Da Nub: Bike tour

Da Nub, mighty waterway of central Europe, you flow like a muddy streak of lightning. Swish swoosh off you go, carrying barges and floating hotels downstream, and making it hard for those same vessels to go upstream.

I got to hang out with my parents on your mighty banks, amidst hordes of tourist-types and the elderly(some of whom were tourist-types). Hot diggity the sun shone so sweetly, and soon enough I was mostly naked. Wearing some shorts, I cruised on a bike. But wait, there was a beginning to this cruising.

My parents decided to come visit me on this most european of continents. I picked them up in Frankfurt, and an ICE whisked us off to Passau, over on the border with Austria. Did you know that Passau used to be the boss of the salt trade? Makes sense, ’cause it sits at the confluence of Da Nub, the Inn, and the Ill(or something like that). So those mobster salt lords could send out their caravans and boats to any fancy kingdom in the neighborhood. Alas, that came to an end when some Divine Prince swindled the Salt Lords, and made them slough off chunks of their goods. What a punk.

So, we were in that hub, and from there we went east, towards Vienna. I snagged the role of trip leader, because of the lingo. I mean, I speak German, and austrian German is sorta like what I’m used to. All the vowel sounds are squished together, and they greet you by greeting god. That always rocked me back on my mental heels.

Leading away, we got our rental bikes, paniers(not the grilled italian sandwhich), and set off on Day One. We cheated a bit, and rode the first 17ish Kilometers on a fancy, crystal-studded boat…er, ship.

Such views, sights, vistas, and things to point at and holler “look!”. On one day we went up a Bußweg(penitence path), and climbed about 500 Meters up to an abbey. People put their holy buildings in really weird places, but I suppose there wasn’t room for an abbey/basilica/church down in the fertile and workable flats.

Another day saw us riding a ferry(one of many) to the other bank, but this ferry was not like the others. It was powered solely by the flow of the river, which, when the wheelman angled the boat out into the current, pushed us all the way across. There was a grunty steel cable connecting the bow and the line running shore-to-shore, and that kept us from just noodling off downstream.

Once we saw a ship pushing a barge pushing a barge. So much barge! It was just barging upstream, looking more like a plow than a ship. There were also horses in fields, butterflies in the air(some of which had a death wish and kamikazed into me), and we even glimpsed a rare specimen of Homo Sapiens Paraglidus. The dude landed right next to us in a pasture.

There were some tense moments, mainly during the hangry phase of each day. You know, when your fuel level is low, dehydration is taking its toll, and you’ve just ridden 15 Kilometers. Then, the catalyst! What and where should we eat. Boom! Stress! Anxiety! Venomous words only came out a few times. But, we got fuel on board, and everyone calmed down, even coming around to apologize. I was a grump at two big moments. Once, when we were at the end of a day and rolling into Linz, I snapped at my Dad that we should do the planny stuff further on, cause I needed to pee. Later, when looking for our hotel in Innsbruck, I dismissed my mother’s concerns about the right route, and also my dad’s concerns about me being a jerk. I was a jerk.

It was a righteous trip, with many hours on bikes, and many plates of tasty food. Oh, the food! Breakfast at the hotels was a fun time, because you could fill your plate, then your mouth, then your plate again, until you were sated. Tasty.

At the end of the Austria stuff, we went to Freiburg, and my parents got another impression of how I live here. Thanks to some smart words from someone close to me, I made it through a last day of trip leading, and we even met up with two of my friends. That was really cool, because they vibed well with my parents, and seeing them getting on well with my parents made me realize how cool my friends are. Excellent sauce.

Talk to you in the future,
-William

 

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What does water make me feel?

When I was little I was scared of jumping into water, scared of getting my head wet, and just scared in general. Well, at some point, if I remember correctly, my dad and I were at a swimming pool at the Oregon State University rec center, and this must have been when I was around 6ish? I dunno exactly when. Young, in any case. Anyway, this was after I had become a solid swimmer, and my dad may have been getting fed up with me refusing to dunk all the way. Whatever his motivation, I remember being tossed into the pool from the side, which naturally submerged me completely once I landed in the pool. A transformation. A scared, dry little caterpillar turning into a fish. Well, something like that.

