Silicone baking mat

I was baking baguettes today — still am, actually — but I was doing stretch-and-folds on the old silicone baking mat when it finally came apart. 80% hydration baguette dough was too much for it. In its defense, it has been falling apart for some time now. It all started when I rolled out pasta dough on it and cut it into noodles with a pizza wheel; the wheel was sharper than I realized and left big gashes in the silicone baking mat.
At first it still worked, but eventually silicone fatigue got the better of it and a big piece came out; I had planned for a while to head to the mill to get baking supplies, especially a mat, but today, when I am working from home and the mat fell apart into five or more unusable pieces, I realized it was now or never.
So I went, and noticed right off that, since the last time I had been there, they had expanded the shop by about 100% so now instead of being tiny it is small. And the lovely mill lady was there along with her lovely daughters, which was bad news as I have no sales resistance against them when they are alone and sure enough they ganged up on me today.
Everything unraveled immediately, all of my fiscal resolve, when one of them asked me, Can I help you find anything? And I replied, yes, in fact, I am looking for a silicone baking mat thing, have you got anything like that?
To which she answered, In fact we do. And sure enough, they had silicone baking mats that were far nicer than my old one, with circles of various diameters and in the margins various units of measurement and their conversions, not to mention, haptically, a very sexy texture.
Oh excellent, I said, I ruined my last one cutting noodles on it.
Oh! She said. Then, immediately, by the way we have noodle machines.
Oh, I said. I have always wanted a noodle machine. But I’ll have to think about it.
But of course we all knew by then, I wasn’t leaving that shop without a noodle machine.
I picked out a few flours (all-purpose wheat flour, baguette flour mix, rye and rye whole grain, and what the online dictionary translates as rye scrap, or, in other words, crudely ground rye.
Then the mother explained the differences between three noodle machines they had (price and finish – the stainless-steel was the cheapest, the copper the most expensive, in between they had a red one. Otherwise they are identical, she said. Just pick whatever matches your kitchen best. You don’t put it away, you leave it on the counter.
If you don’t have a cat that pisses on everything you might leave it on the counter, I didn’t reply.
I asked her to explain the stainless steel model to me.
By the way we have a set with additional rollers that make spaghetti and ravioli, she said.
Oh, I absolutely need that, I said.
I looked at spice mixes in between but most of them contained anise, and some of my bread customers hate anise. Then I found the mill’s own spice mix, which costs twice as much but does not contain anise, and added a can of that to my pile.
How do you wash the noodle machine? I asked.
You let it dry out and clean it with a stiff-bristled brush, by no means are you to put it into water, was the answer.
It sounded almost like an admonition in a fairy tale, shortly before the peasant’s son embarks on a heroic journey on account of he put the noodle machine into a sink full of water after slicing the heirloom silicone baking mat into horizontal strips.
Any special brush, I asked.
I use one I found in my husband’s shop, she said.
Ok I have a brush at home.
I sighed, but gee. Hm. Phony reluctance so as not to look too eager.
It’s the Christmas season. It’s a nice present.
Yeah, for myself. I am the noodle maker in my house.
Sure, why not? She said. And your wife will be eating the noodles. It’s a present for both of you.
And we *were* in Piedmont in October and loved it, I said, tipping the scales for her and putting myself out of my misery.
See there you go, she said.
When I got home I carried the flour into the house.
Oh by the way I got *us* a pasta machine, I said.
Hm, said Alpha.
Yeah I’ve really been wanting one since we were in Piedmont, that was such a nice trip.
Hm, she said.
One has to clean them with a stiff-bristled brush; by no means is one to submerge them, or even get them wet.
Hm, my wife said.

PV Technology

So, after hating on technology for a good part of my life, we got photovoltaic panels on the roof and I really like everything about them so far. Even though it is winter they still generate a little power, even on a foggy day. Not much power (on a foggy winter day) but you could power a few lightbulbs or something like that. The system comes with an app, you log in to the website and apparently the system is telling the website how much power it is making etc because there is a neat little graphic that tells you how much you are producing, using, how much is going into the battery (and its level of charge) and how much is going into or coming out of the power grid. It’s very calming to watch.
The battery is nice because, if there is ever a black out we’ll have power for a few hours while society collapses around us.
Another impressive thing about the panels are roof avalanches (Dachlawinen in German). When it snows, like yesterday (doesn’t produce much power when covered in snow) the snow just sits there (if it’s wet snow, like yesterday) until the weather warms up to a little over freezing and then whammo it all slides off onto the sidewalk all at once.
We never had roof avalanches before today, because we have a tile roof that has a rough texture and that holds the snow more, that higher coefficient of friction. Wet glass, on the other hand… I went outside and saw the pile of snow on our sidewalk and was very relieved not to see little kid or old lady feet sticking out of it. We put up warning signs, and took them back down after all the snow had slid off the roof or melted.
Winter is going to be a bigger problem with our PV system than we thought.
(But it’s really cool.)

