31 May 2015

The Good Stuff: David Regelin Yoga

Took a class with David Regelin yesterday. Didn't know too much about him except he was from New York. Actively avoided doing too much research; better to go and see what he's all about and decide for myself. Plus I was looking for an excuse to get out of the house and yoga workshops are good because you always learn something, even when they are terrible.

The class was outstanding. Great from start to finish. David is an inspired, careful, intelligent teacher. I cannot recommend him enough. I described him as 'Tim Senesi East' to people that know Tim. Not because they are both annoyingly tall, dark and handsome (though they are), but because they are very athletic, alignment-focused, have a wealth of knowledge and share it in a useful, digestible way. If Regelin is ever in your area then make an effort to get to his workshop or training. Absolutely worth your time and money.

And the tall part matters: the balancing poses are easier for shorter people so seeing a muscular person taller than me teach poses is inspiring and humbling. It's great that the toothpick-armed jockeys can do cool shit but I'm neither skinny nor short so I have other challenges, like fitting my man-thighs into boardshorts. And getting some sun. Maybe.

30 May 2015

Read All About It: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey and Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

Jewel Wasp: Giving Roaches Nightmares for Millennia
Happened to read Girl with All the Gifts and Parasite Rex back to back. That was a (fortuitous) coincidence because they overlap a bit and both books are good.

If you have to choose only one then read Parasite Rex. It is sensationally titled as "Inside the bizarre world of nature's most dangerous creatures", which is one of the reasons it sat on my shelf for so long. I thought it would be sensationalistic and dumb. It is neither. It is a cerebral look at parasites and the way they have shaped the world. Turns out the book just scratches the surface but it is very easy and entertaining reading. The variety, complexity and specificity of parasite species is astounding.

If you want some easy science-y fiction then Girl with All the Gifts is a good read. It is perfect light reading as long as you do not mind savage brutality as a plot device. Main character is a girl, so: feminism? Not sure. Some of the characters are a little thin and predictable but overall it's a good pickup if you see it used or can borrow it from a handsome gentleman that does not need it taking up any more of his already overflowing bookcase.

21 May 2015

Out With a Bang: Letterman Does it Right

This is fantastic. I forgot how much I loved this song.
Also: the guys put on tuxedos, even Taylor Hawkins, who wore shorts to his own wedding (per Dave Grohl). That is rad. 

20 May 2015

Albert Burneko is the Best

Left and Right are Social Constructs
There are a few people out there doing good work on the internet and Albert Burneko is one of them. Most of the Deadspin staff is surprisingly good (Tom Ley and Greg Howard are great) but my personal favorite is Burneko. His words are good words. His style is good style. His essay (instructions?) on how to grill a whole fish is a masterpiece, but it is only one of many.

He also writes about basketball, and his essay on why Nick Young is terrible is also a masterpiece. I come back to it periodically, usually for this passage, which is the purest purity:

To confirm my anecdotal sense of his game, I've spent the past three seasons carefully documenting every single one of Young's touches, for the Wizards and also for the Clippers. It turns out that on a shocking 62.3 percent of his touches, he forced (and bricked) a contested pull-up 20-footer early in the shot-clock. On another 20.4 percent of his touches, he forced (and bricked) a contested pull-up 20-footer early in the shot-clock. And on the remaining 17.3 percent of his touches, he turned and pegged the ball through the television screen, directly into my face.
That is advanced analytics at their finest. If you have ever watched Nick Young play basketball for 5 minutes then you know Burneko is speaking pure truth to power.  Young's incompetence is even more amazing in person; he is a rare orchid that can only flourish in a very specific set of circumstances: troglodyte head coach (Byron Scott), team with other no-name players (identify 3 Lakers from last year excluding Kobe), and a tanking franchise with a top-five protected first round pick (sad faces for Knicks fans).

Enjoy Albert Burneko at every opportunity.

