Harpoon and Boston Sea Port District in Photos

Last Friday I went to Boston to check out Harpoon Brewery and Castle Island. Well the brewery tours were all booked up, but I still got to have some drinks in their beer hall. And Castle Island wasn’t an island, but that made it easier to walk to. Luckily I was with my friend Dylan who took some great pictures. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, consider this post a novel.

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They’re quite efficient pourers.

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I try to be an efficient drinker.

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It was so good I couldn’t help myself.

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This one looked like a confusing photoshop job to me…

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And how about that sunset, with the Prudential and John Hancock silhouettes.

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You’re welcome Harpoon Brewery, for the free advertisement.

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Why Do We Want What We Don’t Have?

Understanding Our Desires

I think a lot about human evolution, and natural selection. I like to consider what aspects of our feelings and actions are based on what made our ancestors survive. Along that thought process, a line in a country song by Jake Owen called “What We Ain’t Got” sparked my thinking: “We ain’t happy where we are, there’s greener grass in the neighbor’s yard, a bigger house and a faster car, we ain’t happy where we are”.

It is easy to be cliche and say things like, “just appreciate what you have”, or “count your blessings”. While these would be great things to do, I find that deeper understandings of our own feelings help us to cope with them, and change them if necessary. If “we all want what we ain’t got” and recognize that, how do we take the next step to being content with what we have or can achieve?

Well in my humble opinion, I think if we can pinpoint the biological or chemical reasons why we feel that way, we can logically overcome those negative feelings. What is it that makes us always want more, and always want what our neighbors got?

Probably survival. For most of human history, it was hard to survive to reproductive age. This is natural selection, and the ones who did survive to reproduce passed on their genes, and taught their children how to survive. In this sense, having certain traits was beneficial to survival. The desire to always have more must certainly have led to better chances for an individual’s survival.

Now in the days of cave men, this probably meant eating more. The more you eat, the more likely you are to survive the winter, or a prolonged period without proper sustenance. The same applied to hoarding food and supplies. I may have enough food for a week, but wanting enough food for a month meant a better chance of surviving. I may have a nice sharpened stick, but my tribesman over there has a thicker stick with a sharpened rock at the front. I want that. It will help me survive.

In modern times, what is it that we need? Our genes might be telling us we need a better car, more technology, and a bigger house. But are we still stuck in caveman times when the desire to always get more helped us survive? It could be that in this modern world, in order to advance, a different set of wants and needs should be adopted.

This change however is not likely to happen quickly, since the two traits may lead to an equal chance of survival. Growing to reproductive age where you can pass on your traits may be just as attainable for the millionaire with a mansion and a ferrari as it is for the outdoorsman who likes to hike and hunt.

But this also led me to thinking about being happy. If it is ingrained in us that we always need to be advancing in one way or another in order to be happy, then we will never get to that place we dream of. Sometimes I feel like I am waiting to start my life until I reach some point, some amount of money, some type of job, some relationship status. But once I get to that point, would I really just be like, “ok I’m done, I’ve accomplished everything I wanted”? I don’t think so. I think the next step would be to accomplish something else. Set your sights on something greater.

But let me contrast the two types of wanting what we ain’t got. Don’t convince yourself that you will be happy once you get the new iphone, or once you have equal clothes to your friends, or once you buy that nicer house. Working towards and earning these things could very well make you happy, but I doubt that having these things will increase your happiness, unless they are a means rather than an end. If you want a smartphone because you love staying in touch with friends all the time, the smartphone is the means, not the end.

On the other hand, being all you can be will almost certainly make you enjoy life more. Understand why you want what you want, and decide if that is something that will put you in a better spot. Is your desire for more, more, more the result of thousands-years-dead ancestors making sure they survive the winter? Or is that born out of the desire to not remain stagnant?

