Making Beer, Bread, Logs and Quarters

This week I made a few things, and it felt awesome. In keeping with my previous post Is Adulthood The Death Of Fun, I’ve been consciously having more fun during the week. Doing those things I’ve been meaning to do.

To kick it off, I finally got around to brewing beer. During the process, I was fairly certain I’d never do it again. Luke, a friend with brewing experience, says this is how most new brewers feel. It’s a lot of work. BUT, after the brewing is complete, you have this beautiful bubbling jug of (very nasty looking) India Pale Ale:

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I’m a big advocate of doing things that are intrinsically rewarding. Brewing beer wasn’t like that for me. But the payoff at the end of even just looking at it every day while it ferments is very rewarding. Enough so that I’d do it again, with better gear, and more people to share the work. I picture brewing a large batch with several buddies as being some real good fun.

Next, Bread

My friend Tyler knows how to make sourdough bread, so I asked him to teach me. I didn’t even care to know how to make sourdough specifically, I would have been happy with just mixing water and flour and baking it. But that’s not how Tyler does things so instead we tackled one of the most difficult breads, and it took several days. This is what resulted:

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Riding high having just baked that awesome loaf, I tried a solo bake at home and failed utterly. The dough was all soupy, it wasn’t even bakable. I had to chuck it.

Sourdough is a god damn tricky process. You’re working with water, flour, and yeast that just floats around in the air. That was a revelation for me, the fact that you don’t add yeast. It just kind of finds your mix and gets in there and starts colonizing. Awesome. You can’t even take yeast from one place and use it in another, long term. The local yeast will just take over, and your foreign yeast disappears. So the most important thing about French bread, it turns out, could be that it’s made in France where the yeast is apparently awesome. That’s how I interpret it anyway. That and they really know how to fucking bake in France.

Wood

This is the opposite of beer. I love everything about the early stages of getting wood ready for the winter. Hiking out and finding some decent lumber, hauling it home, cutting it into logs, stacking it inside. The whole thing feels amazing. This is how I imagine squirrels feel.

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Lia and I talk about “feeling rich” when we have certain things taken care of. Like groceries. A full fridge makes us feel rich. A stocked wood cubby makes me feel rich too. It just looks abundant. I just sit there and stare at my wood sometimes. It’s almost a shame to burn some of these pieces, they’re gorgeous.

Art

I don’t draw anymore and it’s a fucking tragedy. I used to absolutely love to draw. But then I went to college and spent 4 years learning how to draw better, which was great, but I also learned how to look at art and mentally dissect every little thing about it. Being hyper-critical ruined the fun for me, and I stopped drawing because my mind wouldn’t get out of the way. I was pissing myself off. But now I’m finally getting my toes back in the water and it feels great. Lia was gum ball machine for halloween so I was a quarter.

Gumball machine and quarter couples costume

I drew it with sharpies.

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So that’s it! If you’ve been doing anything cool and new, throw it in the comments! Let’s dog-pile some fun shit!

The Selfish Road and Why I Take It

Living with the least external resistance possible means doing a lot of what other people want you to do.

One can avoid conflict by yielding to the wills of others, and enjoy easy relations with friends, family and coworkers. Smooth sailing.

I did this for a while and I got all angry inside.

I’ve realized recently that I’m very stubborn. When I yield to something I fundamentally disagree with, it fucks me up inside. Lots of stress. I get cankers in my mouth. Not a great way to be. Sailing can be smooth on the outside (between myself and other people), but what good is that if I’m experiencing a fucking hurricane on the inside?

So I’ve started being more aware of my own internal resistance. If I’m resisting something internally, I consider that along with the potential social damage I stand to incur if I decide to do things my way. More and more, I’ve been choosing my own happiness and life has improved dramatically.

For example, last Christmas my aunt was in town. To put things mildly, we don’t get along. So, I didn’t attend family Christmas last year. Lia, Isla and I stayed home, did our own thing. I got a lot of heat for that, but that was the price for a stress-free holiday. Looking back, it was 100% worth it for me and for the family I’m building (with Lia and Isla). They deserve the best version of me (not the stressed me), and at the end of the day my priorities lie with them, and with myself.

Let’s look at the word “Selfish”.

