My current theory on dieting and weight loss.

If you take a statistical sampling of diet tips from a few dozen people, you will learn that every single possible foodstuff is terrible for you; water may be poisonous in small doses; and that the only “real” way to lose weight and get into shape is to make your daily caloric intake consist of the following:

1) 3 eggs;

2) A perfectly round piece of chicken that has been twice-boiled;

3) A spoonful of salmon fat;

4) A 45 single of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”, covered in hummus and diced peanuts.

I’m beginning to think that everyone I know may actually be insane.

So my theory is this: I’m going to try to keep a 2 to 1 ratio of vegetables to meat or higher. I’m going to stop drinking sodas (which I mostly have, even diet, unless I’m in a place where it’s soda or whiskey). I’m going to pretend that chocolate is made out of hydrochloric acid and will actually burn me if it enters my body. If I need something sweet, that’s what bananas are for.

I know you’re about to tell me that bananas have sugar in them. You’re probably also going to tell me that some scientific article you read says that bananas give you rickets or the King’s Evil or something.

Fuck off. Eating an entire bunch of bananas, complete with the tarantulas that illegally immigrated amongst their leaves, is better for me than a single Chocodile, which is my sick and sad weakness when stopping in for smokes at 7-11 of an evening. So quit your weird gastrological nonsense, which you probably got out of an old copy of Maxim or Stuff you were leafing through while waiting in the doctor’s office for the results of your herp test. So you were freaked out and YOU DON’T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT THE ARTICLE REALLY SAID, BECAUSE YOU WERE TOO WORRIED ABOUT HAVING TO REGISTER ON HERPES DATING SITES TO GET YOUR SEXY TIME ON.

Also, no more mocha lattes, which is a punishment described to Dante Aligheri by Virgil as being meted out to New Media Fuckheads in the Fourth Circle of Hell.

(And yes, they had New Media Fuckheads in the Dark Ages. What do you think Johannes Gutenberg was? He sat around in the coffeehouse in Mainz all day, tapping away on his printing press in his designer horn-rims and hoping chicks would ask him what the hell it was and what he was doing with it. Which was writing a novel about a guy who invents a printing press and then moves to Bali to discover the glories of untrammeled nature, while getting coke-fueled blowjobs from Merovingian raver girls in leather jackets.

Alas, like the dreams of all New Media Fuckheads, this didn’t work out for J-Gut, so he put on a suit and got rich printing Bibles instead. But I bet you he thought about that novel ’till the day he died.)

Back to work now.


Big man with a gun.

I went to The Gun Store today with Andi and her friends from California so that I could price and check out some guns.

Let me be clear on this: I don’t actually like guns. I’m a constitutionalist, so I believe the Second Amendment is just as important to protect and enforce as the First…but I personally don’t like the idea of owning a gun.

However, it might be necessary in Iraq. Who knows? It might not. But I figured I’d go down and see what my options were, anyway.

Gun stores are also problematic for me. I love them because I’m a gadget geek, and they’re always full of awesome gadgets: holsters, batons, body armor, cool little tools for doing obscure things with guns, tasers, and knives. Lots of knives.

But a lot of the people who tend to hang out in gun stores are people with whom I don’t have a lot in common. Different cultures, different politics. I fall pretty solidly on the “liberal” side of things, and in my experience, this is not true of gun store rats.

The store was absolutely packed today, which was fairly surprising, with people of widely varying age, sex, race, and taste in clothes. They were mostly clustered around the pistol counter, looking at various automatics. I browsed a bit, inspecting the pink body armor (for girls!) and tasers until a spot came up.

The gentleman behind the counter reminded me of my great-grandfather, if my great-grandfather had been dressed in black and carrying a pistol on his belt. I told him my situation, told him I didn’t know much about guns but that I’d heard that Colt 1911s were excellent. He agreed and showed me one.

“I’ve lived in the desert a long time,” he said, “and this is not the gun I’d take to Iraq.”

“Really?” I said. He nodded.

“The 1911 is an excellent gun, but it’s not made for the kind of environment you’ll be in over there. It’s got a lot of fine parts. I’ll sell you one if it’s what you really want, but I don’t recommend it. Let me show you the one I’d recommend,” he said, putting the 1911 back in its case.

