Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Tastiest Facts You Need To Survive

We all want to consume the tastiest facts because we need them to live. How do you find the facts needed to survive and stay away from the poison that will kill you for sure? A recent NY Times article dug out some recent headlines from around the internet to highlight what is bombarding us.

“Obama to Declare MARTIAL LAW If Trump Wins Election.” That was the teaser text that recently popped up on my Facebook news feed. It directed me to a post from a page called Nation in Distress, one of the many hyperpartisan Facebook pages that have gained in popularity this year. The post linked to a website called americasfreedomfighters.com, which linked to a video blog called The Daily Sheeple, which cited a National Enquirer story claiming that Hillary Clinton had a lesbian tryst in a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel in the 1990s. I wasn’t able to find the evidence that President Obama would declare martial law if Donald J. Trump won the presidential election.

Then an email from an investment newsletter had a link to this article on how the FBI probe of Hillary was tainted by huge campaign donations. There is no one we can trust, is there? Here is another highlight from the Emma Roller op-ed piece. She shows an example of the complete ridiculousness of headlines meant to get us to click on the link.

The next time I opened Facebook, another Nation in Distress post showed up at the top of my news feed — this time with a story about how the size of Mr. Trump’s campaign plane HUMILIATED the Clinton plane. (Dr. Freud was unavailable for comment.)

A recent BuzzFeed analysis found that roughly 38 percent of posts from three “hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages” contained false information, compared with 19 percent of hyperpartisan left-wing pages. BuzzFeed’s conclusion: “The best way to attract and grow an audience for political content on the world’s biggest social network is to eschew factual reporting and instead play to partisan biases using false or misleading information that simply tells people what they want to hear.”

But, is it really what we want to hear? Or, is what we must hear? Our confirmation bias may be so deep that to go against it will at the least cause us severe mental pain. At worst, for those already a bit unstable, the pain of seeing ourselves as previously fooled and hoodwinked could put us over the edge.

So, we must believe we are swallowing bits of truth. It cannot be lies since it has been fact-checked! More from Emma.

If share-baiting Facebook posts are the junk food of the political internet, then fact-check journalism is steamed spinach. As a journalistic tool, fact-checking has been on the rise for years. A study conducted by the American Press Institute found that the number of fact-checking stories tripled between 2008 and 2012. This election has given us a barrage of dubious claims that need to be verified or debunked.

The study also found broad support for political fact-checking — or at least the concept of it. Eight in 10 Americans view political fact-checking favorably. But reconcile that statistic with the fact that, according to a CNN poll from 2015, 29 percent of Americans, and 43 percent of Republicans,think President Obama is Muslim. The implication seems to be that Americans like the concept of fact-checking, as long as those facts confirm their point of view.

Before this inflamed political rhetoric was on Facebook, it was broadcast to millions of listeners on talk radio. On a recent episode of Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show, which draws roughly 13 million weekly listeners, he argued that there was no such thing as “fact checking,” since the news outlets that did the checking were irredeemably partisan.

“The idea that it is a fact-checked story is designed to say to you that it is objective and analytically fair, and all it is a vehicle for them to do opinion journalism under the guise of fairness, which if you fall for it, gives it even more power,” Mr. Limbaugh told his listeners.

This automatic distrust of the press, long a bastion of conservative thought, took on a darker tone this year. At a rally in Cleveland on Saturday, a pair of Trump supporters called the press “lügenpresse,” or “lying press” — a term used in Nazi Germany that has recently been resurrected by the German anti-immigrant party known as Pegida.

Daniel Dale is the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, and since last September, he has fact-checked as many of Mr. Trump’s statements as he can. It’s a daunting task, what he calls “an unprecedented daily avalanche of falseness.”

“Shoehorning him into a normal coverage pattern conveys the impression that he is a normal political liar,” he said. “He requires something different.”

During the debates, Mr. Dale fact-checked both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and found that, over the course of the debates, Mr. Trump made 104 false claims, while Mrs. Clinton made 13 false claims. He has seen a lot of interest — his list of fact-checks, which he tweets out daily, regularly get more than 1,000 retweets — but also a lot of animosity.“On the positive side: Nothing I’ve ever done has been this popular online,” he said. “On the negative side: Nothing I’ve ever done has so infuriated people.”

Are you one of the people who think Obama is Muslim? Does the work Daniel Dale did infuriate you with a stat that says Trump is 9x the liar Ms Clinton is? Have you decided that fact-checking is bogus? Do you believe in chemtrails and the Ilumanati? It is your brain protecting you, so don't get down on yourself. Otherwise, you might end up much worse off like a complete melt down. Ms Roller continued........

Many people will be doing some soul-searching after this election, but perhaps no one more than conflicted conservative talk radio hosts. Charlie Sykes, a popular radio host in Milwaukee, has been candid about conservative media’s complicity in the rise of Trump.“We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody,” he told Business Insider in August.

He added at the time: “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media. And by the way, a lot of it has been justifiable. There is real bias. But at a certain point you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there,” he said “And I have to look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘To what extent did I contribute?’ ” (Mr. Sykes announced this month that he will be leaving his radio show at the end of the year.)

A big part of the problem is not just Republicans’ willingness to say untrue things, but more of a willingness to let other people in their party say crazy and untrue things without pushing back. After Mr. Trump spread a racist lie about the first African-American president, that did not stop Mitt Romney from accepting his endorsement in his 2012 race. Conservative politicians and media personalities are stuck in a double bind now, where they are too afraid of comeuppance to tell their audience the truth.

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said Republican elites trapped themselves by telling their supporters not to believe mainstream outlets, even though they still relied on those outlets. “When they preached, ‘Don’t believe the mainstream media,’ they were still reading The New York Times and The Washington Post every morning and using it to set their baseline for their political reality,” he said. “They didn’t take the advice they gave to base voters.”

Fact-free thinking isn’t just for the right. The anti-vaccine movement is a perfect example of far-right paranoia wrapping around to the far-left fringe. At a rally last month in upstate New York with Senator Bernie Sanders and Zephyr Teachout, I talked to a woman who calmly segued from talking about climate change (real) to chemtrails and the Illuminati (not real). But while the Republican nominee is dabbling in conspiracy theories, no Democratic officeholder is holding hearings about chemtrails.

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true. Not only do we tend to seek out and remember information that reaffirms what we already believe, but there is also a “backfire effect,” which sees people doubling down on their beliefs after being presented with evidence that contradicts them.

