Mar 23

We made it … somehow … eventually

This is the story of Delta and KLM. Last year we were on American Airlines, who still owe us money, and who will never figure into a story I tell ever again. But between that, and Delta and KLM, we are wondering if we should fly in March ever again.

First, Delta.

When our Delta flight was late departing JFK for Amsterdam, we knew we would be in trouble catching our connection to Barcelona. We were correct. The Yankee spent much of the night talking to Delta on the phone, while we were still in New York, and through their app, while we were in the air.

Delta was happy to send us to Zurich later today, and then to Barcelona late on Friday.

The purpose of our trip to Barcelona was for a conference, and it took place in the City of Counts on Friday and Saturday. Going to Zurich would mean losing the best part of the conference. It’s her favorite conference, so we were getting inventive on ways to get there on time, or close to it. There are four other international airports in Spain. Could we get into one of those? Train over to the city by the sea? Should we rent a car in Amsterdam, after an overnight flight where we had about two hours of sleep, and try driving 14 hours into Spain?

Delta, like arguing with a family member who can’t be proven wrong, couldn’t see the problem of sending us to Zurich. That was just their solution, for some reason. (Delta customer service has taken a hit, it seems.) We went to Zurich last year, thanks, and that’s two countries removed from where we are supposed to be.

Because of this intractability, we were down to figuring this out in Amsterdam, with Delta’s airline partners.

Which brings us to KLM.

After trekking through Amsterdam’s enormous airport, going through the longest, slowest passport control line outside of the United States and being told to go to different wrong places for different wrong desks, you begin to wonder how anyone ever arrives on a plane in the correct place in a timely fashion, let alone how their luggage gets there, too.

At the third desk, we have finally arrived at the right spot, where a laconic KLM agent patiently and emphatically explained that, for us, it was Zurich or bust. Also, we must go to that gate now to make the flight.

Dejected, we headed that way. We were trying to reconcile ourselves to the idea of missing the bulk of the conference when we learned that we missed the flight to Zurich, too.

Back to that last KLM desk. The taciturn woman was helping someone else. Her more bubbly colleague drew the short straw with us. There were no flights, this woman said, into Barcelona through Sunday. There goes the whole conference.

What to do? Go home? Figure out some way to move on to the vacation leg of this trip? It was a mildly grim moment.

Then another KLM agent comes to the desk area. This new man and the bubbly woman chat back and forth in Dutch. And he finds that two people have canceled their trips to Barcelona that evening. While we were just standing there, wondering what to do.

From having absolutely no options to suddenly having seats, we were on our way. Hoof it over to this gate, and we actually have time to do that.

We thank her and her male colleague. To him, it’s just another task, and we’re obviously making him a little uncomfortable. So I turn back to the bubbly one, make the big eye contact and tell her she has been the best part of our day. We left for the gate right then. We’d wait there a few hours, removing all opportunity for stupid errors.

And so we strolled down to gate D85. Which is also, oddly, D55.

At this point we’re 22 hours into our trip, on two hours of sleep, and in a week that hasn’t seen an awful lot of sleep anyway. I sat beneath that monitor, took a photo of that monitor, and studied them both carefully, for a long, long time.

Are we in the right place?

Is this the right time?

Where is the plane?

Or even the gate crew?

Or the other passengers?

Finally, they all showed up. The passengers, the gate agents, the plane. We boarded, not sitting together, but happy to be in two middle seats, and going to the correct country, to say nothing of the correct city. We were finally on a flight to Barcelona.

At the Barcelona airport a guy appointed himself our taxi man. I’d just seen a dog do the squat of shame inside the airport. Then and there I said to myself, we are 27 hours or so into this trip and I will take a cab to anywhere, so long as it meant there was a hotel, and the end of this journey, on the other end.

I’d make Lewis and Clark proud, no doubt.

Or, on the one hand, we traveled a considerable distance, from the middle of the new world to one of the western parts of the old world, in just over a day. On the other hand, it took 27 hours to do so.

The taxi driver, who quickly sussed out that we were American and dutifully turned his radio over to the Barcelona station playing American classics and the hits of mañana, did not have any paper for a receipt in his hand-sized money device. I took a picture of his screen. That’s just going to have to do for reimbursement purposes.

We checked into the hotel at 9:30, dog tired, some eight hours later than scheduled, but ready for a shower, a meal and sleep.

Good news! The hotel restaurant stays open until 10:30. There’s enough time for us to get to our room, freshen up, and get a bite to eat.

The hotel restaurant is good! I had an Iberian pork plate. The Yankee ordered a salad. The salad was fresh. Very fresh. One of the little critters that had made the lettuce it’s home, perhaps as recently as yesterday, was still hanging out there.

