Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Riot Fest Chicago 2014

Riot Fest in Chicago was held over three very cold and rainy / muddy days in Chicago's Humboldt Park in September. I went with a friend on Friday which was cold, rainy, muddy and insane and on Sunday when the weather was nice (still cold) and the mud had somewhat hardened. Riot Fest is more of a fan-friendly (cheaper) Lollapalooza with a bigger dose of punk / emo bands and without any of the EDM flavor that you get from Lolla (and get on a massive scale elsewhere). It was also held in Humboldt Park which is relatively far afield for the more gentrified classes but actually is closer to where the younger fans of this music might actually live and work. For me, it was an opportunity to see some of the bands I like such as Social Distortion, Mastodon, Slayer, Primus, Weezer and the Afghan Whigs. Definitely skewing a bit older for certain.

Here is Gwar! I wasn't a huge fan of Gwar before seeing them live but they put on an awesome show that needs to be seen to be believed, where they kill a giant dinosaur and banter with the crowd in a completely disturbing manner. At one point they wanted everyone to put their heads down for a moment of silence (their former front man died recently) but then their deranged emcee said that everyone was looking down for a crack rock that the band had dropped since they couldn't do this sort of stuff sober. They also sprayed everyone near the front with fake blood which is their trademark - many fans throughout the park for the rest of the day looked a bit sunburned from the residue of their pinkish hue thanks to Gwar.

Riot Fest had great food and it was very reasonable. They had a Cevapcici stand where I had a great Serbian sausage for about $7 and all kinds of different items, not just the usual "festival" type stuff. Fortunately they set up most of these stands on the roads that curve through the park so they didn't sink into the mud.

Riot Fest also had cheap beer at $7 / each, with a wide variety and many local brews not shown at this stand. They were definitely keeping it fan-friendly in this crucial department. Of course, many of the fans went with pot instead, and there were clouds of it throughout the days and nights. Since we were older, nearby fans first looked at us to see if we were narcs before lighting up.

On Friday the weather became horrible and the whole place was a muddy quagmire. It was the type of mud where your shoes would literally get stuck and you had to pick them up periodically to ensure you would be able to move. A few were doing face plants and every bit of the festival that wasn't concrete was just a mess. We had VIP tickets which meant that there were a few areas with a tent (nothing glamorous, just benches and less rain, no heat) that we could recover to which was great since there was no place to sit down and eat or recover for a bit. A friend texted me and said she was "VIP of mud".

You could also watch the show from behind the VIP fence. This was a pretty good idea because it was a bit less nuts than being stuck out in the crowd for the bigger shows, and they had beer and some food stands in the VIP area, too. Of course you looked at the stage from the side and missed an opportunity for Gwar blood, for example, but it was a good way to see the show overall. Here's the view waiting for Social Distortion, who were strangely a bit muted and quieter.

Primus was a big headliner and I was waiting to see them. They did some great songs earlier on but then just sort of noodled. It was strange they must have seen the crowd being restless but then again who knows what Les and gang are thinking. We had to get out of the park so we started to go through the crowd and then it was a bit crazy getting out to the road that led out of the viewing area because people were also pouring in for the headliners and you had a bit of those feelings in your stomach when you know that the crowd can just get too much and crush you. It would have been ironic to get crushed near a dumb arcade since those setups were blocking everything but in the end we just got past everyone and all was fine.

What was good about Riot Fest?

- the price was reasonable, and beer and food were fan friendly
- the vibe was low key and people were mostly all not douch-ey
- they had a cool app for your phone with notifications of all the bands and maps
- they had a good lineup, in my opinion at least, even though I missed the Replacements who were here last year
- the VIP tents were a good idea, they weren't too much more and gave you a chance to get out of the crazy crowd and made it feasible to bring kids or older people to the show

What needed improvement about Riot Fest?

- the weather was miserable but this was historically bad weather for early September when it is usually balmy and awesome
- the phone and wireless was terrible. How hard could it be to set up a wi-fi system for everyone in the park?
- the bands were often pretty quiet, but that probably was due to all the stages set up and they didn't want to drown anyone out

Humboldt Park turned out to be pretty cool. They had nearby bars packed full of younger people drinking cheap beer and eating cheap food like Wicker Park in 1990. We had beers for $3 when we escaped the weather Friday night and 4 tacos and chips / guacamole was $16 in a fun bar near California and Division. Just like the olden days... although it was a bit difficult getting a cab each way you could Uber and since we left earlier we didn't have any trouble getting away (and we didn't mind spending $15 for a cab since we are older, too).

