Monthly Archives: May 2007

Bachelor life

Learning how to live by yourself in a world of instant digital communication is something else. Here’s an msn conversation I had last weekend with my brother, who’s five thousand miles away:

*****

chico says:
hi, ester
chico says:
all good?
chico says:
how does one turn an oven on, in your opinion?
Ester says:
oven: turn the dial to the desired temperature
chico says:
humm
chico says:
and then what?
Ester says:
that’s all
Ester says:
it should get nice and warm
chico says:
you’re sure that’s all?
Ester says:
is it a gas oven?
chico says:
it is, bc I can hear, like, a gas noise
chico says:
but then it stops
chico says:
bc i have to turn and press
chico says:
but it doesn’t stay pressed
Ester says:
then stop, turn off everything, open the window
chico says:
then it stops
chico says:
no
chico says:
i’ve stopped already
Ester says:
open the window so the gas can go out
Ester says:
then look at the oven floor to see if there’s a little hole
chico says:
no, ester
chico says:
there’s no gas coming out
Ester says:
if the oven is not automatic, maybe u need to light it with a match
chico says:
i think it is automatic
chico says:
bc the guy tested it
chico says:
and i didn’t see him use a match
chico says:
the worst is
chico says:
i’ve kept all the manuals
chico says:
the only 1 i need
chico says:
can’t find
Ester says:
how do you light the stove top?
Ester says:
is there a zappy lightening thing?
chico says:
you just turn and zap
chico says:
like back home
Ester says:
the oven should follow the same mechanism
Ester says:
turn the thingy, and zap
chico says:
but back home
chico says:
is it the same zappy lightening
chico says:
for both?
Ester says:
it is
Ester says:
I think it is
chico says:
ah
chico says:
so it should be the same thing
chico says:
i’ll try
chico says:
it really sucks
chico says:
u keep all the little thingies
chico says:
and just when u need
chico says:
the thingamajig disappears
Ester says:
🙂
chico says:
there’s something missing
chico says:
something i’m not getting
Ester says:
it didn’t work?
chico says:
no
chico says:
but i don’t have the least idea
chico says:
i don’ know exactly
chico says:
what will happen when it works
Ester says:
what r u making?
chico says:
pre-made pizza
chico says:
like
Ester says:
ah
chico says:
a little flame appears
chico says:
does a little flame appear?
chico says:
or i don’t even notice?
chico says:
does it make any noise?
Ester says:
i don’t know… wanna take a picture of the oven so i can see?
chico says:
i’m kind of trying something here
chico says:
i put it at the temperature recommended
chico says:
and pressed the lightening
chico says:
i’ll see if it gets warm
Ester says:
🙂
Ester says:
hey, i’ve justed posted on my blog
chico says:
i’ve only had gas since yesterday
Ester says:
can i put this conversation as tomorrow’s post?
chico says:
yesterday i made instant noodles
chico says:
you can
Ester says:
where were you eating until now?
chico says:
i spent a month trying to get this thing to work
chico says:
it’s bio gas
Ester says:
cool
chico says:
it comes through a pipe
chico says:
i have, like, a gas account
chico says:
it’s not more cool
chico says:
bc it’s the worst service i’ve ever been served with
chico says:
they needed
chico says:
8 visits
Ester says:
uau
chico says:
involving 3 companies
chico says:
in one month
chico says:
for this to work
chico says:
incompetent people
chico says:
i was very annoyed
chico says:
and even had to pay 360 for a leak
Ester says:
wow
chico says:
that could not be verified
chico says:
it’s complicated
chico says:
to open the oven
chico says:
better turn off the temperature first right?
chico says:
any restriction
chico says:
?
Ester says:
no restriction
chico says:
ahhhhhh
chico says:
now i got it…
chico says:
it wasn’t happening before
chico says:
it needed more confidence in the pressing
chico says:
i turned the thing
chico says:
and pressed the zappy lightening for longer
chico says:
and stared at the oven
chico says:
the oven floor
chico says:
and now the fire caught on
chico says:
i wasn’t giving it enough zap
chico says:
but my anger
chico says:
solved the problem
Ester says:
hahah
chico says:
bc i pressed the lightening for longer
chico says:
today was a tiring day
chico says:
but productive

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Plants live not on worries alone

I thought I had killed it. I was really afraid I had. I had murdered it through negligence.

Well, not really negligence, because I didn’t technically neglect it. I actually worried about it quite a bit. But plants do not live on worries alone. Let’s look at the facts.

Fact #1: A friend of mine went away for the summer, and asked me to take care of some of her stuff, including a futon, a comfy chair, an espresso machine and a plant.

Fact #2: My prior plant experience consisted solety in a cactus I got for my 15th birthday. Before I turned 16 the cactus had died. Of dehydration.

Fact #3: I had informed my friend that I wasn’t very good with plants. She said that it was all very simple, that I only had to water it once a week. This I did. But the plant started to die all the same.

