Music: Christmas Gifts Beck & The Tree Ring

Since I flew home on Christmas Day to start a run of night shifts I haven't had much time to enjoy my gifts (aside from my shoes) but over the last few days I have managed to listen to the two albums I got from my sisters in law.  Above we have my gift from Jean; Beck's latest album "Morning Phase" which was released at the beginning of the year.  This was a highly anticipated album for me so I of course had already listened to it many times but hearing it for the first time on 180g vinyl was outstanding.  It makes me want to ask Santa for a better hi-fi system next year!

When I opened my gift from Kate (below) I was very excited as this was the third album from, "The Tree Ring," that collectively Anne and myself have received from her and we have both grown very fond of this band!  The elation dissipated almost as quickly as Kate to me the news that this was the band's last album!  She explained that their lives/careers were taking them to different places.  They played their last show together Sept 17th and as I listened to this album I couldn't help but be filled with melancholy, because upon first listen it seems to be that this could very well be the best of their three albums some more listens will be needed to affirm that statement but it is fitting and saddening that they have gone out on a high, hence the melancholy.

To close I'll share one of my favorite music videos of theirs in case you have never heard any of their music and if you like it maybe buy an album for yourself!


Current Events: George Stinney 70 Years 6 Months and 2 Days Late

Back on December 17th a historical event was brought into the collective consciousness of myself and many other's.  It was the story of George Stinney, a 5ft 2in, 92 pound, 14 year old African-American boy from South Carolina who was convicted in a two-hour trial of murdering two pre-teen white girls with no physical evidence.  Only the fact that the girls had spoken with Stinney and his sister shortly before their murder, and the testimony of three police officers that Stinney had confessed were used by the all-white jury to convict him.  His white lawyer called no witnesses, performed no cross-examinations.  He was executed (in a botched execution) by electric chair.

The reason that I was made aware of this is, on December 17th Judge Carmen Mullen vacated the conviction against Stinney stating, "Given the particularized circumstances of Stinney's case, I find by a preponderance of the evidence standard, that a violation of the Defendant's procedural due process rights tainted his prosecution."  The news manifested itself for me while I was watching my favorite news commentary show The Young Turks on YouTube when their COO Steve Oh broke in to tell the hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian about the news.  The news hit Ana pretty hard as you can see in the video below, its the entire two hour show but you can find the spot at the 1:20 to 1:23 portion of the show:

The next day in his solo portion of the show host Cenk Uygur also struggled to make his way through his commentary on the story:

I'm sharing this because in light of many current events today, that maybe some less educated people will feel the weight of history added to the fact that African Americans have a long history of being mistreated by the justice system.


Random: Christmas Presents And Being Old

When you're young you want the latest and greatest of everything.  When you're old you just want a new version of the same old thing that you know works.

Luckily for me Sketchers still makes the same style shoes that Anne bought for I think our first or second Christmas together.

For those curious these are the Sketchers: Men's City Walk Midnight in Black

And they make a very close style to the ones she bought me on our honeymoon.

For those curious the new ones are the Sketchers: Men's Diameter Vassell in White

Thanks to Anne's Parents for the new shoes to Ted and doing all the legwork that went along with it to make it happen.  They just don't have these on the shelves everywhere you know!

The Cali’ Experience: Pics Snapped While Flying Home

Still awake... after waking up at 0600 yesterday morning to fly home to work a Night Shift to make sure that the people in the Fresno/Bakersfield area have safe reliable power. That's roughly 23 hours by my calculations and I still have three hours left of my shift so to keep me awake on a quiet night I am going to share some photos I took on my Christmas day flights.

Mount Rainier on approach to Seattle/Tacoma Airport.

Lake Washington and Mercer Island on approach to Seattle/Tacoma Airport.

The plane with the "ANA" on the tail is the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner I've seen in the wild.

Mount Rainier on departure from Seattle/Tacoma Airport.

