Thursday, August 13, 2015

my flirtation with singlespeed

Some of you may know that I like to ride bikes. Having always been intrigued by the simplicity of a singlespeed bike, I decided to just do it.

One evening before my 10 mile morning ride into work, I decided I was going to use only one gear. Which gear? I have no idea, but I have twenty to choose from! I didn't sleep well that night and dreaded the impending ride; I expected hell. Anyway, I woke up pissed off, ate breakfast pissed off, took a dump pissed off, wiped my ass pissed off, loaded up my bike pissed off.

I did feel slightly better when I got on the bike though.

My goal in the first two blocks was to find a gear that was a bit too easy to pedal when the road is flat, with every intention of slowing to a standstill as I stand and mash on the very hilly last five miles. Easily within a block, I found "the gear", and opted to roll with it, as it felt right.

Upon arrival at the office, I felt awesome. Well, awesomer than I usually feel when I finish the ride in. The hell I expected never came. Sure as shit, the next day, I rode in on one gear, rode home on one gear, and then hit the singletrack on my fat bike with one gear. Then I rode in on one gear on my fat bike. That was a different beast as the tire pressure on pavement makes for a tricker sitch. Anyway though, I was sold. Soon, I was graduating up gears as I became a stronger rider. I even started looking for a singlespeed-specific bike.

Until I realized what it means.

Having twenty gears at my disposal, and only using one is nothing short of gearism, and that is a gateway to more sinister forms of hate. Looking at the cassette on my bike, and seeing the staggered increase in size of each sprocket as you get closer to the wheel, how each sprocket has more teeth than the previous. Having to choose just one based on your strength and preference, it's disgusting.

Considering I have a nice enough, fully functioning car sitting in the garage, and I chose to ride a bike to work, using only one gear no less(!), that's an affront to those that don't have that option.

Every gear not used is a micro-aggression. Poor (and probably nonwhite) people may not have the privilege of choosing their personal means of transportation. That I am doing something positive for the environment, and essentially paying myself to get exercise by riding to work, that is the ultimate slap in the face to those less fortunate and not as white.

Bikes, and bikes with big tires are constructs. Every extra PSI pumped into a bicycle tire is a form of structural and implicit misogyny, fueled by white male privilege. The fact that bicycle tires are black, and they are forced to carry our weight, that's as institutional as racism can get. I shudder to think of the hatred inherent in the action of me swapping out my stem last month, for one that fits better, and gasp, was not as black. Vile.

The big picture is important, and every single action we take, and thought that we might think, has the potential to tangentially offend somebody. What you might think of as something good - driving a car less, getting exercise, well, somebody might experience a fleeting feeling of potentially being offended. Or worse, that person that is actively in the market for something new to offend them, they may find that hatred they're looking for. And in that case, may science have mercy on your Twitter account.

So let me sum this up for you, singlespeeding turned me into a devil: a privileged, white, CIS-gendered, prejudiced asshole. These qualities, no matter how superficial or made up, empowered me to be a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, everythingphobic and everyist piece of shit. Basically any acronym of the month that you can think of, I apparently phobic'ed and ism'ed it for a short spell there.

I hereby will probably soon disavow bikes, gears, biking gear, shifters, brakes, other bike parts, and I promise to further explore the full spectrum of my unidentified identity.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

dumb and dumber

Maybe you have heard about the recent goings on in our great state of Wisconsin. Specifically, the Governor, in January announced huge budget cuts to the UW-System. If you're an out-of-stater, that means that there will likely be around 300 million dollars worth of cuts to the various University of Wisconsin schools around the state (holy shit!). Those cuts are already starting to manifest themselves in myriad ways. People are freaking out and looking for different jobs; students are pissed; faculty is not pleased; this is not a good sitch.

Over the last seven months or so, it's been a hot topic, with everybody having an opinion. You get the usual garbage about how all professors are overpaid, the reasonable assertion that the tenure system is a problem (that nobody wants to seriously touch), and of course the sentiment that many in academia think they are better than you. You don't really hear any solutions, just mostly bitching.