Sometime after this dunking event, I was at the Osborn Aquatic Center, the main public swimming pool, and I wanted to jump from the high dive. Or at least I thought I did. Turns out the high dive was around 5 meters up(it felt like a couple of floors), and looking down at the pool, I lost it. I was a little scared climbing up, but that moment of looking down and thinking about what I was going to do really terrified me. In tears, ashamed and aware of all the people watching me, I climbed back down the ladder. Getting over the fear of jumping off a tall something or other took years to get over. I don’t remember any specific moment that made jumping fun, but I have come to relish the drop, even the time spent contemplating the drop. Jumping off low basalt outcroppings into the Clackamas river, or off of other chunks of rock along the Rogue river. Finally getting around to jumping off of the high dive. Oh, now that I organized my thoughts like that, I remember what started the change. The high dive at the public swimming pool had a zipline that would sometimes be attached for people to zoom down into the pool. The controlled and less intimidating descent. I enjoyed that, and at some point the straight drop into the pool happened. I was probably still freaked out when I jumped that first time.

Since then I’ve jumped from many tall things, mostly rocks, into mostly rivers, but also man-made and natural pools. My favorite jump so far was not into water. I got to go skydiving over Freiburg, and that is the climax of my jumping “career”. If I get the chance or make the chance to go again, then I will go. The feeling of calm while flying up, then the fist-pumping, gut-clenching sense of awesome as the plane’s side door opened up, and then righteous dropping! Yes, more of that.

Back on the ground, or on the water. I’ve surfed a lot of craft, but most of them on waves in rivers. Big rafts, little rafts, kayaks, canoes, those were all the toys I got to play with on rivers. At the coast, boogie boards(with and without flippers) and my own body were the toys I had. That feeling of angling the boat, and the way you just stop floating down the river to float on one spot. It is a heady feeling, and usually leads to a sort of addiction. “I could probably surf that little glimmer of a wave” “We have a take-out to get to, but I’ll just hit this wave one more time…” The same thing happens on the coast, but I found it harder to tear myself away from a good boogie-boarding spot. With a river, the current is always pulling at you once you fall off a wave(or get flipped). That makes for a sense that you should be getting along after a time.
At the ocean, though, time is gone when you are flailing back out to the waves. Up to a certain depth I do hop-skippy leaps, but at some point the water gets to deep, and then it is time to swim. To go head first into whitewater, and to reel your boogie-board in after the wave tears it away from you. No biggie, just part of the grunt of getting out there.
Then you get far enough out to pick a wave. I am still so gung-ho about catching waves that I will grit my teeth past the whitewater, and then take the first wave I can. I guess some folks wait for the right wave, for that perfect ride. Okay. Cool for them, but in the meantime I am riding wave after wave and not sweating which one is Mr. or Ms. Right. To be fair, I’ve only been in surf with my body or a board where the choice of the wave was inconsequential. There are probably places where choosing a sub-optimal wave will get you held under or thrashed.

Speaking of which, the first time I got really worked by a wave on the coast was the first time I rented a surfboard, over at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I was there probably right before the fall/winter swell started to roll in, so the waves were forgiving. I caught one, stood up, and sorta surfed before plopping back into the water. Kickass, I thought, I can totally do this. So back out I want, and the next wave I caught was bigger. Quite a bit bigger, and I didn’t know that if you catch a steeper wave face, you need to watch out for the nose of your board. That wave pitched me forward, and I couldn’t turn or do anything before the nose of my board buried itself in the water. Then the tumble started. I went down hard, hit the bottom hard, and just had enough time to get my bearings and the board before the next wave’s whitewater hit.Back to shore for me, even though I had a pretty good time.

I’ve gone surfing once more since then, with proper surf lessons in whitewater and then on some kind of point break. The wave comes in, hits the point of rocks/sand/reef poking out into the ocean, and starts to break, from the point where it hits out to deeper water. So when we were out there, we were trying to catch and surf waves mere meters away from rocks. But that didn’t seem like a big deal because if you surfed or just swam with the wave it took you away from the gnarly stuff. The gnarly stuff, be it the hard obstacles near the wave you want to surf, or the water itself, can be daunting. Even though water is so necessary for life, and necessary for some forms of play, it can kill you. I’ve been in a few situations where I thought about dying, and I’ve felt so alive at other times, all thanks to water.

On rivers or in the ocean, I am happy with the feeling of surfing, and respectful of what water can do to and for you.

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Dreamstorytime

Good morning. Well, sort of morning. My jet lag is still doing exciting things, and I didn’t fall asleep until after 4 AM, woke up at 14:00, and still feel tired.
There is a shiny side to this, and that is dreaming. I dreamed a dream, and it was a scream, so here it comes, for you from me.

