T.I.L.T. #140 – The World’s Shortest To Do List

For those of you wondering why I failed to T.I.L.T. last week, I officially blame my Slow Watch which has joyfully helped me lose track of time ever since I got it. Unofficially, I was too wrapped in my daily life trying to take care of way too many to dos on my seemingly infinite to do list both at home and at work. Along the way, T.I.L.T. got lost in the shuffle. Sad, I know. I mean, where are my priorities?

That’s why I’ve decided to do away with all the traditional to do lists I am drowning in. I’m going to boil it all down to a Slow List similar the Slow Watch. Rather than overload myself with details of due dates or categories or automated reminders for everything, it will just be a list of the five most important tasks I need to get done. All of the other countless tasks vying for my attention will remain hidden until I can cross off one of the top five. Then I can add one more to make a new top five, and maybe, just maybe, I may make a lot more progress on important things than wasting time on tasks which are neither important or urgent and really should never have ended up on my to do list in the first place.

I got the idea from learning about how Warren Buffet, one of the most successful men in the world, sets and achieves his goals. Try this: Sit down and write the top twenty-five goals in your life. Anything you want. No matter how big, no matter how small. Be selfish. Be selfless. Whatever makes your heart sing. Then figure out which five things are the most important ones to you. Take your time, be really certain about it. Compare one to another. Which one is the number one goal compared to all the others? Which one is number two? See if you can number them all the way to twenty-five. Seriously, it’s a great exercise. Try it and learn something about yourself.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: the top five are the most important ones because these are the only things you should spend your time on. Everything else on the list is your Avoid-At-All-Costs List. The things on that list are obviously important to you, they may make you feel productive and alive, or they’re just really fun. But, if you really want to achieve your top goals, you need to focus on them exclusively. In short, if you stay busy on all of your top twenty-five goals all the time, the odds of you achieving any one of them is very small.

I did the above exercise and found it extremely helpful to remind myself of what I really want out of life. I then sorted my infinite to do list based on my top five goals. If any of the to dos did not fit into my top five goals, it got eliminated. Unless it fell into a sixth category I call Daily Life. Warren Buffet may have the luxury to not have to put things on his list like vacuum the house or clean the windows, but alas, I’m not there yet.

After that, I sorted my lists into the top five tasks for each of my top five goals. I then made a list of the number one tasks for each goal and voila, my to do list has only five items on it now. The most important items I should do to achieve my goals. The rest can wait.

Except the Daily Life list of course — unfortunately dishes don’t wash themselves yet. But if you are going to spend your time doing something other than the most important things, then at least you know it’s something you really need to do anyway rather than something that is maybe really not as important as you might like to think it is.

Best of all you can really enjoy yourself when you’re not working on your to do list, such when you are spending valuable and important downtime relaxing with family or friends or enjoying some leisure activity. You can let go of worrying about all the things you ‘should’ be doing because you know that when you are working on your to dos, they’re actually important, they will bring you closer to your real goals, and hey, it’s a really short list. I mean, how hard can it be to get one out of five things done after you finish washing the dishes?

At least that’s my theory I am now trying to put into practice. The funny thing is that none of my top goals are connected to my day job. That ought to tell me something, eh? Still, paying the bills is part of Daily Life, so hi ho hi ho it’s off to work I go, but I am going to try and apply the same approach to my job. If I only have a list of five things to do at work each day, I think I’d find it much less stressful, and maybe just maybe, I wouldn’t fail to deliver T.I.L.T. on time again in the future since publishing is one of my top goals.

Until next week, T.I.L.T. fans, I hope you all can figure out what to do without me. I’m off to spend some time now with wifey who is, of course, above and beyond all to do lists. I mean there are goals and to dos and Daily Life, but nothing quite as important as my Daily Wife!

T.I.L.T. #139 — Slow Down For A Good Time

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST – JUST PUSH PLAY!

Something interesting has been happening recently in my life. I’ve been relearning how to live at a slower pace. You see, the last few years my brain has felt more and more cluttered, fractured, and pulled in 1001 directions at once. In short, in this infinite information age, I have come to suffer from information overload.

I could blame technology. The rise of computers and then the internet and now handheld devices of all kinds connected to the all-knowing cloud have made a mobile feast we can all gorge ourselves on all day, all night, all the time. If we so choose. And that’s where my own culpability comes into play. I buy the gadgets, I turn them on, I tune into the various screens that are all around me in my professional, public, and personal life. I take a walk in a beautiful place with my gorgeous wife and I’m somehow more interested in making sure I take a good ‘selfie’ of us to document and share with the world that, hey, we were there, than just stopping, slowing down, and enjoying being there with the most important person in the world to me.

I wasn’t always this way. I remember visiting the Grand Canyon about twenty-five years ago. I didn’t have any gadgets then. Not even a camera. It was just me and my eyes and my brain. And you know what? I remember it really well. I have to because it’s the only record I have of that experience. As I was standing there, admiring one of the most amazing views I have ever seen, a group of Japanese tourists showed up, chattering away, and taking countless photos. One guy had a big VHS cassette video camera — ultra high-tech at the time. He had his one eye closed and his other glued to the viewfinder. He walked up to the edge of the canyon and exclaimed, “OH! AH! OH!” and panned his camera left and right, and zoomed this way and that, and then turned and walked away.

He never took his eye away from the camera. He never stopped and opened both eyes and simply admired the view. He never actually saw the Grand Canyon. And even though he may have captured an impression of it for posterity, he has no memory of it like I do.

I thought it was pathetic to be honest. I judged him a fool for not paying attention to what was around him. Ha, ha, ha. Judge not lest ye be judged, right? Fast forward twenty-five years and voila, here I am glued to gadgets and failing to pay proper attention to all sorts of things.

Professionally I take my laptop to meetings because it is more ‘efficient’ to put tasks or notes directly into the IT systems I use to manage my numerous work projects rather than take notes on paper and then have to transfer them manually later—

Wait. Sorry. I just got interrupted. My phone is vibrating in my pocket. Someone wants my attention. Let’s see who it is. Would you believe my wife is texting me from the bedroom? Seems I missed a couple of calls from her too. No, I’m not making this up. This actually just happened. Be right back – I’d better go see what she wants.

Hello, I’m back and it’s five minutes later. Wifey is enjoying sleeping in today and wanted some cuddles and affection. Which is perhaps one of the best reasons to use technology to get my attention, but when I asked her why she didn’t just use her voice to call me since I’m just twenty feet away in the living room and certainly would have heard her, she blinked for a moment as if the idea had never even crossed her mind. Her first instinct was to use the phone.

