Hipidy Hopidy

The Reinheitsgebot of 1516 represents what only a most civilized society could mandate. It is a perfunctory requisite, in its raw essence, but it permits our modern world to exist, for who would haven given it a second thought were the market not now saturated with fruit-infused abominations? Law and order, dammit! Advanced political discourse cannot take place on massive social policies without something to drink. If you disagree, you’re un-American.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair to our Islamic community. I’ll forgive you for your other culinary contributions.

I speak of course of beer! Even though I usually prefer bourbon (something infinitely more American). Which, now that I think about it, beer isn’t really American at all. It’s a cultural inheritance from northern continental Europe – and from second-class immigrants at that. If OG blue-blooded Americans are WASPs, then British carryovers would define American beverage culture. And I think the British were more into hard apple cider at the time than beer. And we like that too. And we made it better by creating applejack, which is not the same as Calvados, even without the “appellation d’origine contrôlée”. Calvados is sweet sissy apple syrup. Applejack is for real Americans! Pioneering Americans. The fuck you Americans! Raaah!

Okay, so bourbon and applejack are the most American of intoxicants. But we like beer too. And to show my appreciation, I have planted hops! Also, to out-do my father-in-law, because he started growing them first and I couldn’t allow him to be successful at gardening something I hadn’t yet tried.

They’re one of those plants that’s oddly difficult to find through traditional distributers, e.g. Burpee’s, but very easy to find through any gardener with an internet connection. A couple weeks later I had some rhizome cuttings that very quickly took to my sunny fence corner.

They’re not very big yet, but growing quickly. And while I have no plans for home-brewing, I’ll appreciate the coolness factor. And doing a better job than Liz’s dad. And for my ancestors.

Drink your sissy Zimas and Smirnoff Ices. And Calvados.


Rogue Wave

It’s somewhat surprising to me that scientific acceptance of the rogue wave phenomenon only dates back to the mid 1990s. So humanity has colonized every continent and established international shipping lanes for trade and travel, but as a species we never believed stories of big goddamn random waves until recently?


Here there be monsters. I suppose the low survivability of such events kept them in myth, with the occasional eyewitness rendered incoherent from PTSD. But still, the 1990s?

So why was I thinking about rogue waves? I dunno. It was one of those internet rabbit hole kind of days. Because apparently I needed to scare myself away from ever getting on a ship, aside from the more obvious reasoning: trapping myself in the ocean with a bunch of people. No thanks.

But it also triggered a vivid memory. As a kid, I took an interest in natural disasters. Extreme climatology became an independent subject of study for me, perhaps from living in Tornado Alley. What caused these terrifyingly lethal events? And, how does one avoid them? By the end of elementary school, I was well-versed on tornado and tsunami formation, and how to recognize their impending appearance. I had books on the subjects. In 4th grade. Yes.

And on one summer evening I was experimenting with wave formation in the collapsible swimming pool (I had a lonely childhood). It was one of those rubber-bottomed things with semi-rigid sides. Only 2-3 feet deep, though it always slumped slightly and never filled to capacity quite right. But I could push the sides and turn it into a wave pool and simulate the sinking of various objects based on this wave action. Single waves impacted the opposite side and sloshed around the circular perimeter. Rhythmic wave creation caused predictable patterns: sine waves and standing waves. Inconsistent wave creation led to chaotic results. And as I was a kid, a narrative always accompanied my experiments. A fleet of warships encountered a typhoon! An enemy bomber squad appeared overhead! All hands to stations! Abandon ship! And I would dramatically belly-flop into the center.

In this particular experiment, I generated waves in one location, then a few feet away, then back to the first spot, and I noticed a pattern. Waves generated some number of degrees apart converged across the pool. I continued the experiment by generating waves in different locations as I evenly circumnavigated the pool. My thought was that this would create some sort of water displacement in the middle of the pool that would replicate sudden tsunami formation.

Nothing exceptional occurred, and I lost interest. But before I left, and as the water appeared to settle into a waveless pool once again, a single wave rose unexpectedly towards one side of the pool, traversed the diameter, and crashed onto the opposite wall, splashing over the side. Then a second wave appeared in the same spot, and just as before, followed the prior wave’s same path. The waves were of significant height in comparison to the otherwise placid pool of water, and their sudden appearance, in complete contrast to the present equilibrium and without further input on my part, startled me. Actually, the event rather disturbed me, as it lacked any reasonable explanation.

