March 26, 2006

another one of thems lists

1. People have occasionally called me an indie music snob, which may not be entirely unfair. I find it worth noting, however, that I have been hopelessly addicted to Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree ever since I picked it up way back in December. It’s some pretty straight-line alternative rock stuff, but their songs are original and catchier than hell. The album makes a great soundtrack for when you’re out snowboarding, or at any other point during your day when you need to be reminded that the whole point of life is to rock out and kick ass.

There’s a business philosophy for you.

2. There is a dismal season that takes place between winter and spring, a sprinter of sorts, and we are currently locked in its clutches. It is cold. It is cloudy. It is raining/snowing/sleeting/wintry-remixing. And it is grey. So grey. Anyone who claims there are shades of grey in the world obviously hasn’t spent a sprinter in Minnesota. There is only one shade of grey, and it is all grey.

3. I’ve finalized our backpacking route for Yellowstone this summer. We’re going in at the Warm Creek trailhead, and emerging from the Wapiti Lake trailhead fourteen days later. Should be a blast. Just to prove to myself that we live in a different age, I flew over our entire route in Google Earth. A surprising amount of Yellowstone has been stitched together from high-res satellite photos, and it was pretty exiting to zoom in on all the mud pots and hot springs that we’ll soon be seeing/smelling/having-mud-fights-in.

4. Chaco redid the soles on their sandals recently, and I got to try on a pair the other day. I was really nervous for this, as their old Terrano soles were so freakin’ great that I never thought there was anything they could do to improve them. I’ve lived in my Chacos ever since I got them in ’02, and after a summer working at Ihduhapi, a summer working in the Gorge, and a summer guiding at Menogyn, they are ready to be retired. The soles have held up great but the straps are well-shredded, which is only fair considering how many miles I’ve gotten out of ’em.

Anywho, Chaco has replaced their Terrano sole with the Unaweep sole, which is a hybrid between the their rock-hopping and trail-hiking styles. And my verdict? As far as comfort goes, the Unaweep totally rocks. They’re lighter, flexier, and they conform much better to your natural stride than the Terrano. I don’t know how they’ll match up in durability, but if I do manage to grab a pair I’ll let you know in four years.

March 23, 2006


1. I finally got around to picking up Firefly, if only to see what all the fuss was about. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized that it is one of my favorite shows of all time. When Lileks said that it was mash-up of sci-fi and western I thought he was being metaphorical, but lo and behold he was quite literal. There are spaceships and horses. Terraformed planets and six-shooters. Plasma rifles and cattle rustlers. There are hover cars and space stations and train-heists and deserts.

That being said, the storyline totally revolves around the people in it, unique for sci-fi, which are usually so self-indulgent in special effects and cool-factors that they neglect to give any flesh and bone to their crew. Why develop a character when you can just blow him up? Anywho, Firefly? I love it. Love it, love it, love it. It reminds me of Cowboy Bebop, with that whole freelance ass-kicking mentality. Makes me want to go out and buy a handgun.

2. Sufjan Stevens’ Come On Feel The Illinoise! is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard. The guy is a master of lyrics and composition. His songs are straight-up orchestral, regularly featuring strings and horns and flutes and english horns. I feel like I’ve known these songs my entire life, and only now am I finally hearing them. This album plucks a string within my soul, and it seriously resonates that deep.

3. Jake Ingman is my new bestest buddy, and Shaun Inman’s most arch-nemesis. His hobbies include battling cockroaches, taking photographs of things, and four-wheeling through my neighborhood. We actually had a panel at this year’s SXSW, much to everyone’s surprise and dismay. He has a new website called Ready to Fail. Go wish him luck, and steal from him all hopes of obscurity that he currently harbors. Watch out, though, cuz the guy is brilliant. He could probably flay you with his mind.

4. It’s official. I have my own tag on Flickr. Go witness the tragedy that is my own obscurity.

5. Do you love fonts? Do you have fonts you love to hate? You might get a kick out of Copperplated, my latest attempt at cluttering up the internet with garbage. Don’t let me have all the fun; feel free to submit your own stuff, too.

6. Hate JavaScript but love the Document Object Model? Me too! Pick up Jeremy Keith’s book DOM Scripting. Written for designers and other non-code affectionados, this book (and his panel at SXSW) was just the kick out the door I needed to begin tinkering with good JavaScript. Start writing scripts that are unobtrusive, degrade gracefully, and work in all modern browsers without the ugly hacks of yesterday. This book has already saved me a butt-load of time and frustration.