There might be hope for those that are ready to move past confirmation bias. If you are one of those who cannot move past that it is OK. If you are then get ready for some tough sledding because it will not be easy. You are going to eat a big slice of humble pie! Ms Roller continues with a possible path through the mess.

So, where do we go from here? There’s no simple answer, but the only way people will start rejecting falsehoods being fed to them is by confronting uncomfortable truths. Fact-checking is like exposure therapy for partisans, and there is some reason to believe in what researchers call an “affective tipping point,” where “motivated reasoners” start to accept hard truths after seeing enough claims debunked over and over.

Some facts are equally inconvenient for both sides. President Obama has deported more people than any president before him. That fact doesn’t sit well with the president’s supporters, who think of Democrats as the party of kindness toward immigrants, and it doesn’t sit well with Mr. Trump’s supporters, who think the president is a weak and feckless leader.

“President Obama has moved millions of people out. Nobody knows about it. Nobody talks about it. But under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They’ve been deported,” Mr. Trump said at the third and final debate.

This criticism was bizarre — after building his campaign on a southern border wall and a “deportation force” that would round up undocumented immigrants by the millions — but it was true all the same.

Do you feel completely upside down now? If so, that means you are considering moving on from cherished beliefs. Maybe your emotional filter is ready for some maintenance. Humans have to process so much information we must use an emotional filter or we would end up overwhelmed and become a weeping confused blob. So, lighten up on yourself and your fellow humans who seem so stupid to you. Chris Field talks about the basics of our emotional filter in this blog. Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink covers how we make instantaneous decisions. Both these give some insight into how the brain works. We are only scratching the surface of how cognition works. So, give yourself and your fellows a little room to move forward.

Emma Roller (@EmmaRoller), a former reporter for National Journal.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

BS’ing Myself

BS’ing Myself

Did you ever have an Ah-Ha moment when you realized how you were bullshitting yourself? And, you could see how your mouth had just opened up and swallowed the biggest bunch of crap ever. And, you had fed it to yourself! Well, for about 60 years I never tasted my own bullshit and then one day something happened.
It seemED impossible to me that I could lie to myself like a great politician and do it so well that I didn’t know it. How is it possible to be the deceiver and the deceived at the same time? It cannot be — can it?
My aha was laying on a table being checked out by a PT (physical therapist) for left hip weakness. He was giving me advice on different exercises and movements I should do to fix the problem. And, I am thinking, I used to do that. I Used to do that too. I USed to do that one. I USEd to do those. I USED to do all that!!!!
After leaving the PT and having time to think about the state I was in and realizing my body deterioration was almost 100% my own doing, instead of chastising myself, moving on, and forgetting about the whole thing, I tried to look at where did the decision-making go south. That was when the web of deceit and lies I had woven started to unwind ever so slowly. My mind did not really want to give up this info because this is precious ego stuff. It was like a foggy blanket over my consciousness of a particular aspect of my life. The ramifications are huge when you think about it. If one does this once in one part of their life, the odds are pretty good they are doing it in other parts as well.
One of the reasons I am writing this is so I remember how the fog burned off and made the web of deceit visible. It took a while to see how I built the wall brick-by-brick to block off the view and the memories. I am sure my ego-mind thought it was doing me a favor. The reality was it was slowly killing me. That sounds dramatic but I don’t think overly so. Let me explain.
After a hernia operation last August I was in a lot of pain. At least for me it was a lot of pain because I have been lucky health-wise most of my life. So, for two weeks I could not stand up straight because my gut hurt so bad. And, my mind just kept telling me to take it easy and not do too much which was good advice at the time. But, six months later, that was not good advice. Yet, until I went to the PT and he gave me an exercise program almost identical to what I was doing before, all the answers remained hidden.
As I peeled away the layers, I started to see how we build walls inside walls of beliefs that hide the truth we need from us. One of the ways this happens is that what is true at one time is not at another. For example, giving pilates exercises a break right after hernia surgery was a good decision and true to my needs. Three months later, that was not true to my needs. As humans, we think truth is a static, unchanging principle. I don’t think this is true and it is why we must constantly challenge our own beliefs. If we don’t then rigidity will set in and we will stop improving and start to decay. It makes me wonder how much of getting older is actually predestined in our genetics and how much is a result of our own actions.
So, even if you accept what I have said. And, even if I accept this, how do we decide what beliefs to reexamine? Should we have an ongoing process? I think so. There are lots of really smart people who write about this all the time. I am seeking them out and reading them and am trying to synthesize those ideas into a process that works for me. I will write about that in a later post.
If you have found any of these thinkers, please comment below so I can add them to my reading list. Thanks!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Best Music, Vids and Food of 2015

Music, videos, books, movies, television and food are where many of we spend the majority of our leisure and socializing time. We also spend a decent percentage of current or future earnings on these pursuits. Do you have time to find out about the new stars and releases? I do, and here is my list from 2015. Hope you find something to talk about at the next party! And, there are links to free versions and pro reviews of almost all the listed music and videos. No free lunches at the restaurant though!


This was the year I developed more of an ear and appreciation for hiphop with even some rap here and there. Last year started this morph with Azealia Banks' Chasing Time video and Vic Mensa's Down on My Luck inventive storyline. This year brought Future's Dirty Sprite 2 which is at once both nihilistic and entrancing with its brutal portrayal of inner city life dominated by drugs, violence, generational crime and the resulting mindset focused mostly on money, sex and getting high with the strongest ties in life to your gang members. Listening to that album while reading the translation on lyrics Genius was like taking a trip to a foreign land that in Future's case is the Little Mexico section of Atlanta.