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Happened to Summer?

I usually pay pretty close attention to fall weather because a nice day in the fall makes a Bears game a lot of fun, while a cold windy day can be downright miserable. But in my head "fall" doesn't start until October - it certainly doesn't begin in early September.

Have Riot Fest coming up - a "Lollapalooza" style fest but in Humboldt Park and cheaper - and damn if I don't have to probably wear my winter coat or like 100 layers as it gets into the high 40's and rainy. WTF it is supposed to be summer now, not even fall.

I had to put up a post that says "summer" to me which is this perfect beer / glass synchronicity of a Kolsch beer (I need the Motorhead style umlaut but am too lazy to look up how to do it) from sitting outside in California at a fantastic beer pub earlier this year. At least I know someone in the HVAC industry who is going to be killing it as the weather abruptly switches from hot to cold and everything starts up and breaks down.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A great song and video... Phantogr*m

I've heard this song a lot of times on Sirius and I really like it. The band appeared on Guitar Center Sessions and the performance was epic (even with a lot of sampling). This girl could turn out to be like Shirley Manson back in the day...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"The Replacements" on Jimmy Fallon

One of my favorite bands ever is The Replacements. Their run of albums was great and they kind of morphed into Paul Westerberg's solo career at the end and then faded from consciousness as their guitarists Stinton (dead) and Dunlap (sick) fell off the map. They spawned one of my favorite obscure bands "Bash and Pop" and I also liked their drummer Chris Mars' album "75% Less Fat", a sly commentary on going solo from a 4 piece band.

But the Replacements came together for Riot Fest last year and I missed them. I kicked myself in the rear end for doing so. Some day I am going to see them even if I have to travel.

What a great song. And they have so many more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Massive Disruption to the Cable Industry Coming - Part II

Recently I wrote about the impact to the cable industry that is coming in the form of Microwave Fixed Wireless here.

While on vacation in Door County I noticed a small store front office in Bailey's Harbor for Door County Broadband. The first thing I thought of is how would a company like this operate out of a small storefront with just one truck (parked outside)? Then I realized that this firm is the local upstart providing Microwave Fixed Wireless against the incumbent phone / cable company in that region, Frontier. Unlike the local phone / cable company (who really are one and the same nowadays), you can run a microwave fixed wireless broadband company with few employees because you don't have to pay for all the same physical infrastructure (telecom poles, physical connections) when you are doing a wireless model; you just need to 1) get the physical infrastructure (towers) in place and then 2) hook up the dish in the homes and point it at the tower. This model needs far fewer "boots on the ground" than the traditional model.

While researching this further, I came across this document called
America’s Broadband Heroes: Fixed Wireless Broadband Providers Delivering Broadband to Unserved and Underserved Americans
This document is clearly biased in favor of the upstart fixed wireless providers, but has many interesting and sourced facts about the industry and is highly recommended reading.
While wireline and mobile wireless carriers focus on regulatory gaming and manipulation of the Universal Service Fund to benefit their bottom lines, many Americans are left without access to broadband services because they reside in places that are deemed to be unprofitable by traditional carriers. Even more Americans have substandard or overpriced broadband access and no alternatives for obtaining better service because of the lack of competition in the broadband market. It is clear that the current system is broken, and the absence of competition, abuse of USF and the lack of access to critical network facilities for competitive entrants puts our nation into a position of disadvantage compared to other OECD countries.

Fortunately, a solution for many of these broadband issues already exists and a rapidly growing segment of the country is able to take advantage of broadband services provided by fixed wireless broadband providers. Fixed wireless broadband providers, also known as WISPs (short for Wireless Internet Service Providers) utilize fixed terrestrial wireless (FTW) networks to deliver broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the country, rural and urban, providing badly needed access to broadband in many areas and the competitive pressure to keep prices low in places that are already served by existing providers. The majority of WISPs are privately owned, locally focused and entrepeneurial operations that expand into areas that either do not have broadband or do not have good choices for broadband service. The best way to improve broadband access to unserved and underserved populations in the US is to foster the development of smaller independent providers that can quickly address the needs of their communities using the most efficient technology available.
There is a significant amount of truth to this story. The government forces transfers from the incumbents to those tasked with providing broadband to underserved areas of the country, and the result is still poor service and high prices to those less-populated areas. Like most things in this world, subsidies and government intervention breed a lack of innovation, high prices, and poor services, while the most important task is to maximize paperwork and handouts.