18 May 2015

I Went There*: Portland

*One in an occasional series where I talk about places I visited. If that's not your thing then here are cat videos.

Visited Portland, Oregon for several days. Had meetings, ate food, walked around, went to yoga. Portland has a lot of neckbeards and able bodied homeless and brunettes with sensible haircuts. Normally I'm a fan of short hair but Portland made me realize I'm a fan of short hair that says, "I styled my hair like this because it is cute". Portland girl styles are more "I didn't feel like making any sort of effort whatsoever". It's very practical, if not terribly flattering.

It is relatively inexpensive to eat and drink downtown but the hotels are pricey. Although there were a lot of able-bodied homeless I didn't get aggressively panhandled like I did in Vancouver (which is both spectacularly expensive and overrun with gutter punks). So that was nice. Overall I recommend it. There are a lot of cool places to eat and get a beer, fun outdoorsy things to do. The yoga studio I visited was very good. The downtown and immediate environs are nice and much of it is walkable. 

Favorite thing: pie at the The Imperial. They made a strawberry-peach pie that was as good as anything I could make. If I ever go back to Portland I will make sure I stop in again.

Second favorite: River running through town. Don't see much of that down where I live. 

16 May 2015

Life Lesson: Don't Be a Macho Dick

Pancakes > Workout
One thing that I really like about my gym (aside from that they sometimes blow off workouts to get some flapjacks, see photo) is that the competition is friendly. It can be competitive but you can tell someone flat out that you want to beat their time and there is nothing macho in it. This comes from the top down: the coaches set the tone and the macho stuff is known to be not acceptable. You just want to do your best and if someone else motivates you that is up to you. You are competing to do your personal best, not necessarily beat other peoples times. And if it is then you can joke about it. There is always someone faster / stronger than you anyway so who cares? It's between you and the weights. 

That said: I got up early to do a circuit workout class this morning with my friend at his gym. It was tough. The circuit was super long so we just went through it twice. There were about 9 people in the class.
  • Sled push 40 yards
  • Rope wave thing up and down 40 times total (20 each arm)
  • 12 burpees
  • 12 standing butterflys, weighted
  • 12 plyo push ups
  • 12 standing rows
  • 12 bw dips
  • 12 plank chin ups
  • 12 bench press (weight varied by person)
  • 12 pull ups
  • 12 squats (weight varied)
  • 20 sec hard run on the treadmill
  • 12 box jumps
  • 12 shoulder presses (weight varied)
  • 12 lateral raises for more shoulder work
  • 12 bridges on the swiss ball
  • 12 tricep press downs
  • 12 bicep curls
I did a crushing clean to overhead and thruster/pull up combo workout (I want to rename that workout 'the nightmare') 12 hours ago (so many 12's!) so I was pretty blown out before we started. When I got to the new gym this morning some guy I had never met introduced himself and gave me the most aggressive handshake ever. I am a fan of the firm handshake but this guy tried to squeeze my hand like he was wringing out a towel. Since I have a very strong grip from jiu jitsu and the gym work I was immediately annoyed because, really guy? It's like that? Because if it is I can definitely crush your hand if that's how you want to do it.

He is about my age and roughly the same height as me, very fit with a runner's build: lean, thin upper body, not much shoulder or arm bulk. I do circuit type workouts like it is my job and one thing I know is that the skinnies cannot do the strength stuff. Burpees maybe, pull ups and push ups and dips and presses: not so much. So we did the warmup and Macho Dick was in a huuuuuuuuge hurry to finish first on the WARMUP. He is such a tryhard, took it sooo seriously. What's the rush? He had his most serious face on. Even though he was doing some of the the warmup work wrong - he wanted to be first all the time. I just wanted to talk to the girls. Whatevs.

