Pseudo Book Review Of “Fire And Fury” Or If Only There Was More Space Between The Lines

scary author pic
From the back cover.

Books with scary pictures of authors on inner or back covers should be avoided at all costs. At least that’s what I used to tell myself. Which brings me to this worst-question: did Michael Wolff pick the pic (above) for the back cover or did some other corpo dastardly automaton pick it for him? Nomatter.

Just don’t let you kids near this guy–or President Stupid.

And by-the-buy, I didn’t buy this book. Never in my wildest thoughts did I ever seriously consider even going near this book. What can one read about President Stupid that one hasn’t already had stuffed down his/her throat with gulps of desperation? Either that or one can just watch some moronic TV, preferably WWE or reality-tv, and one can be just as informed. And that’s not all. One can also watch redneck, white trash #americant. Indeed. Watch it or read it. For between the lines of this book might just be a chronicle of the end of the beginning… Or is it the beginning of the end? Nomatter. At the least Wolff is a damn good writer.

I mean, he can spell and he knows how to use some big words. Or maybe not.

Kudos to my son for gifting me this book for my birthday. It’s his thing, don’t you know. I mean, gifting books during gifting season. As best as I can tell he’s mostly only gifted me, his stepmom and his mother, books. Wait. He gifted some bath oil to my better-half recently. So I could be wrong. Jeez. He’s twenty now. I don’t really know what he’s up to anymore anyway, what his motivations are, youthful prodigy confusion, etc. Yet he gave me a book that he should be reading. Yes. This book is for the youth of tomorrow. For those who would see how things shouldn’t be. Oh my. Confusion. Ditto. Confusion.

Let me begin this pseudo-review with some outtakes.

  • Chapter 20 (about The Mooch): “He had paid as much as half a million dollars to have his firm’s logo appear in the movie Wall Street 2 and to buy himself a cameo part in the film.”
  • Chapter 19(a): “Donald Trump’s sons existed in an enforced infantile relationship to their father, a role that embarrassed them, but one that they also professionally embraced. The role was to be Trump’s heirs and attendees. Their father took some regular pleasure in pointing out that they were in the back of the room when God handed out brains. Their sister Invanka, certainly no native genius, was the designated family smart person, her husband Jared the family’s smooth operator.”
  • Chapter 19(b): “The real swamp is the swamp of insular, inbred, incestuous interests (of Washington DC).”
  • Chapter 16: “In presidential annals, the firing of FBI director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.”
  • Chapter 13: “The world of the rich is, in its fashion, self regulating. Social climbing has rules.”
  • Chapter 8: “It became almost immediately clear that the common purpose of the campaign and the urgency of the transition were lost as soon as the Trump team stepped into the White House. They had gone from managing Trump to the expectation of being managed by him–or at least through him and almost solely for his purposes. Yet the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy, nor a team that could reasonably unite behind him.”
  • Chapter 7 (on how money laundering works): “One way the process can work is, roughly speaking, as follows: an oligarch makes an investment in a more or less legitimate third-party investment fund, which, quid pro quo, makes an investment in Trump.”

Chapter 7 is a particularly interesting chapter. It contains five theories on Trump’s Russia collusion which is, probably, the most significant aspect of Trump–other than his regime increasing the US debt to new highs. Of course, dear worst-reader, I read the book in February 2018. The book doesn’t really contain anything new as its content pretty-much ends around the fall of 2017. With that in mind, it does feel like the book is the script from which all news is being reported now. Yet some of it kept me almost enthralled.

This book is, at best, a well chronicled history of the first six months to a year of President Stupid and more importantly President Stupid’s… Trump-ism. If you are anti-Trump then you can easily stomach this book. If you’re pro-Trump this book doesn’t matter because, well, like Trump, you probably don’t read anyway. Also, Wolff does a good job of hiding his biases in this book. Yet when one watches him try to sell it on tv or when he appears on the Interwebnets, it might not be so obvious if he is anti-Trump. Oh how the appearance of being objective might help sales. Except, of course, for the child molesting pic he put on the back cover of this book.

Anywho.

Even though I did find myself struggling through chapters here and there, skipping huge parts of Wolff’s attempt at making something interesting that obviously isn’t, I’d recommend this book. Reason? Trump is literally a projection of not just a weak, spoiled mind, but also of an America that is just as rotten. I mean, come on. How else could such a person get elected? And I’m not sure that was Wolff’s intention. This is certainly no prize-redeeming piece of work. Indeed. Wolff has done nothing more than chronicle a huge $hitshow. And he’s done it fairly well.

Good luck suckers.

Rant on.

-T

Hey Comrade! My School Of Greed Is Gonna Kick Your School Of Greed’s A$$

capitalism crisis deepens richard wolff

In order to cope with the two Ms (monotony & mendacity) of growing up in Suburban Hell of my beloved #Americant, I participated–at the duress of my broken family–in two organised sport activities. One of those activities was tennis. And, if I recall correctly, I was actually ranked within the top-100 players of my state during the tennis season of which I participated. Of course, let it be known, I couldn’t serve worth a hoot. Yet I was “ranked”. Yea, that says a lot about organised sports back then–long before the inheriting, under-achieving classes came to be what they’ve become and thereby given us #Trump. But I digress.

The second sport I participated in was Football. And I don’t mean football of the round ball kind. I played American football–where the ball is the proper shape. The reason for the shape? When that ball flies through the air it is either a bullet or a duck–and you better know what you’re doing when it comes your way. And so… There is clarity in (some) sports, dear worst-reader. That clarity is in how a ball can fly like a bullet through the sky.

Although I did participate in a few other sports here and there, e.g., lacrosse, baseball, wrestling, fencing and girls, football is the one that stands out the most in my worst-memory. Ask me if I regret wasting my time on it, I do. Then again, the sport did teach me a bit about participating with others in a so-called “team”. It really is a shame how my beloved #Americant (sport) and her cult of the entrepreneur (the team) have warped the idear of the game in recent years. “Team” for me had a different meaning once. That was the only thing worthwhile about playing football. No a total waste, that is.

