What’s Up? (1/31/2018)

2018 Resolutions

I don’t like to go too long without journaling here. The act of putting internal reflection into words, and publishing that, publically, can be pretty cathartic. Early January, when people are executing on New Year’s Resolutions, is both a great and dangerous time to commit thoughts to paper. Sometimes people come up with loft resolutions with no plan of execution — heck, I’ve been there. I’ve probably, definitely, declared a resolution on this blog that I’ve never followed through on, but I like to think I’ve learned how to come up with achievable goals.

For instance: Let’s say I want to work on my running. Running more miles this year vs. last year is an unknowable goal. I can only guess how many miles that would be, and putting a number on it needlessly complicates things.  But I do know that I ran downtown three times last year, so, running downtown five times this year would be a measurable goal and realistic, if low, goal.

If I want to lose some kinda weight, that takes even more work to measure. For instance, last year I believe I said “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs at least once” – and there were occasions where I weighed myself and got in at 169, which I’ll take as a win. If I want to improve on last year’s goal and say “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs for a week” I’ll have to keep track of my weight over time. Not only that, but it’d take significantly more work — I couldn’t just hit 169 once and call it a day, I’d probably have to get down to 165 to account for normal fluctuation.

Do you see how much trouble a resolution like that could cause? I’d much rather just run downtown five times a year, and maybe lose weight in the process, but in the end that doesn’t matter as much to me.

Pick Up Guitar

One of my resolutions this year is to simply pick up the guitar again. I have three guitars; one acoustic slide, one acoustic, and one electric. They could all use a little work before I get back into the hobby. The acoustic slide just needs a little tuning and we should be good, the regular ol acoustic needs to be brought to a local shop and repaired, but it will be worth it to get that up and running. And then there’s the electric guitar, which probably needs a full-on factory repair, because the pickups aren’t working.

I feel like I have a funny relationship with guitar. Yes I have 7-8 years of experience with it, but I’m probably still no better than your average intermediate student. I spent a lot of time messing around, improvising, learning this song and that song, but I seriously lack practice in some of the basic fundamentals. Not that I’m looking to change that this year — that may be too lofty a resolution — no, I’m just looking to pick it back up and start playing once a week.

Learn Dutch

So get this. In 2016 I stumble on an ASMR video that is a basic lesson in Dutch, teaching the colors, rood, oranj, geel, etc. I find it kinda cute (because ASMR) but also satisfying to repeat. The J’s and G’s feel particularly nice.

So on June 30, 2016 I downloaded Duolingo and, on a whim, just started some Dutch lessons and never looked back. So what started as an experiment is now something I’d like to finish in 2018. I feel like, with enough time and effort, I should be able to finish all of the Duolingo lessons in the Dutch language. This might be the most demanding of my 2018 resolutions.  

Travel West

This resolution is incredibly short and simple: I think I’d like to travel west of Pittsburgh for something, sometime this year. Probably a concert. This isn’t a matter of improving something in my life, or bettering myself, it’s just a thing I think would be fun to do.

Get A Tattoo (Design)

This resolution is more “unfinished business” than anything else. In the summer of 2014 I commissioned a design for a tattoo that I never got. On some level, I’m glad I didn’t go through with the original idea, and I had time to think about it. In 2015 me and the artist re-aligned on a new idea that also never came to fruition. I don’t think I’ve been ripped off as a much as he’s simply busy or has completely forgotten, but I’ve also had no luck in hearing back from him, which is a little scary. If I can at least get the commission drawing in my hands by this summer, than this four-year-long journey will be over, and the journey of actually getting a tattoo can begin.

Pair Down My Cocktail Bar

Oh geez, this will probably be my longest entry in a long, long time… but another thing I want to do in 2018 is trim down some of the excess liquor in my kitchen. There are a lot of bottles in my posession that were purchased and rarely touched. When you get into cocktail culture, I think it’s easy to buy things thinking you *need* them in your bar, or you *need* them to make this particular drink. When you get to where I am, I think you start to realize what you like and what you don’t, and you can start focusing on having ingredients solely for your favorite drinks rather than having a little bit of everything.

For my sake, there’s probably only two categories of drinks that I want to be ready to make at a moment’s notice: classic Gin cocktails, and tiki drinks. For me, pairing down my cocktail bar doesn’t mean throwing out the liquor I don’t want, but rather, testing myself to use unwanted liquor to make good “farewell” drinks. Excess vodka can be used for mules, Cherry Herring for Singapore Slings, etc. Once living with a well-stocked but “minimal” bar, I shouldn’t be tempted to pick up random bottles anymore — I should only replace the necessities once they’ve been used up.

The irony that my first goals were all about being healthy and running, and that my last goal was about being a more efficient connoisseur of alcohol, is not lost on me. Believe me, I’m aware how polar-opposite some of my favorite things are, but that’s just life.

