It’s been a little while since I answered questions from 3000 Questions about Me, so in the interest of exploring both what makes myself tick and to get just a little closer to completing this monumental creative endeavor I’m pursuing—only 2900 questions left to go—I’m happy to present the seventh installment in this series. As always, I haven’t seen these questions before and so all answers are off-the-cuff and written in the moment. Here we go!
Do you buy anything organic, and if so what? (0091)
To be fully honest, if there were a food brand which advertised how un-organic its products were, I’d flock to it. It’s my sincere and fervent belief that the entire “organic” food movement is nothing more than an organized marketing scheme to capitalize on the appeal to nature fallacy. Organic farming isn’t sustainable, is not ecologically-friendly, cannot meet the food demands of today’s worldwide population, and is in no way healthier than foods not marked “organic.” In fact, when—under intense lobbying pressure—the USDA agreed to oversee the labeling of food as such, they attempted to make clear that “[the USDA] makes no claim that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.”
Of course, all that lobbying money got its intended effect—huge swaths of the American population—as well as others oversees—are absolutely convinced that seeing the word “organic” is a sign of healthier, “cleaner” ingredients, due to an overwhelming marketing effort by those hoping to sell more products. It’s incredibly frustrating to me, particularly because most of the reasons consumers give for why they choose food labeled as organic or GMO-free over traditional products in no way relate to the reality of modern agriculture, except how marketers and large corporations want them to.
Describe yourself in terms of food. (0092)
As one of the more open-ended prompts I’ve encountered so far, this is a tough one. My mind of course goes to the last complex meal I had—some really great bibimbap—and also to my favorite childhood meal—lasagna—but do either of those entrees really identify me or help others get to know me, which I think is the point of any real description. Are we talking about what I would look like as a Giuseppe Arcimboldo portrait, or maybe in terms of presentation, content, or context? I just don’t know.
How could you reinvent yourself? (0093)
There’s a big difference between could and will. One of the biggest ideas that comes to mind is in my choice of profession. I’ve worked in the IT industry for twenty years, but there’s nothing to say I couldn’t try my hand at something completely different. In the past I’ve made reference to what I would do if I were starting college right now—exoclimatology—and my parents are quick to suggest that there’s no reason I couldn’t start going down that path today if I were so inclined.
I wonder about other ways I could reinvent myself, particularly with the confusion or opportunity—depending on how one wanted to look at it—brought on by the pandemic, but really at the end of the day I just want myself and those I care about to be happier.
What was the name of the first album you ever bought and who was it by? (0094)
Ooh, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about this for what feels like ages. While I had purchased tape albums prior—Bryan Adams and MC Hammer specifically come to mind—it was during one fateful middle school-era sleepover that I was introduced to a wider world of music. A friend brought over his portable CD player and two discs: Collective Soul’s self-titled first album and Bad Religion’s All Ages compilation. I was instantly drawn to both, particularly Bad Religion’s intelligent lyrics decrying conformity and blind obedience to authority.
Some days later I visited the record store and while unfortunately All Ages was unavailable, Collective Soul was and so I snatched it up, and it feels like I must have almost worn out my little CD player—received as a gift not long later—by playing it on repeat. Heck, even more than twenty-five years later I still have some songs off that first album in my playlist, and hearing them always brings me right back to that night, playing video games and listening to new music with a good friend.
What is your Chinese zodiac sign and is the description accurate? (0095)
Let’s take a very brief gander and see what the zodiac sign says about me. I’m loyal, honest, responsible, hard-working, and logical. I have a stubborn streak and can be overcautious. Mature with a strong sense of accountability, I leave a deep impression on others. Those all seem pretty accurate, so maybe there’s something to be said for—
Oh wait, that’s wrong; I randomly picked a zodiac sign and read off the first description I found. How amazing that a completely different sign would have traits I could identify within myself! I have zero interest in spiritual confirmation bias, and as such put absolutely zero stock in any such malarkey. In 2019 the largest astrology/horoscope mobile apps raked in nearly $40 million and I hate to my core that the world has so many “true believers” in such nonsense and that it continues to spread through popular culture.
