Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

Up in the night staring at the full moon and pondering the melting snow and an Imaginarium

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What’s an Imaginarium anyway?

Suppose I could blame the full moon. Or the pots full of tea I drank before I should’ve gone to bed. Maybe even the fistfuls of chocolate I was shoving in my gob at some point hours ago.

Yet whatever the reason, here I am up in the night not even trying to fall asleep. It’s even past the Witching Hour, whatever that is.

Friends in Australia were just waking up as I sat down and started writing earlier in the evening. They kept me company virtually as I shot off an email to a list of my regular readers, and for the most part they went about their day. A few night owls here in my timezone were up in the night with me, but I’m assuming all of them went off to dreamland long ago.

There are still plenty of my people stateside who’re still awake and have taken turns chatting away while they go about their Saturday evening. Some on the East Coast are holed up for this year’s annual Blizzard of the Century, while others strewn across other parts of the America look on smugly at how mild winter is for them…at least in comparison.

I’m staring at the moon and enjoying the sleepiness that’s finally creeping upon me. There are so many old photos saved on my hard drive that I could easily go through the archives and find plenty of visual content with having to produce anything new for a good long while.

That’s how this blogpost started, incidentally. Not that it’s such surprise, is it? Start with a photo and see where your thoughts take you. There are certainly more creative ways to come up with content. However, for this early morning with an evening of reflection already behind me – this is how it has to be.

Yes, this’ll have to do.

 

Just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done

 

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Sometimes just want to wasch your brain and start back at zero, don’t you?

Rarely do I want to repost something word for word in its entirety here on the old Miscellaneous Blog, but today I desperately want to do exactly that.

I’ve got tabs open on my laptop with articles I’d like to read and blogposts on which I’d like to comment. I’ve been devouring pieces about time management since the new year began, and I’m knee-deep into various Thirty Day Challenges.

It’s too much. I give up.

No, I mean it.

Here’s one of the many things that really spoke to me in my daily attempt not to get bogged down:

Addicted to Distraction

I know it’s from waaaay back a few months ago. That’s an eternity in the online world. Do you know how many hours of content have been uploaded to YouTube since this Opinion Piece was published in The New York Times? A lot, I tell you.

I could make a rough estimate if I looked up the data and did a bit of calculation, but what’d the point of that be? Why am I so obsessed beyond reason to know that specific piece of information? Does it benefit me or anyone?

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m making an argument and want my point to be convincing, of course I want to employ facts in said reasoning. Come on. There’s plenty of knee-jerk palaver floating around. I’d prefer not adding to the noise, I promise.

Yet I’d like to cut down on the barrage of information. Tony Schwartz the author of the above mentioned article, makes the point so well that I’ll just give you a taste of how he phrases it:

‘Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.’

I like that simile, so I’ll just leave that with you as I move on to the next thing.

I’d like to believe all of this has cured me from my time-wasting habits. Wouldn’t that be lovely. Instead there’s just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done.

Hiding behind the curtain

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A topic that I find myself thinking about when considering what to write about here has to do with the ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain‘ line that I’ve had on this blog since I started it. See, I’ve talked with plenty of people about online privacy and blogging and how much of yourself you choose to show in general.

Since this isn’t an academic exercise and I needn’t support my ideas with credited sources, it means that most of what I write here is anecdotal. I tell stories without bothering to look up where I originally read or heard the kernel of knowledge that began me thinking about whatever topic I fancy.

Facebook seems to be a constant privacy concern for some Germans, partially because it seems like every other month there’s an article in the media here about how someone’s personal business has been displayed for everyone to see because of the big bad social media giant. I dealt with this a bit when I wrote Why do people take the wrong things about Facebook so seriously?

My position on all of this privacy stuff, though, is that you can determine how much of yourself you show online. If there’s something embarrassing out there about me, I tend to want to be the one to talk about it.

That’s probably why I share so little of my personal life here or on other forms of social media. I reshare ridiculous things and see most of social media as a place to curate the best things I find on the web. If I’m creating content with my name on it, I tend to be cautious. Probably too much so.

So, that’s where my thoughts are this Easter season. I see this blog as a kind of calling card for my personal writing and my hope is that my personality comes out in the writing even if I’m a bit reserved. The criticism I often hear is that I could show more of myself here and on social media in general.

