Monthly Archives: June 2012

June Week 3: History

The original plan was to read a book I bought several years ago, however I failed at reading it once again.  The book is on the SS-Einsatzgruppen but I just get so bogged down with the troop movements that my mind starts wandering while my eyes keep moving.  So I picked out another book that was in the Kindle Store.  The book I choose was Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

James A. Garfield is one of those Presidents that gets a bit glossed over in history classes, or at least the ones that I attended.  I can understand why, we are up to number 44 and Garfield was only in the White House for six months.  In fact, two months of that he was in bed from a bullet wound and subsequent infection!  Of the other four months, he spent two of them embattled with another member of his own party, Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York.  When your country has hundreds of years of history (those from more “ancient” cultures may titter), some stories must be left out.

For a shorter book, it gave a decent background of three figures: James A. Garfield, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charles Guiteau.  All three men are in various ways extremely passionate.  Garfield is portrayed as a self-made man for whom family and justice are his primary concerns.  Bell is a man who lives to discover and invent, to the detriment of his health and his family life.  Guiteau’s sole concern is to make himself famous and to fulfill his work as “one of God’s chosen few.”

The book goes back and forth between the three men, describing the paths that took them to become central figures of history in 1881.  Garfield worked his way through school, directed soldiers in the civil war, served in politics, and eventually elected to presidency.  Bell invented the telephone which he displayed at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia and from then on was almost buried under the weight of that one device.  He spent the next several years focused on that one invention before he left it to get back to the drawing board.  Guiteau spent most of his adult life dabbling in various occupations, skipping out on all kinds of debts, and “borrowing” money from friends and strangers alike.

Around the time that Garfield was elected the president, Guiteau became obsessed with politics.  He wrote and visited as many influential members of the government as he could, petitioning them constantly to assign him a consulship, first to Austria and later Paris.  After being firmly rebuffed by the Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, and told not to contact them again regarding a consulship, he was struck by the thought “If the President was out of the way every thing would go better.”  A month after that thought came to him, he shot the president in a train depot.

Much of the book is spent discussing the medical care prevalent at the time and the techniques used on the president.  It was interesting to read prevailing science and thoughts and how different they are from now.  Anti-sepsis techniques were only just being introduced to the U. S. and were generally met with scorn and suspicion.  The president had his fresh bullet wound probed by fingers that had likely not been washed in days.  His wound was soaked with warm water and pus was seen as indicative of healing.  Germs and bacteria were just being hypothesized!

Bell was convinced that if he could develop an instrument to find the bullet still lodged in the president, that the president might survive.  The book describes his efforts to create a metal detector, which eventually did work but he could not find the bullet due to the president lying on a metal spring mattress (discovered after he left the examination) and being confined to searching only a portion of the president’s body.  In the end, the president suffered greatly before succumbing septic poisoning and a hemorrhage in the splenic artery.

Guiteau believed that the American public would be grateful for his “removal” of Garfield.  Long after his trial was over, he believed that he would leave prison a free man, become famous, and marry a beautiful, wealthy socialite.  He only came to terms with his execution shortly before it occurred.

In short, I liked the book.  One particular bit of trivia, Robert Todd Lincoln is the only person to be present/nearby the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley.  The book also kept the history interesting with snippets of stories and dialogue.  A couple of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The scientific spirit has cast out the Demons and presented us with Nature, clothed in her right mind and living under the reign of law.” – James A. Garfield

“The whole theory of antisepsis is not only absurd, it is a positive injury.” – surgeon regarding Lister’s antisepsis hypothesis

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June Race: Watermelon 10.2K

The original plan for the monthly races had been to run 5Ks.  It seems that I needed more of a challenge!  The Watermelon Race was not too far away and I made it there in plenty of time to do my asthma treatment and mill about.  I do have a couple of complaints: 1) they started the 10.2K 45 minutes late and didn’t tell anyone and 2) the course was two loops on the 5K course with the starting line a little further back.

Not a great picture, but it’s all I’ve got!

Unfortunately there aren’t any pictures of me for this race, my friends were out-of-town or busy.  I thought I did pretty well, 10.2K (6.34 miles) in 1:07:14, so about a 10:36 min/mi pace!  There were even a few people who I passed along the way!  That 10-year-old kid was really reluctant to let me pass him, but I got around him at about 2.5 mi in.  I also passed a mid-teens girl about 4 miles in too!

The only thing that dampened my spirits were the ton of ants that had invaded my car for a couple of weeks.  Luckily, they have since moved on to the great vacuum in the closet.  Actually, I emptied it after vacuuming, but I liked the way that sounded.

July Race: 12 Days of Christmas 12K

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Swimmers in the Pool

Here are a few things that have been spotted swimming in the pool:

Snake! Snake! Oh, it’s a snake!

The snake was seen prior to cleaning and hasn’t been seen since.

Bunny rescued and given a chance to relax before being released back into the wild.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Big guy!

Five of the six we pulled out of the pool in one afternoon!

Quite a large frog!

We try to check the pool a couple of times a day, so that we may rescue wayward creatures.  However, we do have little tragedies every now and then.  Luckily, we have thus far saved more than we’ve lost.

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June Week 2: Classics

For week 2, I wanted to pick out a book that most everyone else seems to have read.  In keeping with the theme of reading books which I already have, I picked out Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

This book is a day or two old…

Like most kids, I saw the Disney version when I was very young.  I also vaguely remember a television show in the mid-90s based on the story.  However, I had never read the book.  It turns out that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t very long, only about 100 pages.

