essay by Bea Graansma

BG 223 – Virtual Reality

Virtual reality, now almost exclusively linked to computers, due to rapidly advancing automation, is in reality as old as mankind. Virtual means fictional, imaginary, imagined – and you don’t really need a computer for that. When we had learned how to make fire and our distant ancestors told each other stories at bedtime about their own experiences and dreams and those of their ancestors, both the storytellers and their listeners used their imaginations to see before them and to empathize with what was conveyed with words. In rituals, shared feelings and interconnectedness were celebrated and strengthened.

Today, we mainly use our imagination while reading books and stories. As we take in the printed text, we create images, smells, sounds and other sensations in our minds. Recently, research has shown that the parts of the brain that normally light up on a scan with running, shouting, laughing, friendship and sexuality, for example, also light up when we only read about them. Apparently, we are able to experience things almost in real life in our imagination. Unfortunately, this is the case for fewer and fewer people.

Due to the lightning-fast development of automation, we still live with our bodies in the natural world, but with our heads a large part of the time in the virtual computer world. Our phones and other screens provide us with an abundance of ready-made, short, fast, and addictive stimuli, preventing us from concentrating on anything for long periods of time. Of course, this new world is very attractive, but it is a pity that we hardly read anymore. Because by reading books and stories and therefore by using our imagination, we learn valuable skills that we need in our lives. Such as: empathy, putting things into perspective, non-virtual communication, standing up for ourselves, care for our living environment, self-care, satisfaction, being able to be alone, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and resilience.

BG 202 – Tons

What about that ton again?
What is it? What does it measure again? And how much does it measure again?
Let’s get it straight…

When talking about weight, a Dutch ton (metric ton) is equal to one thousand kilograms (often abbreviated as kilo or kg).
So: 1 ton = 1.000 kg.
That sounds simple, but from an international perspective it is somewhat more complicated.

The weight unit ‘ton’ can have different meanings in English (lbs = pounds):
1 ton = 1 ‘short ton’, US = 2,000 lbs = 907,18 kg
1 ton = 1 ‘long ton’, UK = 2,240 lbs = 1.016 kg
1 tonne = 1 ‘metric ton’ = 2,204.62 lbs = 1.000 kg

So what about that short and long ton? …

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BG 186 – Artificial Intelligence

No AI (Artificial Intelligence) was used in the making of this Blog.

Everything you see and read on this Blog was made by me and is the result of my imagination, my creativity, my thoughts, my feelings, my intelligence, my knowledge, my individuality, my memories, my experience, my attentiveness, my fallibility, my sense of language, my talent, my effort, my faltering concentration, my perfectionism and my perseverance.

I have not illegally copied any sources of knowledge, violated any copyrights, or committed any intellectual theft (plagiarism) for creating this Blog.

Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is nothing more than super-fast reproduction and combination of other people’s data. Data that in many cases has been obtained illegally.
I don’t think intelligence is the right word for that.
What it lacks are empathy, (various levels of) awareness, conscience, feeling, morals, memory, self-correction, interaction, and everything else that distinguishes us humans from super-fast copy and combine software.

I wonder: …

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BG 178 – Multiple lives

Everyone is free to believe what she or he (or they) wants and everyone else is free to agree or disagree.
Life knows no absolute and unchangeable truths, no matter how much we try to capture it in our stories and firm beliefs.
Having said that, I am of the opinion that some people have misunderstood the subject of multiple lives.
You cannot convince me that there will be other lives for me after my death.
Not as a human being and not as another living being, such as a favorite animal.
And it just seems pointless to me if such a next life is all about punishment or reward for the current one.
The shelf life of a living being is finite.
I’m more into science and not into wishful thinking, also where my own life is concerned. When I die, it’s over for me, and that’s fine.
I also don’t like the pseudo-science that would have us believe that our ‘soul’ is a tangible thing, that *poof* leaves our body at death and that, weighing about 300 grams, then makes its way to a newborn next living being to live on in and learn new lessons in.
No, I think that, like all other living beings …

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BG 165 – Name confusion

I suspect that I am the only Bea Graansma in the world.
And also the only Bregtje Graansma.

Bregtje is my baptismal name. But in my country of birth, the Netherlands, there are two kinds of official first names: your baptismal name(s) and your possible ‘call name’
A short summary of my birth announcement: ‘Born: Bregtje Graansma, we’ll call her Bea’. That’s how it was being solved.
In the 43 years that I lived in the Netherlands, I always used the first name Bea.
Only in very exceptional cases, those where I needed an extract from the population register, did I have to use my baptismal name.

