Sunday, November 30, 2008


Wow, so many posts to write, and so little time. I mean, in the grand scheme of things. Let's start out with this quick one:

BUY MORE STUFF is a fantastic protest I saw outside the malls on Black Friday* yesterday. (let's just say I love my family very much, and their coming to visit is just about the only thing that would bring me anywhere near a mall on black friday. Yes, family, I'm aware that you are a full 50% of the readership of this blog, and that we really didn't spend too long there.) I'm thinking about joining them on their other Buy More Stuff days. The one thing I'm worried about: do people not get it? I mean, they have to. Right?

*I guess "Black Friday" means "the Friday when retailers get 'in the black'." Maybe it is that. It is also an awful awful day. I was packed in by hordes of people all the time. Some parents yelling at kids, etc. Stuff like this makes me want to do a big thought experiment (pow!) about what it is about modern-consumerist-Christmas that is broken and how we can fix it. Coming soon!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In which Jared and I talk about commodities, but really it's just me

What's a commodity? Jared and I were discussing this. I've figured it out. This post might be full of highfalutin hand-waving and making up words that don't exist. Just pretend I'm a literature critic, and we'll all be cool.

Idea #1: things are not commodities. Is a paperback copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma (check it out, product placement) a commodity? You could say yes: it's always the same, no matter where you buy it. You could say no: it might have a lot of meaning, there's some art and some science that went into creating it, it's a valuable good. Let's settle this:

Things are not commodities. Requests are. Let's say a request can be commoditious (made-up word #1) or not.

Then a commoditious request is one that a relatively dumb robot could fulfill on a relatively idealized version of

If my request is "I want a new paperback copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma", that is a commoditious request. A robot could do it in two seconds. If I say "I want to read a good book" or "I want something thought-provoking about the food system", a relatively dumb robot could not do that so well. If I want "a new Roomba," a robot could do that on; that's a commoditious request. If I want "something that cleans my floor the best," that's not commoditious (okay, that's kinda a crappy word*).

*oh zing oh snap no pun intended check it out shut up.

And it's a spectrum: let's say a robot would need a level of intelligence between 1 and 100 to fulfill a request. Then the commoditiousness of a request is 100 minus the intelligence of that robot. (Omnivore's Dilemma: he'd need about 2 units of intelligence to look it up on That request has a level of commoditiousness of 98.)

If something is stylish or unique, that's less commoditious (a robot could not find you "a nice hat.") Less stylish, more commoditious (a robot could more easily find you "32W/32L basic blue jeans"). If something is hard to find (a Joe Shlabotnik rookie baseball card), it's less commoditious.

Why am I talking about this? Because Jared challenged my (and countless other White People's) love of mom-and-pop small stores. So here's my rationale: stores that fulfill less commoditious requests should be small businesses. Store that fulfill more commoditious requests should not exist. (, or another internet giant, should run them out of business.)

About the less commoditious requests: you want people who care to be behind these things. I want a bookstore owned by someone who likes books and who could maybe recommend me something, or talk about books with me. I want a bike shop owned by someone who knows bikes and who can advise me what kind of bike I should get, not because it maximizes his profit margin, but because I'll be a happier customer. I want to buy food from a farmer or a fishmonger or a baker because they care enough not to put industrial chemicals into their food.

The more commoditious requests? Let the robot shop for them, and let the robot send them to me. I just need a simple pair of scissors. I don't want to pay a bunch of shmoes to stock the scissors on the shelves and ring me up at the cash register and advertise in the Sunday paper. Economy-of-scale it up, send me a pair from the warehouse nearest me.

Other side notes that maybe I'll explore later or maybe not:
- Christmas gifts should be as non-commoditious as possible
- Wal-mart shouldn't exist at all
- People should strive for fewer commoditious wants
- and of course, why don't I apply this to FOOD and see what comes up. Bet it's snobby!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Is is"

People unnecessarily start sentences with "so" a lot. Particularly math professors. This is a funny quirk. Is it a nerd thing? Maybe when you get all mathy and intellectual, you find the need to pause before sentences to make sure your sentence is logical. I hear you there; I do that too. You don't hear carefree happy-go-lucky folks saying "so" a lot.

Here is another funny quirk. Sometimes people say "is is" when they mean "is." For example, overheard just now:
"My concern is, is that..."

What! Why do you do that?! Why doesn't anyone ever notice? This is really strange!

