I love coffee

Note: This is an upcycled older post. Aldi later upgraded the packaging. See thumbnail on the right.

This post is about coffee in Britain.

Many people in my home country have a hard time accepting that Britain really is the way it is (when you live here, which isn’t the same as it is for tourists). It is not “just like the Netherlands except that the people in England (as the Dutch usually call Britain) speak English, drink tea, are reserved and prim and proper and walk around swinging walking sticks and bowler hats” or some version of that.

Most Dutch people blindly assume that everything in Britain works the exact same way as things work in the Netherlands. I can’t blame them. I too had no idea how vastly different Britain is relative to my home country, or the United States.

The people in my home country are also often convinced that the coffee here is bad, however. True, but that applies only to the cheap instant stuff.

Ground coffee – real coffee – is actually very good and, in my opinion, even much better in Britain than in the Netherlands.

I haven’t had an electric coffee maker in many years. After another one had broken down, I started making coffee with a separate filter and a large thermos. I ended up with much better-tasting coffee and it landed me absolutely perfect coffee once, so good it was stunning. The amount of coffee, the way I poured the water and its temperature must have been just right for my coffee to turn out so exceptional that morning.

Nowadays, I make my coffee in a French press, inspired by a remark made by a Spanish professor at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton in 2005. If I accidentally drop a French press and the glass breaks, I can order a replacement glass.

I have several favourites. Taylors of Harrogate makes great coffee, which sells at roughly £3.75 a bag these days, I think, but it is often on offer. I think that one bag contains 227 grams. It comes in many varieties, but not every supermarket has all varieties, and I have my favourites. The varieties occasionally change, too. Places like Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury sell Taylors.

Aldi – which is a much more luxurious supermarket in Britain than in the Netherlands – sells really great coffee too. People actually started going to Aldi for no other reason than its coffee. When coffee prices started to rise a few years back, Aldi tried to compromise on the quality of the coffee. I wrote to them about it. Others must have done too because Aldi later compromised again, but this time by making the bags smaller. They now contain 200 grams of great-tasting coffee instead of 227 grams.

Its “Rich Java” is so popular it is often sold out. 100% arabica coffee. “Deep, rich, syrupy flavour with subtle notes of chocolate”. Rainforest alliance certified. Strength: 5.

I tried one of the other ones, but Rich Java was much better and kept selling out.

Aldi must have noticed, because it replaced one of the other varieties (I think it was “Ethiopian”, which I didn’t like) and introduced “Peruvian”. 100% arabica coffee. “Bold bodied with red fruit notes and a caramel finish”. Rainforest alliance certified (sustainable livelihoods, protecting the environment). Strength: 4.

I love them both! At times I prefer the Java and at other times the Peruvian. The Peruvian is a bit more refined, more subtle. The Java could be Brazilian. (It isn’t. Java is part of Indonesia and that is where this coffee comes from.) It plants its feet firmly on the ground and says “Here I am!”.

£1.99 for 200 grams for each of them.

Did you know that coffee has tremendous health benefits, too, for most people? It can do wonders for the liver, for example.

If you want to know what Britain is like under the shiny layer of gloss

In many other countries, Britain’s shiny layer of gloss or deceptive image of the “prim, proper and demure” or soft and gentle is accepted as WYSIWYG. But Britain is not WYSISYG. The great Brexit entertainment show surely has made many people abroad cotton on by now. This is Britain as usual, well, most of the time.

Want another example?

People who do not have the British nationality can be grabbed anywhere and at any time, to be locked up indefinitely, for no good reason at all, often making them lose their jobs and homes, even those who’ve been here for fifty years or longer, and sometimes leaving them without documentation/passports (if the Home Office keeps it).

People – Brits – are locked up because they protested peacefully, against fracking or against deportation. And for many years it has already been the case that if Britons show up at a demonstration anywhere, their mere presence can get them into a police file and often tracked and hassled wherever they go in Britain after that. (There’ve been court cases related to the latter. That’s how I know.)

Here is a film about that part of Britain.

You can see what a farce this is because if they really had been considered terrorists, they would have been held on remand, not been left free to roam the country.

