The Bitters End

And there you have it. I strained it all off one final time through cheesecloth, and decanted in to bottles. Now the only thing left to do is dole it out and hope for some good, constructive feedback!

Movie Watchin' Dad

Something I've heard from many parents is that they don't get to see any movies for the first year of parenthood. Maybe it's because I'm a movie buff, but I've made a concerted effort to keep movies in my life despite having a one year old. In fact, I saw Gravity in theaters after Maddie's first month (taking turns with Valerie to see it on alternate nights). Sure, I only watched one more movie in 2013 (Bernie), which was...okay), but in 2014 I've so far averaged at least 3 movies a month. I've watched 39 unique movies, 7 in theaters (Guardians of the Galaxy) twice). Pretty good, I'd say.

I think I'll watch number 40 this afternoon.

(500) Days of Summer

Why can't this movie be as good as it ought to be? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads in an unconventional, indie rom-com? I wanna see that. And I did for a long time, keeping this movie in my watch list for years after its release, never quite getting a chance to watch it, until this afternoon. The problem is that I've heard rumblings about the unevenness of (500) Days of Summer in the intervening years, and while I've tried not to let writers and friends prematurely influence my opinion, I couldn't help but worry.

And for good reason. Not since Little Miss Sunshine have I seen an movie so concerned with checking off boxes on a list of indie cinema attributes. Greeting card writer that's also an aspiring architect? Check. Non-stop soundtrack that makes the whole enterprise feel like a feature length music video with dialog? Check. Quirky friends? Check. Scads of peculiar visual flourishes? Check. The whole movie felt expected.

Now I understand this was the first feature length work for the director and his pair of screenwriters, and boy does it show. Camera shots and movements that seem ill chosen for the moment, or perhaps for to get a cool still for a poster. Dialog and themes that telegraph character behavior. I didn't hate this movie, but I wish, perhaps, it had been created by some folks with either more under their proverbial belts, or more inherent talent for visual storytelling.

Oh yeah - and JGL's character? Almost completely unlikeable to me. It's hard for me to root for our hero when he's obsessive and jerky so frequently throughout the running time. Still, it's hard to deny some solid performances by the leads (and almost exclusively the leads). Along with an interesting take on the genre, they saved the movie for me quite a bit.


Peaky Blinders

Netflix, making creative use of the word “original”, has acquired the first two series of period gangster drama Peaky Blinders. The show (so far in series 1, anyway) follows the ambitious rise of gang leader Tommy Shelby in 1919’s Birmingham. The acting is terrific (always a fan of Cillian Murphy), but the structure of the episodes and much of the show’s production (from the music to the just-out-of-film-school aesthetic) feels clunky. Peaky Blinders may be the UK equivalent of Hell on Wheels with a better cast, and a high-level story interesting enough for me to keep watching. It also has binge-watchability working in its favor at the moment, something I’ve written about before.

Bitters: Final Phase

The cooked extraction has been combined with the alcoholic extraction along with 2 tablespoons of 2:1 simple syrup (from some nice cane sugar). Now it's supposed to chill out for 3 days before I decant into smaller bottles. Then I can distribute to friends for sampling and feedback!

I have a limited quantity (as you can see, less than 20 oz.), but if you're interested and willing to give me serious feedback, hit me up. I may be able to get you an ounce.

Party Down

It's a rare occasion that the holiday parties for my wife's job and mine fall on the same evening, but tonight is just such an occasion. Thankfully the mother-in-law is going to put Maddie to bed and stay at my house while Valerie and I get out of the house for some revelry, hitting up a party at a hoity-toity house before heading over to a restored, historic theater for my company's slightly more rowdy affair.

As long as Maddie doesn't revolt at our absence, we may be in for one heckuva night.

EDIT: Well then. It doesn't have to be Maddie. Sudden onset of digestive distress from the Mrs. means no parties. But that's okay. I have some pretty good bourbon at home!

Tag, You’re Almost It

I've been blogging for a long time. Not a Kottke long time (and certainly not a Roker long time). But I've done a pretty poor job of keeping my content organized.

When I was running things on Wordpress back in the day, I tried using categories, but with little consistency. Every new topic meant a new category, and a hierarchy developed that confused rather than clarified. Eventually tags became a thing, but by then I'd already developed a bad habit of posting without that helpful metadata.

