Category Archives: Observations

Notes, finds, or otherwise identified.

Amanda Cohen on Us vs. Them

Amanda Cohen’s rumination on a 1-star review she received on Yelp is a solid read:

So on behalf of 99% of restaurants I want to tell customers: No one’s out to get you. There’s a reason some restaurants do weird things. They may not make sense to you, but could you trust us? Restaurants have one goal in life, to make money. And the easiest way to do that is to help you have the time of your life. And to chefs, this is a service business. It’s not about our egos, or our margins, or our precious, precious food. It’s about making people happy. That’s all most of our customers want.

I think this goes well beyond the restaurant industry into lots of creative disciplines.

Losing My Edge

Let me start with a basic truth: I am not the nerd I was when I was 20 years old.

When I started blogging in 2000, it was something resembling a brave new world. I cut my teeth with learning web programming concepts by building my own crude CMS.

A few years later, I would move to Drupal, and try to stay cutting edge with releases. I’d destroy my database one too many times and eventually moved to MovableType, but even though, I still had the deep nerd passions. I was working as a sysadmin, coding VJArmy and Pop’n Navy, and felt like I had a reasonably strong grasp of the technical skills that were necessary for such things.

Then 2006 came, and I moved out of the directly technical field into the somewhat technical field.

Then 2008 came, and I moved out of the somewhat technical field into the technical management field.

It’s been 14 years since I wrote that rudimentary CMS, and 8 years since I was last a sysadmin. And as the world has changed, my ability to feel any gusto for the idea of configuring Apache and/or patching kernels and/or fprotting tarballs has diminished to zero.

So much like when Movable Type’s troubled history eventually lead me to a snap migration to WordPress, today’s news about the ShellShock vulnerability lead me to come to terms with another harsh reality: my energy for dealing with sysadmin work for my own website has emptied.

The box this site was running on was not in any shape to continue. The thought of rebuilding a VM from scratch when I haven’t built a server in nearly a decade sounded painful.


The upshot: I had an easy plan B.

At the day job, we’ve been Pantheon customers for over a year, and their platform is familiar, powerful, and hit the core use case I needed: keep my blog running. (The other stuff, we will come back to.)

The migration process – from registering a personal account, to spinning up the new site, to importing, to configuring and pushing to production, to activating payment and cutting over the DNS, took about 45 minutes. (I’m not including the 5 minutes where I completely screwed up the initial configuration process.)

Quick. Easy. Mostly painless.


The downside: the other stuff that ran on the box – including RemyWiki – is not running on this host.

RemyWiki may not be familiar to the people who read my blog – it was tucked away on the site, almost a separate world – but it is/was a very active and busy MediaWiki install that documented English language Bemani information.

The challenges of running it boil down to three:

  1. It has the same problems as above – not only does it need sysadmin time and energy to maintain the host, but it also needs its own care and feeding for patching, something I had fallen way behind on (and patching MediaWiki is hellish).
  2. It is a natural magnet for spammers, to the point where I had to turn off registrations and ask people to email me if they wanted access (which I was never very quick in turning around).
  3. It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep running an informational resource for a hobby that I’m no longer actively involved in, or at the very least, have it so closely tied with my personal site.

So with that in mind: if there are Bemani community folks out there who want to pick up the pieces and get the thing running somewhere else, please reach out. I want to give it a good home, as I know people have poured nearly 10 years of care and feeding into the content. It’s more than a little devastating to know I can’t give it that any more.

June

It’s been over two months since my last post, which is terrible. I hope to write something a little more in depth soon, but here’s some general updates for the sake of not losing track of what’s happened in my life.

JC in Spring

The weather finally turned, ending my terrible hatred of the outside that developed over a brutal winter.

Enjoying a Bottled Negroni

We went to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala for the first time. It will probably be the only time: it’s a fun event, but it’s also intensely packed. I enjoy nice cocktails, but I like not moving around as a herd to get them.

