Sunday, November 8, 2009

Four things I should be doing

I was originally going to call this one "Four things you should be doing" but this seems so much less accusatory. :) These are all good ideas regardless of your age, political affiliations, religious convictions, or past experience. I'll be listing each item, followed by why it's a good idea and why I (and maybe some of you) aren't already doing it.

1. Start a garden.

Why I should: This is one has been on my mind a lot lately. There really is no negative aspect to it. A little bit of time, a little bit of money (more than offset by the reduced food bills), and you get healthy food and increased independence. What's not to love?

Why I don't: Living in an apartment, we don't have much space. Any food gains would be too small to have a noticeable effect on ye olde grocery bill. As well, neither I nor my lovely wife are any good whatsoever at raising plants. There is that old "practice makes perfect" thing though (a common theme on this list).

Conclusion: even if it's just a windowsill pot full of herbs, there's no reason not to try this out. And with the advent of efficient hydroponic and enclosed box growing techniques, even a small place can yield usable levels of food.

2. Shoot more.

Why I should: shooting is a perishable fine motor skill. Although the basics of good technique can linger indefinitely, it requires regular practice to maintain a high level of competence.

Why I don't: ammo can be costly, the ranges in this area are atrocious, and time is an increasingly scarce commodity.

Conclusion: owning/carrying a firearm carries serious liabilities (both moral and legal) with it. Being able to use it well is one of those responsibilities. And if you don't agree that carrying a gun is a vital part of being a responsible grown up, well.... wait til next post and I'll lay that out for you. :)

3. Exercise more.

Why I should: probably the most self-evident one. Regular exercise means more energy, better health, and a longer life (speaking statistically).

Why I don't: I hate running. Can't stand it, and spending a couple years in a job where I was legally required to run most days of the week only intensified that. The forms of exercise I enjoy (swimming, hiking, kayaking, biking etc) require more money and time. Even making a couple yoga classes every week (a personal goal) has proven to be annoying
to fit into the schedule.

Conclusion: find what you actually like to do, make it a priority in your schedule, and do it. :) New Years is coming up for the resolution making types.

4. Develop practical, non-job related skills

Why I should: when your car/furnace/AC/etc breaks, would you rather pay the the eponymous sumdood $80 an hour plus %50 markup on parts to fix it, or would you rather DIY (the sweetest three letter acronym in the English language after EOS :D )? And those are just the beginning: from cooking to crocheting, you can never run out of things to learn how to do (or do better).

Why I don't: this one I actually have a decent excuse for. I spend a lot of my time learning this sort of stuff for my job. None-the-less, I could still do more to expand my horizons.

Conclusion: books, youtube videos, website tutorials, community classes; never has learning so many things been so cheap and so available. Hell, even MIT is putting their class material online free for anyone who wants to learn. Take advantage of it, and stop letting people take advantage of you.

Well folks there you have it. A little window into what I'm thinking, and maybe some motivation for you to do some of the stuff you've been wanting to but haven't gotten around to yet. Sorry, I know the last couple posts haven't been my normal smart-assery but I suppose I've had some serious things on my mind lately. I'll try to get back to the nonsensical humour soon. :) Please feel free to comment here or on Facebook and let me know the sort of thing you'd like to see here, or any particular topic you might enjoy hearing my take on. Lord knows I have enough opinions to go around...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some news items of interest

Goldman Sachs predicts sharp increase in price of food and oil.

Stimulus creates 640,000ish jobs (yay!) at a cost of $320,000ish apiece. Can't wait for that legendary efficiency to be unleashed on health care.

Audio clip from the BBC about the possibility of rising inflation as the next crisis.

US housing "recovery" entering bubble territory.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Historical snobbery, societal changes, and you

I've always been intrigued by history. Partly it's the ability to see "how we got here" and some of the underlying causes for the way the world is today. Partly it's the many fascinating characters that people all those dusty old history books. And partly it's to learn. It saddens me that the teaching of history has switched from "what are the lessons we can learn from the past" to "person X did Y on date Z." A part of the larger issue with modern schooling teaching you "what" to think, not "how" to think, but that's a different post...

Especially interesting to me are the ways civilizations (Imperial Rome, Mayans, the Anasazi) and countries (Weimar Republic, Peronist Argentina, Zimbabwe) fail from within. The one question I always have about these situations is: did they see it coming? I'm going to go ahead and just make all the history majors cry here by over simplifying and say "Generally, no." Most people are not willing to consider that their personal world could change drastically and irrevocably. How much more reluctant are they to consider that their society as a whole could come crashing down...

