Tuesday, February 7, 2023

What We Should (and Will) Be Embarrassed By...

Introduction

Have you ever been sent a link to a New York Times article, and you click it, and it starts to show you the story but then pops up a paywall saying you’ve reached your limit of  free articles? And it’s infuriating because you haven’t seen a free article in like four years? So your limit of free articles is apparently zero? Well, I have a solution but you’re not going to like it: just cough up a bunch of money and subscribe to the Times … which I now do.

Well, at least there’s some good stuff in there. I read a fun column titled “Future Cringe: Things We’ll Regret About the Present,” for which they invited a few dozen guests from academia, media, and business—as well as a guest AI “writer”—to weigh in. With this post, I weigh in as well.

Why bother? Well, some of the responses were spot-on, such as how we’ll one day be embarrassed at having overused the word “journey” metaphorically, and at how we did too much with CGI in movies, and how we were generally reckless with our privacy online. But some of the other notions were off-base, like suggesting we’ll be embarrassed about ever having observed daylight saving time (which is in fact a highly useful convention), or about having worn “beanies and workwear because no one’s working and one ones’ that cold” (contributed by a young woman who clearly doesn’t know how cold a balding middle-aged man’s head can get, and is apparently unaware that unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969). And there’s the poet who wrote “It’s cringe not to have a New York Public Library card in 2023” (i.e., she evidently doesn’t realize most American’s aren’t eligible for this card). So I see room for improvement here. I’ll share my observations, starting, ironically enough, with a few cringe-worthy expressions the Times article’s contributors used.

(Is it okay for me to steal the Times’ concept here? Sure! First of all, they’re not the only ones to have this idea. Second, at least I’m crediting them with the prompt. They may have ripped me off, without crediting me, in their recent article about prepping for a colonoscopy. They suggested mixing the laxative drink mix with a Top Ramen flavor packet … a wacky idea I posted three years ago here. The only difference is I was obviously joking…)


Terms from the column that made me cringe

The phrase “cancel culture” appeared three times in the article. I’m already tired of this phrase, and even the word “cancel” in this context. There’s nothing that new about publicly shaming people; offenders used to be put in stocks. Our generation thinks “cancel culture” sounds clever but it isn’t. We’ll all realize this one day.

Cringe as an adjective: this came up three times too, with the person who said “it’s cringe not to have an NYC library card,” and another saying “professional clothing is … going to be so cringe” and “saying L.G.B.T.Q. is going to become so cringe.” At least the Times, in their introduction, used “cringe” correctly as a verb … why are so many people pretending it’s an adjective?

YOLO: I can’t believe a contributor used this acronym, especially in a column on current cultural trends that won’t stand the test of time. As I described here, the term “YOLO” was embarrassingly passé ten years ago.

My list of what we’ll someday cringe at

For one thing, I’m really tired of the phrase “lean in.” It’s just not that meaningful, and it’s become really trite and arguably patronizing. More than four years ago the Washington Post declared “the end of leaning in” in this article, which challenged Sheryl Sandberg’s overall message to women. The article also noted how, as even the president of LeanIn.org acknowledged, “the phrase ‘lean in’ has been used to mean many things — some of them very far from what Sheryl intended.” And yet I still hear “lean in” all the time. There are muscles in my face that are sore from all the eye-rolling.

Another thing I predict we’ll look back at with embarrassment is the promotion of cannabis like it’s some kind of healthy, holistic, responsible way to self-medicate for anxiety and other ailments. Bay Area freeways are studded with billboards promoting weed like it’s the next big “wellness” thing, like meditation or yoga or “just taking care of yourself.” I sincerely hope future generations return to seeing pot for what it is: a hedonistic drug that dudes like Jeff Spicoli use because they’re young and irresponsible and like to party. Marijuana is not part of a sensible adult lifestyle just because a growing number of states have been foolish enough to legalize it.

Perhaps hand-in-hand with the cannabis lifestyle is all this home food delivery: Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, etc. Isn’t it bad enough getting takeout because we’re too lazy to cook? Now people are so freaking lazy they can’t even run a 10-minute errand to pick up their food? Is it that their sweatpants are so grubby they’re afraid to be seen in public? Or they can’t find their shoes? Or maybe food delivery is all about catering to people who are too drunk or high to drive? Whatever the case, I find this trend depressing and hope somebody someday asks, “Why did everyone get so lazy back in the ‘20s?”

Moving right along, I really hope we eventually look back and shudder at how we parents have bullied our children into filling up all their time with organized activities designed to look good on college applications. As described here, one silver lining of the COVID pandemic, for my younger daughter, was that with so many formal activities suspended, she finally got to just hang out with her friends, whose schedules had historically been booked solid. Does it need to take a pandemic to free up these poor kids’ afternoons?

In a similar vein, perhaps we’ll one day regret, with a pang, pushing so many kids into STEM. As I’ve explored at length here, much of the hype around tech—and the antipathy toward more traditional fields—is inaccurate. STEM grads don’t earn considerably more money, and a study conducted by the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics found that tech doesn’t actually employ more of the workforce than it did 20 years ago, and its share of the job market isn’t expected to significantly grow.

On a lighter note, perhaps Americans will eventually wince at the silliness of how automakers market their vehicles, with brands nested inside brands, e.g., AMC Jeep Cherokee Renegade Sport Unlimited. Do we humans really respond to that? Like, I’m supposed to feel better about my truck because it’s the Sport edition? Or the Unlimited? What does Unlimited even mean here? If my Jeep Cherokee is also a Renegade, does that make me even cooler?

Vitamin water has got to go. The idea that people are vitamin deficient is arguably bogus, whereas drinking one’s calories is an unequivocally bad idea and a huge part of our obesity crisis. At least if we renamed it “Stupid Water” people might not have to ask later, “What the hell were we thinking?”

Another behavior we’ll probably cringe at in retrospect is this trend of grown men and women zipping around on electric Razor scooters. Come on, people. Have some dignity.

