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.