Lifetip 6: Calibrate and compare

This lifetip was originally supposed to be titled ‘Create your own compass’.

When Jesse Frederik discussed this lifetip in a Rudi & Freddie podcast episode, he lamented that fact that people tend to prioritize whatever fact they encounter most often.

He described that, as a consequence, we only seem to talk about what everybody else is talking about. His tip was meant as an encouragement to always ask ourselves what is important to us individually and to talk about that instead.

This all rang so true to me. I could think of dozens of examples of people that followed their heart, going against the stream, and making the world a better place because of it.

Also, Jesse Frederik proclaimed that people should make their own estimates and assessments with the available facts. You can do that by asking yourself, what ‘a lot’ means to you (for example when speaking about money)? What is a ‘big’, what is ‘small’? What is ‘wealth’? What is ‘poverty’?

Is a billion dollars investment in military equipment ‘a lot’? Should the amount going towards education be equal to that or would that be ‘too much’? Is a farmer in Spain rich or well off? Is he still rich when compared to farmers in the Netherlands? Is he rich in comparison to you?

Those type of questions are crucial for people like Jesse Frederik, who make a living from the understanding of politics and economics. It must be so frustrating to realize that people (including politicians and people in positions of power) have lost sight of proportions.

In money terms, it’s like everything above a million is just ‘a lot’, putting millions and billions and trillions all on the same heap of unfathomableness. This lack of understanding that we have of amounts and dimensions, is something I will go into further on another day, in another blogpost.

Whereto does the compass point?

Allow me to bring the focus back to the metaphor of the compass and the suggestion to ‘make your own’.

This lifetip was pretty much ready to be packed and posted, when the pandemic took over our lives. From that moment on, all sorts of people started deciding they knew what was good for themselves and their families in ways that were hard to fathom.

All of a sudden, me telling people to stand up for their own truths and to ‘create their own compass’, suddenly sounded like quite a dangerous notion, or in the very least an incomplete one.

I guess I had never considered the possibility that the idea of having an original opinion and a rebellious mind could backfire this way. That sounds incredibly naive now, doesn’t it?

So I came to the conclusion that suggesting you can make your own compass, implies that it is up to you to decide what North is. That is really not a good idea at this particular time.

We already know where North is, as well as East, West and South. The wind directions are not up for discussion. These are facts, backed by science and carefully crafted compasses (and modern day global positioning systems). The compass is fine. you don’t need a new one.

At the same time, I can not ignore the importance of questioning absolute truths every now and then and to never settle for answers like “That’s just the way it is” or “Because I told you so”.

So I went back to the drawing board.

True North

Something that applies to all compasses is that they are of no use if you don’t know where you are or where you want to go. If you don’t know what the starting point is, then there is really very little point in knowing what North, East, West or South is…

I then renamed the blogpost to “Find your own true North”, which is more of an encouragement to figure out which ideas you want to guide you through life.

I also contemplated if it would be different if the lifetip would be ‘Calibrate your compass’. This wouldn’t require a whole new set of truths (aka a new compass), just a re-allignment of your values with the current one.

It also reminded me of Jack Sparrow’s ‘broken compass’, that doesn’t point towards the classical wind directions, but only towards the thing you desire for most in life.

The idea of having a compass but no idea of ones position or destination paralyzed my whole thought process for a while.

Explorers and cartographers

When I found my courage to continue with this post, I decided to investigate the compass metaphor a bit further. I realized that, as a tool, it is most useful when you also have a map. With a map, you can pinpoint your location (or so I’ve been told) and analyze what you would encounter if you were to go in this direction or that.

Once you’ve decided where it is you want to go, the compass can be useful to set your course.

The map we all have to deal with in our daily lives, is one of those computer-game-type-maps where you only get to see the areas where you’ve already been and only fill in the rest as you proceed.

This means you will inevitably be flying blind for a a bit, until you pass a certain threshold and the new borders of the map become visible. I guess that notion comes closest to the way the first explorers had to navigate.

The point beyond the furthest anyone had ever gone remained blank on maps for many centuries. Dragons were drawn into these unknown territories to discourage people to go any further down that unknown path.

The parallel between that metaphor and life is that we can’t really know anything about situations in the future, nor anything that we haven’t experienced first hand.

I have to suppress the urge to type something sarcastic after the previous sentence, as it is almost insulting to have to say it. As professor Redundant would say: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Compare maps & compasses

Basing your choices in life solely on what you have experienced first hand is not very practical, though.

