Crapped Out

Every year around the Solstice, I buy myself something I would never buy for myself during the year. It’s not a present to myself, but more of a way to remind myself that life is for living. A little frivolity is a good thing. I live to work, not work to live, but there is a lot of life that falls outside the joys of labor. if you enjoy working, you can easily forget that there are many other things outside work that you enjoy equally. I a disciplined moderation in life helps to maintain the proper perspective.

Usually my annual indulgence is a gadget or technology item that I really have no use for, much less a need for. I have a closet full of old electronic toys. Some years I’ll upgrade something I do need to a version I really don’t need. Last year I upgraded my home PC for one with high end sound and video. I’m typing this on a high end laptop I bought two years ago at Solstice. The old laptop was fine, but the new one has surround sound and HD video! I’ve watched exactly one movie on it and never played a single game.

This year, I’m at a loss. I’ve searched around for new gadgets and nothing jumps out to me. The hot new item is the Amazon Alexa. A few people have suggested that to me. That strike me as a stupid and pointless bit of nonsense that would just aggravate me. The hip young people in the commercials strike me as the sort of people I will send to the labor camps once I’m ruler of these lands. Having the fine people at Amazon spy on me like a doting mother is not something I will ever accept.

I thought about getting a new tablet, but there’s nothing new in tablets that excites me. I hate reading books from them anyway. I tried various versions of e-readers and I just don’t like it. My 7-inch model I got a couple of years ago works fine and does what I need it to do, which is let me goof off on twitter from the couch. I also wonder if staring at tablets close to your face is good for your eyes. I notice that I suffer from eye strain if I use the thing for more than an hour. Maybe it is just me, but that’s my suspicion.

Looking around at the other tech on the market for Solstice, I get the same vibe. It’s mostly polished up versions of stuff that has been around for a while. The new XBox I see advertised looks like the old one, but in a different color. The one item that looks cool is the heads up display for exercise that you can attach to your glasses. But, I looking like a douche bag is not a good idea. if you are an elite athlete, you can do it, but otherwise guys running around with gadgets on their heads are viewed as idiots.

Part of what plagues me these days is getting old. Once a man hits his middle years, the frivolous things lose their attraction. TV people know this, which is why they target kids and women. Men will watch sports and some shows with the wife, but otherwise, older men are not into TV. The same is true of movies. Even when it comes to sports, men lose some of their enthusiasm as they get older. Again, it is why they market jersey and caps to the young guys. they have the passion for it.

That said, I’m not an acquisitive guy and I don’t place much value in material possessions. I’m not quite Amish, but I am a plain person. Possessions come with obligations and often those obligations vastly outweigh the utility of the item. I’d like a boat, for example, but then I think about the work it takes to keep a boat. It is not just the cost of it. You have to be constantly fiddling with the things. An acquaintance in Florida has a boat. A two hour ride means an hour prep time and two hours after cleaning it up and hoisting into the dock. No thanks.

The point being that owning stuff usually means taking on obligations. In modern times, that means most people have credit card obligations they will never pay down. The result is they have fewer choices in other areas of their life. This is especially true of the lower classes who lack impulse control. They see, they want, they buy it on credit without much thought about the long term ramifications. That XBox in the living room can be quite demanding when it is sitting on the Visa bill at 23.9% interest. Heroin is less demanding than the material culture of our age.

Even so, I’m hunting around for some toy to buy this year and I’m coming up empty. I wonder if we have maybe hit some sort of dead end on the gadget front. The low hanging fruit of technology was picked long ago. The mobile phone and e-mail changed our world. Angry birds on your smart phone has not changed much of anything. Most people have a phone, a tablet and a PC. Everyone has a flat screen TV and some sort of console for games or movies. On the electronic gizmo front, we seem to have hit a dead end.

That may not be a terrible thing. Looking for some sort of gadget to buy, it occurred to me that I may find more pleasure in something else. I have been talking about cord cutting for a year. I should get on with it. I’ll need to upgrade my internet from DSL to cable if I want to do on-line video. That means wiring the house, which would be a nice weekend job. Alternatively, the guy down the road is selling an old Jeep that is a project car. Maybe that’s a better use of my Solstice money. Perhaps a return trip to Europe this winter, to gloat about Trump to the Euros.

There very well may be an end point to the materialist culture that blossomed in America last century. I could just be an old man with narrow interests, but it does feel like we have all the crap we need. If so, then perhaps a return to other pleasures will be the next big thing. It would be ironic that the politics of overthrowing the old hippies, currently in charge, ushers in one aspect of hippy culture – anti-materialism. Maybe the alt-right will adopt the old hippy mantra, “turn on, tune in, drop out” popularized fifty years ago by Timothy Leary. Maybe Amazon has a book on that…

121 thoughts on “Crapped Out

  1. If you can’t find a gadget, maybe indulge in a different way. A brief vacation perhaps? We are treating ourselves to front-row seats at an NHL game. It doesn’t last as long, but lacks the obligations. Probably something I’ll never get again.

