Things I learned this week

1. One thing you don’t want to hear yourself say while measuring chili powder into a marinade for kebabs you are making is, “oops”. We subscribe to weekly pre-measured recipe boxes from an organic farm in Vienna and I realized today that the spices sometimes are delivered in larger quantities than recipes require, which can result in pepper spray-levels of capsicum released into the air when you toss the mix into a hot frying pan.

2. When everyone in your house has been quarantined and is waiting for the results of their COVID-19 test, the kind thing to do in this situation is explain to them that you, and now they, are all coughing because you just pepper sprayed them, and then go open windows.

3. The test takes much longer when it is being done on you than when you are watching someone else being tested. Time is relative. 30 seconds is not such a long time when someone else has a probe up their nostril, but a very long time when it’s your nostril.

4. When the health office calls you after waiting 3 days and tells you your test is negative, that’s a very good feeling.

So my wife found my sunglasses

Like many people, I have no idea what is going on right now; all I know is, my wife found my sunglasses in the trunk of her car.
I mean, like many people, I have no idea what is going on right now. Like very few people, all I know is, my wife found my sunglasses. Even now, after you have read this, very few people know she found my sunglasses, because let’s be honest, I check my stats, very few people read this. So, no matter what I write here, very few people will ever know it.
Unless, like, I write something lots of people already know, or something lots of people will find out about somewhere else. What I’m saying is, if a lot of people know something, it’s not because they read it here.
Ok start over:
Like many people, I have no idea what is going on right now.
Things are very confusing.
Chaotic. No one is following rules of procedure because this is all new. Or new-ish. Like, we haven’t seen anything like this since 1918, or 1938, or 1968, etc.
Lots of people out of work. Lots of people sick. Lots of people getting their heads cracked by police. Crazy man nominally “in charge”.
And lots of billionaires making money hand over fist.
That is because billionaires are clowns, by and large.
A Russian I once got really fucking drunk with at a vodka bar (never drink vodka with a Russian. Or a Pole for that matter.) with divided people into clowns and cucumbers. Cucumbers follow rules, clowns do not. So you’re going to find a higher proportion of clowns among billionaires than among the general population. (“Clowns and cucumbers” strikes me as how a sociopath might describe sociopaths vs non-sociopaths). Anyway, he said that was a Russian expression, clowns vs. cucumbers.
So, I imagine you become a billionaire by bending rules or making up your own (or by inheriting a billion dollars). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that billionaires might thrive in a rule-light environment such as that we are currently experiencing.
And if you’re kinda suffering, it might be because you are not a sociopath.
BUT: this unruly situation also might be a great opportunity to make up new rules. For us to make up new rules. Lots of people know this already, right? I’m stating the obvious? But yeah, still: it’s sad and scary out there, but lots of people – LOTS of people – are in the streets, making new rules as we speak.
They had a Black Lives Matter demonstration in VIENNA yesterday, they expected a few thousand, and 50,000 showed up. In the rain.
One can debate the wisdom of holding such a large gathering during a pandemic, but that’s an impressive number.
Maybe something good is happening.
Usually, when I think that, I’m wrong.
But maybe I’m right this time.
Maybe I’m wrong.
I have no idea.

Lockdown Bingo

My card is nearly full. Omitting all the relationship items for privacy reasons (and all the awesome things other people did, they can list them in their own blogs), I learned to knit and finished three scarves. I trimmed my own moustache. I established a workout routine and stick to it, mostly. I walk a great deal – in fact, of all commuters to Vienna who use the walking app I use, I walk the furthest (or the second-furthest, someone named Inga is tough competition. The app ranks you overall and by district, and includes a “district” for out-of-town commuters). My first attempt at rye bread was perfect. How perfect was it? When I talk about my excellent scones, everyone says, “you really must bake rye bread again. The crust was perfect.”

    (The secret to very excellent scones is to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture and cut it in, rather than just cutting in cold butter. I don’t know why, but these turned out with a nice crisp surface. I think the secret to the rye bread crust is to bake it hot the first 20 minutes, 250C, then reduce that to 200 for the last 40 minutes, or whatever. As always, don’t take my word for it, consult a cookbook.)

I cooked a lot in general. I cooked General Tso’s Chicken for my birthday. I made rhubarb jam, and lemon marmalade, and two different kinds of elder flower jelly.
I learned that inactivity makes you depressed, but it’s a depression preferable to that caused by working and commuting.
I planted the raised beds (not, however, to my lasting dismay and even more to her lasting dismay, in the layout planned by my wife). I pulled a lot of weeds and mowed the lawn a lot. About all I have left on my list is something creative I had originally planned to spend all my extra time doing – like photography or writing – and a pull up, for which I currently lack the upper body strength and the pull up bar. I could go to a playground or the local park and try to work my way up to a pull up there on the lower children’s bars, but I imagine I would make nannies uneasy and I don’t want to be the one people are talking about when they tell their therapists twenty years from now, “I don’t know if it’s a real memory or somehow implanted but I remember a man with a bushy white beard and white hair up in a scraggly bun, wearing a business suit (the man, not the hair) hanging at a 45-degree angle beneath the children’s pull up bar in the park. That bun haunts my dreams yet.”

On Hearing

Man: (enters kitchen in the morning)
Woman: (looks up from phone) The cave bears were vegetarian.
Man: (Blinks, turns to leave) Hang on, I don’t have my hearing aids in yet.
Man: (Returns with hearing aids in place) Okay, I beg your pardon, what did you say?
Woman: The cave bears were vegetarian.
Man: Ok.

