Some of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime will occur while you feel stressed and anxious. From medical decisions to financial and professional ones, we are often required to weigh up information under stressful conditions. Take for example expectant parents who need to make a series of important choices during pregnancy and labour – when many feel stressed. Do we become better or worse at processing and using information under such circumstances?xxx
Small talk is often dismissed as being pointless and anxiety-producing. People either want to jump right into real conversation, or they want to go home. But some of the most important relationships begin with a casual conversation.
“We must powder our wigs; that is why so many poor people have no bread.”
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I only have a few days left before I retire. I didn’t want any celebration or fuss – I simply wanted to not show up on the appointed and anointed day. But a handful of coworkers chipped in (the days when a company rewarded someone that has come to work for over two decades with a gold watch or something are long, long over) and bought me a present.
I was speechless. This is not a cheap gift. And it was so thoughtful – If you gave me a blank check and told me to buy myself something, regardless of cost – this would have been it (I realize there are much, much more expensive Maki-e pens out there – but I would be scared to even touch something like that). I love the cigar-shaped pens. I love the gold Japanese nibs (Pilot is supposed to be smoothest, Sailor the most feedback – but Platinum is right in the middle) – this one is a medium, which means it is very smooth and a joy to write with. It even has a technological advantage – a slip-and-seal cap that is supposed to keep the nib wet for two years. I find that claim a bit much – but an instant starting pen is important to me and this one is.
The Urushi lacquer and Maki-e artwork is stunning (it is the modern “screened” Maki-e instead of hand drawn – but I don’t care). It is the Sansui design of boats, rocks, and flowering plants… with some cool gold birds flying across the top and, best of all, a gorgeous blood-red rising sun peeking out from the clip. The nib is a big #5 14K gold, with a simple design and a stylized Mount Fuji straddling the tines (the reason the pen is called #3776 is that is the height of Mount Fuji in meters). I never really thought about a pen like that – I never would be able to spend that kind of money to myself. I’ve inked it up with some Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki blue ink and can’t keep my hands off it.
It was very emotional for me to get such a thoughtful gift. I know it’s only “a thing” but it is an exquisite thing given as a gift, as a remembrance.
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”
― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
There are few things more expensive than free samples.
Candy ordered a new iced tea pitcher from some tea place online. That tea place also had a coffee subsidiary and they sent her a free sample – 2 oz. of whole beans in a little envelope – for me to try.
This fruit bomb with lush notes of cherry, black currant, passion fruit, and cocoa comes from Hacienda San Isidro Labrador Project, a farm is located 1900 meters above sea level on the hills of Dota, in the Tarrazu region. It is a small, family-owned farm overseen by Johel Monge Naranjo and his son Matias. The pair focus on specialty and traceable coffee. Their product have consistently placed atop the annual Cup of Excellence competition that identifies the very best coffee being grown in Costa Rica.
And damn… it was good. I’m not able to describe coffee flavors – so I don’t know about cherry, black currant, or especially passion fruit but I know a tasty, unique cup when it passes my lips. I think it’s the aerobic fermentation that gives it something that your bitter Starbucks lacks.
So now I want to buy some. It costs about twice what regular but good coffee costs. I’m torn, but I know I’ll eventually give in.
There are few things more expensive than free samples.
“All we do is sleep, and eat and lay around and make love. We’re like slugs. Slug-love, I call it.”
― Charles Bukowski, Women
Slug On My Stoop
There was a slug on my stoop
tonight there on the concrete as I walked to the car to drive to the club for some exercise.
Moving slowly in the Yellow porch light.
Some don’t like slugs but I don’t mind, mind their little heads lookin’ around for what? slugs don’t think about creativity the nature of art but I don’t mind slugs eyes on posts slug body soft undulate brown spotted
I think it is too cold too late for slugs
It was late and dark I spent too much time today lying on the couch resting, thinking, dreaming, the deadly black control remote in my hand the death of life, of thought.
Slugs like summer wet hot not cold rough concrete October stoop they like eating children’s lettuce going Duh Duh Duh
The little head eyes on poles what does it dream? of summer? Warm and wet? Children’s lettuce? I dream of wind waving cream colored fabric dappled sunlight dabs of sun dabs of green a dropping away a flower unfolding and blooming before me a lake through mesh gold minted coins
Sheriff Jerry Allen of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, was combing through a storage vault in a courthouse basement on February 29, 1980 when he came across an envelope. It was from the coroner’s office and read, “Charles Hardin Holley, rec’d April 7, 1959.” Allen opened it and found a pair of black-framed angular eyeglasses, the lenses scratched.