As an example; if I saw somebody diving into a pond from a high cliff and not die, I would assume I could do the same and survive as well. I wouldn’t need to measure the depth of the pond or the wind or check if the water was of the right density. I also wouldn’t check if there were crocodiles, sharks or anacondas down there ready to gobble me up. I would instantly accept that the reality that applied to the first diver would also apply to me (and that I would have fun in the process).

But what about the person standing on the side of the pond refusing to take the jump, convinced it would not end well? What reality does he base his ideas on? Does he have different facts? What does his compass read and what does his map show? Can both realities be true?

If I were to speak to the bystander, I could encourage him by saying “Come on and jump in with me! Hakuna Matata. It is fun!”. With that, I would be assuming many things.

His answer could be: “I am so clumsy, I would surely trip before making the jump and hurt myself with the fall”. I could comfort him by saying (without lying) that I had very poor motor skills myself and that if I could do it, he would surely be fine as well.

If he were to say “sure, but I can not swim”, that would definitely change things. It would indeed be dangerous for him to jump in, without being able to swim, and very reckless of me to encourage him anyway.

Pushing someone who can not swim to dive into a deep pond, would be homicidal. One could say that, from where I stand (with my compass and my map), it is quite rare to encounter someone who can not swim. It is customary for Dutch children to learn how to swim at an early age. My frame of reference tells me that, being an adult equals being able to swim. The possibility that an adult may not be able to swim, would simply not occur to me.

So… long story short: when speaking to someone with a different idea or opinion, it is very useful to check if your maps and your compasses are based on the same parameters, for you could be having a very long discussion without realizing you are simply not talking about the same thing.

Trust the equipment

This leaves me with the dilemma that I don’t want to encourage people to embrace ideas that are just not true.

After thinking it over, I arrived at the conclusion that people that are embracing ‘true fake news’, are not using a compass at all (and the fact that there we live in an era where we have to differentiate fake fake news (which is true) from true fake news (which is fake) continues to baffle me, but no something to go into further here).

People that are not willing to base their life decisions on facts but prefer to rely on gut feelings, would never look at a compass to decide whether to go left or right. They navigate more like Sandra Bullock did in the movie Birdbox; moving around in fear with a blindfold on, shooting at scary sounds and hoping for the best.

A compass will always just do that one thing, which is show you what direction North is. If someone would say “I don’t want a compass that shows me what North is, I want one that always points towards the closest supermarket”, you can simply conclude that they don’t really want a compass. That is not what compasses do. Period.

That means that the compass metaphor stands and that “Make your own compass” is still sound advice. The definition of that device already encompasses (hehehe) its parameters as well as its scientific origins.

Check your coordinates

Along with the creation (or purchase) of a compass one must also be encouraged to figure out the coordinates of ones current location.

I suppose that means you must become conscious of your position, which you can only do by looking around you and retracing your steps to where you came from.

Which lessons did you learn along the way? Ideally you would also ask yourself which lessons you didn’t learn, but that is a tough one (that goes back to the lesson professor Redundant brought us earlier).

What are your values? By whom were they instilled in you? What are your life goals and how do you wish to reach them?

Let’s say your life goal is “owning a house, a pool and a golden retriever”. Do you want to achieve said goal by working your ass off and slowly climbing the corporate ladder? Do you want to marry a rich gal or guy who will make all your dream come true? Or would you rather rob a bank?

All these options are viable. All of them have their up- and downsides. Your moral compass can help you decide which method fits you best.

The triad of tips

Congratulations, you have reached the bottom of the page and the end of this blogpost. The conclusion is that this lifetip consists of a triad of metaphorical tips:

  • Make and calibrate your own compass to set your course.
  • Determine your coordinates to figure out where you are, where you came from and where you want to go.
  • Check and compare your map and compass to that of the person beside you, especially if you plan to go out on an adventure together.

For now, I will leave any further translation of these metaphors to your own personal lives to you.

Mind Cleanup – May 2020

May 2020 came and went. I worked from home. The weather was sunny.

The first of those two facts is actually the less troubling one, at this point.

This Mediterranean feel is awfully nice if you are looking to get a tan but it is really kind of worrying, considering I live in the Netherlands, which us Dutchies endearingly refer to as our “cold frog country”.

First week of May

The month of May started out with a few events, my brother’s 40th birthday being the most noteworthy.

