Friday, September 30, 2011

Insomnia. Just when I think I have it beaten, here I am at 2AM too awake. My GP had me try melatonin on top of my regular sleeping medication but I can't detect any improvement. I read some on Colin Thubron's In Siberia about Stalin's work/death camps, had the Imp settled in my armpit and thought my day-long headache would appreciate a rest. Wrong. The cat started snoring like a tiny feline trumpet, my breath was wheezy and congested (a common condition), and I had songs from West Side Story running through my head from the last episode of Glee. So I gave up, got up to take something for my headache and a bonus sleep aid and pulled out my faithful iPhone. I was amused to find that my prescription sleeping pills are illegal in the US and that I was forbidden to bring them into the country. That would effectively bar me from re-entry since I can't sleep without them and sometimes not with them. I wonder what they propose I do in order to visit my homeland. I know the last time I accidentally went over without them I was miserable and sleepless for a week until J posted them to me.

Otherwise, the news here is good. My wound is almost completely healed and I expect Plastics to set me free next Tues. I see my surgeon the same day and I think the Oct 17 date will become confirmed for my new knee. I realize recovery will take longer this time but I'm very motivated.

I've been reading Stephen Fry's autobiography which makes me realize what a brilliant mind he has even if he did go off the rails in his youth. As a girl brought up in the 1950's it was also a window into all those childhood boy things I always suspected happened whether one was gay or not, but polite male authors never spoke of. Stephen tells all and this girl at least went through similar emotional and physical explorations, but I was too much a Good Girl to ever stray from the very straight and narrow. Except smoking at 16 which I don't recommend.

I have also read Larry Niven's Destiny's Road which I enjoyed quite a bit. No, it isn't up there with Ringworld but is quite a good read. One of the Bear's leftovers. The Orchid Thief was a disappointing mishmash of personal experience with Florida's orchid community and environment and a historical background. Considering the orchid mania of Victorian times, this minor incident hardly counts but it is a window into a section of the plant world unknown to most of us. I used to occasionally accompany my mother to preserves in southern Florida in search of birds and I therefore know a little what they are like (hot, wet, and full of bugs but spectacular).

Here in Canberra we had torrential rain and high winds today, which are shredding my wisteria before it can properly bloom. My apple trees are blooming and I managed to pick enough asparagus for a meal last week. Next weekend I should have my gardener back to plant beans. The peas and lettuce look good A's much as I can see. But spring is toying with us, giving us some lovely days and then retreating leaving us shivering.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Last night I spent two hours watching shows about 9/11. I obviously was not in the US when the disaster struck but I still get very patriotic about my birth place and got very teary-eyed at some points. 9/11 seemed to bring out the best in many Americans: their courage under attack, their help to fellows in distress, their dogged persistence in rescue and the resolve it gave the country that we were not going to become a nation of victims. I certainly don't agree that the logical future involved invading Iraq and I doubt there's a chance of truly battling radical terrorists with an army anywhere, but we tried. The efforts of Homeland Security to make air travel safe are completely over the top and Timothy McVeigh proved that home-grown radicals can wreak havoc, so the solution can't be simply to put armed guards everywhere. I was so upset to listen to radical Muslim clerics declare that the US would not rest until every Muslim was dead. Our whole nation is built on exactly the opposite of that and only Muslims declaring jihad on America has changed our feelings about religious freedom. I am still very much American and I miss my homeland very much sometimes. I think Americans get a bad reputation overseas because in some cases we are frightened of foreigners since we can be insular. Our country is so big and has such diversity that going overseas is not the rite of passage as it is many other places (like Australia). I was terrified on my own even here because I knew I was in a different culture and didn't want to be thought ignorant or foolish when I opened me mouth. Maybe we talk too loud because we all talk at once at home and are not used to other cultures. Whatever; I've gotten off track. I felt such kinship and shared pain for the people who suffered through the attacks of 9/11 and it's that feeling of kinship that pulls me home even when I know I can't live there again.

