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Entering the Age of the Aeropress

Okay, sorry guys, but I have to indulge in these total coffee nerd moments every once in a while. Thanks for understanding.

To me, coffee is far more than just a pleasurable drink. It’s an experience. It’s a mood. It’s a feeling that can take you to the greatest depths of creative passion, a force that can pull you through the hardest, most painful times, or a source of stimulation that makes an interesting conversation even better. That’s why Coffee Moments™ are so great.

If you’re not a fan, then I’ve seen that tea is the same way for many people. Either way, I’m all about the hot beverages.

While any coffee lovers knows the importance of poking your head into a third wave coffee shop with some degree of regularity, it’s also important to have some sort of home setup, even if that setup pales in comparison to what the coffee shops offer. For me, I’ve spent the last couple of years preparing most of my morning cups with a V-60 pour over. Pour overs are one of the most convenient coffee preparation methods, and something I’d definitely recommend for most people, both coffee aficionados and newcomers alike.

However, as of last month, a new era in my life has begun: meet the AeroPress.

Aeropress coffee Nicholas Conley

I’m amazed that I went this long without investigating the AeroPress, and now, I’m madly in love with it. It’s fast, thorough, and prepares an absolutely fantastic cup of coffee. What more could a person ask for? There are a couple of different preparation methods, but my preference is for the “inverted” method.

For more information, check out the official AeroPress site. If you’re a coffee fan, you won’t regret it. Trust me. And if you’ve already been using the AeroPress for some time, cheers.

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Are you tired of daylight saving time?

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely tired of losing an hour of sleep every spring. Daylight saving time (DST) is the worst. Or maybe you’re a fan, in which case, my apologies.

Since I spent most of my childhood in Arizona, I can honestly state that I had never even heard of daylight saving time until adolescence, when we moved to the East Coast. Imagine, for a second, just how weird it sounded: “We’re setting the clocks back an hour? Why? Wait, is this some sort of prank?” All these years later, I’ve still never come to terms with it.

However, it just so happens that all this clock-switching is actually a lot more detrimental than we realize. It makes us sicker, sleepier, less focused, and does really bizarre things with Amtrak schedules. As regular readers here know, I’ve been writing for Grunge, and I decided to take a dive through time and research the long, sordid history of this biannual tradition. You can read it here: Bizarre Facts You Never Knew About Daylight Saving Time

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As for me, now that I’m a New Englander, I’m pretty jazzed about the idea that the New England states might gang up and kick clock switching to the curb, in favor of year-long daylight saving. One thing’s for sure, now that we’ve “fallen back,” these 4pm sunsets are getting real old, real fast.

On the other hand, I’m really fascinated by the argument given by Matthew Yglesias of Vox, who suggests that we should eschew time zones altogether, in favor of a single “Earth Time” for the human race. Vox suggests that we all adopt a single 24-hour clock across the world, and stop the madness of trying to match each other all the time. It’s an interesting notion.

What do you all think?

Scary Halloween Tree Nicholas Conley

The Value of a Spooky October

We’re now knee deep into the spookiest time of the year, which is to say October — a month that is, from start to finish, dominated by Halloween. Throughout the month of October, you’ll see jack o’lanterns on porches, scarecrows on downtown street corners, horror movies in the cinema, and ghosts hanging from street lamps. Then at the end of the month, kids fill the sidewalks in all kinds of creepy costumes.

However, outside of pure entertainment—and putting all the consumerism aside—I think there’s a real psychological value to Halloween.

See, as we all know, the human psyche is always yearning for catharsis. That’s why in regular life, avoidance of a problem just makes a problem worse: you have to face your fears, not run away from them. It’s also why we do crazy things like skydiving. We crave resolution. We thrive on the thrill of facing our fears.

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Halloween, as it is today, is basically the one time a year where our entire culture faces our fears at the same time. We like scary things. By dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, decorating our houses with skeletons, and watching the newest scary films, we’re taking on our fears, instead of running away from them. It’s like the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster, but on a wider level. Halloween is more than just a fun way to spend the month: it’s a necessary cultural catharsis, particularly in scary times like the present day, where every morning’s news headlines are so anxiety-inducing.

Facing our fears, turning them into a source of entertainment rather than terror, is a vacation that everyone needs once in a while. So Happy Halloween, everyone, and enjoy the scares!

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The Concept of Privilege

The concept of privilege can be a challenging one to get across, but it’s one of the key factors that has shaped the inequalities, imbalances, and prejudices of society today.  In order to fix the problem, the first step is acknowledging it.

Too often, when a person is informed of their privilege, they are likely to respond “Hey, I worked hard for what I have.” However, what this person isn’t realizing is that acknowledging the fact that they are privileged doesn’t invalidate any hard work they might have put into their career, social life, and so on: it simply contextualizes it.  To be privileged doesn’t mean that a person had everything handed to them on a silver platter—though it can, if they did!—but rather, in many cases, privilege means that a person was born with the right set of circumstances that allowed them to achieve success through hard work. Not everyone is so lucky.

This really isn’t a complicated concept to understand: whereas a person born in a luckier set of circumstances (for example, a family that can afford to send them to a private school) can achieve success through hard work, another person born in more difficult circumstances could work just as hard, yet not achieve the same results, due to the unfairness of their birth conditions in relation to society. The widespread deception that “everyone starts on the same level playing field” is a dangerous falsehood that has festered in the American psyche for generations, and it accounts for a huge amount of the anger, racism, xenophobia, class warfare, and so on today.