At the opening of the 1950 classic film noir, D.O.A., Edmund O’Brien strides purposefully into a big-city police station, proceeds down long, endless corridors, and finally arrives at a door marked Homicide Division. “I want to report a murder,” he says to the head detective. “Who was murdered?” asks the cop. “I was,” replies O’Brien.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” ― A.A. Milne
From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Corpus Christi is the home for Whataburger, the chain of fast-food hamburger joints.
I first ate at one in 1979, in Harlingen, Texas, when my brother and I drove from Kansas to South Padre Island for his spring break. We were spending the night is some bizzaro motel (the chains along the freeway being full, but giving us directions to a more out-of-the way place of lodging) that sported small lizards living in the showers and some man making enormous noise apparently puking in the room next door. Not knowing our way around, we simply drove ’til we found the first place to eat – a typical orange-and-white, A-frame Whataburger.
I remember having a damn good burger (such as it was).
Of course, in the decades since actually moving to and living in the Lone Star State, eating at Whataburger has become commonplace. Their food is old-fashioned and superior to the more national chains (such as it is).
The first night in Corpus Christi, Candy and Nick went out to eat with some teammates, but Lee didn’t want to go. He and I decided to simply walk out of the hotel and look for something to eat on foot.
We walked a few blocks, working our way through the dark streets of downtown Corpus Christi. Lee and I cruised past several seafood joints, a handful of Mexican places, and some bars with loud music pumping out through the smoke and florescent lights.
It wasn’t long before we saw the familiar orange and white A-frame of a Whataburger – and that’s where Lee wanted to eat. It wasn’t any old Whataburger, though, it was the company flagship, a super-delux eating establishment.
Two stories high, with a generous outdoor terrace overlooking the gulf, waiters to bring food to your table (though you still ordered at the counter – they gave out a little plastic number) and even tableside ketchup service (and Whataburger serves Fancy Ketchup).
Lee loved the place. Especially cool was the fact that a clot of teenagers with skateboards was grinding on the metal railing across the street. Lee grinned wide, especially when they’d let out a periodic string of obscenities.
It was nice, Lee and I, sitting out on the terrace, eating our burgers, chatting about the events of the day, enjoying the flawless weather and sweet ocean breezes.
Now that’s the only place Lee will eat. We went back for breakfast every day, and walked over every evening. It’s good when you’re nine to have your own restaurant – your hangout
“I’ve spent years living safely to secure a longer life, and look where that’s gotten me. I’m at the finish line but I never ran the race.”
― Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End
Today, I received an internet ad from a rare book site. I usually ignore these completely and easily, but this one caught my eye. It was for a copy of the “Rare” book – The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments – accompanied by a photo of the cover. I instantly recognized that cover, because my parents had bought me a copy (which I eventually completely wore out until if fell apart) when I was in… third grade or so.
In a week, I’m going to retire, which will be the end of a forty-five plus year career as a chemist. I’ve worked in a mine, cleaning up toxic waste sites, responding to chemical spills and accidents, running an analytical lab, working in arguably the biggest paint factory in the world, and supporting a sophisticated microelectronics and semiconductor manufacturing factory. All of this, for good or for bad, pretty much began with that book (along with a chemistry set) when I was in third grade.
I spent untold hours trying out all of the experiments that the book held that I could assemble the raw materials and equipment for… and more untold hours poring over the experiments and demonstrations that I couldn’t find the equipment for. My chemistry set – it came in a double folding metal cabinet – chemicals in plastic bottles on one side – laboratory glassware, including an alcohol burner, on the other. I remember spilling my precious phenolphthalein powder and thinking, “I’ll never see any of that cool stuff again!” – I had no idea (I have done more acid/base titrations in my life that an human should be forced to do).
I especially enjoyed setting up an apparatus for the electrolytic separation of water into oxygen and hydrogen. For someone that young – hydrogen explosions are cool.
This “rare” book appearing in a random email ad brought back so many memories – piled one upon the other – back from decades and decades ago.
But the question is, why is that book “rare.” Thousands of parents must have bought that book for their kids like mine did – I’m sure every school library had a copy.
