Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Reading -- A Few Links for You

Crossing nine time zones is wearing, especially if it's done in two flights, the second one delayed several hours in an extremely busy international airport requiring movement from one big terminal to another. Leaving early afternoon from Rome, flying out of London (finally) at late evening, arriving in Vancouver, disorientingly at about the same late-evening time on, supposedly, the same day. . .
How I consoled myself, at Heathrow airport, over a 2.5 hour flight delay. . . When you're stuck in London, scones with clotted cream are a decent compensation
I slept more than I ever have on the plane ride -- perhaps three hours total, in 20 or 30-minute chunks--but somehow I couldn't sleep that first night home, so by Friday night, back on the island, I was a teary fool.

Now, though, I have had two decent nights' sleep, even if both involved one or two of the wee hours awake reading downstairs while Pater kept the bed warm above. I've even unpacked my case, laundered my gear, and chatted (by text) with all my kids, although I haven't managed to see the grands yet.

On my way up the hill from hotel to my daughter's place to say good-bye and wait for the driver to take me to the airport.


And I'm sorting through photos yet unshared, trying to work out the balance of how much more to post about my solo trip to Rome and how much to get back to both the quotidian here and now and to writing about plans for the future. The garden, for example, is a wonder of new leaves and shoots and buds and flowers right now, and I'm keen to get out there with my camera. For the moment, though, I'll start by pointing you madly off in all directions, sharing a few links I've accumulated lately.

First, I think this long article by Norman Doidge on Oliver Sacks in today's Globe and Mail (one of our two national Canadian newspapers) is moving and fascinating and thought-provoking. Not only does Doidge trace the life and career of Sacks, but in doing so he also sketches a brief cultural history of the case history's role in medicine, its disparagement by physicians and researchers, from early 20th-century onward, in favour of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and the awareness throughout the last decade or so of the Reproducibility Crisis -- that these RCTs cannot be reproduced with similar results.  In other words, that they're not the assurance of objective science they were assumed to be. And with this awareness, a look again at the possibilities of the case history. As well, the article describes Sacks' wise acceptance of his death, offering considerable inspiration to those of us who draw closer and closer to our own mortality.
A room of late medieval art in the Palazzo Bernini, using the Panorama feature of my iPhone camera

Second, a good friend who is a voracious, astute, demanding, and astonishingly well-read bibliophile (hello and thank you, Jennifer!) emailed me a link to an essay in The Guardian by Jhumpa Lahiri about her latest book In Other Words. The memoir explores Pulitzer-winning Lahiri's gobsmacking commitment, after years of intending to learn Italian but being stymied in her progress, to writing only in that language. What she finds about the relationship between language and identity is fascinating, and the essay bolsters my own paler intention to struggle seriously with exploring my Italian self....

Besides those two long-ish pieces, I've also recently saved links to blogposts I think some of you might enjoy.

This post, for example, by Erin at Reading My Tea Leaves, where living (and parenting) simply in a small NYC apartment always looks beautiful in its ethical minimalism. Erin (whose book Simple Matters has just been published)  extends her thinking on lowering consumption to the problem new parents often face regarding both giving and receiving presents for babies and young children. I find this determination by/in young parents to leave a smaller footprint inspiring, and I hope the movement grows. Erin's contribution here is not only in how to dial down the materialism (not to mention the clutter that makes small-apartment life less serene) but also in how to do so graciously, neither preaching at nor shaming others whose paradigm hasn't yet shifted. Worth a read!

I was also inspired -- and thought you might be as well -- by this post on Erstwhile Dear about digital record-keeping, photo preservation, and blogs as the new cross-stitch sampler (Seriously, she makes the analogy convincing. Go read it and see -- I promise you'll like it!)
Three generations in Rome . . .


And finally, if you'll forgive another plug by a proud Mama, especially since I've just returned from my time with this young ex-pat family, my daughter has added another chapter to her story of life in Europe. I should warn you that in this post, she's finishing her account of a pre-Christmas trip to Innsbruck and there are some surprisingly scary photos of a parade there. Christmas? Parade? Scary? Who knew!? But Crampus is apparently a long, old tradition, and I think you might be interested in her response to it.

I'd be happy to read your thoughts on any of these links. And I must say, your presence here was so sustaining when I was in my little hotel room on my own. Thank you!

34 comments:

  1. Awesome consolation! I've been at Heathrow for 5 hours between Euro-Canada flights and it freakin' sucks. Not to mention that it costs 15 bucks CDN for a bottle of water (and i"m only sort of joking). Isn't the security batshit crazy?? I was practically strip searched when I came back from Ireland. Note to self: Do not travel from Ireland to England (with an American and Canadian passport) unless you want to be very scrutinized. If I hadn't been so devastated by that trip I might have stood up for myself (but with unpleasant consequences, I'm sure). I've decided (and I already made this decision for North American flights a couple of years ago) that I will no longer travel indirectly. Air travel is so uncivilized that I have to keep the misery to a minimum.