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What’s Up? (10/11/15)

Animal Crossing Returns
One of my favorite games in 2013 was Animal Crossing: New Leaf. From the moment I picked it up in the summer I fell in love with the low stakes, cute, charming game. Turn the game on once a day,  talk to your villagers, decorate your home, and make it rain bells. I played nearly every day for over a year, before I decided to wipe my town “New Deli” off the map. Mayor Sandwich had a good run, but it was time to start a new village. After all, my favorite villager Cyrano moved out during one of my lapses. The town could not go on without Cyrano. Yet every town I created afterwards flopped. I could not get interested in New Leaf ever again, I thought.

And then a week ago one of my best friends got herself a copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, as did her friends at school… New Leaf was back, and I had a reason to play again. Mayor Sandwich moved into the town of Ole Deli, and I was right back into my old rhythm. One big difference between 2013 Ken and 2015 Ken: back then I was a night owl, and now I’m more an early bird. Instead of keeping my town’s shops open until 11PM or Midnight, I prefer to have them open around 6 AM-7AM. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my morning commute game. I run around doing errands in town, and before I know it, I’m at my bus stop. It’s perfect.

Russian Grand Prix
Speaking of perfect, The Russian Grand Prix was on today. I woke up around 6:50 AM and started the NBCSports stream in time to catch a little pre-race news and predictions. Had amaretto flavored coffee, waffles, and potato pancakes for breakfast. Formula One honestly makes for a wonderful morning, when the timing is right. The next race will be in America, so, it’s probably going to be more like a lunchtime race. In any case, with four more races left (America, Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi I believe), I’m excited for the end of the F1 Season. 2015 is a fine year, better than 2014 in some respects, worse in others, but I want to see 2016 roll around in March and hopefully, with dramatic differences.  If you want to hear my full thoughts on the Russian GP, check out my video review here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3ymtneI-BKr3VM39HzxDgA

Cocktail Party
Finally, I actually finally had a cocktail shindig on (10/3)! I made four Thin Mints, which is a recipe with Creme de Menthe, Cacao, Vodka, and a chocolate cream of your choice. I went with Chocolate Almond Milk since I had vegan guests, but Bailey’s Chocolatini Creamer is also great. Felt so great to make drinks for people, and to serve them in ornamental glasses too, it was just perfect! Looking forward to doing it again.

What’s Up? (8/18/15)

Shut the Window 
Disabling automatic Windows Updates comes with a lot of perks. Having your operating system constantly reminding you about things it needs to do is a terrible distraction. At best a Windows Update feels like a nagging responsibility, at worst a Windows Update will launch in the background while you’re in the middle of a game or movie and restart your computer while you were in the middle of something. Living in a world without Windows Updates is wonderful. I’ve been doing it for years, and guess what? My computers don’t suffer from crashes, or viruses, or any bugs that I’m aware of. So what are these updates for anyways? 
 
Well, here’s the thing. I’m home in New York right now (more on that later), and my desktop computer could use some work. It’s old. It was at one point, pretty close to top of the line… But that was back when I was in High School. It’s golden days are long gone. The mouse I’ve been using for years is gross and sticky. The old keyboard has been replaced by a mechanical generic (the only improvement as far as I’m concerned). But none of this really matters. This desktop computer is only used about… 10 percent of the year? I can ignore its shortcomings because its stronger than my Laptop. Not faster, mind you, but all of my video games look significantly better on this machine. But like I said, it could use some work.
 
The last major change I made to this computer was “upgrading” it from Windows Vista to Windows 8. What a mistake that was. I experienced no problems with Windows Vista, and a litany of problems with Windows 8. No native DVD support, the fucking app store (on a desktop?), and the god awful tiles interface optimized for tablets (and not desktop computers). A switch from Vista to 7 would have been an upgrade, but Vista to 8 has been a nightmare. A mistake. It basically cursed this computer. It killed the computer I used to know. I had to reinstall everything. All my files not stored externally were lost. There were no improvements, I just found myself adapting to a new environment for no good reason. 
 
So I’d love to get off of Windows 8, and I heard Windows 10 is better, even if it looks like Windows 8, it might default to the desktop instead of the tiles? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to roll the die. Problem is, I haven’t launched a Windows Update in years. It’s been so long since this computer had any contact with Microsoft Corporate, that Windows Update had to Update. Now it can’t even figure out how many Updates it needs to install. My estimate is going to be in the triple digits. 
 
I look forward to turning this computer on in 15 hours and seeing the words “Welcome to Windows 10” and noticing zero improvements. (Though in all honestly, I’d love to love my Windows again. I’d like it if Windows 10 were so satisfactory that I removed disc copies of Windows 7 from my eBay watch list). 
 
Look Out the Window To Your Left
Outside of my airplane window, I could see the Statue of Liberty, roughly at pinky nail size. That’s one hell of a way to be welcomed back into New York. 
 
My 11 AM flight from Pittsburgh to New York went as smoothly as these things could go, with a few extra bonuses. I got to the airport early enough to have a hash brown at McDonald’s, which you may find gross, but McDonald’s breakfast is something of a Pittsburgh airport tradition for me. I then kicked it back at my terminal gate for a little less than an hour, listening to De La Soul’s “De La Soul Is Dead” and Janelle Monae’s “The Electric Lady,” all the while working my  way through Lewis Black’s “Me of Little Faith.” 
 