7. I really need to start emptying out my gym bag immediately after I get back from the Y. Geez, that stuff is starting to fester.

in regards to sxsw, here we have a word or two

Okay, I’ve mostly recovered from SXSW. After a week straight of staying up until 2am (well, two weeks if you count SXSW) and putting in 14-hour workdays (which certainly wasn’t the case during SXSW), I’m finally on top of my large and neglected workload. By no stretch of the imagination I am currently involved in at least ten separate projects. My Basecamp account alone lists eight. I don’t know if the incredible self-discipline I shall learn from managing all these projects is the secret to success, but I do know that it is the secret to my current state of reality. Effective? I’ll let you know in June.

Also, my liver doesn’t ache so much, anymore.

Everything that could be said about SXSW has already been said by numerous people far more eloquent than I. Dave Seah’s account is dashingly philosophical, Greg Storey’s is patently cranky, Cameron Moll’s is bulleted, Jason Santa Maria’s is thoroughly-linked, Mark Bixby’s is beautifully terse, and Shaun Inman’s account is completely obsessive-compulsive.

I really don’t know what to say. SXSW was everything I had hoped it would be, and so much more. The panels were inspirational, the parties were epic, and the people were the kindest, funniest and smartest crowd you’ll find this side of the galaxy. I made a ton of new friends, like honest-to-gosh I-really-miss-hanging-around-with-these-people friends, who taught me so much about, well, everything. I mean, at one point I learned all about catfish noodling from one fellow.

Catfish noodling.

Such is the nature of SXSW.

March 18, 2006

The Guest

The SXSW Cockroach

As suggested previously, we had an unscheduled guest in our hotel room for our last night in Austin. It was 3:00am and he was hangin’ out on the counter in our bathroom. Jake and I had just returned from the hugely epic SXSWi after-party (thrown down by Media Temple with an open bar and all that jazz) and we were thoroughly out of our minds, so needless to say chaos ensued.

We taped it for you, which is a weird thing to say because at no point was actual tape involved. Rather, we recorded it in a manner that rapidly captures still frames and stiches them together to create the illusion of movement. To this there is also sound, which may be unfortunate for those of you who are sensitive to words whose dictionary meanings are ill-defined at best.

With that, we must stress that this video is rated R, for strong language and overbearing stupidity.

The SXSW Cockroach (1.4MB, low resolution)

The SXSW Cockroach (6.0MB, high resolution)

P.S. It is worth mentioning that our hotel was extremely kind in respect to our cockroach extravaganza, and as a result knocked a whole night off our final bill. That little bugger saved us $100. I would stay at this hotel again in a heartbeat, and can only hope that we will have such great fortune next year.

March 15, 2006

The X is for Xtreme!

The people of Austin seem to have a problem with pants management. Anywhere you go you see pairs of pants that have been abandoned, all up and down the sidewalks. I don’t know how these people live and what they do for fun, but I am sadly aware that my life does not include such spontaneous bouts of pants-loss.

One could go as far as proposing a Pants Management System for Austin, some sort of Web 2.0 AJAXian Rails API mash-up. In the interest of keeping Austin weird, however, a source of pride that has spawned entire t-shirt enterprises (and we know about t-shirt enterprises), I would have to discourage the Pants Management System. In current form it would also lack an appealing abbreviation, which would make branding rather difficult.

Anywho, we have been safely delivered back to Minneapolis after a rolicking time at SXSW, an event that for five days will grab your brain from both sides and shake vigorously. This it does until the matter inside liquifies, and all you can do is move through the scenes with a dumb grin upon your face, the kind of dumb grin that only comes from the most intense social and intellectual stimulation you have ever known. My relationships with the interweb, and with those who hold the bottles of glue and glitter and nail polish remover and take it upon themselves to build the interweb, have never been stronger.

We fought to the death in a bowling tournament and made every effort to be the loudest team possible. We were wildly successful, and though there was no award for volume, we made sure to set a precedent that next year, oh next year, there would be such a thing.

