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Third person, death by apathy, and the trouble with social networks

You may have noticed – if you’ve bothered coming here over the last few months – a distinct lack of posts. Even more so than usual, which is really saying something. I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in Social Networking Land. In fact, I even ran out of room in my passport for all the stamps I’ve collected…

I’ve been tweeting and FBing and checking out FriendFeed and Plurk and MeetUp and and even trying to build a little somethin’-somethin’. I have become an expert at referring to myself in third person via tiny jargon-filled snippets (and, FWIW, AJ finds this disturbing.). I’ve had conversations with friends I’ve bumped into for the first time in months, and when I try to fill them in on what’s been going on in my world, they invariably reply with, “Oh, I know. I saw it on FaceBook.”

Shit! That’s not how it’s supposed to work, is it? Don’t tell me we’re going to move toward a society of people who don’t have catch-up conversations on the sidewalk or over a beer; where we know all the news in each others’ lives, but haven’t seen anyone else in months. It’s great to be able to ask a question to a big audience, to get some help, or to celebrate a triumph in the moment, but isn’t it even better to do it with actual friends?

Let me know what you think: comment on this post, or hit me via twitter (@theaj42) or give me a shout on FB.


Food Photos

Lately – call it the last few months – I’ve been getting into posting online pictures of special culinary creations from the Casa del Beest kitchens.

I got bitten by this particular bug after visiting the Smitten Kitchen and Pioneer Woman (don’t ask; it’s a long story) blogs. From there it was a pretty short journey to picking up BigDigi (gotta control the whole shmear for these shots!) and having at it. And now, it’s kind of a tiny obsession.

The only bad part of shooting my meals is when there’s something that looks and smells fabulous and I’m really hungry. Camera or fork, camera or fork? And for what it’s worth, my experience suggests it’s not wise to aim for a “both/and” solution.

Man period

I must be on the rag this week, ’cause there’s all kinds of little shit that is just driving me up the walls. From people needing to take better notes when we meet (or is that me needing to rehash the meeting in an email that goes to all involved for their approval/records?) or needing a healthy dose of RTFM, to kids who, “don’t need to be paid; I just solve problems,” horning in on one of my clients, to co-workers who’ve “been ready to go for six months,” but can’t take five minutes to talk to me “because we just don’t have time,” it kind of seems like my universe has planted its head firmly up its ass.

To make matters even worse, this is the result of my latest Google query: “No results found for ‘acme giganto extractor’.” :/

Public key for ajvanbeest ->atdot

Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


Dreamtime – Messages From My Unconscious

First I was at a marina, looking at boats and trying to plan a trip to warm places on the west coast with some friends. Soon though, I was watching large boats and small ships give ice breaking demonstrations… from underwater.

Next I was wandering down Ellis Ave. toward downtown Ashland having skipped Taijutsu class. I got about halfway there when what should happen, but my friend Kyle (who I’m pretty sure doesn’t have two violent bones in his body) came running past in a white gi with Greg and Jack Hoban close on his heels. It seems that Greg had a surprise waiting for us at class (ala Jack), but everyone cut except for Kyle, who came to check things out for the first time. Of course, I did what anyone in my position and worth a bit of their salt would do: feel in line and chased them to a big playground on the edge of town where we did pull-ups and slid and played ninja tag through all the equipment and bleachers.

On the way back from this quasi-impromptu class, I passed through a collegiate soccer team that was having practice, intercepted a ball, and started a slow run toward some dorms in the distance, passing the ball back and forth to both sides with a couple other guys.

What’s it all mean? I’m not sure, but even though I woke up as sore as I’ve been in a while and tired from not getting as much sleep as I’d like, I feel really motivated and like I need to keep on with training no matter what. And watching ships break ice from underwater was just plain cool! 🙂


“Yes, Boy,” I said, really trying to be patient, “I understand that you want cheese and chips. However, I am not going to make you cheese and chips, because I’d like you to eat some Real Food today.”

