On Manly Men

I’m tired of what scared man-children are doing to my industry, to social media, to my country and to women. It’s self-defeating. It’s wrong. It’s violent and it’s cowardly.

SO… Men. Stop being cowards. Stop treating people like crap. Stop threatening them. Stop lashing out like toddlers having tantrums because you’re afraid for no reason. Stop making up reasons to be scared and start living.

Look at your behavior. If you really think that threatening women, doxing them, swatting them, demeaning them, pushing them out of your communities because you’re threatened by them… if you REALLY think that makes you a manly man – you’re an idiot.

Being a manly man means being comfortable with yourself and not being threatened when someone else wants the same.

Being a manly man means being courteous, debating on the merits and not throwing tantrums when someone else wants a turn to speak. It also means admitting when you’re wrong.

Being a manly man means not being afraid of people who are different just because they’re different. It means being curious and adventurous – and not afraid to treat people like you want to be treated – or better, how they wish to be treated.

Bullies aren’t manly men. Bullies, at their core, are afraid and have to use intimidation and violence to project power. But, they have no power. Once a bully is outnumbered, he’s just a coward again.

Be a manly man and welcome everyone into your communities. You’ll find you’ll have more fun, learn more, and your community will be stronger for it.

Let’s make stories like this one a thing of the past.

And in case you’re confused, there’s nothing wrong with being a man. There is something wrong with thinking that your gender means you’re somehow entitled to affection, attention, recognition or leadership. If you really believe in a meritocracy, you’ll judge people by their results and not by what they look like, how they worship or where they’re from – and that means untangling centuries of bullshit about ability, the meaningless signifiers of “success” (for example, all our presidents have been men, therefore to be a good president, you have to be a man – or the funny bit of trivia that almost all Fortune 500 CEOs are white men over 6 feet tall). Just because historically, someone hasn’t been allowed to do something doesn’t mean they can’t. And just because this is how we’ve done it in the past doesn’t mean that’s the best way going forward – especially if it’s a cultural affectation that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the outcome.

So, being a man – it’s not bad. But, it’s not the only thing. Being kind is more important than your gender.

Kevin’s Year in Music: 2015

It’s been a great year for actual music, but a sad one for me personally. Why? Rdio died. I loved Rdio for years – even when I was working at a music startup building a competing service, I still loved Rdio. And now it’s gone. I tried Google Music, and had to give up on it because it lacks any idea of social, and does some very strange things with explicit lyrics. Now I’m on Spotify and it’s all right. It’s not perfect. It’s definitely not Rdio – but it’ll do.

Enough sadness, let’s get on to the music! Last year, I just threw together a list of the albums I liked and put them in three categories. That was a cop out and saved me from having to pick a single album. This year, I’m picking a single album that is my favorite of the year! And then a couple more than I really liked.

My album of the year is…

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett! It’s funny. It’s fun to sing along with, and the songs are actually about things. This album came out early on this year and I kept going back to it all year.

It was really hard to pick just one album but I did it. Courtney’s biggest competition was from an artist that my friend Bryan told me about – Ghostpoet. His album, Shedding Skin, is fantastic. It reminds me a lot of Massive Attack, which is always a good thing. You should listen to it, a lot.

There were a lot of really good albums that came out this year. So many that my Kevin’s 2015 Favorites playlist has 340 songs in it and if you listened to it all at once, it would take 23 hours and 29 minutes. So, get started!

Importing Rdio Playlists (and Your Collection) Into Google Music

My beloved Rdio is dying, and soon. They ran out of money, sold all their assets in a fire sale and have given their users about a week to find a new music home. I tried Apple Music, but quickly ran into limitations (song limit, my patience with their awful UI, horrible apps for importing songs, etc). Asking around, it looked like Google Music was the next best option.

And then the problem was, how to I get almost 5 years of musical history from Rdio into Google Music? All those favorites playlists from 2011-2015, the road trip playlists, the special occasion playlists… all of those will just disappear.

It took a lot of experimentation, but I found a way to export my playlists (and entire collection) from Rdio to Google Music. Here’s what you need (sorry, this is going to require some Terminal time):

  • First, you need to install the Rdio Enhancer Chrome Add-on.
  • Sign up for the Google Music free trial.
  • Install gmusic-playlist – it’s a python library for interacting with Google Music. It has some dependencies, so you’ll need to follow the README instructions carefully.