Nobody in the UW System wants to admit their huge organization is a model of inefficiency and bloat. Note that I'm not in the meetings; I could be wrong, they could be looking to actually improve operational efficiency, rather than just survive. Sadly, that would be reactive in nature, rather than proactive, and indicative of a leadership problem. One truth that is undeniable is that the UW-System is not prepared to handle this kind of a cut.

And we're seeing the reaction to the cuts: slashing employees, and continuing business as usual: upping class sizes, increasing professor workload, all contributing to a shittier and shittier education experience for kids that don't know any better. Why would any professors want to come here? Why are the professors that made the first cull willing to stay? Why would prospective students want to come here?

Editor's note: I sit with a unique vantage point. My wife is a professor, and I know tons of professors. While neither envious nor resentful of their jobs, I am envious of my wife's intelligence.

I mentioned the bitching; there is plenty of that. Most of it is directed at the Governor for his bonehead surprise budget cut move. Very understandable. Attacking one of the largest organizations in the state like this is unprecedented, worrisome, and the Governor deserves to be called out and fired. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he is an idiot. However, the fact that the UW-System is so crippled demonstrates a stark lack of competence from leadership.

Planning for what might go wrong, planning for the future, constantly trying to improve, that's what bright people do. That they are so unprepared is terrifying. In the real world, when something like this occurs, you either sink or swim, or doggy-paddle until one of the two happens. I'm thinking we'll either see some sort of bail out from the state, or a lot of doggy paddling. When you're out hiking in the woods and you get attacked by a bear, you don't get pissed at the bear. You get pissed at yourself for not being prepared to handle a bear encounter. Well that's what reasonable people would likely do.

This is where it gets so ghastly - much of academia's collective rage is directed only at the Governor. I haven't heard anything about questioning UW leadership. Surely even thinking of holding anybody other than the Governor's feet to the fire is pure blasphemy. Has partisanship gotten so bad that the Governor's party affiliation trumps the typical hatred for old white dudes that poorly run huge organizations? It's brainwashed ideological tribalism, and it's scary as fuck.


So what are we left with? A bunch of close-minded beta simpleton fucks that are letting their voices be heard, man.

There is hope though: the UW-System is productive at a couple things: churning out increasingly worthless graduates, producing meaningful research, playing a huge role in the local and statewide economy, among other things. But they could be better.

What would I do if I ran a college?

1. I'd take in fewer students, lowering class sizes, allowing professors more time to focus on professoring. Time to do research. Time to engage students, and be engaged by students. We all learn differently and at different levels, accounting for that takes time.

2. Bye-bye tenure. Not doing consistent and solid research, not running extracurricular or enriching programs, clubs, or activities - then you're not tenured. There are shitty tenured professors out there. Deny that all you want, but it's the truth. Often, tenure is a direct gateway to professional sloth.

3. Administrative and operations employees no longer get paid for checking facebook. No more sending three employees to plug in a computer (I'm serious). You want your office painted, you do it yourself.

4. Professors can fire students (potentially after earning an Associate's degree). College is a privilege and not a right. If after reasonable effort to correct performance in higher level/major classes, the professor can choose to boot the kid's ass out, with a prorated refund of course. There will have to be an effective academic counseling department established to determine the root cause of the shitty student performance and work to correct it. Bottom line, college isn't for everybody.

5. Professors get a raise! Yay! And they get merit based raises! Just like in the real world!

6. More financial assistance for poor people! One idea: partner with local businesses that are looking for bright young people and tie financial aid into internships and job offers. Have industry foot some of the bill for talent and education; think of it as backwards-facing tuition reimbursement.

I don't know much about the economics of running a college, but I know common sense often times makes for a pretty goddamn good starting point. Also, actually valuing people seems to be a pretty sweet way to do things.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

the front porch review

You've been begging for it.

