Archive for October, 2012

Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers My Ass

October 31, 2012 - 4:22 am 5 Comments

(For those who don’t recognize the joke in the title… here)

Last weekend, while the Los Alamos Derby Dames were holding their Halloween fundraiser party to apparent success, the neighboring league, Duke City Derby, was holding their championship bout. When I mentioned that against all common sense, I’d be putting on the stripes and reffing the matchup, someone employed all the subtlety of a honey badger with a sackful of bricks and requested that I write up this questionably planned plan. Not quite sure how to cover this, but here we go.

First off, I learned it’s important to find out how many bouts are going to be in an event well ahead of time. I found out either the day before, or two days before that this was going to be a double-header. As it turns out, skating for five hours straight puts a bit of a hurt on anything south of the lower back; now in my mental checklist for the future, “double header” means “extra-large bottle of vitamin I and possibly a flask of something stronger”. I’ve got extremely flat feet, and being up for that long and using all the fiddly little muscles for stabilizing an ungainly monkey on wheels… they just stopped screaming this morning.

Now I call this plan questionable for a couple reasons. First, I’ve only been skating since late May, and before that the sum total of time I’ve had wheels on my feet was about 20 minutes when I was 12 or so, where upon I naturally fell directly on my ass, proclaimed “Fuck this,” and returned the skates to my friend in order to go do something not insane, probably involving Mario. Second, I’ve only worn the stripes in anger, as it were, twice before and neither time actually counted. The first was a scrimmage, and the second was a glorified scrimmage with an audience because one team had already forfeited. Nothing that would affect standings, or say, cause a trophy to change hands.

No pressure.

For extra fun, and this time I mean that honestly for a change, this was also their Halloween shindig, so the already somewhat off normal derby crowd was even further off, with kids running around in gas masks with spiked collars*, bondage nuns, painted faces, pleather Optimus Prime microskirted costumes…. it was a little weird.

The first game was the big one, the Disco Brawlers vs. the Dooms Dames. This was kind of neat for me because I’d heard more of the Dooms Dames than seen, so checking out their military-styled uniforms was fairly cool. Then the other penny dropped, and I found out I’d be on outside pack ref. The good news is that means my job would be nearly just symbolic compared to other positions. The bad news is that there were only two of us on the outside, which means a lot of skating, and having to haul ass the whole way because you’re going so much further than the rest of the crowd. Yeah, there was a shitload of this. There was also a water main access thingy of some sort in the middle of the back straight on the track, right at the point where I invariably needed to put on a burst of speed more than normal. During warm up, rolling over the tiny little bowl-depression around this didn’t seem to be a problem. At speed, the damn thing was like seeing the banana peel in the middle of the line you’re taking through a curve in Mario Kart. There is clenching involved.

The other fun part of being on the outside, is that skaters called on penalties will be invading my precious space in order to get to the penalty box. And they’re never happy on the way there, and their entire skating purpose is hitting people. There was a lot of this going on. And seeing one girl you know hits like a truck coming at you at speed, visibly pissed off with the call, doesn’t do your blood pressure any favors. Fortunately she left a whole half inch between me and her on the way by, but I was all set to call the misconduct penalty as soon as I regained consciousness.

That water access and pissed off skaters doesn’t sound like enough fun, you say? Good news! It gets worse! The bench coach for one team had injured herself badly enough to require a wheelchair. Which, since she needed to yell instructions and so forth to her skaters, “somehow” wound up frequently disturbingly close to the track, where us poor outside zeebs were zipping along. I lost the pack more times than I’d care to count or admit trying to get around her gimped ass, and by half time I was asking around to see if anybody had one of those boots they put on cars with too many parking tickets. My skate bag now contains extra strong zip ties to go through wheels. This will not be a problem again.

Overall, I don’t think I did too badly. I know I missed calling some things I should’ve called. One was simply my brain going “derp”- I watched the whole thing, said to myself “Self, that was a low block major,” skated on, and eventually the little light went on to say “….and I was supposed to DO SOMETHING about that! Fuck!” just a skosh too late to call it after all. The flip side, the calls I did make I felt really solid about, so there’s that.

