How do crazy people eat breakfast, you might find yourself asking. Actually, you probably don’t find yourself asking that, but I have an answer anyway. You see I’m a fairly crazy person, and I decided to eat breakfast at the top of a mountain. But I couldn’t do things normal, (that wouldn’t be crazy.) I wanted to watch the sunrise while I ate, which meant leaving at 4:30am to hike 2.2 miles, gaining 1900ft in the process. The fallowing is a record of my travels.
After a very long day at work, I climb the stairs to my apartment. The old air conditioning unit is chugging away, trying it’s hardest to cool the area (and barely succeeding.) So I turn the thermostat up to ninety, just to silence the thing. I wouldnt’ be needing it for a while anyway. Then it’s time to start grabbing things. My good backpack, little stove, first aid stuff, sleeping bag, and all the other essentials for camping overnight. Throw all that into the truck, and drive out to meet my family for Dinner. Pork Chop night, my dad is very proud of his grilling and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be. Say goodbye to the family unit, and head to the store. Whats for breakfast… Ah, that’ll be good. Eggs, bagel, fake spicy bacon, cheese and an orange. Toss it into the truck and head west.
It’s late at the campground, I don’t mind because setting up my “tent” is easy. Just park it and move stuff out of the way.
After the sleeping bag is unrolled and the parkmaster has been paid (“We have no spots open except for overflow,” is what he told me. I told him “I’m just sleeping in my truck, can I pay you and just use the parking lot?” this seemed to be an ok arrangement) it was time to pack the backpack with everything I would want to carry up. There was a lot of “Do I really need this much water?’ and “I don’t think I need an entire first aid kit, just some essentials” in order to get the pack down to a reasonable weight. The final act of the evening was to set the alarm on my phone. Sunrise is around 6:00am, so if I’m going to make it to the top before then… I need to wake up at around 4:00am. That gives me some time to wake up, dress, and double check the pack.
It’s dark. There is dense fog on the ground and the small flashlight I have brought with me is almost not enough. It’s 4:25am, and I’ve just reached the trail-head. The first part of the trail is a light downhill, across a bridge, and then it’s up for the rest of the way. I had forgotten how steep it was, and found myself quickly regretting the jacket I had donned earlier due to the biting cold. The darkness is also playing tricks on me. Every snapping twig or rustling in the bushes is a mountain lion, or worse. One of the things I carry when I venture into the wilderness is a large knife, which is very handy for clearing vegetation but not much else. Regardless of the irrationality, though, I find my hand on the hilt. It doesn’t help when I round a corner and experience some wildlife inches from my nose.
I’ll just go ahead and duck under that…
Legs burning, I reach the first clearing, but don’t stop. I know I can make it to the halfway point without stopping, and half the reason for doing this is to prove myself to myself. Finally I reach the crossroads that marks the half way point. I take off the backpack and stretch, because that was the easy part. After a few sips of water, it’s off I go towards the summit.
After a bit more walking, I get to the point where the trees thin out. It’s now that I can see a little bit of light on the horizon, and the ambient light is just enough that I can see things outside the spot of light from my flashlight.
Soon afterwards I finally climb out of the fog, and for the fist time can look up at the sky. The sky is really something to behold, fading from a deep blue to a lighter turquoise, occasionally dotted with stars or clouds. Below me is a sea of cloud, rolling and churning, forming some kind of ethereal landscape that has a very unique beauty.
Shortly after, and the end is in sight.
Upon reaching the summit I was greeted with some absolutely beautiful views. I was stunned, and a little disappointed that I had never done this before.
Now I’m starting to get hungry. The sun hasn’t quite risen, but I’m not gunna wait forever. I’ll at least get the stove started.
Start the tea, prepare the eggs… Have a cooking montage:
The sun has mostly risen at this point, and it has changed the scenery pretty dramatically. Nothing to do but stop and take a few more pictures:
Time to head back down. Walking back is always easier, especially after refueling. After about ten minutes of walking, the sun chose to make itself shown proper, and peaked out from behind some clouds. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did take these ones trying to capture it:
And then its down, to descend into the mists below.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Something random for you all. I was talking to someone about some people’s tendency to share every part of their life, and was theorizing about the types of people out there and what a person should reasonably share with them. In order to illustrate my musings, I wrote the fallowing little guide. It’s meant to be a little silly, and I hope I don’t offend anyone (I noticed that people generally didn’t like the last post.) so without further or due:
Social dynamics and social intelligence are very strange, and very hard to understand. The ideas of when to say something, how to act, what to do to direct the flow of a conversation or to understand what someone actually means vs what they say (Would you like to come up stairs to see my drawings?) Entire universities are devoted to it’s study and even they don’t understand it all. But there are basic guidelines, and various philosophies on sharing yourself with people.
There are all sorts of people we interact with every day. Good friends, coworkers, enemies, family, etc. And we interact differently with all of them. Even within the circles there are serious differences from the way we interact with person to person. Maybe it’s a hard thing to accept, but that is really ok. I have friends that I talk politics with, but I would never in a million years divulge any details from my relationships. Conversely there are people who I only know because they need to know all the details of my relationships, but we *don’t* talk politics. I consider both these people friends, mind you, but I certainly don’t need to tread into their uncomfortable zones. These people accept me for who I am, even if they don’t know the whole story.
Maybe it’d be easier to illustrate with a little fiction. We’ll be focusing on two things. Acceptance, and the choices you have in a social situation.
Lets say one day you decide that your path to happiness is to unleash your inner child. Your *early* inner child. So you begin to wear diapers around. Why not, right? It’s just a different kind of underwear. (also, I think it’s relatively safe to assume I’m not singling anyone out with this) But it’s really outside social norm, most people aren’t to keen on accepting it.
Now, there are of course going to be people you interact with. You can’t avoid all the people you knew Before Diapering (Henceforth known ad B.D.) and being around some of those people will be really embarrassing. If you live at home, the first people you will have to interact with are your family members. You have some choices (these choices will appear a lot)
Don’t tell them, but don’t hide it either
Avoid telling at all costs.
Each choice has their own positives and negatives, but it all comes down to the relationship you have with your family. If you tell them outright, you run the greatest risk. In my family there really are no secrets. On the same margin, if I told my family that I had decided to wear diapers around they would say “Well, you never could do things normally. Don’t leak on the furniture” (My parents are pretty blunt.) However, if the family is not very accepting of the out of ordinary, the only real response you can get is one of anger/shame, perhaps being kicked out. So, not a good option if normal is a precedence.
So you can’t tell them, but maybe if they find out on their own it won’t be so bad. This is true in a lot of cases. Family members are people too, and as they figure things out for themselves they understand the situation better (believe me when I say your parents know a lot about you, and in many cases have been there. I once new a chick who was real into BDSM. After an abusive relationship, she was talking to her mother for consolation trying her hardest not to bring the SM part into the discussion. However, this was making some holes in the story, and her mother stopped her and said “Look, honey, I know you think I’m blissfully unaware of your lifestyle, but lets just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” True story.) This option will not work, however, if your family is already teatering on the edge of disowning you. Then any excuse will be taken and used against you, leaving you with the final option. Hide it.
