Get a hobby! (No, really, get a hobby)

Plus, I've got a sweet new subscriber benefit for you.

When I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards. Little did I know that the hobby I abandoned when I was 13 was something I’d pick back up at age 35. Then again, there are a lot of things about the year 2021 that I didn’t see coming back in 1999.

First things first: I love baseball, and I especially love my hometown Chicago Cubs (I cheer the White Sox on, as well, but only when they’re not playing my beloved Cubs). At the time, the Cubs had just traded away the core of the team that helped them win the 2016 World Series. First baseman Anthony Rizzo had been sent to the Yankees, shortstop Javy Báez was dealt to the Mets, and most heartbreaking for me, third baseman Kris Bryant was shipped to San Francisco to join the Giants. In the days that followed, I began watching clips of some of the players the Cubs got in return on those trades. There was Pete Crow-Armstrong from the Mets, Kevin Alcántara from the Yankees, and Alexander Canario and Caleb Killian from the Giants.

Out of curiosity, I checked out eBay listings for Crow-Armstrong, my early favorite of the bunch. $1.99 for the prospect card. “Why not?” I thought to myself, clicking the “buy now” button. From then on, whenever I needed a little break from the world, I’d somewhat mindlessly scroll eBay, punching in the names of Cubs players past and present. If I saw something that was super cheap and interesting, I bought it. My collection quickly grew. I made a point of picking up rookie cards and autographs whenever possible, especially when it came to some of my old favorites, snapping up former Cubs Greg Maddux, Jon Lester, Ernie Banks, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant cards; adding the likes of current Cubs players like Nico Hoerner, Willson Contreras, Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Frank Schwindel to the mix.

It was relaxing, it was time-consuming. It was everything I needed it to be.

Autographed cards from Greg Maddux, Ernie Banks, Jon Lester, Kris Bryant, Nico Hoerner, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Madrigal, Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom.

One thing I found pretty cool about many of these cards was the print number stamped right in there, letting you know how many copies of that particular card were made and which number your specific card was in that lot. For instance, the signed Kris Bryant rookie card was #23 out of 25; the Willson Contreras card was #41 out of 50. There’s something neat about having something rare, even if that didn’t necessarily make it more valuable (honestly, if any of these cards were extremely valuable, I wouldn’t have purchased them in the first place because this is just a fun little hobby for me and not an investment).

I can’t imagine that the actual cost of producing a card is more than a few cents, and any ink used in autographs is beyond negligible. Of the cards with tiny pieces of player-worn fabric in them, once again, that’s probably only a few cents. There is nothing about a card’s material cost that makes it valuable. The value is in the feeling it gives you when you hold it, the memories it brings back of that player, and yes, the relative rarity compared to other cards.

So why do I collect these? Certainly not in hopes of them generating some sort of financial return. I collect them because they help me stay sane(ish) in a wild world. Similarly, it was in 2015 that I resumed another childhood habit (comic books) and 2017 when I picked up another (I bought a Nintendo Switch).

I’m still pretty constantly stressed out, but these things help and aren’t harmful to my health as some of the past stress-relievers I’ve leaned into (I smoked cigarettes for nearly a decade in my late teens/20s; I used to drink several times a week) but have since kicked to the curb (It’s been 6 years, 8 months, and 28 days since my last cigarette; I now only drink maybe a couple of times per year and always in moderation) have been. Because I’ve found that if I’m not actively doing something, I’ll just mindlessly scroll Twitter or get stuck thinking about the state of the world on my own.

A fun and semi-related update:

Ever since I interviewed digital artist Bryan Brinkman about his work in the world of NFT art, I’ve been interested in the premise but concerned about some of the barriers. For one, there’s the concern about the energy used by Ethereum and what that means for the environment. Beyond that, there are the expensive “gas fees” that come with it.

But then I found out about the more energy-efficient WAX blockchain. One of the reasons Ethereum and Bitcoin use so much energy in transactions is because they operate on a proof of work system (computers have to solve a complicated equation). WAX operates off of a delegated proof of stake system. According to WAX’s website (which obviously has an incentive to put its own spin on things, to be fair), Ethereum transactions use 125,000 times as much energy than WAX transactions.

The tl;dr: My concerns about the environment have been addressed.

That said, I’ve been trying to find little ways to show signs of appreciation for people who choose to subscribe at one of the paid levels. To do this, I’ve created my own digital collectible cards. If you are one of those paid subscribers, I would like to send you one of these NFTs. Please send an e-mail to nft@readthepresentage.com from the e-mail address you used to sign up for your subscription, and I’ll respond with links to claim one of these NFTs for free:

And, obviously, if you’re not interested in it and/or aren’t into NFTs/don’t understand NFTs, that’s totally fine! It’s an offer for those who want it.