Archive for the 'Nonclassified Nonsense' Category

A German, a Spaniard, and two Czechs walk into the middle of a road with a telescope

8 September 2018 at 10:37 am
by Jonah

That’s what happened at our house last night, no joke. We hosted a quartet of couchsurfers yesterday. In their request they said they understood if we could only host a couple of them, but we assured them we had plenty of room for all four.  When they arrived, we all introduced ourselves: Max (male) from Germany, Sara (female) from Spain, and Misha and Beata (both female) from the Czech Republic.  We told them again what their sleeping options were, and after what appeared to be some panicky internal deliberations, Sara and Beata elected to bunk in the upstairs queen bed and Misha informed Max that she did not mind sharing the downstairs queen bed with him. (To be fair, I had offered them all the option of the couch and the air mattress too.) The whole situation amused Berck greatly.

As Berck and I worked on preparing dinner, we asked our couchsurfers how they knew each other.  It turned out that they did not.  Amongst a variety of websites, the four of them (there was a fifth, a Russian, who had left the day before) had met online with the intention of all gathering in Denver to pool their resources to rent a car together and see as much of the United States as they could in one week. They said they had driven 3,000 miles, and tonight was their last night in the US.  They were flying out of Denver the next day.

Before dinner, Berck took everyone down to the kegerator and gave them tastes of all of his beers so they could choose which one they would like a glass of.  This activity proved very popular with our guests.

They had warned us that two of them were vegetarians, so Berck made bread and pasta with tomato cream sauce and I made Caesar salad and peach cobbler.  Usually, Berck makes his pasta dish with lots of red pepper to make it spicy, but because we knew a German was joining us, he held back this time.  Max thanked him for making it mild and said it was still very spicy for him but also still delicious.

We ate and laughed, and Berck and I told stories of our European backpacking adventures, Berck about his random Norwegian Rastafarian host, me about how, whenever I got into trouble, I was rescued by Japanese girls.

Then Sara asked, “Is that a telescope?” And that’s how we ended up in the middle of our street looking at Saturn’s rings and the Andromeda Galaxy. None of them had ever had a good look at the Milky Way before, and I pointed out Cassiopeia, Polaris, and the Dippers.  We saw a meteor. We were probably annoying our neighbors, all talking in the middle of the street in the middle of the night, when Sara pointed to the Pleiades rising and exclaimed, “I can see that one from Spain too!”

It was such a fun night, and the Professor loved having so many people to show off his feather toy catching skills to.

There’s a risk to couchsurfing. And I don’t mean the ax-murdering type risk; that’s so remote as to be laughable.  There’s a risk that we rush around cleaning the house and cooking for someone who doesn’t actually show up.  Or the risk that the folks who do show up are homeless freeloaders who use six bath towels and three rolls of toilet paper between the two of them in one night.  Or worst yet, that our guests are utterly boring.

But then there’s the possibility of six random strangers from all over the world, sitting around a table, drinking, eating delicious food, talking, laughing, and just enjoying a wonderful evening together.

And it’s even better if you’ve got a telescope handy.

3rd Street

4 September 2018 at 7:43 pm
by Jonah

I was driving home from work today through the Broadmoor area, which is the nicest part of town. Construction on my exit on the Interstate was finally completed, but then construction started on Highway 24 through the city.  So it’s still much more pleasant (and possibly faster) to drive through the Broadmoor.

I took a right on 3rd to take my shortcut over to Cresta and noticed a critter in someone’s front yard.  At first I thought, “Why would that giant black dog be wandering around loose?”

And then I realized it was not a dog.

The little bear turned her head to glance at me as she continued to walk on her way away from the road.  I’m guessing she was female because she was small, but I really have no way of knowing for sure.  Her shiny black eyes mirrored her sleek black fur.  Our gaze met for only a moment as I marveled at how beautiful she was.  Then we passed and each kept going, me on my way home and she, most likely, to the next available trash can.

I’m guessing the secret to her gorgeous coat is the high quality garbage in the Broadmoor.


31 August 2018 at 8:58 pm
by Jonah

The boss let us go home early today.  She likes to do that on Fridays before holiday weekends.

Berck was still busy at work, so I stopped by the grocery on the way home to pick up mushrooms and peppers.  Berck complains that he can’t cook ANYTHING if he doesn’t have mushrooms or peppers handy, so I try to have some in the fridge each weekend.  Then I toss them in the garbage in a week when they’ve gone bad.

Traffic was nuts, even at 2:00 p.m., so I decided to stop at the King Soopers on Uintah.  As I was walking up to the front door through the parking lot, I had to swing around the back of a giant, ancient, mustard yellow Oldsmobile Tornado, pulled all the way up to the handicapped sign.  (I now know it was an Oldsmobile because I eventually found it on Google.  Searching for “tornado” and “cars” on Google leads to a lot of photos of storm devastation, which was not helpful.)   They just don’t make cars like that anymore, with proud rear ends that announce themselves so loudly.

What kind of gas mileage does that get, I wondered.  I’m sure it was designed before the gas embargo.

As I walked by, I noticed the windows were down, and the driver was lounging in the front seat, undoubtedly waiting for his passenger to finish their shopping trip inside.

Then I caught the unmistakable whiff of cigar smoke.

Because if you’re gonna sit in your Tornado in a handicapped spot at the grocery, of course you’re gonna be smoking a stogie.





2 August 2018 at 8:15 pm
by Berck

I spent much of Sunday cutting down dead aspens. I wore shorts and boat shoes while operating a chainsaw which I know to be a bad idea. Fortunately, my chainsaw is small and underpowered, but I have to wonder if I’m actually a rational person. I wear a full suit, gloves and helmet while riding a motorcycle, but shorts while operating a chainsaw. Which is more risky? Is my behavior consistent? I don’t even know!