Of course there are risks, but in order to preserve peace sometimes it’s necessary to just not say anything. In many cases, this isn’t a sign of a weak relationship. Simply that they are comfortable not knowing things about you, and you need to be aware of that. Being that it’s family, this is often something that happens earlier in life, but is resolved later in life. Ten years from now you might finally confess to your mother about the time you smoked a ton of weed but blamed it on the neighbor, and it’ll be alright then.
The next type of person you’ll encounter is your close friends. Your close friends are friends that will pretty much accept you no matter what. That’s the reason they are your close friends. You can strait up tell them, but really, do you need to? Will they care? More than likely the flow of social politics will play out as fallows. You show up and see them as normal, just like B.D. They don’t notice, and this continues for a while. Then, one day your at the pub downing your fourth snakebite and one of your good friends pipes up with “Dude, you like haven’t used the restroom all evening. What the hell, ive had to pee every ten minutes and I think your drinking more than I am.”
And you’ll be all “Oh, actually I decided to wear diapers.”
And your friend will be all “Dude, right on. I mean, that’s kinda weird, but whatever. You’re buying the next round right?”
Or maybe they’ll join you. Friends are weird like that, often times you’ll get along with someone because you share a lot of similar interest to begin with. Plus, you never want to have the “Dude, you know you don’t have to hide anything from me. I’m a little hurt” talk. If you do have to hide things from your good friends, though, you might want to consider choosing new good friends. Maybe knock them down a tier into the next people you’ll come across, your casual friends.
Now casual friends are those ones that you see every so often, and maybe sometimes have deep meaningful discussions with, but you wouldn’t count on it unless you’ve had a few too many. Maybe they are the classmates you get along with. Maybe you only see them when you both meet at your regular eating spot. These could be coworkers you get along with, or just the people in the party your at. Do they need to know all about you? Not really. In fact a lot of these kind of relationships work because they don’t know more about you than is necessary. The guy you always talk sports with might hate you if he knew you were a democrat. The girl you always hang out with at the republican meetings with might stop talking to you permanently if she knew you were a Broncos fan.
Telling them all your secrets outright would be a lot of risk, with very little reward. Chances are they won’t be accepting, it’ll be outside their bubble of how they think of you. Hiding it is a lot of effort though, and may be too confining for the reward of keeping their friendship. There will be some people where it is worth hiding yourself, like your friendly neighbor who is a mechanic, and ever since you did that BBQ has tuned up your car for free. I’m usually not a fan of using people, so keep it mutual, OK? Put on baggy pants and throw another BBQ, with better beer this time.
Now, you will next come across people like coworkers you aren’t friends with, bosses and teachers. These kind of people are necessary relationships that you will have to work at all times to maintain. Unfortunately it means that, in most cases, you’ll be keeping yourself to yourself. You could tell them, or let them find out, but chances are nothing good will come of it. And with so much to risk, there really isn’t a reason to. How many times have you sat and wondered “Gee, I really wish I knew more about my bosses personal life” Never? That’s normal, because it’s business. Your boss feels the same way about you. Teachers, Postal Workers, etc. People you *have to* interact with. No good will come from them knowing everything about you, and even some would try to use it against you. There are people you don’t have to interact with, though.
They are called strangers. They fall under the category of who cares. Want to tell a stranger that you wear diapers? Go for it. They will probably look at you funny and maybe call you offensive things. Honestly, though, it’s probably better if you don’t. They don’t know you, you don’t know them. Hiding things doesn’t make any difference. Society will shoebox you anyway, strangers will see what they want to see. If they want to arbitrarily label you as a freak, they are going to be looking for an excuse to do so. I say don’t make any extra effort either way. Most people would like to assume that you are normal so they are saved the trouble of thinking.
Sifting through strangers, though, is how you will probably meet new people, so do use some discretion. And if you happen to meet your future Significant Other, you’ll really have to tread lightly. Hopefully your future S.O. will at least obtain the status of close friend. If not, you’ll have to tell them outright about why you crinkle when you sit down. Otherwise it’ll get awkward, you really shouldn’t be dating someone that won’t accept you for whatever reason.
Man, we have whittled away a lot of people. But there are still two categories I think are worth discussing. The first is people who you seek because they share your interest. Maybe your sitting around one day surfing the net and you find a diaper wearers group in your area, and you attend. This is a good place to randomly bring up the fact that your diapered, because it’s kind of expected. Imagine showing up to an AA meeting and saying “Hi, my name is Bob and I don’t drink.” First off, no one will believe you, second off, if it were true you have no business being there. So be proud. This is the place to do it and get your dose of acceptance. Strip of those pants and show proudly your padded behind. Just, yknow, remember to put them back on before you walk out.
The final group of people that you will interact with are the people that will know you anonymously. People who will not know who you are. This is a great chance to either totally be who you are (talk in baby talk all day. Who care?) or really be someone your not. Act. This is where most the internet resides, by the way. Where you can hide behind a screen name and rant about how the US needs to adopt Nazi Rule, something you definitely wouldn’t do in public. Ever. You probably would keep your best friends away from that one, but you don’t’ need to if your anonymous, because who the hell will know? You can tell all your secrets away without fear of repercussion. You can also hide anything, because there is not a way to find out your lying. It’s not very fulfilling for that reason, and most people will just make fun of you because they feel safe being an asshole (again, no fear of repercussions.) Also, remember to hide your information well, you don’t need future employers googleing your name and finding out everything. That would be bad.
So in short, there are people to tell and share yourself fully with. There are people that you need to share as little as possible with in order to maintain yourself. And then there are people that you can share a little bit with, but not too much. And that is all OK.
Well start with firearms. Why? Well, mostly because I’m going target shooting on the Fourth and I needed to prep the plinkers anyway. Plinkers are low caliber guns that shoot inexpensive ammunition, great for practicing or blowing up soda cans.
As a note, if your one of those people that hates guns and refuses to ever use one, then I excuse you from reading this. I know nothing I can ever say will convince you otherwise.
Firearms are something I take really seriously. I mean, yes, I get as much childish delight out of making a gourd pop as the next person, but in all truth I understand that a firearm is a weapon, a tool that has many uses. You may be put in a situation where you need to use a firearm. Perhaps your out in the woods, hiking around Alaska and surprise, Mrs. Angry Bear decides you look pretty good. Man, a good large caliber gun would be pretty nice right now. Maybe it’s not a bear, but a crazy person intent on taking your life. Maybe it’s someone intent on taking the life of your friend or family member. Maybe some small rebellion group is holed up in your home town and you need to take it back. Aliens, I don’t know.
Chances are you’l never have to use a gun on someone, but there are people every day that do. And if you ever have to, you’ll be really glad when the thing works as intended, rather than jamming. Even if all you own is a little snub nose that you keep by the bed, hell, even if you don’t own a firearm you ought to know enough about them to keep them safe. Like it or not, there are a few of them out there. Lets begin.
To start, I think it would be a good time to review the four cardinal rules of gun safety.
A. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded. No exceptions. If someone hands you a gun and says it’s empty, check or have them prove it.
B. Never point a firearm at something you don’t intend to shoot. You will kill/destroy anything you shoot, so by extension if you don’t want to destroy something, don’t point a gun at it.
