killmycastle

Growing old in changing times.

We were heading to the eye doctor to look at glasses for mum after having Marcel's pastries in the park. As we passed by the Safeway/CVS shopping center I asked if mum needed anything there and she remembered she had a prescription to pick up.  So I took her in and while we were waiting in line at the Pharmacy I asked if she needed anything else because she'd just mentioned being low on hand wipes. With her endorsement I ran off and fetched some before she got up to the front.

But as happens at CVS, they gave her a $2 coupon when she checked out, good for a limited time.  Mum said she usually liked to get a chocolate bar with that but wouldn't make it back in time if she didn't do it presently.  I didn't really want to get in line again but we didn't have any particular time constraints... so we wandered the store until we found some.  She picked out what she wanted and we got back in line at the front.  There was only one couple ahead of us, but it was taking a really long time while they tried to sort something out.  I passed the time chatting with mum and not paying attention to what the specific hold-up was, but I eventually commented under my breath that we'd gotten behind the wrong couple, and mum agreed.  There were no other registers open, though, and the only self-checkout did not accept cash which is how mum was paying.  So we waited.

Finally we got to the front and the woman at the register told mum she owed a dollar and ninety-nine cents.  Mum handed her a dollar and said she had change and started fishing coins out of the tiny pocket in her coin-purse.  I asked her if she didn't want to just use another bill but she said she wanted to get rid of her change.  Because the couple in front of us had already taken so long, a line had developed behind us so I was instantly uncomfortable, imagining the impatience of the cashier and the people waiting, and embarassed that mum seemed oblivious to it as she happily counted out coins.  The cashier told the people behind us that there was a self-check and the man behind us started to walk away but had apparently misunderstood her to be directing him to another open register.  When he couldn't find that she had to clarify and he got back in line.

Meanwhile, mum had counted out "ninety" cents, having apparently misheard the total, so we still needed another dime or a nickel and four pennies.  She started digging again.  The man behind us grumbled irritably that he would pay it, but he said something about having a nickel and mum just continued searching her purse, either not hearing or ignoring him.  The cashier also tried to reiterate the man's offer to mum, but again mum didn't seem to be listening and I wasn't sure if the woman was offering to forfeit the four pennies.  I tried to help, but I couldn't find a dime and felt like I was just exacerbating the process by adding my fingers into the mix.  Mum triumphantly counted out the correct change and politely thanked the man behind her, anyway, apparently not realizing that his offer had been self-serving rather than charitable.  In my mind I was remembering all the times I'd read online of people's pet-peeves with older-persons who still wrote checks or made exact change, and I was depressed that my mother would be the target of their ire.

As we left, mum seemed perfectly fine.  "Maybe..." I said, trailing off, unsure whether it was better or not to say anything as we got into the car.  She looked at me.  "Maybe it would be better to take your change to a machine," I said.  And then because I'd said that much, I explained that people really don't like waiting for others to count out exact change, and there was a line.

I regret it, immeasurably.  Her whole face fell, her good spirits shattered, she felt ashamed for embarassing me, she was upset that she hadn't noticed what was going on around her, she was upset that the world had changed and something that she thought of as perfectly normal suddenly was no longer acceptable.

Those seemed to be the main thrusts, in a nutshell, but they were deep and cutting to her core and no matter how much I tried to minimize it or clarify my reasons for mentioning it I could not turn it around.  I tried to make an analogy to a child who does something socially inappropriate and you don't want to correct their behavior and upset them or their innocence but you also don't want other people to be angry with or have dislike for your child.  I tried to explain that I just didn't want anyone being angry with her.

But it didn't matter.  She was crying, and the things she was saying were things that I didn't know how to respond to.  She said she hated it that she didn't feel like she was as sensitive to her surroundings anymore.  She said the world was just awful now, apparently in reference to all the covid-restrictions and new protocols that she has to remember.  She was clearly uncomfortable with what she perceived as her own cognitive decline, and she made reference again to how old she feels and how grey her hair is in the mirror, now.  Frankly it all just made me want to cry, as well, and I wish the tears would have come.  What was I to say to that?  I couldn't deny it, but I don't want any of it either.

So much regret.  I should have let her remain in blissful ignorance to the minor inconvenience of those around her.  She counted her change and thanked the man and everything should have been just fine but for our collective impatience.
butterfly

the modern social

Lookit me being a hypocrite all up in facebook'n shit.

I really hate to use things that I don't endorse, because that is endorsement. Action over word, etc. But so much technology frustrates me, including most of what google does these days, and there is no way around it short of pulling myself out of the digital age entirely. I hate being used by the tools I utilize, but that is the culture that we live in. So much of human society is a blatantly flawed system built with dehumanizing disregard to individual well-being, of which I want no part. Yet too often my attempts to abstain from participating only hurt me. The game is rigged, so I take myself out of the game. But when you're no longer a player, you're simply a pebble on the sidelines. Sometimes it's good to be a pebble. But not always.