We think the word is bad. It’s simple. “Selfish” is not a good thing to be. But sometimes it is. I think some selfishness is absolutely necessary in the maintenance of personal happiness. I personally believe we should all be more selfish than we currently are. You know what I mean. Don’t hog all the candy, don’t eat the entire cake, don’t be a shit. But do be selfish in prioritizing your happiness over all else. If you’re not happy, what good are you to anyone? I just don’t see sacrificing personal happiness for someone else’s as a sensible long-term approach.

 

Bonus Points if Your Kids Aren’t Torturing Small Animals

I just woke up from a dream where I was photoshopping a car while my grandparents were driving away in it. Both of them are gone now and it leaves an emptiness in me. I find myself forgetting that they’ve died. It will take a few years to adjust to it I think.

It’s easier to see what matters when someone dies. Work doesn’t matter, to me anyway. Maybe yours does. My work could disappear and someone else would fill in the gap.

To say I care about my work isn’t really true. I want it to be good, and I’m compelled to do a very good job – but my reasons for doing a good job aren’t very altruistic if you look closely at them. Business is just better when you do a really good job. More work comes, and there are fewer complications with quality work. I can charge more money because most of the time, I’m the best option on the table. But I’m not doing a good job because I care about it. I used to think I cared about it. I like the work, but that’s different. I like writing code, I care about my cat. You know what – I care about my clients too. But I don’t care about their projects. I don’t invest emotional attachment in the jobs themselves. And the clients I don’t care about, I don’t work for them. I tell them I’m too busy to do their work, and they move on. Things get horrible when I don’t care about the client.

But ya, my grandparents are dead.

Everything they’ve done is over, or at least to them it is. I don’t believe in the afterlife or that Grandpa’s up there looking down on me. And if there was an afterlife, he’d probably watch me once in a while but realize that I’m extremely boring most of the time, or doing things he probably doesn’t want to see haha!

The closest answer I have to thinking about death is that it makes me want to create life. The fact of my death coming makes me want to have more kids. The universe can be seen as battle of life vs cold dark nothingness, and it can be proposed that our job, as living things, is to fight to keep life going. The fun kind of fighting. Where you get to have sex.

Genghis Khan would agree with me here. So would daffodils and rats and even influenza virus. If I had to pick either a virus or nothing, I’d hope the virus lives on. At least it’s alive.

If you zoom out far enough, back away from the details of your reality, you’ll see that success can be measured as basically as you want. I sometimes look at successful parenting as: “Are your kids still alive?”

If you can answer “Yes” then you’re parenting successfully.

Bonus points if your kids aren’t fucked up and sad and torturing small animals. Extra bonus BONUS points if your kids have made their own kids. I think that’s part of why grandparents are so stoked on their grandchildren. The first grandchild means they didn’t fucking fail as parents. They made kids that were at least not too fucked up to attract a mate and have more kids.

I hope old fashioned families come back. It’s shitty that our choice today is “kids or a career” because who wants to be poor with a bunch of kids? Most of the people I know are delaying having kids because it’s the right financial decision. Get established in a career first, then have kids. I’m in that boat too. Lia and I were stable enough financially to have a baby before we decided to go for it. Not rich or anything, but not worrying about bills or food was enough security for us to say fuck it (literally).

You might think a kid would add meaning to your life. I used to think so too, but really what happens (at least for me) is the amount of “meaning” stays roughly the same – it all just transfers to the kid. Everything else loses meaning, and the kid sucks it all up. Even your marriage/partnership is in danger of losing meaning as it all transfers to the new baby. Lia and I are lucky in that we’re game to ride out the changes in our relationship. We’re flexible, and patient. We know we still love each other even when we don’t have time or energy to spend together the way we used to.

If you look at kids from an investing standpoint, the payoff is potentially huge. There’s the obvious emotional reward and fulfillment of watching a miniature version of yourself grow up. This assumes the kid isn’t a complete fuck up, in which case the investment is a horrible one. But in ideal circumstances, there’s also the security of having someone to look after your ass when you’re too fucking old and useless to hack it anymore. Or maybe robots will do it. Or maybe medical breakthroughs will make it so we don’t die.

