Mind Cleanup June 2020

June twentytwenty was one for the history books for sure. You’d better hide that book though, because I might tear that page out and burn it later on…

USA.? WTF.!

US politics have always been dominant in the news of the world, at least during my life time. As a non-American-citizen who never lived in the USA but did go to an American school for some years, I felt I belonged to the in-crowd a little bit. I didn’t always agree with what was going on in the White House, but I could follow.

Nowadays, I am just baffled by the political chess game and its bizarre ripple effects. Don’t get it. Not in the slightest. Don’t even really want to…

I must have done something right in previous lives to be allowed to carry a Dutch passport during this one… Being American must be so confusing right now…

And then the murder of George Floyd happened.

I haven’t actually watched the footage of his assassination, but I have read transcripts. I’m speechless. About all of it. The fact that it happened, how it happened, where it happened, why it happened. All of it.

…and then the protests erupted, the anger spilt out, the statue-iconoclasm began, the “church & bible photo op” happened, flags were put up for discussion, the Tulsa Rally flopped by and the golf cart drive by was shared…

Oh and John Bolton just happened to release his hypocrite ‘tell all’ book, as well as some Drumpf niece or cousin or whatever.

And let’s not take our eye off that report regarding Taliban fighters being payed by Russia to kill Western service personnel

Who makes this stuff up?? I mean… yeah… the Russians apparently… but… DAFACK?!

And now elections are coming up. You would think it’s a no-brainer. There’s just no way Americans are THAT foolish… right?

VOTE!

Please fellow earthlings, do the right thing and put an end to this madness. One term is more than enough for #45.

Music

And now, all I want is to put on some music.

Michael Kiwanuka – Light

First, allow me to share a sweet and meaningful song to drive out the darkness of my mood a little bit…

Jorge Drexler – Asilo

This next song is to warm up the heart (and once again admire the beauty of the Spanish language). This song is about two lovers asking for one night of ‘asylum’ in each other’s arms. Just forget the world for a bit.

the Chicks – March March

And after a good night’s sleep and a cuddle, it’s time to hit the streets again. Just follow the Chicks, they know the way…

Tiny Desk Concert: Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste is incredibly talented, but oftentimes a bit too heavy on the jazzy side for my taste. This tiny desk concert is awesome though. If you have to choose, definitely listen to the last two songs (starts around the 07:00 mark), for a taste of that feel good jazz that Jon Batiste does so well.

Tiny Desk Concert: Cimafunk

And this one is to shake off any bitter or sour taste you may have left in your mouth after reading the first part of my blog (for which I do apologize… but it is a mind cleanup, so I couldn’t not…)

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.

Mind Cleanup – March/April

Just like my previous mind cleanup this one encompasses two months. While my motivation to fuse January and February was that I felt I hadn’t collected enough mind clutter after the first month of the year had passed, I can not say the same about March and April.

I would have loved to not write about the C-word… but a mind cleanup can’t be a real cleanup if it tiptoes around the elephant in the room…

Early stages

Working at a company that relies mostly on people’s travel plans, the situation has been in my face every day for many weeks now.

I started an overview document on the COVID-19 epidemic somewhere around the end of February. It was meant for internal use only and looked very similar to the briefing I had made a few months before to put the Australian bushfires into perspective. I had previously done the same for Typhoon Ursula/Phanfone in the Philippines and the social unrest in South America.

We were getting some questions from backbackers and digital nomads in Asia but everything seemed under control, as far as our work was concerned.

The first case was confirmed in the Netherlands on the 27th of February. On the 11th of March it was declared a pandemic. The next day was my last day at work before a week long holiday to Ireland.

Pandemic travelplans

I checked up with my oldest brother, T, (who works in the medical sector) if it was OK for me to go on with the trip I had planned long ago; he said it should be fine, if we didn’t mingle with large groups of people and washed our hands often.