Now get this: I learned a few other things while playing American football. For example, my coach used to tell us when we were doing the cardio portion of our daily practice–and we watched those soccer guys in the field next to us run like gazelles all day–that soccer is a game for communists. Can you believe that, dear worst-reader? Here’s how you teach youngsters–back in the day:

Whaaaa’ da heel kaind ah spo’art is it anywho if’n you caint use yer damn hands? It’s a communist spo’art, I tail yee. Dats zackly wha’ it eezz. Damn darn communists! -My Coach

My coach added something about balls shouldn’t be perfectly round anyway. “Nothing is perfect. Check your own,” he said. Of course, being the prepubescent worst-writer I was, during the last two years of wasting mind and body playing football, I actually believed that soccer players were communists. Heck, when I approached some of the guys on the soccer team, I would even ask them:

Say, Comrade, hoist any sickle and spades lately?

But. Again. I digress.

All this worst-talk about communists brings me to my latest read. It is a book by Comrade Richard Wolff. Comrade Wolff is a “professor of economics”. Comrade Wolff has a somewhat interesting presence on the Interwebnets, too. Much of his work can be found at http://www.democracyatwork.info and he even has a monthly podcast called Economics Update where he talks about all things-worst (man to occupy my heart) in this world of capitalism run amok.

At first I didn’t think much about reading this book. There was/is enough of/from Comrade Wolff online already. But then something he said itched me. That itch was Wolff’s academic POV of all-things economic. Better put, he writes and talks a lot about economics as though… Now hold a sec. Get ready for it. Sit down if you got a weak ticker.

Comrade Wolff talks about economics as if it is science.

Now. Did you get that? Let me repeat it just in case, dear worst-reader. According to worst-writer, economics ain’t no science. Instead it is (should be) an academic field within The Arts. But let’s not get too far off the issue of what itches me.

There is one topic that Comrade Wolff keeps comping back to over and over: He is obsessed with the pseudo economic science of Greece and Germania. That’s the real reason I broke down and bought this book. It’s also the reason I read it over a two month period. It’s not that it is hard to read. It is. It’s just that it is boring, too. Boring as boring can be. Boring as wrongly placed academia can be. But then again, so too are all things that try to be scientific that should instead be artsy. And guess what happened after I finally finished the book? Comrade Wolff’s obsession with Greece and Germania is still a mystery to me. Gosh darn it! I hate it when I pick the wrong friggin book!

Allow me to summarise my issue (itch) with Comrade Wolff’s obsession. Comrade Wolff says that Germania is a locomotive. He also says that Greece is a caboose. In case you’re unaware, the caboose is at the back of a choo-choo-train. A caboose is a special, single car that in olden times served as a kind of housing facility for those who worked on the train as it crossed landscapes. And so… Germania is the front of the train and Greece… Well, ok, you get the metaphor.

Btw, if you were to ask me why I expatriated to the EU my third1 most important reason for doing so would be because of the fascination of witnessing the catastrophe that is an effort to unite something that should never be united as though it were a train crossing some heartily confused landscape. Either that or I am a freak for Schadenfreude?

In #Eurowasteland where the choo-choo-train metaphor can only go so far, that which determines everything… Is the fcuking caboose. -worst-moi after living in this Euro shithole for the last 25 yrs.

Now wait a sec. Comrade Wolff says it another way. Here, try this (pseudo-paraphrase):

The #Eurowasteland caboose is literally a fcuk machine that rides the train. The train is made up of voyeur, perverted nation-states that like gawking at the fcuk-car from the back. And who’s the biggest voyeur of them all? That’s right…

Fcuking Germans!

In his podcast Economic Update I’ve listened to Comrade Wolff lambast the Germans because Greece is an economic disaster. That is, Greece is a disaster, according to Wolff, because of the Germans. IMHO, Comrade Wolff is wrong. Greece’s problems have nothing to do with Germans. Greece has problems because of Greeks. Comrade Wolff likes to focus on banks and bankers and how they take advantage of European pions–all of which is lead by dastardly Germans.

Whaaaaaa?

Worst-writer’s explanation of the Greece problem is much simpler–and much clearer. To paraphrase the great oral tradition now being propagated by #Americants in the form of #Trump: Europe is a shithole and it’s full of shiteaters.

That’s Greece’s problem.

In order to understand Greece and thereby the entirety of #Eurowasteland, aka, Greedland, all one has to do is look at what Europe has given the world. From the Bronze Age to the Renaissance and beyond, we can all thank Europe for mass, systematic, unadulterated greed. Luckily, in recent times, there has been something done to try and mitigate this great gift.

Since WW2 (or maybe it was WW1–who the fcuk is counting?) Europe’s gift to the world has been split into two schools of thought. There is the Anglo-American school (of greed) and there is the Germanic school (of greed). If one looks at the social and political structures of the various confused nations that make up Greedland–from locomotives to the cabooses–it’s easy differentiating between these two schools of greed. It’s also easy to figure out who’s the bigger or biggest Schadenfreud-ist.

Let’s summarise, shall we?

Greece is, out of choice, part of the Anglo-American school (of greed). It is failing miserably as a nation-state because of this choices. Therefore it doesn’t matter if Greece were in the EU, off the coast of the UK or stuck somewhere between Alabama and Montana. Because of its choices, Greece is where it is today. More importantly it doesn’t matter who or what state bank leant money to whom. Greece would be where it is no matter where it was at the end of any train–considering how it has traversed the landscape. Btw, most of southern Europe is failing in the same way as Greece. Those countries too have chosen the Anglo-American greed $hitshow. Which begs the question: Is there enough space at the end of the shit-train for all these fcuking cabooses?

And now for the other school of greed.

Pause. Oh God. Brace Yourself. Here it comes.

Those fcuking Krauts.