C. Keep your finger off the trigger. Unless you are actively firing the gun, there’s no reason for your finger to be anywhere near the trigger.
D. Know what your shooting at, and what is behind what you are shooting at. It’s all good and well to shoot plastic bottles, but remember that a plastic bottle will not stop the bullet. Rocks and Metal can cause the bullet to ricochet and come back at you. Fragile things like water tanks might be in the distance. Always be aware.
Okay, cleaning time. Your going to need some things.
1. You might start by getting some firearms to clean. I know it might not seem necessary, but having a gun is an important step in cleaning a gun.
2. A surface to work on. I love folding tables. A work bench, or fold out gun stand, whatever. You just don’t want to be working in a place that it’s awkward to work on, or a place that is really dirty.
3. Rags and towels for general cleanliness. Gun cleaner will destroy furniture finish and is in general not healthy stuff to leave around. I use a Puppy Training Pad as a tablecloth when I do things, because I’m clumsy and they are made to absorb liquid.
4. A good decent cleaning kit. This one came from a discount store, and has everything you need. It should have a brush and swab for whatever caliber firearm you own, a cleaning rod (the brass tubing at the top) and a way to push cleaning patches through the barrel.
5. In addition to the kit you need Oil and Cleaner. The cleaning agent breaks down harmful caustics that emit from fired round, and helps break down gunk inside the barrel and on the gun. The oil is lubricant for the moving parts.
6. Red Bull is like fuel for my soul (I ran out of monster) Also, notice that awesome bottle. I shopped around and found some great bottles for the beer, which may even be ready by the end of this month (the wait is still more than I can bear)
7. Portable media device, for listening to tunes.
Right, all set? Good. First things first, make sure the safety is on and that the gun is empty. When checking to make sure the gun is empty, don’t look down the barrel. Use your eyes then your fingers to make sure there is no chambered round and that the clip (cylinder, breech plug, et) is removed.
Gun is empty? Good. Now break it down into components. If you have a revolver or pistol like mine, this only requires exposing the internal parts and the barrel. Every gun is different, so refer to your owners manual, or call the manufacturer. Or ask the internet, really, that’d be a fast way to find out. Search for “stripping ‘your gun’” or just ask on related forums. The idea is to isolate parts that get dirty (like bolts) and exposing the barrel.
Now, you have a few different avenues you can travel, but they all pretty much fallow the same process. Different firearms will require different setups, but for the most part everything is strait forward. This is the order I do things in, and the methods I use.
Always take time to visually inspect everything as you go along. If it looks broken, stop. Don’t use the firearm at all.
First your going to want to apply cleaner to things that need cleaning, so it can break down the grime.
Find the swab holder.
Load it with a chunk of cotton (or the swabs that come in a cleaning kit, or special tear resistant fabric kits. Whatever your cup of tea is. My father would cut up old socks. I buy microfiber pads)
Get some solvent cleaner on the swab, and build up the cleaning rod to be more than the length of the barrel. Then press the swab and rod through the barrel. When possible, make sure to always start at the breech end and end at the muzzle end (that is, push the rod through the same way a bullet would travel through it.) Make sure to coat the barrel in solution, and then remove the patch from the end. You don’t want to pull the patch through again, because it will displace the cleaner you just worked so hard to put in there. Pull the rod through and wait a bit.
Ok, so bad example since i’m running the rod through backwards (there isn’t any room to do it the other way, hence my when possible clause) but it illustrates what were going for.
Once the solvent sits there for a bit, get out your barrel brush.
Again, if possible, start from the breech side of the gun, and push the barrel brush through the barrel. Don’t switch direction while the brush is inside the barrel. Push it all the way through, and then pull it all the way out. This is the heavy cleaning. Pretend your a chimney sweep. You can sing campy British songs if you wish.
Did that? Good. Now run another patch full of solvent down the barrel. Then run a couple of dry patches down the barrel. You’ll do this cycle a few more times, until the dry patches aren’t collecting any more dirt. After that, your done with the barrel.
But the barrel isn’t all, you should also clean the chamber, the bolt, really anything that comes in contact with a round. Just dip or spray some cleaner on the part, and use an old tooth brush (or rag, or cleaning pad) to remove the black soot and buildup on the parts.
Nice and clean.
I use the fluffy swabs to clean hard to get to areas.
You can also wipe down the outside of the gun (as long as it’s metal) Remember to spend a little extra time and really clean moving parts, as they will suffer the most from being dirty.
Now it’s all clean. Which is good. But there are a few final steps.
You need to oil moving parts. This is fairly strait forward, if it moves or if it’s a rail to guide something that moves, put a small amount of gun oil on it.
Remember I said small amount. That drop in the last picture is more than enough. Wipe up any excess with a soft rag.
While your at it, if you have optics make sure they are clean. Usually you polish the lenses with a soft microfiber cloth:
To finish up, you can wipe down the whole gun with a clean, soft rag. A little bit of wood conditioner if you have wood furniture on the firearm. A small amount of various cleaners for different surfaces will take off rust, if there is any, or polish plastic.
Place in a place where they can’t get dirty (I suggest a gun case, but you may have reasons not too) and where there is low moisture.
There you go. Hope it wasn’t to terrible, and now you can say you know at least one manual skill. Until Next Time.
Haha! Welcome, one and all to this maddening place. What I have to show you will change the way you think about the world forever. Or at least kill ten, fifteen minutes of your time. Whatever, same difference. You see, the one and only Mutt (that is me, for those of you who are new) decided that he should make beer. Why? Why the hell not!? Well, actually, there is a reason. See, Ive been in and out of wineries forever. I know the wine making process in and out, I worked at small wineries where I was involved in every step, down to picking the grapes, to large wineries where my only duty was to hold a 4″ hose for eight hours, six days a week. The problem is, when I get off work and sit down, I don’t want a damn glass of wine. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of wine I really enjoy, and there are times when a glass of Steel Barrel Chardonnay is what I need. Most of the time, though, I’d rather have a glass of beer. Making beer, I reasoned one day, couldn’t be harder than making wine. Fortunately, I was so very right.
Beer. The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, if the TV is to be believed. Sure, it doesn’t have the class of a glass of wine, and maybe it doesn’t have the social status of a good scotch, but under most cases it’s the peoples drink. It is also one of the oldest beverages, dating back to the time of the Giza Pyramids and even before. Beer was given to people in the Middle Ages because the alcohol killed the bacteria that would kill you making it far safer than water. Beer has always been a favorite for people who work hard because it’s full of nutrients, and is so highly important that an entire variety of beer was invented for the purpose of keeping an army well lubricated. Indeed, a local favorite “India Pale Ale” or IPA, has a high alcohol content so it could survive the trip from Britain to India so the poor British troops wouldn’t have to go without beer. With so much prestige, how could you not want to try your hand at one of the world’s other oldest professions.
Beer comes primarily in 2 forms. Lagers and Ales. Lagers have to be kept cool during the brewing process, making them un-ideal for making in the middle of a Californian Summer. So lets make an Ale. Specifically, a highly tasty Nut Brown Ale, similar to a New Castle. Where do you start? I started on the internet. Specifically, the fallowing links:
As this entire ‘guide’ is meant to be a catalog of my own experiences and some humor, I suggest if you really want to brew to read those and not rely on this, as I will have left out important steps and details.
