The Reign of the GreyhoundThe Reign of the Greyhound by Cynthia A. Branigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thorough, historical love letter to man’s pointiest friend.

I learned a lot, mostly how greyhounds were revered as angular, embarrassed gods due to their artificially selected ability to run stupid fast and catch rabbits real well. (This is called coursing).

They come from Egypt, which I kind of knew, but I didn’t consider the implications. Sighthounds are dogs with vision as good as ours, and it’s what they use to hunt, as contrasted to most dogs who follow their nose. Greyhounds are the prototype sighthound, and Egypt, Greece, and Rome were so content with them that they never bothered making more than slight modifications; most of these modifications resulted in making the greyhounds slighter (Italian greyhounds and whippets).

In Afghanistan they brewed up an Afghan, which is like a greyhound on a Pantene commercial. It’s also a little hardier and better at hurdling, since the mountains are rocky and cold. These weren’t considerations out on the Sahara, which is why greyhounds can work their way up to 45 mph in open flat land. You know, like a desert is.

The Irish, in their fashion, decided to make them huge and train them to fight. Not each other, of course. What kind of barbaric, antiquated, ass-backward cultural mores would promote dogfighting? They’re man’s best friend! It takes a special kind of sociopath to make their best friends fight for their amusement, and they should be shot repeatedly and fed to said dogs. No, the Irish trained their increasingly monstrous highland greyhounds to fight wolves.

This selective breeding, combined with hill-sprints, a chillier climate, and a presumable diet of potatoes and stout, led to the creation of the Irish Wolfhound, a 200% scale model greyhound that tops out around 200 lbs of hoary, active, and unflinchingly vigilant muscle.

Same, tbh.

Unfortunately, the stars that burn biggest burn fastest or something, because irish wolfhounds only live six to eight years. That’s like getting a giant, shedding goldfish that could kill you, but would never. Unlike cats. Don’t get me started.

Greyhounds are mostly comprised of muscle and knees, and are living every bodybuilder’s fantasy of not even having a subcutaneous fat layer. They never need a cut. Permanent contest-readiness. The issue is that fat serves biological functions, like insulation and joint protection. A mastiff, nature’s perfect lardass, can plop down on any surface up to and including those anti-homeless spikes and grab a quick 36 hour nap because they are their own sofa. The life-critical portions of a mastiff are ensconced in an envelope of blubber, like a loveable square-head walrus. Mastiffs can do this in virtually any climate, although it’s very rude to expect a short-hair mastiff to sleep outside, what the hell is wrong with you, he deserves better, you also deserve to be shot and fed to him.

Sorry. Sorry, dogs are just… so much better than people. I digress. Greyhounds have no fat, and their skin is so thin that they need to sleep on a couch or in a special doggie bed or they’ll get skin lesions from the floor. They also can’t go outside without a stupid doggie sweater when it’s cold or they’ll catch pneumonia. A stupid doggie sweater would rob another breed of their joie de vivre, but greyhounds are innately majestic, and the accessories only complement their swagger.

When I was a lad, one of my classmates was very pro-greyhound and, as a result, vocally anti-greyhound racing. For most of my life, I put racing in the same category as dogfighting, badger-baiting, and what the PETA videos say about meat-packing plants. This book claims the racing industry has come a long way in the past 20 years. The kennels provided for the racers are as spacious as a “kennel” can get, and positive reinforcement is the new coin of the realm since it works better than beating the everloving piss out of animals.

(Protip: This is statistically true of most humans, too. Although I admit some people really need to get the everloving piss beaten out of them.)

The racing industry has also partnered with greyhound rescue organizations, of which there are presently over 300, and they ship retired greyhounds out to become superfast couch ornaments for loving homes as soon as they turn 2. These pups are still twitchy, but I’ve fostered and adopted a lot of rescue dogs in my time, and racing greyhounds don’t sound nearly as traumatized as most of them were at the get-go.

I was hesitant about getting a greyhound because I am a ruff-n-tumble dude and wanted a dog with matching temperament. However, that would require getting a shepherd or retriever, bred for ADHD presentation, and that wouldn’t be fair to put in a city apartment, any more than it is for me.

But Alexander the Great had a greyhound named Peritas that attacked an elephant. That’s about as ruff-n-tumble as it gets. The elephant won, sure, but Alexander held a huge doggie funeral, then had a statue of Peritas built and named a city after him.

I don’t see any cities named after that elephant.

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Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival: Aftermath

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

I don’t remember reclaiming all my worldly possessions from the VIP tent, but I must have. I do remember hurdling a chainlink fence, because that’s when I heard the breaking glass. Both my and Ladygirl’s chalices had been crammed into the most precarious of my laptop bag pockets, so naturally one fell out and exploded against the rocks when I started doing drunk parkour.

Later, in the hotel room, we would unpack a total of three chalices, despite having two before I broke one. How this happened remains a mystery.

We crossed a lengthy expanse of pristinely manicured campus to emerge in a generic dystopian, vaguely Brutalist strip mall. These are how you can be sure you’re in America.

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Lemme get uhhh 1 mcdml #borger

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S– ushered us through the door into Yum Yum with all the inebriete reverence of a high priest into a sacrificial ziggurat. It was large, dark, and cold, as all good houses of worship should be.

The object of the worship became obvious. S– was utterly entranced by the bartender, an angry and tattooed Madonna. He said her name was Madonna, anyway. I don’t know if he meant it literally, or in the figurative old Italian ma’donna sense, applied to worshipful chivalric veneration of an idealized and virtuous woman.

He watched her with awed fascination, as you would a sunrise, or a mushroom cloud. I ordered a lamb gyro and drank three consecutive glasses of water to clear my head, with mixed results.

“We gotta do a hurricane shot,” S– said. He was frantic, convulsive. Where I’m from it’s called the junkie shuffle. I don’t think the alcohol was his jones. “Come on, Bastard! We gotta! We GOTTA!”