This brings me to historical snobbery, another favorite subject of mine. Modern people (especially in America) tend to look at everyone who lived before [/random date generally around 100 years ago] as some type of hopelessly foolish and naive rubes. It's inconceivable to many that anyone who lived their entire life without electricity could have any wisdom or knowledge to impart. I mean, they didn't even have, like, cars and ipods and stuff. Of course they couldn't see it coming, they worshipped gods that sound like a bad soap opera! To us advanced modern people looking back it's obvious...

So how does this apply to us? Society in modern America is a hugely complex and interrelated system. ~1-2% of the population produces the food for the entire country. The bulk of the food most people eat comes from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The water we drink and use for sanitation comes from many miles away, and depends on stable electrical power being delivered to the pumps at the central water plant. Being able to get to the store to purchase this food requires open, passable roads. The goods getting to the stores depends on those same roads, and about a dozen steps in the oil extraction/refining/shipping process. All of these processes depend on enough people being healthy and willing to go in to work. Any disruption in any point of this chain brings all the others to a screeching halt. Most large cities have 2-3 days worth of food available, total. When the electricity goes out, the water stops. No food or water for more than a few days will cause societal disruption.

When I lived in Arizona, I learned that all gas that comes into the state originates from two pipelines. I learned this because one of them broke. Poor maintenance, inevitable wear and tear; whatever the cause, it was out for a couple days. Gas was being rationed, huge lines at the stations, some were out etc. They fixed it before it caused any serious societal unrest, but it did get me thinking about all this sort of thing.

Preparedness gets a bad rap today. It seems like a pretty simple and non-offensive concept. Be ready to take care of yourself in an emergency, grow your own food (as much as possible), generate your own power (as much as possible), have some extra food stored, be able to protect yourself etc etc. How could anyone object to this? I find it's generally guilt by association.

I'm a hardline Christian, so my atheist/Wiccan/gay/bi-sexual friends associate me with the pricks who use a veil of religion to justify their own bad actions and biases. I'm a conservative so my liberal friends assume I'm... hell, I don't really understand the way they think so I'm not sure what weird stereotypes they have. ;) I admit I do it too; I fight against it, but when a large percentage of a certain group think a certain way it takes real effort to look past the stance and see the kind of person they are. Of course, a lot of the time they really are as bad as you think so you can safely dismiss them... :D

All that to say, look past all the nuts and kooks who flock to this subject, and start evaluating what you need to be ready for. Have an emergency fund of 3-6 months of your expenses in case of job loss. Have a few weeks worth of food stored. Learn how to dry/smoke/can your food. Have an alternative method of heating your house, safely. Every major blackout there is at least one family that tries to heat their house with charcoal and ends up dead. Plant a garden. Learn some basic first aid/medical procedures. Open your mind, and consider that things may not always be the way they are now. If there is another economic collapse like the Great Depression, would you rather be standing in a soup line, or tending your garden?

Sorry about that

Howdy folks,

sorry about the long delay. Been trying to study and sleep more, screw around on teh intarwebz less. This has not actually been a great success, but it has nerfed my blogging time. Stuck in the house with [zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]swine flu [/
zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]. Not a huge deal, except for the "supposed to be leaving to go elk hunting this weekend" factor. Not cool.

I'm changing the fonts a bit to make it more readable, let me know how ya'll feel about it. I'm going to try to be a little more regular about posting on here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Balog's guide to appropriate work wear

It has come to my attention that certain local retail shop girls are a bit confused by what is, and what is not, appropriate clothing to wear to work. You'll notice I'm confining this valuable life lesson to girls; partly this is just to piss off feminists, but it's mostly because if the average dude retail worker tried to pull this crap he'd be fired (and probably sued for sexual harassment) in about 15 seconds.

Let's start at the bottom and work up, shall we?


unless you are a stripper, those stilettos aren't a good idea. You're being paid to stand and walk for eight hours. If you choose to wear cool looking shoes that turn into medieval torture devices after more than 25 minutes of continuous standing, you lose any right to complain about your feet/calves/back hurting.


again, unless the job description actually calls for customers to leer at your bottom, this article of clothing should really cover it completely. A special note to the movie lovin' thrift store shopgirl who waited on me and my wife a few weeks back. You do realize boy shorts are underwear, right? Underwear implies you have something on over them, as they are not enough to properly cover you. Jus' sayin' is all...