It's time to start the circuit and the fastest people are supposed to go first because we do the exercises in order. There are two sleds. Macho Dick heads straight for a sled. He cannot wait to whip some ass. After some prodding I go first with Macho Dick - I would much rather hang back and kick it with my peeps but whatever let's get this over with. He is super excited and really goes for it on the sled, finishes way ahead of me. I hope he feels good about this because there's a lot of work left to do and I am going to grind him to dust.

He rushes to the ropes and cranks those out. He rushes to the burpees and wait a minute... he seems to be slowing. Gets to the plyo push ups and now I am caught up because there is only one station and have to wait for him to finish. At this point the sled push appears to be catching up with him. He struggles on the dips (lol weakling) while I power through the plyo push ups and the row. I am now caught up to him. This is odd because it seemed like he was going to kill it after the sled push. I swap an exercise to pass him and keep on keeping on, finishing my first circuit well ahead of everyone else.

Macho Dick is looking a little worn but he's still in it, albeit much more slowly. It is gut check time: finishing first is off the table; now he has to figure out how far behind he will end up. Which sucks for him because he is clearly very invested. Another thing the gym has taught me: you learn a lot about yourself when you do not perform as well as you expect. Do you work through it or do you quit? Fight or surrender? (For me it depends on the day: some days the bear eats you.)

The workout is hard. Everyone is struggling, including me. Look at that list. That's a lot of shit to do!

I head back out and hit the sled again, start the whole thing over. It is damn tough this time around because I am feeling used up from 12 hours prior and I get no breaks because all the stations are open. And also the trainer has ramped up all the weights for me. Nice. So I do my thing, grind out the work and after about halfway through round two I see Macho Dick WALK AWAY DURING THE WORKOUT. Not take a breather - everyone is doing that - but literally exit the facility.

Where does he go? What does he do? Did he have an important call to make mid-workout? Not sure. He had to take an extended time out. LOLOLOLLLLL By the time he returned I was just about done. Ahhh what happened man? Did I break your will or did you sprain your ego? Bit of both? :-/

Finished up my workout and waited for everyone else to get done. Macho Dick finished last which is utterly unimportant except he wanted to make a big deal out of it.

Being a Macho Dick is lame if you are first or last or anywhere in between. It is not important. No one cares except you and the other asshats. Just do your best and encourage others to do the same. Effort is what counts; this is not a race. Everyone starts from different skill levels and works to improve. No one takes anything away from you if they finish before you, and you do not take anything away from anyone if you finish before them. 200 pounds is always 200 pounds.

Hot Jamz: I Want You Back by the Jackson 5 (Shaparder and LRX Remix)

Long-time readers will know that I love this song (the original is filed under Dancefloor Destoyers for a reason). It gets an update in this remix and I confess I am enjoying the hell out of it. They put a little more bounce in it (always a good idea) and kept the world-beating bassline and vocal. I GOT MY DANCING SHOES ON WHAT ABOUT YOU??

15 May 2015

Set Your Boner to Stunned: Fatboy Slim Live for MixMag Asia

I first saw Fatboy Slim in the early 2000s and it was awesome. He remains awesome, as demonstrated here when he does some brilliant work on the turntables.

When you have a pile of hit records it can be tricky to know how/when you want to deploy them. Bury them at the middle and end of the set for a big peak? Or maybe use it to set the tone at the beginning? This set opts for the latter but it is amazing. I feel like partying.

14 May 2015

Get Your Read On: Max Gladstone and the Craft Sequence

//Another in a series of posts about books I have been reading to keep myself entertained. //

In between the Heavy Academic books I like to keep it light. Light does not necessarily have to mean bad, and the Craft Sequence series of books from Max Gladstone are superb easy reading. Fantasy either tends to take itself far too seriously (as with Tolkien or George R.R. Martin - at least Tolkien had the decency to write a story with an ending) or too absurd to get involved in. Inventing something from whole cloth is hard enough. Making it into a compelling story is even more challenging. 