And I guess that’s very fitting for today’s T.I.L.T. since my point is that we have let gadgets creep into our lives and take over. As I was saying before, in meetings I take my laptop in the name of efficiency but in the end I’m distracted by my endless task lists and calendars and the inbox telling me I’ve got mail. I end up not really listening and missing out not only on information, but the pleasure of human interaction.

In public I always have my smarter-than-me phone in my pocket which I cannot help but want to take out and play with every few minutes. It doesn’t matter if I’m on public transport or in a restaurant or out in a park. For some reason I constantly feel the urge to check 1001 important things like Facebook, the Weather Channel, or Google News. Or better yet, I take any chance I can to ‘look something up’ on Wikipedia since God forbid we might actually have enough information in our heads already to have a stimulating conversation with one another without having to read verbatim from websites to each other.

In short, we spend more time with our gadgets then engaging with our surroundings and our fellow-man.

I was in a café by myself recently and was on my phone perusing Amazon. I stopped to sip my coffee and glanced around. The place was full. And everyone was staring down at their smart phones. Even people who were not there by themselves. Some were having conversations but were looking at their phones rather than at each other. It was kind of terrifying. If a naked gunman wearing nothing but a machine gun and a ski mask had walked in, no one would have noticed. If they had, I bet their first instinct would have been to start filming in hopes their deaths would go viral on YouTube.

In private, well, we’re texting each other from within the same apartment. Sometimes even in the same room since it’s somehow more amusing than just talking to each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and access to information and learning about all kinds of things in the world any time I want, but somewhere along the way it feels like we took a wrong turn down a very slippery slope. The constant feeding frenzy of info at our fingertips seems to have made us forget to slow down and just enjoy the real world around us.

To help with this, wifey and I have decided to slow down a bit by changing some of the technology around us. For her birthday I bought her a record player which plays real albums. Not only is the sound quality better with a broader range tones, but the act of having to remove an album from its cover, place it on the player, clean it, then push an analog button with a nice click which engages the turntable to spin and the arm to slowly raise and place the needle into the groove of the first track, is really an enjoyable and satisfying experience. And then in about five songs or so, you have to get up, flip it and start the process over. The act of listening to music has become active and alive again rather than the passivity of endless playlists on all our digital gadgets.

The other thing that really captures the idea of trying to slow down is a new wrist watch my wife gave me as a surprise gift. It’s called a Slow Watch. It only has one hand and a 24-hour clock face. See the photo above. It essentially does away with seconds and minutes and only offers fifteen-minute increments as the smallest denominator. Your view of time becomes more about the day as a whole and encourages you to take your time and slow down and engage more with the world around you.

A few months ago I was all curious and eager about the Apple Watch since it’s supposed to revolutionize what we think a watch can be, but I can tell you now that I have no intention of getting one anymore and really like the opposite revolution suggested by the Slow Watch. Yes, I’m going to slow down and enjoy doing things in more old-fashioned ways when the pace of life was based more on human speeds than internet speeds.

Hmmm, maybe I should replace my laptop with a typewriter. But then how would I get my T.I.L.T. out into the internet information flood?

Hey, wait a second . . .

Hmmm.

T.I.L.T. #138 – And the Winner Is . . .

T.I.L.T. #138 — And the Winner Is . . .

Hello, sports fans from around the world. This week I’m happy to report that Mr. and Mrs. Tortoise successfully completed their first 5K running race last weekend. Both of us managed to run the whole time without stopping or walking, so in that sense we were both winners.

On the other hand we were both in last place in our respective categories, but we really didn’t care since we’re not pros looking for sponsors.

A fun addition to the race was that we were joined by an old friend of Mrs. Tortoise, a very athletic and competitive person, who we will call Miss Hare. We trained for ten weeks and were happy to just to finish in whatever place we might be. Miss Hare did not train at all, but bolted to second place in her category since she simply cannot bear to lose. She originally planned to hang back with us, but once the race got going, and people started passing her, there was just no holding her back.

And that was the most interesting part of the experience: the transformation of the generally solo act of running, into the communal act of racing. Not focusing on how I am running per se, but how I am running compared to other people.

The beginning of the race was in a way the most challenging. About 150 people poised in a mob wearing all sorts of brightly colored, high-tech fabric outfits, and fancy watches and quantifying gadgets of all kinds, eagerly awaiting the shot from the starting pistol. Ok, there wasn’t a gun, but rather a strange-looking, large wooden clapper contraption that seemed more like something you’d use for a radio theater sound effect. But it had the desired effect — bang! And they’re off!

At first the race is actually slow for the majority of the mass of runners because only the runners in front can actually start running right away. Those of us in the back of the pack, where we cleverly placed ourselves to reduce the risk of getting run over, started by walking, then slowly jogging, and then bit by bit as the crowd starts to spread out you begin running at your own pace, trying not to step on the person in front of you who might be a step slower while not getting stepped on from behind at the same time. You also start to maneuver left and right, trying to find your lane at your speed, passing some, being passed by others.

I felt sort like a lemming or a cow must feel, running along pulled by the herd mentality, dumbly ready to go over the cliff in a rush if one would happen to appear. Luckily we’re in north Germany where the land is relatively flat and there are no cliffs.

The first kilometer or so was about sorting out the crowd and finding your rhythm and pace, then the adrenalin kicked in via some ancient fight or flight mentality from running with the others, and I ran faster then I actually wanted to. I passed a few people feeling excited, but within the next kilometer they passed me again, leaving me in the dust, so I relaxed and told myself to just focus on steadily running my own race: to just be the tortoise I am. The goal was to finish and run the whole race, not win.

This was particularly challenging since despite our best efforts and preparations, we brilliantly drank too much the night before the race. This was a stupid thing to do of course, but it was Mrs. Tortoise’s birthday, and well, what’s another bottle or two or three of celebratory champagne the night before the big race?

Ha, ha, ha. It was like running in a desert without water. The dehydration kicked in as soon as we started running. We’d done our best early in the morning to compensate by loading up on a big breakfast of calorific Eggs Benedict and lots of water and juice, but race day had perfect sunny weather beating down on us and, well, champagne quickly felt like damn pain, so let’s hope we learned a lesson!

As I loped along, trying to ignore my parched throat and pounding head and feet, and seeing where I fit compared to the other runners, I discovered a natural comparative or perhaps judgmental nature creep into my thinking. I was in a pack of a random collection of people from different categories, specifically, runners from different age and gender classifications. Old ladies, old men, some kids, a couple of middle-aged slow pokes like me. I kept looking at them and thinking, “Certainly I can run faster than that little old lady with the limp?” Or, “That little kid can’t beat me.”

Again, ha, ha, ha. As the race wore on, the pack thinned and thinned and the little old lady with a limp and the little kid left me far behind.

Then there were some super runners who seemed from another planet. There I was, huffing and puffing along, trying to gain a step on the grandma in my sights, when a pack of top runners came galloping by. They too had a spread of age groups, the only commonality being their unbelievable fitness and speed — whoosh, and they were gone in no time!