Y'all been asking for it.

So I'ma provide dat.

Once upon a time there was a Brazilian-style steakhouse here in Eau Claire. This magical place was called Picanha, and it won an award in 2014 - the best restaurant in the Chippewa Valley. As with anytime the unsophisticated masses vote, as they did here, the wrong party wins. I don't have any #science to prove it, but I'm guessing the only reason Picanha won an award is because its unlimited meat barrage was seen as s a truly novel concept in the area. When in reality, the food's ceiling was right around "good".

I've been to various restaurants of this style, and this was the Azul Tequila of Brazilian steakhouses. Anyway, churched up and expensive all-you-can-eat? Right up the Chippewa Valley's alley. I loved it.

Meanwhile, as the owner was coasting the crest of mediocrity, he must have had an idea brewing, when all of a sudden he did an about face: he closed that shit down and opened up a comfort food joint, The Front Porch. A couple of my friends sampled it, with mixed results. In fact, one of my pals crapped all over the place. On facebook. What do the uncultured rubes on Yelp have to say? Unflattering things.

So obviously we had to eat there.

We got there about 6:15 (PM) on a Wednesday night, lol. Place was beat, just a couple tables of morbidly obese face-stuffers, awesome. I'm talking like riverboat-casino-in-Biloxi, Mississippi kind of awesome, so actually totally depressing. Note that the entry door did not get fixed in the restaurant name change shuffle; it still opens weird, and slams shut.

Once we got sat, we waited about ten minutes to place our drink order. But the waitress kindly walked by about ten times, acknowledging us once, so that was much appreciated. The tap beer list was uninspiring, with nothing you can't find at the Kwik Trip. But the beers did come pretty quick once ordered - both times. Yeah, two beers apiece on a Wednesday night, living the dream.

The food on the menu looked pretty good, but because it was one-sided, laminated, and black, all the greasy-handed animals they serve left their gross, very visible fingerprints all over it. Yuck. Anyway, we started with the fried pickles. Heckyeahwoman went with the chicken fried chicken, and I had to have the chicken and waffles.

Fried pickles: they were spears. Goddamnit, I prefer chips. Good though. The batter was light enough and tasty.  It was kinda lol though, the spears were served in a fancy-ish conical shaped thingamajigger, looked nice. And the side of ranch was served in a paper ramekin. Can't know hot without cold I guess.

Chicken fried chicken with mashed potatoes, and green beans. HYW didn't love it as it was a bit too mushy (it was). The breading had a nice flavor to it though, and their creamy gravy was really good. I didn't try the potatoes, but they looked really good and buttery...and fake. The green beans didn't taste canned, and were pretty greasy, which I loved.

Pan fried chicken and waffles: Really good. The breading was crispy and had a great flavor, a bit of spice to it. The waffles were supposed to be Belgian. I don't know what that means, but you could have given me Eggos and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. But they came with two (2) syrups - a really good maple, and a really good spicy syrup, with the latter tasting almost kinda Sriracha-esque.

Funny note: when the General Manager came over to ask how things were, you could see the relief in her face when we both initially smiled and told her it was really good. I think she was almost mortified to even ask lol.

One major gripe though. Because you care so much, I tried to check us in on facebook, but it was nowhere to be found. So instead I think I just sent out a bunch of Snaps to my friends - of me playing with this stupid dog toy we just purchased. Heckyeahwoman was trying to drive.

Bottom line, would we go back? Heck yeah, man - they had meatloaf on the menu, and it was a sin for me to not order that!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

tom brady

Unless you live under a rock, you have likely heard of #Deflategate. If you indeed do, and you haven't, below is an unbiased, quick primer.

The Super Bowl Champion Patriots have been accused of using under-inflated footballs, specifically in the AFC Championship game. We won't get into the deets of football PSI or any of that stuff, because it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that after months of investigation, Tom Brady got suspended four (4) games for his role, the Pats got fined a million bucks, and docked a couple draft picks.

