Tuesday, August 02, 2016

One-Term Presidents

It struck me a few days ago that in the first 20 years of my life, we had 5 Presidents of the US (not counting the few months that Ike was still Pres after I was born):
- Kennedy (assassinated)
- Johnson (declined to run for a second full term)
- Nixon (resigned in disgrace)
- Ford (unelected and lost re-election bid)
- Carter (lost re-election bid)

In the 36 years that followed, we've only had 5 more Presidents:
- Reagan (term-limited)
- Bush the First (lost re-election bid)
- Clinton (term-limited)
- Bush the Second (term-limited)
- Obama (term-limited)

For all of the craziness of the US political scene the past few decades, that's a remarkable run of Presidential stability that I believe is about to come to an end, regardless of the outcome of this election.

Historical economic cycles point to a recession or at least a serious correction coming in the US economy in the next 2-3 years.  The fact that the recovery from the Great Recession has been as slow as it has may push that toward the end of the next president's term, but my expectation is that Hillary will win and have a narrow Senate Dem majority for 2 years before the Republicans take the Senate back in the mid-terms.  After the economy takes a hit in 2018-2019, my guess is that a President Clinton will face a tough challenge from within the party and then lose to the Republican nominee (Cruz?  Rubio?  someone new?).

On the other hand, what happens if The Donald wins?  I have every idea that he has absolutely no interest in actually being president.  I suspect he would wreak serious havoc for two years and then pull a Palin and quit, leaving us with a couple of years of President Pence and paving the way for an Elizabeth Warren Presidency.  (I'm fine with the Warren presidency but a lot of people would be harmed in the 4 years before she would take over.)

That all may sound crazy but look at that 1960-1980 period again and tell me again that it's nuts.  So I will do what I can to get Hillary elected along with as many Democratic Senators as possible and then push like hell for them to make as many moves forward as they can in the short time they'll have to accomplish anything.

Because we won't get another chance for awhile.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All-Overlooked Team

With the Tar Heels in the Final Four again, we're getting a lot of looks at past UNC greats, from 'Sheed sitting in the stands and Kenny Smith in the TNT studio to lots of talk about Michael Jordan and James Worthy and Lenny Rosenbluth and Antawn Jamison and on and on (and it's one hell of a list).

This afternoon I started thinking about the guys that don't get mentioned that often anymore that would be all-time greats with most other programs - guys that I thoroughly enjoyed watching but who don't get much mention anymore.  If I were to build an All-Overlooked team of UNC greats, it would probably look something like this:

PG - Easy Ed Cota - 3 Final Fours in 4 years, all time leading assist man for UNC and still #3 in NCAA history.  When we talk about UNC point guards, Phil Ford, Kenny Smith, Ray Felton, Ty Lawson - all those guys typically come to mind before Ed which I think is a bit unfair.

SG - Al Wood - team leading scorer for 3 years, 1st team All-American in '81 and scorer of 39 points against Virginia in the '81 Final Four in one of the greatest games I've ever seen a Tar Heel play.

F - Mike O'Koren - my favorite player while I was actually in school until Mr. Worthy hit campus.  3 time 1st team All-American (despite only making All-ACC 1st team twice - one of the national vs. local press oddities).  Led the injury-depleted Heels to the final game against Marquette as a freshman in '77.  He really was the team in the interim between the Phil Ford era and the Jordan era.

F - Sam Perkins - I guess playing in the shadow of James Worthy and Michael Jordan will do it to you, but it astounds me that the guy who is still the #2 rebounder and #3 scorer in UNC history doesn't get more love.

C - Brad Daugherty - top 10 in field goal %, rebounds, scoring and blocks in UNC history and part of the Best UNC Team Ever To Not Win The NCAA (tm) - the 1984 edition Heels with Perkins, Doherty, Jordan and Kenny "The Jet" Smith that was undefeated in conference play but managed to NOT win the ACC Tournament and NOT make it to the Final Four. Despite that, all kinds of love for Brad who remains a true North Carolina treasure.