I double checked with my second brother, D, if he was still OK with my plans to come visit him in Ireland. He was. My boyfriend and I had already decided to go by ferry which proved to be the best choice for so many reasons:

  • No stressy airport queues and waiting areas.
  • It was just the two of us in the car to the ferry, just the two of us in the ferry cabin, just the two of us from the ferry to my brother’s home. So very little chance of contamination!
  • As we came by car I could take some larger gifts a long, such as a reasonably sized painting my dad had made of my newborn niece.
  • Smaller ecological footprint than air travel (which was the original motivation to choose this means of transportation)

Lock Down

During our stay in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s day celebrations were cancelled, which was probably the first moment the Irish realized the severity of the situation.

A few days later we received word that all non-essential human movement was now prohibited in France. We were assured our trip home would not be a problem. We did decide to cancel our initial plan to follow the “cute windy roads” home and just stuck to the boring (but efficient) toll roads back.

During the week that we had been in Ireland everything had changed. My workplace was now closed and everyone was working form home. The clean cut and standardized information document I had started on a few weeks earlier had exploded into a monstrous behemoth with chapters and themed infobundles and newsflashes and hour-by-hour updates… It was pretty insane.

April

The first moment I realized April had made its entrance was when I started seeing A to Z blog posts appear. At that point, I realized I was too late, too unprepared and too exhausted to catch up. I also decided that I could do the challenge on my own at any moment in the year, if I wanted to. Instead of stressing myself out with the obligation of having to write and post one blog a day I could even spread it out a bit more, if I wanted to.

That way, every month would consist of a mind cleanup (or every other month), one lifetip and an Alphabet inspired post. Being able to publish a minimum of three posts a month sounds like a satisfying idea (and it’s close to one a week, which would be ideal).

Music

A category that I never have trouble writing about, is the music category. Songs that featured in some way in March and April were the following ones:

Flowers is not a new song of Ms Arie’s, but it is new in my life. Her songs always make the world look a little bit more beautiful and this one is no exception.

What triggered me to re-listen this next song from the 1995 Disney rendition of Pocahontas, I don’t know. Its effect actually caught me off guard and I couldn’t hold back a tear or two when I took in the words. It was as if I had never really listened to it. Every sentence in it hit home at that moment and it moved me deeply.

Another song that felt quite prophetic, albeit in a completely different category was the new Nothing but Thieves song “Is everybody going crazy”:

When I saw that my favorite Dutch hip hop artist Typhoon had finally released a new song I couldn’t help but smile. The lyrics are in Dutch but the title of the song translates to “Everything is blessed” and I guess that is just something we need to focus on sometimes.

Another song that put a big goofy smile to my face was a song called “Think About Things”. I first heard it on Spotify and wanted to share it with my brother, as the lyrics reminded me of the mental conversation I had with my one year old niece in Ireland a few weeks earlier.

When I looked it up on YouTube I … needed some time to process everything that was going on in the video.

When I read the comments I realized the awesomely, awkwardly tall viking of a man was actually the artist that would have performed at the Eurovision Song Festival as the entree for Iceland, had it not been cancelled.

Seriously… Tell me you watched that video and didn’t crack a smile… It can’t be done. You’re welcome.

Mind cleanup – Jan/Feb 2020

As January passed me by, I realized I had very little mind-rubbish to clean out. So I decided to wait until the end of February to go through my mental cobwebs.

I hope everyone had a wonderful leap day!

Musing: What is pride?

I’m not sure when, where or why it started, but something triggered me to try and decipher the concept of “pride”.

I know the word has somehow gotten entangled with the LGBTQ community, but that is not the aspect of it that has been on my mind.

What I have been gnawing on, is the feeling of pride in general.

How do you describe it? Does it have something to do with love? It usually has to do with an accomplishment, I guess.

You can be proud of yourself, which I kind of get.

But how is it that you can be proud of someone else? What is that and how does it work? If a mother is proud a child, you could say she feels pride for having created a being that is now accomplishing so-and-so. But how can I be proud of a friend? Is it the same as saying “I am happy for you”?

I’m still untangling that one… Insights are welcome!

Films / Series

I started watching ‘The Good Place‘, which I found wildly amusing. Such an interesting storyline!

