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Actor / Entertainer - LiveI am Michael Stevens from Vsauce, AMA!

Jan 26th 2017 by Michael_Stevens • 10 Questions • 3041 Points

I am founder and CEO of RealVNC, a UK software engineering company which was set up by the inventors of remote access software. RealVNC's technology gives computer, smartphone and other device users the power to 'take over' another device remotely from anywhere in the world. This means workers and businesses can share screens and solve each other's problems without having to leave their own desk.

In 2013, RealVNC won the UK's premier engineering prize, the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award, known for recognising influential technology. VNC technology is now used on over a billion devices worldwide, and the protocol used by VNC is an official part of the Internet.

Proof 1: https://twitter.com/RealVNC/status/823578312392003586 Proof 2: https://www.realvnc.com/company-profile/andy-harter/ Proof 3: http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/news-releases/2013/July/software-company-realvnc-wins-uks-premier-prize Proof 4: http://www.raeng.org.uk/grants-and-prizes/prizes-and-medals/other-awards/the-macrobert-award Proof 5: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6143

Q:

What's the most exciting thing you've done with Adam Savage?

A:

What kind of reactions did you get from friends and family? Any notable stories?

How many people work your farm? Do you have a photogenic burro?

Have you considered some sort of rental accommodation on site? Have you had an influx of friends and family wanting to visit?


Q:

Hi Andy - Did you ever pay for WinRAR in your lifetime?

A:

The brachistochrone was a dream come true. There was NO way I could have built something like that in any reasonable amount of time with any reasonable amount of quality. It took Adam about 2 seconds to know what to do and where to find everything we needed in his shop.

Besides that, we just spent the last couple days diving really deep into our upcoming live show, Brain Candy. Seeing the pieces all falling together and the mechanisms being built is really thrilling.

Besides even THAT, it's his stories about things he's built, people he's met, ideas he's had. The guy's about a million times smarter than me so hanging out is like free experience/knowledge/idea-osmosis. If that makes sense.


Q:

What kind of reactions did you get

A lot of surprise and some envy. Most people were really supportive and congratulated us for making the change. Our immediate families were probably the most worried because they didn't want us to lose all of our savings doing something stupid.

How many people work your farm?

My husband and I are the only full time employees but we do have a couple of work traders who work about 10 hours a week in exchange for living in our employee housing (individual rooms but with a shared bathroom and kitchen).

Do you have a photogenic burro?

I wish! I am dying to get a donkey because they are so cute. But my husband says it would be a waste of money. We do have some really cute goats though.

Have you considered some sort of rental accommodation on site? Have you had an influx of friends and family wanting to visit?

No Air BnB set up or anything like that but we do have an area where pickers can rent during the picking season. And yes tons of friends and family have come to visit. We love having visitors because our island is pretty rural and it can be nice to break things up.

A:

No, I use 7-zip ;-)


Q:

can you tell me 3 spit facts?

A:

My family vacationed out there a few times. Lovely space. We spoke with another Coffee farmer who mentioned this work trade concept, and my daughter was intrigued. Where can we find out more what other places offer similar circumstance on the islands? Is there a posting forum?


Q:

This will determine how guilty I feel for the rest of my life.

A:

Its population is 2,816

It's a popular spring break destination

It has a warm humid subtropical climate


Q:

Yeah check out WwoofUSA and Wwoofhawaii. That's where we originally got people. The work traders we have now are from just posting on facebook - they are much more long term people though and are all living here indefinitely and not just for a couple weeks/months.

A:

the next hardest thing is dealing with keyboards


Q:

Did you recover without any mental problems after the 3-day isolation?

A:

Assuming that you took a pay cut, at least at the beginning, can you tell us what makes it worth it?

Thanks.


Q:

How long was RealVNC in development before the first version was 'good to go'?

(It seems to have always been around, but it'd be great to know how much went on 'behind the scenes' before we'd heard of it!)

A:

Surprisingly, yes, I did. I stayed up really late the night I got out talking about the experience with my wife. Slept well. The next day I was very clear and happy. FYI: this is the video we're talking about.


Q:

Yes we both took a huge paycut and we will probably never replace that with farming. But what were we really working for in Chicago? We were saving to buy a house (which we now have) and working until we could take our next vacation to a place like Hawaii (where we now live). It's not that we have EVERYTHING we could want (I would LOVE a pool), but I am a lot more fulfilled than I was in Chicago.

A:

VNC started life inside a research lab back in 93/94. we used it a lot internally and developed it quite extensively before deciding to give it to the world in 1998... the rest is history!


Q:

Hey Michael! In episode 1 of Mind Field there was a scene when you woke up and appeared quite disoriented and confused, so confused that you needed to open the door to the test chamber to confirm your reality. I'm dying to know what were you dreaming about?

A:

[deleted]


Q:

How long was RealVNC in development before the first version was 'good to go'?

(It seems to have always been around, but it'd be great to know how much went on 'behind the scenes' before we'd heard of it!)

A:

Essentially, I had started to lose the ability to differentiate dreams from reality. For some reason, I was in the room in both.

I dreamt that someone (not anyone I'd ever met, but someone who seemed familiar in the dream) had come into the room and told me I was done. That 72 hours was up. But then I woke up. But I didn't realize that I'd woken up. I saw the door closed and wondered why they'd left and closed the door behind themselves. I figured everyone was just busy or something and that I could come out when I felt like it.

So I opened the door but it was so dark and nothing was moving. I was really confused and anxious about being confused. Who had been in the room? Why was I alone? I had been so certain that I was finished. That I could come out. But no. I was still alone. Always had been.


Q:

I lived right by the United Center for awhile (not the best neighborhood but what I could afford at the time) and then when I moved in with my now-husband we lived in Old Town. And yeah Chicago really is the best. I miss it all the time.

A:

One of the most creative was in what was perhaps the worlds first fully functional smartphone in 1999, a project which I was responsible for too! Check it out here:

http://imgur.com/a/1MJtI


Q:

How do you come up with video ideas?

A:

[deleted]


Q:

Because your ISP hadn't changed anything the first time you did it. Once they've reassigned your MAC/DNS/IP or whatever was wrong, the easiest way to pick up the change is to reboot.

A:

Ideas come from things I've read or heard or seen, people I've met ... anything that makes me confused or surprised and then turns out to be a challenge to wrap my head around is something I want to make a video about.


Q:

Dude I know. We just rented but definitely could not afford to buy there.

A:

The idea for the business came much later in 2002, after we had made the software freely available under an open source license in 1998. We founded the company with cash from merchandising and donations - we pioneered the crowdfunding idea before it was even called that, which didn't happen until 2006!


Q:

Ideas come from things I've read or heard or seen, people I've met

So for the video about butts, which ass was your muse?

A:

Mahalo for the AMA

Which varieties do you grow?

What kind of roaster are you using?

Do you plan to offer single varieties or your peaberry solo in the future?

Do you grow any 'Awa?


Q:

Had you played with stuff like Timbuktu - which does similar things but was developed in the late 1980s for Mac?

A:

my own


Q:

Which varieties do you grow?

We grow almost all Arabica (Kona Typica specifically). We have about 10 trees of a hybrid called Kona Passion as a test and we may plant more of those because they are turing out great.

What kind of roaster are you using?

I roast on a Sonofresco. It's a really nice roaster for small batches.

Do you plan to offer single varieties or your peaberry solo in the future?

Yes! I actually just got that graded out a couple weeks ago for the first time so we now have about 50lbs of it that we can sell this year. I am just waiting for the peaberry stamp to come in the mail that I ordered for our labels and then it will be added to the website for purchase!

Do you grow any 'Awa?