There I was, at the beginning of a mighty quest. As usual, I didn’t know how I knew it was a quest, but dreamtime does that to you. Knowledge of the story arc is already in your mindbrain. I was to move with other players through an obstacle course, in search of fancy objects to bring to a final location. The objects included a sword, one of the players, and could not be brought to the location while a chase was on. Again, all things I knew just because it was a dream.

It started out in a relaxed way. I started sauntering through the obstacle course, which was inside a house, flanked by two other players. At about the halfway mark of the dream, one of the players just scoots off by themselves, leaving me and the other one in a room to fend for ourselves. I scooped up a ridiculous samurai sword while the remaining player(Player 3, I guess they are called) barricaded a door. You see, at this point, weird angry people had started chasing us, and we made it into a room, but they wanted to get in. So I try to stab through the opening between door and frame, but lose the sword.

Player 3 and I decide to hoof it, and sprint through empty corridors, full of lockers. Everything was quiet, even though we were being chased. Our shoes flapping on the hard floor was the only noise. We also did the super slick slide around a corner cause we were running so fast. Admittedly, when we started running, I had that feeling like running through mud, where I try really hard to move my legs, but I’m just sooooo slow. Somehow I got out of that feeling, and off we zoomed, before busting out of a door onto a lawn, lit only by the moon. Again, thanks to dreamknowledge, I knew that around the corner was the fancy location to end the quest. Problem: no sword. Next problem, which player is the right player? I say screw it, and jump onto the location(which is just a patch of dirt 2 meters on a side). Right after I do that, a koala comes out of the brush nearby me, and does a lanky stroll over to where I’m crouched. In the dream, I was befuddled.

Then I woke up.

Good day and goodnight,
William

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Time to get thoughtful

For almost two months I’ve been home on vacation. There was even a vacation within a vacation, when I went to Mexico for a week. Now that time is nearly over, and I’m all melancholic. This post is a quest into my melancholy, and into my time at home.

Before flying from Germany to Portland, Oregon, I spent many a thought on how cool it would be to return. It was cool, and I am stoked that I came home. Somehow, though, this trip was different. Almost like a fork in the road is here, and I am taking the route towards growing up. I want to be financially independent, and I want that yesterday. The other parts of growing up, like having a more patient temperament, or handling criticism better, can wait. Those are things I kinda work on all the time, and I’ve heard(from older people) that you just keep on working on self-improvement. So really, I am more focused on a tangible, and important checkpoint: paying ALL of my bills myself.

The next big thought chunk this post is for is where home is. “..where the heart is”, or where your friends are, or where you grew up. Probably all of those things. I leave for Germany in two days, and it feels like I am leaving home to go home. My parents and friends here in Oregon make me feel at home when I’m here, but I have my own life and another circle of friends in Germany. That makes two homes, which go along with two languages and a hybrid personality.
If I had to choose, though, I think I would pick Oregon. Maybe. I’m glad not to have to choose, yet. Maybe when plane tickets start getting really expensive I will choose the one side of the big pond to settle down.

Ugh, I don’t know. Home is somewhere, things matter, and really, action is all that I have going for me. This blog is about thinking, but action is more powerful than just stewing in my own thoughts. I am looking forward to returning to Freiburg, and looking forward to one day coming back to Oregon.

For now, I am out to get some sunlight.

Action!

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Mexico, Surfing! And Growing up?

Here I go again, off to foreign land, off to new things(new surfboardey things), and contemplating my navel.
Bungalow Door

My sister and I went with our Mom and Dad down to Mexico, to a little slice of town called Troncones. The flights down were great, because of all the turbulence. I am a huge fan of turbulence, because it breaks the monotony of a flight, no matter how short. It also makes me feel like I’m riding a rollercoaster, which I like. A lot.
Anyhow, we flew, landed, and strolled into wintery Mexico, which is a chilly 90ish degrees Fahrenheit(30-something C, I think), and then got into an actual cold environment. Our taxi driver must’ve been overly warm, or thought that we were, and had a piece of the Arctic in his radiator.
Sunglasses Gazing
We arrived at Hacienda Eden, which is a kickass little set of rooms and bungalows directly on the beach, in a quiet stretch of similar getaways. Crescent beach, sandy, with rocky bits at each horn of the crescent. Perfect for all the things I wanted to do at the beach. Swimming, boogeyboarding, bodyboarding, sauntering, looking at a super large, super chill iguana, ambling, eating tasty eats, walking, drinking a drink made primarily of guacamole, and strolling. I also read books, and felt super literate about that.
Beach Reading

