Sunday Night Thoughts #8

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” – Epitectus

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must decide what to make for dinner. Tonight I decided to make rice with mole. Now, I know this seems dangerous. I know this seems foolish. But when I was in the grocery store I was hit by a wave of inspiration, and that inspiration said, “Buy gross amounts of rice. Cook it. Be merry.”

And so I heeded this inspiration. I also bought the following items: A mango, a chocolate bar, and of course, the mole sauce. Pre-prepared. With a little chocolate thrown in (to the mole sauce) for good measure. I need mole in my chocolate sauce. Everyone knows this.

On the way home I thought about a few things, and thought about them in great detail: First I thought about how much longer I’m realistically going to stay in Guadalajara. This thought occupied my brain for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds, until it was interrupted by me having to avoid a speeding bus. Then I thought about the mango, and whether I should tear into right there, like a savage, letting the juice drip all over my hands and beard, but thus enjoying the pleasure that is instant mango consumption. Then I thought about Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Hawking, and Roberto Bolaño, and whether or not I should get something at the bakery Pan Regio, and about Emma Watson, about Emma Watson’s relationship status, about Christian Pulisic, about soccer in general, about my ability to score goals, about Karl Ove Knausgaard, about whether or not the mole would be good, about if I still “got it” (when it comes to cooking rice), about if I still “got it” (in general). I’ll be brutally honest with you (gently honest): I didn’t think about a lot of these latter things in great detail. The thought about Pan Regio, for example, more or less flitted through my mind. I thought about a chocolate croissant and how much chocolate I would get in my beard, and at that point I had already subconsciously started eating the mango. When I realized I was eating the mango I felt a bit guilty. But by then it was too late.

“If you’re going to say what you want to say, you’re going to hear what you don’t want to hear.” – Roberto Bolaño

When I got home I didn’t do what I expected to do, which was just rip the rice open, douse it in mole sauce, and eat it uncooked. Instead I sat down and watched some YouTube chess videos. If you’re like me, you usually save YouTube chess videos for evening time. I think it’s fairly obvious that this is the best time to watch YouTube chess videos. I watched a fierce battle between Alpha Zero, a computer that supposedly taught itself to play chess in four hours, and a program called Stockfish. Obviously, Alpha Zero crushed Stockfish. And just as I was finishing the video, pumping my fist in the air and cheering, I heard a crackling sound and realized the water was boiling over and I’d broken golden rule of rice cooking: Keep the heat low.

“There have been many opinions voiced over the past few weeks about our failure to reach the World Cup — and I hope people can understand why one of them hasn’t been mine.” – Christian Pulisic

The mole was disappointing. You need chicken when you eat mole, and also tortillas. I also wished it would’ve had a little more spice in it, or just any spice at all, but beggars can’t be choosers. That said, I haven’t begged in a long time, except for when I do it on this blog. And even then it’s not begging, but more crafty suggestion. And now I must go to bed, or at least get ready for bed. I must read The Lost City of the Monkey God on my phone and wonder whether or not I’ll ever be an explorer. I must mentally prepare for my day tomorrow.

I must wash the dishes.

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A Delicious Scab

I woke up with a feeling of urgency this morning. I’m not sure exactly what spurred it. I checked my phone and saw I had an email from one of the people at Roads & Kingdoms saying one of my pieces had been accepted, and took a small minute to rejoice. I decided the other day that the next time I got an article accepted I’d use the money to buy a year membership to the shared bike program here called MIBICI. It actually only costs about $20, so I’ll have a few bucks leftover. Then I lay in bed for 15 minutes, rating Instagram ads for Appen, and then got out of bed and walked to Pan Regio, where I bought a costra.

I’d been interested in the costra at Pan Regio because costra means scab in Spanish. I don’t know why you’d ever name a pastry a scab. This is probably why the costras are always fully stocked and there hasn’t been budín for weeks. I purchased one for five pesos and once in the street ripped off a chunk and bit in.

It was bland. What else would you expect from a pastry called a scab? But then I kept eating, and kept eating, and by the third or fourth bite it was as if the costra was taunting me, daring me to still call it bland. I did not accept the dare. The costra was a work of subtle beauty. I don’t know if I’d ever buy it again. If there was budín I’d probably still go for that, drawn in by its gravitational pull, but the costra is what I SHOULD be eating. The costra is how I should be living my life.