Clothing is intended to cover your body. It cannot accomplish this noble task when it is transparent. As an addendum to this, wear a damn bra. Seriously. I know you're all "Yay girl power let's read Betty Friedan" and whatnot, and admittedly there ain't that much there to begin with but... It's difficult to have a pleasant chat about new films with you when your "shirt" is 1. the only thing keeping your nipples from joining the conversation & 2. moderately see through. Thin white shirt + very pale skin + nipples = awkward. Srsly.

Well folks, there you have it. A handy guide for our non-existent female retail worker readership. If you have any questions, please for the love of God don't ask me. I've already got eyestrain from staring intently at your face and nowhere else.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Things Balog does not understand

Bands that try to make screaming hardcore appropriate for pre-teen girls. Just stop, you're embarrassing us all.

People who play 4E. You make baby Jesus cry more than THAC0 ever did.

"Broke" college kids who A. have a $3000 Mac Boink & B. are getting funded by Mommy and Daddy. Try paying for everything yourself you whiny little bastards.

SxE (or is that sXe/) kiddies attacking people for smoking. Makes me want to carry a pack of unfiltered Camels just in case I run into a group of 'em.

People who give money to bums. You do realize he's been trying to fill that gas can for the last two weeks, right?

Young bums. Ok, so if you've spent a few decades screwing your life up I can understand the idea of being reduced to begging. But seeing a healthy early 20's kid begging just because he doesn't feel like working floors me. And by "floors me" I mean "putting me into a towering rage."

Why anyone likes Superman. Invincible except for one super rare substance, and he still gets his ass handed to him every comic/episode/movie.

Hipsters. I love irony too kids, but you've ventured past that into asshattery. Shave that stupid mustache off and get a job.

Craig's List Casual Encounters. The internet's glory hole, now with %97 more chance of bots!

Craig's List Missed Connections. Seriously, just go talk to "Cute girl on the 57" already you pansy.

Craig's List content restrictions. "Looking for bareback gang bang, I'll supply the meth" is a-ok, but I can't sell my shotgun?

Ebay auctions with over $100 in shipping on normal size/weight items. Seriously, does anyone fall for that?

People under the age of 75 who use AOL. That company needs to DIAF already.

Fantasy football. You do realize how homo-erotic this whole thing is, right Buford?

Chess notation. For whatever reason it just confuses the hell outta me.

Why YouTube hates me. Seriously, just let a brother watch his Horde Zepplin already jerkface.

Apparently, html as I can't get that link to embed.

List time!

I'll take "Random Music Lists" for $1000 Alex.

And the answer is: Pete Wentz, Fred Durst, all of the approximately 28 members of Attack Attack!, Blink 182, and anyone who uses "pop-" as a prefix when referring to their music.

What is people who need to be punched repeatedly in the face, Alex.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Ever have to listen to a bunch of nerds fussing about which OS is best? Get's a little old, don't it? To put an end to all this silliness, here's a definitive* guide to the pros and cons of the three major flavours of OS.


Pros; pretty, have a really cool magnetic power charger thingy, and aren't as crippled by lack of cross-platform supports as they used to be, designed for use by "artists" ie people with no common sense or deductive reasoning skills. Theoretically more "intuitive" although it's largely a matter of what you're first exposed to.

Cons; roughly twice as expensive for equivalent screen size and processing power, single source everything (so if Apple doesn't offer the configuration you want you're screwed), not commonly accepted for business usage except in certain graphics design fields. Mac users will point out you can use Parallels to run Windoze OS and hence proggies: however, if I want to dual boot or virtual box I'll get twice the machine in a pc and run OS X parallel. Mac groupies (and they tend to a cult-like devotion to the brand, almost as bad as *nix fanbois) always brag about how great the security is for macs. This is because no one cares enough to write malware for macs

PC's w/ Windoze

Pros; far cheaper than macs (can be anyway, Alienware etc are still obnoxiously spendy), options as to supplier (freedom of choice is good), most widely accepted OS (depending on version).

Cons; Microsoft is pure undiluted evil, Win* are all memory hogs to some extent, Vista is the software equivalent of a prison gang rape, the many suppliers can lead to weird conflicts and driver issues, piss poor code results in security holes any 13 y/o script kiddie can exploit (these can be eliminated by following good opsec procedures, but there's less room for you to do something stupid and get away with it) and did I mention M$ is basically a James Bond villain?