I feel like a Bea. But the name Bregtje does remind me of …

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BG 162 – Fertility

All over the world, sperm counts in men are rapidly declining. That is, if you forget for a moment that it is a sign that men are also generally becoming unhealthier, good news!
After all, our planet is overpopulated and we want to do something about it. But we can’t play god and decide who can or can’t have children and how many.
So, hooray, men are becoming less fertile en masse!
With a bit of luck, this will also boost the emancipation of women!
After all, many women really do have better things to do than be pregnant, bear children, and change diapers.
And, let’s face it, most women never had the inténtion to get married to, let alone spend the rest of their lives with, that man who accidentally managed to get them pregnant.

BG 161 – Detour

Belgians claim they are ‘born with a brick in their stomach’. By which they mean that they are always building, rebuilding and renovating. This applies not only to their houses, but also to their roads.
Despite this, the Belgians seem unable to make proper roads.

I come from the Netherlands, where the roads are much better and where there is also a safe and extensive cycle path network. That is why many Belgians who enjoy cycling or motorcycling regularly travel to the Netherlands. As a Dutch person, the deplorable state of the Belgian roads therefore strikes me even more.

We, for example, live in a street that is covered with cobblestones (in Dutch also referred to as ‘children’s heads’). They are probably intended to slow down traffic, after all, the maximum speed here is 30 km/h, but that doesn’t help, because …

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BG 152 – Women are better

Women are better!
No, not better than men (just as men are not better than women), but women are better, much better, than they think they are.
Most men overestimate themselves, while most women underestimate themselves. And that perpetuates the imbalance of power between men and women.
If women realized what talents they have, what capabilities they have and what their possibilities are, they could give their lives more meaning, find more fulfillment, be more independent and happier.
They could stop self-effacing, keeping quiet for the sake of peace, and putting up with unfair situations, whether private, social, or at work.
Women are better, much better, than they realize.

(I am aware that not every person feels that they fit into the male or female category and I respect that, but that is not the subject here.)

BG 148 – Populist politicians

The political debate was once a – combative – exchange of points of view and arguments of representatives of the people in order to reach agreement in the interests of the people. Nowadays it seems to be a stage for megalomaniac narcissists to present themselves to their followers.

Populists are people who manipulate you (frighten and reassure you) for their own sake and for their own popularity, through lies. Fortunately, democracy doesn’t end when populist leaders tell untruths. Most of the politicians and journalists just keep doing what they are supposed to do and keep refuting. This also gives the people the opportunity to pierce through shameless inaccuracies.

It is not out of malice that people …

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BG 136 – Music and Time

One of the reasons we humans love music so much is that it gives us a grip on time. The time that often makes us feel powerless, by flying by relentlessly. We grasp it with music, connect it to tones, to rhythms and to melodies. We give structure to time and arrange it so that we can enjoy it. The basis of music is usually a fundamental rhythm, much like our heartbeat, or, on a grander scale, the coming and going of hours, days and seasons. That rhythm, that variable beat, dictates the tempo and keeps track of time for us. Precisely because life is so fleeting, we naturally like patterns and repetitions, recognizable rhythms and arrangements and unexpected deviations from them. Music influences our heartbeat and triggers emotions in us. We can influence our perception of time with the help of music and shape it to our own pleasure. And, unlike clock time, which is already behind us before we are aware of it, we can experience music over and over again whenever we want.

BG 126 – Love for language

Many people don’t like to read anymore.
Books, long texts, never mind!
Give us passive entertainment
and short summaries.
TLDNR (too long, did not read).

We prefer to be on social media,
we prefer gaming, we watch movies,
we stream series.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But…
we don’t (like to) read anymore.
As a result, we lose language skills
and our pleasure in reading.

We are falling behind …

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BG 123 – Birthday

Today I turned 58 years old.
You can’t call that middle age with the best will in the world, unless you believe I’m going to live to be 116 years old.
I am already well over halfway and already quite worn out, but I have learned many wise lessons.
That we ourselves determine the meaning of our lives, for example.
That we should not let other people determine who we are and what we should do with our lives.
That life consists of time, that it is finite, that it seems to go faster and faster.
That we ourselves also consist of time and are therefore finite. That this finiteness makes life worth living, makes it precious.
And that we can give meaning to that fleeting time by …

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BG 121 – The power of the (old) white men

The fact that straight white men – including those who should have retired long ago – are mostly in charge of our society is not (as they themselves and also many women believe) due to their superior brains and their superior strength and ingenuity. On the contrary.
The fact that white men think they are automatically entitled to all top positions in politics, in companies, in clubs, and at home, is because they are, well, pretty stupid.
And they are thick-skinned.

There are many things that (old) white men don’t realize.
For example, that women are generally better at leadership and at dividing their attention over several important matters at the same time.
That women are better at detecting and analyzing problems, at finding creative solutions, at choosing the most effective and efficient solution, and at planning its implementation.
That women are less inclined to aggression, violence and to pushing through their own opinion, and that they listen better. That they not only listen to what is being said, but also to what is not spoken aloud.
That women attach less importance to…

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