So after the two 90000 minute periods finally were over, the Disco Brawlers took their trophy and victory lap and huzzah hoorah, everybody survived.

Then it got worse.

Between games, there was an exhibition of the worst kids jump-roping ever seen by man. LabRat, who had been bumped out of her non-skating official position for various reasons (we thankfully got her back to working for the second game), was forced to leave the stands to keep from laughing at them, and what I saw after a break in the ref room, I can’t blame her.

The next bout was back to the status of “doesn’t matter,” and off the books. This should be way better, right? Uh, no. First, we lost one ref from the first game, so instead of having enough zebras to field outside pack refs without skating somebody to death, we decided to run with one extra inside pack ref. This is not supposed to happen. It gets crowded. Really crowded. And since the game wasn’t going on any books, the DCD folks announced that they’d be playing on the rules as they were used to them being, not necessarily how they actually are when you check WFTDA. There was a lot of this, without the benefit of the beverage. Fuck it, I don’t know their deviations, so I’m going by what’s in my official rule book. It only caused one spat, and I wasn’t at the center of it anyway, so all good, if weird.

Now add in to this mix a couple skaters I already recognize as being penalty magnets, and mouthy penalty magnets at that (Elvira Mental, if you stumble across this somehow I’m looking at you here :-p ). On the bright side, I wasn’t dodging the wheel chair anymore, but on the downside my overall dodging was increased about 5000% based on the stripe-wearing congestion.

Things went about as you’d expect; stuff was missed because we were all dodging each other, skaters tried to get away with everything short of murder, and then looked butthurt when called on it (Sorry, Kandi Warhol, but when you elbow someone’s face, how did the plan conclude in your head?)

The most memorable point of the night though did come in the second bout. Without bogging down into rules minutia, it was the start of a fresh jam, and one team did not successfully create the situation they were trying to create before the starting whistle. There was still a path on the table to achieve the same goal, but unfortunately, the one skater caught out who could’ve finished the execution didn’t know it, apparently. The other route open to her was to take a penalty. Since it was the start of the jam, and their plan meant nothing would be moving until it came to fruition anyway, this one girl was caught like a deer in the headlights: take a knee, get a penalty, and didn’t see the path to safety just over there**. So at this point, she’s been sort of dancing in a half crouch trying to figure out how to avoid the penalty, wavering between standing up and kneeling. Whistles were poised. A fight could’ve broken out between the jammers and I don’t think we would’ve noticed. She finally opted to just take the penalty, and I tell you it was the Fox 40 Philharmonic. I think the penalty trackers had it written down before we even finished calling it, and we all called it. I felt bad for her, but the deer in the headlights expression with every zeeb staring at her was just hilarious.

And then it was over. And they thanked us! And sounded sincere! And it was like “holy shit, you’re all bi-polar, aren’t you?” And it was awesome!

Then my body told me I just skated for five solid hours with minimal breaks where I was still on wheels just not going hard. That part sucked. A lot. I may need another beer now just thinking about that part.

And that’s how I got out of having to figure out a costume for the derby Halloween party. The end.

*LabRat tells me she believes that particular kid is Pork Chop, the Dooms Dames mascot, and he’s always like that. See what I mean about slightly off normal?
**For those readers who are also derby fans, this was a situation. She’d have been fine if she just skated off.


October 29, 2012 - 8:50 pm 7 Comments

Ok, my apologies for the delay. I know everybody else has had their Kilted to Kick Cancer rewards up for a while now. Right around Blogorado o’clock, my project at work went on the chopping block, to simplify, so the day job has been in panic mode for the better part of the month. Combine that with functionally all of my non-work hours being absorbed by various other commitments, free time has been at something of a premium.

That said, time to make good. The audio of The Waxing is available here, and will be going up in the sidebar once I’m done editing this post. I had to pull in a favor from FarmGirl to get this cleaned up and in a useful format, and it amused her greatly, so there is also a sped up version that sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks available here. Big thanks to FG for the help; this would still be sitting in my to-do pile and wouldn’t have the bonus comedy version otherwise.

