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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Struggle of the City

Is every city struggling?

I find myself constantly having to defend St. Louis for bad decisions, for appearing on the top crime list year after year, for the intense segregation, the empty blocks of buildings, the empty downtown on weekdays, but the more I travel, the more I realize it's less of a St. Louis problem and more of a major city problem.

I wandered around downtown Cincinnati for several hours tonight, just taking in the streets and it had such a familiar feel I pulled up my phone map several times to make sure I was actually in Ohio.

I saw the street by street divide. Race street had predominantly African American families hanging out in the park and listening to music whereas one street away...

Vine street was predominantly white, filled with people enjoying craft beers with Cincinnati Reds shirts on. There were huge swaths of land where upscale markets and restaurants lined the streets, but all closed by 8 pm on Vine street.

Rural and Suburb living isn't for me. There's too much space. Too little diversity. It creeps me out. But I understand why people would want to live there. There's the relative safety, the elbow space, the greenery, and the "newness." But me, I like the patina of decades of use city concrete has on it.

There's a beauty in knowing your neighbors so intimately that you have to work as a somewhat cohesive unit.

Sure, people throw their Big Gulps into the street, and paint is coming off the buildings, and billboards are covered in graffiti, and most bricks need a good acid wash, and the summer heat can magnify all of your problems, but it's great to be a human unit, rather than small tribes where you know the 3-4 people that live in your house with you and maybe one or two neighbors on your street.

I talk to anyone in my neighborhood that is willing to listen.

Woody Allen's City doesn't exist for anyone but the rich. The real city is smelling the BO of people that have worked hard, the faint smell of cigarillos drifting in the air, and the sound of people playing their music loud and proud for their neighbors to hear. It's teenagers making noise in skate parks and basketball courts, the traffic and sirens, and the aroma of seemingly infinite ethnicity all making the food their parents taught them to make.

I love the city. Others may spit at it. They may say it's too dangerous, that it a hive of sin and excess, but to me, the city is where real life is. You're face to face with both poverty and vast richness. You can rub elbows with anyone. You can have the best night or the worst night of your life in the city.

She's a beautiful, tough, lively and diverse environment. I don't know that I could ever do it any other way.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fake News and the War on Journalism

Montana held a special election for a house seat last week and the night before the election, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, allegedly body slammed and punched Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian.

Most would think the loss of composure for a public official would cost Gianforte the election, but Montana has a wide voting window and something like 300,000 votes had been cast before this explosion happened.

The side effect that disgusts me is the amount of people that applaud him for body slamming the reporter for grilling him about the Republican health care bill that universally is panned by medical groups.

Reporters report. Part of running for public office is that everything in your life will be under scrutiny. Reporters are just another check and balance on our policy makers. Can you imagine if the Washington Post didn't report on Watergate? Or the Boston Globe didn't investigate the priest molestation case?

So why the war on journalism?

Editorializing the News

Cable created a new problem for television networks. There were now 40 channels that needed content quickly. The advent of the 24 hour news network was created as a relatively cheap but reliably watchable channel.

The goal was to keep people informed of more than just their local news, do special reports and investigative journalism, change the world while making money.

Unfortunately there's not 24 hours worth of news to cover per day. The channels had a hard time filling time with with entertaining enough content.

Then the OJ Simpson trial happened. People couldn't get enough. News channels would follow OJ from the court room to the jail cell, bringing in special guests and experts in various fields just to talk about what they thought was going to happen and ratings went through the roof. Once the trial was over, the news networks were addicted to the ratings.

So 24 hour news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox spend most of the day creating drama on what used to be small news and editorializing.

Sensationalized Headlines

The Washington Post reported that only six in 10 people acknowledge that they have read past the headline of a news article.

So to get those clicks, the farther a site has a bias, the more sensationalized a headline is.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tweeted out a few months back that they had Donald Trump's tax returns. People started flipping out. Other news sites picked up the story. Everyone tuned into Maddow's 9 pm show.

What did she have? 2 pages from a 10 year old tax return that told us nothing but Donald Trump is rich as hell. She spent 20 minutes talking about the ramifications of him not turning his tax returns over and how it could lead to tax evasion charges or Russian links. Basically everything we already knew.

I know a lot of police officers, so my Facebook feed is filled with headlines from a site called BlueLivesMatter.blue. It obviously caters to Police Officers and tends to skew a little right.

When Pepsi cancelled their Kendall Jenner Ad, they ran the following headline: "Pepsi Cancels Kendall Jenner Ad for Being Too Police Friendly, Apologized to Black Lives Matter."