Whether Brady did it or not, we'll likely never know, as the results from the investigation were pretty underwhelming, culminating in a ruling of "more probable than not" that the Patriots, Tom Brady specifically, ordered the under inflation of footballs. For real, no smoking gun, just hearsay and circumstantial evidence.

There were many discrepancies and errors in the collection of "evidence" and information, in addition to the possibility of a future Hall of Fame quarterback slightly cheating. But I get it, rules is rules. Also, I should note here that I am not a Pats fanboy, in fact, I find Boston sports fans to be just a shade beneath Steelers football fans as the worst fans on the planet.

Anyway, if I were Tom Brady, this would be my official statement:

First, I'd like to address the fans - without you, I wouldn't be here. Thank you for your unwavering support. I truly believe that we have the best fans in the world (Editor's note: the fans are scum, as noted above, and Brady likely knows that and is paying lip service). Thank you.

To the Pats organization, thank you for your unwavering support as well. We are a team, we've won Super Bowls, we've had many highlights, and I look forward to many more.

To the NFL, specifically Roger Goodell and Ted Wells: simply, fuck you.

I don't know why this sting was set up, what you are looking to prove or accomplish here. And it doesn't really matter that much. Let me tell you why.

I have more money than I will ever know what to do with. I could retire tomorrow and be set for generations, while enjoying my hall of fame induction in five years. My wife is a supermodel. Not just supermodel hot, but an actual goddamn supermodel. My kids are going to be so fucking good looking that if I have a daughter, I'd actually think for a split second about tapping that.

You ever been to my house? Haha, trick question, I meant "houses", plural you slimy bastards.

But what I find truly disgusting, is your veiled "fuck you" to both NFL and Pats fans. The grudges that you are holding for whatever reason are causing an inferior product to take the football field. Nothing against my backup QB for four games here, as I have full confidence he will take the field as prepared as possible, and I fully expect to come back to a 4-0 team as we take on the Colts.

Lol @ the hammer Ima put down on Andrew Suck & company.

Speaking of the Colts, Ryan Grigson, a few words of wisdom from my man, Curtis Jackson, whom you know as 50 Cent: "You shouldn't throw stones if you live in a glass house, and if you got a glass jaw, you should watch yo mouf, I will break yo face."

Anyway, Goodell, if you have some underlying fear or hatred of me, the Pats organization, our coach, or Robert Kraft, take it out on us personally, where it hurts - our pocketbook. Don't mess with the integrity of the game here, don't dick around with our fans - your customers. 

And maybe more importantly, do you have any idea the pickle you're going to put some fantasy footballers in? I'll be missing the first five games of the season, due to suspension and the bye week. In an already tight QB market, that's just another wrinkle to deal with when trying to draft a QB. Def a bitch move, son.

To both low-level towel boy fuckheads - are you fucking stupid? Texting about this shit, for real? You wanna know why you're 45 years old, still renting, have obese girlfriends that probably shop at The Buckle, and your cars have rust spots? You have any idea? Because you're fucking stupid. You're obviously fired, so maybe Goodell is looking for a couple fluffers. Something tells me you'd unintentionally find a way to get fired from that gig too.

Last thing, for those curious as to why I didn't "cooperate" and turn over my cell phone, are you kidding? Goodell's fetish with bungling punishments and the subsequent mess of a sting operation I think are reason enough to be involved as little as possible. I'll take my lumps before giving in to that toupee-topped cumchump. If Kraft wants the cell phone, I'd hand it over. But when a hacky, incompetent, Adam Silver-esque goon starts demanding shit, yeah, no.

I'm not Tom Brady, so just imagine me saying this to you, in a very angry and accusatory tone, however completely out of context it would be. Mom, if you're reading this, sorry for Tom Brady cursing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

burrachos review

Have you ever been to Chipotle before? If so, have you ever wondered what Chipotle would taste like if they stopped seasoning and flavoring their food? Keep in mind, Chipotle is to an actual good meal, as Burrachos is to Chipotle: a step or two down.