Questions of morality and defining what makes someone “good” remind me of some of the episodes in Black Mirror. Contrary to Black Mirror though, the Good Place does not emphasize how shitty we are as a species and actually let’s you sleep comfortably at night.

I also watched A Monster Calls, which is a beautifully touching movie about grief. It reminded me of ‘Big Fish’. I definitely cried.

I also re-watched the Avatar (Last Aribender) TV series, which first aired 15 years ago. I have an odd fascination for the series. I admire the simpleness of the individual episodes and the intense complexity of the overall story. I started watching the Korra spinoff years ago but it didn’t quite have the same effect on me.

Music

My wonderful friend Zeef gave me tickets for Avi Kaplan‘s concert in Paradiso, Amsterdam on the 22nd of January. It was awesome. Anyone who has the chance to see him live, should go. His studio songs are good, but live he is breathtaking. My favorite song of the set is a song he hasn’t released yet, but I’m sure he will soon. It’s called Nature Girl. Once it’s available on Spotify or YouTube, I’ll be sure to post it.

If you’re into Avi’s music and also enjoy bands like Coldplay or Keane I’m sure you would also enjoy Dutch band Haevn. I was about to say they just released a new album, but it turns out it’s actually an old album that I’m only now discovering. It’s music that’s comfortable to have on in the background but also interesting enough to listen to on the foreground.

And for the true romantics among us, I recommend John Legend‘s song Conversations in the dark. I know, I should’ve mentioned it before Valentine’s day… But hey, there is always next year,

I just remembered I also recently stumbled upon a Youtube vid in which John Legend explains the lyrics and meaning of his song Penthouse Floor. If you didn’t already love him, you will now:

Other recent discoveries:

  • Shey Baba
  • Sam Brookes
  • Cynthia Erivo (yes, thanks to her Oscar performance)

I realize all of the above musicians are quite… eum… solemn? Apparently that was my mood these last two months.

Tech

At work our laptops run on Linux and I’ve been considering switching over at home as well. The only thing stopping me is that, at work, I can ask my IT-buddies to help me update or change things which makes me feel like I would completely fail with my own PC at home… I’ve watched a few tutorials. It’s a lot of Abracadabra lingo, but the steps seem doable. All I’ve got to do now is find the balls (and time, I guess)…

My list and taskmanager app of choice, Wunderlist, will be discontinued this May, after having been taken over by Microsoft. Booooo!

I tested a few non-Micorosoft ( I know, I’m childish that way) alternatives and came to the following conclusions:

  • ToDoist
    • It’s too strictly a planner thing.
    • It all revolves around what will I do today & tomorrow
    • It wants me to order everything in projects… So even my groceries are a project now?
    • In Wunderlist I have a lot of useless lists (names I would give a Cat, Places I want to go, Gift ideas for my mother, etc) which I wouldn’t know where to put in todoist.
    • CONCLUSION: Nope.
  • Any.do
    • Looks pretty basic, but turns out having a lot of different pages and views
    • I found it all kind of confusing , especially since you need the premium account for a lot of the options. It annoys me that all the stuff I can’t use are constantly in my face (Todoist did the same btw).
    • CONCLUSION: No
  • Ike
    • A bit rigid in its layout (every category always has to have the four priority blocks).
    • I did some experiments and could definitely work with it…
    • CONCLUSION: OK, but not quite.
  • Meistertask
    • I used it for a few weeks now and kind of of like it.
    • I am annoyed by the limits of the “free version” which makes me not want to switch to the Pro-version (because it makes me feel like I don’t have a choice).
    • CONCLUSION: It’s the one I’m sticking with for now
  • Trello
    • I’ve been recommended this one by several people.
    • CONCLUSION: Haven’t tried it yet.

Today is the 1st of March. It’s my dad’s birthday. Happy 73rd, daddyo!

UPDATE: WordPress tells me this is my 200th post on this blog. Congratulations to me!

Dec 2019 mind cleanup

It’s a crispy cold day today, which is my favorite kind of weather to be sitting in a train as it makes for beautiful skies and landscapes.