Table Mountain - Tesla 500kV line and some flooded farm fields on approach to the Sacramento International Airport.

More images of the flooding, unfortunately, as I feared all the rain we had in the past weeks appears to be flowing downhill and not into the groundwater and reservoirs where we need it to go,


Funny: The gunfighter - (voice by Nick Offerman)

System Ops: Flying Home On Christmas Morning

I had to leave my Wife and Daughter behind with her family in Chicago early Christmas morning to spend the bulk of the day flingy back to California and work a Night Shift to make sure that the people in the Fresno/Bakersfield area have safe reliable power.  There is a reward in that but these are the hard times.


Car-ifornia: My New 2014 Chevy Volt

I know... I know... I just got The Saab seven months ago!  But the stars aligned this last month to allow perhaps even necessitate that we jump on the opportunity to purchase a brand new alternative fuel vehicle (like the Volt).

About three weeks ago PG&E announced (in a bid to encourage it's employees to switch to "greener" modes of transportation) that they teamed up with Ford and General Motors to offer PG&E employees very good deals on existing dealer stock of certain plug-in hybrid and electric-only vehicles purchased before 2015-01-05. Adding the PG&E incentive to the $7500 federal tax rebate and $1500 Califronia rebate... If there was ever a time to buy a new car the time was now.  Luckily we have the luxury of being in a financial position to make such a call.

I'm sure the reason that both Ford and GM have offered these at such good deals for this window of time is so that they can make their end of the year federally mandated fleet average efficiency numbers.  If Ford wants to keep making GT350s and Chevy still wants to keep making Z06s and all those wonderful pickups that people need to get their groceries in. They both have to sell a large number of efficient cars to offset the inefficiency of those vehicles. Hence the great deal on the car.


Music: Symphonie Cinétique

This film presents the wonderful journey that media artist Joachim Sauter (ART+COM) and composer Ólafur Arnalds ventured on together at MADE, that culminated with the creation and performance of this interdisciplinary Gesamtkunstwerk.

The dialogue and exchange between these two craftsmen, each coming from a distinctly different discipline, resulted in a majestic clash of light, motion and sound.

Please dive in, let go and enjoy this wonderful moment - Joachim's graceful kinetic pieces breathing and moving in harmony with the touching music composed by Olafur.


Music: 34 Year Anniversary of John Lennon's Murder

Photo found HERE

Is it possible to miss someone who died when you were two years old? John had a vision for our future and this is not it.  Would he have been able to push us towards a better place than we are now had he not been taken from us early?  It's hard to say; he was when it is all said and done, just a man.  One that I somehow miss, even though he was murdered when I was only two.  RIP John Lennon


Car-ifornia: Sunday Car Porn

First we have a 20 minute documentary by XCAR Films on Singer Vehicle Design. Where Rob Dickinson, the founder of the company talks about how he developed his passion of the Porsche 911. It then goes on to show how Singer rebuild, modify, tune, and customize the Porsche 911s owned by its customers. Each customer presents a tired 911 to Singer and together they work collaboratively over 8 or 9 months to restore, tune, modify and customize the customer’s car.

Second is a video by The Hoonigans with Chris Harris explaining many of the details of Ken Block's Gymkhana 7 weapon of mass destruction the Hoonicorn; a 1956 Ford Mustang (in roof and A/B pillars alone) with an 845HP V8 and AWD drivetrain.

A good way to spend a half hour if you are a car enthusiast.



Found Coolness: A Trip Down The Chernobyl Rabbit Hole

Enticed in by promises of HD first time drone footage of Pripyat, the infamous ghost city formerly inhabited by Chernobyl workers and their families I first watched this video.

Which then led me to an article on CBS News 60 Minutes, "Chernobyl: The Catastrophe That Never Ended"

Which then took led me to search Google for "Chernobyl's Elephant's Foot," where I found a link to an article on some blog called Nautilus which had and article entitled "Chernobyl's Hot Mess, "The Elephant's Foot" Is Still Lethal."  Which had some pretty interesting information about how deadly Chernobyl's core actually still is.

