Sunday, July 25, 2010

Associations while biking


(…and a Random Office Art sighting.)

I’m fortunate to have some great biking close to both apartments.  I’ve written about the joys of  the Albert Canal near Maastricht, and I took the ‘House bike’ out for a spin around the hills near Barrington.  The 10% grades are killers (‘and good for me!’, I wheeze through gritted teeth approaching the summits), but the scenery is wonderful, with trails and radio telescopes dotted everywhere.DSC01206

And that’s just cool.  It’s also mentally stimulating, because nothing sparks my thinking more than a little quiet and good juxtaposition.

People groan about the way that Google throws up unrelated web sites when they query it, and designers promise that the search goal must be to put the ‘right’ answer at the top of the list.  I’m not sure that’s the best answer though: I make serendipitous discoveries all the time when Google throws up something that’s almost the same as what I’m looking for.  It may be a metaphor, a synonym, an example out of context, but often it brings things together and helps my perspective or gives insight.

Far from making me stupid, an imperfect Google makes me smarter.  The same thing happens when browsing books on a library shelf, biking alone through landscapes dotted with artifacts, or talking with an artist about a science question.

And the same with biking around the rolling Dutch or English countryside.  There’s the quiet and the wind and roadside plants and villages.  My mind, full of the day’s work, wanders off onto idle associative tangents.  Can people enjoy an activity without having to master it (the Dutch tell me that they won’t start a sport unless they intend to master it)?  Would a little insight into technique make a huge difference in my cooking (throw vegetables or spices into the pot early or late in the preparation of a dish).  And why do I always seem to end up living within a mile or two of a cement pit (and why are they all abandoned)?

It keeps me human.  And, maybe, fit.


DSC01208 And the random office art. 

I met with a financier in London yesterday, getting to his office through the usual faceless halls dotted with generic corporate art.  Nothing particularly unusual or interesting: I’m practicing my pitch anyway.

But, as I pass a side corridor, I glimpse this:



My first sighting of Random Office Art worthy of the name.

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