Do you have any prejudices you’ve admitted to yourself? (0096)
I think the past several years have prompted many—myself included—to take a hard look at thsemelves and make what could be an uncomfortable decision: to either critically examine their preconceptions or dig in their heels. Having always been the sort to default to a self-critical mindset, this was not a difficult choice for me.
I’m a middle-class white male, and was raised in an area where most people looked similar to myself. Multiculturalism wasn’t something that was part of my everyday experience. I remember thinking, long ago, that it was silly that those of other ethnicities wanted to celebrate and promote their own culture; weren’t they American, and wasn’t that enough? Without the context, I neither had the vocabulary nor the frame of reference to understand why celebrating a shared heritage was both an important and valuable part of a community.
Probably the biggest prejudice I’ve identified, which at least gives me a starting point from which to work on addressing it, is that victims were and are in some way partly responsible for what happened to them. Intellectually I know that line of thinking not only continues the cycle of hurt and does nothing to address what transpired, but also actively reinforces the shame and guilt that can come with going through a tragedy.
I had a lot more typed up here, but on review it sounded like someone spouting off—again from a position of privilege—about things they have no first-hand experience with. Ultimately I work to be more compassionate, more understanding, and to use what opportunities I do have to help others. It’s not always an easy thing, and I don’t always succeed, but I like to think there’s at least some credit in the trying.
Who is the very first friend you ever remember making and how old were you? (0097)
I think the first friend I actually remember was a boy who lived near me when I was very young in elementary school, named Mike. I actually don’t know how we first met—likely through our first grade class or similar, but we largely remained friends from age ~6 through 16 or so. My oldest and longest friendship started not that long after in the Boy Scouts organization of Tiger Cubs, something of a pre-Cub Scouts, and though our lives have taken us very different directions—particularly geographically—Pete and I still try to check in with each other and keep each other up to date with events in our lives. It’s amazing to me that I’ve known him for more than thirty years and was even the officiant at his wedding.
What makes you lose sleep? (0098)
The short answer? Chronic sleep-onset insomnia.
The long answer? Anxiety. I worry that I haven’t gotten “enough” done during the day, or that I’ve wasted my waking hours on things that weren’t ultimately rewarding, and those unbidden thoughts steal hours and hours of sleep from me more nights than most. I’m very thankful for my prescription of Trazodone and that taking it daily (usually) allows me to get to sleep after a bit of tossing and turning, but I regularly lament the fact that I can’t get to sleep “on my own;” that is, unless my body has reached the point of true exhaustion and I all but collapse into the bed for a nap during my lunch break or right after work.
What are 3 phrases or sayings you say almost every day? (0099)
These days, where I may interact or even come into contact with only a very small handful of individuals on a regular basis, nothing really comes to mind when I think of sayings or quips that may be very identifiable as regular or go-to parts of my repertoire. I know there were many I used to have, particularly when I would do a lot of teaching or presentations with the theatre troupe, but I think this is admittedly a question better left up to my friends and coworkers.
Do you floss or use a toothpick when food gets stuck in your teeth? (0100)
Absolutely and without fail. I have dental picks in my car, I have them at my desk at work, and I have floss available at my desk at home. I absolutely detest the feeling of food bits between my teeth and am always very quick to try and remove any unwanted particulate.
Have you ever swerved off the road to avoid hitting something? (0101)
I don’t recall any time I swerved entirely off the road, but this prompt does lead into the story of me swerving to avoid something that wasn’t there. In my sophomore year of college a good buddy and I pulled an all-nighter, driving in the wee hours of the morning across the Bay Area so we could attend a promotional event put on by a major computer manufacturer. Well, somehow lines of communication got crossed and we actually showed up a day early for the event, though luckily there were a few other confused would-be attendees in the parking lot, so we didn’t feel quite as embarrassed as we could have.