Big Time

Ever since my COVID-19 booster shot I have been getting these epiphanies when I go near a transformer or an electric car drives past.
Like, listen, just now, recently, we woke up at, say, for example, eight but according to our phones it was only seven.
Our phones determine what time it is.
And our computers. And anything else, any other timepiece, that resets itself automatically. Or, more accurately, is controlled by someone else.
Time used to be a natural thing, man.
Then clock time was introduced, and natural time faded into obscurity except when various scientists would lock themselves into a dark cave and do whatever.
With clock time, clock time was a social construct, but it was something everyone had to agree upon and gave clockmakers a lot of power.
Now clocks, especially in cars and ovens, are at most butts of jokes. They’re always wrong, or they’re wrong half the time and then self-correct six months later.
Nobody cares about clockmakers. And I suppose remote-control clocks are a thing now, right? Never wrong.
All these remote control clocks – time is no longer a social construct, it is in the hands of Big Time. Big Time I will define here as “whoever resets the clocks”-
Daylight Savings, or this regular switching between winter and summer time, is absolutely pointless. When something looks pointless, ask yourself who benefits from it?
Big Time.
Daylight Savings exists to acclimate us to the idea that time is malleable, and not to freak out when it suddenly makes no sense. Indeed, to pay less attention to rubberized time and just… live with it.
Every six months, a big deal is made of this quality of time.
Time is precise, yet random.
You have to be at work by 8 o’clock sharp, and yet sometimes the day goes fast, sometimes it drags on and on and you are exhausted and feel like you have been at your desk or terminal or table or conveyor belt or whatever forever, for ten hours or 12 hours or whatever but you look at your watch and still have hours to go how can that be?
Well this is how it can be: Big Time is messing with your time to make you work longer without collecting overtime.
Eight hour day? Sure you can have an eight hour day. But we define what an hour is, and what eight means.
We used to have internal clocks.
Used to be, if I set an alarm clock I woke up a minute before it went off. That is a precise internal clock. (Maybe my alarm clock made a faint click a minute before it went off, and it was the click that was waking me, I never tested that… but for the sake of argument…)
Same thing – pets. Cats, and perhaps dogs and other species, some days they wake you up an hour, hours early, starvin'; other days you feed them at the agreed-upon time and they just look at it as if they were still full and ignore it until hours later and then refuse it because it isn’t fresh anymore.
At least cats.
Right?
This is because their internal clock is still accurate, and they are still in touch with it, and Big Time hasn’t gotten to them yet the way it has gotten to us.
There is only one way to deal with this and that is to take time back from Big Time. Take time back into our own hands. How do we do that?
You can’t trust anyone. Any central source of time – TV time, Internet – is under control of Big Time, you can assume. Even the dates printed on newspapers and magazines. All the same thing. You have to literally take time back into your own hands.
Physically. Democratic time is only possible when everyone makes their own clocks. This means, immediately, sun dials. Big Time does not control the sun. Astronomy and observing the migration of birds work for seasonal events, but nothing beats a sun dial for telling time. Except a clock you have made yourself. That is the ultimate goal – everyone learns to make their own clocks.
Before the advent of Big Time, one could argue for simply using analogue clocks, but with its tentacles in every pie, you can’t trust any source of time anymore – Big Time has certainly got to clockmakers now.
The only way around that is to make your own clocks. Go to Switzerland, hire on as an apprentice, how hard can it be? And until then, make a sun dial. It is relatively simple. Stick a stick into something, write numbers around it that the shadow of the stick hits, and depending on what number the shadow falls on, that’s what time it is – time is now back in your own hands. Easy peasy. Big Time is defeated, right when they thought they had us.

Suddenly, a rosebush.

Move to sofa.
Put big cushion on lap for cat to sit on when one of them inevitably comes to help you meditate.
Place laptop nearby so you can check the time so you don’t meditate too long as your phone is still in the kitchen charging.
Close eyes.
Don’t think of anything.
Om.
(Or whatever)
The woodstove makes this… rushing sound. I guess that is the hot air rising up to the chimney? And crackles a little.
Most of the house is dark.
A cat purrs on the cushion on your lap already.
Another cat sleeps on the sofa.
Dong, the woodstove makes this bell-like sound as it heats up, calling you back to the moment like some kind of meditation bell.
Dong.
Therapist last night asked, what do you like about yourself?
Couldn’t think of anything.
Cat purrs like a little meditation helper calling you back to the moment.
Dong, goes the woodstove.
I, hmm, uh.
You are interested in a *lot* of different things, said the therapist, trying to be helpful.
Yes, but without any expertise.
Does that matter? asked the therapist.
Well, I was thinking recently, after reading something along those lines somewhere, what would your 15-year old self say if they met you now? and I thought, they would think I was cool, I have achieved all of their dreams, mostly, I have not only been to Europe, I have moved here permanently; I have a beautiful wife, I have 2 awesome kids, I live in a nice house, I have kissed a girl. Car of my own.
But would I want to hang out with myself? Isn’t that why I am in therapy, to get better at hanging out with myself?
Dong.
Why is the stove donging so much? Is it malfunctioning?
The cat purrs, calling me back to the present moment.
Is the stove leaking carbon monoxide?
That’s what it always says in the newspaper article, malfunctioning woodstove.
Dong. Like a meditation bell. Or a really short alarm bell announcing a carbon monoxide leak.
The cat purrs.
At least the cat is on my lap, with its nose lower than mine, so if it goes limp I’ll still have time to hurry to safety before the CO rises to my nose.
And can, like, try to revive the cat.
How do you resuscitate a cat?
Mouth to snout resuscitation?
Imaginary boss asks, wow, what happened to your face? You try to resuscitate a cat?
I have a tortoise, you would say.
A tortoise did that?
No, it was going to get too cold to leave the tortoise outside at night so I had to bring it in and when I bent over to pick it up, in the twilight, suddenly a rosebush.
Rosebush, imaginary boss says. Wow, be careful. Did you disinfect that? It looks like you tried to resuscitate a cat.
No, you say, ha ha.
Dong.
The fire crackles.
The hot air rushes up the chimney.
Om.