No we don't, mostly because even though the effects are cool I think it tastes like mud.

A:

we knew of it but our vision and philosophy was much broader particularly because we were using windows, linux, mac and proprietary embedded display systems in the lab


Q:

How often do you get recognized as "the Vsauce guy" in public? Do people ever introduce themselves as "HEEEY. _____ here!"?

A:

I hope this isn't prying too much, but what did it take for you to get started? I've always had a dream to do something similar. Was it very risky? Did you need loans etc, or start with savings? (Trying to figure out what it would take to start myself).


Q:

What are some of the popular names using this technology and what do you think is the next big thing in your field?

Bonus question: Does 'taking over' devices shown in movies come remotely close to what real-life hackers can do? If so, how?

Thank you.

A:

A few times a month. Depends on where I go. Public places like museums and restaurants are more common than like, when I'm commuting or on a subway or something where people are all busy and rushing around.

Everyone who's said hi has always been so nice about it. If you've recognized me in public and said, "hi," thanks for being so respectful. Oh, and of course, thanks for watching. It's so great to meet the actual flesh-and-blood that's out there watching. Since I'm always working on my next video, I usually start giving them spoilers as to what it'll be about and my favorite things about it.


Q:

We started with a pretty sizable amount of savings but we did get a mortgage (the mortgage process is tricky with a farm but do-able especially because there are farm service agencies to help you).

If you are wanting to come to Hawaii, it is much cheaper to buy a leasehold than a fee simple property. You are supposed to commercially farm your leasehold though so unless you plan to do that, I wouldn't consider one.

If you want to start a farm yourself, I would recommend visiting the place you want to farm (if that is HI, then come here) and meet with local farmers! The farm bureau in the area you are looking at should have some great resources also the Farm Service Agency is great (at least in Hawaii) and has all the info on grants and special loans for beginning farmers.

Also, idk if you are a woman or a minority, but there are even better FSA loans if you are. Good luck!

A:

Bonus answer: no, not really. the real world is always far more complex than the few minutes that filmmakers have to depict a scene.


Q:

Thank you for taking my question, but I liked your first answer better. ;)

A:

My wife and I are constantly dreaming of moving to hawaii and growing our own food, and living simpler. We will actually be on the big island at the end of april. Part of our trip will be spent right up the hill from two step (which I know is coffee country) Could I send you a PM and maybe set up a time where we could come check out your operation? I would love to pick your brain about leasehold land, growing seasons, etc.


Q:

Also generally less exciting!

A:

hahaha, okay so that was caused by me having multiple tabs of this AMA open. Oh well, DOUBLE ANSWER! How embarrassing would it have been if they'd contradicted each other?


Q:

Yes absolutely! We're just up the hill from there. Shoot me a PM or feel free to email me (contact info is on our site).

A:

Every industry, every sector, government, education - fortune 500 last time we looked. It's everyone from Disney to Phillips, Intel to NASA, Google to Honda.


Q:

Is iDubbbz your son?

A:

answer the money question for fark's sake. break it down. farm price. equipment, etc. startup costs. monthly expenses. ballpark. no one's judging, get over it. please. jeebus why is everyone so avoidant of money questions.


Q:

That's sounds good, but how does the pricing work out for that? Say we have 100,000 end users, but on one day our support team only need to connect to <50 systems throughout the day to troubleshoot, probably <4 running at the same time.

Also can you configure it just to show our application rather than the whole desktop, and restrict connections only from our IP address for safety? I guess we'd set it up as requiring them to launch it from within a menu.

A:

yes


Q:

Okay our farm price was slightly over a million. However that included a house and barn, catchment tanks and all 20 acres was fenced. So the land itself I would guess would have been around 500k. We own it in fee simple which makes it a lot more expensive than leasehold land.

Startup costs were high. We didn't buy that much equipment but the trees were approx $10 each and we have over 3000 (8 acres planted). We have a tractor now but that has a payment plan. One of the biggest costs of startup was grubbing the land (bulldozing the existing grasses and shrubs - we left the trees) which IIRC was around 5k/acre. We also had to install a ton of erosion controls, plant a cover crop, get all our permits in order etc. Startup costs were certainly over 6 figures.

A:

that's getting a bit salesy - happy to have someone talk to you about this. pm me your e-mail.


Q:

what are your favourite songs right now?

A:

Thank you! Very informative.

Interesting you managed to own the land outright versus the usual 30 year leaseholds in the area. Oftentimes there are chunks of land that require Hawaiian ethnicity to own the land or get the leasehold. Mind shedding light on what you had to do to own the land outright versus the usual leasehold? Just ask and pay?


Q:

you're behind "hallo world" ? :O

A:

And to be honest, vaporwave. I mean, what's going on when I listen to it? It's like the past trying to get ahold of me. It's like the past but easier to analyze and take seriously. It's like being a kid again with the brain of an adult. Or not. I don't know yet but it really helps me write and edit and think.


Q:

Land here is already set aside as being "leashold" land or fee simple land. The land we wanted was already listed as fee simple in the regular MLS. We didn't do anything special just bought it like anyone would through a realtor.

A:

is "hello world?" an application? #philosophy :)


Q:

it's sad that a lot of people don't take vaporwave seriously. It has such a great surreal dreamy vibe, and it's a really creative genre.

A:

Have you guys had any difficulties being accepted by locals?


Q:

exactly.

A:

I think there is a lot of racism towards outsiders in Hawaii but on our island at least that is focused on the other side of the island (Hilo side). But also, I think a lot of that centers on dislike of snowbirds who drive up housing costs and do not even contribute to our economy 6 months out of the year. I can tell you it is really hard for farmers/restaurants etc. to make money during the summer which is off-season. Personally I haven't experienced many problems like that but also I try to be respectful of locals, of the land and supportive of "local" issues like schooling etc even though we don't have any kids.


Q:

What made you switch from "pooplicker" to v-sauce?

A:

Hey! I've found this diving on the internet. What do you think of making flour from the cherries?

https://youtu.be/1z34kIq2BWk


Q:

I stopped licking poop

A:

I know of one other farm here doing it and it seems pretty cool but honestly such a pain that I probably wouldn't do it. In a zombie apocalypse situation though, that is definitely a good thing to know about lol.


Q:

What was your favorite question you never answered?

A:

Neeeeaaaaat!

Do you grow other foods for yourself in the farm or just the coffee?

Is this kind of a retirement fun thing for you guys, or an active and goal-oriented moneymaking thing?

Do you sell your coffee as a single sourced bean product or is it combined with other farms' beans for sale?

I haven't looked at the website yet, not sure if it might answer that last question...


Q:

I still don't think we've got a good understanding of the Zipf mystery

A:

Do you grow other foods for yourself in the farm or just the coffee?

Yes we grow tons of other food - mostly vegetables but we raise goats for milk and meat, chickens for eggs and meat and sometimes trap wild boar that is in the coffee field for meat.

Is this kind of a retirement fun thing for you guys, or an active and goal-oriented moneymaking thing?

Haha not at all a retirement thing. I am only 30! We are trying to make a living doing this but we are still fairly new and our coffee isn't quite old enough to be producing enough for us to turn a profit just on that. We also do events, have a CSA and run a local homebrew supply shop out of our farm to suppliment our income from the coffee.

Do you sell your coffee as a single sourced bean product or is it combined with other farms' beans for sale?

We only sell coffee from our farm. We do sell green to a couple roasters who roast it and sell it under their label, but the majority of our coffee we sell ourselves under our label.


Q:

What is the answer you never questioned?

A:

Reply to THEIR comment, not mine, or they won't see it.