Then, the highlight of the trip: Surfing lessons. Day one, we hang out on shore with Mike, the instructor and owner of Tsunami Surf and embodiment of surfer dude. He was sorta like a US-American version of Crush, from Finding Nemo(2003). Day one was just going through “branding” on the beach. Not actual branding, like with red-hot pokers. It was Mike’s way of explaining what sort of mindbrain(neurological) process was happening. The basic idea was, start standing up in the proper surfing position, bust out a sweet reverse pop-up, pretend to paddle, then do the actual pop-up, which you already practiced, just in reverse, and “brand” that process into your brain/muscles. It worked out really well, because after that, we went and tried to catch the white water in the breaking surf. And we did! It was more fun than I knew how to handle, and Mike the Instructor had to call a time-out so that I would come back to shore. We were all so tired, but I felt good about surfing, despite doing super sumo squats to bring my center of gravity down. My quadriceps were not pleased^^.

The next day was more practice in the whitewater, which was good. It gave us all time to get more sore, and also spend more time catching waves! All of which led to day three and going out into deep water and catching the real waves. Glorious. We parked near the fishing channel, which is a bit deeper and calmer then the rest of that particular stretch of water, and sat down to talk about getting out to the waves, and not just getting trashed by the surf. We ambled to one landmark and then to a second one, so that we had something on land to tell us where to be, and where not to be. Then it was go time.
Weather: sunny and drizzling. Mood: Stoked and nervous. Waves: Blue-green and inviting. I was intimidated by them, and by the deep water. Out into the shallows we sloshed, and then paddled out past/through breaking waves, until we got out past the impact zone. Then the sky went all angry and grey, and dumped rain on us. It was epic; floating on water, pelted by water, with huge(to my eyes) waves rolling past.
Then we noodled over closer to the breaking waves, and set up to catch one. I got four before we went back to shore, though I wished for a few more. However, I was sore, and thought, at my core, I got what I came for. Surfing galore, so hear me roar!
I am hooked, and now I want a board and a coast.

Now I want to spend time with a new line of thought. Maturity.

I like me, said a really stupid person once, but you know what? I like me, too. However, I’m not where I want to be as a person yet, and this vacation back in Oregon is really making that clear to me. I’m not financially independent yet, haven’t completed a degree, and am still unhappy about starting some sort of full-time job and paying taxes into a system I only partially like. So, plenty of room for improvement, at least in concrete, wordly matters.

On the personality side of this maturity coin are some scratches, too. I am still too proud, and don’t like investing time and energy into projects, even if I was stoked about the projects at the outset. Except with radio/voiceover schtuff. That is a blast.

So this little paragraph leads into this thought: I don’t want to go forward in life and feel like I’m not good enough. I mean, I don’t want to just work to live, and have a ho-hum job, and sleep to get up to work to have food and a roof to sleep under to work…until I die.
So on this trip there was some serious thinking about where I want to be, what I want to be, and how to get there. Plus the old question of the point. Seems like the point is convincing myself that there really is no point, from a philosophical point of view, so you have to have something that fills you with a sense of purpose. My Dad and sister talked about that and about how people in any line of work value that sense of purpose most when it comes to job satisfaction. Should it be any different when it comes to life satisfaction? Probably not.
Here’s to purpose, and to surfing.

To wrap up, I really want to read and surf. The reading is basically a placeholder for the act of reading, for chatting with friends, for discussion, for musing, and for anything intellectual. The surfing is like that but for physical pursuits, and for playing. Gotta figure out how to combine those two and get paid for them.
Sunglasses Stare

Cheers,
William

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Why do we like lists/tests so much?

Every single time. Every time I see a list, I feel it calling to me, saying, “this will provide some objective truth!” That personality test waving and saying, “find out who you are and know it as a fact!”

I disagree, and am here to think about why I am both called to and repulsed by lists and tests.

What are the kinds of lists out there? The ones which grab my attention most usually have to do with “what kind of person are you?”.  Now that I think about it, that seems to be the only kind of list. “10 things you do if you are kind”, “What your dog says about your personality”, or “which pop-culture reference are you?”. Indeed, that is the gist of most of those lists. They offer to pair me with my soulmate, soul animal, soul color, or soul…soul, and I want that so badly. I want to know, objectively, what I am, who I am, and what defines me. Those lists are right there, looming at me with the promise of categorization. Yes, that is just me projecting my wishes onto those lists, but they are very prevalent, and popular.