We drove back to campus, went to class, went to work, and played some video games afterward. Realizing it was nearing dinner time, we looked at one another and agreed that we should again make the trek across the Bay for the event’s actual scheduled time. Cue another all-nighter filled with more games, this time with the satisfying reward of actually attending the promotional launch of some processor and motherboard or other.
Returning to campus, I attended my Friday classes and continued working on my midterm paper—being elbow-deep in the humanities, my midterm project was to be roughly half-done with the sixty-five page essay that would form the course’s final, comparing and contrasting the many books and papers we read throughout the term and examining how they did or did not apply to our own life. The midterm was due on Monday, so Friday night became a mix of reading, writing, and breaks to play more video games. Insomnia has been a constant companion even before it was properly diagnosed.
On Saturday both my good friend and I were called into work for an emergency—being IT folk, this kind of thing happened—and I volunteered to drive. Note that at this point I had been awake for more than 72 hours, and whatever involuntary microsleeps I fell into certainly didn’t assuage my exhaustion. On the way back from the client location, maybe some four hours later, I swore I saw a herd of deer bounding across the freeway, and as such swerved hard to avoid them. My passenger was suitably freaked out and asked what I was thinking. Looking in my rear-view mirror, there were no deer to be seen.
Shaken, I went home and promptly fell asleep from Saturday afternoon to late Sunday evening. I finished my paper in time to get it turned in on Monday, but boy howdy do I never want to relive that experience, particularly while operating a moving vehicle at freeway speeds.
Compare your driving skills to something? (0102)
I did just spend quite a bit of page-length writing about my own driving, but to be succinct I can say that my driving has mellowed out pretty substantially from where it was twenty years ago. I no longer accelerate in an attempt to take up all the room in front of me—as is the custom in the Bay Area—and I always try to leave early enough that I won’t have to hurry or get frustrated in order to arrive on time.
What food is romantic to you? (0103)
Being someone who doesn’t drink, I think the usual or expected answer of wine is pretty lost on me. I guess I have romantic associations with duck ravioli, as weird as that may sound. There’s an upscale Italian place here in town and it’s become something of a tradition for my wife and I to go there for our anniversary, though of course this year that’s likely out of the picture. On our first time there for our little private celebration we sat at the bar—the place was packed—and she had duck confit while I had duck ravioli. We both loved our respective meals so much that we had them again the following year, and maybe even the year after that.
To me, the idea of duck ravioli brings me right back to a personal dinner shared with my love, that personal and private meal we had, even surrounded as we were by others. It was a great meal, and the food certainly contributed.
Do you forgive and forget, just forgive but not forget, or neither? (0104)
I really try not to let individual events sour my entire take on someone, but largely people don’t get many chances to make an initial impact on me, and it’s very likely that my “take” on who someone is will to a large degree highlight or shade most of my interactions with that person moving forward. As I’ve gotten older I try to have more of a “live and let live” attitude, but I admit that I’ve become content with the idea that there are only so many hours in the day, so much energy I can devote to others, and if someone does something noteworthy—in the negative—it’s not worth my time or energy giving them more chances.
Of course there are no absolutes, and attitudes and feelings can and do change over time, but it seems to be a very long process with me, to genuinely make up for something that made me dismiss the person in the first place.
Have you ever had an out of body experience? If so describe it in one word. (0105)
Can’t say I have. The closest I’ve ever come would be falling off a cliff at California’s Lime Kiln state park, but repeated head trauma issued in quick succession has a tendency to do that, or so I’m told.
And there we are! Coming in at just under 2,600 words this has been quite a deep dive into my insomnia, personal tastes, and thoughts on the organic food industry. Thank you for joining me and I look forward to answering another fifteen prompts in a future installment of Questions and Answers.