The month of December was actually quite a good one for me. I managed to keep my schedule quite empty during the christmas holidays (which in my case was just two days, but still…). I’m so chilled out, I hardly feel I need a mindcleanup at all, but I’ll give it a shot!

Headphone Sessions

After running into some of Amber Run’s collaborations with a choir called London Contemporary Voices I ended up on a YouTube channel called “Headphone Sessions”, which I thought was quite awesome. This in turn brought me to Sam Brookes, who has a very Decembery vibe, imo. Click play below (but also cruise through the songs on the Headphone Sessions YT channel).

the Witcher

I just finished watching Netflix’ series called the Witcher, based on a bookseries, written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. My bf told me he also knew and enjoyed the accompanying videogames.

Without having any of the context (didn’t read the books, didn’t play the games, never heard of the author) I actually very much enjoyed the first season. For a Netflix series the acting was quite good and the special effects were not disappointing or distracting.

I definitely recommend the series to anyone who’s slightly into sci-fi and fantasy and look forward to the next season (which is expected no sooner than 2021).

the Dutch King’s speech

Of course a lot of impeachy things happened this last month but I don’t really feel like reflecting on any of that.

An interesting news moment this last week was the message my nation’s king presented in his annual christmas speech.

Photo by: Arenda Oomen

The first part of his speech was mostly an optimistic enumeration of our country’s qualities. The king reminded us that “freedom” is one of the terms most frequently used to explain what defines us as a nation, but that freedom does not come without a price.

This last year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, which means we have had three quarters of a century of peace. The people that fought for our freedom are in their nineties and soon there will be no one left to tell us first hand about the price of freedom but also the weight of the lack thereof.

The king pointed out that in order for freedom to thrive, we must put trust in one another and let our personal bubbles overlap a bit. He emphasized the importance of tolerance:

If we start threatening people with different opinions, we undermine exactly what we hold dear. To be free, we must allow contrarious thinking; in ourselves and in others.

King Willem Alexander – 25-12-2019

I loved this part of his speech. It is always valuable to be reminded that other people’s opinions are allowed to differ from ours. Even more valuable is to be reminded that it’s OK to have an opinion that differs from the rest.

Small sidenote: the king used the term “dwarse denken” to refer to the type of thoughts we should be accepting of. Dwars is another one of those wonderful Dutch words with no English equivalent, that can mean all sorts of things. You can say one street runs ‘dwars’ in reference to another street, meaning they intersect. It can also mean diagonal, skew or wayward. When used as a word to describe someone, dwars can mean ‘contrarious’ but also ‘tenacious’ and ‘obstinate’. It’s usually not said as a compliment, even though it’s a trait most Dutch people seem to have…

The king went on to remind us that we are really doing very well as a nation, but that in our ambition, we can sometimes be to hard on ourselves.

This part of his message seemed to be aimed at people who thrive for instagram-perfect lives, but crash and burn in the process. We all know the kind. He described how he often had to remind young people that it is OK to be imperfect. I mostly hope he also tells his daughters this, who seem to get all the troll shit of the world spilled out over their heads every time they appear in public.

The king then ventured onto thin ice, saying that happiness is an elusive thing that can not be obtained by force. Sure. And that’s when the most privileged person of our nation made me cringe; he said happiness comes “suddenly, as a gift from heaven”.

Oooooh, no you didn’t just say that did you, your majesty? I mean… Yes, I also wish life got better for everyone who channeled their inner Elsa and just chilled the fuck out, but you know how life can be… Hold on, no you don’t (and no, I have no clue what kingness is like either). And yeah… about the heaven part… I don’t know why you had to drag that into it, man… Bad idea.

But OK. I forgive him. I know what he was trying to say. Sort of. And the sentiment is nice.

Oh wow. It turns out I did need a mind cleanup after all. HAHA! Who knew?

New year’s wishes

I hope you all had a beautifully imperfect December month. For 2020 I predict the heavens will rain down all their happiness on you and your loved ones!

Peace out.

Mind Cleanup Nov 19

The “wiggle room” I was anticipating in my previous mind cleanup didn’t fully materialize yet, but I have good hopes it is on its way (all though I do realize chilled-outness is not what Decembers are usually known for…).