Now you’ve got to get yourself some supplies. I did my shopping here, http://www.homebrewers.com/category/aardvarks/ and they seem to have some great starter kits. To be honest, though, I had a lot of the stuff already lying around from Wine making, so I only bought some fancy bottles, a couple buckets and some sanitizing agent. Oh, and an ingredients kit, very important that. You don’t have to get an ingredients kit, (it’s like a cake in the box thing, they give you all the stuff measured and separated, but you still have to make the cake,) but you do have to get the ingredients. Refer to the 2 free books, or if you buy things from the HomeBrewers they ship you a copy of their book, which was a good read (though not very detailed.)
Then you get the stuff and you get overwhelmed and decide to hang out with friends all day. The second day, though, you have to crack down and do it. Start by setting up a workstation. If your like me and live in a tiny apartment, it may take some clever re-organizing of dirty dishes.
Also, if you have a tiny apartment, you may find that your ingredients and tools span into multiple rooms. This one doubles as the place where I write these posts.
Oh, and if your like me and didn’t take the advice up there, where I said don’t procrastinate, you’ll also want some fuel:
Right then. First you have to clean the hell out of everything that is going to touch anything. This is true of wine, as well, so I was used to the overly paranoid sense of clean and sanitize everything. Why? Well, bacteria likes to live on things, and while no harmful bacteria can survive in alcohol, it can poison the taste (a worse crime, some would argue.) A diluted bleach solution works, or I buy ‘no rinse’ sanitizing agent.
Next, you boil water. Easy, right? Well, kind of. My stove top wasn’t working to good, it’s old and electric and had trouble boiling 5 gallons of water.
So I boiled 2 gallons first, and then dumped that into the fermenting bucket. Next I boiled 3 gallons, and did everything to that, as this is the way it is outlined on one of the online guides.
Now, since I wanted a nut brown ale, it has a step where you steep (just like making tea) grains. You do that by wrapping them in a cheesecloth like material and dunking them in the not yet boiling pot. How do you get them out? Sterilized coat hangers!
When it comes to a boil, you remove the steeping grains and then remove the pot from heat. If your smart, your using a propane burner or natural gas stove, because then you can just shut the thing off. If your me, you have to move 3 gallons of boiling water to a new location *without* burning yourself. I was mildly successful, and after a nice face sauna I was ready to add the Liquid Malt Extract. Now, LME is a substance that is about the consistency and color of maple syrup and I think it was used as a bonding agent on the first spacecraft. Seriously, I think there is a spoon permanently stuck to my counter.
You stir that till it’s gone, then move the pot back to the burner. Once it’s boiling again, you add the Hops. Now, after adding the hops, the wort (that’s the fancy word for beer that isn’t yet beer) has a tendency to boil over. If you stir it frequently, witch means bathing your hand in scalding steam, then you can prevent it from gushing out of the pot. I was also told that if you add two pennies to the pot it will prevent boil overs.
This is not the case. The only way I was able to prevent boil overs was to stir the mix every five minutes or so for the hour it takes to boil. Even still…
Remember, cleanliness is important. So important that I think I’ll clean that up tomorrow.
So, your wort has finished and your chilling it (because you can’t add yeast to the boiling water, it’ll die.) Oh, RIGHT. The yeast. Yeast is important, it’s what makes alcohol. Yeast eats sugar, producing alcohol and CO2. Which is all good and great, me and yeast go back a long ways to when I used to make yeast cultures in five gallon buckets. A dab of water, some sugary malt, and a packet of dry yeast. The magic ingredient:
Also notice the giant wooden spoon. I had to go to 3 different stores to find a spoon big enough to stir five gallons of liquid. I was just about to give up and cut down a piece of oak from the shop, when I stepped into a local Mexican Market for a taco. There, hanging on the end of an isle, was a bunch of random cooking implements, among them a giant wooden spoon. Awesome.
The wort cooled, the yeast cultured (I read it some old books and played Mozart on the radio.) I was ready to introduce the yeast to the brew, which will be the final step before it ferments for nine to eleven days. After pouring the yeast into the first batch of boiled water, I dumped the cooled wort into the fermentation bucket, making sure it stirred up a bit. Snapped the lid down, popped on the bubbler (or air lock if you prefer) and cleaned up.
Not to bad for a night of work , if I don’t say so myself. But, how will it taste? I have no idea. At the time of writing this i’m still a few days off from bottling, and even still a few weeks away from being able to drink it. It’s killing me, it really is. However, I do know that it’s working. You can watch bubbles escape, which means the yeast isn’t dead because it’s producing CO2. So, it has to be kind of right.
Taken the next morning. See em Bubbles! Success. Well, for this part. It’s my first time ever brewing beer, so I’m really only hoping for having created something drinkable. I’ll keep you all updated, dont’ worry. I’d also be happy to answer any questions, so there’s that. For now, though, Laterz.
So for those of you that don’t know, I sing in a Choir. The Cuesta College North County Chorus, to be exact. Under the direction of Cassandra Tarantino, last year (that is to say, 2010) the Chorus had loaded up on a plane with spirits high, taxied out on to the Philadelphia runway and were promptly told that we would not, in fact, be going to Ireland due to a very unkind interjection by a Volcano. Cursing and spitting at the powers that be, we (there were 40 or more of us, all vocalists so you can imagine the colorful language) resigned to fly back home after an… interesting.. night in a Philadelphian hotel. My mother and I, who had taken two weeks off of work in order to continue after the tour to England, landed in San Francisco airport and promptly got on a plane to Mexico. The pictures can be found in the Gallery, and though we had a great time it wasn’t Ireland. When we returned home, we caught wind of mad plotting. *Bleep* the volcano, they shouted. We would go in 2011, no force of nature will stop us. It had, after all, been a dream of our fearless director, to take her flock to the Emerald Isle, and Lord knows you can not stop a force like Cassandra.
We landed in Dublin on May 22, 2011.
That? That right there is the inside of Dublin Airport. The news said that the volcano had tried to prevent us from making it again. Bleep the volcano indeed. It wasn’t all fun and games of course, there were days dedicated to music. We are a choir, after all. And not only did we have the incredible experience that is performing pieces inside of beautiful and ancient cathedrals, but travelling with us from Bakersfield California was the renowned director Dr. Ron Kean. You see, he wrote 3 pieces of music that we were to perform. He took 3 poems by W.B. Yeats and set them to music (Brown Penny, The Song of Wandering Aengus, and He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven.) These pieces had never been performed outside of the United States, so it was our extreme honor to not only be the first group to perform them abroad, but also to perform them in Sligo, the town where Yeats was inspired to write and which he considered his home.
So if you have a free moment, care to journey through Ireland as seen by a Mutt? Of course you do.
**The Slideshow things seem to be kinda finicky. Press “Play Again” and you’ll be able to watch the slideshow if it’s ended before you made it to the page. Press “View Full Album” and it’ll take you to another screen where you can click on the images individually and also see them full size.
To start, after we landed in Dublin we learned something fun and interesting. Our President, Mr. Obama, had fallowed us to Ireland. So everywhere we looked were the yellow jackets of the Guarda, and steel temporary fencing directing traffic.