That’s when I realized to call the motion I was doing ‘running’ was rather a stretch of the word. I was jogging at best. Those people were running, knees high, legs pumping fast – it was a sight to behold. Clearly they’d been doing this for years, but it was fun to be out there with them, thinking that maybe, just maybe if I keep it up, I too might some day be able to run like that. I’m happy to say that the man who won the 5K was also from the same middle-aged category as myself, so maybe there is hope for me yet.

Of course he ran the race in just over 16 minutes where I took 31 minutes — double the his time — so I doubt I’ll ever get to that level, but, hey, you never know. Maybe if I just hadn’t been hungover, I could have kept up with him!

Yeah, right.

The biggest lesson of the race came at the end. I was tired, pushing myself to try and sprint the last hundred meters. I’d made it, yes, success in my sights, and in my excitement I decided to make a dramatic finish and stomped and leaned forward and my last step across the finish line as if it were a record-setting photo finish.

Ha, ha, ha. All I managed to do was over-extend my knee joint and pull a muscle — on the last step of the race! Genius. Mrs. Tortoise who was only a bit behind me sailed in gracefully, making no such silly mistake. Well, I’m recovering well enough, so it should heal by the next race.

Yes, in the euphoria of our post-hungover-birthday-race success we immediately signed up for the next 5K race in a few weeks. I guess we really are runners now.

T.I.L.T #137 – WANNA RACE

T.I.L.T. #137 — Wanna Race?

Tomorrow is race day, ladies and gentleman. Time for the 30th Vegesacker City Lauf through the heart of the pedestrian zone and along the riverfront where I live. For those of you who don’t speak German, Lauf does not mean a loaf of bread or to be lazy around the house — it means a race, a running race to be exact. And for the first time in my life, tomorrow I’ll be joining the crowd not on the sidelines but actually competing in the race itself as a runner in the 5K category.

Ok, competing is perhaps a stretch since my goal is simply to finish without keeling over. Of course if I do, luckily it’s only around the corner from my house so I should at least be able to crawl home. No, I’m basically competing with myself which really is the whole point of running. Then again, sporty wifey has also entered the race with me and there is a bit of natural competition between us of who will beat who.

We’re very excited because nether of us have ever done such a thing. It’ll be kind of a race between Mr. and Mrs. Tortoise. As I wrote in my Fitbit My Butt post several weeks ago, we got the idea to try and get in shape by running and using an app called from Couch to 5K. For the last nine weeks a virtual trainer called Sergeant Block has been motivating us along and telling us when to run and walk and ‘keep moving’!

As silly as it sounds, it worked amazingly well. Wifey finished the program yesterday. Having never been a runner in her life she was scared at first for the idea of even running more than a minute or two consecutively. Now she can run for thirty minutes at a stretch and keeps getting faster. Maybe she’s also motivated now that she’s discovered a whole new world of running fashion and accessories to be coveted — another reason to go shopping and now she can zip around the mall faster thane ever and never get tired. Hmmm. This may have been a huge mistake.

Anyway, I have one more session to go which I will actually do at the race itself — this last week was hard for me since I lost a week of training due to flu. I was actually not sure if I’d be able to recover in time to do the race which was a sad thought since the goal of running in the race has kept me focused and made me get out there and run come rain or shine, week in, week out. Besides, I want Sergeant Block to be proud of me. Hoo-yeah!

The thing that interests me now is to experience what it is like to run with lots of other runners at the same time. What is essentially a solo activity where I enjoy meditating and relaxing my mind as the scenery floats by, will suddenly be a herd of fellow runners trying to see who is the fastest in the pack. Will I run faster, carried along by the wave of communal energy channeling its way through the tight course, like a river runs faster through a mountain pass than in the wide curving bends of the flatlands? Or will I be stressed, thinking too much about running, pushing myself too hard to run at the right pace for me because some instinct in me does not want to be the slowest.

I have a particular fear of this ever since way back in high school, when I was the definitive fat kid, I was the slowest and always last. The cool, cruel kids nicknamed me ‘Slow-Mo’ because even the fattest girl in the class could outrun me. Maybe that sounds sexist, but it was humiliating for a newly pubescent teenage dude. I actually still have some flashback nightmares once in  while, where I’m trying to run and for some reason I’m stuck in slow motion, forever unable to move fast despite all my efforts, horrified at my own pathetic physical prowess. Maybe next time I have this nightmare, Sergeant Block will shout at me, “Come on, Private Slow-Mo, is yo ass made of molasses!”

Why my sub-conscious still broods about this is beyond me. I’ve come a long way since then, ever relearning in my own way the victories that only slowness, patience, and endurance can bring. As much as I might admire the athleticism of the hares of the world, flying by in their speedy pursuit of carrots of all kinds, I really do prefer to think that step by slow step my journey will take me where I want to go at a pace that will make it all the more satisfying. Maybe every tortoise has some sort of hare-envy complex, but likely the reverse is true is well. I mean, who wants to be fast all the time? OK, maybe Sergeant Block, but hey, he’s not exactly human!

So wish us luck tomorrow, sports fans around the world, as we put our old fears aside and stride by stride, strive do real a goal we’ve never reached before: the finish line of a running race. I would say, may the best tortoise win, but as far as I can tell wifey and I are both winners just for getting out there and trying.

Then again, the day of the big race just happens to be sporty wifey’s birthday. So maybe, just maybe I should let her win. I wonder what Sergeant Block would do. He’d probably just sing, something like . . .

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy hirthday Sporty Wifey, happy birthday to you!

Keep moving!

Hoo-yeah!

T.I.L.T. #136 – Flashback: One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve got a terrible cold, and a fever the last couple of day days, so no new T.I.L.T. this week. I’m really sorry. But I wish you a happy orthodox Easter, and to make up for it I’m giving you one of my best-of-T.I.L.T.s, a T.I.L.T. flashback from 2007. Hope you enjoy it – One Size Does Not Fit All.

. . .  my patently popular paternal-half and I decided to have some father and son bonding time by having a boys’ day out: we went white-water river rafting. The river was the Rio Grande where not only the rapids are big, but so are the customers . . .

There we were, all loaded up in a van with three French ladies and a nice young local couple obviously in love, thinking we were all ready to go on our rapid adventure with Los Rios River Runners, when up waddled one of the most obese men you never wanted to see in a pair of swim trunks . . .

He huffed and he puffed and he climbed his way in . . . The shocks squeaked and the springs sprang, and the young couple squeezed themselves together to make room for the man now taking up more than his fair share of the van.

