Saturday, 30 May 2020

INSIDE VOICE #6: Uncomfortably Close

After MPR read the headline, the 9 year old immediately asks:

“Hey Google, what’s third degree murder?”




On Sept 11, 2001, a dozen years into the militarization of local police departments, I was working for a startup an old skyscraper on the north end of the Chicago Loop. The CEO survived the Bosnian civil war prior to immigrating.

We sat stunned watching the live coverage. I can still remember him dismissively observing, as he walked out of the room:

“It’s not a war, get back to work.”

Instead, we all went home.

One by one, over the next two weeks, we took better jobs.

If I was a DINK today, leaving Chicago in the driver’s seat of a U-Haul seeking balance – fully aware I could live anywhere – I might keep driving and try my luck in Absaroka.


In the Days After I’m predicting more regionalism and while I’ve personally noticed an increased sensitivity to out of state license plates, I did not expect this:


Turns out I’m the reason there’s only sliced and shredded cheese in the house:

“I feel like, if I buy you blocks of cheese you’re just going to eat them like a woodchipper.”



An Ongoing List of the Unexpected Global Pandemic Impacts to a Homebrewer’s Supply Chain

  • Kegerator’s CO2 tanks unable to get refilled.
  • Preferred yeast strains out of stock.
  • Fewer neighbors are swinging by to have growlers refilled.
  • Mistaken for an end-of-days survivalist while pushing four 5-gallon jugs of water through the grocery store aisles.


Jen says to the oldest child:

“If you turn that broken plastic toolshed into a chicken coop, we can have chickens.”

…a couple hours later he comes to me all excited…

“The internet says you should start with 2-3 more chickens then you want to end up with.”

The neighbor around the block has four chickens.

I asked them how many conversations about death they’ve had with her kids.

Smiling cautiously,they reply:

“All four made it through the winter.”

INSIDE VOICE #5: …initiating connection…initiating connection…

For their mental health, we’ve been strongly and persistently encouraging the teenagers to make in-person plans with their friends. Provided they stay outside and don’t climb on each other – we’re cool.

Ensuring in-person social interaction is far tougher for the elementary school kids, as coordination still happens through parents.

Turns out, asking about comfort levels of previously banal activities with a parent of your kid’s friend inside a global pandemic is more awkward than asking, “Do you have guns in the house?”

I mean, at least new mothers practice asking each other that question in neighborhood ECFE classes.

I’m going to start couching the question in Pixar movies:

“Oh, hi, um, yes, just wondering, how you feel about our kids playing together outside. Are you more:

or are you more:

It’s cool either way,…oh you haven’t seen Monsters Inc? Fun movie. Makes for some timely conversations. Twist at the end. Yea, for sure it’s on Disney+.


The kids, before their distance learning started, would mock me working. They’d put their arm in the air like a T-Rex at an invisible standing desk, taunting, “I’m Dad. Type. Type. Type.”


I’ve been (near exclusively) listening to Mike Doughty, specifically his The Question Jar Show album, these past couple months. I find a great calm in his voice and his presence. The Halloween treat in the last verse of Grey Ghost is complete magic to me. Every. Single. Listen.

Turns out, I’ll listen to him do just about anything, including comfortably type on an IBM Selectric.


By the way, I’d like to take this moment to formally nominate Andrew “Scrap” Livingston’s upright bass for: Instrument Most Embodying the All the Feels of 2020

Autumn morning.

Inside the Loop.

Suburbs of grey flannel suits

Streaming among the tallest towers,

As they look away.

A voice in my head whispers:

“See, you can hide anywhere, if you want to.”


I thought it was odd the brewery credited their illustrator and design firm on the label.

Doubly odd, I recognized the design firm. My friend Jon started out there nearly 20 years ago. Jon tells me, the brewery owner and the designer firm owner have known each other since childhood.

That’s so great.

Where can labels are increasingly works of art, it’s fantastic to see credit given, whatever the situation.

Cheers to more artists getting credit on beer labels.

And to life-long friendship.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

INSIDE VOICE #4: “No, just very, very improbable.”

According to Kevin Stroud over at The History of English Podcast, the reason we speak English is in part due to the Black Death. The plague was an indiscriminate killer, peasants, scholars, royalty alike.

At this point in our story in the mid-1300s (which is one of my most beloved Stroud-isms), French and Latin were the the languages taught and spoken in England’s upper class. English was for peasants. Yet, after the plague, not enough French and Latin scholars remained. So, English was taught and took hold.


If Google really wants their Assistant to be part of our family, it’s going to need to inherently recognize and respond to the casual nicknames we give it (e.g. “Hey Googs”) and know when the question that follows is mocking, rhetorical and a joke for the people within earshot.


“Were I actually living inside the simulation hypothesis…I’d spend the rest of my life figuring out what I can’t do.” – Chuck Klosterman, What if We’re Wrong?: Thinking about the Present as if it were the Past.

“What if We’re Wrong” asserts that Time is continuously and aggressively deeming our work, our art, our efforts, insignificant and eroding them into dust.

Like so much sound and fury.