Excited and needing some form of validation, I ran inside to explain the event to my dad, claiming that I had inadvertently created a tsunami in the pool. Of course, without much context to go on, he gave me a generic acknowledgment and that was the end of that. And many times thereafter, when the pool was set up again, I attempted but failed to recreate it. And I always wondered what had happened that day.

Through some form of random and predictable events, I had created a rogue wave situation (hence the name). But as constructive interference is easily explained in basic physics, it didn’t account for why I was able to create what I had by rotating around a circular body of water. Ultimately, I’ve come to accept the Draupner wave event as the explanation – a rouge wave whose empirical documentation led to fluid dynamic studies that ultimately recreated the event. The explanation: nonlinear convergent wave trains in crossing sea conditions (tested at varying angles of intersect). Or more simply: bursts of waves at different angles making big waves when they meet.


The pool had seemingly been still, but my last waves, or perhaps waves reflected from the pool sides, had intersected at just such an angle after I had stopped generating new waves. And the result was those two waves, significantly greater in amplitude than anything that should have been remaining in the settling water, formed from that improbable intersection. It was an odd experience to see the pool come to life on its own, and very difficult to explain sufficiently so that someone else might visualize.

It’s no wonder that sailors were a superstitious lot. No one believed my story either.


Is It Reading?

As I often quip, I’ve received much accusation that I was never a reader, by my mother, owner of a library of double-stacked bookshelves containing romance novels, which totally isn’t pornography, unlike, apparently, my father’s collection of annual Sport’s Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition magazines (she HATED those). I guess if it isn’t visual stimulation then it doesn’t count, which is good news considering my personal enjoyment of all those Literottica stories from the good ol’ days of the Internet. Had I stopped there, I might have been able to go to heaven after all.

And I’m not so arrogantly boastful that I’ll post my résumé as evidence of a contrarian opinion, but I don’t exactly maintain my socioeconomic position from my original read-free occupations: bagging dirt at a greenhouse and bussing tables; so normally I shrug off this odd perception of illiteracy. But naturally success, however moderate, will attract hate. Haters gonna hate hate hate, right? So it is that my Family of Origin* must find merit negations.

*(I discovered this term recently. It’s used to differentiate one’s family they spent childhood with from their current one. I like it, because I don’t consider the former group to be my family anymore, as it’s essentially been disbanded, and I’ve since started my own. Oh, and I found the term through reading, incidentally.)

So it was that my father joked about my presumed lack of mathematical skills. Or he did, until he caught on that I was taking a tally and timestamp every time he brought it up. Pity. I was going to use that in a Quantitative Philosophy post: Time to Math. Oh well.

And so it is that certain other members of my FOO bring up the reading bit, and it’s not just my mother. I overheard a snide comment from a phone conversation recently that made just this particular snipe at me again (it’s not wonder my daughter hesitates to answer calls when the caller inevitably insults her own father). But unlike the math bit, which has a base in actual personal struggles, I never quite got the illiteracy dig. Surely my FOO knows that I read to some extent or I wouldn’t be able to function in my daily occupation, but apparently that doesn’t qualify as reading? I was therefore determined to build a logic tree that determines what is considered reading, which in their minds I’m not doing, based upon all the reading they’re apparently doing that actually counts as reading. Here goes:

  1. Is the medium paper? If yes, then proceed to question 2. If no, proceed to question 4.
  2. Is the content in novel form (printouts/PDFs don’t count)? If yes, then proceed to question 3. If no, then proceed to question 6.
  3. Is the content technical in nature? If no, then this counts as reading. If yes, then this does not count as reading.
  4. Was the content in its original form paper (e.g. now in ebook format)? If no (e.g. news articles, blogs), proceed to question 5. If yes, then go to question 2.
  5. Is the content related to your occupation? If no, then this does not count as reading. If yes then go to question 6.
  6. Is your job academia or are you working a job based on an advanced STEM degree? If yes, then this counts as reading. If no, then this does not count as reading.

After thinking it through, I found it’s easily distilled down to 2 scenarios. Reading is only reading if the text is:

  • On paper in novel form, but the content cannot be related to knowledge gain unless your job is in academia or are you working a job based on an advanced STEM degree. Or…
  • In any other form of media besides paper, but only if the original text was in novel form or if your job is in academia or you are working a job based on an advanced STEM degree.

