11 September 2017

Hot Jamzs: Trip the Light by Kaz James



Big Cheese sent this along and it's got a good vibe. Long mix so it takes a few minutes to get started. The radio edit, if one exists, would skip that part.

04 September 2017

Bespoke Jersey is Best Jersey

Same Colors as a Chewy Peppermint Christmas Candy
Along with the bike you need stuff to wear while riding. That means padded tights, which do not have pockets. And also jerseys, which (conveniently) do have pockets. I am no big fan of wearing tights in public but if you want to ride there is no way around it. I will never be that guy at the local coffee shop tromping around in clipless pedals and tights but as long as I am just out the door, riding, and then home with no intermediate stops then I am okay with it.

Finding cycling gear that isn't lame and ugly is tougher than you might think. Or maybe not, because if you even noticed almost any road cyclist you probably only noticed them because their outfit was ugly af. If you can find something that is decent (more on that shortly), you then have to find something that fits. This is even harder than finding something decent to wear, especially if you regularly lift anything heavier than your 8 Kg road bike. (Why are road cyclists so obsessed with weight? Because if the bike is too heavy they are afraid they might not be able to pick it up. OR: What's the hardest part about learning to ride in a peloton? Asking your dad to lift your bike into the truck. To be fair this is perhaps a bit much because cyclocross riders frequently lift their bikes and run with them and then jump back on again, but you get the idea.)

If you have shoulders then fit is problematic. Partly because I do not have a 'cyclists build', and partly because the hot thing in cycling these days is to be as aero as possible. Marginal gains and all that. So not only do the jerseys tend have narrow shoulders to start with, but, depending on what you buy, they are designed to be very tight.

So you found something that fits (maybe), what do you do about the graphics? While most of the designs you notice are butt, there are happily a few decent offerings from both affordable and premium brands. Or you can get creative and build your own. It is very easy to build custom from scratch and then order it online, as in this post and the one immediately below. There is a lot of overlap in the snob craft beer culture and the snob cycling culture so I enjoy the idea of having a not-cool beer jersey to ride on my supposedly not-cool bike. (My bike is polarizing because it has a suspension in the front, which gives traditionalists the vapors.)

I saw some California-themed jerseys out and about and they were okay, but not as good as one you could design in half an hour if, for example, you already had plenty of practice trolling the internet for Miller Lite logos and pasting them onto a color-themed template.

No plans to do a custom order on the jerseys any time soon, but if you want to then get your order in now because the price drops dramatically as you increase the quantity. You have my number.

YMMV: Likeness by Lawless, feat. Little Ashes



I heard this jam and I thought it was good. It's got that epic feel. You might dig it, or you might not. You do you.

Also heard recently that riding a bike 'brings color and joy to the world'. Riding a motorcycle does the same thing. You should do one or the other or both.

02 September 2017

Overdoing It

You Know You Want One
So it turns out that if you have not ridden a bicycle in a serious way for over 25 years and you get a new bicycle and decide to ride it in a serious way then you are almost certainly going to hurt something. It is possible that you will not, such as if you stopped cycling when you were 2, but even then: the body needs some time to adjust after a long time away. 

For example, if you get a totally awesome new road bike that you think is the dope shit and start logging miles because the bike is awesome and rad and riding around on it is awesome and rad then you will very probably get sore knees, which is decidedly not awesome and/or rad. In less temperate climes than the type I enjoy here in lovely Southern California they call this condition 'spring knee', because riders would be drawn outside and begin to ride more as the weather warmed. You can ride 365 days a year where I live so I just call it "sore knees that are bad and hurtful" or "hurtful knees", for short. The struggle is real. 

The hurtful knees are definitely cramping my style, so I have had to scale back my riding and do more (a lot more) to loosen the angry, angry quads in an effort to ameliorate my condition. Pro cyclists get a massage after every stage of every race, and also after almost every workout (must be nice). That's not in the budget, so I have been spending some quality time with a roller and a supernova ball. It's not much better but it's not worse. You care. Soon I will be back on the roads and looking good while going slow. I have a lot more words about looking good on the bike, but that will be another post. Get excited. 

26 August 2017

Two Wheels Good

Click to Enlargen
The past couple weeks have been very busy. I was in San Ramon for work one week, and then San Francisco for work the following week, and then Boulder, CO for work the week after that. SF and Boulder were cool but yeah I don't care to talk about it either.

What I do care to talk about is this new thing that I'm doing that gets me out of the house. I am back on two wheels on the regular! Except now I have to provide the motive power in addition to the steering/braking inputs.