“I’m full of beer,” I said. “I’m tryna move on to the water portion of the night.”

“We GOTTA!” he was adamant, and I was persuaded. He stood up and herded me up to the Madonna.

“Hey Madonna! Could we please have two hurricane shots!” S– said, then pointed at me. “Him first!”

She looked us over with disaffected contempt, then walked away without saying a word. I glanced at S–.

“She’s the best,” he said, dreamily.

She returned ten minutes later without explanation or change in facial expression, then ordered me behind the bar. I shrugged and acquiesced.

“Take off your glasses,” she commanded.

“Why?” I asked. “Is this the kind of shot you have to… aim?”

“Kind of,” she said.

S–‘s eyes shone like a child on Christmas. I shrugged and took off my glasses, then handed them to her. She set them on the counter and handed me a shotglass full of something blue.

“Cheers,” she said, and clinked her plastic cup against my glass. I kicked back the shot. It tasted like blueberry schnapps. Madonna threw the water in my eyes, then cracked me sharply across the face with her open hand.

“YEAAAAAAAAH!” S– roared. “My turn! It’s my turn!”

I wiped the water from my eyes, nodded to Madonna, and left the altar. S– scampered back and received the same, albeit with greater exuberance.

“Wow,” said someone’s dad, as we dripped onto the polished floors. “She really cracked you one, huh?”

“Yeah!” S– said. “She did.”

We ate our gyros and had a spirited discussion about how beautiful Colorado is, how friendly everyone (with the notable and deliberate exception of Madonna) is, and how Philly is, both by comparison and in a vaccuum, a festering sack-boil full of unwashed crackheads.

“Want to get another?” S– asked me when we had finished eating.

“Another what?”

“Another hurricane shot, dude! Come on!”

“Well, the surprise is gone,” I said. “It’s not a fun, zany prank any more. It’d just be me paying this dark queen to hit me.”

“No,” S– said, “I’M paying. For both of us! Come on!”

“I didn’t get the first one on video,” Ladygirl said. “You should do it!”

“It’s even better the second time,” S– said. “She really leans into it.”

And thus, we received an encore performance. As promised, she really did, though that could have been because I accidentally snubbed her on the cheers.

We bade a fond farewell to S–, exchanging numbers and promising to reconnect the next time we came to Colorado. Ladygirl conjured an Uber that whisked us back to Denver. I was sleepy with beer, lamb, endorphins, maybe a light concussion.

“What a beautiful relationship,” I said.

“I think he may be barking up the wrong tree,” Ladygirl replied.

“Never tell him,” I murmured, nestling my skull between the seat and the door. “It’s better this way. It’s like Nately from Catch-22. Love is a many-splendored thing, Ladygirl.”

She may have replied. I was stone unconscious, and would remain so, with a brief interlude to stumble into the hostel, until the next day.

Love,

The Bastard

Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and VitalityYour Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Eva M. Selhub

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From beginning to end, this book was an exercise in cognitive dissonance for me.

I’m a major proponent of the back-to-nature mentality, which I refer to as my “unga bunga bullshit” and inflict on my friends at every opportunity. So are this book’s authors, and they provided chapter after chapter of studies confirming my every bias. Even biases I didn’t know I had!

Shinrin-yoku, Japanese for “btfo in the woods”, improves your mental health on every conceivable level, including what aspects of it extend to the physical. Being around dogs, cats, fish, and hamsters do, too. Eating fewer Tastykakes and more fish reduces brain inflammation, linked to improvement in mood, lower depression symptom presentation, and increased cognitive functioning.

Wow! Turns out I was right about everything forever. To ameliorate any potential flagging in well-being, I self-prescribe a friendship dog and a big ol’ joint of roasted meat like in Conan. Join me in the shrub, my brethren.

“That’s not what cognitive dissonance means,” you may be saying. “Everything is great for you rn! Why you so stingy with those stars?”

Let me tell you, beloved reader. Although I’m functionally paleo, and I do consider hitting a tire with a sledgehammer to be cardio, I’m also a practician clinician who reads this shit recreationally and spent the last decade arguing with people on the internet. I know a thing or two about sourcing references.

Red Flag #1:
The writing wasn’t very good. This is excusable, but must be considered. Writing is hard, academic writing is agony, and you can’t expect a dry, scientific tome of this length to be an emotional roller-coaster the whole way through. What stuck out for me were word repetitions, slips in grammar, and clunky sentence construction. A good solid edit could have fixed all of this, but didn’t. Disconcerting.

Red Flag #2:
“For a chapter-by-chapter list of references used in this book, go to yourbrainonnature.com”.
What? Why?
I get that you used a lot of references, but removing your scientific backing and proof from your argument by additional degrees is incredibly suspicious.

I did track the references down, and they seem to be a pretty even divide between respectable sounding psych or anthropology(???) journals, and ambiguous horticultural journals no one’s ever heard of. Considering the authors, that makes sense, which brings us to our next red flag.

Red Flag #3:
Eva Selhub, MD, and Alan Logan, ND. What the hell is an ND, you may ask? I certainly did. It means “naturopathic doctor”, which is to say, not any kind of actual doctor. I tried to find more information on naturopathy thereafter and there were only two sources of information:
a) Naturopathic.org, which paints all NDs as physicians who became frustrated with the pharmaceutical industry and injecting children with autism vaccines so they went rogue, quit “conventional medicine”, and started prescribing essential oils
b) Wikipedia.org, which was essentially a 3000-word rendition of holding up a foghorn and yelling “QUAAAAAAAAAAACKS”

Red Flag #4:
Eva Selhub is very well-credentialed. She’s a for-real doctor of internal medicine, taught at Harvard Medical School for around 20 years, and served as Medical Director at Benson Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital for 6 years. She publishes often in medical journals and shows up on Dr. Oz. Despite being nearly 50, she still lookin’ kinda fresh doe. Nowadays she identifies as a “resiliency expert and executive coach” and is her own LLC, which is probably much more lucrative. The issue with lucrative is, most pyramid schemes tend to be, for the executive coach.

