Tag: perspective

Marine Perspective

This is a story designed and intended to challenge our assumptions and try to help us see things from different perspectives, something it seems we have a very hard time doing in general, not just with regards to wildlife but also – and more critically, I believe – with regards to how we humans interact with one another.

The following was recorded yesterday in the 1-2 kHz band by a top secret whale observatory off the coast of Baja California. It is thought to have emanated from somewhere between Isla Cedros and Bahía Tortugas. Doppler shift analysis of the transmission seems to indicate that the whale who emitted it had begun its migration back towards its feeding grounds in Alaska. After being cleaned up multiple times to remove parasitic noise from boat engines and other such things, translation became possible. The message the whale was sending was something like this:


Dear Mother,

I know you haven’t heard from me much in the past years. And yes, it makes sense that you didn’t expect to anyway. But something happened recently that I couldn’t help but share with you, because it seems to contradict some things you’ve always told me about humans.

Do you remember how you always used to tell me never to go near them, and I would always stray in their paths anyway? You used to tell me stories about how their misshapen flippers and tails had stingers they could project to hurt us and sometimes even kill us. You used to say they couldn’t be trusted, you used to warn me that they hunted us.

Well I’ve been curious, and observing them. And it seems there have been some changes. Let me lay out the extent of my discoveries so far.

These creatures appear to live on the surface of the water and, much like hermit crabs, mostly depend on shells to keep safe. Unlike hermit crabs, however, they seem to be able and willing to share shells. In their shells they usually return to shore every night and stay there. I say “usually” because some of the bigger shells seem to be able to sustain their humans for much longer trips across the surface.

Their bodies are strange as well, and don’t look at all well suited to living in or on water. They have misshapen flippers, cylindrical with bunches of tendrils at the ends, and strange split tails, with each half also cylindrical and ending in a kind of thick fluke. Ill suited as their bodies seem to be for swimming, they’re still able to swim somewhat, albeit slowly and jerkily.

There’s a point between their heads and their bodies where the whole thing narrows considerably, which seems completely absurd and excessively fragile, especially when dealing with current shear. Maybe this narrowing of the body is why they need to live in their shells.

They breathe air like us, and in fact don’t seem to be able to hold their breath nearly half as long as we can.

I’ve never heard any intelligible communication between them. It seems that they either emit audible, monotonous drones through their shells that interfere with our own communication or engage in some weird chatter at ultrasonic frequencies that you can only barely hear part of if you really stretch your hearing to its limits. I used to hear more of it, but somehow as I’ve grown my hearing must have started to fail.

Another thing that strikes me about them is that they never seem to eat or drink at all. They seem to have three blowholes, two small ones in a kind of protuberance on their faces and a much bigger one with what looks like thick, flat baleens in it – although I’m frankly flummoxed as to why they need baleens in a blowhole. But they have nothing that seems like it could be a mouth, and I’ve never seen them eating anything. Maybe they don’t need to eat in the first place.

And no, Mom, I haven’t ever seen a trace of those spikes you told me about. I heard from someone that there still are humans with spikes in some places, but I’ve never seen them. Maybe they’re a different species of human that is going extinct. My theory is that maybe the warming of the oceans in the past decades has something to do with it.

Indeed, lately the only humans I’ve been seeing seem to be of a very different temperament. And this brings me to the event I wanted to tell you about. Just the other day, I was in the lagoon with my son – you know, the one who was born without a right eye – when some humans came by in their shells. As usual in that area, they didn’t leave the shell but patted the water with their flippers. My son and I went up to the surface to see them – I’ve been teaching him to be curious as well – and even be rubbed by their flippers – it actually feels quite nice and soothing!

I’ve never figured out why they do this. I’m pretty sure it’s a deliberate choice on their part, because they only do this petting when their shells come to where we stay for a while. It doesn’t seem as though it helps them or gives them any kind of evolutionary advantage, after all. Why would they do it?

Anyway, as I was saying, the other day I went to see some of those as they were in their shells on the surface, and got the usual petting. In fact, I even managed to position myself just right in such a way that one of the flippers could get at an itch I’ve been trying to shake for days. What a relief it was!