  2. I’m having fun futzing about with the Raspberry Pi, a small (about the size of a deck of cards) computer that runs of Linux. My intent is to build a mobile security robot with vision. Oh, and going to the gun range as much as possible now that I qualify under the old fart membership price.

  3. Consider the Alexa Echo. Only $49, and will allow you to experiment with tying your Bluetooth devices together. Look at it as a way to update on connectivity.

  4. Buy some art dude. I’m a glass artist and of course to me, nothing beats glass. Go to a local gallery and drop a couple hundred on something that catches your eye. Believe me, you’ll make some artist, that you’ll never meet, very happy. My home is filled with art and if I do say so myself, it sparkles.

  5. I’m with you. Solidly middle-aged, with a nice career. I’m trying to get rid of stuff. The equipment for my favorite activities (skis, guns, woodworking, etc) work well and are in good repair. I bought an X-box a few years ago, thinking maybe I’d play, and I do, rarely. My electronics are set up exactly the way I like.

    I’ve been reading Z for a while, but not sure where you are or what you’d like, but I and my similarly situated friends have started flying RC planes. It started with quad-copters, which are fun, but a little limited because the good ones are too easy to fly, and mostly for photography. The smaller and cheaper ones are a little frantic to fly and lack the romance of airplanes. A lot of the technology used in smart phones like GPS and accelerometers has found its way into RC planes, so they can be very easy to learn on, but there is a ton to learn as skills improve. The Champ S+ from Horizon Hobby is a nice model to start on.

  6. Many kindred spirits here! Long ago, I made up my mind that at 70 (assuming I made it to 70) I would largely retire from the world and that’s what I’m doing: paring down material “needs”, making nearly no discretionary purchases save for worthwhile items for my grandsons, no travel for its own sake (done a great deal of travel), no gadget update unless one breaks (don’t have a flat-screen, don’t have a tablet, don’t have a cell phone)… I have a marimba, a pool table, a large garden, the kayak and of course the growing grandsons next door. This is tempting, however:

  7. Get a suitable seamless tabletop photo backdrop set up.
    Sell off all the old crap on ebay.
    Then sell off the backdrop setup and camera.

  8. Buy tools. Heavy ones that the Dindus next door can’t carry off and pawn for pennies on the dollar to buy crack.

    I mean metal cutting tools, like a 10″ South Bend lathe and a Bridgeport milling machine. They weigh several hundred pounds (well over a thousand for the Bridgeport, actually), so they’re not getting carried off, and you can learn a new skill that might save your life if things don’t get any better economically.

    I’ll admit to being biased, because I’m a machinist by trade, but I can guarantee you that once you take up metal working as a hobby, you will never again be at a loss for things to spend your mad money on.

    My Christmas present this year is a Noga Big Boy magnetic indicator stand and a Manfroto quick release camera base. Some assembly required to make the two into a kickass magnetic camera mount that I can use with my DSLR out in the shop. Tripods get in the way when you’re close in on the machines.

    Look into it. There is four lifetimes worth of shit to learn in the metal working trade, and every new skill you acquire lets you build some new thing that you were unable to make before. The sense of accomplishment is great, and once you’re done with the “thing”, you can give it away as a gift, or sell it for more tool money, etc. It’s a self sustaining cycle, and loads of fun, plus it’s challenging enough that you won’t get bored (you’ll never “master” it, not if you started after the age of ~30).

    Something to think about anyway.

  9. I have an interesting side light for you. Prepping. If you take the financial situation seriously and know that it won’t take much for the supply chain to fail and everyone to turn on each other, then each person/family becomes solely dependent on any preparations they have made to take care of themselves for some unknown timeframe. And you need the ability to defend yourself and your supplies because the “unprepared” will be looking for the easy way to supply themselves … take it.

    But far from being a full-blown Survivalist, I am talking about learning stuff (which is really the fun part for me) related to using paracord, rope, first aid, having a serious first aid kit/trauma kit if you figure hospitals are not going to be a practical reality. Knives are interesting to learn about. There are many kinds. What makes a good knife? Food supplies? All weather gear? Boots? Water purification? Fire starters? Many, many areas for research that can keep us older guys busy and put our acquired knowledge to use as we supplement that knowledge.

    Each area poses it’s own interests and then when you figure out what you want to do, then sourcing it becomes the chore. Getting the best price. Storing it for access in the case of emergency. And practicing using it, knowing how to use it when the time comes.

    I was cringing when I watched the movie “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon. This gal up and decides she is going to solo hike the Pacific Coast Trail all in an effort to cure her inner demons. She goes out and buys all new gear and then heads out to start with most of the gear still in it’s original wrapping. She did no “weekend” backpack or camping trip to break-in her gear and learn how to use it. More importantly, she did not break in her boots, one of the most important tools you can have to take care of your feet which are taking you the full 1,200 miles. Important lessons, many, to be learned from that movie. She lived, but man, it was painful to watch. “The horror, the stupidity, the shame.” But hey, it was a Hollywood movie showing how a woman can do anything and survive, just like the guys can. “I am woman, hear me roar!” “Meow.”

