02 October 2015

Hot Jam of the Week: Bleachers and Charli XCX - Rollercoaster

I don't do much these days, surgery recovery and all. I could write a blog about Destiny (the game) but I'd rather be playing Destiny (the game) than write about it. So let's hear some music!

Apparently this is a cover? I never heard the original and don't much care. This is three minutes of pop perfection. Enjoy.

01 October 2015

Throwback Jam of the Week: Rain King by Counting Crows

Went to lunch today with Esteeb. He is going to the Counting Crows concert tomorrow night because he is a person that does Things. While we were at lunch this song came on and I laughed because I have not heard it for a while. Like, a long while.

He is not super pumped to see Counting Crows, and I don't much blame him, but only because I have heard they like to sing their songs in different keys and tempos during the live shows. I hate that shit. I'm not the kind of listener that pays good green American money to hear an interpretation from the artist. I want to hear the hits.

Anyway: Counting Crows. I used to love this band like no other, and when this record came out back in the day I listened to all the songs over and over again, learned all the words, sung along as much as I could (badly), and probably annoyed those around me with my unfettered enthusiasm. hashtag SorryNotSorry. Borrowing from Rembert Browne: "You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to relive a single day of it. I miss it so much."

Ended up having to go away that summer to a very, very unhappy situation. I try not to dwell on it too much, but this record was a joy during that (otherwise very dark) time.

At the time people were either very much in or very much out on the band. They were not cool, the lead singer caught a lot of shit for being famous(?) and whatever else. Steven Hyden (a professional music critic and also a fan of the Crows) puts it thusly:

I don’t think it’s necessarily the consensus opinion that Counting Crows sucks, because I know plenty of people who couldn’t care less about the band’s albums but will concede that “Round Here” is a great song. It’s just accepted that Counting Crows signifies a lot of what’s retroactively considered embarrassing about ’90s rock — the earnestness, the over-the-top emotionalism that veers into whininess, and the weird combination of sullenness about fame and the intense interest in crafting singles that are still played endlessly on the radio.

He's not wrong. Thing is, I still love this song.

You find a record where the record finds you. By that I mean the time and place, the set and setting, the way you consume the music will inform how you feel about the music for as long as you listen to it. Hyden goes long on this topic with a record that he thinks is better than August and Everything After. We can agree to disagree about that. For now, "She's been dying, and IIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiii've been drinking, and I am the Rain King."

Thanks for reading.

25 September 2015

Long Time No Talk: What the Heck? / To Recline or Not to Recline on an Airplane (RECLINE IF YOU WANT TO)

Hello Dear Reader!
I've been away. Literally away, in that I had to go to Seattle again. That was productive and fine and work. Whatever. Also metaphorically away in that I had back surgery so I am not supposed to sit or stand for "prolonged periods". (Is anyone supposed to sit or stand for "prolonged periods"? Not really.) Entries will be necessarily brief as a result.

Should have some content hitting in the next couple days. It might even be interesting! Possibly. No promises.

As an aside, here are some thoughts on reclining vs. not reclining an airplane seat. People tend to feel very strongly. I am firmly in the reclining camp.

It is your inalienable right to recline. Anyone that disagrees, however reasonable, is wrong. I like to lean forward sometimes in my seat and this puts me at risk of a sharp blow to the face when the person in front reclines. That is not their fault!

This is a good and reasonable summary of reclining best practices, courtesy the internet and 'philmickelsonmantits':

If anybody claimed that a reclining seat would “crush their knees” and “make the flight agony” and “will leave them bruised for days,” I’d roll my eyes so fucking hard because that’s the most histrionic shit I would have ever heard.

Now, if a tall person asked me politely for a little extra space, I’d offer a compromise whereby I only recline halfway.

I don’t want to cause anybody discomfort, but that includes myself. So, while I’ll give a little to minimize the other person’s discomfort, I hope they’d be willing to give a little to minimize mine.
That said, I’d never dream of asking the person in front of me to not recline, even though it prevents me from using my computer comfortably. It is their chair and their space, after all.