So I drifted off for a bit and went on a thought-ride to perception town. Subjectivity versus objectivity. This may seem like a non-sequitur, but it ain’t, just a really tangential tangent. I am of the opinion that I am purely subjective. Everything I see and perceive is filtered through my previous experiences and habits of thought.
That makes me long for some hard fact. Not lots of fact, just a bit. Enough to say, “aha, there is something I can take a bearing with!” Like a lighthouse or other fitting simile. Bringing this boat back into harbor, those lists I was talking about are playing at being lighthouses. They seem like they could show me some truthy truth, but really, they are just there to distract me.

Or are they? What if they are actually illuminating something, and instead of the result from such a list/test being the truth, they are simply the door to truth? An insight to inside, if you will. What I am getting at is, they can be useful, as gateways. If I read a list of the “Top 10 traits of tall guys”, then I can use that list, my reaction to the items on it, and my own powers of navel-contemplation to be better at life. A bit of a leap, from a list to a better life, but this musing is taking us to all sorts of places.

This is the part where I apologize for being wordy. Ha! Just a head-fake. This blog is for me to think, and it seems I wanted to think about this topic with lots of words. So sue me.

So, lists are tempting, and maybe bad, but could also lead to enlightenment? Yeah, I’ll go with that for now.

Post-Script:
I do have a soft spot for one such list, because it is 4 things: 1) Deep, 2) Uses one of my favorite shows, 3) Doesn’t feel flaky at the end, and 4) Involves wit and self-reflection.
Go check it out at this here link: http://cohesivethesis.blogspot.de/2013/03/what-kind-of-bender-are-you.html
I would argue that you can benefit from this test even without knowing the show.

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Best Most Wickedest Car Chase. Ever.

A stoked review of Mad Max: Fury Road

Chrome it was, and at no point mediocre. I didn’t get my movie-going act together in time to watch Mad Max: Fury Road in theaters, so I made do with watching the trailers. Repeatedly, weekly. For months.

Then I saw it, with a good friend in Lviv, Ukraine. It was glorious. I was more pumped about this movie than about The Matrix, which was one of those “oh my goodness, that was epic” movies. Same comparison for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I was blown away by Fury Road‘s action sequences, smooth storyline, and interesting characters. There were also some noises made by the characters, but their actions spoke a good deal louder than their words.

Let us start with the action. Stunts are great, and a wounded, fluid-cocaine-guzzling psycho with grenade-spears jumping onto a car covered in rusted spikes was what this movie was about. I mean, not just about that particular stunt, but that was the tone of the rest of the action. Get pumped, get high, get dead kinda action. It was also fast, and very well choreographed. The psychos on the outsides of all the vehicles didn’t seem tacked on with ropes and whatnot(I haven’t watched any behind-the-scenes stuff, so I dunno if they were), the cars got wrecked in ways interesting and multitudinous, and the weapons added to the dirty yet slick feel of it all.

So, on to the story. Pretty straightforward dystopian view of an island of life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but then BOOM, twist it up! Womens’ rights, friendship, and heavy underlying themes like the mix of stunt culture and norse mythology come to the surface. To that badass, dirty surface. I enjoyed that the strongest character was a one-armed woman, and that her friend(eventually), was one of the crazier characters in movie history. He was soooo insane, the writers just let him grunt it out for most of the film. Loved that. Loved that he was her helper, and she his, and they flowed around each other’s madness like a manic yin-yang symbol. SHINY AND CHROME!

Alright, then there was the whole: “We are not things”, which set us up for the collective damsel in distress and womens’ rights theme. The brood mares did develop into people, and maybe that is what the movie wants us to think about how we think about women? Obviously our culture(western, in this case, cause I’m from that culture) thinks of women as objects in some situations. Media, especially ads and professional pornography, but also clubbing situations are arenas for the objectification of women. Mad Max: Fury Road invites the viewer to think about women as people, instead of things, lest we be like Mr. Mysogny himself, Immortan Joe. Anyways, I think people are people, regardless of gender, and this movie thinks that too. I think.

On to the underlying themes. The whole (male-dominated) culture of Immortan Joe and his subjects revolved around the belief that one would be welcomed into Valhalla, to ride out shiny and chrome for all eternity, should one die whilst stunting, in most glorious fashion. “Witness me!” was what the coked-out spear-wielding psycho yelled, to be greeted with yells of “Witness him!” They bought into the ideology completely, and were perhaps easier to leash and lead because they were zealots of stunt.

Oh gosh. The characters. I was all giddy and wriggly because of Mad Max himself, Furiosa, and the psycho-turncoat Nux. Most of the other supporting characters were great as well. Quirky, cool, disturbing, and without exception. Absolutely mental. I want to watch this movie again, and will do so. Repeatedly.

May you ride out chrome!
William

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