Why Does it Taste Better?

Why? Why? Why? There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff. Today, I want the answer to why beer tastes different when it comes from a kegerator. It also is different in bottles and cans. How odd. There must be a reason that has to do with basic chemistry. I don’t suppose it relates to how it was fermented or brewed, but what happens when it is stored and for how long.

This is true of soda fountain drinks. They have a different texture and taste than those that come from the distributor. Try a simple coke and you will see. It is better and fizzier coming from the tap. I like this idea so much that I have asked for what I think is the best mini kegerator for my birthday. They think this is a strange request but don’t ask why. They are not inquisitive like me and apparently they know me well. However, I will reveal the answer to you, my readers. I want it for assorted beverages for myself and to serve friends. It is fun and a conversation starter. I mean, really, who has their own such device?

With the mini kegerator, I will have my favorite beverage in hand and in sufficient quantities. I like to share will enjoy entertaining in style. I don’t recall anyone I know who uses a kegerator (their own or a rented version). They are great for beer but I also like the idea of making my own soft drinks with seltzer water and syrup, like they used to do in the old days. Purists still do it, the same types who like their own craft beer.

By the way, I want just the right small size. I wouldn’t know what to do with a full keg, or even a half portion. I don’t think it is a good idea to keep liquid inside for months on end as it goes bad as it gets old. This is something I will have to research as I have no idea. It just makes sense. I will have a good time amusing myself and learning how to master the appliance.

No, mom, I am suddenly not into beer. Kegerators for the home have many uses. They are, in fact, a type of cooler. You can use them for cider, root beer, or mead. What? Yes, mead. That honeyed fermented medieval beverage enjoyed by knights and ladies. The mini kegerator comes with dozens of interesting recipes that most anyone can follow. It can be alcoholic or non as you wish. Thus, kids have been known to request them. You need to know how to adjust the tap. That’s it.

Why Hurt Yourself?

I am known to ask a lot of questions. I have been the “why” girl since I was a child. It can drive people nuts if I don’t let something go. It is because I want a final answer. I am a curious person with a thirst for knowledge. I want to know how things work and the basic “why” of the world. If I can look up information online, I will proceed on my own. If I am with an “expert” on any given subject, why not get the final word from the horse’s mouth. It gives me a great deal of pleasure.

Recently, I wanted to know why trampolines are so popular with kids and adults. I was in the market and spent considerable time reading descriptions and product reviews. This gave me some idea, but I had to hear first-hand experience. I interviewed people at the gym and the playground. I found out that I was on the right track. A trampoline can be super fun for all ages and a great way to burn excess energy and stay fit and trim. Small versions are appearing in every home for a supplement to a workout at the gym. They are small, portable, and easy to stow under the bed. I like the larger backyard models that rival the regulation trampolines in high school and college gyms.

It came as a surprise to me that no one spoke of potential injury and the problem of safety. I had to ask why trampolines were praised so highly and expected a discussion of special features. Sure, every trampoline of quality is well made and built to take a beating. You have to know the age of the one you are using to be sure that these features are still intact. They include extra re-enforcement of the tethers and a thick and secure mat. The connections are made of hard rubber. Injuries are unlikely if users abide by the rules. I thought that buying my own trampoline just meant the one with the most safety precautions, but I soon learned that it was more than that. To maximize safety and avoid injury, you must know the rules:

Check your height and weight against the chart limits for your Trampoline Choice.

Use a spotter if you are new at jumping and tend to veer off to the side.

Never let small children jump without supervision and instruction. They must be the appropriate age for the size of the trampoline.

In a backyard, it is wise to surround your trampoline with a fence so young children aren’t tempted.

Clean your trampoline and remove dirt and sticks that might make you slide off or injure your feet.

Wear appropriate clothing that will not catch in the tethers or on the chain link fence.

Look for wear and tear and replace any worn parts.

Make sure first-time users of your own trampoline are well-versed in techniques and safety measures.