Earlier this year I read an article about how folks find pages and navigate through websites, and while I'm not rebuilding my site, I do want to make it easier to click around and find related posts. So I've slooooooowly started digging through my archives updating posts with appropriate tags. It's a trip down memory lane at least, if a lot of insane work for a site with a small readership.


In these early stages of raising a child, it's frequently impossible to think about more than a few days out. Planning is silly because the work of parenting trumps most social obligations. It doesn't take long after a child is born to begin thinking and acting on a much shorter time scale, like a week or something.

What I've found for myself as a consequence, however, is that my frame of reference is pretty limited these days. What's going on the world these days? I don't know. What's going on in my house on this day? I mean, of course I'm current on all the awful things happening with American torture, our present civil rights crisis, and the other horrific things that dominate my Twitter feed. Other than that, I have trouble thinking broadly or deeply about any topic.

The upside is living more in the moment. Being wholly occupied with my daughter when we play together or she's dancing around. I'm no super dad, so yes, I often squeeze in some internetting while Maddie plays, but generally, it's easy for me to focus on her and what she's doing right then and there without thinking about when to take her where or who to call about what. I guess that's a fair trade.


How do you pronounce that title? If you’re not familiar with the iconic quadruped war machines from The Empire Strikes Back, skip this post.

I hear tons of people pronounce it as a pair of hyphenated words, just as they look. But ever since I was a kid I always said, “ā-tee ā-tee”. I mean, almost everything else with hyphenated letter/number names in the Star Wars universe is pronounced my way, right? R2-D2? AT-ST? C-3PO?

Am I a weird outlier or something?

Ugh, I just found an old post from Time on this very matter from 4 years ago. The author’s on my side for the same reasons, but apparently Lucasfilm holds the opposite view.

Of course, Lucasfilm produced the prequels and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so I still don't entirely trust their judgement from 2010…

Relational Calculus

Right now my wife is traveling for her job. She left this morning before sunrise (such as that is on an overcast, rainy day) and will return tomorrow evening, well after sundown. That means I'm solo parenting for a couple of days (though Maddie is with the babysitter during work hours), but in a more abstract way, it means all the responsibilities of the house fall to me. The same thing will happen next week when Valerie travels again, and potentially for a longer stretch in January.

My own immaturity and short temper have made a fool of me a couple times because of this. It's easy to be annoyed at being "stuck at home" - not for having to watch my kid, rather in a sense, having a bit more of my week dictated and inflexible. I try to balance the scales by petulantly demanding some time for myself whenever she returns.

Unfortunately, it's just as easy to forget that Valerie isn't traveling for fun. I know what she does on these trips, and it's generally working from morning until evening, with brief meal stops punctuating a day of measuring hotel interiors and the like. Sure, most parents know there's some value in getting a break from their children, but Valerie doesn't owe me anything when she gets back.

Relationships aren't math or accounting. There's no balancing of entries for free time, dining out, or chores. I've been married for 10 years and I know I'll still be working on this until I croak. But knowing about the ongoing maintenance required of any human relationship doesn't make the day to day any easier. Self-awareness of my own shortcomings doesn't excuse their manifestations.

I guess I'm just saying I miss my wife right now.

Sporting Chance

I've always thought I liked sports, but I haven't watched more than ten minutes of autumnal competition this year, whether NFL football or NCAA basketball. Is it a trickier schedule and an active toddler? Maybe. Is it the rough publicity coming from the NFL this season? Perhaps. I just know that I haven't really missed it at all. It has me wondering how much I really care about sports and how much I was raised to enjoy them.

You won't hear me sneering “sportsball” though. That term always struck me as condescending, equal to most casual pejoratives that reinforce our separateness. And I'm not anti-sport; people want to connect and belong, so of course tribalism and comaraderie can be appealing, even if on arbitrary geographical grounds. And I'll always find the perfect catch, or the heaviest dunk exciting. It's a thrill to watch skilled professionals excell at what they do. But this year I'm just not feelin’ it.

Maybe next season.