This year was also the year we celebrated 75 years since the end of WWII. The 4th and 5th of May were supposed to be big commemoration and celebration days, with activities all around the country.

But then, the pandemic happened. It was a very odd way of celebrating liberty, I’ll tell you that! Also, it was quite awkward to see our king perform all sort of ceremonious deeds, with no more than a handful of people present.

Back to Lifetip # 1

The idea that people are generally good and deserve to be trusted has been coming back to me in different shapes and forms this month.

Jason Mraz’ song “Look for the good” is a cute tribute to the optimistic lifestyle that we all could use a bit more of right now.

The guy that inspired me to write my first lifetip, Rutger Bregman, recently published an article about a historical figure called Peter Kropotkin. All though this prince turned anarchist definitely needs the story of his life to be molded into a Netflix series, Bregman mostly got me with the following remark:

Theories about human nature – unlike theories about molecules or black holes – can come true simply because we believe in them. (…) What would happen if we turned this around? What if schools, businesses, and governments assumed that most people are doing their best? What if we rallied round our tendency to trust and cooperate – a tendency with every bit as much of an evolutionary basis, over hundreds of millions of years?

The guardian also released an article about the goodness of mankind. The example of kids marooned on an island is an interesting one!

Music

Somehow the Trolls movies made an entrance into my playlists, without me ever haven seen the movies. There are quite a few really cool, groovy, funky, bouncy songs in there!

The song ‘Don’t slack” was one of my favorite songs of the month. Definitely check out the actual song but this lyrics explanation is a fun way to get acquainted.

Netflix

May was also the month that I cancelled my TV subscription. It’s Netflix all the way, from now on (all though I might subscribe to an additional streaming service at some point)

One day, when I was feeling courageous, I watched Netflix’ tribute to Michelle Obama, ‘Becoming’. And before I knew it, I was sobbing. For no reason. Or actually ten million reasons, but most of all the realization that this woman is so awesome (and don’t tell me that is not a good reason to cry for).

She is such a soul force.

And all though she wasn’t voted out of the white house, thinking of what came after her is just too much to handle. I didn’t expect someone as awesome as her to be the next FLOTUS, but my bloody golly Mrs Trump is so not like Mrs Obama that it hurts.

I also finally finished watching the Good Place and to my own surprise I found the ending utterly satisfying! It was a real ending for once. It was clever and thoughtful. Yupp. Big thumbs up to the scriptwriters there!

Now, will you please excuse me, as I have a rain dance to perform.

Bird buddies

When my boyfriend and I moved in together, we were lucky enough to do so in a lovely little house in the center of Leiden. As if that wasn’t enough, the house was also equipped with a tremendously luxurious extra; a garden.

We moved in in November of 2016 and quickly got acquainted with the neighbors. And the neighbors I bonded with the quickest were the ones that don’t pay rent. They can be noisy sometimes and sometimes sing “in the dead of night”. Yes, that Beatles song is based on a true story; I’m talking about birds.

Handsome and charismatic Patrick struts his stuff around enthusiastically every winter, but we now know that he spends the summer elsewhere. Scandinavia I’ve been told. We get quite sad each year when the realization kicks in that he’s left. Patrick is a fierce little robin.

Zwaantje (which translates to little Swan, and is an actual name for women in the Netherlands) was the lady Blackbird that lived in the impressive hedera ivy bush at the far end of the garden when we moved in. When she was seduced by an extremely friendly male, we named him Romeo. We were thrilled to see their romance blossom.

Romeo and Zwaantje raised several young and we grew closer to them than I ever thought one could get to a bird. Both were extraordinarily tame, but Romeo most of all. I learned that my human neighbors had a similar experience with this blackbird couple and we often exchanged endearing stories over the hedge.

We had quite a laugh when one of my neighbors confessed to me she had given all the birds names as well, but quite different from ours. She had named the male first – Koos-, and then decided the female was ‘Koosje’, which is the feminine version of the same name. A ‘Romeo’ is obviously not the same kind of character as a ‘Koos’ (a very mundane Dutch name). 😀

And as you can tell I am speaking about them in the past tense, because at some point, something happened…

We hadn’t seen much of the blackbirds during the winter months but when spring arrived and there was still no singing to be heard from the rooftops, we knew they were no longer with us. And it wasn’t only our rooftop that was quiet. The whole neighborhood (perhaps even the whole city) was silent. It was eerie. And sad.