Here’s a smart guy taking about us not dying:

So here’s the kicker: if medical technology is likely to bring us to a point where we can prevent aging, what does that mean for having children? According to this article at davidsuzuki.org, the earth can only sustain 200 million North Americans indefinitely (because our high-consumption lifestyles and profit-driven corporations suck up so many god damn resources). Last I checked, Canada + USA = about 330 million. This doesn’t include Japan or Australia which suck up resources just as hard as we do.

I interpret this as presenting would-be parents with two choices:

  1. If you want to have a big family: better get started soon. The need to limit global population growth is already here. It’s not unrealistic to expect to see something similar to China’s “One Child Per Family” policy take place within our lives, even as privileged Canadians.
  2. If you want to help the planet, don’t have any kids at all. Stop buying so much shit OR stop driving your car so much OR start sending even a small amount of money to Africa every month. I’m sending 2% of my annual pre-tax income and I haven’t noticed a difference in my quality of life at all. But you can bet those 400 kids that now have mosquito nets and aren’t getting fucking malaria can tell the difference! Go to http://www.charityscience.com/ and start sending money right now. ($6 prevents 2 kids from getting malaria for 1 year. If they don’t have malaria they can go to school. If they go to school their odds of getting out of poverty are exponentially higher. Source: Doing Good Better by William MacAskill.) If you actually sign up to send cash each month, say so in the comments below so we can peer-pressure more people into doing it. Any amount is infinitely better than nothing. We are the richest 1% on the planet. We can afford it.

If the Aliens Come Now, We’re Fucked

The new version of Monopoly is played with bank cards instead of paper money. The game’s still fun, and goes a lot faster than the original version, but it does away with our ability to fuck with the rules (because there’s a central card reader which keeps track of player cash balances and property holdings. No more free-wheeling land trades or desperate negotiations because you’re broke! In the old game, my specialty was piling up a lot of cash then going for a “night on the town” and blowing it all on expensive hotels (which I never owned). I was generally out first.

Playing the new Monopoly got me wondering about old games vs. modern games, and why I preferred some over others. I think it comes down to the same reason why my jiu jitsu instructor preferred grappling over striking. Jiu jitsu over boxing or muay thai.

“It’s rare, but an amateur can get lucky and knock out a professional with a wild punch. That just doesn’t happen in jiu jitsu. On the ground, the amateur loses every single time.”

There’s no luck jiu jitsu. The better guy wins every time. I like that.

That’s also why I like chess. Both players have exactly the same pieces. There’s next to zero room for luck. Chess just gets out of the way and lets two people compete in as fair and true a way as humans have yet devised.

The best games do that. They move aside and let the competitors clash directly. The shittiest games do all the playing and the opponents are just puppets, playing out the will of the rules, the luck, and the dice.

Slot machines are shitty games.

Roulette is a shitty game.

Poker is a great game.

Most sports are excellent games.

Mobile games are almost all shitty. Clash of clans, which I was addicted to but am now playing less and less because of Pokemon GO, balances complex strategy and totally unfair match ups. As players progress in the game, they cannot be beaten by newer players – not because of increased skill but because of flat out better troops and defences.

Pokemon GO is similar. Brand new players have absolutely no chance of winning battles. Their pokemon just suck way too much. Advanced players dominate entire towns, only because they’ve been playing for longer. The longer you play Pokemon GO or Clash of Clans, the more powerful you become in those games.

I’m not a big fan of that. Playing something for a length of time shouldn’t guarantee progress. And that’s why I think it will eventually peter out and die like every other mobile game. It has a lifespan. You progress through the game, maybe you make it to the end, and then you either finish the game or quit.

Chess will never die. The pieces in chess don’t get better or worse. The amount of time someone plays chess guarantees nothing. It’s on the player to get better. The game doesn’t help us along.

This is maybe a reflection of our times vs our ancestors. Our ancestors invented chess, we invented Pokemon GO. Our ancestors were ballsy enough to fight with the same weapon as the new guy, year after year. We seem to think that we deserve a better weapon if we’ve been around for a while, so we can utterly obliterate the new guy.

This is why we’re a bunch of pussies and why our grandparents are so much tougher than we are. It’s also why the next generation is 100% useless compared to us.

Humans, in North America anyway, are getting really god damn soft.

If the aliens come now, we’re fucked.