Tag Archives: Hobbies

Vacation Sucks (2021 Edition)

It’s that time of year once again: vacation. I couldn’t take all four weeks in a row this year and had to settle for three. My job is a union job so everyone with higher seniority gets to pick their vacations first. Even if I’m about middle-of-the-pack with my time there, the full-timers above me all have like five or six weeks of vacation meaning they shit up the vacation calendar pretty quickly.

I complain about vacation once every year, sometimes twice, so I’ll just skip all of that here.

The First Goal

I’m terrible at holding clear-cut goals but here’s one of them: get 2,000 blog views this month. I’ve been slacking for awhile but July still has some hope. July 4th gave me over 200 daily views — a new record and the first time I cracked 200 — because of my The 4th of July Sucks post from two years ago. Apparently people Google “july 4 sucks” and they find my page. Cool. It was a good start to the month but I squandered it as time went on. I need about 250 more views in the next three days, so it’ll be close, and I’ll try my best, but I won’t be surprised if I end the month with 1,999 views.

And this is why I’m shoveling out this throw-away post. Better to write some trash than to not write at all.

Sobriety

This vacation is already going better than my last vacation, nearly 110 days ago, because I’m not trying to sober up. I know the exact number thanks to the r/stopdrinking ‘days sober’ feature. (I’ll never stop shilling for r/stopdrinking.) You set a date and then anytime you post it displays how many sober days you’ve accumulated. It’s a great feature because you don’t have to remember a date or go mad trying to count the days yourself.

Last vacation sucked because I stopped drinking. Anyone who has been an alcoholic knows that the first week is a rough one as your body and emotions are all over the place. I chose that week to sober up because I had a terrible habit of drinking my vacation away. Boredom is one of my drinking triggers and during vacations I go crazy. There’s nothing else to do besides get drunk, at least that’s how Jeremy usually thought about vacation. So that week was successful on the sobriety front and I haven’t had a drink since but damn did it suck. At least these three weeks I’m not battling alcoholism. Sure I’m bored and drinking sounds like a great way to spend vacation, but it’s a passing thought I can easily disregard.

Random Projects

I like to keep busy doing bullshit random things that aren’t at all related to each other. Making soap is obviously one of them, as well as a few other sorta related things like trying to make my own lye and washing bonfire ashes in water. Washing ashes in water also means I need to burn wood which also means I need trim some shrubs in the yard to have stuff to burn. Luckily my wife has done that part because my motivation is always near zero. I despise yardwork by the way…

There’s a bunch else I sort of want to do but since my motivation is basically zero it’s hard for me to get around to doing them. It’d be fun to take the family to the river and go swimming. Not legally swimming either, just get in the water and fucking swim. I want to visit my sister in Iowa because why not? Camping sounds like a fun thing, and maybe haul my guitar to a park and play some music. Maybe haul it down to the bike path and play in front of people? I want to get a cabin for my wife and I but still haven’t gotten around to reserving one. Oh, I also want to watch one of the ‘homeless’ bums that are begging for money at the corner of 2nd Street and Jefferson to see if they’re really homeless, but that won’t happen.

Bike rides, running, weight lifting. Maybe. Russia just launched a new module to the ISS and Boeing is shooting up their Starliner on its second test flight on the 30th; maybe I can go outside and try to see those zipping overhead. (I don’t understand how I haven’t written about the shitty Boeing Starliner yet. It’s fucking trash.) There’s always my giant telescope too and I’ve always wanted to haul that to a public place and let people look at Jupiter and Saturn for realzies.

Paint-by-numbers. Artwork. Drawing. Writing a story. Recording some music. Finally writing and singing some lyrics. Sitting in the yard meditating? Watching bugs in the grass and wondering what it would be like to be a dandelion. What sort of bats do we actually have here in Northern Illinois?

And this is how I am, random bullshit things I want to do with no reason or logic behind them. Is this how people are? Is this normal? Being a human being is a fucking mess…

Books

I bought three books from thriftbooks, being inspired by a Reddit thread asking about “the scariest books you’ve ever read.” House of Leaves. It. Gerald’s Game. I’m currently reading Gerald’s Game and in case you weren’t aware Stephen King is fucked up guy. The book is about a lady who get’s handcuffed to her bed by her husband in the woods. Just some good ole sexual fun that she isn’t too fond of. She ends up accidentally killing him by kicking him and giving him a heart attack, and she’s still cuffed to the bed with no way to escape. A stray dog wanders in and eats her husband as his corpse is laying there. There’s also something about an eclipse and how she was sexually molested by her dad when she was ten. I’m halfway through the book and that’s what’s happened so far.

My wife thinks some of the stuff I write is strange and disturbing, and can you imagine what King’s wife thinks of him? Does he write a story and ever once think, “My God, what the hell is wrong with me?” Either way, he apparently doesn’t give a fuck enough to not get it published.

It’s a book, but not really. A sudoku puzzle book from the store. I think it’s a Soap Opera Digest sudoku book, maybe you’ve seen them before as you’re standing in a checkout lane at Walmart. I had an earlier edition literally 9-10 years ago. Same cover design, same amount of puzzles, same difficulty of puzzles. Sure there are plenty of free sudoku apps out there, but something about having 100 puzzles physically in a book is satisfying so I bought it for $5. It’ll be fun to have it completed by the time I go back to work.

Insomnia

For the past two months I’ve been setting my alarm for noon. I wake up groggy and chug coffee and rip on the vape for an hour before I remotely feel functional. Around midnight I’m dead tired but somehow manage to stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. without fail. I get my second wind around 2 a.m. and from then on I’m as awake as I am at 5 p.m.

I thought vacation would help this a bit, maybe I could set the alarm earlier and earlier, but the problem is getting worse! I didn’t go to sleep yesterday (today?) until 6 a.m. The day before that it was 7:30 a.m. I’m pretty chill about this as well. I’m on vacation so if I’m up until the mid-morning hours who cares? No point in being upset about it.

In Conclusion

In conclusion? What the hell is there to conclude? I’m on vacation. I’m not concluding a damn thing.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

What is Soap?