  1. Neon Indian - VEGA INTL Night School LP This is completely infectious and instantly accessible though has held up to heavy rotation since its release in October.  Dance music that sounds innocent though a lyric dive can reveal some dark shit.  
  2. Nao - Feb 2015 LP Nao is supposed working with Jai Paul's brother to produce her latest effort. It has that funky heavy bass synth beat reminiscent of Jai Paul's latest. Her vocals are somewhere between Aluna and FKA Twigs.  
  3. Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin Down  Kurt is known as putting out the best stoner guitar picking music in the universe. I don't know about that but have enjoyed this album since its release in September. 
  4. Future - Dirty Sprite 2 If you are not up on the latest lingo then DS2 can be difficult to comprehend. With the help of Lyric Genius though anyone can figure it out quickly. In case you don't know, a Dirty Sprite aka Lean and aka Purple Drank is a mixture of cough syrup (codeine and promethezine), Sprite and a Jolly Rancher.  I've never taken this but after a hernia operation the end of August I ended up with a hydrocodone scrip and only took one and half pills before feeling very sick and dizzy and was taken off of them.  Getting back to the music on this album, it seems that even someone like me who is not a big hiphop fan will appreciate this music because of the high artistic achievement of making me understand the hopeless feeling of being a hood on the wrong side of town. I have never felt such nihilism from music before.  Trap Nigga (a black man trapped in a bad situation or place) is one of the more accessible songs and gives a good idea of this album.  
  5. Grimes - Art Angels  Claire Boucher goes by the music artist name of Grimes. This is her fourth album and the first I had heard. The music was so good I ended up exploring her earlier catalog and realized she has been a major talent for years. The album is hard to categorize with styles all over the place which is what makes it great. I never felt like it was listening to the same song 10 times.  This is pop dance floor music at heart with musical techniques not usually associated with that genre thrown in to make it endlessly interesting since the mid-November release.  


  1. Fifth Harmony - Sledgehammer  An immediately foot stomping dance song with great vocals and music from girl band Fifth Harmony.   
  2. Joey Bada$$ - Save the Children  This song deserves a top notch video - hard to believe a cutting edge producer has not done it for free by now. This just begs for visuals.     


This year did not have the big impact standout video like last year's Chasing Time. What 2015 did bring was a lot more high quality vids which made selecting three very difficult. It was a lot of fun reviewing the many worthy considerations.


Future - Blood On The Money

This is not happy holiday music, is not uplifting and does not have a happy ending. Regardless, the funeral feel to the music and the dark visuals create a mood and movie scene that sticks with you after watching it.


Demi Lovato makes you simultaneously dread and thirst breathlessly for summer 2016 to be here now.

Honorable Mention for being very cool and probably costing more than any other one.


The one standout book I read was The Shephards Crown by Terry Pratchett. This was a work in progress at his death in March that his friends and family finished from his notes. It is in the fantasy genre and was enjoyable because it was really good and had the added drama of being his last.  I listened to the audio version and highly recommend.


Allegro Romano  - Italian restaurant on top of the Broadway Tunnel in San Francisco.  My friend had the truffle risotto special which was fantastic. I had the chicken saltimbocca that was served with a picatta type sauce. Other dishes at the table were the beef carpaccio appetizer and lobster ravioli. Food, service and timing were excellent. The view from the hill outside back into downtown is wonderful.  The restaurant feels like your own private find in a nice neighborhood away from other commercial businesses.


CitizenFour was released October 2014 and I watched it in 2015.  Chilling movie that helped me understand the absolute futility of the idea keeping guns in your house will protect you from a tyrannical government - forget that - it is way too late. I consider it almost a duty for every intelligent US citizen to watch this movie. You then realize how this world works on many levels and can better identify and understand the media propaganda we are bombarded with every minute.


 What can I say? It was a great year to be a Warriors fan!!!! My wife and I so enjoyed watching the team play all season and then eat the competition alive in the playoffs.  They are starting the new season off pretty well too. Haha!

Friday, May 15, 2015

What's Your Ride?

What’s Your Ride?

What’s Your Ride?

Everyone has a vehicle. I am not really talking about a car or motorcycle. No, the vehicle I am talking about is what you use to explore for new places both physically and in other ways. So, it might be your car. But, it could be your running shoes or your yoga mat.

Most of us have more than one way to get around. There are the few one-trick ponies who maybe find work or school all-consuming. But, like a different set of clothes, we have our various ways of seeing and experiencing. One of my favorites is the bicycle. You can ride paved roads bicycle paths, dirt roads, and dirt trails. You can even put it on your shoulder and walk for a while to get over obstructions.
And, when the same routes get boring there are resources like Google Maps, RidewithGPS, Strava, and many others to find new places, see new sights, and change up the routine that maybe has become stale. And, like those same roads we travel day-after-day that can become boring and tiresome, we have our standard ways of thinking and experiencing the world that can make us feel trapped on a treadmill going nowhere. What are the maps of our interior daily life we can consult to find a new way?
The maps are surprisingly similar and sometimes the same. When bike riding on a new road yesterday called Skywalker (really — I swear!) that turned into a paved trail when barriers to cars appeared, with vistas of a 100,000 person metropolis, and a hill-side house reminiscent of The Jetsons, my interior map changed as well. The experience of a new physical area changed the interior landscape as well. Simple enough you may say, but possibly a bit more complex than at first blush.
What were the choices made along the way? What expectations were involved? How much awareness of my immediate surroundings did I need? If my head is down the whole time huffing and puffing up the 14% grade will I see The Jetson house? The rain clouds not too far off provided a sense of urgency. The previously unknown road that just turned into a paved trail with one foot high weeds makes me wonder if I’m lost. Something is making me feel edgy now.

When was the last time someone was here? Does it matter if I know?

So, it seems that fear is a vehicle for opening up something new. Fear makes me want to turn around and go back to the car and then head into Pete’s for a coffee. Recognizing that the fear is probably irrational pushes me on to new vistas both physically and mentally.
Once committed to moving forward then like magic a downhill appears which accelerates the adrenalin flow. My senses have become more acute to subtle changes in the road since hitting a rock at 35 mph could send me flying.
Like following physical maps someone else has made in order to get somewhere sooner and with less effort, there are interior maps that have been left behind. Those can be ways of analyzing data. It might be emotional maps of dealing with fear and other feelings that can carry us away. My emotional map regarding fear is one traveled extensively and was familiar enough for me to make a good decision.
Sometimes we just have to go with the flow though. Like being in a strong current in the ocean or a river, if you fight the current then your body will tire out and you could drown due to exhaustion. When to fight the current and when to go with the flow are important decisions. Sometimes you can make a quick burst of swim strokes to make it to the beach or the side of the river and save yourself.
There are some serious rain clouds building up from where I came and am planning to return to in about 3 hours. Should I turn around and try to beat them back? Or, should I stick with the plan and head away from them and hope they are gone by the time I am heading back in that direction? My intuition is to follow the plan because, hey! — things have worked out OK so far. But, just following intuition seems wrong somehow. A quick check of iPhone weather shows that the rain is supposed to pass in about 1.5 hours. Everything seems great!

