Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bits and Pieces.

Philosophy has been a bit thin on this blog lately. . . I realize this. But now that the uni holidays are over  I should be back to talking about philosophy again soon enough. (To be specific I'm studying Advanced Topics in Metaphysics in the next semester so my blogs will probably be related to that). For the meantime there is this post: a sort of personal summary of what I've been up to lately. I'm not sure whether anyone is actually interested in this sort of thing, and it's mighty arrogant to pretend that people will be interested at all, but I guess the beauty of having a blog is the egotistical buzz of broadcasting meaningless shit into cyberspace and pretending that people care. Anyways, here is what I've been up to lately:

I've got a new job! This means that I've stopped working in the soul-crushing profession that is 'market research'. Market Research is one of those jobs that is worth having on a resume for the simple fact that is sounds much better than it is. It sounds like an 'adult job' if you know what I mean. When I used to tell people that I worked in Market Research they would raise their eyebrows and say things like "Oh, interesting". I would chuckle inside. Little did they know that I was the person on the phone trying to get them to do political surveys. BUT that is all behind me now because I've moved on to bigger and better things. I'm now a sort of motivational speaker/tutor hybrid that presents seminars on studying to high school students. I realize that this isn't everybody's 'dream job' but those who know me will know how perfectly this type of thing fits my personality. Not only do I get to demand people's attention for an hour at a time but I am also encouraged to make lots of lame jokes. Brilliant!

So far I've only just begun and have only come as far as my first training, but even this has been a tough process. For my training I had to learn two 1hr scrips off by heart and it was very difficult. Nevertheless I'm pleased to be working in a field that is close to what I would like to pursue for a career (philosophy teaching).

I've also joined an 'Ultimate Disc' team recently. Ultimate Disc is what you get when you combine casual frisbee throwing with AFL and Netball. The result is a fast paced sport with an entire sub-culture following it. It is not as nearly as silly as it sounds and there is a huge amount of strategy and skill involved to play the game well. I'm just learning at the moment but it has been great fun! In fact, it's probably the most enjoyable sport I've ever played.

The last thing that I've been up to is working on establishing a website called "Anything But Goon". Those of you who know me are probably sick of hearing about it so I won't go into a huge amount of detail about it. Basically "Anything But Goon" aims to move new drinkers (18-24yr olds) away from the highly alcoholic (and highly vomit-worthy) drinks like Goon to tastier, but still affordable, alternatives. We do this by writing up as many alcohol reviews as possible about 'bang-for-your-buck' beers, wines, ciders, and spirits. Ultimately it's been a great experience - I've been drinking a larger quantity and variety of booze and I've been motivated towards inspiring other people to broaden their drinking horizons. I can remember the first time I had a truly great beer after only experiencing the over advertised, under flavored, commercialized grain-water that large companies ambitiously label 'beer' (i.e. Tooheys, VB, etc) and  I am inspired to cause this revelation that 'there is better beer out there' to domino it's way through society. If I'm going to be grandiose about it I might say that I'm hoping for a 'craft beer revolution' but really I'd be satisfied with helping a few people try some new things. Anyways for those interested here as some links to the facebook site, the main Anything But Goon page, and a review for a beer that I got particularly passionate about.




Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sensory Deprivation

A friend and I recently decided to spend 40hrs being blind followed by 40hrs being deaf to learn about disabilities and ourselves. This experiment is a part of my quest for new experiences. To simulate deafness we used earpugs + earmuffs and to go blind we wrapped our faces in bandage tape. The idea was to try and live 'regular' lives for the 40hr period. This means things like catching public transport, eating out, walking down busy streets, attending social gatherings etc.  This is what is was like:

Being hearing impaired:

Being hearing impaired was a thoroughly frustrating experience. Conversations were limited to one person at a time and to environments without any background noise. When crowded environments were unavoidable it was tiring trying to listen to what people were saying. In everyday life I don't think that we 'listen' very much at all - we just 'hear'. To actually 'listen'; to squint your eyes in concentration, tilt your ears and body towards the noise in question and concentrate on the sounds;  is usually unnecessary with functioning auditory senses. When you're hearing impaired however this type of listening takes up a large part of your day - And it is exhausting!

Eventually you end up just giving up and hoping that you don't miss anything juicy or important and most of the time this strategy works. There were a few amusing moments where I would mishear things and confidently try and join in the conversations only to realise that I was being massively irrelevant. There were other times where I would get asked questions but not realise that I was being spoken to at all. One of the few upsides of being hearing impaired is the lack of expectation to contribute to conversations. Occasionally I would hear the murmurings of a conversation but have no desire to contribute to the conversation, it was nice to just sit there saying nothing and know that nobody will call you antisocial. Being hearing impaired  amounts to a fairly significant decrease in social interactions - whether you like it or not.