Q:

most of them. I accept so much. There just isn't time to investigate everything. We need to trust others and those who teach and observe the world have a gigantic responsibility to be honest and objective.

A:

Usually good advice but I am just reading through the thread to make sure I don't miss anyone.


Q:

What's Adam Savage like off camera? I always imagine he's just as enthusiastic all day long as he is while shooting

A:

Reply to THEIR comment, not mine, or they won't see it.


Q:

That's exactly right. He's contagiously enthusiastic -- but also very thoughtful. Not sure where he gets the energy. It's crazy.

A:

Website is www.Sunshowercoffee.com and coupon up in the top - 15% off with code "reddit."


Q:

Where did you meet Jake, and Kevin? And what was your motivation to create Vsauce 2 and 3?

P.S. Love your videos! So far loving the mine field series.

A:

Hi there! Hope you see this when you wake up. We're a couple in our 30's in a big city and are considering giving up the corporate life for something like what you've done. What's a typical day like for you managing the farm? In the course of a year, is there an off-season or time when you leave to visit family or take vacations? Do you work the farm yourself or do you hire help?

Finally, have you visited the [vanilla farm](www.hawaiianvanilla.com)? I did on my last visit and thought it was a really cool family operation.

Mahalo


Q:

I met Kevin because I was a fan of Jerry Bloop. I contacted him about working with Vsauce (which was 'gaming' 'comedy' at the time). He's incredibly talented and a top-notch researcher. Want something? He'll find it.

As for Jake, Vsauce gets a tax break for hiring felons.

JUST KIDDING. That was a goof. Jake started working at YouTube and sat next to me and started helping me edit episodes of DONG. It became clear that he would be a great fit for something we really wanted to do: cover the science and ideas and questions behind fictional creations. Thus, Vsauce3 was born.

A:

Our days really vary! We wake up usually around 7 and to-work around 830 or 9. Not every day is spent working outside - Doug likes to do a one on one off if possible just because it is really tiring doing manual labor. I usually start by doing things on our website, social media, filling orders etc. in the morning because that makes most sense with the time zones to the US. Then in the afternoon I work on projects in the garden or wherever. We are in dry season right now so a fair bit of my time is spent irrigating and hand watering the gardens around our house.

There isnt really an "off season" for us but I guess summer is the easiest time to leave because we don't have any harvesting going on then. We do work the farm ourselves but we hire a lot of help when we need it - especially for picking.

I haven't visited that vanilla farm but we did visit one when we first moved here. I LOVE local vanilla.


Q:

Can I pm you a picture of my cat?

A:

Hi and thank you for taking the time. I've got a couple questions for you :). I've been to a couple coffee plantations around Kona, and enjoyed every minute.

  • What spurred your move as professionals in a big (and cold) city to farmers on the relatively sleepy island of Hawaii?

  • Have bore weevils become an issue on your farm? If so, have they had a big impact on your business, and if not, how have you managed to avoid them? They were a common topic on the plantations I visited.

Thank you!


A:

That's cool that you have been to a few farms in Kona! It is a really great area for ag tourism, and there are some really cool tours (especially of historical coffee farms)!

What spurred your move as professionals in a big (and cold) city to farmers on a the relatively sleepy island of Hawaii?

We knew we wanted to move to somewhere with warmer weather and where we could buy a bit of land. I don't think we ever imagined we would be farmers (maybe that we would just have a nice big garden) but when we fell in love with a farm right in the Kona Coffee Belt, the only way to justify the purchase was if we planted coffee and made the property earn a little income for us.

Have bore weevils become an issue on your farm? If so, have they had a big impact on your business, and if not, how have you managed to avoid them?

I assume you mean Coffee Borer Beetles (CBB) and yes, they are a huge issue for us (and I think all other coffee farmers). We are especially hard hit because of our elevation (2400 ft.). Lower elevation coffees have an easier time of it because they have a portion of the year when their trees are totally bare of coffee cherry. At higher elevations, we have the next year's coffee flowering on our top branches before this year's coffee has been harvested at the lower branches which gives the CBB the opportunity to eat our cherry all year round.

They do hurt our business (in that we have less high grade coffee), but there is a fungus that we spray every three weeks on our coffee and it significantly reduces the CBB populations. This year we lost about 5% of our coffee to CBB which really isn't that bad compared to what farms were losing before the bassiana Fungus became available.


Q:

Have you noticed any long-term changes after being in the isolation room for three days?

A:

How do you and your husband brew your coffee? (French press, drip machine etc). And finally now that coffee is your career how has it affected your coffee drinking habits both at home and when you are traveling?


Q:

I learned to meditate better. And panic less.

In the room, whenever I wasn't sleeping or pacing I was watching memories play in my head like movies. Things that really happened ... but then they'd take on a life of their own. Waking dreams.

I think (just guessing here) that that process is good for your brain. Perhaps it's its way of sorting things out. Arranging experiences. Very interesting.

A:

We typically brew our coffee pour over (if we just want one cup) or french press in the morning. We have a bodum insulated french press that I love and we will make it first thing and drink about 12-14 oz each of that. We also have a nice burr grinder which we never had in Chicago but is pretty much essential to good coffee.

When I am traveling in the US I seek out good roasters and always want to try their coffee. The main thing I look for are roasters who are supporting their farmers. You can tell by the price of their coffee and usually their marketing materials. If they can sell coffee for $10 or less a pound, they are not paying producers enough (in my opinion) no matter where in the world it comes from.

When I was in Europe last year I barely drank any coffee because everything was roasted so dark! It is common for coffee to be roasted really dark in Hawaii too but personally I only drink light or medium roasts. Even medium tastes burnt to me now. You can't taste the origin with coffee like that so I just loaded mine up with cream.


Q:

What's one video you wanted to make but couldn't?

A:

What percentage of the coffee in a bag must be grown in Kona in order to market it a "Kona Coffee?"


Q:

I want to make a video about death. I really admire a friend of mine from college who wrote a great book about working in a crematory. We are afraid of death. Of dying. Of things that are dead. But death is important. It's the most significant thing, in fact. When I die, please film me dying. All of it. And don't stop. Show how my body changes. Where my body is taken. Who the professionals are we trust with our dead. Leave no curious soul's questions about what it looks like and feels like unanswered. I want to interview scientists, authors, pastors, mystics, moms, dads, young people, old people about death. Death is obvious and unavoidable and necessary for life and yet we can't easily study it scientifically. At least not the conscious experience of it. For that matter, what is life? What defines whether something is living? Ought we even ask? Can we even pretend that there's an adequate answer to that question?

A:

Legally only 10% must be from Kona and it has to be prime grade or higher. Those are supposed to be labeled "Kona Blend" and say the origins of the other coffees but SO MANY people get away with not doing that. To make sure you are drinking real Kona coffee, it should say "100% Kona Coffee" on the bag.

If it says that it will also be above a certain grade because to protect our brand quality as a region, you are not allowed to use shit coffee, even if it is grown in Kona, and call it Kona. Mediocre coffee can be called "Hawaiian" and worse than that it can't even be called Hawaiian. At the lowest grades people don't even drink it - it gets used it for face scrubs and stuff.


Q:

May I recommend the first pages of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgard? It's a similarly beautiful mediation on society's relationship with the body.

A:

Do you guys sell/ship coffee internationally?


Q:

Thank you for that recommendation!

A:

Unfortunately no. We do ship to Canada on request but it is $25 shipping so usually no one is interested.


Q:

Love your videos so much, how long does it take to film a single Mind Field episode? And how long does it take to be released after it is recorded?

A:

How much do you pay the people who pick coffee for you? by the hour? by the bushel?