Picture Source: US Department of Energy

Which then led me to a 9 minute video on The Guardian entitled "Novarka: Encasing the unsafe Chernobyl reactor in a huge new arch" which appears to be generated by the "Novarka Consortium," to illustrate the job they are performing to build a new permanent containment facility next to the Chernobyl plant and then push it over the entire plant and seal the reactor inside.  It is quite impressive task though as the previous article points out it is underfunded and behind schedule but you can clearly see the structure in the drone footage in the first video.

I was finally able to find my way out but for some reason I could get lost for hours reading and watching about this disaster.

Music: Why All Music Sounds The Same

This video I found on PBS News Hour's YouTube Channel started out as an interesting tech piece and then about halfway through turned into a depressing harbinger of what the future of music has in store for us:

Judy Woodruff: Another effect of the digital revolution is that an industry once based on turnover has now become more focused on the familiar.

Derek Thompson: And it's also made the quality of music, the chord progressions inside of music more derivative, and so the side-effect of big data in the music industry has been; I think to make the product more repetitious.

...as well as a commentary on the general populace and their lack of desire to branch out.  I weep for the future:

JW: So how do you explain that, that people want to hear what they already know rather than having any desire to explore something different?

DT: The evolutionary psychologist explanation for this is, "If I recognize it. It hasn't killed me yet."  The vast majority of people what they want, from pop culture is comfort food, they want to be relaxed, they want to turn off their brains.

Read Derek Thompson's entire article "The Shazam Effect" on The Atlantic's website.

Current Events: Don't Shop At Walmart Today...

...or any day for that matter.


Current Events: Things I Am Thankful For

-Anne and her success as a Mother and a Suzuki Violin Instructor

-Grace and her health and ability to make me smile every time I look at her

-My Friends, even though we're far apart I think of them and laugh often

-My Family who teach me more about myself each in their own way

-Anne's Family (which I also consider to be my family) who welcomed me into their lives with open arms.

-Saylor who now that Anne is busy with Grace is finding me not such a bad option 

-My job that I walk away from each day feeling that I've had an impact on people's lives.

-The adventure our move to California has turned out to be!

Found Coolness: Lego Antikythera Mechanism

I had read about the Antikythera Mechanism in the past so when the New York Times published an article "On the Trail of an Ancient Mystery Solving the Riddles of an Early Astronomical Calculator" about the mechanism it grabbed my interest.  Which then led me to the above video of a actual working Lego version of the Antikythera Mechanism which is insanely cool!

If you want to know more about the Antikythera Mechanism watch the video below:

System Ops: Unceremonious Thanksgiving Dinner

When your job requires 24/7/365 staffing someone inevitably gets stuck away from their family, hidden away in a control center.  It may not look very pretty but an effort to replicate the meal you're missing does soften the sting a bit.

Don't worry while it is untouched at this point the dessert will not be long for this world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Funny: Italian Parking Fiasco

I found this on Jalopnik and at first I watched it without sound because grace was sleeping in the bassinet nearby and it was hilarious!  Watching it again now there are some comments in the Jalopnik post for more info about the origin of the video if you're interested.


Music: Nick Drake

I remember hearing my first Nick Drake song on the Garden State Soundtrack and then being really sad that he had been dead for years and years.  I think a lot of people felt that way.

I read a nice little article in The Atlantic: How the Internet (and Volkswagen) Made a Dead Folksinger Into a Star and I thought it would be a good opportunity to share the article and Nick's music... Enjoy.


Artsy Fartsy: Smiley #10

Random: Trader Joe's Organic Ground Beef Patties from Australia & Uruguay?!?