The problem is, a few years after I had my grubby paws on my copy – someone realized that there was some dangerous stuff in the book. It tells how to make chlorine (though not, in my opinion, dangerous quantities) and talks about several reagents that have since been identified as potential carcinogens (but what hasn’t, really). So the book was banned, removed from library shelves, and destroyed as a menace to society. Chemistry sets too, like the one I had, are not available anymore. It is not considered safe to have third graders in the basement melting sulfur with an alcohol burner – no matter how much fun, how educational, and how bad-smelling that is.
It didn’t help that the book inspired one kid to try and build his own atomic breeder reactor. From Wikipedia:
The book was also believed to be a source of inspiration to David Hahn, nicknamed “the Radioactive Boy Scout” by the media, who attempted to construct a nuclear reactor in his mother’s shed, although the book does not include any nuclear reactions.
It’s a shame. Danger is overrated. Risk is not understood – not balanced against the possible reward. How many future chemists ended up studying “Blank” Studies in college, instead of something useful. Useful and dangerous – in my mind the two words are synonymous.
“Then love knew it was called love. And when I lifted my eyes to your name, suddenly your heart showed me my way” ― Pablo Neruda, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada; Cien sonetos de amor
I was waiting for my ride in the triple digits on the busy road that skirts the high tech manufacturing campus where I work. Over ten thousand folks work at that location – though most use the exits on the other side. I stared at a couple of the businesses settled in – a coffee shop named Kaffeine and a bar named Drinks.
A little too much on the nose… don’t you think? But I guess when you are stumbling on the way to work, trying to wake up and face the day – you don’t want to sift through cute coffeehouse names like The Roasted Bean, Espresso Express, or HuggaMug Cafe. All you need is the stimulant – therefore Kaffeine.
Same thing on the way home. All you want is to kill those same overstimulated nerves – all you need is a Drink… or two… or three…..
“The train bore me away, through the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, piled scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs. This was March, but the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere there were mounds of blackened snow. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her—her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever-seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us,’ and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her—understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.”
― George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
I’ve been getting up early every day, even on the weekends, to go on a bike ride at dawn – to beat the heat. On weekends, that means I have my daily exercise out of the way by 8 AM. Which is weird for me, because it leaves so much of the rest of the day free.
So I had some of that most precious of possessions – a little bit of free time – and decided to pick a movie from The Criterion Channel to watch. After a bit of bouncing around I found a selection from Taiwan, The Hole. Directed by Tsai Ming-liang, Starring Yang Kuei-Mei and Lee Kang-sheng. It was blurbbed as: Set just prior to the start of the twenty-first century, this apocalyptic tale of pandemic alienation follows two residents of a crumbling Taipei building who refuse to leave their homes despite a virus that has forced the evacuation of the area. As rain pours down relentlessly, a single man (Lee Kang-sheng) is stuck with an unfinished plumbing job and a hole in his floor. This results in a very odd relationship with the woman (Yang Kuei-mei) who lives below him. Combining deadpan humor with an austere view of loneliness and surreal musical numbers, Tsai Ming-liang crafted one of the most haunting and original films of the 1990s.
The film seemed so much to be about the Coronavirus… a viral pandemic of unknown origin, a Chinese apartment building locked down, mysterious men spraying disinfectant, empty stores, coughing and then death…. It was hard to believe the movie was made almost a quarter-century ago – long before Covid.
The biggest difference is that this virus was spread by cockroaches and, after an initial flu-like stage, caused the victims to crawl around afraid of the light, like a roach. Pretty horrible.
The movie is slow and follows a man in an apartment – he has a food store nearby but no customers during the pandemic – and the woman in the apartment below him. The pipes are leaking and a plumber beats a hole in the floor of the man’s place which opens up in the ceiling of the woman’s. The two are then set at odds over the hole, the plumbing, and trying to get on with their lives. In addition to the disease it never stops raining, which adds an extra layer of depression to the tableau. The woman’s place is always wet – from the rain and the leaking sewer above – and she tries to get by with cases of paper towels as her wallpaper peels off all around her. This drab and depressing world is punctuated by colorful musical numbers lip-synced to old Grace Chen showtunes. No – this makes no sense… none at all.
The surprising thing is that all this depression and hopelessness actually has an upbeat… almost romantic ending. I’m not sure if what we see actually happens or is just another fantasy – but it is nice to watch, nice to think about.