Chuck wants you to take this as license to push hard against the outer bounds of your work just as aggressively. To delight in the challenge and throw caution to the wind. Cuz it’s the only chance we’ve got at being remembered the day after tomorrow.


Futures Wheel is my current favorite lightweight scenario planning tool. Some may comment that it’s nearly indistiguishable from mindmapping. There is a difference. Mindmaps are stupid.


I like to start with a highly-controversial statement that feels ridiculous and just out of reach something like:

“10 Years After COVID-19 Pandemic, Americans are Healthier.”

Then answer the question, “What does this mean for the world around us?” and continue to innocently ask that recursively working your way around a circle.

Maybe start a branch with:

  • People with even a slight sniffle stay home, which means…
  • Substantially higher & more unpredictable utilization of sick days (even with working from home), which means…
  • the govt covers sick days on behalf of employers, which means…
  • health care is disconnected from employers, which means…
  • increased taxes (Huh).

We could do another branch with:

  • People eating healthier, which means…
  • Less carb consumption, which means…
  • Alcohol popularity decreasing, which means…
  • Local craft breweries go bankrupt (Argh! Wait! Wut!).

Maybe a third with:

  • People no longer commute, which means…
  • Fewer cars on the road, which means…
  • Less air and water pollution, which means…
  • Wildlife comes in closer, which means…
  • More human-animal incidents (argh, that’s how this all started)

Jeebus, FUTURES WHEEL sure can make you anxious about what comes next faster than an episode of Fortitude.


…In dialectal Norwegian, “kveik” is two different nouns. One is female and means yeast, while the other is male and means to breathe new life into something…the act of kindling a fire. – Lars Marius Garshol, Historical Brewing Techniques


Back in March, we took friend and multi-book author @HopeJahren’s advice and started some seeds. Today, it’s a massive 12×4 raised garden that the 9 year old checks every morning between breakfast and starting his school day.

We’ve lost lots from the seedlings to the garden bed. Plant Dr. Jahren says that’s OK. Trying to have some grace, considering this is my first garden in 33 years and I’ve read nothing on how to make it successful (library’s closed).

The boy is confident we’ll have lots of pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and peppers. Though, this morning he handed me the radish seeds says he’s not so confident in the canteloupe.

The Dutch settled in modern day New York and brought their knowledge of brewing with oats, rye, wheat with them. The English (and Scots), with their barley-exclusive brewing practice, settled further south in Virginia and struggled to grow barley. So, they switched to tobacco and traded it for malted barley and finished beer from the aforementioned Dutch.

In addition to the primary benefit of trade itself, this had the secondary effect of supplying the Dutch West India Company’s global trade network with tobacco while simultaneously starving the English crown of the tax revenue.


“We are now cruising at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.”

Saturday, 16 May 2020

INSIDE VOICE #3: “liter’s a kilogram, metric doesn’t rhyme”

With work shifting to video conferencing, rather than in-person meetings, we’ve lost the signaling of accessories – fountain pens, fancy bags, stickered laptops. So, inspired by the back of my iPad (that no one sees any more) and NASCAR paint-jobs, I created my own fake background for Zoom.

Unfortunately, without a physical green screen, the MacBook doesn’t have enough reality distortion to keep me from disappearing into the matrix (yes, I’m the black smudges in the above image).


Day and night

are in equilibrium

along the equator.

Further north, clocks

were invented

to continually remind us of long summer days.


“OK, it’s a line-by-line reboot of Good Neighbours, but instead of suburban London, it’s set on the 97th floor of Central Park Tower.”

“Didn’t Tom plow the front yard under in the opening scene?”

“Good point. We’ll need to move it to the penthouse floors so we have enough space.”


Jelle's marble runs

Until quarantine is over, Jelle’s dirt track marble racing is the only sport that matters.


Despite all the 5Ks I’ve run, I’m against adopting the metric system for a single reason:

The metric system is completely devoid of a personality.

It’s key feature is scaling (“watch me as I only move the decimal point!”, “ooooh ahhhh”).

The metric system is the thing of science fiction – a perfectly engineered utopia confidently asserting every imperfection can be perfectly traced with pixels. If only we could scale the pixels small enough.

Measuring is a human-centric practice and the US system is full of human-centricity:

  • inch
  • hand
  • foot
  • Smoot
  • mile
  • anything base-12 (hint, count knuckles)

It’s also full of units rich with human culture;

  • yard (how stuff is taxed)
  • bushel (how grain is sold)
  • stone (how potatoes and animals were sold)
  • gallon (how wine and beer is sold)
  • barrel (how everything is sold from cranberries to butter to oil)

I’m pretty sure one reason we care about oil is that it’s still traded in barrels. We understand a barrel. Every time the news mentions oil, we imagine millions of literal barrels of oil packed tightly together somewhere. It’s one small way we convince ourselves we understand that world, even though our experience is only with far smaller quantities.

Like the gallon.

In the United States, two kinds of pint are used: a liquid pint and a less-common dry pint. Each of these pints is one eighth of its respective gallon, but the gallons differ. — Wikipedia

Wait. Whut? How can the gallons differ? I thought I knew and understood…you know…gallon. Milk and gas and all.

