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Showing posts from January, 2019

1,556 Miles Update #1

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Okay: so, I started out strong, which is not all that unusual- but I picked up a nasty cold in the back half of the month that knocked me off my rhythm for a couple of weeks, but despite all that: I got on the old pink bike three times a week all month long. I did Kettlebell a couple of times this month (I need to work on that in February) and didn't manage to do any tai chi at all.

Intermittent fasting too sort of took a hit when I picked up that cold- so I have to get back on that horse, so hopefully in February I can get back on that horse a little bit more effectively again. I think if I can get through February more consistently I'm going to try and take the next step. If I can control when I eat, then I have to start working on what I eat next.

So January is in the books and it went...  okay. I got areas to improve on for February, but it wasn't a complete failure. Which brings us to the challenge. 1,556 miles from Duluth to Laredo (virtually, anyway) and here's …

Epic Bookshot #4: The Mars Trilogy

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Kim Stanley Robinson has long been one of my favorite writers. I don't know if rolling your eyes and being like 'oh, it's science fiction' is something that people do anymore- but yes, he does write science fiction, so if you have hang-ups about genre fiction and get all snooty about it- just be aware. However: if you do have those hang-ups then I can recommend no better starting point for your journey of discovery into the awesomeness that is science fiction than with his Mars Trilogy.

Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars chronicle the colonization and eventual terraformation of Mars. Red Mars starts with the journey out to Mars and the initial first one hundred colonists. They are mainly drawn from America and Russia- but there are some other countries represented as well: Hiroko Ai is the botanist from Japan, Michel Duval the psychologist for the colonists is from France. But really, this is a joint Russian-American affair and the key players begin to emerge. John Boo…

Free Write Friday #5: Blood Alley

The age of steam. Airships rule the sky and Victorian houses vie for power. In a dark alley two gentlemen meet. They adjust their monocles and tip their top hats cordially before drawing their sword canes. There can be only one.

South of Canal Street was where the young and the rich went to party. The spires of the city loomed above everything, stretching high into the darkness above. The sound of the airship horns echoed dimly in the streets as the late night flights came to rest on their moorings at the grand air dock that had been erected out of the bay. It was a long, pyramid like structure that was always lit up- like a light house for ships of both water and air.

Tucked in between Portland Road and Trinity Way was an alley. It was a fairly normal alley, if such a thing was possible. There was garbage, fire escapes, creaking iron balconies. Clothes lines strung between building on the upper floors. It didn't have an official name on the map, but everyone called it 'Bloody…

Squawk Box: Bodyguard/Killing Eve

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Squawk Box this month features of a pair of excellent British imports, one of which landed on Netflix and the other on Hulu. I caught some buzz about Bodyguard from the Parentals who said they were excited for it to drop on Netflix over here because they were hearing excellent thing about it from extended family across the pond. Killing Eve, on the other hand I think I heard about through the odd Buzzfeed article about how awesome Sandra Oh was in the show. Turns out that both shows more than lived up to the hype.

Starring Richard Madden as Sergeant David Budd, the titular bodyguard assigned to the 'tough talk on terrorism' Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), Bodyguard opens with Budd taking his kids back home to his wife, Vicki (Sophie Rundle) on the train. He wades into a possible terrorist incident, locating and then talking down and disarming a would be suicide bomber, Nadia Ali (Anji Mohindra) before getting his kids home safely. For the successful resolution o…

Shutdown Theater

If this cheerful prediction that it will take some kind of shutdown related disaster to get both sides talking and the government reopened doesn't make you incredibly angry, well then I don't know what to tell you- except that it's illustrative of a fact that, to me, anyway, is more of a threat to our democracy that the current occupant of the Oval Office: our legislative branch is increasingly moribund and ineffective.

Yes, that's right. To me, the real and growing problem is Congress. I'm not the only one who's tuned into this problem. Joe Rogan had Lawrence Lessig on his podcast talking about much the same thing. Despite the dubious motivations* behind a lot of these think pieces- there's been a raft of 'plans to fix the Senate' floating around out there. The New York Times, doubled down on the reform proposals offers a two part proposal on how to fix the House.