The panels. Did I mention the panels? Lord, they were informative and frequently sexy. I have a hundred pages of notes, all taken down on graph paper in true Web 0.1 style. My notes are indecipherable to any eyes but my own. While chatting with a guy at the final SXSW party, he recalled sitting next to me in a panel and identifying me as the chicken-scratch guy. The lesson here is that encoding and obfuscation have histories from long before the digital age, and it would do us well to remember this.

Last night, or rather this morning, we engaged in an epic battle. It took place at approximately 3am, and of this we have videographic evidence. The rest of the morning was frought with chaos. I managed to sleep from 6am to 9am, until it was time to board a jet and fly an hour across a state only to land in the same state. Texas is huge my friend. It is fitting that this is the only state left alive that can host the likes of SXSW.

You can see our lovely photos over at Flickr. Watch, as this may become the reality of all things.

March 13, 2006


The natural state of everything in Texas is meat. That is, unlike the rest of the universe, which is hurtling toward entropy at an incredible rate, in Texas everything eventually turns into meat. Of this there are only facts.

At breakfast Jake and I have been debating the nature of these eclairs that they offer at our hotel. They are wrapped in clear plastic with red lettering, not unlike Twinkies. I have been convinced all along that these are chocolate eclairs, while Jake remains suspicious. To end the mystery once and for all I grabbed one and dove in.

Meat. And bread. It was meat wrapped in fucking bread. The meat was a cruel mockery of sausage, more Slim Jim than anything else, a tubular array of spiced carnage. The bread was bread, the debate was over, the axiom proven.

Everything in Texas is in a constant state of becoming meat. Hence our sense of urgency.

March 11, 2006

Big Enough for Texas

We are in Austin, glorious Austin, where the air is hot and the wind is thick and heavy, like huge slabs of meat. SXSW has barely even started, and yet we have already been treated to free beer and free food and free schmoozing in a bar owned by Lance Armstrong, this guy who likes to ride his bike and stuff.

The geek banter is overwhelming and self-referential. Jokes typically involve such things as AJAX and tagging. We have met some amazing people, including a brilliant information architect who used to work as a bike messenger in New York, and who is addicted to the word awesome, which itself is awesome, as this sort of positivism one could never label as a character flaw.

We have also met a fellow that we know as The Butt Plug Guy, and his friend who we refer to as Not The Butt Plug Guy. Given the line of work in question (one that involves software, hardware and robotics) and the panels that these guys are speaking on, these names are justified, if not actually deserved. Accurate, but certainly not fair.

Sadly, we have been in Texas for nearly 24 hours and yet we have only seen one cowboy hat. As our crew was heading down to Lance Armstrong’s bar it passed us on the sidewalk. The whole thing was rather humorous as it was the first cowboy hat sighting for many of us, and in true fashion we completely blew it out of proportion. Jokes about Brokeback Mountain and tagging clouds quickly commenced.

We are out of control, but one more thing. If ever you find yourself in Austin, do not discuss credit with the bums. The mere utterance of the words “18 percent” sets them off like crazy, and they will follow you across the street arguing about interest rates and taxation, all the while sweating at an incredible rate.

Also, let’s say you see a lost pair of pants on the sidewalk, and let’s say you see that same pair of pants later in the night. Do not suggest giving the pants to the bum and laugh about it, as you will instantly be confronted by the bum again, because someone powerful has been eavesdropping on your conversation and he wishes to test you on your word.

You will not have the guts to offer these pants to the bum, so don’t even bother mentioning it.

March 6, 2006


Over the weekend (a splendid weekend spent in Duluth, getting into all sorts of trouble with all sorts of good friends) a few people suggested that they have some degree of respect for my taste in music. Apparently I have influence in this regard. In the interest of social conditioning, I shall now use this public forum to shape and mold your listening habits, by discussing my own of recent.

We’ll start with the indie stuff, cuz those guys work their asses off and don’t get nearly as much play as they deserve. As mentioned earlier, I saw matt pond PA a few weeks ago at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Certainly I am biased, as these guys have been one of my favorite bands for five years running, and anyone who has any history with this blog knows that I plug them at least once a month. But I’ll do it again. Their new album Several Arrows Later is wonderful and you should buy it.

I also got of Montreal’s The Sunlandic Twins album, which is pretty stellar. It’s great for music nerds and English majors, what with song lyrics that discuss twelve-tone compositions and use words like sanguinary. Also, non-music nerds may get a kick out of such lines as we made love like a pair of black wizards.

