He doesn't look a thing like Jesus.

December 29th, 2013 @ 6:00 am
Bury My Heart

Sitting BullToday is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in South Dakota in 1890. Twenty-three years earlier, the local tribes had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed them the rights to the land around the Black Hills, which was sacred land. The treaty said that not only could no one move there, but they couldn’t even travel through without the consent of the Indians.

But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken. People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull’s half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull’s tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.

Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn’t make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot’s band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.

The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn’t really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.

One of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre was the famous medicine man Black Elk, author of Black Elk Speaks (1932). Speaking about Wounded Knee, he said:

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

from The Writer’s Almanac

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“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.”
Caroline Gordon

December 27th, 2013 @ 8:56 am
Friday Five: Raiders of the Lost Ark Tibetan Bar Showdowns I’d Like to See

Raiders / Marion

  1. Raylan Givens vs. Eric Taylor
  2. Homer Simpson vs. Ernest Hemingway
  3. Marion vs. Lois Lane
  4. Ron Burgandy vs. Richard Branson
  5. Hunter S. Thompson vs. Johnny Depp
December 25th, 2013 @ 6:15 am
Baby, It’s Cold Outside

My wife is pretty awesome.

December 24th, 2013 @ 8:12 am
Christmas Eve, 2013

tree.01This is our second Christmas without mom. Last year I wrote a little bit about our Christmas Eve traditions, but I don’t have it in me this year. Christmas will be exactly 500 days since she died, which is simultaneously meaningless and important.

I miss her so much.

December 24th, 2013 @ 7:06 am
iTunes Tuesday: Building a Smart Christmas Playlist

iTunesThe only really annoying thing about the holidays is that most radio stations play the same ten or so songs over and over and over again. No matter how much you love the song, nobody wants to hear Baby, It’s Cold Outside five times in the same day.

You’ve got plenty of Christmas music in your iTunes library, right? And you’ve been updating your library and properly setting the genre of every track, right?

Open iTunes and click FileNewSmart Playlist …. Then set these as your parameters:

smart.playlist.holiday

What do we have here?

Obviously we want to set the genre to Holiday so we’re only including Christmas music.
Don’t play anything we’ve skipped in the last five days. This way if you have thirteen different versions of Jingle Bell Rock in your library, once you’ve heard it one time, if you fast forward / skip to the next song, that track will be put in purgatory for a few days.
Don’t play anything you’ve already heard today, of course. One rendition of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is plenty for any Tuesday.
Don’t play anything with one or two stars, which should be reserved for tracks you are planning to delete or tracks you just can’t bring yourself to delete but don’t ever want to hear.
And, finally, limit your playlist to the twenty-five songs you’ve heard the least frequently. You can change this to least recently, instead, if you want to rotate tracks more often. I prefer to go by play counts instead, but that’s just me.

Another trick is to use the grouping property. (Read all about it!) I have many holiday songs which are decidedly Christian and which are not always appropriate to play in every environment. So I have added the keyword .Christmas. to those tracks. Then I can add a parameter to the smart playlist of “grouping does not contain” and limit the list to only secular Christmas songs. (See what I did there?)

December 23rd, 2013 @ 7:55 am
Jingle Bells in LA

At my son’s winter sing-a-long this year they added a great verse I’d never heard to Jingle Bells:

Christmas TreeWe’re going to the beach
And playing in the sun.
We haven’t seen an icicle
since 1921!
We cannot build a snow man,
or go dashing in a sleigh.
But we will never freeze because
We live here in LA!

December 20th, 2013 @ 7:20 am
Friday Five: Awesome Things About My Dad

DadToday is my dad’s birthday, so this Friday Five is dedicated to him. Here are five completely random awesome things about my dad:

  1. He can effortlessly play the guitar, mandolin, violin, and piano, and has the uncanny ability to learn new instruments with ease.
  2. He is a fantastic photographer.
  3. He taught me to love making frozen orange juice in a blender.
  4. He walks faster than anyone I know.
  5. He completely surprised me by falling in love with a silly little white dog.

Happy birthday, dad!

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One of my favorite quotes was first published two hundred and thirty-seven years ago today:

MinutemanThese are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Number I — December 18, 1776

Oh, man. If you haven’t already seen them yet, pause for three minutes, break out the Kleenex, and watch these ads from Apple and Coca-Cola. They’re two of the best commercials I’ve ever seen.

