A single sneeze is a relief, a series is aggravating. I will have a flash of anger at my body escaping my control. It ends with a long, loud single syllable swear (the words and language, usually excrement related, will vary and I have yet to identify the variables that affect this choice). I am frustrated. It is as-if my mind wants to complain that my body has a mind of its own.

I have the same problem with my computer and my phone. Which is a misleading statement, or what could be called a Freudian slip, because I am blaming them for my body’s independence.

For example, my mind has instructed my hand to click somewhere and it missed. I now have an error message. Add a little vanity, like a quiz where the program is keeping score, to my frustration and I am now having problems clicking on the right spot to dismiss the message. If I miss more than once, I will end up clicking on the button with a hatred that shocks me in the aftermath. I am lucky that this has yet to be the cause of a need for a new phone.

It’s cascading frustrations. Frustrated that my movements didn’t match my intentions, frustration that this has upset me, frustration that this is further disturbing my control, which disturbs my self-control and so on until I need to take breath and slow down. Queue the opening line of Simon and Garfunkel‘s The 59th Street Bridge Song and I break out of the cycle.

It all seems so irrational. And extreme. I know I am not alone. After all, there is a quote floating around (I couldn’t source it) about computers needing to be light enough to be thrown out of a window. It’s around because it resonates. Then again, I have never heard of anyone being injured by a flying computer.

Weather Reminder

I know I am in denial. I should be wearing another layer but it will be warmer in the afternoon and I will be able to pretend that it is still summer. With our bit of the world having a soggy summer, I have had plenty of training. I have gotten good at it.

The day is not warming up and I am getting grouchy. I blame the weather but I know it’s me that I am upset at. I am not believing the story I am telling myself. I am stubbornly sticking to the single layer waiting for the warmth that wont arrive.

The time to go out for dinner arrives and brings some lucidity. My jacket won’t be enough to keep me warm and I don’t want my meal ruined by the grumpiness that cold elicits. I put a t-shirt under my shirt. No longer obsessed with pretending I am not cold, I realize it’s October.

Where’s the Cheese?

We walk into town. This sounds more impressive than it is. The walk started in the neighbouring town whose city centre is only three kilometers (two miles) away. The only difficulty was a small shadeless stretch where a bottle of water would have been welcome. The consequence of which was the grocery store being our first stop.

The place meets our expectations. Streets with historic buildings, quaint shops and restaurants. Nothing too touristy though it’s probably the tourists that pay the rent. The exception is a cheese shop, one of a chain that sells almost exclusively to tourists.

Our goal is to buy some local cheese, Edam from Edam. Our been there, done that marker. The excuse assigned to the trip. The local outlet of the chain shop is disqualified for not having enough of a local feel, for being too associated with the Amsterdam tourist trade.

We walk around looking for a cheese shop and find the historic market but no cheese shops. A little more wandering brings us to a large, old church; but still no cheese shops. We double back towards the main canal. We stop for an ice cream and directions.

Apparently our choices are the disqualified chain shop or a supermarket outside the historic centre. Neither option meets our criteria for authenticity. Not that we were setting high standards but they feel like the equivalent of eating at a McDonald’s in Hamburg without the irony that that would afford.

As we walk to the bus stop, I fantasize a cheese shop path to wealth.

Involuntary Guinea Pig

I am running an experiment on myself as the involuntary, but not unwilling, subject.

I was sitting on the pub’s patio drinking beer. I shift, and push my phone over edge of the bench. No panic. It doesn’t have far to go.

I now start to think that putting water bowls out for dogs is a common feature of patios on hot days in the Netherlands. I remember seeing them at coffee shops, restaurants and other establishments with terraces. I am now reminded of the one at the pub as my phone falls directly into it. My casual attitude towards the falling phone turns into a flurry as I grab it, dry it on napkin and turn it off.

I sit it direct sunlight, for once reassured by it’s getting hot. I am 20 hours away from flying home which is less than 24 hour rule I use for drying the phone. My plans include using it for my boarding pass. I now resolve to wait until the last minute before trying to turn it on to see if it has survived. I schedule the test for 11:00 AM the next day.

Three hours after the scheduled hour my phone is still off. I am more uncomfortable with trying too early than with being untethered.

I settle some of my discomfort by getting the self-service kiosk to print my boarding pass. I am still without my source of entertainment. Modern travel is full of waiting time and I am having to wait without podcasts or reading. I debate buying a book. I drink two coffees instead.

I make it home and 28 hours after its quick dip, my phone comes back to life. I congratulate myself for my patience in waiting. My anxiety over the phone dying unexpectedly is greater than my anxiety over going with out all the services it provides.

The experiment is inconclusive. It might be that I didn’t want to know if I the phone needed replacing. It might be that I was more worried of an even longer period without the phone if I didn’t give it the time to dry out. I decide not to determine which of the competing anxieties was strongest. The glass is half full. I count the calls from my lizard brain that I have ignored a victory and ignore those I that I answered.

Don’t Forget Short Life

Based on their beliefs, their behaviour is normal.

There are two types of people: Those who believe in dichotomies and those who don’t. And that’s a statement that’s brimming with fallacies yet inherently true.

You take a belief that people are nasty and brutish, add a dose of offense is the best defense and you have a license for assholery.

The only way a dichotomy can be false is if one of the options doesn’t exist. The problem is that the brain sees a whole split in two and therefore assumes it is fifty-fifty.