Finder’s Keepers

I watched an interesting TV show not long ago about divers who make considerable money by selling the items they find in shipwrecks deep in the ocean. Some of the relics have only historical value. Not many yield treasure chests of gold! Ha! Don’t they wish. It reminds me of pirate loot. This may be true in the seas off Somalia but not many other places. Many things at the bottom of the sea have been there for decades. Treasure hunters are always scouring for new sources of booty, hoping for a good haul. While the narrator mentioned the issue of legality for a brief moment, the issue was never fully clarified. It was assumed that the rule of finder’s keepers applies. In other words, we wouldn’t have such hunters if it weren’t legal. They are seldom clandestine and many film their exploits for entertainment. The show implied “go for it.”

What if you find something of value on a beach or in a park? Maybe it is in an athletic stadium or on a school playground. I know there are things under the seats in a movie theater or on an airplane. It is like finding money on the sidewalk or in an elevator. There is no law that says you have to turn it in. It is a courtesy to other citizens who might have reported the loss. But where is the official lost and found. On the other hand, it is illegal to sell stolen property. Even if you don’t know it, the items will be confiscated. If you use a metal detector to find gold, for example, you have every right to sell it as far as I can tell. I am frankly surprised that it isn’t more popular. Greed reigns supreme much to my chagrin.

Metal detecting as a hobby is another issue. Kids like to use them at the beach to find bottle caps. They collect them and enjoy the competition as to who gleans the most. The winner takes all. It sounds like good, clean fun. Parents beware that it doesn’t lead to misappropriation. My constant questioning has led me to this point. I was obviously disturbed by the show. Something about its attitude was definitely off. It glorified a kind of colorful theft. I suppose most people wouldn’t agree. To each his own. The pillagers might want to consider the origin of the ship and return the goods to the family, if it can be found, or the country’s government. There are reports of sunken ships and they seems eminently traceable if you make the effort. This is particular true of shipwrecks in the modern era.

I am in a quandary on metal detection as a pastime so I would love to know where others stand. Hence today’s blog topic. It is meant to help me out personally rather than to amuse. It is story telling with a distinct purpose. Thanks for reading.

But it’s Just a Ball

What type of soccer ball is best? This is my question of the hour. I am asking because I recently saw one in motion during a soccer tournament. My cousin is a semi-professional player and invited me to come along and experience her athletic prowess one weekend. Her passion rubbed off on me and I went eagerly. When I saw the ball, I asked about the brand and cost; she said she didn’t have enough time to explain the different kinds before the game. She wanted to concentrate and get her bearings. She wasn’t much for a detailed conversation. I got it, but I wanted to know more as it is in my nature to inquire. I would make time later to ask her or research the issue online. I wondered about the differences in the equipment and why on earth a ball would vary. Isn’t it just a ball like a baseball, a football, a volleyball, or a basketball? It depends on the game but within a particular one, why does it matter what kind you use? Is this a profound question? I doubt it, but here is what I found.

You don’t just use any ball. You want one that controls the game the way you want. Each one has a different shape, touch, and movement. Its construction will yield different results that suit particular players. As the experts claim, “it matters how you command the pitch.” Playing professional soccer, being in a youth league, or just practicing in a field are different kinds of experiencing. A match is not just a time to kick around the ball – and during a match, you want to think that you’re playing with the best soccer ball in the world. Recreational fun is not as demanding. A tournament demands a more expensive durable ball while an everyday model can be of any soft synthetic material adaptable to most playing fields. Kids in grade school have to make due with cheaper equipment.

Pro balls yield a consistent touch. My friend tells me that when passing, shooting, and employing her general foot skills, she likes a lighter ball made of premium latex. Clubs, older teens, and college groups feel the same way. They demand more than mere spherical ball. It has to have an outside leather casing that is waterproof. The typical circumference is 27 to 28 inches and the ideal choice is 14 to 16 ounces when the game begins. Elite players are very particular. Balls at this level must be the highest quality so they can produce a predictable “flight pattern.” I read that official matches use threadless, seamless, beveled-edge models. As I said earlier, control is paramount and it comes from many factors such as weight, shape, water absorption, and above all rebound performance. This is it in a nutshell.