The real reason Pepsi pulled the add is because the entire world started making fun of them for white washing the increased protest movements across the entire world. It had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter and they didn't apologize to anyone in Black Lives Matter. They apologized to everyone. They were hoping to spread a message of unity and delicious cola and instead got burned.
Or let's look at the left, Mother Jones is one of the worst offenders. Guess what, Republican's are actually Sith Lords that collude with those damn dirty Russians... or at least that's what these two headlines make it seem like


Here, I'll rewrite those headlines to not be sensationlized.
  • Pepsi Cancels Ad After Early Viewers Criticize the Content
  • New Healthcare Bill Introduces Additional Penalties for Lapses In Coverage
  • Russian Hackers Have Spread Deceitful News Worldwide
Hmmm... those headlines just aren't as sexy are they? Much less shareable.


Reporting to the Echo Chamber

It's hard to make money on news. One of the ways you keep people coming back is confirmation bias.

Tell them what they want to hear.

Need an example?

When James Comey was fired a few weeks ago, the headlines among newsites, how the stories were written, and how certain stories were promoted were completely different. (See the Comey Test for more information)

The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, and NPR all discussed possible Russian ties within the first sentence of their stories. They focused on who within the Trump administration have known ties, who is likely to have ties, and what it means for the American people.

Other sites like NBC and ABS news, downplayed Russia connections, but did discuss them after talking about Clinton's emails.

And then Breitbart didn't mention Russia until the 14th paragraph, of their story. Daily Caller didn't mention Russia at all. And Fox News briefly had a story from AP discussing the Russian ties, but then pushed it down the page instead reporting on the White Houses's official statements on the situation.

So none of the resources actually lied, they just chose what to push toward the top and promote.

How to know if there is a bias

This chart below went viral. I shared it on Twitter. You can argue some of them might be more left or right or center, but generally, this chart comes close to showing editorial biases.



Part of what has torn us apart as a country is the inability to admit our echo chamber might be wrong. When this chart went viral, far right sites like Infowars and Breitbart immediately went on the offensive. They whipped the echo chamber into a frenzy, talking about the supposed Deep State and Liberal Media Bias as a way to justify talking to the echo chamber. Infowars even went as far as creating their own chart where everyone but them and Breitbart were skewed left of the middle and labeled as unreliable. 

Liberal leaning media love to point out how conservative's are in the pockets of major corporations and only care about enhancing their wealth. 

In reality, it's somewhere in between. Both sides think they are the good guys, which creates this huge gap because if I'm the good guy, then you must be the bad guy. 

If your news source spends time talking smack on other media outlets, it's probably a warning that you need to research why they are spending so much effort convincing you they are correct. 

Conclusion

The internet is our greatest resource and our greatest downfall.

Don't stop at just the headline. Read an entire article. And if you feel an emotional response to an article, it's best to search for a few other sources before you look like an idiot and fall into these media conglomerate's traps.

And don't hate the journalists. Hate the businessmen that run these giant publicly traded companies, that will do anything to squeeze a few more dollars out of their empires.

The reporters are and have been an integral part of keeping our country free and protecting free speech. They are the ones to topple tyrants and corruption.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Oh the Places You Will Go

Since April 7th, I have driven 3084 miles, visited 7 cities, spent 47 hours and 18 minutes in a car, and spent 20 out of 44 days away from my bed.

I've fit a lot of life into that time, but at a certain point all the beer starts tasting the same, you just order fries because it's easy, you lose track of days and weeks and dates, and your body goes into autopilot.

But in all the exhaustion, lost days, and autopilot, I'm trying to see what was good in each place.

St. Charles, MO

I was booted out of the house for Lizzie's bachelorette party and stayed out with Cory.

It's always a relaxing time. Sort of shirk off responsibility and get to live with with the reckless abandon we did in college. It's usually a weekend filled with beers, jokes, and video games.

This time we did something I've never done before. We went to a gun show. It still feels weird to type that out. It was an eye opening experience. A look into this sub-culture that I have no interest in joining and one that you rarely see gathered in such numbers.

I felt uncomfortable with how loose the rules were followed. Teenage kids walked around the parking lot with assault rifles trying to sell them to people coming in. People had laws written out about how they couldn't sell a rifle with a suppressor and extended mag, but had each part laying on the table next to each other, totally legal to sell at the same time. There were the racist t-shirts. And there was the father buying his 7-year-old daughter pink butterfly shaped knuckles.

Madison, WI

I had a customer on-site where I spent a week up in Madison.

Working so remotely with a company that works mostly in house adds about 20% more work to my day. But I'm succeeding. And people like me. I know this because every night I had some sort of company wanting to have a few drinks and appetizers.

The highlight was getting to watch the Blues beat the Wild on our 40 foot projection screen.

Louisville / Lexington, KY

We spent 4 days on the bourbon trail for Matt's bachelor party.

It was maybe a little long, but it was good to get away from everything happening to our house.

And really, it was a great group of guys all really needing a break. It's something I forget about, how important male bonding can be sometimes. Something my generation lost by eliminating camping trips and float trips.