It may have been the Usutu virus, a disease that targets blackbirds and has decimated populations in other European countries in recent years. Maybe a cat got hold of one of the two, and the other flew off. We don’t know, but there is no denying it was an odd season without them around.

And then last winter, to our utmost delight, a new couple moved in.

My neighbor is convinced that the male is actually our old friend, Romeo. I am not so sure, all though I do find his friendliness remarkable. Maybe one of his sons? The female is definitely not Zwaantje, we all agree on that.

The new lady blackbird is a bit skittish but that’s OK. She peaks at us through the trees when her partner hops over to the garden door to claim his breakfast raisins. She joins him as soon as we step back inside. I haven’t named her yet.

It may sound crazy but it really fills my heart with joy when I see Romeo (or his successor) taking elaborate baths in our little birdbath. He does so with so much passion and love of life. I can watch it all day.

And all though the blackbirds are definitely our bbffs (best bird friends forever) the cutest ones are without a doubt the blue tits.

Their big beady eyes in their tiny heads make them look like kid’s toys. Their little eye masks give them a bit of a samurai look, especially when the male raises the little tuft on his head, to look extra tough (but not really).

And don’t get my started about their young… Adorable. Just heartrendingly adorable.

The blue tits enjoy taking little splashy baths as well, after which they sit on a branch nearby and elaborately groom themselves. And then they fluff up their little feathers and become little feathery balls of squee.

Apart from the robin, the blackbirds and the blue tits, we have daily visits from several turtle doves, sparrows, great tits and sparrows. Less visible (but I know they’re there) is the wren and the dunnock.

Also jackdaws, magpies and jays stop by sporadically, all though I would prefer they stayed away. The turtle doves usually fight them off bravely, oftentimes at the cost of a few feathers.

I have become very protective of my feathery friends. The other day I scolded my neighbor for delousing his roses with a poisonous liquid. Doesn’t he know he’s not only killing the lice, but also the birds that feed on them? I didn’t explicitly call him a murderer to his face, but I did show him my meanest frown when he told me what was in that spraying apparatus… There are natural ways to shoo lice away, you know?!

And that’s when I realized living here has turned me into a little garden gnome. Or perhaps it’s turning me into my dad. Those two options might even be the same thing. And I’m pretty OK with that!

This dedication to my Bird Buddies is a contribution for my own personal A-to-Z challenge, which I will be adding to once a month.

Axolotl questions

The A-to-Z Blogging Challenge started on the 1st of April. A Wednesday. It was not convenient for me. I saw the first few days of the month pass me by and decided I would catch up in the weekend.

By Saturday, April 4th, I saw I could no longer sign up, at least not officially. And then it dawned on me… It did not need to be April. Posting one blog a day following an alphabetical chronology can also be done in May! Besides, May starts on a Friday; much more convenient…

So, today I start my own A-to-Z challenge.

I dedicate my first blog, the letter A, to the Axolotl. I realized it must be so when I saw this T-shirt being recommended to me on social media. And I desired it deeply. I still do.

I axolotl questions and you should too.

Have you ever seen an axolotl? They are fascinatingly odd.

And if you think they look odd, then wait until you learn more about their physiology.

Axolotl Lifecycles

Axolotls are actually salamanders. Salamanders hatch from eggs. They then grow into limbless larva, looking very similar to tadpoles. Then they start growing limbs; first the front legs appear, then the back ones. Up to that moment all salamanders are fully aquatic and therefore have cute frilled gills adorning their faces.

Your regular salamanders then proceed to grow into boring adults. They develop lungs for breathing above water and lose the frills. When they’re ready, they just walk out of the water and never look back.

Axolotls are rebels though. They hang on to puberty, stay in the water, singing Under the Sea all day, I assume. They successfully reproduce without ever morphing into the adult stage.

And it’s not that they have lost the ability to do so. Noooo sir. If for some reason the water they live in no longer suits them or if it dries up for some reason, they do what they have to do.

It must be said, they look really gross as adults. Because I wan’t you to keep the cute image you have of them and also don’t want to embarrass them, I’m not going to include a picture of an adult-stage axolotl here.

Axolotl regeneration

Axolotls don’t only stay young because of their youthful souls. They posses the freakish ability to grow back limbs and tails. But that’s not all; they can regrow whole organs, including their BRAIN!

That is why every scientist has an aquarium these days with a couple axolotls in it. They hold the secret to immortality! OK, maybe not immortality but they could definitely teach us more about healing processes.

