Olympics, Trade Deadline, Asshole Clients and Emma Anzai

1 – There are a few days every year that I absolutely love, none of which include national holidays or birthdays. Nope, they are (in order):

• Day one of the NFL Draft
• NBA trade deadline
• The NBA Draft

That’s it. Those are the three days. You can have your Christmas, New Years and birthdays. I’ll take the chaos and coverage of the above.

Last Thursday happened to be one of those days, and it didn’t disappoint. The NBA trade deadline came and went at 3:00 pm that afternoon, and the event wound up being a fascinating example of how social media and the internet have changed sports.

You had:

• Blogs being updated by the minute
• NBA boards getting so many views that servers were crashing
• Twitter absolutely blowing the fuck up

Apologies to my company, but this was my day

– a Firefox window with about four tabs open: Twitter, RealGM, ESPN, SI. Read one site, click to the next and hit refresh, read updates, move to the next tab. When there was a new Tweet (averaged about four new a minute) click back to read the updates. When there was a new rumor or information it was back to RealGM to read or post. Thousands or people took place today.

Quick example: That morning I created a new thread on RealGM regarding a rumor between the Bucks and Sixers. Inside of three minutes it had 55 views and a dozen responses. In nine minutes there was 260 views. As of 7:00 pm that night there were a staggering 403 responses and 5703 views.

This was a typical NBA deadline day. But what upped the ante this year was Twitter.

I went to lunch with friends that afternoon. I kept up with Twitter on my phone. At one point my entire home page were tweets made in the last two minutes. All were trade rumors and updates.

Every writer, especially those from ESPN, wants to get credit for breaking even the most benign news. So instead of insiders and writers getting a report and publishing the information in an article or a blog, you had them updating Twitter seconds after hearing the information.

For information junkies like myself and those on RealGM, this stuff is our crack. Get an update, share the info on the board, read reactions and comment. Wash, rinse, repeat all day. Around 11:05 that morning RealgM servers crashed. This happens every year on the draft and deadline days. But the fact that it’s expected doesn’t make it any less excruciating. Around the time that it went down today coincided with the rumor that the Bucks were sending our a draft pick in a trade. It was awful news and it had to be discussed, only our outlet was down. The next twenty minutes were absolutely horrendous. I felt like a junkie desperate for a fix I couldn’t get. When the servers went back online, within a minute there were hundreds of new posts. Just like myself, you had people hitting refresh every thirty seconds hoping the servers were working again.

One of my first entries in this blog dealt with information addiction. Today was Exhibit A.

2 – Speaking of information addiction and social media, someone alert NBC that it’s no longer 1990.

The Olympics have been bashed so much in the last two weeks I won’t bother kicking this long-dead dog. Much.

The Olympics are about stories, not sports. Nobody cares about curling or ice dancing or snowboarding or skiing. In three weeks they could show Bode Miller in some competition in California and no one would turn in.

But in the Olympics, people will tune in for the story. If you know who he is, you know that four years ago he was shut-out from any medals and left Italy an embarrassment. The story this year was one of redemption. People wanted to see how he would bounce back. Key word there is “see”.

Unfortunately, NBC didn’t televise a single run of his live. Every one was tape-delayed into prime-time. Same with Lindsay Vonn, the sweetheart of this year’s Olympics. Or Lindsey Jacobellis, the snowboarder also looking for redemption. I left work a half hour early last week because I figured that while they probably wouldn’t show her run on NBC, surely they would have it live on CNBC or MSNBC. Nope. I got Curling and hockey.

NBC paid a lot of money for these games. They’ve lost cash by the boatload, even with huge ratings. If they feel like they have to put the marquee day events in prime-time, fine. Whatever. But at least give the public an avenue to watch live if they wish. Why can’t they broadcast over the internet? They’ll show cross country skiing on their website but not the Women’s Super-G?

I’m on the internet all day. I read blogs, I’m on Twitter, on Facebook. So are millions. It’s virtually impossible to shut yourself out of the coverage. When I know how Vonn and Miller and Jacobellis did hours before their events are televised, it removes any reason for me to tune in that night.

2b – This was a well thought out blog on the subject, I thought.

3 – Sunday night represented just another massive fuck-up by NBC. The USA vs Canada hockey match is one of, if not the major event of the games. It wound up being as exhilarating a sporting event as you’ll find anywhere. The last five minutes my pulse was going a mile a minute and it wasn’t like I was one of the few. Twitter and the boards were going bat-shit crazy too. It brought cynical “I’ve seen it all” sports writers to the point of using shitty punctuation – I’m guessing they were excited.

Where was it being broadcast? MSNBC, in standard definition for 80% of the viewing public. What was on NBC? Fucking ice dancing. The performances weren’t even for a medal, either.

Nice work, NBC. The best US hockey moment since Miracle on Ice and you put it on Rachel Madow’s network.

4 – Not a lot of websites surprise me anymore.

This, however, was one of ’em.

I clicked on Wisconsin, then 2000, then UW vs LSU. Two seconds later I’m looking at a commercial free stream of the Badgers vs Tigers 2000 NCAA tournament game. Mike Kelly, Andy Kowskie, Mark Vershaw.

Jaw on the ground I let out a mind-blown, “Ho-ly-shit…”. think I had a tear in my eye. I’m not even kidding.

Hundreds of full NCAA games over the last ten years. Recaps, results, highlights. It’s a college basketball fan’s dream.

5 – Roger Goodell: Get bent.

NFL: Fuck you, you pricks.

Above I mentioned my favorite three days of the year. My #1 is easily the first day of the NFL draft. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman anticipating her wedding, but I have to think how I feel about that late Saturday every April is roughly the same. Each year is roughly the same. Wake up, make a trip to the gas station for a frozen pizza and a sixer, grab the local paper and settle in for roughly seven hours of NFL coverage. Follow along online, on ESPN, on Sirius and the NFL Network. I absorb it all.

In the past day one of the draft started 11:00 am central and went three rounds. This was perfect.

Last season, Roger Goodell decided to tinker with it a bit.

