Interview with Erik Arneson

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After seeing the brutal treatment I gave to Mr. Maujean in last week's article on chicken farming, our fellow Leisure Nouveau writers demanded of our board of directors that I be submitted to the same grueling torture.  Consequently, last Saturday, I was picked up by an unmarked white van containing two mysterious, hooded figures.  I was not quite able to make out their identities, but after minutes of harsh questioning beneath a bright light, I was left on a corner near a fine taqueria with the following transcript pinned to my rumpled suit.

LN: Can you describe a moment in your life which you feel has had a lasting impact on who you are?

EA: I think in recent history, the moment that had the largest impact on who I am (especially in relation to Leisure Nouveau and its mission) was when I took the step of leaving a large corporation I had been working for.  I think in some sense, I had finally understood what Timothy Ferriss meant when he wrote about one's time being one's true riches, and I knew that working too much and devoting my life to the acquisition, storage, and gregarious display of meaningless possessions was unnatural, uncomfortable, and not really for me.

After that, I spent about two years ridding myself of most of my belongings and planning the creation of this website, and I am certain that that moment was the root spark of a number of decisions that will continue to affect my life for many, many years.

LN: What do you really (as in while you're asleep) dream about?

EA: I have recently had dreams about tigers, bicycles, and old friends that were very poignant.  I also had a dream where some childhood friends of mine wanted me to open a bottle of champagne for them (it was a non-vintage Perrier Jouët), but by the end of the dream I had unwittingly broken several glasses and was stuck barefooted in the middle of the kitchen with an open bottle of champagne and broken glass all around me.  While embarrassing, I am grateful that my subconscious saw fit to leave the bottle in my hand.

LN: If you had a chance to speak to any particular person, living, dead, fictional, otherwise, who would it be, and what would you talk about?

EA: I can't really think of a single person right off the top of my head, but I assure you that I read the obituary in The Economist every week, and it is rare that an issue goes by and I don't think to myself, "I sure would have enjoyed speaking with that person."  Now, I am not sure if that thought is due to the incredible writing talent of their obituary staff, or if that fine newspaper just does a great job in their selection of the recently deceased.

LN: In exactly seventeen syllables, describe the experience of consuming Surströmming.

I am currently
Not really able to give
An answer, kind sir.

LN: You're now known for "dressing for the occasion", and having an interest in clothing and accessories. What made you decide to make proper clothing a priority in your life?

EA: I used to visit my brother regularly in Portland for New Year's Eve, and we would frequently dress quite nicely just for that one evening.  Because of my involvement in the Masonic Lodge, I had a selection of suits already, and wore them all with suspenders.  On my trip to Portland, I forgot to bring a belt, and being unable to hold up my jeans, was forced to wear my suit all weekend.  I was probably rather ripe at the end of the weekend, but aside from that, it was a great experience and I was amazed at the way wearing a suit made me feel, and the reactions I got from people around me.  I resolved to continue doing so.

Since then, I have learned that there is a sizable group of men who form themselves into various schools of dressing nicely.  Some are dandies, some interested in historical style, some are just lovers of clothing.  I'm not sure where I fit into the spectrum.

LN: What are the last two books you read for fun?

EA: I just finished Vineland by Thomas Pynchon, and before that I believe I read Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Currently I'm reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.

LN: Much mechanism and cultural expectation in American culture revolves around the idea of identifying ourselves with a profession. How do you reconcile the need to have an income and fulfilling tasks with the way you want your own life to be?

EA: This is a good question, and I'm not sure I have the answer to it yet.  Primarily, I think I have approached this problem by reducing my expenses to the point where I don't need as much income as I used to, and trying to figure out ways to bring in an income without sacrificing too much the lifestyle I would like to live.  This is a great question, by the way, and one that I'll have to think about some more.

LN: What is something about you that people never ask about, but you wish they knew?

EA: Well, because of the way I dress, most people around here seem to assume that I don't enjoy the outdoors.  It's almost like it's unthinkable for a person to change clothes.  But I am something of an outdoorsman, and enjoy hiking, camping, and backpacking.  Last summer I went on my first rafting trip and spent five days on the Rogue River, and two summers ago I hiked up both Steens Mountain and Mount McLaughlin.  I try to get in a lot of camping, as well.  And no, I do not wear a suit while I'm camping.

LN: Some people may not know that you are an accomplished computer programmer with a wide range of interests. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with computers, and the sort of projects you enjoy working on?

EA: I wouldn't call myself an accomplished computer programmer, but it was my primary profession for over a decade, and continues to be my main mean (but not only) of supporting myself.  My interests mostly lie in the fields of cryptography and functional programming, though I also enjoy tinkering with programming language design.  Professionally speaking, I usually do some form of web development, which I like because it's typically a bit easier on the brain and doesn't leave me feeling so mentally exhausted at the end of the day.

I find it interesting that all four of us who have written for Leisure Nouveau so far met through the IT industry, though.  There is a great number of curious individuals drawn to the computer industry whom I could only describe as characters.

[Editor's note: Many thanks to Jesse Williamson and Mike Ely, fellow Leisure Nouveau authors, for coming up with a list of questions for me.  And no, they didn't really stuff me into a van.]

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As I mentioned in my recent interview, I'm currently reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.  Vera and I are also planning a long stay in Costa Rica, a country which seems to be woefully short on quality beer.  So when I... Read More

These days, I am the man in charge of Leisure Nouveau.  I act as editor, publisher, and system administrator.  I also contribute most of the articles, and love to focus on beer, style, and travel.  My passion for writing has... Read More

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