The Germania school of greed is not about Germans of old. Can you imagine how things would be if they still wore those stupid, pointy helmets and everybody was named Gunter Leckmichamarsch? No. We’re dealing with new Germans here. And these new Germans got a few things up their slimy sleeves, don’t you know. That’s right. The slime is the one thing that was never defeated in any of those dumba$$ wars, don’t you know. In fact, most of northern Europe likes the slime that is in the German sleeve. Hence northern stoic Europe, compared to the lazy south, is doing just fine. With that in mind, what’s your favourite school of greed?

One shouldn’t look at the caboose to see how the $hitshow train is running. Also, Greece is too minuscule to use as an example of the failures of capitalism. The fact that old Greeks have hoarded everything and thereby practically choked the country to death doesn’t make it an example of what or what not to do. It might just be better (easier) to focus more on human nature–which transcends all of the above–even Comrade Wolff. Again: economics is not science.

Then again, Greece is a good example for something else. Capitalism is nature’s best system for dealing with greed. For Comrade Wolff and so many others like him, everything is easier to decipher when lumped together and thrown into one basket. I guess that’s why I prefer artsy over science (science being the basket). Even though I can sympathise with some of Comrade Wolff’s ranting and raving against capitalism–for I’ve given Marx’s Das Capital a glance or three–he doesn’t really offer any viable alternative other than what all others offer: scapegoating.

Anywho. As usual, I’m off subject. This was supposed to be a quick worst-post about Comrade Wolff’s book:

Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown.

Wanting to understand Comrade Wolff’s POV regarding Greece was the reason I decided to give this book a read. (Un)fortunately this book only substantiates my belief that economics is a pseudo-science.

And so…

Is there an alternatives to the greed $hitshow (capitalism) we’re all living in today? If so, it’s not in this collection of essays. And. NO! Coops and workers taking over the system isn’t an alternative–which is mostly what Comrade Wolff proposes. If, on the other hand, you’re still kind of suffering from the duck-and-cover trauma of the 60s and 70s and hard-up on avoiding all things communist, then you don’t need to read this book. With that in mind, I’m gonna continue checking the Interwebnets for whatever Comrade Wolff has to offer. Who knows. If he keeps at it, he might figure out an alternative someday.

Good luck with that, Comrades.

Rant on.

-T


  1. I’m sure the first and second can be found somewhere at worstwriter.com ↩︎

When All Else Fails Just Put Some Butter On It

the founder poster

Subtitle: Pseudo-Review Of .99€ Movie Rental The Founder

Almost didn’t make it, dear worst-reader. If it would have come to pass, this would have been the second movie I rented on iTunes but never watched. Luckily I had a few days left when I hit the play button last night. By-the-buy, iTunes (Germany) gives you around 30 days to watch a movie once you hit that rent-button. Once you hit the play-button, you have forty-eight hours to watch your movie. What the other movie was that I rented but didn’t watch I can’t remember. Apple got .99€ from me all the same. But that’s all butter under the bridge. And speaking of bridges…

How does a blah-blah movie about an a$$hole end up being a mediocre film about the invention of fast-food? Oh wait. This movie isn’t about fast-food. This movie is about a shinning star of #americant business acumen. Right? (Sarcasm off.) Well, the one thing to keep in mind about this Harvey Weinstein production is, like a severe burn on the inside of your fingers, all you gotta do to help things be less excruciating is to put some butter on it. Butter makes everything better. Except in the fast food industry on account butter is too expensive to work with–almost like real milk was too expensive for Milkshakes (for a while).

The Founder is the story of how Ray Kroc screwed two guys out of a really interesting idear about how to feed a hungry nation of automatons–most of whom are only interested in not having to cook a meal. Other than avoiding the reality of showing the world how much of an a$$hole Kroc was, this movie actually spends the first twenty minutes making one feel good about the invention of fast-food. Oh, and if you’re so inclined and only have a few months left in your MBA studies at the University of Cocksuckers, this is one great film to watch if you need a case study that is about nothingness.

Although there are moments of reality regarding the a$$holery of the pyramidal franchise business which Kroc sucked up to, this movie gets lost between showing the real founders of fast-food magic and the cut throat reality of making more than a buck on someone else’s dime. So I guess, in a righteous universe where wrongs are outed, this movie could be called Watch Out For A$$holes Because You’re Living In A World Of Them. And with that in mind, here is worst-writer’s take on this movie in-short: there is no redeeming value in either the movie or what Ray Kroc achieved in his life. And if you want to know how to make a buck off subject matter with no redeeming value, ask Harvey Weinstein.

Rant on.

-T

PS The performances of the actors in this movie is outstanding. The writing though sucks batballs and the only thing that could have saved it is if worst-writer had written it.

Typing On The New MacBook, The Joy Of Butterfly

IMG_3629

I can’t feel a thing. Well, actually I feel a small click. Yes. It’s a click where there should be movement. And I’m not talking about the trackpad? Yet, so similar are these new input and control gadgets on Apple’s new MacBook. Comparatively, there is much more movement of the keys and the trackpad of my MacBook Air (MBA). And, btw, I’ve always hated chicklet keyboards. And so, Apple came up with a software solution to enhance the typing environment–just for me.

Get this.

You can, in preferences, actually turn on a clicking sound for the trackpad. Ain’t that a hoot! Of course, I don’t know if that’s cool or stupid. But I don’t really care. The software click of the trackpad corresponds perfectly to the precise click of the keyboard and its oh-so limited butterfly key travel. In fact, I’d say this new keyboard is actually louder than the old keyboard. And so, I’m thinking about the keys of the Apple USB keyboard connected to my Mac Pro 5,1. Those keys move more than the ones on my MBA. And as stated: I’m not a fan of chicklets. Yet, in my pseudo review of this MacBook, something isn’t right… when I’m not typing on it.

Here’s the confiscation run-down.

