12 June 2016

Good Books are Good: America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

America is at the Mall
As per usual, not much to report. Work and the gym, and sometimes I go places (and go to the gym, or yoga). In the next two weeks I have to go to New York City, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. It would be great if it weren't exhausting. Middle aged white guy problems for real. 

In between trips to exotic locales I finished America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich. It was very good. The book examines the United States continuous (and continuing) failure to demonstrate any kind of success in its' ongoing war in the Greater Middle East. 

Bacevich adroitly points out that the rise of military commitment in the Greater Middle East started up in earnest just as the cold war was winding down. What a happy coincidence this turned out to be for the US military industrial complex! (Was it actually a coincidence? No!) He also points out that, unlike the war in Vietnam, everyday life in America changed not at all: there were no sacrifices, no draft, no request from the government to maybe cut back a little on the conspicuous consumption. Quite the contrary: the public has been asked to proceed as if we are not at war. Why should we do otherwise?

This lack of investment or involvement encourages apathy on the part of the American voter, and it enables the various participatory entities to piss away trillions of dollars on military operations across the globe to no appreciable effect. It's quite a little racket the senior level military commanders, politicians, and defense contractors have set up for themselves. All this while the rank and file soldiers get put in the meat grinder.

If you are at all interested in a tidy summary of the epic catalog of failures that is US foreign policy and military action in the Greater Middle East then you will be fascinated. Highly recommended. 

06 June 2016

There is No Such Thing as Free Will

I wrote about this already when I covered the book Free Will by Sam Harris, but there is an article available in the Atlantic that covers the same topic, and examines the implications. Enjoy.

05 June 2016

Let's Do This: Pastry Class - Verrines

What is a verrine? I had no idea before I looked it up on the Googletubez. All I knew was that I had limited interest in a class on macarons because those are pretentious, trendy cookies. It's great that macarons are So Hot Right Now but enh, whatever. So I signed up to take a class on verrines, which was a very good choice because a) verrines are goddamn delicious, and b) verrines are usually comprised of dessert components that I think are goddamn delicious. Synergy, for your face.

Fun facts about verrines: it can be anything you want as the dessert type is actually the way it is served (in a small glass or cup thing) - the only limit is your imagination. So that's fun. Another fun fact is that the form factor (served in a cup/glass/small container) gives you the chance to use ingredients and textures that would be impossible in a cake or other pastry, because the container will hold everything together. How great is that? Pretty great.

So what did we make? Oh man we made some delicious items. First type of verrine had a seared banana custard layer, a chocolate sponge layer, a mango/passionfruit jello layer, vanilla and rum whipped cream layer, and a crumble top. It was good.

The other type was a vanilla custard layer, a vanilla sponge layer, a strawberry puree jello layer, a pistachio whipped cream layer (!!), and a bit of chocolate covered rice krispies on top. It was also good.

I've got big plans to make some verrines at the crib. Mine are going to be in a larger glass though. Not too big, but larger than those tiny shotglass sized treats we made at the swank pastry shop/school. Serving dessert in minuscule portions is a sadness. Let us not perpetuate this sadness in the world.

Speaking of perpetuating sadness, the pastry class draws all kinds of people. No men besides me and the instructor, which is typical. The range of kitchen experience on display among the students was... broad. I can tell at a glance if someone has spent any time in the kitchen by whether or not they put their hair back when they come to class. Put another way: if you put an apron on and don't pull your hair back and out of your way at the same time then you have no idea what the fuck you are doing in the kitchen. That said, there were 8 people in the class and three of them didn't know that if you don't get your hair under control it will turn up in the food. One of the students didn't even know how to make whipped cream. A reasonable person might imagine this impossible, as the entire recipe is in the name of the dish. But here we are. We got through it anyway. (I made the whipped cream.)

Very much looking forward to taking more classes. Even if it's macarons.

30 May 2016

MOAR BOOKS: The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales

This is an entertaining book, very easy to read, and also somewhat difficult to categorize. There is violence, the narrative jumps back and forth in time, and while details are frequent the macro view is occasionally ignored.

If you want to punish yourself with some of the reader reviews on amazon (never do that! why would you do that?) then you will quickly notice that the complaints are that the book is confusing or that the characters are shallow, or similar things which completely miss the point of the book. The point is that the regional office is under attack, and that drives the story. How it drives the story, and the characters, is well explained, although the tendency to shift back and forth in time during the narrative will only make sense after you get to the end.

Highly recommended.