Back in my apartment I made my bed and got ready to seize the day. I said hi to Bill, my aloe plant, who’s looking better and better by the minute. I attribute this of course to his new planter with drainage holes on the bottom and premium potting soil, but also the fact that he’s now surrounded by other plants. I’ve put him in the courtyard, where he’s last in line in a line of much taller, much greener, much more impressive plants. He’s the new kid on the block. Like any parent, I watch nervously, biting my nails, hoping the others will accept him. Bill is an aloe plant. He’s sweet. He’s sensitive. I just hope the others can see him for the person he really is.

And now I’ll walk to the school where I teach, not to teach but to use their blazing fast internet since I have a Skype class at ten and I’m worried the bandwidth here might be taken up by the Czech couple and also by Rodolfo and Adriana, who are also still here. I don’t think Adriana works on Mondays. My days are considerably better when I give good classes, so for this first class a good internet connection must be a priority.

(intermission)

And now I’m finishing this post, sitting at El Terrible Juan. I didn’t realize I hadn’t finished this post. I’m a bit embarrassed. This blog must be the number one priority in my life. Why does the waitress here hate me? I don’t get it. I bow my head and order as quickly as possible. I would love to just ask her, “Excuse me, I’m just curious. It’s obvious that my presence to you is about as agreeable as repeatedly getting punched in the stomach. Why exactly is this?” But of course I would never ask this.

It would be uncomfortable.

A special thanks to Barry Sevig for his contribution to this “błoġ.”

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Set in Chocolate Stone

pan regio guadalajara

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever. – Carl Sagan

This morning I went back to Pan Regio, the bakery near my house, and since there was no budín and also because I felt inclined to mix it up, I got a piedra, a chocolate biscuit type thing whose name in Spanish means “stone.” It cost five pesos.

I’m not crazy about starting my day with so much sugar. I would rather gnaw on a handful of raw spinach, or fill my cheeks with salted avocado. But I’m trying to keep things cheap, and also I’m a little bit in love with this bakery. The woman made a joke to me today but I didn’t understand , and when I said, “What was that?” she said, “Have a nice day.” In Pan Regio you get one chance to understand jokes. If you don’t get it the first time, you’re toast (or other baked good).

The piedra is aptly named, though I’ve ever seen any chocolate-covered stones in the natural world. It’s not as hard as I would’ve thought, though it is brittle. The piedra of the pastry world, then, might be something like the shale of the geologic world. If climbing legend Alex Honnold was free-soloing a beautiful wall in Yosemite and came upon a patch of piedras, he would probably be disgusted and/or in great danger (and/or sated). But if the only thing you have to do is walk through the streets of Guadalajara and enjoy the mercifully cool morning temperatures, the muted light on the buildings, the smell that for some reason reminds me of Bakersfield, California, a piedra is not a bad companion.

I’m not sure what this day holds for me, and I like that. I woke up this morning and meditated to a 15-minute long video of Alan Watts, the famed British pop philosopher, telling me not to judge the sounds I was hearing, to not control my breathing, to simply observe the thoughts that came into my head the same way I observed the hum of the refrigerator, without judgement. At one point during the meditation my neighbor walked into her courtyard, i.e. directly next to my window, and I wondered if she was watching me. She might’ve been. I wouldn’t have judged.

What would I like this day to hold for me? Well, I was supposed to teach Spanish classes from 10am-12pm, and then an English class from 12:30pm-1:20pm. All of these classes have been cancelled, but I’ll still be paid. To celebrate, I may go to my favorite cafe, El Terrible Juan, and get a green or black tea. I’ll talk to one of the waitresses, who always seems happy to see me, and be earnest yet polite with the other waitress, who seems to regard me the way you might regard an insect that’s just collided with your windshield and is still somehow alive. And then afterward, of course, I’ll get a lonche from Doña Marta.

Today is all about being centered, which should be easy given the contents of my stomach. Yesterday it was a compact object, today it’s a chocolate-covered stone.

I would like to take a small trip with my February Patreon earnings. So far I’m up to $20. Today is the last day to sponsor and have your pledge counted for the month of February. Thanks to all who’ve pledged so far.

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The Compact Object of the Pastry World

pan regio guadalajara

One of my English students via Skype is an astrophysicist. She’s taught me a lot about “compact objects,” which are things like black holes, dwarf stars, and neutron stars. Today I decided I would give her a presentation on astrophysics, because she was feeling a bit tired and might’ve had a headache and didn’t feel like talking that much. This worked out perfectly, because I love talking, and love making stuff up. I gave her a short presentation on High Mass X-Ray Binary Systems, and explained about things like accretion, compact objects, coherent pulsation, supergiants, quiescence, flares, etc. And the interesting part was that, on  some of the stuff, I wasn’t that far off. In fact, at one point she asked, “How did you know what that was?” and explained that I didn’t, that I was guessing.