  10. I have developed a love for fountain pens. I bought a lovely rosewood and chrome pen and the joy oh handwriting has come alive in me once more. I let my teenaged daughter try it out, The heft and solidness of the thing kept her enchanted for two hours. She spent the time writing a Christmas list. Nothing really expensive, but maybe a new fountain pen for her, too.

  11. I agree on the gun and H&K is an outstanding choice.

    For electronics I would suggest HAM radio that is a completely new universe of gadgets and tools you have to purchase.

  12. I don’t care what you buy, or hobby you choose to take up….just make sure you keep this blog going. It has helped me feel sane in the past year and I surely will need your daily observations moving forward! It helps me feel not so isolated.

  13. Change up the concept! Buy yourself a tool with which to make something. Quit being a passive consumer of whatever pap you are allowed to own. Buy a CNC mill, some software, and make something nobody else owns.

    • I agree. I’ve been a CNC machinist/ programmer for 30+ years. You can literally make anything with a vertical machining center and a turning center. Or just a manual mill and lathe. If you can trig a right triangle and know your feeds and speeds, you won’t need software for a lot of parts. G code programming is easy .That said, MasterCam is the best for Cam.
      Solidworks or Autodesk Inventor for the Cad side

  14. Yet another old codger here, with just about everything I need to see me out the rest of my time..
    I would opt for some good wine, or a really aromatic rum, or an unexplored single malt, to be sampled before I depart.
    Or even better books. I favor history or serious discussion of current events. The sort of books which, even if I do not get around to reading myself, should be of value in the next century.Or another bookshelf to hold those volumes.

  15. The shooting sports offer many opportunities for growth. With a precision reloading press, Forster CO-AX for instance, you can reload the finest precision ammunition tailored specifically for your rifle for 60% of the price of off-the-shelf cartridges. Generally though, instead of saving money by reloading, you will find yourself shooting more.

    You’ll learn about brass, gun powder, bullets and ballistics. The advantages of good physical conditioning will also come into play as you strive to repeatedly hit a dime at 100 yards with a good quality bolt action rifle and cartridges of your own design and manufacture.

  16. Purchasing a new gun always made me feel good, and if it works now it will work fine 100 years from now, so it won’t get obsolete.
    Belgium Brownings and old side-by-sides warm the cockles of my heart.

  17. No sane person should buy Alexa.
    Remember the people of Amazon are owned by the same guy who owns the people of the Washington Post,
    We know what their purpose is and what they think of us.

  18. Z, buy a welding machine, learn how to build things from hot metal. Buy a trap gun and start shooting trap at your local gun club. Learn to reload for your shotguns, rifles, and pistols. Learn to shoot long range rifle, 1000 yards, great for your concentration and control. Learn to cook, it’s fun. I do these things and find it very satisfying, all work make Z a dull boy. I do not watch TV or movies, I haven’t for 35 years, but I do troll Twitter. Life is good!

    • I have been enjoying the heck out of welding, and a lot of great stuff is getting made. Mrs. Dutch goes to the sewing place and I spend money at the metal supply warehouse.

  19. My project is Harvard Classics. There are things that I want to read but haven’t gotten to yet. I don’t think I’ll read all the books. I just buy one at a time. When I finally retire, I want to study early American history and garden.

    • you can get them all in kindle format for $2.99. Not $2.99 for each title, $2.99 for the entire set.

      • That’s the crippled version. I wanted real books for this. I’m not going for a matching set either. I got a 1909 Volume 2 that had pages still stuck together at the top. I don’t normally write in books but think I’ll do that in these.

      • I’ve seen incomplete ones for $80. I’ve picked up four so far (I’m getting the literature ones as well). I have a copy of Great Expectations in my office. I was leafing through it the other day and realized I’ve been reading too many easy books

  20. I noticed this recently. We have kids, so we’re always buying stuff as they grow. Then the increased wear and tear children cause to everything else in the house (my bedding and maternity clothing is literally falling pieces due to constant washing and we’re forever breaking dishes), there’s just not much we want or need. Even our daughter is getting secondhand stuff from us for Christmas. There’s more than enough used stuff in the world to keep us going, particularly for young children. My poor mother is mad I can’t give her any Christmas present ideas.

  21. You could buy a good medium-format film camera (a Hassy is the best) with some darkroom equipment (that’s were the real magic happens) and delve into the wonderful world of photography

    Make some great prints and frame them for your home. Would also serve you well in your travels to the EuroWeenie cultures.

    • @ Fuel Filter – “EuroWeenie cultures”…?…Do you know the difference between America and yogurt? Yogurt has culture. So I presume you are referring to the Brits who have unarmed police, soldiers who march into battle wearing skirts, and food called “spotted dick”. Thanks goodness they are an island away from the rest of Europe or their culture might just have made it over here. * poke at UKer! 😉

      German culture is much more refined; beer, bratwurst, lederhosen and very fast cars – with roads without speed limits to drive them on.

      • “German culture is much more refined”

        And muzloids everywhere raping and molesting your women and children and your police covering it up at every turn.

        Yup. *So* much more refined.

        You hypocrite.