Beautiful scenery unfolds and joy. But, the road is strange. There is a sort of foreboding. I have not been here before. Can I stay on schedule? And, what kind of sign is this? I mean, this ride is feeling a bit weird. But, what-the-heck?

I am feeling a little strange, but really, does life have to cooperate so fully? This seems like a time to go with that flow. And, in just a few minutes that will get tested.
The clouds are getting darker and I am thinking of stopping for lunch but want to stay the course. The air gets that fresh smell of rain so I stop to put my phone in a plastic bag and get my gilet out. And, then the rain comes down and the rain is fierce in my face. I have to really push hard to pedal up the hill into this 25 mph wind. I am rewarded by some oak trees to gain cover under where I discover that my GPS says I am off course. I was supposed to turn at that last intersection and missed the beep due to the wind. My good fortune of finding the oak trees also lets me correct course. The wind dies down and the rain passes.
Heading back to the car on this last stretch of more familiar roads, all the events of the day coalesce and this little memo-to-self writes itself. In the end, that Pete’s ice coffee tastes really good. But, now instead of feeling like a salve for giving in to fear, it seems like a reward for pushing my physical and emotional boundaries
What is your vehicle? How do you get outside and outside yourself?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Healthy Approach to Physical Fitness Training

Mark Sisson, over at MarksDailyApple.com posted a good article called Is Your Workout Worth The Risk? Check it out if you work out regularly as it has really good points about listening to your body, limiting/eliminating higher-risk exercises, good form, and many other common-sense daily practices. While his post and this one are primarily for the person who works out regularly, the advice can help anyone. As Mark says, everyone will deal with this issue sooner or later.
A recent survey of CrossFit athletes found that 73.5% had experienced an injury during training, 7% of which required surgery. But before the anti-CrossFit crowd starts gloating, realize that this injury rate is similar to Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics and lower than contact sports like rugby. Similar polls in runners find that in a given year, 13% of runners experience knee injuries, 8% get Achilles tendinitis, 7% suffer hamstring pulls, 10% deal with plantar fasciitis, 10% have shin splints, 14% report iliotibial band syndrome, and 6% get stress fractures. There’s no way around it: engaging in non-essential, extracurricular bouts of physical exertion, also known as working out, carries some risk. Not working out carries its own set of (greater) risks, but that’s beside the point. As many a lauded strength coach has said, injuries are a matter of when, not if. And many of these injuries become chronic injuries that stay with you for the rest of your life.
 Though his article is good on the do's and don'ts of training, I would add a few things to Mark's excellent post:

1. Rehabilitation of injured joints and muscles is critical.
My goal is to rehab the injury so that area is stronger than it was before. Finding a good PT (physical therapist) and maintaining a good relationship with them is critical as well. It can be a PT or DC or sports massage or Osteopath - whatever works for you. 

2. Backs seem to an issue for most people sooner or later. Personally, I know more people with messed up backs from doing yoga so be careful if yoga is your thing.  Foundation Training developed by Dr Eric Goodman has proven itself with my wife, son and myself.

3. An excellent joint mobility program is call R-phase by Eric Cobb. 

4. Egoscue Training was recommended by my Tai Chi teacher. I have done some of the online videos to help me through a knee tweak from skiing and the exercises are simple and seem to work.

The bottom line is that a workout regimen needs to have a preventative group of movements
like Pilates, Foundation Training, R-Phase, etc. Though I have done Tai Chi for 20+ years, I hesitate to recommend it or Yoga because there is definitely a risk of injury if done incorrectly and in my experience there are not a lot of good teachers who know how to limit students egos to push and then get hurt. For example, Upward Dog done with the legs off the ground is very high risk for lower back injury. Most people should be doing Cobra with no weight on the lower back muscles. Upward Dog done by someone who knows the technique and has a good teacher who can spot slight form issues is safe, but, is it worth the risk?

In summary, think about breaking your training into two parts. For every workout day (a run, crossfit, kettlebells, weight training, etc), have a core/preventative day like Pilates, Foundation Training, joint mobility, balance, etc.  And, get on good terms with a PT and rehab all your injuries back to making the injured component better than it was before. Invest time in finding a PT, ART specialist, ROLF'ing, Osteopath, etc that you trust and has a record of success helping you.

And, last by not least, have a goal for how long you want to live and treat your body as if it has to last that long. If your goal is 100 and you want to be active that long, look at good examples like Jack LaLanne or others of what they did to be active and healthy to the end.

In an effort to keep this post short and readable, I included links and brief mentions of many resources but did not go into detail. Use the comments section to ask questions about any areas that you want more information. Have a happy body day and be kind to it! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Best of 2014


Since the Grammys were just given out it seemed I should publish this post which I wrote up about two months ago and never felt inspired to release. Since I disagreed with every award except #10 Best Electronic/Dance Album (Syro by Aphex Twin) it seemed my list should get published to provide some counter-weight (haha, like anyone reads this blog) to the misguided Grammy judges and nominators.


  1. War on Drugs - Lost In The Dream  Why?I discovered this album in early May and have been listening to it a lot since then. It still sounds new after six months of heavy play. Jangly guitars, good vocals, interesting lyrics and a driving beat make for a good listen over and over.Under The Pressure is beautiful example of the music on this album. 
  2. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like A Bell Why? Even though the voice of Nicole Miglis can sometimes be annoying due to the difficulty understanding her and the piccolo-pitch she reaches, it is the instrument-like quality of her singing meshed with the amazing musicianship of the band along with songs that paint landscapes in your mind that make this a wonderful album. As an aside, I had to put my cat of 16 years down due to a broken leg and a couple weeks later when listening to this song, I almost stopped breathing.
  3. Kelis - Food Why? I love ribs and with a song like Jerk Ribs that just smokes like the best R&B, this hit a very high rotation on my playlists this year.
  4. Courtney Barnett - A Sea Of Split Peas Why? With the funniest song of the year being Avant Gardener, this just had to be a top 10 pick.
  5. Quilt - Held In Splendor Why? Great psychedelic music that reminds me of The Jefferson Airplane and hints of other bands. Like one friend put it, listening to Quilt is like drinking a fine wine where layers of sound and musical influences peel off the more you hear it. 
Here is Pitchforks top 50 of which with the exception of the Kelis album are included. 