It’s easier to just hear their music than to explain it, but it’s happy, bouncy and playful. If the sad-eyed literary geek in your life has been slouching under the weight that is emo, of Montreal could certainly help in rounding out his/her music collection.

download “So Begins Our Alabee” from The Sunlandic Twins (3.9mb mp3)

I’ve been digging on Headlights lately, and their The Enemies EP is pretty rad. They’ve got a vibraphone. And songs, too. Songs with music in them.

download “Tokyo” from The Enemies EP (3.3mb mp3)

A friend introduced me to a local band called Digitata, which spins some odd electronic stuff that is unlike anything in my music collection. And for that I love it.

download “Death and the Beach” from Sexually Transmitted Emotions (3.7mb mp3)

I saw Feist open for Broken Social Scene a couple months ago, and while she wasn’t quite what I expected, recent forays into the world of Feist may indicate that I was hasty in my dismissal. I have friends who absolutely rave about Feist, so I may just be slow to board the train on this one. The Postal Service did a remix of her song Mushaboom, and I must say that it has certainly been on high-rotation lately. Seriously wow.

download “Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)” (4.6mb mp3)

(originally gleaned from Good Weather for Airstrikes)

Mates of State have a new album coming out, and if their preview track is any indication, prepare yourself for a good ass-kicking this round. Bring it Back comes out on March 21st, but if you pre-order a copy from Polyvinyl it’ll ship out to ya on March 14th. Just so ya know.

download “Fraud in the ’80s” from Bring it Back (4.0mb mp3)

As far as bigger gigs go, I’ve been totally obsessed with Check Your Head by the Beastie Boys, which keeps getting better every time I listen to it. The riffs they’re laying down in there are so freakin’ tight it blows my mind. The album has a phat 20 tracks with no duds, and every single minute is worth a listen.

Also, Throwing Copper by Live. You heard half this album on the radio when you were in high school, but you never dug into it until Erik the Great loaned you his copy. The music on Throwing Copper is thick, thick and deep, and while I originally got it for nostalgia, I’ve since realized that the other tracks on this album are great as well.

Note: Apologies on any of the album links to Polyvinyl Records. I love those guys to death but their website sucks ass and uses frames, so it’s difficult to link to anything other than the home page. When you do (which I did) link to the innards, their site doesn’t load the outer frame and thus the shopping cart doesn’t work. Navigation doesn’t load either, but we’re not so concerned about that, now, are we?

March 1, 2006


Sometimes I feel like I need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Not those ghetto breadcrumbs that were so popular with the web all those (two) years ago, but real freakin’ breadcrumbs, like a pocket full of moldly bread and such. Seriously, how useless are web-based breadcrumbs, who have the nerve of being all hierarchical and such? I was born in a country founded on the complete and utter rejection of royal monarchies, and I’m not about to find myself ruled under such a navigational hierarchy. Breadcrumbs, you can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. Who’s mah boss, you ask? The sum-bitch ain’t been born yet.

And I spit on the ground just to make my point.

But really, too often I find myself in dark and shady neighborhoods of the interweb, and at some point I look up and wonder how the hell I ended up there. There are entire spheres of the web that are foreign to me. Assuming that the world is at least one percent as diverse as the web (note: it is), I’m sure I will find all sorts of new things to keep me busy until the day I die.

Case and point. Right now I have friends who are in Zambia, Madagascar, Antarctica and Duluth. Some are even in the United States. These are all places I have yet to explore fully, and until that happens I still have things to learn. Benkyo, benkyo, benkyo.

I’ve also been dabbling in drugs lately, and by drugs I mean JavaScript. Such ill-named substances as prototype and moo.fx and dojo and behaviour and scriptaculous have dominated my brain cells in the off-hours. Last night I wrote my first AJAX script, which sucked in a royal manner, but proved that I am capable of performing such nonsense on request.

These days I shop online with two windows open; one on Amazon and the other on Barnes & Noble. The cheapest of the two wins the order for that particular product. I often find myself simultaneously placing two orders with two different businesses. For this there is only reward and no obvious penalty, not in tax nor in shipping. No penalty, aside from the long-term consequences of my actions and the potential for a catastrophic economic collapse that has likely been predicted by Milton Friedman, that darling genius.

However, international financial ruin being something that I have not yet experienced, it would also be something worth keeping me busy. We’ll look at it that way.