Fact #4: Plants are autotrophs. Which means they’re supposed to make their own food, as opposed to heterotrophs like us, that need to eat other creatures for food.

Fact #5: The friend came to visit last weekend. The espresso machine was very well looked after. So was the futon. The plant, not so much. The friend attributed this to the fact that I put the little plant in a corner, out of harm’s way. It was also out of good’s way, in particular, out of light’s way, something I hadn’t noticed before.

Fact #6: Plants are autotrophs, which does not mean that they generate energy ex nihilo. They produce sugar through photossynthesis. One could say then that light is the food of plants. I had thus put my plant on a water-only diet. My plant was starving.

Fact #7: In the days that followed, I became very aware of how light hits different spots. I put the plant by the window. I discovered that they sun only shines there between 6 and 8 am. I put a 60-Watt spotlight on the plant. I took it for a bit of fresh air and a little tan. I asked friends for advice. I pruned the plant. I took it to the office, where it’s a bit brighter.

Fact #8: Now almost a week later the plant seems to be recovering. Or so I hope. I’d hate to be a plant murderer.

Morals of the story:

1) Plants are hard to feed. Because, as my brother says, quoting a Brazilian songwriter, plants don’t cry, they simply exhale. I exhale too, but it’s a different type of exhale, which doesn’t help (well, it helps, a little bit, in that the plants need the CO2. But we’re still talking oranges and apples).

2) Worrying about things is not enough. Knowing what to do helps.

Neoteny

Keeping resolutions is hard. And this finishative business, I tell you, is super hard.

For instance: I broke the resolution I made a few weeks ago to stop reading. This week I read a book. An entire book.

I may claim as attenuating circumstance the fact that it was a non-academic book. Very much so. Though there are somethings in there I can definitely use in school work. In the middle of more or less explicit references to different types of body fluids and more or less elaborate descriptions of their flow, there are real gems, like the following:

“Neoteny” is “remaining young,” and it may be ironic that it is so little known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced of mammals – although a case could be made for the dolphins – because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.

Tom Robbins, in Still Life with the Woodpecker, p. 19.

Finishative

I was talking to by brother yesterday about my usual “problems” (namely, interest in a million things, but in nothing in particular). My brother, in his typical wisdom, diagnosed my problem as “too much initiative, too little finishative”.

He found this neologism in one of those airline magazines. I thought it was a brilliant concept, one that reflects my ailment really well. After all, I deserve a degree of “Professional Beginner”, for all the language, music, dance courses in which I finished the first level and that was that.

The word my brother was using was “acabativa” (we speak Portuguese). I googled it and found 513 links. The one I liked most had as title something like “This must be the reason my blogs have stopped coming”.Which really shows I have a textbook case of finishative deficiency (it sounds so… musical).

Thinking about how I could turn this scenario around, I appealed to blogging once again. So I thought “how would one say “acabativa” in English?” (so I can write about it here). I found 42 results for a google search of “finishiative” and 64 for “finishative”. The sources: sites with advice for sales, business, management, chess strategy, Christian and Hindu sermons…

Moral of the story: I think that a bit more finishative goes well everywhere. Starting with this writing of mine — because even finishatives must start somewhere.

P.S. You might be wondering why I picked the spelling “finishative” over “finishiative”. Reply: while the extra “i” makes “finishiative” resemble “initiative” more, the “i” in “initiative” belongs to the “initi-” root, whereas the “finish-” root is i-less. Maybe you were not wondering about this, nor even interested. To which I say, “oh, well.”

First of May

Labour Day is a good day to start a new job. And that’s today, in many parts of the world. But not in Canada: here the First of May is just another working day.

But not quite. Whereas Labour Day in Canada marks the end of the summer and beginning of the school year, the First of May marks the beginning of the summer term, at least at University.

With the school year officially over yesterday, the month of May started with a New Year flavour to it. The temperature stayed between 5 and 15 degrees above zero, cloudy weather, definitely cooler than last New Year’s day. Campus was absolutely deserted: every one either went home, or are working hard finishing their final papers or studying for exams.

And my new job was in full steam. A little task here, another there, and before I realized the day was over and I hadn’t found the time to have a sip of water, or to visit the bathroom. It didn’t feel like work, because it was all so new and exciting. But once evening came I realized how tired I was. Good tired.

Changing jobs every so often is good for the soul, especially when the jobs are different in nature. Academic work is all very interesting, but it lacks that sense of immediate causality. My summer job is to provide accommodation. It may seem a lot of busy work for something so simple. But at the end of the day I can say “this many people have a bed to sleep tonight, because of me”. Immediate causality: I see the cause, the effect, feels good, life goes on. That’s more than I can say of academic work most days.

But it is good to be able to alternate between both, in the same way that it is good to be able to alternate between feet to walk. Walking when you’re missing a leg involves tremendous effort, and I admire people who can do it. But to be able to walk with both is a privilege. A real privilege.