The songs are still coming. I promise they’re not forgotten, and pretty much everybody who was crazy enough to send in for the drawing has said “Just post it!” so I’m going to save a step of picking winners and just do that. You all won, hooray!

Thank you all very much for your donations. To have raised $2400 just from my blatherings on the internet for such a good cause is humbling. I mean it honestly when I say I hope you all enjoy hearing me suffer for every penny (and yes, there was a lot of alcohol involved. Duh.).

Overheard at Nerd Ranch

October 29, 2012 - 3:39 am 5 Comments

Why are you doing this to me?! First you brought him a mace, then a blowgun, and now you turned his rifle into a stabbing gun?! *gestures at small holes in the drywall* What do you think is going to happen when you do these things? STOP STABBING THE CEILING!

Spam Haiku

October 27, 2012 - 3:32 am 5 Comments

Continuing our recent pattern of stealing ideas, we now “borrow” from Tam, this gem got caught in the scraper and was too good not to share.

What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable familiarity on the topic of unexpected emotions.

I’ve always aspie-ired to have a data on unexpected emotions. I almost expected the next line to be something about sharing Sharon’s outlook on the topic of disease.

Targeting Fail

October 25, 2012 - 5:16 pm 6 Comments

So once again learning from the pros at Popehat….

Hey Atomic Nerds,

I have been following your blogs for a long time and I am a huge fan. Anyway, we just came out with a product that I think you both would get a kick out of. It is a baby outfit that is actually part mop that cleans your floors as the baby crawls – perfect for lazy parents.

Check out our site and let us know if you want anything. We would love to send you some samples of our products.

Your product is fucking stupid and if you think we’re endorsing anything baby related you’ve very clearly never read our blog.

I should’ve looked into the option for a pony. I could’ve named it Adhesive Intoxicant. Or Huffer Sparkle. It’s a glue joke, son, work with me here.

Prep The Volcano Mounted Giant Laser

October 19, 2012 - 2:36 am 15 Comments

Venturing into the wilds of broadcast TV last night, LabRat and I were engaged in a bit of armchair quarterbacking while watching the CrossFit Games. What with the yanking shit out of our asses about how the athletes could do better considered pontificating about the events this year, we neglected to hit fast forward on the tivo at a commercial break.

This was a mistake.

Some typically saccharine blather starts up, explaining the happy life some couple is about to have together. The money quote, pardon the pun, comes in fairly early: “And they never fight about money because they found some retirement guys who work on salary, not commission, and got some straight advice and answers.”

Holy fuck it’s like they read my goddamn mind if I had been deprived of oxygen for six hours and hit with a lead pipe for four! Salary instead of commission?! Sweet merciful jesus-tits, that’s exactly the answer! How could you not want some schlub who makes the same coin at the end of the day whether he doubled your account value or lost everything? That’s exactly the lack of motivation I want in the folks running my money. Commission? Pfff. I don’t see how that could possibly motivate better service. I mean, that would be like giving the guy more money the better the job he did, and that couldn’t work.

Listen up, TD Ameritrade. You’re on fucking notice. StingrayTrade doesn’t do this sad-sack meh-good-enough salary bullshit. StingrayTrade wants the account, and wants to run it like woah, because, and this is the crazy part, the more money your account makes, the more money StingrayTrade makes, and StingrayTrade is very interested in making money. They even released a sequel advertisement:

“This is Carl and Sally. They’re not wishy-washy clownshoes like Karen and Jeremiah over at Ameritrade, those fucking schlubs who just bumble through life with the glassy-eyed focus of a tranqed duogong. Carl and Sally know what they want, and they want more money than God.

Ameritrade is bragging about how their planners are on salary. Think about all the wonderful things that have come from salaried employees, like the DMV, or the attitudes of convenience store clerks.

At StingrayTrade, we keep our staff on commission, so the more you make, the more they make. And we specially screen our employees to find people so greedy that even Scrooge McDuck thinks they’re going a little far. We want to make money. Some of us even get a sexual thrill out of making money.