After you’ve gotten those installed, you need to do the following to save your playlists and collection in a format that’ll work with the importer:

  • Go to Rdio in Chrome.
  • Click Favorites.
  • You should see an Export CSV button. Click it. Depending on the size of your library, this could take a while. It’s going to generate CSV files for your entire collection. My 35,000 song collection took 3 CSV files, and about 5 minutes to generate and download them. Chrome will probably ask you if this site can download multiple files. Say yes and wait for all of them to download (15,000 songs per file).
  • Once you have all those files, it’s time to do playlists!

For each playlist you want to save:

  • Click its link in the left nav bar.
  • Click the 3 dots in a circle button (next to the share button), then “Extras”, then “Export to CSV“.
  • That’ll download another CSV file.
  • You should open up each CSV and delete the first line (the header) or you’ll end up with “Did She Mention My Name” by Gordon Lightfoot in all of your playlists. If that doesn’t bother you, go ahead skip this step.

Now that you have your collection and all the files you want to save, it’s time to set up the gmusic-playlist importer. After you unzip it, open the folder and then open preferences.py in your favorite text editor and make the following changes:

  • username should be your google login email address.
  • Change the track_info_order line to look like this: track_info_order = ['title','artist','album','trackNumber'] (the only change is to change “songid” to “trackNumber”).
  • Change allow_duplicates to True.
  • Change search_personal_library to False.
  • Save the file.

Now you can follow the gmusic-playlist directions to import all those CSVs. Google Music has a limit of 1,000 songs per playlist, so your collection will be broken up, but at least you’ll have all your songs!

Update: I tried to like Google Music. I really did. But, it has some fatal flaws:

  • Their new releases page is bad and not updated with actual new releases.
  • There’s no social at all. It’s awful.
  • The Web UI is just broken enough to be really frustrating, and all the web apps for it are hamstrung by the web’s brokenness.
  • They do very strange things with explicit lyrics.

So, I was going to update this post with instructions on how to import your official Rdio export into Google Music, but… don’t do that.

I’m trying out Spotify Premium again for the first time since I started using Rdio, and they’ve paid attention. Social is better. Sharing is better. The queue is persistent between sessions. They have more music than Rdio did, or that Google Music has. Their new releases page is actually mostly up to date.

Instead of using this process to import things to Google Music, use the official Spotify Rdio Import tool. It takes about five minutes and works really well.

Dealing With Your Kid’s Email: A Nerd’s Approach

My kids both have Google Ed accounts for their school work, which comes with an email address. Some of the parents in the school’s Facebook group were asking how to set up the school email account on their phones, which feels like overkill to me. I don’t log in to my kid’s email – I just have all of their incoming email forwarded to me (which I then filter to get it out of the way so I can read it later).

And here’s how to set that up if you’d like to do the same thing!

  • Go to Gmail and log in as your kid.
  • Click the Gear icon on the top right side of the page and click Settings
  • Click on the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab.
  • Now click the Add a forwarding address button.
  • Put in your email address that you want emails forwarded to and click Proceed.
  • It’ll send a confirmation code to your email. Grab that and put it in the verify field.
  • Now click the radio button next to Forward a copy of incoming email to…, select your email from the dropdown and then choose keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox from the second dropdown.

And there you go. Now you’ll get all your kid’s emails in your inbox. Lucky you!

Now, for bonus points, filtering. I have a ton of filters to keep my inbox nice and clean, and my kids’ emails have their own filters. Here’s how to set one up:

  • After you set up email forwarding, you’ll start getting emails to your kid in your inbox. You need one of those to start with. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as your kid is one of the recipients.
  • In the search box at the top of GMail, search for to:yourkid@whatever.com (replacing “yourkid@whatever.com” with their actual email address).
  • Once the results come up, click the More button and choose Create Filter.
  • The To field should be filled out with your kid’s email address, so go ahead and click “Create filter with this search”.
  • This is where things get fun. Here are the settings I use for my kid’s email:
    • Label it with the kid’s name.
    • Skip the Inbox
    • Mark it as read.
  • With those settings, they never hit the inbox, but, I have to remember to check it periodically, so it’s probably a good idea to leave them in the Inbox to start and not mark them as read – just apply the label.

