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Die Besten Muffins

By Billy | May 23, 2011

I discovered a book yesterday titled, “Die Besten Muffins.”  I am having a hard time saying the title because I’m pretty sure  it should be pronounced, “dee best in moofins.”  I can’t say moofins instead of muffins.  That aside, the pictures in this book have rekindled my love of muffins.  I used to eat so many muffins a week.  I have eaten so many pounds of muffins in my life.  I don’t even want to think about it.  Actually, I do, because those gigantic Price Club muffins are damn fine.


Ok, done thinking about muffins for now.  It’s time to think about moofins.  I have been looking for things to do here in Austria, things I will feel rather good about as I look back on my year, my life, and my day.  Moofins are a funny starting point.  Let’s go.


I have been doing quite a bit of research on quite a few different topics over the past few weeks.  How to turn areas that humans have accidentally turned into deserts back into forests, how to turn wood and rotten vegetables into perfect gardening soil in half a year, how to play a C Major 7 with a supended 4th on the guitar, what the German word for precipitious is… things like that.  During my stumblings through this information, I came across a funny number.  I think it was on a talk about the chemicals in our brains that help us feel motivated or unmotivated.  Anyway, the number is 10.  10 years.

It takes 10 years for somebody to become an ‘expert’ in something.  This is, according to a supposed ‘expert’ talking on the internet, a number recognized by many people who are ‘experts’ when it comes to brains.  After 10 years with something, you might be an expert.  Expert in this case is defined as having the ability to contribute new and innovative things to the fundamentals of the craft.  You can innovate while improvising on a guitar while you’ve only played it for 5 years, but perhaps after 10 years, you will be able to really innovate the entire playing experience.  You’ll throw in turns and changes you couldn’t purposefully add before.  I don’t know how it works since I’m not an expert at music, but I suppose I can see a difference between myself, and say, John Mayer or Jimi Hendrix.  I don’t think I’d say I am an expert at anything, but I have been doing stuff for more than 10 years, so I do believe I have the ability to innovate and create.

Anyway, I think that 10 year idea might match up with Malcolm Gladwell’s idea, based on a study by Anderes Ericsson that basically says if you’re going to be an excellent-at-anything-person, you’ve got to practice for 10,000 hours.

Strangely, 10 years is easier for me to contemplate than 10,000 hours, even though 10,000 hours is not even 20% of 10 years.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a choice to participate in 10 years.  Wayne Gretzkey didn’t play ice hockey for 10,000 hours straight, he probably slept at least while the ice was getting resurfaced, since he played pretty much constantly all the time forever as a kid.  Maybe he’s a bad example.  Anyway.  You have 10 years ahead of you, hopefully, so what are you going to gain expertese in while it happens?  That’s what I figure.  (I did the math just now, which I probably shouldn’t have.  But it really comes out to about 3 hours of work a day for 10 years to amount to 10,000 hours.  So instead, I’m just not going to worry about it.)

What do you want to be an expert at 10 years from now?  Right now, I’m living with Austrian kids who are about 10 years younger than I.  Their parents are a bit more than 10 years my senior.  I see these kids spending their time playing computer games and wish I could put the weight of wasted years of computer games in their souls, to motivate them to invest time in something else.  Kids rarely think in terms of 10 years in the future, so I don’t quite expect them to make plans now for when they’re 20somethings.  But then again, playing guitar with Sophie is inspiring.  She has a really natural knack for playing the guitar, and when she’s my age she’ll be amazing at it, if she keeps it up.

The juxtaposition I live in the midst of has me wondering: if I could go back and meet my 12 +(11/12) year old self, what would I tell him to become an expert in over the next ten years.  And when I travel back in time to meet my 22 + (11/12) year old au-pair in Austria self when I’m 33, what will I tell myself to study for the next ten years.

Are there any similarities there?  Do I wish I had become an expert in something for today, or do I wish it for the next ten years.  And is my plan to become an expert in the next 10 years because I want to be an expert in that thing now or because I think I will want to be that expert in ten years.   For the same reason I didn’t start becoming an Expert at some acoustic instrument 10 years ago, I don’t have an easy answer about what to invest in now.  We never know what we want  want our lives to amount to 10 years from any part of our lives, with the exception of possibly someplace in the very last 9 of them.

I have goals right now; things I want to be really great at.  I don’t know if I want to devote 10,000 hours to them in the next ten years (3 hours a day, every day, no exceptions!), but they are things I want to invest in nonetheless.

I want to be a good story teller, for example.  I secretly wish that I could convey intense emotions about how I feel, or how I want other people to feel, in a memorable story that I don’t perform an intense exegesis on afterwards.

I want to know how nature works more intimately.  I want to train my mind to notice subtle differences in plants and animals, be able to identify animals by their bones, plants by their leaves or flowers, and know what is edible and inedible.  I also want to know how to find water and track animals.  I want to be experienced in grafting, transplanting, breeding, and sowing.

I want to be a polyglot.  I don’t doubt that this will be accomplished in the next 10 months, actually.  My real goal is to be an excellent language learner.  I have earnestly set a goal to be able to learn words and their meanings after only reading (and writing?) it and it’s definition once.  It is interesting to note that since I have defined this goal so delicately, written it down in my journal, and written out the steps it will require for me to reach this goal, I identify it as a goal I have “set” rather than just one I “have.”  The other goals listed are things I “have.”  Hm.  After I accomplish the specific goal I’ve set, I “have” the goal of using that accomplished skill to learn Spanish, French, and possibly Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.  Russian, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Hindi or Urdu are also someplace on that list.

I want to make money playing a musical instrument.  I’ve in some way contributed to the money the Petrol Free Gypsy Carnival Tour earned last year, and that involved playing some musical instruments… and one time somebody gave me a 20 while I was practicing the fiddle on the side of the road, and I played the washboard at Bonnaroo and earned a handful of bills from rich drunk people.  I don’t consider those to be on point with my goal.  I want people to pay to see me, or choose to pay me because they genuinely enjoyed my music — and most likely also because they support whatever cause I’d be playing to fundraise for.

I want to understand wood better.  I want to hold wood and tools in my hand and create something new and useful from it.  I want to sit in something I made out of wood I found on the ground; I want to proudly give presents to friends — musical instruments I have made specifically for them with my own two hands.  I want to know what woods are best to support heavy roofs (heavy because they have edible gardens on them) and what wood grows the fastest, resonates the best, looks nicest as floor, etc.

I want to learn to make excellent moofins.  I want to open up a friend’s kitchen cabinets, and make delicious baked goods from scratch without opening a cook book.  I want to walk into a grocery store (or better yet my own back yard) and select the ingredients I need to make an attractive and tasty treat — a healthy treat.  I want to have a head full of ideas about what to cook.  When someone says, “what should we make for lunch,” or “what should we bring to the potluck,” I want to have a head full of delicious ideas that I know how to make, or at least know that I can make well.

I think that array of skills is wide enough I can proceed with all of them — throw a wide net, as it were — and reasonably hope that I will catch something that I will be pleased with for a very long time.  This Muffin (moofin) book is going to be a start for me.  I am going to make things that I don’t think I’ll like, and I’m going to make them exactly as the recipe calls for.  I am going to read every damned recipe and translate all of those small details from German.  Hopefully I will remember them after writing them only once.  The German word for ingredients is Zutaten, which I remembered after writing it only once, by the way.

I am setting the goal right now.  I promise you pictures of moofins that I make by the end of this week.  (5/28/2011)

Holy crap, two months ago I was getting on an Airplane.


Topics: This is my life | Comments Off on Die Besten Muffins

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