Playlist: Crown on the Ground

I have a Spotify playlist named stoof. It was the first playlist I started, back when I didn’t have a clue how I would go about Spotifying – hence the super-descriptive title. Actually…I just chuck songs into it so maybe it is fairly descriptive. To date it holds 210 songs. I added the first song on 2012-10-12 and the latest maybe an hour ago. I add songs infrequently and generally in spurts of a handful at a time. I listen to stoof in a similar way – not infrequently, but in spurts of a handful of songs at a time (before the damned commercials kick in and I go back to Pandora).

It occurred to me that a significant portion of this list – any playlist – has a personal story. Some of the artists are obvious (I’m looking at you, Violent Femmes). Some of the songs are obvious (Africa, anyone?) …but some of them have a much more specific meaning to me; they might evoke an emotion or make me recall a particular memory. This post is about one such song: Crown on the Ground.

I’m calling out Crown on the Ground because I remember the first time I heard it. I can’t say that about very many of the songs in stoof, percentage-wise.

I first heard this song on a family road trip to Myrtle Beach. Kate and I were in our car, my mom and sisters were in another. It was about a 12-hour drive, we were in the home stretch – maybe 3/4 of the way through – and we were a bit “lost”. Not lost in the sense of “Where are we?” so much as “What, specifically, do we have to do to get where we’re going with as little backtracking as possible?”

…and then Crown on the Ground came on the radio. It was loud. It was intentionally distorted to make it sound “bigger”, a difficult-to-achieve excellent sort of “Are my speakers blown?” effect that’s hard to describe without hearing it. It was this “crunchy” Wall of Sound coming out of my speakers and I was transfixed.

“Holy shit, we’re gonna listen to this!” I turned that shit up.

Kate turned it down. (She wanted to “talk” about “where we were going”.)

I turned it back up (I like my shit loud.)

Kate turned it back down, all “Did we miss our exit?” or whatever.

I don’t know how long this back-and-forth went, who “won out”, etc. What I can tell you:

  1. we got to Myrtle Beach
  2. as it turns out Kate liked the song as much as I did (IIRC she bought the album as soon as we got back home)

Anyhow…I think about that trip – that moment – every time Crown on the Ground comes up in the rotation…


Garganelli Board

Purchased. It doesn’t appear to scale well, but for making a pound of not-quite-penne I think it should do and for ten bucks I’m in.

I wouldn’t consider myself an “authority” but I have some experience in this arena and I feel fairly strongly about this: extrusion is for chumps. If you’re going to take the time to make your pasta by hand then roll it or cut it. Do not extrude it. I’ll buy penne from time to time (not fucking Bari**a. Never Bari**a.) for the same reasons that I’ll buy a frozen pizza – it’s not great, but it’s cheap and expedient. I’m not spending my time to make the dough and then waste it by extruding it. It’s slow, it’s more difficult than it should be, it makes crappy fragile pasta that doesn’t dry well, there is zero control over thickness or texture…shit, man, just don’t do it.

On a related note: JoJo is either a hero or a prick, I can’t decide which. Or maybe it’s his grandmother’s fault. Or maybe none of these are mutually exclusive. My point is this: I care a lot – perhaps too much – about the pasta that I eat and serve to my family, and I directly blame JoJo and/or his grandmother.

Example: I went to an offsite lunch for a couple of engineers moving on to other parts of the company last week. It was at an “Italian” place. (Side note: “Italian” requires quotes in the Bay Area as it pertains to food.) I should have gotten the lamb chops – because omg lamb chops – but I’m a little sensitive to ordering a $30 lunch in a party of 25 when I’m not paying, even if it is Silicon Valley. Someone else got the chops and I’m still a little jealous.

…I ordered a pizza.

I ordered a pizza because I don’t know anything about how they make – or, more likely, source – their pasta. Could be fucking Bari**a for all I know. Maybe that’s just paranoid but I wasn’t willing to take the chance, particularly not at an “Italian” restaurant whose menu featured two paella dishes. (wat?)

In short: I ordered a pizza because I would not risk the possibility of being served substandard pasta. Perhaps it’s limiting – even crippling – to my “restaurant” experience, but I just won’t do it.

At any rate I should have the board this week (huzzah for Amazon Prime!) We’ll see how it works out. 🙂

These Motherfucking Laundry Baskets

I am the (proud?) owner of four laundry baskets.