I’m not sure my wife’s 100% behind me taking her MacBook. On the other hand, I can’t stand seeing the thing just lie around. She bought this 2nd gen MacBook in the late summer of 2016 but never really used it. Why she bought it in the first place is another story. In short, it had something to do with her job and BYOD (bring your own device). It turns out that her iPad was more than enough to be her daily driver–even at work. After about six or eight months lugging both the MacBook and the iPad to work she started leaving the MacBook home. That’s when I started fiddling with it in the name of empirical study. I was curious about the device since its debut. It turns out that the performance of the M3 processor is every bit as good as the performance of the i7 processor of my 2015 MBA. Let me tell you, dear worst-reader, that was the first sign that my MBA’s days were numbered.

The complaints.

The Interwebnet is full of MacBook keyboard sucks complainers. Reviewers and users alike all have something negative to say about this new design. Complaints usually start with the price, then comes the keyboard and it all seems to culminate with the single USB-C port. To me, considering Apple’s product trajectory, which is obviously iOS centric, this MacBook only makes sense. I for one am not ready to go iOS–but I see the inevitability of the future. Trust me, I tried i0S. I had a iPad 4 for about a year. And I honestly tried to supplant my 2013 13″ MacBook Pro with it. I did not succeed. I dumped the iPad 4 for an Apple refurbished MacBook Air. (By-the-buy, that’s the only way I buy Apple hardware now.) Apple’s pro machines are too high-priced and also a bit of tech overkill for my needs. And so, my best guess is the only reason Apple still has the Air model is so they can offer it to guys like me in the $999 bracket–or even cheaper refurbished. Anywho. The new-fangled MacBook starts at three hundred bucks more than an Air–and for the life of me I don’t really know why. Despite the new design features, it feels as though you are paying way more for way less by going with the new device. A hefty hunk of change indeed.

And now for some worst-writer honesty.

If I were at an Apple Store right now I wouldn’t even look at a MacBook. That pink colour is just too f’n scary. I would go straight to the Pro line. I’m not sure how long it would take, but after a few milliseconds of witnessing the price of “pro” models, I’d be out of the store and once again walking home where I would try and catch a great deal buying from Apple’s refurbish program. There is no doubt that Apple Macs are waaaaaaay over priced. Yet, I’m stuck in the eco-system. I’m only glad that I have a choice other than full retail consumption of this krapp.  That said, here I am–by means of marital confiscation–absolutely loving the new design, including the keyboard, the single port and f’n everything else. Is it faster than my three year old Air (with i7 cpu): no. Is the screen better: yes. Is the build better: yes. Is the keyboard better: it’s definitely not worse than any chicklet keyboard. Which brings me to…

The only thing I ever learned in #americant public school was the ability to all finger type.

I probably haven’t typed anything on a mechanical typewriter in about two years. I think I might have used my Hermes Baby last year when I needed to address some envelopes. That’s right, dear worst-reader. I addressed snail mail envelopes using a typewriter instead of printing from a laser printer. The reason for that, other than romance and nostalgia mixed with bit of boredom, is not worth addressing here. What’s important is that I don’t miss typing on typewriters. It was/is time to give them up–and not because I too am becoming outdated. I have long since embraced the glorified-typewriters aka computers of today for all my writing. In fact, I was thinking about buying one of them glass cabinets and putting it in a room and filling it with Hermes, Olivetti, Olympia, Princess and Groma Kolibri–all of which are retired in a few boxes in my basement.

glass cabinet for typwriter collection

Oh yeah. The MacBook keyboard.

For the life of me I can’t understand why people complain about this keyboard. Considering that I’ve always found chicklet keyboards a bad idear, this so-called butterfly keyboard made me curious from the get-go. I can see why finger-picking typists would have a hard time with it. The keys have very little travel and even less tactile feel. For finger-pickers it must be like tapping on a glass plate–or worse: typing on an iPad (aghast). When I focus with all nine fingers*, when I soften my strokes, when I get going, I love this keyboard. The butterfly mechanism alleviates having to find the sweet spot of, say, chicklet keys–which is often the biggest problem I’ve had when using my ring finger and little finger on those keyboards. No matter what part of the key you touch on the new MacBook keyboard, it activates. It also makes it easier to find/reach shift-keys and all the other non letter keys with ring and little fingers.

Worst-Writer conclusion: the only other laptop keyboard that has ever been worth a hoot is that of the older Thinkpads. But from what I understand Lenovo, since taking over from IBM, has resorted to chicklet keys, too. As far as I can tell, getting rid of the chicklet keyboard was one of the best things Apple could do. With that in mind, you finger typists should finally learn to type.

Rant on.

-T

*Nine fingers because I use only my right thumb when typing.

Pseudo Review: Followup Of Newly Confiscated 2016 12″ MacBook

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The first pseudo-review is here. A third is here.

How did I get here, dear worst-reader? How did I get to be the confiscating husband I’ve become? And how did I get to this place I’m at where being overwhelmed w/ tech gadgets could be so frustrating? You know, dear worst-reader, as a useless-eater, as an exploiter of Tennessee Williams’ and Blanche Dubois’ “I’ve always been dependent on the kindness of strangers”, I wake up in the morning (sometimes) and say to myself: what the hell am I gonna do with all this tech krapp that has begotten me? Are there not people in the world cleaning up poisonous tech gadget waste dumps because of me? Are there not children’s fingers bleeding from mining the rare elements that make up the innards of these devices? Or perhaps the better, more prudent question is: Do I really have a need for all this krapp? I’ve got desktop computers, servers, laptops, phones, watches, tablets, etc. I’ve got video editors, glorified and digitised typewriters, backup devices, routers and LAN bridges, etc., etc. And I’ve also got a big old box in my basement labelled “Apple” where I store all the stuff I don’t/can’t use anymore. I know. I know. I should call it “junk”. The sad part of all this consume-to-survive nothingness is that it’s actually hard even giving this stuff away–especially when you have no friends and so little contact with the outer world. Indeed. Corporate agenda consume-to-survive obsoletism and dust collecting. That’s me. With that in mind, who would have guessed–after years and years of youth driven anger–I’d be in this phase of life overwhelmed with too much gadgetry? What to do, what to do, what to do–other than consume more.