It's hard to justify a few days out of town, drinking bourbon, eating Nashville hot chicken with just the guys. But it was good for all of us.

Chicago, IL

We spent a few days visiting a college friend and her husband. There wasn't an itinerary. We didn't want to do the touristy things like see a Cubs game or go up in the Sears tower.

We wanted what we generally want in every trip. We wanted the local perspective on the best places. We wanted good company.

We went to this Tiki bar that had been around since the 60s. It was one of those places with the bamboo shoot walls, the drink stirs hanging from the ceiling, classic surf music playing at the perfect volume over the speakers.

I was incredibly relaxed. It took me back to my grandpa's basement, one of my favorite places to adventure in and discover.

We sat at the Tiki bar, drinking pineapple juice drinks out of goblets, and I think we all felt this little haven away from the world's troubles. It was one of the first times in months that the conversation didn't drift to politics, or the water coming into our house, or the body pains felt when growing old. Cell phones were in pockets and purses.

It was just four people, around a table, listening to Elvis, really being in the moment.

Nashville / Knoxville, KY

Unfortunately Sal and I got caught up at work and by the insurance adjusters. Our hope was to get to Nashville by 7 pm, get a late dinner and drinks downtown, listen to some good music. But we didn't get into town until almost 9:30. We were beaten down and tired and just didn't want to leave the airport area we were staying in.

We drank at the airport Ruby Tuesdays and had an overpriced, over-salted appetizer.

Luckily Knoxville and Friday went much better.

Knoxville is a college town that I had never been to before, but one I instantly fell in love with. It was filled with the local shops and bars like Columbia but had a bigger city vibe like Chicago. I only wish I had more time there.

And I should say the highlight was Matt's wedding, but I feel like you get so caught up in making sure everything goes right, every possible combination of people in pictures is captured, every ounce of food and drink paid for consumed, that you forget to look around and really just take in the event.

Friday night though... Friday was a good night. We drifted up and down the Tennessee River on a boat, having drinks and laughs, spilling back into a hotel party, where the only emotion everyone knew was love. Everyone hugged, laughed, and told stories and jokes that outside of that room would make no sense, but inside that room it was the only entertainment we ever needed again.

I get to be home for a few weeks before I travel to Cincinnati. I'm happy for the things I've done in the past few weeks, but I'm also beyond excited to sleep on my little couch bed, curled up in the familiar.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

That Pesky FBI

People mark their lives with events that will be remembered and taught in history classes. Where were you for victory in Europe, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, JFK's assassination, Challenger disaster, or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Some events in my life seem like huge milestones that likely won't be discussed outside of a few generations like the flood of '93 or the O.J. Simpson trial.

And then there's events 911 which is going to be the focal point of so many conflicts, the fall and rise of new empires, and the reason the global economy has gone the way it has.

As someone who is enthralled with history, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey feels like part of one of those events that is taught in American History classes for generations to come.

Who is James Comey

The short story, he was a very high-profile and successful US Attorney. He took over the investigation of Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. He was the prosecutor on one of the largest identify theft cases in history. He's taken on multiple high-profile corporate fraud cases and we even the guy to take down Martha Stewart.

He was Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush and made F.B.I. Director under Barack Obama.

The Clinton Emails

You might first remember Comey's name attached to the election last year.

Essentially, in July 2015, the FBI opened a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton because she used a family email server to conduct Secretary of State business. At first, there were 110 emails sent from these private servers that were considered some form of classified. After the FBI went through them, they retroactively classified 2100 emails as Secret or Top Secret.

However, Comey and the FBI did not find a solid case to bring charges against Clinton. He called her careless and reprimanded her publicly, but ultimately closed the investigation.

In October, while investigating Anthony Weiner and his sexting to an underage girl, the FBI found additional emails to a Clinton staffer that were relevant to the original investigation.

Comey decided to inform congress that the investigation was re-opened, a move that was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats and the Justice Department because of how close it was to the election (violating FBI policies and procedures of not interfering so close to an election).

Comey's intention was just to inform Congress, but once he sent his letter to Congress, it immediately leaked to the media.

Essentially the conclusion to the investigation was that none of the emails were relevant or they were duplicates of emails the FBI had already read. Trump made this one of his campaign cornerstones toward the end of the election.

Famous statistician Nate Silver said Comey's announcement and the earlier Wikileaks cost Clinton the election.

The Russian Investigation

In July 2016, the FBI started an investigation into the Trump Campaign and links to many Russian officials after receiving a dossier with evidence.

In October 2016, it was announced that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked by two Russian groups and they leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks.

Outside of the Trump campaign's ties, it was found that Russian groups created fake news (second story) and spread it across social media platforms to influence the election.