Also notice the languages on the sign. You got your English, and you got Irish Gaelic. It was refreshing to see signs in not Spanish.
That round building up there is where Obama was to give his speech. We were leaving the city as he arrived to the plaza, and he skipped out early to avoid the volcano (you’ll notice that Iceland seems to really have a problem with us.) The bus had to stop there because of the gated off area, which meant that the tour group had to *gasp* walk about thirty yards to Trinity College where they store the Book of Kells.
The Book of Kells is a right ancient (Around the year 800 a.d.) book that has phenomenal artwork, demonstrating to a T the Celtic knot-work and art of the time. Also in that building is the Long Room, a massive, old and well preserved library. The smell of old books was overwhelming, and any literary nut like me should make a point to go and see it.
Now, for those of you that don’t know, Guinness is one of God’s Gifts to Man, so I was rightly stoked to be attending such a place. Located in Dublin, the Storehouse is where the original St James Brewery stood, and is a museum of sorts. At the top is a Gravity Bar, where you can look through the 360 degrees of window out over the city. Also, free pint.
Guinness is kind of a big deal. It tastes like something that no man should drink, it’s alcoholic and is about the color and consistency of tar. Which is all the correct ingredients to make something that is more than a little great. Now, the place it is made is less like a factory and more like a city. Ive worked for wineries that rank among the largest in the US. Ive also been to wineries that are far larger. But I have never seen a operation like St. James. Take a look:
Yes, it has it’s own railway system.
Dublin is a pretty amazing place. I really fell in love with the city, and didn’t want to leave.
Now it was in Dublin that I went to my first ever Irish Pub (like, an actual pub in Ireland, we have “Irish Pubs” around my home town, but they really arn’t the same.) O’Donaghues was the name, he had currency glued to the wall and live music.
People with instruments would just join in, some would leave, the music never stopped. Standing room only, the whole place is about as big as my tiny apartment. I live for traditional Irish Music, so as far as things to do going to a pub with real music was pretty high on the list. I think I spent a total of five nights in an Irish Pub listening to live music. Out of 8 total nights.
The next day I got to see my first real Cathedral. St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. I decided that my house, when I’m obscenely wealthy, will just be a copy of this building.
Oh, and there is stained glass everywhere. In every Cathedral and Church, beautiful stained glass. It was made worse by the fact that I often work with glass, and know that these works can’t be reproduced. I loved just staring at the back-lit tapestries.
After an Impromptu concert in the middle of that grand cathedral (one which reduced many a choir member to tears. It was emotional, here we were in the middle of the beautiful place, finally having made it to Ireland singing our ‘signature’ song) we made way to the ancient settlement of Clonmacnoise.
Let me start by saying that I love ancient ruins. I love old buildings, and I love giant masonry structures. The ‘newer’ buildings date back to the twelfth century. The older ones, including the High Crosses (High Crosses are kind of a thing in Ireland) date back to the 800s. The river seen in the pictures is the River Shannon.
Next we arrived in Sligo. The stomping ground of a one W.B. Yeats.
Here we had our first concert, as well as a tour of the lake where the Lake Isle of Innisfree resides. But before the concert, the first evening there I was to visit a fantastic pub, where our fearless directer whipped out here flute and joined in with the band. There was dancing, and we were invited back the next evening for a special gathering of musicians.
That Right There? Our fearless leader bringing down the house.
Some pictures of Lough Gill, The Castle on Lough Gill, Sligo and a Severed Pigs Head. We passed a butcher shop near the church we were singing in, and were greeted by a man that was very proud to show off his pigs head. “Yer makes a shtew out of it, or cooks up the ears for startin”
Singing at the church was more than a little special. This was Yeats home town, after all. It was our first performance outside of California (really, outside of the small county of San Luis Obispo) and we had a decent audience that showed up to see us (this only happened once.) Ron Kean stepped in to direct the pieces he wrote.
The writer of the pieces we performed directed our choir, in the home town of the poet from whom the lyrics came, on it’s first international performance. And then we were invited to tea and cakes, where we were made to suffer through even more egoflation when everyone talked about how well we did. So yah, Sligo was kind of awesome.
Also, speaking of Mr. Yeats.
Outside the church where he is buried, the lyrics to the song we sang titled Only My Dreams.
While in Sligo, we stopped at the Tobernalt Holy Well. Here, water bubbled from the ground, and it’s something of a sanctuary, the end point of a pilgrimage. It’s also amazingly beautiful.
Next stop, Donegal. We only spent a short amount of time here, and mostly to see Donegal Castle.
Of course, we also had lunch. The best food I had on the trip came from this town. From this pub:
And what exactly does one eat at The Old Castle (for it was across the street from the old castle) Bar and Restaurant?
Thats Bangers and Mash (Mid Right) Irish Stew (Near Right) Fish N Chips (Near Left and Far Right) and Mushroom quiche (Far Left). And of course, Tea and Beer. Food and friends is really what the choir is about, and that was reflected on the tour. No, really, the chorus has it’s own cookbook for sale.
After lunch we headed to the next hotel, located in the town of Derry. Or LondonDerry. Don’t ask, the explanation takes hours. There is more history here in this town than the entire state of California possesses. Our tour-guide (Who I haven’t mentioned until this point, but her name is Pauline and she was awesome. I owe her a case of California wine) described the conflict between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as a puzzle with no edges. Each time you get a piece, you just realize that the puzzle is bigger.
I guess I should take a sec to explain something to all you that don’t know. Ireland as we think of it is really two separate entities. There is the Republic of Ireland, who’s capital is Dublin, and is a country. Then there is Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Now, there were a lot of folks (Still Are) that don’t really like this whole split apart thing. They were at war with each other until 1998, and the scars are still wide open. Now, there is more to this story than I could possibly write about. Do your own research if it interests you, or visit Derry.
This is where Bloody Sunday occurred. You may have heard the U2 song, but on January 30 of 1972, 14 unarmed protesters lost their lives at the hands of British soldiers.
And painted on various buildings are Murals depicting events during the times. Painted by the Bogside Artists (Click that link, even if your disinclined to click nothing else) whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and who enforced the very real notion that this was not ancient history. Go visit the Peoples Gallery if your a modern history buff. Really, do it now.
Derry/Londonderry itself is a decent sized city, with about 4 malls. The inner city is surrounded by a wall that is lined with cannons. Like I said, more history than I could even begin to tell you all about.
After Derry we took a quick stop at the Old Bushmills Distillery. They have been around for a while (1608) and make some damn fine whiskey (I really only bought 2 things in Ireland. A bottle of Paddy’s Whiskey, because it’s damn good and you can’t get it in the States, and a bottle of Bushmills’ 400th anniversary 1608 Whiskey) Although, I’ve spent my entire working career in and out of Wineries, and it turns out that it’s not much different. Standing in the barrel storeroom the smell of oak barrels took me right back home.