I thought to myself, “This man is going to perch on the edge of a raft?” My mind tried to get around the sheer physics of the prospect . . . I mean, if you were to take, say, a Frisbee, turn it over, put a few eggs in it, and float it on some water, what do you think is going to happen when you add a bowling ball?

And then I thought, “God, I hope he’s not in my raft . . .”

When will I ever learn to stop thinking such things?

Well, after we got up river and unloaded the van and extracted the squashed young couple, I noticed that our guides were preparing two large rafts and a smaller one-man craft called a ‘Fun-Yak’. A Fun-Yak is like a kayak, except it’s more fun. Maybe this is because unlike a kayak it’s inflatable and much less likely to capsize . . . if you’re not a bowling ball of course.

I was very relieved to see the super-sized man, who, for legal reasons, I will simply refer to as “Moby”, hovering over the Fun-Yak salivating with anticipation . . . Yes! Not in my raft after all! Whew!

I could only imagine what that poor Fun-Yak was thinking . . . “I hate sumo wrestling!”

Before we could proceed on our merry way down the river, we received the safety lecture from our funner-than-fun-yak guide, Super Sophia a.k.a. Grand Master of the Rio Grande.

The safety lecture basically consists of three rules:

  1. Stay in the raft.
  2. Stay in the raft.
  3. Stay in the raft.

Complicated, isn’t it?

Maybe airlines ought to adopt this style of safety lecture:

“In case of emergency, get out of the plane, get OUT of the PLANE, GET OUT OF THE PLANE!!!”

Hey, that would get my attention.

Anyway. After the all-important safety lecture, we put on our all-important life vests. And, well, apparently one size does not fit all . . .

Poor Moby, he tried on this one and that one and, well, they were all the same size: way too small.

Super Sophia, not batting an eye and with a constant smile, went over to him like a mother hen to a lost chick, loosened all the straps as far as they would go and managed to get him buckled into his life-saving device. Unfortunately, this life-saving device almost killed Moby as he scrunched down onto his whimpering Fun-Yak. See, when Moby sat down, his already bigger-than-Buddha belly bulged out even more, pushing his life vest upwards into his throat and up to his eyes, essentially strangling him. He flailed about trying to undo the vest at the neck but his arms were also pushed up and stuck out like a stuffed bear, so he could barely reach his neck – gasp!

Super Sophia back to the rescue: she pulled down the vest, adjusted it again so he could breathe, and we set off . . .

The French ladies were in the raft with the other guide named “Stay-In-The-Raft-Or-You’re-Dead” Ed, whilst the young couple, my father and I were happily rafting with Super Sophia. The reason we were rafting so happily is because Super Sophia kept singing a catchy tune which goes like this: “We are happy with rafting, happy with rafting, happy with rafting . . .”

I have the sneaking suspicion it was written by the same person who wrote the safety lecture . . . hmmm.

Meanwhile, back in Melville-land, Moby was anything but happy with Fun-Yaking . . . He was being strangled again, and couldn’t see, and what was worse, he couldn’t keep his legs in the raft, because quote, “the bottom of the boat keeps pushing my ass out!”

The fact that his ass was probably pushing out the bottom of the boat never seemed to cross his mind. According to Moby, the equipment was “poorly designed”.

Right . . .

Well, at the first set of somewhat challenging rapids, the Fun-Yak finally had some fun of its own and yacked up Moby to the Rio Grande – I swear the river seemed to rise . . .

Anyway, Super Sophia to the rescue again!

She was the epitome of patience and never lost her sense of good-will helping Moby to try and have a good time. But she was also a Pro and told him that she couldn’t let him go down the rest of the river in the Fun-Yak because it would simply be too dangerous. And so before I could say Holy Rio Grande, Fatman, the young couple were switched over to join the French ladies and, yup, my father and I got Moby . . .

And this was after lunch where Moby had added two giant sandwiches into his giant load . . .

Yeah, the horror, the horror . . . !

You know, I don’t want to come off sounding like I have something against people who are – how can I put this politely? – gravitationally challenged? I was super-sized myself for most of my youth. I actually had a lot of empathy for poor Moby when he couldn’t get his life vest to close because I’ve had my own embarrassing clothing disasters. I’ve blown the ass out of more than one pair of pants, thank you very much.

But what really got me about Moby was that he blamed his difficulties on everything but himself. And what was really surprising was that he claimed to have been Fun-Yaking and rafting all over the States and knew everything about every river. Which made absolutely no sense because he couldn’t even figure out how to get into the raft when he joined our crew. It’s not complicated. You sit on the side, you lift your leg over and . . . oh right, that’s where it got complicated for Moby: lifting his leg. He tried this and promptly fell over into the raft spread-eagle, flailing like an upside-down tortoise.

This time it took more than just Super Sophia to save him and we helped get him into a somewhat upright position so we could set off again . . .

Suddenly our carefree adventure seemed earnest as I was sure my bowling ball theory would soon send us to certain doom. We rode the rocky rapids, my father and I paddling our little hearts out, Moby clinging to the raft for dear life, all the while passing other rafts stranded on rocks and upturned Fun-Yaks left and right. And amazingly, Super Sophia proved that with superior skill, yes, you can float a bowling ball on a Frisbee and not lose any eggs – miraculous!

At the end of the trip there was a slow, lazy part of the river where we could get out of the raft and swim alongside. I did this and was dreamily floating along like a baby until the tsunami . . .

Yes, suddenly there was Moby floating alongside me, his belly riding higher above the water than his life vest. And the whole thing seemed really ironic to me. Does a man of Moby’s stature actually need a life vest? Seems to me like he had one built in? Hmmm.

Anyway, thanks to Super Sophia, we successfully survived the day. We were definitely “happy with rafting” because we had managed to “stay in the boat”. Moby even said he had learned a “thing or two”. He didn’t elaborate what that was but I can only hope it had something to do with physics . . .

T.I.L.T. #135 — Good Gay Freedom Friday!

I’m sitting at home today enjoying my religious freedom. Specifically, it’s Good Friday and a public holiday so I’m free to do anything I like. Except of course to go to work. Or be loud. Or socialize. Or wear bright colors. Or listen to music. Or engage in marital relations. The list goes on and on of what I shouldn’t do on Good Friday which makes me wonder just what all the recent talk about religious freedom in places like Arkansas and Indiana is really all about!

I’m not a Christian though, so I guess I’m free to do anything I want today. Except perhaps to turn gay, get married, and take a honeymoon trip to Indiana to get some pizza to celebrate because that might upset someone else’s version of freedom to not like my version of freedom.

Boy, this is complex. I wonder what Jesus would do in a situation like that?

