Archive for category: General

Why Damien Lewis Is a Great Actor

19 Jul
July 19, 2018

This clip is a few years old, but one of the best renditions of Marc Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceasar.”

This is why I hate reading Shakespeare’s plays, but I do love watching them.

Lawfare: Las Vegas Edition

18 Jul
July 18, 2018

Back in October, a homicidal maniac decided to rain down fire on a concert. Fifty-eight died and over five hundred injured.

Being the litigious society we are, victims sued MGM, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel, for failing to take appropriate action to stop this homicidal maniac. MGM, not wanting to pay out what would probably end up being tens of millions of dollars decides to sue the victims right back. Except, instead of money, MGM is suing to invalidate any liability under a law passed in the wake of 9/11.

It’s all a cluster-fuck. Of course, the press is excoriating MGM. Just another episode of lawfare.

Toastmasters Conference AAR

23 May
May 23, 2018

Disclaimer – I am not currently a Tosstmasters member. This will most likely change before the end of this year. Many of these observations are from an outsider observing a major event for a specific group with its own lingo and speak.

So, how did I end up attending a conference? The Girlfriend is an officer in the district, and since we only see each other on the weekends at the moment, she asked if I’d be interested. Plus, I can always use advice on polishing my “stage” persona and writing.

Toastmasters, just like any organization, has its own lingo. Since this was a big conference for the organization, it’s to be expected that they would use their acronyms and phrases fast and furious. Sometimes I could pick up through context. Others I just needed to ask The Girlfriend.

The workshops were hit and miss (mostly miss), but I did pick up some ideas for improvement on my speaking. Most of my public speaking is providing training or performance reporting, so it was nice seeing other types of speeches.

The contests were entertaining, although one part was more entertaining for me than the conference. Toastmaster protocol is when a constestant is introduced it is “Contestant, Speech Title, pause, Speech Title, Contestant.” And every time they did that, I flashed back to Hot Fuzz and the clerk at the grocery store.

Overall, I enjoyed myself and will probably enjoy it more next year when I attend as a Toastmaster and not just as a guest.

Tab Clearing

17 May
May 17, 2018

I’m borrowing Tam’s title and clearing out articles that I meant to do full posts on.

Teaching Situational Awareness to Kids – Because I have two in my life, and I’d kinda like to keep them out of danger.

The Economist saying how wonderful universal health care is for all nations. This was one I wanted to fisk, but I’d recommend reading it to understand how the proponents think.

Syrian Metal Is War – Yeah, like I could scroll past that article.

[Finland ends its universal basic income experiment.( I like the concept of a basic income that replaces all other welfare programs. It just doesn’t seem viable in the real world.

Start-ups make an alternative for braces, and the dental groups rent seek. – I hate when businesses use the violence of government to keep others out of the market.

The Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent column on not supporting laws you wouldn’t kill someone to enforce. Honestly, that would be an interesting bit of mandatory language in any law that assesses a criminal or civil penalty. Make the legislators affirm that this is important enough to possibly kill someone over.

A surprising column from The Atlantic on cultural appropriation. I swear to FSM that I would laugh in the face of any person foolish enough to accuse me of that. Or denigrate.

That’s all for now. I’ll probably need to do this again.

Ten Albums

01 May
May 1, 2018

There’s a meme going around on the Boof of Faces to list the ten albums that had the biggest impact on your musical tastes. The concept demands a blog post, and I asked The Brother to do the same.


I’m not going to list these in any particular order other than as they come to mind. Some of these may surprise you, considering I run a regular feature called Metal Tuesday.

Derek's Album Collage

  1. Quiet Riot – Metal Health – This was my first non-kids album. It also started my path down to heavy metal. I’m sure my parents regretted giving it to me for a long time.
  2. Sabaton – Attero Dominatus – This was the album that really got me into Sabaton. Particularly, the song “Back In Control.” I remember sitting up and thinking Holy shit, he’s singing about the Falklands War. And I got hooked.
  3. Metallica – Master of Puppets – One of my three introductory albums into metal. This is the one that showed me the difference between hard rock and metal. It also introduced me to how fast metal could be played.
  4. Blind Guardian – Imaginations From the Other Side – So, for the better part of a decade, I didn’t explore metal as much as listen to what I already had. To those who know me IRL, it would be unsurprising to find out that this period coincided with the time I was involved with my ex-wife. Once she was out of my life, I asked The Brother for a collection of metal to get me back into the game. This was the album that brought me back into metal’s loving arms like a sledgehammer to the face.
  5. Garth Brooks – Ropin’ The Wind – This album brought me into country music. I like Garth’s early albums, particularly his way with storytelling in the lyrics. This album would bring me over to Chris LeDoux and several other master storytellers in the country genre.
  6. Classical Thunder – It might have been a cheesy collection sold on TV, but these reignited my interest in classical music. Which in turn, fed my interest in metal. Which brought me back to more classical music. Endless recursions.
  7. Manowar – Fighting the World – Second of my three introductory metal. This one brought me into power metal and the genre’s use of fantasy. Yes, I know Dio did it first. Manowar was my first exposure, and it hit at the right time of when I was playing fantasy RPGs with my best friends at the time.
  8. Seven Kingdoms – Seven Kingdoms – This album started me on the search for female-fronted metal. That led into Amaranthe, Delain, Epica, Dark Princess, Within Temptation, and of course, Nightwish.
  9. Iron Maiden – Powerslave – The last of my three introductory metal albums, and the first Iron Maiden album I listened to. Iron Maiden was the first band that fused storytelling and great metal music.
  10. Mortal Kombat the Album – This is not the soundtrack for the horrible movie, but rather a collection of techno songs for the main characters in the original game. This was something I found in a record store and picked it up. It’s on the list because it introduced me to techno. More importantly, it helped me discover how useful techno is to writing action scenes.