The pseudo review.

As mentioned in my previous review of the 2016 12″ MacBook (see link above), there was/is something about it that got under my collar. That something has left me perturbed with my beloved MacBook Air. I mean. I don’t need two laptops. Does anyone need two laptops? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Damn you Apple engineers! In short. The MacBook is nothing short of amazing. In fact, it’s so good, I’ve found myself questioning why Apple has continued the MacBook Air line of laptops. So does it matter that the MacBook is outrageously expensive compared to other laptops, especially Apple’s MacBook Air? Which begs the question: Is this little device worth all that stupid-money? I suppose that’s exactly why Apple has kept the Air models going. For worst-moi, though, having a relatively new, i.e. three year old Air, the discussion is now moot since I got hooked on the 12″ model a few months ago. The real issue is, does the new 12″ MacBook (not really new as mine is the 2016 2nd gen version and the 3rd gen came out last June) work for me by doing the things I need to do in this useless eating, failed artist life?

Oh boy does she go!

I gave the MacBook a trial run–having left my MBA at home during recent travels. Between visits to Denmark and the bewilderment of galavanting in a north European forest that had markings for graves from as far back as 700AD, I spent a few hours each day typing on this new device. By-the-buy, my wife bought the MacBook in late fall of 2016. Being the iOS obsessed user she is, though, she rarely used it. When she finally replaced her go-to device, an iPad Air 2 with a new iPad Pro about two months ago, I don’t think she ever even looked at the MacBook anymore. It was relegated to sitting on a gadget shelf in my room. And, don’t you know, dear worst-reader, it was talking to me. It was looking at me–especially when I was using my MacBook Air or my Mac Pro. It said: Come on dude. You don’t love those outdated things. You love me.

For a while I was able to resist. But we traveled to my beloved Homeland in late October and once again, for about two weeks, I left my cumbersome MacBook Air at home. Can you believe I’m calling a 2015 MacBook Air cumbersome? When we returned to the old country, around mid November, I found myself reaching for the MacBook instead of my MBA. A few days ago I finally gave in.

Twelve inch joy and that’s what she said.

There is something about this device that just fits. For one, I love the 12″ inch form factor. The fact that it’s so light doesn’t hurt either. Of course, I never thought I’d refer to my old MacBook Air as cumbersome–but I’ve already said that. The chassis actually makes this machine feel higher quality than my MBA. Compared to the MBA, the MacBook is stiffer and feels robust. In my humble opinion, when it comes to the amount of typing I do, although it’s a bit louder when I type, it even types better than my MBA. More on that in a sec. And by-the-buy, so far the solution to loud typing on this thing is to keep your fingernails trim.

That Damn Keyboard.

Would you believe I missed typing on this machine during the few months I wasn’t using it in the last half-year? From the day the new MacBook came out, introducing a new-fangled keyboard, trackpad and screen, I was totally skeptical about what Apple had done. I mean, come on. Someone at Apple actually came with that touch-bar thing on the MacBook Pros. A touch bar on a device that wants a touch screen? Hello!

Anywho. My first thoughts were: There is so little movement from the keys. Then, the more and more I used it, it turns out that something was missing when I wasn’t using it. And you have to understand, dear worst-reader. I’m an old school typist. Other than having too many modern tech gadgets, I have a small collection of old mechanical typewriters. Trust me when I say, I know typing. The keyboard on the MacBook is for typing. All you have to do is type softer. And that’s not a bad thing.

There’s one more thing that makes this new keyboard rock. As mentioned, I really like the 12″ form factor of this device–especially how Apple made everything fit perfectly. One of the faults of the MBA keyboard is that there’s too much chassis around it, especially below it. That means, if/when I’m typing I have to remove my Apple Watch because the watch-band gets in the way of the chassis. Also, the edges of the MBA are sharp enough to irritate skin. The MacBook, on the other hand, just fits my hands/fingers better. How they fit this keyboard into the chassis is actually more impressive than how they fit the retina screen.

But the screen is the cream!

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 06.44.25

The “retina” display is more than a brilliant and versatile screen. The thing that makes it special is how I can adjust it–for writing/typing. What I mean by “adjust” is more than changing screen real-estate and pixels. Keep in mind, I’m getting to be an old guy. My eyes are almost shot (as in I can’t see without coke bottle glasses anymore). In fact, my eyes are so bad, if I were alive during the bronze age, I probably would believe in the mysticism of religion, too. Yeah, that’s what is wrong with the blind imagination of the men who snaked religion into humanity because they couldn’t see the trickery of things around them like… walking on water or how someone snuck in the wine to replace the water! But I digress.

The most important thing you can do with adjusting the MacBook screen is not only change the size of it but also when you do change it, it doesn’t turn the text into a bunch of ugly pixelated letters. Nomatter what size the display is, the text is sharp and crystal clear. I cannot tell you, dear worst-reader, how significant that is for me.

Fancy Trackpad.

I was never and probably never will be a trackpad fan. I’m still using a wired mouse on my cheese-grater 2010 Mac Pro. When I work with my MBA on my desk I usually use a wired mouse with it, too. Remember the red dot pointer device on Thinkpads? They were/are the best pointer solution other than a mouse–ever. I had a Thinkpad back in the day when The System let me work for the man. Speaking of Thinkpads, if/when I finally give up on Apple/Mac–and I believe that day is coming as the company keeps going down this path of being an iOS centric organisation–I’m getting a Thinkpad and installing Linux on it. But again–I digress.

Moving a finger across a small slab of glass (or in some cases textured plastic) and that translating into a pointer on your screen is the worst tech innovation ever. With that in mind, is the GUI (graphical user interface) an idea that’s reached its end? Personally, with the advent of AI (artificial intelligence), I think it is high-time to re-think the personal computing GUI. I, for one, would love having a command-line interface but with a voice activated AI that allows me to control the entire machine.