Imagine it, Jesus is sitting there in a little pizzeria in Indiana, enjoying a delicious slice of bacon-lovers pizza, sipping a glass of ice-water-he-turned-to-wine-cooler. He doesn’t really care for the restaurant per se, the air-conditioning makes him freeze in his tunic and sandals, and a big gold cross on the wall kind of freaks him out. But the owner seems like she’s a nice enough Christian, and there’s something about their bacon he just can’t resist, so he pops in once in a while to carbo-load before going on one of his long walks in the desert to talk to his Old Man.

The door swings open and two nice-looking ladies walk in smiling, holding hands, cooing at each other. The owner of the place is also a nice-looking lady, but she looks at them cautiously as she asks them how she can help them. They tell her they’re getting married this year since Indiana made same-sex marriage legal last year, and they always dreamed of having a bacon-pizza-bonanza-themed wedding party. They heard that this place was the best in town so they wanted to check it out.

The owner’s face turns ash-white and she looks away from them as crosses herself. She starts slipping ‘Reserved’ signs onto the tables as she tells them politely that she can’t help them. The smiles on the couple’s faces fade into weary and disappointed frowns as they ask why. The owner stops, looks them in the eye and says it’s because of her religion. An awkward silence falls for a moment until the only man eating in the place clears his throat. They all look over at him, a kind of hippy-looking guy wearing some sort of dress.  He looks at them, emanating some sort of mysterious, serene charisma, and says . . . ?

Fill in the blank. What do you think Jesus would say?
Would he tell the gay couple they were going to burn in hellfire for breaking some of the rules of the old testament? Then again, the temple priests said Jesus broke some old rules too when he did his healing jobs on the Sabbath and fell in love with bacon. Or would Jesus tell the owner she should love her neighbor and do to others as she wants them to do to her as is taught in the Gospels?

I’ve actually read the whole Bible from cover to cover. Given the impression I had from others and the media influences before I read it, I thought it would be full of anti-gay sentiment. In fact, it’s hardly mentioned at all. There are only a few references in the old testament (seven to be exact) saying homosexuality is a sin, but it’s never mentioned in the new testament. Compared to all the hundreds of references about the sins of money, and much worse more and much more frequently the  evils of being a woman, I really wonder what all the fuss is about if someone is gay or not. It’s mentioned even less than the sins of eating bacon. Hmmm.

I guess the real question is not what would Jesus say, but what would you say? It basically boils down to whether you think a person can discriminate against another person in a public place based on their private beliefs. Maybe I hate ladies who wear loud shoes since I find them incredibly annoying when they’re walking behind me on a street, but does that mean I won’t help them when they come to me as a customer in a place where I work?

I remember many cafes when I was growing up that had signs stating, ‘no shoes, no shirt, no service’. Was that legal? If so, can I just make any sign I want to, say like ‘no high heels, no headscarves, no help’?

It’s Good Friday today and millions of Christians around the world are taking a day of rest to respect Jesus’s sacrifice for man’s sins. I respect that. There are also millions of homosexuals around the world who are also respecting and observing Good Friday. There are also millions of non-christian and anti-baconites of all kinds practicing their own beliefs on Fridays. Why should one group have any more freedom than the other group to do as they like as long as they don’t harm the other group?

That’s the golden rule found in all walks of life and all religions as far as I know. In addition to the Bible, I’ve read the Qur’an, the Tao, the I-Ching, and I’m now working my way through the Book of Mormon. The main message is always the same: love one another and love life.

Ok, enough preaching from me on this Good Friday. I’m going to spend my day off doing some spring cleaning. My talented wife is going to the theater to audition to be in a play. Does that makes us sinners on Good Friday? Not in my book, and I hope you respect that.

I wish you all a happy Friday wherever you are believing and doing whatever makes you happy.

T.I.L.T. #134 — The René Wells Show!

LISTEN TO T.I.L.T. THE PODCAST – JUST CLICK PLAY!

Are you the hero of your own comic book? Or are you the sidekick? You know, are you more like Batman? Or more like Robin? More like Sherlock? Or Watson? Han Solo? Or Chewbacca?

The reason I’m asking is because recently my loving wife made the comment that she feels like our lives together are ‘always The René Wells Show’. Now as exciting as that sounds, and I wish my fictional agent would hurry up and get me that gig, what she was saying is that I am dominating. At first I was a bit hurt, and then defensive, since I feel like I very often don’t put myself first at all, more concerned about her happiness than my own. But then I got to thinking deeper, and stopped focusing on my feelings because, hey, that would be The René Wells Show, right?

I tried to understand why she would say such a thing, or feel such thing — is it really always The René Wells Show? Am I Tarzan and she’s just Jane? Superman vs. little Lois Lane? Hmmm.

At the same time as this has been happening on the home front, I’ve been observing a similar phenomenon at work, which is like a never-ending episode of Who’s The Boss. I don’t mean the 80’s TV show, but literally the ever-shifting roles played out on the stage of the work world. See, over the last two years I’ve gone from supervising some student assistants to managing a team of over twenty-five staff members. Add up all their student assistants and other helpers and volunteers, and there are hundreds of people who see me as ‘the boss’.

I have to somehow keep them all on track: I instruct, I decide, I lead, trying to balance out all their various strengths and weaknesses while hopefully keeping them motivated and happy employees as well. This is no small task which I relearn everyday because at the same time I’m playing this role, I’m also just another staff member reporting to bosses above me in the company food chain. Depending on which meeting I’m in, I’m in charge or I’m being charged so to speak.

In short, one moment I am the center of attention, the star of The René Wells Show, the next second, I’m the third spear carrier on the left, a role I literally played twenty years ago in Julius Caesar which is probably one of the greatest dramatic and historic example of Who’s The Boss. I must say, that spear-carrying experience has helped me to this day of knowing when to keep my mouth shut and pretend like I am listening and ready for action. And how to get out of the way when the daggers get drawn!

Anyway, what’s interesting is not who’s really in charge, it’s how people behave, the mannerisms they assume, the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in tone and voice that mark the role of boss vs. underling. The way authority manifests itself in style and tone is endlessly fascinating. I like to think I’m a good boss, fair and compassionate for my fellow employees, but I know that there are times more and more where I am just too tired and my patience is too gone, and I have to pull out the big gun of attitude and use the ’because I said so’ ammo.

Ironically, I find more and more that this is actually what staff wants – decisiveness and clarity. I know I appreciate it when my bosses give me that, so why does it surprise me when I have to do it? People want to know where they stand and what to do. Which may be all well and fine at work, but do I then somehow bring this energy home? Do I come home and play Lord of the Manor? Or rather King of the One-Bedroom Castle?