This is Carl and Sally. This is Bruce, their StingrayTrade rep. This is Betsy, Bruce’s stabbin’ knife. Betsy is responsible for some really killer deals, and so Carl and Sally’s net worth has gone up 327% just this quarter. And if the Securities Exchange Commission knows what’s good for it, and for its sweet little daughter, they’ll just keep right on looking the other way.

This is Carl, Sally, Bruce, Betsy, and the new security goon they hired, Vinnie. And these are Karen and Jeremiah’s thumbs, because they couldn’t afford to keep them once StingrayTrade decided there was profit to be had involving them.

Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women, and then buy a couple senators just to rub it in. StingrayTrade. We want to make some fuckin’ money.”

I swear, one more non-threatening, soft-sell “Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody were nice” financial firm ad and I’m going to start recruiting out of white collar (and a few regular ones for good measure) prisons and incorporate.

A Few More Words

October 16, 2012 - 10:20 pm 5 Comments

So there’s this internet kerfuffle going down, as they do. A Gawker writer decided to publicize the identity of a long-time Reddit mod whose range of activities have historically been mostly dominated to creating and maintaining all that is most awful about Reddit*: he was most famous for creating and maintaining r/jailbait, a subforum for trading sexualized pictures of minors taken from more or less wherever (which Reddit eventually shut down- after six years and with all evident regret), but also in a long highlight reel of subreddits devoted to enthusiasms for various racist and sexist subjects, including r/creepshots, a sub for sexualized candid photos of women taken on the sly**. The fellow has subsequently lost his job and is generally very sad about having been outed against his will.

Ken at Popehat has said about all I would have wanted to say about the subject, better than I would have, typically. So if you feel I’m missing a point, it’s probably because Ken has already covered it.

However, from what I’ve observed in discussions about the subject, there are a couple of points *I* want to hit.

1) As a principle, “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us” actually has its intended effect generally more rarely than people seem to think. But when, in the process of “protecting the worst of us”, you do so actively at the expense of innocent others (like, say, the children and women who had their pictures posted against their will specifically for creeps to fap to), you’re not “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us”, you’re just protecting the worst of us, period full stop.

2) Being offensive isn’t virtuous. Neither, for that matter, is being inoffensive, but making an internet career out of making as many people angry as possible isn’t some form of activism, it’s just being an asshole. Being an asshole isn’t and shouldn’t be against the law, but neither does it grant you any sort of moral standing of its own distinction for the act of being willing to offend people. Being willing to offend people to the ends of some moral goal is noble; going out of your way to offend people because that’s just funny to you is being an asshole. Being an asshole as your primary hobby will open you to a lot of purely social consequences, including an employer in an at-will state deciding that they wish to disassociate themselves from a notorious asshole. Do people deserve to lose their jobs for being an asshole in one area of their lives that has little or nothing to do with their jobs? Probably not. Do children deserve to have their pictures yanked off their Facebook for a coalition of creepazoids to make their masturbation fodder for the day, just because “the internet is public”? Also probably not. Pick a moral standing- “public is public”, both pictures and personal information, or “posting with a baseline expectation of privacy should be private”, but trying for both at the same time as favors you most will impress no one.

*Also training and helping new moderators. The fact that this has been brought up as an argument for “he’s not all bad!” rather than a warning bell tells you everything you need to know about Reddit culture.

**Because apparently it’s a painfully important distinction, he only moderated Creepshots, he didn’t create it and evidently didn’t contribute. So, y’know, he only moderated it. For the public good and all.

More Awesome Places To Spend Your Money

October 13, 2012 - 3:37 am 2 Comments

So, there’s this comic series called The Goon. It’s written and drawn by Eric Powell, it’s on the Dark Horse imprint, and it is one of our favoritest funnybooks in the world. I’m a fan; Stingray is a bigger fan, big enough to be slightly disturbing. The best short description of The Goon that I can come up with is that it’s kind of like if Gasoline Alley had been created and produced by Rob Zombie, and then handed over to someone with more talent. (That would be Mr. Powell.) It’s awesome, it’s pretty, and the story is surprisingly deep for something that involves a turf war between zombies and thugs and features dudes with inexplicable fish heads and occasional hostile land squids. Short version is, it’s good. You should probably read the comic.