29 May 2016

Read a Book: The Numbers Game - Why Everything You Know About Soccer is Wrong

The Numbers Game aims to use statistics to take a closer took at what is (and isn't) valuable on the soccer/football pitch. It is a very interesting read, although much less accessible than Moneyball in that there are no central characters to drive the narrative. (The authors do a a good job covering some of the personalities in the game but they don't have much punch.) Instead the facts drive the narrative, and while that doesn't make for a very good option on your movie script, it is a very informative and educational book. If you like statistical analysis applied to athletic endeavors then: highly recommended.

28 May 2016

Reading Sam Harris: Free Will // Letter to a Christian Nation

We are big fans of Sam Harris in this blogspace. He is a very practical man, and I like practical people. I picked up several of his books and have been making my way through them. The books are quite short, which I appreciate, since typical pattern in an academic book is to make your point once, then make it over and over again so that it fills up enough pages that you and (especially) the publisher can make some money when the book gets published. This is boring and sucks and it's why you can skip the majority of the pages in books like Reclaiming Conversation (an otherwise good book!) without missing much in the way of pithy content.

I started with Free Will, a slim volume that explains why free will is an illusion. You can finish this book in a single read, although breaking it up into smaller chunks will make it easier to process. Harris writes: "Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have." (Page 5) He spends about 60 very tidy pages providing proofs for this position, and doing some work explaining the implications. Highly recommended. 

After taking a break to read some fiction I read Letter to a Christian Nation. This book is a direct response to all the hate mail that Harris got after he published The End of Faith. Like Free Will, this is a very compact, economical book. Harris takes only as many pages as he needs to rebut the absurdity and hypocrisy that surrounds modern evangelical Christianity in the United States. He is not a man to waste words on boring topics, and his cool rationality is a soothing balm if you want to purge the memory of some new and impressively stupid religious news. Highly recommended. 

27 May 2016

I Thought You Said Your Dog Would Not Bite

CUTE
Didn't mean to suggest that the sweet pups in the last post is my pups. If I got a dog that would be the first thing I mentioned. I bought that bear as a gift for my accountant because it is his office dog, and that dog is awesome. In related dog-sharing news, this is Bruno the Portuguese water dog meeting a tortoise for the first time. Much excitement. Very reptile.

As an aside: Feel free to name your dog whatever you want, but if you choose a name that ends in "oh" (like Bruno, or Bilbo, or Bo, or Potato) then make sure you choose a negative cue that is different than the word "no", or else the dog will get very, very confused. That dog owner sucks. Don't be that dog owner.

Operation Macballs continues apace. Gotta retrain the brain. Keeps your brain fresh, or so I'm told.

Operation Drop Some Ell Bees is well under way. The Fat Kid is in a pool with some of the other peeps to see who can whip themselves into shape in preparation for the 4th of July. I have been supporting the efforts of my fellow competitors, and by "supporting" I mean "dropping cookies off at the houses of". Same thing. I cannot make them eat delicious treats but I can at least make them available. Here to help, people.

If the title of the post doesn't make sense then enjoy this classic. You're welcome.

26 May 2016

Too Close for Missiles, Switching to Guns

Doggie Got a Bear
It's been a busy time over here. We did some things, and did some other things. First things first, this is the inaugural post from the new MacBook Pro. I now drive a Prius (pretty much) and go to yoga and use a mac. I'm a cliche. Car is fine, and yoga is hot girls in yoga pants fine, and the macbook is also fine.

I'm anti-apple bullshit but the macbook pro is wonderfully light, which appeals to me because I have to carry it around places. It looks cool because I put a sweet, sweet SKT T1 sticker on it already.

iOS is OMG totes amazing if you want to integrate your iMessages from your phone or manage music on garageband or dick around with those awesome photos you took of your dinner.  If you have to, you know, actually work then it might be tough adjusting to the fact that the entire MS Office product suite is still years behind the same software on Windows. I remind myself of how nice and light this computer is every time I run into another absent feature or function. Related: The single-button mouse is straight garbage. LOL 'two-finger click'. Why are you telling me to fingerblast my computer? Use a two-button mouse.

Overall the best I can say for the new device is that I don't notice it much, and that apple's management of both hardware and OS seems to make things work with less effort than I would expect on a windows box. Probably most important is that it cost me $0, which is nice. Now that I think about it, not only was it free but I actually get paid to use it. Not bad.

//

Pups with her bear is a sweet beast. You can tell she likes the bear a lot because she hasn't eaten it yet. Good girl!

15 May 2016

Derp, plus: SKT T1!

I was so excited to go to that pastry class I forgot I already had a class at another cooking school place where I'm going to learn how to make pasta or some shit. Derpy McDerpface. Why did I agree to do that? I don't even eat pasta. It will be fun and good but not as good as eating pastry. So many pastries. All the treats. *sigh* So it'll be pasta this weekend, but as soon as that's done, ohh we are going to make some fuckin' treats up in here. Get your mind right.