The Brother

My dear brother brought this idea to me and I agreed to it. I am trying to do this chronologically, but I am probably messing things up. These albums are also (usually) the ones that brought me into a genre, but are not necessarily my favorite albums in those genres.

The Brother's Covers

  1. Metallica – Master of Puppets – This is the first heavy metal album I remember hearing and started me on my love of heavy metal.
  2. Morbid Angel – Domination – The album that made me love death metal. I had heard other death metal before, but this is the album that made it click.
  3. Old Man’s Child – The Pagan Prosperity – Like Domination before it, this was my breakthrough into black metal.
  4. Chris Brooks – The Master Plan – I don’t know where this album came from, but it ignited a love of instrumental rock/metal.
  5. In Flames – Whoracle – This was my intro to what is now my favorite genre of music, melodic death metal.
  6. Disillusion – Back to Time of Splendor – This is my favorite album.
  7. Insomnium – in the Halls of Awaiting – The first album I heard of my favorite band (and yes, my favorite band did not make my favorite album).
  8. Clutch – Blast Tyrant – This brought me back to straight-up, kick-you-in-the-teeth, rock music.
  9. Saxon Shore – The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore – While I know this wasn’t my first post-rock album, this is the first one I remember really getting into.
  10. Allegaeon – Fragments of Form and Function – Finally, and most recently, the album that brought me into technical death metal.

A Year of Loss

30 Apr
April 30, 2018

A year ago, I decided to try and lose weight. Again. This wasn’t the first time that I’ve done a diet, only to fall off the wagon a few months later. Still, I was tired of having my clothes feeling tight, not being able to get anything from anyplace but a big and tall shop, and I was worried about my health. Penn Jillette stated on his podcast that he realized he was having to take so many drugs to compensate for the fact he was overweight. That hit home with me. I didn’t want to have all the health problems with my family history if I could help it.

Somehow – somehow – I have managed to keep the willpower to stay on track for a full year. Everything I’ve read led me to the most basic rule of weight loss – “Consume less calories than your body burns.” So, I fired up a calorie counting app I’d used before and started my budget. This time I followed some rules.

  1. Track everything. Even on days when I knew I was going over, I still put everything in my food log.

  2. Manage budget on a weekly basis. I strove to keep under every day, but my main goal was to be under my calorie budget for the week. If I knew I was going to have a party or a team lunch, I made sure to “save up” extra calories earlier in the week.

  3. Weigh myself once a week. – Before I’d weighed myself daily, but there’s too much fluctuation on a daily basis. It’s discouraging. Weekly weigh-ins gave me a better idea of how I was actually doing.

  4. Enlist help. – The Brother was nice enough to help me with this, which was a good thing because he’s the one I do my grocery shopping with. Having someone asking me if I really wanted that package of cookies or chips helped when I was sitting on the fence.

  5. Accept defeats. – There have been weeks when the scale went up instead of down. I needed to understand that those were tactical defeats, not strategic ones. Losing a battle does not lose the war.

  6. Have short and long term goals. – My first short term goal was just to hit 300 lbs. That took seven months to hit, but it was a lot easier to work to that then the 200 lbs. long term goal. I need both to keep my motivation up.

  7. Celebrate wins. – When I hit one of my short-term goals, I have a “bye” week. It’s a week I can eat as I want without worrying about calories. I still track everything I eat during those weeks.

  8. When in doubt, say no. – This was one of the harder lessons, as I love to eat. If I had a doubt whether I should eat something or not, I had to make my default setting as “no.”

  9. Understand that this is a way of life. – This lesson came much later from an episode of Squirrel Report. If I want to keep the weight off, I’m going to be counting calories for the rest of my life. Even when I hit my long term goal, I will still need to count calories.

So, how effective has this been for me?

Starting weight: 355 lbs. Current weight: 261 lbs.