Q:

Mind Field was filmed in one month. September of 2016. Before that, there were months of planning, talking, writing, researching, experts to reach out to, ideas to have and then scrap (or fall in love with).

Editing took a couple months. Unlike my regular videos (which I edit myself -- though often with the 3D graphics help of the talented Eric Langlay), Mind Field had a team of people (great talented ones) working with me in post-production. That was VITAL. So much footage and so many camera angles and episodes... it was a lot of work to mold it all together into the story I wanted to tell.

A:

We pay our pickers by the pound. They make $.70/lb and can typically pick around 200lbs in a day on average. In your final pound of coffee from us between $6 and $8 of the cost is picker pay.


Q:

Is a hotdog a sandwich?

A:

Sounds like they work in exchange for a place to sleep. I lived in Maui for a time, and found this is quite common on the islands. Google 'WWOOFing' if you want to know more!


Q:

It's a sandwich. But not a sandwich sandwich.

A:

No the people who work-trade for us just help out milking the goats, cleaning the chicken coop etc. They usually don't pick coffee but when they do they get paid just like all of the other pickers.


Q:

If you burn bread is it burnt bread or burnt toast?

A:

Hello! I was just on the big island a few weeks ago and visited another Kona coffee farm, mountain thunder, my question is does your coffee differ from theirs at all? and how? also what is the best/ your favorite way to brew Kona coffee!


Q:

In my opinion, it is burnt bread which is a kind of toast. Or at least, on the toast spectrum. I suppose this makes "burnt toast" a tautology, though. Hmm... how much of a 'well made' piece of toast is actually 'burned'? What is burning? A certain reaction between carbon in the bread and oxygen in the air? I would need to learn more about the physics of 'toasting' to be confident.

A:

Yes our coffee differs a LOT from theirs. Mountain Thunder (while a seller of 100% Kona), does not grow their coffee all from one estate. They buy cherry (or green maybe?) from a bunch of different farms all of whom have different elevations, farming methods, tree varieties, level of care etc. Their coffee could sometimes be great and sometimes (more often) is shit but always it is over roasted.

I think aeropress is a great way to brew Kona but really if you are brewing properly (right temp, right grind etc.) I think any method tastes good. I even had our light roast as espresso which was really unusual but tasty!


Q:

How many people are involved in vsause 1,2,3 with editing and production?

A:

This is so annoying. My wife and I stayed at the sheraton kona resort in 2015, and if we'd known we would've paid a visit!

My question is, do you ship to Europe?


Q:

There are six of us now:

Me, Kevin, and Jake.

Eric, who helps with 3D graphics, production, editing, etc.

Hannah, who writes, researches, and edits DONG

and Alisha, who coordinates everything (especially the Curiosity Box) and keeps the company running smoothly

A:

We would ship to europe but I have no idea about the customs or shipping cost. If you are willing to pay for the shipping, yeah we would ship!


Q:

What do you think about other youtubers and online makers of video borrowing your vocal style? I feel like I hear it everywhere.

A:

Was just in Kona over winter break I heard a some people talking about you business but didn't get the chance to check it out while I was in town, congrats though.

What's the average temp and weather conditions up on the mountain?


Q:

I haven't noticed this. Hmm... perhaps it's like how we enjoy/don't mind the smell of our own farts dislike other people's? I'm probably too close to my own voice to really understand it or know it.

My vocal style on Vsauce is pretty much just how I talk in real life (Would you agree, Adam? If you others want proof come to Brain Candy and say, "hi!").

I'd be interested to see if there's any research on what kinds of cadences/accents/etc. keep people's attention the best. Or leave them with the most comprehension or retention.

Wish I could say I already knew and was using that knowledge on Vsauce, but I'm just talking to the camera the way I'd talk to you if you ran into me on the street and asked me to talk about infinity or books or juvenoia or whatever :)

A:

You heard about our business! That's great! Because we're new we don't have much of a following built up. Average temp is right about 70 - it's 67 right now. The weather here is truly perfect as far as temp. Winter is dry season and summer is wet. It rains basically every day over the summer.


Q:

are you a tits man or a ass man?

A:

Hello! I hope you're still responding to questions as I'd love to know a bit more about what you do. I co-founded a roastery based in Southern California, and one of the big interests for me is sourcing. I'm fascinated by the work that goes into it and we're so fortunate to be able to buy coffee from our friends, and involve them in projects that we're excited about. So what I want to know from you, as an American producer is this:

What is the future of American coffee production? Where do you feel it will be headed, and how will you create a sustainable situation for yourself?

I ask because one of the big things stopping Hawaiian coffee (and a lot of coffee around the world) from getting big, in my opinion, is cost. We're fortunate to have some of the coffees that we have, that are (relatively) expensive but go a long way towards helping the people who produce it. But American coffee, due to labor and agriculture regulations, will never be that cheap. That makes it a challenge for you, as a producer, to get the attention of roasters, because the opportunity just isn't there (so many people I know roast Panama geisha lots and are very fortunate to barely break even on them).

So I'd love to hear the thoughts on that. Is it a huge goal for you to turn it into a massive growing operation? Or do you like where you are, and don't plan on making it bigger? And if so, how do you create a sustainable situation that allows you to maintain that with the creeping popularity of coffee elsewhere?

Thanks! Looking forward to (hopefully) hearing your thoughts!


Q:

the human bottom is magnificent

A:

Yep I am still here!

That is awesome that you are a professional roaster and you care about sourcing! Personally I think that it is roasters (even more than the consumers) - and how they educate their customers - who will shape how the coffee industry moves going forward.

What is the future of American coffee production? Where do you feel it will be headed, and how will you create a sustainable situation for yourself?

So to clarify, by American coffee production, you mean American coffee growing right? Coffee is really only grown in Hawaii (although I did hear that UC Davis is trying to do some test trees) which makes it a little easier to sum-up.

I think Hawaiian coffee is actually in an okay place. We have the CBB which has been hard for our industry, but we are fighting it and most farms have been pretty successful in mitigating losses. We still have a ton of people around the world who seek out Hawaiian coffees - particularly in Japan - and I know a lot of farms that sell ALL of their coffee as green to Japan. We don't do that because I haven't wanted to work with a distributor and prefer to sell directly to the roasters and know the people who will be taking our green to the finished product. I don't think we will ever get rich farming Kona coffee, but my hope is that in the coming years we will have a pretty loyal customer base and a few great roasters so that we can project out sales and spend less time on the marketing end. If we are able to do that, we can plan for potentially adding more trees or just working less in general on our coffee business and spend more time on other areas of our business that make money (like our event space).

I ask because one of the big things stopping Hawaiian coffee (and a lot of coffee around the world) from getting big, in my opinion, is cost.

I mean, Hawaii isn't that big and we don't produce that much coffee (in comparison to many other growing regions). I don't think anyone here wants or needs Hawaiian coffee to "get big" because most farms are able to sell their coffee. However, what I would really like to see (and this is where roasters come in) is an overhaul in coffee consumer education. I want people to understand (especially roasters!!) that our coffee is expensive not because we just think it is worth more but because it costs more to produce.

I have had roasters say to me "why do you think your coffee is worth 4x and much a ___ coffee when it isn't 4x as good?" And really that is a hard question to answer because it isn't "worth" more unless you place value on your coffee being produced with (more than) fair labor conditions and in compliance with real environmental laws. It's a hard road to convince someone to care about something they don't care about and it really comes off "preachy" which I hate.

Is it a huge goal for you to turn it into a massive growing operation? Or do you like where you are, and don't plan on making it bigger? And if so, how do you create a sustainable situation that allows you to maintain that with the creeping popularity of coffee elsewhere?