If I were to do so, it seems like I’d have to come out from behind the curtain. Might even have to take that line down off the front of the blog. Hiding behind the curtain has had its advantages, so don’t expect too much right off. Many things still belong in one’s private sphere.

As with so many things, it’s simply a matter of balance.

My beautiful heathen

 

drinking tea with My Beautiful Heathen

 

Nearly as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been trying to avoid talking too much about twitter. For one thing, it’s incredibly boring if you’re not already there. So many people with whom I interact in my daily life ridicule the medium, and I gave up long ago any hope of changing their minds.

I did have a blog before twitter and like many blogs, it simply died on the vine. I had some decent content there about living abroad and whatnot. Curiosities and my personal take on anything that struck my fancy – the blog was read by very few people and I suppose that’s the nature of many people’s first forays into blogging.

Then there were a few years where I primarily blogged about tea. When people hear that, they often give me an incredulous look and ask if that’s even a thing. Indeed, it is. There’s quite an active community of tea bloggers the world over, and because of the above-mentioned writing, I know a good number of them, albeit virtually.

Tea people didn’t read my tea blog for information on tea. As a matter of fact, my writing very rarely provided any useful information on the subject. I was specifically writing to the non tea drinkers to attempt to lure them over to the leaf. And my unorthodox approach to tea blogging didn’t hurt me in that community either. There were plenty of informative blogs about how long to steep your tea; I was offering something entirely different.

Because of the stereotype of little old ladies drinking their afternoon tea, there was a rather whimsical moment in which a fellow tea blogger struck upon the idea to aggregate the musings primarily of us more masculine tea lovers. Without consulting us, he created a page called the Beasts of Brewdom. It still exists if you insist on going and looking for it. You might even find some of my long lost posts over there.

Oh, look. I found a link: Beasts of Brewdom

Recently, I was asked to contribute something and here I’ve finally gotten round to it. It was a writing challenge, which I didn’t entirely understand, but my challenge came in the form of a tweet. Here it is if you’d like to see the original:

The offending tweet

If you couldn’t bother to click through, it said, ‘…ohh Beasts! I challenge @lahikmajoe to write with ‘My Beautiful Heathen‘.

Well, if you know anything about heathens, you know they shouldn’t consume too much caffeine. My tea cabinet is almost devoid of any herb tea, but this is one of the only exceptions.

Hamburger Schietwetter Tee…for an ugly rainy day. A perfect opportunity to stay indoors with just such a cuppa.

There. Challenge accepted and fulfilled. For those of you who might be confused by this blogpost, I’ll be returning to the regularly scheduled Miscellaneous Blog in the next several days.

Fine words butter no parsnips



Well, I was just kidding when I assured Robert Godden that I’d used ‘Fine words butter no parsnips’ in a long ago blogpost. Purportedly, he’s just spent an hour looking through the archives of my various blogs for the nonexistent time I used that phrase…now I almost feel bad, but not really. 

Maybe he-of-gullible-tendencies Mr. Godden actually happened upon some decent writing for a change. Chuckle chuckle…actually, he knows he’s one of my favourite tea bloggers. Hell, I’ll go out on a limb & say he’s just an all around superior blogger with or without the tea. 

Back to the point:

What on earth does that butter & parsnips nonsense up above even mean? Well, my impatience got the best of me & I simply stumbled over to Wikipedia, where I was told the meaning of ‘Fine words butter no parsnips‘.

Here it is:

Nothing is achieved by empty words or flattery.

Nothing? Really? 

What about that nice thing I said about Old Man Godden several lines back? You don’t think I achieved anything there? If nothing else I might get some tea sent to me. If you knew how good his tea blends are, you wouldn’t scoff. 

So, the jury is still out. Did my flattery of that demented madman of a teablogger and general wackadoo of a human being do me a lick of good in replenishing my barren tea cabinet? 

Watch this space: the suspense is killing me. 

Blogging like a boss and ridiculing other’s ideas up close and personally

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Elaine and the girl dog

 

It’s been quite a week at Lahikmajoe Headquarters, as Elaine of @elaine4queen has been visiting on her way back from Athens, and we’ve been plotting some blog adventures that you shall see come to fruition in the next few months.

We continue to foment a sort of revolution that includes a bit less cake eating and a bit more writing and pontificating.

The nature of the web and our digital tribes is that we can stay in contact and collaborate on projects regardless of geography; however, there is still something to be said for sitting in the same room and being able to ridicule other’s ideas up close and personally.