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Not So Strange Brew

Went to the Autumn Brew Review this weekend.

There were 32 booths offering up bottomless amounts of beer at 2 - 4 ounce pulls at a time. Save for the Surly and Townhall booths, you could pretty much get filled in under a minute of waiting.

In many ways it is like a big outdoor beer library.

In that it could have benefited from a Dewey decimal inspired cataloging system, and also that it seemed to be populated with a great many self-proclaimed "beer nerds". At least, that's the only explanation I can give as to how they felt comfortable getting 2,5000 people that drunk with nary any sort of enforcement employee in sight.

The people were there for the love of the beer and getting sloppy drunk was a happy side-effect and not the point.

So it was a fun time, and a great chance to learn a bit more about what types of beer I like.

The only way to win is not to play

I wish there was a word to describe someone who worries about things only paranoid people would, but yet know that they are being ridiculously paranoid. For now, let's go with "Kyle".

Now, I realize this post is going to look super stupid in a week when nothing I'm worrying about comes to past, but I just gotta get this down on "paper" so I can stop thinking about it.

So, politics is a game similar to chess, and what bugs me about McCain's announcement, is that I don't see what his next possible move is.

I mean, you don't "suspend" a campaign only to resume it a week later... Especially when you suspend it to "solve the economic crisis". I mean, he can really only unsuspend it after completely fixing the issue, right? Is that really happening before the election day?

And considering the huge hit he's taking in the polls, to return to the chess metaphor, this move makes no sense in terms of trying to actually win the game of chess. I mean, it really only makes sense if your opponent is trying to distract you so you won't notice that he's dabbing chloroform on a cloth.

So I started from scratch. Let's say a certain president wanted to post-pone elections... What would he do?

  1. Do all he can to increase the power of the executive branch without worrying about who might inherit it.
  2. Have the republican candidate stop campaigning, so that at least half the country has an interest in "delaying" the election out of "fairness".
  3. Keep delaying that until people are sick of hearing about it, then cancel them.

  4. Prepare a response to the public outcry (armytimes.com)
  5. figure out a way to silence detractors (nytimes.com)

So I was fretting over this scenario while walking my dog this morning, and the one mote of solace I came to was the apathetic knowledge that "American citizens are pretty much controlled anyway, so it makes no economic sense to risk riling them up...".

Apathy, it makes you feel better by making everything worse.

Unwilling to let apathy be the last word, I thought on it more, and realized that I, myself, may have a relevant comment on the current situation in the form of my stated Obama Paradox. Which, simply stated is "If Obama would actually change things, there is no way the status quo will allow him to be elected".

This got me worried again.

In any case, I keep telling myself I'm just being silly. Help tell me that:

Why did McCain suspend his campaign?

-- poll results --

Cog Cop

So, the parent company of my company, which shall remain nameless, if only because their name is a nonsense word anyway, requires that all employees have blood work-ups done in order to be eligible for health insurance the next year.

Since I work remotely, they don't send a nurse out to us, which I think is nice, because en mass institutionalized blood drawing sounds a little creepy to me. Instead, they send us a form we have to go have a doctor fill out.

So, I called and made an appointment at my local health clinic for a "preventative health visit", which I read word for word off said form.

I show up, get my height and weight taken, and am told by the nurse to strip down and put on an assless gown and wait for the doctor. I glance down at my form, and nothing there seems to require nudity.

Me: "You know, I'm just here for the doctor to fill in my pulse rate and blood pressure and sign it this form."

Nurse: "Well, they have this visit listed as a physical, so in order for the doctor to be able to bill your insurance company, he needs to do all that that entails."

This sounds like a semi-reasonable argument, until you distill that it is essentially asking me to get naked and be medically male groped so that their paperwork is easier.

In any case, I reeled for a few seconds, taking in what a strange post-modern society we live in when people can say things like that and they seem to sound half-reasonable, I finally responded "Well maybe you could check if someone in the lobby wants a free testicular exam?". She said nothing, mainly because I only said that in my head, the words my mouth made more resembled something about talking to the doctor about it.

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Epic Sale

So, in elementary school, they teach you how to write business letters. Usually you complain about a product to a company, politely state your grievance and ask for a specific resolution.

Well, recently, I received a misshipment from William's Street, the company behind Adult Swim.

Now, these days, most companies tell you to just email about the problem. However, their letter that came with the shipment very specifically said to write a letter explaining what went wrong, and include it with your return.

So, over one of my lunch breaks, I started off just trying to tell them that they shipped me the wrong CD. That, turned into this:

08/21/2008

Dear Gentlemen and Sirs and Theoretical Ladies,

I just received my order, Christened by your uncaring computers "6519832", and whom I have come to fondly refer to as "StupidNutz32".

My order was supposed to contain a t-shirt and a cd. You got the t-shirt part exactly right, and I thank you for that slice of competence.

The CD part of the order, however, while a compact disk was delivered, is not the CD I ordered. In terms of weight and dimensions, it very closely matches what I wanted, in terms of arrangements of small pits in its plastic underside, not so much.