We all have relatively similar chances of surviving “to pass on our genes”. That is why I don’t think material things make people happy; it is a stale process that gets us no closer to survival, and no further from death. If you want to accumulate things, accumulate accomplishments. This could include a big house, or a new car if you landed your dream job, or started a successful company, but those are not the necessary parts.

The important aspect of growing oneself is gaining skills, gaining knowledge, having goals, having direction. Mindlessly accumulating material items may even be a symptom of unhappiness, of not knowing what you want to accomplish, and having no set goals for yourself or your life.

How I Interpret My Goals

Don’t get me wrong, I want material things as well. But when I assess if I would feel happy when achieving these, I realize there is a sad abyss at the “end” of any journey. If you have ever seen Citizen Kane just think of his huge shadowy mansion, with statues, fountains, and things everywhere. But he dies alone and miserable. Or think about the Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece. When he finds his piece, he realizes it was the journey to find the piece that made him happy. The solution is to have no set ending for your journey through life. If your desire is power or money alone, this can get dicey. But if your desire is happiness, and money is a means to that end, rather than the end itself, that is not necessarily unhealthy if you are being honest with yourself.

Why do I want a giant house with lots of bedrooms, walking trails, gardens, and a pool? Because I am happiest when I am with other people, my friends, and my family. Because I enjoy outdoors activities, swimming, and growing vegetables. If I get to the point where I can easily invite friends and relatives from all corners of the country to stay with me, that would contribute to my happiness. If I get to the point where right outside my door is a variety of my favorite things, I will be in general more happy.

Is that the end goal? No, there would need to be more accomplishments, and more to attain after that. I would inevitably get bored, or stuck in a rut, so I would need to find a new productive hobby, start a worthwhile business, travel to remote destinations, and help others attain a better position in their own lives. But currently, it makes sense for me to strive for my vision of my dream home and property.

Can I still be happy if I don’t achieve that? Sure! That can always be in my head as something I want to attain, but I don’t necessarily have to get there to be routinely happy. I can start a garden before I am a millionaire. I can use trails that I don’t own. I can save up for vacations with friends and family, where we will all be together for extended periods of time. I can be happy while on the path to those achievements, because I am making progress, and achieving goals.

After camping with my family, it was disappointing to have to go back to the real world. In fact I started this blog coming off of a vacation mentality that I wanted to keep forever. My goal is to always feel as good as I feel while on vacation. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy until I get there, if I get there.

As with so much else in life, there is a balance. Be happy with where you are, but not to the point that you stagnate and lose that appreciation for your accomplishments. Strive for achievement and gain, but don’t let the goal blind you from the enjoyment of the journey.

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Water and Fire! Camping in Vermont one Last Time before Winter

Here Comes the Rain

Last weekend I took a camping trip with the whole family. We rented two sites at Molly Stark State Park in Vermont, and myself, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, and my other sister and her husband and 4 kids all 5 and under descended upon this—until then—quiet wooded camp ground. Now, perhaps I have not made myself clear in other posts, or perhaps it seemed an exaggeration. There are 2 times I can remember camping when it did not rain. One was when I was 9, and we hiked the Grand Canyon as a family. The other was when I was 7 or 8 and we hiked Black Mountain Pond in the White Mountains; it didn’t rain, it snowed.

So yes, on this two night trip there was a significant downpour. But, per usual, we prepared for it, and the tarp kept us dry. Well, most of us. My one year old nephew started the trend by looking mesmerized at the water running off the tarp, before he crept over to the puddle and began playing. It actually kept him entertained for quite some time, and I can understand that. I have always been weirdly obsessed with water; rain, rivers, lakes, the ocean, pools. So as a one year old, this probably was like playing in a waterfall.

By the time he was done and ready for dry clothing, my four year old niece and two year old nephew decided it would likewise be fun to put their heads under the stream of rain runoff, catch the water in their hands, and jump in puddles. What are camping trips for anyway? While I was perfectly content drinking one of my pumpkin beers under the tarp next to the fire, there was a certain element of jealousy. It’s not that I couldn’t have joined in drenching myself in freezing rain, it’s that I didn’t want to. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of passing up the opportunity to get soaking wet playing in torrential rain. C’est la vie!