  1. Vic Mensa - Down On My Luck
  2. Pharrell Williams - Happy


The videos of 2014 were very strong overall reflecting the superb depth, variety and artistry of music matched with equally strong visuals that produce spellbinding interludes to reality.

Vic Mensa - Down On My Luck

I liked this video for a few reasons. Mr. Mensa employed a different kind of delivery that is unique among hiphop where the words are almost slurred together. The music has very engaging hooks. And, the video is very creative showing how life is the culmination of many small choices and when we are in the life groove the negative stuff does not manifest.


Ms Banks' video combined interesting hooks, rap, and infectious beat together with imaginative filming, props, and costumes all delivered by a confident and attractive artist who pulls off an unabashed powerful performance that can leave you speechless when played over the right video and audio equipment.

Honorable Mention for being very cool.


The Ocean At The End of Lane by Neil Gaiman. I didn't read too many books this year. This is in the fantasy genre and an enjoyable read.


Capannina - Italian restaurant on Union Street in San Francisco. The grilled octopus was a revelation. I have never tasted anything so amazing and if my eyes were closed would never have known what I was eating.Great service, a table by the window onto Union Street, family, wine that matched the food, and amazing food created magic.


I did not watch many movies this year and was mostly underwhelmed by the ones I did see.  One that I have really enjoyed and have watched at least three times so far is Discovering Mavericks.  It is a movie about the surfer who first discovered the California coast location for maverick waves and the stories about the first surfers who rode them. You can watch it for free on Vimeo. It is more than a movie about surfing. The interviews go beyond the surfing into the motivations of these people and how their lives and character are shaped by the waves and experiences.


 Nothing came close to The Roosevelts.  Ken Burns created a documentary about Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt that is not only a fantastic story of their lives and accomplishments, it helps you understand how different our country and world is today because of them. The expansion of Presidential executive authority, the national park system, social security, labor laws, human rights, and on and on and on are the result of these people. A must-see to understand how the world we live in today and the many things we take for granted now came about.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The I.S.I.S. Mystery

“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it. We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.” - Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East (August 2014)

When I did some searches for information on I.S.I.S (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) about 1.5 months ago what turned up was very contradictory and incomplete. Maybe you are wondering who I.S.I.S. is and how they get their money. This short post provides an overview of the information published so far and pulls from sources other than mainstream as well. The links will give you sources for getting more info if you want. Or, read on to understand my best guess to this political and military mystery based on who wins and loses in the regional balance of power and where the money ends up. 
  1. CNN paints a picture of using oil revenues from captured oil fields and extracting money from local people. I find both of these hard to believe. Locals have to be tapped out after all this time. And, how does ISIS have the necessary infrastructure to run an oil extraction process and transportation system to provide $1-2M per day as the article says?  
  2. NBC tries to put the source as wealthy Qatarians. This also does not seem very credible to me. Qatar is wealthy but unless they have been flying way under the radar for 30 years have always stayed out of mideast politics. 
  3. This article says it is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. I find it more than plausible that the Saudis are involved and would think them the kingmakers. 
  4. There were several reports that ISIS robbed $420M from a central bank in Mosul and then other reports that said that was false. It is hard to believe a bank would actually hold that much cash in actual bills. 
  5. Newsweek says that ISIS is mainly supported by Kuwaiti donors, through smuggling routes established during Saddam's regime and taxing the local population. The article, while seemingly containing lots of details does not really add up.  It takes millions per day to run a war of the proportions ISIS is operating at right now. Think about just the amount of gas it takes to move all the equipment. Where do all the armaments come from? Running a war at multiple fronts at the scale ISIS is operating requires an operation like the US was running in Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS must be getting funding and arms support from a big and rich country(ies) that have access to vast munitions stores. 
  6. The Russian based RT news source interviewed British Labor MP, Jeremy Corbyn who mostly lamented about civilian casualties. RT opined the "Key to ISIS fighting - concerted pressure on its funding and sources of arms", which is correct but one wonders why they are coming down on the righteous side of this argument. Is it because the US, Brit and French arms suppliers are making the most money off this conflict and not the Russians? 
Then there is this NY TImes report that ISIS is executing hundreds of Iraqi Sunnis. This makes zero sense.  ISIS is supposed to be Sunni based, supported by Sunnis, and helping Sunnis.

The amount of conflicting information in the news media makes me believe that the real story is not something the general public is supposed to know or understand. A veil of misinformation is being created to confuse everyone so when the real story comes out, there is enough confusion to provide political cover.

Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (huh?) in Washington, has shown up all over the place and I bet his background could be interesting reading. So, here is a story of the biggest barbarians loose in the world today and a question as simple as where does all the money come from to fund them cannot be answered. And, it takes lots of money for bullets, gas for equipment, food for soldiers, payments to soldiers, etc even if they got most of the guns and heavy equipment for free when the US withdrew from Iraq.

Is there a diplomatic Solution? -  I found this interview with Phyllis Bennis (fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis) which provided a counterpoint to mainstream media.:
PHYLLIS BENNIS:"Yeah. Well, I think, unfortunately, much of this is politically driven. There were moments of crisis in Iraq, as there had been moments of crisis in Syria, where there was the question of would the U.S. intervene militarily. One of the big problems is we don’t hear options. We hear the choice that George Bush gave the nation on September 12th, after the September 11th attacks back in 2001, when we were told the choice is either we go to war or we let them get away with it. Presented with those two options, the support for going to war was 88 percent, and that’s not so surprising: If the only alternative is do nothing, people will support war. The problem is, all of the options that have to do with diplomacy, with disarmament, with arms embargoes, none of that was on the table.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Absolutely. You know, Saudi Arabia is the source of the largest amount of money, from what all the reports are indicating, that is going to ISIS as well as a host of other Islamist and other organizations, the al-Nusra Front, the official franchise of al-Qaeda, and others. Some of it probably comes from the government, although that’s never been confirmed. But this is a very tightly controlled society, where if there was an interest by the government in stopping its own citizens, whether they are Saudi princes or ordinary citizens, who are the source of a huge amount of the money funding these organizations, including ISIS, it could be contained. The Saudi government has been very eager to keep ISIS out of Saudi Arabia. The fact that the U.S. has an enormous base in the region makes it very vulnerable for those who see the U.S. role as something to be challenged, something to be opposed. The Saudis don’t want to talk about that alliance with the United States. But there is $60 billion worth of arms that they’ve been engaged in buying from the United States over this last two years. Many of those arms are the ones ending up in the hands of ISIS. It’s U.S. arms and it’s Saudi arms that are ending up there. Whether it’s individuals or whether it’s part of the government, that money is coming to a large degree from Saudi Arabia, from other parts of the region, as well—from Qatar, from Kuwait, from UAE, from a number of countries—but Saudi Arabia is very much at the center of this. And the U.S.-Saudi alliance is such that if the U.S. chose to challenge the arms sellers in this country, who are making a killing on this new war, this Iraq War 3.0, we might say—if they were to prepared to challenge those arms suppliers, and thus challenge the Saudi government, there could be a real effort to put a stop to the funding and arming of these terrible organizations like ISIS.