        • @ Fuel Filter – While thezman is out looking for a gadget, perhaps you should consider looking for a sense of humor. Lighten up my friend! Brexit happened, Trump won, things are looking up for a change.

          As to your recommendation for the “Hassy” are you referring to the Swedish Hasselblad camera?

  22. I have a 50 foot Aqua Home, if you need a project. Now that DNR has decided that we can’t have a dock, I have no place to put it. (You should have seen the boats the guy with the lease next to us had to get rid of. I think one was 80 ft.)

    I bought 2 small Kindle Fire tablets when they were on sale for $33.33. I have a Paperwhite, but I found I don’t really like to read books on it. I thought it would be less distracion, but the lack of color is a problem. And we tend to sit in the living room and look up stuff on our phones, so it seemed like a good replacement for that. I like gadgets but I have my old Palm Pilots to remind me of how quickly they become obsolete. I usually buy myself something for Christmas. During the Black Friday sales at Amazon, they gave you $10 off on a book. I bought “In the Footsteps of Sheep”. This woman decided to walk around Scotland and pick up bits of fleece from different sheep breeds. She spun them up and knitted socks. The photos are gorgeous. I can’t afford the trip to Scotland, but was able to find fleece from some of the same sheep breeds. And I’ll spin it and knit it up in some of her patterns. I also need to finish the cabled sweater that I started for my husband back in June. Just in time for Christmas!

    (And not a gadget, but I have hummingbirds outside my office window. I thought they went somewhere for the winter, but it turns out that they can handle cold pretty well. I put a feeder out for them. For some reason, they make me very happy.)

  23. I do something similar every year. This year I went overboard. My collector vehicles, 1937 Chevy pickup truck, 1955 Chevy pickup truck and 1991 Jeep Wrangler Renegade are all broke. They are daily drivers when running but since none of them are currently running. I am driving a monthly rental Fiat 500 junebug. Not a bad little car but it’s an automatic and I miss shifting gears, so a week ago, I went to my local dealer and ordered a hot rod caddy. A Cadillac ATS V Series Coupe with manual transmission and more electronics than the entire space shuttle fleet. Haven’t bought or leased a new vehicle since 1991 and this is the first I’ve ever ordered the way I want it. I’m getting long in the tooth myself and this may be my last new car.

  24. I scratched my head thinking about what gadgets I might want to splurge on for myself. I decided I have just about everything I need, but wouldn’t mind the following:

    – Large(er) computer screen (I have a 27″ screen, but it’s an offbrand; Maybe splurge on a namebrand with a slicker look);
    – New sound system, but I don’t have a lot of patience doing the research;
    – New bicycle – I hate being hunched over on my road bike;
    – Great quality camera – I doubt I would use it though.

    But at the end of the day, I have everything I want or need. Maybe the new bike next spring.

  25. My vote for best line of the week: “Heroin is less demanding than the material culture of our age”.

    Like Z, I usually indulge myself this time of year. I’m eyeballing a new scanner, but I pretty much gave up the monthly payment lifestyle about 5 years ago.

    Go for the Jeep.. Gloating to eurotrash will only be fun as long as you are there, Once you get home the shine and the smirk will have worn off. (I’ve always wanted to get back to Prague but I think any victory dance there would be lost on the Czechs).

    • @ Ace Frehley – Eurotrash indeed! There is still plenty of unspoiled Europe to enjoy if you’re smart and avoid the tourist traps! Some still in the west, much in the east. Hungary for example is wonderful and Budapest is still very much old-world in many regards as are parts of eastern Austria. If you haven’t driven from Trieste, Italy to Split,Croatia then you should. Much of southern Italy, from Pompeii south into the heel of Italy will keep you well away from the tourists – look up Matera. I always recommend to my friends who come to visit, to fly into Zurich, and drive down to Largo Maggiore over the alpine passes of either St. Gotthard or San Bernardino. The northern Italian lakes are excellent in summer and the Swiss countryside is breathtaking.

      Portugal still offers the best value for money as does much of Spain. To be fair, Ireland is also reasonable, but the weather is always tricky. The weather in Spain is predictable and excellent if you avoid August (go for late spring or early fall). The food is cheap and the people are still very friendly to foreigners – even Americans. And they’re not as snotty as the French – and trust me on this, unless you pay a lot of money, French food is not all they make it out to be. I’ve had better crepes at a roadside stand in Czech.

      Denmark, Sweden and Finland are expensive and they tend to look the same after a while. Though I am planning a drive up to Nordkapp, Norway just to say I did.

      • @ Karl Horst, To be fair, my Eurotrash comment was only aimed at those who would be offended by some type of Electoral victory dance. I spent a couple of weeks getting my money’s worth from a eurail pass a few years after the wall came down. Zurich, Berlin, Salzburg, Vienna (Budapest via bus from Vienna) etc. I loved every minute of it. One of these days I’ll spend some serious time over there. Exchanges rates will be uber favorable once the Union implodes.