Turns out, there’s a corn gallon or dry gallon that well, I’ll let Wikipedia continue to explain (emphasis mine):

The dry gallon is not used in the US customary system – though it implicitly exists since the US dry measures of bushel, peck, quart, and pint are still used.

I hope you feel a sense of calm.

Finding out there’s an invisible unit of measure that many common units are derived from but is not itself used, this can be unsettling. Or it can be calming like a puzzle piece sliding into place, expanding our understanding of the world. I hope you found the latter.

Oh, there’s also a 40 ounce French Canadian pint.

I’m off to drink in Montreal. Later milliliter.


minimialism is officially over.

it’s too much fun (by fun I mean a blend of delight and relief) to realize the tools and supplies needed for your latest project are already in your possession.


  • having an inventory of malt, hops, and yeast means I don’t need to wait for a delivery. Boom start brewing.
  • both fountain pens ran out of ink today. Right before I hit re-order on Amazon, I found a box of cartridges. Boom back to work.
  • one of the teenagers wanted to bake a carrot cake, we had all the ingredients. No grocery list or trip to the store required. Boom start mixing.

minimialism (defined for these contexts as: not having unused surplus lying around) is great when transaction costs are extraordinarily low. Getting stuff you don’t have is easy in that environment.

right now, transaction costs have spiked to all-time highs.

as have chest freezer sales.


Saturday, 2 May 2020

INSIDE VOICE #1: “Cassandra, are you showing me the future or just being difficult”


“Hey Google, how do you make gin?”

“I’ve found a recipe for ‘how do you make gin?’. Would you like the ingredients or instructions first?”


“OK, now playing dance hits of 2010s on Spotify.”

For all their promises of convenience, Google Assistants are at best undelightful and at worst mildly frustrating. And, Google provides the most consistent, expected results of all internet-connected devices. For substantially worse misbehavior, follow @internetofshit

If you’re not familiar, internetofshit is this era’s Fucked Company (which was that era’s

My current internetofshit schadenfreudlich delight is the remote cat feeder that stopped functioning because….the company quietly went out of business. Then they came back to ask for more money.

Or maybe it’s the scooter company that fired everyone via an automated Zoom call.

Or maybe it’s the sleep analyzer that stopped analyzing sleep data because…the company quietly when out of business. Oh, wait that was a decade ago.

History sighs. Repeats self.

If you’ve the stomach to watch more than your WiFi-enabled grill ignore ‘OK Google, off, OK GOOGLE! OFF! OFF! Shit! Shit! Shit!’, join me reading Peter Zeihan’s geopolitics newsletter.

He’ll calmly whisper horror stories into your ear things like;

  • “the current world order is slowly dissolving into pre-WWII territory disputes…you’ll probably be OK.”,
  • “oil’s going negative and there’s no way for you to profit from it” and
  • “…but that is where the similarity between the hardworking, morally upstanding people of Iowa and the turgid pile of frigid confusion that is Minnesota ends.”


  • playing foursquare on the driveway,
  • planting a huge garden from seedlings,
  • watching early seasons of the Amazing Race as a family,
  • 1000 piece puzzle after 1000 piece puzzle,
  • trimming the neighbors pine tree with a 20 foot pole saw,
  • still being asked to declare my favorite thing of the week every sunday night for 2020’s ‘jar of awesome’.

When my grandkids ask their parents about the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope this is what they recall.


Prior to the pandemic, we had a family calendar where we played Tetris with our respective commitments. These days, family logistics is more of a game of Clue between video conferencing apps, devices, and commitments.

  • Microsoft Teams on the iPad = Work
  • Skype on the MacBook = Drums lessons
  • FaceTime on the iPhone = Piano lessons
  • Zoom on the MacBook Air = Clarinet lessons
  • Google Meet on the Chromebook = 8th Grade Band
  • Google Classroom on the other Chromebook = 6th Grade Band
  • Vidyo on the MacBook = Speech therapy


Rumspringa is a subtly sophisticated mechanism.

It gives youngins a opportunity for independence while opening a controlled channel of experimentation, innovation, and cultural education to the wider community. It also exposes the entire community to a existential threat in a controlled enough way cultural antibodies can be generated.

The risk is both for the individual and the community. The goal is both survive. But even if the youngin flees to the English, the community will persist.

And, either way there’ll be discussions how to use TikTok for Business at the next Elders meeting.


Speaking of work on the iPad, April marks month 24 of the iPad Pro as my primary machine. I see no reason to go back to a laptop. I’m almost tempted to double-down and switch to my iPhone as my primary machine (you know, like the vast majority of the rest of the world).


This weeks winner for both Best Capturing the Current American Drinking Zeitgeist and Worst Dad Joke is, Anchor Brewing’s “Seltzer in Place“.


In more optimistic beer news, Other Half Brewing in NY, announced a global beer collaboration, “All Together. Other Half is developed an IPA recipe and is asking breweries around the world to produce it and contribute the proceeds to support the hospitality industry in their local area.

Here in MN; Modist, Wild Mind, Black Stack, and OMNI are participating. BTW, Wild Mind delivers free within the 494/694 loop.