Observant readers will have noticed some implications. Here’s my psychological take on how my FOO defines reading:

  • My job is more important than yours and more difficult, I’m sure, so any reading I do is important, unlike yours, and therefore qualifies as reading while whatever it is that you “read” doesn’t.
  • I have an insecurity and when I can’t justify the importance of my own existence I turn a leisure activity into an intellectual one in my own mind.
  • Either or both of the above.

So what’s the answer? Well, in my case, it’s to have fewer conversations with my FOO and answer the phone less. But in a broader sense, it does raise some societal questions. Intellectual snobbery aside, what is “reading” in that the consumed content is literature or “higher” information? That’s a question that warrants significant debate beyond individual opinion. It’s a question that needs the involvement of educators and policy-makers alike.

As a final outtake, here’s a related article I stumbled upon after writing this. I wanted to know how others have thought this through. Excluding the personal irritations with family, I’m certainly not alone in the pursuit of discovering what true reading actually is (even though reading this article isn’t true reading as per the above outlined criteria):


(I know, it’s Medium. But that also betrays my own prejudice against defining sources whose content consumption qualifies as reading.)

Myself, I’ll just talk to family less.


Solitude (or, Leave Me Alone!)

I’ve always possessed a rather high tolerance for solitude. And often, I’ve been mislabeled as “antisocial” as a result. But time gives one opportunity to self-reflect, and I have since concluded that this accusation is unfair. I’m not antisocial. Rather, I possess a lack of tolerance to associate with people who don’t contribute to my happiness, well-being, or personal/professional goals. It’s not being self-centered, it’s being pragmatic; and it’s a natural progression into the latter stages of life (I’m middle-aged now I hear!)

It’s probably a very late realization, for I was raised to be the people-pleaser. Parental upbringing, an oppressive educational system, a social system that rewarded agreeableness, and the supremely draconian punishments for upsetting customers in service jobs (the only jobs available to a 16-30 year old) – all contributed to the “be nice and indulge everyone” philosophy that dictated my social interactions throughout my formative years. As a result, this “antisocialness” was instead a tendency to avoid all people, because I was conditioned to have to like all people, and lacked the backbone to be more selective.

Now I’ve realized that I don’t have to do that. And it started with this:

If people obey the fuzzy ropes at public venues, then a chain should accomplish the same. My apologies to USPS and any package couriers. I try to remember to take this down if one of you is coming that day.

Granted solicitors are the most aggravating of the lot. When I checked back on surveillance footage and saw the same guy from 2018 who comes back every year to try to sell me a bug-spraying service, my patience hit an end.

Add to that a stereotype Republican boomer neighbor with a litany of conspiracy theories (government is spraying the atmosphere with COVID vaccines, Michelle Obama has a penis…you get the idea), street missionaries trying to get me to join their church, and political activists asking how I plan to vote; and while not true “solicitors”, I’m hoping the chain will send a message.

So far so good, though I haven’t captured anyone on camera yet to draw a correlation.

More importantly, the symbolic gesture has finally emboldened me to become more self-serving! I view this as a good thing. Being a doormat only leads to a life of quiet desperation. That was the lesson that George Bailey should have learned.

Here’s some examples:

  • I hung up on someone! I had to disable blocking unknown callers for a time during that HVAC adventure, and I got another call asking for Dustin Werner. When I said they had the wrong number they proceeded to ask if I knew him, and I just hung up and blocked the number instead. Damn was that liberating!
  • I send my new doctor a letter outlining his incompetent staff (4 weeks and I still don’t have my medical records available). I never “broke up” with a physician before.
  • I stopped engaging with my sister over pointless and hostile “discussions”. Actually, I do feel a little bad about this one, but it’s the similarly politically-charged points as the aforementioned neighbor, albeit not totally unhinged and far left instead of right and dripping with pseudo-intellectualism (the world’s entering environmental collapse, you planted the wrong tree, you interpreted that book/movie wrong, The Patriarchy and men are all overly-confident know-it-alls (why would you even have this as a conversational point when calling your own brother?) I still talk to her in chats though.

This almost sounds like a bad motivational speech, but if you don’t add any value to my life then I’m not going to talk to you!

I mean, within reason of course. I’m not a psychopath. I’ll still help people and do nice things for family, but I won’t tolerate them thinking I owe them my time.