Jeremy Scahill is always provocative and can provide analysis outside the norm. His complete transcript is at this link.  He talks about the Orwellian nature of the fight in the Mideast which is how I have personally felt since the Iraq War and the lies and deception regarding WMD's.
You know, the Obama administration, in engaging in this policy, is continuing a Bush administration outcome of the decision to invade Iraq. And that is, they’re empowering the very threat that they claim to be fighting. Who is ISIS? What is this group made up of? Is it just people that are radical Islamists that want to behead American journalists? No. One of the top—and this almost is never mentioned in corporate media coverage of this—one of the top military commanders of ISIS is a man named Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri al-Takriti. Who is Izzat Ibrahim? Izzat Ibrahim is the leading Baathist, who was on the deck of cards, that the United States has not captured. He was one of Saddam Hussein’s top military commanders. He was not just some ragamuffin Baathist. He actually was a hardcore general in the Iraqi military during the Iran-Iraq War, and he was a secular Baathist.
Why is he fighting with ISIS? Well, when Bush decided to invade Iraq, and then he put Paul Bremer, who was a radical neocon ideologue who had cut his teeth working for Henry Kissinger—when Paul Bremer was put in charge of the occupation of Iraq, one of the first things he did was to fire 250,000 Iraqi soldiers simply because they were members of the Baath Party. As one senior U.S. official at the time said, it was the day we made a quarter of a million enemies in Iraq. All of these Baathists have been jerked around by the United States, and the Sunnis in western Iraq, jerked around by the United States for a very long time.
Here it is a month and a half after I started to put together this post and nothing has become clearer to me so I decided to publish what I have gathered so far. The deliberate obfuscation by governments and media continues. Comment if you can provide some clarity on who ISIS actually is, where they are getting money, and whose armaments they are using.

Based on the available information, reading between the lines, and then just doing the math regarding the amount of money involved to run a military operation in Iraq and Syria with the numbers of troops involved, one quickly arrives at the conclusion that ISIS:

  1. Must be funded by a country or countries with very deep financial pockets.
  2. The supporting country or countries must have access to large amounts of arms.

There are only a few that fit the bill.

  1. The Arab Gulf States with tacit support from the US, Britain, and France are the ISIS supporters with money and arms. Western arms manufacturers are making lots of money and have established arms distribution channels with the Arab Gulf States.
  2. Possibly Israel because the Shiite government in Iraq and Assad/Syria are kept very weak. Plus, the Iranians are put on the defensive due to concerns ISIS could eventually attack them. 

The Saudis and Gulf States can feel like they are in control of the mayhem. Israel feels better because their biggest and formerly best armed enemies of Syria and Iraq have been cut in half by ISIS. And, even the oil companies get to see the oil keep moving from ISIS occupied territories.


  1. NY Times article In Battle to Defang ISIS, U.S. Targets Its Psychology
  2. Good article by Amir Ahmad Nasr on why ISIS has grass-roots support around the world, and, in Syria and Iraq
  3. From David Stockman's ContraCorner detailing links to how Turkey is part of the distribution and where the oil is going and why the US is not disrupting this supply chain.  
  4. A link to Rep Dana Rohrabacher Statement on Turkey’s Clash with Russia
  5. A Christmas Story: Why No Peace on Earth by David Stockman

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Modern Day Roosevelts and US Hegemony (What Makes a World Successful?)


After watching the Ken Burns series on Teddy, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt it is easy to wonder where the bigger than life visionary leaders have gone in the last 30 years. Are they really gone or have circumstances not provided the need for those kind of people? 

Teddy was a complicated person that on one hand was a social progressive who was the first to prosecute anti-trust cases, expanded the national park system, regulated industry, supported striking coal miners, and took on the party bosses who controlled legislation and maintained a corrupt political system. The other side of Teddy was an almost neanderthal guy who believed men had to fight in wars to be men, started wars for almost the express purpose of being able to fight, and expanded executive powers in a way that changed the presidency forever. 

FDR did not start out as a dynamic personality but when circumstances like his polio and WWII dominated him, he rose to those challenges and made this a different world. He was also a social progressive like his wife, Eleanor, who changed our country forever with the introduction of social security, reduced workweek, child labor laws, and many other progressive social changes that no one hardly questions anymore as basic rights of being human.

The result of the Roosevelt era is what is referred to today by many as Pax Americana. Is Empire inherently evil or is there a need and place for it in the world today? While the US has certainly had its excesses, the overriding answer is that far more good has come from the US playing world policeman than harm from US overreaching. David Brin summarized the current and previous Pax eras very well.
"Pax" referred originally to Pax Romana or the Roman Peace that kept the Mediterranean placid and open to commerce for 600 years. Pax Sinica refers to similar epochs across China and east Asia. Pax Hispania was the greatest empire the world has ever known, in which Columbus's discoveries -- then Magellan's -- led to a "peace" that preached its own absolute goodness while it spread deliberate genocide for 400 bloody years. But at least there was no hypocrisy.

Here is the crux. With the likely exception of Pax Hispania, almost every pax era has been better for average people on planet Earth than almost every era without a pax empire, when competing kingdoms would send armies slashing and burning and looting across each others’ territories. The Chinese, for example, admit that the First Emperor Chi'in, who unified the five warring states, was something of a murderous madman. But he also made it safe to travel and trade and paved the way for the Han Dynasty renaissance. He was hell on scholars and dissenters, but made things better for average folk who just wanted to live out their lives, pay taxes, practice a trade and be left alone.
The amount the US spends on playing the Pax Americana role is staggering outspending the nearest country (China) by 3 - 5x in total dollars depending on whose numbers you use. The long and short of it is that the world has overall enjoyed an unprecedented degree of peace and prosperity during Pax Americana.