Bitters: Phase II

What you see in the photo is the slow, steady drip of the first extraction for my apple bitters. It's filtering through two coffee filters held in place by the ring of the mason jar so I minimize any sediment in the final product. I've also cooked the solids in a cup of water and placed that back in the original jar to shake for a few more days. It's getting close!

All is Lost

Tonight I finally got around to watching All is Lost. This is the second feature from writer and director J. C. Chandor (a Jersey boy!), and whoa Nelly, is it fantastic. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie so purely concerned with visual storytelling - so fully taking advantage of the medium. And Robert Redford proved that he's still one of the best with a nearly wordless performance none the less full of emotional intensity.


Mental Lists

Keeping track of the year end Oscar contenders I need to see. Eventually.

Keeping track of the new restaurants I have to check out. Someday.

Keeping track of all the books I should read.

Keeping track of all the new music I should hear.

Keeping track of all the shows coming through town.

Keeping track of all the things I'm keeping track of.

Keeping track of all the sentences I end with prepositions.

Google's Analytics Academy

I've wanted to spend some time getting more familiar with Google Analytics for a while now, but never knew where I should start. Tonight I discovered that, apparently, Google produces their own public training courses. Have any of my readers ever done this? Does anybody know whether it's helpful for more than just marketing types? I'd love to use analytics to help make better cases for design and architecture decisions, basically.

Positively Disruptive

Our babysitter was sick today. That meant Valerie and I had to take shifts watching Maddie and make up for lost time working after hours. Complete schedule upheaval.

But you know what? I had a great morning with my kid, taking her to the coffee shop with me and running into other dads I know. We danced to EDM at home (as usual) and she played around and over me on the couch. I got to see Valerie at midday when I dropped Maddie off at her office holiday lunch.

Then there was this afternoon. Maddie had a late but epic nap that meant Valerie and I were working on opposite sides of the dining room table while listening to music, sharing the occasional chit-chat. Maddie ate dinner with no fuss, said “Hi!” a million times, and went to bed without difficulty. Valerie and I worked some more, though she eventually watched some Call the Midwife while I finished up. Our last exchange before she drifted off to sleep in bed involved laughter and hugs.

I could use a little more of this sort of disruption in my life.


Every dang year. I can already feel it happening. Here, in the first half of December I'm crushed with high priority work that needs to be done yesterday. Competing "priorities" both internal and client-oriented assail me from all sides. But you know what? The back nine is going to be really quiet.

I, like many of my coworkers, won't be around much in the last bits of December. I take off starting Christmas Eve and don't return to work until Monday after New Year's Day. But you know who else vacations at the end of the year? Wraps up major initiatives and doesn't want to start new ones until everybody's back from their long winter's naps? Clients, that's who.

So while I'm only just wrapping up my day's work tonight around 11:30 PM, my work stream looks to start drying up in about two weeks. Then I'll be picking over the carcass of 2014's billable hours trying to keep myself occupied until my own break.

Location, Location, Location

Today I deleted Swarm from my phone. I'd been using it frequently since Foursquare decided to split its functionality between two different apps, and it was fun for a while. Competing with your friends in categories was a neat twist on the old Mayor game, and Plans are a pretty cool idea if you have a large enough network. But I noticed that I had slowly decreased my usage, forgetting (and caring less) to check in at every single location. I haven't deleted my account or anything, but I suspect I'll leave it unattended if I make it a week without re-downloading.

I'm not against location-centric social networks. I'm not worried about internet boogeymen like the elusive "burglar who sees that you're not at home on social media" (but seriously, though - I'm super interested if there are real stories about this that don't involve stalkers/creepy exes who'd be watching your every move anyway). But I've always struggled with the point. I used Gowalla (rest in peace) when it hit the scene because it was fun to keep a log of where I'd been. When that folded, I made my way - late to the party as usual - to a Foursquare that had already seen mass account stagnation even amidst claims of continued, rapid user sign-ups. Most of the people in my social graph hadn't used Foursquare in months. But I still had a lot of fun. Mayor of both (at the time) Lamplighter coffee shops? You know it.