They wouldn’t have been allowed to leave the court after the verdict either.

This is about nipping protest in the bud, just like the food bank organizations and the BBC have gotten whistled back to heel so often.

For me, it is heart-warming and so encouraging to see that people like the Stansted 15 exist in Britain.

You see how gutted they are after the verdict. That, that alone, was the aim of this farce. To whip the souls of British citizens back into obedience to the state.

Creepy.

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Asperger’s in practice

I have no experience with autistic people – as far as I know – and have been trying to develop some understanding, very slowly. I just ran into a top artist with Asperger’s and this documentary seems to show a lot of how it works in practice.

People thought she had brain damage. People thought “she couldn’t do much”. People kept telling her that.

The funny thing is that the Asperger’s makes her a “better” or talented artist. It is why she makes audiences cry. That and her musical professionalism.

(I did not know much about her, no, had never watched anything before, other than one short video clip once. I watched another one this evening in which someone talked about her emotional connection to the songs.)

Human diversity occurs along a very broad spectrum, with lots of overlap and variation, and there is still so much we don’t know about that. And all the minuses seem to come with their own pluses, one way or another.

A bit of inspiration

Some things can’t ever be fixed or changed, but some can be made better or at least less bad, and even in cases when most people think it is not possible, like in this video below.

You can see the utterly amazed look in the animal’s eyes, before the vets put the cone on, with the gently wagging tail on the background. The “holy shit, I can’t believe it, they solved this for me?” realization. Also with the cone on. Suddenly, in the dog’s mind, she has a life again, a future. And she forgets all about the past…

The irony

Many years ago, I was one the very few people who used e-mail. Some of my friends were extremely resistant to the idea of e-mail.

Years later, it was those initially so reluctant people who could not stop using e-mail. No matter how many times I begged them to call me instead of e-mail me, I could no longer get them to call me.

Oh, the irony.

That is how you learn who your friends are and who aren’t.

If you turn yourself into a bunch of words on my screen, you could be anybody – or nobody.

Humans are more than just a bunch of words on a screen.

Talking to each other is so much more efficient. You can instantly catch and clear up any misunderstandings that may not even become evident until much later when all you choose to be is a bunch of words on a screen. And you can smile together. A trouble shared is a trouble halved – or so they say – but a shared smile definitely becomes amplified.

 

A story about a concentration camp or two

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Britain has a bunch of them too. And people can be in them indefinitely. Kinda like at Guantánamo Bay. An American concentration camp on an island in the Caribbean.

Shit.

The Netherlands used to have them too. (No longer, I think.) When I was still living in Amsterdam, a fire tore through one of them.

Why I sometimes call British culture “paranoid” or “narcissistic”

If someone writes to you “with the greatest respect”, isn’t it paranoid or an indication of extremely low self-esteem, hence possibly narcissistic, to believe that it means “I think you’re an idiot”?

That’s not “sarcasm”, folks.  That’s bonkers. Nuts.

YouGov survey: 
British sarcasm 'lost on Americans':

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46846467

So when a local shop owner suddenly started repeating “Don’t worry about it” a few years ago, I had no idea that it meant “Piss off!”, and I still have no idea why he suddenly wanted me to piss off either. I must have said something that he thought was intended as the exact opposite of what I said and meant?

Interesting is that before I moved from Amsterdam to the USA, I received some warnings/advice about Americans that turned out not to apply at all – for instance about the dinner invitations as mentioned in the BBC article – but I did later discover that some of it applies with regard to southern England.

For people in countries that don’t have English as their main language, the fact that British English is so vastly different from other forms of English can be really confusing.

There is also a thing in British English that we foreigners sometimes call hinting, and that people from other countries don’t get either.

I am not so sure that what the BBC writes about the British use of sarcasm applies to Scotland, by the way.

I do remember one occasion when I did catch the sarcasm. A year or so ago, I walked into a store to ask something and addressed someone whose last words to me before I left the store again were “and we’ll sort you out”.

What she meant was that they would teach me a lesson.