I'm probably guilty myself of overlooking some folks but I'd put these guys up against just about anybody.


Friday, March 25, 2016


If I understand it correctly, the bill just rammed through the NC General Assembly without notice and without time given for the legiscritters to, you know, READ what they were being asked to vote on will require a person identifying as male (and quite possibly with male genitalia and male secondary characteristics like facial hair) to use the women's room if their birth certificate says they were born female.  That's not an unintended consequence.  That is a punishment, pure and simple.  It's a feature.

But more than that, it is a clear indicator that the bigotry against my LGBT friends is being used as a smokescreen to hide what the rest of the consequences of the bill are.  It is not only anti-LGBT, it is anti-worker (anti-poor worker primarily) and focused on further consolidation of power at the state level, where the GOP has institutionalized its stranglehold on state government.

There is absolutely zero compelling reason for the state to prevent Charlotte from mandating a minimum wage that at least gets closer to a living wage for the city.  There is absolutely zero compelling reason for the state to prevent local municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances for veterans or service members (which Greensboro currently has).

It seems clear that HB2 runs afoul of Title IX which could cut off many millions of dollars of funding to NC schools.  It will obviously turn off large employers like IBM, RedHat, Netapp, SAS, Quintiles, Cisco, EMC (the list goes on).  But who thinks the current crop of legislators in Raleigh gives a shit about that?  They've already turned down Federal funding for Medicaid, they've already stripped funding from schools, they've already killed the film industry in NC and reduced unemployment protections to the worst in the nation.  For all of their bullshit during campaigns about being all about job creation, they don't give a flying about jobs - except their own.  "Smaller government" and "local control" be damned - it's all about consolidating their unConstitutionally-gained spoils in Raleigh.

There is a lot of energy right now among a lot of folks (many of them younger) that hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about politics until Senator Sanders starting campaigning for President.  There are more that are being energized from the other direction - in opposition to the campaign of The Donald.  Regardless of who wins the Democratic primaries, we need to find a way to channel *some* of that energy into state races in order to overcome the gerrymandered, quasi-permanent majority that the GOP has in North Carolina.  While turning the NCGA blue is not going to happen this cycle, finding enough votes to at least overcome the current GOP supermajority (hopefully coupled with a new Democratic governor) would be a good start.

Don't get so caught up in the dumpster fire that is the Presidential election that you don't pay attention to the down-ticket races - every damn one of them is vitally important.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Driving Music - Preesh!

The Xterra is getting a bit long in the tooth - multi-CD changer but no MP3 player.  So I had the bright idea of making a CD of the songs that Preesh! covered at the Cat's Cradle last weekend during the Be Loud! Sophie benefit - until I came to the shocking realization that I had copies of everything on the setlist except the first and last tunes.  I do have the Hindu Love Gods on cassette but I've never digitized it and the only Prince I've got is the vinyl for 1999.  And while I have copies of almost everything Elvis Costello has ever recorded, I did not (until tonight) own a copy of Imperial Bedroom in any format.  Thanks to Google Play that has been rectified and I did go with the Warren Zevon/Hindu Love Gods version of "Raspberry Beret".

So the CD is now complete, with live versions of "Respectable Street", "Bad Reputation" and "Driven to Tears" all taken from the incredible Urgh! A Music War soundtrack.

Ready for the road!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Courtin' Songs

Every relationship has songs that have meaning for the couple in it that would make no sense to anyone else.  This is my quick take on songs that, if encountered in the wild, will cause us to pause and look at each other and smile, grin, smooch, laugh or look mildly embarrassed.

Tears for Fears - Pale Shelter
Talk Talk - It's My Life
Icicle Works - Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)
The Psychedelic Furs - Heaven
Depeche Mode - People Are People
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes
The English Beat - Jeanette
REM - Don't Go Back to Rockville
The Monkees - Daydream Believer

The first seven were constantly in rotation at Cagney's on DuPont Circle in DC, where we would go as often as possible to escape our little apartment in Montgomery Village (aka Stepford) when we first got together. The rest have their own stories that wouldn't mean anything to anyone but us. But that's a hell of a playlist...