Our property is only 20 acres and right now 8 of that is planted in coffee. Even if we planted every possible area with coffee, we probably could only plant 15ish acres just because of how our house and chicken area and stuff is. It's in the works to maybe consider adding 4 more acres if it makes financial sense a few years from now - but even that is not a big operation at all. We would only add that section if we were easily selling out of our entire crop of coffee from the 8 acres, so it would be I hope sustainable even though other origins are gaining in popularity.

I want to be clear though that I don't see other origins as our competition because I feel like there is a ton of market share for all of the great coffee from around the world. Our competition is starbucks, dunkin, k cups, shit grocery store coffee etc. and I hope to eat away at a (admittedly very small) part of their customer base just through consumer education. Which is actually part of the reason I did this AMA.

I think the craft beer industry is a good example - for years and years there has been room in the market for more and more craft breweries and those craft breweries were barely competing with eachother. They were taking away business from bud light, but not from each other. Now days there is SO MUCH great beer that breweries are starting and failing all the time, and only the good ones are succeeding. But coffee isnt there yet. Third wave coffee is still on the rise, we haven't reached that over-saturation point (not even close I think). But I am not an economist or anything - that is just my opinion based on totally anecdotal evidence.


Q:

Dog or a Cat person?

A:

Hello, and thank you for your thorough and insightful response! It's wonderful to know that you have a great understanding of your market, and your end goal.

So to clarify, by American coffee production, you mean American coffee growing right? Coffee is really only grown in Hawaii (although I did hear that UC Davis is trying to do some test trees) which makes it a little easier to sum-up.

There's actually a farm just north of us in Santa Barbara that is growing! It's also cool to know that UCD is trying to test as well. I think the hard part is that due to the climate here (neither Santa Barbara nor Davis are particularly humid relative to other coffee growing nations, and the frost point isn't low enough that the comparative altitude doesn't make for much of a similar growing situation as like...2000masl in Kenya), so the coffee...tastes like low altitude coffee. I'd love to try to roast some of their coffee though, to see what's up, only problem is that we can't afford it.

I have had roasters say to me "why do you think your coffee is worth 4x and much a ___ coffee when it isn't 4x as good?" And really that is a hard question to answer because it isn't "worth" more unless you place value on your coffee being produced with (more than) fair labor conditions and in compliance with real environmental laws. It's a hard road to convince someone to care about something they don't care about and it really comes off "preachy" which I hate.

This is tricky on our end too! The thing is...as we have the direct line to consumers and wholesale accounts, we have to explain to them why the coffee is expensive. And while we've been able to do that, we still get a bit of pushback (we spend a lot for our coffee, so our wholesale costs might not be easily as approachable). The thing is, if we are having trouble making an argument from a price perspective despite the fact that we source from dry mills in Africa that provide some of the only opportunities for employment for women in the area, it's going to be a lot harder for us to make the argument that even more expensive coffee is also worth it. So it's one thing that someone like me sees the value in paying a lot for coffees that really do a lot to bring opportunity to the people that grow and process it, but it's another for me to create a sustainable business plan off of it (because even if it just represents one part of our entire product offering, it's still money and effort). It's hard, for sure, but I totally empathize with where you're coming from!

However, what I would really like to see (and this is where roasters come in) is an overhaul in coffee consumer education. I want people to understand (especially roasters!!) that our coffee is expensive not because we just think it is worth more but because it costs more to produce.

I completely agree with you that a consumer education effort is huge, and absolutely necessary, because so many consumers are blasted with information and farm names just become farm names. One of the things we wanted to prioritize, and to educate on, is the story of our coffees, and the real people behind them, but consumers just aren't interested yet (though we're trying). Once consumers understand the effort that goes into producing the coffee, we hope that our prices will be more justifiable (because specialty coffee tends to be expensive, but what people don't see is the slim margins on both the producer and roaster end).

I want to be clear though that I don't see other origins as our competition because I feel like there is a ton of market share for all of the great coffee from around the world. Our competition is starbucks, dunkin, k cups, shit grocery store coffee etc. and I hope to eat away at a (admittedly very small) part of their customer base just through consumer education. Which is actually part of the reason I did this AMA.

What I mean is that for a roaster, we only have so much ability to take on so much coffee, and we want to have a well rounded selection of offerings but there are a lot of situations that make it difficult for us to pick up coffees from a lot of different locations that we'd otherwise love love LOVE to work with. You may get a roaster who looks at coffee and says, "At that price, I'd rather get something from PNG" because...(and I hesitate to say this but I feel like it might be true) some of them only care about rounding out their offerings. But I guess that's why it's up to you to vet your roasters and choose the ones who really want to focus on sharing your story and product at a price that is fair to you, and hopefully you can get a sustainable relationship from that!

I think the craft beer industry is a good example - for years and years there has been room in the market for more and more craft breweries and those craft breweries were barely competing with eachother. They were taking away business from bud light, but not from each other. Now days there is SO MUCH great beer that breweries are starting and failing all the time, and only the good ones are succeeding. But coffee isnt there yet. Third wave coffee is still on the rise, we haven't reached that over-saturation point (not even close I think). But I am not an economist or anything - that is just my opinion based on totally anecdotal evidence

I hope this is the case. I think a lot about coffee and then I meet people who are into specialty coffee but aren't as into it as I am, and I suddenly realize that it's a very deep pond with not a lot of people who are on the deepest end - we just feel that way here (cause there's a LOT of roasters and shops in Southern California) because we see each other and hang out so much that it just feels that specialty coffee is everywhere.

Out of curiosity, what is the total production / acre that you guys are at right now? And what varietals do you guys have going on?


Q:

Both have my respect and admiration but the cat is subjectively my favorite. I have two: Elsie and Corn.

A:

There's actually a farm just north of us in Santa Barbara

I had no idea about that! Cool! I haven't tried the CA coffee and I don't think it is likely to be that good just based on climate. But I think more people doing coffee research (especially in the US) will only be good for me. So the more the merrier.

Re: cost and consumer education:

I TOTALLY get it that not all roasters can buy Hawaiian coffees and I don't think it is necessarily even a bad thing that they don't. It is just frustrating to me personally when they flat out do not even consider it because of price. Roasters are businesses though, not charities, and you have to plan for what your customers will buy and do what is best for staying in business. You won't be helping any farms if you go under.

That said, the roasters we do work with have found that they can work our coffee into their business plan when they don't buy that much. We sell our green by the pound, not by the 100lb bag, so that roasters can buy the exact amount that will fit in their business. One of the roasters we work with primarily sells our coffee buy the cup in his coffee shop and he only buys 10lbs at a time. Even though 10lbs of green isn't that much for us, we still really appreciate the business and every little bit helps. And he is educating his consumers 1 cup at a time about Hawaiian coffee, and they may come back and want more which means he will be able to buy more.

Re: margins - yes I think it is very hard for consumers to understand the difference in pricing between commodity coffee and single origin estate coffee. The margins are huge in commodity coffee and even "fair trade" coffee. That is how you can buy an $8 lb of coffee at Dunkin donuts or whatever.

What I mean is that for a roaster, we only have so much ability to take on so much coffee, and we want to have a well rounded selection of offerings but there are a lot of situations that make it difficult for us to pick up coffees from a lot of different locations that we'd otherwise love love LOVE to work with.

Ahh okay sorry I don't think I understood what you meant. So I get that roasters want to offer a variety of coffees and can't always justify sticking a Hawaiian coffee in a slot when they could get a great Nicaraguan or whatever for a 1/4 of the price. There are only so many slots (packaging and stuff costs money for each type) and you need to focus on what will sell.