Maybe that’s a Spanish thing? Of all the things you look up before traveling abroad, how a nation treats their salads is way down the list. (But it won’t be for the next trip, wherever that is.) The server stopped by to check on us. We show him the critter. He picks up the little saucer and the little critter and speed walked to the kitchen.

We never saw him again.

Another server takes over, apologizing profusely, offering us a dessert on him. We take him up on a scoop of ice cream. He brought us la cuenta, and it’s a blank piece of receipt paper. Flip it over, nothing there either.

Maybe, I said wearily, this is a Spanish thing? The server takes the receipt. Makes a big theatrical gesture of flipping it over and over, holding it to the light.

“Do you see anything on it?” he said, in his quite good English.

No, we did not.

“Then it must be free.”

So they picked up the entire bill. And, because of a translation issue, we’d ordered more than we intended anyway.

This second server said the first guy was so embarrassed he couldn’t bear to come out to face us. So we spent a good amount of time apologizing to one another. Please make sure he understands we aren’t upset, and we know it isn’t his fault. And the second server continually apologizing and humanizing himself and his coworkers. It was charming in a multi-lingual/mostly-English, please-let-me-go-upstairs-and-to-sleep way.

Tomorrow, somehow, we go to the conference that we almost missed.

Mar 23

‘It may be a commodity to me, but something else to you’

No one wants to read other people’s dreams. But, here’s the thing, I seldom remember any dreams I have. They may as well not even take place. And when I do remember them, or are aware of them, they only rattle around in my brain for just a minute or two.

Sometimes you try to hang onto them, pull more strands together, tie in details and tidbits to make a more coherent whole. Then the mental quicksand kicks in. The more you pull, the salient points move farther apart. And what was context when your eyes were first trying to focus is just a yellowish blur later in the day.

Or is that just me?

I woke up this morning from a dream where my grandmother was correcting me on the finer points of commodities and commodification. She was using bolts of cloth as her widget. She was explaining the error in something I’d said.

She was a rural homemaker, my grandmother, a textile worker. She quoted a first century Syrian poet in her high school yearbook. That’s one of those things I only learned about her later in her life and, now, I wish I had asked her more about it.

She was attuned to world events, always read the paper, watched the news twice a day. My grandmother watched the A-block on one channel and the B-block on another. I talk to students about broad consumption and critical media analysis, and that’s basically what my grandmother did. She knew which station was best at this and that, and she found a system that worked for her, out there on the gravel road. She knew some stuff.

As for the dream, I don’t know how old or educated (I only have a minor in economics) I was, but I spent a few moments looking through some research this morning to see how accurate our “chat” was.

Turns out — having glanced at some of the sociological anthropological work of Peter Ekeh, Bruce Kapferer and Igor Kopytoff — that, in the dream, my grandmother was perhaps trying to make a point about the commoditization of goods.

The title of this post is basically what she told me in the dream. It’s a pretty incredible paraphrase of Kopytoff who, to my recollection, I haven’t read before.

Also, it appears that she was right, and dream-me was mistaken.

What a real delight some dreams can be.

What a delight!

Regretfully, I forgot to do this yesterday, but here’s the updated cycling chart through February. I know you felt like something was missing here, too. But, after thinking about it most of the evening, did you realize, when you were setting out your things for the next day, that what was missing was an obscenely oversized graphic?

This is what happens when you set up site rules for photographs, so you can deliver nice images in a consistent style, but didn’t think you might one day run a simple Excel chart as filler, too.

Anyway, that purple line is where I am on the year in terms of mileage. It’s humble, to be sure. Nevertheless it’s a high, steady pace for me. And I added to it a little this morning. I woke up early, within that amount of time that going back to sleep and getting anything out of it seemed futile.

Eleven miles doesn’t seem like anything, but I figured I could ride a half hour this morning, or try to ride this evening.

I decided to do both, but one of the cats decided I needed to provide pets, instead. Good thing I got up this morning, then.

Speaking of stats, I haven’t looked at the site data in a bit. Last month I had my 5 millionth visitor.

Five million! That seems like a lot for a humble personal site.

I don’t know why you all come here. I know it isn’t for the occasional dream or the too-frequent talk of my bike rides, but thank you for the visits. (It’s the cats. I know. They know it, too. More from them on Monday.)

Feb 23

I complain about fruit, rather than late nights

This was my third late night in the office in a row. They’re not all long days, because I can shift things, but sometimes, sometimes they are long days. And sometimes the days get longer. This is hardly something to complain about, but you grow tired and keep busy working 10 and 12-hour days.

So I’ll complain about this. I am out of apples.

That’s a Cosmic apple, which I discovered last fall and have enjoyed since. The tangy skin is the real treat, a perfect complement to the sweeter flesh. They’re also quite colorful. Only now, they’re at the store, because there are none in the refrigerator. This is a problem of sorts.