The ongoing stalemate over the government shutdown only throws the problems of Congre…

This Week In Vexillology #280

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This Week In Vexillology, our tour of the counties of England continue and we move north from Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to take a look at our next two counties on deck, Norfolk and Lincolnshire. Let's start with Norfolk:

How do you get there? Well, find London and head northeast until you find Norwich and you're in the heart of Norfolk. It's more or less the tip of that big round thumb that juts out a bit into the North Sea. It's low lying, arable land- so lots of agriculture and if there's a claim to fame that sticks out to me, it's probably the fact that Iceni lived there and revolted against the Romans, lead by none other than Queen Boadicea herself. (There are probably other cool things too, but that's the thing that I liked the most.) Let's talk about their flag:

Adopted on September 11th of 2014, the design of the flag of Norfolk dates back to the 12th Century and the first Earl of Norfolk, Ralph de Gael. Probably the most interesting thing about…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Loonshine

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A fantastic Christmas gift from the Missus, Loonshine Liquor is the first offering (launched in 2014-- though- they've done more since then) from Loon Liquor of Northfield, Minnesota. Just looking at the bottle, they already kind of had me: locally sourced organic ingredients? In a whiskey? Sure. I'm all in. Gimme. But when you go their website and read their story- it gets even better. These two guys launched a microfunding campaign that raised $11,500 which enabled them to get an SBA Loan and then in November 2013 they became the first two people in Southern Minnesota to get Federal permission to produce spirits in over 100 years.

Organic. Locally sourced. And small, locally owned business that literally started as an idea two dudes had? What is not to love about this? Well, if the details don't get you interested I'm happy to report that their product more than lives up to the hype. Loonshine has a barley and wheat grain bill and is filtered through in-house crafte…

The Psychology of Masculinity

A minor internet brushfire erupted a few days ago when the American Psychological Association announced it was issuing it's first ever guidelines for practice with men and boys. On the face of it, it didn't seem like that big of a deal- I dug a little deeper and actually read some of the APA's summaries of the guidelines and it's less bad that it's being made out to be. Consider this 'graph from the APA:
But something is amiss for men as well. men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United State sand represent 77% of homicide victims. They're the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more like than women to die by suicide and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women's. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls and they face harsher punishments in school- especially boys of color. Seems eminently reasonable, right? Certain segments of t…

Netflix & Chill #56: Sorry To Bother You

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Watched On: Hulu
Released: 2018
Directed By: Boots Riley
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Folwer, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Pick: Mine

I can't remember when I first saw a preview for this movie, but the fact that it centered around a telemarketer sort of intrigued me. Having done a six month stint as a telemarketer and two rounds at Wal-Mart over the years I can confirm that there are some truly shit jobs out there and a movie that tells the story of one of them made me interested at least- but Sorry To Bother You is more than just another story of another workplace we haven't seen before.

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his Uncle's (Terry Crews) garage with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson) who is an artist. Struggling to pay rent, he takes a job as a telemarketer at a firm called RegalView. He has some trouble connecting with customers until an ol…

This Week In Vexillology #279

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Our grand tour of the counties of England continues with our next two counties up- we're heading back east across England to my home county of Cambridgeshire and it's next door neighbor of Suffolk!

First up, Cambridgeshire

I was born in Cambridge, but I can't say that I have a particularly close relationship with my birthplace- it's not like I get back there a lot. But that being said, I'd like to get back there and get to know the place of my birth a bit better. I've done the usual things- the wandering through the colleges, punting on the river, etc- but if there's a 'someday, maybe' on my list, it'd be to spend a few months there and actual live there for awhile to see what the place is really like. In the mean time, my home county has a great motto: Corde Uno Sapientes Simus, "With one heart let us be wise."

How do you get there? I've always perceived Cambridge as being north east of London, but it's more straight north. Ca…

Free Write Friday #4: Alpha Centauri Tales

Twelve pilgrims gather in the canteen about a spaceship bound for sacred Earth. These are the Alpha Centauri tales.

The chimes echoed throughout the ship, summoning us to canteen so the ceremonial first meal marking the start of the pilgrimage. The canteen wasn't much, but then again neither was the spaceship- spartan and basic, it was little more than a long table set in a wide, empty room toward the front of the ship with huge windows to one side of it so we could all see the first glimpses of our destination.