In the coming months many people close to Trump were found to have Russian ties: Paul Manafort (campaign chairman) had alleged contact with Russian intelligence officials, Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law) failed to disclose contact with a Russian ambassador and head of a Russian bank, Micheal Flynn (National Security Adviser) met with Russian ambassador to discuss sanctions and then allegedly met with two other Russian officials to open up lines of communication for the Trump cabinet, Jess Sessions (US Senator, Attorney General) denied having any contact with Russian officials during confirmations hearings but didn't bring up meeting with several Russian officials in July and October of 2016, Carter Page (former foreign policy adviser) met with several Russian ambassadors at the Republican National Committee he admitted after first denying, and Roger Stone (former adviser) admitted to being in contact with Russian hackers involved in the DNC hacking and having insider knowledge of the hacking.

In January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released their findings that Russia did interfere in the US election and that they favored Trump over Clinton.

In March, FBI Director Comey admitted there was an investigation into the Trump campaign and collusion with Russia in the same speech where he told Trump there was no wiretapping evidence by Obama.

In May, Comey made a statement saying Russia is "the greatest threat to any nation on Earth..." and asked for further funding into the Russian / Trump investigation and daily briefings on progress.

Less than a week later, and only two days before Comey was supposed to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he found out that he was fired... via a TV... behind the crowd that he was speaking to. President Trump fired Comey at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (the guy that had to recuse himself from the Russian probe because of his Russian ties) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

What does it all mean?

We're not sure right now.

Everyone is assuming and making allegations. Many representatives, both Republican and Democratic have called for an independence inquiry.

There's a lot of smoke and everyone is trying to find out if there's fire.

The second paragraph of President Trump's letter seems damning as to any personal involvement he may have with the Russians.

The timing of Comey's dismissal after asking for more funds and manpower, Trumps meeting with Russian diplomats, and Comey's scheduled hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee all seem suspect considering Trump has wanted this Russian monkey off his back for months now.

Either way, Comey is being asked to testify as a private citizen now. Meaning, he can inject his own opinions into his statements rather than just sticking to the facts. This will be the most interesting and possibly the most watched testimony since Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky or the hearings on the Weapon's of Mass Destruction.

And one thing I keep seeing pop up on websites over and over again is, "Why do you care about Trump but you didn't seem to care about Hillary?"


  1. I did. Unfortunately we had two main candidates and they both had serious allegations against them during the election. 
  2. I care much less now. Clinton is a private citizen. Sure, if she did wrong, nail her. Capture all criminals. But when it comes down to it, she is much less in my life than President Trump.
The one thing we do know is Russian's played a huge role in our election. And beyond the US, Russians are alleged to be involved in other populist campaigns such as Brexit and the French Election. (Thank God that turned out for the best)

This is a war against our democracy. And while we're fighting left vs right, snowflakes vs bible thumpers, Democrats vs Republicans on our social media pulpits, there's an old foe waging a war we thought we were done with and they are winning. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Fat Dance

I'm getting fat again. There's no way around it.

I can't wear any of my favorite skinny shirts like my Star Wars shirt or GiantBomb or Foo Fighters or Punisher. They all just highlights the gut.

This started when I moved to Madison for 2 months last year. I put on about 8 lbs there and it wasn't temporary bloated water weight. It was that permanent weight that you just know is different.

I've been trying to fight it. I got myself back down to almost normal weight for a brief period between August and October, but then stress and travel got to me.

I spent so much time socially catching up with family and friends that I was going out eating and drinking Thursday - Saturday pretty well through Thanksgiving.

Currently I'm about 12 lbs and several inches larger than I'd like to be. Last time I had to break this barrier, I broke my leg and didn't have an appetite thanks to the narcotics I was on.

I'm starting to get worried. I've been making short term goals that I've not been able to meet.

If I can just get through Thanksgiving, I can get back on a normal workout routine and eat better.

Then the holidays filled up every weekend.

OK, well, Thanksgiving really kicks off holiday season, so after New Years I can really hit it again, I have nothing planned in January.

Then I had to go to Dothan Alabama, where as far as I can tell, you just need a good fryer to open a restaurant there.

Then two trips to Madison, then to Columbia, then there's the Blues games I have tickets to, and the events we've had on the calendar.

I've done well this week and have eaten relatively well and have gotten a solid workout in every day.

I feel good right now, but I'm just looking at non-stop travel and am realizing I need to figure out a system.

Between April 10th and May 14th, I'm traveling every week. Madison, Louisville, Luxembourg, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Knoxville.

I don't even know how I'm going to stay awake let alone eat well on these trips. I'll be running through a crowded airport trying to get to my connection while shoveling a pretzel in my mouth or grabbing Wendy's on the road because there is nothing else to eat.