        • @ Ace Frehley – I don’t dance often, but this year have gone down into my cellar and done so twice; once for Brexit, and once for Trump. I gave a nod to the Italians – they change political parties as often as most people change their socks. Next year I hope to dance for France, the Netherlands, Norway and of course my homeland. If the elections go as I hope, I might consider remodeling the cellar with a bar, a decent sound system and a disco ball.

  26. Mr Z, you still have the capacity to make me laugh out loud at unexpected times:

    “The hip young people in the commercials strike me as the sort of people I will send to the labor camps once I’m ruler of these lands.”

    Good ‘un, as we say in the north of England 🙂

  27. The best thing gift you can give yourself as a man in middle-age is to commit yourself to getting (or staying) physically fit. Kids are grown and/or gone. Marriage is solid or over. You’ve probably peaked in your career so work is more about sustaining rather than building. Finances are either set or such a wreck that you can never catch up anyway.

    Cut your cable. Join a gym and make it part of your daily routine. If you have not spent much time in a gym in your life you should hire a personal trainer for a while to avoid the kind of mistakes which lead to injury. Develop a routine and stick with it.

    I’m in my 50s and am stronger and in better shape than most of the guys there in their 20s and 30s.

      • I live in Colorado and am an avid mountain biker, but there’s no substitute for spending time in the gym. You lose muscle mass and the attendant strength as you age. Biking is great for leg strength and cardio, but it really doesn’t help with core or upper body strength. A lot of my biking buddies are in fantastic cardio shape but their upper bodies are a mess and their back is weak. Not a good place to be as you get older.

        • I don’t mind working out once I’m doing it but I dislike the gym atmosphere, which is oriented toward younger folk (I’m closer to 60 than 50). The crappy loud music, the bright lights, and the various narcissistic trips and weirdnesses of the people around me. Maybe I have to wait until I move to a retirement community before I find a gym that’s simpatico.

          I bike regular and I’m probably in a similar place as Guest above’s buddies.

          • @ Ripple – I fully agree with your comment on the gym. My wife and I walk a great deal for recreation and exercise. She has an orbital trainer and is very disciplined in using it. But I found it a bit hard on my knees, so I picked up a rowing machine with a water tank. I am very happy with it. If you are clever, wait until early summer when many “new years resolution” exercise equipment starts showing up on Craigslist.

          • You can do a lot of strength training at home. If I didn’t have a platform, a rack, and 500 lbs worth of plates in my garage, I still wouldn’t go to the gym since it’s not fun. Ross Enamait and Max Shank have written and filmed many home and bodyweight strength and mobility exercises.

            To Guest’s point though, I mountain bike also and the guys who only mountain bike are pretty frail and much more susceptible to injury when they crash. Weekend-warrior mountain bikers are even worse. Strength is the most general of fitness adaptations.

  28. “The hip young people in the commercials strike me as the sort of people I will send to the labor camps once I’m ruler of these lands”

    I would like to volunteer to help herd them into railway cars, but while you wait for the great day, have you considered buying a Subaru? They are about love, you know.

  29. There is a lot out there for us older guys. Try propagating trees and plants. Take clippings or seed pods, soak them in water, then plant them and water them in pots. Sounds dull, but it puts you in touch with the rhythms of the world. Currently propagating roses, oleander, Albizzia trees, succulents, aloes. Also growing cherry and apple trees. There is a psychic payoff in the long run. In the meantime, the Internet is you friend on exactly what to do along the way. Give them to friends and neighbors when you get too many.

    Speaking of the Internet, YouTube and other video services have a lot of old movies out there, they are free and you can turn them off after 15 minutes if they don’t suit you. Try used reading copies of books. My current favorite is John D. MacDonald, including the Travis McGee series (rough inspiration for Jim Rockford and the Magnum tv shows, and also Dave Barry and Carl Hiassen). 50 cents a copy in paperback. Cooking and bread baking, as mentioned above. All of it works, and except for watering and looking after the plants once in a while, you can engage when you want to or put it all away for a while. One of the things about old movies and once-popular books, they help one understand where the popular culture has been and how it evolved over time. The ’70s stuff, especially, has a lot of weirdness to it.

    If you go the boat route, tiny old sailboats (Lidos, Sabots, Sunfish and the like) are the way to go, and always on little trailers so you can just park them when you don’t want to use them. They are always cheap if you look around. Sailing is like driving a manual shift car, daunting for a bit, then you get on with it and it is second nature. Psychic rewards in doing it competently, too.

  30. This year, for a major change, I’ve asked my kids for a couple of the scholarly hardbound works listed on Greg Cochran’s website, including The Columbian Exchange….

  31. Z Man;
    You should perhaps consider your social context, i.e. whether you wish to make a quasi-political statement, to whom, and whether to horrify or one-up. For example:
    – To one-up Lefties, fly fishing in Mongolia or wine tasting in Argentina. You don’t actually have to go there, just find out ahead of time where your acquaintances have gone and select another locale.*
    – To horrify Lefties nothing beats shooting sports. Range time stories are the best_! Or even better, big game hunting stories. And you don’t even have to actually go and feed the mosquitos or tsetse flies. Just buy a mount on E Bay (moose, lion, antelope, elk, etc.) and make up a great story. Just be sure to give any Righties the wink and nudge before you start.
    – To simultaneously one-up and horrify the rare urban metrosexual Righty, a high end electric bicycle is hard to beat.