Part two of a series on soap. Part one is here if you’re interested.

Soap, in case you weren’t aware, is what you wash your hands with, usually with water. It kills germs like COVID-19 and the flu and the common cold. It’s good at getting oil and dirt off your skin. It’s common practice to wash your hands after taking a piss or a shit, you know, so you’re not interacting with door handles and people with microscopic bits of shit/piss/germs on your hands.

Soap is laughable easy to make which is what I find surprising. All it takes is a bit of motivation and effort, but it’s not hard to do. Nearly anyone can conjure up a rudimentary soap with only a few household ingredients. You take oil and add in some lye, a drain cleaner that you might have laying around in the dark recesses under the sink or in the basement and that’s it: you have soap.

Obviously the details of this are more complicated. How much lye to fat? How long to cure? What scents do you want to add? Like an onion you can always go deeper in understanding.

A fat molecule looks like this. It’s called a triglyceride and the name should tell you a bit about it. ‘Tri-‘, meaning three, and ‘-glyceride’ sounds a lot like glycerin. That comes into play later. A fat molecule is made up of three strings of something called a fatty acid all tied together by this glycerin backbone thingy.

Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, NaOH, is a strong base. This means when you add it to water it creates a bunch of ANGRY OH- ions that love to rip other molecules apart (it can do this to your cells so don’t get it on you!). When you add the NaOH to fat, the angry OH- molecules rip the fatty acids off the backbone. These fatty acids, floating along ripped from their backbone, pick up the sodium ion (Na+) from the NaOH. The Na is positively charged and the oxygen on the fatty acid has a negative charge and chemistry stuff happens and shit. In short, you get soap.

This Na tied to a fatty acid is what is what gives soap its magical properties. Half the molecules loves polar molecules, like water, while the other half, the fatty acid tail, hates polar molecules. Everyone has seen how fat and oil don’t mix, they’re different molecules and all of that, but soap ties them together in a way. The soap can bind to fat, collect around it, while the other side binds with water. And like that you have the oil-cleaning properties of soap.

Bacteria and germ cells also are contained in a layer of fat. The technical term is “lipid bilayer” and guess what soap can do to this? Collect around it while allowing water to wash it away. And like that you have the antibacterial properties of soap.

It’s no wonder humans eventually stumbled upon this magical substance. Water is nearly a universal solvent and is required for life. Everything almost dissolves in water, except the stuff that doesn’t, like oil. You get some mud on your hands and water will wash it off. You step in some dogshit and water will wash most of it off while leaving some harmful bacteria. You mix some lye with fat to make soap and no more harmful bacteria on your shit-soiled foot. Before vaccinations were a thing good hygiene was our best defense against microbes. Not shitting near your water source. Not having dead bodies near your farms. And washing your hands. Soap, as simple and mundane as it is, gave us a huge leg-up against germs. Hell, even in 2020/2021 one of the most important guidelines regarding COVID is simply to wash your damn hands because soap is in fact magical and it does in fact work.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

On the Quest for Soap

Part One of a series about soap. Yes, soap.

If I summed up every hobby I have ever had it would be this: My hobby is doing random crafty shit to see if I can do them. Every specific hobby I’ve ever had is just a subset of this. Solar panels. Guitar playing. Making bread. Making vape juice. Painting. Making rocket engines out of sugar and stump remover. Blogging. Writing stories. And now…soap making.

Yes: soap. Soap is awesome. Haven’t you guys ever seen Fight Club?

It started a week ago and even I didn’t know I was going to get hard into soap making until I was in the kitchen at 3 a.m. with a bottle of lye and Crisco trying to figure out how to magically turn that stuff into soap. It started with a YouTube video of all things.

There’s this chemist dude on there by the name of NileRed. He makes chemistry videos (duh) that are pretty informative but also pretty hilarious in a dry-humor sort of way. (“This chemical is very toxic and even explosive, but it should be okay.”) Even if you’re not into chemistry, check him out. In one video he makes grape flavoring/grape soda out of vinyl gloves and using urea from his own urine in one of the intermediate steps. In another video he carbonates water with CO₂ from diamonds. He apparently made a video on soap four years ago that I wasn’t even aware of. I found it at 2 a.m. on Sunday, really Monday I guess, and I watched it. “Huh,” I thought, “Soap seems pretty easy to make. I have oil. And I have lye. And…I can’t sleep right now…so…maybe I can toss some shit together just to see if it works.”

And here I am a week and a half later checking to see if my soap is dry yet, googling how to make sodium hydroxide, learning the differences between sodium and potassium hydroxide, filtering oil from the bacon skillet and deep fryer, wondering what the hell ‘glycerin’ is and why some people remove it from their soaps. I wonder what would be some good essential oils to put in my soap? I wonder if I can sell my soap? I wonder if I can never buy soap ever again in my life.

Soap making fits right in with my current madness and I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to stumble into it. I probably should’ve stumbled into making soap back when I was distilling my own rum with supplies I purchased from the hardware store, but I didn’t. Remember this post where I ranted about bread and how it was sort of like the foundation of society? I said that I almost felt like I failure homo sapiens because I didn’t know how to bake my own bread. Isn’t that a requirement to be a human? To know how to make your own fire and bake your own bread? Well, put soap making up there because even if it isn’t as key to civilization as fire and bread it sure is up there. Soap making is one of those lost arts and a part of life, a part of being a stinky and dirty human that almost none of us know how to do. As with bread: we buy soap. Other people make it and we don’t worry about where it comes from or how its made. And by making your own soap you take back a tiny bit of your humanity, rediscover one of those old arts that are seemingly forgotten in our modern age.