I then brought my son to the scene. Yes, Mom, I’ve always been the curious type, and I’ve made a deliberate choice to raise my son to be curious as well. He was a bit scared of them at first, but then I pushed him up to meet the humans. He took it stoically at first, but quickly started to enjoy the petting and rubbing, and pretty soon didn’t want to come back down. I let him enjoy this for a bit, and took that chance to dip down and have a quick snack.

When I came back, I was shocked to see that one of the humans was not only using its flipper to pet my son, but had actually brought its big blowhole, the one filled with the flat baleens, right down to his skin! Keeping the blowhole closed, it touched my son briefly, then pulled back up. Pretty soon, another human did the same. This was the first time I’d ever seen such a thing, and it really perplexed me. What could they possibly be doing? I don’t imagine it’s very healthy or safe to do this. After all, we ourselves always keep our own blowholes clear and clean.

When I asked him about it later on, my son said that he hadn’t particularly noticed it was something other than the flippers, but he did note that a couple of the flippers were smoother, softer, than usual, and wondered if maybe those could have been the blowholes petting him instead. Anyway, he very much enjoyed it, and came away asking a ton of questions, questions I was hardly able to answer at all.

But the biggest, hardest question he asked, and repeatedly, was “Why?” Why indeed? Why do humans do this? Is it for some kind of health reason? It doesn’t seem to be out of necessity, because they’ve hardly been doing it at all until recently. Or is it because of curiosity, the same thing that drove me to observing them in the first place? Or maybe it’s just for fun, like when we whales jump into the air on a whim for the thrill and to feel the cool rush of wind on our skins?

I wonder if we’ll ever know…

Sincerely,

Your daughter.

Xenophobia and Double Standards

An outside yet still distinctly familiar perspective on our tendency to establish convenient double standards.

August 20th, 2020

Life Back to Normal (Kind Of)

Wow. It’s sure been a strange few months, hasn’t it? First we were all locked into our homes to avoid this annoying virus spreading. Then little by very little we were able to open up again, go out and get our lives back.

In Madrid things opened up fairly slowly, even compared with the rest of Spain. But now it’s supposed to be back to what they call the “new normal”. However, clearly something’s up because Barcelona first, now Madrid have had to reimplement some extra measures in order to avoid having to resort to a full lockdown all over again.

Which is actually what I’ve been expecting, really. We needed a full and drastic lockdown months ago when we took too long to evaluate the threat, but by now (in most countries) we’re keeping an eye on the threat levels, and we’ve seen how much damage we’ve had to inflict on the economy and people’s lives, so we’re maintaining some measures from the lockdown and closely monitoring the situation in order to avoid ever having to resort to that again.

Anyway, I won’t go into too much detail about this right here, I’m preparing a larger post for the Antiidiotic about the entire situation, the larger context, people’s reactions and my own experience of this whole period.

Plan Shakeup and Departure

The one area where I saw these results the most has to be related to my impending move to Germany. As you remember, I have been planning – or desperately trying to plan – to move to Germany for months.

Well, after months of fruitless searching, I came up against a surprising reality: that culturally, Germans will often not even consider an applicant who’s not already onsite. I learned this, in the space of just three days, both the easy way and the hard way: First a contact onsite told me that, then the interview that I had scheduled didn’t happen because, through a lack of communication, they didn’t realize I wasn’t onsite and expected me in the offices in Munich. When I checked with them by email, they shut me down and told me to get back in touch when I was around.

So anyway, that was a pretty big blow and at least a bit of an after-the-fact explanation of why I wasn’t achieving many results. But there was another way to deal with this: flip my plan on its head. Move there first, find a job once there. At least that way I might optimize my chances.

So I’ve packed my things, put most of them in a storage locker in Madrid and taken off already. I flew out of Madrid on August 12th for France, to spend a week there in our country house with some family, and on August 19th I finally flew to what will be my first destination in Germany: Düsseldorf.

Düsseldorf is a very nice city along the Rhine river, one that I briefly visited during my bicycle trip last summer. It’s only 30km from Cologne and well connected to the rest of Germany and Europe via its own airport as well as those of Dortmund and Cologne/Bonn. I particularly enjoyed its riverfront walk area, which offers great views and nice historical buildings to see and visit.