Imagine an Olympic race where one person gets to begin running at the starting line, whereas another person—against their will—is forced to start ten feet back and wait twenty seconds, for no good reason. Sure, both runners might have given it their all. But one of those runners had a huge advantage at the starting point, and that’s fundamentally unjust.

Many factors play into privilege. Class is the most obvious one: it’s much harder for a person born in the working class to move upward than it is for someone born in the upper class. That’s pretty basic. However, race is arguably an even bigger factor: people with more melanin in their skin face irrational prejudices against them at every corner, combined with the horrors of systemic racism, and surveys have shown that far too many companies still are less likely to call back resumes with less-white sounding names. Sex is also an enormous factor, as women today still face the constant realities of sexual harassment in the workplace, and surveys show that, on average, women still earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. Disability, neurodiversity, nationality, gender, religious background, and so on are also factors.

Privilege is the invisible benefit one receives when one doesn’t have to worry about their race, sex, class, religious background, or so on: privilege is when a person gets to go into a job interview, and to know that they’ll be seen for their decided traits/experience/individuality, rather than the labels that others have applied to them.

Again, the first step toward fixing the privilege problem is acknowledging that it exists, and spreading that awareness to others. One of the best explanations I’ve ever read of the subject was actually featured in a web comic titled On a Plate, by Toby Morris. Give it a read on this link to TheWireless.co.nz, and next time you’re looking to explain privilege to someone, consider sending it along to them.

Link: On a Plate

 

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REBLOG: Yes, Person who Sees Sharp Theets: You ARE an Alien.

Good times.

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One of the more enjoyable features of the WordPress stats page is the “Search Terms” section, where you can see what search engine terms brought people to your site. It’s obviously a highly useful feature in regard to tagging posts, but it’s also a lot of fun: some rather bizarre searches have brought people to my page.

Recently, I was scanning the Search Terms box, and perhaps the oddest search  yet appeared there — a dark, desperate plea from the anonymous abyss, from a person whom no doubt was scouring the internet to answer questions beyond the capability of man.

Yes, somehow, the following search term brought this curious unknown person to my page:

“why can i see sharp theets am i a alien”

After seeing this, I knew that I had to respond. To not respond to such a unique question would be immoral, thoughtless. And so to you, person who sees these “sharp theets,” I…

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Why I Wear Hawaiian Shirts

Really, if there’s one comment I hear more often than anything else, it tends to be, “Wow, man. You wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts.”

This habit has, whether fortunately or unfortunately, been one I’ve engaged in for most of my life. It seems like my tendency to wear these bright and colorful shirts is a source of curiosity, since it often elicits comments, both positive and negative — but always entertaining. I’ve received many questions about why I wear them: if there’s a deeper reason, a cause, a role, whether I lost a lifetime bet, and so on. You get the idea.

Well, actually, there is a deeper reason. A few, actually. So, why? Well…

Reason #1: Sentimental Reasons

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Basically, when I was a kid, my father often wore Hawaiian shirts. He enjoyed the look and feel of them, and like most sons, I liked the idea of being a little more like him, so I picked up the habit.

As longtime readers know, he died when I was 17; though I was already wearing Hawaiian shirts by that time, after his death, they took on a new significance for me. Continuing to wear them felt like a way of celebrating his legacy, a tribute to who he was.

Reason #2: Catharsis

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When I was younger, I had a lot of social anxiety, difficulty fitting in; you know the story, and many of you experienced your own version of it. Anyway, this all came to a head in high school, where at first, all I wanted to do was disappear into the background. I wanted to seem normal. Quiet. Nondescript. I felt horribly eccentric, incredibly weird, like I couldn’t fit in anywhere.

Then, I changed my mind about trying to fit in, and instead, I decided to wear my eccentricity on my sleeve.

During the summer, like many teenagers in the past and many teenagers in the future, I grew my hair out long. I grew a beard. And, of course, I decided to ditch the bland, basic, flat-colored t-shirts of the past, and make Hawaiian shirts my personal trademark.

Immediately, I started feeling more comfortable socially. I grew out of my shell. I became more confident. I started walking out there a bit more boldly, stating my thoughts aloud, openly being who I was on the outside as well as the inside. Ever since those days, I’ve never stopped wearing the shirts, nor would I ever want to.

Reason #3: Because Yeah, You Know What? Hawaiian Shirts Are Awesome

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Honestly? Hawaiian shirts are just really fucking cool.

Seriously. It’s not always easy to wear something so bright and colorful everyday, turning yourself into a walking billboard for a Caribbean vacation company. But Hawaiian shirts are fun, enjoyable, and people who wear them tend to make great company. A good aloha shirt is comfortable, iconic, timeless. They look great, and feel great. Why would I not want to wear them?

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Really, this is probably what it comes down to, in the end: I just like Hawaiian shirts.

I like the way they look, and how they feel. I like the fact that they instill an automatic trust in a person, a sense that no matter how serious that person is, they know how to enjoy life and see the good in things, at least on some level. I have yet to meet a bad person wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and I hope I never do.