So there I am sharing internet discoveries, but not sharing anything intimate. Just staying loosely connected. At least the people I'm staying connected to are not entirely superficial relationships. I worry now that I become more estranged from anyone not on facebook, even though the interactions there are insubstantial, and the corporate invasion is monolithic.
[L] =_=

drowning in memes

I've been trying to truncate my Facebook feed to only the people I care about, in an effort to motivate greater self involvement (thus recovering lost connections), and I've suddenly realized why it's not working. Why it won't ever work, unless perhaps the paradigm evolves again.

I have the same problem with Facebook that I have with my sister; I don't really want to see any more memes/quotes/clips/captures or quips. I would enjoy them in moderation, but no matter how much I prune my page it's still almost exclusively inundated in the aforementioned, making it all but impossible to locate any personal insights (of the sort we once enjoyed in abundance, here).

There needs to be a social network where "stuff from around the web" can be tagged as such and filtered into a separate feed from the "stuff on my mind today".
killmycastle

eulogy

When my brother and I were little we would often get off the school bus at grandma and grandpa's. As the eldest, I was responsible for us both disembarking at the right stop. But at my tiny height back then, sitting in the massive, elevated school bus made me feel like I was in a rocket-ship watching the earth fly by, below. From way up there, all the houses in the neighborhood looked the same to me, and I used to worry that I wouldn't recognize our stop. But then grandma and grandpa would step out onto the porch and relief would flood through me. They were my beacon, and I knew I was home.

Grandma spoiled us as rotten as any grandma ever could. She made us sandwiches and chocolate milk, the BEST deviled eggs conceivable, and always had a stocked cookie jar. Of course that was because half the time you were hand sparring with grandma, herself, getting into it.

Security and contentment were the best words to describe being there. One afternoon I was eating lunch at her dining room table while she worked in the kitchen. A radio was on in the corner and a lively song started playing. Suddenly grandma started shaking her hips and strutting across the floor to the rhythm of the tune. My eyes must have been saucers because she looked at me and laughed. "You didn't know your grandma could dance, did you?" She smiled. "Your grandma is cool." And I was convinced. From that moment forward, she was never just grandma; she was celebrity grandma. I was sure she had been famous, once. But the truth was, she was too devoted to her family to share her talents with the rest of the world. Everything she had to offer, went straight to us.

When I was twenty-one I once went to a diner with some friends and ordered a chocolate milk. When they told me I was too old for that, I scoffed. That's nonsense, I said. I drink this all time with my grandma. And that will never change.
feel good

fall to earth day

Today I faced my fear.

Unfortunately it was incontestably a sensible fear.

I jumped out of a plane.

Why did I do this? I don't identify as a "risk-seeker".

I did it for the adventure. I did it because I only have one life, and I want to see every possible perspective, feel every possible feeling.

It's a long held secret, but the line for the Tower of Terror in Disney World may be the most paralyzing fear I've experienced. They explain, going into it, that it rides like any other ride - and then pulls the ground out from under you while you're blissfully unaware. Like the tension that builds at a thriller film all the worse for knowing what to expect, the knowledge that at any moment, without warning, my foundation would capitulate had my stomach on the floor for the entire walk to the galley. But I had the advantage of my age; I could remain inconspicuous if I kept quiet, since the adults stood several heads above me. So I sealed my lips to avoid betraying any quiver, schooled my expression, and concentrated on walking with boneless legs.

I could only imagine how thoroughly I would relive this drama if ever I pursued a stunt as insane as leaping out of a plane. I presumed, rather, that it would be infinitely worse. That I would approach the date in agonies of anxiety, that the ascent would be an eternity of torment - the likes of which were heretofore unknown to me, that the moment of truth would be the pinnacle of excruciating.

But I wanted to do it.

I wanted to reaffirm that I am not one to let myself be controlled by fear. Although it was warranted. What's more sensible than your brain forbidding you to jump from a plane? My very genes were offended at the blatant disregard for survival.

But you always wonder how you'll respond in an emergency. What happens when the time comes that you need to do the impossible? Something your brain can not logically accept? Despite all the bravado and noble intentions, you may never know. Would you run? Shrink back? Shut down? I hope never to find out. But this is a way of testing fortitude within relative safety. Of doing something you thought you could not do.

And it is a way to see things that some people will never see. To know what some will never know. It is a chance that is only available to us through the miracle of invention; an opportunity that our ancestors could only imagine - as we fantasize about space flight in the future. From that perspective, it seems downright negligent not to embrace an experience only afforded me by the sheer chance of my orientation along the timeline.