*pause…breathe…*

They moved it back three hours and pushed round three back to the second day. This wasn’t a good move. Nobody liked it. Roger Goodell, in his first NFL draft, was fucking with something holy to a shit-ton of NFL fans.

But we got over it.

However, what we won’t get over is this fucking travesty that Goodell set up this year. This April, the draft will no longer be on a Saturday. Instead, the draft’s first round is to be held in primetime on a Thursday. Rounds two and three will be on Friday night. The remaining four rounds will be held on Saturday. There won’t be any Sunday coverage.

It pisses me off just thinking about it.

Think I’m overreacting, check out just one website when the news was released. 341 comments, the overwhelming negative.

“way to destroy something that was perfect the way it was.”

“The weekend draft has been a tradition in my household. We spent the weekend cooking (making spaghetti sauce,etc) and watching. With it in the evening we will probably record it and flip through. Not interested in the new time.”

“i liked waking up on saturday jacked and weatching the countdown waiting for the draft to begin it was alota fun that weekend, and now the best rounds are on thursday and friday nites, wow, the NFL is all about the ratings and money Goodell doesnt care about the fans”

“This is stupid. All year long I can’t wait for the NFL draft. It has Been a weekend tradition.”

“I have not heard a fan say a good thing about this. It’s just a money grab by the NFL. The suits decided they don’t care what the fans want.”

Ugh.

6 – I originally wanted to get this post up in the middle of the last week. One reason why is Epic Beard Man.

If you’re not a frequent crawler of blogs and Twitter, you can be forgiven for missing this last Tuesday or Wednesday. But you owe it to yourself to check out the following:

Epic Beard Man Beats up Kid

Epic Beard Man – Part II

Absolutely remarkable. I mean, the old guy is built like a brick shit-house. He’s wearing a shirt that says ” I am a Motherfucker”. And some kid is talking smack to him?

I loved the Mortal Kombat remix seen at the bottom of the second link. I crack up every time I hear, “Bring Amber Lamps”.

6b – Speaking of Deadspin, they’re now doing a Balls Deep Mailbag every Tuesday AND Thursday.

*single tear*

Last week I timed it. I started a mailbag around 4:00. By the time I was done reading it and the comments it was 5:00. There were a few moments spent checking another site and a few more minutes getting up to get a soda, but in the end that’s one hour of my day spent reading letters to the editor like…

Q: Why don’t they make Bailey’s Irish Cream without alcohol, so I can enjoy it in the morning without having to go to work drunk? It’s simply better than anything else you can put in coffee.
A: Why is the alcohol a problem? The real question you should be asking is why they don’t make regular cream WITH alcohol.

I’m of the mind that, unless you like White Russians and Black Russians, no one over the age of 25 ever needs to drink Bailey’s or Kahlua. That’s the shit you drink when you’re 14 and you’re too much of a pussy to have acquired a taste for scotch.

or….

Q: I am a first time father and my son is 11 months old. His favorite show is Jacks Big Music show on Nick Jr. It is fucking brutal. God I hate children’s television. Anyways, on one particular episode Lisa Loeb does a little music video. I found myself thinking that she looked pretty damned cute. I think it’s something about the glasses. Am I a horrible person for wanting to fire off some knuckle children to a children’s show? Will I now be on some sort of government list for even asking the question?

A; No, it’s okay. You are an adult, and that means you are allowed to enjoy children’s shows on an adult level, even if that includes picturing Lisa Loeb as a very sexy librarian who is about to throw back her hair and ride you like a carousel. YOU SAY…

Enjoy.

7 – I can’t vouch for the following two sites unless you own a Mac and have AdBlock plus. They might be shady on a PC. I don’t know.

But NinjaVideo.net and GotMovies.net are freaking fantastic. I’ve already mentioned NinjaVideo. Great for all the new movies and TV shows. They’ve got a good amount of old TV too.

That said, GotMovies blows them out of the water in terms of content. I’ve been using the site for a week and I’ve yet to not find a TV episode or movie I searched for.

In the last three days Ben and I have watched old school MacGyver episodes and these three obscure flicks from our youth that we just randomly wanted to check out.

Men at Work

If Looks Could Kill

Mr. Destiny

OK, our choice in movies as kids were basically shit. We get that now.

But the point is that those are three flicks our local Blockbuster doesn’t carry and we were able to get them in 20 minutes online. For free. In DVD quality.

I love technology.

8 – The only reason I found the above site is my obsession with all things Olivia Wilde reminded me of how awesome The OC was. I lost my DVDs years ago so I ran a search for episodes online and found GotMovies.

The OC was awesome. One of my friends left season one at my place when I was a senior in college. One weekend I started watching and didn’t stop for three days. Eventually my other pals were hooked too. We never missed an episode.

One reason for this is obvious. The eye candy was ridiculous. Mischa Barton, Rachel Bilson, Olivia Wilde, Autumn Reeser…yea.

But that gets old. The reason the OC was so awesome was the writing. It was legitimately laugh out loud funny. It was trashy and sordid. It was the very definition of a guilty pleasure and usually you got it all in every scene.

Watch it. Start from episode one. You’ll be hooked. Fictional TV isn’t supposed to enlighten or make you a better person. In the end it’s just entertainment and I guarantee you The OC will deliver that.

9 – Might be moving on from here relatively soon.

My original plan was to stick it out in EC through the spring, see how things were looking and make a decision around May. But Friday may have been a tipping point.

We have had a good number of awful clients, for a lot of different reasons. This client (I can’t say who), however, is made up of purely awful individuals. We’ve bent over backwards for them time and time again. We acquiesce to their every demand. In the end, nothing is good enough. We build something one way and they hate it, despite it being exactly what they wanted. We design something and they sign off. A month later when it’s ready to go they change their minds. We have meetings where things are specifically hammered out and a week later it’s like they remember nothing.

Everyone has been hit by ’em. Our content specialist, designer, even our company owner. On Friday it was my turn.

I won’t get into specifics, but I was destroyed. I actually left early that day. I took my beat-down over something that was their fault, and just went home. For almost that entire night I couldn’t think of anything else. Just how these people, these fucking assholes, could be so terrible to others and irrational when it comes to working with an agency.

