29 July 2023

The morning started with rain and this kind of damp heat that wraps around you like a sticky gel. We went to the market for cherries and some other fancy food stuff for the deluge of summer visitors currently in the air and on bicycle on their way to our suburbia hideout. 

Next, we sat down for a coffee outside the French bakery and as we were about to leave, we noticed a very disheveled barefoot young woman with many bags, rooting through her pockets. There was a thick streak of dried blood on the back of her pants and so I walked up to her. Are you ok? I asked while I started to collect all the change I had in my pockets ready to hand it to her. Actually, would you go in and get me something? she asked. Sure, I said, what would you like? Get me two large latte with soy milk, a bag of croissants, two waffles with jam and one with Swiss cheese, also one, no make that two of the extra large walnut baguettes. Oh, and would you also pay my tab from last week, that's why I cannot go in myself. For a moment, I was dumbfounded, I must admit. We looked at each other, she grinned at me. I pulled out a bank note, topped the change with it, handed her the money and said, you should have enough here to get breakfast yourself.

I walked up to the library to calm my thoughts holding books and smelling print and later walked through the posh area home, looking up at the high windows of the old villas, into their manicured gardens with e-cars charging from wall boxes on the driveways. 

One of my oldest friends is a social worker. She has worked on the streets of our city for the last 30 years. We do have accommodation in this city for all of the strays, she assures me. Not luxury, not even comfort, but a bed, a shower, food, advice. The very basics. It's not our place to assume what people should need. If you feel the need to help, give money, not food, and if it's used for drugs, allow them that choice. Women are more vulnerable than men, always remember that. The world is cruel, you can only do so much.

A while ago, my daughter urged me to do the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test, a personality assessment that is often used by big organizations and companies as part of their recruitment processes. Of course, I checked the science behind it, I am that kind of a mean person and no, there is no scientific basis, it's been called a fad, pseudoscience like horoscopes over and over, it' been retested and assessed with new statistics and analysis methods, but it's still just a fad. I did it anyway and once again 24 hours later, to check for reliable reproduction of results etc., and the personality I was twice identified as based on my answers is the woman who handed over her money this morning. 

To do the test, click here. A comprehensive review of the (non-)validity can be found here.  



26 July 2023

much too soon

I just loved her. She was radical at the right time in the correct way, never afraid to show how hard her life was. Beautiful Sinead. Thank you.


22 July 2023

Saturday on the patio

I am still struggling with some health issues but what else is new. Thankfully, we have had some relief from the heat, enough to be able to sleep well and to spend an entire afternoon on the patio in the deckchair watching the grapes ripening with no energy for more. Yesterday, I spent the day editing manuscripts from a scientist who works on pollinator loss and what we can do about it.

One solution is coriander, go out and plant coriander, at the edges of your vegetable plots, in pots you can place around the garden, in a window box, wherever. It attracts pollinator insects like no other plant, herb or weed, regardless of climate or agroecological zone.

no coriander involved here

I have been listening with growing fascination to Burn Wild, originally a BBC podcast but widely available on various podcast platforms, "a story of two fugitive environmentalists, an eco-terrorist cell and a burning question: How far is too far to go to save the planet?" The story goes back to the late 1990s and early 2000s and so many questions are popping up in my head. We do know (about) two people who have been living off the grid for at least ten years now, hiding from prosecution for their environmental direct actions. I remember many years ago meeting one of them, who had been to uni with my daughter and had come for a short visit with my daughter who was minding the house while we were travelling. It was late at night and I was tired and cranky and of all the things I could have said or done, I chose to start cleaning the dishes. Good grief.

As for music, this has made me happy.


11 July 2023

Early on after I had been told that I had a rare disease, that while thanks to modern medicine I could reach some form of remission even over longer time periods, I would always need medication and regular tests to ensure things wouldn't get worse, and after I had made sense of the meanings of chronic and flare ups and the numerous restrictions that had entered my up to then happy go lucky spontaneous life, the fact that I have to adhere to stipulations of the health insurance and my employer and the disability regulations and the tax office and a couple, in fact too many, other institutions that will from time to time dole out the various perks one is meant to benefit from when chronically ill, in short, once the dust had settled a bit, I began to develop this new skill of always looking over my shoulder, of trying to be ready for the worst, of watching, always watching for symptoms - I had been given a handy list - and I have made an art form of this. My permanence, if there is any, is to remain alert to looming danger, which in itself is exhausting and tedious. Of course, and I am not stupid, I can observe this, myself, and tell this person, myself, to get a grip and I can let go or at least allow my brain to relax, to stop trying to be in charge and vigilant and ready. And by now, 12 years in, I mostly do succeed, but then there are days - and nights - when I remember glimpses of what I used to be like, what my life used to be like, and I need to muster all the cells of my brain and every fibre of my heart and soul to bring myself back, to reach that place somewhere deep inside where I feel complete.

I am mostly fine, I can say this honestly. But I know I'll never again be really fine, the way I meant it when people asked, hey how are you and I would reply, oh fine, without thinking what it means.

The shoulder is still shitty but either I got used to it or the physio did help and it doesn't bother me too much. I can only cycle short distances before my arm gets numb and I stay off the main roads as I don't trust my braking skills. Also, I have a list of questions for my next appointment with the orthopedic guy who told me that no, it's definitely not a herniated disc in my neck that needs surgery and that it probably Just Takes Time. Meanwhile R has started to investigate ways he could adjust my handle bars. 

I am still figuring out ways to not fall asleep listening to podcasts and audio books. Obviously, listening while driving or walking is ok but I don't much like doing it, too much other stuff going on around me. Anyway, some books are too good and I just finished Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, which is rightly termed a "gripping fast moving ecological thriller". But it's more and I have been thinking about the novel and the ending and what I think could happen after the book's last page, it's dramatic ending. I really hope this is going to be made into a film or a series.

Here is a quote from the Eleanor Catton, author about her novel, or rather, her ending of the novel:

We’re staring down our own finitude as a species, as a planet, and I think that there’s something very dangerous about thinking like that. It can become a licence to behave however you like, really. But it’s also this kind of depression, the kind of depression that Macbeth voices at the end of Macbeth when Lady Macbeth dies and he says ‘tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ – you know, who cares, this is all just ‘a tale told by an idiot’. He’s such a nihilist in that moment, and so I was very certain in myself that I didn’t want to write a nihilistic book, I didn’t want to write a depressing book. I wanted to write a book that excited you because it made you want to know what was going to happen to these characters. If you achieve that as a writer you’re giving the reader a sense of the future, you’re making them want to keep reading, and so even for a little moment, in that brief time that they’re reading your book, they have a reason to live.

The full interview:

01 July 2023

This here is a public talk given on 29th of June 2023 by Canadian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe at ETH Zurich. I challenge you to give this one hour of your time and I can assure you it will not be wasted. It is unsettling, yes, but it is also inspiring and most of all, full of hope.