This past weekend was the finals of MSI, which (spoiler alert) was won by my favorite pro game team: SKT T1. The sticker you see at left will adorn my new macbook* as soon as it gets here. 'It' = my macbook, because you know I've been saving that sticker for weeks. I'll write a longer post on how great it is to watch Duke / Blank (or Bengi) / Faker / Bang / Wolf do their thing later on, but all you need to know for now is that Faker is also called The Demon King, and he is very skinny, which means that the tears of his enemies must be very filling but also extremely low in calories.



* Ugh yes I am getting a macbook, because the windows laptop I've been carting around for the past two years is a punishment. This new one should be much easier to carry. Apple is still bullshit, but I didn't pay for it, so whatever.

08 May 2016

Just Play the Hits: Faded by Alan Walker (bootleg by Asnozm)



This bootleg is a smash hit by any metric. It is the good shit. Thanks Soundcloud! 

07 May 2016

EHRMAGERHD! PASTRY SCHOOL!!!11!!ONE!1

Long time readers know that making treats is one of my favorite things, possibly second only to stuffing treats in my face. So I make them, and then I share them with friends and family ('friends and family' is redundant in my case, but whatever), partly because sharing delicious treats with people you love is pretty much the best, and partly because if I ate them all then that would be Not Healthy. 

(Now would be a good time for you to review Kings of Pastry if you haven't already.)

So when a famous patissier opened a pastry school right down the street I was super pumped and signed up for a class immediately. My regular cooking school is superb but they mostly do meals and breads, with only occasional seasonal forays into what I consider the staple foods (i.e. dessert). Awesome for dates, but maybe not so awesome if you're flying solo. 

I like meals as much as the next person but I'm not much interested in taking a class and eating by myself. I want to focus on the good stuff. Speaking of the good stuff, get a load of this shit right here: macarons; eclairs; tart; tea cake; macarons again (different kind); verrine (no idea); frasier (no idea); Paris brest (I don't think that means what I think it means); st. honore. Classes every weekend! Let's do this. 

I'll let you know how it goes. 

02 May 2016

Whiteboard Camouflage

GRRR CHEST AND BACK DAY WEIGHTS

Do you know anyone that is white enough to disappear in front of a white board? I mean besides me.

Where does the white board stop and my arm begin? Impossible to say. It takes a special combination of Irish/German ginger genes, 'winter' weather, sunscreen, and League of Legends viewing on sunny days to get this white. Experts only, is what I'm saying.

Thanks Bennycakes for the photo.

01 May 2016

I Went There: San Ramon

Unrelated - Sigil of House Greyjoy, Which is Cool
(One in an occasional series.) 

I went to San Ramon to talk to some people about some things. I didn't know where San Ramon was before I was assigned the meeting. I can now report that it is (supposedly) 30 minutes from the Oakland airport, and (supposedly) 40 minutes from the San Jose airport. As with any driving time in the Bay Area it is highly traffic dependent. Both routes are hell during rush hour, is what I mean. If this report on San Ramon seems boring then you are getting the correct sense of what it's like to visit San Ramon.

After San Ramon I got to visit Rancho Cordova, which was similarly exciting but with a better lunch.

Next week I'm in Monroe, Louisiana for a couple days to talk to some people about some things. I have a strong suspicion that Monroe is to Louisiana as San Ramon is to California, but more humid. I will let you know when I get back.

21 April 2016

Prince Died Today



Prince was awesome and fun and weird and more than a little bit crazy. He died today at the age of 57.

He did many great musical things in his life, one of which was to boot Kim Kardashian (who?) off the stage during a concert. He didn't even get mad, he just treated her like the clueless trash that she is.  Legend.

19 April 2016

I Broke Up with My Audi

The Prius
I broke up with my RS4. It was a breakup, because I was emotionally invested in it, but: it wasn't working out. In economic terms it wasn't worth the investment. In more plain language it was fucking killing me, which it would have to be in order for me to sell it because I loved that car. I still love it, and driving it was fun (sometimes) but living with it day to day was a nightmare.

It never actually left me stranded - it was too well mannered for that. Instead it just cost a fortune to own and operate. Every few months some new thing would go wrong during 'routine' maintenance and I'd be out another two to three grand (or more!). At some point the juice just isn't worth the squeeze, so I sold it a (considerable) loss and moved on to a known, reliable, robust quantity.

Opted to lease a Prius. That's it in the picture. Don't be confused by the logo - it's a Prius - same engine, same hybrid system, blah blah blah. It's pretty nice! Lots of features! The best part is I don't have any maintenance costs and it's covered by a warranty (obvs.) so basically I just have to show up with a check for three years and it will work very well. If I'm going to have a car payment I might as well have a new car. Be sure and wave if you see me on the road.