I was worried it would ruin my weekend. But then Friday night happened and I had a new reason to be pissed off on Saturday.

9b – This weekend mostly sucked.

10 – Three hours on the road, feeling demolished both ways did leave me in a beaten down state of mind to the point where all I wanted to do was listen to some heavy, angry, soul crushing tunes. Thankfully I had no shortage of that.

I give you the best of what I heard this weekend.

Thrice – Under Par
Papa Roach – She Loves Me Not
DMX – How’s it Goin Down
SocialBurn – Ride
Three Days Grace – Someone Who Cares
Glassjaw – When One Eight Becomes Two Zeroes
From Autumn to Ashes – Short Stories With Tragic Endings
Taproot – Poem
Puddle of Mudd – Away from me
The Ataris – The last song I will ever write about a girl
No Use for a Name – On the outside
Primer 55 – My Girl
Cold – Stupid Girl
Strung out – Razorblade
Sick Puppies – My World
Bullet for my Valentine – The End
Smile Empty Soul – Bottom of a Bottle
Apocalyptica – I Don’t Care
The Offspring – Dirty Magic
Chevelle – Comfortable Liar

Linky link.

10b – The Sick Puppies do give me an excuse to introduce you to the prettiest bass player around, the lovely miss Emma Anzai.

Emma Anzai

We Are the World, Avatar, the Olympics and Olivia Wilde

1 – So I finally got around to seeing the new We Are The World remake.

It’s for Haiti. That’s good, fine, admirable. Their hearts are in the right place, I guess.

But this thing is awful. Horrific, disastrous, soul-crushing. Take your pick of adjectives.

Some things just need to be left alone on the basis that they’re basically classic. Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Caddyshack, Animal House, Ghost Busters (basically anything with Bill Fuckin’ Murray) in film. Music is a bit different. Artists put their own spin on songs and sometimes they’re good (Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah) and sometimes they’re bad (Imogen Heap singing Hallelujah) but nobody is ever really surprised when you hear a cover.

We Are the World is different. It was timeless. With an almost entirely new cast of characters, what they did was remake the song to modernize it. They grabbed today’s “hottest” artists, added some fucking hiphop and the result is the abortion above.

Ugh.

Couldn’t they have just brought back the old one? Given it some airplay on the radio and MTV and Fuse? Advertised that the proceeds from downloading the song on iTunes would go to Haiti? How about the artists in the remake just dig into their enormous pool of wealth and simply donate? You’re telling me someone in that room didn’t for a moment think, “Hey, I’ll pay to not have this song created. Who’s comin’ with me?”

Do your part, but download and delete it. Please. No one should have to be subjected to Lil’ Wayne singing what Bob Dylan once did.

2 – Avatar was better than I envisioned it would be. I had heard so many people say that the story was average, but I was impressed. Was it over the top with the message? Yup. I didn’t care.

The special effects were obviously amazing. There were moments that had me ducking in my seat.

I’m usually someone who’ll fall asleep if I’m watching a long movie in the theater. Gladiator and the Matrix put me asleep. Avatar had me enthralled.

I might see it again.

2b – OK, but this review is hilarious.

2c – And be sure to check out his epic review of The Phantom Menace.

3 – I thought this was an interesting, if not unfortunate, story.

I come from a family of teachers and school administrators. I hear both sides of these kinds of arguments quite a bit. But I think there’s two factors in this story that place me on the side of administration:

1 – The district is one of the worst in the state.
2 – The economy

Obviously change needed to happen. The six items they wanted the teachers to agree to didn’t seem too outrageous given the students’ performance has been so terrible. On the surface they might be cosmetic, however. So the school day is 25 minutes longer? Fine. But what’s going into those 25 minutes.

But whatever. Like I said, if the school is that bad then making some changes had to happen.

But the second item, the economy, is what makes this a little more eye opening. All of those people are losing their job because they couldn’t agree on concessions. In the past year a lot of people I know have been asked to do more without the carrot of higher salary dangling in front of them. They overlying theme is, “Do what you can to be useful to your company or you’re going to get canned”. It surprises me that the teachers union would look at the extraordinary circumstances and come to the realization that having a job wasn’t worth an extra 25 minutes a day and two weeks of in-services over the summer.

I’m going to keep an eye on this one. I think a deal is reached now that the staff realizes that, yes, administration will can their asses.

4 – Twiitter is awesome if you’re a sports fan like myself. But if you were also a fan of the olympics (I’m not), I can guess that you wouldn’t be incredibly pleased at the tweets you’re reading today.

NBC was televising cross country skiing earlier today while the Men’s Downhill was going on. They were going to show the more popular event later. However, writers on twitter were giving up to the moment updates on how the US was doing in the downhill. Sports sites like ESPN and SI were showing results on their home page. So, if you’re online today it’s rather difficult to not know that Bode Miller captured the bronze.

5 – I’m seeing some potential in Google Buzz. A neat (or disturbing if you want to look at it in another way) feature that your blasts are plotted on a map. So if I’m using my iPhone and I’m at a bar and I say something like, “Great happy hour deals at The Livery”, my blast is going to be visible to anyone in Eau Claire using Buzz.

Since Buzz has only been out less than a week and people are still kind of feeling it out, the blasts have been few. But like I said, I can see potential. It could prove to be especially useful in an area you’re not familiar with. Your friend sends a blast from the bar or club or event he’s at. It shows up on your map and you automatically get directions. Pretty cool.

6 – It’s possible that Olivia Wilde has successfully gotten me into four different shows.

Olivia Wilde

I remember watching the ill-fated Skin when I was junior at Stout. Only around for six episodes, it was worth it for Wilde alone. Oh, and also the absurd plot in which the daughter of a pornographer gets involved with the son of DA. Shakespearean drama FTW.

Then she signed on to do 13 episodes in the second season of The OC, right around the time I started to tune-in. I was hooked.

Don’t hate.

Next up was a short run on the critically acclaimed but short lived Black Donnellys. Just another of NBC’s fuck-ups.