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Family IT Guy - Dell XPS 13 Edition

I'm not one of those guys that complains about being the family IT guy - I've enjoyed helping Jeannette and my folks with upgrades, replacements, troubleshooting etc (and I never forget that I'm a second-generation IT guy - Mom preceded me in the IT support biz).  With all of the unsolvable problems I run into as an IT manager, it's nice getting my hands "dirty" and actually solving a problem.  I'm usually fairly methodical, doing some research before jumping in.

That wasn't the case when Jeannette told me last week that she was getting messages on her Dell ultrabook saying that her hard drive was about to crash.  She had some things she needed to do urgently so I uncharacteristically sprang into action without thinking things through.  

1st step was actually reasonable - grab an external hard drive with some space and copy off all of her data.  I do occasionally back up her laptop but it had been awhile.  That preserved her photos, documents etc but didn't help for her installed software like MS Office and Scrivener.

That done, I rushed out to Best Buy to grab a new SSD.  Dumb.  If I'd taken five minutes to check, I'd have noted that the XPS doesn't use a full-size SSD - it has an mSATA drive that looks more like a memory stick than a hard drive.  I would have also noticed that the laptop has 10 screws requiring an odd-size screwdriver that I didn't own in order to get into the guts.

So off to Amazon (thank you, Amazon Prime!) to order an mSATA drive and a set of screwdrivers that include a Torx T5 head.  I should have used that time to take a deep breath and think this through, but instead we went to the beach where I got horribly sunburned, ate way too much Mexican food, had a fantastic time and didn't think much at all about computers.

Back home and I'm starting to flounder around again rather than thinking about this.  I've replaced OS drives on workstations and laptops before so the fact that the drive hadn't failed should have made this easy.  But my normal methods were failing me with the ultrabook.  No optical drive, no additional SATA ports, limited USB ports.  I couldn't hook up the external optical drive I have because it requires two USB ports and the only two on the Dell are on opposite sides of the box and the cables on the drive wouldn't reach them both.

Finally, step back, take a deep breath.

1) Clear off a good-sized USB stick, download Clonezilla (open source software), install it on the USB drive and make the drive bootable.

2) Hook up the big external drive I'd used to copy files to as a target for the clone

3) Boot from the USB stick and clone the soon-to-be-dead hard drive to the external drive

4) Remove the bottom cover of the laptop, replace the mSATA drive and close it up (this was actually remarkably straightforward).

5) Boot from the USB key again and clone the new hard drive

6) Boot from the new hard drive - all is well

The only issue I ran into afterwards was that Spybot was acting funky but I don't think that had anything to do with the clone process - I think it just hadn't been updated in awhile, so I blew it away, reinstalled it and it seems to be working fine now.

My lesson from all of this - Don't Rush!  Take an hour to do some research and think things through and things will go much faster overall.  Regardless, the good news is that J has her laptop back and I feel a sense of relief.

I'm also thinking that in addition to the normal backups that I do, I may start cloning the OS drive on my workstation every couple of months to make sure I can recover programs in addition to data.


Friday, June 19, 2015

A Slow About-face

It has taken me a long time to get here, but I have finally done a complete 180 with my opinion on getting rid of vestiges of the Confederacy.

Southerners might have lost the war, but we won the PR campaign, I would assume because the North was war weary and probably didn't see the harm.  When the Republican Party bought the 1876 Presidential election in exchange for withdrawing Federal troops from the former Confederate states, it ended Reconstruction and ushered in nearly a century of lynching, Jim Crow, voter suppression (okay, more than a century of that) and other methods of ensuring that the lowest white folks maintained a distinct advantage over most black folks.

I grew up in the South and was raised with the knowledge that Southern generals like Lee and Jackson were far superior to Yankee trash like Grant and Sherman both as tacticians and as gentlemen.  The noble cause of the South (states rights of course - had nothing to do with slavery) was brought down by there being just too damn many damn Yankees.