I suspect that I know what it was about and if I am right about that, then she considered the items she was selling “old junk”, felt that I had been comparing her to old junk by something I said (perhaps indicating that she was not very happy with what she was doing, even though I think she was an owner, not an employee).

This is typically British. Anywhere else, you’d be considered paranoid or otherwise not well in the head to have thoughts like these. Here, however, you are considered not well in the head – slow on the uptake – if you don’t get this stuff.

See how upside down the world can be and how tricky cultural differences are?

 

Criminalization of brain-based health conditions

Here we see how a young woman’s mental health crisis got her into handcuffs and in front of a judge for having inconvenienced the public.

Police criminalized this woman. That’s how stigmas work.

Now compare that situation with that of, say, a pregnant woman whose waters break in the middle of a supermarket? Or hey, who cramps while driving a car on the way to the hospital, skids, spins and ends up blocking traffic?

If police did not discriminate, the latter woman should be handcuffed and dragged in front of a judge as well.

Would police do that?

And what would police do with a woman who ends up in a diabetic crisis while travelling on public transport?

Or with anyone daring to have a heart attack in public?

 

Breaking through the confusion about “narcissists”

In this very clear video, Sam Vaknin explains the distinction between the media’s and many people’s every-day use of the word “narcissist” – often meaning no more than “I don’t like that person” and/or “I am envious of that person” – and the personality disorder and elaborates on the variations of the disorder. (A related word that seems to be often intended to convey disdain is “co-dependent”.)

Sam Vaknin is blessed by his high intelligence, which often allows him to rise above his disorder to a large degree, but when you listen to what he says, in any of his videos, it remains important to discern when his disorder is doing the talking.

It can be quite confusing. Even listening to many of these videos, depending on your own situation (whether you have people with NPD in your life or not), you may start to wonder at some point about your own mental health… maybe because it makes you aware of how vulnerable we all are as humans.

It is always important to monitor your own behaviour in the company of people with NPD, to ensure that you stay grounded and don’t get swept away or pulled under by the effect someone else’s disorder has on you. Most people should be able to do that because they have the ego functions that people with NPD lack… except, when they become aware of the fact that they should have been doing this, they’ve often already been pulled under.

(Comparison that may help: When you are being targeted by a constant barrage of tennis balls from a row of tennis ball cannons, the only thing you are still aware of is the tennis balls and all your activity may become focused on dodging the tennis balls, getting hit, getting hurt and getting angry. The rest of the world drops away. That means that you are no longer grounded. There could be a bus shelter to the left, in which you would be safely shielded from the tennis balls, or you might be able to walk over to the cannons and pull the plug, but you are no longer able to notice that when you are not grounded.)

But Vaknin’s right: there is a lot of complete bullshit out there about the disorder and all it seems to accomplish is that it freaks people out and attracts a lot of angry people. People who feel angry would probably benefit more from going for a run or playing squash – or tennis.

By the way, psychopathy (a step further) appears to be promoted by war situations, by babies being exposed to the effects of war in the womb and when growing up. Brain chemistry. The brain becoming immune to some degree, and parts of the brain not developing. This could indicate that bombing countries in retaliation for terrorist attacks could lead to more terrorist attacks in the future. Something to think about.

The western world pays a lot of attention to attacks taking place on its own soil, for instance at train stations, but considerably much less to events such as Americans accidentally bombing a children’s hospital in, say, Pakistan.

A very complicated topic. What it all seems to boil down to is that the world is in need of more compassion and more empathy (I probably often mix the two up) – and less aggression.

Overweight air hostesses

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/pakistan-international-airlines-cabin-crew-weight-memo-intl/index.html

Ah, this rings bells too. In 1979 and in 1980 and 1981 or thereabouts, I applied to a few airlines. My mother had always told me I might want to become an air hostess because you get to speak a few languages and get to see a bit of the world that way.

I applied three times and I got three interviews. I think it was December 1980 when I was in a deadhead seat on a flight to Frankfurt. Yes, it must have been December, indeed, because I remember that there was a Christmas market at the airport. There was snow too. It was after my season at Amsterdam’s Tourist Office.

