Saturday, February 16, 2008

Somebody You Should Know

The Great Interview Experiment introduced me to Jacob of Jacob's Land of Bliss and Blisters. Now I'd like to introduce him to you.

Jacob is a dreamer, a cynic, and an idealist all rolled into one thoughtful blogger. It took him a while to get the blog going, but once he did, there was no stopping him. His posts run the gamut from sports to politics to history to family to random and back again. When Neil said "Everyone is somebody," he knew there were "somebodies" like this out there blogging. Let's find out what's really running around in that brain of his.

Let's start with beer. You also blog at 5 Seasons Brewing and seem to really enjoy the brewing process. What draws you to beer brewing?

I think I'm drawn to it for the simple fact that it's another creative outlet for me and I'm also drawn to novelty. It's kind of cool to be able to say that you make your own beer, but I'm not sure what made me so obsessed with beer to start with. I think it may have been an issue of timing. I didn't start drinking beer until after I graduated from college and I think I turned beer into an academic subject to take the place the learning I had become used to. Plus, I tend to be obsessive with any interest. I'm either apathetic to something or I research and learn everything possible about it. I also write for Southern Brew News, a bi-monthly magazine about beer and brewing in the Southeastern United States.

Do you always drink what you brew or do you share with others?

I share, but where I live now, the only people to share with are at least 90 miles away. My tastes tend toward the bold, and that's how I brew. Most people just don't have the ability to appreciate that kind of beer. Since the locals stores don't even sell Sam Adam's beers, I drink a lot more of my own stuff than I used to.

What's your favorite beer and where can you get it?

My favorite local beer is Sweetwater IPA. There are actually several really good brewers in the Atlanta area now, but most of them are brewpubs and you can't get their stuff anywhere but the restaurant. One of my favorite beers when I want something a little more is Schneider Aventinus, a weizenbock (basically a very strong, dark, German wheat beer) and Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, an imperial stout from a brewery in Colorado is really nice. Both of those are available in the beer geek bars and better liquor stores in Atlanta now.

What are your favorite beers made from?

With the exception of Aventinus, those are all made exclusively from barley, water, hops, and yeast. All of the flavor differences come from the roast of the malt, the type and amount of hops, and yeast variety, and that goes for most beers. Aventinus and beers like hefeweizens and white beers (or witbiers) are usually made with at least half wheat and the rest barley, and there's always common additives like honey, coffee, chocolate, fruit, and spices. I've even had a beer that was made with chocolate-covered doughnuts once. Turned out to be my wife's favorite beer.

You seem like quite the dreamer. What's your favorite day dream? Do you have the same day dreams over and over again? Do they follow a similar theme, or are your day dreams a veritable smorgasbord?

My daydreams are quite varied. On the way back from a tennis match today I listened to a snippet from a Joanna Newsom song, watched my infant son making faces at me, pondered that brewpub in Augusta that I keep thinking about opening but will never find enough guts to go and get started, and turned over a few interesting phrases that I forgot before I ever got a chance to write them down. A few of the larger ones that repeat is what I'd do if I ever won the lottery (an interesting exercise), how I'd engineer my three wishes to get what I wanted and not get screwed over by an unscrupulous genie, and what I'd do if I were able to magically enable people to reach their potential just through speaking to them. There's a lot of half-formed ideas and music for the most part.

You’re really attached to your night dreams and equate them with the creativity you don't get to express. In fact, you say that you "fear not dreaming at all." Do you think that if you had more time to express your creativity in the "real world" you would lose your dreams?

I don't think so. I think they might lose some of their importance, but my mind is too active for me to lose the vividness of my dreams just because I'm expressing more creativity in real life. I've actually become less attached to my dreams since I started blogging on a regular basis, but they're still something I look forward to. I really liked this question, by the way.

I get the impression that you had a bad church experience based on some comments you’ve made regarding church and religion. What happened that caused you to distance yourself from church?