He walked down to the end of the automatic counter, where it joined the revolver counter in an L-shape, and produced a small, blocky, two-toned pistol.

“This is a Glock 12,” he told me. “It’s much better for harsh environments than the 1911. The 1911 has 124 moving parts, but this only has 34. No external safety, you see. And it uses 9-millimeter ammo rather then .45 caliber. That’s what everybody in the world uses, so you’d have much less trouble getting ammo over there.”

He put it in my hand. It felt solid. It always surprises me that the weight of a gun doesn’t surprise me or feel weird. It weighed exactly what I expected it to weigh — maybe a pound, pound and a half.

“Is it hard to clean?” I asked. He shook his head. “Easiest gun in the world to clean.” He did something with buttons on the gun and the slide popped off. I he showed me the spring and the clip and the receiver and how they were cleaned and how to put them back together again afterwards.

I don’t know if I want to buy a gun, or if I can actually carry one over there, though I’ve been told I can. If I do buy one, it’ll stay in a safety deposit box until I walk out the door to get on the plane.

But it’s useful to know what the best tool for the job would be.


The feeling begins.

Taking a break from coding and house cleaning — I have a birthday party here tomorrow night, and my house is a wreck.

I’ve decided, tentatively, to blog about my current unique situation. People seem interested in how this came about and what I’m doing to get ready to go to Iraq. (I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Iraq; it might also be Afghanistan, I’m told.)

There are a few things I feel a bit…sketchy about putting out in public, for various reasons. I’d prefer not to name the company I’m working for at this juncture. It’s not a secret or anything, by any means; but I’m becoming increasingly aware of the nature of public discourse. I have no idea who’s reading this, who could be Googling various terms. And my thoughts and opinions do not represent anyone but myself, so why not just leave it at that?

There are other things I don’t think I can tell you, because I’m going to be getting a “secret” level security clearance, and I don’t want to jeopardize that, so I’m erring on the side of caution.

With that in mind…..

So far my new job is great, if oddly schizophrenic. My duties are, as I’ve mentioned, two-fold: to develop an interface for a web-based software package, and to deploy, support and provide training for that software to military hospitals in Iraq. The former involves sitting around in my home office in my big terry-cloth boxing shorts, listening to David Bowie and building CSS guidelines and doing graphic design. The latter involves hauling my ass around a war zone in a Black Hawk with a spare server in my bag.

These are not similar tasks.

On Tuesday morning — the morning of my 31st birthday, as it happened — I joined in on a conference call to orient those of us who will be going “downstream”, as the people in the company refer to overseas deployment. (I find this really interesting; I’m assuming the “stream” part of “downstream” refers here to the data stream. This is a different metaphor than a lot of expat workers I’ve known use. They refer to it as being “in country”, the way Vietnam vets used to. Then again, a lot of the expat workers I’ve known were engineers with my grandfather, and several of them actually were Vietnam vets, so maybe that’s where the terminology came from.)

The orientation scared the shit out of me on several levels. The sheer amount of paperwork involved in getting a security clearance is astonishing. There’s several rounds of vaccines as well, including anthrax.

And then there’s the whole “getting shot at” part. When I first heard about this job a few weeks ago, I assumed that “going to Iraq”  would be like when my grandfather would go to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait when I was a kid — I’d be put up in a hotel somewhere in the utterly safe Green Zone, where I would occasionally venture out into the wilderness to bring fire to the mortals.

Not exactly. No hotel for me, and the Green Zone apparently isn’t as safe as I thought. I was warned about what to do when — not if — mortar fire came in. The gentleman leading the orientation, who serves as a sort of security officer for my company if I understood correctly, told us to expect to be shot at when traveling by air. We won’t be traveling by ground at all, apparently, because it’s incredibly dangerous. (Visions of the opening reel of Iron Man crossed my mind.)

“You’re just gonna have to get used to it,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been riding along in a Black Hawk when I heard shots popping off. The machine gunner next to you’s gonna be firing. There are bad guys and they want to kill you.”

