19 December 2014

Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945

This song was in the news because Stephen Colbert played it at the end of his show last night.
It is great.

Word is he relates to the song lyrics. Per Maureen Dowd:

He had 10 older siblings. But after his father and the two brothers closest to him in age died in a plane crash when he was 10 and the older kids went off to college, he said, he was “pretty much left to himself, with a lot of books.”

He said he loved the “strange, sad poetry” of a song called “Holland 1945” by an indie band from Athens, Ga., called Neutral Milk Hotel and sent me the lyrics, which included this heartbreaking bit:

“But now we must pick up every piece
Of the life we used to love
Just to keep ourselves
At least enough to carry on. . . .

And here is the room where your brothers were born
Indentions in the sheets
Where their bodies once moved but don’t move anymore.”

See you out there.

17 December 2014

Sony is Lame

Beaker and Dr. Honeydew - Holiday Photo
I'm always a little bit baffled when powerful, 'successful' people do something that is outrageously stupid, especially when it happens in tech. I work in tech (internet security, if you must know) and I don't want to burst any bubbles but it's not really as hard people sometimes make it out to be. A little common sense and  elbow grease and you can fumble your way through quite a lot. I have a job, which should be proof enough. Point is: just because someone is smart in one way does not mean they are smart in others, and that's painfully obvious with the Sony hack.

Sony is resetting the bar for stupidity at all levels of IT and executive assholery. You generally don't want your very personal work emails made public, even moreso when you work with famous people. Their network was hacked, sensitive information was stolen, passwords were stored in an UNENCRYPTED txt file or spreadsheet with the filename 'passwords.txt', emails were stolen as a result. As we say in the business, "are you fucking kidding me?"

Sony doubled down on their stupidity by canceling the release of a (reportedly shit) movie. For realz? Someone got into your email and made vague, grammatically incorrect threats of violence and you canceled a movie? As the cybersecurity expert points out, some guy killed twelve people and shot 70 more at a theater the night Dark Knight opened and they kept that in theaters. He shot 82 fucking people, killing 12. Movie stayed open.

Take it away, cybersecurity expert person:

This same group threatened yesterday 9/11-style incidents at any movie theatre that chose to show the movie. Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability—the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can't believe I'm saying this. I can't believe I have to say this.

I can't either. But hey: people are dumb! How dumb are they? Man, so g-damn dumb. Check it:

Yeah, you don't want to be in the category of blame the victim, but Sony has had hacks before. It's ​been hacked dating back to 2005, and the executives inside of it are still emailing to each other like it's 1997 and it's the first time they've ever been on email.

Man, I hear you.

16 December 2014

It's That Holiday Time of Year: Christmas Songs, Ranked (5 of them, anyway)

Holiday shit. Pretty short Christmas list this year. It looks like I'll be getting everyone new brakes for my high-performance German sports sedan. I already got you guys a new radio because the OEM version sucked major ass. You would think that was enough but: no. People I swear.

Stereo was expensive but what are you going to do? You guys don't want me to put some wack shit in the sweetmobile. I need fucking nav and a touchscreen up in that bitch. I can abide just about anything in a car except a shite stereo. One time expense, smiles per mile, etc, etc. Same with the brakes: they are a wear item and that's what happens when you buy a car with 80k miles on it. Good times. Don't thank me, friends and family. You're worth it.

Me and the holidays have an, umm, up and down history. (Now that I'm older I have cut out the binge drinking. That's a little thing I like to call maturity.) But I love me some Christmas music. Keep your presents, I'm rocking out with an egg nog. Favorite Christmas song? All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey. Is there a better Christmas song? I don't think so. Here's a short ranking:

1. All I Want for Christmas is You
2. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kristy McColl
3. Happy Xmas (John Lennon)
4. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - U2
5. Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

Juuuuuust outside the top 5: Oh hey did you want a pop version of Angels We Have Heard on High? You're welcome. You want to hate but that melody has been killing in English for 150 years (the French version even longer). Resistance is futile.