I was completely sore for two days later. It’s important that when you live a sedentary lifestyle that you commit to it fully, otherwise things hurt. Also, I’m apparently an old man.

Aspens are stupid. They grow for a few years, then die. They’re the only deciduous trees we have, and they can’t even be bothered to turn colors. Instead, they all turn exactly the same color at exactly the same time. People think it’s beautiful. I think they’ve never seen proper trees. Trees are maybe the only thing I miss about the south.

I sawed the wood into reasonable pieces, and Jonah stacked it on the edges of the property. I’ve been wondering how long I can reasonably wait to deal with it. If I leave it up to Jonah, the wood will still be there when she dies. Robert & Sarah might want it, but they have lots of wood, and moving it down there seems like work. I have a barbacoa pit, but using it didn’t go well last time, and I’m pretty sure aspen is exactly the wrong sort of wood for it anyway.

So at first I was glad to see that some old person left a note on our door asking if they could have the wood. Sure! Only, I had no idea who it was, and there was a phone number. I was definitely not calling a phone number. Fortunately, I’m married.

Unfortunately, I think we’re giving the wood to the neighbor who yells at me to slow down even when I’m driving well under the speed limit. Everytime I haven’t seen her in awhile, I hope maybe she’s dead, only to have my hopes crushed next time she yells at me.

Hare Krishna

11 March 2018 at 9:15 am
by Berck

The manager of one of the teams in Bangalore has insisted on showing us around this weekend. Yesterday, we went to the Veerabhadra Temple. I’m not sure what I imagined, but it didn’t really fit any idea of “temple” I had in my head.

I don’t understand any religion from a rational basis, but Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a common, familiar structure that I can understand to be comforting for some. Paganism is far removed but has, for me, a coherent literary structure and while I’ve never encountered contemporaneous practice, historical practice seems logical.

Hinduism, from my very first exposure has seemed nearly impenetrable. I suspect this is at least in part due to the lack of effort I’ve put into it, but even its practitioners come across to me as confused. The brief facts I know about Hinduism seem as though my childhood textbook writers picked arbitrary facts that were easy to convey with single words: polytheism, reincarnation, caste-system. None of which make any effort to get any core belief.

And maybe that’s because Hinduism isn’t actually a religion in the same sense of other religions I’m familiar with. From Wikipedia:

Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist. Because of the wide range of traditions and ideas covered by the term Hinduism, arriving at a comprehensive definition is difficult. The religion “defies our desire to define and categorize it”. Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and “a way of life”. From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism like other faiths is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the western term religion.

My notion of a temple is thus rooted in my experience with temples I’ve known thus far: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and quite a few pagan ruins.

The Veerabhadra Temple is an odd (to me, but common for India) architectural ruin and functioning temple. The outside is surrounded by engraved, well-worn columns, frescoed ceilings, dirt floors. The frescoes are fading or have disappeared and the figures in the columns are eroding. There is no apparent effort to preserve the 500-year-old structure. Visitors touch the columns. The place is dirty.

On the inside, there are several idols attended to by priests (?). Devotees provide a small donation, and are rewarded with some words, some color smeared in their foreheads, some coconut water, maybe some fruit. I don’t really understand the exchange of fruit, as it seems to go both ways. The atmosphere inside is loud and chaotic and dingy and doesn’t resemble any sort of religious practice as I know it.

The drive to the temple was several hours and it was several hours back. I requested that today we see things in vicinity of Bangalore since we only had one day and it seemed like a city of 12 million probably had some interesting attractions without driving far away.

We started today by visiting ISKCON temple in town, home of the Hare Krishnas. We drove for nearly an hour and got to the temple only to discover that our coworker-guide had blindly followed his GPS to a small subsidiary temple and not at all the large temple we were trying to visit. We removed our shoes and visited anyway. I was permitted to take photographs of the idols.

We then drove for a long while down unpaved “roads” as our guide relied on Google Maps directions to navigate back to the correct temple. Google maps has a very good idea of where there are gaps between the buildings in Bangalore. Unfortunately, it thinks all of them are passable roads, and that’s simply not the case.

We eventually made it back to some main roads, and then after another hour, reached the temple we’d set out to see. Unlike the ancient temple it was built relatively recently. I was not allowed in wearing my shorts and to rent a dhoti to cover my obscene white legs, which greatly amused my coworkers.

The time spent in the temple itself was about 10% of the time spent in the massive complex of gift shops that you must pass through in order to exit. My coworkers were awfully interested in the various tchotchkes, but the perfumes and incense were more than I could take. While waiting for them, various Indians came by and took selfies with me. I’m not sure if they were amused because I was white, wearing a dhoti with a t-shirt, have a large beard, or the maybe the entire package. In any case, I’m probably lighting up Indian instagram.

At first I was glad to be able to walk around barefoot, but India is hot and my poor feet have grown soft since my days of perpetual barefootedness. I’m pretty sure I have blisters on my feet.

After another hour of driving and some back and forth about lunch after I requested spicy goat biryani, we arrived here for lunch. It’s apparently somehow related to this guy. I think.

In any case, the food was served on banana leaves and was quite good. Sadly, the biryani was only available as “medium” spicy, but it was still quite good. Instead of plates, the food is served on banana leaves and no silverware was offered. I’m not good at eating rice with my hands. We had a half-dozen different things, and they were all quite tasty. It was spicy enough to make me sweat, which is a good sign, but then all of India is hot enough that I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped sweating.