One of these laundry baskets is at least 10 years old. It’s made of a plastic that…well…let’s just say it’s the Titanium of Plastics. It has under its belt 10 years of regular use (minimum: 3 loads of laundry a week). It has not bent. It has not cracked. It has not failed.

One of the baskets I purchased upon a relatively recent move – about a year and a half ago. One of the handles cracked and eventually came completely off. I use it no longer.

The other two are of identical make and model to the latter, purchased shortly after the failure of the original…perhaps in the hopes that it was some one-off manufacturing defect, or more likely because “it was at Target, it was cheap, and I needed a basket”. Their handles are cracked, they bend, and they are falling apart.

I could paint you a picture about the needs of apartment living, a scene in which in-home/in-unit washer-dryer is a thing of the past. A Saturday morning landscape with a hallway and a flight of stairs so narrow I trade knuckle-skin for clean clothes. I could talk about how sometimes my 2-year-old wants to come with me and happy to oblige I haul both her and a perilously-balanced and cheaply-made disintegrating piece of shit down that path.

But I needn’t.

My needs are modest, my requirements few. I just want a coupla laundry baskets that do not suck the peen.

So I turned to the Interwebitubes. Typically my savior in similar cases, Amazon has failed me in this. I started off with searching for “laundry basket” and eventually went so far as to look for the specific make and model of The One True Basket which I still possess. (Yes, the label is still legible after all this time – I guess In My Day they made things to last.) The brand still exists, the specific model does not.

Here’s the funny thing: pretty much everything I looked at had a rating of 3-or-4 stars – the expected meh distribution for something like a laundry basket. The hidden treasure is in the one-star ratings; almost to a man: “OMG the handles are cracking and falling off and/or it’s a bendy piece of shit.”

I enlisted my wife into The Hunt. She came up with some Ikea stuff that wasn’t bad…but too small. If you’re not bringing at least close to 2 bushels (~18 gallons, ~2.4 cubic feet) then you’re not even on my radar. She also found some new-fangled folding cloth jobby that seemed kinda sweet. By all appearances it was being marketed online by some Kickstarter-y Bay Area startup. “Item Currently Unavailable”. Imagine that.

At any rate, the motto would seem to be “Build a cheaper mousetrap and you’ll probably make a fuckload of money.” Well…I’m not looking for cheaper. I’ll beat a path to your door if you make me a better laundry basket.

If I Had $1*10^x

I think everyone has thought at one time or another about what they would do if they won the lottery. Typically when they do this, the amount of money is assumed to be more-or-less infinite. Anyone who has ever won a scratch-off ticket may appreciate my more pragmatic approach; orders of magnitude. Note: For you pedants out there, assume my numbers are net winnings. I don’t want to hear anyone giving me guff about “Well, but after taxes you’d only really have such-and-such.” Oh, and we’re also going to assume I can get a lump sum, so no griping about the the number and amount of actual payouts. If that’s what you came here for, just move right along.

So…without further ado:

Up to $1,000: Blow it. All. I’m not talking about going to Vegas or anything (although it’s not out of the question at the upper end of the spectrum, I suppose). I’d just have a generally extravagant month or so with my winnings. Maybe take The Wife out for some nice meals, treat the bar to a round of drinks, whatever.

$10,000: Pay off credit cards. Yeah, yeah, I know – “Boring!” – but this is my blog, and that is what I would do.

$100,000: Pay off credit cards, put the rest toward my mortgage. Again, rather boring…but hear me out. Putting that much loot toward my mortgage would allow me to re-finance – likely at a much lower interest rate – and drop my PMI, both of which would make my monthly payment so ridiculously low that I could either pay my house off early by putting down tons of extra dough toward the principal or spend my money almost as though I didn’t have a mortgage at all. The difference in my monthly amount of disposable income would be so drastic as to be absurd.

I though briefly about student loans here, but the fact of the matter is that the interest rate there is already so low and the term so much shorter that the mortgage clearly wins out.

$1,000,000: Ah, so we’ve come to the quintessential order of magnitude for cash. The one (most) folks probably think of when asked “What do you consider ‘a lot of money’?” The one people write songs about. This is an amount of money – again, for most folks – that is actually potentially lifestyle-changing.