    The quest can be the better part of the satisfaction_!

    *Since they are simple snowflakes, Lefties have no ability to detect actual BS, particularly that involving non-urban geography.

  32. I have a rule about hobbies. If the equipment for a hobby can’t fit into a closet, then that hobby is not for me. However, I do enjoy boating, and my advice is to either rent, whatever is available, or find a very good friend who is into boating, and willing to bear it’s associated costs and responsibilities.

    • Get a Klepper folding kayak with a sail kit. Mine is 29 years old, but if I didn’t have one, I’d get one: sailing that l’il sucker at seven knots with your body beneath the water line is an experience you won’t soon forget.

  33. “………Amazon Alexa………..”

    I was actually given an Alexa as a corporate gift.
    I gave it away.
    What a stupid, useless gadget.
    But hey, like Steve Jobs said; “people don’t know what they want/need until someone shows it to them.”

    Of course, he was right. I saw the Alexa, tried it out, and then I knew I did not want nor need it.

    So ZMAN, get yourself some books you have always wanted to read and maybe splurge on a 1.75L bottle of good Bourbon.

    I intend to get at least some books by George Orwell:
    1984 (should really be re-titled, “2016”)
    The Road to Wigan Pier
    Homage to Catalonia

  34. Ever considered fishkeeping? You can expend lots of cash on various gadgets, accessories, fish, corals, etc. for a saltwater tank.

    • If you get a wood boat, bigger than a dingy, get one built in teak. Anything else will keep you entirely too busy or require stock in your local boatyard.

  35. If you have the money, time and access to an airfield with a flight school, get your pilots license. There is nothing else like the joy of your first solo flight and flying will open up a whole new world to you. I received my VFR-rating years back when I was in California. It’s an experience you will always look back on even if you get out of flying.

    If you can find a flight school with an Cessna 152, it’s perfect for learning and later renting on a Saturday or Sunday for the “$100-burger” flight. And if you enjoy new gadgets, aviation has no shortage of those things.

      • @ Old Surfer – If you fly less than 200-hrs a year, owning isn’t worth it. Then you have the additional costs associated with hangar rental, extra insurance, etc. There is an old adage – “If it floats flies or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent.” Personally, I wouldn’t know about the third, but I’ve been told it is so.

        • Same thing with big (30’+) boats. I discovered that I enjoyed building more than owning and I got laid a lot more with the little boats. On the other hand, I really enjoyed flying hanggliders and they were not that expensive. I’ve been thinking about a wood MiniMax as a project.

          • An airplane is at least 2000 hours to build. I know guys at work who have been working on them for years, even decades.

    • With my A.D.D the whole license thing wouldn’t fly… so I went all in…. in one fell swoop…. fantasy bucket list …. Flew a 2 seat P51 Mustang for 1 hour with instructor… fully aerobatically ….He does the 1st one you observe and do the next one…..rinse repeat, for an hour…. hopefully without barf bag….
      No comparison….. 1700 HP swinging about a 12′ prop…. who needs little blue pills?
      WOOHOO !!
      We don’t need no stinking gadgets!!

        • Ya…. I did actually take lessons as a young man and yes O.C.D can be the the other side of the short attention span coin…. with regard to flight I did choose to be anal about landings…. probably the bulk of my seat time after just plain joyriding…..

          BTW an old surfer as well…. east coast Usa ….

  36. You’re done with things — it’s time to buy experiences. For his birthday, I bought my husband voice lessons — he has a secret fantasy of singing opera at the Met! — a pool pass, and two high-end cooking classes during which he makes his favorite meals.

    He hasn’t touched the swim pass, sadly, but loved the cooking and voice lessons. His world is a bit bigger, now, and yours would be too if you bought yourself experiences.

    Try a one-off experience. I looked into giving him a weekend in Santa Fe during which he’d learn to make simple objects by forging iron. One weekend … one nice hook. A wee memory on the wall.

    Just a thought.

  37. I’ve gotten to point that the only stuff I want to buy is anything that will make me more self-sufficient. So this year my toy was the knife-sharpening system (professional model) from Edge Pro. I just received it and yeah, it’s awesome.

  38. ” The hip young people in the commercials strike me as the sort of people I will send to the labor camps once I’m ruler of these lands.”

    Throwing them into a camp is counter to what they need. In a camp they are fed and housed for free. One merely need cut the tethers of other peoples money and property and suddenly, quiet on it’s own, the Natural Law of God kicks in. Yes they will curl up in the fetal position for 2 days but then hunger, shelter, warmth, safety all kick in. Humans are remarkable, we must be taught to be slaves but freedom is inherent, of God and automatic once the human is made to be free.

    Cut the cord 2 years ago.
    Owe no man money or otherwise for 7 years now.
    Don’t own junk that is not of utility.

    Life is simple, good.