The roasters we sell to now solve that by offering our coffee on a really small scale or rotating basis just in their coffee shop and/or offering it more for the holidays or up-scale gifts. One roaster in Michigan we work with buys our extra fancy pretty much just for valentines day and christmas because people are willing to spend more then. So I guess what I am saying is that if a roaster wants a Hawaiian coffee, there is a way to sell it, but it doesn't fit in with every business model and that is okay.

it just feels that specialty coffee is everywhere

Haha I never feel like that living here. The line is sometimes around the block at starbucks and we have locally grown coffee in tons of independent coffee shops. I don't think we (my farm) needs to target the "deepest end of the pond" so to speak of coffee consumers. A lot of our customers buy our coffee just because they like us and they like supporting local farmers. It isn't always a matter of being "into" coffee. We actually send out guides to brewing coffee with our orders just because a lot of people don't know anything about water temp or grind size and I want to make sure they are getting their money's worth after dropping a lot of money (comparatively) on coffee.

Out of curiosity, what is the total production / acre that you guys are at right now? And what varietals do you guys have going on?

We right now have primarily arabica (kona typica) trees but we have a small section of about 10 trees of a hybrid called Kona Passion (also an arabica). They are working out great though (high production, beautiful big beans and tasty!) so we will probably plant more of those.

On our 8 acres our production for the 2016/17 harvest was about 30K lbs of cherry. We project to have more like 40-50K lbs next year and hopefully around 60K lbs going forward after that. Of that coffee about 4,000 lbs of green was produced. Then when it is all graded out we will have about 3,400lbs of sale-able green (some of it is too low of a grade to sell and we either drink it ourselves or if it is really bad compost it). Of that our goal is to sell about half of that in green and the other half as roasted. We have sold about half of our green goal already for the season and we haven't even finished our last pick which is great! On roasted coffee, we are slowly plugging away but still have a lot left to sell.


Q:

Education and degrees?

A:

Do you use a natural, honey, or washed process?


Q:

Bachelors in English Literature and bachelors in Neuropsychology.

Both from the University of Chicago.

A:

Only washed process right now but I would like to do some natural next year if there is a demand for it. A lot of farmers here seem to look down on it because it can kinda hide bad coffee with sweetness.


Q:

Hey Micheal! So one things that's always bamboozled me in your videos was that weird noise/song that recurres in your videos. It happens at 1:34 in your most recent video ( The Brachistochrone ) What's it's name? And origin?

A:

What was the cost to start from scratch to your first sold product?

Edit, 1 million dollars from another post. thanks


A:

We have had some negative comments just randomly when we are out and about but overall Hawaiians are the most welcoming wonderful people. They really do try to live "aloha" and treat everyone with kindness, respect and love.

Not necessarily from Native Hawaiians specifically, but locals in general were so helpful when we started our farm. Our neighbors all made an effort to meet us and give us tips. Even the local civil servants at the DMV or small business office (not the official name) are really nice. There are rude/mean people everywhere but Kona (and Holualoa specifically) is truly the best community I have ever lived in.


Q:

What is the script writing process like? How are you able to jump from one idea to the next so seamlessly to explain a concept that emcompasses everything you're talking about in a video? Greetings from Colombia, translator here but big fan! :D

A:

Hi Kate, thanks for doing this. I am a law student who would love to own a farm one day. I am not sure practicing law (after learning about all the biglaw horror stories and living in the law school culture) is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Job market seems tough as well. Do you recommend I stick with it for a few years just to see what actual practise looks like? Or should I make the out-of-the-law jump now because things won't get better? I am in my last year.

edit: spelling


Q:

Basically, I start with a topic or question and then I begin gathering books, articles, experts I can email/call/meet/tweet at/etc.

Then I start jotting down everything about the topic that surprises me or that I don't understand. Then I start figuring out what needs to be dove into deeper and explained. And how. I try my best to blend it all together, but in the end it's just the highlights of what I've been up to for the last few weeks. It's like meeting a friend and asking what they've been doing.

I will say that as a result, I think my information-finding and -synthesizing skills have really improved. If I had to say what one skill is most worth exercising and working on, it's your ability to ask questions more articulately and find answers more efficiently. Step one is to admit when you don't understand something. If you're not 100% satisfied that you could explain it to someone else, keep reading. Eventually you'll find someone who's explain it or approached the topic in a way that helps you. Keep looking.

A:

Where do you go to school and how much debt do you have? Those are going to be big factors in dropping out. I would say if you are a 3L, stay in school and definitely take the bar and pass in at least one state. Even if you don't want to practice, you can always fall back on law (at least doc review temp work) to make $20 an hour looking at a computer screen. Most people do not have an easy way to make $20 an hour so you want to always keep that as a fall-back option. Even now I could always reactivate my IL license or take the Hawaii bar if I needed the money.

I will say though if you already know you will not want to be a lawyer, start researching and applying for alternative careers now. Life is too short to do something 5/7 days a week that you hate. And if you must practice law, try to at least live somewhere you love. I LOVED Chicago but weather-wise it was draining me. The winters, not just the cold, but the dark, made it hard for me to find happiness in all of the things I did have (family close by, a nice paycheck, friends, a great city full of culture and great food etc.). My advice is find a way to be happy as a lawyer, and if you can't, do not hesitate to get out.


Q:

3 Questions:

Favourite snacks/food?

Favourite movies/tv shows of the 21st century

If you could choose one aspect of science to learn about further, what would it be and why?

A:

Hello!

I'm from Kona, I was wondering how much money you make on average per acre per year? Also, what does upkeep look like? I've worked on a couple farms before but never have known the financial side. Do you have people pick the coffee for you and process it giving you a cut or do you harvest yourselves? Thank you


Q:

Supreme tacos. I love sour cream.

Louis Theroux's Extreme Love: Dementia

Theoretical physics. But first, math. Lots and lots of math. I want to go back to college and study mathematics.

A:

Well so far we don't make any money on the coffee lol. We are operating at a loss on all of our coffee operations. This isn't a surprise to us though - our trees are still young and their production output is fairly low. We support ourselves and our business with the addition of our side-hustles (events, homebrew store, vegetable CSA etc.).

Upkeep is pretty normal for any type of farm. We irrigate, do weed control/prevention, spray for pests (CBB), prune the trees, mow in between the rows, fertilize, harvest during harvest season etc. I would say that takes about 20 hours a week if nothing crazy comes up. But if an animal breaks in (we have had a cow in our coffee field before that somehow wandered in from a neighbor's property) or some severe weather event happens we have to deal with that.


Q:

Hi Michael,

There is one thing, you've said that has stuck with me since I saw the video of you doing a Ted Talks.

"The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don't realize they're learning until it's too late" - Herald Egerton

Is that still your mantra when you release a new video on Vsauce, or has it always been what you were trying to do?

A:

Hi, and thank you for all the knowledge passed on here. Quite amazing.

Searching the IAMA, I did not read about decaffe, so apology if you have commented? From your web-site, did see this... "Our lightest and most caffeinated roast." Sounds great! But, alas, doctor told me to slow down the caffeine, so which of your blends would be lowest?

EDIT: P.S. How are yours shipping charges determined? Like to an idea before signing up in the checkout buying.


Q:

It's always been my mantra. Even before I heard it articulated so clearly. At first, it wasn't about accidentally teaching, it was just about the fact that being funny or asking weird questions (aka good video topics and titles and thumbnails) brought more people in.

A:

No one has asked about that actually! You're the first! So we don't sell decaf (as far as I know the beans have to go through a special process to be decaf and we don't have anyone on our island who does it). I think your best bet is a dark roast because it does have less caffeine or just drink less coffee. Probably if I were in your situation I would just drink a small amount of great coffee and hope to be satisfied with that.