Bee Family Day

November started out with a family reunion, thought out and partially organized by my dad. His health and energy level didn’t really allow him to be as involved as he might have liked, though. I did all “the online stuff”, prepared the slides for the presentations and did some of the small logistical stuff.

Because my name was at the bottom of all the invitations, confirmations and additional info I got a lot of credit for the whole day, which was nice, but perhaps not entirely justified. I just played along though. 😂

In the end, the day was a success and my dad was super happy. I met a lot of new family members and had a chance to re-evaluate some of our “typical family traits”.

After my father welcomed everyone, my aunt held a presentation about the family tree and what you can see on the My Heritage website. An uncle / cousin (several times removed) played a classical guitar piece he had composed himself. He also held a short speech about the finances of the family’s foundation that takes care of the family graves.

My hope that a third family member would come forward with some cool family stories, didn’t really come to fruition… so I decided to do it myself… which is actually atypical behavior for me… but it went well and it also means I get to strike “get better at public speaking” from my bucketlist. YAY!

Bolivia

Bolivia is the heart of South America and a notoriously complicated country. I lived there for eight years as a child and always joked with my brother that I would be the president one day, but that he had to be my front (as he was born in the country and I was not).

The current state of the country really breaks my heart. It angers me that Evo Morales clung to power in the way that he did and that he did nothing to make a smooth change of power possible. It saddens me to see the country so terribly divided (which in all truth it always kind of was).

I’d pray my heart out for Bolivia, if I believed in such things. It’s a country that has so much going for it but always relapses into self-destructive behavior.

Lines from the country’s national anthem have been ringing in my head the last few weeks (like a prayer?):

Al estruendo marcial que ayer fuera y al clamor de la guerra horroroso,
siguen hoy, en contraste armonioso, dulces himnos de paz y de unión.

The martial turmoil of yesterday and the horrible clamor of war are followed today, in harmonious contrast, by sweet hymns of peace and unity.

Vamos Bolivia, you can do it. I believe in you. I know you don’t need a white European girl telling you how to fix your shit but at least take the message in your own national anthem to heart and look up those sweet hymns of peace and unity!

Music

This new Jamie Cullum song struck a chord.

Rudi & Freddie Self Help tips

Earlier this year I heard a podcast episode from one of my favorite Dutch journalists that I have been recommending to anyone who might be (slightly) interested.

The podcast show is called the Rudi & Freddie Show, staring Rutger Bregman (Rudi) and Jesse Frederiks (Freddie). Officially they are a historian and economist but most of all, they are two smart dudes that can’t help but ask “why is that?” at every corner they turn.

Absolute facts make them suspicious and their skills as academics and modern day journalists give them the tools to disentangle the facts from the opinions, gut feelings and bullshit arguments. They don’t always agree with each other. Better even, they don’t always agree with their own (past) selves. I have tremendous respect for people that are able to admit they were wrong when presented with new facts or experiences and are willing to change.

I am sad to inform the majority of the planet that their podcasts are only available in Dutch, but if you ever needed a motivation to learn our impossible little language, being able to understand their discussions should help.

After having made fun of (the popularity of) self help books, they decided to embrace the “if you can’t beat them join them” philosophy, and come up with their own recommendations for a better life. In an episode that was posted online last April they discussed their ideas.

Starting in December I want to share a few of the R&F Self help tips. I will share one per post, perhaps continuing with the tradition with tips of my own, after the R&F ones run out.

Mind Cleanup – Oct ’19

October was an intense month, not only because I spent two weeks across the pond, in Montreal and Quebec City. I also had a couple of new colleagues that needed to learn the ropes and several events that I had volunteered to help organize. All fun, but I must say I’m looking forward to have a bit more wiggle room in my schedule in November.

While putting this mind cleanup together I realized I had way too much to say about many of the topics, so I’m guessing they will turn into blogs of their own. I’ll do my best to keep it short now.

News

Angry Farmers

The beginning of October was marked by farmers protest in the Netherlands. They stormed the political capital, the Hague, in their tractors to protest new laws meant to lower the emission of certain harmful gasses, in particular nitrogen and phosphate.