Red Flag #5:
An alarming number of medical quotes and excerpts throughout the book come from the 1700s to the early 1900s. This is intended to instill the “forgotten wisdom” motif, but we just stopped leeching people in the early 1900s.

None of these attempts to poison my own well necessarily detract from the suggestions made by the research, which boil down to “hanging out in the woods is better for your mental and physical health than playing Candy Crush 15 hours a day”. That’s a reasonable supposition. I’ve gotten through some more recent and less suspect books recently with data that points the same way — Digital Minimalism is a good one.

It’s an “I want to believe” situation. Everything seems to check out, but there’s a fishy smell under all this patchouli.

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Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival, Act the Second

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

It is at this juncture our recounting gets disjointed. The following will read a little like Catch 22.

The floor was overflowing with craft beer enthusiasts, most hailing from Fort Collins and thus dubbed “Fortnites”. Every Fortnite who’d graduated to the fourth floor was falling-down drunk.

If there was one thing I’d learned in Rome, it’s “when in Rome, eat a lasagna. It’s the most cost-effective calorie bomb.” They didn’t have any lasagna on the fourth floor, but they did have dozens of beer stands. I made my way through them instead.

Speaking of stands, the bandstand in the center of the floor was initially showcasing a geriatric bluegrass band. A venerable fiddless tore it up, but only occasionally, allowing the Willie Nelson look-a-like on guitar to do most of the heavy lifting. Likely for fear of lumbar integrity.

When they cleared out an honest-to-Yog brass band set up, and Ladygirl and I reconvened on the dance floor to demonstrate out swingdance moves (of which we have a sum total of 4. That’s all they covered in the single beginner’s swing lesson we went to).

We were the first inebriate fools to use the dancefloor for dancing, but it triggered a rapid dispersal of inhibitions still extant in the Fortnites, and soon we were surrounded by flailing locals. Many opted for the Herman Munster slowdance of middle-school fame at roughly 4x tempo.

“This is it!” Ladygirl screeched into my ear, conspiratorially. She has no indoor voice, and neither the music nor the libations were correcting that. “This is why I wanted to learn to dance so we could just, bust it out! Social capital!”

A pair of stout rockabilly Fortnites spun onto the dance floor and absolutely lit it up. You can do a lot with four moves, but you can do a lot more with actual knowledge of dancing, and they demonstrated that to devastating effect. I wanted to applaud, but Ladygirl would not release my hand.

“We need to get more beer,” I told her, a number of times.

“We need to get more DANCE!” she shrieked in response, an equal number of times.

A man appeared on the stage with a sousaphone. “BRAAAAT,” it said, over and over.

Ladygirl would later inform me that, at some point during the swingdance, I hurled her to the earth and everybody gasped. It was almost certainly an accident. She said I scooped her back up like when someone falls in a mosh pit and we dropped right back into the song, nary so much as a single jockey. I have no recollection of this. I suspect she’s gaslighting me. However, if the return to dancing was as a seamless as I’ve been led to believe, I suspect I was pilot-testing an innovative new swingdance maneuever.

The song ended and I said, “I’m getting more beer”, then escaped before she could protest.

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I collected myself outside, looking over the immaculate football field that I thought we would be drinking on and baking in the merciless Colorado sun. It was soothing, but didn’t help how sweaty I was.

When I reentered, Ladygirl homed in on me like a guided missile.

“So much just happened!” she said.

“How?”

“Some bros tried to assimilate me into their bro band!” she said. “They’re very small and two of them look the same! Their alpha is bald and won’t stop yelling!”

“Okay,” I said. “Did it work? Are you now one with the Brollective?”

“No! Maybe,” she said. “I’ll introduce you next time they find me. They’re getting the peanut butter beer. And remember those two who danced really good?”

“Yes,” I said. There were only two on the floor who danced really good. We were not either of them. I didn’t have the heart to tell her, she was so excited.

“They’re a COMPETITIVE LINDY HOP CREW!” she exploded. “They want us to join! Their crew! They tried to recruit us to their lindy hop team!”

“But they saw me slam-dunk you onto the dance floor, right?”

“Yeah! I guess! They don’t care! I told them we would, but we’re from Pennsylvania. But see how good we are?”

“So good,” I lied to her sweet, sweet face. “Ready for the, uh, big time.”

There was more drinking, and more dancing, though up next was a salsa band and nobody knew how to salsa. The singer tried to instruct us all, with mixed results. There was a surprising amount of skanking; perhaps the most surprising part is that I wasn’t involved in it.

I met the bros. They were a spirited bunch. Their obvious shot-caller was a head taller than the other two, and on that head he wore two hats he had somehow hustled from beer stand purveyors as drunk as their patrons. The next time I saw him, he was holding three cardboard signs.

“I got THREE NUMBERS!” he roared, waving his erstwhile acquisitions in the air.

“Gotta catch ’em all.”

“Fuck yeah, dude!” he said, then staggered off to gather whatever else was available for collection.

The festival rolled to a tragic close, stands depleted to only a beer each, then to none. The thirsty would approach like Oliver Twist, “please sir, can I have some more?”, and the brewers would shrug helplessly. I slammed my last glass, some sort of IPA I’m sure, then turned to the Bro, S–, who had initially imprinted on Ladygirl.

“Y’all got borger around here?”

“No burgers,” S– said. “But I know a place we can go. Hoo, I know a place we can GO!”

He was yelling. I was yelling. Ladygirl had been yelling for three hours. We were a force of nature.

“WE’RE GOING TO YUM YUM!” S– bellowed at The Collector. Then, he turned back to us.

“You guys like Greek food?”