And, finally, House M.D.. I watched House briefly in college but tuned out when it became apparent that every episode would be the same. Someone is hit with a mystery illness, House is a dick, makes a mistake with the first diagnosis, patient gets worse, House is a dick, House has a revelation in the final five minutes and the person lives. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So yea, I stopped watching somewhere in the middle of season one.

Fast forward five years. I find out our lass Olivia Wilde is a member of House’s cast, something that the rest of the world has apparently known for some time. So I simply skipped to the episode where she joins the cast and, like that, I’m hooked again.

I’ve blown through an entire season of this goddamn show in the past three days. That’s not easy to do. It requires a level of inactivity and laziness that borders on (flat out is) unhealthy.

Damn you, Olivia Wilde.

7 – One of my friends is in the hospital. Another quit her old job and is no longer online. It’s some holiday today so most of my other friends are home, not working. I’ve had absolutely no one to email and chat with all day. Conversely, outside of this blog, I’ve been pretty damn productive.

Summers as a kid, cartoons, vodka and Lindsey Vonn

1 – It occurred to me a while back that my generation, the 24-31 year olds, may have been the last to know what it was like to spend their summers outdoors when they were kids.

When we grew up we didn’t have computer games. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have the internet.

Did we have the Nintendo or Genesis or SNES? Sure. But games were different back then. Now days the games you play are these monsters that take weeks to complete, and that’s if you’re ready to spend two to three hours a day with a controller in your hand. There was certainly no online multi-player and hundreds of thousands of kids around the globe playing the same game at all times of the day. No, the games we grew up on (Mario, Street Fighter, NBA Jam) could be completed in a under an hour. I loved my videogames as a kid, but even I couldn’t or wouldn’t sit in front of a TV playing a game for more than 45 minutes, and that was once the sun went down.

I used to love my summers as a kid. I remember taking a canoe down the river, docking it at the golf-course and playing 27 holes a day when I was 11 years old. I remember biking around Rice Lake and hitting up the old-school candy and ice cream shop or going to the pool when I was 9 and 10. Home run derbies and driveway basketball every day when was an early teen. Of course there was the little league games every summer and then Prep 13 and Junior Legion and then Legion. Eventually you get a license but that was even more a reason to get out and do things. Camping, renting wave-runners, playing frisbee golf, hitting up Snaps in Appleto….wait, nevermind.

There just wasn’t a reason to stay in-doors when it was 70 degrees and sunny.

But technology has changed that. You can get hundreds of channels on cable and DirecTV. No one uses dial-up anymore so you don’t have mom’s bitching when their kids are tying up the phone line. High speed internet is in every household so kids can hop online and play games or check out Facebook. No kid has to get on a bike to go to a friend’s place anymore if he wants to hang out; online gaming and headsets alleviate that issue. And the games these days…my god. People can start playing and not leave a room for 20 hours. It’s like a completely different world to get wrapped up in.

To say I’m concerned is an understatement. I’m the oldest on both sides of my family; all my siblings and cousins are younger. I’ve got family in that 7-15 age range and I’m worried. Some are as sedimentary and socially awkward as any kid I’ve seen. They have parents who buy them computers and TVs and gaming systems and cell phones and they’re as fucking wide as they are tall.

Yea, I’m worried. I talked with a co-worker this week, the one who recommended I check out the documentary that inspired my first thought in #1. He’s probably 20 years older than I am but our summers were the same. You didn’t spend them indoors, your mom kicked you outside and you played with your pals. Doing so you were interacting with others. Being physically active. Building a base upon which to grow as a person. You didn’t understand that when you were 9 or 11 or 13, but when you look back at your childhood and realize all that you did in your free time I think you can appreciate how it helped turn you into the person you are now.

As a 28 year old without kids of my own it’s easy to sit here and say that I’m going to be different. That I’m going to raise my kids the way my mom and dad raised me. Spend the nights playing baseball and having a catch and showing them how to garden and hunt and fish and swim. Keep them out of the living room and off the TV and computer. I hope I can do that. But I’m sure it won’t be easy when you’re competing with the rest of the world for their attention.

2 – Speaking of kids, and this is going to sound bad after the previous entry, but I did get my share of cartoons growing up. If you’re my age there’s a solid chance you spent your 4:00-6:00 after school watching Duck Tails, Rescue Rangers, Tail Spin and Darkwing Duck. Or when you were just starting to watch TV you caught Fraggel Rock and Care Bears. Animaniacs and Ninja Turtles when you were a little older.

Those shows were the balls.

Well, recently I heard from a married guy with kids who told me how excruciating it was to have to sit with his kid and watch some of the shit on TV now ‘days aimed towards children.

Apparently it’s brutal so I’ve come up with a solution. I’m going to get every fucking season of those shows above, the ones I grew up on, and I’ll be damned if that’s what my kids aren’t watching one day. I figure I’ll be geeking by seeing shows I loved 30 years ago while knowing they’re seeing the same stuff that molded me into the nice, semi-well-adjusted guy I am today (STFU).

Come on. Duck Tales is timeless. Tell me you wouldn’t stop and watch ol’ Scrooge and the Boys if you happened to catch them on TV right now. Or the original Turtles. The Chipmunk Adventure or an American Tail.

When my kids are four years old they won’t know that there’s a Disney Channel or the Internet. Plop in a disk of Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers and I’ll sit and watch with them as long as they like.

🙂

3 – Alright, enough of the kids and cartoons.

Let’s talk vodka.

The impetus for the following was something I saw on TV. I’m a Food Network junkie. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I love me some Triple D and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Then you have Giada and Iron Chef even Rachel Ray and there’s a couple hours a week right there.

Alton Brown, however, sort of sucks.

He’s the host of Good Eats, a forgettable and outdated show that FN has kept around despite sucking for years. He’s also the host of Iron Chef and he mostly annoys.

But a couple weeks ago I was flipping channels and noticed an episode of Good Eats tackling a concoction near and dear to my heart: the Bloody Mary.

I love Bloody Mary’s. I love the Bloody Caesar. I even love the Michelada (Mexican version where you substitute vodka for beer).

I was interested to see how this food snob could claim that the current version of the Bloody Mary was a bastardized version and so much worse than the original that came about 70 years ago.