An article on Big Think website explains it as follows:

We’ve understood the basic process of regeneration in axolotls for a while now. After a limb is severed, for instance, blood cells clot at the site, and skin cells start to divide and cover the exposed wound. Then, nearby cells begin to travel to the site and congregate in a blob called the blastema. The blastema then begins to differentiate into the cells needed to grow the relevant body part and grow outward according to the appropriate limb structure, resulting in a new limb identical to its severed predecessor.

(…)

Since humans possess the same genes that enable axolotls to regenerate, researchers are optimistic that one day we will be able to speed up wound healing or even to completely replicate the axolotl’s incredible ability to regenerate organs and limbs. With continued research such as this, it’s only a matter of time until this strange salamander gives ups its secrets.

Body swapping

All of this may have you wishing for an axolotl aquarium of your own, but don’t let their cute faces and quirky features fool you; these guys are dangerous!

Luckily, I learned about the fatality of axolotls in my early twenties and can therefore still walk the earth on two legs.

If you ever run into an axolotl; just don’t look it in the eyes…

You can read Julio Cortazar’s story here or listen to a lovely lady read it aloud in the video below.

The short TLDR-version of the story:

A man living in Paris becomes fascinated by an axolotl, a creature that he observes in the aquarium of a botanical garden. He visits the exhibit every day and feels a growing bond between himself and the creature. One day, as the man is pressing his face against the glass, looking into the eyes of the axolotl, a bodyswitch occurs. Stuck in the body of the axolotl, he sees his own face looking back at him from outside the aquarium. The aquarium is now his home… until some foolish visitor walks by and decides to look him deep in the eyes…

Based on a true story.

TV Hosts debating obesity

Bill Maher must be one of the most controversial TV hosts of this moment. He has never been known for mincing his words and his latest controversy is one he must have seen coming from miles away…

It has to do with obesity. If you’re up for it, give it a click below. If you don’t feel like listening to his slightly annoying voice and arrogant demeanor, skip the vid and read my summary further down.

So basically, what Bill Maher is saying is that we should not be making fat people feel OK about the fact that they are overweight. He literally says “fat shaming should make a comeback” and that telling people otherwise is sending them to an early grave.

Enter James Corden, who was having none of Bill’s shit. He manages to make some good points as well as some self deprecating jokes, without watering down his message.

I thought that was awesome. And true!

But still… Hurtful as his choice of words may be, I do think Bill Maher has a point. Not in the sense that I feel we should be pointing and laughing at our large boned friends and family members (obviously), but I do feel that there is a growing acceptance that may not be as right as we are letting ourselves believe.

Actually… This is pretty much how politics (should) work, don’t you think?

Someone pinpoints a problem and offers a solution. Insiders and experts pitch in, creating nuance and a more complete understanding. Empathetic outsiders step in to find a place of mutual understanding and consensus.

From there you build a healthy and balanced policy that is satisfying (enough) for all parties involved.

Ah yes… I remember those days…

YouTube

This is Blog 25 in my A-Z Blogseries:
YouTube

Social media have become something to love to hate and hate to love. If YouTube is a social medium, I think it’s my favorite one.

It’s so easy to lose half a day just clicking from one silly animal video to the next.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Simon’s Cat. I started watching these cute animated videos 11 years ago, when they first came out. If you have a cat (or wish you did) then I’m sure many of the scenes will look familiar in some way. The video below is the very first video Simon ever made and it’s still one of the best ones:

When it comes to news and satire I love them all; starting with the Daily Show and the Late Show all the way to Seth Meyers and Bill Maher. I also love Graham Norton from time to time.

When it comes to music I’m always excited to see a new video of the Pentatonix appear or of Walk of the Earth. When I’m looking for a good live version of a song I always go for KEXP, Mahogany Sessions or NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

A musical flashmob video, that for some reason brought a tear to my eye when I saw it for the first time, was this one:

Actually, now that I’m re-watching it now, I know why it gives me all the feels. It’s the fact that it’s such an ancient art form, such an ancient song and such a universal message, along the lines of “let’s just have a drink and be friends”.

I also just love it when I run into little faith-in-humanity-restoring vids like this one, that was made 3 days after the Paris attacks in 2015:

Let’s use social media for wholesome shit only, what do you say!?