“Yes.”

“YUM YUMMMMMS!” he told the Collector again.

“YEAH!” the Collector said back. “I’ve gotta do something first, but I’ll meet you there!”

He would not meet us there. We postulate, in retrospect, that he was following up on one of the three numbers.

Ladygirl, S– and I stumbled out into the relentless sun. Due to Colorado’s elevation, the sun is only seven or eight miles away at any given time, and it burns all the liquid from your body. Fortunately, we were fortified with liquids.

BASTARD’S BEST IN SHOW:
1) Crooked Stave – L’Brett d’Or. An explosive 5% sour that I drank three or four of. Both names are real cool.

2)  Rally King – Jale Berry Jalapeno Sour. A strawberry jalapeno sour at 6.7% ABV that burned going down. I hovered around that keg like a vulture until it was a kicked.

3) Soul Squared – Imperial Red. Red, strong enough (7.5%), complex, but real light. You could make some serious mistakes drinking this one.

LADYGIRL LIKES:
1) Black Bottle Brewery – Friar Chuck
2) High Hops Brewery – Blueberry Wheat
3) Millercoors – Blue Moon  nope not today not here
3) Mash Lab – Peaches and Cream
4) Odell Brewing – 30th Anniversary IPA 
5) Rally King – Jale Berry Jalapeno Sour we have a winner
6) Prost – Helles

I don’t like going over 1k words in a post, so you’ll have to tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion.

Love,

The Bastard

The Confidence GapThe Confidence Gap by Russ Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) differs from the gold standard Coggy-B Therapy (CBT) by picking Albert Ellis’s pockets for the best parts of Rational/Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which have fallen to the wayside in the rising tide of stuffy clinical automatons desperate to crowbar psychology into the hard science category by attaching everything to a chart, regardless as to whether that chart shows anything. God willing, I won’t bring any more acronyms into this book review.

ACT, like CBT and every other therapeutic method we’ve established since slam-dunking Freud’s body into the earth, focuses on coping skills and relaxation strategies that can then be used to descalate the client (which, in the case of a self-help book, is you) when the work begins, poking around at exposed psychological nerves, irrational thought patterns and behavioral schema. The difference is modern CBT leans heavy on mindfulness and positive psychology, and as a result comes flush with meaningless platitudes about positive thinking snatched directly from the bottom of those office motivator posters.

ACT brings with it a degree of humanity. It takes standard-issue CBT and grafts on the more empowering parts of REBT, like unconditional self-acceptance, humor, and irony. The treatment becomes less of a script and more of an opportunity for growth.

In ACT, the intrusive and anxious thoughts aren’t something to be banished and ignored, or drowned under an endless self-inflicted torrent of positive affirmations. Fear is there for a reason, and the more you pretend it’s not, the more powerful it becomes. It’s like someone sneaking around your factory and screwing with the machinery, so you try to make them go away by averting your eyes, which allows them to grow bolder in their sabotage since they don’t need to be as sneaky.

Harris never directly references the Ironic Process Theory, but I’ve found it a recurrent annoyance in my own practice that CBT never addresses. When you tell someone “just don’t think about your anger” or “Kyle, instead of punching holes in the wall, why don’t you go for a walk?”, you’re asking them to do the impossible.

Don’t think of a pink elephant. There, you did. Now don’t think of how nervous you are.

In ACT, you drag these demons into the light with near-weaponized mindfulness. Fear shows up, quietly wrecking your shelves. You point at it and say, “Hey, that’s fear! Fear, come here, buddy. Take a seat. What the hell are you screeching about?”

Fear shuffles its feet and, given your full attention, quietly announces that you are not good enough, she will reject you, and your screenplay is garbage.

You nod sagely and say, “Thanks for your contribution. I appreciate it. You want a soda?”

Fear does not want a soda. Fear wants you to stop whatever it is you’re planning on doing. You shrug and say you can’t right now, because it’s incompatible with your values and/or goals.

Fear is treated this way every time it shows up until it stops making such a ruckus and wrecking your production (or stops monopolizing your life, outside the metaphor).

Values and goals are ACT’s method of self-esteem building. Goals are what you want to get done. Values are how you want to do it. A goal would be getting a promotion, writing a novel, buying a new car. Values are things like courage, empathy, loyalty to family, and other happy little adjectives like that.

We get purpose from living our values in pursuit of our goals. It’s okay to fall off your goal-seeking sometimes, everybody needs the occasional break. If you fall off your values, you’re living inauthentically, and your sense of purpose will dissipate. You’ll become self-critical, demotivated, and mopey. It’ll be a real drag to be around you, causing you to further isolate and creating a feedback loop that will drive you further from your goals and, likely, values.

We choose our values. We get to decide which traits are important to us, and how to live authentically through them. Sort of like a chivalric code, but instead of the reward being eternal knightly bliss in heaven or whatever, it’s being content with ourselves and our decisions. A big part of the therapy is reminding ourselves (or having our shrinks remind us) of our values or goals. For example, your goal is to be good at soccer, but you’re too tired after work to go to soccer practice and you just wanna lay around watching TV. Your motivation to lay around watching TV is stronger than your motivation to go to soccer, no matter how you excuse it. You’re not working toward a goal, and if your values are “teamwork”, “dependability”, or “physical fitness”, you’re blowing it. It makes sense that you’d feel shitty about this.

There are a couple of solutions. The most obvious would be to
(1) get off your ass and go to soccer practice.

If that’s not feasible, or continues to make you miserable, than either your values or goals are in misalignment. You don’t want to be good at soccer as much as you want to relax. That’s fine. Relaxation and self-care can be a value. Maybe
(2) don’t sign yourself up for obligations you won’t attend.