The view that we never really lost the war led to a South full of buildings named after Southern politicians and generals, statues of Confederate leaders in every town and US military bases named after Southern generals who made their career killing US military personnel.

I long ago lost any interest in the Rebel battle flag or any illusion that secession and the resulting war were about anything other than a burning desire to continue to have the right to own other human beings as personal chattel.  But I accepted the buildings like Saunders Hall at UNC and the military bases named for traitorous generals as pieces of history that we needed to remember.

It was only in the past few months that I've come to realize how incredibly wrong that is.  While Ta-Nehisi Coates maintained yesterday in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on African-American parishioners in Charleston that one doesn't have to compare it to the Holocaust to state the seriousness of racism in America, I think for some of us born and raised in the South that you do.  It wasn't until I started to consider whether I would think a building named for Goebbels or Himmler in a German university would be ok.  And the idea that US soldiers (white or black) would be serving on bases honoring generals who led troops responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of US soldiers suddenly became completely repulsive.

We're not going to forget the Civil War or Reconstruction or Jim Crow or mob violence and terrorism against black people if we don't have buildings named after racist KKK leaders on our university campuses any more than we're going to forget the horrors of WWII even though Germany doesn't still fly a flag with a swastika on it.  The thought of a young African-American student having to take a class in a building named after a KKK leader is completely abhorrent and should not happen anywhere.  

We're not covering up history by doing things like renamed Saunders Hall - we're recognizing that the myths that many of us grew up with were damaging self-serving lies and it's time we grew the fuck up.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cord-cutting Update

A little geeky, maybe, but here's the latest status on our cord-cutting adventure.

Our previous setup was Earthlink DSL and Time Warner Cable, with coax directly into the bedroom TV (so we only got the lower tier of channels) and coax in the media room split between a TWC-provided digital receiver for the full slate of channels and a home theater PC I built a few years ago, that I used as a DVR for the lower tier of channels).

With a change in my work situation last May, we decided to do what we'd been discussing for some time and get rid of our TWC service.  Living in Chapel Hill, my biggest concern with over-the-air delivery was the distance to the towers servicing the Research Triangle market (most of which are located SE of Raleigh) and to the Triad (most of which I think are down around High Point) - we split the middle and aren't particularly close to either market.  Previous purchases of interior digital antenna were definitely unsatisfactory and exterior antenna looked like a huge hassle.  However, Jeannette and I independently hit on an antenna that does work for us - the Mohu Leaf.

Our current set-up in the bedroom is simple - TV attached to a Mohu Leaf 50 powered antenna that is in the bedroom bay window facing pretty much East.  We get decent reception of some Triangle and some Triad stations - enough that all the major networks are covered from one or the other market (except maybe NBC but who the hell watches NBC?).  Plus we get the UNC stations of course.  We absolutely get some pixelation and picture freezes from time to time (often weather-dependent) but overall it's a pretty acceptable experience.  We also have a Google Chromecast device on the bedroom TV which allows streaming of Netflix, Youtube, HuluPlus and anything in a Chrome browser.

The media room TV setup is a bit more complicated.  I mentioned the home-theater PC that I was running cable through (no cablecard, so I was only getting the lower tier of TWC channels through it).  That HTPC remains as part of the setup.  Adding a second Mohu Leaf 50 however was unsatisfactory.  We've never been able to find an antenna position in the media room that brought in more than a couple of channels clearly.  So we've added another component - an HDHomeRun Extend, which is basically a router-sized box with Ethernet connectivity and two TV tuners.  It sits upstairs in my home office attached via Ethernet to our wireless access point and via coax to the second Mohu Leaf, this one in my office window facing SW.  So TV watching in the media room is through Windows Media Center on the HTPC accessing the HD Homerun tuners via the home network.  The HD Homerun unit also gives us the capability to watch over-the-air TV on pretty much any of our networked devices (PCs, tablets, etc).

