It’s currently Shitsville

Jason Kottke recently talked about Kurt Vonnegut’s six seasons: Spring, Summer, Locking, Winter, Unlocking, and Autumn. He noted that in Vermont the two extras are unpleasant and go by different names “Stick Season” and Mud Season.

New Zealand, and especially Wellington, also follows a six season notation originally posited by Adam Shand and made into a real time calendar by @dmanww

The six seasons: 
Summer - Jan to March
Autumn - March to June
Winter - June to  Mid-August
Spring 1 - Mid August to Sept
Shitsville - September to Mid-Dec
Spring 3 - Mid-Dec to Jan

Unfortunately we’re right in the middle of a classic Shitsville season. Temperatures are cool even when it’s sunny. It’s grey and rainy more often than not. It’s always onshore at the beach. I can’t wait for Spring 2.

Used pencils

Two HB pencils. One is two short to use comfortably. The other is a couple of sharpens away from being in the same state

It’s quite satisfying use a pencil till it’s too short to hold comfortably. The longer one is just hanging in there. The shorter one is going into my nerdy work caddy for those “where the hell is my pen” moments.

I lose pens all the time but I tend to hold on to pencils so that’s generally what I have at hand when I’m writing notes in meetings, making lists, and drawing diagrams.

I pretty much always use paper for those kinds of tasks. As a computer enthusiast I’ve experimented with all sorts of digital systems for notes (Google Keep, Notes on my phone, text files, google docs), lists (Trello, spreadsheets) and diagrams Miro, Paint, Lucid Chart) but nothing works as well, especially for capturing and doing first & second drafts as an analogue system.

I was very heartened to find on Austin Kleon’s blog, a talk by Clive Thompson on pencils and keyboards, where suggested my preference for analogue is the best way for planning and for retaining information.

Thompson talks about getting obsessed with fancy pencils. I tried one of those Palaminos – it was a nice pencil but not that much nicer than a bog standard HB from Staedtler.

Fancy keyboards, though, I am on board with. Thompson notes that for smashing things out, typing is the way to go. As the owner of a particularly obnoxious mechanical keyboard this is a cargo cult I’m happy to be a part of.

Thirty days of stretching

I injured myself almost a year ago. I ignored my coach and used very poor form to lift something heavy. My back was a bit sore the next day and the day after that. I took it easy and went back to my normal routine a few days later. A couple weeks after that I reached down to pick something up and noticed a shooting pain in my leg. Four hours later I could either stand up or lie flat and anything in between was excruciating. My upper right leg was quite numb. The diagnosis was two pinched nerves.

Rest, physio, dry needling, and a regimen of stretching helped me recover. I got back to the point where there was numbness but no pain. I don’t lift heavy things now. The gym is about lots of lighter reps with good form rather than aiming for PRs.

After a while stretching fell by the wayside. I’ve always been pretty lazy when it comes to post-workout care and some months ago I realised the lack of stretching was contributing to a plateau in my recovery from my injury. Then I committed to lifeguard training and decided to get more serious about stretching.

In started going to some Sunday yoga classes at my gym and enjoyed them. Then I subscribed to ROMWOD, a daily yoga-like routine aimed squarely at people who do Crossfit. There’s a bajillion free yin yoga videos on YouTube that I could have gone with but paying for ROMWOD gives me some encouragement to do it regularly.

Until just over a month ago I was doing a ROMWOD routine a couple times a week. Better than before but not a habit and not enough to really get good results. Not worth the subscription either! Then a post from Austin Kleon’s archive about keeping a Seinfeld calendar struck a chord. I decided to make stretching a habit.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld

I drew up a thirty day grid in my brain dump notebook and committed to doing a ROMWOD routine every day. I’d mark an X in the grid whenever I completed a routine. I wrote DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN at the top.

Thirty days later, I’d done a routine every day, the chain unbroken. I saw some results: more feeling in my leg; more flexibility in my arms and shoulders; less soreness. Stretching, along with swimming, and drinking water has paid dividends.