That should help you keep up with your kid’s school emails without going crazy! Good luck!

Accidental Greatness: Sriracha Chicken Quesadillas

I have accidentally created the greatest food ever: the Sriracha Chicken Quesadilla:

You need to:

  • Preheat the oven to 350
  • Slice two onions into quarter inch slices
  • Slice two bell peppers (or mini bells) into quarter inch slices
  • Four boneless chicken breasts

Assemble:

  • lay the onions out on a roasting pan or cookie sheet so there’s no overlap
  • put the peppers on top of the onions, again, no overlap.
  • drizzle olive oil over the onions and peppers, then salt and pepper.
  • put the chicken breasts on top of the peppers and onions.
  • salt and pepper the chicken then drizzle with olive oil.
  • squirt sriracha over the whole thing.
  • bake for an hour at 350.

Once it’s done, cut up the chicken, throw some into a tortilla with some of the onions and peppers and sharp cheddar cheese and then griddle that thing until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted.
And now eat it all up.

I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t because I couldn’t wait.

We’ll Never Understand

So far, I’ve seen statements from at least 3 politicians, who have no problem expressing strong opinions about people outside their religion and race; who never let their own ignorance keep them from pronouncing judgement on others, say today that we’ll “never understand the motivations” of the monster who killed 9 people last night in Charleston.

Why reserve your whip-smart judgement now? Why be so “sensitive” and offer your “prayers”? Could it be because your ignorant ramblings maybe inspired this guy?

Media figures and politicians demonize entire races and religions all the time, saying, like Glenn Beck did, that people are “willing to lay down their lives” for whatever batshit crazy cause they’re spouting off about. And then, when some crazed lunatic actually DOES WHAT THEY SO SLYLY SUGGEST, they clasp their hands and say they’re praying for the victims and say we’ll never understand what drove them to do such a horrible thing.

We know. They were inspired by parents, by the talk radio hosts they listen to, by the politicians that pander to any loony zealot who will vote for them (or give them money), by the mentally unhinged bastards who say we’re at war with everybody.

So, maybe instead of just praying for the victims, we should stop being such assholes and preach the religion we say we follow? Preach peace. Preach understanding. Preach forgiveness and humility. Teach your kids not to be racist. Teach your kids to love their neighbors (no matter who they are).

These tragedies are avoidable, and praying for the victims is the least you can do. Condemn violence. Condemn racism. Condemn those who make targets out of innocent people. And if you are one of those people, stop it already. You’re the problem. Be a part of the solution.

What You Won’t See on CNN…

“Here’s what you won’t see on CNN” is my new least favorite phrase. I definitely won’t see it on CNN because I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news networks. Their primary job isn’t to inform me, provide clarity of nuanced issues or situations, or to enlighten mankind about the problems we collectively face.

Their entire purpose is to make money. To do that, they need eyeballs. To get eyeballs, they have to turn every situation into an event. And every “event” has to have good guys and bad guys and has to have an “angle”. And that angle has to be clear enough so even the most mouth-breathing of viewers can understand it in less than 30 seconds between commercials and know who to root for.
The problem is that nothing that happens is black and white and there are rarely easily identifiable bad guys, just people acting in their own best interest (or what they think is their best interest).

All of the coverage, all of the commentary, all of the fancy graphics, all of the “breaking news”, it’s all there to get your adrenaline pumping and to keep your eye glued to the screen and so you’ll stick around through the commercials.
So, don’t fall for it. Don’t watch the news. Read the news. Read commentary on the news. Read real journalists who do real research and provide perspective and expose nuance.

Stop helping them treat tragedy as entertainment. Stop participating the outrage cycle. Understand that every source of information has a point of view. It doesn’t make them wrong or right, but it affects how they view and report on things. Don’t trust all first person accounts. Be cautious about joining a movement until you understand the motivations of those involved.

There are better things we can be doing with our time than speaking like pundits on the TV or radio. We could be helping.
I’m not sure how to help with a lot of the things going on in the world (and in my city) right now, but I can at least not add fuel to an already out of control fire.