14 September 2015

More Reading: Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

This is a classic if you like soccer. Easy to read as the "chapters" are very short - each is only a page or two. There is a heavy emphasis on the history of soccer in Latin America, especially in the early half of the book. The florid and romanticized language is a contrast the the stark truths presented in the content: poverty, vice, and early death await many of the men (and they are all men) described in the books pages. Hence: Soccer in Sun and Shadow. Galeano does not shy away from the highs and the lows.

Highly recommended.

13 September 2015

Nice Piece

Bought this. Not sure what to do with it. Bit big for a paperweight. He is pretty great though, just sitting there looking mean. I moved him around from room to room to give him a feel for his new place.

Do not mess with the octopus. (Key included for scale.)

06 September 2015

Get Your Read On: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is a good book.

Consider reading it if you are looking for something good to read. (You can borrow my copy.)

Science fiction critics distinguish between 'hard' and 'soft' science fiction. (That these words are also used to describe pornography is probably not a coincidence.) These constructs are only useful when trying to assign arbitrary categories to objects so that we can organize them in our minds and conversations. In the grand scheme of literature they are useless except to marginalize certain types of fiction as more (plain fiction) or less intellectual (horror, science fiction, fantasy) than others. It's a lot of bullshit, is what I'm saying.

Anyway, hard science fiction roots the story in science; the science elements are an essential plot device. The Martian by Andy Weir is the most successful hard science fiction novel in recent memory. (That is a superb book, btw.)

Soft science fiction does not dwell overmuch on the science itself and instead focuses on other story elements. It is part of the story but drives the plot indirectly. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is an example of this latter type. It is very obviously a classic type of science fiction story but Ishiguro resisted categorizing it as such (see second paragraph above for reasons), and when it came out some reviewers bought into the idea that it was 'difficult to categorize' and 'ethereal', to which I say: no, and yes. It was 'difficult to categorize' because if you want to be a Serious Literary Novelist and win Serious Literary Awards then you do not write science fiction. Even if you write a book about a dystopian recent past where people are being cloned, raised to adulthood and then used/farmed as donors. It is a powerful, disturbing, challenging book.

Station Eleven is a soft science fiction novel* that jumps back and forth in time to tell two converging stories in parallel. It is wonderfully constructed and very well told. Highly recommended.

* 'Post-apocalypse', because we have enough of these now that they get their own category. You have The Road if you want to go highbrow, The Stand if you want to aim at the mass market, and Left Behind if you have terrible taste and/or are brain-dead, plus too many others to list.

05 September 2015

Best $8 I Ever Spent

I bought a hummingbird feeder on Amazon for about eight bucks.

It is awesome. Are there hummingbirds in your area? Do you have one? You should buy one!

There are pictures floating around on the internet of this feeder covered in hummingbirds. That is definitely not the done thing at my place. One little guy claimed the feeder and he watches over it like a hummingbird hawk. If any other birds cruise by for a tasty snack he lets them know to buzz off.

Every once in a while it seems like he gets tired of hustling the competition off the food source and will allow one other bird to feed (briefly). But not two. Oh hell no. Two interlopers is unacceptable.

The Big Boss is maybe a Rufous Hummingbird? No idea. I would get a picture but he is somewhat camera shy. Also, no matter what apple says about the quality of their camera phones if you want to shoot something high-speed you need a real camera (and a tripod, in this case). Maybe someday.

01 September 2015

This Right Here

Busy doing stuff and also my back hurts so I don't feel like sitting down and typing much. Will get you all caught up this weekend though.

In the interim, this is rad. It starts slow so give it some time.

25 August 2015

The Classics: Be My Baby by the Ronettes

I love this song. I love a lot of the Wall of Sound songs (a lot of people do -they are really good!), which I recently found out featured the same session musicians as the Beach Boys songs that I also love. So that's fun.

23 August 2015

Weird Al: Not My Favorite Music but Super Nice Guy

Cute Pups is Cute
As part of this disturbing story about a girl that was bullied because she was a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy (me too!) and Star Wars (first three movies only, thanks) the local Garrison or whatever it's called of Storm Troopers made sure she got some custom armor, which is totally rad.

Weird Al was also involved in some way and it turns out that he is legendarily nice! Who knew?  This story moved me in a way that I did not expect:

When I was a kid I played the accordion. I wrote “Weird” Al a fan letter that was basically. 