He claimed to have the perfect recipe. I watched him make it. It looks interesting and I’ll be giving it a shot in the near future. Credit Alton.

But what really got the wheels spinning was his attack on vodka. Good Eats breaks down food on a scientific level. They explain how food and drink are made and in this case I thought there was some legit application. After-all, vodka has quite the price range.

Brown described the process of making vodka. Where it comes from, how it’s made, differences in the methods. He talked distilling. He even talked about the idea that with a water filter and some cheap vodka you could turn your Phillips into Goose.

In the end, though, one message was rather blunt: go cheap. Once it’s distilled, it’s distilled. Buy the cheap stuff and feel good about it.

But how could this be, I thought. Vodka has been my drink for a decade. Cheap shit, expensive stuff, screwdriver, white russian, bloody, bulldog, gimlet, martini…you name it, I’ve probably drank it. I’ve drank vodka mixed with shit you probably wouldn’t feed someone you hate.

But never, since I’ve been drinking, have I been a snob about it. When I was in college I was broke so I bought the cheap stuff. When I got some money or I wanted to impress a girl I went top shelf. Sometime after college (namely when I discovered sports gambling) I decided that I could stand and appreciate straight booze so I started drinking Ketel and Stoli on rocks. And Johnny and J&B…

But one thought never crossed my mind with regards to vodka: how about a taste test?

Vodka is supposed to be a tasteless alcohol. It’s distilled to remove impurities but who the hell knows what difference it makes if it’s distilled once or four times? In the end it’s 80 proof and it gets you drunk.

SO! After seeing Alton Brown’s description of vodka I grabbed a friend, bought some small bottles and did what I should have done a decade ago: we conducted a taste-test.

Our samples (and prices for a 1.75):

Karkov – $10-$11
Fleischmann’s – $10-$12
Svedka – $19-$24
Stolichnaya – $39-$46
Ketel One – $38-$47

Basically we got two rail, one medium and two top shelf bottles to test. Tasting went like this:

1 – About half a shot of chilled vodka in a glass
2 – Take the drink, give it a swish and swallow
3 – Judge taste, spit effect, need for water, impact on stomach

That’s it. We did two rounds.

Round one was staggered based upon preconceived notions on what the vodka would taste like. We divided it up and went from med-low-high quality and back again.

Notes were taken, but I’m only using my observations:

Svedka – Strong. Definitely tastes like a harsh vodka. Moderate spit reflex. Not one I would start with if I were drinking rocks, though it would be possible to down a glass.

Fleischmann’s – Subtle for an instant, maybe because of the cold. Then an immediate strong and unpleasant taste. I had to go for the water or something might have come back up.

Solichnaya – Not as strong as the first two. Definitely smoother. There’s absolutely a bite, but barely any spit reflex. This one was a belly fire inducer. Not a strong aftertaste but there’s a numbing/tingling effect on your mouth. It’s close to a potent mouth wash with no taste. I could probably drink a small glass fairly easily.

Karkov – Not as bad as I thought it would be after drinking the Fleischmann’s. Slight spits, but not terrible. This one seemed to have a slightly different flavor than the others. Certainly tolerable. Again, like a bitter, flavorless mouthwash. I didn’t need to go for the water.

Ketel One – Very slight spits, but nothing to worry about. Not as much belly fire as the Stoli. Able to swish and hold it in the mouth for a few moments to get the taste. Again, like a tasteless, somewhat bitter mouthwash.

First round winner: Ketel One
First round loser: Fleishmann’s
Time Elapsed: 25 minutes

Round 2 order was based on how terrible the first round went.

43 minutes in:

Fleischmann’s – Not nearly as bad when it was quickly swilled from the mini-bottle. There were some spit I had to swallow, but it wasn’t terrible. The belly fire and the aftertaste wasn’t here in this shot. There also wasn’t strong aftertaste. Surprising.

Svedka – Didn’t the get the spit like I did with the Fleischmann’s. A little, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from drinking straight vodka. This one has got more bite than some of the others. That said, no water chaser needed. I could swill it. Honestly, it was similar to the first round of Stoli and Ketel.

Karkov – Again, the first thing I noticed was a different flavor than the rest. Very tasteless. Little aftertaste. Not much belly fire. I didn’t get much of a sensation in my mouth after swilling and downing it. Overall, this vodka has had the least impact.

Stolichnaya – Definitely had an impact. Slight spit. Some belly fire. I absolutely got the impact on my mouth, with it immediately tingling anywhere the vodka hit when I swished it it around. It didn’t taste bad, but you could certainly tell you’re drinking straight booze.

Ketel One – Slight belly fire. Minimal spit. Smooth as hell. Tingling a bit. This was the last drink of the night, and not surprisingly, it was the easiest.

Overall the amount of booze drank wasn’t a lot, maybe four shots over the course of two hours. But the findings of this little taste test revealed one thing:

Go cheap.

Honestly, buy the cheapest vodka you can every time you’re looking for a bottle. I went in thinking I was going to be gagging with a swill of the cheap stuff I drank back in college. In reality, it’s all pretty close in taste. Is that first drink important? Maybe.

But after that the only reason to go top shelf is to impress a lady-friend. Otherwise, just consider the difference in price.

Even if you think the above is total crap or you’re a vodka snob, please, don’t waste expensive stuff in a mixer. If you do you’re an asshole.

In case you’re wondering, the winner of the test was the brand I didn’t expect: Karkov.

Seriously.

It’s a little subtle. It doesn’t have a bite in the mouth and the belly fire isn’t really anything noticeable. It’s really not a bad tasting vodka (I thought it was comparable to the top shelf versions) and it’s a 3rd of the price.

4 – This does, though, lead into an observation I’m sure you’ve had if you’re 25+.

Getting shitty is a bitch.

Two weeks ago we had a happy hour with some coworkers and I ordered a Johnny Walker Black on rocks. Having spent the past two months in The Cities I expected one shot in a small glass with a $9 tag. It ended up being about five shots in a mug and it ran me $3.50.

First thought is how awesome pubs in Wisconsin are. Second thought is, “OH SWEET MOTHER OF FUCK THIS NIGHT WON’T END WELL”.