  • “Open” this or “Close” that.
  • “Put the last file I was working on in the trash, please.”
  • “Play that song I was listening streaming last night…”
  • “Open file so-n-so, please.” Etc.

The trick being to finally get rid of the graphical user interface. Really. GUI sucks. CLI rules. (If only I were the coder I wish I were.)

One last thing about trackpads. The thing I hate most about the trackpad on my MBA is how only parts of it are useful for certain tasks. The top of it acted different than the bottom. The bottom sometimes got in the way if I my hands were moving around wild and free. In fact, I would often take my eyes off my work (the screen) to make sure I was placing my finger in the right place so I could command my machine. Switching between left and right fingers didn’t help matters either. Luckily the MacBook’s new trackpad is finally approaching what I consider to be usability simply because all parts of it work equally. Although I haven’t found much use yet for “force touch”, it does seem like a logical and much needed addition to trackpad technology.

Going places with the low-end.

about mac screenshot

Compared to 2015 MacBook Air (with i7 CPU), the low-end M3 processor of the MacBook is impressive. Switching between desktops spaces and full screen apps is faster on the newer machine. When I’m working I usually have several apps open, each occupying a desktop space. I have to move between them all regularly. There is no delay in screen redraw or app performance. Surprisingly there is some performance issues with my MBA. Manipulating screenshots from the interwebnets or pics from my iPhone that are transferred using AirDrop and adjusting their size or converting formats all happen instantly on the new MacBook. If I take a break from writing and go to youtube or stream media from my home server, it all happens in the blink of an eye. Now that’s to say that for other tasks (video and more intense picture manipulation) the MBA with its heavier CPU would be better. But there is no denying that the MacBook–for a low-end device–is very impressive.

The good, the bad, the über-cheap and ugly.

IMG_3620

The worst part of this MacBook is the camera. For reasons probably better not made public, Apple decided to put a ten year old (480p) camera in this laptop. My MBA has a great camera in it. The pic above, btw, is the same ten year old camera that’s in the MacBook. I used to love that old camera when it worked on my Mac Pro–until Mavericks broke it. But get this. Even though the video of the iSight camera was $hit, I continued using it for its great microphone. But then El Capitan broke that. Actually, what I think broke was firewire. (But that’s a whole different post.) For me, video is just not a big deal. And when I FaceTime with people, it’s more than good enough–except in low light. Audio is somewhat more important to me and the twin microphones of the MacBook seem to work great. To me, the digital world is all about tools for worst-writing, typing, researching $hit on the interwebets, etc. and this machine does it better than any Mac I’ve ever used.

One I/O?

As far as hooking $hit up to this new MacBook, I don’t care about that either. The only thing I miss is the opportunity to attach an ethernet cable. But I’m starting to break away from that, too. Even though I have a USB-C dongle that gives me 3x USB 3.0, 1x MicroSD and 1x HDMI out, I really am good with the single port. Eventually I plan to utilise the port to tote around a battery, taking advantage of USB-C charging capability. Of course, I probably wouldn’t say any of this if this were my only machine. But I’m practically drowning in tech krapp at this point so I can’t judge whether I need more I/O. So far, traveling with it, typing with it, sleeping with it, hoarding it, the one I/O is not an issue. In fact, the only thing missing from this gluttonous life of mine is that I can’t own the newest stuff yesterday.

In worst-conclusion.

I’m digging the 12″ MacBook and for the future, unless something changes everything, like my wife gets really pissed at me for confiscating it or she breaks her new iPad, it’s gonna be my daily (typing) driver.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo Review: RasPlex + Hifiberry And Some Serious Audio On The Cheap

 

rasplex hifiberry dacpluspro
That little green light is more than go-go, baby!

Can a non-audiophile still hear great audio? Can a music-lover of old music still get some jams through his/her head in these digital times without breaking the bank? Do those guys that spend all that money as “audiophiles” give you the creeps? Indeed. Money. Audio. How much you got?

Because I spend too much money on other expensive stuff, I’ve never really prioritised audio in my life–even though I love listening to music. I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to dish out huge sums of cash to hear good replicated music. That said, I can’t go more than a few days without listening to something that either soothes me, rocks me or moves me. A good drink and some Jazz while cooking is heaven. Am I wrong? And so. Unlike most young folk today, I can’t listen to music through headphones–whether in-ear or over-ear. If you see me out and about with Beckett, the killer pug, and I’ve always got earbuds stuck in my head–I’m listening to podcasts! The problem with headphones and earbuds is the feeling I get with so little space between my ears and what moves air. Headphones make music not only sound weird but feel weird, too. If that makes me old fashion, then get this. I have come to love today’s modern digital music consume-to-survive world. Even though I don’t buy much music anymore–and I can’t stand most all of the music made nowadays, I’m good. Reason? I have a digitised music library that contains everything I need. Whether it’s The Beatles (the greatest album ever is Abby Roads), Beethoven (9th!) or some esoteric Jazz, I’m good. Really good. Seriously. And that’s not all. For all practical purposes, dear worst-reader, I completely missed the CD revolution, too. I couldn’t afford the equipment back then. Since the 70s I have consumed music by borrowing, sharing or trading. In fact, till about fifteen years ago, I had never even owned a sound system with speakers. But I digress.

As digital music took over by the mid 90s–along with the Internetwebs–I was still catching up on the CD revolution. Of course, at least two-thirds of the CDs I have, were all acquired pre-owned or traded. Like in the days with cassettes and albums, digital music was made for sharing. For those who consider sharing piracy, first: fuck you. Second: I still have most of the CDs I ripped in a box in my basement. I never once downloaded anything from Napster–even though I admire greatly what they were trying to do. (Note: I will never buy anything Metallica for what that $hitty band did to young people who just wanted to share music.) I did make a few downloads from BitTorrent, though. (Note: it was all part of research!) Anyhoo. I have a nice digital library of music that spans most of the 20th century. Oh, and I have two version of that library. One version is in FLAC and the other, to appease me wife’s demand for media singularity and simplicity, is iTunes compatible.