This here is a Specialized Roubaix in the best color they offer (black), which is the color I brought home. My bike is a different than this one in that the groupset is not as high-end as the one pictured here, so the one I bought cost quite a bit less. That is good news because it functions the same and I had a lot of other ancillary stuff to buy. Like pedals. And tights. And the shirts with pockets on the back. And a helmet. (Borrowed one from my friend but you are supposed to get a new one after 3 years and his was 10 years old.) And a little computer to track your data. So much data. Fortunately I had shoes left over from when I did spin class several years ago - shoes are expensive. Actually all of it is expensive, because cycling overlaps demographically very heavily with golf.

Cycling is very much a rich, middle-aged white guy hobby. I am not rich, but I do not have kids and I have the middle-aged white guy thing on lock. The big question is whether or not my back will hold up. So far it's okay. Not great, but okay. That will have to do for now.

More to come as I get caught up on the book reviews and maybe, if you're lucky, politics. Get excited.

12 August 2017

Retro Style

In creating the post on Ready Player One (see below) I got sucked into a rabbit hole of 80's references, Gotcha shorts, and, happily, some pretty great retro OP polos.

Thanks to the internet some of this stuff is not too hard to find, and some of it is reasonably priced. If it fit me I would pay $40 plus shipping for this sweatshirt (that stripe! that collar! 100% cotton!). Some of it is expensive; not sure I would pay $80 for a shirt made 30 years ago - I would attempt to find a modern equivalent, but at least it is interesting.

Full disclosure: this is the last sweatshirt I bought, so YMMV. The thing about buying a garment like that is unless you lose it or let some girl 'borrow' it then it is likely to be the last sweatshirt you ever buy. That is one of the reasons they don't make them like they used to - the other is that loopwheeled shirts are very expensive to make, especially if you pay your employees a decent living wage like they do in Japan. Still: it will last as long as you do, which is saying something. I got mine because it reminded me of the same garment that my grandfather used to wear when I was a kid. He had gotten several on the cheap in the late 40's and wore them for decades. You can do the same: browse the collection at the History Preservation Associates and buy yourself a hoodie that will last a lifetime. You deserve it.

11 August 2017

Not Bad for an Afternoon: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Just because a lot of people like something does not mean it is good. (See: McDonalds food; Game of Thrones books; Big Bang Theory; etc.) That said, Ready Player One is a fun, easy-readying story with some cringey flat spots and occasionally horrendous dialog that will keep you entertained for the few hours it will take you to finish it. I think it will do very well as a movie, because the script writers will be able to even out the low points and punch up the weakest elements (the romantic storyline and dialog are, and I cannot overstate this, spectacularly awful) while keeping the parts of the story that make it compelling.

That the author's second novel resorts to the same first-person trope as the first suggests that he may be out of ideas. Or that he is a hack. Or both. He definitely seems like a hack in this novel, but it succeeds in spite of itself.

Highly recommended for: anyone that played a lot of atari in the 80's; anyone that spent time in front of an arcade cabinet at the local 7-11 on the way home from school in the 80's; anyone who knows the serial number for the original star trek Enterprise; anyone who owned a 20-sided die and prayed for a vorpal sword + 5; anyone who enjoys references to the classic that was the Last Starfighter.

08 August 2017

History Lesson: Liberty or Death by Peter McPhee

Liberty or Death really good! It is overflowing with detail so if you want to just get the gist of it you can get the kindle version and read the middle chapter that summarizes all the authors theses. Or if you can get your hands on a summary or abstract at a discount that might be good too. 

I read the whole thing and while the overarching themes are easy to recall there are many dates and places that are lost to me; it turns out that I do not need to remember the exact dates for the various revolutions, counter-revolutions, wars, internecine conflicts, and terrors that swept through France between 1789 and 1798. The big picture stuff is quite enough. 

This book overlaps well with Capital in the Twenty-First Century in that some of the root causes of the French Revolution are directly attributable to economic inequality, and Piketty explores them in some detail in his magnum opus. 

Full length book recommended for history buffs. Abstract or abbreviated version highly recommended for everyone else. 

06 August 2017

I Read This: The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

Sweet Katie was kind enough to share this book with me. I read it and I didn't get it. The story about a woman having what seems to be a mental breakdown. The meta-stories are about aging, mid-life crises, careers, 'love', newspapers, and probably some other stuff I did not pick up on. It is an easy book to read, but not a very easy book to understand. What I did understand I did not think was interesting.

I do not do well with books that have unreliable narrators, and that is a core element of this novel. SK liked the book, and she is a good and smart person that reads a lot, so I think there is a good read in there if that type of book is your jam. It is very audience dependent. Read it and decide for yourself.

02 August 2017

Caught Up in You by 38 Special



Please press the play button and soak this scorching hot all time classic slice of pop perfection into your face. DO IT.