Q:

What is the favourite video that you've made so far?

A:

best bet is a dark roast because it does have less caffeine or just drink less coffee. ... drink a small amount of great coffee and hope to be satisfied with that.

Ahh, like this! My doctor will not, but too bad, haha. Also, in my first post, just now added a question about your shipping charges, how are determined?


Q:

In a way, my favorite is always just my newest because I'm so close to it and so freshly obsessed with that topic. But when I sit back and reflect, "If" is on the top list. Along with "The Banach–Tarski Paradox" and "Cruel Bombs"

A:

We ship in flat rate boxes or envelopes. Anything that fits in a flat rate envelope (generally 1.5lbs or less) ships for $6.10 priority mail. The next size up is $11.50 I think which is a medium box and holds quite a bit.


Q:

What video was your favorite to do the research for?

A:

How'd you get the funds to start your business?


Q:

"How to Count Past Infinity"

I got to talk with Hugh Woodin. A legend. He's got sizes of infinity named after him! He was so good at helping me understand the topic.

I also spoke with David Eisenbud. Both of them were so eager to help and importantly: they were patient with me as I tried to better learn and understand the topic. I am so appreciative of their time.

A:

A lot of them were just savings from our jobs. My husband was the really successful one. If you have ever read a michael lewis book, youll know there is a lot of money in trading. But we also had a lot of loans.


Q:

I've really enjoyed the recent Youtube collaborations with people such as Adam Savage and DubbbzTV. If you could make a collab video with anyone on Youtube right now, who would it be?

A:

How much did he have under management and what were his annualized returns? What was his cut of the p+l? How competitive was it to get in the role? Securities he traded? Was it super algorithmic or more flow? Was he involved in trading during 07/08, and if so, what were his returns then? Did he know Ray Cahnman? Is kona coffee different from regular coffee?


Q:

I really want to collab with 3Blue1Brown. We're actually already talking over email. Shout out to Henry from Minute Physics for introducing us!

Oh, and I also want to get e-doops on Vsauce.

A:

Lol I have NO IDEA what the first questions mean but I will ask him later and try to get back to you. Yes he knows Ray Cahnman and actually was on his desk when he first started out! (small world!)

Kona coffee is different from other coffees but not from "regular" coffee. If you are drinking single origins roasted correctly, you should be able to taste differences in coffees from all over the world. Kona is known for a really smooth easy drinkability. Not a super high acid coffee. There are tasting notes on our website if you are interested in specifics.


Q:

Do you think a brightly lit room is more difficult to spend 72 hours in than a pitch black room?

A:

Ah, ya. I saw that he worked for transmarket and had to ask, since Ray is pretty big in that space. Very cool that he got to work directly w Ray.


Q:

I don't know, but I really want to try a dark room. It's not a fun thing, though. It's not a carnival ride. It's a serious adventure into your head.

A:

Okay so I asked him but he doesn't remember the answers to all the questions. Here is what he said though from 2012 when he left-

  • He doesn't know how much he had in management because it depends on which desk he was working. It ranged from 50K to a few million.

  • He said the annualized returns depend on how many assets were under management but he thinks his returns were over 100%.

  • His desk got 30% of profits and another 30% is put in the firm-wide discretionary bonus pool given out depending on how well you traded.

  • It is much more competitive now than it was when he got hired (although to me his process still seems pretty competitive). When he got hired, he started in a summer group of 15 people and then he was the only one out of that pool that got hired on.

  • He said it wasnt super algorithmic. They did a lot more market making and used a mean reverting strategy.

  • He traded interest rate futures (started with Euro Dollar, then moved to Euribor, Sterling and then moved to Canada and Brazil interest rates)

  • He started in 09 so he avoided that dark period.


Q:

Hey, I met you one time in a mall right before closing time and you were on the phone with your bank. My question is: Why were you on the phone with your bank in a mall right before closing?

A:

Are there any days where you regret leaving the corporate world? What do you miss about the corporate world?


Q:

My credit card had been declined while I was trying to get a gift for my wife (sunglasses). It was very annoying. Hope I wasn't a huge grump!

A:

Yeah sometimes! Even though I was a lawyer, I miss being able to leave my work at work. Now that I own my own business, it is just work all the time. But that work feels better because everything we do benefits us and our bottom line so it feels good busting ass.

I miss the perks! Lunches out, work parties, health insurance etc. Now I eat lunch at home every day and we provide our own health insurance.


Q:

I'll make an assumption that you are introverted, here. How do you recharge?

A:

Hallo, im from germany and currently studying agriculture [sadly we have no classes about tabaco or coffee]. I was wondering where did you get the knowlage to operate a whole farm? From what i learned its pretty difficult to build a new farm and get it running.


Q:

Watching documentaries, reading, solving disentanglement puzzles ... sometimes the best is pacing around one of our studios alone talking out loud to myself. It's not always even coherent, but there's no audience. For some reason it's really relaxing and recharging. Takes the stress away. What do I talk about? Usually I talk through some problem or issue I'm having (like venting but to no one). OR I attempt to explain something that I'm trying to get better at explaining for a script.

A:

We hired a consultant for the first few years to help us and teach us. It really has been a long road and learning process and we still don't know even close to everything we need to know. Just tomorrow my husband is going to a class at the CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) to learn more about a pest we get a lot.


Q:

Hi Michael,

I am probably your biggest fan. I want to thank you for doing what you do. You have made the biggest contribution to my core of my personality. You have sent the hardest of the goosebumps down my spine. I am left in awe after your videos, Michael. They have defined me as a person. You make the nerds inside all of us be more proud. I have watched your videos so many times and made all of my family and friend forcefully watch it.

Thank you so much. I love you.

I’d like to ask you,

  • What would you rather do if you were not a YouTuber?
  • If you were to stick one field of interest to focus on like Mathematics, Language, Physics. Which would it be?
  • Do you think in the future, would we explore the virtual world or would we venture out into space?

You can choose to answer any of the questions but please acknowledge this.

Thanks for reading.

A:

I enjoyed going through your photos on the website but disappointed that there weren't any photos of the coffee shrubs. I think photos of the flowers, berries and raw beans would be nice as well. Could you also take a photo of the coffee shrubs with someone standing by it for scale? I always wondered how big they can grow. I used to grow one indoors for a few years.


Q:

Thanks for watching!

If I wasn't a youtuber I'd probably be a teacher who did some theater acting on the side.

Mathematics. Specifically set theory.

Both. BUT: the virtual worlds we create and explore will be richer and more popular and easier to navigate. Of course, if faster than light travel is possible in some form maybe they'll be nearer to equal....

A:

Ahh sorry there are a bunch on our instagram! I don't know if I have one with someone standing right next to it but there are at least a couple with people standing near by. I will definitely take your tip though and add more coffee plant pictures to our site.

The trees can get really tall if you dont prune them but we only let ours get up to 8ish feet before pruning.


Q:

Hey, Michael

What was the scariest thing you've ever done in your life?

A:

About how much coffee does your orchard produce on average? Is 8 acres on the large side for a farm on the big island or more average? I'm also curious to know if your land was already a working orchard when you purchased it or did you lease a patch of land and start from scratch?


Q:

Running the nocebo demonstration for Mind Field. The episode isn't out yet, but that was the most uncomfortable I've been. However, the results were very very powerful and the participants were incredibly helpful and understanding of the test's significance. We took extreme care to debrief everyone and keep everyone safe.

In a few words, the nocebo effect is when 'nothing' produces a detrimental effect. The detrimental effect we were able to cause in people who thought what we were doing was serious and dangerous (it was, in reality, almost comically trivial) was a real testament to the power of imagination and the fragility of our conception of what's real.