Now, as I’ve argued before in these pages, anyone who uses a Keurig ought to be ashamed of himself. What a joke those things are. I hope everyone grasps that eventually, and the Keurig goes the way of those Space Food Sticks from the ‘70s.


Now, the next cultural circumstance I’ll mention isn’t exactly ubiquitous, but it does crop up from time to time: people who apparently cannot conceive of the reality that not everyone uses an iPhone. Someone will tell me, “Just get it from the App Store,” and I’ll say, “Is there an Android version?” and then I just get this blank stare of disbelief, as though I’d just said, “I don’t actually have any sex organs.” 

Speaking of tech, this brings me to my final prediction/hope: that one day we will be duly embarrassed by our current infatuation with A.I. It’s become impossible to look at a newspaper or magazine, or even have a conversation, without somebody raving about the latest, greatest A.I., particularly (as of this week) CHATGPT. In fact, one of the contributors to the Times article about future cringe was the CHATGPT chatbot, which wrote:

Overreliance on technology: Our overdependence on smartphones, social media and other digital devices will likely look outdated in a few years as new technologies emerge.

Man, this is just classic A.I. bullshit. At first glance, it seems impressive that it’s a fairly legit sentence, grammatically, and is pretty much on topic. But the statement isn’t persuasive in the least. It begins to assert that we are overly dependent on digital technology, but then instead of supporting this idea it wanders off into a pointless generality about new technologies improving on old ones. I mean, what technology doesn’t look outdated when it’s replaced by something newer? Isn’t that exactly what it means to be outdated? The statement is tautological and conveys nothing of value. It doesn’t deserve to be quoted in the Times, and in general I’m still unimpressed by A.I’s writing “ability.” Of course, with A.I. we might get off easy if one day we just look back with embarrassment. A.I. could end up doing a lot more damage than vitamin water, Grubhub, and “lean in.”

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Monday, January 30, 2023

From the Archives - Cockroaches at La Loma

Introduction

Here’s another blog post from way before there were blogs. As with so many other random essays from my college days, I’d printed this, photocopied it, sent copies around to my friends and family, and then just waited for the accolades and admiration to come flooding in. I’m still waiting, actually. See? Proto-blog!


Cockroaches at La Loma – March 18, 1989

Before I came to California, I had never seen a cockroach. I had read about them in books (e.g., how they’d be the only survivors of a nuclear war) but only recently have I become acquainted with these foul creatures. Ironically, we never had a roach problem at La Loma until just after they fumigated our apartment for the first time. Now the kitchen is literally crawling with them.

Roaches aren’t like other insects. When you squash an ant, for example, or at least when you squash many dozens at once, you can hear a tiny crushing sound, as the exoskeletons are shattered. But roaches seem to lack body armor; they’re just smushed into a greasy spot on your finger. But even more interesting is their flight instinct, which I think is unique for an insect. Unless ants take over a man’s kitchen, you see, they’re generally safe from mass slaughter because they just aren’t very much fun to kill. They never run; they just amble about carrying crumbs of food back to their anthills, completely unaware of their impending doom. And actually, a random ant can feel reasonably assured of being left alone. I myself don’t have much visceral negative reaction to seeing an ant. They can be kind of fun to watch as they purposefully move about, carrying an object many times their own size. We can even respect them, since they have sophisticated colonies and so forth. I don’t tend to bother killing them unless I have a full invasion, in which case I might take drastic measures like creaming them with a dish sponge.

Look, I know this essay is supposed to be about cockroaches, and I promise to get back to that. But I realize I have more to say about ants. When I lived in Colorado, it was very rare to have an infestation. Maybe ants weren’t as copious there due to the harsh winters or something, who knows. (I never said I was an entomologist.) But the downside of Colorado is that at high altitude it’s hard to bake. Cakes in particular disappoint. So during a family visit to my grandpa’s place in St. Helena a couple years back, my mom baked a gorgeous chocolate layer cake. We knew it would be moister and denser and more delicious than the airy, dry cakes we’d get in Boulder, so we went for a long walk to work up an appetite. The cake was waiting in one of those cake thingies old people have, with the pedestal and the tall glass cover. Upon our return we lifted the cover to discover that the cake was absolutely swarming with ants. Where the hell had they come from? They were stuck in the frosting and struggling to even move. We couldn’t face the loss of that cake—it was just too huge a disappointment—so we decided to just eat it anyway. I loved the thought of these intruders being literally eaten alive, sliding down our throats with no hope of escape. The cake was still great; the ants gave it a little piquancy.

But normally, there’s no sport in killing ants; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. And I think we all know how easy that is. Because we all have friends who call us up and are like, “Hey, I have a bunch of guns, and my uncle just delivered a big barrel full of live fish. You wanna come over and shoot some? Just for sport?” And of course you head right over, because it’s not disgusting at all, the way they bleed and bleed until the water is basically red and you start to wonder if a fish can feel terror, until you remember watching your high school friend’s piranhas chasing goldfish, and it was obvious the goldfish were fleeing, and so in that barrel the more selfish fish are diving for the bottom, squirming past others and hoping the spree ends soon, and oh my God, why are automatic weapons legal in this country?

Gosh, sorry, I got a little distracted there. I had been saying how ants go about their business blithely and never flee, whereas cockroaches must know that they’re the most hated insect on planet Earth, because they always run for it. Once you surprise them by turning on the kitchen light, they take off helter-skelter (or is it pell-mell?) for the nearest place to hide. If you’re lucky, you can kill one or two before they’ve all escaped. Strategy really comes into play here; if you can anticipate their escape route, you can head ‘em off at the pass. But when you do kill one, it’s not so much fun because you get that oily black smear on your thumb. I think it’s a kamikaze defense mechanism.