Two drummers? TWO DRUMMERS. You might want to go dance around a little, blow some rails (that was a thing in the 80's), sing along, or just watch the period-correct video and try to figure out which of those people you would have been if you were that age in 1982. (I'm the guy playing video games and drinking beers, obvs. Talk to girls? Fuck no. Why would I do that?)

Based on video evidence we can infer that many other things were hella dope back in the day: pay phones (lol), chest fur (on the men), tight ass jeans (men and women), shirts that are at least two sizes too small (men, and still a thing today), t-shirts tucked in with a belt (what the actual fuck?), hot blonde bitches playing you for free beers (also still a thing today). Not a thing back in the day? Bras, apparently. I'm not saying I'm into the look, but I'm not not saying it.

This song came out in 1982. Let that sink in for a minute. Some of my younger readers were not even born yet. The last girl I went out with wouldn't be born for another five years(!). Point is, this is an old song. Related: I am old. You're probably old too! How did this happen? No idea. Not much to say about it except this song makes me forget about being old for a few minutes. Actually, it does not make me forget. It just makes me not care for a few minutes. Two very different things, but it will have to do for now. At least until Destiny 2 comes out.

See you on the dance floor.

22 July 2017

Weeks and Weeks




Started some blog posts but they were not good. Even adjusting for lowered standards and long delays between content. I work, read books, do my PT, do my other hobbies (baking, watching League of Legends on youtube, and baking while watching League on youtube). Just trying to make my way in the world, same as you.

Here then is a very good ambient theme song from a movie (Sunshine) that started out promisingly and took a left turn into bullshit. Get down with some instrumental feels. Or not.

Around the time that this movie came out (2007) I worked with a person that I nicknamed 'Sunshine'. She was an aggressively cheerful and hilariously incompetent person. She worked in my department for about 3 years and she was good for some type of issue or challenge around once a month. The issues varied from wearing pajamas to work to having a nervous breakdown and needing to take a leave of absence. (Though these two things mayyyy have been related in some way.) When she had her final extended meltdown/leave and the company told her to take as long as she liked but to not plan on returning I took over her job duties. The saddest part about her issues was that she hardly did any work at all, and she still could not handle it.

The funniest part about her leaving was that IT gave me her computer so that I could access her files, and her password was "happiness". Sunshine, indeed.

09 July 2017

Heavy Reading: Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder

I finished Bloodlands a while back and have been processing, or, more accurately, attempting to process, the content ever since. Snyder paints a vivid account of the scale of the civilian and non-combatant slaughter in the territories between Germany and Russia that occurred between 1933 and 1945.

Is it the heaviest book ever written in English? Given the scope and scale of the material I think it might be. We have the benefit of contemporary firsthand accounts, and the numbers are overwhelming beyond human comprehension.

When you read that Stalin killed over 750,000 people in his great purges of 1937 and 1938, how do you wrap your head around that? If you read that Stalin starved over three million (!!) Ukrainians to death as part of his collectivization strategy in 1932/33 then what does that mean? Do you get caught up in the details of death by starvation, which are so harrowing I do not even want to reproduce them here? Or do you imagine what it would be like if all of San Jose (1.0 million), Dallas (1.3 million) and San Diego (1.4 million) were starved to death? What would that look like?

Once you get past Stalin's successful mass murders - if you can - then you come to Hitler, whose army and their compatriots killed even more civilians and POWs in a shorter span of time. The accounts of Hitler's/Germany's victims are every bit as horrible as anything that Stalin and his teams could design.

Though a difficult read, this is essential history, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

26 June 2017

Good Books from Masha Gessen and Timothy Snyder

Finished a couple excellent books over the weekend. Neither work is very long, and both are essential.

The first is Masha Gessen's illuminating account of the origins of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. The author does a good job summarizing his origins, and a less good job summarizing how he initially made his money (by defrauding the city of St. Petersburg in contracted food purchases totaling more than $100 million). I am much more interested in the latter than the former, so I could have used a lot more detail there but overall it is quite good. Gessen does a better job detailing the many, many ways in which the state (Putin, and his surrogates) manages to coerce, manipulate, intimidate, steal, and kill the competition. Russia is a very fucked up place, and Putin is a brutal dictator. It is more than a little disturbing that our current president admires Putin very much, and seems to endorse his extractive, exploitative economic policies as well as his control of the media. (Putin regularly kills people that he considers his enemies, and was also instrumental in a domestic terror bombing campaign in Russian apartment blocks that consolidated his power.) I rate this book 4 out of 5 Putin Centaurs.

The second book is short enough to read in a single sitting, although it is very a book I plan to revisit periodically. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder is superb, and it summarizes very well why 'leaders' like Trump are dangerous for democracy. (Inciting violence against a free press, lying constantly and aggressively, subverting democratic principles such as voting rights for all, etc.) Buy two copies, and give one to a friend. (Trigger warning: if you want to bask in the ignorance and willful stupidity characterized by the Republic of Trumpistan then browse the one star reviews. Remember that when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you is full of fuckwits and morons.)