Keeping up the chain was difficult. I got sick twice and the congestion and headaches weren’t super conducive to yoga moves. I did the shorter workouts on some of those days. I had to plan around a night away: an early morning routine one day followed by a late one the next.

Crossing off the grid every day was very satisfying. And I genuinely think the stretching helps. It’s a habit now and I look forward to getting out my mat & blocks and stretching as Daniel Head’s baritone encourages me along.

The Unfortunate Weezer Project

In 2012 I wrote an article about Weezer for Riot Radio, a music site published by my mate Mike. Sadly Riot, Radio is offline now so I’ve re-published the post here for posterity.

Remember last year when Mike placed Weezer’s Make Believe on the list of Worst Albums of All Time? He was right then and he’s right now. As Mike says, the Weezer all right thinking people know and love died that day.

Why is it that whenever Weezer put out a new album we all clamour to find out if it’s a return to form? Why do we give Rivers Cuomo another chance when he’s proven time and again he’s Lucy Van Pelt to our Charlie Brown, forever taking away the football at the last second. I think it’s because Weezer’s first two albums are so good that we still think of them as a class band lacking a bit of form.

Chatting with Mike and a few others over the years I’ve wondered if it’d be possible to scour the post 2000 Weezer catalog and make an album that’s as good as the first two. Can you make a set of songs that fits as well together like The Blue Album? Is there a unifying theme that works as well as Pinkerton? Earlier this year I decided to find out.

So how do you construct a new album worthy of Pinkerton? I came up with a few rules and you may or may not agree with them but this is how I decided:

  • There must be at least ten tracks.
  • There must be at least two deep cuts–it can’t be all singles.
  • A majority of the albums must be represented–picking songs from just Maladroit is not allowed.
  • B-sides, extra/exclusive/deluxe tracks, and holiday album tracks don’t count. Those songs should have been on the albums in the first place if they were truly worthy.

Next I dove into the Weezer catalogue and chronological order, taking notes and rating songs from zero to five as I went. Christ, it was hard going. I listened to every tune at least once. Many twice or three times. I reviewed and revised my scores and and pretty much left it at that for six months.

Last month I had another look at the list. There were eleven tunes that rated 4 or higher so I arbitrarily cut it off there. Then I made a playlist in iTunes and Spotify and I’ve listened to it dozens times in different orders and situations since then. I’m finally ready to call it.

You can make a pretty fantastic pop-rock album out of Weezer albums starting with The Green Album but it’s still not as good as the first two. There are some very catchy singles, ambitious anthems, and a more than a few big riffs, but the quality of lyrics has deteriorated so much that most of the songs just don’t have the depth of any random track from the first two albums. Comparing Tired of Sex with Where’s My Sex is just sad. It’s like Rivers just hopes that the songs rhyme. The kids will sing along anyway.

So Mike is still right. The Weezer we know is dead and gone–at least with regard to new recordings. Their current trend of playing The Blue Album or Pinkerton in their entirety gives the hope that Weezer the live act are still awesome, but that’s the best we can hope for.

Here’s the tracks in relatively chronological order with a few of my notes.

Hash Pipe

This was the first “new” Weezer track I heard. I was blown away by the riff and I still love it to this day. I can’t really make out the lyrics particularly well but who cares? That riff is good enough to get the Hash Pipe on the list.

Island In The Sun

Who doesn’t like the Spike Jonze video with all the animals? Nobody with a soul. Island In The Sun is nice a change of pace from a lot of the samey pop-rock that makes up The Green Album. The loud chorus might have found a home on The Blue Album.

Here’s the other version of the video. Not so good.

Dope Nose

“Cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb.” Complete gibberish from Rivers Cuomo and typical of post Y2K Weezer. None of these tracks come close to the honesty of Across the sea from Pinkerton or Say it ain’t so on The Blue Album.

Keep Fishin’

This is pretty much a perfect pop-rock and the fucking Muppets guarantee a video hit. But I am fucked if I know what the song is actually about.

Take Control

The first non-single on this list and it’s here courtesy of that big ol’ metal riff.