My roommate really hates roaches. It’s not that I don’t; I just respect their survivalist tendencies and their lightning speed. But he behaves as though their existence is a personal insult to him. I doubt he’s self-aware enough to realize that he’s probably the reason we still have them; he’s easily the biggest slob of our trio here. For example, if he doesn’t feel like washing a pan, and fears I might prompt him to do it because it’s my pan, he’ll actually hide it behind the fridge. So if anybody deserves to be angry around here, that’d be me. But who gets angry at a damn insect? Answer: my roommate. (And you thought that was a rhetorical question!) He totally lost it the other night after failing to kill a roach, and actually punched the fridge. I was secretly kind of pleased about this because that fridge had it coming. It sucks. It’s the loudest fridge I’ve ever heard and it runs constantly. Its noise is so annoying, when I sit down to eat in the kitchen I often reach around back and unplug it. (That’s typically how I end up finding my pan.)

Well, after feeling like the jackass that he is over his bruised hand, my roommate finally bit the bullet and laid out some cash for two Roach Motels. I’ve only seen these devices in advertisements and “Far Side” books, and was kind of surprised to learn they still exist (as do Ginsu steak knives, which I’d thought were mythical). I always wondered how Roach Motels “kill roaches dead” without being toxic. I mean, after all, I don’t want any deadly chemicals in my kitchen (besides the ones in my food, of course). Well, therein lies the biggest advertising fraud in commercial history. Roach Motels don’t even kill roaches once, so the redundant slogan is misleading twice over. They actually work on the same principle as the Eagles’ celebrated Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. It’s basically a box with ramps leading into it, and a sticky floor that smells, to the roach, like a tasty treat. The unsuspecting roach walks up the ramp, falls into the goo, and spends the rest of his life trying to un-stick himself. He eventually dies either of old age or exhaustion.

It’s really kind of sad looking into the Roach Motel at all the little black bodies, often stacked on each other, desperately trying to escape this horrible doom. Roaches never give up, either. From the moment they drop in, they pull frantically with one leg at a time, but the leg snaps back again as the sticky goo proves superior even to the roach’s proportional insect strength. Entertaining a fanciful notion that perhaps I could hear them screaming, I put my ear really close to the Motel. What did I expect to hear? I remembered the scene of Johnny the Boy desperately begging Max Max for mercy: “What are you doing? I wanna know … what you’re doing! You think I’m silly don’t you. Don’t do this to me!”

I have fairly large feet, and I wear these cool Nike Team Conference basketball shoes, which are black and white, and which I like to call my Shamus. I think they’d do a great job of stomping these Roach Motels flat, and putting all those poor roaches out of their misery. You see, I never thought I’d say this, but I kind of feel bad for those roaches, working themselves to death in there. But the motels don’t belong to me, and still have vacancy. My dippy roommate probably thinks he could extract the existing roaches somehow and use the motels again and again. So, I dare not mess with them. I guess my best bet is just to go hide my pan.

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

Ask a Fitness Dweeb

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

I read somewhere that I should always do my weight training before my cardio. Do you agree?

Justin D, Asheville, NC

Dear Justin,

I doubt it matters very much. According to the CDC, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity, which is 150 minutes per week. Fixating on the order of your activities seems like gilding the lily to me. I will say that doing cardio first might help you warm up, which can prevent injury when lifting weights.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

OK, I get that you work out a lot. So I’m wondering: do you still have some clothes that fit too tight, and/or some that are baggy?

Whitney P, Santa Monica, CA

Dear Whitney,

Sure I do! Don’t stress if you have this issue. It’s not you, it’s the clothes. Some stretch, some shrink, and even if we’re fit our bodies still do change over time. For example, my suit pants are super tight … I must have been biking up a lot of hills when I had them tailored. But I’ve also got these jeans that I’m practically swimming in, so having those fit better will be a nice silver lining when I gain some weight at some point.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

During these short, dark, cold winter days my husband works out indoors on his bike trainer, and it’s almost scary to watch. He’s thrashing around with such intensity, and breathing so hard, it’s like an act of violence. Should I be worried? Could he have a heart attack or something?

Kim A, Berkeley, CA

Dear Kim,

As long as your husband is in good shape and warms up properly, it’s probably harmless. It could be that to reach his desired intensity he just needs a super high cadence, or resistance, or both. Maybe he’s working through some stress. See how he is afterward … if he seems mellower, that hammer-fest could be exactly what he needs (click here for details). As far as heart attacks, these do afflict sedentary people who suddenly exert themselves too intensely (for example, every winter you hear about people suffering heart attacks while shoveling snow). There is also some anecdotal evidence of ultra-fit athletes having heart problems, but I don’t think that’s widespread … click here for details. (I’m no real authority, of course … everyone is advised to consult a medical doctor before embarking on a fitness regimen.)


Dear Fitness Dweeb,

Walking is so low-intensity … does it even count as exercise?

Charles D, New York, NY

Dear Charles,

Any activity is better than nothing. Sure, you’ll be better off if at least some of your exercise is vigorous, and if you’re trying to lose weight intensity will definitely help. But it’s so simple to go for a walk, even if you have only 5 or 10 minutes, and it’s such a nice way to shift gears, get some air, etc., it would be absurd to denounce it. I use walks as a way to keep a perfect track record of getting activity every day. Even if you don’t get a chance for a proper workout, it’s never too dark, rainy, or cold to get out for a quick stroll.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

I’m trying to increase my exercise consistency. Some of my fittest pals tell me the trick is gamification—that is, using a scoring system and/or friendly competition as a way to motivate them. They mention Strava, Zwift, etc. Do you employ gamification and if so is there a specific platform you recommend?

Brad H, Austin, TX

Dear Brad,

In general, I have found gamification to be very powerful. I haven’t tried Zwift (until recently, I thought it was a floor mop of some kind), nor am I on Strava. From what I’ve seen of Strava, it looks great for budding athletes because improvement over time can be very motivational. But as much as I exercise, age is slowing me down year by year, and in the Bay Area where I live there are so many dedicated bike racers, getting a KOM or even a top 50 would be pretty difficult. But regardless of age, level, talent, etc. you can totally employ DIY gamification. This could be as simple as sticking a gold star on your calendar for each day you exercise.