Odd, for someone who has been so utterly ambiguous about the whole conflict over there, to think of “good guys” and “bad guys”. But I think the security officer gave me all the answer I need: the bad guys want to kill you. Anything beyond that, while I’m over there, will have to wait.

I spent the rest of the day with a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach. It’s one thing to talk about going into a war zone as a journalist; it’s another to realize that, if all goes according to plan, you’re actually going to do it, not as an observer but as a sort of sideline participant, in six months.

I am not ready for this.

But I might be, in six months. I am going to do everything in my power to get myself ready. I’m going on a relatively strict diet and exercise regimen. Exercise is a bit tricky for me, because of my torn rotator cuff and trick knees, but I’m going to do my best. I’m going to try and quit or seriously curtail my smoking before I leave. I want to be in at least reasonable shape when I arrive in Baghdad, if not full-on Gerry-Butler-in-300 shape.

I’m also going to be taking a course or two on gun safety and marksmanship. I think I need to know how to load and fire a pistol. (I already know how to fire an AK-47, but I’m going to work on that as well.) I’m also pondering taking a course on urban escape and evasion.

If that sounds paranoid, well…so be it. The other guys I’m going with are doing the same thing. Because this isn’t a fucking game, and even if we’re non-combatants we’re going to be in a war zone, and we’re going to be targets. I’d rather know how to get my Jason Bourne on and never, ever need to use those skills than find myself on my knees in front of a video camera while some asshole hacks my head off with a rusty bayonet.

(And yes, I’ve thought about that. What I’d do if I got kidnapped. The answer? Do my best to kill every motherfucker I see, because these dudes aren’t really about ransom demands. They take Americans and they kill them and they put it on YouTube so the world can see. If I get grabbed, I think I’m going to assume that I’m dead, and I’m going to do whatever I can to get out…because if I don’t, I end up on as the Grisly-Ass Video Of The Day.)

Finally, I’m learning Arabic. A friend loaned me the Rosetta Stone language course for MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) and I’ve also got Arabic For Dummies. I was told it wouldn’t be absolutely necessary — I won’t be directly interacting with a lot of native speakers, and there will be translators available for when I do — but again, it can’t hurt.

A couple of people have tried to dissuade me from doing this, because of the danger. But I can’t back out, for a number of reasons. The money is astonishing for someone like me with no real career track record and no college degree. (I’m not going to tell you what I’ll be making on top of my salary as a per diem when I’m downstream, but it’s…impressive.)

It’s also a chance to quit sitting in the cheap seats and go out there and do something to help the world. The software I’m working on might — in fact, probably will — save lives. Not just the lives of American soldiers, which would be worthwhile enough, but also civilians and even enemy combatants. I will actually be doing something that makes the world a better place. And that, to me, is worth the danger.

And there’s the other reason, the one you might not understand: I can’t turn this down, can’t walk away, because I’ve said I’ve wanted to do it for at least a decade, and because I’ve talked enough shit from where I sit comfortably in the middle of the wealthiest country in the world. To back off would be a pussy move. I have to have the courage of my own convictions, and I have to be able to back up all the shit I’ve talked for so long.

So that’s that, then. As long as I can pass the security checks — which my co-workers assure me won’t be a problem, though I’m not so sure myself — we’re doing this thing.

So that’s where we are right now. And I need to pull the laundry out of the dryer, and get back to my CSS.


Where I'm going

So, as those of you who follow my Twitters know, I’ve been excited about something these past few days. Now, I think, I can talk about it. I can’t really tell you everything, for reasons which will become clear, but I can tell you a bit.

I’ve been hired by a medical technology company to do a two part job. The first part is to design web interfaces for medical software. It’s Ajax/HTML stuff, pretty straightforward.

The other part of the job is that I’m going to be deploying this software for the client at their location.Which happens a lot. The client, though, in this case, is the United States Department of Defense…and the location is Iraq.

So, uh, yeah. I’m off to Baghdad in September. I’ll be setting up servers in, apparently, some fairly far-flung places.

I am a little apprehensive about it, of course…but I’ve been wanting to do something like this for more than a decade. I’m doing good in the world — helping set up telemedicine to save the lives of wounded people. And it pays…well. Plus, I get to be a fucking William Gibson character, which is about the most awesome thing in the world.