Fire Tower on Mount Olga

But before the rain, we managed to get in a couple miles of hiking to the top of Mount Olga. It’s a small mountain by our standards, something like 2,600 feet. It was impressive to see my two nieces, five and four, hike almost the entire way up and down the mountain, bounding and laughing the whole way. I carried the younger one for the final half mile stretch back.

The coolest part of this hike was the fire tower at the top of the mountain. It was once used to survey the surrounding area for fires in order to alert the fire departments and keep it from getting out of hand. In fact we could see smoke quite some distance off, despite the cloud cover. Hmm… now I’m wondering if we were derelict on our duty.

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That thing was rickety! I actually surprised myself that I was getting nervous after climbing only the first set of stairs. See, the only railings stopped at each platform as you climbed, where only the outside pieces of metal holding up the structure offered any safety. Luckily these metal bars became more frequently placed as you ascended the tower, but there were still gaps here and there that it seemed one false move would lead to plummeting five stories down. Needless to say, the kids stayed at the bottom of the tower.

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At the top, you could feel the structure bounce as another person climbed the metal and wood tower. But at least in the “crow’s nest” you were fully surrounded by 4 feet high walls of metal, and window frames above that. The view was amazing. Coming down from the structure, I kept one hand on whatever piece of metal was within reach at all times. It is an awesome place to go! But I wouldn’t bring any careless kids, or ever young teenagers for that matter. Uhg I keep sounding old.

On the hike back to camp I located some Indian Cucumbers, and we dug the small carrot shaped white tubers from an inch or two underground each plant. The Indian Cucumber has a whorl of leaves about halfway up the stock, and then another three leaves at the top of the plant, generally less than a foot high. If it is far enough along in the season, there may be 3 shiny inedible berries at the top, that should not be eaten. If you dig around the base of the plant, which is found in moist woodlands in soil easily dug through with the index finger, you will come across the tiny tuber, always facing sideways, but in no particular direction. Dig this out, clean off the dirt, and you can munch on this crispy little root with a mild sweet and nutty flavor. The girls had fun digging with us to collect about 10 tubers, that we at by the campfire later that night.

It is always good to add a dash of self sufficiency to a camping trip!

 

Planet of Sound

In the center of the soundar system existed a behemoth sphere, its own gravity holding it together, referred to as the Sound. Tiny explosions of the gaseous star were relentless and loudly emitted from the Sound as waves; so loud in fact that the noise of the Sound waves reached easily to the third planet from the Sound, in the form of a hum. These explosions did not emit light, at least not enough to break free from the gravity of the star. But the sound waves penetrated the atmosphere of the third, wet planet, and the vibrations reverberated throughout the land and water. The explosions emitted noise with such intensity that the sound waves were still hot when they reached this planet.

No one knows how, but billions of years after this planet formed, life sprang from the crevices. People knew that the building blocks of life were water, and sound waves, but how it started was a mystery. People had been around for some time, though relatively short in terms of the age of the planet. They walked upright, had two legs and two arms, hands with which to feel, and a head on their shoulders. They had mouths to eat with, a nose to smell, and two big ears, that extended about two inches from the front of their face on either side and slightly above their noses.

Their ears were funnel shaped and could be focused in any direction within about 180 degrees of the direction a person was facing in order to hear what was around them. Relatively close, forward facing ears were a sign that people were trackers and predators: hunters in the old days. These ears were extremely sensitive and could pick up on the smallest noises. When the planet rotated every 24 hours and the Sound was out of hear, people would use artificial noise to listen where they were going. Their cars had head-waves to noisen up the path, so that they wouldn’t drive their cars off the roads.