  39. I am too adopting the use of Solstice in place of Christmas (the church leaders can only blame themselves for that). This is a historically natural regression for northerners anyway.

    On the gadget front: consider a Kodi box, or equivalent. Not to watch CNN of course, but to see what other kinds of propaganda is dished out to people around the world. The box is cheap enough to buy, and it pays itself off quickly in saved cable costs.

    As for material wants – I’ve mentally evolved to happily not watch much. This also helps with raising a child who doesn’t have a lust for consumer goods. That saves the mental energy for more worthy pursuits.

  40. If you want to catch up on old movies and TV shows/series and want to avoid paying Netfliks or Amazon, take a look at Kodi. One of the younger engineers at work recommended it to me. I followed the YouTube video (see link) and had my PC set up and streaming in about 20-minutes.

    KODI – Complete Setup Guide 2016

  41. Sixty-nine years old and retiring next year, haven’t used television for >30 years, and we finally gave up on our local AAA ball club. The wife (of 44 years) and I are pursuing different shooting interests; she is pursuing Canon, and I’m pursuing Kimber.

    A great thing about the firearms hobby is that it’s easy to create one’s own ammo by following tried and true “recipes” available from any number of reliable sources. (hint; stay away from internet Rambos.)

    It’s not cheap, but there are MANY benefits besides exercise and fresh air. And you meet the friendliest folks on the range.

    • In addition to shooting and reloading, I would also suggest casting your own bullets. Once you begin casting a whole new work opens up in front of you. As far as giving your self a gift, I find there is no better gift than a new (or perhaps old) bullet mold.

  42. My interest in television has declined slightly over the past decade, but that’s mostly because television has improved drastically. Shows like Fargo set a very high bar and make lesser shows seem, well, lesser. My interest in movies is at an all time high. There’s great stuff out every month. The Witch is the best horror movie I’ve seen in a decade. Hell or High Water is a great southern tragedy that’s on par with some of the best novels I’ve ever read, and I typically prefer books to movies. And there’s all sorts of great indie stuff like Blue Ruin that couldn’t have been made on a million dollar budget until recently. I’m 37. I could do with less television, but I’ll miss my interest in movies if it wanes with age.

  43. Ditto here. If you don’t have a pair, consider the Bose noise canceling headphones. I really love mine, not just for travel, but even around the house. I don’t have the new bluetooth model…my wired Gen-1 version is still the best one they ever made. It actually makes your ears pop from the sound wave pressure. I got my wife the Dr. Dre Beats headphones (she calls them “Dr. Bees”, which I find naively charming), and I have to say they live up to the hype if you like good sound. I just find the Bose lighter and more comfortable.

    This year, a friend of mine hooked me up with fly fishing. I love my snowboard, and getting on the mountain is one of my life’s joys (we got over a foot of new powder overnight!), but I’m going to reach a point where strapping into a snowboard in -2F wind chill at 12,000 feet is probably going to lose its appeal. Or, as Ed – our 90 year old HOA president – demonstrates, perhaps only 2 hours on the mountain a day…so I’m going to need something else to fill up my time.

    So…fly fishing…which I discovered I really enjoy. It’s the kind of thing you can do alone, and if you go with other people, you actually don’t have to talk to them except occasionally, lol. The gear is pricey enough to make it seem frivolous, yet satisfying. And, once you’ve got the basics you can tinker and branch out from there. It’s shockingly low maintenance as long as you stow your gear. So, when my kids asked me what they could get me for Christmas, I told them they could take me to Peak Fly Shop.

    Happy Solstice to you, Zman. Or, as we say in my house, Merry Christmas!

  44. I find your piece spot on. Having just hit the mid-40+ range myself, I’m pretty much over the non-stop electronic upgrade cycle. It’s an odd thing..the more $$$ that I earn, the less I’m inclined to spend it on frivolous toys. I’ve been blessed with no less than 3 unexpected “windfall” payouts this year, and couldn’t come up with anything to do with it other than sock it away for a rainy day.

    New firearms — What’s the point? Have to clean it constantly and (where I live) haul it off to the range to shoot. My vision isn’t getting any better either.
    New electronics —- They’re all obsolete in two years.
    Boat — Thank god for friends who beat us to the “boat cycle”. That’s just time and money wasted.
    Trips — When you travel for a living, who wants to leave home when one is never there anyway?
    “Heirloom” items – Watches. Leather briefcases. Jewelry. NOBODY wants to wear their parents/grandparents old stuff.
    (The Last Psychiatrist had a great article on this subset of consumerism here

    When you have enough $$$ to buy any mass marketed/consumed crap that you could ever want without too much of a struggle, suddenly it just doesn’t seem appealing.

    First world problems, I guess.

    • To your point of a boat – have you considered building a cedar strip canoe? They’re are quite a thing of beauty and require a number of skills. A colleague of mine who lives at Lake Tahoe spent a summer building one and it is a thing of beauty. People were offering him twice what it cost him to build it since everything these days is aluminum or plastic.

      For us old guys, it can always be donated to a youth camp if the grand kids don’t want it.

