Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day or 146 billion cups per year. In terms of per capita consumption, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, and Brazil has us beat.
The most popular reason that women provide for drinking coffee is “it’s a good way to relax”. On the other hand, men go with the vague but aggressive “it helps get the job done”. That it does.
My own experience with coffee has evolved over the years. Something about the process of drinking coffee, almost just the habit of it, focuses my mind on what I’m doing. It has become part of my comfort zone, a key element of a productive environment. When I smell coffee, my brain goes into the mode of “okay, time to get s*** done”. But “focus” doesn’t just mean focusing on work. I enjoy reading over a hot coffee, thinking about life, and how insanely absurd everything is. It puts my own little problems into perspective and helps me consider the things that really matter in my life.
Of course, the taste of coffee ain’t bad either. I look forward to waking up, making a fresh cup of coffee, and sitting down to eat steel-cut oatmeal while thinking about something I’ve read the night before.
There seems to be a general consensus in the United States that it’s not “proper” to bring up politics or religion in conversation with people, even friends.
There is a feeling that no one wants to engage in discussion on those topics. And when discussion does happen, it seems to devolve at the first sign of disagreement. Where the hell are the heated arguments? Why can’t one friend tell another friend that he is completely and utterly wrong in his belief that, for example, the building of the Keystone XL pipeline will have a positive economic stimulus on the nation? You don’t have to have your facts straight either. You can just yell back and forth and learn in the process.
To me, a “passionate” discussion has to be a way of life. Whether you’re talking about heavy literature, personal triumph or tragedy, why not challenge ourselves, without name-calling or personal attacks, but a simple debate of the issues from the biggest to the most minute.
Of course, there are different personalities out there. Some love confrontation, some hate it, but I don’t see a statement like “interesting point, but I still disagree” as confrontational. I see it as invitational; it’s saying “let’s think and learn about this crap together”. But perhaps it is true, that the subjects of politics and religion are fundamentally plagued with emotional landmines and so as conversation topics they are breeding grounds for strong disagreement. So, for now maybe I’ll stick to philosophy, science, literature, and the weather.
Main point: Everyone has a personal definition of words like “productive”, “busy”, “hard work”, but progress is driven by the evolution/expansion of these definitions.
Yes, here comes another obvious “wisdom” of the relativist variety.
I like to use sport for analogy, because sport somehow boils down the basic struggles of life into a concrete measurable game of skill and chance. So let’s talk about the treadmill (here’s me running on a treadmill). I used to think that an 8 minute mile was hard. I mean I have friends that are runners and can keep a 5-6 minute mile pace for several miles, but I never even acknowledged that as reality.
To me an 8 minute mile was something I could do, but would have to put in a lot of “hard work”. Anything faster than that was for physical freaks, who I completely ignored in my analysis. The reality however is that those people struggled with an 8 minute mile as well at some point in their life. But unlike me, they did not settle with this limit. They changed their definition of “hard” first to 7 minutes, then to 6, and finally to bellow 5.
I did the same a couple years back with a 6 minute mile. I just one day decided that I will run at a 6 minute mile pace for as long as I could. I would not quit until my body completely quit. It was torture, but I actually did it.
I think the same is true with everything we undertake in life. I too often settle for my idea of what is “hard work” and don’t try to push the limit. But that’s where growth happens: trying to do the things that seems obviously impossible. It turns out that some of them are actually possible.
Since I don’t run much, and suffer through it every time I do run, I like to use running as an indicator of my mental toughness (or lack thereof). For this reason, I hope to one day be able to run a 5 minute mile. Of course, my real goals are all surrounding research and academia, but those are a lot more difficult to put into words and numbers than the time it takes to run a mile.
Main point: Most people don’t spend enough time planning for the turns and twists of life, not because they are “lazy” or “stupid” but because they are human and thus perpetually living in denial.
The idea of smaller government has been popular lately. People have been sold on the vision that there is a bunch of greedy lazy bureaucrats in Washington that inefficiently redistribute the hard-earned tax payer dollar.
I believe this is unfortunately true, but I also believe it’s the best we got and the best that we can have. You have to honestly look in the mirror, and ask yourself: who would you rather trust with drafting a financial plan for your future: (A) yourself or (B) a government bureaucrat.
It seems that A is the obvious choice for a significant group of Americans. Freedom sounds nice. However, I have come to believe that the majority of crappy expensive troubles happen in the impossible never-will-happen future of when we’re “old”, and so the plan we might draft now by ourselves will fail us when the hard reality of the future hits.
80% of medical bills we pay are for services done after we’re 40 years old (source). That’s a simple fact that most of us intuitively understand, but do not sufficiently plan for. That 80% is an average of $300,000. Three hundred thousand on top of whatever saving you have to do for retirement. Are you ready for that?
Personally, I don’t believe the majority of people have the discipline, knowledge, or time to stay informed and to save for something like that . I believe they (and me) need government to force them to save. Before you tell me that you want the freedom to do with your money what you want, please ponder whether you’re really ready to educate yourself on all the things you should save for and then actually put that money aside month after month. If you say you can, I’m sorry if I am slow to believe you.
That said, there are fundamental flaws in social security and medicare programs as they are now. But the existence of these programs is necessary in a society whose moral code cannot turn uninsured patients away from the hospital.
“I hope I die before I get old” is not just a Pete Townshend lyric, it’s also a widespread blind spot in the minds of the young and healthy. Sadly, most of us don’t remain forever young (including the band members of The Who).
I disconnected myself from the internet all weekend, and now, Sunday night, am checking political news. Luckily, the first thing I stumbled across is a man dressed as a wizard on C-SPAN making an argument about why he should be president. This I believe is all I need to learn on the urgent matter of the republican primary coming up on Tuesday in New Hampshire.
He embodies the absurdity of the political circus. And even though he is essentially a joke candidate, I can’t help but imagine that he is not so different from the destructive dictators that have gained power all over the world throughout the past century.
I closed Google News after watching the above short clip and was content to resume reading academic papers where there are no clowns in giant hats and the game is played with a slightly more honorable intention.