The story is definitely reminiscent of a dream, much more so than the Disney movie.  It seems that events flow from one situation to another more smoothly but they are different and stranger.  The movie left out a few characters and events from the original storyline and incorporated some elements from Through the Looking Glass.  The most obvious example of alteration is the removal of the Duchess.  In the book, Alice visits the Duchess and after conversing with her for a time, the Duchess hands Alice her baby and leaves.  Alice tries to nurse the fidgeting baby, tying it into a knot to keep it still, it then turns into a pig and she releases it into the nearby forest.  Talk about a world gone mad!

I did enjoy the book and may even read the sequel at a later time, but it is definitely something I should have read as a child.  The book is more about the strangeness of the characters rather than following a plot, which is something that I don’t generally seek out in a book.

Week 3: History

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June Week 1: Poetry

Generally speaking, I tend to stick to a couple of genre when picking out books to read.  This month is about picking out things that are outside of what I normally read.  Here is the schedule:

Week 1: Poetry
Week 2: Classic
Week 3: History
Week 4: Mystery
Week 5: Biography

Since the first “week” of June was only 2 days, I decided that some poetry might be the best way to start off the month.  While I was in college, I had to take British Literature and so had to buy a large anthology.  Since the class, the book has moved around with me but I didn’t even crack it open again.  So rather than searching for poems in other books or online, I decided to look in the book that I spent a ton of money on and moved four times.  Here are some of the poems I read:

Thomas Gray “Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat
Thomas Gray “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
William Cowper “The Castaway
Kathrine Philips “A Married State
Kathrine Philips “Upon the Double Murder of King Charles
Kathrine Philips “Friendship’s Mystery to my Dearest Lucasia
Kathrine Philips “To Mrs. M. A. at Parting
Kathrine Philips “On the Death of My First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips
John Donne “The Flea
John Donne “The Good-Morrow
John Donne “Song
John Donne “The Undertaking
John Donne “A Valediction: Of Weeping

My favorites were both of Thomas Gray’s and Kathrine Philips’ three poems on friendship (A Married State, Friendship’s Mystery to my Dearest Lucasia, and To Mrs. M. A. at Parting).  The poem that resonated with me the most was To Mrs. M. A. on Parting, as it reminded me of one of my friendships.  Here are a few lines that really spoke to me.

I have examined and do find,
Of all that favor me
There’s none I grieve to leave behind
But only only thee.
To part with thee I needs must die,
Could parting separate thee and I.

This is the most lovely way to describe a “best friend” (a phrase that I find oh, so school-age).  According to the anthology, Katherine Philips was a big believer in the Platonic view of friendship as the union of souls.

Our changed and mingled souls are grown
To such acquaintance now,
That if each would resume their own,
Alas! we known not how.
We have each other so engrossed
That each is in the union lost.

Like roots of trees growing close together, we graft onto one another and become one instead of remaining two.  When one is weaker, the other provides nourishment and we can stand strong against all elements.  No one talks about friendship like this anymore.

Thus our twin souls in one shall grow,
And teach the world new love,
Redeem the age and sex, and show
A flame fate dares not move:

And courting death to be our friend,
Our lives, together too, shall end.

A dew shall dwell upon our tomb
Of such a quality
That fighting armies, thither come,
Shall be reconciled be.
We’ll ask no epitaph, but say:
ORINDA and ROSANIA.

A very romantic notion, a friendship so strong that one cannot survive past the other.  Such thoughts are usually only reserved for lovers, but sometimes a relationship with a friend can be more intimate than that of with a husband or wife.

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May Race! Kiwanis Memorial Day 8K

In May I decided to try my feet at an 8K race.  The race was well-organized, easy to find, and had a nice little tribute for Memorial Day.  Prior to leaving for the race, I had the responsibility of taking care of a friend’s “farmlet” while he was away for a couple of days.  I rather like feeding his animals, particularly since I get to play with his dogs and have “conversations” with the goats.

Rubber-necking goats “What’s going on over there?”

So at 6:00am, I left the house to feed some goats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, and a duck.  We arrived at the race about 45 minutes before the start, which gave me plenty of time to get my number and do my nebulizer.  Right before I made my way to the starting line, we discovered that the car battery was dead.  Note for next race: leave the car actually running while using the converter for the nebulizer.  At that point, there was nothing I could do about the car so to the starting line we went!

Ready to run!

About 10 minutes before race time, the official gave a little speech about Memorial Day and then called for all veterans to come to the front of the line.  He led the veterans to a spot about 30 feet in front of the rest of the runners and told them that they would start from there, though apparently there was one guy would have beat us all regardless of any advantage given to him.

They definitely didn’t need the head start!   Despite most of them being at least 20 years older than me, almost all of them crossed the finish line before me.

The course for the race was somewhat of an out to a point and back, rather than a loop.  It was also very humid and windy, though the high wind kept the bugs away.

And we begin!

I wasn’t exactly at the back of the pack, but I am generally slightly behind the middle of the pack.  While passing one of the last policemen on the route, he said some encouraging words, I told him that all the Vietnam veterans were beating me, but that it was appropriate considering the holiday!  I like making policemen laugh.

One of the Vets with some flag patterned shorts leading me to the finish line

Crossing the finish line!

I finished at 54:19, a little under an 11min/mi pace!  I was very happy to finish under 55 min!  Then I remembered, now we need to find someone to give the car a jump.  Luckily, within a few minutes of finishing the race, the person next to us was getting in their car and was willing to charge the battery so we could get home.  After some initial confusion figuring out where to hook the negative cable to their car, and nearly having to call AAA for assistance, we got the car started and we were back home a little after 10 a.m.  Then I proceeded to do nothing for the rest of the day, which was a nice change of pace.

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