Earlier this year, Foursquare split its service between two apps. Swarm came first, focusing on friend-spotting and the personal side of location awareness. In August, Foursquare's main app relaunched primarily as a discovery service. They had reasons for this, but it completely disrupted the way many old-school users worked with the service. There were complaints (as always with these sort of changes), but folks still using Foursquare at that point stuck around with Swarm as well. And really, did you need Foursquare to recommend a taco joint for you? Don't most people just check that God-forsaken Sarlacc Pit they call Yelp these days anyway?

I think I left mostly because Swarm hit that "what next?" moment for me. I joined. I added friends. Friends added me. I checked in and built a sizable lead at coffee shops. In the end it was just another clicky-pen to click. I show up, I open my phone, I check in. My friend checks in somewhere "nearby" and I get a notification. I don't need that. If I want coffee or lunch with my friend Sam, we can text each other. My wife doesn't need to see a notification that I check in at Kroger to know that I'm really at the grocery store. If I want to post a geotagged photo, I'm probably going to put that on Instagram anyway.

If you need me, you know where to find me.

Look at the Treeeeeeeeeee

Every year I get my Christmas tree I can't help returning to this video. Should be extra special for you if you're a fan of Linda Belcher.


One of the Greats

I've become a fan of Chelsea Peretti through Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and now I find out that Netflix produced a standup special for her. It's pretty freakin’ funny, like an unfiltered and extended appearance from Gina.


Recently my turn signal flashing has been erratic. I don't simply mean the sort of hyper blinking that you see when a bulb is out. Valerie checked every bulb (side markers included) and confirmed they all work. But I've been seeing combinations of steady light, no flashing, changing speeds, etc. I saw the same thing when I pressed the hazard light switch as well. Since all my bulbs worked, but the flashing was failing, I figured it a relay, not a fuze. A relay is basically switch controlled by electricity, and in this case it cases the lights to flash.

In the case of my 2004 Jetta I was lucky. As it happens, the flasher relay is combined with the hazard light switch. After some research, I read online that it's easy and low-risk to pop out of the dashboard. I found a replacement part on Amazon for just over $12 after tax, and today it arrived. The hazard switch indeed popped out with ease and, after attaching the new one, it worked flawlessly for both hazard lights and turn signals in both directions. I've been very happy with my mechanic for many years, but I probably saved myself around a hundred bucks on this fix. I'm not the handiest fellow, but it's immensely satisfying to fix something like this on my own.


Spatchcocked, roasted turkey was a rousing success. But more than the lovely, even cooking and all-over crispy skin, it was the prep that had the biggest impact, I think. I picked up the bird fresh on Tuesday after lunch, already cut by the butcher. So I laid it out flat on a wire rack in a sheet pan and liberally salted both sides before putting it in the fridge. This means that for two days I was essentially curing the turkey, intensifying the flavor and prepping the muscle tissue so that it would lose a little less moisture. I'm a dark meat guy, and the thigh was some of the best non-smoked turkey I've ever tasted.

Oh, and I guess my mashed potatoes were alright, too.


My kid is home sick instead of at the babysitter's (who is, herself, sick), and it's super heartbreaking. She's not devastatingly ill or anything. It's a sore throat and coughing. But she's too young to understand that whining and crying actually make it worse. So she screams, then moans, then cries, and generally stays unhappy between fitful, short naps. And there's nothing I can really do about it other than frequently give her water, cold and soothing food, and lots of hugs (when she's not being too grumpy for me to hold her).

Blind and also Mute

This is just adding to the pile, and probably to the noise. But I have to get it out of my head. I'm pretty upset about everything that's happened in Ferguson, MO, over the past few months. I won't mince words: a police officer murdered an unarmed teenager. That's really all I have to say for you to figure out how I feel about it, I guess.

Then, last night, a grand jury that had been convened to decide whether this killer cop should face a trial, figured that wasn't really necessary. The American Bar Association disagrees and wants federal charges. That maaaaaaay happen, but my growing cynacism doesn't give me hope for a satisfactory resolution. For now, a group of 12 people have taken Justice's blinfold and gagged her with it so she wouldn't even have a chance to speak.

Fire Stick with Me

Snagged one a them thar Amazon Fire Sticks on pre-order for 20 clams. I already dig the interface compared to the Roku by a mile, but I'm hoping for the iOS app soon so I don't have to use the little remote that came with it. I do actually watch some of what's on Prime Instant Video, so I'm hoping the Stick sticks.