XXX

This is Blog 24 in my A-Z Blogseries:
XXX

The town that I live in in the Netherlands is called Leiden. The city’s coat of arms looks like this:

The emblem features on buildings and structures all over the city, including streetlights and bollards, as is customary in the Netherlands.

As Leiden has many of the same urban features as Amsterdam does, scenes for TV series and films that are meant to take place in Amsterdam, are often re-enacted in Leiden.

You can imagine that elements such as the ones featured in the pictures above, need to be temporarily replaced with their Amsterdam counterparts before filming begins. For Leideners, this is always kind of painful to watch, as any Dutch city’s fear is to “become Amsterdam”.

Now, to get to the point of this blog…. Amsterdam’s coat of arms looks like this:


Determined
Courageous Compassionate

In the current composition, it is believed to date back to the 13th century.

When we see the three X’s positioned vertically like that, we all understand we are referencing Amsterdam. It turns out though, that the meaning and origins of these X’s are a bit of a mystery.

Online historians and Amsterdamologists tell me that the three X’s are actually three silver Saint Andrew’s Crosses (which also features quite prominently on the flag of Scotland). And that’s pretty much where the story ends.

Nobody has been able to think up a good explanation as to why the city thought St Andrew, or the cross he was crucified on, were so important that they should pay tribute to him thrice on the city’s emblem.

According to Amsterdam’s own website, there are two other cities in the area that also feature the cross in the same fashion on their coat of arms, which is an interesting fact but still doesn’t really offer any clarity.

The only theory I could find, led back to the coat of arms of a powerful family from the region, van Persijn, that looks like this:

It is possible that this family owned so much real estate in the area (which they apparently did, including in the area around Leiden) that Amsterdam honored them by referencing them in the coat of arms. It’s still hard to believe that somehow we managed to forget all about this fact in the centuries that followed, don’t you think?

Fast-forward to the 21st century where somehow, the term “triple X” has also became intertwined with sexual imagery, prostitution and pornography, which has also just happened to become part of Amsterdam’s identity.

How? Why? Coincidence? You tell me!

Wunsiedel walkathon

This is Blog 23 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Wunsiedel Walkathon

Wunsiedel is a small German town not far from the border with Czechia, which carries with it the burden of being a place for neo-nazi pilgrimage.

Why present day nazis are interested in this particular East German town is irrelevant for this story.

What is awesome is how locals have reacted to these unwelcome guests that insist on visiting their town each year. Instead of confronting them in anger or repulsion (which would be understandable) they chose the path of pacifism and fun (and reverse psychology).

Upon arrival, the neonazis started being met with joyful faces and streets adorned with glitter, confetti and silly string. The counter protests started in 2004, making sure that anywhere the neonazis went, a colorful party of diversity and happiness erupted.

-“Wunsiedel ist bunt, nicht braun

In 2005, the neonazi march was banned. Small groups of
baldhead-and-army-booted youths continued to show up every year though, inspiring Wunsiedelonians (?) to take their counteractions to the next level

In 2014 they reached level “truly epic” when they turned something that initially was being referred to as the yearly Nazi Memorial March into the Most involuntary walkathon.

At the beginning of the route paint was applied on the road, signalling this was “the START”, in the same way this would be present at a marathon.

Colorful banners unfolded as the neo-nazis passed by, thanking them for their contributions to the good cause… I’m sorry, what?

Yes, Wunsiedel had turned the march into a sponosored walkathon, donating money for every meter the participants walked. The organization being funded with the money raised was an organisation called EXIT Deutschland.

EXIT Deutschland is there for people who have been part of a neonazi group but have decided to leave the hateful lifestyle behind them. Besides mental and financial help, Exiters often need protection from the people they used to call their friends. Also, you can imagine there might be tattoos that need removing (or covering up).

In short, EXIT was an awesome organization to sponsor with this most involuntary walkathon as it meant that with every step they took, they were essentially walking for the support of their defectors.

Check out the video below to see the whole thing unfold:

Supporters cheered as they reached “the finish line”. A large banner displayed the exact amount they had raised. They even received a cute little certificate, to remember their accomplishment of that day.

Sieg LOLs!

Venezuela

This is Blog 22 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Venezuela

…and speaking of uprisings

Have you heard about the crazy revolt / coup episode that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is going through?

As a first year Latin American Studies student, back in 2004, I admit being excited about the leftist wind that was blowing through the South American continent, with Hugo Chavez leading the way.