And beyond that... how do you keep a workout schedule? Most these trips are going to require me to be with a client or friend the entire trip. I'm going to try to sneak away for at least a jog, but from what I've experienced so far with these sorts of trips, I'm going to maybe get one run in while wine-ing and dinning with clients.

I really don't know the answer to these questions. Eat better. Really make an effort to workout. If drinking is involved, stay away from beer.

We've even talked about looking at houses in Madison just as a way to potentially cut down on travel, but soon realized, I'd be traveling just as much, it'd just be coming back to St. Louis.

I gotta lose this gut. I cannot be a fat man again. I just felt so terrible all the time. I'm starting to feel that way now. Just constantly tired and apathetic to any events. I don't like it.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Catch Up Time

Damn, I don't remember feeling this tired and jet-legged even when leaving Europe. I know I was, but that's sort of the thing about feeling exhausted. You have this feeling of wanting to give in, climb into bed, and just never leave again.

Been a few weeks since I've had a blog so I figured I'd give a run down.

We went to True / False documentary film festival in Columbia March 2-6th.

This was the first festival in years that we would've seen any film they were showing.

Every year tends to have a trend, usually the hot topic from a year or two ago. So there was a large amount of films looking at the Black Lives Matter protests as well as the day in a police officers.

There were portraits of these "thugs" as so many people like to label them, spending time with their families, explaining to their small children why it's important that they stare down the guns of the National Guard night after night.

There was two years in the life of the LA Police Department where the officers were dealing with the worst humanity has to offer minute after minute and are expected to be perfect at all times.

I think my favorite line came from the Police Captain, "we as police officers rang up a huge bill in the past that we are still paying for. Every good thing we do pays a little off, but every bad thing we do adds years of debt."

Not every film was about Ferguson, but just about every film was about the struggles of a marginalized people.

We left the festival feeling politically re-charged, enough so to where I started a little mini-fight with a family member on Facebook.

We came home for a night, worked a ton, slept, packed our formal wear, then got in the car and drove up to Madison Wednesday the 8th for my company's holiday party.

I schmoozed hard, went out for drinks with my co-workers, and generally had a great time.

On Friday my department had an outing where we went to one of those Escape the Room scenarios. I choose the murder room where the story was we were knocked out while hiking and woke up in a warehouse with body parts everywhere. We had to get out before the murderer came back.

This required us to dig through garbage disposals, make human static electricity chains, and solve riddles. We failed as seen to the left.

That night was the holiday party at this huge concert hall.

The theme was medieval times. My CEO bought a suit of armor off Amazon, they hired sword fighters to break out into fights at random times, had jugglers, medieval themed games, and a medieval band.

Now this party had been talked about like a legend since I was hired. It's the night that the entire company goes bonkers nuts, drinks too much together, and stays out way too late. The company even pays for taxis home so that no one has to worry about it.

We had a blast. We got invited to the cool kids after party and partied some more. We got back to the hotel around 2 am, woke up at 8, got in the car and drove home where we directly went out for my brothers birthday, and then to a second birthday.

And then the moment we got home, Sal passed out on the couch.

She's feeling a little sick, I feel completely jet-legged. Really, just want to get through this week and get on a normal schedule again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Comics Page

Sal and I subscribed to a few papers post election because we want to be more informed on what's happening that doesn't come from an internet link where we have to verify the credentials of the site and make sure they aren't writing from an extreme bias.

One of the side benefits is that I have access to the comics page again. 

When I still lived with my parents and even when I had access to newspapers in college, I loved grabbing the comics, sitting down with breakfast on Sunday morning, and reading through everything. 

This is where my undying love of Calvin and Hobbes came from. This is where I was treated to the bizarre wit of Gary Larson and The Far Side. Non-Sequitur, Baby Blues, Zits, Foxtrot all grabbed my attention with content and art. 

I haven't looked at the comics page in over a decade, but there's some weird things out there. 

Mark Trail - What's up with this? Does it take place in the 40s still? Does it take place in modern day and there's just this group of really weird people with 1940s haircuts?

And what do they do for a living? These people are traveling to Africa and South America and all around the US. Is this a "Catch Me If You Can" situation where Mark sneaks on planes by pretending to be a pilot?

Zits - I actually really like Zits, but I sort of figured that Jeremy's parents would at least understand their lovable slacker teenager a little more than they do. Still every day we're treated to Jeremy listening to music too loud, spilling across a couch, or eating enough food for 3 people while his parents go, "Uggghh, I'll never understand teenagers."

Family Circus / Garfield / Dennis the Menace - Do these comics just have a lifetime contact for
syndication? I never particularly loved these comics, but I read them now and they barely have jokes. 

Some kid in Family Circus has his dad's coat on and approaches the kitchen saying, "Honey I'm home" to the mom. Garfield lays in his bed, still hating Mondays and Jon. And Dennis is mostly weak puns like, "Margarate has a crush on you." "That's why I've been feeling so squished lately."