I find it amusing that I am an expert on a subject not familiar to me. Know you know, too. If you are a soccer player or fan, no doubt you can add more to my personal inquiry. I would love to hear from you.

Why are There Different Kinds of Basketballs?

If you don’t ask “why,” you probably don’t have much curiosity. Shame on you. You accept things at face value whether they are facts and figures, superstitions, beliefs or actions. Why would a person not want to know more about the world around him or her and ascertain the cause behind the effect? There I go asking the word upfront in this blog. It is second nature to me. Wouldn’t it enrich your life to get inside human reasoning and the way things or people function? I cannot stress this enough. I don’t see how people can be so rote and never question anything. These are the ones I call conventional and dull. I prefer more creative thinking and a spirit of inquiry. Try my method and ask “why” whenever you can and see what I mean. You will find conversations and social engagements to be more meaningful.

Recently, a friend was talking about coaching kids in after-school basketball. He went on and on about the lower height of the hoop and what was regulation in competition. He talked about playing in the gym and also outside for fresh air when the weather permitted. Why did the kids have a choice? What difference did it make? I also asked if he used various types of basketballs in each case. Of course, he replied. Another “why” left my lips.

Here is what he said. Whatever the team sport, there is a definite required type of equipment. Indoor and outdoor balls suit the environment, particularly the flooring as it can vary from wood to concrete. It may or may be smooth in a pick-up game. You want a ball that is versatile with great handling characteristics. An outdoor version must be durable and high-grade synthetic material. You want long play life in both cases. Practice balls for use at home can be one all-purpose type as parents don’t have indoor courts. Of course, not. Just make sure when you purchase it, that you check with the salesman or online about its ideal location.

Since I seemed interested, he said that there is more to know. He sent me an email with more information, and directed me to https://www.ballersguide.net/best-basketballs-for-indoor-and-outdoor-use/. Other than durability and materials, you want to know if it wears easily and loses air over time. These would be the cons. In the pros column are good bounce, easy and effective handling, and proper air retention. You get what you pay for. A pro ball is of course going to cost more, but it will tick off every checklist. A ball for a tournament is going to be a professional model. For practice, you can skimp a bit on the budget.

I soon knew more than I cared to know about indoor and outdoor basketballs. It simply boils down to quality and performance. I did ask “why” and I got an answer, albeit a long-winded one. Maybe I will limit the times I use the query. Ha! Who knows, someday I might buy a ball for a youth group.

Discussion vs. Argument

One of the first things my philosophy 101 professor taught us was the difference between arguing with someone and having a discussion. Many people actually only know how to argue and that can make philosophical debates difficult, if not impossible. I have found that knowing the difference has actually improved my relationships with family and friends, so I thought maybe you readers might like it as well.

An argument is something we have all had. We disagree with someone about something, anything. It can be as mundane as how to load the dishwasher and be as complex as the origin of the universe. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll go with the dishwasher one. It seems everyone has an opinion on how to do it, and their way is the absolute best way. Now imagine a husband and wife. In our scenario, the dishwasher is normally the husband’s job but the wife decided to do it one night to be nice. The next day, when the husband goes to put everything away, he is dismayed at the way she put the silverware in. He tells her she’s doing it wrong. She gets defensive—first of all, she was just being nice. Second of all, everything is clean, right? He gets irritated because that’s not his point, he organizes all the silverware in the bins so that it is easier to put away. Next, the couplebegins yelling at each other. They go from yelling about silverware and dishwashers to how he makes her feel like her opinion is always wrong and how unappreciated he feels. And it started with a dishwasher! That is an example of an argument: it is emotional, it encompasses more than the actual issue at hand, and regardless of whether our couple makes up at the end, there will likely be hurt feelings. Characteristics of arguments include name calling, accusations, and frustration on both sides.