You’re damaging your reputation and your self-worth by repeatedly putting yourself in a situation where you don’t live up to your own values. The third option is goal adjustment; rather than “be a good soccer player”, your goal becomes, “I want to play soccer sometimes”. That’s okay, but then you shouldn’t be on a team.
(3) quit the team and play occasional pick-up games, so soccer stays fun and engaging.

If that doesn’t sound good, or if you fail to make it to those pick-up games, then you’re not tired, you’re avoidant, and that calls for self-reflection. Which of those values is scaring you? Where’s the block?

ACT, much like REBT, can feel brutal. That’s an inevitable consequence of seeing where your values and behaviors don’t match up. You’ve internalized “I want to be good at soccer”, but then you’re confronted with the realization that you’re doing nothing to be good at soccer, and that can make you feel defensive. It carries the implication that you’re lying. This is where the acceptance part comes in.

It’s totally fine if you’re not good at soccer! Or not as good as you want to be, anyway. You’re the only one who cares how good you are at soccer. This is your goal, and if it’s not a goal you find that important, go ahead and change it. It’s your life. You’re responsible for it. If you’re not living authentically, then it’s time to reexamine your values and goals, and make sure these are things you truly want to do and be, and not just things you think you SHOULD want to do and be.

After I finished the book I went online to see if I could get certified in ACT. Our boy Harris never developed a cert for it, because he didn’t want the methods behind a paywall. There’s an $80 fee to become an “ACT Teacher”, but they teach to therapists.

So it’s like, joining the gym is free. ACT Teachers are like personal trainers. You’ve got to pay to become a personal trainer, because personal trainers can charge you for their knowledge in the same way ACT teachers charge you for CEU credits. But you can also just go online and learn how to work out. You don’t need a trainer to use the free gym, and you don’t need an ACT teacher to use ACT, both in your personal or professional lives.

The book is dense, and there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t touch on. If any of this sounded interesting, I highly recommend it.

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Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival, Act I

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

We approached the towering stadium and got shunted by some dismissive “USE WEST ENTRANCE” signs around the perimeter of the beast. We made the walk carrying all our present worldly possessions on our backs, which left us sunstricken, dry, and somewhat bitchy.

George R. R. Martin stood behind a folding plastic table, grinning with the same malice that spawned the Red Wedding. He was missing his signature cap. I presumed it was in mourning for what D&D did to season 8.

“Hey, where do we check our bags?” I asked.

“You can’t go in,” he said. “There’s no bags in the stadium.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Where should I check them?”

“You can’t have bags in there.”

I nodded sagely. “You’re right.”

“I called ahead about this,” Ladygirl said. “They told me to tell you in the line, and you would send us to the VIP tent, where we can check our bags?”

GRRM stared at her blankly, then shook his bulbous, hoary head.

“I’d walk around to the other side of the stadium and ask the security guards,” he said. “That’s all I could think to tell you, but they’re going to say the same thing.”

We walked eight steps before Ladygirl pointed at the VIP tent almost immediately behind the hirsute pile of grimdark fantasy author.

“Hi, do we check our bags here?” Ladygirl asked.

“You sure do!” said a highly enthusiastic young man from behind the little plastic table. He and his companion clarified for us, again and again, with an enthusiasm that could only come of a hearty pre-festival sampling party, that there were no bags allowed in the building BUT they would be happy to hold our bags in bag check to be collected after the festival.

We surrendered our belongings and pushed forth into the mercifully air-conditioned interior of Canvas Stadium.

They immediately handed us our glasses and explained we can have as many samples from as many breweries as we wanted, so long as they all went into their branded 4 oz cup.

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I had inoculated against altitude sickness by eating a truly grotesque quantity of salt every meal since the plane touched down. Signs all over Colorado proudly indicated they were “BREWING THE NEW WEST!”. I was ready to git along, li’l doggie.

My skin was dry, my blood pressure high;
should the gods decree this the day that I die,
plant me here on the spot, as so that my
bones will join earth’s jagged spine
and forever the Rockies then occupy.

*snap snap snap snap*

I grabbed a quick 4 oz from the first stand I saw and gazed down over what I thought was the rest of the fest.

It turned out to be a quarter the rest of the fest. Everything else was up on level 4. I wouldn’t learn this until I’d already done two circuits of the ground floor.

A nine-foot-tall Nordic hill giant stood behind a bright red stand that advised me to “drink like a German!” I tried the lager, which was all right. We prost’ed and I moved along.

After eight or nine samples, I was beginning to feel somewhat loosey goosey. Ladygirl and I took refuge in two of three adirondack chairs. We were joined by another attendant, who was also wearing a red shirt.

“I did it on purpose,” he said. “So the bartenders would notice me and I’d get served first.”

“My sentiments exactly,” I said, pointing at my own red shirt.

“I just like this color,” Ladygirl said of her own.

Our new friend and founding member of red shirt gang gang sent us to find a peanut butter porter on the far side of the floor. I asked a girl behind a counter if she had that and she informed me, unfortunately, she did not. I promised I’d be back for her and she told me she would be waiting, quietly crying, until my return.

In a way, we both lied. She was gone when I circled back around, but I still tried whatever spiked seltzer thing her stand was pushing.

Ladygirl and I got separated, and then both independently discovered the 4th floor, where we remained separated until the sequel.

The Colorado Brewer’s Festival totaled two and a half floors of beer stands, along with several opportunities to step out onto balconies and dehydrate in the brutal Western sun. Attached to that link is a .pdf that lays out an abridged list of beers available on the 29th.

I know for a fact I tried at least two beers per stand over the four hours I was at the festival. There are 38 stands listed. Depending on how inebriated each stand attendant was (there were a few who were visibly blacked out), they would dispense between 2 and 4 ounces of your chosen beer.

Thirty six stands (I skipped the Coor’s and Blue Moon stands) times two beers = 72 samples. No sample was less than 2 oz, and though many were 4, it trended toward the lower side; let’s call it between 2.5 oz per sample.