Here’s a photo of equal importance, from our walk last Sunday. I forgot to do anything with it, but we can celebrate maple buds for several more weeks, yet.

We walked down the newest part of the multi-use path, too. This part has just opened in the last month or so, and is a nice chunk of progress to the overarching goal. At some point, apparently, the path behind our house is supposed to connect to pretty much everything in town — if you’re willing to take a trip of that sort. With this addition they’re pretty close to reaching, if not already at, that goal.

It’s a nice feature, all these paths and trails. The city’s tourism site boasts 200 miles of trail, and, I assume, the number is ticking upward, though I’ll need to explore the other side of this recent addition. The city’s maps online are months — and, in some cases, years — out-of-date.

The view when I headed into the studio this evening, another painfully bare tree. In a month and change, there will also be leaves in the way of this obstructed sunset view.

It was a comedy show. They did something with gingerbread houses, that traditional St. Patrick’s Day treat, and discussed Halloween costumes. I’m not sure why, but that’s collegiate comedians doing something semi-sorta avant-garde. Or so I assume. It was a long day, I could be wrong about all of this.

Feb 23

Time is mutable

This I don’t understand. It was 67 yesterday. We’ll have the chance of snow tomorrow. This is my only comment on the day, the only one that needs to be recorded for posterity about the mysteriousness of February 16, 2023.

But also this, time is a mutable construct. Tuesday, I unsubscribed from two series of emails. I have read them, perused them, skimmed them, clicked the interesting links within them faithfully. But, lately, they just seemed a chore. I have been on the fence for a while. A developer I know made some comment about each of these services that finally pushed me to the unsubscribe side. So, then, yesterday was the first day that I didn’t receive those daily emails — it could be two, it could be 12 a day, and you never knew what your inbox would receive. And yesterday, I noted at 3:31, had already been 32 hours long.

A friend told me I should re-subscribe, because friends are enablers, but I’m curious to see how this plays out. Today, for instance, was only 17 hours long. Time is mutable.

Let’s quickly get caught back up — before falling behind once again — on the Re-Listening project. I am forever impressed by how fast a CD goes by in the car. It’s a nine-mile round trip from the house to the office, but that’s somehow 40-50 minutes, whether I want it to be or not, and that’s in the window of a standard CD run time. But I digress.

As you know, I’m playing, and putting these here, in the order of acquisition. So we’re somewhere in 1996, but this was one of those tape-to-CD format upgrades, so we have to step way back in time, to 1994. And according to the arbitrary rules I have arbitrarily made, I can gloss over the upgrades.

I saw DMB on tour on the next few records, just before they got prohibitively expensive.

Back in the day my roommate, Chuck, and I had a sophisticated musical code. Certain records meant certain things. This CD, for a time, was one of those signals.

Yes, fair or not, I blame DMB for starting the concert inflation trend. But I caught them twice, right place, affordable times, I suppose.

Back then, virtuoso guitarist Tim Reynolds and fiddler Boyd Tinsley seemed like the band to me. I don’t think I’ve heard anything new since LeRoi Moore died in 2008 — so I’m four albums behind. There’s been some turnover in the band, but Reynolds is still there (he’s the secret weapon) and the rhythm section is intact. I’m sure it’s fine, but I don’t know if it is a time and place thing. Something else we’ll have to get around to discovering one of these days.

But not right now. When we next visit the Re-Listening project, we’ll be hitting peak emo pop 1996.

I asked my lovely bride to bring me some Advil this evening. She was nearer the bottle, and I didn’t want to get up to fetch it. It is one of those countless easy things one person does for another person from time to time.

“What’s hurting?”


See, I came in and wanted to get in a little bike ride, but I am also trying to be conscientious of not riding all night, because there’s dinner and getting ready for the next day and so on. At the same time, I am now getting into Zwift routes that are a little longer, so they’ll take a few more minutes, but there’s also a weird in-betweenness to them. I did two routes tonight. The first one was 10 miles and change, that’s nothing. But I thought I could get the next one, too. Only, it was about the time of the evening that I wanted to get it done. So I pressed a little bit.

There’s one two mile climb on that route, and I hate that particular climb.

But I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and got over the thing. I set a new PR and somehow got the polka dots jersey marking the fastest climber on the course at the time. I also got a second polka dot jersey for a second, smaller climb, as you can see on the right hand side of the graphic. (I am not a climber.) I also got a green jersey for the best sprint segment on the course. (I am not a sprinter.) All of this says more about who was riding around me, rather than me.

But I probably should have used better gearing on those climbs. Anyway, that was 75 minutes on the bike, tonight including two Strava PRs. And now my legs are tired.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker 68 routes down, 56 to go.

Feb 23

1,000 breezy words

Is it just me or is everyone lately wiped out by Thursday? It wasn’t always this way. There must be some corner of Reddit where I can find the best and most reasonable theories.