I could do that. Like, are they even trying anymore?

Reply All - I don't get this one. The art looks like it's made in paint and just copy and pasted. There aren't really any jokes. It's just really bad block people talking about nothing. Or maybe it's not nothing, it's just inside jokes that make sense to this one person's group of friends and some news editor was like, "Meh, looks good enough."



Baby Blues - I was sort of excited to see Zoe with longer hair. It seems like she grew up at least a little bit since the last time I checked in. Hammie on the other hand, still seems about as young as he was. It's always that weird comic / animation question of, "do we let these people grow up at all?" Usually no, or every cartoon year is 5 real years or something like that.

Peanuts - Peanuts somehow stays lovable after decades of publication. Like, none of the jokes are making me laugh out loud, but I just sort of look at Snoopy and Woodstock and coo, "awwww, Woodstock is going to shovel snow off of Snoopy's house."

Dilbert - I like Dilbert a lot. I wish I didn't find out that it's creator is sort of off the rails. This is one of those instances where I can separate art and artist to still enjoy everything.

Foxtrot - Foxtrot is still the best. It's probably the closest thing to Calvin and Hobbes in the modern comics page. They just did a week long story line about how comic artists deal with sickness and did a range of jokes from having other comic artists take over, phone it in by using the same image over and over again, and stick figures.


Monday, February 13, 2017

A Star War

I was burning some time at Target a few nights ago and was spending a ridiculous amount of time looking at LEGO Star Wars and Star Wars action figures.

I started wondering why I liked Star Wars so much more than say Indiana Jones or Ghostbusters when I was younger. (For the record, I think I like Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters as much as Star Wars nowadays)

Looking at the 6th set of characters released as action figures I figured it out. Star Wars told a great and concise story, but it also let my imagination fill in infinite amounts of gaps.

Who was the space man in the cantina? Why did he require a pressurized suit and no one else did? I'd spend hours imagining his adventures and bringing them to life with my GI Joes. BTW: He was a pirate that needed a pressurized suit because he often disabled other ships including their oxygen supply and would raid it.

There were certain scenes where I would pause the grainy VHS and just scour. The scene where Vader hires the Bounty Hunters in Empire, the Cantina scene, and the Jedi council in Phantom Menace all were ripe for my adventures.

And that's how you end up down the path of buying everything you can.

My adventures made me want to seek out actual information about them.

I started with the Decipher trading card game. Not only did I have a game, but I'd get little snippets that were considered canon about each of the characters. Turns out, that spaceman has a name, and it's Danz Borin.

So I started collecting these cards... and then nerdily writing the information down on note cards and filing them away in a small note card filing cabinet I had. I wanted to memorize everything there was to know about Star Wars.

Then the two lines about the characters on the cards didn't quench my thirst.

I next went to the Dark Horse comic books. Here I got stories from thousands of years before Luke Skywalker was born. I could see what sort of trouble Han Solo got into before he was hired to carry Luke and Obi Wan.

Then I went to the full novels where I got to read about Boba Fett crawling out of the Sarlaac pit.

Action figures, Taco Bell toys, posters, Micro Machines... I just consumed everything I could until I found myself a 32 year-old that has been carrying around two giant boxes filled with Stars Wars stuff.

Disney has done well with the Marvel universe, but there is a part of me that is worried about getting too much Star Wars. Rogue One told a story that I knew, a bunch of rebels get killed getting the Death Star plans, but that adventure was all in my mind and played out slightly differently every time I ran through it.

Now because of Rogue One, the mountain base I imagined being swarmed by Tie Fighters is now a tropical island with lumbering AT-ATs.

And Boba Fett became so much less cool when you realized he was nothing more than a clone and you had to hang out with his dad in Episode 2.

There is such a thing as too much Star Wars and I worry the Han Solo spinoff movie will be it. Why not stay away from the main characters and tell the stories of Admiral Ackbar or Greedo. Han is such a successful smuggler because my mind made up all of his and Chewbacca's adventures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Eggs and I

Today, among all the fighting and anger and stress in politics lately, I want to talk about eggs.

That's right... eggs.

I was never the biggest fan of eggs.

They were always a mechanism for me to eat salsa or mop up leftover syrup. Or they went into baked goods or the crust on a Pad Thai.

 I just find them boring on their own. I've spent my entire life watching people pour salt and pepper on their eggs and just eating them as is, and I just don't understand it. (Also, not a huge fan of pepper)

Until I met Sal, I thought eggs came three ways: scrambled, hard boiled, and sunny side up.

The only reason I knew about sunny side up is because it's what's most often ordered in movies and I think that's because it's an easy egg for the prop department to create.

Hard boiled was reserved for Easter when my brothers and I would run around trying to find the hard boiled eggs with dollar amounts written on them.