I have a really cool DIY gamification scheme. I host a quarterly online contest with over a dozen participants, all friends or family members, using a shared online spreadsheet. Here’s how it works: we simply enter the duration of our activity each day, and select the activity type from a pull-down menu. The spreadsheet calculates a score based on the difficulty. Here’s a snapshot (click to enlarge):


Formulas, graphs, etc. do the rest. The contest works really well for a lot of us, being very fun and motivational. The youngest participant is 17, and the oldest is almost 85. All but two of us are at or above the CDC exercise guideline, and three of us have more than tripled it. I’m happy to share the spreadsheet template—just email me here. (For what it’s worth, I used to do a far more complex contest that rewarded high intensity, based on heart rate, which led to absurd levels of fitness and suffering as detailed here.)

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

Given how much time you apparently spend exercising, do you ever contemplate what your regimen is displacing? In other words, what are you giving up to worship at the altar of fitness?

Laura M, Minneapolis, MN

Dear Laura,

I have contemplated this, but not at length, because for me it is an article of faith that exercise is worth making time for. I suppose there are insanely busy people, like the scientists who developed the COVID vaccine, or single mothers working two jobs to feed their families, who really cannot afford the luxury of daily workouts. But for the rest of us, trying to reduce exercise hours would make sense only after first cutting back on all the time wasted indulging in clickbait, binge-watching video entertainment, and being glued to the 24-hour news cycle.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

Why do you settle for such an unflattering moniker? Don’t you feel demeaned? Why not “Exercise Advisor” or something? Just curious…

Rob R, Topeka, KS

Dear Rob,

When I first pitched this column to my editor, I proposed something like “guy who actually exercises.” He laughed in my face and said, “Sounds pretentious, which is especially annoying coming from a dweeb like you.” He reluctantly agreed to let me do the column, but only if I called myself The Fitness Dweeb.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

My girlfriend wants to get an e-bike, not just for commuting but for actual exercise. If the point is fitness, isn’t an e-bike kind of like putting an escalator or moving walkway in a health club? Can you set her straight?

Monica L, Phoenix, AZ

Dear Monica,

Actually, I disagree with you. If an e-bike makes your girlfriend more likely to exercise, it’s a good thing. We all have to fight our natural aversion to unpleasant duress, and if that one big hill on her route is just too much to face before or after a long workday, why not get a little help surmounting it? I tried out a friend’s high-end electric-assist road bike once, and it was a total blast. I was still pedaling, still working, but I just flew along; more than anything, it made me feel young again. My impulse wasn’t to loaf; it was to go even faster. Look, when you compare cycling to a truly difficult sport like running or swimming, it could seem like the bicycle itself is cheating. Where pedal-assist bikes are concerned, I say go for it. (But that other kind of e-bike with no pedals, that’s like a scooter … forget it, that’s just a vehicle.)

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

Do you get a lot of hate mail?

John P, Detroit, MI

Dear John,

Of course I get some negative feedback, but most of it is positive. Here are a couple of recent comments:

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Dear Fitness Dweeb,

I am an avid runner but don’t have the ambition to do any races. Can you suggest some S.M.A.R.T. goals to help me improve over time?

Jill M, Lafayette, CO

Dear Jill,

To be honest, even when I was a pretty serious bike racer, I didn’t put much stock in long-term goals. As detailed here, that approach covers the rest of my life as well. I think that devoting myself to the process, without worrying about where that might take me, has always been enough. For example, instead of worrying about next year or five years out, why not just make each run as fun and challenging as you can? More recently, I’ve concluded that SMART (i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals might be the worst kind. As I describe here, when setting long-term goals such as New Year’s Resolutions, I favor DUMB ones: duplicate, unimpressive, mealy-mouthed, and best-effort. For example, my goal for this quarter is to try again to beat my brother Geoff in the humble online contest I described earlier … and if I fail, who cares, because it means he got a lot of exercise too! All this being said, if you want extra motivation for your running, maybe sign up for a Fun Run that’s longer or hillier than what you normally do.

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

After a workout I feel so good, I’m already looking forward to the next time … but then when the next time comes around, I find I’m dreading it. What gives?

Thomas B, Seattle, WA

Dear Thomas,

I struggle with that myself, and have for decades. It’s just the way we humans are wired, I’m afraid. But as I describe here, it may be possible to mitigate this dread a bit by making sure your workouts aren’t too long or too intense. In the moment, when we’re caught up in all the adrenaline and endorphins of a great workout, we’re often tempted to dig deeper and/or go longer, which is all well and good until we viscerally recall that experience later, when the adrenaline and endorphins have worn off. Then we seem to mainly remember the brutality of it. So I make a point to keep my regular workouts more reasonable, to exercise self-compassion, and to save the big efforts for when I ride with friends (i.e., when I struggle to keep up).

Dear Fitness Dweeb,

I had a gym membership for years because I thought shelling out the money for it would make me actually go … but it didn’t. So now I’ve quit, and I’m thinking hey, maybe I can put the money I’m saving toward something else, like nice gear, that can help motivate me to work out. But part of me thinks that might just be throwing good money after bad. What’s your take? Am I just being crazy?

Sarah D, Portland, OR

Dear Sarah,

No, you’re not crazy. Obviously spending money on fitness doesn’t guarantee results, but if any of your gear isn’t up to snuff, and thus makes your workout less fun, by all means replace it. Are your shoes completely comfortable? And given how much rain Portland gets, do you have the all-weather gear (i.e., groovy technical fabrics) you need? I have zero regrets about the super-cool bike wheels I bought a few years back, and I’m already dreaming of a new yoga mat that’s long enough that I don’t clonk my head on the hardwood floor during the full-body stretch…

The Fitness Dweeb is a syndicated journalist whose advice column, “Ask the Fitness Dweeb,” appears in over 0 blogs worldwide.