That all sounds a bit over the top and dramatic but oh well. And I hesitate to write this part but I think I might make a series about soap and how to make it. Not like a guide per-se, there’s plenty of those and I don’t want to tell people how to do something when it’s much more fun to figure it out yourself with a bit of help and curiosity — but like a series on where the seemingly mundane adventure of making soap can take you. If there’s one thing hobbies are good for it’s giving you a deep and complex rabbit hole to crawl down and get lost in. What started as a simple project — making soap — has turned into a mess of nuance and complexity. So yeah, SOAP.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

My First YouTube Video Sucks

Editing videos fucking sucks. I knew it would but didn’t know the extent that it would. Part of it is my fault. My computer is shitty, about four or five years old, and isn’t meant to do anything more than act as a word processor. That’s why I bought it — I wanted to blog — so I purchased the cheapest, barest-minimum piece of trash I could. Apparently it’s not ideal for video editing. The damn thing crashed and froze up about three or four times during editing. Sometimes the audio on the video cut out, and good luck trying to edit all the quiet/boring parts out of a video when you can’t hear anything. I had to reload the project constantly to fix the problem.

Editing took me about three hours, all for a nine minute video. That took a long time! I knew this would be a thing because doing something the first time always takes longer than you expect. Once again to bring up the blogging analogy, our first blog posts probably take days and maybe weeks of writing, editing, being too terrified to publish because you think what you’ve written is shit, writing and editing some more, and finally you’re done. After you’ve done that a few times you get into a habit/flow where you know what the next step is and you don’t fumble around as much as you used too.

Anyways, since I talked about this in the last post I figured I’d plop the video up for you guys. This feels more awkward than publishing the video in the first place. As a blogger, no one has heard my voice or seen me outside of my crappy profile picture. Like putting the real person who talks and has mannerisms, the dude behind all of these posts, out there in the world makes me feel strange. There’s some anonymity behind blogging; you get to hide behind words and don’t have to worry about the inflection of your tone/voice or how you’re dressed or what your surroundings are. Well, enough rambling about nothing, here’s the damn video. Obligatory “Yo yo yo! If you liked this video smash that ‘like’ button, subscribe, and hit that fuckin’ bell for notifications my bros!”

Our Own Worst Enemies

Like everyone I’m probably more critical about the end result than anyone else is. First off, my sniffles are the most annoying thing in the world. I noticed this when I was editing. I sound like a person coming off a cocaine binge or something. Apparently I put in a ton of sniffs in the place of “uhhs” and “ahhhs” and “umms,” you know those “thinking words” to fill silence when you’re trying to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to say next. Going forward: no more sniffling!

One time in the video I told my wife “stop” to stop recording. Apparently I didn’t edit this out and was too lazy to go back and fix the problem. Going forward: check your work!

I’m obviously nervous talking to a camera. Hopefully that goes away with some practice. Going forward: relax and just talk like a normal person!

My voice is shit. I hate it. In my mind I know the sound of my voice and my real voice is nothing like that. Sure, the voice I think I have is awful enough, but my real, recorded voice is holy fucking hell disgusting. No one else probably thinks this though because that’s how they hear me all the time so I’m trying not to think of it too much. Going forward: try not to think of it too much!

There’s no backing music, no cool animations, no intro video, no cool logos, no nothing. Going forward: who gives a shit?

But being totally honest I’m happy with the result. It’s not perfect but it’s not awful. It’s a start. The worst YouTube videos I’ve seen are usually car repair videos. To start, they’re terribly edited. “First, we’ll take off the lug nuts,” and then you have to sit through five minutes of some guy taking off lug nuts. There’s five lug nuts my guy! We get what you’re doing after the first one! Edit that shit out bro! The camera work is also ass because half the time you can’t even see what they’re talking about. “This bolt right here…well it’s kinda dark but trust me it’s there…” as the camera is showing you a black fucking screen. Anyways, end rant, but I’m glad I went above and beyond that sort of video. I edited out all the boring parts, tried to be informative, and tried to add a bit of dry humor to the video. That part was easy as I kept fucking things up accidentally. The end result isn’t professional quite yet, but I have an idea of what I’m trying to do.

That should be all for blogging about YouTube videos for awhile. In truth I hate it. Why read a blog about YouTube videos instead of watching YouTube videos? I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled bitching and griping shortly. Thanks for reading and/or watching!

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Making YouTube Videos Sucks

I’ve been tossing around the idea for starting a YouTube channel for awhile. I think part of the appeal is that it’s easy, at least on the surface. We know all these famous YouTubers who have millions of views and followers that make bank off YouTube. Many of these play video games and make money off that. Hell I can sit around and play video games and get paid for it!

Thankfully I’m not stupid. I know I couldn’t find success playing video games because I wouldn’t offer anything to anyone. My humor is probably shit, I don’t have a fancy PC setup, I don’t play a wide range of games, and the field is crowded already. I’d also be weary of turning video games into a job where they wouldn’t be relaxing or enjoyable anymore. Moreso creating anything for popularity or money is folly. Besides being a total sellout you also need some passion behind your projects to keep you going. 

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir here, because I’m a blogger. You’re probably a blogger yourself. No one gets into this to make money or be popular and if you do you’ll probably fall flat on your face when you realize people aren’t tossing money at you and the first four posts you awkwardly publish. It’s a constant fight to write, edit, and publish that quickly overshadows any serious thoughts about monitizimg. At least for me that’s how it is, maybe you guys are popular bloggers or something. Fuck the money. If it comes, fine, but that’s not why I’m writing any of this.

It’d probably help to make money if I could focus more and rant less by the way. Anyways.

I wrote a few silly posts about solar power. It’s a hobby of mine creating a small off-grid solar setup to power my phone, WiFi, and anything else I want to power. I detailed it here, but it started off with trying to make a solar phone charger. This idea quickly became complicated and got out of hand to where I now have two 100 Watt panels hooked up to five lead-acid batteries all powering a 750 Watt inverter. Solar power and green energy is much more hands on and doesn’t fit well into the blog format. Let’s be honest here, this blog isn’t meant to be a green energy blog anyways, so why get too involved? I doubt most of my regular readers give a shit about making their own solar setup but if you do, cool!

YouTube is perfect for this as videos are more hands on. I have actual information to tell people and by being a totally clueless dipshit amateur I can help other dipshit amateurs navigate their own renewable setups. I think I have something to offer which is why I’m going to do it. Plus since I’m constantly upgrading and tweaking things with my cobblejob of a setup I’ll never run out of content to make. It also gives me incentive to add new things to my setup because this means more videos to make.