Many Americans want the world to respect their country more and be more grateful for all the resources spent on maintaining relative peace. They cannot understand how our largesse could go so unappreciated. Many other countries only see the hegemonic side of the equation feeling dominated by US military power and economically by US corporations. Both sides are correct. Finding and maintaining a balance is always the difficult part. 

So, Dems rail about the military excesses of George W Bush which is legitimate. And, Pubs are upset about relinquishing any military power that would create a vacuum only to be filled by chaos and barbarians. And, we wonder where the leaders like Teddy and FDR went. Maybe they are not around because we don't need them.

We live in difficult times, but, thankfully less difficult than other times in history. Have a wonderful day, hopefully enjoying a war-free life like 95+% of the planet.

David Brin on Pax Americana
Military Spending on Wiki
Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bulletproof Coffee

When I first heard someone say "bulletproof coffee" it was like fingernails on a chalkboard or hearing that song you hate for the 2 millionth time which for me is Freebird. I liked the song the first hundred times but now cannot stand it.

Famous Paleo Athlete Hunter Pence - BP coffee effect?
And, so for about a year I just made fun of the stupid name "bulletproof" and read a little mostly about people who hated it because they agreed with my position. Once in a while a positive note would slip past my negative net and I would read about how much someone liked the effect.

But, I am probably considered a coffee snob by most people because I buy fresh roasted beans, have an expensive grinder and espresso machine and know how to make cappuccinos and lattes and stuff. To me, that does not make you a snob, but I can understand the label. And, the idea of adulterating my fine coffee in this non-traditional manner that would offend almost all Swiss, Italians and French just seemed very wrong.

Then one day someone's link took me to the bulletproof site and I read some of the info there. It mostly seems OK but I question the mark-ups on basic items. And, when investigating pieces of the info and talking with my coffee roaster friend I discovered things that were claimed about the coffee sold there that just did not make sense. So, that made me think maybe it was all a sales job to get you buying bulletproof store items.

So, I went back to Mark Sissons site and read about his take on bulletproof coffee. I tried the egg thing since I can source eggs from friends who have chickens and made the mistake of microwaving my cup of coffee once after adding the egg which sort of cooked it in my mug. That was gross so don't make that mistake. And, I tried it for a few days because I can get local organic eggs from friends who have chickens and liked the little extra buzz, did not miss the frothed milk of my cappuccino like I thought I would though my cat missed getting her spoonful of frothed milk. But, for some reason I kept thinking I should add nutmeg to my coffee because it reminded me of eggnog which is not surprising really.

So, I went back to the bulletproof guys website and read his recipe again and again.  I almost ordered the MCT oil but then remembered the misinformation there about the coffee beans they sell and decided to just buy MCT oil at my local health food store. And, while there I bought some grass-fed, organic ghee which was nothing like the ghee I normally get at the Indian grocery store. The ghee made in India has a strong smell and flavor while the grass-fed organic kind had almost no smell and consequently a very mild flavor.

So, I made the bulletproof coffee using a triple espresso pull and one tablespoon each of ghee and MCT oil and swirled using a Aerolatte Milk FrotherAnd, geez, this actually was pretty good.

I like the more coffee flavor experience because my drink was not diluted with the frothed milk. And, my stomach actually felt better after drinking my coffee because the frothed milk about half the time seems to be almost like a laxative. And, there is a kind of buzz from the bulletproof coffee. It is more pronounced the first few times but even after about a month of being about 90% bulletproof I still notice it.

So, what more can I say? If you resisted trying bulletproof because it seemed too cliched or mysterious or stupid, now you don't have those reasons if you read this far. The only reason now is you don't want to spend $7 for 7.5oz of organic grass-fed ghee, $16 on MCT Oilor buy organic coffee. I can understand that because I didn't either. I spend more money on other things that turn out stupid and since I drink coffee everyday I finally convinced myself to try it. And, sourcing those items locally only ended up costing me $23 because I already had a frothing wand and already bought organic coffee beans. Or, if you believe the claims on the bulletproof site about upgraded this and that, you can order a kit there for lots more bucks and get everything that way and not have to make more decisions on what to buy and where.

And, that ghee and MCT oil are going to make months of bulletproof coffee at one cup per day. I will have to buy maybe four 7.5oz containers of ghee to each 32oz of MCT oil so the cost is really minimal.

There are other claimed benefits of drinking bulletproof coffee. For me, the most important items were taste and how I feel right after drinking it. Who knows about the increased metabolism and weight loss claims. That is hard to know. Mark Sisson is not convinced about MCT oil and sort of pooh pahs it but while I agree with Mark's stance probably 90% of the time, his tone is a bit off on this one - almost like since he did not discover it then it is not that great. I don't know. I could be reading something else into his writing on it, but that was my take.

What do you think? Have you tried bulletproof coffee? Is it just a stupid trend that will disappear or will Starbucks and Peets be selling it in a year?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paleo Inspired Lemon Meringue Cake

This is not really paleo because real paleo folks will not eat anything remotely sweet or even something similar to a grain-based dish because it weakens the resolve of a person to be 100% paleo. I have given up on being totally paleo and just don't want to be a food nazi and worry about being completely grain-free.

The idea has been floating around in my head for a few weeks now and came together today. The basics are 1) a Meyer lemon based curd with 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp xylitol, 2 tbsp butter, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, tbsp half&half, and dashes of vanilla extract and salt; 2) meringue with 2 egg whites, 2 tbsp sugar, and dashes cream of tartar and vanilla extract; 3) pancakes made of coconut flour, almond meal, eggs, and milk. Then I assembled the cake in a 9" springform pan with pancake, lemon curd, pancake, and meringue. This was then baked for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. With a cup of cappucchino, it was a great brunch dish. The remainder will be dessert tonight.

Cooking the curd is easy: 1) whisk sugar/xylitol with eggs and yolks. 2) heat lemon juice and add to egg/sugar. 3) heat mixture until it thickens 4) add butter, vanilla, half/half, salt.

Each pancake was made with 2 tbsp of almond flour and coconut flour each mixed with 2 eggs and enough milk to create a thick enough consistency for a 9 inch crepe pan. I used butter to oil the pan.

