Entry 517 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash
Today at the rattrap aka bus stop this girl who had meticulously invested in the under-nourished-empty-cocaine-stare look perplexed me. Instead of proposing her a bite of my vegemite sandwich the only thing I could think of was if she would address me with that universal pick up line: ”Sucky sucky for a coca cola?” That would have to be diet coke obviously. I shuddered at the idea that a man’s mind lays not that far from under his belly.
When I finally escaped from my rêverie the girl was gone and I had almost passed my destination. I needed to see the health insurance because my taxman urged for a statement, written, signed, sealed and delivered on paper, that my health insurance tax deductions weren’t a kind of universal fraud scheme. I honestly don’t understand why the Belgian Tax Administration wants me to get that paper - on paper - because with a simple click on a button, provided that their computers at the office already have mice with buttons, they can dig into my professional, administrative and even financial life and browse through all possible databases without my consent.
The good woman at health insurance dot co told me that she couldn’t give me the paper on paper because the computer system was down but she promised me she would send it as soon as the computer would be functioning again.
For a living I mostly do some IT monkey work for people who think you need a PhD in applied programming just to change some printer toner. One of my annual recurring tasks is to give the Belgian VAT agency the yearly listing of all VAT activities of the company I work for. There are two practical ways to give that list to the Belgian Tax Authorities: either you write (or print) everything on a huge chunk of paper or you can save it on a floppy disk and send that - by snail mail - to the tax office. Although the Belgian tax department website brags that one can upload the data directly to their server not one single tax department employee, officer, manager or director has been able to explain me how. When I recently asked why I couldn’t send the file by mail or upload it to an ftp-server I received a long cold look combined with the grinding sound of burning brain tissue. Government! Bah!
When I left the immer-smiling girl I decided that luck (or fate) should guide my wanderings through the beautiful, albeit noisy, city of Louvain. In a local second hand bookshop I saw a TekWar novel by William Shatner, but because I couldn’t remember which one of those I’ve already got I skipped the offer.
The cosmology section of the bookshop had an Adrian Berry book called The Giant Leap (Mankind Heads For The Stars) (2000). I’ve already written something about him on this Popular science books are fun post. As a matter of fact his The Next Ten Thousand Year (1974) was the book that I used to carry around for years. Here was a non-fiction work that not only read like a brilliant SF novel but, even more, contained more tantalising ideas on one page than TekWar contains in a dozen.
I was so proud to have found this book and couldn’t wait to open it. It was as if I had re-found a long lost love. I sat down on a bench in the city and started reading. In the introduction Adrian Berry recalls how philosopher and sci-fi author avant-la-lettre Giordano Bruno was bound to a stake on the Campo de Fiori in Rome and burned alive. Of course the fact that he believed in a myriad of suns, planets and inhabited worlds was not his only offence. Bruno defied the holiest dogmas of Catholic Church such as the virginity of Mary and the transubstantiation. As an alchemist he also believed in metempsychosis (or incarnation, to keep it simple) and in the magical mumbo jumbo that alchemists seem to be keen of.
Giordano Bruno’s court case in the 1600’s is a nice show opener for Adrian Berry’s book, but I had the feeling to have to read it once too many. Berry wrote – very vividly - about the same subject in The Next Ten Thousand Years and it truly gripped me 30 years ago. But now it felt like sleeping with the ex-wife again and the only thing I could think of was: …so what?
Who am I to care about a Catholic heretic who died 400 years ago (insulting his judges even in the last minutes of his life, the man had panache, I admit) when today the UK government threatens to expel a young homosexual back to his home country where he will be promptly executed by the Iranian inquisition?
Nothing really changes. Not even when we make it to the stars.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well:Popular science books are fun
A (partial) review of the Berry book can be found at: Picasso Power