Pulp fiction and asymmetrical political debate

My father was a Greyhound bus driver and used to bring home books he said he found on the bus. I read them when I got my hands on them, like any other printed matter in that 1000 square foot house at the end of a long driveway with nothing else to do but dig holes, run around in the woods, saw scrap lumber into smaller pieces, hammer nails and set things on fire.

I remember two books in particular. The most memorable concerned a sex robot and featured my first exposure to the use, in literature* of the gusto-sodden phrase, “fuck me, fuck me, fuck me!”

The second-most memorable had two details I remember: a high-powered rifle that could (and did) shoot through the engine block of an automobile and the walls of a house containing men shooting, for a while, out of the windows at the man with the rifle; and a black box everyone was trying their best to get.

The black box didn’t do anything. Intelligence agencies had their best scientists study it, but they couldn’t figure it out. It was obviously of value, because everyone was doing their best to get their hands on it. But scientists hit it with hammers, or ran energy into it but no matter what they did nothing came out, it didn’t do anything. It was a mystery.

(Spoiler alert) The black box was designed by the Russians to waste the time and resources of other countries’ intelligence agencies. It was a weapon designed to waste their time and resources.

I think about this book every time I log onto Twitter. In particular, every time I read the tweets of leftists, or liberals, especially people tweeting, “45 said a stupid thing” or “45 did something horrendous.”

As if pointing out his bad spelling or fundamental evil will have any consequences.

There are more productive or effective uses of your time. 45 exists to occupy you. To waste your time and resources. To divert you from those more productive or effective forms of protest and action.

__________
*or anywhere else

Things I have learned from life with a Greek tortoise

IMG_20200429_085812

  • The best time to go is right after the guy has finished mopping the floors from the last time you went.
  • Hence, never shoot all your powder when you go the first time.
  • Third time is the charm, so save a little under your tail.
  • For a victory lap, also keep a little hidden in an indentation on your chest, evolved over millions of years for this purpose.

Lockdown Diary – The Pavilion

Opening shot: Satellite view of Earth, zooming in Google Earth-style on Europe, then Austria, then general vicinity of Vienna, then small village, then backyard of a house, then flames and sound of explosion and fire.
Man rushes out of house with fire extinguisher, puts out fire, cursing.
Man: Goddamn it.
Woman: Oh, you’re busy.
Woman: I have another job for you when you’re done with the satellite fire.
Man: Ok.
Woman: We need to put the curtains on the pavilion.
Man sighs
Man: Ok
Woman: Here. The mosquito net curtain elements have a hook on the outside, so I think they go on the outside. Remember last time we put them on the inside and there was nowhere for the hook to go?
Man: I guess.
Man snaps grommets along top edge of mosquito curtain element to plastic hooks on outside rail.
Woman: Here is the next one, see, the numbers match.
Man snaps next one in place.
Man tries to zip the two elements together. Although the numbers and zip elements match, the two elements do not reach each other. One is too long the other too short.
Woman: Hm.
Man finds pliers in cellar, returns to carefully remove elements again, unsnapping metal grommets from fragile plastic hooks of which they have only one extra.
Woman: Look this is the long side and this is the short side. So these go there.
Man: Ok (snaps all four mosquito curtain elements in place along the outside rail.
Woman: Wait, hang on.
Man:
Woman: Look, the heavier shade curtains have these slits in them. They must be for the hooks in the other, mosquito curtain elements. That makes more sense – then the mosquito curtain elements would be on the inside, protected from cats.
Man: So I should take all these back down?
Woman: Yes.
Man: Ok.
Man: I need to go brush my teeth.
Man brushes teeth, sighs, carefully unclips the four mosquito elements.
Neighbor 1, observing from balcony: Vat are ze rules of ze pavilion drinking game again?
Neighbor 2, observing from another balcony: Venever dey remove a curtain element hung in error, ve must drink a J├Ągermeister.
Neighbor 1: Dey will take all afternoon and I am already drunk.
Man checks which is the long and which the short side of the heavier shade curtain elements, carefully clips one onto the proper place on the outside rail.
Woman: Wait a second. Let’s look at the website.
Woman looks at website, finds the entry for the pavilion which has a tiny, unenlargeable thumbnail image from which it is impossible to tell if the mosquito curtain elements are on the inside rail or the outside rail.
Woman: Let me call the store.
Woman calls store, actually finds someone who actually finds her order for the pavilion in the computer but has to look for the instruction manual but can’t find it so will have to find someone with more expertise who will call back.
Man: This is the most logical arrangement. Let’s just put it together.
Man: I’m not mad at you. This is just frustrating, clipping the metal grommets onto the fragile plastic hooks, then removing them again, the metal grommets are made of soft but sharp metal, and we have only one spare hook so I’m afraid of breaking them.
Man hangs first shade element onto outside rail.
Woman: No, look, the short side is where the long side should be. That goes over there, not here.
Neighbor 1: OMG
Man and woman hang outside elements where they belong, then inside elements.
Woman: Ok now about assembling those hammocks.
Man wonders if he would die instantly if he stabbed himself with a knitting needle in the brain, or if it would hurt first, or if he would only lobotomize himself, and what it’s like to be lobotomized, subjectively it might be nice.
Man: Tomorrow.
Woman: But it’s so warm today. (looks at weather app) and tomorrow it’s 1 degree cooler.
Man: Let me write a blog post first.
Woman (on the phone with furniture company that sold them the pavilion, complaining about the hooks)
Woman: They said to send them a picture of the hooks. Maybe I can get a refund.
Man: Ok.