Truth is that in recent years I have become more decisive about what I want personally and professionally. I think for most of my adult life I was often too ambivalent about what I wanted. In the interest of avoiding conflict and trying to please others, I often metaphorically ate vanilla when I really wanted chocolate. That led to years of built up resentment and frustration of my own creation until I realized one day that if I want chocolate, then I should just say so since there is no reason not to be clear about what you want out of life. If you don’t ask, you will never receive, right? Okay, maybe once in a while the sun will shine when you want it to without saying anything, or someone will give you chocolate out of the blue, but in general, you have to make the most of whatever weather there may be and go out and get your own damn chocolate.

So now, maybe at home, even though I like to think I’m caring and loving and considerate and all that good husband stuff, perhaps I’m more decisive in all sorts of ways and manners that I don’t even realize that maybe it is somehow ‘always The René Wells Show’.

I wonder if this is how my mother might feel about my father. Is she playing second-fiddle in The Ronny Wells Show? He is a very charismatic and persuasive character, having led many endeavors both at work and at play. But then again, how did he feel when he was around his own father? Was he just one of many of children in The Raymond Wells Show? Or was his mother really in charge and it was The Hazel Wells Show? Or is my mother actually really the star of The Rena Wells Show by being so clever to let my father think it is The Ronny Wells Show? Hmmm.

I guess we’re all stars and bit players in one way or another, and depending on the day and the age and the stage we find ourselves in, we boss or we are bossed. Maybe before I know it, the roles will reverse at home and I will be lucky to have a cameo in The Diana Wells Show!

Hmmm. Maybe I should never have written this T.I.L.T. . . . Guess I’d better get back to The René Wells Show before it gets cancelled!

T.I.L.T. #133 — Opera Writer Man!

LISTEN TO T.I.L.T. THE PODCAST – JUST HIT THE PLAY BUTTON!

The other day I was at work and I had some opera music playing in the background. I like to listen to music when I am working because it calms and relaxes me as I deal with my day job’s stresses. I tend to listen to instrumental jazz or symphonic classical music. In short, things without words, because that way I can concentrate on the words involved with my work.

One of the major components of my day job is communication. Would you believe that on average the last couple of years I sent 12,000 emails annually? Sent, not received, sent. That means I write that many mails. And I don’t mean I write one mail and send it 12,000 times. I mean 12,000 individual mails. Broken down over the average number of working days per year it’s about 60 a day.

Damn, I wonder what the word count total might be? Add T.I.L.T. and my novel project to the list, and let’s not forget personal emails and texts and postings, and well, I write a lot of words, words, words all day and all night so when I’m writing in some form, I like to listen to music with no words at all.

Or, to be specific, at least not words I can understand. See, I also like to listen to French rap or Cubano café music, both which have lots of words, but since I don’t speak the languages, most of the time I have no idea what they are saying. Which is a real shame, since I grew up in Spanish-speaking Texas and studied French for five years. You’d think clever me would be fluent, but nope, they’re just nice and familiar and I like the way they sound, hence the words don’t seem to count and distract me when I am focusing on other words.

That’s the essence of my music preferences: when doing something without words, like driving or cooking or running, I love rock and pop and all sorts of poetry disguised as music — I do love words after all. But when I’m reading or writing or editing any sort of document, I don’t want any more words in my head. There’s only so much data processing my old head can handle!

Maybe someday technology will catch up and Apple will invent the iBrain, connected to the iCloud,so I can iRelax and let T.I.L.T. write itself, but until then I’ll need to make do with what I got even though iTired!

Anyway, recently one weekend while enjoying cooking a mega casserole with wonder wifey, a live broadcast came on the radio of the New York Metropolitan Opera. Being a big fan of New York City, it was somehow exciting to know it was happening live. To hear the people clap and the announcers explain the story scene by scene, and to imagine being there, in New York, at the Met, and dreaming of maybe getting to go and see it live someday, all while having fun cooking with wifey, it was a really cool experience. And somehow since then, I’ve been hooked on opera.

I went to the Met website where there is a treasure trove of ultra-quality recordings to watch and listen to if you want to pay for it. But there are also tons of free stuff of pretty great quality on YouTube or countless internet radio stations, so I’ve not been lacking for sources to listen to opera.

Anyway, so there I was at work, writing away, and listening to opera because if you can understand what they’re saying you are either a genius or Italian or an Italian genius and I don’t know where one word ends and the next one begins and don’t care — I just know the human sounds and pure emotions they produce are literally breath-taking because, well, you gotta be able to breathe if you can sing like that!

I was enjoying myself and humming along when one of my colleagues came in and check with me about some thrilling work issue. They started talking and then stopped mid-sentence, eyebrows raised in surprise, and said, “Opera? You listen to opera? I’d never have  guessed you to be an opera guy.”

I explained how I like all kinds of music with no words, and so on, but while I was talking my mind was asking myself what that meant: ‘never have  guessed you to be an opera guy’.

Just what did that imply? What do you think of someone who listens to opera? What do you think of opera in the first place? Do you think of snobby, rich people? Or educated, cultured aficionados? Just what was my colleague trying to say? That I wasn’t snobby or rich? Well, that’s true. Or at least I hope it’s not true. I mean the snobby part — I’d love to be rich so I can go to the Met of course and show off my wifey wearing the last fashions of Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s. Wait a sec . . .  Hmm.

Anyway! Or was my colleague somehow surprised that I might like educated, cultured things, or perhaps that I might indeed be educated and cultured? What kind of music would not surprise my colleague’s notions of what a guy like me might listen too? Death metal perhaps? I do like to wear black.

It reminded me of a funny story about a guy I went to theater school with. He was also studying music, specifically opera, and so had to practice singing very loudly. He found one of the best places to do this was in his car while he was driving, because who could he disturb? He had a convertible and drove with the top down blasting opera at insane volumes and sang along. One time he pulled up at a red light next to an old man who had his windows rolled down. The first moment he stopped, the old man turned and scowled at him with disgust at listening to music so loud like he was some sort gangster or neighborhood menace. But after about five seconds the old man’s face melted into a smile as he recognized it was opera music my friend was singing and blaring at decadent decibels. The old man clapped and shouted, ‘Bravo!’, as my friend drove off to wherever the fat ladies sing.

In short, at first the old man also would not have thought a guy in a convertible blasting music would be an opera guy. It just goes to show you, you never know who likes what and why. Nor should you try to guess.

It really shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who really knows me. I worked on a couple of operas back in my theatrical career. When I was a kid, I was actually in an opera at the Houston Grand Opera. I was just an extra playing a servant who had to walk on carrying a big tray of glass jars, praying I wouldn’t trip and fall and crash into the fat lady singing like she had a cat in her throat. At least that’s what it sounded to me like back then, but, well, taste do change as we grow up, don’t they?

So, yes, call me Opera Writer Man. Hmmm. Maybe I should write T.I.L.T. the Opera! Starring me and wifey! No, wait, that wouldn’t work, I would need a fat lady. Hmmm.

T.I.L.T. #132 – ARE YOU TRENDING?