Like blogging, doing anything new is a fucking pain in the ass. I know absolutley nothing about YouTube and it took a day to figure out how to make a channel. Think of making your first blogging domain or whatever; you’re clueless and have no idea what you’re doing. YouTube has a “personal channel” for everyone but I didn’t want my channel name to be my real name. How does my name have anything to do with renewable energy? By navigating through a bunch of menus you find a “brand account” or something which you can tack onto your personal account. I’m not going to give info on how to do that yourself as there are actual informative pages on the internet about that if you’re interesting. I’m just bitching here.

Video editing is something else I’m clueless on and there will be a steep learning curve trying to make even the most basic videos. I have a general idea of cutting raw clips and pasting them together but the mechanics of it I’m clueless on.

I downloaded Shotcut, a free video editing software, loaded a few clips into it and did what I always do best: fuck around trying to figure out how the thing works. I think I have cutting sections of videos out, and maybe even rotating clips as my phone decided they’re supposed to be recorded like Tik Toks or something, but beyond that I’m clueless. Think of your favorite YouTubers and some of their video editing skills. Animations over audio? Audio over video pulled from other videos? Backing music? I have no clue how to do these things yet. Like everything else you just start simple and add complexity as you go on I suppose.

By far the worst is the awkwardness of talking to yourself on camera. I’ve been doing great with being sober but had some drinks this weekend over the stress of recording videos for this project. I needed a six-pack just to reward myself for actually recording something. You feel like a total asshole taking a video and talking to your phone. Give it a shot if you don’t believe me.. Narrating to your phone feels like the most narcisstic thing in the world, “Look at me! I’m so cool! I’m talking to myself as I do a thing because people are going to watch me!” Its…it’s bad. I know it’s something you’ll probably get used to — just act natural and talk — but damn is it awkward. It also doesn’t help when your family is sitting in the other room sniggering as you record like a bunch of assholes.

That’s what’s going on now. Taking on a new project with all the inspiration you’ll ever have and looking up at a massive mountain trying to figure out how to take your first clueless baby steps. I know it’s hard starting out on anything new, but knowing and experiencing are different things. It’s fun though, and I hope everyone leaps into something new just to try it out. Give your random dreams and ideas a shot, see how it pans out over time. Paint, write, draw, podcast, blog, YouTube, whatever. You might be good at it but you don’t know until you try.

Holiday Shopping Sucks: Difficult People to Shop For

Note: I’m posting this fully from the mobile app. While I did most of the heavy lifting on PC, I’ve never actuall posted from the WordPress app, so please excuse any screwed up formatting.

Today, at least the day I’m trying to write a draft for this post, is the 17th. This leaves me eight days to get my Christmas shopping done, and unless I want to pay a fortune for shipping it all but eliminates any online options. Hell, the stuff I ordered on Amazon three days ago might not show up until after the holidays thanks to me being as cheap as possible and selecting the “free shipping” option at checkout. That isn’t relevant here; what is relevant is that time is running out. Time is always running out but the Christmas season really puts it starkly into view. You’re left with a month or so (depending on how bad your procrastination is) to buy a small mountain of gifts for your friends/family. What should be a joyous time to show your love and appreciation for people turns into a fucking chore. You have to buy them gifts. It also seems to be a busy time of year, especially for idiots like myself in the package shipping/delivery business, where you find yourself with days slipping and flying by without making any progress whatsoever on your shopping list.

Luckily I only have a handful of people to still buy gifts for, but one thing seems clear: these people are all similar in what makes them hard to shop for. I’ve noticed there’s the “I don’t want any presents” type of person, and the person that simply doesn’t like anything. And there’s also the type of person who you have no fucking clue what they would want, who might be an off-shoot of one of the previously mentioned types from above. This gave me a fun idea, at least where blogging is concerned: maybe I can bitch about the types of people you need to shop for? Categorize these fuckers who are so hard to find gifts for? While it won’t save my ass in the remaining eight days I have, it will make me feel somewhat productive on the blogging front. Gotta rake in those views while you can, right?

The People You Don’t Even Know

This is an easy category: people you don’t know. Who comes to mind here? I’m thinking my cousin’s kids actually. (Are they second cousins or cousins once removed? I don’t know.) I have no goddamn clue what they like to do for fun or what their hobbies are — and I can barely spell their names properly — so obviously how am I supposed to shop for them? There is also the question as to how close people need to be to you to buy them gifts? The social cues and all. Our family is so poor that I don’t have to buy them gifts really, but my point isn’t that, it’s that some people you don’t even know vaguely enough to buy them presents. This usually requires you to ask their parents what they want, and damn if they don’t even know. “Just get them gift cards to McDonald’s,” I’ve really been told before. Yikes. How about a few $20 bills instead?

The “I Don’t Want Anything” People

This is my dad. You can’t get anything out of him. Making this even worse is that he’s also from the next category: people who don’t have hobbies. I’ll touch on that in a bit because that’s what really makes these people shitty to shop for. I’m one of them myself, but at least I have interests and hobbies that could still point people in the right direction for a gift even if I really don’t want one. Someone could still find something for me if they really wanted to do so.

And as for myself: I really, seriously, actually don’t want anything. It isn’t a matter of being gracious or anything; I just don’t want a damn thing for Christmas. Usually if I need something I’ll go buy it myself, or the things I do need are so specific that I don’t want to trust people gifting them to me. They always buy sort of the right thing but not quite the right thing. I just don’t need any presents. Sometimes you’re the one who is shitty to shop for, at least for other people. And I’m well-aware it’s frustrating for others. I’m basically complaining about myself here and yes I suck and am hard to shop for.

People With No Hobbies

As stated before, the real shitty thing with my dad is not that he doesn’t want any gifts, it’s the fact that he really doesn’t do anything either. My dad’s day, while I’m not 100% certain about it, goes something like this: he wakes up. He eats food that is shitty for his health. He turns the TV on to it doesn’t really matter. (He also has antenna TV so no fancy cable, WiFi, or anything really, just local stations.) He smokes cigarettes. He falls asleep on the couch. He drives to my grandma’s/my uncle’s to help do random shit for them. He goes to work. He sleeps. Repeat.

