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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And Then it Clicked

Typically, I learn best when someone shows me how to do something.

I'm terrible at reading books. I'm terrible at test taking. I'm terrible at online courses. It's a wonder that I graduated from a major university with a pretty decent GPA.

For the first 2 years of brewing, I didn't really have anyone to show me anything, and I still haven't had anyone around to show me how to make bread.

For the most part, I've spent years having wet dough stick to my hands, ugly looking garbage baguettes, and beers containing hop pieces in the bottle. Basically, I could've been playing with Playdough and making hoppy tea and I would've been accomplishing very similar things.

I just kept doing and reading and doing and reading, hoping that things would click.

And sometimes they do.

The most recent example of something clicking is a method for mixing dough. I've read so many baking books that describe this fold over method. They even have nice splash pages with pictures showing how to do it. I've looked up videos on YouTube. None of it made sense to me. I couldn't make my hands make the pretty looking dough in the pictures.

A few weeks back, I was making some dough, and then it was as if power was restored to a part of my brain and it just clicked. It was one of those moments where you can't remember the week previous when you had no idea. It was something you always knew. I fully understood the folding method and my breads have been much more flavorful since.

I met a few guys that brewed beer over margaritas at some random Mexican restaurant a few years back.

I was starting to figure out some basics of brewing. I understood the basic premise and why things were done a certain way, but I was still years off of figuring out how to make my own recipes. And then I started going to brew days at these guys houses. I saw their setups, how they kept beers from getting hazy, how they steeped hot water through the grains, and how they cleaned up.

Meeting this group of friends gave me ideas and probably accelerated my skills by several years.

Basically what I'm saying is, yes, I can learn anything, it will just take me a long time like baking did. Or, if I meet people that already know how to do it, and they are willing to show me, I'll pick it up immediately and excel at it.

All I know is at least once a week, I'm eating my bread and drinking my beer and it doesn't cross my mind to go to a bakery or store to pick up someone else's products, and that's a great place to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

First Impressions and Contactors

Every interaction I've had with contractors have not been pleasant.

One neighbor had a team of guys working on our shared fence. They showed up at 6 am for 10 straight days and started hammering and drilling. They set up their saw horses and housed all the lumber in our yard. They ruined parts of our yard.

That same neighbor got a new porch poured not long after. Guess where the cement truck was parked while it rained? That's right, on our yard. The truck slide a good 3 feet during this pouring, destroying the grass and making huge dips and lumps that I've attempted to even out multiple times, but they somehow remain.

The other neighbor had roofers show up. They plugged their power tools into my outdoor outlets, threw tons of discarded roof tiles into my yard, threw cigarettes into my yard, and even left a stained smelly shirt hanging on my porch.

So when it came time to hire our first workers to cut down the tree in our back yard, I was incredibly stressed. I was pissed off when things happened to me, and I would guess the neighbors would feel the same when it was flipped back.

Of course the tree guys let huge logs fall three stories into both my yard and the neighbors yard creating huge divots that still remain. I've dumped a good 30 lbs of dirt into holes (of course fixing the neighbor's yard first) trying to get things fixed. It still is not right.

We had a storm roll through a few weeks back that completely ripped the roof off of our house. Around this same time, we got a new neighbor next door.

He came up to me on the fence line and introduced himself. We had a quick pleasant conversation. I was happy to have a new start.

Well, the roofers have showered his house in pieces of brick, mortar, and tar paper. The dumpster guys ripped a huge steel pipe off of our curb and there's a good six inches sticking straight out in the street ready to ruin someone's wheel. And now I'm the proud owner of a dead side yard because a tarp covered in trash sat for 8 days.

This morning, I was baking bread, trying to quickly mow the lawn, and clean up trash left behind and I was interrupted every 12 minutes by my new neighbor, who was justifiably upset every time he found something new wrong. Instead of spending 90 minutes getting everything done, this was stretched into more than 2 hours as I attempted to call the street department, the insurance adjuster, and the roofer, none of which are answering because it's the weekend.

