Getting into Soccer: A Soccer Dummy’s Journey

When I was a wee little twerp, my mom and dad thought it would be a good idea for me to try a sport. That sport was soccer, and I was enrolled in my county’s youth soccer league.

Needless to say, I was terrible. I mean awful. I remember just standing on the field zoned out wondering when the game would end so I could go home. I’m pretty certain it was quite embarrassing for my parents to see their little twerp looking up at the clouds instead of at the game. Either way, we all came to the realization that sports wasn’t my thing and that was that. I’m sure my parents still have my “everyone gets a trophy” trophies from that time in my life.

Anyway, as the years wore on I never gave soccer much thought until my undergrad years, when I would quizzically look at folks walk into class who I knew weren’t from European countries but wearing football jerseys from places like Madrid, Milan, Tottenham, and others. Why are they wearing that jersey if I know they grew up in Arlington? Are they wearing it ironically? Got it at the goodwill? I was a confused young man. It wasn’t until the 2010 Word Cup when I got a taste of that level of soccer. The excitement in the fans and the vuvuzelas spoke to me. After the Cup was won, cableless me went without soccer again for another four years.

Then, the 2014 World Cup in Rio came along. I actually went into this one wanting to learn more about the game. Still cableless me went to my apartment complex’s bar (pretty fucking sweet, I know) to watch the games. People surrounded the bar in those foreign jerseys and cheered. The thing was, though, that the jerseys didn’t match who they were cheering for on TV. I then came to a realization that was pretty cool. Sure, there were a few folks who were die-hard for their team and would act like a pissy Green Bay fan, but for the most part people were cheering for the game, not just their team. A well-played game was met with applause by all involved. That’s cool, I thought, and then went without soccer again.

Now, I want to get into soccer without having to rely on the World Cup, especially with all the bullshit FIFA does. So, I picked up a copy of PES2016, which I really stink at so far but I’m learning well. Also, I’m looking into the unbelievably confusing world of online streaming of international games. What fun! Spyware and pop-up riddled underground streaming sites are far from successful, NBC and Fox have their expensive proprietary streaming options, and BitTorrent doesn’t have much until after the game has been played. And cableless me really doesn’t want to cough up a shitton on cash on a cable package I won’t watch. Sling has good options but I’ll have to see what my soccer-loving friends use themselves. FC Dallas is doing pretty good this season, too, and their home games are on OTA TV, so that’ll work for a bit. I’m excited to get into things, so if you have any ideas, let me know.

The Fucking-Up of Lakewood

The Observer recently put out an article along with The Advocate and the Morning Snooze regarding some strange goings-on at the 77-year-old Lakewood Theater.

The Lakewood is a beautiful art-deco-ish theatre that has been a staple of the community for generations. It’s hosted everything from movie premieres during the golden age of Hollywood to local burlesque shows and Rocky Horror viewings. This past week, many folks passed by the theater to witness the very old (and probably toxic) chairs being thrown out of the side door of the theater. Some folks have reported that no building permits are posted in the required places as mandated my Our Fair World-Class City™. So, what was the excuse the owner of the building had? “Asbestos remediation” according to Robert Wilonsky of the Morning Snooze. (EDITORS NOTE: No offense, Robert. I come from a Times-Herald family.) So, if it is indeed asbestos remediation, where’s the hazmat-style plastic coverings and ventilation shit all over the place that usually constitutes such a remediation? Interesting.

Anywhoo, my real point is that eventually, the Lakewood is eventually going to be revamped into something new. The owner says he wants to keep it a theater, but he also seems all too eager to switch to the backup option of splitting up the building into what would basically be a strip mall. If that plan does go into action, it’s just yet another step in the constant fucking-up of Lakewood.

Lakewood has had a long history of being a kind of crown-jewel of East Dallas, for good reason. It’s quiet, the people have been nice, it’s close to the lake, and it has avoided the urban-sprawl kind of shitty chain stores that are in the rest of town. Now, however, things are changing a bit. Home values have skyrocketed to absurd heights. Folks that can’t afford to live in Highland Park but want to be just as snooty as people who can, have moved in. They naturally want their chain boutique pet shops, so now there are two of them in close proximity. The liquor store was too unseemly for the neighborhood, so in moved a bank. The Gingerman opened a half-assed Lakewood outpost where a family-owned Italian restaurant had been for decades. Parking is a disaster since the pseudo-Parkies love driving their exceedingly large luxury SUVs/crossovers/it’s-not-a-station-wagons the quarter mile to the Starbucks. The pseudo-Parkies begin to expect even more of their already over-inflated occupied territory.

Lakewood is turning into Diet Highland Park at a quickening rate. The Lakewood theater could easily remain a theater, possibly even an Alamo Drafthouse. Sure, Alamo is a chain, but a small, Texas-based chain that actually gives a fuck about their customers and the enjoyment of film. But if it just gets broken up into more places to hold small chain boutiques for stretchy pants, cold-pressed juices and “fusion-inspired salad concepts” it’s going to be even more of a cookie-cutter Lincoln Property Co.-inspired shitshow like the majority of East Dallas is becoming. C’mon, Lakewood. At least fucking try.