December 17th, 2013 @ 6:18 am
iTunes Tuesday: Giant Files

iTunesIf your hard drive is low on space, a good place to look for things to jettison is your iTunes library. Lots of music files are large because the songs they contain are very long — Alice’s Restaurant Massacree clocks in at over eighteen minutes! — or because they’re encoded using AAC or the Apple Lossless Encoder instead of MP3. But if you’ve been indiscriminately adding tracks to your library for years, you might be wasting a ton of space saving songs you’re never going to hear.
Continue reading …

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“Fuck literature.”
Ernest Hemingway, 1924, in a letter to Ezra Pound

December 13th, 2013 @ 5:37 am
Friday Five: Favorite Christmas Songs

ChristmasFive of my favorite Christmas songs:

December 11th, 2013 @ 6:42 am
Original BlasTech DL-44

BlasTech DL-44A few years ago I wrote about how foolish it would be for me to spend $499.00 on a replica BlasTech DL-44. (I really did consider it.)

I guess that means it would be really, really irresponsible to lay down $200,000.00 for the actual one.

via kottke.org

December 10th, 2013 @ 8:21 am
iTunes Tuesday: Listen to This

iTunesDepending upon the size of your iTunes library and how you have your playlists configured, you could have a bunch of awesome songs that you are either hearing over and over and over again, or that you’ve not heard in ages. Those are both terrible situations, of course. You want to have a happy medium.

I have a smart playlist named “Listen to This” which I use to keep my rotation fresh. Here are its parameters:
Listen To This

  • Rating is greater than three stars
    The whole point of this playlist is to hear songs you really like, but haven’t heard in a while. But iTunes won’t know what your favorite songs are unless you are rating your songs!
  • Playlist is not “Slow Shit”
    Smart playlists can’t be used for everything. Sometimes you simply have to tell iTunes about a song. I have a non-smart playlist called “Slow Shit” which I use to collect all my love songs and ballads. (I love Everybody Hurts by R.E.M., but I don’t want to hear it in the middle of the day or while I’m out on a ten-mile run.) Any time I hear a song that I consider “slow”, I right-click it, choose Add to Playlist, and then push it into “Slow Shit”. That way I can tell any smart playlists to ignore those songs.
  • Genre is Rock
    This qualification prevents things like country music, J.F.K.’s inaugural address, and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song from popping into my daily life unexpectedly.
  • Last skipped is not in the last 21 days
    If I skip a song, it’s sort of a big deal. I like the music in my library — all thirteen thousand plus tracks — and if I don’t like a song, I delete it. If I fast-forward a song, it means I really don’t want to hear it for a while for one reason or another.
  • Last played not in the last 7 days
    If I just heard a song recently, I don’t want to hear it again right away. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when a radio station — when every radio station — plays the same damn song every other hour?

If you create a playlist using these settings, you’ll have a great jump-start to building your own personal radio station that only plays your favorite songs. And more importantly, you’ll have a playlist that you can use as a parameter of other smart playlists to include your favorites without getting sick of them.

December 6th, 2013 @ 8:59 am
Friday Five: Illogical Bathroom Practices

The Wrong WayFive Things That Happen in Bathrooms That Annoy Me:

  • throwing away a paper towel, missing the trash, and not bothering to pick it up
  • squeezing the middle of a tube of toothpaste / not flattening and rolling the tube from the bottom
  • toilet paper loaded with the leading edge towards the wall
  • bathroom attendants
  • not closing the toilet seat lid completely every time
December 5th, 2013 @ 8:58 am
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

Mickey MouseToday is the birthday of Walt Disney, one of the most important men in my life. He was born December 5, 1901, in Chicago. He changed the world, and his creations have had a profound impact on me. I truly would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for his vision.

I grew up about an hour from the Magic Kingdom and I have a multitude of fond memories of visiting the park with my mother and sister. I’ve been no less than fifty times. I know that place like an old friend, and I cannot wait to return. Shortly after the turn of the century I moved to Los Angeles and now my son is infatuated with Mickey and Disneyland. We go as frequently as possible, and he loves it.

Happy birthday, Walt.

The Book of Tebow

December 3rd, 2013 @ 3:02 am
iTunes Tuesday: The 90s

iTunesHere’s a quick and easy smart playlist for you. Let’s create a collection of only songs released in the 90s. This is a very simple playlist, and its utility is primarily as a component of other smart playlists.

In iTunes click FileNewSmart Playlist …. Then choose the parameters set in this screenshot:
Smart Playlist 90s
Of course you can change the years to choose songs from a different decade. Or you can add a star to the Rating setting if you want to make it a Greatest Hits playlist.

And don’t forget to read how to create an Ignore playlist!

LogoThief: Shaming Design Plagiarists