I can understand the contractor's side. You're doing 12 hours of work a day, in the elements, for maybe $30,000 a year. Your body is breaking down, you have no retirement, and you do the same back breaking jobs 6 days a week. At a certain point, you stop caring.

But dammit, there's also the being considerate side of things. I go out of my way to be considerate to everyone that deserves it. And that is probably why I care so much about this.

Thanks for sitting in on this therapy session.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Death, Babies, Stress, and Mind Running

Buckle up. This was three separate blog posts at one point, but I felt there was a common subject. That subject is, "Everything stresses me out."

As I've written before, Death Scares the Hell Out of Me.

I've been thinking about the subject a lot lately. There's been a lot of anniversaries of important losses in my life, people I care about dealing with deadly disease, and generally the world seems like it's falling apart.

It's just a feeling of helplessness. Like we're spinning on this globe with no say of how fast.

I think I worry about macro things too much. (Or, maybe not enough.) The world issues that I feel like I have no control over scare me the most. It has to be my imagination. There's an issue and then I connect the dots until it kills me.
  • We're running out of fresh water. I've read things that say, at the current rate, we'll be out of fresh water sources in 40-50 years. And then there are plague like things happening to some of our larger fresh water sources:
  • We've got to be on the verge of a major war right?
  • The freaking Ebola virus is running rampant and some of those infected are outside of Africa.
  • And then there are the normal things of possible recession in Europe again, gas shortages, climate change, overpopulation, etc. 
All of these things equate to a Mad Max like scenario where I eventually starve to death, while fighting a plague, until I am executed over the lack of drinking water.


The subject of children has come up often lately. I think the first wave of married folk from 4-6 years ago have started having kids and Sal and I are finding that kids love the crap out of us generally. We get a lot of those, "You know you would be great parents" sort of comments. 

And then I see some people on my Facebook feed having their 4th or 5th kid. And I see them post really ignorant, racist and homophobic updates, and I see them ringing up credit card debt, and buying houses and cars they can't afford, and I think, "maybe we should have kids to balance out the idiots."

I guess this is a sentiment that has been true forever. I shouldn't be surprised. Harvey Danger even sang about it with Flagpole Sitta back in 1997. 

Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding
And of course we would be good parents, great even. If (and it's a big IF) we could have kids, we're just not sure it would be healthy for us.

We've barely been able to travel or complete any of the bucket list items we had in college. We're still playing catch up from losing our jobs back in 2009. Sallie just now is being paid what she should have been when we graduated. There are too many marriages that fail and it seems like a large cause/symptom is having kids when you're not prepared.

Basically, kids aren't in the near-future-cards because of this forced arrested development we both feel.

And also, we just don't know if we could have kids. Adoption might be the only option.

Generally, I think I'm just too stressed. Sal and I have been driving up and down the country for seemingly months now. I think we are just running ourselves ragged.

I know this seems to be my post every 8-10 weeks or so, but it really has felt like that. 

It's been another year full of weddings, and this year almost all of them have been out of town. With out of town weddings, come gifts, hotel rooms, full weekend filled with travel. Just generally tiring. 

Then a few weeks back a freak storm came through and ripped our roof off. I'm not exaggerating. Our flat roof was lifted up like a blanket and thrown over itself. We also had two windows, two doors, and some leaking damage. So every time it gets cloudy, I get stressed again. The new roof can't be put on until there are three solid days with no chance of rain. I'm hoping that's by the end of this week.

And we did that dumb thing where we over commit to things. Yeah, LouFest sounds like a blast back in April when we bought tickets, but by the time it comes around in September, we've been non-stop busy for 8 weeks. 

I guess not using any PTO for the first 5 months of the year really sets a bad precedent. I just feel stressed, rushed, and tired. Even when I've taken time off for just a long weekend to reset, somehow I end up filling that too. 