Related: If Me First and the Gimme Gimmes recorded a Christmas record then I would pay good green American money for it and their versions of the classics would constitute my entire "best Christmas song" list, although Mariah would probably still be number one. 1994-era Mariah? Tough to beat.

07 December 2014

Throwback Thursday (early): Our House by Madness

This is a classic: the beat, the lyrics, the melody, the awesome noise they get from the horn and string sections. I always thought that the strings were a synthesizer. Turn it up. 

05 December 2014

Come Over to the Dark Side

Big Cheese is unmoved by the new Star Wars trailer. He feels that after three terrible movies (and making three decent movies terrible retroactively) we should reject the new IP coming from Disney. He says:
i totally disagree with Alex, he is a f'n idiot. If I get my heart broken and my childhood maimed MULTIPLE times repeatedly, with extreme prejudice and without exception; should I go back for more under the idiotic pretense that it will be different this time??? bloody unlikely, and anyone who chooses to do so is without question a train-wreck of a person. 

I think what AP is getting at is that he was moved by the trailer in spite of all the disappointment and low blows that constitute everything that George Lucas has done to the franchise since he put Return of the Jedi in the can in the 80's. Is that stupid? Possibly. But the heart wants what it wants, and for better or worse this mythology has a way of cutting through his adult-armor and speaking to a part of him that is otherwise deaf and unreachable. He felt some feels, and here we are.

I don't expect much from this new iteration, but at least whoever cut the trailer knows what is cool: the Falcon doing a barrel roll while the theme kicks in. THAT IS THE DOPE SHIT. Returning to Brian Philips because this essay is one of the best things I read in 2014:

Something I’ve noticed since I entered my mid-thirties is that no one ever looks the right age anymore. When I see friends I’ve known for years, they’re always a little older than I expect, a little different from the images I’m carrying around in my head. But when I see old pictures of them, pictures from the time when those mental images ought to originate, they look astoundingly, impossibly young. No one was ever as young as they look. They look like elves with goofy hair. So what am I picturing when I think of them? Something that never really existed, probably. Something both finished and unfinished, a story I’ve told myself. We tell ourselves stories to make time bearable. But the World Cup is over now, for all that it meant and all that it didn’t mean.

That's what these movies have become: they are now a story we told ourselves when we were young. Yeah Lucas did everything he could to fuck that up but he's a jackass now and forever. Let's enjoy it for what it is, without a larger commitment to all that it meant, and all that it didn't mean.

01 December 2014

Soft Target

Circa 1980-ish
The Star Wars teaser trailer dropped last week, if you hadn't heard. And if you hadn't heard then you probably aren't connected to the internet and/or interested in popular culture.

Grantland had a good summary of reactions. I have mixed feelings about the new movie, not least because George Lucas delivered three steaming piles of shit and then contrived to update the older movies in ways that only benefited his already prodigious bank balance, but Alex Pappademas contributed something that I very much identified with. Take it away, Alex: 

Look: I was really comfortable dreading and/or not caring about this movie when it was first announced, and I fully expect to get back there again before next December. But the Falcon is the Falcon. That first barrel roll felt like this trailer just reached out and high-fived my inner 8-year-old. I am a sour, pretentious turd and I want so badly to be immune to this bullshit, and yet I can’t deny that I’m in. It turns out that my heart is like that thermal exhaust port on the Death Star — after all is said and done, it turns out to be kind of an easy target.

26 November 2014

No Thanks I'd Rather Not

Sometimes you might not want to eat whatever it is someone is offering you. Just make a face and maybe they'll stop.

Lending is Giving

I am an international financier. Been on that jam since 2008(!!) and so far it's going well. Everyone I have loaned to has paid their loans back 100%. Which is kind of amazing but here we are. Kiva sent this video out to lenders and I'm posting it here because when I'm bloated with excess it feels nice to know that I'm not completely awful.

23 November 2014

Arnold is Numero Uno

Is Weed Paleo?
 This is the very best.

