Eye doctor

I went to the eye doctor today for the first time since I left New York. My entire life, from when I was young child to just a few years ago, I had gone to the same eye doctor. It was a pleasure being his patient and I always enjoyed my visits with him. After I moved to Mississippi I wrote him a letter of thanks.

Today’s appointment, at the university’s medical complex in an unattractive modern building that felt like an airport terminal, was brief and businesslike. My family’s eye doctor had an impressive arsenal of apparatuses for vision testing. This doctor’s equipment came in a box the size of a poker set and which was no doubt sufficient, but it stripped away all the awe I’ve always felt when visiting the optometrist.

Later I went to get the prescription filled for new lenses and frames at a retailer; something I had always handled through the family eye doctor. Here was another sort of sterile experience. Of the two women I dealt with first, one was inexperienced and the other was full of bullshit. Fortunately a third lady was pretty straight with me.

So I’ll be getting new glasses shortly. It didn’t occur to me until had to pick out frames what a big decision it is: I’ll be wearing them every day for at least the next several years.

Bizarre weather

It’s been raining on and off for the last few days and there’s been a couple of good thunderstorms. I still say the Gulf Coast takes the cake when it comes to loud thunder. It used to sound like thunder was right at ground level.

However, I saw the most bizarre sky ever early Thursday evening. Yellowish green clouds overhead. Far to the west it was clear. The sun was low in the sky and cast golden light only on the treetops, but aside from those treetops it was dusky. I couldn’t stop looking at it, but it made me very uneasy and I didn’t like it. The sky is not supposed to be yellowish green. I saw a green sky once before on Long Island, right before a nasty downpour. Green skies in Iowa are supposed to portend tornadoes. There was no tornado this time. Susan told me later that it wasn’t humid enough for her to be worried about one.

Later, when the sun set, the mackerel sky was blue-violet with red-violet clouds. I’m still without a camera, otherwise I’d post pictures.

Palestine peace not apartheid

It only took a few days to get through Jimmy Carter’s “Palestine peace not apartheid”. I can see why he took a lot of flak for the book; he is very critical of Israel and most Americans are not willing to be. However, I suspect a lot his critics didn’t actually read his book beyond the title. He doesn’t use the term “apartheid” much , except to say that Israeli critics have used it to describe Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories.

Most of his criticisms of Israel relate to their actions’ variance with international law, UN resolutions, and other agreements, which he documents in the book’s appendices.

One thing that I didn’t get from Carter’s speech in April that came out more in the book was that he has had a very strong personal spiritual interest in the Holy Land. He seems particularly incensed, though he doesn’t write much about it, that Israeli policy has adversely impacted Christian Arab communities in the West Bank.

It’s a good, quick read if you want to get a different perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ride to Hills

It’s going to be hot today, so I got on my bike this morning for a two-hour, 17-mile ride to the little town of Hills. Despite its name, Hills is about as flat as this part of Iowa gets. There’s not much to Hills itself, it’s small and cute, but road there has a wide shoulder and there are a couple of parks along the way where I can refill my water bottle.

Hometown days

West Branch had its “Hometown Days” fair yesterday, complete with carneys and their rickety rides and funnel cake. The morning started off with a parade of firetrucks, antique tractors, and local boosters. No true floats, but a couple of trailers. No music or band, either, that I saw. During the day, teams played Hooverball games on the village green, the National Guard recruiters had a few activities. I checked out a Humvee (a real one, not a Hummer).

The local blond cheerleaders were raffling off a refrigerator. On the side of the fridge was a sign: “Cheerleader raffle. Win me for $1!” Well. “What exactly are you raffling off?” I asked one. The fridge of course. I explained what I thought the sign implied. Good for a laugh, but I’m not sure they thought it was too funny.

Truman

I’m finally finished with “Truman” by David McCullough, my second behemoth book in a row.

The best part of the book deals with the first six months or so of Harry S. Truman’s presidency: the Potsdam Conference and the decision to use the atomic bomb. For a man who was more or less thrust into the presidency with very little preparation he managed well and made some good decisions. I could almost imagine myself having to spend two weeks meeting with Stalin and Churchill and having to rely on an unfamiliar staff and cabinet.

McCullough did an excellent job of bringing out Truman’s solid, values-driven, middle-American personality. Of course he had a lot of materials to draw upon, as Truman kept a diary and wrote tons of letters. But a lot of Truman’s presidency seemed a little out of context with the politics of the time; no doubt the author had to cut something out of his 900 page book. I also think McCullough’s grasp of foreign policy isn’t so great. I’m perplexed that he didn’t factor the Soviets much into Truman’s decision about the atomic bomb in 1945.

“Truman” is worth reading if you have seven weeks worth of reading you want to do. I have a number of books about the Cold War on my shelves; I might consult them to answer some of my questions about Truman’s decisions.

Now I’m on to Jimmy Carter’s “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid”, which I’ve been looking for since I saw him speak in April. An “express” copy was checked in at the library. I have two weeks to finish it before it’s due back. But at 210 pages, I should be able to make quick work of it.

The Full Monty

The Full Monty–the live musical version–is playing at one of the local theaters this weekend, so Susan and I went. She hadn’t seen the movie so it was all new to her. I didn’t realize it was a musical, though it makes sense to make it one since there was lots of music involved in the story. I didn’t care for the score (it was bland jazz rather than the soul soundtrack of the film), but the cast did a great job and a few of the women had great voices. The guys actually did get naked in the end. I wasn’t sure they would.

And before the show I had the best pork chop I’ve ever had at a restaurant that specializes in locally grown and raised food.