19 June 2017

Coal is Not Coming Back



John Oliver outlines why coal is not coming back, and even if it does, it will not do much to help the economy. Put simply: not enough people work in the coal industry. What would help the working class people that used to have viable careers in the coal mines is a social safety net. That would cost money, but the executives can spare it since they are making more money than they can spend. The problem is that the dumb fucks voted for the one person who will absolutely not, under any circumstances, help create a social safety net. They voted for a person that wants to cut taxes for rich people. Sad!

10 June 2017

Lies, Walls, and Hypocrisy



How's that wall coming along, Mr. Trump?

Long time no talk, as usual. The past couple weeks have been very... interesting. Consider this: The embattled leader of the nation retreated to give a speech to religious fanatics while his former head of domestic security testified before the legislative branch about the leader's efforts to derail an investigation into corruption and collusion with foreign powers. Where could such a thing happen? Some pathetic banana republic or similar third world shithole? Yes! But also in the richest, most powerful nation on earth.

This week, while James Comey was testifying before Congress about how his boss had insisted on 'loyalty', Trump was giving a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian group. It was pretty great! Trump talks a big game about (hashtag)religion, and the fact that this is what is helping prop him up as he fails from one topic to another says a lot about how unbelievably hypocritical some people are.

Trump is not religious! Trump is not a Christian! He just mouths the words because they get a positive reaction from people that think they are 'under siege'. Which: if you want to create a theocracy of any type in America then you are not under siege, you are an anti-Constitutionalist fucktard. I want to live under evangelical Christian law exactly as much as I want to live under Sharia law, but only one of those things is being actively promoted by organizations around the country. Hint: it's not sharia.

Trump, the standard bearer for that special subset of devout christians who have repeatedly cheated on their wives and have no interest in paying their bills, will stay in office as long as he pushes their pro-business agenda. Donald Trump is a clown. He has no long-term plan. The vague initiatives his office has suggested so far are remarkable only in how they will line the pockets of himself and his associates, and how little they do to help the egregiously stupid lower-middle class and lower class citizens that voted him into office.

Trump is a mouthpiece and agent for a group of people who hate the working class, who want to keep every last red cent for themselves, and tough shit if you are poor or do not have health insurance or both. Consider again that Donald Trump, serial adulterer, a man that bragged on tape about being a sexual predator, is a champion of conservative Christian groups. Donald Trump, a man that serious business people famously do not take seriously, in large part because he does not pay his bills, is the champion of Big Business.

There is nothing these people will not do in order to push their agenda. They do not care if Russia helped swing the election. They do not care if the environment gets trashed. They do not care if national parks get bulldozed. They do not care if poor people die because they cannot get health care. They do not care if poor people go hungry. They do not care that jails are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders. They do not care that black people are being gunned down in record numbers. They only care about the holy dollar, and Donald Trump is truly their lord and savior.

Jesus wept.

29 May 2017

Routine Update On Why There Are So Few Updates / Chris Cornell



I don't hit the blogspace much because I do not have much positive to contribute. Donald Trump is an overgrown piss baby and remains a joke amongst his 'peers' - stretching the definition of the word there as Trump is surely peerless among the Western world leaders in his ignorance and ineptitude. Still: he is an elected 'leader', and he interacts with other leaders. I could write ten thousand words on the inadequacy of his leadership but you can read better accounts from people that are getting paid to provide it.

In other news my back hurts a lot and it has a severely negative impact on my mental health. Not ideal. Not much inclined write about that, because who the fuck wants to read it? Not me. 

Big Cheese pointed out that Chris Cornell died, and that was a bummer. Indeed it is. His death hit a lot of people right in the feels because Soundgarden was their soundtrack to the 90's. However, it wasn't my soundtrack, because while you literally could not escape Soundgarden on tv or the radio back in the day I always thought their music was wildly overrated. Spoonman? Really? Black Hole Sun was maybe not terrible, but after the 800th time it starts to wear on you. Check out their list of hits (and there are some monster hits here) and tell me if anything has held up very well. I don't think so. Plus I was always more of a Pearl Jam guy anyway. YMMV

Even so, Chris Cornell was a great vocalist, and when steered towards a pop song like Hunger Strike (linked above) he shows off his immense talents. Guy was amazing, and this song remains a good singalong, if you're into that. I have it on good authority you can pound a natty light during the execrable bridge. It's a testament to how good Cornell is that you even want to stick around through that bridge. This song succeeds in spite of itself, in large part because Cornell was a legit outstanding vocalist. He was 52.