PC w/ *nix

Pros; far more secure (and yes, a lot of this is due to obscurity like Macs, but a lot is due to the community being involved in patching), updates and drivers etc can be easier to manage, free free free!

Cons; annoying fanbois who treat their OS like a religion, steeper learning curve, DIY, can't use all programs (Quark anyone?), some minor formatting issues with the Open Office version of Word, bad for gamers.

Get a Mac if: you have extra money, you're pretentious, you do lots of video or music editing, you visit a lot of shady porn or gambling websites, your career plans include lots of time on unemployment while "suffering for your artistic vision," or you are a filthy hippy trying to buy some anti-establishment street cred. Politician equivalent: the Obamessiah. A lot of great marketing, a lot of double-talk and BS, doesn't live up to the hype.

Get Windoze if; you worship Satan, aspire to be a soul-less corporate drone, want to be able to use the standard Office programs without screwing around, are ready to exercise some restraint in what websites you goto and what you download, don't want to learn Mac's.... "Unique" little quirks. Politician equivalent: Teddy Kennedy. Powerful but works as a fluffer for Satan.

Get *nix if; you've ever attended a Sci-Fi, fantasy, or anime con (bonus if you were in costume), have another computer available to Google why the *nix box is borked, are fairly competent, don't play many video games (or don't mind running a virtual box w/ pirated *doze), enjoy playing with computers. Politician equivalent: Ron Paul. Some great ideas, some terrible ideas, never going to be as big as the fanbois would hope.

*Disclaimer; "definitive" is used in a playful post-modernist sense to mean "Random largely unsubstantiated claims that may or may not bear any relationship to the facts."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Music videos

You know, people these days tend to over think music videos. Millions of dollars in FX, exotic locations, guest stars; it's a big production anymore. But when you're a bunch of teens rocking out in your Mom's basement, you can't afford all that falderol. I think a band could condense what "the kids" like down to a few key elements, and save a lot of money. So here, as a public service, is Balog's guide to music videos for poor teen start up bands.*

1. Fire. Everyone (especially boys) loves a good fire. Set the instruments on fire, torch the stage, throw Nomex suits on the band and have 'em spend the whole video running around on fire. Heck, just throw a road flare into a barrel of gas or set off some thermite on top of blocks of ice to maximum your flame to dollar ratio.

2. Girls with low self esteem. Aside from being a great
Arrested Development reference, this is also a popular video element. Since you're on a budget, you probably can't afford the full on army o' skanks that seems to be mandatory in videos these days, but you can get tons of extras at your high school for free. Thanks to the prevalence of abusive, absent, or generally emasculated fathers more girls than ever before are desperate for attention and love. Let their Daddy issues work for you! Note: while this advice also applies to creepy old guys trolling for girlflesh, let me just point out that misusing this knowledge is a ticket to the special hell, the one reserved for child molesters and people who talk at theaters.

3. Shaky/spinning camera work. I have no idea why this is so popular, but it is. This is undoubtedly the cheapest element of all, as it requires nothing but a monumental lack of talent on the part of the videographer. Heck, wrap the camera in foam and give it to the clumsiest guy you know. The kids will eat that disorienting, nausea inducing swirl of incoherence right up.

4. Out of focus close ups. I always assumed they did this in a desperate bid to keep you from noticing how unattractive the lead singer is, so if your frontman is hideous you're in luck! Again, just keep the camera away from anyone with a modicum of talent and you're golden.

5. People falling down. If there's one thing the good folks at FailBlog have taught us, it's that unintentionally phallic items are hilarious. Thankfully, there are at least two things they've taught us, the second of which is that people falling down never becomes less funny. I suggest just having the clumsy guy who's doing the filming set the camera down focused on a set of stairs then try to dance up them. Failarity ensues.

6. The big finish. Ideally a combination of all the other elements. I'd suggest a scantily clad girl with a poor sense of balance getting knocked over by the blast wave from torching a barrel of gas. The camera stops spazzing long enough for one last out of focus close up, cut to the fire burning merrily, roll credits.

Well folks, there it is. With this simple guide you and your fairly talentless friends will undoubtedly score multi-million dollar recording deals and get all the glamour, fame, and substance abuse problems that entails! Congratulations! Feel free to send my modest
%10 gross consultation fee along by paypal.

*Disclaimer: this guide only applies to teenagers and the sort of music that appeals to them. But really, that's the target audience in most cases isn't it?