Upon arrival, we were all told to step onto a scale. I normally weighed myself in my underwear. My home scale said my weight was 58 when I sent in my application forms. I was now asked to step onto the scale wearing a blouse, a winter sweater, a lined tweed jacket, a scarf and a heavy lined plaid and pleated winter skirt. Their scale said my weight was 60 or 61. I remember that one guy’s weight was 5 kilos more than his application form had said.

While all of us candidates were in a room at a table, being addressed, the door opened and I was removed from the room. They told me that the weight I had listed on the form had not matched what their scale had said and that I was out of the process.

They treated me like a criminal.

I swore that I would never fly with that airline again from that day (but I relied on them to take me home again).

The guy with the 5 kilo discrepancy got to stay.

In retrospect, it was a good experience because I am pretty sure that I would not have enjoyed being an air hostess at all. Well, for a while, but not for long. Too many aspects about it, certainly in those days, that I would not have liked at all. But I didn’t know that then.

I am five foot seven, by the way.

Peace

It helps tremendously if you can VISUALIZE brain-related conditions for which other people tend to assign blame and make remarks such as that one should be able to grow out of it, admit it and seek help for it, and what have you.

It appears that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) simply lack part of the brain in which empathy is created (though it is not the only part of the brain that is related to empathy, apparently). If you can’t feel empathy for others, you cannot feel empathy for yourself either.

That explains the usual Catch-22 aspects of the condition.

This could also mean that/why people with NPD rely on notably empaths to “create” empathy for them. Symbiosis.

(People with NPD, by the way, lack emotional empathy, not cognitive empathy, apparently, according to a 2010 paper from the same research group.)

So, yes, the brains of people with NPD are wired differently. They did not ask for this, so stop blaming them. Look for what is good in them, and embrace that instead.

They’re like, hey, albinos. Or hey, people who go grey prematurely. Not their fault.

They’re like giraffes that people insist are, say, antelopes.

Or, like I wrote before, table lamps of which we demand that they change themselves into coffee makers.

Let go of it… All the frustration etc. It’s futile.

They are right. They are special. It’s part of the neurodiversity we have on the planet. (The brain is a miraculous thing!)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23777939

Now I am done waffling about narcissists in a rather chaotic manner. Continue reading

Happy New Year

This makes a very good New Year’s resolution. Go find the beauty in people. It may be easy to see the ugly in people, but seeing the ugly in people makes nobody happy.

Everyone has beauty.

Once you start seeing that, you’ll likely also start to feel a lot better, about people and about life in general.

Zen says that it is the label we attach to things – whether something is good or bad – that causes a lot of hurt for us, because if something is considered bad, we cannot feel good about it and so it hurts us. Is this an easy thing to do, to let go of such labels, of such judgements? Hell no, but it can help you a lot at times.

And if you can’t do it, simply focus on something else.

Here is a personal experience that I would like to share with young people because it may be useful to them. When I was younger, I used to watch in amazement how slow some slightly older people were, and I mistook it for mental slowness. Now that I am older too, I have learned that it merely has to do with eye sight. it is hard to, say, quickly grab a certain coin from your purse at the supermarket checkout if you can barely discern the coins.

(I am near-sighted, and I had to peek from under my glasses to be able to see the coins when I started getting older because with my glasses on or contacts in, my near sight was no longer as good as it once was and I could hardly take my glasses off or remove my contacts at the supermarket… It really annoyed me, but hey, that’s life. I want to try double-focus contacts one day.)

Once you realize little things like this, life becomes more enjoyable.

Older adults are undoubtedly often perceived as much slower than they actually are. They are often already labelled as slow before they’ve even done a thing, and will often be quickly moved out of the way, literally or figuratively speaking, just in case they turn out to be slow.

How do I know that? Another prejudice, in practice. Women are generally perceived as talking constantly. But when you record and analyse how men and women talk, then it turns out to be men who do the yack-yacking, not women.

If a python can carry toads on its back in a flood, and a cat can have its kittens in the same dog house in which a dog is having her pups (see earlier post), then labels about dangerous pythons and cats and dogs not getting along start to disappear:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio/must_see/46720030/australian-cane-toads-hitch-ride-on-python-s-back

Reality is more nuanced than good and bad, black and white, either/or.

