Press Play, Repeat: Punch Brother’s All Ashore

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


By chance the other night we were driving, no intention of going straight home but no other destination either. After dinner, I had queued up a quick playlist of “New Releases” On Google Play Music. Most of the songs were okay, but when Punch Brother’s “All Ashore” came on, mixed in with the quiet night drive and neighborhoods I had never seen before, it was perfect.

Diane didn’t find it to her tastes though she agreed with me about the quality of the song’s musicality. It has a relaxing appeal and an introspective charm that pulls you into its depths. I won’t pretend to say I know precisely what the lyricist intended with its imagery, but between the pickin’ and the singin’, I feel something deep within me stir.

I imagine many of my friends would hear this and say, “That sounds like your kind of music!” It wasn’t always though. As a kid, my dad used to drag me to various bluegrass festivals. In truth, they were little more than places for fans of that kind music to gather in their RVs and drink amongst kindred spirits. I remember being put in charge of concessions, which was great because no one cared when I grabbed a Snickers for myself.

Despite this “experience”, I didn’t take to bluegrass though I have come around more in the last five years or so.

After “All Ashore” I had to hear more of this album. A good friend of mine is a big fan of Punch Brothers, yet previous attempts to get me to listen to them didn’t. “All Ashore”, both the song and the album, was the exact opposite: for the last week+ this is the only thing I have listened to. Press play, repeat.

It is a far more progressive album that you might imagine at first listen. Take, for example, their song “Jumbo” which may or may not refer to a certain World Leader’s son of the same name:

I did a little research on this one, which led me to a truly awful review that, like all music reviews, used more words of such a size and complexity that even a philosopher would sweat at trying to get them past her editor. I didn’t have to make an account to comment though because everyone disagreed. This album is perfect and “Jumbo” is one of its best ear worms.

My absolute favorite track though is “It’s All Part of the Plan”, a rumination on power in the modern world. I enjoy music with a message and the song seems to me to be about the devil being replaced by elite businessman. Some of you out there may blush at the blatant class warfare, but I find it difficult to argue with lines like:

Write me a law and I’ll rise above
And give me hell and I’ll make a hell of a deal

Here you go:

What album(s) have you all been using to cope with 2018?

 

My Love for the Veil of Ignorance

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


Picture a younger me in the earliest days of pursuing a degree in philosophy. I was hungrier then. Growing up in the Deep South, religion’s hold always slipped off my like a greased pig. When I finally “escaped” to the first university I attended, I thought I was going to find more like minded friends or that I would finally get out of my shell to show the world who I was on the inside. Instead, I found more of the same and with that realization my first exposure to honest depression. It was a chance elective that exposed me to philosophy when none of my education before had even tried. In that chance, I began to find my way out.

Introduction to why I followed philosophy complete, let’s move on to one of my favorite philosophical ideas that I frequently reference when I make decisions: American philosopher John Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance.

Per the Wikipedia entry:

It is based upon the following thought experiment: people making political decisions imagine that they know nothing about the particular talents, abilities, tastes, social class, and positions they will have within a social order. When such parties are selecting the principles for distribution of rights, positions, and resources in the society in which they will live, this “veil of ignorance” prevents them from knowing who will receive a given distribution of rights, positions, and resources in that society. For example, for a proposed society in which 50% of the population is kept in slavery, it follows that on entering the new society there is a 50% likelihood that the participant would be a slave. The idea is that parties subject to the veil of ignorance will make choices based upon moral considerations, since they will not be able to make choices based on their own self- or class-interest.

We can argue practicality for society another day. I love this idea for its practical value in my every day decision-making as a leader and manager at my job. I often have to make policy and procedure decisions, either by crafting new ones, rewriting old ones, or enforcing what is in place. Too often the debates regarding changes become bogged down in catering to every individual in our employ on an individual needs basis and we lose sight of establishing a baseline.

The idea and language behind the veil of ignorance helps me better convey that we need to make decisions based on the most neutral of employees if we want to write rules or make team-wide decisions. As an example, just because two of our workers are always late does not mean we need to redefine what “being late” means.

This doesn’t mean that I am the hard-headed type who doesn’t allow for exceptions. Using the same example, maybe they are always late because of issues getting their children to school/babysitter/daycare, etc. I am more than happy to work out ways to accommodate these situations, whenever possible, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of hours worked, coverage, or productivity. Also, as long as I cannot make the same accommodations for others.