Also keep in mind that I love Mexican food, and anything imitating, approaching, comparable to, or slightly resembling even a completely unfaithful rendition of it. That said, I am an asshole, and consider anything remotely close to the previously mentioned iterations a personal affront, while still somehow enjoying it.

Well anyway, if the answer to the above burning question is a mumbled, "I guess", then read on, friends.

About a year and a half ago, I had a hankering for a burrito. So I rode down to the Burrachos on Water St. to grab one. Burrachos is a WI-based company that appears to be a Chipotle knock-off, should be relatively awesome, right? Not necessarily. Upon returning home to feed, I found it to be perfectly bland, and a little small. A Chipotle burrito/bowl, will usually feed me for two meals. So I crossed it off the list for future feedings.

Fast forward to present day, and the beautiful Heckyeahwoman and I found ourselves at Burrachos again. It was pretty sweet being seen in public with her. The evening started off normal, with us ordering food at the counter, but it soon got weird when they were "building" her burrito. Dude heated up her tortilla, and began sheepishly spooning burrito fixings into it, and when it was time to fold that fucker up, it tore. The tortilla apparently got torn. Not the end of the world, right? I've seen it happen, and usually they just throw another tortilla around it for bonus double tortilla protection.

What did this dude do?

And this is HYW's recounting of the sitch, so it's mostly hearsay, but the first thing the dude did was get really pissed (lol). Then he took the torn tortilla, and dumped the contents into a new (untorn) one. Thing is, a shitload of the contents were still stuck to the old one. And then he threw it away. What a waste of food!

To top it off, her burrito was supposed to have tortilla chip strips in it; it didn't. That's why she ordered that burrito! That's why I was mere seconds of ordering the same thing, but switched at the last minute! I didn't try it, so the only indication of the taste is her mentioning that it didn't taste like anything.

I ordered a burrito bowl with double meat. I got a plate of burrito with some meat. No shit, the burrito BOWL comes on a plate. A flat plate. An uneven flat plate that spins and moves as one tries to poke at the pile of food with a fork. The meat was flavorless, though the veggies and other stuff tasted fresh enough. Props for tasty chips and guacamole though.

A burrito joint on Water St. (where all the college bars are, right by campus and the student ghetto, for you out-of-towners), employing college students, serving cheap burritos, I get it: it's probably not going to be awesome. But I don't think any of the three employees smiled once. I would be interested in trying the Burrachos over by the mall, see if that lack of student ghetto might church the experience up a bit.

Anyway, the verdict?

Heckyeahwoman summed it up perfectly as we were leaving: "Oh god, don't tweet about this, I don't want them to give us a complimentary gift card to try it again or anything!"

My final two cents: Mexican food, no matter how bland, approximated, or Americanized, and absent finding a hair or dead bug within, is generally beyond reproach, at least in my book. While theirs generally leans towards the hyper-bland, it's still preferable to something like most fast food, outside of Culver's.

Also, spellchecker is trying to replace "Chipotle" with "Chortle", ha.

Coming up soon: I recount a recent experience reading a book. And then I might comment on our city, Eau Claire, approving a tubing-only lane along the Chippewa River, and whether or not that is lol.

Monday, March 30, 2015

my thoughts on the new strung out album

It has been around six (6) years since the last Strung Out album. That's too long. 2009 brought Agents of the Underground, and I don't remember if I reviewed it or not, and I'm too lazy to check. Very probable that it was on my best of list that year. In those six years though, we've seen a greatest hits compilation with a couple new tracks and the hits remastered, as well as a box set of their remastered albums. And I should note that the remasters do sound phenomenal.