And scrambled eggs were part of the special holiday breakfasts we got. Typically my brothers and I woke up at 6 am and ate cereal immediately. So on occasions like Christmas, we'd get eggs, bacon, toast, maybe some ham and onion thrown in the eggs.

So even though I didn't like eggs, they were always associated with special times.

Sal on the other hand loves eggs. Her love of eggs is so well known that she gets gifts like egg socks, egg recipe books, and the Japanese Gudetama action figure, the lazy egg.

So where am I going with this?

I discovered another thing that eggs are good for. They can really bring a breakfast sandwich together.

I go on kicks where I'll eat the same thing for breakfast many days / months in a row.

Lately, it's been a bagel, cream cheese, bacon, and egg sandwich. It's delicious. It keeps me full until lunch time.

Today, I toasted my bagel, cooked the bacon, and reached in for the egg...Sal and I forgot to get eggs.

We only had one left. I stood there with a moral decision, do I eat the last egg while Sal is on a conference call and just not say anything, or do I leave it for the wife that is probably wear egg socks right now.

Ultimately I left it. And that folks... that is what love looks like.

Friday, February 3, 2017

I'm Mad, I'm Tired, and I'm Fighting

It's been two weeks into the Trump administration and I'm exhausted.

The only thing that gives me solace is that he has to run out of bad ideas eventually right?

Let's go back to two weeks ago, inauguration day. Sal and I were in Madison. We watched the events of the inauguration and were pleased to see sparce crowds and protesters. The moment Trump took the stage Facebook exploded with vitriol on either side and it's continued for the past two weeks.

More and more news started pouring in. Trump putting a gag order on the EPA and National Parks. Trump going back on climate change deals. Trump banning Muslims. Trump appointing a white supremacist to his cabinet. Trump pissing off Australia. There was a made up terrorist attack in Bowling Green. Maybe it's alternative facts. Maybe it's a straight lie. Maybe it's a distraction to see how far Trump can push.

I find myself exhausted cause I'm trying not to take things at face value. So I see something that seems extreme, I research a few sources to see where this information came from, figured out how much truth there is in it, and typically after taking each situation by situation, I find myself often disgusted, angry, and I can't emphasize enough, tired.

We've gone so far to the extremes that those people that were quietly racist only a month or two ago, feel like they can be loud and proud about their idiocracy.

I've got a former co-worker that changed his Facebook picture to a ghostly confederate soldier with two smoking guns, and posts daily from "whites first" sites like Britain's First and Never Again Canada, two anti-Muslim sites. Usually it's a video of a Muslim person talking about how they are dogs and don't need the white people's help and they should live in the Middle east. Or it'll be of a Muslim calling to incite violence. And his caption is usually, "See, this is what the President is protecting us from."

I've got a cousin that posts almost weekly about how the Black Lives Matter people are a bunch of thugs that have time to protest because they don't have jobs.

The truth of the matter is, we are all American. Black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, gay, straight, Asian, martian. If you move to this country, if you get citizenship or a green card, and you pledge the allegiance to our flag, you are American.

It hurts my heart that we even have to have these conversations anymore. We should be moving on and actually solving issues that will be affecting future generations like climate change, massive unemployment, health crisis's, And the current administration seems to be taking us three steps back on each of those very topics for what seems like personal gain at the sacrifice of the world.

So after the inauguration, Sal and I felt like we had to do something. We had all of this pent up energy.

We joined the women's march in Madison. We walked with 100,000 angry people. It was one of the greatest gatherings I have ever had the honor of being a part of.

Strangers were hugging. People were giving coffee to the police officers working the event and thanking them for their service. Tens of thousands of us were in sync with our protest songs.

And the protests will keep happening. And my great aunt will keep saying we're a bunch of jobless bums. But we're not. We're college grads, 75 year old grandmas, single fathers, angry daughters, scientists, students, teachers.

And my former peers may continue to made snide comments about how those protesters need to suck it up and love America like they do. Well guess what, I love America so much, and believe we are taking so many steps back that I'm willing to sacrifice my Saturdays to send a message to the White House that there's a lot of us, and we're organized, and we're angry.

I'm going to give money to environmental groups, Planned Parenthood, and immigration groups, not because I'm some "snowflake liberal."

And I'm going to continue to have deep discussion about next steps in the multiple political groups I've been invited to.

Because I love America and I want everyone to love it as much as I do. And I want my America to be available for everyone.

Take it from the all-american man, John Cena, we are America.






Sunday, January 15, 2017

The South is not for Me

I was in small town Alabama for a week. I've never felt so far out of my element, stranded on a martian planet as I did in this small town.

There's this weird sense of pride everyone has here. Like, "We've managed to remain a small town and function, so screw you." But it's this weird, somewhat functioning, small scale social experiment. The one thing that everyone I talked to really wanted to drive home was, "we don't care about the people that don't live here."