The veil of ignorance thought experiment also helps inform me with equality/feminist concerns. Rather than use the tired “I also have a mother/daughter/sister/female relative” trope when it comes to relating to issues specific to women in our society, I do the far simpler and more human thing of imagining myself in the same situation.

Would I want less pay? Would I want to be sexually harassed? Would I want no time to recover my body or tend to a new child after giving birth? Obviously the answer to all of these questions is no.  Taking things a step further, if I were to attempt to answer the same questions from an original position behind a veil of ignorance where I have a 50/50 chance of being a female member of the society I am helping to design, then the answer is “HELL NO”. Fairness and equality are pretty simple, everyone.

Of course, where most thought experiments breakdown is when you apply them too broadly or to a society already too far out of balance. The /r/fantasy board has had a recent community-wide debate about inclusiveness and the author (whom I agreed with) unfortunately used bad statistics in an ignorant way to muddy his own points and their validity.

When it comes to my fantasy reading list, which is absolutely dominated by white male authors, if I were try to apply the more politically-oriented veil of ignorance thought experiment, I would likely read only those books of merit. However, since finding books of merit is always through the lens of “you will see books by white male authors first and foremost because they are most plentiful and popular”, then it falls on me to find ways to look beyond what I only see for its lowest common denominator popularity. That way I am not missing any really good books by authors who just don’t get the same traction because of difficulties marketing their name, face, or because their version of fantasy is not in the exact mold that publishers expect their audiences to purchase.

That doesn’t mean I think white male authors are inherently worse or that human beings are not capable of writing characters unlike themselves, it just means that I value originality and fresh perspectives and that both are hard to find in the nth book by someone who really, really, really loved Tolkien.

Don’t take this post as a: you should know/use the veil of ignorance. The great thing about humans is our diversity of thinking. You may also think philosophy is a crock of shit, to which I most humbly disagree. For me, this is exactly what I needed back in my early 20’s: a way to see the world fairly, humanely, and how I ought work toward it being. More broadly speaking, that’s what brought me to philosophy, why I still read about philosophy, and why I never shy away anymore from talking about it even as I see the other party’s eyes roll.

World of Warcraft, Computer Chair Designer

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


This will be a shitpost about the future of World of Warcraft. In it, I wish to compile various thoughts and conversations I have had of late. Read on at your own peril. I am using bullets to highlight the fragmented nature of these ideas and I will also warn you that I do not read quests, books, or typically care at all about lore.

  • Battle for Azeroth needs no “big bad”. It should being an increasing series of one-ups in wartime atrocities. There should be no grey area left.
  • I vote it ends with Dalaran’s Downfall, a raid where the opposing side has overtaken Dalaran, outfitted it with a dangerous amount of azerite, and intend to use it as a nuclear bomb of sorts (regardless of ramifications) on the opposing side’s stronghold.
  • In the raid, neither side wins and the city has to fall somewhere in between which further exacerbates Azeroth’s degradation after the events of Legion.
  • This causes a second cataclysm of sorts, only in a world where there is no banding together, no central governments, and complete chaos. Both the Alliance and Horde fall when their armies and leadership are decimated by the events of Battle for Azeroth.
  • The pre-expansion patch for the follow-up, World of Warcraft: Azeroth Reborn, focuses on this complete breakdown of society.
  • Azeroth Reborn, similar to Cataclysm, rewrites the entire world and catches it up to a current timeline to include Allied Races, etc. Much of the old content can be timewalked to for giggles.
  • The expansion focuses on recruiting opposite faction races and repairing homelands. The player’s are tasked with rebuilding Azeroth in peace, not in war.
  • It would see the effective end of factions and allow all players to coexist.
  • It would also have a massive level crunch, resetting the game to 60 levels and putting players back at 40 to start.
  • Two new enemy factions arise: the New Horde and New Alliance. In addition to fighting one another, they also fight the players and the rest of Azeroth.
  • The expansion ends with a tease for invading Void Lords who have found ways to more easily come to Azeroth through the collective strife, mistrust, and chaos of the post-war era.

 

 

 

Sous Vide or Not To Be

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


During the recent Prime Day sale, I finally purchased a sous vide device from Amazon. In my family I tend to be the gadget king. I also tend to be the “gourmet”. A device that combines eccentric gadgetry and pretentious gourmet foodiness? Nothing could fit that bill more than sous vide.