      Just for reference –

      • Periodically I build something out of wood, lately bows and surfboards. I enjoy the feel and it’s a good meditation. Building composite boats is fun too, but a whole different skillset.

      • I’m building a stitch-and-glue sailboat right now. It’s small enough that I can put it in local lakes and row it to take the kids fishing and they can learn to sail it when they get a bit older. While I’m building it, I’ve noticed that more stuff is just more time and effort managing it. I’m only in my mid-30s but have never gotten into the cycle of buying minimum-viable upgrade next-gen electronics because usually as much stuff is broken in the next generation as was missing in the previous generation.

    • Long as we’re talking about boats look at these. Geodesic Airolite Boats. Basically a skin frame boat. I like these but you can make these things out of saplings and used billboard signs.

      The new big bore air rifles are nice. The problem with them is pumping one up takes forever and scuba tanks and electric pumps raise the price significantly. You can get .50 cals that people shoot buffalo with. Here’ the Benjamin Bulldog .357 Bullpup on this page.

      One last one. Get a subscription to Low Tech Magazine.

  45. Try a new direction.
    Get yourself a nice, quality Flintlock pistol kit. Like a Pedersoli – in .54 cal or bigger. Opt for the best wood they have, like maple or walnut.

    Take your time finishing/assembling it. Really, it’s mostly about the finishing. Brown the barrel, shape & stain the wood. All very fun.
    THen, study the technology of it. The history & development of the flintlock. It really is the first “modern” type of firearm, containing the priming, charge and ball as one (somewhat) weatherproof unit.

    They are tricky & unfamiliar to us modern types. It is a skill to be able to run one reliably. A very attainable skill.

    No percussion caps. No cartridges. No licenses(but do check local laws)
    Just: “powder & ball, doth conquer all”

    Bonus: With some ventillation, like a bathroom fan, you can shoot it once or twice in the basement with blanks (aluminum foil “balls”) to practice loading & priming. Smokey, but will clear.

    Double bonus: I can be used as a home defense arm, too. A 54 can drop anyone at close range. Not a recommended defense arm, but way better than NO arm.

    • I discovered that WA state has some weird laws about black powder guns. Not sure I could handle a 54 caliber gun but it sounds like fun

  46. As a guy entering middle-age this hit dead on. My wife and other assorted family members are asking “What do you want for Christmas..?” and I draw a complete blank. Maybe a few books, maybe a new USMC flag for the front yard, but I’ve got everything I need already, aside from the complete sense of alienation from our hipster society.

    The guns and ammo I buy myself.

    • Another dude in his mid 50’s here. Married for 30 years.

      So get this. I just saw that my wife ordered me a “23 and Me” genetic test kit for Christmas. I wasn’t peeking. I swear!

      But is learning your true genetic background and what disease is likely to take your ass out what every guy our age needs for Christmas? I’m pretty happy thinking I’m Irish/Austrian and not knowing when I’m checking out, frankly.

      And what if we find out that I’m an octoroon? Or, maybe even…a Polack? what then?

      This feels like messing with Mother Nature. Why could she not just get me another handle of Maker’s Mark?

  47. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

    I’m also approaching old man status, and you’re right: stuff I used to covet has lost a lot of it’s meaning. With this blog I think the zman is planting trees. The question for the rest of us is what trees should we be planting?

  48. Once you leave the ‘demo’ age range you’re dead to capitalism.

    I’m not sure Corporate America sees this as a problem at all. And I’m inclined to agree – we kind of hit the ‘sweet spot’ of history (or ‘a’ sweet spot), so there’s no ‘moral’ case, and the 20 somethings are far more valuable to the corporations than the 60 somethings.

    • Once you leave the ‘demo’ age range you’re dead to capitalism.
      Bingo. Over 40 and you might as well be dead as far as ”Corporate America” is concerned. It was the main reason Johnny Carson (and 20 years later Jay Leno) were eased out of the Tonight Show – ”the audience skewed old” and advertisers hate that. Pro sports of all kinds are scared to death of the same thing, I’ve seen several articles complaining that [Pro sport] ”is not attracting younger fans”. IMHO the costs in time, money and scheduling discourages younger people from being attracted to them – and as noted, older fans interest is declining because, simply, they’re getting older (and many other things are discouraging their interest as well – as the NFL is amply proving).

  49. Another old retired guy chiming in. I took up the hobby of baking my own bread, specifically sourdough leavened bread. Dealing with sourdough is somewhat akin to adopting a new pet; regular feedings and paying lots of attention to proper training. Payoff is significant though, eating the best bread I’ve ever had. And a big plus to giving a FU to the food cartels polluting our food supplies. BTW, I also mill my own grain; some of the grain mills are pretty cool. Might be a useful gadget to consider.

  50. I’m in a similar boat.

    I’ll be working at home more next year (the CEO is moving the headquarters closer to NYC so he has a shorter commute and the rest of us are screwed). I’ve been shopping for comfortable high-quality headphones so the silence doesn’t drive me insane.

    I’m actually close to having enough reward points at work to get these for free:

    Which of course will lead to shopping for high-quality classical music.

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