When you start to research the net effect of 1) growing competition in the hinterlands provided by these upstarts 2) the cherry picking of high end residential buildings in major cities you can see a potential 1-2 punch for the incumbents. Right now it is a long way from critical mass and today it is still not common for people to "cut the cord" and get all their programming from Netflix / Hulu and other online sources, but every day those options become more viable. This is definitely something to watch.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Toad Away Again

Can't tell what this little beast is. Frog or toad?

Here is a toad.

The appearance of those little sucker toes tells me it is a tree frog. Late last night after walking the dog we found him stuck to the masonry.

When mowing the damp lawn this summer I've seen many little toads scamper away from the wheels of my approaching John Deere. I do my best to stop or avoid them because these are critter friends that eat bugs. But no doubt I have scrambled a few without knowing. In 21 years we have never have seen so many toads and frogs on the property.

Speaking of bugs the insects especially mosquitos have been very thick this year. Last week while patching a dead spot with some sod a cloud of skeeters circled my head searching for that one centimeter of skin the DEET spray missed. They were so thick I inhaled a few and had to swallow them.

We have recorded over 27" of rain since Mother's Day when I set out the remote rain gauge. We have been calling this the summer of no brown grass since the rain has kept it so green and weed free. Another term is the summer that never happened.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Another Great Video

I started watching a TV series on artists that made historic videos and the directors that created them. I love the Fatb*y Slim (don't want the web traffic) videos and I found a new one that is short but crazy intense. Don't ask me what it is about - I don't know - but it clocks in at less than 3 minutes and is highly entertaining.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Lazy Sunday - And Paperbacks As Early Web Pages

While on vacation I stumbled across a bookstore with new and used books.  There are so few bookstores nowadays that I went inside and they had an excellent selection of bestsellers and obscure choices.  I paid for my purchase and, on the way out, noticed a big box full of the Ballantine's Illustrated History books that originally retailed for $1 (I have some that must have come from England because they were one pound) and had to select a few for lazy Sunday reading.

These books come from a series and I have read many of them over the years.  I picked up the Barbarossa 1941 book and it appears to be one of the first titles written by John Keegan, the famous author of "The Face of Battle" and many other works.  For such a small book it is able to distill the essence of that fateful year with great maps, photos, pithy text, and diagrams.

Certainly not all of these books hit that high mark; but many are fantastic.  Since they use every inch of the paperback for superb graphics and well placed text, to some extent they should be considered a work of art.

I looked a bit and Ian Ballantine was a visionary; on Wikipedia they mention that he was one of the first businesspeople to realize the power of the paperback book and how it could open the world to so many more readers.  He produced the first softcover of "The Lord of the Rings" and helped to popularize modern science fiction.

While this would seem like an extreme stretch to someone young today I can see many parallels with this and the early stages of the Internet.  Prior to the paperback, books were very expensive and access to them was limited to facilities (libraries and the rich) where you had to physically go and view them.  Certainly you had libraries (one of my earliest technological memories was being astonished at the bar code reader that was scanned in the 1970's at our suburban public library) and this partially provided access to books but paperbacks meant that you could OWN books and build your own collections even on modest means.  Beyond that, the TYPE of books that were printed was changed; you weren't just producing titles for the rich to read and / or keep on a shelf to prove that they were educated; topics like WW2 and science fiction that were of high interest to the non-wealthy also became prominent because they were economic to produce and market for the first time.

These titles, especially the best put-together ones - were like web pages of their day.  They fit all this information into a compact space with an eye for how the reader wanted to view the information most efficiently.  Maps, photos and diagrams were well integrated with the text; a fine graphic designer would recognize all of these principles with a modern web page (except, of course, that these books were static and permanent and did not enable user action).

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Friday, August 29, 2014

Steak Or Stakeout?