One of the most challenging and fun things to do when writing a weekly blog-podcast is to figure out what you’re going to write about. People often ask me how I come up with my ideas. The truth is quite simple, it’s whatever is trending in my mind that week. I’m not quite sure when the word ‘trend’ started being used more as a verb than a noun, but I have a feeling it developed rapidly the last decade as surfing had less to do with water sports, just like texting, tweeting, and blogging eclipsed the age-old communication form known as writing.

The amount of information we consume has dramatically increased in recent years due to the unstoppable rise of the internet and smart gadgets of all kinds connecting us more and more to a world beyond our immediate surroundings. We’ve come a long way from smoke signals, pigeon carriers, the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, and the television. Now we live with streams and clouds which have nothing to do with water, and are made of all kinds of bits of big data, which we somehow try to make sense of when we try to find things to talk about.

So when I sit down and try to filter this flood of information into a weekly column I do two things: I ask myself what is the main thing in my mind this week and what is the main thing maybe in other people’s minds this week. In short what is topical to me and what might be topical to others. The first part is pretty simple where I have a conversation with myself something like this:

So, Mr. Writer-Man, what’s on your mind this week.

SHH, I’M SLEEPING.

But it’s time to write T.I.L.T.!

ALREADY? HAS ANOTHER WEEK GONE BY?

Yes, and you’re one week closer to death.

THANKS, NOW I’M AWAKE.

Good, you know the secret to writing is ‘butt in seat’ so get with it.

BUT BUTT IN BED IS SO MUCH NICER.

But what about your fans? You can’t let them down — it’s Friday.

I HAVE FANS?

According to website stats, yes.

HMMM. I THINK 95% OF MY TRAFFIC IS WIFEY WHO’S STILL SLEEPING HAPPILY IN BED.

Come on, get with it!

ALL RIGHT ALREADY, I’LL WRITE ALREADY.

So, what’s on your mind this week?

WORK. BILLS. WORK. RUNNING. WORK. THE WEATHER. WORK. WIFEY. WORK. AND MORE WORK.

You think about work a lot.

I WOULDN’T CALL IT THINKING.

What then, obsessing?

NO COMMENT.

Then why not write about work?

NO THANKS, IT REALLY ISN’T VERY INTERESTING AND WRITING IS A WAY FOR ME TO ESCAPE WORK. IT’S MY TIME.

Ok, so you could write about bills, running, the weather, or wifey.

BILLS ARE BORING. I WROTE ABOUT RUNNING TWO WEEKS AGO. AND I WROTE ALL ABOUT THE WEATHER IN A PAST T.I.L.T. LONG AGO.

What about wifey?

SHE’D LOVE THAT, BUT THEN AGAIN, MAYBE NOT — DEPENDS ON WHICH SIDE OF THE BED SHE GETS UP ON TODAY.

Right. No comment.

HMMM. WHAT TO WRITE. . .

And on and on I go talking to myself in circuitous fashion until I ask myself the next question:

So what’s on other people’s minds?

NO IDEA, I’M NOT A MIND READER. OTHERWISE I WOULD KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT WIFEY.

Ask Google?

ASK GOOGLE ABOUT WIFEY?

No, no, ask Google what’s on other people’s minds.

YOU MEAN GOOGLE IT? ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE NEW VERBS.

Exactly.

OK, GOOGLE, WHAT’S ON OTHER PEOPLE’S MINDS?

So, what did it say?

A BUNCH OF CRAP WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE WORDS ‘WHAT’S ON OTHER PEOPLE’S MINDS’. HMM.

You need to see what’s trending on the internet.

RIGHT. TRENDING, THAT VERB AGAIN. OK LET’S SEE . . .

Well?

EVEN MORE CRAP.

Such as?

I’M EMBARRASSED TO SAY.

Why?

BECAUSE I JUST ENDED UP WASTING ABOUT FIVE MINUTES OF MY LIFE WATCHING A BUNCH OF WEDDING BLOOPER VIDEOS.

Wedding bloopers?

TOP HIT ON BUZZFEED.COM!

Why are so many people looking at wedding bloopers?

NO IDEA, I GUESS WE LIKE WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE’S PERSONAL DISASTERS.

What about Google news? What’s on there right now?

FERGUSON. DRUNK SECRET SERVICE. RACIST FRATERNITIES. ISIS. BOKO HARAM. IRAN. ESSENTIALLY EVEN MORE PERSONAL AND PUBLIC DISASTERS.

Sounds depressing.

I KNOW, MAKES THINKING ABOUT WORK TOO MUCH SEEM PLEASANT.

Wouldn’t you rather think about wifey?

ALWAYS. BUT I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT THIS WEEK.

Maybe you should write about trying to figure out what to write about?

THAT DOESN’T SOUND VERY INTERESTING.

You know, you could write about how you talk to yourself.

THAT’S EVEN MORE EMBARRASSING.

Is it? I’m sure everybody does it.

YOU THINK?

I do.

I DON’T KNOW, I MEAN, I LIKE TALK TO MYSELF ALL THE TIME.

I know.

OR EVEN WORSE, I TALK TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO AREN’T EVEN HERE.

You mean, like an imaginary friend?

NO, I MEAN LIKE REAL PEOPLE I KNOW.

But why do you talk to them when they aren’t there?

I IMAGINE TALKING TO THEM.

About what?

WHATEVER I WANT TO TELL THEM.

Then why not just tell them for real?

THAT’S THE POINT, IT’S LIKE I’M REHEARSING ALL THE TIME, PRACTICING JUST WHAT I WANT TO SAY AND HOW I MIGHT WANT TO SAY IT.

But how do you know what they’re going to say?

I DON’T. THAT’S THE PROBLEM. I HAVE TO GUESS. AND SO I RUN THROUGH THE IMAGINARY SCENE OVER AND OVER AGAIN WITH VARIATIONS ON THE SCRIPT BASED ON WHAT I THINK THEY MIGHT POSSIBLY SAY VERSUS WHAT I MIGHT POSSIBLY SAY.

So you basically talk to yourself.

YOU WOULD KNOW, RIGHT?

Right. Does it help?

TALKING TO MYSELF?

The rehearsing part. Do you then end up having the conversations for real at some point?

SOMETIMES. BUT SOME THINGS I REALLY WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE, YOU JUST CAN’T SAY TO PEOPLE.

Why not?

I MIGHT OFFEND THEM.

So?

I DON’T WANT TO END UP BEING A PERSONAL OR PUBLIC DISASTER.

Wimp.

YOU KNOW I HATE CONFLICT.

Chicken.

HEY NOW, WATCH IT.

Coward.

CUT IT OUT!

What are you going to do about it? Stop talking to me?

. . . . . . . . . HMMMM.