When people have a discussion, on the other hand, they are not simply waiting for their turn to speak. Participants in a discussion do not have to agree, and one side does not have to “win” or persuade the other person to admit wrong or agree with them. The idea behind a discussion requires all parties to come into the conversation viewing the others as equals, with opinions worthy of respect. You may fully believe that they are wrong—and they may very well be—but in a discussion, your job is to let them express their opinion on why they believe what they do. This is especially true in something like philosophy, where a well-thought out argument may be valid on all sides of the discussion. While a discussion may go off on a tangent, it is usually a natural progression of the conversation and tends to expand on the original idea. At the end of a discussion, all parties tend to feel that their voices have been heard, their ideas respected, and they may even have walked away from the table having learned something or gained respect for their ‘opponent’.

Discussions can be hard, especially when the other side really just wants to argue. But they do have more benefits and fewer drawbacks than arguments. I have noticed that students in my classes who are big arguers tend to shut down thoughtful discussion—other students are too intimidated to speak, even when they feel they have a valid idea to contribute. I would imagine that it is very similar in relationships, too.

Problem Solving

I have always been inquisitive. Whatever happens, I always ask “why?” This is my way of discovering things and getting closer to the heart of reality. In essence, it is how I solve most problems. What makes people tick and do the crazy things they do, I want to know. What if this or that happens in the world? I need to know why? While this approach can be irritating, it does give me the answers I seek. I have learned much about the functions of the mind and the body in this way and about how the world operates. While everyone has a different response to this question, I weigh them against one another to arrive at the truth. I learn to uncover recurring problems and how to prevent them from rearing their ugly heads. I am happy with my method of exploration and credit any knowledge I have to it.

While asking “why” applies to people, it also pertains to places and things. People are more interesting to me, of course, but mundane objects also require scrutiny. Take the water heater for example. It has been acting up lately and my dad is busy looking into how to fix it properly. I printed this page out to help him: https://www.waterheaterwatch.com/everything-ever-wanted-know-water-heaters/. Since he is not the most talented handyman, it will take him time to uncover the source of the problem. He then applies his own method of trial and error to find the best remedy. Hopefully, he has enough experience to know what to do, but it isn’t always the case so I may need to resort to asking for help on Facebook. When he first mentioned the situation, I immediately asked why, which sets up a kind of puzzle that I must solve. This is an interesting way to go through life and deal with experience.

I know some things about water heaters so I came up with a few ready answers to the question of why? There are the obvious possibilities. The appliance isn’t working for one of many common reasons: It is old and worn out (so replace it), it has a loose nut or bolt (so get the wrench), there is a malfunction in the pilot light that is a gas issue (call the utility company), the electrical connection is bad (hire a professional), a metal part is broken (get out the welder), or some other explanation. When he says that it isn’t working, he means that it is not producing enough hot water. It may generate some, but not its usual amount. On the other hand, it could be leaking as evidenced by a pool of water on the floor. One by one I go over each scenario and apply a solution to each. My dad listens and helps me decides if I am right. This is an example of my preference for logical thinking. If this…than that. That is how I structure my thoughts. It is more efficient than my dad’s trial and error approach which takes more time and energy. He is starting to see the light.

Philosophy on Life

When people find out that I am a graduate student in philosophy, I get asked two major questions: 1) what can you do with that when you graduate? And 2) what’s your philosophy on life?

For the first one, I can do a lot. Philosophy majors are taught to think critically, communicate ideas effectively, and do extensive research. I could write and publish papers for the rest of my life, or I could become a philosophy teacher. I could work in the ethics department of a company or as a researcher. So I’m not any worse off than someone who majors in art or journalism, honestly. But that is a few years from now.

The second one is a lot harder. I am just a grad student. I don’t know the meaning of life. I’m not all that old, I don’t have a lot of personal experiences. The more I learn about different schools of thought, the more I realize most people didn’t know either. What I think is the better question is this: What gives your life meaning? And that, I can answer. It’s going to be different for everyone, obviously, but that’s what makes it work so well as a concept. I can’t tell you whether you are right or wrong, and you can’t decide for me, either.