I ordered the Dethalbum by Dethklok, and instead received "Awesome Record, Great Songs" by "Mincing Pansies" or whatever their name is.

So I am returning that CD to you, unopened, still in the wrap your sausage fingered cretins used to semi-ironically protect it from someone else's shipping related foibles.

My wish is that you send me the CD I ordered originally, "Metalocalypse: Dethalbum CD by Dethklok", as well as refund my shipping costs as promised in your funny, but factually wanting return letter.

I don't know what those shipping costs are yet, as I am not a Post Office, but let's say it comes to 3 bucks.

Far more importantly, I wish to have my pain and suffering from taking time off my lunch break to wait in line at my local government parcel service institution reimbursed in some manner. Rather than in money, my wish is that you provide proof of administering sufficient punishment to the person who stamped their orange colored "110" stamp of presumably approval on my order's pick slip on August 19th 2008.

Nothing too harsh mind you, in the scheme of things it hardly ranks as a trifle. Maybe just a swiftly administered shin kick with the metal toed boots you are required to wear whilst working in your warehouse of finery.

All the Best,





kyle.

I then received nothing for a couple weeks. I began thinking maybe being snarky to people who you want to do something to you, maybe not the best idea. But after 2 weeks I got a response.

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Autoarcheology

So my wife asked me what day we started dating the other day, and I didn't remember.

It bugged me, it was an important date to both of us and in some ways held more resonance to both of us than our marriage anniversary date.

Lucky for me, I managed to squirrel away my old mail file from my university account at the time. Less lucky for me, I recalled that, at some point, I screwed up and overwrote my inbox with junk. However, not all was lost, as I still had the email I had sent, just not the replies.

So I knew it was in July 1998 sometime, and so went about reading through all those emails, trying to hone in on a date.

I eventually found clues that led me to the exact date, but the process as a whole was jolting. Now I know people write in diaries to themselves, and to read them afterward must seem strange, but this was different. A diary's purpose is, presumably, to be read by yourself later on and that informs what is written in there. Reading through all my sent email from 10 years ago was a different, more intimate experience. I got casual details and minutia that would assuredly have gotten left out of journal entries, but which were vital for reminding me what it was like during my summer internship down in Texas.

Your memories have a tenancy to drift off true north, you remember the memorable and forget everything else, and later-on fill in the gaps with best guesses. Rinse and repeat. But having the memories of old refreshed and reoriented with digital preciseness is a strange feeling. Like having a wristwatch correct you about what your favorite color is.

Honestly, the whole process seems highly unnatural. Certainly people of old left around typed letters documenting their days, but it seems unlikely that it was 10 per day, and with the barrier to reply you're looking at daily exchanges of important subjects.

My relationship and responsibility to my past and future selves is something that has always made me uneasy, which probably says that I do *way* too much navel gazing for my own good.

I guess what I'm saying is that our adoption of email and the archival trail makes your "old self" far more tangible than at any time in history, and I wonder what effect that will have both on us as individuals, and how freely we are giving over these years of data on our psyche to 3rd parties.

I just wonder what will happen to the political fates of the next Lincoln or Ghandi 30 years from now when someone pulls up their myspace page on archive.org?

Sept-Elly Septennial

So I wanna talk about that day nobody likes to talk about.

I mean, some people like to talk about it a whole lot, but they seem to miss the forest for the trees.

It has been 7 years, and for some reason, I have never heard anyone discuss the most obvious casualty of that day.

They talk about planes, firefighters, politics, building architecture and the 3 thousand dead, or as is more often these days, they bring it up just enough to briefly stir the lump of repressed memories hiding under the covers.

Don't worry, this isn't a conspiracy/revelation post. It is just addressing the things we all saw happen that day.

Alright, if you've stuck with me this far, my thanks. Here is a quick change of subject to reward you, it is a semi-famous quote and hopefully it will help steel you for what is to come.

"The 3 types of terror:

The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm.

The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm.

And the last and worse one:

Terror: when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there..."

-Stephen King

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The "Today" Show

When we were in NYC briefly last summer, Elyssa asked me what I wanted to do, and the one thing that stood out to me was attending a taping of either The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Well, as it happened, our trip was scheduled near July 4th, which is nearly always a two week vacation block of filming for both shows. After I found this out, I became foot scuffingly pouty, the entire trip seeming suddenly pointless and empty. When we were actually there it was fun enough, but the missed opportunity always bugged me.

Then, on May 1st of this year, while my code was compiling I happened to frequent The Daily Show's website, and saw a small advert on the side for St Paul tickets. I clicked it, saw some where available for all 4 of their days here, requested some for Friday, and then sent off an email so my friends could do the same.

Apparently, others had gotten onto the scent as well, as by the time my email hit inboxes, nearly all the tickets were gone.

Then 4 months, and 4 hours of waiting in line later we were seated in their replica studio, packed with 250 of my demographic doppelgangers.

The warm up guy was funny enough, he had an interestingly casual style, although I soon began to fake the excessive "practice" screaming he demanded of us.