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Monday, January 16, 2023

More Beer Pix - the Milestone Beck’sts

Introduction

I’m reaching that age when the milestones start to pile up: a kid graduates from high school, then another, then it’s an empty nest, a niece’s wedding, a kid turns 21 and can legally drink beer … hey, did somebody say beer? That’s more interesting than all these sentimental milestones! And guess what: this post attempts to knit the two topics together via a series of Beck’sts.

What? You haven’t heard of Beck’sting? What rock have you been teetotaling under? Get thee to a brewery! Or, click here.

Note: as with previous posts about Beck’sts, I’ve grouped these thematically. I’ve included captions and commentary, and the initials of the Beck’ster. Where you see one letter only (e.g., “E—”) that’s generally somebody’s spouse or other family member. These are roughly chronological, beginning with where my last such post, about the COVID-era Beck’sts, left off.

Celebratory Beck’st

DA: Well, L— graduated from high school. This isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, though one always worries there’s some missing class or something. For her celebratory dinner, she wanted pho, so we went to this giant place that used to be a Sizzler, only to learn that it is take-out only. WTF?! It’s the size of an aircraft hangar! So we went to some other random place. We were literally the only customers. The waitress, a downtrodden-looking, bent-over old woman in peasant attire, was really dour and acted super put-upon. E— asked about this soup with a fermented broth, and the waitress said, “It has a smell.” E— asked “What does it smell like?” to which the waitress replied, “Feet.” E— asked if it tastes good. “It’s good,” the waitress said noncommittally. E— ordered something else.


DA (continued): So, one of the cooler things about this restaurant was that they listed Elysian Brewing Space Dust IPA as one of their draft beers. You don’t see that one very often. On the chalkboard it was listed as Space Dust, but on the menu it was called Dust Space IPA. I tried to order it but the waitress said, “Out.” I asked what the Big Wave beer was. “It’s the new one,” she growled. I tried it, hence this Beck’st. Sure enough, it ended up being one of those watery lagers from Kona Brewing. It’s like Hawaii’s version of Pacifico and I mean that in the worst possible way. Anyway, it was a liquid, and cold, and went fine with the food, which was fine. Oddly, the waitress never did take away any of the plates and serving dishes, even when she brought dessert. It was all still piled up when we left. You don’t get much for $125 anymore...

Summer break Beck’st

DA: A— is visiting for a couple weeks! (Since she started college, she never comes home for summers.) Alongside some pretty good guacamole, I’m enjoying this Deschutes Fresh Haze, an old favorite. It broke 90 degrees here today!


DA (continued): OMG. I just realized there is something seriously, seriously wrong with that photo. These stupid modern phones and their convoluted camera software!

BA: That is freaky... Was it a panorama or something? The beer looks wonderful, though!

Monday Beck’st

DA: Monday is a disease. Meet the cure.


DA (continued): Regarding the text of my Beck’st a minute ago: in case you missed my cinematic reference and just thought I was a dork, see below. (Not that I’m not a dork...)


Moving Beck’st

DA: After a long day of moving stuff and building furniture in our mom’s new home, BA and I are relaxing with these fun sized beers. They are only 4 oz! Of course we would prefer a whole beer, but we’re worried about our weight.


DA (continued): Actually, that last text suffered the fate of so many photos taken with phone cameras with absurdly wide-angled lenses. These are actually 12 oz beers, and they are a new variety from New Belgium called Juice Force Imperial IPA. They are freaking GOOD, especially for summer when a refreshingly fruity beer is welcome. (By the way, I understand that we are incorrectly drinking these out of wine glasses. No other glasses have been unpacked and we wanted to see how hazy this beer is, and to spleen DW about the stemware.)


Nephew from Netherlands Beck’st

My nephew M— (name rhymes with “Ox”) and his girlfriend D—are visiting from the Netherlands. They’re enjoying 6-oz. Easy Rider IPAs and I’ve got a proper pint of the Henhouse IPA. Not shown: the Little Star pizza and Fieldworks IPA we enjoyed later! Life is good…


PCS: Wait, I thought your kids HATE Little Star pizza. I recall getting that pizza one night at your place and your kids mercilessly hazing you over the decision of getting Little Star instead of Zach’s. How could you!? Anyhow, your beers look great. Why are the Dutch youngsters drinking only 6 oz beers?

DA: Yeah, my kids always bitch & moan about Little Star, but at the end of the day they’d always prefer it over nothing, which they know is always a possibility if they push me too far. In this case we couldn’t get take-out because E— was taking a final exam online and we wanted to stay out of her hair, but we couldn’t eat at Zach’s because they don’t have outdoor seating. As far as the Dutch youngsters splitting a beer, I’m not really sure what that was about because they each had a full pint of Fieldworks with dinner. Maybe they shared the first beer just to be romantic?

JL: This is a great Beck’st. It is what all Beck’st’s should aspire to be. And I can’t help but notice that your nephew M— (rhymes with “Ox”) looks like a younger version of your brother M— (rhymes with “Axe”). The smile in particular. Nice photo and it’s great that the couple shared a beer early in the night to be “romantic” (or whatever), and then each had their own stronger beer later in the night to be badass and individual. That’s a couple that can last.

DW: The young couple must still be trying to determine who is the taker and who is the giver in the relationship. They’re halfway there, apparently. Speaking of Beck’sts, check out this Georgetown Bodhizafa IPA - Very good! I was hoping for Barley Brown’s. The place we were at usually carries it, but this was a nice substitute. Nice way to celebrate a tough week.


DA: JL, that is a very insightful insight about the couples romantic-shared-beer + individual-solo-beer. Would that all insights could be so insightful. And DW, that is a tasty looking beer and the photo, showing the toast, captures a conviviality that is a tonic after so much isolation.

Empty nest Beck’sts

DA: L—’s last dinner “at home” (i.e., in her hometown) with us before leaving for college tomorrow. This restaurant has Racer 5 on tap ... SCORE!


DA (later): This Beck’st is commemorating my magnum opus (well, opus #2). I have been keeping this journal for most of L—’s life. During the last couple weeks I spent >35 hours editing it so I could give it as a going-away present (as I did with my first daughter). Kind of poignant as tomorrow we’ll drive L— off to college and become Empty Beck’sters. (You didn’t think I was gonna say empty nesters, did ya??) Alas, this beer is kind of meh.