So I wanted to grill some hamburgers today so I went to the Trader Joe's here in Davis, and grabbed what I thought was the second healthiest option available.  I know 92% lean is better for you but of you are grilling the extra fat sure adds some good flavor.  On the front of the package it says, "no added antibiotics, no added hormones, 100% grass fed." all of these things made me feel warm and fuzzy when I went up to the counter to make my purchase...

It wasn't until I got home when I flipped over the package to see that the ground beef I bought was not only not locally grown but that it was potentially not even from the USA!  I understand that in order to have the best prices, you can't expect local grass fed beef at a large supermarket chain like Trader Joe's.  But really!?! They can't somehow get the. "no added antibiotics, no added hormones, 100% grass fed" beef in the all within the USA?  I find that hard to believe.

So the questions:

  1. Is it better to get "no added antibiotics, no added hormones, 100% grass fed" beef potentially from other countries than large industrial farmed beef?
  2. What kind of oversight is there in Australia and Uruguay to guarantee any of the promises on the front of the package?
  3. How is it possible that shipping foreign beef from the other side of the globe is cheaper than getting it here in the USA?
Things don't add up...


Juan-stagram: Unripe Persimmon...

 ...will make your face collapse in on itself like a dying star.

Funny: Seth Rogen and James Franco Get Naked And Afraid

When I moved into our apartment in Vacaville and had no furniture, I ended up binge watching a season of Naked and Afraid on my iPad after the internet was hooked up.  Aside from this being another hilarious pairing of Rogen & Franco (think Bound 2 parody) it kind of makes me want to catch up on the actual show. Well played marketers... well played...


Car-ifornia: Gymkhana 7

A little late to the party on this one, I think it's been out for a week already but hey... it's a car (a custom built 1965 Ford Mustang with 845 horsepower and AWD) and it's in California (Los Angeles).  Hence, here it is in Car-ifornia.


Car-ifornia: Top 10 Forgotten Sport Compacts

For some reason I am a sucker for the cars that skew to the obscure end of the spectrum.  This article from Car Throttle: Top 10 Forgotten Sport Compacts contains a list of cars that I am going to do my best to locate and take photos of here in Car-ifronia.  If they are anywhere they will be here.  Stay tuned... or... well... this search may take years.  Some of these cars are pretty rare.


Music: The Theme Song From Last Week Tonight Is A Real Song!

I was watching the season finale of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight yesterday and as they played out the end credits I realized that there were lyrics to the song!  A quick internet search turned up that the song "Go" is by a band called "Valley Lodge" and is on the album "Use Your Weapons."  I always thought the song was catchy and in it's entirety it lives up to my partial assessment.  Check out the fun music video above to see for yourself.


Music: Shady CXVPHER

A lot is being made of Eminem using Lana Del Rey in a freestyle but all in all I think the whole video is lyrically pretty impressive.  I thought the rapper who led the whole thing off, Kxing Crooked was really good.  I'll have to keep an eye out for more of his work.


Hashtag Manliness: Fix Yo' Flat!!!

Neighbor came over to tell me about this...

I had been riding the moto to work anyhow so no big deal.  After my last night shift it made a good "keep Juan occupied and awake," project.

Step 1 pull the tire off the car, re-inflate the tire and use soapy water to find the leak.

Step 2 identify if the source of the puncture is still in there (looks like something is in there)

Step 3 remove the offending object, in my case it looks like a piece of a razor blade.  I'd be thinking sabateur at this point but on the last drive I had just pulled off the road to take the photos in my last System Ops post and that is likely when I picked it up.

Step 4 use the reamer (comes in the tire repair kit) to dress (rough up) the puncture so that the plug has something to grip.

After you have "dressed" the area to be plugged, insert one of the plugs into the needle so that the needle is in the middle of the plug.  Apply rubber cement to the plug.  Press the needle into the "dressed" hole.  It might take some work to get past the steel belts until 2/3 of the plug is in the tire.

Pull the needle straight out and the plug should remain.  Use a razor to cut the excess plug flush with the tire and you're done!