I (initially) can’t stop laughing

(Please note that there appear to be two main types with narcissistic personality disorder, grandiose or overt on the one hand and covert narcissism on the other. This post probably mainly concerns the former.)

So, I stumbled upon someone on YouTube who says that he is a sadistic narcissist, that he enjoys deliberately hurting people – which is not admirable – and in spite of that, and in spite of knowing that he feels utterly miserable inside, I can’t stop chuckling because he is an amazing master spinner.

He does it so well that it’s very entertaining and his humour is entertaining too. He says that he is a dinosaur and that he was a therapist for a dinosaur once. Then comments “committed suicide”. And you have to laugh, but, yep, he is definitely a sadistic narcissist.

I’ve run into it before. I can’t help it, ya have to laugh. With my apologies to the hurt souls eternally buried inside all narcissists out there for the instances when they are not actually trying to be funny.

(They cannot be healed or fixed. Do not ever for a second think that you can heal someone with narcissistic personality disorder. The only thing you can do – also for the narcissist – is to be your best possible you and remain true to who you are, no matter what. Lead YOUR life.)

This interviewee did not CHOOSE to be this way; his brain is wired this way and he did not create his brain. Remember that.

These days (now that I know about the disorder), I therefore usually try to choose not to be angry at people with narcissistic personality disorder (who sometimes trip over cultural differences and the fact that I am who I am, instead of who they think I am or would like me to be).

I do not apply that same leniency toward so-called flying monkeys. These are mentally well people who do have a choice and who are tricked into or paid to mess with the life of someone they know or the life of a complete stranger. They make the deliberate choice to do that, unquestioningly. (No, dear sadistic narcissists out there, unh uhn. I saw that one coming from a mile away.)

(I’d been wondering why I had been getting all these ads for “Harry’s razors” lately, and vaguely remembered that there was a previous time here in England when I was getting lots of razor ads. Then it clicked. “Harry” was the name of my brother in law and he committed suicide. He was clinically depressed. I won’t say more than that, can’t give too much away to the sadistic narcissists out there. Is this funny? No, of course not, but unlike people with narcissistic personality disorder, I can choose to respond in a healthy way and see it for what it is. It is an immature way of saying something like “this is how bad I hurt inside”, wanting to make you feel the same way, possibly so that you understand how they feel without them realizing that. It is like a kid throwing the plate against the wall because he does not want to eat the veggies, and THIS MUCH is how he hates the veggies.)

Another example. Not being allowed to do any online marketing for any of my business activities – by hijacking my internet access – and then sending me a link about “permission-based marketing”. Translation: “Are you hurting already?”

Anyway, in another video, this interviewee says that narcissists are “frequently targeted by stalkers and erotomaniacs” who are “inevitably rebuffed” by the narcissists.

(That’s called “being delusional”.) ( 5 January 2018: This represents fear, the fear of being unmasked as incomplete or flawed human beings, in the eyes of people with NPD.)

(In an earlier video, apparently now deleted, he said that narcissists are often stalkers.)

He says he was diagnosed as “gifted” at age 9 when it was actually initially thought that he might be retarded, he says, with an IQ of 180. His IQ was reassessed again at age 25 and age 35, he says, and that it is interesting that his IQ went up, whereas it normally decreases with age. He continues to say that it was 185 when he was 25 and 190 when he was 35. “Oh, sorry, the other way around.”

He says he went to university at age 9, was at medical school at age 12. (See footnote.)

His first PhD was in philosophy, he says, and he also has a PhD in physics. His Wikipedia page says that he obtained that in 1982, at a university that did not start until the year 2005, according to Wikipedia. But I don’t know who added those data to Wikipedia. And the page says that that for-profit organization published his thesis, which is not necessarily the same as having done the research there. Oh, but wait, his LinkedIn profile says that he did his PhD in philosophy there. In the 1980s. And I found another website that says that that organization was indeed founded in 2005.

See the tragedy of this condition? See why people who have it are so angry at the world? They have to try to hurt others to be able to feel better about themselves…

Some handle their condition very well, manage to adapt. Many also find a way to contribute to society. Not all of them.