If you aren’t familiar, a sous vide device is essentially a combined water heater/water circulator that allows you to hold a body of water at a precise temperature for an extremely prolonged period of time. When combined with food in airtight plastic, it combines slow cooking and boiling food to essentially cook something without any part of it evaporating or cooking unevenly.

In other words, it is supposed to make a damn good steak.

And it does. I bought the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide and it seems to work incredibly well. It feels like an alien way of cooking food, especially given the fact that there are no buttons or controls on the device. Instead, I do everything within a required app on my phone.

I didn’t go all out yet. I don’t have the vacuum sealer for the plastics, but Ziplocs have worked fine thus far. I also don’t have a specialized container since my stock pot has plenty of room. Despite how complicated it can seem and expensive to get everything you will need for this newer means of cooking food, the damn thing works fine with just  a pot of water.

My results thus far have been mostly good. I did a roast, steaks, and ribs. I have yet to be blown away like I had hoped since sous vide has some real evangelists out there, but I don’t feel like I wasted my money either. All three were tender.

More importantly, despite the outrageous cook times (24 hours for the ribs), I feel like the real selling point for me thus far is worrying less about cleanup (slow cooker) or having to rush home to heat up the oven and apartment. With planning, I should be able to augment my normal weekly and daily routines to incorporate using the sous vide for safely preparing proteins for later consumption with minimal effort and attention.

My sous vide is no Instant Pot. It has not revolutionized my cooking routine nor is it something I would witness to others so they may accept it into their lives. It is pretty damn cool though and for the first time in a long time it has me excited to get back into the kitchen, less as a culinary artist, and more as a beef cooking mad scientist.

Also, the ribs were delicious and I didn’t have to go outside to grill them. Win-fucking-win.

 

Blog On

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


When I started my first blog years ago, I had dream of it being a launching point to a future career or a then-current identity. I thought if I had the chops to write great posts that everything would fall into place – views, fame, money, etc.

Thankfully, the silliness of that dream quickly wore off. I will not blame a lack of talent. I enjoy my writing and that is all that matters to me. I may still one day write a book and become famous.  Maybe I won’t. The important thing that I learned rather quickly – and the reason I am still blogging today – isn’t my stats or how beloved on Twitter I am.

It is much simpler: I enjoy writing and this is enough.

I could lie to you and say that just liking what you write and doing it a lot will get you famous. It won’t. Blogging, as a medium and similar to MMOs, is no longer the cool new fad. It isn’t a Wild West for you to stake a claim and get rich. For that, I recommend Twitch or YouTube but we are all probably too far behind there too.

Like anything else in life, if you want it to be more than a hobby, then you need to treat it as more than a hobby. You have to market yourself and be creative. You need to be ahead of the curve whenever possible.

I didn’t mind busting my ass when I did try to maintain this as a paid hobby, but with more adult responsibilities and a more steady job, the free time to build something on the blogosphere dried up.

But I enjoy writing and so I am still here. Maybe I should get back to the creative writing instead though … But that takes outlines and proofreading and rereading and reworking! This is enough.

Maybe I will write a book but not today. My fingers have to type out something other than procedures, rules, and policies for my job, else they go mad. For now, this is enough.

There’s no secret wisdom to this post or even a deeper meaning to end up at. I recommend only one thing if you are restarting your blog or striking out for the first time: enjoy writing first. If you enjoy it and it shows, then you will find at least a few online friends who frequently comment or retweet you. It may not be millions, thousands, or even hundreds, but so what?

This is probably enough.

Azeroth Again

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


MMOs are a part of my gaming diet in much the same way fried chicken is a part of my food diet. They are an essential comfort, one I grew up with and one I cannot shake despite the ill effects on my time or health. While I would much rather be playing a MMO in 2018 from 2018 (or this decade. for that matter), few satisfy me the way a World of Warcraft expansion can satisfy me.

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It is amazing how much staying power this game has and continues to have. I used to only play it to powergame my way through hard dungeons and raids. Now, not so much. I have enjoyed leveling a new Nightborne Priest. Some levels feel sparser than others but there is the feeling of progression again and that is all I have really wanted.