Jon's entrance was like that of a rockstar, which is appropriate. He seemed mellow and tired, and pretty much told us he was exhausted from the two weeks on the road. He told a funny anedote about how some of the anarchists from Monday were fleeing police, did a double take when they saw him, and stopped to ask him for a picture. He then took a handful of semi-lame questions and incorporated the last into this impromptu intro.

The show was great, all the jokes seem funnier when you are surrounded by an enthusiastically guffawing crowd. The whole thing went by really quickly and seems a blur. Jon himself wasn't really micced for us, and Elyssa said she really couldn't make out most of the jokes. A lot of the show was pre-taped segments, since there was likely no usable guests still left in the Twin Cities area, so a bunch of the show was me squinting at a TV at the top of the theater. We'll probably just have to rewatch the whole thing on Hulu later.

Jon even capped the show by saying he really can't wait to get back to NYC, which given all the craziness in the immediate vicinity of their studio, is entirely understandable.

So even if the experience itself was actually a poor audio/visual experience than in the comfort of our living room, it was still nice to be a part of a show I hold in such high respect, and which seems to be one of the few things in the world which always seems to be "fighting the good fight".

(Don't bother looking for us though, we were seated in some "hidden" seating to the right of Jon's desk that the overhead camera deftly avoided.)

No Government without Taxation

So, I watched local Fox news last night, just because it happened to be on.

On the 9 o'clock news, they showed protesters fleeing from tear gas, and the reporter on scene claimed that protesters had set off 3 homemade bombs.

On the 10 o'clock news, they showed the same scene, and no mention of supposed homemade explosives. Also no retraction.

In fairness, they did try to show the peaceful bit of the day, a bunch of people taking an oath not to be naughty, and then a lady who clearly was rebelling against the oppressive science of conditioner, unceremoniously shoved a folded note through a fence, and then spent a minute trying to push a flag under the fence. Or, as any normal person would view it, smashing a flag into the ground over and over.

By this time, my wife, who no doubt started off positively inclined towards the plight of these liberal radicals was calling them "spoiled bratty kids", but that might have also been that yesterday was her first day of school as well.

My point being, if you can't win over my wife with your anti-establishment peace protest, you're doing something wrong.

This all got me thinking about some of the inherent flaws of peaceful protest, most noticeably how easy it is for a "bad egg" to spoil it, and since I work in security, it also seems apparent to me that the whole facade can also crumble if the opposition hires a single plant to act as an on-demand bad egg.

Now, my history might be a little rusty, but the two most successful instances of non-violent protest that came to mind were Ghandi vs the British in India, and the 1950's US Civil Rights movement. It seems worth noting that in both instances, it would have been very difficult to recruit these "dodo" bad eggs, both due to the sharp racial lines of the conflict, as well as a stark social barrier between the two sides.

Now, I'm not saying these kids in St. Paul are getting a bad rap, I really don't have enough information on them, based solely on TV coverage they seem to be terrible villains. My point is more that, if there were a well-intentioned non-violent organization, and it became successful enough to inconvenience someone powerful, that it would seem to be trivial for that power to sabotage the whole affair to be indistinguishable to that of a bunch of spoiled brats, possibly for as little as the cost of $200 given to a hobo. =)

Now, I know non-violent protest is the bee's knees and all that, but if there is any sort of "arms race" going on between the techniques of protesting and that of discrediting legitimate protesters, than the technique might be beginning to show it's age.

PAX Day 2&3

Man, a lot of exciting games this year.

  • Fallout 3 is just amazing. It really is the first next gen game that has seemed to bother to put as much thought into story and characters as other games do into the 3d rendering of those character's belt buckles. It also seems to have a pretty remarkably clever mechanic for allowing first-person shooter play for someone who isn't necessarily big on the "control twitch" type gameplay.
  • Left 4 Dead, by Valve is a really well done cooperative zombie shooter. Watching streams of darkly lit and realisitically animated zombies pour into a room was a jaw dropping moment. Perhaps there is a place in the world for fast zombies afterall. =)
  • Spore.

I find myself wondering if I'll rebuild my computer or just pony up for a 360... Which really is a silly question to be asking, since my "game queue" is tragically full. But still, half the payoff for video games in my life has been the experience of getting the things to work in the first place.

I have always been more motivated by removing the technical barriers which keep me from enjoying a game than actually playing the game.

Board game wise, Fantasy Flight has put out a Battlestar Galactica game that is just really well done. They've incorporated elements of the party game "Mafia" into it, with gameplay which generates pretty compelling narratives. Plus I got to accuse Jason of being a cyclon, and talk all the other players into tossing him in the brig, which was awesome.

I also got to play an unreleased prototype game with Phil Reed, the COO of Steve Jackson Games. It was called "Revolution" or something similar, and had some really fun blind bidding gameplay that reminded me of Diplomacy (or Poker) except far tighter, tactical and quicker to play.

We also played a game of the old school card game with a guy we met named "Mike". It has always been a favorite of mine, but I was woefully out of practice. He then introduced us to a scrabble-like version called "Set Cubed" involving dice that was a ton of fun.

Was a really great PAX this year, they got over a lot of the growing pains from last year's venue change, and I found myself wanting more, which was not true of my past two trips. That said, it'll be nice to be home tommorrow.

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