Having recently completed the past six weeks of my grilling for one basic training here at The Country Bunker™ my mission requirement for now is to focus on...Tactical Grilling.
With all the violent confrontations globally and domestically one never knows when some peaceful protesters may show up one night to loot the backyard of patio furniture or lawn gnomes while one is busy flipping a protein rich slab of animal flesh over hot coals.
Imagine for a moment that one evening a white Toyota pickup truck with a .50cal belt fed mounted on the bed and loaded with hungry Muslim terrorists holding RPG's pulls up in the driveway to confiscate that whole leg o'lamb self-basting on the Weber rotisserie.

I know it and you know it, now is the time to grill tactical. Introducing…The Tactical Grilling Kit.
What would constitute a Tactical Grilling Kit I ask? Let's see, in my world it would have a kevlar bullet-proof lining. That is an important consideration when cooking for the entire SWAT Team in those demographic changing small suburban towns. It should be fireproof too. Fireproof would be a must-have tactical feature for fending off lamb fat flare-ups or the occasional Molotov cocktail tossed when encountering peaceful protesters spilling out of a community organizing rally.

Check out those loops for holding beer cans (BUD LIGHT WTF???). One of the loops could double as a holder for a tear gas canister making for rapid deployment if an unarmed backyard BBQ pool party got out of hand late at night when the beer keg goes dry or when those peaceful protesters show up to loot the pool cabana. Those are a few things I would consider. Here's some more intel.

From the page:

"Constructed of 1000D Cordura, the Tactical Grilling Apron features three rows of modular attachment across the waist and two rows across the chest. These PALS/MOLLE compatible attachment points allow your Tactical Grilling Apron to accept any of your current kit, whether it be a holster, mag pouches, general purpose pouches, or a med kit, the Tactical Grilling Apron can fit your mission requirement: Steak or Stakeout."
Now there we have it, that makes perfect sense after all. I knew this must have a dual purpose. Just what the busy multitasking special operator/grill tender could have asked for. This would serve as a nice gift for that friend or relative who takes his role in law enforcement or special ops seriously, or for your prepper buddy who desires total concealment when tending a smoky Weber while casually basting that WORL end of days squirrel meat. But wait, there's more:

"More importantly, the Tactical Grilling Kit INCLUDES accessories from Tactical Grilling! First, is the Tactical Beer Shingle. If you’re not grilling with a Tactical Beer Shingle, you may as well go home. Grilling the old way, without a Tactical Beer Shingle on your Tactical Grilling Apron, is like going to the range without ammo, bringing a knife to a gunfight, or spitting into the wind: it just doesn’t make sense. Plus, you also get a Tactical Spatula Sheath to keep your grilling utensils close at hand. Both mount securely to your Tactical Grilling Apron OR any PALS/MOLLE compatible platform. NOTE: No patches included"

No place for a bayonet or machete? Handcuffs? Taser? Not to worry folks, with the PALS/MOLLE compatible system this apron does it all my friend. No patches? Well, in the sidebar "others who have purchased this item also bought" there it was, the MEAT POPSICLE duty patch.
Yes folks, everyone is going tactical. Everything is tactical. Get your tactical stuff today!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Massive Disruption To The Cable Industry Coming

Things that are often obvious in hindsight don't seem so clear at the time. For instance I didn't understand why anyone would want to send around a PDF file when you had Microsoft Word. And it wasn't obvious to me that mobile phones would completely displace land lines.

We are about to see something similar happen to the cable industry, which is at its oligopolist apex right now.  I don't know when or how long it will take to have an effect, but in the end I believe that the outcome will be significant.


For large condominium buildings in Chicago, it is now the norm, not the exception, to go with Microwave Fixed Wireless for internet in the building, rather than fiber. Here is one company (I just found them on the internet, don't know anything about them) that attempts to describe the benefits:
Telephone and cable companies have been positioning fiber optics as the ultimate internet technology for some time, but the truth is that fiber has some inherent disadvantages that have been addressed by wireless microwave-based internet solutions. Experts across the globe are starting to acknowledge what the engineers at JAB Broadband have long been touting: microwave is a faster, lower latency, lower cost alternative to fiber and you don’t have to wait until someone decides to light up your building.