By this time on the planet, science was advanced: everyone knew that sound waves and noise made everything around them hearable; the waves bounced off objects, and thusly told the ears where objects were. But so intricate were the ears that two seemingly identical surfaces could be distinguished based on their buzz. Ink of different buzzes (buzz was in fact just difference noise-wave lengths bouncing off physical objects at different frequencies) could be listened to, so that people heard words on a paper. A low frequency sound wave would show up hot like the Sound, and hum, while the quicker waves sounded cooler, like the sky or the ocean. Many thousands of years ago people managed to mimic the tiny explosions of the Sound, and created their own hum that kept them warm. At first people used hum to see where they were going, and cook their food, until more advanced methods became available.

People had light sensors on the sides of their heads; these were crude and only could distinguish general tones of light. People had developed a language to communicate; it involved emitting small bits of light from the mouth, in certain patterns. The brighter the light, usually the more excited or angry someone was. A typical greeting in one area was to emit a long stream of white light, then taper that into a short red light, finished with another quicker burst of white light. This meant hello, or good morning. When a particularly bright light was issued in a wide open space, sometimes the echo could be detected by the human light sensors, of the light bouncing off distant objects.

Crops were planted across vast fields where the Sound could easily reach unobstructed by hills or larger plants and trees. The leaves absorbed the Sound waves and audiosynthesized their nutrition when combined with water.

Sometime it proved quite convenient for one’s surroundings to be recognized by sound. People on this planet had no larynx, no vocal cords, and no voice box. In fact no detectable noise came from their mouths, only different shades and intensities of light for communication, created by a chemical reaction in the tongue. But if someone happened to find themselves in a quiet room with no sound or noise, unable to listen where they were going or hear what was around them, they could always clap their hands and emit short bursts of noise in order to catch a glimpse of their surroundings.

In fact most life on earth could hardly emit any noise at all. Only when it was very quiet would noise from walking or clashing objects show the area. In day-noise, the sound of clapping would not be heard. But there were some creatures deep in the ocean, and dwelling far underground in caves who managed to evolve with the ability to give off small bits of noise, like a hum. This helped them hunt prey attracted to the noise, or detect where the cave walls were.

There was a man in this world who had lost his hearing, but seemed to gain that much more skill in using his other senses. He could actually detect with his sensors the light he would emit from his tongue enough to artificially “hear” where he was going. The light would bounce back off of objects, and his sensors became so fine tuned that a blurry picture of the world emerged from only the light he emitted from his tongue in small bursts. He could not hear in such brilliant detail as his peers, but he could “hear” general sizes of the objects around him from the sensors collecting the light that bounced off of them.

Such a concept had never much been seen of before this man. Instead of hearing where he was going, and listening to the world, he had to try his best not to bump into things with only a bit of light bouncing back into his light sensors.

People were used to looking with their light sensors at what other people were flashing, in order to communicate. But the light detectors on the sides of this man’s head were used not simply for conversation, but for sight, for seeing the world around him, since he was unable to hear it.

What strides he had made, in a world were everyone else depended so much on hearing all that was around them.

Deceivingly Easy Meal to Make: Eggplant Parmesan

I almost forwent writing this post, because I was like, this is so easy everyone must know this. Then it occurred to me that a) everyone probably doesn’t know (or just hasn’t given it any thought) how to make eggplant parmesan, and b) this would be a good opportunity to give everyone an idea for something that is actually pretty easy and quick to make, but feels like you are eating in a 5 star restaurant.

So you just start by slicing an eggplant across so you have circles, dripping a bit of olive oil on one side, and placing that side face down on the baking pan. I pre-heated the oven to 350 and this seemed about right. to spread the olive oil I dripped some on one piece, and then rubbed that eggplant section together with another.

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Next, I globbed a bit of sauce on each piece, and spread it around with a spoon. Some people leave more eggplant showing on top, but I prefer to have the whole thing covered when it is done baking, that way it is more moist instead of dry. Just ignore the stained pan, you can substitute a cleaner one if you wish. Either way.