The American Dream (Which Might Be A Turkey Leg)

US Soccer came to town for a friendly against Turkey in their run-up to the World Cup. Many soccer things happened, including me making a joke about Landon Donovan that could’ve gone disastrously. Thankfully, it did not.

Gervais

I saw Ricky Gervais again at the Paley Center, this time talking about Derek. It was nearly 10 years ago when I last saw Gervais at what was then the Museum and Television and Radio, which had some special significance. It’s weird to see someone like that twice separated by a decade.

I turned 34. Somehow, I don’t have a picture of any of the weekend’s activities, but heartfelt gratitude to all the friends and folks who came out to my overly planned birthday festivities. Love you all.

Woy In The Jungle

The World Cup started. If we’re playing the “Dan denotes everything of his life in stages”, the 2014 World Cup marks the completion a four-year World Cup cycle since I got back into soccer, since it was the start of the 2010 World Cup that brought me back. I have been busy getting up at 6 every morning to write about the Copa Das Copas. It has been a fantastic tournament. I will be sad when it’s over.

First Goal In An Eternity

I played my first game of soccer in 16 years, as part of the first annual Media Game at Red Bull Arena. Being completely out of shape, I spent much of the match sucking wind or getting burned. I also took a bump on a challenge, fell on my arm, and have had lingering pain for the two weeks since. But I did score one goal, and managed to celebrate it like a complete nerd, as illustrated above.

Just After Midnight

After having made something like 20 podcast appearances, I finally made my first ever television appearance, doing a 10 minute spot on NY1’s “Sports on 1: The Last Word” with Budd Mishkin last Thursday. If there’s anything I miss about living in Astoria, it’s not getting NY1 anymore, so I have not yet seen my own appearance. But a friend from work took the above screen cap, I’m getting a copy of the show on Thursday, and the producer sent me some kind words this morning, so, I’ll take it.

Gaming wise: on PS4, enjoyed the hell out of the Destiny Alpha, had a blast with Sportsfriends during my birthday, and I’m really digging Valiant Hearts: The Great War. On Steam, Nuclear Throne, Full Bore, and Shovel Knight have been good distractions over the steady hum of Dota 2. iOS, nothing substantial – mostly just Disco Zoo and Two Dots.

That’s all for now, I suppose.

March

March.

I am walking down Vesey Street, or what would have been Vesey Street, had there not been the constant construction, Fernet Menta on my tongue, and the glimmering remains of sunlight on the horizon ahead.

I am meeting people I have only known over email, and I am learning *so* damn much.

I am responding to an email about a friend who ripped me off, to an acquaintance who is concerned about the well-being of said “friend”. I assure the acquaintance that given a pocket-dialed voicemail weeks prior, the “friend” is likely still drawing breath.

I am at The Dead Rabbit, constantly. Always on Fridays.

I am switching my phone between arms, extending it back into a scrum, hoping to catch something resembling a quote from the front office of a team that hasn’t yet hired a player.

I am at dinner, talking about authenticity, and marketing, and college over spicy tripe and pici carbonara. I am right about the lemon bars, but that’s less about me and more about the lemon bars.

I am in a locker room, getting pushed in the back by a cameraman who is grumbling loudly about not being able to get a shot. I was here first. I relinquish my spot so that he’ll stop whining. I am not thanked.

I am throwing up just a little in my mouth. I am regaining my composure.

I am perpetually on the phone: solving problems, comforting, joking, advising, and trying my damnedest to get things done without losing my composure.

I am trying to perfect my marinara recipe. It’s not bad, it just could be better.

I am coming up to the surface from below; the last vestiges of the sunlight is gone.

I am explaining a joke that involved someone in Portland (Oregon) casually soliciting me for an illegal drug. The person I am explaining the joke to, who was rather aggrieved that I would make such a joke in the first place, responds “Ha, fair enough. What part of town? I’m more surprised it was meth, not heroin.”