Of having a reputation of unfriendliness representing your city

Seattle, is it me, or is it you?

Life is mostly pretty good here. Work is back on the rockin' track where I love writing software, there is an abundance of nice places to go and cool events, and the weather is still nice most days. This weekend was really super fun, great, and did I mention great? And some wonderful people are moving out here soon.

But it's been hard to meet new friends. Okay, I expected that. But now I'm wondering if it's my fault or not. I imagined it was. But talking to some people who have moved here recently, many of them say the same thing: Seattleites are not welcoming. Not that they dislike you, just that they won't go out of their way to make you feel welcome. And it's been true: all the friends that I've met here, or at least a big most, have moved here relatively recently, or at least are not natives.

So this seed of doubt is sown. Now, I'm not going to harvest that weed; I'm not going to go out and join the chorus proclaiming "Seattle people are unfriendly!" Odds are, you get this in any city. It takes time, no worries.

And lest ye readers think me socially weak, and lest I allow my inner optimist to fail, I posit this: it's a good thing. It means that Seattlers are slow to make friends and slower to lose them. It seems like a pretty fair cold-weather-city thing around the world: fewer friends, but they're better. I'm all in favor of that. I'm always the one trimming the social circle, of splitting our group of 16 into four groups of four, of telling my freshman dormmates no you cannot all tag along for dinner because nobody can seat a table of 12. I imagine Seattle's doing that to me too, and whenever I find my niche, the friends in it will be more aligned with my personality and more interesting because of it. The forecast shows a couple more awkward months followed by meeting a lot of people I particularly dig.

Let's see how it pans out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Of having one kickin' song representing your city

I was watching the Of Montreal show tonight and I was all like "ehh rock shows are so lame" because I was tired and standing up a lot.

Interjection: this is not at all a fair criticism. If there's one thing the Of Montreal show is, it's not lame. It featured a half-dozen dancers who played, at various times, golden statues, tigers and other animals, armymen, western gunslingers, and one big stone monster with huge limbs. There were a double-digit number of costume changes. The music is of course great, and they didn't half-ass anything. Plus I have a big man-crush on Kevin Barnes. But then, who doesn't?

End interjection. (that is not possibly the wright word. Nor is "wright" the write word there. Hoo boy, it's laght at nite.) So I'm all like "ehh" and then there's the encore and I was really thinking of skipping out before the encore, fatigue blah blah, and they Gronlandic Edit and Oslo in the Summertime, which were both cool, and then they cover Take Me Out, har har, okay. Then Kevin (so dreamy, etc.) says "we mean no disrespect by this next song. only love." and there's that chik-ah ka-chik-ah ka-chik-ah ka-chik drum riff and they go into Smells Like Teen Spirit. Hah! I took out my earplugs and like bobbed along a little bit! Which is saying a lot, considering how still I had been standing.

And it kicked arse! I suppose it is kind of one of those songs. And it's ours! Seattle's! I lay claim to it as if I were a native. Hah. But man! Maybe everyone thinks of Seattle as the home of the Grunge Rock Hall of Fame, and grunge kinda drags in general, but at least we have Smells Like Teen Spirit. Whoo!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


How does one get into electronic music? I've happened upon it a couple times, like Decibelfest, and the Seacompression event last weekend, and it's always been a lot of fun. I would like to dance to that sort of music more often. I would like to learn how to make that music. I would not like to go to a sweaty club full of bros wearing shiny shirts and girls wearing not enough clothes. I also would not like to wave glow sticks around.

I have absolutely no inroads. I don't know anyone who might even know anyone who likes electronic music. (at least, not that I know of...) I imagine if I just show up at a club, I'd dance around for a while and leave, because it's not like you talk to people while huge beats are thumping in your ear, so that doesn't help. And there aren't any "learn to DJ" classes around. (I've looked.)

Seattlers! Where do I go to dance to electronic music? Where do I go to learn to DJ, or mix or spin or do whatever they do when they're like playing a gig? Other folks! Do you like electronic music? How did you get into it originally, then?