Gladstone created a world that borrows heavily from our own. That means common fairytale tropes like vampires - their blood is addictive and there is a thriving addict culture - and fictional cultures that have more than a little in common with islands in the south Pacific, Aztec Mexico and modern capitalism.

Three Parts Dead is my favorite (so far) and it centers around contract law in one part of this vast world. Yeah I didn't think  contract law between gods and their worshippers would be very interesting either but it turns out that it totally is! Combine all that with strong characters and entertaining dialog and I burn through the books in a couple of sittings.

All the books (Three Parts Dead; Two Serpents Rise; Full Fathom Five) are highly recommended.

13 May 2015


Hey did you know that they are phasing out the A-10 because it is too cheap to produce? For real that is happening.

Because the Air Force is a charity corporation that only stays in business if they spend every last penny and ask for more they are devoting at least $400 billion to the F35 (which is an unmitigated disaster - google F35 disaster for more reading) and cutting programs that are less expensive and more capable.

To repeat: they are cutting programs that work better and cost less. A lot less. How can this happen? Because money.

This is happening because the USAF need to spread that government cheese around to the various contractors and congressman and leeches that keep the military industrial complex humming. The A-10 does not cost enough. Never mind what the pilots and men on the ground think about all that. Never mind that there is nothing that comes close to it in the American armory. All that value gets no traction with the accountants and administrators because they have palms to grease and jobs to justify and the only way to keep the money rolling in is to find new ways to spend it.

Possible costs for the F-35 over its lifetime have been pegged at over one trillion dollars. Chew on that.

The video producer (pilot?) opted to put a dope ass pump-up jam in the vid. It's not for everyone but I liked it. YMMV

10 May 2015

I am an International Financier (part n+1)

All my loans at Kiva are repaid in full so I re-lended this week because they were having a loan-matching deal. Your money goes twice as far!

I like funding smaller loans to individuals so I found a couple people that seemed like they had a good thing going. This is more financially risky but it feels like you have more of a direct impact when you can fund 50% or more of a loan. So I used the matching to fund most of a loan to Elijah in Kenya (pictured), who is in the motorcycle repair business. Motorcycles are near and dear to my heart so I can definitely appreciate a guy wanting to get some spare parts and tools to grow his business. That was an easy one. If I'm honest I got as far as "motorcycle repair" in the description before I clicked 'fund'.

After that I had some money left over so I helped fund a loan to Marisera, who is using the money to improve production at her farm.

Plenty of opportunities to improve the lives of people around the world over on Kiva. Unlike the Red Cross they are an organization that pushes economic distribution downstream instead of funneling it into their organizations 'operating costs'. The Red Cross is the worst.

09 May 2015

LET'S TALK GUNS: HK VP9 Review and Comparison with Apex M&P9, P30L

UPDATE 9 May 2015:
tl;dr - VP9 trigger will smooth out with use. It is good value for money: very reliable, very accurate, and very easy to shoot. The trigger is good enough. At that price point you have to compromise somewhere and it is in the trigger. Everything else about the gun is outstanding. Out of the box is it superior to the M&P9.

This has been the most popular post on my blog by quite a lot so I am adding more information after shooting all the guns with more people, several more times.

Shot the P30L, M&P9 and VP9 with 4 shooters of various skill levels. All guns had XS 24/7 Big Dot sights.
Considered in isolation everyone preferred the trigger on the M&P9. It is as close to a 1911 trigger as I have ever fired. Apex parts are boss.

Even with the trigger advantage some people preferred the VP9 overall because of the ergos: grip, mag release, little wing things on the slide. The LEM trigger was not a fan favorite early in the day but it grew on people.

Overall the VP9 has performed very well. It is my go-to carry gun because while the trigger in the M&P9 is superior I did have an issue with the magazines (which seems to be resolved now), and I am in the market for an aftermarket barrel because I am not thrilled with the accuracy. The barrel lockup is not as tight as in the VP9 and I think that is a contributing factor. (I know it is not the trigger. :))

Word is that Bruce Gray of Gray Guns is working on a drop-in trigger kit for the VP9, and HKPro is selling springs that will reduce the trigger pull weight below 4 lbs. That is too light for a carry gun so they are not an option for me.