Windows 10: The Good…and the Ugly

I recently upgraded my home desktop to Windows 10 from the abomination that was Windows 8.1. In my almost two weeks-ish with the new OS, I’ve had a few thoughts.

Number one, it’s been a fantastic improvement over 8 & 8.1. The start menu is, as you’ve probably heard, restored to it’s rightful locale, but it’s not the same greatest-hits version we loved in Windows 7. At least it’s not 8.1’s cop-out of a “start button” that just sent you to the acid-trip of a start screen.

Compatibility has been fine, with only my CPU cooler’s LED light software not working after the upgrade. This isn’t a big deal, since who the fuck cares that much about LED lights. Personally, I wish there was a simple OFF setting. In terms of actually useful software, I’ve had zero issues with any of it. Even the perpetually bitchy Cisco AnyConnect VPN client seems to be working with very little of it’s usual kinks.

So what is there to hate about Windows 10? Really very little. However, what little there is to hate is fairly important, at least to me. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s first foray into “Windows as a Service.” An all-encompassing platform—most likely for very low cost or free later in it’s maturation—from which desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile devices can run from…and consume content.

That’s the thing. In Windows 8, you see a teeny-tiny inkling of this new direction in the “Windows Store” and its hedged garden of apps. Now, in Windows 10, we’re seeing this garden has had a bit more acreage tilled into it. The taskbar search now includes Bing results, along with saving and reporting searches to Microsoft for better targeting while muddling your local file and application searches. Cortana, the new voice-controlled Siri-like personal assistant named after Master Chief’s sidekick in the Halo series, caters to your whims while directing you to the hedged garden and whispering sweet nothings about your searches in Microsoft’s ear. The new web browser, Microsoft Edge, is leaps and bounds better than the outgoing Internet Explorer. However, it’s profound lack of plugin and settings import features make it feel very much like a browser on training wheels.

In other words, although the new Windows platform appears to so far be rock solid, it’s becoming apparent that Microsoft wants Windows to go beyond a simple operating system into the realm of a sales platform. And with their new free upgrade model, who could blame them? They’re a corporation that reports to shareholders. Shareholders need teh munnehs. For things that require Windows, I’m more than happy to use Windows 10. For anything else, I’ll stick to Debian on my trusty old Lappy.

NewsBlur: How I Loved to Stop Worrying and Finally Love RSS Feeds

I’ll admit, RSS is far removed from its heyday in the era of, Blogger blogs with the basic template installed and the venerable Google Reader. When it seemed that everyone had RSS feeds emblazoned on their sites where you couldn’t avoid them, I somehow did.

Today, it seems the little orange radio icon is relegated to the fringes, nooks and crannies of the Internet’s pages, with some sites not even bothering anymore. What a great time to get into newsreaders!

My bookmarks bar is a fucking disaster. Sure, I have links organized in folders by category and such, but I just have so many. I’d spend most of my time clicking on link after link to blog after blog after new site. Then I found NewsBlur. I was immediately addicted. Just go to NewsBlur and scroooooooooollllll. It can even be trained to drop articles with tags you don’t like. Which is cool, but kinda scares me, too.

I took a class a few semesters ago about Technology and Concepts of Identity. It was called Technology and Concepts of Identity. We spoke at length about the trend of “echo chambers” on the internet that are just groups of people that all agree with each other’s opinions and reject and ridicule any other opinions from outsiders. I’ve sometimes thought I’m building my own personal echo chamber with NewsBlur, and maybe that’s why RSS has sort of gone by the wayside. Or, it could just be that web design doesn’t suck so hard anymore. That very well may be the definitive reason. Either way, NewsBlur is a happy medium between the mainline RSS readers of olde and a more intelligent app that can parse websites that may not have a working feed. I like it. Check it out.

Mophie Juice Pack Ultra: A Hilariously Bad Battery Case

JPU-Hero-033015-1x_500x690Friends, nerds, countrymen, I came to bury the Mophie Juice Pack Ultra, not to praise it.

Seriously, folks, this is a pretty embarrassingly bad iPhone case. At the princely sum of $150, I took the plunge into one of the strangest battery cases on the market for the iPhone 6. Even though their website said it was only for pre-order, but a case was promptly shipped anyway. Odd.

The case arrived quickly. I unboxed it to find an absolutely massive case with a glossy white finish. It looked cheap. Once applied to the iPhone 6, it was creaky as well as heavy. I then charged it and began it’s first test. The battery on this thing is incredible. It charges my iPhone from nothing to full and still has battery left over. That is, only if the case decides it wants to charge at all. The case randomly stops responding to pressing the status button of flipping the charge switch. Nothing happens. You have to plug the case in in order to get it to respond and charge your phone again. Bullshit. I paid $150 for a case, and I expect it to fucking work.

Luckily, an RMA number is in my hand and this case will go back home to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Good riddance.