To everyone who participated, I thank you. And science thanks you.

A:

The average size of a coffee farm in kona is 5 acres but that average is a little misleading because there are TONS of "farms" where people have an acre or less and then a few huge farms with hundreds of acres. I think 8 acres is pretty normal for people who coffee farm as their full time job.

This year we produced about 30K lbs of cherry which is on the lower end but our trees are still very young - many of them didnt produce at all this year or had like one branch producing. We expect to have a bigger harvest next year.

Our land is owned not leased and there was no coffee on it when we bought it. We planted the orchard from scratch.


Q:

Did you come up with "And as always, thanks for watching"?

I think you were the first guy I saw saying this but it now seems every Youtuber out there uses it.

A:

what is your favorite type of coffee to grow?


Q:

I'm definitely not the first to say it. It's pretty common. But since I was always saying it. And always at the end and in a similar way, it really became a catch-phrase. Plus, it's always true, so that's good.

A:

We grow almost all arabica coffee (kona typica specifically). We have a little section of another type called Kona Passion but only about 10 trees of that as a trial.


Q:

Is there going to be a mind field season 2?

A:

Hi Kate and Doug!
I was in Kona recently and took a tour of another lawyer-turned-coffee-farmer and it was delightful.

Do you guys know each other and hang out? (Not mentioning the other company name to be respectful of your AMA)


Q:

I sure hope so. I have more than enough ideas (and bigger & better ones now that I have the experience of season 1 and have met the people I know I need to make it possible). Now that I've had a taste, I'm hungry to show more and do more. Be even more ambitious. No matter what, I will find a way to document the studies I want to do next.

A:

No I don't know them! Feel free to post who they are haha if they don't mind. I know another lawyer turned dragonfruit and bee keeper but that's it.


Q:

how many languages do you speak?

A:

Have you ever visited other coffee shops on other islands? If so, which ones? I may or may not have worked at a ton of coffee shops.


Q:

just one, unfortunately. I keep saying I'm going to learn Spanish, but I haven't yet. It's a real disadvantage to only know one language. I'm definitely going to give my kids (none yet) as many opportunities to learn other languages as possible!!

A:

On other islands? Not really. I do go to them occasionally but I cant remember any memorable coffee.


Q:

Why did you decide to be humorous and scientific? Even if you claim to not be the "Bill Nye of Youtube", is it possible you took inspiration from him?

A:

What do you sell your coffee for a pound? Why so expensive?


Q:

Bill Nye really inspired me. He was the first voice I heard that was educational AND funny. And in a clever, dry, sometimes ironic way that I always thought was cool (not lame and socially ostracizing). Especially as a kid. Even the kids who made fun of 'smart kids' or learning or reading or chess club or whatever always LOVED when Bill Nye was shown in the classroom. Beakman's World was also really influential. Paul Zaloom could be a rapid-fire goof that entertained you and then ... yep ... you'd realize you just learned a lot and were fired up to learn more.

A:

Most basically, it is expensive because it is grown in a first world country. It is the only coffee in the world grown with restrictions like labor laws, minimum wage, workers comp, overtime requirements, insurance requirements etc. The markup you are paying on our coffee over cost is about 25%. And those "costs" do not include our salaries. If we paid ourselves minimum wage, we wouldn't even be breaking even on the coffee. That bad of a return won't be the case forever though - as our trees get more mature, we will have more consistently large harvests and we should be able to pay ourselves slightly better than minimum wage. But no one here coffee farms to get rich.


Q:

Hey Michael big fan of all your work. How would you say is the best way to approach learning new things? I always find it so daunting jumping into something I know nothing about.

A:

What's your personal favorite roast you two have made? I may buy a bag or two ;)


Q:

honestly, wikipedia. It's a great jumping-off point and so full of hyperlinked connections. And sources to learn more and go deeper.

A:

Thanks!! Anuenue is my favorite but if you like a darker roast Kalikimaka is great.


Q:

Hi, Michael, Drayke here. Were you friends with Adam Savage before showing up on Tested? Or did you become good friends afterwords?

A:

Brain Candy has turned us into friends. Before we'd ever met, I heard that he was looking for a touring partner. I was obviously interested but didn't expect anything. A couple months later I got a text from him asking to chat. We talked on the phone and went over our backgrounds, out goals, and it became obvious that our styles and approaches would fit really well together. We can both talk about things and tell stories, but Adam can BUILD things and ENGINEER things and MAKE things. It's a great combo :)


Q:

How bad was that isolation chamber, like did it really mess with you as much ad the video showed?

A:

More. Unfortunately we couldn't record my thoughts and how scrambled they were. And I can't now, with a clear head and voice, get across just how lethargic but nonetheless panicked and lonely I was. Being separated from the Earth's cycles and any feedback as to my sense of time was disorienting. I felt perhaps like animals feel (or don't. we don't know. But I wish we did). I had no idea how long ago things had happened or how far away the future was. every moment was the same. I believe that a life like that is one in which death is much less scary.


Q:

hey michael what kind of soup do u like?

A:

clam chowder and potato.


Q:

How concerned were you when Adam Savage was messing with your glasses?

A:

Not concerned at all. He's a pro. If he'd been nervous I would have had second thoughts, though :)


Q:

First of all, you make fantastic content. But that's obvious and everyone here knows that. As a fellow Blue Valley High School alum, I wanted to know, what is your favorite memory of your time there or just something about it you remember fondly? Cheers.

A:

My best memory was pretty much every forensics tournament. I did informative speaking and oration. I especially loved the stakes at national-qualifying tournaments. I highly recommend participating in speaking competitions. Articulation and writing and preforming in front of people are VERY powerful skills to hone.


Q:

Hey Michael! Loving your Mind Field series on YouTube Red! I just wanted to know, how was it staying in the small bright room for three days straight? Did you think about anything in particular?

Also what was it like working with iDubbbz, Maxmoefoe and Filthy Frank for Human Cake?

EDIT: a word

A:

At first, the room was very fun. It was a novel experience.

But as I became more aware that I was detached from time -- that I didn;t know how fast it was moving -- I got sad. Lifeless. I felt really slow. But I was never bored.

Re: Human Cake, we didn't really work together. They just found me and pestered me and wouldn't listen to my facts. So.


Q:

How did you get the the idea with mind field ?

A:

I studied psychology in college and LOVED hearing about how the human mind has been approached scientifically. Many famous studies have teased out principles of human behavior. But the thing is: there isn't a lot of footage of the studies. The footage that DOES exist is amazing. But I wanted more.


Q:

While shooting Mindfield, did you ever have to skip a test subject because they recognised you?

A:

We didn't have to. I could always just be myself. I think only a couple recognized me and it didn't make a difference. They just understood that I was doing a study. But they didn't necessarily know what was REALLY being studied. That's the part that matters.


Q:

I know that you were born in Kansas City, Missouri which surprised me when I didn't see it on the list of places that Brain Candy will visit. How did you and Adam decide the locations?

A:

It's all based on availability. I really pushed for KC but there weren't any theaters with schedules that worked. But this first leg is only the beginning!!


Q:

Whaaazzaaap? Sice you mentioned circles, I have to ask what your opinion on tau τ is. Are you in favor of it replacing pi or acting alongside it, or is it just silly?

A:

it's an uphill battle. I'm fine with pi but yes, I prefer tau.

I owe my opinions on the matter to Vi Hart, of course

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7vhMMXagQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iUh_CSjaSw


Q:

Why the hell didn't you make the title of this "Vsauce. Michael here. What is an AMA?"

A:

Because you all aren't Vsauce. You're reddit. Though I agree that "What is an AMA" would have been nice :)