Just use an electric hand mixer to make the meringue.  

Regarding xylitol, I read about it on the bulletproof website, bought some at the health food store, and am using it sparingly at this time. There is nothing magic about it regarding taste or in this recipe. Sugar is fine to use and you could experiment with other sweeteners. 

These are fairly standard recipes you can find almost anywhere in standard cookbooks or on the internet. Any variation of these would work. Just trial and error this for yourself. For instance, next time, I will probably make a little more curd and meringue even though this tasted very good as is. Lime juice or regular lemon juice could be substituted in the curd.

Let me know what you think and how any variations worked out. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lone Survivor Movie Review

I went to see Lone Survivor yesterday. If you have been living under a rock the last couple weeks or unplugged from the media world and don't know, this is a movie about a Navy Seal operation in Afghanistan that goes badly.

A small group of Seals are vastly outnumbered by a group of Taliban fighters and try to fight their way out of the mess. This true story is about honor, courage, toughness, teamwork, and decision-making on a personal level. On the macro scale this a movie about the horrors of war, tribal society mentality,  and living in a culture still in the middle-ages.

This is a powerful movie that left me physically shaken. I literally felt wobbly leaving the theater and the ground did not feel solid for quite a few minutes. Lone Survivor will shake your body, mind, and emotions.

Highly recommended movie that makes Zero Dark Thirty look a bit tame in comparison though the stories are very different. I would not bring children or those with heart conditions to this show. Seriously, this is an impactful story that in a modern theater puts you on the battlefield. Though a modern big-screen television and high-end audio system could get close, this is really a movie to see at your local cinema.

Link to the book by Marcus Luttrel

Friday, December 6, 2013

Best of 2013

Here is my Best of 2013 list. Maybe it is too early to publish but I doubt anything will change for me in the next 3 weeks and thought this may be more interesting for people to read now.
  1. Best beer: Firestone XVII Anniversary. This is a blend of several Firestone beers and at $23 from the brewery is pricey but definitely worth the money. Nothing else was even close though the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout was my second place pick. 
  2. Wine of the year - all of them! I was really struck this year by the amazing quality of most wines. You almost have to try to find bad wine these days. Of course, there is the very low quality bulk wines that are one dimensional and will give you a headache, but, almost anything in the $15+ range is of very high quality.
  3. Best music album: Classixx's Hanging Garden. This is like 80's dance music with the updated 21st century sound. Great beats and hooks. The Disclosure Settle album was a solid #2. This was maybe the best year ever for dance music with many other solid albums in this genre. I could easily list 5 more excellent releases.
  4. Bike race of the year: The Vuelta Espana was so much fun to watch. Amazing climbs, many lead changes, and watching Chris Horner take the GC at the age of 41 was incredible. 
  5. Personal Bike Ride: Rode the inaugural Castle Crags metric century in Siskiyou County. Low traffic roads, unbelievable views of the Trinity Mountains and Castle Crags State Park, and well-stocked and fun rest stops. Funny anecdote that exemplifies this ride was a guy from the Bay Area who I was riding with exclaimed at about mile 30 that he was worried because he had only seen 3 cars since leaving the start line and had become complacent and was using the whole road on the descent into Castle Crags.
  6. Drink of the year is the simple Margarita: 1 part Reposado Tequila; 1 part Orange Liqueur, 1 part lime juice poured over ice. You can shake it first and a half teaspoon of agave syrup can be added if you want the drink a bit sweet though the syrup does tone down the flavors of the components. The Corralejo and Trader Joes Reposado's make a nice drink. For orange liqueur, use the standard and expensive Cointreau or try some of the lesser known like Gran Gala.
  7. Home cooked Meal of the Year and my lifetime was goat chops with a simple oil, herb and lemon marinade seared medium-rare like a lamb chop.
  8. Restaurant meal of the year was at Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe. Impeccable service, view, ambiance and food along with the fact I had ridden my bicycle from Truckee over to the Hyatt conspired to make this a fantastic dining experience. The group of fellow bike riders also helped make this a fun evening.
  9. Most read Sojkascall post written this year was US Health Care Costs Explained.  The second most hits went to The Real Story About The Washington DC Shutdown.
  10. Book of the year went to A History of the World in Six Glasses.This was human history told through the lens of beverage-making technology focusing on beer, wine, rum, tea, coffee and Coca-Cola. 
  11. Homemade recipe creation of the year was taking the tried and true chile relleno recipe from Hot & Spicy & Meatless and just adding ground chorizo sausage to the filling. We have been getting Don Juan chorizo at our local Winco supermarket for $3 a lb which has been fantastic. The same company also makes a very good hot Italian sausage. I know this sounds very simple and you might think how can this be recipe of the year, but, usually simple is the best! Try it yourself.
  12. Movie of the year goes to Silver Lining Playbook which was released in December 2012 that I watched in 2013. Though I found Bradley Cooper annoyingly cutesy, Jennifer Lawrence was riveting as a fellow functioning bipolar trying to cope in the real world. Excellent screenplay and supporting cast make for an enjoyable and ultimately uplifting movie that transcends my criticism of BC.  
  13. Documentary Movie of the year goes to Dirty Wars by and starring Jeremy Scahill about America's secret covert wars around the world currently with operations in 70+ countries. The description death squads was never used in the movie though my take-away was the US now has the most sophisticated death squad apparatus ever assembled with the President and his advisers making life and death decisions daily for thousands of people around the world completely outside the justice system. Gut-wrenching and eye-opening expose of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
  14. Personal accomplishment of the year was learning how to grow lettuce greens. We did not buy any lettuce or greens in the grocery market from about the first of July until Thanksgiving when the first hard freeze finally took its toll. The difference this year was using raised beds and keeping the rows covered all year with agribon.
  15. Blogs of the Year. Politics and Society goes to Contrary Brin due to his consistent thoughtful posts using logic and brilliant analysis. Personal Growth blog of the year is The Altucher Confidential. James Altucher hits the mark over and over with seemingly simple insights and advice on improving your life. Economic Blog of the Year is First Trust Economics written by Brian Wesbury. Brian coined the term Plough Horse Economy to describe our current circumstances and has been right on the money for more than a couple years now - worth following his insights.
What were your "best of" moments and winners in the categories I listed? I am always interested in how the year treated others and what they learned. Thanks for reading!