The protest wasn’t just about the new law. It was actually about rural Netherlands feeling disrespected, disregarded and misunderstood by the media, urban hipsters and big city lawmakers. It was about protecting what we have and fear of losing our identity.

Leidens Ontzet

An event that takes place in my hometown every year on the 3rd of October is Leidens Ontzet. I wrote a blog about it a few years ago, called Hutspot, Herring and Happiness, that you can read for a quick impression.

This year G and I were hijacked by our neighbor, who caught us just before we fell into full couchpotato mode. It was good fun!

It was also the first year that all the bars in the city made use of so called “eco cups”, for which festival goers payed a 1 euro deposit. The cups could be rinsed and refilled and at the end of the day everybody could get back their deposit, if they returned the cup. The city was so much cleaner than in previous years, which makes the eco-cups an absolute success!

Marieke Vervoort (May 10 1979 – Oct 22 2019)

A lady I have a great deal of respect for passed away recently on her own terms. I dedicated a blog to her three years ago, after she won a silver medal at the Rio paralympics. She was quite a controversial figure, due to her strong opinions on euthanasia. May you rest in peace, Marieke.

Family of hermits

It’s not very easy to get lost in the Netherlands. Somehow though, a family managed to stay under the radar for almost a decade “awaiting the end of time”, according to sources.

A lot of confusing and contradictory information has come out since then, all of which I don’t find very interesting, to be honest. It caught the world’s attention though, so that’s why I thought it was worth mentioning here anyway.

Self reflection

Facemask

Any time I visit a tourist destination there are bound to be flocks of Chinese visitors as well. After a run in with such a group I am often left pondering one the origins of and reasons for their protective facemasks. Questions I ask myself:

  • Is it a personal choice, or government advice?
  • Is it meant to be a protection against disease or pollution?
  • Are they wearing them to protect themselves or the people around them?
  • Does it work?

Conversation – view in e-mail

I mostly read my e-mails on my phone, but recently I logged into my mailbox on my PC and was immediately struck by the odd way my e-mails were being presented to me.

The default view for e-mail services these days seems to be the “conversation view”. This means your e-mails aren’t in chronological order anymore, but grouped with other e-mails from the same thread.

I HATE IT! (I changed it, so it’s fine now, no worries)

Why does this option even exist though? And even if there were people that actually prefer such a layout, why make it the default setting and not just an option? It’s super confusing!

Is my extreme dislike for the conversation view in mailboxes a sign that I am getting old? I find it reassuring that I still know how to switch it back, but I have this feeling they’re going to be calling it “the classic view” at some point.

If anybody reading this actually enjoys the conversation view, do let me know. I have decided these people are unicorns (and trolls).

Happy November, all!

Mind Cleanup – Sept ’19

NEWS

  • All though I have been trying (again) to lower my intake of Drumpf related news, I would be lying if I said the anticipation of a possible impeachment has not been on my mind. Small as the chance may be that he’s actually kicked out of office before his term ends, I do applaud the effort. At the same time, I also realize it will fuel an already polarized situation, with potentially violent outcomes.

  • Another news story I’ve been trying to keep track of is the Saudi Arabia – Iran conflict. This could possibly be the start of something major. I don’t want to say WWIII, but…. The additional tragedy is (once again) Yemen, that never seems to be taken seriously; not when they say they are starving and beg for help, nor when they say they have taken matters in their own hands and have bombed Saudi oil supplies. They are the angry child that quietly turns into a psychopathic killer while the parents are too busy making each other’s lives miserable…

MUSIC

Mayra Andrade is a fascinating singer. She’s from Cape Verde. As a Spanish speaker, I can understand a bit of Portuguese but when Mayra mixes it up with Cape Verdian creole all I have left to go on is the melody and her voice. And Oh my goodness, she is so pretty!!

