Top 5 Blogs and Newsletters

This might be a silly one, but I was reading one of the blogs I follow this morning and it struck my just how much better this site was than most of the ones I follow. So, we're going to pretend like RSS is now limited to no more than five feeds. Who do I follow? Read on!

1. The Dish by Keith Law - Law is best known as "the only reason baseball fans maintain a paid subscription to the ESPN web site," but his range of interests is impressive and match mine almost perfectly. He doesn't write about baseball on his blog; instead, he writes about food (both cooking and dining), board games, music*, movies, and books. He's a prolific reader so there are are book reviews a-plenty. Most every Saturday, he adds a list of links to important and interesting stories from the previous week.  If I had to stick to one blog, this would be it.

2. Morning.Computer by Warren Ellis - Following Ellis can be a bit of an adventure as he moves around a lot. He has some sort of presence on most platforms, but his activity varies widely. Wherever he is, he's worth following. He's best known as a comic book writer (possibly the best comic book writer), but he's written novels and he does an odd bit of lecturing on The Future as well. All of this is fascinating, but he's also the best book reviewer I've ever encountered. He writes about books in a way that makes you want to read them. The frustrating thing is that he often writes about books that haven't yet been released in the U.S. (and sometimes never are), but that's part of the fun.

3. jwz by James Zawinski - Computer programmer (Mozilla, Netscape, etc.), and owner of the DNA Lounge nightclub in San Francisco. The subject matter ranges from music, current events, and questions regarding technical issues he doesn't want to spend too much more time trying to solve himself. His takes are invariably interesting, well-considered, and extremely direct.

4. Charlie's Diary by Charlie Stross - This blog is all about the longreads, and, unusually, the comment section. Stross will post an extremely detailed hypothetical and ask for reactions and for people to poke holes in it and it makes for fascinating reading. He doesn't half-ass anything, so by the time he posts, it's well worth reading, and his readership is up to the task. He gets political from time to time, with some of the best takes on Brexit I've read. 

5. Whatever by John Scalzi - Considerably breezier than Stross, Scalzi treats his blog more as a diary so there are many shorter, personal posts on it. It's very much like following a personal friend, albeit one who is the target of some weirdly obsessed white supremacists. Not the best blog for information, but always an enjoyable read and goodness knows we need some of those.

I'd love to put Bree Newsome on here, but she doesn't blog. Twitter seems to be her primary outlet and I have a column in my Tweetdeck devoted to her just to make sure I don't miss anything. Gail Simone is another who is an absolute gold mine on Twitter, but she doesn't seem to have an outlet elsewhere.

This makes me think that blogging and RSS feeds are increasingly the province of the last generation and I'm dating myself by maintaining one. Ah well, I can live with that. Based on the recent protests against gun violence, I get the sense the next group of adults have their shit together better than my contemporaries. 


* Bonus points for his list of top singles from the 2000s featuring Gorillaz "19-2000" (Soulchild Remix) which was also my selection.

Five companies I won't do business with

I'm feeling grumpy this morning, so this is a good list to tackle today.

1. Uber

If there's a poster child for everything that is wrong with startup culture, it has to be Uber, doesn't it? Their CEO was a garbage truck of a man who referred to this company as "Boober" because, well, use your imagination. Surprisingly, their corporate culture is sexist as hellThey don't pay their drivers. They evade regulators by booking them to phantom cars. They try to bully cities into providing them special exemptions from regulations so they will have a competitive advantage over cabs, and when they fail, they leave the cities and claim to have been "forced" out.  They're a terrible, terrible company and, frankly, I'd rather walk than use Uber.

2. Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby went to the Supreme Court to fight for their right not to provide mandated birth control coverage for their employees, based on their strong religious convictions. Hobby Lobby invests in birth control due to their much stronger conviction in making bags of money. I've seldom felt less welcome in a store, so  I'll do them the favor of avoiding their business.

3. Chick-fil-A

You probably all know this one.