Chavez’ speech to the United Nations in 2006 was different from anything we had ever seen. It was bold and dramatic. It was actually quite refreshing to hear a Latin American leader choose his own path and turn down the American “helping hand” and all the strings that came with it.

He was a political clown and a populist big spender. Chavez’ untimely death is probably the best thing that happened to him and his legacy. His passing marked the end of an era and inserted a page break in the book of Venezuelan history.

The country was already in a pretty brittle state when he handed it over to his buddy, Nicolas Maduro. That the cracks only burst under Maduro’s watch may have you believe it was the current president’s incompetence that caused the vase that was the Venezuelan economy to shatter.

Most experts are not letting Chavez off the hook though. They continue to stress that it was Hugo Chavez that laid the foundations for the current crisis and that his death should not blurry that fact.

Loyalists say international sanctions and US sabotage is what actually brought his socialist initiatives to their knees. Some conspiracy theorists even suggest the colon cancer that ultimately killed him, was no coincidence either…

To be honest, I don’t know much about how economics work and if one single person can be held accountable for the sad state the country is in. There is no doubt that the country is hurting greatly though. People are leaving the country, choosing a life of uncertainty abroad over starvation at home.

That Nicolas Maduro continues to deny the true state his country is in and seems completely unwilling to let go of power, is criminal. As much as I dislike Nicolas Maduro though and would love to see him go, I also struggle to see this path Juan Guaidó is going down as the right one…

He may very well be a good man, maybe even an honest one. Whoever he is and whatever his intentions may be, I don’t believe he is actually in charge of the course he is currently on. He is definitely being pushed by foreign forces that, imho, should not be getting involved (again).

I wonder what Simon Bolivar (the guy they reference in the country’s official name) would have to say about all of this ?

“Damned be the soldier that turns his weapon on his own people”

Twitter pup

This is Blog 20 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Twitter pup

The other day, my friend Z asked what I was doing with my T.

It took me a second to figure out what she was asking me.

Was she asking me about the way I pronounce my “t”? My tea? My tee?

She quickly explained that she wanted to know what I was planning to write for the letter T. She was particularly interested to know if I was planning on dedicating the T-blog to the current POTUS, so that she could mentally prepare…

I must admit the letter T was indeed reserved for a blond wavy haired Twitter fanatic. Luckily the twitter-feed I have decided to focus on, only spreads messages that mend the soul (and not… you know… the opposite of that).

Yes, I am talking about Thoughts of Dog.

This twitter account is dedicated to the thoughts, feelings and adventures of a golden retriever.

This dog, who I will referring to as a “he” in spite of not actually knowing if he is male or female, wishes me a gooooob morning on a regular basis.

As you can see, he doesn’t entirely understand punctuation. But then again, why would he? He’s a golden retriever!

Another thing they don’t teach at the puppy academy is the human numeral system. He does however enjoy making lists, so he just improvises:

One of his greatest passions is monitoring the skittle under the fridge. Sadly I wasn’t able to trace the origins of the skittle or why it needs monitoring. That might actually be the point. Because what is more mysterious than an out-of-reach skittle that just appeared out of no where? I’m thankful he’s keeping an eye on that little bugger on behalf of the world…

Besides his beloved humans, the human’s frens and neighbors, my canine guru also has a companion of his own that he shares all his adventures with. It’s his “stuffed fren sebastian”.

For a long time I thought he was a crab… like the Little Mermaid’s conscientious friend Sebastian, you know?

A tweet that I came across recently (but dates back to Dec 2017) taught me Sebastian has floppy ears, so now I don’t really know what Sebastian looks like. But it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s there for this good boy.

Sweet as he is, he still feels very much responsible for the security of the household. To keeps everybody safe and secure, he upholds a clear scale of alert levels. A factor that does complicate things is the fact that, like all dogs, he is colorblind…

His main purpose in life is however, to give and receive love and joy.

I could go on and on forever and never get bored. I could tell you about his philosophical moods and about his love for zooming. I could tell you about his small neighbor human and his car rides.

So there you have it.

I have now let the world know (quite anonymously, but still) that I am not only a big fan of a comic book series written by a grown man in which a child has all sorts of crazy adventures with his stuffed tiger. I am also a huge fan of a twitter feed, written from the point of view of a dog who talks to his stuffed animal, which I now imagine to be crustacean with floppy ears…

And somehow, I still function.

As a matter of fact, escaping from reality is probably the best thing you can do, to maintain your sanity these days!