I don’t believe in changing the beliefs of others. But it’s more complicated than that, starting with I am not good in debate because I get emotional (nasty and brutish) when faced with the irrational. Irrational to whom?

There are two types of people: Me and the others. No wonder I have a big ego.

Do You Remember Tardigrades?

Do you? Did you even hear about them? Or was it only my bubble?

Seven years back, give or take, they were a thing. Not big thing, but around a lot. Sort of like the acquaintance you start seeing at every third party.

Their superhero survival capabilities was the interesting fact of the times. And they look alien. And cute(?).

A few months. The trivia distributors did their rounds. The seriously interested shared their amazement. Everyone who cared, and quite a few that didn’t, learned a new fact.

Now, they are waiting for the next generation of curious to arrive. They will be back. Anything that can survive like a tardigrade can, will interest people. They even come with cute colloquial names: water bear or moss piglet.

Two words: Baby pandas.

At the Arc de Triomphe of Life

Poor reader. My mind wanders onto the screen again. Once more round the roundabout. Because it’s fun. Madness too.

You might be surprised by the passive apology (I am flattering myself in assuming you have been paying attention and remember some of my previous blatherings). Let me explain, I ran into a Nietzsche quote.

Nietzsche comes with bagage. The sexiness of his aphorisms versus a philosophy I think I disagree with, a strange life and a legacy polluted by his sister.

ich war noch nie bescheiden genug, weniger von mir zu verlangen.
I have never been humble (modest) enough to ask less of myself.

The quote seems to capture my mood, but not literally, and so I look at the two translations of the word Bescheiden for a clue. It is translated as “humble” in one version I look up and as “modest” in an other. I don’t know very much German but it doesn’t stop me from assigning it a gestalt of modesty from humility. It doesn’t explain the resonance.

I play with the meaning and end up using “modest” as the translation and I come up with a lack of modesty about my potential; I could ask anything of myself. Puzzle solved.

To continue with the attic cleanup:

Among my favourite songs, my relationship to two that celebrate milestones feels significant.

There is Jefferson Airplane‘s Lather, an ode to turning thirty and staying young that I have mentioned before (but who remembers these things? regardless the pedant in me requires me to mention its previous mention). Thirty was generational divide for that generation, then. You went over the hill, dropped out of dropping out. It started out as a promise to myself, then an affirmation. I still think it’s a nice thing to do to lie about nude in the sand.

Then there is Prince‘s 1999. It had a long buildup, 17 years to anticipate a mega party. The debauchery never happened but 2021 has the promise of a 1999 party. Then again, a lot of 1999 was spent avoiding the millennium bug.

Here’s an unkind thought: A conspiracy theory mindset probably used to be an evolutionary advantage when good information was less available. Today it’s a disadvantage.

Am I living my version of William Stoner and his undistinguished career? I have potential.

I’ve done these types of posts before. They don’t appear to be very successful. I enjoy them.

A Flailing Monkey

I was able to drone on about Augustine’s ‘If I truly err, I am’ and got respect for remembering the book and chapter it came from. I was disappointed in myself because I could not remember the Latin. I’ve put it into my flash card app. Memorized facts have become a better party trick in the smart phone era. Sometimes I get lucky and get fact checked.

Is it a metaphorical when there is causal relationship. To get out of my head I go out of my house. I could get lost exploring it metaphorically, maybe creating a parable. But when I go out, I know that somethings would sound really stupid if I said them. The self-check takes me out of my head. Why did I think there was some metaphorical symmetry between the two? Plato, can you tell me that cave story again?

I imagined showing up speaking bad, but fluent, Dutch. I was going to amaze, pretend it was some sort of natural skill, linguistic osmosis. “You’re grammar is getting better. Have you been working on it?” Shattering the fantasy took a few long micro-seconds. “Yes.”

Happy hour is free tapas. The owner’s shtick is greeting everyone in Spanish. It has been a while since my Mexican girlfriend but I can still speak Bar-Spanish. I order the Daiquiris.

Thinking needs a reality check. The indoors doesn’t feel any less real.

Si Enim Fallor

The podcast is about Augustine. The conversation gets to his rebuttal of skepticism. It is often cited as a predecessor to Descartes‘ “I think therefore I am.”

I memorized this fact a while ago. They quote his version in Latin. My notebook is not at hand so I write “si enim fallor, sum” on a post it. Knowing it in Latin will make me appear even more cultured.

The translation I had memorized has Augustine using doubt as the proof existence. The podcast has him using error as the proof. This gets me researching because being able to drone on about the different ways the Latin can be translated could lead people to believe I know Latin with no confirmation or denial necessary.

I am re-reading Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald describes Dick’s father as “very much the gentleman, but not much get-up-and-go about him.” Ouch. But despite the blow, I still had to write that this is a re-read. My sensitivity to this teaches me that my cultivation of culture is part of my garden of gentlemanliness.

I show up at the barbecue with three types of beer–a very good Scottish IPA, a Belgian ruby and lager for the less adventurous. Ordinary beer would not fit my image.

Someone says ”Fortune favours the bold.” I retort that my boldness has not been fruitful. It elicits a chuckle and a comment about how at least there are no regrets. My addition that remorse is much better gets laughter. The subject is changed after I agree that the journey was worth it.

A thought lingers. Augustine was saying that to be wrong meant that there is something to be wrong about but if I take the quote out of context, I can make it motivational–existing is going out and making mistakes. Sooner than later there will be a party with a conversation full of platitudes where I can slip this thought in.