Lots of people, including psychologists, paint people with this condition in a very dark light that does little more than freak “normal” people out. One person with a practical, realistic and very healthy approach is psychotherapist Les Carter, by contrast.

This interviewee who describes himself as a sadistic narcissist, with genuine NPD, says that women tell him that he sometimes gives off the vibe of a machine and sometimes the vibe of a child. He then adds that he thinks that he stopped developing at age 9. That strikes me as insightful, but perhaps he was told this. And he says that for him, everything is geared toward “impressing the living hell out of his interlocutor”.

Elsewhere, he says that empathy is a bad strategy, that it costs too much, that it requires an investment, an investment that may not give you a return. But that is coming from someone who has no idea what empathy is, other than, in his eyes, something he can exploit in others.

Narcissists often do try to be the best they can be because of course, they eventually figure that they seem to have some kind of problem, but this being the best they can be is in the context of who they are, not of who the rest of us are. They cannot change themselves, just like a table lamp cannot decide to be a coffee maker. They are often highly practical people, in my experience. (They are also rarely what or who most people seem to believe they are, in my experience. That said, successful narcissists may have someone who helps them fix the mismatch between reality and what they want reality to be?)

He says that, relative to “normal” humans, people with narcissistic personality disorder are as different as “aliens”, “a form or AI” or “long-necked giraffes”.

Well, to “normal” humans like me out there I say that when caught between a rock and a hard place remember that life is too short to let it ruin your day. It is what it is. We can accept that. People with narcissistic personality disorders can’t. They are caught in views that they cannot release because those views own them, not the other way around.

What I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is that narcissists can also team up in small groups to target people. One may start targeting the person, while pretending to be one of the others, to undermine the target’s credibility. The target may not know of the existence of the other two… so it is impossible for the target to suspect those one or two others. I don’t know if this is always a mix of one grandiose narcissist with one or more covert narcissists, but it seems likely.

For more, see also this video below. I haven’t watched it yet, but I read the description under the video and so should you.

 

Footnote 3 January 2019:
Research by an English documentary maker back in 2009 confirmed that he was a child prodigy, was at university by age 11, and does have a high IQ. He was taken under the wing of a rich businessman at a young age. He got into business and then landed in jail for securities fraud, at age 24.

See more here (highly insightful!): https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/i-psychopath/.

Here is another one that sounds interesting:

What narcissistic personality disorders may be like

Like the wrong audio cables are plugged in, and you can’t change them. Creates a lot of noise!

The past ten years have taught me a lot about personality disorders. I still know very little.

Differences in the hard-wiring of the human brain can result in personality disorders, but paradoxically, people with personality disorders are often blamed for them.

While watching a lot of videos on YouTube and thinking about diversity, I am starting to wonder if the line between humans and other species may be even thinner than I already thought.

What do I mean by that? Consider the following, for example.

Francine “Penny” Patterson developed a deep friendship with a gorilla named Koko in the course of decades. It was never the plan. The plan had been a four-year research project for her PhD.

The year was 1972. Gorillas were considered dangerous and wild and Patterson initially was considered crazy by many.

When younger gorilla Michael was added to the household, he ran over to Ronald Cohn, hugged him and then “sank his teeth into” Cohn’s shoulder.

Humans are not supposed to do that, but some sort of do anyway, in their own way.

I have been the subject of a little-understood phenomenon for over ten years. In the eyes of who’s behind it (apparently involving at least one person with a narcissistic personality disorder), I am probably like an animal they keep in a cage in order to find out how it ticks, the way some university researchers keep pigs in their lab to study stress responses in pigs. They try to push my buttons as much as possible.

It’s complicated.

Penny Patterson and Ronald Cohn kept Koko in captivity, and that was accepted. If two gorillas had kept Penny or Ronald in captivity, the response would have been very different.

If you watch this video, you should also take a look at this:

What we can learn

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Quaker parrots do this too. They build humongous condos with separate areas for different activities and offer shelter to other species. Humans have a hard time doing this for their own species – yet consider themselves “superior”…