JL: This is truly astounding. My PhD dissertation was much shorter than this. Magnum opus (#2 no less) indeed! My man. Well earned Beck’st, so it sucks that the beer was meh.

DA (5 days later): Our final meal with L— before dropping her at her dorm and saying our goodbyes. This beer, from the very local Lost Coast Brewery (visible from this marina restaurant patio), is a hazy IPA, quite tasty, and only $4.25! (E—’s wine was $9 and she reports it’s as meh as every glass of wine she’s ever had, but she won’t give up trying to learn to like wine. But I am not bitter.) Anyway, we are officially empty Beck’sters now. Be sure to submit your questions for my Ask an Empty Nester column, coming soon to albertnet! (PS: L—’s beverage is an Italian soda. Why they put whipped cream on it is beyond me.)


Legal-age Beck’st

DA: A— is officially legal to drink! She is in town celebrating her birthday, among other things, as her college term starts much later than her sister’s. This is at the Biergarten and these are Fieldwork East Motel IIPAs. Frickin’ brilliant.


AA: So proud to be a part of a Beck’st! I’ve been awaiting this moment for years :)

DW: Welcome AA! I want to congratulate you on your fine choice of beer (first beer? Probably not…) and proper pint glass. I was afraid you may have been corrupted somehow about what a proper vessel for beer is.

DA: Actually, we were on our way walking to Fieldwork when I saw that the Biergarten didn’t look terribly packed, and I was thinking that it might be better to go there simply because they serve all their beer in proper pint glasses, and I was actually dreading these new glasses that Fieldwork has that are so absolutely hideous that they would have you PUKING FOR DECADES. I snapped a photo of one of them at one point, but I couldn’t bring myself to Beck’st it to anybody, despite the morbid curiosity you might have about it.

JL: Congratulations to AA on your induction into the Beck’sting club! May you have many happy Beck’sts to come! (But not too many…)

DA: Indeed, it’s good to have AA in the loop but only, apparently, in a receive-only mode. What this means, AA, is that you can (and should) Beck’st us but we (or at least I) cannot Beck’st you. This is a directive from your mother who seeks to avoid any improper behavioral modeling on my part.

In-law Beck’st

DW: [My son’s new father-in-law] gave me this Belgian White Beer when we were back in NY last week. I’m usually not a big fan of Belgian White beers, but this one was really good, even in that glass. I pleaded with him to let me drink it from the can but he wasn’t having it. “Oh no, I have the perfect glass for this beer. It’s my favorite Belgian,” said he. So it goes.


DA: DW, looking closely at that glass, I see it has the Delirium Tremens logo on it. I’d recognize that pink elephant anywhere. The DT is an astonishingly good beer. I feel your son has married into a great family, stemware notwithstanding! (Full disclosure: I have a full set of Duvel stemware. Stemware is arguably appropriate for Belgian beers.)

DW: Since we’re apparently being all sophisticated, I am thinking about getting “The Master and Margarita” audiobook, but just not sure if I’m up to it. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” was one of my favorite novellas, so maybe I’m ready to make the leap; however, Russian authors to me are analogous to Bob Dylan. I wish I was intellectual enough to understand the significance of Bob Dylan.

DA: I don’t really get Dylan either though I know I should. And while I haven’t read “The Master and Margarita,” E— has heard good things about it, and AA’s friend M— absolutely loves it, and she is a wunderkind who read it in the original Russian, being fluent. So that’s a pretty good recommendation I think. In fact, I would starting reading it right now, but I don’t know where our copy is. It’s not all that long by Russian novel standards; only about 400 pages, which is an 8 hour 22 minute audiobook. If you’re still not feeling up to that, you might consider “Master and Man” by Tolstoy. E— loved it, and in length it falls in between a short story and a novella, at a brisk 2 hours 9 minutes on audiobook. I’m definitely going to check that one out. Just be careful when you’re browsing Hoopa or Libby or whatever for that title … it’s not to be confused with “A Masterful Man”:


DW: Thanks for the feedback on Russian authors and novels. I do know you know KNOB-Ah-Cov really well, so, you’re sorta my go-to. I’ve seen “Anna Karenina” around, maybe even at my own house. I think T— has read that..back in her reading days. Just the mere sight of that book scares me! No book should be that tall, sitting on its side, on a shelf. Or that heavy.

Kids catching up Beck’st

PCS: I’m cruising Italy with S— and the kiddos. We spent a couple of days in Florence doing the museums and cathedrals. Now, we’re in the Tuscan countryside for 6 days of riding from town to town. I’ve got to say, it is truly gorgeous riding here. It’s hot as hell but the heat sure makes the beer taste great! S—’s Aperol Spritz is next to my Peroni.


DA: Dude, you’re livin’ large as possible, posse unstoppable! Nothing like a nice, refreshing, watery Italian beer after a day in the heat, eh? So are the kiddies riding bikes, too? Be sure to Cancellara them here and there, just to remind them who’s boss. (That is, if you still can…)

PCS: Yeah, the kiddos are riding. I don’t think I could put too big of a hurt on H— except he’s getting up early and running before we go ride. M— had a colossal meltdown today on the ride into town which was at the top of a 5 km climb. I figure, they have to earn their keeps somehow!

Stealth Beck’st

DA: Normally the kids make 100% sure we have plenty of Halloween candy well before the big day, and are even known to test it for quality. But this year, without their guidance, our pumpkin went un-carved and we didn’t get to Safeway for candy until the afternoon of Halloween, and they were completely sold out! Thus, we’re hiding from the would-be trick-or-treaters this evening by having the lights out. We ate dinner (easily heated leftovers) by candlelight, and just to be extra safe, I chose this stealth beer, a Guinness. It went down real nice, though I couldn’t fully appreciate the nice head on it (courtesy of the widget in the can).