If there is something that gets me out of bed in the morning, that I think about all day, that fuels my passion and makes me a better person on a regular basis, then I have found it: what gives my life meaning. And I think that as people grow and change, the things that give their life meaning can change as well. Maybe you get married and have children. And maybe your children feel like the sole purpose in your life. But then they get older, needing less and less from you, and you take uppainting. Then your art gives your life meaning and makes you feel like you are contributing to the world. Or maybe you work on an assembly line as a safety inspector. Saving peoples’ lives might give your life meaning. It may be the reason you stay late at work every day, or why you study safety laws late into the night. You could be an aspiring chef who has dreams at night of all the things you want to cook. Just thinking about putting on that chef’s hat may light you up. It may seem silly to you that being a chef might be the meaning of life, but I would think that the chef agrees with me. So would just about anybody else who does something, whether it is a job or a hobby or something in between, that really feeds their soul and lightens their heart.

The deeper I delve into philosophy as a field, the more confident I am that it is what brings meaning to my life. Writing about it is something that I truly love to do, whether it is a formal paper for school, something I hope to expand on and publish one day, or something as simple as this little blog.

Brain Teasers

I am addicted to puzzles. I like to challenge my brain. I spend my whole weekend sometimes doing Sudoku puzzles or word searches. Most of my friends know this about me and will get me puzzle books for my birthday or for holidays. I bring them with me so I have something to do during down time at school. I also love wooden and metal puzzles, the kind where you have to take something apart or separate it. I also like those peg jumping games they leave on the table at certain restaurants; I never mind if the kitchen is slow or the server is busy.Digital games are also awesome, although I tend to only get the free ones (such is the life of a grad student). I even have a space in my apartment set up so that I can do jigsaw puzzles. It doesn’t matter how many pieces it has or what the picture looks like;I am not picky. I am always working on something. I also like playing things like chess, scrabble, or checkers with friends. It combines two things I enjoy: spending time with people I care about and using my brain. I am not the best chess player; I’ve been told more than once that I lack a certain cut-throat instinct that sometimes draws games out or means I end up losing some of my pieces. But I like it. I like trying to anticipate my opponent’s moves and the difficult dance that the various pieces make across the board. It is always an interesting experience.

I’ve heard that these types of things can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and keep you sharp long into your old age. I don’t know about all that, but it is fun. I find that it keeps me from getting lost in my own head, from worrying about the future or something else equally unproductive. Sometimes I’ll go to sleep and wake up with the answer to something that’s been difficult to come by. It’s fun to think that a part of my brain is still working on it while I am asleep.

I think it’s why I got into philosophy, honestly—because it is one of the few subjects where you are constantly thinking and challenging ideas, working though some of the great questions of the universe. It’s a lot of fun. You can discuss these deep topics and come up with your own conclusions. There are so many bright minds in the field, going back ages and ages—literally—that you will never be without something to read or learn about. There will always be a book or a paper written about what you’re looking for, on any side of an argument you can think of. You can really immerse yours in all kinds of debates and theories. And one of the things that I love most about studying philosophy is that it teaches you to look at every side of a situation to find the best solution or the logical conclusion. If that’s not the most practical and marketable skill out there, I don’t know what is!

Thoughts on Different Kinds of Love

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said that she wished there was more love in the world. Of course I asked her why, and she told me that she believes the world would be a nicer place if people loved more. I disagreed. I think love is actually all around us. However, it isn’t all the warm and fuzzy kind that everyone is always looking for.There is the love that parents have for their children. There is the love that siblings have for each other, and that keeps friends together for years and years. The love that couples have that when we’re sitting at home alone on Valentine’s Day we wish so badly we had. And the list goes on and on. There are all kinds of love out there, and not all of it does us good.