And so it began. Again. The tears (his were born of frustration; mine came from two quarts of simmering onions), the yelling (his), the questions (mine: “Would you like a biscuit with some strawberry jam;” “Would you like some soup;” “Would you like a …”), the hitting (his), the leaving for a less hurty room (mine), the following (his), the questions, again (mine).

Now, finally, after an hour of war, quiet has returned to the kingdom. I resisted The Boy’s siege long enough for him to fall asleep on the couch (convenient, eh?) outside the gates of the city. We’ll (and by “we,” I mean The Wife) see what morning brings. Maybe more slings and arrows, but maybe negotiations.

Oh hell yes!

Weekends in Wistucky — at least at the Casa del Beest — tend to be a lot about food. We have more time (and more energy!) to think about what to make and how to create it. That’s all by way of explaining how we ate a stick of butter for breakfast today.

007The Wife and I were talking about going to the Glow, but we’re in the middle of a winter storm out here. Wind chill is in the vicinity of -20 (F) and we’re looking at another foot or so of snow on top of the foot we already have when all is said and done tomorrow. The roads are passible, but not great. We’re also out of eggs, so the usual spectacular, multi-story omelet bracketed by potatoes and toast was out of the question.

005Once we whittled our options down, we settled on biscuits and gravy. I’ve been making scratch biscuits for ten years, but I’ve pretty much always used an egg to hold things together. The biscuits have always been good (fairly flaky and tender and golden), but not up to the standards of a Georgia truck-stop.

Today, though, that changed. After checking out suggestions from a handful of sites (,,, I made some “buttermilk” (a little lemon juice in the milk), used that and a little more butter than usual, and whipped up my biscuits, then half-carmalized some onions and garlic in butter as the base of a white sauce to which I eventually added a can of Cambell’s cream of mushroom soup.

008And then there was breakfast. And it was good. All 2,000+ calories of it. mmmmmm… calories…

Streaming video highlights from the last 24 hours

My grandparents in Texas just got a Skype account and a webcam and put it all together tonight while my Dad and uncle were visiting. Once we got a couple little kinks ironed out, we had a really nice video chat. Once The Wife wanted to join in from her computer, we moved the conversation to oovoo since Skype doesn’t offer more than two-way video conferencing.

This was the first time I’ve used oovoo for more than one-to-one chatting, and it was pretty good. We had some static bursts on the line, but I think they were from The Wife and I both running sessions from the same IP address. I’m sure there’s something we can do about that internally (maybe some clever port forwarding; Omar, do you have any advice?), but not tonight.

Last night at my gig (which went reasonably well, except for “Jingle Bells,” of all damn things), I played with which let me stream video live from my mobile device. That was also totally cool. The only problem there was that, not surprisingly, streaming video just decimated the battery on my phone. Other than that, though, Qik (and especially the Windows mobile client) couldn’t have been any easier to use. That’s a solid three thumbs up! Especially from a couple coworkers I ambushed…

Bad boy. …and done!: a little wrap-up

I’ve been a bad boy, what basically ignoring this blog for the last however long. Again. But now I’m done. Done ignoring the blog, and more importantly, done with the additional workload of teaching a couple classes at Northland. So that means I can start again. Here we go with a little retrospective:

Time sinks

This fall I’ve been working my regular full-time job at Bayfield County, disolving one side company while simultaneously building another, all while teaching four credits (a jazz history class and a jazz ensemble) at Northland College. I’ve learned a couple things:

  • I now have a better idea of when to say when re: commitments
  • Building a business (even a teeny one like mine) takes a lot more time than there is in any given day
  • While teachers, even at the college level still have it hard, they can still choose to be heroes or villains. Or, as is more often the case, they just get beat down and want to get the hell out of dodge.

Writing on the Wall

I’ve also learned that Northland College is *so* screwed. Enrollment is *still* down and the administration is scrambling to get money pretty much anyway it can. One of the upshots of this is that it seems like these days, they’re accepting almost anyone who can manage to fill out an application and come up with $120k for four years’ tuition. Oh sure, there are some smart kids on campus, but I had a couple in my class that could have been poster children for social promotion. Once they and their brethren get into the world and start representing a “Northland Education,” that’ll start a feedback loop that isn’t easily broken.