4. Papa John's

Even if there weren't a dozen better options for cheap pizza delivery, Papa John's has a terrible record on employee benefits and wages. Papa John himself blames his company's poor sales on...protests against police killing black people. Even if they sold a decent pie, no thank you.

5. Urban Outfitters

I'm not exactly in their core demographic anymore, but they still belong on this list. The big problem with Urban Outfitters is that they shamelessly rip off their designs from individuals. Screw them. I'll buy the same thing on Etsy, even if its more expensive.

Bonus: Walmart (sort of)

I bet you expected to see Walmart on this list, didn't you? I don't like shopping there, but in extreme situations, I will. I hate their business model, I hate what they do to local business, there is no shopping experience that's less pleasant, and they have a history of abusing the living daylights out of their employees. But...they actually pay their employees better than many retailers now. I don't like doing business with them, but there are cases in which I will.

Five holiday songs that don't drive me nuts

Let me preface this by saying I worked in records stores for five holiday seasons. "Burned out" doesn't begin to describe it. Nonetheless, there are a few that still give me happy feels even after hearing them a few hundred gazillion times. 

1. "A Snowflake Fell (and it Felt Like a Kiss)" - Glasvegas

One of those "the next big thing bands that wasn't" (and that's a long, long list, isn't?), Glasvegas borrowed liberally from the best of the Jesus and Mary Chain. This is a vaguely holiday-ish song that's much prettier than it had any business being (especially since it was released on the same EP as "Fuck You, It's Over.")

2. "2000 Miles" - The Pretenders

Even though I'm an 80s person, I was never much of a Pretenders fan. This song, though, stands head and shoulders above most holiday offerings. It's catchy and it isn't cloying. Faint praise, maybe, but it has never made me cringe and that can be said of very few holiday songs.

3. "Christmas in Hollis" - Run-DMC

Fun holiday songs are the worst. The forced frivolity is magnified to unbearable levels during the holidays, but if anyone can pull it if, it's Run-DMC. It's miles from their best work, but I always grin when I hear it. It's the antithesis of Paul McCartney's song-that-will-not-be-named-here.

4. "Just Like Christmas" - Low

I like their sound, ok? Most of my Christmases growing up were spent in Kansas and this song makes me think of cold winds on prairies even though its not about that at all. 

5. December (entire album) - George Winston

Solo piano versions of standards sounds about as trite as it gets, but this album is THE gold standard for holiday records in my opinion. When we'd play it in-store at the record store, we'd sell out of it every time. Utterly sentimental and absolutely timeless.

Five things for which I'm thankful this year

1. Nicole - I mean, obviously, but still, I don't think I can express how much joy she brings into my life. Even my old invisible friends weren't so closely attuned to my peculiar wavelength. She's also a good deal more beautiful than my imaginary friends. Turns out, she's better than I could ever have imagined, and I'll do everything within my considerable power to make sure she never has to doubt how much I love her.

Oh, and we can cook together. Never underestimate the importance of being able to share a kitchen.

2. My family - Again, this seems like a given, but I'm constantly amazed by how fortunate I am in this regard. My parents, my aunts, my cousins, and most especially my sisters have given me so much, so much more than I was aware of growing up, that I simply wouldn't be who and what I am today without them. 

3. My friends - The ones nearby, the ones who are distant, and even (though you'll seldom hear me admit it) the people I get to work with. You know who you are. Yes, you. Thank you. 

4. The pets - The cats, Tricksie, Winjamin Failclaw, Red Velvet (sorta) and the snails, Dazzle, McKenzie, and the Professor. When I first moved to Austin and I was flying solo, one of the worst things was coming home from work in the dark, opening the front door, and being greeted with silence. Of course, I don't have the problem now, but having a menagerie like this make the home so much home-ier. 

5. The RNG of life -I have it pretty damned good. I worked hard, and I'm pretty bright, but neither of those things guarantee anything. I've had opportunities and I've dodged some bullets and I've had a whole lot of help. My life is good and which is pretty much all I can ask. My grandmother always said she'd rather be lucky than good (she was both, at least when she was playing poker) and I think she was on to something.