Let’s move on to the pseudo-review, shall we?

As you’ll note in the pic above, I am currently using two streaming devices for our home media. For amplification (and in order to avoid those awful sound bars, which my wife wanted after I got rid of our AVR krapp) I’m using a TEAC A-HO1 integrated amp and DAC. Here’s a review of it. I got it last year after selling my hundred pound multi-channel AVR system, 7 speakers, and one 700 watt subwoofer. I’m not even gonna worst-write how little money I got for all that krapp–which says a lot about the state of the audio equipment industry. But get this. I would have almost given it away. If I ever have to wire up five, six or seven speakers again and then try to configure an AVR for a room… I’m gonna shoot myself with your gun.

Amp and sound.

The TEAC is connected to some really, really cool Audioengine P4 speakers (not pictured). We have a fairly small living room and I’ve never once regretted having these “bookshelf” speakers–which are actually in bookshelves that surround my flatscreen TV. They are fantastic speakers and I got them on a über-great-deal from shopping on the Interwebnets. They move the air more than enough to make sound very, very enjoyable.

Streaming boxes.

For iTunes we have the AppleTV(3) connected via HDMI to the TV. The optical-out of the TV is connected to the optical-in of the TEAC. This works fine–except for the fact that one is locked into the Apple world. Which also means no high-end audio and/or limited access to my own higher-end audio files. The ATV can’t play FLAC files.

Also connected to the TV via HDMI is my RaspberryPi 2 Model B+, and connected to that is a Hifiberry DAC+Pro. This is a bit more complicated than the ATV. The HDMI of the RaspberryPi also delivers audio to the TV, and, as with the ATV, the TV converts audio signals to the TEAC’s optical-in. Again, for simplicity, I have chosen not to use the ATV’s optical out–which does produce better audio than the TV. That said, we want something more than any of these optical options, don’t we?

Analogue Audio Galore.

The Hifiberry is where the real magic happens. For less than a hundred Euros–the software, RasPlex, is free btw–the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic DAC. It actually converts and, where applicable, upscales audio and then delivers that as analog right and left stereo to the TEAC’s analog-in cinch ports. The Hifiberry DAC+ and “pro” designation means that it has the same type of chips used in high-end DACs. You can opt for a non “pro” version of the Hifiberry if you prefer to save a buck or three. But I couldn’t resist the gold cinch connectors! Nomatter.

Btw, I’ve had the RaspberryPi+Hifiberry for two years or so. I gave up on it when I first got it because I couldn’t get the drivers to work properly. Even though the HDMI of the Raspberry Pi spits out audio, it’s not half as good as what this thing spits out with the Hifiberry card attached. And so. The other day, while bored out of my early-retirement mind and while fiddling through a junk box of old gadgets, I decided to google whether or not they finally fixed the driver issue. Alas! They did. I re-installed the newest version of RasPlex on a 16GB micros SD card. I also had to fiddle with the config.txt file a bit. Then you have to tell RasPlex, using the UI, to route audio through the Hifiberry daughter card… Boom, baby! That little green light (pic above) lights up bright and shinny.

First test.

From a ripped blu-ray of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Raspberry Pi + Hifiberry streams from my Plex server via LAN crystal clear 1080p video including up (or is it down?) scaled DTS 5.1 audio to stereo and the TEAC releases what will make even an ageing grouch like me smile from ear to ear. Also. I’m really glad those boys at RasPlex got their software to the point that even I can set it up. Cool. Über cool.

Rant on.

-T

 

A Seminar About Beef, God-Knows-Where Nebraska, And My Personal Trail Of Tears

capon-chicken
Capon chickens drying, ageing, preparing their expensiveness.

As mentioned in a previous worst-post, as a b’day gift I was forced to attend a cooking seminar last weekend. I say ‘forced’ without the intention of holding a grudge against my better-half’s gift choice. It’s just that I’m already a damn fine cook so my initial reaction to such a gift must be a bit apprehensive. The combination of being a skeptic, a cynic and a self-aggrandising cook means that I have to suck-it-up like a buttercup when my wife gives me a b’day present. Then there’s the issue that if you’re gonna attend a steak cooking “seminar” hosted by a company that specialises in selling premium meat, which includes a four course meal, well, how much was this gonna cost? With that in mind, dear worst-reader, I rarely go out to eat anymore because I’m not only stingy but:

  1. Based on service and food quality, money paid to a restaurant is stupid money and I hate stupid money.
  2. Since being able to afford fine dinning in this life, I can count on one hand how many restaurants have impressed me in the past ten years.

(Seriously. One of the best places I’ve ever eaten was on Phi-Phi Island, Thailand. It was literally a shack where three lady-boys cooked and served the best fusion asian food I’ve ever eaten and it all only costs a few bucks. But I digress.)

I told my better half that she’s not really giving me a gift but instead lining the pockets of guy who thinks he knows beef. And then I said, “Schnooki, the problem is the guy giving the seminar is German.” There was a long pause. Trust me, dear worst-reader, when I say Germans don’t know beef. It’s über true. Of course, it’s not that they don’t eat beef. They do. It’s that, until recently, they have been clueless about even the simplest form of bovine consumption. If you don’t believe me then the next time your in the old country and get tired of driving your rental car a gazillion miles per hour on the Autobahn, go into any grocery store. There you’ll find that Germans still offer two cuts of beef. One is called the Rumpsteak and the other is called Huftsteak. Unless you’re trained to tell the difference, there is no difference in these two cuts of meat. These “steaks” are then usually cooked in a pan with some kind of grease and then served with potatoes and, if you’re lucky, garlic butter. It’s no wonder that Germans have a certain reputation in the world–that doesn’t include culinary prowess. Luckily, even at my bitter-old-age, I’m open to moments of entertainment that potentially could include subpar cooking. What the hell.