As the plane ascended, I kept thinking back to my childhood. As we once wound along the mountainside in our car I would gaze into the valley below still believing that maybe it was possible to fly through sheer audacity; the determined suspension of doubt.

Today, I would finally take that leap.

The ticket was a birthday gift, so I had two and a half months to prepare myself. The waver in my stomach came not in waves but ripples, at random, when I allowed my thoughts to drift that direction. I anticipated this to worsen in frequency and severity as the date approached, and for a while that expectation threatened to substantiate. As March wound down, the indistinguishable future became the undeniable present.

But a couple of weeks before D Day I was together with my brother, who had done this before. To my surprise, he did not hint at even a fraction of anxiety. I could not detect a note of forced calm. When pressed, he would earnestly admit to being more anxious strapped aboard a commercial jetliner than leaping out of the sky. With this, my apprehension all but evaporated.

In fact, I may have robbed myself. I managed to achieve such a level of calm that my adrenalin was reduced proportionately. I had a momentary thrill of trepidation as I stepped onto the ladder entering the plane, and of course as I approached the exit of the aircraft at 10,000ft. But there was no time for hesitation, and as soon as you were in freefall it was - oddly - impossible not to be strictly euphoric. That a clearly land-dwelling mammal with no innate capacity for flight should feel anything but sick in sheer freefall is entirely peculiar. And yet, nothing can describe it but unadulterated elation. Literally, dreams coming true.

As we tipped out of the plane, there was no sense of an impending impact. The ground was like a soft watercolor landscape taking up an inconsequential fraction of the sky. It felt like I had fallen into nothing; that I was untethered from physical reality, adrift in empty space.

Slowly, the ground clarified beneath me, taking on more detail. It began to appear to me like a map, and I the satellite through which I usually receive the image. But my arms were flung wide over it, and it stretched as far as I could see beneath my palms. The sensation was surreal. It felt virtual. Was I really here, floating in space, staring down at earth with my own eyes?

I raised my line of sight to sweep the horizon, but beautiful though it was, it was a conventional horizon; always away in the distance. The ground captivated me, as this was a view I might never have known, and might not again duplicate. It was like the most breathtaking aerial filmography, but there was no interface to dislocate me from the reality. I was really flying - or falling like an angel - toward earth.

My partner released the chute, and all at once the sound of air rushing over my ears ceased, my momentum halted. I was vertical again, floating above the Earth. A moment of disappointment quickly gave way to awe. The silence was penetrating. I was drifting through the sky as idly as a dandelion seed. The peace that pervaded me was unrivaled. It was as if I were in a separate dimension entirely reserved to myself. I could see the other parachutes sailing at a distance, and I was coming level with the crests of rolling hills, but the world was apart; no sound of human, animal or machine were detectable. It was perfect solitude in a dreamscape of drifting scenery.

Slowly, but too soon, civilization solidified into an ant farm of discernible activity. And then, with no barrier between me but open air, I experienced the distinct sensation that I was actually standing upright on a set of Hollywood miniatures. The proportions easily convinced my brain that, had I only reached out, I might have pinched a car between two fingers. Or crushed a building beneath my shoe with a careless step.

But I was prevented the opportunity. The homesteads gave way to wide, empty fields in the gully between green hills. My partner instructed me to lift my legs for the landing, and we cradled to Earth like a feather on the breeze. From nearly two miles in orbit, I landed, like a cat, on my feet.
gaara - swing

why do we need validation?

I am not generally a needy person. I have long held the philosophy that one should seek approval foremost from themselves. That is, we should act because we wish to act, not because we believe it is expected of us. We should try to improve because we wish to improve, not because someone said to do so. We should enjoy something because we enjoy it, not because everyone else seems to.

For the most part, I think I have successfully lived by this principle. I have sacrificed much to be true to myself. I have committed myself to the road less approved even in the face of fear and threats, because I knew that in the long run I would never be happy with any less. My dad wanted me to go straight to college after high school. I took a year off. He wanted me to major in computer science, but I had other unexplored interests to pursue. I remained committed to my goals even as financial & emotional support slipped away. And overall I am content with my choices and who I am.

In spite of this, I find that the absence of external approval has a tendency to upset me beyond reason. Even though I rationalize that it shouldn't.

Case in point, this semester I signed up for a dance class through the community college. Just a casual "Intro to Dance”. It’s supposed to be fun. Nonetheless, I try to give 100% to my endeavors, even if they are not something I am pursuing professionally. I stay after class to get one-on-one instruction when I am unclear on something, and I work at everything I have been advised to work on. I exercise and practice every night, and record myself so I can evaluate my progress. I try to do everything "correctly" and not just skirt by with my best guess.