The joint. The glass of white wine. The plate of meat in his lap. The shorts. The room full of people sitting elbow to elbow while Mr. Universe relaxes lengthwise on a couch. That shirt. That shirt, which, given the context of the above, is utterly and completely redundant.

Pure truth to power.

21 November 2014

Throwback Thursday: Just a Friend by Biz Markie

Amazing old school jam. All-time classic right there.
That hook! Those lyrics! That chain!


If you don't love this then you really need to reevaluate your life choices. All of them.

15 November 2014

Just Chillin at Home

Yoga Mats Make Exellent Baby Mats - Who Knew?
This is my friend's kid. When her mom is looking after her she has bows in her hair and matchie matchie outfits and she looks super cute and put together. When her dad is watching her she looks like she stepped out of Mad Max. Guess which parent was running the show when I took this picture?

14 November 2014


Dat Battery Tho!
Some people do not love cheese. I am not one of those people.

Sometimes a bro needs some cheese. I've had a (very hot) girl tell me she was  impressed when a guy had some gouda in the fridge. And that is not a gourmet cheese! Point is, some good cheese can really strengthen your game. So you need to pick that shit up.

11 November 2014

Hot Jamz, All In A Row

Usually I post these one at a time but this time someone else did the heavy lifting. Thanks, internet.The EFIX jam is pretty good. I always liked the original version of that song and the cover is a nice update.

Throwback Jamz: Secondhand News by Fleetwood Mac

Another sad song that sounds happy. I love this song.

If your band is good enough that Stevie Nicks is singing backup at any point then you are crushing it.  It is inaccurate to say that Lindsay Buckingham is underrated: he is awesome, and his awesomeness is common knowledge. So: properly rated.

I know there's nothing to say
Someone has taken my place
When times go bad
When times go rough
Won't you lay me down in tall grass
And let me do my stuff

I know I got nothin' on you
I know there's nothing to do
When times go bad
And you can't get enough
Won't you lay me down in the tall grass
And let me do my stuff

One thing I think you should know
I ain't gonna miss you when you go
Been down so long
I've been tossed around enough
Awh couldn't you just
Let me go down and do my stuff

I know you're hopin' to find
Someone who's gonna give you piece of mind
When times go bad
When times go rough
Won't you lay me down in the tall grass
And let me do my stuff

I'm just second hand news
I'm just second hand news
I'm just second hand news
I'm just second hand news
I'm just second hand news
I'm just second hand news

Perfection is Hard to Find But You Know It When You See It

You Look Amazing
I laughed.

Cray Cray, plus: Gun Control

Crayfish are the Best
I wrote a long post about some personal stuff but when I re-read it I realized it didn't make for a very good read. I mean, it was well written (duh) but it served no purpose aside from boring ego-stroking. Here's the tl;dr: dating is :-/ 

Instead, let's talk about some stuff that makes Republicans flip out: gun control.

Took a CCW Permit class over the weekend. This is a state-mandated sixteen hour course you must complete if you want to get a CCW permit. There were 32 people in the class. Of those 32 I was the best shooter and it wasn't close, mainly because I was one of the only people that actually, you know, had spent some time shooting before. There was one other guy that had taken some training and could shoot, and two other guys that did not have training but could shoot well enough, although their draw and reloads were crap because they never practiced that stuff. Which: hey, you should practice that stuff. Everyone else was so raw and new that they had no idea what they were doing. To be clear: these people are applying for a permit to carry a gun in public spaces.

No one failed the qualification, although the guy next to me qualified only because some of his shots missed the paper at 15 yards. He was literally so bad that he was good.

The class was analogous to the time I got my Class M (motorcycle) driver's license. When I was done I was legally allowed to ride whatever motorcycle I wanted, anywhere I wanted. Based on the testing and qualification I was actually qualified to ride a motorcycle while supervised in a parking lot, during the daytime. Point is, it's too easy to get a motorcycle license, and the qualification for a CCW is too easy. The classroom education is fine - they do a good job with the legal ins and outs of carrying a gun, but if you can't keep the bullets in a 8" circle from THREE YARDS then you are not qualified to carry a gun. A minimum level of competence should be required. If you cannot meet the minimum level of competence then you need to practice more and/or get a gun that you can shoot.