Not to gripe too much about my parents again (go here I guess) but I really think my dad struggles with depression. He’s a man without interests or hobbies and I think depression is to blame. Whatever the cause is doesn’t matter: try to figure out a gift for a person who literally does nothing for fun or enjoyment. What do I do, get him a pack of cigarettes or something? A gift card for a gas station? Pay one of his electric bills? Give him a free month on the phone bill?

People with Complex Hobbies/Hobbies You Know Nothing About

Some people are really passionate about things, but to such a degree that you simply can’t buy them any actual gifts. Think about the hardcore musician/guitarist. They’re probably so in the thick of their musical passion that they have a favorite brand/size of guitar strings, about twenty effects pedals they use, a certain type of pick they use, and so on. You couldn’t even get them a handful of guitar picks without buying the hopelessly wrong item, even if it is only slightly wrong. They’re so far along in their hobby that you have to know the details of it even to attempt to buy them a gift. Let’s also not forget the high cost of having an upper-level hobby. Buying someone a $100 beginner’s guitar is one thing — buying someone a $5,000 upper end guitar is a whole other level of insanity.

A good example here is, well, my dad again. You see before he was super depressed he was very much into photography but was so far along that you couldn’t buy him anything for it. His few cameras and lenses literally cost thousands of dollars. What would you get a person like this? An SD card? When he already had about five of them? A tripod? Because the two he already had somehow weren’t good enough? A fucking monopod? No. Even if he did have a hobby he was so deep into the hobby that there was nothing you could really buy him.

People Who Want Uninspired Gifts

I also despise people who give you tons of gift ideas but where they’re all uninspired gifts — gifts you can’t sink any meaning or thought into. Like a sweater. Or pants. Perhaps clothes in general. A certain video game. They seem so bland and boring because you simply buy the exact same item they want and there is zero creativity on the gift-giver. Part of the fun of buying gifts is honing in on what they love and surprising them with it. Showing them that yes you do pay attention and care about them and resorting to buying bland gifts just feels so, well, bland. I’ve given up buying my aunts and uncles candles because they’re so damn boring. I’ve just given up.

I want to get something that promotes self-expression or hobbies or your passions in life. Buying a goddamn pair of socks for someone — even if they really fucking want socks — just seems so shitty.

Note: This is a grey area really as you can have “uninspired sounding” gifts that are really inspired. Consider someone who really likes knee-high, multicolored and mismatched, fuzzy toe socks. Getting them “just socks” would be boring as fuck while getting them some crazy, ridiculous socks would be “thoughtful.” Context matters I guess?

People Who Want Gifts They Won’t Even Like

What happens when someone asks for The Sims (or any PC game really) when they only have a shitty five year old laptop that barely loads or operates at all. When you know their gift idea is total shit but can’t tell them this because they want it really badly. You buy it for them, begrudgingly, and they hate it and never use it.

I think kids are very terrible in this aspect because they live in the fantasy of the gift and not the reality. Another example: battery-powered cars. Their own car! That they can drive! Wow! What about in the winter when you can’t use it? What about when you lose the charger and can’t charge the battery? What about when the battery is dead but the kids really want to drive it? These really aren’t winter/Christmasy gifts, but think about trampolines and swimming pools: all the work required for something that will be ignored in a few weeks.

It seemed I had more to say about this topic especially because it applies to capitalism-in-general’s power to convince people to buy shit that they don’t really want or need. I also thought I had more examples but hopefully you get the idea. It’s grandma asking for the hottest and latest “As Seen on TV” product. No grandma, you don’t need Flex-Seal to fix a leaky boat. You don’t own a leaky boat.

The Deep Gifts that are Impossible to Find

I hold the belief that people really don’t know what they want in life, and Christmas gifts are no different. I say this because of a few childhood experiences I’ve had. I was like everyone else and had no real idea what the hell I wanted, and I mean deep down inside what I wanted. I was the typical kid who would ask for video games, toys, legos, etc. and while I liked these things, they never really resonated with me in a crazy life-changing way.

You might wonder what the hell I’m getting at here, but around 1998 or so I received this game I didn’t know existed called Flight Simulator ‘98. It was, as you can guess, a flight simulator game but it wasn’t like all the other shitty aviation games I had played up until that point. It wasn’t some shitty combat game; it was a simulator. Twelve year old me took quite a while for this fact to set it because I literally had to figure out how to fly an airplane in a fairly realistic way, but I eventually figured it out.

I use this as an example of a deep gift because of how much this stupid game changed my life. I was an avid flight simmer and owned every game until the line was discontinued with Flight Simulator X. And I didn’t just play the game like a casual; I was serious about it. I made flight plans and used actual approach charts and tried to keep things as realistic as possible. While already being a huge aviation nerd, the Flight Simulator series cemented my love of piloting and basically taught me to fly airplanes. When I actually began taking flight lessons I already had a ton of the basics down. And when it came time to get the dreaded instrument rating? I was a goddamn pro at flying with instruments because I had been doing so on shitty PCs since 1998!

These are the kind of gifts I would love to get people: the presents that they don’t even know they want. Some random gift that they’re not sure about but they will remember decades later that might even change their lives. I’ve tried to get a few gifts like these over the years, but nothing seems to have stuck. Maybe you can’t gift these things deliberately and they have to be “happy accidents.” I’m sure my parents buying this for me was an accident with their thought process being something like, “He likes planes. This is a ‘plane game.’ Let’s buy him this.”

In closing

I suppose dealing with people like this wouldn’t be very bad in isolation, like for a singular birthday or something, but when there is one holiday where you buy everyone stuff it becomes a chore. I only have about four or five people left to shop for, but everyone of them fits into at least one of the categories I just bitched about. Buying gifts for people who don’t want anything, hunting for presents for people who want stuff they won’t even like, and so on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a handful of other frustrating people types, so let me know what type of people make your holidays total hell.

Not Enough Time Sucks

“What do you want to do with your life?!?”