And it didn’t. In college, that’s a Thursday. You go out, stay up until god knows when, go to class the next day and do it all over again the following two nights.

But the Saturday after the JW Black experience a couple weeks ago? I was wrecked. I didn’t leave my apartment or change clothes all weekend. I moved from the bed to the couch to the bed in some sick, horrific cycle. I treated bright lights and solid food like I was a damn vampire. I just wanted to sleep, pound the pain-killers and skim milk.

Last week I was went to the Cities and had a chat with a friend of mine, Nichole. And we talked about it. College. Going out. How different it is only a few short years later. It’s easy to tie one on when you’re 22. If you want to do the same when you’re 28 you can forget that shit.

One bad night and you’re ruined.

5 – A friend of mine with an iPhone alerted me to a website and an app called alice.com. It’s awesome.

The concept is simple. You log on and select all the products you use at home. Cleaners, detergent, paper towels, candles, coffee, razors, shampoo, softsoap, etc. Alice keeps track of what you have and don’t have and lets you know when you’re running low. It also lets you know when there’s coupons available on already low prices. When you want to re-stock you click a button or two, and with free shipping they send what you want to your door.

Very convenient. With the free iPhone app it’s even easier. I’ve already made one order.

Check it out.

6 – OGTs

Lindsey Vonn

Yesterday I was talking with a friend about Lindsey Vonn and I said I thought she was gorgeous. ‘Liza said she was cute, not gorgeous. I said Vonn gets a bump because she’s a world class athlete. Athletic ability, sense of humor, knowledge of sports. Total weaknesses for me.

Take Jessica Chobot. Great looking girl, no Miranda Kerr. But she’s funny, sort of outrageous and a total geek. Gives her a huge bump in hotness.

7 – Google Buzz came out this week. I’ve used it a couple times. I just installed it on the iPhone. Seems cool. My one concern is privacy. I don’t know yet how to control who’s seeing what.

I’ll give a full review in a couple days.

Coffee & cocoa spiced chicken with lime slaw

You’re gonna sear and braise three chicken breasts, then pair it with a tangy slaw.

Spice rub for boneless, skinless chicken breasts:
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground coffee (use the stuff you like drinking)
1 tbsp sweet paprika 
1 tsp kocher salt
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice  

Coat the chicken breasts with the rub.

In a heavy bottom dutch oven, heat a tsp (or enough to barely coat the bottom) extra virgin olive oil on high. When it’s hot, add the chicken breasts and sear them until almost black on both sides.

Add one clove of smashed garlic, one yellow onion roughly chopped, enough chicken stock to almost cover the chicken/onion/garlic and enough beer (I used Shiner Boch, but like the coffee, just use the stuff you like to drink) to finish covering the chicken.

Let it simmer on low(ish, you want a nice simmer going) covered for an hour. Check on the chicken after and then let it continue partially covered. You’re looking for the liquid to reduce by about two thirds.

Sometime after 90 minutes it should be done. Remove from heat and use tongs or two forks to shred the chicken and absorb the remaining liquid. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce. I like Rays.

Slaw:

10 ounce bag of red cabbage
1 large jalapeno, thinly sliced
3 tbsp cilanto, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
juice of two large limes
2 tbsp green onion, minced
1/4 cup mayo

Throw it all in a bowl and mix it up. Keep it cool for at least an hour.

I like to get the chicken in the pot, then make the slaw while I’m waiting. I think this is best made the night before so the slaw has time to open up. Re-heat the chicken the next day and use it in sandwiches.

Lady Gaga, the iPad, more Miranda Kerr and Tim Tebow

Lady Gaga

1 – I vividly remember when I was 18 years old, driving home from football practice one evening, listening to a newish radio station, hearing Oleander – “Why I’m Here” and thinking to myself that I’d never get to the point where I wasn’t familiar with popular music. I thought of my folks, people who probably couldn’t name you five current Top 40 songs. Couldn’t give you a popular current rock band. Back in 1999, I just couldn’t envision myself getting to that point. I thought, “How could I not know who these musicians are? I listen to the radio, I watch MTV. I watch TV shows and movies with these artists. I go to concerts. My friends like most the tunes I like. It won’t be possible”.

Fast forward a decade.

I just checked the Billboard Top 100. Songs I recognize:

Orianthi – According to You
Taylor Swift – You Belong With Me
Kelly Clarkson – Already Gone
Kings of Leon – Use Somebody
Michael Buble – Haven’t Met You Yet (just got sent the link five minutes ago)
Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA

That’s it. Six songs. Two of which I heard only because I was sent youtube links. Not only that, but I can honestly say I’ve never heard of the majority of these people.

Maybe once a month I’ll flip to an FM station and take a quick listen to what’s new. Then I turn it off. I just don’t understand how some of this shit gets played. Who the hell can listen to anything by ‘Lil Wayne? I remember him as the retarded one in the Hot Boyz group ten years ago. Now he’s the biggest name in hip hop? How did this freak show suddenly become the Madonna of her generation? The Jonas Bros, a band I can honestly say I’ve never listened to, not once, is causing some debate as to whether or not they’re better than The Beatles. Seriously. Run that search in Google and you get 200,000,000 hits.

It’s gotten to the point where new music by bands I liked in college amount to the only current stuff I can tolerate. Maybe twice a year some new artist slips through the cracks.

But I can’t listen to this shit. I mean, my god.

1a – Something I could listen to?

How about this:

That is, somehow, Lady Gaga.

I don’t get it. That’s music from an artist I could dig.

2 – New technique to pass along to my fellow developers and designers. You’ve all gotten requests from clients that make you roll your eyes, swear to yourself, punch babies, etc. Maybe it’s something that would look awful. Or it’s a completely useless or superfluous component. Maybe it’s just a request you don’t want to do, for any reason.

If that’s the case, bust out the word, “Unprofessional”. No client likes hearing that what they’re asking for is going to make their site look amateur.

For example. this week I got a request from a client. They wanted a Flash component I built to be modified. It would have required a couple hours of development time I didn’t have. I also loved the current version of what I created and didn’t want it messed with. I responded in an email. I told them they could certainly have that done. I did add this, though, “But, personally, I don’t think the effect is as professional. That’s just my opinion as a developer that has made [the component] both ways.”