At the end of the tour you were given a ticket to redeem for a shot of anything they produced. It was early morning and lots of people didn’t want whiskey for brunch, so I ended up tasting the whole gambit on the fact that I was willing to drink for the cause. I didn’t much care for the cheaper Original, and though the Black Bush was better, I would still have preferred Jameson’s or Paddy’s. The 12 year old, aged in Sherry Casks, was pretty good and was only available in this spot. The 16 and the 21 year aged were pretty similar, or at least by that time I thought they were. Not really my style, but quite spectacular. The one I bought on the fact that it was the best damn whiskey Ive had, the Bushmills 1608 – A special 400th Anniversary whiskey. Again, only available from the Whiskey Shop at the distillery.
After Whiskey there was a nice stop on the coast. The bus stops, and you get out beside the ocean where there are some neat shore cliffs and a path leading away from the parking lot. And your like, oh, this is pretty, a nice place to visit for sure, but I don’t see what the big deal is. So you start walking down the path and BAM, crazy rocks.
The picture of black rocks with the green patch, the green is Seaweed. Now, seaweed isn’t very spectacular in and of itself, even if it is Irish seaweed. However, there is a small audition only aspect of the larger choir, of which I am part of. Called Frolich, the twelve strong group set about to perform more challenging pieces of music, one of which was Dulaman. Dulaman means seaweed, and as the entire piece was in Gaelic, I thought it fitting that I take a picture of Irish Seaweed (aka, Dulaman.)
This is also where I took what is probably my favorite picture:
And after that, we sat in traffic for about 3 hours.
Finally we arrived in Belfast. Belfast is a neat town, home to Queens University it’s every bit a college town. Myself and four friends broke away from the group to visit the M Club, where we danced until the wee hours of the evening, ear drums ringing and eyes blind thanks to the loud live DJs and Strobes and Lasers. It was like a good rave, only without the drugs. Belfast also has a lot to see, with some of the most stunning architecture out of anywhere I went.
The Dry Dock where the RMS Titanic was built:
St Anne’s Cathedral, where we sang our second concert. Notice the low ceilings making for terrible acoustics.
And of course, Belfast is not without history. It was made the Capital of Northern Ireland, which as you may gather is like painting a bull’s eye on it. Belfast saw some of the worst parts of “The Troubles.”
Within the city are “Peace Walls” Massive walls that were meant to segregate parties of people. Today, they are covered in Graffiti.
Some of it is really neat, the man in the hat is one of my favorites. But it is not without being, well, more than a little politically charged. Notice the color of the pillars in this next picture, and how not Orange and Green they are.
After the second night in Belfast (man that club was awesome) we left Armagh. Armagh is a neat little town, very compact and overshadowed by two massive Cathedrals.
St. Patrick’s CoI also had my favorite piece of stained glass:
We also visited the other St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. The St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral. Now this has the distinction of being one of the newest buildings we toured. It was started almost 50 whole years after the Deceleration of Independence. It is also absolutely massive. Notice the people and how high they stand in comparison to the statue.
Also, do note the woman in the hat. That right there is our fearless leader, Cassandra. Also pictured, to the left of the frame, My Dearest Mother, a soprano. To the right of the frame, Marnie, who is an alto, and the Famed Dr. Kean. He’s the aforementioned writer/director. In the background of that shot, notice the other Cathedral, and the entire town between the two. Ok, now look at this pic and remember the scale from the last one.
Tiny, right? They even have huge stained glass pieces.
It was in Armagh that we spent our final evening. We celebrated the trip accordingly, with new York Style Pizza.
Actually, the pizza wasn’t very New York style at all, they probably don’t have many pizza aficionados there. Fortunately there was still time to do things properly.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little photo excursion. I did put a bit of work into it, so comments are appreciated. If you want to browse through the pictures, included some that I decided not to include in this post, click here. You can also click on any of the “View All” buttons, which will take you to a gallery of the pictures in the mini slideshows. Thank you all so much.
So we finally killed him. This is a good thing; he was a bad person and definitely deserved to die. However, after hearing news of his death I felt…not unhappy, but unsatisfied. I had reasonable expectations, I think, I wasn’t planning for the world to suddenly sprout puppies and rainbows when he breathed his last, but I just couldn’t get into the same feeling as all those cheering in front of the White House.
I think it’s because in my mind it’s because we never beat him. I know this sounds odd, but please hear me out. Bin Laden was a terrorist, and a decent strategist, but he wasn’t a supervillain or mastermind. His plan was clear, simple, and very well-done given our reaction. Al-Qaeda performs a major strike on our (at the time, and maybe still now) poorly-defended infrastructure. This sets the US into high alert, and we chase after him into Afghanistan, AKA “The Graveyard of Empires” AKA “The Land that Kicked the Last Two Superpower’s Asses so hard they never recovered”. Russia invaded and failed, Britain invaded and failed, and we tromped in there like we had learned nothing. Using the Northern Alliance and drones as combat proxies were some very smooth tricks, though. Credit where credit is due.
We did pretty well, but Afghanistan is still a quagmire. Every time we accidentally kill a civilian (or 32 ) we give previously neutral civilians the resentment they need to become terrorists. We get stuck in a feedback loop where when we kill bad guys, it makes more bad guys, and to put it bluntly bullets cost money. Al-Qaeda had us charging about like a bull in a china shop in Afghanistan and Iraq, and like a very secretive bull in a china shop in places like Pakistan, Iran, and Jordan. Insurgents, being locals who know the land, and look just like the civies we’re supposed to protect, can pop out with pinprick attacks and then go to ground. We’ll certainly kill them eventually, but they do a lot of monetary damage and waste our time. We exhaust ourselves financially and militarily chasing shadows and killing terrorist after terrorist while they seem inexhaustible.
Any boxing fans out there? Then you’re probably already thinking this sounds like rope-a-dope. Good catch. Osama knew that you don’t beat a superpower by bombing its cities, you beat it by bankrupting it (after all, that was Reagan’s successful strategy to beat the USSR, and India’s versus Britain). To quote Hobbes (friend of Calvin, not political philosopher) “The first [snowball] was to make you turn around.” Bin Laden’s tactics were to drag us into costly wars and chase after him. He was a sick old man who needed kidney dialysis; he was going to be dead soon anyways. As long as he lived, however, he could make us exhaust ourselves chasing after him, make us clamp down on civil liberties at home, push away our allies in the international community, and cause collateral damage which led to fresh new crops of terrorists.
This problem is aggravated by the fact that most terrorist organizations are heavily decentralized. Remember how often we killed Al-Qaeda’s Number 3? And how it seemed to never actually have an effect? Well, control of Al-Qaeda has now passed to their Number 3. We got their mascot, and I would like to give kudos to Obama and our DoD teams who were willing to wait so we could get a body and not make him an ambiguously dead folk hero. But we’re still stuck in the trap he set for us and I’m not seeing much movement towards extricating ourselves from it.
I think this is why I’m unsatisfied. As long as he was alive, I could imagine us changing tactics and beating him. I always secretly hoped one day we’d wake up and go “Oh, wow, I can’t believe we fell for it! We’re withdrawing our land armies and sending in specialist teams with lots of local connections and intel to selectively target known leaders and threats. Then we’re going to perform studies to determine what practices actually are useful in stopping terrorist threats rather than engaging in security kabuki and infringing on people’s rights.” Now that he’s dead, we’ll never get the satisfaction of beating him, and have to settle for mounting his corpse as a trophy or something.