I've never had a bad experience with the church. I grew up in a denomination where evangelism wasn't a part of the church culture. They don't focus on the outside world and what needs to be fixed with it, but focusing on the self. There's no proselytizing, typically no bashing of others or preaching politics from the pulpit, and I still have a lot of respect for the church I grew up in. However, I have a very logical mind and those daydreams we discussed earlier aren't always so flippant. I spend a lot of time mulling over politics, religion, and philosophy in my head as well. I never understood why we have to assume that science and religion are conflicting approaches. I was raised to see the last book (Revelations) as not being literal, so I saw no reason to assume that the first book was literal too. After all, the last book is set long after anyone was alive, and the first one is set before anyone was alive, so it seems to be an obvious bit of parallelism. I've been critical of the forced dichotomy of church and science since high school and I really am disgusted with much of the evangelical style of Christianity with its membership-driven message of “we're good, everyone else needs to be saved.” I've also gradually drifted from not needing the church, but still being Christian, to being pretty much agnostic in the last two years, but I'm a little embarrassed that it's come across as my having something against religion. I actually typically take the side of religion in debates on the topic despite not actually being a believer anymore. I also tend to think on issues of morals and ethics from a Christian perspective, but more from the perspective of charity and benevolence and less the legal aspects. I think a lot of people benefit from the hope it can bring even if the institution itself is morally neutral.

You started blogging in 2001, but didn't really get rolling until mid-2007. What was the catalyst that got you going?

An audience. I started this up while at my first job after college. I didn't have a whole lot to do and I spent a lot of time at my computer goofing off. I didn't even think of e-mailing the URL to my friends and it was a mostly anonymous affair. It wasn't until my friend Courtney started blogging and sent me the link to her blog that I was re-inspired. Within a month or two, she'd gotten a large number of our old mutual college and newspaper friends blogging, and that came with a built-in audience. Then, National Blog Posting Month came around, and several of us took part, and I haven't been able to stop since. I think the more I blog, the easier it gets.

After working for a newspaper, you decided to become a teacher. What prompted this career change?

I'd love to be a brewer, but the job doesn't exactly come with great pay, benefits, or job security unless you work with one of the big mega breweries, and that would kill the fun of it, I think. I chose teaching because I'd always thought about it. There's a lot of cynicism expressed in my posts, but I'm a very idealistic person at heart and thought that I'd like to have a job where at least I'd know that just by doing my job I'd be making the world a better place, although I admit, I'm pretty jaded on that aspect currently and I'm hoping to head back to school to get out of classroom and move into the counselor's office. I actually like working with the kid's one-on-one and advising them on how to handle life in a more positive way, but I hate managing a classroom of kids who don't want to be there. There's also an intensely practical aspect to it. I get two months a year in the summer, and several large breaks during the year off, which gives me ample time for other hobbies and road trips. There's also the guaranteed pension (unless everything really falls to crap in the next couple of decades) that will keep me from depending on gambling on the stock market for my retirement.

You’re married, and it sounds like you and Kim make a great team. How did you meet? When did you know you were going to spend the rest of your life with her?

We went to Berry College and most students there have a job on-campus. We both worked in the Information Technology department working on the network. We had to attend a training boot camp two weeks before classes started. It was my freshman year and her sophomore and I had no car, so she offered me a ride on Tuesday of the first week. We had our first kiss that Friday and we got married six months after I graduated in the main chapel on campus. As for when I knew, I actually sent an e-mail to my best friend Hank on the Wednesday or Thursday of that week saying that I'd met the girl I was going to marry, but I don't think I really knew until a month or so later. We knew we were right for each other really early on, but didn't see any need to rush it, so we dated for four years before getting married and have been together for almost 10 years total.

What was your first thought when you found out you were having a child?

Evan was sitting on my lap the first time I read this and just as I finished reading the question, he yelled out a wordless Argggghaaaah! That's basically how I felt. I was honestly terrified. I was never really sure I wanted kids and I wasn't looking forward to the economic and lifestyle constrictions they create. I wasn't really worried about the quality of parenting I would offer, but I was worried about carrying resentment toward the child because of what having children takes away from you.

How has being a parent changed you?

I don't really think it's changed me a whole lot. I even asked Kim to make sure, but I didn't have much of a life to start with, and we've found out that Evan doesn't really cramp our style too much anyway. He's a really laid-back, good-natured baby, and we live near family who are always willing to take care of him, so we've been able to do the things we want to do by either taking him along with us, or dumping him off on the grandparents or aunts. We actually didn't spend a night away from him for the first six months of his life and that included a road trip to Cleveland when he was a month old to see his dying great-grandfather, another when he was three months old, and primitive camping on John's Mountain in Northwest Georgia when he was around five months. Kim's a little more willing to leave him with our parents now, but she still doesn't like it too much. The way he's changed me the most is by the fact that I actually start missing him and he enters into my thoughts on a regular basis. I may be a little more responsible now, but I was always a little more nurturing than normal for a man. My sense of humor may have degraded as well, as all he needs are a few weird sounds and funny faces and he's happy. He doesn't always get my jokes about foreign policy, though.