Sitting worms

Some of you are thinking, What? Worms don’t sit. Well you’d be wrong. They sit under leaves and other bio-trash in drawers in a friend’s apartment, okay, to us it looks like they are wriggling when you push back the compost and check on them because you can no longer stand the Schrödinger’s Worm situation, the uncertainty, am I even really caretaking anything actually alive etc etc.
But in another way you’d also be right, because this here is about me sitting worms. A friend went out of town and I stayed at her place for about 10 days watering plants and looking after her compost worms. It was kind of cool, I got lots of thinking done and whenever a plant died i could just feed it to the worms and no one was the wiser. The worst part was when a guy facetimed someone outside the window in the middle of the night and kept me up for a hour.
But then she had a falling out with her alpha worm sitter, who had minded the worms before I took over and was supposed to take back over when he returned from visiting her out of town, and I was promoted to emergency worm sitter.
What is an emergency worm, you ask? I don’t know. That’s not what this is about. Either a worm you use in an emergency, like you are suddenly inundated with stuff to compost, or it is a worm having an emergency. But this is about me sitting worms, now longer than planned, due to a small emergency. Mostly, though, it is about me exercising more, eating less junk, successfully reflecting about my own role in my misery and coming out of the whole thing slightly but generally improved.
The worms survived, the plants flourished, even the orchids after I figured out how to water them, the plant that did die died before I started my tour of duty and I am on the fast track to a house sitting career.
There isn’t really a punchline. I lost two kg. I didn’t burn the house down. My wife was still there when I got home, as were the cats and the tortoise. Saw the kids a couple times.

Exit, whistling

Man, Woman: (load catfood, dog treats and flea/tick ointment onto conveyor belt)
Cashier: (Rings up purchases)
Cashier: (Hands woman two envelopes of dog treats) We’re giving out these free samples today.
Woman: (Examines treats, hands them back) No, thank you. We don’t have dogs.
Cashier: (Glances at large bag of dog treats they just bought, looks puzzled)
Man: Oh, those are for crows.
Cashier: (Does that half-nod thing where your chin goes up but not back down again, remaining in up position while the wheels turn)
Man, Woman: (exit, whistling)

Cognitive dissonance

On the one hand, the current state of things is a convincing argument that old, white men should just STFU for the next couple of millennia.

On the other hand, I am an old, white man who likes to write, if not talk, although I do that sometimes, just not on the telephone, if I can avoid it.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So.

I have been told amplifying non-old, white, man-type people is good. Unfortunately, my megaphone is tiny, but I will do what I can.

I have also been told, for example by my therapist, and other women I respect, to just fucking relax, so I will also be working on that.

When I was younger I read only books (and consumed only art and other cultural output) by heterosexual CIS-males, because it was more relatable for me.

Now that I try to broaden my cultural consumption, that old stuff often feels really shallow when I return to it. Maybe that is just a function of getting older, though.

There was a tweet (? i think?) where an old dude said his hardware was old, white, CIS-male dude, and he was stuck with that, but his software had been updated multiple times.

I guess that’s one thing you can do, get your head out of the seventies, or whatever.

I was talking to someone about the acceleration of time as a function of age, and how to ameliorate it. All I could come up with was mindfulness, paying attention, remaining curious, which I guess you accomplish through meditation and related practices, or doing scary things beyond your fear threshold, or things you love, or things that fascinate you, whatever gets you in the flow. (My only relative who lived to be over 100 was a curious, friendly, artistic type all her life… and an early feminist…)

Concentrate on things you love. What else?

This is good news for me, bc as a person governed by anxiety for most of my life, there are plenty of options beyond my fear threshold. Maybe this world, the old known world that just speeds by, is my safe little lobster trap, while that world, the scary, interesting one, with sharks and mermaids and things with teeth and things that glitter, where time slows or stops entirely, is unknown but has so far not killed me, either.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I mean, both get you eventually.

Maybe I’ll try to talk my wife into skydiving. If it works for her I can try it.

Have you tried something beyond your threshold of fear? What was it? How did it turn out for you?