Strung Out is probably one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite. One thing: I really hate the idea of having a favorite anything really, but I think I've listened to Strung Out the most over the last 18 years or so. All of their albums have their own unique sounds, but the general idea is fast, very proficient, metal-influenced, poppy, melodic punk rock. The dudes can play their instruments, likely better than your favorite shitty nu-metal band.

What does it sound like? For some reason the initial vibe I got made me think it belongs on whatever your local modern "hard rock" radio station is. Chill out cuz, I'm not saying this is like Volbeat or Distubed level nu-metal garbage; Strung Out can out-play and out-write those hacks any day.

Worry not though, repeated listens brought the goods, and each spin brought more personality out of each song. What I initially heard as over-polished, maybe kinda slow, modern punk rock, morphed into shredding, awesome punk rock - exactly what you'd expect out of the band in 2015. Nowheresville is vintage Strung Out, and rips, but you don't need a track by track breakdown; each song slays.

Known for book-ending their albums with opening burners and epic closers, we are not disappointed here, though they will likely never top the opener-closer combo of Twisted by Design. Shout-out to Heckyeahwoman for letting me walk down the aisle to Too Close to See. Shout-out to Heckyeahwoman's mom for looking around all aghast as the ridiculous opening riff cranks up.

Vocalist Jason Cruz, probably one of the best punk vocalists out there, does his part exceedingly well. If you're familiar with their previous output, you know what to expect here, melodic punk singing, with a little bit of yelling. Cruz's distinct voice fits the music perfectly. His lyrics are again kind of vague, and generally seem to revolve around the idea of "we are something"/"we are united", against some sort of big brother governmental entity. Keep it posi, brah.

As mentioned earlier, repeated listens to this album only beget more listening. This album smokes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

i kind of remember when i became an atheist

I was a kid and I hated church. We would go to church on many Sundays, and then have religion class on Monday nights. Yeah, during Monday Night Football. WHAT THE FUCK. At least Sunday church was done by noon.

My mom still tells the story of how one Sunday my brother and I were being taken to church, and we got there, parked, and as we walked across the street, then into the church, we both limped - in a very exaggerated fashion - the entire way. We told my mom that the bottoms of our feet hurt. And as we limped, I guess another lady looked at my mom like, "why would you bring these horribly injured kids out to church, let them stay at home and heal!"

Obviously, my mom knew we were faking it. But we tried to get out of going every time: crying, hiding, making injuries up, fighting, probably everything.

As a kid, I was mad at God for church being a thing, so he was my enemy. The whole production was kind of weird to me, the Pastor's robe, the idea of communion, the lifeless off-key mumbling/singing of hymns, all kinda strange. The kneeling in the pews was so annoying. It was boring. There are a million reasons for kids to hate going to church.

I remember watching the Dragnet movie as a child. That was back in the late 80s when we were big Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters!) and Tom Hanks (almost every movie around that time period) fans. Anyway, the bad guys in the movie were pagans, and not knowing what that meant, I asked my parents, and they said something like, "people against Christians". That stuck with me, and the next Sunday, not wanting to go to church, I secretly became a pagan.

A couple years later, still hating church, one day it occurred to me that the best way to piss God off was to not even acknowledge his or her existence. Childish? Yeah probably, but I was a child then. Since maybe fifth or sixth grade, it just stuck with me: there is no God. I should note that I'm no longer at war with having to go to church, or trying to piss of an imaginary being; I just think the likelihood of there being a God is approaching zero.

Mind you, this was before I knew what atheism was, or how annoying many actual atheists were. This was before I realized many atheists were all, "OMG if it says "Democrat" or "science" on it, I'll suck it". Had I known that as an eight year old, I mighta never converted, ha.

Funny little side note here. I went to Catholic school from first to third grade, and my final year there, I participated in the Christmas play. You'll never guess my role. Shout out to my dad for making me a huge, bad ass cardboard staff.

So what's the upshot here? I was an atheist before you, and more importantly, before it was cool.

I was also punk before you, but that's a different story for a different time.