That’s 180 oz, or 1.42 gallons of beer at a minimum, none of which is paleo.

180 oz over the course of four hours is 45 oz/hr, or roughly a pint every twenty minutes.

I don’t know which god was with me. Probably not Athena. She’s too classy for this. Maybe Odin, or Eris, or Baron Samedi. Yog-Sothoth or Sheogorath. Whoever it was, they fortified my body and spirit. Altitude sickness never took hold, and I remained sober enough to recognize the blackout drunkenness of the participants and purveyors around me.

Or so I flattered myself, until I took the elevator to level four.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

Fort Collins: Brewing Festival Exodus

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

I was up long before dawn, and we eventually trekked out into the morning to locate eggs. A place called Rainbow came highly recommended by strangers on the internet. We gave it a whirl.

We were squirreled away in an outdoor topiary garden full of dogs. I imagine Heaven to be similar, both in layout and in fare.

They put tortilla chips right up in my eggs. Crazy bastards. Ladygirl got eggs benedict and they very nearly made her cry.

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Miracle Benedict #egg #Benedict #colorado

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I flagged down one of the manic pixie dream waitresses and asked where I could find sunblock. She directed me to either “a 7/11 around here somewhere, I don’t know”, then gave much more precise directions to a local place called Lucky’s Market, which she described as “huge”. Her hair had green highlights, and she waved her arms around a lot.

Lucky’s was huge. The first half of the store designed to replicate a farmer’s market, with big wooden boxes full of carefully arranged produce for your perusal and selection. The second half was a standard CVS dealie, but all we could find was “pure mineral sunblock” on clearance.

I asked a stock guy for sunblock and he said, “Oh, that’ll be over in apothecary.” He wasn’t joking.

The third half of the store (totaling 150% and explaining its hugeness) was similar to a pharmacy, but much faker. One of the aisles was devoted entirely to tricking people into thinking they were getting high.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, I wanna say Vienna, there were dozens upon dozens of sketchy tourist storefronts trying to pawn off packages of cookies and “hemp extract” with giant pot leaves emblazoned on them, trying to capitalize on American ignorance about the drug laws of other countries, and also, their own country. Psilocybin has been decriminalized in Denver, meaning it’s bottom-priority. The pigs won’t beat down your door for tripping unless it’s a really slow night for them. That doesn’t mean you get it from Rite-Aid.

Ladygirl spent five minutes weighing the pros and cons of grapefruit vs pear scented sunblock. When she made her decision, we hosed down in front of Lucky’s thaumaturgist hut, then ducked into a laid back teahouse called Harbinger, where I did some tickatackin for an hour.

The hour of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival was fast approaching. We fortified ourself with more borger from a place called Big Al’s.

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Lemme get UHHHHHHH #borger #bigal

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Pictured by popular request: borger

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Kraut dog #bigal

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The soundtrack at was absolutely on point at Big Al’s Borger Manufactory. Seamless transition from lo-fi hip-hop beats to relax and study to, into Bad Religion, then an aggressive, aged Panic at the Disco. Simply superb.

Full of grease and power, we began the arduous two-mile journey to Canvas Stadium, where the beers would be.

I was impressed by the number of trees Colorado keeps on hand, even though this one kind of looked like Hoggle.

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Y'all mind if I slide in #Colorado #dms

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We rested briefly on the quad and looked at a thousand jubilant dogs, then completed our mission and approached the stadium gates. George R. R. Martin himself tried to detain us, but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned for a proper accounting of the Dark Calculus of the Brewfest.

Love,

The Bastard

Fort Collins: Rocky Mountain High

Friday, June 28th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

We touched down in Denver at 5pm, scoring a total of two hours of time travel despite the pilot’s inability to get the plane off the ground for forty-five minutes. I found my dissatisfaction was shared by a particularly vocal baby, two seats behind me.

The Denver airport is a city in and of itself with its own poorly-labelled subway system. We asked how to get into town proper and the clerk at the info desk told us to descend into the subterranean cavern network and give $11 a head to the subway operator.

The plan had been get into Denver, grab dinner, then grab an Uber and shoot up to our hotel in Fort Collins. Since Denver is a good 20 miles from its own airport, that got nixed. We were running on the brunch sushi we got before the plane, seven hours ago, and though Ladygirl has been known to occasionally have sleep for dinner, I had a wendigo madness setting in. My fellow travellers were starting to look like giant cartoon hams.

Our Uber driver was an old buck named Michael with a Chrystler roughly the same size as our plane. The interior was leather, the maintenance, pristine. He had an air of a Zen master about him.

Michael was a masterful conversationalist, which is something you only notice when someone is really good at it. Ladygirl and I were floored by the scenery, and Michael appreciated that, and let us bask in reverent silence until he felt the vibe shift sufficiently to start talking again.

“See that?” he said after one of these lengthy pauses. “That’s called virga. It’s raining up there on the mountain, but it’s so hot that the rain is evaporating before it hits the ground. It makes that long line across the sky.”

I murmured something dumb. Mountains get me humble. I came up out the valley, and I always found the little mountain ranges enclosing the Home Pits to be awesome in the traditional, archaic sense of the word. On the Left Coast, they’d call them hills.

“Looks fake, don’t it?” Michael asked.

He told us about the area, the legendary Redrock ampitheater, and a thought experiment in serial killing as an Uber driver. I drove Uber for six months at the end of college, and we commiserated on our mutual disdain for teenagers.

“I won’t even pick up the drunk kids anymore,” he said. “It’s not worth it. This is real leather. They smell bad, and they don’t stop yelling… I pretty much just do the airports now.”

Despite Michael’s staunch teen-avoidance policy, his radio selection demonstrated he would literally die for pop punk. Blink 182, Simple Plan, Jimmy Eat World, even old Green Day. My mans was playing the hits, and exclusively the hits.