I was the fourth to arrive, slipping into my seat and looking out at the dust and fog of the Oort Cloud that surrounded the sacred system. Soon, the fog would lift and we would be there, well- not there, our final destination would take awhile to reach yet, but we would in the sacred system. We could begin the prayers and contemplation necessary to purify ourselves before we reached sacred Earth.

I had decided to tell my tale and the tale of my fellow pilgrims. It came to …

So, Let's Talk About The Arena

I've worked quite a few basketball games this season so far and have logged far more minutes in the bowels of Carver-Hawkeye Arena that I usually do in any given season. In general, I arrive at my scheduled time, head to my Hobbit Hole and hunker down and do my thing for the course of the game. It's not usually that big of a deal or particularly hard or stressful work. It's just work. It makes for a nice post-holiday paycheck.

But here's the thing: I've never actually taken the time to really stop and look at the Arena. I'm somewhat plugged into the local Hawkeye Sports Commentariat on Twitter. I see the grumblings occasionally about how bad the atmosphere is in Carver, but I never really paused to consider why that might be until this past Sunday when I slowed down, took my time getting to my Hobbit Hole and kind of really looked at the Arena. I mean, when you get right down to it- what's the point of an arena anyway? There's seats, there's a court…

Where Does Change Come From?

I got into a Twitter discussion with The Quiet Man in early December that ended with a thought provoking statement on his part: "I always wonder if change is possible w/the current system or if it needs to be changed."

Both.

I think the answer has to be both, because that's the way our constitutional system is designed and it's also the way a hyper-connected society has more power than it ever has before. Every society and every country you can name me is going to have an entrenched elite of some kind that is resistant to change- they're at the 'top' of the heap, whatever that particular heap is for any given country and they like where they sit.

From a strictly American point of view, everything is centered around those three little words: 'We, the people.' The mechanism for real, lasting change is entirely in the hands of the voters and our representatives. Constitutional amendments can be passed by Congress. An Article V, Convention of States c…

This Week In Vexillology #278

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Our tour of the counties of England continues this week- we're staying up in Midlands as we make our way back across England to the east. Our next two counties up? Warwickshire and Northamptonshire. Let's talk about Warwickshire first:

Unlike last week's counties Worcestershire and Herefordshire, there doesn't appear to be any one product or tradition that Warwickshire is known for. It's got Warwick Castle and Royal Leamington Spa, I guess...  that counts for a lot. In terms of where it is, well, if you find Coventry on the map head south you'll be in Warwickshire. The county actual stretches up and around Coventry- which used to be smack dab into the county until it became it's own metropolitan area. Here's what it's got going on for a flag:
Well, this is pretty cool. A bear and a what heraldry seems to think is a 'ragged staff' even though it looks more like a tree without branches or a really tall stump of some kind. It was officially ado…

Bookshot #115: Use of Weapons

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Iain M. Banks is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors full stop. I know a lot of people who hear the words 'science fiction' and get immediately turned off, but if you need to be convinced of the foolish notion that genre fiction somehow isn't 'good writing' or 'real literature' then you need to get yourself to an Iain M. Banks novel and read it. Stat. The ending of Consider Phlebas sat with me for days and the end of Use of Weapons literally made me drop my phone.

Before we get into the plot, we've got to touch on the structure first. This book is made up of two sets of alternating chapters- one set, numbered with English numbers (One, Two, etc) moves forward from the start of the book while the other, numbered with Roman numerals moves backward from the start of the book (XIII, XII, etc) both of which tie together in the brilliant ending to this novel- which seems absolutely crazy, but it works and more to the point, it works really really well…

5 For 2019

Another trip around the sun begins and so too does the effort at self-improvement and professional and personal growth. Part of me doesn't know why I insist on doing this every year: resolutions hardly ever work. They're stupid. They never last. But another part of me thinks that it's important to at least try. You need some goals to set yourself, some metric to measure yourself by and writing them down and putting them out onto the interwebs to hold yourself accountable, at least in theory.

So, here we are again. 365 days. 2018 was decent. There are plenty of ways to improve. I need to develop some discipline and lose some weight and get healthy-- no more excuses there. It needs to happen this year.

Of late, it also seems like I'm happy to see the end of a year for one reason or another. I want this to be the year when I look back on it and realize that I've met all of these goals I'm about to list and then some. 1 day down, 364 to go:

1. Health: Okay, at the …