Yeah it's great that the constitution protects your right to own a gun but the government already curtails your constitutional rights if you are a danger to yourself or others. Exercise your right to free speech but do not yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater. Same principle applies here. This is common sense. I am not infringing on any rights except your right to be an unprepared/unqualified asshat that carries a gun around in public. If that's gun control then I'm cool with it. You should be, too.

03 November 2014

Liberals for Liberal Values: Thucydides and Sam Harris

The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools.

It's on wikipedia as:
The State that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.

Sam Harris has been making public appearances and talking about liberals being for liberal values. What does that mean?

It means that if you are a liberal or a progressive or a 'do unto others' human being and you believe in things like equal rights for women, equal rights for LGBTQRSTUVWXZ*, education for all, preventing human trafficking and slavery, etc, etc then your views are not in alignment with traditional Islam. Get comfortable with that fact. 

The popular shorthand for Harris' position is that he is a racist. That is inaccurate. All he is doing is looking at Islam objectively. He says on his blog:

I genuinely believe that both Affleck and Kristof mean well. They are very worried about American xenophobia and the prospects of future military adventures. But they are confused about Islam. Like many secular liberals, they refuse to accept the abundant evidence that vast numbers of Muslims believe dangerous things about infidels, apostasy, blasphemy, jihad, and martyrdom. And they do not realize that these doctrines are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity.  

The litmus test for intellectual honesty on this point—which so many liberals fail—is to admit that one can draw a straight line from specific doctrines in Islam to the intolerance and violence we see in the Muslim world.

The problem seems to be that militant rejection of these core Islamic values sounds too neocon to the sensitive liberal ear. To which I respond: toughen up. When did liberals become a bunch of pussies?

People had to fight for liberal values for as long as there have been liberals. Do you think the battles between unions and strikebreakers were a big love in? People died by the hundreds and that was for workers rights IN THIS GODDAMN COUNTRY.

The good old US of A kicked the Nazis and Japanese in the dick because those fuckers were trying to put their boot on the neck of half the world. Liberal values right there. My grandfather was a die-hard borderline socialist and he would kick your ass like he did the Japs (his words) in 1941-45. He was a liberal before Reagan made that a dirty word and he was hard as nails.

Liberals fought for civil rights in the 50s, 60s and 70s and were beaten, tortured, and killed. Again, that was IN THIS GODDAMN COUNTRY. Those are your forbears. Stand up for your rights, and stand up for the rights of others. Be prepared to defend them, with force if necessary. Do it with pride.

If you want more information visit the source and get up to date.

*Spelling possibly incorrect. I support gender equality in principle but in practice I leave the details to others. I'm busy.

02 November 2014

Sweet Pups: Ruby

Got to spend some quality time with the best pups around: Sweet Rubes. She's great pups. Obedient with a side of excessive energy, so she does funny dog stuff like jump around too much and get carried away and dig in the grass. She runs and bounces and she will kiss your face if you get down where she can reach it. I like to crouch down with dogs and give them hugs and kisses. All the hugs and kisses. Anyway, here's a photo of her getting ready to share some sugar. It gets no better. Love that girl.

Dear North Korea: Don't Ever Change

Clearing up the backlog with this.
Little Man Syndrome indeed.

26 October 2014

Everything Old is New Again: Audi RS4

(Music unrelated except I love this song.)
I decided to move my savings from my bank account into my garage. (Read: I bought a used car.)

Some experiences you have infrequently. I have only gotten a new-to-me car a handful of times in my life. When it happens I tend to reflect on the other cars in my vehicle history. I'm a car guy: I follow when new models are released, learn their specs and prices, develop a relationship with them, some more than others. I can remember all of the cars I have owned, their idiosyncrasies, the girls I was dating when I bought the car and when I sold it, where I was living, etc. If they break down I feel betrayed. If they get a dent, ding or scratch I feel dented, dinged, or scratched.