Swans news: They won their elimination final against St Kilda! The played really well for most of the game and really bottled up the Saints. Ryan O'Keefe kicked 4 goals and I usually wince when he's kicking for goal because he can be inaccurate. But as the coach said, when a player is hot, he can do miracles. Goodesy was hot as well and the young bunch played very well. We play Hawthorn on Friday night (I hate Friday night matches) and their star forward is injured so we have a chance to get a little closer to the Big One.

I've been reading like mad. I finished the first three volumes of the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell and I am debating whether to buy the last three. Book prices being what they are, I could buy the last three on Amazon for half what they cost me here. But they are just military sci-fi about space battles and I think I'll go on to something new. I've started The Soul of a Chef which is about the Culinary Institute of America and I'm somewhat disappointed to find how focused they are on French cuisine. These days it pays (here at least) to know as much about Thai, Chinese, and Italian cuisine as French. Some of the course is very pedantic, but I guess knowing how to make a perfect stock is critical. I don't make veal stock because I don't cook classic French anything. Pasta and stir fries are more my speed and desserts my passion. I am reading The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell. He is the author of the Kurt Wallender mysteries but this is not in that series. I am finding it very suspenseful, similar to the feeling in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but with less violence (at least so far). My BBBB was The Crack at the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester, which is about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Over half the book is about the geology of America and for that I recommend John McPhee, who can make geology interesting. I was a bit deflated by this book, because John McPhee is better at geology and the chapter on the earthquake itself was a dry recital of facts. I'm now reading The Orchid Thief, since I love orchids.

In the middle of the last paragraph the nurse came to dress my wound and this one said it was almost healed over with just a few pin head holes. This is the first concrete assessment I've had. Every nurse says it's looking better but nobody has told me it was healed over before. This surely means surgery on Oct 17th is a go and I will walk again!

My gardener worked all weekend and has cleaned out almost all of the veggie beds. We have run out of room to get rid of the weeds and you can't compost most of these because they wouldn't get killed in a household compost bin. He also cleaned out the fish pond and cleared out ivy at the front. He may bankrupt me with his work ethic, but he will shortly have weeded everything that needed weeding and will have a break to let the weeds grow back!

Monday, September 05, 2011

No, there's nothing new around here. Surgery is still scheduled for Oct. 17 and I think I might make this one. The wound is looking a lot better and is small so I have hopes it will heal by then.

Swans news: we made into the finals and will play St Kilda in Melbourne Saturday night. It is an elimination final and, while in theory they could win, I am expecting an early exit. I am pleased they did as well as this given the number of new players. It proves we can bring up new talent and win without Roos. Our first Irish import Tadgh has announced his retirement. I've watched his entire career and it's been a great one. I have to admit there are names in the records list I don't know, because I don't watch the matches because I get overly excited. This can be dangerous for someone in my condition.

My great news is that I've hired a gardener. Actually I am paying a foreign student from the ANU to work in my garden doing what I can't. He worked most of the weekend and not only got my peas and greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard) planted, but he completely remodeled my overgrown pear tree, bring it back to reasonable size. He has an orchard of 300 fruit trees at home so I trusted him to know what to do and he did exactly what I wanted. He also cleaned out the ivy and vinca underneath it and cleaned out the vinca smothering my hellebores under the wisteria. He will be back next week to continue the cleaning out of the veggie beds. He thought it was safe to plant the hot season crops like pumpkin, but we're still having frosts and it isn't safe for another month or two. He's also said he will clean out my fish pond and get it running which is something I have never gotten my lawn mowing person to do. My plum tree is in full bloom and I have narcissus in bloom. Unfortunately the last people to weed my garden eliminated some of the daffodils planted in the herb bed.

I have made a little progress in my genealogy, getting death certificates for my father's parents. I was hoping to find where my grandfather was born but all I got was "New York". I think it's Albany but New York didn't begin registering births until 6 years after my grandfather was born, so I'm out of luck there. I will have to rely on census data unless the city of Albany has records. I'm adding siblings where I can, hoping to make more connections.

I have had my adoration of Stephen Fry rekindled by watching his live performance in Sydney on cable. There are heaps of video clips on YouTube of hysterical sketches with Hugh Laurie and I've put the DVDs of their BBC shows up on my queue on Quickflix. I need a dose of silliness until there's more Big Bang Theory to watch.