He got back to me five minutes later. “Let’s stick with the original”.

That’s it. That’s all it takes. I’ve used this three times and it’s never failed me. Are there going to be clients who think they know better and stubbornly refuse to budge? Sure. But if you plant some seed of doubt in their heads with regards to how their site is going to be perceived, most will trust your opinion as a professional.

3 – I didn’t write a post-Viking game blog. I wanted to. I had a lot to get down.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a large amount of friends in The Cities and I’m fairly certain that I would be excommunicated from the group in a hurry if they knew what I wanted to say.

3b – I will say this, though. That game is exactly why you watch sports. I’m a fan of neither the Vikings or the Saints. But I had an obvious rooting interest and I couldn’t look away. At the end of the game my heart was racing a mile a minute. I was yelling at the TV. I was in the lowest depths of depression one minute and on top of the motherfucking world the next.

So I ask you this: what else compares? Can I get a list? I’m totally serious. I feel as if people that don’t care about sports are missing out on this essential part of being alive.

3c – Example. I thought this was just one of the coolest videos I’ve seen in a long time.

I know just how they felt. I remember being at the final Brewer game of the regular season, the one in which they clinched a playoff birth. People were yelling, jumping up and down, hugging total strangers. It was euphoric.

4 – So the iPad came out. In the end, it’s exactly what I expected.

I’ve got six computers, including four laptops. I’ve also got an iPod Touch and an iPhone. Do I need another mobile device? No, absolutely not. Will I be picking an iPad up? Ya, probably.

I went back and forth on it. It’s really just a large iPod Touch.

That said, there’s been times when I’ve been at home and wished I had a bigger version of my iPhone. When I’m in the kitchen and I’m cooking something up and I’m constantly reading directions, texting and listening to music on the same device. I think it would be rather awesome to have a dock on my counter, be able to watch a flick or listen to tunes and read recipes on a nice, big screen.

Now, can a laptop do that for me? Of course. Again, is this thing a need? Nope.

4b – But this gets me to what I think will be the selling point: the App Store.

The iPad has been a popular target since it was unveiled last week, namely from people who want to compare it to tablet PCs and Netbooks. They talk about the hardware and tech specs. No USB. No Flash. iPhone OS. No multitasking.

OK. Fair point.

But my response to those criticisms would be this: does your Netbook or tablet have the app store? The thing that makes the iPhone so remarkable? I saw Jobs demo the MLB app. Not gonna lie, I was borderline aroused.

The possibilities are sort of endless. Once developers start building iPad native apps you’re going to see some amazing things.

4c – It was Mark Cuban that hit home why this thing will succeed.

4d – I had a conversation with a friend regarding these possibilities. I can see, sometime in the next decade, all print media going the way of the dodo. As someone who loves a good book to nuzzle up to, she was horrified by the notion.

But think of the money saved if publishers adopted reader devices like the Kindle or iPad as their primary means of distribution? Think of the overhead that’s saved. Think of prices you could see if Publishers don’t have to worry about printing. New York Times best sellers are already going for $9.99 on the Kindle. Could they go lower?

It’s not just books, too. The newspaper industry is already toast. It won’t be too long before they’re entirely digital. But magazines, too. Digital versions of magazines, subsidized by advertisers. Want to read an article? Click an ad first.

I could see the same thing happening with digital libraries. Imagine that you could rent a novel. You pay something like $0.99 for say for a week or two weeks or a weekend. Whatever. You download this novel but before every chapter you see a short 30 second advertisement for Toyota. Or NBC’s new TV series. Or fucking viagra. Who knows.

Wouldn’t you prefer that to laying $30 down on the next novel by your favorite author? Or having to wait four weeks because the book you want is checked out?

The mind wanders…

5 – If you’re one of my readers who does so from work, be careful. This could have been you.

6 – In another music related item, we are the world is getting remade. Not sure I know how I feel about that.

I believe the money raised is going to Haiti. That’s good. What’s bad is 90% of those singing this song.

I took a look at the list of people performing. I’m not seeing a Bob Dylan or Michael Jackson in there. Who the hell is Justin Bieber and what is he doing singing a classic I grew up to?

6b – What is Drago’s wife doing singing in this thing? Were they that desperate to get a Russian in We Are the World?

7 – The Tim Tebow ad thing. Wow.

OK, this is sort of one where it’s tough for me to take my stand without coming off like a hypocrite. Truth be told, I don’t even know what my stance is anymore.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either living in a cave or…. actually, that’s it. You must be living in a cave. The controversy caused by this situation is amazing and I don’t know how you avoid it.

But I’ll give the ten cents on a dime version anyway.

Tim Tebow is the biggest name in college athletics. He won the Heisman as a sophomore. He won two national championships. He’s a good looking, seemingly All-American quarterback. He’s on the verge of starting his professional career, one that is largely in doubt because while he’s a winner and has off the charts intangibles, he also can’t throw the damn ball. I love the quote from the new GM of the Cleveland Browns, “Everything besides actually playing the position, he’s got it all”. That was supposed to be a compliment. I’m reminded of something about damning with faint praise….

Anyway, that’s Tim Tebow the athlete. What has people going bat-shit crazy is Tim Tebow, the spokesman.

You see, Timmy is also the newly crowned prince of the (far) right-wing. He’s incredibly religious. He’s done work as a missionary. He’s also celibate. That’s all fine and good in the eyes of many (though the missionary thing bothers the fuck out of me). But it’s when you go on TV during the Super Bowl and shill a Pro-Life stance to hundreds of millions of people around the globe that things, um, turn.

Tim’s mom gave birth to him in a 3rd world. There were complications with the pregnancy and doctors recommended an abortion. She didn’t have one. Instead she got drugged up, had the kid and twenty years later there’s a Heisman trophy winner in the family.

That’s essentially what the ad is going to say. It’s Tim and his mom giving the story of his birth and the result. The message is this, “Look what happens when you chose life! You could one day have a superstar in the family”. Fuck what the doctor says. Fuck science. Fuck circumstances. Just pop that little future Hall of Famer from your uterus. Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine.