Outside of social scenarios there were moments where the quiet was nice; when it is night time and everyone else is in bed it's calming to only be able to hear your own breathing and nothing else, but overall I wouldn't come close to saying that being hearing impaired is desirable in any way. 

Being Blind:

Being blind was a strange and challenging experience. The most poignant memory of those 40hrs is feeling distinctly robotic. I was completely reliant on Scotty for cues about my surroundings and listening and obeying his directions became the most meaningful part of my own existence for a while. I'm sure that actual blind people don't always feel this way; surely with time one can learn how to develop real independence, but for us  the 40hrs of being blind translated to '40hrs of surrendering all control of your life to another person'.

The first hurdle to overcome was anxiousness. It is tempting to create mental maps of locations, to predict upcoming obstacles, and to move accordingly: But this is a bad idea. The best state of mind to be in is of relaxed obedience. It takes a fair bit of self-assurance and trust in the other person to reach this point, but it is well worth it.

The next hurdle is boredom. Contrary to my optimistic wishes being blind did not inspire me to engage in lengthy sessions of introspection and philosophy. Time seemed to pass incredibly slowly and I found that it was best to be constantly doing something stimulating to keep myself amused. You might think that something like walking might be a good way to fill the time, but you would be wrong. After the initial apprehension has been overcome walking becomes supremely tedious. When you have zero knowledge about your surroundings walking reduces to what, in essence, it really is: moving the muscles in your legs in an organised way.

Despite these hurdles there were definite moments of realisation that made being blind a valuable experience. One of my favourite parts about being blind was not giving a toss about what anybody thought of me. It's near-impossible to feel self-conscious or embarrassed when you can't see people's reactions to you. Instead you adopt the false, yet comforting, reasoning of: If I can't see them then they can't see me. It's a fairly liberating sort of feeling and one that I'd like to bring back with me to my regular life. Complete imperturbability - That's the aim.

Strangely, when I look at the photos of the places that I went when I was blind I feel as if they happened to someone else. Through my 40hrs being blind I instinctively started painting myself imaginary scenery around me and when I remember those few days I remember the imaginary landscapes I'd conjured up rather than the images that reflect reality. I feel like there are arguments to be made here about reality and perception. . . but I'll leave them for another time.

Some other interesting experiences that we had being blind and deaf were:

Travelling in cars:  Motion sickness kicks in very quickly when blind.

Going to the toilet blind:  The perpetual nervous wipe. . .

Social Interactions:  Being social isn't awful when blind, but gestures are certainly a problem. Blind Scotty was at a restaurant and decided to point to the meal he wanted on the menu (joking obviously). He ended up pointing directly at my friend's boobs. It was pretty amusing. He didn't end up getting boobs though. Just pizza.

Seeing Toucans. . . . everywhere: Because being blind provides absolutely nothing to look up we came up with an inside joke to make it a bit more bearable. In short we imagined toucans.

Here are some pictures  of what we got up to:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to make Baileys Irish Cream

How to make Baileys Irish Cream 

Baileys is surprisingly cheap and easy to make. It also tastes like all your favourite foods have mated and spawned a miracle - So that's a plus.

The version I made is almost identical to the recipe posted by the blogger 'Not Quite Nigella' here.  I've just modified a few small details and added some comments that I hope might be helpful.

So here's what you'll need:

1 teaspoon of instant coffee
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder (or chocolate syrup)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup of milk (either powdered or regular. . . I'll explain why you might want to use powdered milk later)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (395gm)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 and a 1/2 cups of Scotch Whisky
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or essence)
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (although I imagine you could replace half of the milk with almond milk and get the same effect)

It's grouse. . . 

You will also need these things:


1. Mix the coffee granules, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of cream together in a large bowl. The idea here is to make a sort of creamy chocolate paste. The original recipe said to use a blender. . . but I would advice using a fork instead. When I used our crappy blender it all got caught in the blades and made a mess and cleaning that thing is a real pain and just use a fork ok?

2. Add everything else. To the bowl. 

3. You know that tin of condensed milk you just added to the bowl? I suggest you run your finger around the edge of the tin/hold the tin above your head and catch the drops in your mouth/use a spoon  to get the remaining sticky nectar into your body. This stuff is diabetes in goop form, so naturally it tastes delicious.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I've read that if you add warm alcohol to cold milk you run the risk of everything curdling. I'm not sure about the credibility of this claim but is seems legit enough to be a concern. So either cool your cup and a half of scotch first so everything is cold OR use powdered milk with room temperature water (so that everything is room temperature).

4. Blend the mixture until there is froth. (Froth in the baileys the baileys that is, not your mouth;  Although it will smell so good by now that you may well be frothing also. This is normal.)

3. Pour the mixture into whatever container you have and bung it in a refrigerator. It makes about a litre of Baileys.  Serve by itself of with milk. Either in a glass or 'old greg style' in a shoe.