Vegetable Stock in the Crock Pot

A simple title, but this is a really simple recipe. I decided after a tough week and after seeing someone mention it on Instagram, that I really needed 15 bean soup. Instead of just using water, I decided to try making homemade vegetable stock. I had some veggies and I have a crock pot. How hard could it be?

Not hard at all. I have a mammoth 6 quart crock pot, so you might need to reduce the amounts of things if you have a smaller one.

This is a mishmash of a bunch of different recipes I found online with most of the ingredients doubled and a couple added. This stuff comes out really savory and a lot richer (not subtle at all) than other vegetable stocks I’ve tried before – and way better than anything I’ve ever had out of can.

Ingredients

  • 2 small tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 smallish sweet onions, quartered
  • 1 bunch of celery, cleaned and w/ the butt chopped off. Leave the leaves!
  • A bunch of carrots, chopped up.
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of salt
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 squirt of Sriracha
  • 2-4 peppercorns (I put in 3x that many and it’s really peppery – it’s good, but a little goes a long way).

Directions

  1. Put everything in the crock pot
  2. Fill your crock pot up with water, almost to the top but not quite.
  3. Cook on low for 6-7 hours
  4. Strain out all the bits – mine came out a little cloudy, probably because of the tomato. If you care about that, then you might want to strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
  5. Let cool for 30 minutes
  6. Put it in the fridge
  7. Make something awesome with it later, or just drink it and get superpowers.

It ended up producing a little over a liter of stock – I think using fewer vegetables would have been just as effective and produced more stock.

I’m making 15 Bean Soup with mine, but you could use it for pretty much anything, or just drink it right up. We had more than would fit in the container for the fridge, so Jen and I both had a mug and it was great!

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas, Now Make Fancy Butter!

A picture of two fancy butters in ramekins.
Garlic herb butter on the left, Honey-Sriracha on the right.

We were invited to a big family Christmas Eve dinner and were supposed to bring an appetizer. We had an antipasto tray ready to go, but that wasn’t experimental enough, so we decided to make a “flight” of fancy butters to go along with the bread we knew would be there. They were a big hit, and really easy to make (it took longer to clean the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment than to make the butter). Here’s what we made:

Sweet Orange Butter – This is amazing. Sweet, very orange-rich, and would be amazing on biscuits, waffles or pancakes.

Garlic-Herb Butter

I think because we had lasagna, this one went the fastest.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 10-12 chive stalks
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions:
  1. Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from their stalks
  2. Pulse all the herbs in the food process until they’re finely diced but before they turn into pesto.
  3. Throw everything in the mixer
  4. Whisk on low for a minute
  5. Whisk on high for a minute or two until everything is mixed in
  6. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

Sriracha Honey Butter

This one was an experiment, mostly because I love adding Sriracha to things. It turned out really well. I’m not sure what the food science is behind mixing fat and Sriracha together that turns things into deliciousness, but I love it. This ended up with just a tiny bit of heat (kids were eating it and not crying, that’s how little heat there is), but with a great smokey pepper flavor that worked really well with the honey.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
Instructions:
  1. You don’t really need to measure things. I’m guessing as to how much I put in there, but it was basically those proportions – slightly more honey than Sriracha
  2. Throw it all the mixer
  3. Whisk on low for a minute
  4. Whisk on high until everything’s combined.
  5. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

We put them in creme brulee ramekins to serve (1/2 pound of butter ended up filling two ramekins, so you might want to halve the recipes for a smaller party).

I didn’t think making crazy butter would be so easy, or be so well-received. I’m going to have to try some more!

Kevin’s Favorite Albums of 2014

I can’t believe the last time I did this was in 2011, but it’s time to do it again! 2014 was a great year for music! Again! My 2014 Favorites has 256 songs on it. Last year’s has almost 350, but I think that’s more about me being more selective about what goes on it than the quality of the year.

I decided to break up the list into three sections, because I don’t think it’s fair to compare albums by bands I’ve loved for years with new stuff that jumped out enough to be considered. I’m getting older and though I’m trying really hard not to let my musical taste calcify, well, I think it’s inevitable. Also, the “throwbacks” fit a theme for me. They’re all committed to a sound from the past and pull it off expertly. All four albums will have you grinning from ear to ear just to hear great new songs in styles you thought were dead.

Repeat Offenders

Throwbacks

The New Kids

And there you have it… my favorite albums of 2014. Enjoy!