For all of this, I have yet to receive a positive remark. Each class, the instructor throws out compliments and I find myself waiting like a trained animal expecting reward. I get angry with myself even for thinking it. For hoping for it. It is not constructive, and only makes me aware that it hasn’t happened.

I was planning to go to the library after dance and work on my other school work until it closed, then run an errand on the way home. Instead I became so demoralized for being singled out for a mistake that I had to come straight home and haven’t been able to concentrate on anything else.

Where is this extreme reaction coming from? I am taking this class because I want to learn dance, not because I want praise or acknowledgement. I don't intend to do this professionally. How do I turn this off?

**TL;DR** Would a compliment from a stranger make a happy hermit happier? Why?
calvin face

Everything I need to know in life I learned from Jean-Luc Picard

This article is in response to an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson: A Conversation about Communicating Science.

I am an atheist, I like Tyson, and I like science. I don't really begrudge his aggression simply because there is a place and a purpose for it in our aggressively anti-science, counter-productive culture.

But for that, however, I do not find his demeanor any less arrogant or pretentious-seeming than his opponent. His passion is wonderful, but his inability to really listen and consider the counter argument is disappointing.

In example, while it is entirely valid to point out that much of human communication is lost in transcription, it is also entirely appropriate for a transcript to exist for purposes of research and easy reference. You can't alt+find anything from a video.

Also, Tyson knows nothing about philosophy and wears this ignorance like a badge, unwilling to allow the entire discipline a moment's serious consideration. This is the attitude of one who is afraid to question his beliefs, not one who is confident. I do not believe Tyson is unconfident, therefore there is no need to adopt the defensive. I think this is an act of habit which needs be realized and retired.

Modern science was born from philosophy. The core of both disciplines is to question, and seek for answers. When we have discovered that a potential answer to a question can be tested, it becomes science.

If Jamie wakes up one morning and kills her boss, the christian says Jamie was evil or possessed by the devil. The philosopher poses multiple perspectives in pursuit of the underlying cause. The scientists seize on those perspectives which can be tested - such as testing for a chemical imbalance - and do so.

Philosophy is not sitting on your butt at the top of a mountain seeking synchronicity with the spirit realm. It is meditating on the things that we presently lack the technology to test, trying to get closer to truth with the only tool thus available: our brains.

Aspiring scientists learn the history of scientists. Artists learn art history. Philosophers the philosophers. But *nothing* about where we are today is exclusively the apex of one discipline unto itself. The culmination of human progress is the composite product of all of these histories influencing each other, and none are irrelevant to our understanding of nature, and our commitment to progress. We are all scientists, artists, and philosophers. We experiment, we imagine, and we wonder.

Only when we stop wondering, when we disdain questioning, when we discourage dialogue - only *then* is our contribution irrelevant.
tea & cookies

something my bro inspired

Relationships are like shoes.

The chances that you are going to walk into the nearest shoe store and discover perfection in the first pair you approach are highly improbable. Even supposing you did, how would you know? Suppose they are the first pair of shoes you have ever had the luxury to experience. If you are inclined to enjoy the sensation of foot armor, then a life of barren feet will predispose you to exalt in even the shoddiest pair conceived.

To find the essential pair, you are going to have to try on a lot of shoes, and you will be visiting more than one shop. But here's the difference: this is an analogy about relationships. So, provided you're not polyamorous, you can only have one set of shoes, not a harem in the closet. This choice has to count.

Some of the shoes will have the perfect aesthetic. The moment you lay eyes on them, there will be an instant connection. You'll know that these shoes were made for you. Until you try them on, and then it's another story. You look gorgeous in them, but every step is torture.

Some will be hard pressed to capture your attention at all. You'll be thanking whatever karma fairies thrust them in front of you because they're not what you were looking for - with your eyes. You put them on, though, and it's all kinds of paradise. But then maybe you walk to the mirror and realize they have neon pink flamingo heads popping out of the toes. They repel you. Your relationship is half a lie. You can never love all of them. And you can only have one pair of shoes.

You'll try shoes that are too short, too large, too narrow in the toe, too pinched in the heel, too unsupported in the arch, too gaudy, too grisly, too high class, too unrefined, too casual, too high maintenance, and too many things to anticipate.

And then, through patience and diligence, one day you are going to find a pair that fits you in all the crucial aspects. A pair that compliments you so well it may almost have been tailor made, yet possesses sufficient novelty to hold your interest.

And now and then even this beloved pair will allow a rock to breach its barriers and, inadvertent or no, render you a wound. And eventually this pair will bear testament to your shared history together with a mounting collection of scuffs and wear. But the true test of their worth will be in how much (or little) these things matter to you against the measure of their merits.

Merits you will be sufficiently versed, by now, to appreciate.