So OTA is taken care of with the two Mohu Leaf antennae and streaming via the HTPC in the media room, the Googlecast unit in the bedroom and subscriptions to HuluPlus, Netflix and Amazon Prime.  That certainly doesn't get us everything we used to have with cable, but Sling TV will get us closer when it is available next month.  The HTPC gives us DVR capability as well.

With the various subscriptions (including the Sling TV that we'll add when available), we've dropped a $106/month cable bill in favor of about $42/month in subscriptions (we were already paying for Netflix so I'm not counting it).  Overall equipment costs for stuff we didn't already have was about $250 for the two Mohu Leaf antennae and the HD Homerun Extend (look around for deals) - depreciate those purchases over a year and you can add another $20/month to the total for year 1.  Still substantially below the monthly cable bill.

So how does this new arrangement stack up?  For broadcast networks, it is mostly better.  We're getting uncompressed HD signals (unlike TWC) so the picture is typically better.  We do get pixelation and the occasional screen freeze but frankly we did on TWC as well.  Most will let you stream the latest handful of episodes for free within a day or two of broadcast as well and I can usually get full HD with fewer glitches than either our old cable or the over-the-air setup. There are a lot of cable shows that are available for streaming but that has been hit-or-miss.  No longer having Syfy, we managed to stream all of the last season of Defiance, but for some reason the Syfy website dropped about 5 episodes of Haven all at once so we missed most of the latest season of it.  Covert Affairs is just not available for streaming anywhere without either a cable/satellite provider or paying via Amazon or iTunes.  On the other hand, I've missed a large number of Doctor Who episodes since the relaunch so we're making our way through the Eccleston season and will soon get started on the Tennant years.  Sling TV will get us ESPN, TNT and some other networks back that we've missed, but Jeannette still really misses her Turner Classic Movies (ok, I do too) and I do miss Syfy and USA.  But frankly those three channels are probably all I'm missing from a full cable subscription that I would actually watch with any frequency.

I think once we've gotten Sling TV (please before the end of the college basketball season please?), we'll be in good shape to last the two or three years it will take before Google Fiber is available in our neighborhood.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Year (or more) of Beer

I joined Untappd about 16 months ago as a way to track what I liked (and didn't like) while enjoying the craft beer revolution.  Typically if I drink more than one of a particular brew in a night, I only check it in once.  That being said, here are my top check-ins (first is most - go Foothills!):

1.  Foothills Hoppyum IPA
2.  Starpoint Brewing´╗┐ Duh! DIPA
3.  New Belgium Rampant DIPA
4.  Bell's Two Hearted Ale
5.  Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
6.  Victory DirtWolf DIPA
7.  Catawba Firewater IPA
8.  Carolina Brewery Flagship IPA
9.  Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA
10. Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA

Foothills has done a great job getting Hoppyum into restaurants and sports arenas in the Carolinas (doesn't hurt that it's really good) and of course dinner at Margaret's with a couple of Tim's Duh!'s is the highlight of any week.  If I'm heading up to our family place in the NC mountains, I'll usually pick up some Catawba Firewater at Ingles.

While I rarely rate anything less than 3, I've never rated anything a 5 and I've only had a handful of 4.5s:

Starpoint's Duh!
Bell's Two Hearted Ale
Victory DirtWolf
NoDa Hop, Drop and Roll
Terrapin's Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout
Terrapin's Hopzilla DIPA
Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale
AlphaDog's Imperial IPA
Foothills Seeing Double IPA

Obviously I like the strong stuff as 6 of the 9 are 8% ABV or higher.  The DirtWolf is as close to a 5 as I've ever had and if I don't find anything better in the next few months, I'll revise their score up.