There is the love some people have that blinds them from seeing that the relationship they are in is toxic. They are too scared or afraid to move on, to set themselves free. They stay, thinking that this love is the real thing, that this the best they will ever do, that everyone is like that. The best they can hope for is that the relationship ends. Sometimes it ends really badly. If you ask any of these people, they are going to tell you that they’re in love. They’ll tell you that love hurts, that it means loyalty and caring, and all of these other things that they give but don’t receive for themselves. I don’t think that we need any more of that kind of love in the world, do you?

There are people who love money. I can see the allure, the mistaken belief that having lots of money is sort of like having a genie. Enough money can earn you respect and admiration. You can buy things that you believe will make you happy. Maybe it will even help you meet someone who will love you. But the question will be in the back of your mind the whole time—how much money is enough? Once you get some of the things you want, will you stop to appreciate them, or will you want more? Will your love of money create good any in the world? If not, then I don’t wish for more of that in the world. There are enough greedy people out there.

Then there are people who love substances. This love is so all-consuming that everything in their life is second to their addiction. Family, friends, their jobs. They lie and steal because nothing else matters to them. They bury their real feelings with the thing that they mistakenly believe will make everything better. It never does, at least not in a way that lasts. They damage everyone around them with their selfishness. That’s not something we need any more of, either.

I think there are all kinds of love. Some of them improve people, keep them going, lift them up when they need it, get them through the tough times. Others bind people, hold them down, trap them in situations that create more damage as time goes on. It’s like two sides of a coin—there has to be a counterpoint so that people know what is real and when to hold on to something. Of course, I wish that there are more kindness and happiness in the world but I’d be wary about asking for more love.

Observations from Travel

I was lucky enough to be able to travel last summer. My goal is to make it to every continent and to study the local beliefs in every place I visit. I think that being immersed in a culture, even if it has grown and evolved since some of the great philosophers lived, will help me experience their world—or at least a part of the world that is different than my own.

I had been studying different aspects of Buddhism for a research paper (mostly on how it was both a religion and a philosophy) at school and got very interested in visiting Nanjing. After three years of begging for money in lieu of gifts at every holiday and birthday, in addition to my own scrimping and saving, I finally had enough to take a trip there. It was incredible.

The purpose of going to Nanjing was so that I could explore the QiXia Temple. I had never been somewhere so old in my entire life. I wanted to see the temple and some of the Buddhist artwork so that I could have a better understanding of what the belief system was.I wanted to gain some insight into the people and how they expressed these ideals. I was able to see some amazing carvings and I lit incense in the Temple to pay my respects. It was an amazing experience. I spent a few days there and took about a lifetime’s worth of notes.

After that, I went to The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. If you ever need an example of man’s inhumanity toward man, you don’t need to go anywhere else. 300,000 unarmed Chinese people—men, women, children, the elderly—all victims of a ruthless invasion. It is a terrible place, brutal but beautiful in its purpose: to honor those who suffered and died under such terrible conditions, and to remind us that there is a darkness within all of us that can be unleashed on a massive scale when conditions allow it. It is sort of a mixed media experience—pictures, objects, sculpture, remains, documents. There is a path of footprints marking the survivors and the skeletal remains of some who did not. I left there brokenhearted yet in awe of the human spirit.It felt disrespectful to take pictures, so I did not take many, and I may never be able to look at the ones I did take. It was hard to end my trip with something like that but it was definitely worth seeing. I would have liked to travel around China some more, but I had to get back here if I wanted to keep my job (the whole purpose of which was to save money so that I could go on more trips). I plan to go back again, sooner rather than later. Maybe I will go toQufunext. I want to study Confucius more in depth before I go. After that, who knows? Maybe a visit to Freud’s birthplace, or perhaps to see the outside ofSatre’s old apartment on St-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. Maybe I’ll see what courses are offered next year and plan a trip in honor of that!

What about you? Do you think being somewhere helps you understand a particular person’s writing or a belief system better? Where would you want to go?