Because I listen to her regularly YouTube recommended the above video to me, which in turn introduced me to the COLOR channel… which indeed added a bunch of colorful new tunes to my playlists. Look up the Teskey brothers, for example, that bring some pretty convincing blues from down under! And what about BJ the Chicago Kid (I’m guessing he’s from the windy city), Brazilian Luedji Kuna, French Angele or Cameroonian Blick Bassy. The list goes on and on!

MOVIES / TV

I started watching a Danish series called Rita. Remarkably entertaining. I’m not hooked in a way that I want to binge on it, but definitely amusing.

FOOD

Even though I am nearing the age of 35, my mother still doesn’t believe I can cook. I don’t blame her. Until quite recently, I didn’t believe I could either. Life is funny that way.

When I told my mom I wanted to cook for her for a change, she couldn’t help but laugh at me. Even when I started chopping away at her kitchen counter, she shook her head at me in affectionate ridicule. My dad was a bit apprehensive as well.

The sweet potato curry won them over in the end (even though my dad felt the need to mention it looked like something that had already been eaten and eeummm regurgitated by someone else).

The ingredients (for 2p):

  • 1 onion
  • grated or chopped ginger (approx 3 cm-ish)
  • 2 small (or 1 larger?) sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of currypowder
  • tomato paste (I must say I have made this recipe several times, with different amounts of tomato paste each time and it always turns out OK. All I can say is that it should be somewhere between one and four tablespoons)
  • 250 ml of coconut milk
  • red lentils (again, superbad at estimating the right amount… but eummm… somewhere between one and two handfuls. :P)
  • fresh spinach (as much as you (and your pan) can handle)
  • fresh koriander
  • pumpkin seeds

It’s just a matter of chopping, mixing and cooking all of the above in one pan until everything is soft and yummy. The last two ingredients are nicest if you add them as a garnish.

Eummm yah, reading that back does explain why my mom was laughing at me, I guess… 😛

Mind Cleanup – August 2019

DEMOCRACY NEWS

On August 30th NY Times’ the Daily podcast discussed the political mayhem in Britain and Italy and pointed out how in both countries there is a power struggle going on. The two opposing sides of both conflicts are accusing the other of being un-democratic.

I thought this was interesting, as Italy and Britain are quite different, politically speaking. The things they have in common, being democracy and populism (and perhaps immigration-related issues) apply to many other countries as well, so it’s interesting to see how this all plays out and what lessons can be learned from it.

The situation in Britain is obviously Brexit related. Boris Johnson’s dropped a bombshell earlier this month when he announced he was going to suspend parliament. Limiting the amount of time to debate Brexit could increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, which for some reason is what Boris Johnson seems to want more than anything….

Michael Barbaro sums the situation in Britain up:

So Johnson is saying, you’re calling it undemocratic for me to block Parliament’s ability to do my job, but I say it’s undemocratic for Parliament to get in the way of me realizing what the people voted directly for, which is Brexit.

In Italy the situation is a little different. Matteo Salvini, a popular and populist politician stepped down as interior minister, collapsing the government he was a part of. Presumably he was gambling on the idea that new elections would result in a larger majority for his party and thus, catapulting him to the very top position of government.

His plan backfired though.

With Salvini out of the way, the remaining political parties struck an unlikely deal to form a new government. With that, they avoided having to go through new elections)

Katrin Bennhold says:

His opponents hope that this will basically reduce his popularity and that, come the next election — which is formally scheduled in three years — he won’t be as powerful and popular as he is now. Of course, there are a lot of wild cards in this, because his narrative, of course, is the establishment is afraid of the people. The establishment is afraid of new elections. The establishment is afraid of democracy. That is what Matteo Salvini would say.
(…)
So Parliament would say they did this to save Italian democracy, but another way of looking at it is that they saved themselves.

Not particularly cheerful news, but I thought it was an interesting comparison…

MUSIC

Rosalia’s newest song is so simple and maybe even on the cheesy side but it has definitely been stuck in my mind for days.

MOVIES / TV

  • I watched the Frankenstein Chronicles and really enjoyed it. I must admit the only reason I clicked play in the first place is because I saw Sean Bean. He is an awesome actor. On the downside: I am getting tired of these unsatisfactory endings to series…
  • I watched Venom and thought it was kind of meh.
  • A movie I have NOT yet watched is the new Lion King movie. I am still wondering if I should… I’ve heard the graphics are awesome, but I am still ultra fan of the original and kind of scared of breaking the magic.