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Next you simply cut up the cheese, and put it on top. Though next time I would probably keep the cheese more centered, because some of it dripped off the side. Then again this made the cheese that dripped onto the pan crispy, which added a delicious crunch. Anyway I know it is called eggplant parmesan, but I didn’t have any parmesan, but I had plenty of smoked gouda. And honestly, it might have been better; it was at least just as gouda. Okay I apologize for that, please don’t stop reading, but I couldn’t resist.

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Pop that in the oven for about 40 minutes, and while you wait, cook up the rest of this phenomenal cuisine! Throw on some boiling water for the pasta of your choice, and throw some olive oil in a pan to cook up some green and/or spicy peppers. I used two types of peppers, one spicy one not, garlic (the more the merrier in my opinion), rosemary, salt, pepper, and at the end I threw in a splash of lemon juice. This doesn’t have to sauté for that long since the peppers are sliced thin. Maybe 5 minutes on medium, or a little longer if you want to keep it lower and not let it get cold before the eggplant is done.

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Alright pasta should be ready, peppers are ready, eggplant “parmesan” is finishing up. Go ahead and make it look pretty. Throw some spaghetti down, drizzle the olive oil/peppers blend over the top, and grab the best looking slices of eggplant and place them on the side. I’m gonna go ahead and pair this wonderful meal with a Pumpkin Rye Ale Shandy. It was brewed with lemon peels, so it matches the lemon in the olive oil sauce. (Is that how that works? I honestly have no idea if that beer went well with the meal. I know it tasted good. Should I have just gone with it, and let you all think I’m some sort of food/beer pairing connoisseur?)

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Voila! Bon apetite! I just like this meal because it was filling, delicious, easy, and actually pretty good for you! Great vegetarian option as well. Now would this go with a red wine, because of the sauce on the eggplant, or white, because of the olive oil sauce on the pasta?

“Hippie Hole” in Vermont

One highlight from this weekend was swimming in the “Hippie Hole” in Montgomery Vermont. It was later in the afternoon, and the water was ice cold, but I could not resist jumping in, a couple minutes after these pictures were taken. I got used to it pretty quickly and managed to swim around for a couple minutes, and jump in a couple more times. Swimming up the little carved out rock section felt magical, and putting my head under the waterfall was refreshing/ gave me an ice-cream headache.

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You may have noticed I have travelled to a lot of surrounding areas this summer for mini-vacations. That sort of goes back to the purpose of this blog in making sure I enjoy every moment, and have fun with life. Not everyone likes to travel, but I realized after the cruise I went on this February to the Caribbean that going places and seeing new things is one of the things I enjoy the most. I am thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to travel, since February to Indianapolis, New York City, Vermont, and multiple places in New Hampshire, and still have time to explore new places in Massachusetts great for hiking, like the Douglas State Forest, and the Blackstone River. I even managed to visit the old spots too like my favorite local lake.

But hiking, nature, traveling, exercise, cooking, writing, and foraging are what works to keep me energized and happy, not necessarily everyone else. I think its good for people to explore some hobbies or interests and really find their niche in terms of what makes them tick. Having goals, big and small, is a great way to remain positive and steer clear of any ruts. Gaining skills and knowledge, whether for a practical purpose, or just for fun, is also key to loving every moment of life, instead of waiting for the weekend, or a vacation.

Heading into the winter can be daunting, especially in New England. I have another vacation to Florida planned for November to remedy this in part. But it doesn’t have to be that drastic to keep you going strong. Maybe set a goal for something to accomplish this winter, or pick up a new hobby that can keep you busy inside when the weather gets rough. Or perhaps just step back and enjoy the moment, which is also super important to remaining excited about life, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to picking apples, and just got the urge to chop some wood, but for now, I’m going to go outside and enjoy this weather!