Death and Destruction

A variation on the classic quiet/loud formula, Death and Destruction is quite a bit different to the songs on this list and to the other tracks on Maladroit. Of all these tunes, I reckon this is one of only a couple that could find a place on Pinkerton, possibly just after Getchoo.

Perfect Situation

This is the video that turned me back on to the song–Jorge Garcia in full Hurley character rocking out to what has to be the only song he likes on Make Believe.

Perfect Situation is classic Weezer and sounds like a b-side or alternate track from Pinkerton era. A great track.

Troublemaker

OK. Is this a prequel to The Good Life? I’m working from the idea that Rivers is not being serious with this song. Because, jeebus.

The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)

The wikipedia entry for The Greatest Man That Ever Lived is a fascinating read. The song is made up of eleven different styles and themes and is fucking hard to play on Rock Band.

The lyrics are atrocious. Imagine if the worst of the worst commenters from Reddit and Hacker News collaborated on a song. This is their love child. Just terrible. Great, yes, but terrible.

And yet I can’t help but love it.

Here’s a video of the band playing the song live and pulling it off.

Pork and Beans

Possibly the most honest Rivers has been since the close of Pinkerton. Weezer is now as musically nutritious as a can of Watties beans and they are absolutely fine with that.

Time Flies

A rough and ready track from Hurley and the only song from the last couple of albums to make it on the list. I particularly liked this lyric:

Some sad day, they’ll be taking me away
But I won’t be dead
Cause even when I’m gone, this stupid dance song
Will be in your head

Too fucking true.

If you’ve got Spotify you can listen to all the songs in chronological order in this playlist.

2019 Joe again. Weezer have continued to pump out albums since 2012. All bar Everything Will Be Alright In The End have been garbage. EWBAITA is a keeper, though.

Python to be renamed

I wrote this for segfault.org in May, 2000. I think I was living in London at the time. 

segfault.org was a nerd satire site, based on the style of slashdot that was popular in the late 90s and early 00s. It was founded and run by the internet’s Leonard Richardson and Scott James Remnant. segfault accepted reader submissions and they were kind enough to publish about a few by yours truly. 

Links to the post made it to a couple of Python mailing lists and Guido van Rossum kinda, sorta responded.

In a press conference held early this morning, Guido van Rossum, creator of the Python programming language Python, announced that his most famous project will be undergoing a name change. The new name for the language is Homer.

Python was originally named after the British comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Today Mr. van Rossum told reporters he had “gone off Python” and enjoyed watching reruns of the Simpsons. “I caught a Simpsons marathon last weekend – that Homer, he’s so useless and so funny. And that Bart, what a little rascal,” said van Rossum.

Mr. van Rossum denied that the name change was bcause former Flying Circus member John Cleese has repeatedly declined invitations to come round one evening for some pizza, a few beers and some late night hacking.

“No no,” he insisted. “I’m just sick of reading ‘I fart in your general direction’ on the error messages of every second Python program I use. I want some new jokes, and the Simpsons will provide them.”

As well as the name change it appears the Python organization will be getting a new sponsor – Fox TV. Australian-born Fox boss Rupert Murdoch explained:

“Yeah mate, Disney have got that bloody Squeak so I thought we should have a language too. It’s all fair dinkum, they get money, we get ratings. And anyway, the Simpsons is a bloody laugh, not like that limey rubbish.”

There were other benefits resulting from the name change, added Mr van Rossum. “Writing comments, for instance. Not everyone understood the phrase “Luuxury” next to a variable declaration, but everyone will get “Mmmmm, integers.”

Segfault.org asked John Cleese for his comments on todays announcement:

“I’m not too worried about the name change at all. Actually, I’m glad it’s all over. Perhaps he’ll stop pestering me about his god-awful hack-a-thons. If you ask me, there’s nothing you can do in Python or Homer or whatever-it’s-bloody-called-today that can’t be done faster and more efficiently in assembly code.”

Already Homer applications are popping up on freshmeat.net. Included among them are a a program that orderes a can of pop over the Internet when the TAB key is pressed, and a script that scans comments and replaces the word “Ni!” with “Doh!”