He’s dead and I hope he rots in the worst hell I can imagine, but I can’t help feeling like he was laughing at us as he died.
The following is something that I have been kicking around in my head for a long while. While barely a rough draft I really wanted to start getting it down on paper.
I want to start by saying that my goal is to observe and relay information I have been pondering on, and not to draw any conlusions. As this deals with Religion, Spirituality, and the fundamental basis for all our understanding in the fields of science, I would like to note that I myself am going to keep my own beliefs out as much as possible.
Without Further Adieu, my attempt to explain through science and math why everything we know could be wrong.
To start, we have to review a few mathematic concepts. Namely, the idea of dimensions. We start with a point, which has no dimensions. A dot on a graph, that in our world represents a place but since no information can be gathered from it, it is dimensionless. A line is made up of an infinite number of points, and has one dimension. A point on a line is either to the left of or to the right of another point on a line. A infinite number of lines forms a plane. A plane is two dimensional. when we represent a point on a plane numerically, it is in an x,y fashion (as opposed to a line, which would simply be an x sort of thing.) A point on a plane can be up or down, left or right of another point on the same plane. 3d space, what we interact with, is made of an infinite number of planes. A point in 3d is represented with three numbers, x,y,z. It can either be near or far, up or down, left or right. It is in this third dimension that we interact with things, it is what live in. With me so far? Good, because it’s about to get weird.
There is no reason to believe the pattern stops at 3 dimensions. If a dot has no dimensions, an infinite number of points has one, an infinite number of lines has 2, and an infinite number of planes has 3, it stands to reason that an infinite number of spaces must have 4. And an infinite number of four dimensional “spaces” must have 5. And while this could go on forever, it’s that strange four dimensional “space” that concerns this article. We, as humans, perceive everything in three dimensions. Ergo if something were to exist in the fourth dimension, we would only perceive it as a 3d object. Even though it wouldn’t be. Any number of celestial beings, or even places, could exist all around us in the fourth dimension, and we would never know. We would have to take it on faith that these things existed. For all we know the world really could be on the back of a giant turtle walking along the “ground’ of the universe. Perhaps that turtle exists as a four dimensional creation, and the only part we can perceive of it is, say, the moon.
Lets delve deeper into understanding what I mean. Lets say you are a two dimensional creation. A circle, perhaps. You are a circle on your plane and are blissfully unaware of anything like a third dimension. Maybe you believe that time is the next dimension. And one day an orange, a 3d orange, passes into your plane. Now, you can only perceive the orange as another circle. (if you don’t get it, imagine drawing an orange on a piece of paper. What shape did you draw? Because that’s the 2d representation of an orange.) So, as a circle, you must assume that the orange is like you, just another circle. Or you can take it on faith that the other circle is an orange, something that exists outside of your own perception and certainly outside the realm of your understanding. Being a two dimensional object, you would really have no way to know. You would indeed have no way of knowing that it was a human that drew you on a sheet of paper, and then so callously set an orange near you. Or maybe your an orange as well.
You see, as a circle you must also take it on faith that you are a circle. Having only 2 dimensions is rather limiting. If you begin to believe that your fellow circle is indeed not a circle, but a sphere, that brings into question your own exitance. You could just as easily be a sphere. In fact you must question everything you ever knew. Perhaps your good friend square is really a table leg. What if old man rectangle is really an overturned pepsi can. You have to chose to believe something. Either your all 2d, and the orange is really 2d and everyone who says otherwise is wrong. Or your all 2d except the orange, with exists as a single 3d object, some kind of super being. Or you are all 3d, and simply can’t grasp the implications of being an object that has volume. And if thats not enough to make your little circle brain explode I don’t know what is.
Alright, alright, so enough of circles and oranges, whats that got to do with us? Simple. We are circles. We must take it on faith that we exist in 3d space and thats all there is to it, or that there is some kind of higher being, something that exists beyond our ability to comprehend, or we must acknowledge that we are all beyond our ability to comprehend. If we take into account the existance of a fourth dimension, any number of things could exists. Any number of things could be proven true.
For instance, many cultures and numerous religions have this idea of a ‘soul.’ That the death of the body does not constitute the end of exitance for that individual. This is fairly easy to believe if we exist in four dimensions. As we change our location and state in the fourth dimension, we would be altering our perception and others perception of our 3d selves. Back to oranges and circles, say you take a bite out of the orange. The circle just watched its new circle friend become a radically different shape. Say you lift the orange off the paper, and suddenly the circle is all alone. If we in 3d space can only watch and interact with people on that level, we can not understand what would be happening in the fourth dimension. If the soul, as we understand it, exists within 4d ‘space’ then it could be in a different part of ‘space’ than our body, and still be linked. In fact it could be moving around interacting with other souls. Ghosts could be explained away, as souls passing through our 3d space and altering it as they do. Precognition becomes a very really thing if you assume we can gather information from outside of 3d space. Think how good a guesser our circle could be if, unknown to the circle itself, it could see 3d space. Think if it could ‘see’ the orange descending onto the plane of exitance. It’s not psychic, there’s no magic. Perhaps some people are just more in tune with the connection between the soul in the fourth dimension and the body in the third.
Even more than that there could be any number of things that exist that we can’t perceive at all. Budha? Sure, he’s sitting outside of our 3d space, just chillin. Cthulu? Why not. The river Styx? Flows fourteen units to the unperceivable direction. There’s a lot your just going to have to decide to take on faith. Of course its not all about the religious side of things. Science, sorry, but your not excluded. In fact, if we assume this to be true, that there exists 4d space, then we must assume that science and religion are the same. If it’s mathematically sound that these occurrences exist, then it *is* scientific to believe in the turtle with the earth on it’s back. After all, gravity could be a purely mechanical function in the fourth dimension. Black Holes? Perfectly normal objects in th fourth dimension. Imagine introducing the circle to spilling coffee.
Fine, so what then, you say. So there is this entire existence that we can’t interact with and, in fact, can not even begin to properly understand. For many people there is this horrible clash between Religion and Science. That surely there must be some scientific evidence that religion is true, otherwise it is not. And lots of people struggle with faith, finding no way comprehend something being outside of understanding or perception. Maybe your not one of those people, and my little theory just sounds like a lame attempt to explain something everyone already knows. But for those of you who wanted a basis for faith, here is a mathematical, purely scientific reason that things can operate outside of human understanding and perception.
Thank you all, and good night. I would love to hear thoughts and critique. After an absolutely massive influx of spam, I had to instigate a “you need to enter a name and email” section to the comments, and I apologize as this is something I really did not want to do. I will not, however, clutter up everything, slow everything down and sacrifice hours of my time cleaning in order to continue with the completely open commenting.
The first time most people hear the term “Urban Forager”, they imagine a grizzled homeless war vet who spouts platitudes such as:
“Be behind the brewery every Monday to get leftover yeast for your vitamins. The sports bar across from them dumps potato skins about an hour later so you can get a full meal.”
“Florists’ dumpsters are the best. Rose, violet, and chrysanthemum blossoms are edible even when wilted.”