What do you like most about living in Georgia?

The winters are the best thing. It's quite pleasant to go through most of the winter when the weather's in the 60s and the cold snaps are more refreshing than painful. I like living in a rural area for a lot of the freedoms that come with it like not having to worry about if the blinds are open when you get out of the shower and realize the only towels are in the other bathroom down the hall or whether or not your dog is annoying the neighbors when it barks. It's also nice to be able to have a little garden, room for a few chickens, and lots of wildlife in the woods around my house.

How do you feel growing up in rural Georgia has influenced your life?

I think I have a better understanding of poverty and a lot of the influences. I grew up in a town where teachers are considered pretty wealthy. I make more by myself as a teacher than the average household earns in a year in this area. I think a lot of my interest in where my food comes from and how the animals are handled before they make it to my table come from a lot of the rural farming values that lingered in my family. My grandfather took better care of his cattle than he did his kids and my dad preached that a person is responsible for the animals he keeps.

On a more humorous aspect, it's also why my first obsession was chickens, and why I still keep a flock. Although, my own need for novelty and geeky tendencies ends up with me raising chickens who lay blue eggs and have no tail bone (Araucanas).

If you could live anywhere else in the world (other than Alaska, which would obviously be your answer), where would it be?

I'd love to live near Portland, OR. Maybe by a little plot of land about 45 miles from the city limits. It seems like a wonderful city. It's got a respected foodie movement and one that really has taken to sustainability, and local foodstuffs. Plus, there's a ton of beer brewed in the area, and it's a much cheaper cost of living than Seattle. Anywhere in the Pacific Northwest would be fine, though. Outside of the US, I'd love to move to New Zealand. It's the second most beautiful place I've ever been and there are a lot of little things I like about the place like some of their political policies and the fact that nowhere else on earth is it as easy to farm organically as it is there because they've done so well keeping out foreign pests and diseases.

Wanderlust is a trait that defines you. Where have you traveled?

I've been to nearly every state on the East Coast, many multiple times, and I'll be filling in the gaps this summer with Kim and Evan. I've also been to almost every state east of the Mississippi]. West of that, it's just Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, Alaska (twice) and Hawaii. Outside of the US, I've been to the Bahamas, Montreal, New Zealand, and Australia.

Where have you never been that you'd like to visit?

I haven't made it to Europe yet, but my goal before I die is to hit every US state and every continent. Specifically, I want to go to the Maya and Olmec ruins of Mexico and Central American, the Inca and Moche ruins of Peru and Bolivia, the Amazonian rainforest, several parts of subsaharan Africa, China, Angkor Wat, Mount Everest (to see, not to climb), as much of Scotland as possible (descended from a Scottish immigrant who came over to the US in the 1600s.), Belgium (for the beer), southern Italy (for the food), Prague, and parts of Scandinavia. Actually, there's more, but that's the short list.

You've been on a lot of road trips, too. Which one was your favorite and why?

One is a trip I'm planning on recreating for my wife this summer. When I was in high school, my family and I camped up the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Maine, although my urban-phobic parents avoided New York City. We spent two weeks in a van and pop-up camper on the trip and even dipped over to Montreal for a day and night. It was just an amazing trip. When I take Kim this summer we're going to hit up New York City (I've never been, although I enjoyed Upstate New York).

You consider yourself an environmentalist and prefer natural foods/drinks. Are there any other causes you feel particularly strong about?

Honestly, I'm an armchair activist. I have a lot of strongly-held convictions that I do nothing to achieve. I try to be responsible environmentally and with my food choices, but that's about it. I admire activists who are willing to put their time, money, and pride on the line for their cause, but I can't even bring myself to do much volunteer work. I do tend to be quite liberal in social areas and more moderate economically, but I also refuse to trust corporations to act ethically or even think for their own long terms. Just take a look at the subprime mortgage catastrophe as an example…it was obvious it was going to fall apart eventually and now they want the tax payers to bail them out for being stupid while their executives take home millions of dollars in bonuses for being so rich. It makes me furious just thinking about it.

But I'll never do anything other than complain about it either.

There you have it, folks. Thoughtful and insightful answers from a new-to-you blogger. Now go visit Jacob and say hello!

1 comment:

Jacob said...

Thanks. I posted the Q&A on my blog with a link to your site as well. So far, my friends have been as impressed with the answers as I was, although I have to admit, my cranium is starting to crack from the swelling of my ego from knowing that someone actually sat there and read my entire blog closely enough to actually get me. Weird, yo.

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