He dropped us off at Equinox Brewing in Fort Collins after an hour of quiet, contemplative conversation and “hey dudes are you ready to”.

A pair of teens caught us at the door, offering us fresh-cooked borger, made to order. It had the feel of a boy scout troop bake sale, but it would have been the wrong foot forward to spurn these young entrepeneurs and their local business, especially in our time of need. Ladygirl ordered borger with everything, and the teens promised that they would “come find you when it’s done.”

I made a beeline to the restroom and relieved myself as three abstract lions stared at my wiener.

I returned to the bar and ordered whatever IPA was strongest, I don’t remember. Outside, in the biergarten, an experimental funk trio who looked like tall versions of the Stranger Things cast were soloing over the top of one another’s solos. It may have been too close to jazz for my simple aural palette to appreciate.

After three minutes, a middle-aged fae materialized on the bar next to me. She had little understanding of personal space and no volume control. Boisterous and hatter-mad, she immediately explained she was a retired legal assistant (and thus went into my travel notes as “Insane Law Fairy”) who originally hailed from Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

“How did you know we were from Philly?” Ladygirl asked.

“Oh, I can smell Delco girls!” she whooped. Then sniffed at her.

Ladygirl was delighted, and they fed off one another’s energy, growing louder and more manic with each second. The law fairy’s husband was a thin, quiet fellow in a cowboy hat who contributed zippy one-liners whenever she allowed enough space in the conversation. I liked them both a lot.

The law fairy howled at the bartender until he brought her a drink, then bought us drinks, wished us good travels, and flitted out into the beer garden to get funked up by the gangly adolescent virtuosos.

The grilltenders arrived with a surprisingly large cheeseburger, which we made short work of. We finished our second beers, genuflected beneath the watchful gaze of the Peeber fish, and proceeded into the night.

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Peeber рыба #fish #equinox

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Pizza desperation was the rule of the day, but every single storefront was a brewery. This would not have been a problem under any other circumstances. We eventually tracked down a place called Slyce who specialized in just dumping whatever was left in the fridge onto a pizza and charging $5 a slice. This would presumably make a pie $40, but this was no time for math. I ordered some sort of taco monstrosity, and Ladygirl got “the garden pizza”, which you can achieve at home by overturning the crisper drawer.

Our last stop for the night was an old man bar called Cooper Smith’s. Aside from the bartenders, the only other person in our age demographic looked like a steampunk version of Oswald Cobblepot. He ordered a flight and gave the bartender tasting notes. We ordered some kind of green chile IPA. It burnt the throat as it went down, but very subtly, and otherwise tasted sort of like a green smoothie.

“It’s so vegetal,” Ladygirl told me, again and again. I kept agreeing with her. This didn’t phase her.

Eventually I replied with, “You know, this is pretty vegetal.” She got mad at me, but only briefly.

We caught an Uber back to the Super 8. I made certain it was a Super 8 this time, and Athena, how my heart sang when I lay eyes on the cardboard cutout of tuxedo Tormund the Super 8 Mage.

Our driver was a skinny little dad in a trucker cup with a ridiculous hipster mustache that didn’t look like a hipster mustache because he was discernibly a dad. He’d already earned it. He played nothing but Led Zeppelin.

“What brings you to Fort Collins?” he asked.

I was going to tell him I came to get the led out, but Ladygirl cut me off with, “We’re going to the beer festival tomorrow.”

“Oh, that’s great,” he said. “That thing is huge. And it’s the anniversary, 30 years. It’s gonna be just, massive.”

His favorite turned out to be Soul Squared brewing, and he strongly advocated an imperial red. I vowed that I would not rest until I tried it.

We got back to the Super 8 and immediately rested. It was cold, massive, clean, and surprisingly chic. It might have been the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Yes, that’s correct. The Super 8.

Unfortunately, I woke up and stayed up at 4am the next morning, because my haunted body would not be convinced that we’d crossed time zones.

Love,

The Bastard

 

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy WorldDigital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eons ago, when the world was young and every website had an animated gif of a skull smoking a cigarette next to the guestbook, there was a website called Something Awful that claimed, fervently, that “the internet makes you stupid”.

Lowtax was right. If only he hadn’t been killed in the ring by Uwe Boll, he would be sweating with pride as we speak.

In addition to stupid, it makes you twitchy, sad, and weird. Sort of like the allegations against toxiplasma gondii. If you have a cat and an active social media presence, you’re a goner.

Cal Newport is a rare breed of academic in that he is young, and seems relatively intelligent. As we know, most academics are wizened absent-minded sorceror caricatures with a mean age of 65. They’re also broke. Cal Newport is not broke, because he’s turned his experiences of “being in school for a long time” into a series of self-help books that mostly focus on improving your ability to study and, thus, be in school for a long time.

And from this well springs Digital Minimalism, the idea that constant tethering to social media results in a cycle addiction identical to, well, every other cycle of addiction.

The central idea is that smartphones are slot machines, by design. Tech companies like Apple and Facebook are deliberately trying to monopolize your time by drawing your attention to your phone as frequently as possible, resulting in your seeing more ads, and their gathering more ad revenue. This produces money from nothing, and also, chicks for free.

The thing is, it’s not from nothing. Nothing can be had for nothing, as promised by Epictetus. You pay for the little dopaminergic zing of digitized social approval with the minutes of your life. Every time you disengage from the present to check how many likes you’ve collected over the past fifteen minutes, you’re putting more money in Zucc’s heat-rock and mealworm fund, and training yourself like a puppy to get dribs and drabs of the feel-good chemical from the glowing space-screen in your pocket.

But you’re not a puppy. You might be subject to the same classical and operant conditioning, but your wiring is infinitely more complex, and thus subject to more opportunities to go haywire. Social approval is one of the most important things to the average human being (average in this instance meaning freshly minted, all other factors controlled for; the fictional human baseline and duerrogotype template), because when ostracized by the tribe, we got eaten by wolves. We turned the wolves into chiuahuas and ostracization means more time to watch Netflix, but we’re still running on that old sapiens hardware. If we perceive our social standing as sinking, the alarm bells start to go off.