“Take a branch, a broken bottle, and a wet shoelace. Bind the bottle to the stick as tightly as you can with the shoelace; that’s why its wet, it’ll shrink some when drying and give a firmer seal. This has good stopping power on tourists, they won’t be able to run more than a couple hundred yards on a solid hit. Your average American tourist has enough meat to feed you for a month. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to make an atlatl from a broken shovel and a soda can.”
The truth isn’t quite as cool, but it’s close. Urban foragers go through empty lots and alleys gathering edible plants, fruits, and tubers. Less scrupulous ones add people’s yard and garden products to the menu. Even *less* scrupulous ones add household pets to the menu, but we try not to talk about the Mole People on this blog.
Urban foraging is the perfect skill for people who want all the food self-sufficiency of owning a productive garden without actually having a garden. It’s difficult to subsist wholly on what you get from weeds, but for me it let me save a ton on produce, and allowed me to put all my cash towards meat, dairy, and snacks. Unfortunately, I had to give it up when I moved to Tucson for college and Riverside for work. The first is a hellish, blasted wasteland where nothing friendly to humanity grows. The second is like that except it has irrigation for gardens. In both cases having to do things like buy berries and greens (GREENS, PEOPLE. NO GOOSEFOOT OR AMARANTH FOR MILES AROUND. MADNESS!) was a distressing change of pace from my old joy of rustling up chow walking from school or a friend’s house. One of the things I’m looking forward to about moving to Seattle is that it’s another place where weeds don’t have to be spiny and poisonous to discourage eating, or at least with nettles and thistles, they can be handled relatively easily.
If any of this interests you, I found a couple links for major cities, posted below.
So, a few days ago I wrote about the video game Darkspore, and I was rather complimentary about it. This is not my usual style of behavior towards games, and it took me a while to write this because I was trying to figure out why I hadn’t nitpicked this game to death like normal.
I honestly think it was because it was a weeklong beta. For whatever reason, a week was enough time for me to go through the game and get a very solid grasp of it, but pay no money to learn that much. On most betas you have a short, hour-long experience. This is only enough time for me to notice dozens of annoying faults with a game and get irked by them. Regardless of genre and quality, I usually spend about the first 10 hours questioning the game’s ancestry, employment, and shoe choices of its mother in a loud voice with no pants on. Then the game finishes downloading and I start playing it.
(WARNING: The following blog post contains dangerously high levels of videogame babbling. If you have never lost yourself to the filthy habit of World of Warcraft or its sundry competitors, be advised that reading this post may result in several minutes of your life gone that you’ll never get back. While the author attempts to explain concepts for non-gamers when possible, reader discretion is advised.)
So, Steam had a weeklong beta for an MMORPG called Darkspore. Being an absolute nerd for gaming investigation, and gifted an entire week to dissect this puppy, I ripped the game open and proceeded to tunnel in like Mark Hamill on a cold winter’s night.
My nerd pop-culture quota now fulfilled, let’s actually get into the game. After writing this as a single monster post, I realized it needed to be split, so I lopped off the rear end where all my complaints are. If you’re annoyed by the glowing review, wait until I get to complain.
Darkspore is an “Action RPG” a term that’s only slightly less diffuse than the term “RPG” has become. In this case it means you’re playing something closely resembling Diablo or Torchlight. Monsters roam about the screen, and you slowly proceed forward, introducing your instrument of violence to said monsters in real time. Monsters then detonate like gore pinatas and provide you with highly randomized goodies. This is a solid formula, which has upsides and downsides:
THE UPSIDE: is that a proven formula tends not to be bad. At least for me, these hack-n-slash RPGs give the same rush as gambling. Each minion of whomever-it-is (bad guys are sort of interchangeable in this genre) I pulp into something resembling pasta sauce is a fresh lotto scratch ticket. Maybe this one will reveal that I am now the lucky owner of an item 15% better than the last! I can hardly wait!
THE DOWNSIDE: is that a gameplay style already done tends to be stale on some level. Why should I shell out fresh money for a Diablo 2 reskin? This is much worse in games than, say, books because mechanics are much harder to make feel new compared to a story.
I would say after about 20 hours in that the makers of Darkspore were cognizant of the upside and the downside both, and worked to mitigate the downside. The game does not play as pure Diablo. Instead, you have three heroes you can switch between with quick cooldowns. This is your “squad”, and a squad can be made up of any of about two-dozen heroes that I saw. While like any other MMORPG your class options are limited to tank, melee DPS, and caster, they did their best to make it novel. I played 3 “ravagers” (the melee DPS), and each played somewhat differently, enough that I could choose one of them over the others. They were all based on moving fast, using hit-and-run, but of the two I actually enjoyed playing, they played as mirror images of each other. One had an ability to swiftly home in and strike enemies with a sprint. The other had a short-range teleport that stunned anyone at the exit point. The sprinter played like a standard melee DPS, rushing to intercept enemies and hitting very hard, but the teleporting character let me play slow guerrilla warfare, zipping about and hitting what I wanted to, albeit nowhere near as hard as the sprinter. The same happened with tanks: I had an all-tank squad, one for dealing with single big enemies, one for handling large swarms of small weak ones, and a third who had buffs and healing for when someone else had a tank out. Being able to switch out not only whether you’re a warrior or rogue, but whether you’re a rogue who hurts people or a rogue that enfeebles the enemy, and then after being both rogues getting to switch to warrior, can be quite fun.
The fun is enhanced in my nerdy little brain by the fact that your squadmates share powers. Putting the one-on-one tank with an area of effect burning ability in the same squad as the teleport rogue meant that my tank could now also teleport wherever he damn well pleased, a storm of hatred and plasma searing everyone who thought they were safe in the back row. My friend who invited me to play found a way to chain several invincibility powers from various heroes together to only have a few seconds of vulnerability the entire time he was playing as an attack caster. Keep in mind, these were just combos we found from several hours playing a limited game. My filthy minmaxing little heart sings at the prospects the full game has for wondrously overpowered synergies.
Another thing I felt they did very well was enemy AI and mechanics were also quite engaging. There was no enemy without at least some quirk to enliven the fight. As a tank, it was far more interesting trying to identify various foes and their capabilities to determine order of threat than blindly charging in taunting. Even minor enemies were dangerous, not because they could swarm you, but because they often had abilities that needed to be neutralized. For example, one relatively common enemy was a very powerful long-range enemy, but had no functional skills once you drew close. He was paired with enemies that didn’t do much damage, but would teleport you away from him when you got too close. Just a simple setup like that meant I was constantly trying to be as effective as possible, rather than charging in and mowing down expendable mooks. This was enhanced even more by the fact that enemies had AI behaviors in keeping with their abilities: healers and casters ran away to keep distance, burst damage units and units with the ability to charge would zoom past tanks to hit at the weaker back row members, and trap-layers would ensure choke points or in front of enemy swarms were the area you’d get stopped at.
All and all, I really enjoyed it. They took a simple, classic mechanic, and did a *very* good job of adding new traits that I found interesting. What’s more, these weren’t glossy surface tweaks, the squad system with shared abilities pretty effectively reforged the system into something new, and I appreciate true novelty.
Well, now that that tongue-bath is over, stay tuned for Part 2, where I get to be my furiously cantankerous self.
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