-Seemingly Everyone

My default way of brainstorming is apparently lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. It feels like I start every blog post off this way, because it’s true. Anyways, I was lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. and was in a good mood, shockingly. I was looking forward to the following day and all of the possibilities that it offered me. I had a good selection of books that I wanted to read (Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, Six Pillars to Self-Esteem, Dune, and every other book in my backlog), and more so than just read them, I wanted to understand them. I’m talking about really absorbing the books, taking notes on them, and reading and reflecting on what I had read. I also wanted to do this with a handful of musical albums. As with reading, I want to absorb the songs and understand them. I want to look up lyrics and ponder how the words play over and off the underlying music. There’s just so much going on to appreciate! And there are other things I want/need to do: I have a 5k coming up in a few weeks that I’m totally ill-prepared for, I need to write…and oh yeah writing! I have like three stories I’m working on along with this blog and I need to proofread stuff, and figure out a way to actually self-promote any writing I do accomplish. Work is still a thing and I also want to maybe work on being a flight instructor as a career. Who knows what I want to do?

It’s at that point I realized that my problem isn’t lacking things I enjoy doing, it’s having the time and motivation to actually do things. There’s just not enough time in the day (or in general) for me to do all the things I want to do.

Many of the tasks need patience, time, and thought to accomplish. Sure, while I could sit down and write blog posts/chapters and proofread them quickly, the same isn’t true with reading a book or listening to music. To really appreciate these things you need to take your time with them. You need to let your mind properly process them. And more importantly you can’t multitask them. “Why don’t you just listen to music while you write?” you might ask. It’s because when you write you’re probably not listening to the music like you’d want to. I’m a firm believer that the human mind can only really focus on a singular thing at once and listening to music in a distracting environment does the music a disservice. To really enjoy music, a book, and to appreciate the subtleties of any of the arts, you need to do them solo. To really dive in and appreciate what is going on.

Obviously there needs to be some form of prioritizing here and I don’t even know where to begin. Ranking things based on importance seems silly; reading is just as important to me as music and I can’t pick only one. There is also the question of what I actually feel like doing. Sometimes I’d rather read than listen to music while other times the opposite is true. Movies seem to have an even more unique mindset I need to be in to watch them. It isn’t a simple matter of prioritizing, or maybe it is and I’m just awful at having self-control. Forcing yourself to sit down and listen to music when you want to read seems almost sacrilegious in a way. And I don’t know how to decide what I actually should be doing with my time.

To be ultra depressing you can scale this struggle of what to do up from hobbies to careers. I have a handful of job-like things I could be working towards, and these take even more time and effort than reading or listening to music does. I think this is the main reason why people never seem to know what they want to do in life, it’s such a big decision to make that I understand why people simply don’t make a decision. “What you want to do in life?” seems to be such a loaded question in so many ways. It seems to be asking what you want to constantly be working towards day after day in your free time and your work time. And when you look at it that way no wonder people can’t fucking pick. There is absolutely nothing in this world that I’d be happy doing eight or ten hours each day, every day. I like my variety and choosing “what I want to do” seems to force any and all variety out of life, even if it isn’t true in practice.

I also like to blame video games for altering my outlook on what I want to do. Video games make it easy to accomplish literally anything in the game world you want. It’s a matter of dedication and time but in such a way that you can actually make progress. All of my skills in Stardew Valley are maxed out: IRL you can never max out every possible skill available. Hell, even in games like Skyrim you can still do certain things outside of your expertise. Even a wizard-mage-magical person can shoot a bow and kill things, just not very well. And even if you can’t do everything in a single play through you can always play multiple characters and accomplish everything the game world has for you to accomplish. There is no choice of “What do I want to do?” because you can do everything.

Real life forces you to actually pick the things you want to do, and hell if there aren’t too many interesting things to do. I want to write fiction and nonfiction. I want to blog. I want to fly airplanes. I want to make music. I want to paint or something. I want to put solar panels all over the house. I want to read and listen to music and go sit outside and enjoy nature. I want to stop climate change. I want to start a grilled cheese food truck. I want to live in the woods. I want to be a Buddhist monk. But there are only 24 hours in the day, 365 days in a year, and a finite amount of years left in my life. I physically can’t do nearly everything I want to do, and narrowing things down seems like an affront to the variety of things that life has to offer. It’s not so much that there is nothing I want to do, in fact there is too much to do that I’m paralyzed by the choices offered to me! I guess it’s a good problem to have but dammit if knowing that I’ll never get to experience all the things I want to do doesn’t feel awful. I hate deciding. I hate making choices. Especially when these choices involve things as important as choosing what to do with the time given to me. If only I could choose to have more time. But that’s kinda like what the Genie in Aladdin said about wishing for more wishes. You can’t do it, it’s illegal.

The “Valley of Despair” Sucks

I sometimes frequent the blogging subreddit, but not too frequently. The sub seems to focus mostly on increasing viewers, finding topics to write about, and doesn’t seem too concerned with the “art” of blogging. It isn’t too active of a sub with most posts getting at most between 20 to 30 comments. Compared to some subreddits (like the famed r/wallstreetbets) it isn’t really active even if you can find some decent information from time to time.

I still check it out sometimes and one comment resonated with me this past week. The actual discussion was about how many blogs actually “make it.” (which is an unexplained victory condition: what the hell does “making it” blogging mean? Make money? Keep it running for more than two years? I mean eventually you’ll die and your blog will end but that doesn’t seem like you’ve “failed at it.” Anyways, /rant #1.) There were varying answers but the one that stuck with me was one that mentioned “the valley of despair.” [Big Fucking Note here: I went and found the thread I was alluding too and the poster in question referred to it as “the dip” and linked to blog describing “the dip.” I really have no idea how I came upon the term “valley of despair” in regards to blogging, but apparently the term is real. Who fucking knows. Maybe my mind just connects dots on its own and doesn’t notify me that it’s doing so. Or maybe I’m losing my damn mind. I just wanted to stay accurate with what I’m actually writing.] I didn’t officially know what the hell the valley of despair was but something in the back of my mind knew it too well. Even if it wasn’t explained to me I already knew exactly what it was.