Is it good? Better than any game this old has any right to be. It certainly beats retreading and relearning other MMO classics. I debated returning to EverQuest II instead. I often debate that idea, but it never comes to any action.

I have three months of game time purchased and close to having two characters I want to play. If I can get the Priest to max before the expansion, I will probably bounce between Shadow and a healing spec. I haven’t decided which on the latter. I also still enjoy my Warrior, which I mained in Legion, though I am dying to unlock the new trolls. Goblin Warrior has been fun but a troll that doesn’t look bad in plate sounds like a real winner to me. I think Fury is a lot of fun and I am excited to try pre-expansion Protection eventually.

I burned my token on a Dwarf Monk named Homebrew (I know, great name!). That lasted for all of five seconds. Two of my friends decided that they would play and we have always had a Horde bent. That plus struggling to find anything in both Ironforge and Stormwind made starting at max as Alliance a bigger ordeal. At least I have a max level Alliance-side character for the first time ever.

I am grateful World of Warcraft is still around. It is familiar but fresh. It also occupies that same space that games like Halo 2, League of Legends, and other MMOs have occupied in the past: a pseudo multiplayer experience that eats up my free hours despite having so many other games I should play instead.

Three months should be more than enough …

 

Now Playing: Anchors Aweigh (1945)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


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Ahoy, 1945! We arrive back in the land of the color motion picture. This time for “Anchors Aweigh”, a feature length fever dream and commercial for the United States Navy. Stars include Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and of course the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. All aboard for a romantic, musical, comedy adventure!

And that is all the excitement and enthusiasm I can possibly muster. This film has not aged well. And, unfortunately, no one has seen fit to release a cut that leaves all the extraneous, contrite, and predictable nonsense on the cutting room floor.

But I guess a movie has got to have some kind of plot …

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Gene Kelly is the star, but Frank is the voice.

“Anchors Aweigh” stars Gene Kelly, the so called “biggest wolf in the Navy”, who sings very questionable things about women, implies the romantic female lead is a slut who has had sex with nearly every man in the US Navy, and even “comedicly” hints at violence in a song about not getting a kiss from a woman who doesn’t want to kiss you that you want to kiss you. And despite all of that, Gene Kelly is still charming.

His co-star, ole blue eyes white dragon Frank Sinatra is less so. Everytime the man is on the screen, I worry he will “aw shucks” his way back off it. Yet, despite having the spine of an Andy Griffth extra he has the voice of an angel. It is incredible really. Sinatra effortlessly hits all of the deep notes in his songs. His dancing is subpar, of course, but this is a movie with Gene Kelly in it, so why would anyone else bother to keep up?

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This movie’s “kenny” was acceptable enough, even if he was a need bastard who never goes to school and knows how to run out on his babysitter (who keeps getting a job for some reason …).

“Anchors Aweigh” is a romantic comedy, but the plot is paper thin and horribly contrived. It is really more of an excuse to get from dance number to musical number and vice versa. There is no point in getting invested in any of the characters, and I don’t see modern audiences rooting for a man like Gene Kelly’s Joe even as he leaves behind his womanizing ways for true love with a dame he’s only known for two days.

Skipping over all the bits I hated (the little kid, Kathryn Grayson as the female lead, the plot, the ending), there’s a lot of fun bits of entertainment scattered throughout the film. It is strange to see a movie like this as its only real purpose is to feature two of the best known performers of the time who are still renowned today. No one went to see “Anchors Aweigh” for anchors aweighing. No – they went for Gene Kelly dancing and Frank Sinatra singing.

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Do less drugs.

The best thing about seeing this film is finally getting the context of Gene Kelly’s acid trip of a dance sequence where he dances and sings with Jerry from the cartoon Tom & Jerry. And that happens after he tells Mr. Owl he is going to bring singing and dancing back to the other woodland creatures! Even with context, there is no explaining the scene’s existence. It is by far the best thing about “Anchors Aweigh” because most romantic comedies are conservative films just looking for an easy payday. This film tried to do a little bit more and I commend it for it!

So, should you also see this movie if you haven’t already? No. I’d catch the best parts on YouTube and then go listen to Frank Sinatra after he filled out a little bit.

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Though you can progressively spin the movie’s plot with the big twist being that the female lead never needed the help of two strangers for her singing career and the the Hollywood suit she wanted to impress is super nice, it really felt more like they just ran out of run time and didn’t want any hanging plot threads.

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