You know those guys that can rock a cool vibe in a shitty car? Man those guys are cool.

I am not one of those guys.

When I was a late-teens teenager my first car was a beat up, piece of shit, sun-baked orange '59 VW Bug with a '69 engine. I fucking hated that car at first, although we did eventually reach a kind of detente. Kirk Sorrell loved that car and was a regular fixture in the copilot seat (his house being on the way to most places). He called it Orange Thunder and we drove that thing all over everywhere. Well, I drove. He was eating Taco Bell.

Orange Thunder drove me and my friend Joe to and from work every day one summer when I was in high school, and it had a funny gas pedal that let you squeeze some extra juice out of the feeble engine if you pushed it the right way. I put some cool stickers on it and my cousin gave me speaker box for the wayback* so I could rock out to sweet jamz (was into Midnight Oil back then, pretty sure I had a tape).

At one point the starter broke and if I went somewhere I'd have to either park on an incline and/or get someone to give me a push. One time I went to a girl's house to kick it. She was on cheer. Tall. She was a sophomore and I think her name was Amy Something. After we got done hanging out I had to say, heyyy, uhh, can you drive a stick? (Not a euphemism.) She was all, like, no. And I said, welll okay then can you gimme a push? So she did. 

Kind of hard to make that look good when you're in high school. Or ever. What're you gonna do? 

My mom drove a 1974 blue VW bug until I was 14, which was about 13 years longer than any person should have to drive one of those pieces of shit, although it was the 70's and there weren't a lot of good options back then. Plus she was broke. She rebuilt the engine herself at one point. I fucking hated that car too.

When I first got Orange Thunder my mom worked really hard to get it running and road ready. She insisted on seat belts, which were definitely not standard equipment in 1959 and had not been added in the subsequent 33 years. They wouldn't have saved me from getting my face bashed in during a crash but at least I wouldn't fly out of the vehicle. The car was actually sold to my mom by a guy from her work that wasn't using it and knew I needed wheels. He sold it to her for $50, and he only charged $50 because she insisted on paying something. Point is that it was a generous gift. I was not all pumped on it but I was excited to finally be able to drive my own car.

After I got my license we spent most of one Saturday bleeding the brakes and doing final prep for my big debut on the mean streets of San Jose. I remember distinctly that I got all dressed up in some 'cool' clothes (jean shorts are a real possibility, but I don't remember) to go for a drive. Nowhere in particular, just going to swing by and visit my friends. When I went out to the car to go for my drive my mom made a big fuss about it (as moms do), waving goodbye and saying have a good time. She had made an effort on the car and knew I was excited. A kids first drive on their own, in their own car, is a Milestone Event. On your way to becoming a man and all that.

When I got in the car I pushed the clutch in, prepped the brake and the brake pedal went all the way to the floor. I didn't even bother to turn the key. The brakes would have to be re-done, and our day was a waste. I was so bummed. Got out and walked back inside, deeply frustrated, fighting tears, and went to bed. On my way inside my mom asked what happened and I told her. She was heartbroken for me, and felt like she really let me down. As if she had not already stretched herself thin trying to get me on the road.

First world problems, sure, but at the time I felt bad for myself. On reflection I feel bad for my mom because she tried so hard and it didn't go as planned.

Eventually Orange Thunder ran well enough, and like I said: we had some times. I'm old now but whenever I get a new car a part of me remembers how I felt when I was 17 and that brake pedal went all the way to the floor. And then I miss Kirk. And I miss showing up at Joe's house just in time for dinner and spending time with him and his family. And I miss going to Taco Bell and drinking Dr. Pepper and wearing tortoiseshell Wayfarers. And I feel very lucky to drive a car that I like. Very lucky indeed.

Thanks for reading. See you out there.

* All old bugs have a wayback behind the back seat. It was an empty space where you could store shit. Or something. My mom called it the 'wayback', pronounced WAY-back.