I suppose it’s easy to see in retrospect, as everything is. This blog right here had a “dead period” (actually two of them) not too long ago and since I’ve gotten my act together I’m finding some success. It feels like I’ve hit a stride where all I need to do is to keep working at the blog and it’ll be successful. I’m quietly confident about it and while I don’t think it’ll ever be a super-popular monetized thing I know it won’t be a “dead blog.” Looking back at those dead periods when I wasn’t writing, wasn’t posting, and felt about deleting the damn thing was, obviously, the dreaded valley of despair. And according to that one resonating Reddit comment, is the primary obstacle to successful blogging.

I didn’t want to make this post about blogging though because I’m in a new valley of despair in another area of my life: creative writing. To sum it up quickly, me, lost without any major goals, decided to take up creative writing about three weeks ago. I attempted this years ago and just didn’t stick with it, but this time it’s different. (Really. I’m fucking sticking to it this time.) I took my old blog and started collecting some short stories and chapters to a “book,” made a Facebook author’s page for myself, and started posting and sharing my work (please go check these out if you’re interested). Initially I was met with some warm reception from a few friends and, holy fuck, I was actually doing it! I was going to be Jeremy the Author Guy and sell books and shit. I was riding the wave and on top of the world was king of the world.

It’s funny what two weeks can do to you though. My last few “chapters” haven’t had shit for readers/viewers/likes/feedback at all, and I’m fundamentally wondering if I’m actually cut out to be a writer. Do I even have that “gift” that creative writing requires. (It doesn’t. I’m convinced, logically, that all anything takes is hard work and “talent” is just some bullshit idea people who don’t want to do hard work use as an excuse to not try anything. /rant #2.) Even if I know in my mind that it’s just hard work and dedication, I still feel in my heart there is some vague thing called “talent” that I might not have and will never have it even if I don’t believe it. It’s like some festering, subconscious fear I have, like being scared of the dark knowing well you’re perfectly safe. Hell, and maybe my stories are just terrible. This is a really scary thought because if they were no one would say it out of kindness. I’d like to really know how bad I am so I can either 1. give the fuck up or 2. know what I’m bad at exactly so I can improve on it. But pestering friends and family to read your shit is a whole new level of cringe that just comes across as attention seeking. BUT I JUST WANT FEEDBACK GUYS.

Let’s define this a little bit more though as it makes total sense with writing/blogging/whatever new project you’ve started. Some uninspired Googling has given me a bunch of charts and websites talking about “emotional change” and while that isn’t exactly what starting a project is, I think it’s close enough to actually be the same thing. Like maybe starting a new project is a subset of “emotional change” as you’re adjusting to having an entire new part of your life you’re dedicated to. There also is apparently a Dunning-Kruger valley of despair, but that doesn’t seem to be relevant to the topic at hand.

Since I couldn’t find a site that seemed legit or non-clickbaity enough, I just screencapped everything Google tossed at me. As you can see most charts show the same sort of trend when faced with “change.” It’s kinda like a sine curve or something.

Close enough, right?

And then I went and drew my own so I can talk about each point I labeled, as well as not get any sort of copyright bullshit tossed at me.

Current Mood vs. XP Points Gained at your “project” or whatever you’re doing. It seemed general enough.
  1. This is usually called “uninformed optimism” or some shit like that. Basically this is the point where you’re high off actually making a decision to progress forward at something. You have a goal that you’ve set upon and you start working towards it. Actually doing work towards a goal feels fucking amazing and even if you’re scared of the future, at least you’re taking matters into your own hands.
  2. This is the start of the valley of despair also called something lame like “informed pessimism.” This is where you realize that your goal isn’t going to be all fun and games and that, holy hell, sometimes doing a glorious and noble task like writing a book is actually not that fun sometimes. And sometimes it’s actual work that you dread.
  3. The pit of the valley of despair. I think with creative writing I’m somewhere between #2 and #3 (although I’d like to be closer to #3 so I can actually get over feeling awful about it. I don’t even know how to explain this spot on the chart because it’s like an unexplainable pit in your stomach. It’s a total feeling of shit, like you’re not meant or cut out to do what you’ve set out to do. Like the universe itself doesn’t want you as an author/blogger/artist/whatever. It makes you want to quit and many people do give up their project in this phase. The project feels like a mistake: a mistake that you continue to put time, effort, and resources towards that also feels like a waste of all of these. The general feeling of being shit is also kinda shitty. There doesn’t seem to be a way forward and you’re not happy doing what you’re doing. It’s a feeling of being lost and of wanting to toss the towel in and give up.
  4. “Informed optimism.” After hard work and giving up all hope you find some success but you’re not letting that shit go to your head because you think you still fucking suck at what you’re doing, but there are clear signs of progress if you quit being pessimistic enough to notice them. I like to think you make progress continually at this stage because of giving up in the valley of despair. You simply don’t care if you make it or not and your project just becomes something you do without attachment anymore. There’s something very freeing about not giving a shit, and this allows you to do what you do in the most genuine way possible. I say this so clearly because this blog right here is at #4 I think. I don’t give a fuck if no one reads it or if I fail, and contrary to what you’d expect, I’m actually have some success with it.
  5. Success! (whatever that actually means) I don’t even want to get into this because I don’t know what it’s like to be at #5. I’m assuming this is the point where you feel confident at what you’re doing — a quiet confidence that isn’t cocky — and your project has become a facet of who you are and part of your life. You accomplish things in a determined but carefree manner. I get this impression when I visit successful and mature blogs as well as many YouTube channels. Like go watch a newer SmarterEveryDay video and tell me Destin isn’t at #5 on this chart. That man is in the zone doing what he’s doing and he’s confident and enthusiastic with what he’s doing.