Kids home Beck’st

DA: Both kids are home for winter break and tonight I’ve taken them out to the movies. We’re about to watch “Avatar - Way of Wankers.” This Denogginizer Double IPA is here to help. Wish me luck!


PCS: You’ll definitely need two drinks for that movie!

DA (3+ hours later): Au contraire, they’re almost $10/pop! I split one with AA. The movie was better than I expected. Lots of folderol but also some great action.

DW: Maybe the ABV% was much higher than you realized. Awesome mini theatre. In other news, we were in Eugene and they happened to have a brewery there.


JL: I’m probably alone on this, but I like a lot of folderol in my big budget Hollywood dreck. “Bring on the folderol!” I’m always shouting at the screen. Good looking beer. DW’s too.

DA: DW, that’s a nice looking brew you have there, and I like the “distressed” table as well - looks like a legit place. JL, now I finally know who it was yelling “More folderol!” at the screen when I watched “Fast & Furious XVII - Big Fat & Sassy” a couple weeks back.

Wedding after-party Beck’st

DA: I am not drinking during January. At least, not officially … but I wasn’t going to miss out on the after-party, at a cool bar with lots of pinball machines, after my niece’s wedding. I don’t know what this IPA is, some local thing. BA has the Guinness on nitro.


DW: Nooice! I love your attempt at a dry January. The same thing happened to me on Friday. We happened to go back to Deschutes Brewery and I ordered another one of their killer pilsners. N— and L— showed up and had water and a Diet Coke or something. They steadfastly reminded me about Dry January. So ... I’m in. Looking forward to it actually.

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Sunday, January 8, 2023

I Drank a Gallon of Water a Day for a Week - Here’s What Happened

Introduction

What follows is a work of fiction. All characters, situations, observations, and insinuations are fictitious, coincidental, or accidental. The characters were pulled out of thin air and have nothing in common with any human being who ever lived, nor any zombie or otherwise undead individual. Nothing that happens in this story ever happened to a real person, or ever will. In fact, this story is practically science fiction, except that it’s totally unscientific and doesn’t have spaceships or aliens or anything. That said, any similarity of any character to an actual space alien, past present or future, is (obviously) purely coincidental or conjectural.


I drank a gallon of water every day for a week – here’s what happened

I was casting about for a New Year’s Resolution but nothing was coming to mind. Last year I resolved to dance like nobody’s watching, and I even bought a new Bluetooth speaker, but I found the dancing made me sad, because I live alone and there was nobody to watch me. A one-man dance party doesn’t feel much like self improvement.

So this year I decided to try drinking a gallon of water a day. Supposedly hydration is really important, and after all, what have I got to lose? Because I’m in an apartment building, my water bill is the same no matter what I do.

I thought about buying one of those graduated gallon water bottles with motivational phrases on them—you know, starting at the top with “GOOD MORNING” then “HYDRATE YOURSELF” then “REMEMBER YOUR GOAL,” etc., down to “ALMOST FINISHED” and then finally “YOU DID IT” at the bottom—but then I’m like dang, that’s $25 I’d rather not spend. Plus, I know myself, and I respond better to the whip than the carrot, if you catch my drift. So I washed out an empty gallon milk jug and wrote on it with a sharpie:

7AM GET COFFEE
9AM NO EXCUSES
11AM THIS IS NOTHING
1PM DON’T BE A LOSER
3PM NO PITY PARTY
5PM OOH, BIG MAN
7PM EVERYONE GETS A RIBBON
9PM BIG WHOOP

I set everything out the night before, feeling pretty excited. I hadn’t felt such keen anticipation since I started charging my new Bluetooth speaker at about this time last year.

Day One

At 9am I filled my big jug and then poured about a pint of it into my teakettle. This is the hardest part since there’s some sloshing and trial-and-error involved but I think it’s the genius of my method. See, others who do this drink only out of their $25 graduated jug and drag it around with them, like wearing a badge of honor so everyone will ask about it and they can start taking credit for their awesome resolution in advance. That’s not for me, I don’t need to brag. Plus, I don’t need the ruggedness of the Motivational Bottle … I don’t worry about leaks since I’m mostly at home. When I go out I’ll fill some smaller, more reliable vessel from the main one and then return for refills.

Some say it’s bad to hydrate with coffee but if I gave that up, I’d be doing two New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t want to boil the ocean here. I’m trying to tackle something I can actually achieve, so as to be more compassionate with myself (my Resolution from two years ago that I’m still struggling to keep).

Well, things were going fine until about 11am, when I’d peed so many times I felt like I was wearing out the carpet between my armchair and the toilet. I was peeing so much it seemed like the bowl would be completely full by nightfall. I’m of the “if it’s yellow keep it mellow, if it’s brown wash it down” school, in terms of flushing, except “keep it mellow” never made sense—I mean, what’s non-mellow about flushing? So I think of it as “if it’s brown, flush it down, if it’s jaune leave it alone.” (I am considering putting that on a placard above the toilet, with a little translation of “jaune” from the French.)

Just to divert my mind from the constant awareness of my pestering bladder, I went to the park and sat at my favorite bench for a while, watching life go by, and then this man came up to me, sat down, and said, “Hey, are you one of the dads?” I was like, “No,” and he said, “So you just like sitting and watching kids on a playground?” and I just stared at him, like, isn’t that obvious? He went on to say, “Look, a couple of other parents and I have talked about this and we all agree, we’re gonna have to ask you to leave.” So I shot back, “I was leaving anyway, I have to pee!” I have to admit, it was nice to have a really good comeback for once.

In terms of the more tangible benefits of all this drinking, I have to say that by 9pm, I’d never felt so good. My skin seemed better, I felt stronger in my body, my posture was more erect … even my hair felt better. Totally worth all the peeing.