I'm not complaining that there's not fun things. It's not like every weekend I'm out digging ditches or doing match. Usually the stuff we have is fun. I'm just a guy that likes some alone time. I really only feel reset if I get to wake up, sip some coffee, play some video games, dunce around on the internet, and ease into the day. I need that at least once a week and it just hasn't happened. 

Basically, this is what life feels like lately if I had to sum it up in one picture. 



Monday, August 18, 2014

Happiness as Science

There's a scientific research project called Track Your Happiness which is trying to quantify what exactly makes humans happy. I first heard about this over a year ago on one of the podcasts I listen to.

The scientist said what they are learning is incredible. Things like, people tend to be most happy when they are in a car and not thinking about much in particular.

It's something you don't think about often. What makes me truly happy? Sure, you know things like eating ice cream will make you temporarily happy, but when, during your everyday life, are you happiest?

I decided to sign up to get text alerts and add to the project. I've done it twice now, 6 months apart. My second go around just finished. This is particularly interesting to me because of the completely different life-place I'm in compared to where I was around the holidays last year during my first time doing the survey.

There were a lot of "no-duh" pieces of information.


  • I'm happiest on Fridays, least happy on Tuesdays. (The day I have to take phone calls.) 
  • I'm most happy when I'm doing things I want to do, but also have to do. Which I think translates to, "I enjoy doing certain things (cooking) for other people when I sign up to do it. (family event, dinner party)
  • Right now, I'm slightly more happy when I'm inside. When I did it the first time, back in January, I was slightly more happy when I was outside.
  • I tend to be happiest when I get around 7 hours of sleep. When I get more than 8, I'm less happy.
  • I am happiest when I'm brewing, at a brewery, at a buddy's house, listening to music, or watching a movie.
  • I'm least happiest when I'm at a hospital, relaxing (that's a huge surprise), working, listening to the news, at Target, or praying/worshiping/meditating. 
I think what I get out of this is, when I'm left with my thoughts, I'm the least happy. Which I don't know what that says about my mental well being. 

It makes sense though, my three least favorite chores to do are yard work, grocery shopping, and doing dishes. All things that are relatively mindless, yet it's not easy to listen to podcasts or occupy myself in other ways. 



Friday, August 1, 2014

Salmonster VS Hungerbot

Every few holidays, I'll make Sallie a comic or picture instead of getting a card.

We've had a bunch of old paintings and canvases sitting around the house, so I got the bright idea to raise the bar. I was going to paint a picture. Now the thing you need to know is I'm terrible at painting. I'm really bad at figuring out which colors go together and staying in the lines. I'm terrible with brush strokes. I basically don't like moving outside of drawing. So I knew this would be quite the undertaking.

I started back in May. The concept stages. Sal and I have this joke that the only time we fight is when she's hungry or I'm tired. In fact, she has a persona for when she's hungry. She's SALMONSTER!

So I thought about how much I love old sci-fi and horror movie posters and decided my topic. I would create Salmonster vs Hungerbot in the style of an old Godzilla movie poster. Specifically, the one below was a huge inspiration.


So I started on this journey. I didn't know how I was going to pull this off without ruining the surprise.

So I started with some concept art, this one being the one that made it. I actually drew this sitting on the same couch as Sal, but she was getting deep into the internet on our tablet, so I knew I was safe from her seeing. I took one of the paintings we already had and agreed that we didn't want to hang it on our wall, I painted primer over it and then did this nice orange and red.


I got a little cavalier next, painted the frames for the buildings and then without any outline, went ahead and did some lettering. Not only did it not line up very well, but days later I realized I forgot the "S" in Monster.



I then added the beginnings of Sal in my favorite dress of hers and the robot. I'm a little creeped out that Sal has no eyes or hair, but I have to wait for the paint to dry before doing anything else. I also start painting over the lettering that I screwed up.


Now this was starting to look like something. I redid the lettering across the bottom, put some hair and glasses on Sal, as well as her dragon breath, and paint a pretty sweet St. Louis skyline. If you look in the top left corner, you'll notice it looks a bit different. I again messed up some lettering, but this is Slider's fault this time.