Also, on a side note, can you explain what the main subgenres are that I should look out for (and maybe a couple of quintessential examples of each so I can listen to them and see what I like)? Like, I dunno, "techno", "house", "drum and bass", ...? I do know I like Orbital, the Prodigy, Mylo, Crystal Castles, Prefuse 73, Boards of Canada, and Kraftwerk, if that helps. Oh, and Girl Talk.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I am The Coldest

Geez! I am so cold! I got in like 15 minutes ago and I'm still shivering. I remember being really really cold only a couple times: once, when I was picking up prickly balls that my grandparents' tree dropped in their yard (this was a chore for some money to pay for saxophone repairs after I threw it on the floor in a fit of rage); once in marching band at the St. Patrick's Day parade when it was so cold out and I was way underdressed and marching in a goddamn parade so it's not like I could go inside or anything; once at Seven Springs, PA, when I was skiing, alone, with the CMU Ski Club (I was again way underdressed) and the snow was icy and it was at night and visibility was bad and the wind was blowing but goddamn I was going to get every last run I could out of that hill (this was a bad call). Why am I so cold? I just biked home from Phinney, maybe 5 or 6 miles away, downhill like hardcore, except I stopped off at my friend's friend's house (although, now, friend's house), and it was cold too, and oh my god it's like 15 more minutes later and I am still so cold.

(my temperature is 95 degrees, so at least I don't have a fever. Maybe I am turning to ice.)

Oh my gourd I might add this to the list of "Times I was so cold." I am so so cold.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Haircut, honesty, and other words with a silent "H"

I got a haircut. I shake my head and it doesn't move. However, at least it's not in my eyes, and it will probably be great in a few weeks. I swear, if I ever become a stand-up comedian, my only routine will be about the haircut questionnaire.

"What can I do for you today?" umm... cut my hair?
"How would you like it?" awesome. I would like my hair to look awesome. Sometimes it does. Sort of windswept across my forehead and a little curly in the back, as if to say, I don't care about hairstyles, but I was just like windsurfing or, I dunno, mountain biking, or something else badass.
(awkward pause)
Okay, I guess I know how I would like it: shorter than it is right now. But not too short! Ohmygod not too short! Do not cut my hair too short! I like preserving this little vestige of counterculturalism by having hair that's a little ruffy at the edges.
At this point it's either "okay" (and they cut it too short) or "well, how much shorter?" uhh... a half inch? Three centimeters? Look, I don't know. It just used to be pretty good, maybe two weeks ago, and now it's too long and in my eyes.
Oh, and this part! You know, I always part it at like 40% across my head. That's unintentional! See, I've been experimenting. Some days, I've gone with 50%. It kinda makes me look like a grade schooler. Some days, I go with 20%, or even 10%! Then I look like a coolman for sure! Or maybe a combed-over businessman. Yuck. Hey, by the way, I don't want to look like a businessman. I cannot think of an occasion in my life where I would like to look like a businessman.
Even more generally than this part, though! I would like to experiment with my hair. Do something crazy! Something wild! I mean, not like a mohawk, or a buzz cut (I like it longish), and I don't want to put hair products in it, and uh, well, I don't know. Something different?
(puzzled look)
Umm... okay. Just cut it shorter. *sigh*

See, what I should say is "cut it like a hipster," except nobody would know what that means, because no real hipster with a hipster haircut would ever admit that their haircut is a hipster haircut.

On another note, which is actually related, albeit tangentially, it's come to my attention that I've written a few posts/comments/etc. recently, playing the devil's advocaat. I should stop that. This blog should be about my thoughts, not "what someone might someday think of my thoughts." In fact, my life should be more about what I like, not how I will respond if someone criticizes what I like. A little less self-preserving hipster irony! It's too tiring!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Whoo hah!

This is great!

Sound Transit Prop. 1 passed, meaning light rail is coming to Seattle!
The levies for upkeep of Pike Place Market and parks both passed.
The HOV lanes nonsense failed.
Governor Gregoire is projected to win over Rossi (still too close to officially call, though.)
Still pulling for Randy Dorn and Peter Goldmark, two minor state officials who were notably better for their spots than their opponents, but their races are very close with about half the votes in.
Dems picked up seats in the House and Senate. (I guess that's good?)

Oh. And, uh, That One.

I will say I'm super excited about all this, and then I will not talk about politics for like a year. But man, I'm super excited about all this!

On election day, I have this to say:

Calm down. If Obama wins, don't get all bitchy.

Hey, I saw that! Your smile! It got all smug! This applies to you too, Democrats!

I figured one nice thing about Obama would be that maybe if he runs, or wins, half the country wouldn't hate the other half of the country. Well, I don't know how that's turning out. But please, no matter how this all goes, no matter who you support, take a lesson from grade school (one that I had just as hard a time learning than you, I assure you) and win and lose gracefully.