I have a problem with his ‘work’ in 3rd world countries. I have a problem with his belief that I’m going to hell. That if you don’t practice Christianity that you’re going to burn in hell. I have problem with the notion that women don’t deserve to have control of what they do with their bodies. I have a problem with his belief that homosexuality is an abomination. I have a problem with his literal interpretations of a book that is largely fiction.

I certainly have a problem with the group that’s sponsoring this advertisement. Focus on the Family ponied up $2.5 million for the right to air this message. Their founder, James Dobson, is a radical, world class asshole of dangerous influence. He believes in child abuse. Animal abuse. That gays will destroy the world. He’s a hateful bigot and he’s wasting air, right now. And this is who the Tebows are aligning with.

Now…the hypocrite thing…

The thing is, this advertisement…I don’t know if I can say it shouldn’t be shown. Or that Tebow shouldn’t do this if he believes in what he’s saying. Or that the Tebows shouldn’t use their fame and influence in this manner. Or that CBS shouldn’t have taken this hateful group’s money. I just don’t know.

My first inclination is to say that this whole thing is a travesty and shameful. Upon further reflection, I consider the music I listen to. The shows I watch. If you’ve read this blog you obviously know about my love for The West Wing. Well, in the very first episode the President absolutely bitch-slaps leaders from the Religious Right. Throughout the show they portray the far Right as radical nutjobs. This was a show on NBC prime-time, and they’re constantly throwing jabs at a large portion of the country. It led to the monicker, “The Left Wing”.

Or what about Penn and Teller: Bullshit? I absolutely love it and the two stars. But on their show they’ve taken a hammer to creationism, the Bible, family values, signs from heaven, abstinence, the apocalypse and the motherfucking Vatican.

My point is that it’s not as if the Left hasn’t used the television medium to influence and promote their agenda, too. In the end it’s simply a matter of if you don’t like what you’re seeing, turn the channel. I hate to say it, but that’s where I’m coming down on the matter.

7b – That said, there is some awesome reading on this subject.

Jeff Pearlman took an eye-opening stance that has gotten an incredible response, from both sides. Have you ever read something from a professional and gone, “Holy shit. That’s balls”. This was one of those times for me. Jeff’s stance largely reflected mine. But I’m not an author and I don’t have Sports Illustrated helping to pay my bills.

Tim Keown of ESPN wrote more rational and politically correct presented op-ed piece. It gives you some background on Focus on the Family (fuckers).

The Slate has this one covered, too. Again, good reading.

7c – By the way, if you think I’m overestimating his influence, I think you’re a little naive. You have people that don’t give two shits about Football all but making him their messiah. I checked out a Facebook group, one of a shit-load. 32,000 members.

Here was a brief copy and paste of the recent wall msgs:

Zachary Aaron Moore Tim, I am a Tennessee Vols fan but I am a HUGE fan of yours! It doesn’t matter what team you play for I root for you, and anyone else who has character and faith like you. God Bless you brother and keep fighting for the faith! –Don’t let anyone tell you not to air your commercial! GO FOR IT! …Psalm 37:4

Donna Hayes Bramell Thank you for letting God work through you. Thank you for letting him use you and keep up the good fight!!

Spencer Brown I live in the West and have never been a Gator fan but I have a TON of respect and admiration for Tim Tebow for his courage in standing up for the truth. Thank you Tim! The world is a better place because of you.

Cindy Deroy signed the position. if we don’t stand for the innocent babies who will.

Hayden Maxey heyy tebow you are my favorite quarterback, dont listen to all the ppl that all talk about you because you are a great player and you cant measure the size of someones heart, keep God first and he will pave the way for you.

Janice Shiver Terrell Tim, praise the Lord for your testimony. Keep it up and stay strong. So thankful for your proclaiming your faith. Gator ’66

Redenvelopeday Campaign Tim, what a model of character and strength you are! You have so many reasons not to promote these commercials – yet you do for the unborn! God Bless you and we are all behind you!

Toni Mihalik-Esposito Can’t wait for next Sunday. Thank you for being such a good role model. I teach the “Choose Life” program in the Catholic Schools and I love to share your story with them. God Bless

Bruce Dougherty In 1985, Tim Tebow’s mother Pam was advised to abort her child. She decided against it, citing her Christian faith as a source of hope that her son, Tim, would be OK. Thank you, Mrs. Tebow, and thank God!

Shirley Harbaugh Shelite Tim–Just want to encourage you to give your pro-life message! God Bless you!

Arlen Del Pino Hill God bless Tebow & his family for standing up for what they believe in, the truth, and being a light in this world!!!

As for trying to understand or comprehend the ones against his
Superbowl ad….YET they are ok with alcohol ads, sexual innuendo ads
that affect the youth of today, cigarette smoking ads (even though it
KILL…S you),…etc….(we could go on & on)

Lets just reflect on what he Lord tells us…

Ephesians 4:18 (NIV)

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of
God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of
their hearts.

Ted Fiorito Tim – I hope you always remain sober minded and focused on the gifts the Lord has blessed you with. Whether in the NFL or the plains of Africa I trust you will do your best as a Servant/Leader.

8 – I’m probably not looking too good in the eyes of my Christian pals at the moment. I totally understand. But I would like them to know I don’t judge ’em. I never have. If you believe in a higher power, if you have that kind of faith, I have nothing but respect for you. I think it’s admirable, always have. I’ve dated a lot of girls who spend their Sundays in a church. My best friends in college were practicing Christians. I don’t start debates with them or think they’re silly. I’m tolerant of their beliefs. I hope they’re tolerant of mine. Do I believe in a woman’s right to choose? Sure. Equal rights for all humans? Absolutely. Am I going to ever press those views or values on anyone? Not a chance. My views on religion and social policy are my own. I can understand the irony, this being a platform where I’m expressing my views. That’s fine. But I’m not forcing anyone to read this. I’m not engaging someone on the street or even starting a conversation in my living room. I’m just writing a blog.

Like the Tebow ad, you can simply chose not to view it.