In terms of breweries, I've never had anything from Terrapin in Athens, GA that I didn't think was fantastic.  NoDa from Charlotte and Olde Hickory (from Hickory, of course) do some really interesting things.  Locally I'm not going to go wrong with Starpoint or Steel String or Carolina Brewery or Top of the Hill.  But one of the things I find remarkable is the excellent beer one can find in some out-of-the-way places.  If you're in the northwestern part of the state, drop in at Dry County Brewery and Pizza Shop in Spruce Pine for some really good beer and some excellent pies.  Even further afield, Blind Squirrel Brewery in Plumtree does a fine IPA. Catawba Brewing Co. in Morganton is doing some good stuff outside of the huge Asheville beernanza.

It's a good time to be a beer lover.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Another Goodbye to Another Good Friend

Just heard from a mutual friend today that my bud Dave Anstine died this summer.  Dave and I worked together at Nortel and then at CSC, Dave in Richardson, TX and me in RTP.  Dave was hard-working, funny, smart, loyal and one of the most fun people I've ever been around.  I have no idea what happened to him and maybe it doesn't matter - all the matters is that a good man is no longer with us.

Dave introduced me to Deep Ellum in Dallas and I introduced him to The Cave in Chapel Hill.  Whenever we were able to get together, trouble would likely ensue and we'd somehow talk our way out of any negative repercussions.  He was bright, charming and irrepressible.

I was in Dallas for meetings not long after Dave bought his first house.  It was up in Plano when Dallas Metro real estate was pretty cheap (may still be) and Dave had bought this 3500 sf place and furnished it with exactly the following:

1 easy chair
1 TV and stereo
1 mattress/box springs
2 kitchen stools

One bedroom was where his clean laundry was neatly folded in stacks on the floor.  The window coverings were brown butcher paper taped (or stapled?) up over them.  It was perfect.

Dave introduced me to the Old 97s, the Killers and more recently to Caro Emerald.  I hope I turned him on to some good music as well.  We lost touch for awhile other than yearly Christmas cards and the occasional Facebook chat until earlier this year, when he told me that he was quitting his job and moving to Houston to help take care of his aging parents.  A couple of months later he asked if I'd mind being a reference (which of course I didn't) and he sounded a little frustrated in his job search.  Then after I lost my job at Quintiles, he reached out (just a few weeks before he passed away) with welcome words of encouragement, ending with this:

"I am always in your corner as a colleague and friend"

And he was, to the end. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Blogger size limitation

Lex pointed out that some of the Rhythm Alley posts seemed to be missing - I apparently ran into a Blogger limitation on the size of a "page" which includes both the main page and the archive pages.  To resolve that, I switched from a monthly to a weekly archive - they should now all be available by scrolling way, way down to the bottom and looking through the August archive links.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rhythm Alley Redux - Post(er)script

While in Chapel Hill recently for the Be Loud! Sophie concert, world-renowned urban archaeologist, author and all-around swell guy Peter "PC" Cashwell took some time to do some digging in the old Chapel Hill town landfill in Carolina North Forest and unearthed what appear to be early attempts at pre-Internet advertising utilizing actual paper and a technique then known as "photocopying".  Obviously the paper itself is way too fragile to be handled but PC has graciously digitized these "posters" and made them available for your edutainment.  I have attempted to present them in a chronological order.

An early attempt at what became known as "poster art"

Odd hieroglyphics that are completely untranslatable to modern man

Here we see a somewhat more mature approach, at least featuring likenesses of members of the performing troupe

The last two known works of the Hammondiluvian period

Note the complete absence of any mention of Screamin' Jay Hawkins - you will be tested on the significance of that omission

An attempt to add some gravitas to the proceedings with the likeness of a well-loved childhood authority figure

I got nothing

As we move closer to modern times, sexuality becomes more a part of advertising, despite the evident disapproval of the mustachioed gentleman in the corner

This text-heavy example is a case-study in TMI - this style was used a few years later in the early World Wide Web era, spawning a number of "World's Worst Website" collections

This one is perfect

Two takes on a much-appreciated attempt to save a valuable historical landmark from the bulldozer.  Lord knows it helped.

If anyone else has any such finds, please feel free to send them to me for publication.

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