Damage control

I just came in from the kitchen with a plate with a big slice of home baked bread and a slice of summer sausage (plus a jar of mustard) in one hand and a coffee mug full of water in the other. I did not notice that the rug had gotten curled up under the couch and I tripped over it with my good leg. The knee on my other leg cannot lock so I began falling. I wobbled back and forth, twisting, falling slowly, shifting back and forth, this way and that, the arm with the plate balancing by my elbow on the coffee table, the other arm holding the mug upright as I twisted and fell, my hip glancing off the couch and finally I came down painlessly on my good knee, the bread and sausage still on the plate, the jar of mustard still between the same fingers and best of all, the mug still held upright and full of water. I can write about this chain of events because I could see all this happening and was laughing because I’ve watched it before. I’ve had a bum knee my whole life and have fallen literally hundreds of times and when I do an entire process begins which in a fraction of a second finds the safest way to fall. Whatever part of the brain is running this shows seems to be a neat freak with a thing about not spilling or breaking whatever I’m holding. I wouldn’t call it unconscious, because I can watch it happen, but just watch it, I have no conscious input into it whatsoever. It’s a decision making process that is infinitely faster than conscious thinking. And I never get hurt. Never. Even bruises are rare. I’ve fallen down out stairs half a dozen times and never been hurt. If only the rest of my brain worked as efficiently as my damage control.

A twenty something brain

Watched a Jazz Messengers gig from Paris in ‘59 and Lee Morgan, all of 21 years old, was unbelievable. Astonishing creativity. The chances he took and never flubbed in those solos, leaping over precipices, seeing around corners, weaving a short story’s worth of narrative into every solo…. damn. When you’re that young all this stuff is new and you’re seeing these things for the first time; your brain is a huge mass of neurons you’re exploring for the first time, and the neural pathways you follow can become established routes you’ll follow again and again. You could hear those in his playing, the licks and ideas that would come up over and over again during his career. And you’d hear things he might have explored just that once and never gone back to. As you get older and older you do that less and less, the brain hardwires into distinct paths that you perfect and improve and the other synapses wither and disappear and ideas you had at 21 will never be there again. Possibilities disappear. Eventually you don’t even see those pathways anymore. You read stuff you wrote forty years ago and have no idea of all the possibilities that were before you then but you weren’t yet good enough to write them down. A twenty something brain is a marvelous thing, a mass of neuronal potential just waiting to be shaped, trillions upon trillions upon trillions of possible thoughts, and we will never have that range of cognitive possibilities before us again.


So sitting on the couch goofing around on the iPhone I suddenly realized I had jelly on my hand. And my arm. Both arms. Both hands. Sticky strawberry jam. I’d had a couple crackers with jam for dessert and apparently some had slipped from the Akmak and dolloped onto my shirt.

Panic. I leaped to my feet, ran into the kitchen, removed the radioactive shirt, rolled it into a ball with the jelly inside and dropped it into the washer. Then I returned to the kitchen sink with the hot water on full blast and lathered soap all over my hands, scrubbing furiously, then up and down both arms, then my torso where the stickiness theoretically could’ve come into contact with my bare skin. Finally, scrubbed like a surgeon, I dried off and put on a clean shirt. I could still feel the tackiness, the hint if stickiness all over, on me, on everything. Hallucinating stickiness. Me, still this huge giant deep voiced dude at 62, completely losing it because of maybe a quarter of a tea spoon of strawberry preserves on my shirt.

Some things don’t change. To think I had believed I’d gotten beyond all of this. I’d made progress. I stay clear of maple syrup but I use honey. I wash the outside of the jar and thoroughly wash my hands afterward, and if–horror!–a drop of honey (or jelly) gets on my shirt it goes immediately into the washing machine, but I do use honey. Just not those hideous squeeze bottles. I won’t go near them. They shouldn’t even be legal.

It’s a phobia, yes. I guess everyone’s allowed one without necessarily being a nut and this is mine. And though it is as stupid as any phobia at least it’s sanitary, and easy to conceal. People think I just don’t like pancakes, though actually I love pancakes. I had some a couple years ago, feeling like a person with a fear of heights going skydiving. What a rush.

But as delicious as they were I just hate the stickiness of the syrup even more. Tactile trumps taste every time. Touch came before taste. I doubt critters in the Pre-Cambrian were savoring the flavors of the stromatolites they munching. They could feel them, though. My hypersensitivity to stickiness is evolutionary atavism, touch over taste, reeling from the icky like some vastly ancient invertebrate. It’s in my DNA. Or so I told myself in one night of overthinking. Though I don’t think I believed it. This is a fucked up Homo sapien sapien thing. Maybe one of Richard Dawkin’s memes. As our frontal lobes got bigger and bigger all sorts of ridiculous things get blown way out of proportion. Breast size. Religion. Cats. Stickiness. Though that’s still a rare one. Otherwise everyone would be as terrified of maple syrup as we are of spiders. Though I’m not scared of spiders, actually.

It does have a name, this stickyphobia, but it’s impossible to say and utterly unspellable and refers mainly to the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, which is just stupid. How can anyone be scared of peanut butter? It’s like being scared of clowns. Get over it. And no, I don’t want to go to IHOP. Not until they steam clean the place. And stop selling pancakes.

Facebook quizzes

(From August, 2014, and I just wasted several minutes trying to figure out if this should be on bricksscience.com or bricksbrain.com.)

Every day on Facebook is a bombardment of What Whatever Are You? quizzes. I think they’re a little creepy. All they do is feed data to the data miners. That’s what they’re designed for. Every time we answer one of those questions, we have described a little more about ourselves. It’s that data that data miners with their incredibly sophisticated algorithms sift through to know what kinds of ads to show us, what kind of politics we prefer, and if we have criminal or terrorist proclivities or not. There is not a quiz we take on Facebook that is not used for data gathering. Selling that data is how Facebook makes its money. And to everybody freaking about the NSA knowing everything, where do you think they get the majority of their information?

You’re looking at it. (Well, you are if you’re looking at this on Facebook.)

Whenever you hear news about Facebook altering its privacy policy or profile policy or requesting information, it is about getting more access to your data for the purposes of data mining.

Not understanding data mining is like watching television without comprehending advertising. Imagine watching TV and thinking that every single commercial you were watching was true and shown for your own benefit. Imagine having no skepticism whatsoever about ads on TV. It’s unimaginable.

Well, that is Facebook. People refuse to become skeptical. But think of it this way…the data mining industry knows more about you than you do. They know our thinking and behavior and how we respond to certain stimuli (such as questions in quizzes.) And they are already shaping our behavior. Five years ago none of us would have bothered taking those What Kind of Whatever Quizzes, stupid as they are, over and over and over. Now we can’t stop. They’re stupid, they’re a pain in the ass, they’re a waste of time, yet Facebook users love them. And the only reward we get is being told we are Napoleon or Bob Dylan or Star Wars or Rhett Butler. Maybe three seconds of pleasure. Tell me the data mining industry isn’t controlling our behavior.  And that is just one example. I’m still trying to figure out what algorithm is involved in those moronic “Think of a city that does not contain an A. 90% of people wiil fail” quizzes. A zillion people respond. Why? It is so subtle it must be brilliant. And why is “will” so often misspelled? It was wll–no i–for a while. Lately they’re wiil (two i’s). Why?

90% of you reading this will say so what, I don’t care, I’m not worried about it. Think about that. Why is your natural skepticism neutralized? You probably distrust just about everything else. Even the most paranoid leftist and tea party people you will ever meet, people who see conspiracies everywhere, know What Classic Rock Band They Are.


I got Styx.