I am asking for feedback but getting very little. It is okay. I am used to this.

I am breaking news and getting name dropped, which is quite a change from a year ago.

I am playing games: *Infamous Second Son* and *Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls* and *Luftrausers* and *Goat Simulator* and *South Park Stick Of Truth* and *Zoo Keeper Versus*. They are all enjoyable in their own ways.

I am tired of the cold, and tired of telling people I’m tired of the cold.

I am standing at a soccer-related party, with Katie and my friend Dave. The team comes out. Katie shouts “THIERRY!” as Thierry Henry walks by us. He looks over, and smiles. She puts her hand up. He high fives her emphatically. All I can think: *wait, did that just happen?*

I am inserting myself in someone else’s drama. I know this is never a good idea.

I am at a bar I haven’t been to in six years drinking alone. People I see frequently/occasionally/never show up. We share that smile of friends that don’t intersect as much as we promised we would.

I am eating at a restaurant I haven’t been to in eight years. It has lost whatever limited character it had.

I am wondering when I became so numb to the rich variety of my life that I started believing that very little happens during my average month.

Cheers to The Dead Rabbit

Despite it seeming to have been burned into my genes, I have never been much for drinking. Call it something between a character quirk, a lifestyle choice, and an explicit desire to not act like a complete fool. It was only within the last five years or so that I began to appreciate alcohol a bit more.

New York, being a rather thirsty city, has endless opportunities for those who need a drink. Dive bars, frat bars, pubs, trendy cocktail lounges, speakeasies – the city manages to run the gamut from slouchy to upright, from $2 PBR to $15+ for a mid-shelf cocktail.

Over the last decade, I had not yet found *that one place* to drink, the bar that feels like home. Something not snooty, not a dive, but just kind of nice. Somewhere with character, but not a gimmick. Somewhere preferably with decent food (because drinking on an empty stomach is deadly). A decent location. Those sorts of things.

It was April 27th of last year when I first stepped foot into The Dead Rabbit, and knew pretty quickly that I had finally found *that one place*. Downstairs was pints and meat pies, an absurd collection of irish whiskey, and high-quality takes on classic cocktails. Upstairs was teacups of punch and dollar oysters, someone at the piano, and bartenders in red shirts and suspenders moving so rapidly between tincture bottles it’s occasionally indistinguishable from magic.

I defy anyone to try the Irish Coffee and not fall in love.

So try to ignore their daunting list of industry honors after only being open one year: “Best New Bar”, “World’s Best Cocktail Menu”, those sorts of things. Try to put the long wait to get upstairs out of mind. It’s worth it. It’s incredibly worth it. And I say that as someone who’s not much of a drinker.

To Jack, to Pam, to Chris, to Anna, to James, to Laura: happy birthday, friends, and thank you for everything.

Theme Switch

For the seventeen of you still reading, please note that I’ve swapped themes somewhat arbitrarily.

While I do dearly love my color palette (and it’s still sort of in this theme), I was running into some typography and readability issues that didn’t seem worth deconstructing a stylesheet. Hence, a swap to the new WordPress default, and hopefully a little less concern about my eyes bleeding.

Also, this is an “aside”, whatever that means. I guess these are Tumblr-esqe post types?

The Games Of 2012 Approach

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has flown by, but December fast approaches this weekend. With it comes another edition of my overwhelming blog post series, Games Of 2012.

For those unfamiliar: every day, from the first of December through Christmas Day, I’ll be posting about some game that left an impression on me over the calendar year. It’s one part buying guide, one part navel-gazing, one part finger pointing at bad gaming trends, and mostly an exercise in rapid writing. [Here are all the entries from 2011](http://vjarmy.com/archives/tag/games2011).

The open question to readers who have been trough this before: are there any things you’d like me to do differently this year? More reviews, maybe? More media? Posts through the 31st?

Any suggestions are welcome between now and Saturday – the day on which, as chance would have it, I’ll be revisiting my [Game Of 2011, Sleep No More](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2011/12/games-of-2011-sleep-no-more.php), for the 8th time.

