Not Going Out

As hinted at in the title of the post, I’m not going out tonight. The temperature on the streets of Frankfurt hasn’t got above zero all day. A few hours this afternoon were accompanied by worried glances from the windows of the office I have been working from – watching snow fall on the surrounding streets. Thoughts of my flight home in the morning started to pull at loose threads in the back of my mind – or rather, thoughts of a cancelled or re-scheduled flight.

Thankfully the snow seems to have abated, but it’s dipping far below zero outside. I trudged though the cold to the nearest supermarket after work, and returned with a bag of supplies to keep me going until the morning.

The supermarket checkout queue was something of an adventure this evening – a guy in front of me twice fiddled with the card reading machine while paying – voiding the transaction each time. The lady on the checkout almost exploded in temper the second time – raising her not inconsiderable body onto it’s feet, ranting something high pitched in German at him, and gesticulating wildly. He eventually threw a soggy ten Euro note onto the counter before storming from the store. As I walked back, I tried to figure out what scam he was trying to pull – was the card genuine? I passed him outside the supermarket, getting into a pimped-out Volkswagen Golf, laughing with a friend.

I still haven’t read any of the book I brought with me. As soon as this is posted to the internet, I’ll do my best to disconnect from everything and read for a while. I think that’s probably half the reason I so rarely read any more – I’m surrounded by distractions, and have little or no defence against them. When anybody messages me on my phone, I feel guilty if I don’t respond quickly – especially if I hear their message arrive. The pressure only increases if the messaging services indicates that I have read their message – I almost always presume they will think badly of me if they know I have read their message, but not responded.

How do some people do it? How do they switch off? How do they walk away without thinking of others? Maybe being a parent pre-disposes you to put others ahead of yourself, and eventually it turns into a really difficult habit to break?

In other news, I started teaching myself how to play “Go” at breakfast time this morning. If you’ve not heard of it before, it’s an ancient Chinese board game. You might have seen the recent news story about Google creating an artificially intelligent machine that plays Go – called “AlphaGo” – that defeated the best player in the world. Google then went on to build a more general self-learning machine called “AlphaZero” that taught itself Chess beyond the level of any other computer or human inside 4 hours – but we’ll keep quiet about that, because it tends to induce nightmares about the not so distant future.

Where was I? Oh yes – “Go”. I really need to watch some videos, read some books, or spend some time with somebody that knows how to play Go – because I’m RUBBISH at it. I learned the rules very quickly, and then realised how deep the game is – and just why it has taken so long to teach computers to play the game (in the end we didn’t teach them – we taught a computer how to learn, and let it play Go against itself a few hundred million times – learning more every time it played). It seems Go is a similar mental problem to “Does this face look friendly?”, followed by “Why?”.

Anyway – the book sitting on the bedside table isn’t going to read itself. Time to log off.

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