Yeah, I’m consuming a lot of media today. 
 
When I boarded the plane, I was given a tag to put on my carry-on just in case it wouldn’t fit in the overhead. That’s never a reassuring sign, when someone takes a look at your luggage and is skeptical about it’s chances. Triumphantly, I forced my carry-on into this airline’s sparse overhead space. I felt like I had just beaten the system somehow. I felt like the crew member who thought my luggage was too big was watching my victory, and not sharing it in, but rather feeling defeated. Her eyes were saying “it’s not going to fit. It’s not going to fit. He’s attempting a fool’s errand.” 
 
On the subject of eyes that need to stop sending bad messages. People in first class. Please stop looking at everyone walking by. Period. There’s no way a business class passenger makes eye contact with a first class passenger without feeling the patrician/plebeian divide. When we look at each other, I think you’re judging me, and you probably think I’m judging you. You should just take that free sleep mask you’re getting and put it on while the rest of us board. It’d make everything less awkward. 
 
If everyone in first class just puts on their sleep masks, I promise not to flip you off and steal your complimentary mimosas. 
 
Today though, the back of the plane business class scored a major victory. That victory, being that the plane was practically vacant. With nobody else in my row, I moved from the aisle to the window, opened up my book, and enjoyed the view. 
 
I flipped through Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist,” and learned a little about what types of herbs, flowers, fruits, and berries can be muddled into an alcoholic drink, and which ones make good infusions. Might be enough to put most to sleep, but I love the subject of botany, especially when combined with cocktails! 
 
The fifty minute flight flew by in no time (heh), and before I knew it, I was on the Belt Parkway headed home. 

What’s Up? (3/5/2015)

The Jinx
This week I’ve been largely obsessed with a new miniseries on HBO called The Jinx. It’s like a true-crime documentary/interview/creative non-fiction project. The show’s full name is, I suppose, “The Jinx: The Lifes and Deaths of Robert Durst.” Does that name sound familiar? It may–it seems the murders associated with Robert Durst garnered a lot of media attention in the not-so-distant past. The show is a lot of fun to watch, for a grisly and ghoulish as it is, thanks to editors who understand how to craft drama. Interviews end at the right time, cut to dramatic music, a reinactment of a crime, then return to the interview. Like all good true-crime novels, certain things are amplified to make reality extra-exciting for viewers of The Jinx, but reality itself is the most exciting part to watch thanks to the center of attention: Robert Durst. The things the man does outside of possible murders, are fascinating and strange. I mean, when he was on the run from Galveston, Texas for murder, he risked it all to shoplift a hoagie from a Wegmans in Pennslyvania… so I remain glued to the TV, wanting more and more from this guy… what will he say next?

Spring Break
So I’m flying tomorrow, that’s crazy. I hope things aren’t as… slushy, as they are here in Pittsburgh. I’ll be gone for almost ten days but it’ll be good. I feel like I have nothing but city plans, like everything I want to do over break is: go to the city for a concert, go to a museum in the city, meet a colleague in the city, city, city, city. Not so surprising I guess, I mean there are places and people I love on Long Island but… you have to drive. And the thought of driving just does not go super smoothly for me, like I can feel a bit of the driving anxiety just writing about it now. I think I was born for walking and mass transit.

Writing about Alcohol
Today I spent an hour in the library just looking at, and looking for, books on alcohol–the history of it, the drinking of it–and specifically gin and vodka. I found a half-dozen pleasant books with Martini glasses on them, but I checked out the three I liked best; “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis, “A History of Vodka” by William Pokhlebkin, and “The Book of Gin” by Richard Barnett. “Everyday Drinking” is going to be the most enjoyable, since it seems to come from a humorous and witty author, Sir Kingsley Amis. I am unfamiliar with the man, yet he comes strongly recommended by Christopher Hitchens. “He was what the Irish call “your man” when it came to the subject of drink.” And later from Hitchens: “It has been said that alcohol is a good servant and a bad master. Nice try. The plain fact is that it makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.”

I left the library with a pretty solid idea of what I have to write about. Histories of alcohols have been written, stories about alcohol, celebrations and warnings, so I need to cut myself a new space to claim as my own. Taste, and the social identity of the drinker. If we have “all-natural,” “old school,” “modern,” “trashy,” “classy,” and “apathetic,” then where do these identities and practices come from? Is it the drinker’s intent that determines how they drink? At this moment I tend to think that if you don’t care about what you drink, then you drink to get drunk, or drink to be social. Me personally? I think I’d refuse to just drink beers, and if there weren’t any cocktails available, or wines and sherries, then I wouldn’t drink, even if that had social consequences. Comedian Jim Jefferies has this joke where somebody who doesn’t drink says they don’t drink “because they don’t like the taste.” Jim then shouts “Nobody does! We drink because we have to!” And it’s funny and everything, sure, but I’m not in that place. I drink because I can make really good drinks, and, AND, because of the social perks involved. And there are social perks to being a cocktail-maker, to showing up to a house party with a Martini glass, a shaker, ice, and your own ingredients. There are social perks to being a little classy!