NYT: “Jersey City, a Love Story”

I’ll have something of personal substance up this weekend, but wanted to make sure everyone read this lovely little thing on my current town from the Times.

It stands to reason that moving to Jersey is the one not-cool thing that will never inexplicably become cool among New Yorkers. And I had done it. It no longer seemed necessary to have a different bar to go to every night of the week. It seemed like it was time to learn to live within my means. If this is what aging entails, the Village Voice was right.

By Popular Request, Nine Years Late: Why I Hate Midnite Blaze

3,295 days ago, I penned a blog post reviewing a newly released Bemani remix CD, “V-Rare 5”. Within the context of that review, I wrote the following to open my discussion of track 6, “Midnite Blaze (SySF Mix)”:

And this will be a really tough sell because I HATE Midnite Blaze.

This may seem to casual observers like an awfully specific and odd sentence in the over 1,500 blog posts to point out. I would agree. Which is why I was left dumbstruck by a tweet I received this evening from @Tim_at_where:

"@Remy Please don't block me for this, but care to give me a history lesson on your #haterade toward Midnite Blaze by @U1_ASAMi?"

Well, Tim, since you asked…well, wait, I haven’t listened to that particular DDR standard since probably around 2005. For the sake of remembering it, here it is on YouTube:

Ah. Right.

I hate Midnite Blaze mostly because of the vocals. Scott Dolph‘s rapping was always way down my list of favorite things, and it’s pretty laughable here (“Step by step as I approach / I say to myself I need a coach”). The delivery is way too fast and comes in at really weird pitches. Listen to the second section of his rap – it’s all over the place, like he’s reading the words from the page for the first time and not sure which way his voice should go. And he wrote the lyrics himself, if his RemyWiki page is to be believed. For the record, I never liked Drop The Bomb either.

The refrain comes in at such a high register it gives me a headache, and just as lyrically bizarre. And for what it’s worth, the synth line also feels derivative – it’s a touch too close to Naoki’s Broken My Heart.

For whatever it’s worth: in the 9 years since I wrote that review, the only DDR music that remains in my iTunes library are the 2nd Mix and DDRMAX soundtracks, as well as the BEMANI BEST FOR 10TH ANNIVERSARY compilation and various Diverse System remixes. All the Dancemania albums and V-Rares EPs are gone.

And hey: anyone else has random questions about what I meant a decade ago, don’t be shy! I’m more than happy to elaborate – if I can remember what I was talking about!

About The Mike Daisey Thing

I have not seen Mike Daisey’s show, nor have I listened to the This American Life episode that featured him before it was retracted. But even without having directly heard the monologue, it’s been impossible to avoid in the drumbeat about Apple over the last quarter.

The coverage following the retraction has been fascinating. Clayton Lord’s apology to audiences shows the conflict in the theatre community over what Daisey hath wrought. Brendan Kiley said “I told you so“, pointing back to his review. Adrian Chen explained how the press was taken for a ride.

But it is perhaps John Gruber’s breakdown of the non-apology this afternoon that nails why lying in the service of a greater truth doesn’t work in this case:

Daisey told an entirely different story. Daisey’s story was this: Not only did those things happen, but they are all ongoing problems, right now, today, and they are so rampant, so commonplace, that a big white American wearing a Hawaiian shirt — a man who’s never before been to China and speaks neither Mandarin nor Cantonese — can simply travel to Shenzhen China and stand outside the Foxconn gates with a translator for a few shifts and he will find workers as young as 12, 13, 14 walking out. Any day, every day. That in the course of a single six-day trip, that same man could encounter a man who lost the use of a hand while assembling iPads, a group of workers poisoned by n-hexane, and that a man would drop dead after working a 34-hour shift. Just another week at Foxconn. That was Mike Daisey’s story — and it bears no resemblance to anything anyone else has reported.