Seriously, though, when you do have conversations for real, ones that you’ve rehearsed ahead of time with yourself, does it ever go like you imagine it will?

NEVER. WHAT SOUNDS GOOD IN MY HEAD SOMEHOW FALLS FLAT IN REALITY AND PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY AND REACT IN WAYS THAT I CAN’T PREDICT.

Then why do you rehearse?

I HAVE NO IDEA. TOO MANY YEARS IN SHOW BUSINESS I GUESS, MANUFACTURING ARTIFICIAL REPRESENTATIONS OF IMAGINED REALITIES. IN A WAY, IT’S LIKE MY MIND IS ITS OWN INTERNET, FULL OF CRAP, TRENDING ON ONE THING OR ANOTHER, OVER AND OVER AGAIN TRYING TO HAVE A SAY AND MAKE SOME SENSE OF IT ALL. OR MAYBE JUST TO ENTERTAIN MYSELF.

Well, I guess even non-showbiz people do the same thing.

YOU THINK?

I do it all the time.

BUT YOU’RE ME.

I am?

AREN’T YOU?

Perhaps. But maybe not the showbiz you.

I HAVE MORE THAN ONE ME?

Doesn’t everybody?

HMMM. MAYBE. I GUESS WE’LL HAVE TO ASK THEM.

For real or in your imagination?

BOTH. THAT WAY I’LL KNOW IF WHAT’S TRENDING IN MY MIND IS TRENDING IN THEIR MIND.

Sounds interesting.

WHO KNOWS. ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT.

How’s that?

BY STOPPING TALKING TO MYSELF AND START WRITING.

Sounds like a plan.

YUP.

Cool.

UH-HUH.

Right.

WRITE.

Okay, then.

OK, THEN.

Who gets the last word today?

YOU?

Or me?

T.I.L.T. #131 – BREMEN TERROR MUSICIANS!

Red alert! Red Alert! Suspected terrorists in Bremen!

Last Saturday the never-ending global war on terror showed up in the provincial city of Bremen where I live. For those of you not familiar with Bremen, it’s in the northern part of Germany and is a relatively peaceful home to about a half-million beer-and-bratwurst loving people. It’s perhaps most famous for the children’s story The Bremen Town Musicians, which tells the tale of a disaffected and disgruntled group of animals (donkey, dog, cat, and rooster) who team up to pretend to be a monster and scare off a gang of bandits planning to rob the town. The story has become the symbol of Bremen which you can see in a beloved local statue as well as every other imaginable art form in the shape of a bizarre-looking pyramid: the donkey is the base, then comes the dog, on top of the dog is the cat, and then the rooster is the peak — all of them screaming in unison with wide-open mouths to monstrous effect.

Bremen is also famous for its Werder football team and Becks beer, which when added together in large quantities can lead to occasional violence when rival football hooligans come to town. But terrorists? In Bremen? Really?

I lived in London in 2007 and was a regular commuter when the underground rail and a couple of busses got blown up. I was lucky enough not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but when I heard of a terrorist threat, that’s what I think of: bombs blowing people up — scary stuff.

So what was the terrorist threat to Bremen? Was someone planning to blow up the statue of town musicians? Or the Werder football stadium? Or God forbid, the Becks brewery? Nobody knew at first, of course, because the only thing that gets initially publicized when it comes to a terrorist threat is that there is, well,‘a threat’. I find this the most terrifying thing of all: an unknown, unquantifiable warning to LOOK OUT — SOMETHING BAD MIGHT HAPPEN! Well, gee, thanks for the news. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for worst fears of my imagination!

I understand that the public officials charged with guarding our safety can’t reveal details too early in order not to tip-off the suspected terrorists, but when they announce a threat and then roll out masses of armed forces as happened in Bremen last week, I think, maybe, just perhaps, the terrorists may catch on to the fact somebody is on to them.

Thankfully, nothing bad happened last Saturday except the harassment of innocent Muslims at a local Mosque and other ‘foreign-looking people’ in a big public housing estate around the corner from where I live. What were the anti-terrorist troops looking for in terrifying fashion? Turns out it was guns, automatic machine guns to be exact. Apparently some spy heard that some suspects were getting a bunch of guns and planning an attack somewhere in Bremen. Given the recent horrific terrorist shooting attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, it seems reasonable enough to warrant a response.

But it also got me thinking. Would such a thing even be considered a terrorist threat in a place like Afghanistan or say Washington D.C.?  Anybody who has read a paper or looked at the news in the last decade can easily associate guns and violence with Afghanistan, but did you know that per capita the capital of the US is one of the most gun-violent place in America? It has circa 16.8 gun deaths per 100,000 people. All of Germany together has a rate of 0.19 with a total of circa 180 gun deaths for the whole country. Compared to the circa 10,000 in the US every year Germany is one safe place.

Now before you think I am going to go on an anti-gun-anti-american-liberal-socialist-loving rant, which I know will upset some of my good friends back in Texas where the right to carry a concealed weapon is considered a sacred inalienable right for everyone even illegal aliens, I’m just trying to point out that given all the regular shooting sprees all over the US, it makes one wonder just what is a terrorist threat?

Don’t get me wrong: global terrorism is a real danger, killing nearly 18,000 people all over the world in 2013 alone. But considering that there were circa 10,000 gun-murders in only the US in 2013, it kind of makes you think. Add to that all the other annual-murders-by-gun of even more gun-happy-civilized places like Venezuela with 11,000, or Colombia with 12,000, and let’s not forget Brazil with a whopping 35,000, you kind of wonder what all the fuss about global terrorism is.

Note to self: scratch South America from list of places to go for romantic getaway with gun-fearing wifey. Heck, scratch all the Americas except perhaps Canada – less than 200 gun deaths a year — paradise!

Do any of these gun-loving-gun-killing countries announce a terrorist threat and roll out the troops when they suspect somebody might use guns to wreak havoc? You would think given their gun-murder rates they would be in a constant state of terror and live in a constant police state. Hey, wait a second . . . HMMMM. The last couple of times I was in the US I did see very-heavily-armed law enforcement all over the place all the time . . . HMMM. Now that really is terrifying!

Maybe, just maybe, Germany, has it right. We have even less gun deaths than Canada even though there are more than twice as many Germans as Canadians. Maybe announcing a terrorist threat and doing a military-style sweep just because there might be some suspected guns is a good thing. The rest of the time I almost never see police out and about. Maybe that’s the secret of the Bremen Town Musicians at work: you all get together and make a bunch of noise when there’s a real threat and get rid of it so that most of the time there’s no real threat at all.

Note to self: spend next romantic holiday with wifey safely at home in Bremen reading local educational children stories while listening to the local bar around the corner cheer for Werder and enjoy sipping a cool local bullet-free Becks beer.