    I don't know how the West-coast peeps get to and fro to Europe. It's so far for you and the time zones are so disparate. But you are a lady of luxury now (of sorts!) so you will hopefully have time to decompress before everything kicks back into high gear.

    Thanks for the links, btw. Off to read...

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    1. It's especially crazy (the security!) as you've just undergone another version in whatever airport you started your day at. . . .Paul once commented that they should have taken him into a private room for the search he was subjected to, involving "cupping" of certain body parts. . . but he also commented that he was relieved they didn't. . . (mind you, I've been treated hideously during a similarly invasive, painful search in San Francisco, where I was scolded for the tears running, unbidden, down my face). To get to Rome from Vancouver cannot be done directly, but next time, I think I'll stop for at least a few days in one of the cities that can be reached that way (London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, sometimes Paris) and then either train or, more likely, Easyjet, the next leg when I'm ready. Meanwhile, you're right, being a lady of leisure and luxury (the latter, I wish, but then leisure=luxury!) definitely eases the pain.
      oh, as for the costs of eating at Heathrow, I loved that the voucher I got in recognition of my being stuck there, hungry, due to a delayed flight, was for five pounds. I mean, really? I wonder if anyone from BA has ever tried to find food in their airport for 5 pounds. . .

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  2. Some intriguing links there. I will have a look.
    Welcome back to this side of the world. I hope that by now you have regained your usual West Coast equilibrium. It's hard, with such a great distance and such delays.
    I was stunned when I looked at your daughter's post. Many years ago I was in the small village of St Veit im Pongau, where I was accosted by just such creatures as you've described. I was hit with sticks and switches and ran, pursued by 'monsters' to the safety of a stranger's car. It was terrifying - and completely unexpected. It was a cultural experience with little to recommend it and I shook for a long time afterwards.

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    1. I was shocked when I first saw R's post as well -- her partner's photos are so horrifying, as scary as any creature I could imagine, and the idea of them actually hitting and pursuing visitors seems a step to close to a Shirley Jackson story. . .

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  3. I have, pinned up in my kitchen, a little scrap of paper with some words from Oliver Sacks:
    "I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure"

    Welcome home!

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    1. I believe that quotation is included in the article. For whatever reason, I've always meant to yet never read any of Sacks' writing, but Doidge's essay made me realise this is an oversight I need to correct soon.
      Thanks! It's good to be back, although I miss the Rome crew very much...

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    2. For a while now I have been wanting to make that Oliver Sacks quote into a cross-stitch sampler, believe it or not!

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    3. That would make a great sampler. Do it! ;-)

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  4. And gotta say, that article is probably the best thing I've ever read in the Globe. What an awesome human being. He's one of those people who truly blessed the world with his existence.

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    1. Right? I was so impressed. I mean, that kind of article shows the value of maintaining a newspaper, in a world where too many are closing. More of that, less of Wente, I say!

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    2. Raquelita! I'd forgotten your Canadian connection! ;-)

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  5. The Oliver Sacks article introduced me to two authors I'd like to read - Sacks himself and Doidge. A tremendous article that demonstrates intelligent thought.
    I recently heard a young female doctor speak. She practices in a refugee clinic and considers herself a physician-writer and believes that she must not only treat patients but document their stories. Powerful.
    Hope you soon get out into the garden with your camera. The light is changing and spring is en route.

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    1. So powerful, Lorrie, and I'm really interested to hear about the woman you heard speak -- that link between healing and witness is something too often neglected, but there's some important groundwork that I hope more physicians and other medical caregivers will continue to build on.
      Loved your latest round of photos -- you inspire me to get back to my "real" camera! ;-)

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  6. Glad the weeping has stopped and sleeping taken its place. Many thanks for the recommendations - I shall troll along to your daughter's blog now, which I really enjoy. Scones and cream are greater than the sum of the parts, emotionally.

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    1. I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoy R's blog as I know you to be a discerning reader and very good writer yourself. Suspect you'll be strolling over there rather than trolling -- you're not a nasty sort, as least not so's I've noticed ;-) (just teasing re the typo above, in case you're ???)
      So very true about scones and cream -- sorry I had to confront you with that image right as you're trying to purge the sweets . . .

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    2. I did mean trolling but in the old, gay sense. I didn't make the connection with its new meaning. Hmm. Language. Do not worry about the scones, I appear to be impervious to images. Anti-sugar is going very well and I am becoming newly creative.

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  7. You have reminded me why we don't do long haul flights any more . Returning from Bali to London one time took us 21 hours via stops at most major airports on route . It is fortunate we had those stops as water ran down the aisles from the toilets & we were forbidden to use them . Garuda airlines - happy days . We also seemed to spend big chunks of our lives sitting about in Chicago airport - nice pizzas though . Then the jet lag .....of course I wouldn't have missed it for the world & you have that extra incentive
    Wendy in York

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    1. Ugh, that flight sounds beyond disgusting! Luckily, we never have to do the big American hubs, although I did once have to go through Dallas on my way to a conference in San Antonio. . .
      I do have extra incentive and we will continue to do as much travel as we can manage while in these early, healthy retirement years, BUT I'll be trying to do one-leg-onlys as much as possible, as I've said to K, above..