I was doing the "NEVER BEFORE SEEN..." lettering and I had paints out. The dummy decided to lay right on top of the plate I was using to mix colors. Now my back was turned during this initial thing, but I believe he probably felt wetness, sat up, licked it, and then spazzed out when he tasted paint.

All I see is a gray blob come flying around my "L" shaped desk, jumping off of my drawing table, and then shooting upstairs. I look at the paint and see hair stuck in it.

I start to chase this already panicked cat around the house, he's foaming out of his mouth, getting paint everywhere.

I catch him, put him in the bath to wash all the paint off and then make him throw up.

A day later, while Sal is eating dinner, I notice a bunch of cat painted paw prints near the piano on the floor and stealthily clean them up.

Disaster averted.

Then I had Rosie come over and do a little touching up. She put on the perfect accents to make it look a little more professional. So, after a good ten weeks of working on this for 30 minutes at a time, here is the final product.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The 30's and Sitcoms

Sal and I both turn 30 in the next week.

She is looking forward to her 30's.

I am not.

I don't have a great reason why I'm not. It's really a number that humans made up based on another number on a piece of paper from 30 years ago. Being 28 is not much different from being 32.

But I feel sort of ripped off. Between the multiple surgeries, getting laid off, all the overtime, I feel like we missed out of the sitcom years. You know, the 24-30 range where you make adult wages and get to have fancy cocktails in some hip New York bar/coffee house combo.

Instead, I could barely walk during those years.

And it's unrealistic. No one really lives like Ross and Rachel or the Sex in the City ladies. (I know, they were all in their 30s, but come on, they lived like 20 somethings) Most of my friends had the same struggles finding work as we did and dealing with lay offs and unexpected debt.

None of us were sipping cocktails in Manhattan and worrying about a visit from our rich, but obtrusive parents or discussing the benefits of dating older men and women.

F·R·I·E·N·D·S more like L·I·E·S
The 20's just felt like this exciting time. Older adults seemed to latch onto every story you had, living vicariously through you. The world seemed to be in front of us, and life so fresh.

When I look at the 30's on paper, it just seems like a time to get comfortable, and I don't really want that.

I'm not going to feel much different on Saturday than I did any random Saturday a few years back. This is all theoretical changes and maybe how others might view me.

I guess I'm ready for my 30's. A time where my student loans will be paid off, our car paid for, our salaries increasing (God willing), and a new chapter in life. But damn if I didn't wish I still had a few 20's to count.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Going Back to the Phones

On July 8th, I had to return to taking phone calls once a week.

I hadn't done this in almost a year, and in that year I really loved my job. The calls themselves aren't that bad. It gives me a chance to think on my feet and interact with people. BUT... this also opens me up to abuse from people having a bad time.

I've been dreading it. I used to be one of the best you could ask for on the phones, but not taking a call in a year really puts some rust on your skills.

For instance, my phone dismounts have gotten really awkward.

"Alright, that password is reset, you should be good to go..."
"OK, than..." "can I help..." "OK, umm bye" "...with anything else." Pause a few seconds, "No, bye."

I've also been stumbling to remember where I have certain tools saved. Sometimes they're a bookmark, sometimes it's an app, either way, I have 100 of both, so I have to sift through.

And I forgot how talking to users is like speaking two different languages. They don't exactly know what's going on and that's why I'm there to take calls.

So the first day back, I had a call that went something like, "Hey, I can't get logged in."

"OK, what screen are you on? Is this Windows or Email?"

"It's Windows."

"OK, do you see a change password button below where you log in?"

"No, I see a black screen."

"Ummmm, sir is your monitor on."

"Yeah should be, but it's black."

"Push the little orange button."

"Alright, I'm logged in. Thank you!"

We have a new head of technology coming in August, so my team going back on the phones is sort of a test to see if we can keep up with our other work. The answer is probably no and we're hoping whoever the next head is will take us off the phones permanently. But for at least the next few months, every Tuesday is going to be the worst day of my week.