What I’m actually pimping, however, is more to the folks who are either already aware of the sweet comic goodness that is Goon or for those who will experience an instant, Damascus-style conversion upon becoming aware of Goon. Namely, the Kickstarter for the Goon movie. (Or, more specifically, producing a feature length story reel for the movie to give it real pitch power to Hollywood.) Normally this would not excite me, because normally comic book movies suck unless they’re produced by Marvel Studios. However, this comic book movie already has David freakin Fincher at the helm, with Powell himself writing the script, and Clancy Brown to voice act the title character. So that’s a fair punch more promising than the average Y’ALL LESS MAKE A MOVIE OUTTA THISAYERE COMIC proposal.

There’s various prizes and stuff, but really the only reason to give money to this is if, like us, you slaver to see the movie made. So if you slaver and you have spare cash lying around that would otherwise go to drugs or something, go ahead and kick. Meantime, might think about checking out the comics. They’re pretty rad.

I Declare Jihad

October 10, 2012 - 9:49 pm 53 Comments

Look, you hopped up pretentious fuckskids of inferiority masquerading as trendy, there is one goddamn thing that has been utterly fucking pivotal to the advancement and continuance of human progress in the history of the fucking world, eclipsed in importance only by beer, and I am utterly fed the righteous fuck up with every half-wit with an art history degree and a pot of boiling water fucking it up.

Coffee is not this fucking hard, people.

I may be biased by a recently uninterrupted string of bad experiences, but the continued existence of Starbucks backs my claim that shit-awful coffee is still way too common. What’s worse, Starbucks has been the model for every hipster-filled pretentious nouveau-trendy hole in the wall with shitty parking designed only to be accessible to people who’s job consists of carrying an ipad around all day and pretending they’re worth a tin shit in a gold mine. Over the last few months, I’ve been to more than a handful of coffee establishments, ranging from “Gimme some fuckin’ bean juice and get me out the door” to “Our organic free range fair trade cruelty free salmon bagel won best of the block for food served next to a tattoo parlor!” and a good chunk in between.

You know who had the best coffee out of the lot? The goddamn Obligatory Cow Reference in Secret Location, CO at Blogorado. The greasy fucking spoon. Was it great coffee? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s pretty damn good. Fellow coffee snob MattG insists that a good portion of this is due to the company we always have at the Obligatory Cow Reference, and I’ll allow that does bring a good bit of leniency to the standards, but that aside, the coffee is still pretty un-suckful.

The reason for this trend of bad coffee is that, probably thanks to the Seattle Shit-in-a-cup, burnt beans and overextracted brew has become way too accepted as “good coffee,” and it absolutely ball-shreddingly cunt-staplingly IS NOT GOOD.

Let’s take the first problem first: burnt coffee. Unless you fell out of the monkey tree yesterday, you’re probably aware that coffee beans have to be roasted before they can be ground and brewed. A few special cases aside, this happens between 375 and 425F, and can take from 90 seconds to 15 minutes. It will be a smoky process regardless, but apparently every goddamn roaster with ironic glasses has decided that more is more in terms of smoke, and the ideal output product from a coffee roast should look more like the trash can from Auschwitz than a small brown pellet. The fucking goal is to cook out the moisture, and break down the proteins, sugars, and phenolic materials into something complex and delicious. It’s fundamentally a Maillard reaction. That’s an art to do well, I will grant, but it’s not fucking rocket surgery.

Sugars go first, into formic, acetic, and lactic acids, which are responsible for tart flavors. As the roasting continues, acids and astringent phenolic stuff (like chlorogenic acid) are broken down to reduce overall acidity (this can be fucked up later even if done correctly here, don’t worry aspiring trendwhore baristas). This is, counter-intuitively, also where the bitterness starts to ramp up, and where we start running into that choking on a burnt log flavor, since the byproducts from the Maillard that cause the browning of the bean start to ramp up as the bean darkens- or in layman’s terms: IT’S FUCKING BURNT YOU GODDAMN BOIL ON THE ASS OF DECENT CAFFEINE DELIVERY. Body is shot like a car in Fallujah, and the only flavors left are hate and failure.