EPICURIOUS – Tea edition

My new favorite tea is the Pukka tea – elderberry echinacea. I love the smell, I love the tangy sweetness and I love the color!

Who won the month?

I have a little sidewalk garden thing going on in front of my house.

Sidewalk gardening – spring edition

Someday I hope to have a long row of large and happy sunflowers in bloom there every summer and all sorts of other smaller plants as well, providing food and shelter for insects, spiders and birds.

Sunflowers in my windowsill, preparing for the outside world

This is my third summer in this house and it’s starting to look pretty good.

That is, everything but my sunflowers… The gushes of wind that suck through my street just snap the sunflowers’ long stems in half. The couple of sunflowers I have left, are true heroes though.

Sunflower buddies

They were blown to the ground but decided this was no reason to give up. They just kept on lifting their heads back up and are now even starting to bloom. The metaphors, life-lessons and hashtags I could take from this are endless. A round of applause for my little sunflowers that could!

This guy was on the ground, face down a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a trooper!

SELF REFLECTION

  1. What are you bad at and how does that influence your life?
    When I’m tired some of my most basic functions stop working, such as words and decisions. I can not word and I can not decision, when tired. It influences my life particularly when at a crossroads I can’t make up my mind and I can’t really explain what is making it hard.
  2. What type of worker are you?
    Forgetful and chaotic, but constantly coming up with new ways to help me tackle that. I am still deciding if having an employer that lets me do that is actually good for me or not.
  3. How much sleep do you need?
    I am very good at sleeping. If at all possible, I will make sure to get a solid eight hours. I do well with seven hours. Six is iffy. If I get any less, I stop doing the words and the decisions.
  4. Are you rich?
    It depends on who you ask.
    My family is pretty much ok financially. Buying a house is within my reach. I can eat out whenever I want.
    What I CAN’T do: have a horse; travel (far) more than once a year; buy a house in the old center of Leiden,

Mind Cleanup – 2019

My last Mind Cleanup blog dates back to October 2018. They used to be a regular thing and I had some fixed categories I could choose from, to help my cleaning session along, which I have included below (mostly to help me write the next one).

Mind Cleanup Categories:

  • NEWS
  • MUSIC
  • MOVIES / TV
  • FOOD
  • SELF REFLECTION
  • LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
  • THUMBS UP
  • THUMBS DOWN
  • EPIPHANIES

I am also thinking of adding one more category honoring a person, organization or story that “won the month”. This idea is inspired by Fivedotoh.com’s Fandango, who in turn was inspired by MSNBC’s Joy Reid (Who Won the Week).

So, if I were to do a quick mind cleanup of the first half of 2019, it might look a bit like this:

NEWS – people-on-the-streets edition

  • France in turmoil with yellow vest movement taking to the streets to express anger towards status quo. The 26 minute documentary below, explains what sparked it and what fuels it:
  • Venezuelan turmoil is so very different from the anger in France. And at the same time, it’s very much the same.
  • A heart-mending reaction to the sorrow felt after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand:

MUSIC

Since it dropped I have been listening to songs from India Arie’s new album, which includes this meaningful gem:

Who won the first half of 2019?

  • My big bro had a little girl in March. Her name is Jasmina and I suppose you could say she is a winner for landing in a family with my brother and his awesome girlfriend. In all truth I think it is my brother who is actually the true winner in this equation.
  • Also, Boris Johnson did some big time winning and is now prime minister of the UK. Boo to that, but do check out John Oliver’s take on his persona.

Self reflection

Let me answer one question from my list of 195 questions:

What is a controversial opinion you have?

I am not a fan of Oprah’s. Actually she kind of annoys me (particularly her hysteric behavior when she enters a room). There, I said it.

Epilogue

  • I intend to pick up the habit once again of doing a mind cleanup blog every month.
  • Join me if you like and ping back to me when you do!