a habit unmasked

I’ve come to realise that it was a lot easier to get used to wearing masks again than it was to get used to not wearing masks. The last time my city went into lockdown, it was mandatory to wear masks in hospitals and medical centres, as well as in workplaces where it was not possible to “social distance”. Having been through this before, it was easy enough to go back to that routine.

Once the lockdown was over, masks were no longer mandatory. Hardly anyone wore them anymore, but it felt so weird to walk into the building at work not wearing one. I’d approach the glass sliding doors in the morning, and the thought would occur to me that I didn’t have a mask on, and my hand would automatically move to my bag where my mask was kept, and … hold on, is the lockdown really over?

I had to glance around me at other people also not wearing masks to reassure myself that I wasn’t breaking any laws by not wearing a mask. 

I just think it’s strange how I got used to it so quickly, and then going back to what I’d been doing for the vast majority of my working life was harder. Such are the times, I guess.

hot topics

Thermodynamics was not something I expected to think much about after high school, but as I grasped my coffee cup with both hands while going up the stairs at work, I found myself thinking about thermodynamics and the transfer of heat, and about how wonderful it is that these concepts exist and have been explained.

It suddenly got very cold here around the middle of the week. On Wednesday when I left work, my watch told me that it was 18 degrees (Celsius) outside. I was surprised and thought it must be a mistake. But when I got outside, I felt like it was about 10 degrees, the air was so icy cold.

So on Thursday morning, I got a coffee from the cafe a few floors down from my workplace. They have a tendency of making the coffee quite hot (or a friend suggested I might just have a sensitive mouth that cannot handle high temperatures), but that morning I was grateful for the extra hot coffee, as I could allow the heat to warm my cold hands.

As I walked back up the stairs, I thought about the idea of heat energy, and of the movement of molecules caused by this energy. I thought most of all about how heat always goes from a warmer object to a cooler object, and about the concept of specific heat capacity, which explains why different materials absorb or lose heat at different rates.

And I thought about my high school chemistry/physics teacher, and about that semester of learning thermodynamics, and how most teenagers who don’t intend to pursue science or engineering careers probably think it’s all pointless. But how positively wonderful is it to be able to experience these phenomena — like the phenomena of heat transfer — and be able to know why and how it happens?

cease and desist

I reckon most people who read novels, watch films, or watch television shows will eventually come to a moment in a novel/film/show, in which a character is doing something that is, to us, very obviously wrong and might ruin their life. At these moments there is a strong impulse to yell “NO!!” at the character, even though it will do nothing to stop or deter them from their course of action.

The easiest example (and maybe the simplest) is when Wile E. Coyote sets a trap for Road Runner, and when it fails, he investigates the trap in the least safe way possible, and invariably ends up the victim of his own contraptions.

Anyway, despite watching cartoons like this a lot when I was a kid (or maybe because of it?) I’ve never really experienced this extremely strong feeling of wanting to stop a character from doing something. I mean, I’ll probably watch things that other people react to, and think “oh, they probably should not do that”, but it’s generally nothing to get worked up about.

Probably a better explanation is that I tend to read or watch things without thinking too far ahead. I’m not someone who tries to calculate what the ending will be as I read/watch the story unfold. I think it’s better to stay in the moment, and experience the full force of emotions as they happen — be it joy, despair, fear or relief.

However, reading War and Peace last week, I found myself screaming “NO” at one of the characters (not out loud, of course — just in my head), and also getting rather worked up about what was happening. At this point, I must include a warning that there will be spoilers, so please do not read on if you don’t want to know what happens.

Also, I haven’t read much further on after this part, so if something happens that reverses what I just read, please do not tell me.

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a short post for an epic piece

The Star Wars Main Title, composed by John Williams, is one of my favourite pieces of music. I think it’s one of those truly epic music scores that you don’t need to be a fan of the films to appreciate. And this is coming from someone who has only watched two or three of the films (I know I’ve seen at least two, but can’t remember if I’ve seen a third one (probably not)).

If you ever get the chance to hear it played live in concert by a full orchestra, I highly recommend you take that opportunity.

I often get the song stuck in my head when I’m at work, and I think it makes an excellent soundtrack for a productive day.

That is really all I wanted to say. The music speaks for itself.

looking back

Sometimes when I drive somewhere, and I’m stopped at a red light, I look in the rear-view mirror at the people in the car behind me. Most people are very “normal” with blank expressions, sitting still, just waiting to keep driving; but sometimes they’re a bit more animated, and it can be amusing to watch, even just briefly.

I’ve seen one man swaying side to side, as if dancing, while his passengers sat motionless. I’ve seen people fidget and bite their nails and play with their hair. I’ve seen one-sided conversations, silent couples, and people who don’t seem to stop talking.

I’ve even seen a crying passenger (and a driver who was trying to console him). And then there was the couple who looked like they’d had an argument, and were decidedly not talking to each other.

I find it interesting how people can feel very protected in cars, like it’s a private room completely detached from the world around it. There’s something about being in a car with a close friend that just feels safe (which seems ironic considering how dangerous cars can be). It seems to be a good chance for meaningful conversations, particularly if you’re driving along a familiar route or a very long road where there’s not much to distract from the conversation.

When I look at these people, I wonder where they’re going, and what they’re doing. I wonder why the fidgeting people are so nervous, why the icy couple aren’t talking, why the passenger is crying.

I also sometimes wonder if the person in the car in front of me is peering back at me. Usually I give them a smile, so they can wonder what I’m smiling about.

patches and bandages

We’ve had a lot of rainy days and rainy weeks this year, and I’ve discovered that it doesn’t take much for everyone to get sick of rainy weather. It must be something about the gloomy grey, and the fact that everything is always wet, and nothing really dries properly because there’s so much moisture in the air.

Of course, it’s all the more wonderful when the clouds disperse and the sun reappears. Oh, we can do laundry again! And our towels will be dry before we use them again!

I took advantage of the good weather to cycle to work yesterday. I made it to work in what I believe to be record time, averaging almost 21km/h. I felt good the whole day, right up until I cut my thumb in the afternoon while trying to cut up some boxes. (It sure is hard trying to keep an injured thumb inactive, especially if it’s on your dominant hand.) It was at about this time that I seriously questioned my decision to not have coffee that day.

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