Day Two

My bladder woke me up from a dream in which I was touring this old Victorian mansion that they’d turned into a museum, and I had to pee (yes, even in my dream) and found this tiny little half-bathroom, but instead of a toilet it just had a little portal to pee into. Halfway through my business the whole room started to move, slowly lowering toward the ground floor, and I realized it wasn’t a bathroom, it was an elevator! Yikes! I was like, “When I reach the next floor, the door’s gonna open and I’d better be finished!” Then I woke up.

The drinking itself was still pretty easy today and I nailed the pour into my teakettle, first try. If anything the constant peeing was even worse, though, and beyond that, by lunchtime I started getting pretty bored of drinking plain water. I’d been warned by drink-a-gallon-a-day websites not to have any sugar, though, because it’d throw off my electrolytes. Then I realized hey, if I make Top Ramen soup and drink the broth, that’s two cups of water right there! So I did that.

Big mistake! OMG, all the salt in that ramen totally bloated me! I should have known! Salt is an electrolyte! I stood in the mirror looking in horror at my bloated (and unfortunately hairy) belly (though not hairy due to drinking water, I hasten to add). I looked kind of like ET. Out of habit, I also scrutinized my face in the mirror, and as I looked closer I realized hey, my eyebrows are looking good! I flicked them with my finger a few times and realized, wow, drinking all this water has totally cured my eyebrow dandruff! Bonus!

All the afternoon water drinking eventually brought down the bloat, and after my final 9pm pint—nailed it!—I was ready for some yoga. I put in my video and (literally) went through the motions. I still can’t even come close to the Yogi Squat, but it’s only the second day of my new hydration regimen.

Day Three

I have hit my stride. The more I drink water now, the more I love it. In fact I doubled up on my 9am pint, drinking a whole quart, and it felt so good. I paid a price, though: I immediately had to pee, and then afterward, the sensation of water on my hands as I washed them made me have to pee again immediately, and for a second it looked like a vicious cycle I’d never break out of.

I went for a little hike and had to pee so bad halfway through. Alas, the outhouse at the trailhead was still at least thirty minutes away, which was like two pees worth, and there were so many hikers! I couldn’t find any privacy! I bushwhacked off-trail for a bit, and then my sneakers lost traction and I slid down into this ravine, and at the bottom I discovered—to my shock and horror—a dead body! It looked like some young adult hiker, halfway claimed by the earth. I scrambled up that slope so fast I couldn’t believe it. Surely my excellent hydration gave me wings. Problem was, just before reaching the trail again I slid on some leaves and tumbled all the way back down there. Then I looked more closely at the body and realized it was just an old shirt tangled around a fallen tree limb. Silly me.

Day Four

Another peeing dream woke me up and for a terrifying moment I thought I’d wet the bed. But I hadn’t … just a little leakage which is totally normal when you drink a gallon of water a day.

In addition to the better skin, relief from back pain, and higher energy, all of which I’d secretly hoped this hydration would give me, I got a big surprise: I got a job! My first in years! It’s selling tickets at the Events Center. The ticket window opens hours before the game and things start off really slow, so peeing wasn’t a problem at first—I’d just put the “BACK IN 5 MINUTES” sign out and go do my business. But once the rush started, no dice. I could not leave my post. It got worse and worse to where people were asking, “Are you okay!?” I guess my face was getting contorted. But then I realized I could just pee in this wastebasket without even getting out of my seat! Don’t worry, the wastebasket has a liner. All the wadded-up paper napkins in there dampen the sound down to almost nothing. I did have to sit pretty far forward in my chair to, well, eclipse everything, but nobody was the wiser.

Now, if you think I’m trying to connect the dots between drinking water and getting a job, I totally am. Those may seem unrelated but if I hadn’t been so hydrated, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to accept the offer.

The health benefits continue. I did an experiment: I looked in the mirror, located a zit, studied my face carefully to remember exactly where it was, drank a pint of water, and then looked again. Sure enough, the zit was gone! Water is like a miracle elixir!

Day Five

Other gallon-a-day blogs had warned me that I’d get bored of drinking water. Well, so far they’re wrong, but you know what is boring? All this peeing! It’s getting so old! Also, even though practice normally improves one’s prowess at practically anything, I seem to be getting worse at not spattering the rim. Either that, or I’m just more observant. I have to mop up the rim pretty much every time now. And my hands are starting to get a bit raw from all that washing, like with OCD people. The rest of my skin is positively glowing from all the water, but for some reason not my hands. I was reading on this one blog about smearing lotion on my hands and then putting on disposable rubber gloves, right before bed, so I’m considering that.

I showed up to work today but nobody was there. I searched everywhere and finally found my supervisor, and it turns out I misunderstood about the job: it’s not a daily thing, but only as needed, when they have a big game and somebody calls in sick. Oh well. I have a small passive income and it’s better to focus on my blogging anyway.

I fell asleep today and had one of those marathon naps where it’s hard to move afterward, so I missed one of my drinking sessions. I chugged a quart after that and was back on track.

Day Six

Not so much to report, actually. Drinking water, even a gallon a day, turns out to not actually be that complicated. One highlight: the hydration is helping my vision. If I really squint, I can read the kitchen clock from the kitchen nook table without my glasses.

Day Seven

This has gone so well, I woke up this morning thinking about continuing my gallon-a-day habit for the whole month, or more. This would give me a good blog topic while continuing to improve my health in umpteen different ways! But I’ve also been thinking a lot about the new Avatar movie, which is over three hours long. I really want to see it in the theater, and I’m sure the crowds have thinned out by now, but there’s no way I could make it through without getting up to pee at least six times. Who knows how many plot points I’d miss. And I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long, long time.

And that got me thinking that, just like with last year’s dancing, achieving this Resolution is making me a little sad. Why, you may ask? Well, at some point I’ll have reaped all the health benefits, and then I’ll have nothing left to look forward to. So I think after I polish off my last pint tonight, I’ll call it quits, and keep the optimal hydration project in my back pocket for later. It’ll be like my ace-in-the-hole, my Plan B, the card up my sleeve. Next time I’m feeling really low, I’ll just start back up the gallon-a-day, and things will start to get real, real good again!

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Further reading

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