For the next six months, I will be working very hard to lose fifty pounds. I’m also teaching myself Arabic. And I’m probably going to be going down to the local gun store and learning how to use various weapons, because it couldn’t hurt, right?

I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog from where I’m going, or how much I can tell you about what I’m doing. But what I can, I will, and I’ll do it here.

Your thoughts?


links for 2009-03-22

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Vids from the show

“Just Like Honey” (Jesus & Mary Chain cover)

“Heroin” (Velvet Underground cover)

These were the last two tracks I did. “Just Like Honey” was going to be the final song, but as you can see in the second video, an audience member asked me to do an encore.

For these, I had a random audience member named Joe (on the first song) and my guitarist Aaron Archer (on the second song) come up and play drums using a Wii remote. This was accomplished via an app called The Wiinstrument, which translates Wii data into MIDI signals — specifically, in this case, a sharp value difference in the Wii remote’s and Wii nunchuk’s built-in accelerometers…using them as drumsticks for playing air drums, in other words. The MIDI was sent into a software drum machine, which had a heavily reverbed drum kit loaded.

I’d been thinking about doing this for months, but I’d never actually tried it until last night. I set it up at home yesterday afternoon and attempted to have my girlfriend play the Wii drums while I played guitar. Unfortunately, she…well, let’s just say she couldn’t quite get the rhythm down. So this was, in fact, totally untested until I actually got Joe the audience member up on stage.

It was really fun and everybody seemed to find it fun. I picked “Just Like Honey” because it’s an easy, easy drumbeat to play. “Heroin” I picked because I knew Aaron could improvise on it (he’s an excellent drummer as well as guitarist), and because my guitar was already feeding back with the sound I’d picked for “Just Like Honey”…and because I can play the living shit out of “Heroin”, and I hadn’t played it live in a while.

So there you go. I plan to use the Wii as an instrument a lot more in the future — it’s fun and easy and it looks cool.


The show…

…was awesome. At least, the 20 people or so who showed up seemed to think so. I rocked out and debuted a new feature, in which I picked a random member of the audience to play drums with a Wiimote on a cover of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey”. It actually worked perfectly! And then — as the audience wanted an encore — my occasional bandmate and buddy Aaron Archer came up and used the Wii to back me up on a cover of the Velvets’ “Heroin”. Which was so tasty — the drums were all reverby for “JLH” and I ran my acoustic guitar through my Vox ToneLab, so it was all noisy and feedbacked and it sounded beautiful. Everyone also enjoyed my cover of “Northern Sky” by Nick Drake; the rest and majority of the set were originals, including some new stuff I haven’t played or recorded yet.

In fact, you’ll be able to hear it, I think: I recorded the show on video. If the sound’s not too awful, I’ll put the songs up on YouTube.

Thanks so much to those of you who attended. Maybe next show we’ll get a bigger crowd.


Show: Saturday, Mar. 14th, 7pm @ Arts Factory, Las Vegas, NV

(Got the weekday wrong on the last post, sorry.)



Where I've Been

Sorry I haven’t updated in so very long. The long and short is: I’ve been (and am still) very, very busy. I can finally, hopefully, pay my bills, but I am working all the time now.

I am:

  • Doing web design/development, both as part of a new (sort of) day job and as a freelancer;
  • Trying to finish the Red State Soundsystem album;
  • Producing another album for my talented friend Marius Jurani;
  • Mastering an album for local Vegas band Atomic Nutshell;
  • Trying to get MojoRepublik rebooted as something new and awesome;
  • Trying to figure out the logistics of starting three separate online ventures;
  • Spending time with my charming girlfriend;
  • Sleeping.

I’m also playing a live acoustic set this Friday, the 14th, as part of the Neon Reverb music festival. I’ll be playing at 7pm at the Beaux Arts Gallery (inside the Arts Factory) at 107 E. Charleston. It’s a $5 cover and drinks are $3 each or 2 for $5.

So I may not be updating here, but hit me on the Twitter if you really want to know what I’m up to at any given moment.