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  8. I have a terrible flight time tomorrow. I leave Vancouver at 23:30, fly overnight for 6 hours and then wait 7 hours in Mexico City for my flight to Oaxaca. Hopefully no delays! It does seem a lot more sane to just book a hotel but my plans changed this week. No Maman..so I too am a solo traveller. I think I'll save the Sacks article
    to read while I wait. Isn't all the new green beautiful? Enjoy!

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    1. Oh dear, that's a daunting trip you have ahead. I know nothing of Mexico City airport, but I hope that you can find yourself a comfortable niche, perhaps a lounge? a restaurant? and hunker down with a book and a calming pot of tea. I know you'll have a splendid time in Oaxaca (too bad about Maman, though) and I hope you find time to tell us a bit about it. Bon Voyage!

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  9. Scones and clotted cream mend a lot of problems! I am glad you are back and happy
    Amazing articles,thank you. There are (or were) so many extraordinary people ,they give hope again to people,no?
    I love your "three generation photo",as well as Rhianon's post. Have to come back and comment more,so many interesting things in one post,now I'm rushing to Elina Garanca's concert!
    Dottoressa

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    1. I have been carefully balancing what I eat with my exercise, and the math didn't work in the scones' favour that day, but I dearly needed their comfort and appreciated it.
      Yes! I thought that as well. Hope is often elusive these days, but I found it in these articles.
      Oh, lucky you! Hope the concert was wonderful!

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    2. Yes,thank you,it was splendid! She is beautiful vocal and a beautiful woman!
      She was singing Lieder: Brahms,Duparc and Rahmaninov and a little bit of Carmen (wow!) on bis. I am not so fond of Lieder,but it was perfect. Her Carmen must be a dream!
      We have also famous mezzo and Carmen (Met range)Ruza Pospis Baldani,but she doesn't sing any more
      Dottoressa

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  10. Glad you are home and mending from travel. I can't imagine Rhiannon's surprise at that monstrous parade!

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    1. Thanks! Yes, she was shocked, and of course holding the little one would have raised every protective hackle...

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  11. I find solo travelling exhausting, so not surprised you have been feeling tired and emotional. It must be good to be home and hope you had a wonderful time with your Rome family x

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    1. It's true, Marianne. I felt exhilarated, at times, to be managing so well on my own, but at the same time, there's no one to trust with the bags while you head to the washroom. No one to pick up the food at the buffet while the other stays with the bags at a table. Etc. Still, it was indeed a wonderful visit and I'm enjoying the comforts of home again. Now if only I start sleeping right through the night. . .

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  12. I haven't finished with your post yet... but wanted to comment first before I forget what I wanted to say. We've had a couple of long layovers in Heathrow, one where we landed very early morning and left late afternoon. So thankful for the plethora of shops to help pass the time... along with eating a leisurely breakfast AND then lunch AND even tea with scones in the afternoon. By the time we reached Dublin we were exhausted but NOT hungry! Now...I'm off to throw myself onto my exercise bike and ride madly off in all directions:)
    P.S Am I the only one to recognize that little snippet of Leacock in your post?

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    1. There are wonderful shops in Heathrow -- even (especially?) the W.H.Smiths there are surprisingly well stocked for airport bookstores.
      It's true that there is a tendency for the meals to pile up during air travel and its in-between times. That and all the sitting -- no wonder it takes days, afterward, for the body to feel itself again.
      p.s. It's a Canadian thing, right? And perhaps a Canadian thing for English teachers and those CBC listeners of a certain age?

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  13. Welcome back! I hope your sleep schedule gets back on track soon. I'm not looking forward to flying overnight (fortunately only a 4 hour time difference) and part of a day to get to a conference in a couple of months. Hopefully, I won't weep while listening to people give papers, but these long flights are not pleasant.

    I'm loving that panorama shot in the palazzo.

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    1. Yeah, good luck with that! Red-eye flights and listening to papers might not be the best combo!
      It was fun taking that panorama shot -- a benefit of a winter visit, as I suspect the room would be more crowded later on. I rarely use that feature of the iPhone camera but it's effective, isn't it?!

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  14. I immediately thought your first picture looked very "English" ! Then I realised you'd flown into Heathrow. I hope the cream tea tasted as good as it looks and I agree a £5 voucher buys very little at Heathrow!! If you're anything like me I guess this week will have been a rather difficult one emotionally. Remember to take care of yourself! Good to be back home with Pater though. I really enjoyed Rhiannon's writing about the Crampus. If I hadn't been prepared I'd definitely have shared her reaction. It reminded me of Halloween in a Six Flags Theme Park in the US when I felt inclined to hide out in a coffee shop!
    Rosie

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    1. Rose, you're absolutely right that the week is tough, emotionally. Yes, of course I'm happy to be home but I've bonded even more with the little one, and with my daughter and her partner as well, so leaving them behind. . . Well, you know. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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