“Hey Black Haired Guy, got any tips for us bloggers/writers weathering the storm in the valley of despair?” No, no I do not because, like I said, I’m not at #5 so don’t think I am qualified to give tips and am kinda hoping for tips myself. But if anything (and maybe to just get myself fucking hyped the fuck up to continue on creatively writing) don’t give up! Because what else are you supposed to do besides not give up? If you give up in the valley of despair you’re fucking giving up. The whole thing this chart hints at is the fact that success might just be making it through the valley in the first place. Like maybe this is where the 80 or 90% of blogs that “don’t make it” go to die; what if the valley of despair is just the great filter between you and success? I just don’t see what you’d gain by giving up because giving up is giving up!

Being slightly more specific maybe I do have more ways to get myself siked up more tips for those in the valley of despair. Make small bits of progress: a book isn’t going to write itself in a few days and a blog won’t be successful in the first few months or years. Take things one tiny bit at a time. Write a chapter every two days or post a blog post every few days or every week. Maybe make a schedule and hold yourself to it like it’s a job? Try to summon memories from when you first started and we’re enthusiastic about your dream/goal. Find that passion that surely still lives deep within you. And if you’re really lost? Write down a plan. Writing seems to be a large part in marketing yourself so try doing that for some possible success. Ask people to read and critique your writings and learn from it. Or, to sum up what I said before: don’t fucking give up!

Easy Money or Easy Money?

Everyone wants to earn money and everyone wants to do this in the laziest way possible. I think this is why multi-level marketing schemes like It-Works and whatever else have such success on gullible people. Those who don’t know any better are hypnotized by the possibility of making an easy thousand or even “millions” of dollars by selling some stupid-ass products that doesn’t work and by recruiting others “under them”. Anyone with some sense of logic will know that this just sounds too easy; money that sounds too good to be true probably is. But that’s the holy grail we’re all searching for: Easy Money. Whatever that means…

We think of the popular YouTubers, bloggers, and freelance writers that make a living by doing what amounts to (more or less) a hobby. I see parents playing with their kids on YouTube having millions of views and I think why can’t I do that? Why don’t I do that? Wouldn’t we all like to plop up a blog or a few YouTube videos and earn thousands by just having fun? Of course! You’d be stupid to not want to do this. This is the definition of easy money: getting paid to do something fun and that occurs on your own time. It’s getting paid to do a hobby.

Anyone who actually tried to be a writer, blogger, or a YouTube superstar knows where this is going already. This idea of “easy money” is a goddamn lie. Yes, if you “make it” by doing these, good job, you’re earning easy money but it came at a steep cost that people seem to forget about. What people tell you, and what people don’t seem to listen to, is that succeeding with those takes something called hard work. While you can earn easy money blogging or doing whatever, you need to invest hundreds if not thousands of hours “gitting gud” before you can earn anything. Yes the money is easy, but it’s only physically easy and not easy in any other form. It takes a ton of cost in terms of hours, effort, and persistence. When you look at it that way this easy money isn’t really easy.

If you’re writing or YouTubing you probably shouldn’t be expecting to get rich or earn money. Because then failure will be obvious as soon as you start because you’re not making anything. You’ll plop up a few videos, get zero views, and give up. Sometimes you even lose money by paying for equipment or website hosting fees or whatever. If you want to make easy money, there’s another idea of easy money but no one likes it, including me. It’s called “getting a job.”

I’m serious. If I wanted easy money that was guaranteed I could stroll on down to McDonald’s, show them my Associate Degree (they’re seriously useless otherwise), and I’d probably have a job within a week. I wouldn’t be making jack shit, but that 8 or 9 dollars per hour is guaranteed. If I work 20 hours I know for a fact I made 180 dollars and all I had to do was show up and do some fairly straightforward work. I don’t know how much easier you can make money. Like I said, it’s jack shit for money, but it’s easy to obtain money.

There’s always a fucking tradeoff though in case you haven’t realized it. At McDick’s you don’t earn shit, the work can be physically demanding, and you’re at the will of your employer but it’s a paycheck. We don’t like to view this as “easy money” because it doesn’t fit the mold from above which was working on your own time doing your own thing earning cash. But working shitty McDolan’s doesn’t have a huge upfront cost in effort. You trade off this “effort requirement” for instant (and paltry) money. It’s almost like a laziness or desperation tax. It comes down to what you want to do though. If you need money quickly, work a shitty job. If you don’t need money and want to put in the tons of effort for that “easy money” then get to work doing whatever it is you want to do.

There are many areas in between this “easy money” and “hard money” too. College sounds like a good idea until you realize it’s a combination of both of these extremes. You get to do a job you sort of like and make a ton of money but guess what? You still have a huge investment in the amount the schooling cost you. This is my point: everything has a tradeoff. Want to invest in stocks? That’s easy money. Except it’s not. It takes time, effort, and risk. Hell, you could even lose money which is a bad thing if your primary goal is to make money. Want to sell drugs? That’s cool, that’s easy money, but you shoulder a bunch of risk on yourself, possibly your family, and could end up in jail for a long time. You could also get murdered. Prostitution might be the easiest way to make money because it doesn’t cost anything to get started and you don’t have to “practice” at it, but — holy shit — there’s an expense called “personal degradation” that is rather costly.  You also might get a disease. Most people don’t want to feel like shit by screwing random people for money even if it is “easy money”.

So there’s basically two types of easy money. The most popular idea of “easy money” is doing some cushy job like a hobby and being rich. At the very worst they can be total scams like It-Works and at the very best they takes years and tons of hours of practice, failure, and toil to actually get somewhere. If you can’t tough it out don’t even try it. Then there are “easy money” jobs like working some shit job and getting paid an hourly wage. Here you have to physically work and while the pay is a sure-thing you will probably hate your job and not be fulfilled in life. If you don’t want this easy money or that easy money there are millions of in-betweens that you can try that each have their own drawbacks. There is no easy money, there’s just different levels of bullshit you have to work through depending on your personal ability to weather pain and difficulty. Want debt? Go to college. Want to bust your ass for no return? Be a writer. Want to either be totally rich or totally poor? Trade stock options. Want to have instant money and hate life? Work fast food. Want to risk jail? Sell drugs. Want to sacrifice your personal dignity? Try prostitution. Easy money Sucks because there is no easy money. Everything has some downside and it’s up to you to find it and deal with it on your own terms.