Of course, for most of the stuff I was completely wrong and had no idea what I was talking about. One of the graphs had a jagged blue line with a spike in it, for example, and a bunch of red dots, and I said that the red dots were plankton and that the blue line represented whales’ hunger before and after eating the plankton. The best part was she wanted to participate, and she forgot she was speaking English. Whenever I asked if she had questions she played the part of the skeptical student perfectly, unmasking my spurious knowledge. It made me realize I need to strive for this more as a teacher. Forget about grammar, or correcting, or anything like that for at least 15 minutes a class, and just focus on getting the student as engrossed in a topic as possible. So much so that which language they’re speaking becomes secondary, and the focus is on communication.

After giving the class I headed out into the fresh Guadalajara morning. It’s getting hotter here. Yesterday the high was in the mid 80’s. I come home from teaching, strip down, put on my board shorts, and hang out barefoot in the cool inner sanctum that is the living room and kitchen of my house. It’s only bad for a few hours. And even during those few hours it’s not that bad. When evening comes the temperature is perfect again. Twilight is my favorite time of day Guadalajara.

As I did yesterday, today I got a bread pudding from Pan Regio for six pesos ($0.32). It was the last one left. On the way back I took a picture of it, because I knew I would want one for this blog. Also on the way back I remarked on the density of the bread pudding. It’s only about the size of a large brownie, but weighs about 30 times as much. How do they make bread pudding so dense? Is it filled with lead? But then I realized it must just have properties similar to those of a compact object. When the bread pudding (called “budin” in Spanish) sits on the shelf in the bakery, it attracts other objects towards it, slowly at first, but then they gain speed rapidly until they slam into the bread pudding, resulting in accretion. Some of the matter from the original object becomes assimilated into the bread pudding, and some of it is spewed into the atmosphere, in this case in the form of particles called “crumbs.” This process continues, croissants and buns and rolls and danishes slowly sliding toward the bread pudding when the shop employee isn’t looking, slamming into it, leaving their mark (and their mass).

And now this compact object is in my stomach. I have a neutron star in my stomach, a dwarf star, a black hole. Which finally explains my eating habits.

A very special thanks to Stefan Peter-Contesse for his (second!) contribution to this “bweeg.” 

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Grandiose Hopes

faro portugal

I went to bed last night with grandiose hopes about what would happen this morning when I woke up. Last night I wrote about how I’m broke, how I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for my lodging tomorrow, and I posted that post on a Reddit forum about finance that had something like 140,000 people connected at the time of me posting it. I thought this would drive tons of traffic to my site, and I’d wake up this morning with all kinds of page views and donations from complete strangers.

But that’s not how it works.

When I woke up this morning I had no emails. My financial situation was exactly the same. I just got a small payment from Rev.com, the company I work for doing captioning for very little money, so now I’ll be able to pay for tomorrow night’s rent and food, but the question becomes: What about Wednesday? Several people owe me money, and I’m also waiting on an interpreting payment for a couple jobs I did in Seattle over Christmas, so I should be OK. Up until this point, I’ve never not been OK. My sister had a sticker on her fridge for a long time that said, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”

I’ve gotten in the habit of going to Starbucks every morning and spending 36 pesos on tea and an apple. This is approximately two dollars and is way more than I need to spend for breakfast. This morning, for example, I went to a bakery by my house I’d always seen but never gone into, and got a bread pudding for six pesos. It was delicious. I almost fell over on the walk home, such was the distraction caused by my rejoicing tastebuds. Of course today I’ll still go to Doña Marta’s for a lonche, since even if the apocalypse was coming the last thing I would do before death would be to eat a lonche de pierna or chilaquiles at Doña Marta’s corner store. If hellfire descended upon me but I was in the process of biting into one of Doña Marta’s sandwiches, the feelings of pain and ecstasy would just about cancel out.

Today I teach at the consulate, where I have a new student. This is possibly not the best idea, since there’s a good chance I’ll quit this consulate job soon. It doesn’t pay enough. I love it, I love teaching Spanish, and I love teaching at the consulate, but what they’re paying me is an abomination. At some point you have to decide what you’re worth. At some point you have to decide what’s really important in life, and for me it’s clear: lonches. I want to spend the rest of my days walking around Guadalajara, eating bread pudding, getting lonches, and talking to Doña Marta. The ends justify the means, and so now I’ll do whatever’s necessary to secure those ends. And as for going to bed with grandiose hopes, I’m not sure whether it’s better to go to bed with grandiose hopes and wake up disappointed, or never have those grandiose hopes in the first place. Time will tell.

 

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