Ankles & Habits

The left ankle I sprained Thursday night is basically better. However, today, the day I went back to sitting in my office chair after 3 days off, I noticed that my habit of sitting on my feet, particularly on my left foot, was annoying to the injury. My insistence on doing it is probably what prolonged the same injury in the past (I did the same thing to myself in 2019, almost to the day, and still wasn’t 100% a month later). As I approached my dining room chair tonight, noticed the same thing – habit is to curl up the left leg and sit on it. So, I was talking about it to X, when it dawned on me that maybe this habit is WHY I keep spraining my ankle. He said, basically, “Well duh.” Ugh. It’s going to be such a tough habit to break. I can sit on my right foot instead, but that means I have to always approach the chair differently. And then I’ll probably start injuring my right ankles instead of/in addition to the left. I just CAN’T sit straight on my butt. I can’t explain it, it’s not exactly uncomfortable, but I have this URGE to curl up at least one leg underneath myself.

Book Corner 2022.31

by Adam Platt

I really bought this based on the title. Adam Platt, with whom I was not familiar, is/was restaurant critic for New York (not The New Yorker) magazine. This is something of a food-focused memoir. We learn a little about his strange parents and stranger upbringing in Asian countries, then a little about his career in journalism and becoming a NYC restaurant critic. It’s somewhat repetitive. He uses the word “dyspeptic” to describe himself way too many times. There aren’t too many really stand-out moments. A chapter where he decides to bring five 4-year-olds to the fanciest restaurant in town is unusually lively and engaging, but it’s an exception.

Book Corner 2022.30

by Peter Singer

This is an oldish book (2009) I picked up; it’s a bit dated, and I’ve heard all of Singer’s arguments before, but I guess I just like hearing them.

Singer’s out to get everyone to give more of their resources to the poorest of the poor. If you wouldn’t pass by a child drowning in a pond, how can you not give a small sum of money to save a child’s life across the world?

He attempts to refute all the common reasons we have for not giving more. He emphasizes the goal is not to guilt people, but to create a culture where more giving becomes the norm.

One thing that surprised me, until I remembered how old the book was – he says that of course we don’t want to just give people money. That fosters dependence and doesn’t change the institutions that keep them poor. I think he has since changed his tune, since his website, https://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/, now lists Give Directly as a recommended charity. Give Directly flat out gives money to people. That’s all they do. That’s why I love them. I am fully convinced that giving poor people money is the best way to go. They don’t become dependent. They improve their circumstances. They often start or improve their businesses. And that is how they can begin to change their own institutions.

Book Corner 2022.29

by Kati Marton

“WIr schaffen das.”

“We can handle it” is the translation given here. It is what Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference about how Germany was going to handle the surging refugee crisis in 2015. I remember hearing this. In my memory, which may not be perfect, the question was particularly what was going to happen if the rest of Europe did not step up to the challenge. The emphasis was on the “Wir,” “we”, meaning Germany. If the rest of Europe did not step up, well, Germany would handle it. Germany would do what was right. And they did. This is when I first considered Merkel a personal hero.

“The fact that one million refugees had been allowed into Germany was, of course, the headline of 2015. However, an equally startling figure…: six million to seven million Germans helped them.”

“For Germany’s self-image – and how the rest of the world regards the former Third Reich – Angela Merkel’s regugee policy has been transformational. Nothing short of astonishing is the fact that the country responsible for the Holocaust is now regarded as the world’s moral center.”

This book is really a gem. It never devolves into a boring litany of Germany political mundanity (“first the Socialist Democrats formed a coalition with the Democratic Socialists who in turn…”). It has a somewhat chronological arc without being strictly chronological; after some straightforward early life biography, the book is divided into chapters which showcase different aspects of Merkel’s chancellorship: a chapter on the refugee crisis; one each on her relationships with W. Bush, Obama, and Trump; one on Ukraine (written alas before the latest invasion); etc. It really sustains interest.

Merkel has a doctorate in physics, as does her husband (who avoids all media attention and just likes to do his physics in peace). She honestly doesn’t seem to have gone into politics for any reason other than to get things done. She does her own shopping. The most lovable photo is captioned thus:

“Shortly after her heartfelt warning to the nation regarding the looming Covid pandemic, the chancellor was seen shopping in her neighborhood grocery store. Note that there are more bottles of wine in her cart than rolls of toilet paper. Merkel beseeched her countrymen not to hoard.”

Hero!

Juneteenth

I get better every day. For example, last night for the first time I didn’t wake myself up with sudden coughing fit. I was already getting better before paxlovid, but I’m sure it speeded things up.

Lots of fiber time today on this beautiful holiday.

Tomorrow Never Knows

Stuff I’ve internalized via stoicism, reading, and being married to X.

You can’t get anything out of life. On a beautiful day, if not outdoors, I would say, “I should be outdoors.” If outdoors, but not doing something fun, I would say, “I should be doing something fun.” If doing something fun, I would say, “I’m not sure I’m enjoying this as much as I should.” You know what… it doesn’t matter what you do. You can’t possibly get more out of the day than you’re getting. Because you can’t get anything out of the day. It doesn’t fit. You’re in the day. You are the day. This is freeing.

Tomorrow isn’t promised. Yeah, yadda yadda yadda. Wracked with insomnia, I would make it 10x worse thinking, “But tomorrow I was going to do this, that, and the other. Now I’ll be too tired!” Who ever said you were going to do this, that, and the other anyway? Nobody ever promised you that. That wasn’t on anyone’s docket. How can you feel gypped out of something that was never owed to you to begin with?

So, this past week I would be looking out at the beautiful June day with illness rampaging through me and I’d be at peace. I didn’t think, “But now maybe our trip won’t happen! I wanted to go biking this weekend!” Those things were never promised. I didn’t think, “It’s so beautiful out! And I’m wasting it being sick!” Because I wasn’t wasting it. The day was beautiful. I couldn’t possibly get more out of it than I was already getting.

Oh, Tytania, you’re so zen.

I prefer stoic.

Oh, Tytania, so everything is perfect now?

No, I am not pleased that my breathing still feels compromised. Now I might never bike again!!!

Book Corner 2022.28

by Lena Andersson

“From the day she found language and ideas and realized where her mission lay, she renounced expensive living, ate cheaply, was always careful about contraception, only traveled rationally, had never been in debt to the bank or to any private person, and did not get herself into situations that forced her away from what she wanted to spend her time doing: reading, thinking, writing, and debating.”

Until, of course, now.

This short novel is about the woman described above, and how she abruptly falls in love. It is a literally excruciating look at self-deception. Ester’s love is unrequited and undeserved. Over and over, we wince as we read some variation on: “She thought: I should walk away. But I don’t want to. I want to stand here with him. It’s the only place in the world I want to be.” As Lionel Shriver says on a back-cover blurb: “Alas, most women have lived this story.”