For me, $1mm would probably mean moving. Not necessarily away from the city where I live, just to a nicer place in a better community. I’d take a look at the high-priced property in, say, urban renewal areas close to downtown and be able to say “Hey, I can afford one of those now.” With this amount of money I could buy it with cash, have no worries about how I was going to pay two mortgages while trying to sell my old place, and maybe upgrade the car, to boot. The rest – and there damn well would be a “rest” – would get dropped into savings. No reason to go completely bonkers.

Note: This is the point where I give myself a funny look as if to say “You have no idea what you’re talking about, dude. Maybe you’d do the house thing, but you’re no good at this ‘savings’ thing of which you speak. You’d find a way to blow the rest of it.” Well, I’m probably right about me, but the above is what I’d like to think I’d do.

$10,000,000: Okay, now we’re talking actual life-changing amounts of money. With just about any reasonable level of management, this kind of cash can easily support a couple for their entire respective lives. $200K/year for 50 years, not including interest. Even a lower-end savings account is going to give you an APY of around 1% ($100K/year) and I have a feeling if you walk into a bank with $10mm cash you’re going to get some “special treatment”, to speak nothing of other higher-yield investments. Hell, I could buy my entire immediate family and mebbe a coupla close friends houses – nice houses – and still be able to quit my job. Forever.

In all reality, I doubt I would be able to quit having some kind of a job long-term; I’d probably drive myself nuts. However, this kind of money would allow me the opportunity to pick-and-choose what I want to do (and where I want to do it) without having to worry about paying the bills. Maybe I would go back to school. Maybe I’d start my own business. Tough to say.

$100,000,000+: …and now we’ve reached the point where it may as well be infinity. 100 years on $1mm/year (again, not including substantial interest yield). I know it’s a bit of a cop-out, but while I have lesser amounts relatively well-planned-out my mind just kind of boggles at this kinda cash and I end up thinking “Hell, I’d buy two of everything and then have ice cream.” Buy a yacht. Mebbe a helicopter to land on the yacht. Fill a room full of $20 bills and roll around in it like Scrooge McDuck. Et cetera.

Okay, that’s probably a sufficiently long post that nobody will read past the first few sentences. Zero pictures, too – bonus! At least I provided a few fun links so the Bloggy Gods won’t smite me too hard, I hope. Mebbe some day I’ll come up with a nifty diagram and do a redux.

tl;dr summary: I’d do super-boring shit with just about any amount of lottery winnings up to (and including) $10mm. I’d go all MC Hammer once I hit $100mm.

The Husbands & Wives Problem

Okay, so say you’ve got yourself a shiny new Google+ invite. And suppose you’ve got a buddy – we’ll call him Bill. Bill is a good friend, so you stick him in the “Friends” circle or the “Close Friends” circle or the “Epic Bros” circle…whatever. Now suppose Bill is married – to Mrs. Bill, of course. Maybe you’re not as close with Mrs. Bill and she gets relegated to the “Just Friends” circle, or “Acquaintances” (eww). Hell, maybe you just plain dislike Mrs. Bill and you drop her into the “Pack Sand” circle. Okay.

So now, it’s a Thursday and you post something-or-other that you think your friends would like to see. Mr. and Mrs. Bill are taking turns on their shared laptop “being social”, and Mrs. Bill sees that – *gasp!* – you’ve posted something to a circle that Bill can see but that Mrs. Bill cannot! What does it mean? Is she not as good a friend as Bill? Has she not been there at numerous social occasions with Bill and done/said the proper things to elevate her into the same circle(s) as him? This is circle discrimination! Outrageous!

Now, I am fortunate enough to have a group of friends who chose not to marry (wo)men that I would put in the aforementioned Pack Sand circle (if you are one of my married friends re-read that bit, breath easy, and rest assured that you will end up properly circled), but the problem is more general than that. I’ll grant that having subsets of folks that you do/don’t want to see particular things makes a ton of sense, particularly in the context of friend lists that might contain family or coworkers (specifically, one’s management). However, it seems that it might introduce a whole new set of problems when faced with a group of friends asking “Did you see what such-and-such posted?”…and the answer is “No, I did not.”


I finally got an invite today – woot! At this point I’m actually more interested in wanking around with the interface than I am with any social features or benefits it might provide. +1, indeed. 😉

A New Look

I went ahead and upgraded to WordPress 3.0. Love the new default style it came with; maybe it’ll inspire me to post more than once a year. 🙂