Starting pant size: 56 Current pant size: 44

Rules and Harm

13 Apr
April 13, 2018

The girlfriend and I were out shopping because she needed a new pan. In the parking lot, we came across a truck that had taken up two parking slots. The GF harrumphed and said how she hated people who did that. I saw the same thing, but it didn’t bother me so much. Why? Because the truck wasn’t in a premium area of the lot, and there was plenty of other parking.

My girlfriend was annoyed because the driver was breaking the rules. I wasn’t annoyed because (s)he wasn’t causing harm. I’ve found that such criteria has become much more important as I’ve matured.

Random Thoughts on a Friday

06 Apr
April 6, 2018
  1. Physical therapy is much easier to deal with when liberal amounts of Sabaton are applied.

  2. Facebook thinks I’m politically “very conservative.” This May come as a shock to some of my conservative friends who think I’m too liberal.

  3. I don’t know why my iTunes refuses to go past step 5 on syncing my phone. And google has not been much help either.

  4. Reading a bunch of resumes makes me glad that I don’t have a job that requires me to do that on a regular basis.

  5. That point of just finished being sick is almost as bad as being sick. I feel so much better that I think I should be able to do everything I was doing before, but not back to full strength, so I can’t.

  6. Trying to put something on my blog every day makes me appreciate the folks who manage to do that and keep a regular full time job that isn’t blogging.

  7. As much as I enjoy working from home, there are times that having my home workstation so close to my personal system provides too much temptation. Particularly when I finally figured out something for the story I’m working on.

Every Day Carry

30 Mar
March 30, 2018

I’m listening to the Clockwise podcast, and the bonus topic is “What indispensable piece of non-tech do you carry every day?” The answers were a water bottle, a special kind of wallet, a microfiber cloth, and a nail clipper.”

I realize that the people on the tech podcasts generally don’t intersect with the people on my gun podcasts, but I was amazed that none of them said a pocketknife.

I started thinking about my EDC. So, for 2018, my current EDC:


I use a Saddleback Large Leather wallet.. I keep one of those credit card multi-tools inside it.


I have a key ring that uses little caribiners to attach keys or other items. In addition to my keys, I have a Kingston 32GB flash drive, [Gerber Shard](tool, and a Surefire Sidekick.

EDC Pouch

This is one of those Maxpedition pocket pouches that I stash useful stuff: 1. First aid kit – needs a tourniquet, but decent for handling minor issues 2. Trauma shears – small pair for cutting bandages and clothes 3. Bic disposal lighter 4. Tweezers 5. Lightning to 3.5 mm adapter 6. Anker lipstick battery 7. Short lightning cable 8. Spare CR123 and AAA batteries 9. Reusable twist ties 10. Lightning to micro USB adapter 11. 32GB flash drive 12. Emergency cash


Currently, I’m carrying a Leatherman Skeletool. It’s a bit “friendlier” for some of the areas I go.


Currently, I have an older Streamlight ProTac. I want to upgrade to one of the new ones. Must have all the lumenz!

Pepper Spray

I’ve got a little Sabre canister


Currently, I’m using a pair of Apple AirPods. Expensive, but worth the cost IMHO


I’m using an iPhone 8. I have the 256 model because I cram it with audiobooks.


I’m using a Series 1 Apple Watch, but will probably upgrade sometime this year.


Either an S&W M&P or CRKT tactical pen.


Unless I’m going to someplace I’m not legally allowed to carry, I generally have my first gen M&P9 with at least 1 spare magazine.

Ruminations on Travel

19 Mar
March 19, 2018

Work sent me to a conference in Las Vegas last week. A few tidbits:

  1. I still hate flying commercial.
  2. I hate flying American slightly less than flying United.
  3. The Vegas TSA set up was a bit more efficient than Tampa.
  4. I still think TSA’s a fucking joke.
  5. Why can’t a hotel have a pillow with a firmness above politician spine?
  6. My best taxi ride was worse than my worst Lyft ride. All of that quality for twice the price of ride sharing.
  7. When your hotel isn’t exactly in the best part of town, UberEats is very useful.
  8. Travel is hell on a diet.
  9. It’s amazing how much writing I can get done in the fifteen minutes before a presentation starts.
  10. It’s also amazing how only the vendors I’m not interested in are the ones that pay attention to me.
  11. No, I didn’t gamble. I know math. More importantly, I know statistics and I’m too frugal with my per diem.
  12. Going from Eastern Standard to Pacific Standard back to Eastern Standard and then to Eastern Daylight will totally confuse your body clock.
  13. It also fucks with remembering to hit my Star Wars game to get bonus energy.
  14. Oh, look at all the emails! From just missing five days. And how many are actually critical. Less than a dozen.
  15. Friends that come over everyday to watch your cats for you are golden. Friends who also clean your back porch better than it’s been since you owned the house are platinum.