Social media creates an imaginary system of social feedback where the highs are virtually nonexistent, but sufficient to reinforce your attention, and continued exposure to the lows can result in long-term psychological disorders. As the author puts it:

“Online discussion seems to accelerate people’s shift toward emotionally charged and draining extremes. The techno-philosopher Jaron Alnier convincingly argues that the primacy of anger and outrage online is, in some sense, and unavoidable feature of the medium; in an open marketplace for attention, darker emotions attract more eyeballs than positive and constructive thoughts. For heavy internet users, repeated interaction with this darkness can become a source of draining negativity — a steep price that many don’t even realize they’re paying to support their compulsive connectivity.”

And then the effect:
Until recently, the mental health center on campus had seen the same mix of teenager issues that have been common for decades: homesickness, eating disorders, some depression, and the occasional case of OCD. Then everything changed. Seemingly overnight the number of students seeking mental health counseling massively expanded, and the standard mix of teenage issues was dominated by something that used to be relatively rare: anxiety.

From there, he long-windedly (academic, remember) draws the connection between suddenly pandemic anxiety and smartphone use among the first generation raised with this level of constant connectivity.

A good argument, but untestable, and so relegated to hypothesis. He rolls in some solid science afterward and it starts to look better, citing research by psychologist Matthew Lieberman whose elaborate PET-scan reindeer games determined that the social parts of the brain automatically switch on when you’re not doing anything else.

He now believes “we are interested in the social world because we are built to turn on the default network during our free time”. Put another way, our brains adapted to automatically practica social thinking during any moments of cognitive downtime, and it’s this practice that helps us become really interested in our social world.”

Lieberman ran similar scans on newborns and found their default (social) network lit up during attentional downtime before the infant’s eyes were even able to focus. It’s instinct for us to think socially when we’re not doing anything else, and the constant Matrix linkup ensures that something is always subconsciously on the line for us, and every time we don’t harvest a fat crop of either heart reacts or Farmville turnips it’s evidence of our evolutionary failure and alienation from our fellows.

But big Cal is not all about shaking his head and ominously whispering, “We live in a society”. He’s got a solution, and it’s dumbing down your phone. He recommends:

a loosely organized attention resistance movement, made up of individuals who combine high-tech tools with disciplined operating procedures to conduct surgical strikes on popular attention economy services — dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.

I strongly resent being manipulated, in any context. The concept that minutes of my life are units of currency, converted by Wish into actual legal tender, then given to Mark Zuckerberg, makes my blood boil. I’ve still got a 12-year-old anarchopunk festering somewhere under my sternum, and he absolutely will not abide the prospect of trading time from my life, a nonrenewable resource, to someone else’s profit in an exchange where I get nothing but limbic table scraps. Newport describes it as the social equivalent of “snacking on Doritos instead of eating a meal”.

It seems worth a try to me. I stripped my own phone down to nothing but GPS and Duolingo (and IG, but I hid that in three subfolders, to be accessed only when required for my blog). I’ve caught myself fiending. Every time I check my phone, for any reason, muscle memory tries to flick Messenger or Facebook back open, and that goddamn owl is flailing and screaming at me to get moving on the Russian leaderboards.

Cal was right about one thing, though; when you cut loose the low-quality leisure, you find time you didn’t know you had for things you actually want to do. I got through six books this week. Expect a deluge of reviews.

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The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and CalmnessThe Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness by Jonas Salzgeber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our man Salzgeber opens this cute little think piece with:
“So you went to school for twelve years, then college for four to ten more, and come out the other side realizing they didn’t teach you dick about how to be alive. All you learned was math, and not even the useful tax evasion math. Well, good news. These four dead guys figured it out two millennia ago.”

And from there, he rattles off the hits. Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and my long-time #MCM Marcus Aurelius. Here’s why:

“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous, and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil.”

You can imagine him waking up and staring at his saturnine, perpetually drowsy mug in the mirror, as we all do when gripped with existential dread, then heaving a sigh. “All right, Mark. You’re gonna have to see some motherfuckers today. They’re not awful on purpose, they’re just too stupid to know better. All right. Good talk. Carpe diem.”

We call this a meditation.

The book itself has an introductory vibe, and Salzgeber’s deliberate distancing from academic language makes it a quick and pleasant read, despite the volume of content. 225 pages is no longer “little” book status, but it would be immodest to just call it “the book of stoicism”, not to mention misleading since it’s a conjecturing deconstruction of Salzgeber’s opinions on the writings of each philosopher, interspersed with little biographical snippets to give a better understanding of why they think like they do. Besides, the official book of stoicism is basically the Enchiridion.

Salzgeber holds a high respect for the philosophy, especially as applied to hardship. Most of the latter half of the book, the “55 Practices”, are rephrasings of “sometimes life sucks. Think of it as a challenge. And if you can’t control it, whining won’t help.” I’ve got to assume much of this was his experience having the last name “Salzgeber”.

(Fun fact: Catastrophic phonetics aside, Salzgeber is German for “Salt giver”, which also describes anyone who plays competitive overwatch. This philosophy can and must be applied to placement matches.)

The book dwells on the concept of excellence as attained by virtue. The big take-home is play your part and do your best in whatever it is you’re doing. Rather than making that into a middle-aged lady yard sale wooden wall-hanger quote, they called it “arete”. Coupling that with contemplative acceptance of impermanance and a staunch anti-bitching policy, Salzgeber distills an otherwise complex philosophy down to a concise, almost clickbaity list of applicable tenets for living well.

I think my favorite part of the book is how he kept saying, “But don’t tell roll up to the function and tell everyone you’re stoic now. They will bully you.”

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