In order to protect the innocent I’m gonna refer to the company behind our recent steak cooking seminar as White Man Steak & Co.’s Evening of Red & Juicy or WSCERJ. The seminar itself takes place in the fancy foyer of an old, converted textile warehouse. This foyer can be changed into a kitchen by moving modular ovens, grills, stove-tops, etc. Because of the size of the foyer, though, the number of participants is limited to about twenty people. The seminar is already fully booked through most of 2017. So it was nice to find out that my better-half actually started planning my b’day present almost a half year in advance. This place is definitely fancy-fancy.

A small company, WSCERJ has about thirty or so employees that handle all the typical corporate krapp and a small staff of culinary experts that include two chefs, a sous chef, two butchers and a “food designer”. According to the owner, though, they were short staffed for this particular evening. That meant that the owner and his young daughter were our servers for the four course meal that integrated with the seminar. Later we learned that two of the people attending were also from a German industry magazine and were there to do a review. Needless to say, the owner was at the top of this game.

After a short tour of the facility that included offices, backrooms full of supplies and industrial refrigerators full of hanging beef, pork and chicken (see pic above), the owner of the company continued with a long-winded monologue about the greatness of product that only he is able to offer the German meat market. The key to his success, he claims, is the fact that he personally knows all his meat suppliers. Of the seven cuts of meat that were being featured and were also strewn out in front of us, four came from Germany and three from God-knows-where Nebraska. The absurdity of a sales-pitch combined with the frivolity of overpriced ingredients that were about to be cooked up in front of us was only matched by bullsh*t galore. Luckily the BS was quickly accompanied by food and plenty of drink.

The four courses meal was:

  • Tartar
  • Porkbelly
  • Beef Short Rib
  • A typical creamy dessert not worth mentioning.

Beyond the fact that tartar shouldn’t be made from a bull’s rump, the first course was ruined by too much sauce and too much salad accompaniment. The only thing that saved it was the canned caviar that topped it off. In fact, I ate all the fish eggs but left most of the tartar and rest behind. I also kept it to myself that I could make better tartar by buying some half decent hamburger meat at the grocery store and throwing a raw egg yolk on it accompanied by some white pepper. It’s just wrong, nomatter who the bull is, to use rump for tartar. The second course was sous vide pork belly that was briefly grilled just before serving which made the upper layer of fat nice and crispy. Not a bad dish but, to me, it isn’t the right thing to follow tartar. The beef short rib was ok, but that’s about it. Forget the dessert. Seriously. Forget it.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. Or have I succeeded in fooling you that I’m trying to write a review? Nomatter. It was between the 2nd and 3rd course of the meal that the real seminar took place. As I said, there were seven different cuts of meat on the counter when we arrived. The rump was cut into large pieces by the two chefs and then given to those who volunteered to turn it into tartar with knives and cutting boards. What a mistake, eh! The tartar sucked. Two other “aged” steaks were then cooked and served as appetiser finger food in a glass of beef broth and butter. It was awful. A third cut of meat was not actually beef but instead two pork steaks. The owner went into an extended diatribe about how pork is the new steak–as long as you buy it from him and his supplier. The owner then added that he wanted to offer capon chicken (see pic) in the mix but none of his birds were ready yet. The remaining four cuts of meat, all of which were from Rex and his über ranch in God-knows-where Nebraska, were the crème de la crème of the evening. There were two lean cuts of Bison, one thick Wagyu t-bone and one thick Kobe. All of these meats were cooked in pans on a stove using fat and butter and then sliced up and given to the seminar participants for taste testing. The pork was awful and should accompany the dessert in the bin. I didn’t get any of the Wagyu t-bone, but I assume it was good. The Bison was fantastic–and it is the only meat I plan on ordering from this company. And, just before the sous chef started cooking the Kobe, I asked if he would cut me a thin, sashimi style slice so that I could try it raw. He did and I consumed it and it was good.

But here’s the thing.

While explaining the ins and outs of the best beef in the world coming from a supplier in God-knows-where Nebraska (probably) named Rex, that he obviously enjoys visiting and fraternising with, the owner of WSCERJ seems to have gotten naively mixed up with some American style white-supremacy BS a’la Faux Newz. How do I know this? Well, for starters, the American Indians that died because of the greed European mentality that was conquering North America (at the time) didn’t die from starvation.

Whaaaaaaaaaaa….

That’s right, dear worst-reader. During a seminar about how to consume beef, most of which comes from my beloved (and missed) grand united mistakes of #americant, a full grown family man who is running a vibrant and flourishing business in Germany, actually believes–because of what he has been told–that American Indians died from starvation and not from genocide. It was at this point I raised my hand, put down my drink, and interrupted the host of his seminar. I gayly told him and the audience that I was more than happy to eventually purchase some of his product but he should refrain from making comments about things he heard from some white guy in God-knows-where Nebraska. There was a brief silence in the room. Then the owner of WSCERJ commented about the movie Dances With Wolves and I marched off to the bathroom to gather myself.

Upon returning to the foyer and the seminar, I was met at the entry by the sous chef. He was a young bull of a man from what used to be the former East Germany. I joked with him during the evening that he should be a linebacker and play American football. He smiled and obviously approved of my flattery. But before I could re-enter the seminar we had the following discourse:

Sous-chef: Tell me, do you like Donald Trump?

Moi: He’s ok. A bit over-rated both in the good and the bad. But ok.

Sous-chef: I think he’s much better than Hillary. You know Germany has a female president…

Moi: Chancellor, you mean.

Sous-chef: Yes. Whatever. You see how she let in so many migrants? Not good. That’s why I like Trump. He’s right, you know.

Moi: Ah, yeah, sure. As long as he doesn’t go on some crazy war path like George W. Bush, he might be alright.

Sous-chef: Exactly. Trump good. (He drags his knuckles returning to his place in the foyer-kitchen.)

And so. Dear worst-reader. There you have it. The world is amassing and mobilising knuckle draggers from all over and in all corners. I’m faced with them in the heart of prosperous middle Germania and God-knows-where… else.

Bon appetite.

Rant on.

-t