I’m not searching for them on Reddit, or anywhere else, but someone is writing about it somewhere. Most of these ideas are nonsense, but someone is going to accidentally stumble on the cause. Fox Mulder will read about it, but by the time he gets back to his computer to follow up, “They” will have removed the thread entirely.

The 10th (in 2016) and 11th (in 2018) seasons of X-Files aside, that show will come back around for a relaunch in another decade or so. It won’t be nearly as believable or as charming or as well-received in the next go around. Given what goes on in the open, and what is imagined online, these days, the atmosphere will be all wrong. The original 1993-2001 run may as well have been from another age entirely. Maybe it was.

Someone could write scholarly works on this.

Oh, look.

Did the x-files prime us for the QAnon era?
Deceive, inveigle, obfuscate: Post-structuralism and the staggered retirement of Fox Mulder
The paranoid style for sale: Conspiracy entrepreneurs, marketplace bots, and surveillance capitalism
The truth is everywhere: Reconceptualizing far-right conspiracy theories in the Information Age
9/11 and its aftermaths: Threats of invasion

The papers continue, the quality might vary. Sometimes, I think, we’re just trying to shoehorn things in between reality and pop culture, but that’s for actual sociologists to worry over at the downtown hotel at their next conference, forgetting, there was always something fun about turning the lights off and watching Mulder and Scully wrestle with faith, science, monsters and conspiracy. The point is, things and times change. That how we watch things has changed probably plays into it too.

They never got into this Thursday thing, though, which leads me to conclude …

See how easy that is?

Talking with my mother this evening, she asked what I was reading right now. Threw me for a complete loop. Why I was in a loop threw me for a second loop. Now I am dizzy, loopy even.

I don’t know when I was asked that last, but it’s good, right? It makes sense for my mom to ask; she’s seldom seen me without a book or three since she taught me to read.

I’m going to start asking people what they’re reading. It’s a far more interesting question than what they do — though I have an effective strategy that can make for lively conversation, for the answerer — and more useful than asking someone how they’ve been. Maybe that’s just how I’ll start conversations now. By way of greeting, “What are you reading?”

The only problem is if the question catches someone off guard. Got me, tonight. I couldn’t even remember what was on my nightstand.

What I’m reading, and I hope to wrap this up soon, is an autobiography of Mr. Spock. It is titled The Autobiography of Mr. Spock. This was a gift from my mother-in-law, who always has a book or three ready for me. (A few years ago a friend of hers was ready to clean out a bunch of books from his personal library and she grabbed them by the armful for me, just in case. Many of them are now on my bookshelves.) If you asked me how I’ve lately been getting my books the answer is “I see a Kindle sale, or I see my mother-in-law and now look at these almost 200 books waiting to be read …”

But, first, Mr. Spock.

When I got this, this Christmas, I misread the title as a biography. That’s interesting, I thought, a biography of a beloved fictional character. This should fill in some holes. But, being an autobiography, it is written in the first person of a fictional character. Not a novel idea, by any means, but calling it an autobiography of a fictional character, that’s kinda different, for me at least.

And how about the authors that take that on? Writing such a beloved character as that? Bold strokes, Una McCormack and David A. Goodman. McCormack’s got 40 titles on Amazon, all sci-fi, most from very popular franchises, at least two autobiographies — the other is of the war criminal Kathryn Janeway. Goodman, similarly, has two dozen books on the site, all sci-fi, and has another autobiography, of Jean-Luc Picard, there.

Spock is writing this to Picard. Here are two brief portions, the first one centered around The Search fo Spock — so, 40-year-old spoiler, I guess.

And, in this passage, Spock is referencing events that took place during The Undiscovered Country — so, 30-year-old spoiler alert. (Thirty years? Geeze.)

McCormack and Goodman have this job of fleshing out what we see on screen, for a character metaphorically torn between two worlds, and making that seem reasonable. Instead of inventing too much new Vulcan culture, they continue the theme of the character trying to learn and reconcile both of his cultures. In his voice, and with more time than a sequence in the second-act of an episode, or without having to worry about cinematic beats, it works. The Valeris part comes up a few times.

Understated in the films, with the exception of one bit of exposition, is Spock’s ideological disagreement with Kirk, but the book gives it a few more passes.

It’s in the prime universe, if that matters. Post-Reunification, timeline-wise, meant to exist somewhere in or around the time of the Picard series.

I’ve yet to watch any of the Picard series. It’s on my list. I just can’t bring myself to start it. Sometimes, when I start a thing, I’m just that much closer to the conclusion. Varied reception of that series aside, it is always ongoing, until I start it.

There’s some pop-psychology on Reddit, or real scholarship, elsewhere, about that phenomenon, too.