There’s an argument to be made that I should be pissed off about how they’re grinding the beans, but really, the brewing process is more at fault in any of these cases than grain size, from what I can tell, so I’m going to skip it. Ideally, you want to extract about 20% of the overall coffee solids to make a full, balanced cup of brew. To do this, you have to first get the proportion of coffee to water correct (Hint: You need more coffee than you think!) and second, you need the correct fucking temperature of water. Amazingly, we have had the technology to heat water to specific thermal levels for… let me check here… ah, right, THE LAST FUCKING CENTURY OR SO. Coffee water needs to be heated to between 190F and 200F. DO. FUCKING. NOT. FUCKING. BOIL. THE. FUCKING. WATER.* Higher temperatures extract more bitter compounds. Hence, over-extracted. Some drip machines are slapdash affairs, and compensate for inadequately heated water by leaving the water in contact with the coffee for longer. This is popular with conical filter machines. This also leads to over-extracted coffee.

The starting point for coffee to water ratios should be no lower than 1:15. Most of the old Better Homes and Fuck Dens from The Good Ol’ Days are actually not terrible on this point- one of my grandmothers of the “It was good enough before the darkies could vote, it’s good enough now!” mold insisted on 1.5 Tbs coffee per mug in the pot (using the average 11 oz mug). This gave a ratio better than double the starting point for standard American drip coffee to not suck, and it has served me well. Remember, it is always better to use MORE coffee in the brew; you can dilute if it’s too strong, but you can’t fix too weak.

The Obligatory Cow Reference has an old(er)-school basket type jumbo brewer. It’s got enough ass to get the water hot enough, they use enough coffee for the water, and the basket filter doesn’t leave the water in the grounds for too long. End result: Pretty damn good coffee, unfucked by some shitskid with a fixie.

Look, good coffee is a high art. It does take some practice. But you know what it also takes? Having a fucking example that wasn’t made from the ashes of Juan Valdez’ donkey brewed for half an hour at 212F as a starting point to judge your own output by. Are clove cigarettes really that damaging to the palate? Jesus, people.

So with the explanation out of the way, here’s what I’ve come up with as a rule of thumb. Call it Stingray’s Law of Brew Selection, or Stingray’s BS: If you see more pump bottles full of flavor shit by whatever brewing device is in operation, just get a glass of water and snort a rail of ground-up No-Doz, because I swear on a stack of dead civets that if I get one more shitty cup of mud from a fuck-leaving with a neck tattoo and a hole the size of a golf ball in the ear** I’m going to solve the problem with ten gallons of diesel and a fucking road flare.

*Unless you’re at an altitude where water boils pretty close to 200F instead of 212. Here at 7200′, small quantities will boil around 203F, larger batches where the weight of the water brings some pressure to the party will go higher, up to the 206-208 range. If you try to use a pressure cooker to get the temp higher without boiling, I will hunt you down and do violent things to you. Like make you drink your own coffee. There is a specific style that does this, and brews around 230F, but, uh, damn.
**Some days I’m really tempted to keep a nice, super-heavy Masterlock in my pocket for these special snowflakes, and then when the coffee sucks, beckon them in close, lock it through the ear and run like hell.

Flying Dinosaurs!

October 9, 2012 - 4:08 pm 3 Comments

Ok, slightly bait-and-switchy, but it got your attention didn’t it? Our friend Stephen Bodio seems to have gone and gotten a new book out.

I have not read this tome yet myself, but I do intend a copy to go in the ever-expanding pile of matter I intend to read, despite said pile rapidly approaching a volume sufficient to collapse in on itself and begin a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The man knows of whence he speaks, and while raptors are not a niche most, if not all, of the readership here will never have more than passing contact with, how can you argue against the inherent coolness of working with an animal that is essentially a vector calculus engine attached to a propulsion unit and a bag of knives? They can be funny, too.

If you’re so inclined, you may find An Eternity of Eagles through a handy Amazon referral that will benefit two people a once with no additional cost to you. I’m looking forward to when ever I can mow through enough of the to-read backlog to get on this one.