We play the same instrument, we should be friends! 

A month later he sent me a note that said. 
We are not friends. We are brothers! With the note was a sheet music of all his songs. 

How great is that? That is the greatest and I love it.
People are terrible, but sometimes they are not. In summary: Ruby the Dog is the cutest.

I Went There: Seattle

View from the Hard Rock Seattle Rooftop Deck (Sunset)
(One in an occasional series.) 

One of the perks of my job is that when I'm not working from home in serious business clothes boardshorts* I get to fly around the western United States and meet with customers, do work stuff, stay in nice hotels, see the sights, soak up some of the local color (so to speak), take the occasional yoga class, eat free food, drink free drinks. It's not bad!

Very occasionally I will have time to catch up with friends and/or family. Seattle was one of these times: got my work done, and then I had time to wander around downtown and buy cool stuff (which I almost never do), enjoy some of the touristy spots, hang out with my peeps.

Pike Market is tourist mecca but it was surprisingly pretty good in person. Overpriced, sure, but there were actually a lot of delicious items for sale there, such as local produce and seafood. I went during peak summer season and it was crazy packed but when I was back in the evening after the happy hour at the Hard Rock it was just me and the junkies and other homeless, of which there were many.

I can confirm that the "original" Starbucks is a cool little coffee shop, which makes it the inverse of every Starbucks that has opened since the original. Funny how that works.

If you can make your way to Seattle for an all-expenses-paid trip then that is definitely a thing that you should do. If not then hit me up and you can come with me next time. :)

* Shirts optional, unless I'm on a call, because I need something to clip to my microphone. 

22 August 2015

Get Your Read On: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Finished The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. An epic story, very well told. Highly recommended.

The book reminded me of Bridge of Birds which is long out of print and, in my not so humble opinion, excellent.

Get them both on Amazon (or borrow my copies).

Could do an in-depth review but I'm busy. You're just interested in a book to read, right? Right.

In unrelated news I picked up some hummingbird feeders because this place could use some local wildlife and also they are savage little beasts

21 August 2015

I Went There: San Diego

 (One in an occasional series.) 

In seven short days earlier this month I was in Vegas (we talked about it), briefly home, Whale's Vagina San Diego, very briefly home, Seattle, then finally, happily home. It was a full week.

The view from my hotel in San Diego was good enough that I took a picture in the daytime and evening. Not a bad work environment, yeah?

This year was a lot better than last year, not least because I fired the lying slooze I took with me last year and also because nothing under the bed tried to kill me. Big win all around.

20 August 2015

Han Yolo

Scott send me this, because he is awesome like that. He sent it just before I went to Vegas a couple weeks ago and it was prophetic because that is the same brand and size of vodka that we ended up ordering. In summary: I love America.

18 August 2015

Cats are Great: Crossfit with Lucky

Baby Weights bc My Lower Back Is (Apparently) Made of Tissue Paper
Some people think cats are only okay. I get it. I'm on board with the concept, understand the sentiment. I think cats are great, but I also think dogs are great, and octopi are great. If you had a pig that was funny and did funny pig-things then I would think that is pretty great, too. I'm an equal-opportunity appreciator of animals. (Except 'toy' dogs - animals are not 'toys'. Ugh.)

So when Lucky the Cat made his gym visit the other day I made sure to take a short time out and greet him warmly. Some cats (or dogs, or octopi) would be frightened by the loud noise of weights being dropped and bars banging around and so forth. Lucky, in true cat fashion, strolled through the front door into a room full of deadly objects and ignored them completely, because he doesn't give a shit what you're doing. He wants to check it out, maybe get some attention if you're not too busy working on your cleans or whatever, maybe have a lie down. He decides when he gets there.

Anyway, that's the fat kid, and also a cat. It's the little things.

12 August 2015

Health Check: BMI

Company has us do a cursory annual checkup to get a 20% discount on our health insurance. I dread it because I have to give blood and that means I have to lie down while it happens because it makes me woozy. :-(

The other thing they do is take height and weight measurements and return a BMI result. Turns out my BMI is out of the normal recommended range, which means that I either need to lose some ell bees or the BMI reference range is... flawed? Probably both.