You can find the M&P9 for less than $400 (plus minimal fees) if you shop around. That is a damn good deal. I expect the VP9 prices to come down to the $500 range before too long.

Will update with more info as appropriate. 

13 Sept 2014
Posted this review on a forum but it was behind a paywall. There are a lot of VP9 reviews and comparos popping up. Here's another one.

tl;dr: The VP9 performed well but I think the trigger is too heavy. Hoping it smooths out with use. Would definitely lighten the break if I could. It's a good gun for the money if you live outside of CA. (Note that 'good gun for the money' is very definitely not the same thing as being 'a good gun', full stop.)

Full version:
Brought a mixed bag of guns out to the range to introduce some new shooters. Experience varied - we had two very new shooters, three gun owners that shoot occasionally, and me. (I take classes as often as my schedule permits and augment my time away from the range with dry practice.)

Guns that people were available to shoot:
  • HK45 light LEM
  • P30L 9mm - light LEM
  • M&P 9mm - ATEi action work
  • VP9 - new and unfired
  • P2000 9mm
  • FN 5.7 (lulz)
  • MR762 (nice)
  • Springfield 1911 (LULZZZZZZZZ)
  • HK45 in standard issue DA/SA
I was mainly interested in comparing the striker guns, and also how the new shooters would react with their limited exposure to the different 'weapon systems' (har). I'm glad someone brought a 1911 so that the new shooters could get some experience with a gun that doesn't work. (Already worked the bugs out of my M&P or else they could have used that.)

The VP9 rated about the middle of the pack. The trigger is too heavy out of the box and the gun needs some use to smooth it out. Most of the HK models on offer had fired at least 1000 rounds so they were broken in. Even accounting for break in, the trigger on the vp9 was not popular. Too heavy. I understand why people say that it is similar to a Glock. That's not a flattering comparison. After some break in I will either send mine off for some trigger work or get a lighter spring. Not sure. As is, I think it's got a ways to go.

No one hated the VP9 - it wasn't at the bottom of anyone's list, but it wasn't anyone's favorite. That's about what I would expect from a $600 gun on a table full of more pricey options. People liked everything about it BUT the trigger. The VP9 doesn't make a lot of financial sense where I live. By the time you get done paying the extra fees and tax you could have bought a M&P and had the custom work done. Or bought a P30L. Both options are superior to the VP9. I like the gun but don't plan to reach for it in case of emergency. I'll reevaluate after it has seen more use.

If you live in a part of the country where you don't have to pay extra fees and can get the VP9 for the street price then I think it's a competitive option. It is accurate and as far as reports go, reliable.

Most of the guns ran flawlessly. The only gun with issues was the 1911. When we got together at the beginning of the day and I heard someone brought a 1911 I asked if they brought a gunsmith to make sure it works. That didn't go over very well but I didn't say a word when it jammed repeatedly, failed to feed, etc. The 1911 is the Harley Davidson of handguns.

Overall a safe, fun range day. The new shooters are looking forward to picking up a new HK before the end of the year (probably the P30L).
See you out there.

Hot Mixes: Alma de Ace Podcast 17

I have no idea what Alma de Ace is. A quick use of the Google says that they are a 'lifestyle clothing brand' based in London.  The trunks look cool but it would cost me more to ship them than they would to buy. They sponsor some sweet ass house mixes on Soundcloud tho. Boom.

01 May 2015

Gym Cat is Best Cat

(I am not in this picture. This is the morning workout people - I work out in the evenings.)

Sometimes during the AM workouts a neighborhood cat stops by and makes himself comfortable. No bigs, I'll stretch it out right here.

Cats are awesome.