This guide does not apply to rap (lots of stupid cars, silly outfits, and a double ration of sluts with impractically large posteriors) or emo kids (just slap yourself, unless you're Pete Wentz in which case punch yourself in the balls).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The first thing we do...

let's kill all the lawyers. A justly famous line from Shakespeare's Henry VI few people today realize that in the time period it was written, the lawyers were the ones who created the law. Politicians, we call them today.

While it's taken out of context, I can't help but approve of the sentiment. I'm reminded of this by the "slobbering journalistic fellatio" currently being awarded to the Hero of the Chappaquidick, Ted Kennedy. After the affection lavished on that infamous child molester Michael Jackson I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but the depths of stupidity humanity is capable of never cease to disgust me. A look at the history of the Kennedy family shows some stellar behaviour; buying their way to power with money earned bootlegging, supporting the Nazis, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, and buying or intimidating their way out of any number of rapes, drug and alcohol charges, and general massive hypocrisy. In my mind, they represent the state of American politics well. A ruling rather than representative class. I think many in the halls of Congress today would have fit right in around the throne of George III. It sickens me that the Constitution I swore to protect and defend is so generally abused by these useless looters, and I can only hope they've turned the heat up a bit too much and the frog will wake up before it's too late.

In any case, one more murderering hypocrite who dedicated his life to destroying my freedom and desecrating the document he swore to protect has gone to meet his judgement. While I'm sure his replacement will follow in his vilely oppressive footsteps, it still gladdens my heart to see someone who hates all I love die. And unlike when they hung Saddam, this is a person who directly hurt me.

Bye bye

It has come to my attention that Ted Kennedy has died, peacefully and surrounded by those he loved. I've gotta think it's better than dying screaming for help, surrounded by cold water. Rest in peace Mary Jo Kopechne, the mills of God grind slow but exceeding fine.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Welcome aboard

I read a few blogs, and apparently it's some type of requirement that I have a catchy theme complete with cool nickname for where I live. This will be a bit of a challenge for me, as I live in a fairly basic apartment. It seems odd to name it "Festung X" or "The Good Ship Y" when I'm paying rent and mocking a management who seems to use tenant events as a way to check up on who doesn't have a job and can come for bbq in the middle of a work day.

In any case, I suppose a bit of an intro is needed. Well, not really needed per se as I doubt anyone I'm not already friends with will bother reading this. Nonetheless the formalities must be observed, much like a dead eyed fast food employee wishing you Good Day shortly after expectorating in your "food."

I was raised mostly by wimmins, and I tend to think and communicate in a more feminine way than most guys. Nowhere is this more evident than with kids. I'm a total girl about them, and I find it personally offensive that people who ship their kids off to public schools every day act like I'm John Wayne freakin' Gacy because I'm a man who likes holding babies. I'm looking at you church women.

I'm 26, one of those dang fundy Christians who take it all serious like, and either a very conservative libertarian or a very libertarian conservative depending on the issue. If you aren't offended by at least one of my political beliefs you probably haven't talked to me about politics enough. I enjoy taunting feminists, hippies, and Emocrats. I like guns. A lot. I know more about guns than any other subject, and apparently more than most gun shop employees. Not a terribly grand feat given the generally low hiring standards, but still...

I was an infantry Marine who did a tour in Iraq then got separated for medical issues. No I do not want to talk to you about it. I don't care what you think about the war in Iraq, President Bush, Halliburton, or Black Water. No really, you can just go ahead and shut up now. Ask me some retarded question like "So you ever kill anyone over there?" and I can pretty much guarantee we aren't gonna be friends. If you have a "War is terrorism" bumper sticker or endorse the concept please don't talk to me as restraining my punching reflex gives me a charley horse.

I work as an apprentice building engineer in a high rise in Seattle. This basically means I'm learning to be an especially fancy pants kind of maintenance guy. I really like it, and would just like to take this opportunity to formally state that the views and commentary expressed here in no way reflects the views of my company.

I have a variety of hobbies, and not enough money to get too involved in any one. I'm learning to play bass, I run and play DnD and other pen and paper RPG's every chance I get, and read almost obsessively. I think fountain pens and knives are both very interesting and utilitarian, and enjoy learning about them as well as using them.

I'm married to an exceptionally loving and beautiful lady. I've been blessed in a lot of ways, but she's the best one. I attend The Downtown Church in Bellevue, and help to run sound.

In this blog I'll be rambling on about pretty much anything that catches my fancy. Feel free to comment; I'm one of those weird people who actually listens to people who disagree with me and I've even been known to reconsider my positions when presented with a logical objection. Crazy, right?