As of now, I’ve arrived in Düsseldorf last night, been lucky enough (coming from France instead of Spain) not to need the tests or the self-quarantine, and therefore been free to go around town a bit today. I had breakfast this morning, took a walk to the river, which I’d last seen with my bike almost exactly a year ago, already got myself a local SIM card, and had a nice lunch with a good local beer. So far, Düsseldorf is great!

Personal Development Progress & New Outlook

Following my bout of depression and hopelessness this past winter, I’ve taken steps to improve. I’ve started seeing psychologists to help me overcome my challenges. And I’ve seen some really positive results. One of the shrinks helps me focus on the day-to-day discipline and productivity and the other one helps me understand my mind and how it works in a more general sense.

This means that I’ve finally been able to feel capable of organizing myself a bit better, of actually achieving more and doing so more efficiently. I’m by no means completely cured and back to being fully functional (assuming I once was to begin with), but I’ve made definite progress and have seen some results already.

But that’s not all that happened on this front. As I prepared to leave Madrid, I realized a few very interesting things that might actually be part of the key to finally solving my proactivity and productivity issues. One is that there tends to be a point in any project where you finally feel like you can’t turn back any more. It doesn’t mean that it’s ACTUALLY impossible to turn back, it just feels that way. It feels like you’ve finally committed enough to whatever the project is that you PSYCHOLOGICALLY can no longer turn back. I felt this most particularly during my moving plans, the moment I left the storage space in Madrid after moving my stuff there. That was the threshold for me in the context of my move to Germany. And it made me realize that I should actually seek out that moment, try to plan for it, determine what it will be, expect it and make sure to either move it as far forward as possible or push myself until I get there. Because once that moment is past, everything just becomes so much easier to do.

The other one, which I’ve been slowly working on over the past few months, is that I have to break away from the typical education of boys where they tell us to always be completely independent and autonomous and dare ask for help when I realize I need it. And the fact that it’s not nearly as hard as it seems. As I was packing my stuff a friend of mine in Madrid offered her own and her family’s assistance in packing and even moving the stuff, even space in their own home to store it themselves. At first I politely turned all of this down, still being in the mindset where I needed to be autonomous. But the following day I realized that I was too pressed for time and not active enough to be able to get it all done easily within the 36 hours that were left. I swallowed what was left of my pride at that point and wrote to that friend, asking her to come over and help push me ahead in the process. I can’t say how precious her help was, both in helping me move ahead and also (maybe mostly) sparing me the desperate last-minute stress rush – which usually battles fiercely against a kind of hopeless despondency and an inability to keep moving – and a potentially very uncomfortable situation. As it happened, however, I was able to not only finish packing in time, but move my stuff into storage in time and be nice and relaxed on the morning I left to the airport.

Worldbuilding Guide Project

In writing-related news, I’ve gotten back into writing a bit, posting a couple of stories on Facebook (they’re not quite ripe for the Website yet, but stay tuned), but mostly getting started on a much bigger project. See, some of the stories in my book have elicited reactions to the effect that I should expand them into their own full-scale novels. The one that got the biggest such reaction was The Visions (click here for more).

Just as I was starting to think about expanding this one into a full novel I started realizing I would have to create an entire world for the story. And in the process I started reflecting on other famous worlds that exist in fiction (like Middle Earth for Tolkien, for example, or Azeroth in the WarCraft games) and how unrealistic some of their features seemed to be. This got me thinking about how I could myself create a world in as realistic and scientifically credible a way as possible.

So I thought about this at a meta-level and came up with what seems to me to be a logical progression of about 15 steps (this might change as my idea progresses), each building on the previous ones and setting the stage for the next ones. As you might expect if you know me a bit, this thought process grew into a much larger project, and next thing I knew I was actually building up to an outline for what might become an entire book’s worth of recommendations for aspiring worldbuilders. I’ll publish this in a series here on the Website too as it matures and grows, so stay tuned for that!

Benefits of Learning Languages

It’s all well and good to learn languages in a better way, but what does one gain from it? A hell of a lot more than you think, actually.

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