 skeins of discontinued Noro Big Kureyon in a red/purple to make a shrug from a book of patterns for little bits of Noro (which is all I can afford). I'm thrilled to be back knitting on CAW.

I am still sick and run down. I managed to get cucumbers and zucchini planted today before I ran out of steam.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I am sitting in my very own bed and trying to ignore the pain in my legs and the annoying persistent cough. Yes, I am still sick. I spent Weds of the cruise in bed and had to cancel the second snorkel trip. It's not like there aren't any available coral reefs in our country, so I can do it again another time. I think a lot of the wow factor for most Americans on the cruise was the tropical island bit. Living in Australia (and having lived in Florida for 5 years), all the foliage and such wasn't all that exciting. And I was unprepared for the wall of humidity which made everything hurt. Oh, and nobody told me it rained a lot. I didn't get to wiggle my toes on Waikiki because it was raining the whole time despite weather forecasters and tourist guides assurances that it was going to be fine.

A few very general comments about the Hawaii experience. I liked NCL and its policy of letting you eat where and when you wanted. The food was good and you choose what to eat and pretty much everything is on offer from roast meat to sushi. The cabin was small but manageable and we had a balcony as well. Unfortunately, our cabin was on the side that faced the wharf most of the time, and the ship docks at a commercial shopping terminal so you get a great view of containers on docks. I am so tired of Hawaiian music and shirts I may never want view anything of that style again. Read the fine print on your contract before you figure that you've paid for everything. This may not be a surprise to other people who do cruises, but there was a fee added for each passenger each day labeled a "service charge" which was supposed to mean you didn't have to tip people. We tipped the waiter who was extra nice to us and baggage handlers anyway. You get absolutely nothing free to drink except water out of the tap, and tea and coffee with meals. So every can of soda or water costs.
My second bus tour was not very good. It was a trip to Waiemea Canyon via the life story of the bus driver. Very little about the canyon, stops to buy souvenirs, and a stop for 15 minutes to go to the only lookout over the canyon. Yes the sight is pretty spectacular (I'll post some photos later) but I'm not sure that a trip by houses with their real estate information was what the trip was for.

The hotel on Waikiki was very nice but should be at the price we paid. However, the area around the big hotels is all designed for shopping, both high end boutiques (Chanel, Dior) and the same souvenir stands selling the same stuff as everywhere. We finally went to a bar for a meal and got hamburgers since dinners in the hotel started at $25, Lots of Japanese tourists spending their yen. Many signs only in Japanese. The only souvenir I bought was a T shirt with "Obama surfs" on the front and a little patriotic verse followed by "President Obama 2009" on the back. I don't know for a fact if he does (or did) surf but he did grow up in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you like your cabin mate, you will get on each other's nerves occasionally. I am sure I was cranky because I was tired and sick and hurting and would have preferred to be left alone. But for the most part dear MIL was good company and we had some laughs. She went out at ports and went shopping in Walmart while I was trying to see natural wonders and maybe a bird (besides the hundreds of chickens that populate Kauai).

I am also having extremely mixed feelings about the dual citizen business. Having spent 2 months in the US on my own, I really had a good time and really had a ball with all my friends. I really like parts of American culture and life style and feel sort of constricted in Australia. Now that I no longer have the Bear, the ties to this country are not as strong. My friends in American are for the most part closer to me than any one I have here. I miss them all the time. I do love Australia and many things about its lifestyle and culture but there are a lot of things I don't like as well and time hasn't changed that. I can't go back to the US without medical coverage so I have to stay here unless I stumbled across a man willing to marry creaky old me and bundle me into his health cover. No, I'm not looking.

I hope to get out of bed tomorrow and go shopping for groceries. My housesitter left everything pristine but rearraged things a bit oddly. I have done 2 loads of laundry and have another yet to do.