Time and time again they complained about neighboring towns. They made fun of the north constantly. They loved calling my lead and I Yankees and sort of poking fun at the software guys. Most of these people had never left their small town except to go to some lake further in the middle of no where. To them, their town was the entire planet. They didn't care about Syria, globalization, the droughts in California, drug cartels in Mexico.

Their only cares were, how was Alabama doing in the championship and if that new Dollar General was going to put their home town grocery store out of business.

I'm jealous because they have this local grocery store that makes good enough food where half the town eats dinner there. Everyone knows each others name.

But then like a Dollar General and WalMart opened next to it. And the few people that have commented have been like, "It really sucks that Dollar General and WalMart are going to put our store out of business cause the Hampton family are great people and their grocery store has been around forever, but it's cheaper. So I go to WalMart."

Food is the other thing. My buddy and I got into town Monday night and drove around looking for just some local bar and grill.

We stopped at 3 places before we found a place that was clean enough for us to trust chicken wings from. We had 2 beers, watched the Alabama game with a bunch of locals, and went back to the hotel by 8.

The next day, when we were on site with our client, we asked them about where the best places to get a drink and some food were, scouting out for dinner, and their answers were Applebees, TGI Fridays, and Chilis. When we asked for something more local, they again said the TGI Fridays was the cleanest place in town, but then directed us to a BBQ and Sushi place.

We ended up eating lunch with them over two days which involved just massive amounts of burgers and fried food, every one of them being overweight, breathing hard, and complaining about how much work they have to do.

I can see why they are overweight though. After just being there for 4 days, I feel so bloated on salty food and meals built around meat that all I want is a salad. Side note, I ordered a salad at one point and got some browning iceburg lettuce with a couple tomatoes and ranch dressing.

And everyone we talked to drives an hour or more to work. They have what sound like massive complexes they live in, but don't have basic utilities I've come to under-appreciate like true plumbing and internet. And I don't know if they talk about this when the "Yanks" aren't there, but the often talked about how, "that's just the way I live my life, and if other people don't like it, tough shit."

It was just so weird to see how little they cared for anything outside of their little town. Several of the people we talked to had never left their town, even a couple hours away to Panama City or Huntsville or Montgomery.

And my hotel was mostly nice, but there were things about it that just felt terrible. Like the stairs were all warped in the middle of they sort of formed a "U" shape. There was an abandoned grocery store with roof tiles falling of it next door.

My lead was going to have to leave a day early because he had to rent a car and drive in from another airport. I looked at the weather, saw an ice storm was coming to St. Louis, and and immediately tried to find a way out quicker. I flipped through the cable channels, eventually only finding Alien vs Predator 2 as entertainment, and just started feeling really depressed with the idea of being in this town alone for a night and possible getting stuck in the airport for the weekend.

The town's airport had no flights on Thursdays, so after some planning, I changed my flight to go out of Panama City, had my lead drop me off at the airport, and spent the next 6 hours barely making all of my connections.

If this is what the apple pie, Americana life is like, I'm not meant for it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Winter Classic

I started writing this the day after the Winter Classic, but it was one of those events I needed to chew on a little longer.

I wanted to live in the moment as long as I could before I turned it into a memory.

We arrived and saw the giant pucks with Blues players and banners everywhere. It was raining, which was mildly irritating as I was looking fantastic in my Winter Classic jersey, but my giant poncho was covering it up.

Thousands of people were forcing their way into Ballpark Village to see the Nelly show. This was our original plans to, but as we neared Busch Stadium, the energy and excitement was too much to stay away from. Sal and I went in.

There was only a few thousand people in Busch at the time, which was great. We got to take in everything before it was overrun with 40,000 other people.

It was raining pretty hard, but it was still incredible to see the ice down in Busch.

The pictures and camera shots made the ice look so far away from the nosebleed seats. I expected to not really see the game and was prepared just to take in the energy. Actually, it was the best view I think I've ever had.

They managed to pipe in a blues band over the stadium PA and had some pop-folk band playing without issue, but the refs microphones still were not working. We were sitting in a Blackhawk heavy section, so anytime a penalty was called, the entire section sort of looked around at each other to see who was happy.

And after the Hawks scored on very muddy looking ice a minute into the game. There was this brief moment early on when I realized how much I spent and didn't consider that the Blues could get blown out. I would've felt terrible. Luckily, things went the right way.

The Blues scored 4 unanswered goals by Berglund, Tarasenko (2), and Steen.

Bring out the Zamboni, the Blues won the Winter Classic.

I lived in the moment. taking in the Winter Classic as much as I could. I knew this was a once in a life time event and it really lived up to it.

The fans were loud, excited, and willing to support their gritty hockey team in the rain, in January.