Not to be confused with the appliance you use for heating your leftovers, microwave wireless networks transmit and receive radio signals through the air enabling high-speed data transmission with very limited latency. Benefits include:

Limited infrastructure required on site
Faster speeds because data travels over a direct path (point-to-point)
Low logistical and operation costs
Expanded availability
Low latency
There are many companies in Chicago that provide this service for condominium buildings and businesses. You need to have a rooftop with line of sight access to a provider and you put a dish on the roof. This dish connects to the main network of the building and is distributed just like internet service that you'd receive from a standard fiber optics provider (such as a cable company). The traditional downside of microwave transmission was unreliability - if the line of sight was obscured by heavy rain, for instance, then you don't receive any signal. This happens today with DirectTV if the weather is bad - you receive the "all or part of this program did not record" message when you pull it up on your DVR (or it is jumpy and impossible to watch if you are looking at "live" programming). Note that DirectTV has a much more complex problem to fix with its satellites than a condo building does in Chicago because their satellites are in orbit rather than nearby with simple line of sight needs, so these problems are conceptually similar but actually very different in terms of difficulty to solve.

The reliability issue has mostly been solved and barring catastrophic weather, your point to point wireless internet is as reliable as fiber brought into your building. Don't forget that fiber, too, can be cut by local construction crews and other means and is also susceptible to failures of various sorts.

Once you cut over to Fixed Wireless (microwave transmission), you have effectively moved out of the cable orbit as far as internet service.  Many facilities offer 10 meg, 50 meg, and even 100 meg connections for each condo unit, which means that the provider needs to bring that speed times the number of units with some overall reduction since everyone won't be using the full internet all the time.


Once you have a super high speed connection, you need programming, and most people still get that through cable or satellite.  However, there are many online services available, and they are getting stronger in terms of content.  There is Hulu, Netflix, Chromecast, Roku, and myriad others.  Some leagues, like baseball, will sell you a package available through the internet or Roku as well.  This will only grow in the future since many other entities like Netflix and Amazon have a strong desire to battle the cable providers, as well.

The set top box, provided by your cable or satellite provider, is another anachronism of the past.  The box allows you to store shows and connects cable to your TV.  However, this can all be accomplished virtually, such as via this cloud-based set-top box called Nimble TV.  Note that Nimble TV today works WITH the cable providers, but it wouldn't be hard for someone else to use a similar concept without going to the cable providers at all.

What is a DVR doing, anyways?  It is recording programming locally for you.  So what?  If there is one copy of every program that ever existed out there on the internet anyways, and if you have a 100MB connection, why store it locally?  Just go out and bring me that program?  This is why my DVD player is gathering dust and I probably will throw it in the trash - anything I want is probably out there on demand or on the internet so why bother with physical media.

Another thing your set top box and cable provider does is stand between you and higher resolution content.  Cable has a myriad of customers - some on standard definition - and doesn't want to lose them when they upgrade.  Thus they upgrade slowly, and look closely at what it costs them to upgrade and what they can pass on to subscribers.

The internet, on the other hand, can agree on a new standard like 4K, and then it just needs to be recorded in 4k and it is streamed out on the internet to anyone with a high enough bandwidth connection (and a device to play it on).  To the cable companies this is a double problem - they need to upgrade the internet service to allow them to play ultra HD (or 4k) and then they need to upcode the content as well, and they have to do ALL of this for a region before they can effectively roll it out.  Thus you are waiting behind grandma who doesn't care about 4k and is just fine with standard TV.

I was reading articles about 4k TV (now Netflix streams "House of Cards" in 4k) and the expert said it ruined him to go back to his HD TV, the same way that you'd cry if you had to go back to standard definition TV.  The TV's are here, but it is the content and the distribution that is in the way.  Netflix and other internet streaming providers are already on this.

DirectTV does this too - my DVR is hooked up to my high speed internet and this is how they are delivering on demand shows to me.  They are now the gateway and they are bypassing some of their own infrastructure to do this.

To get 4k you need a machine that can play it and a device to play it on - some of the new monitors are 4k (and reasonably cheap, under $1000) and you could hook up your MAC or other computer to it by Thunderbolt or HDMI cable and you can bypass the huge costs of the most modern TV's.  But none of this is going to be an option even in the relatively near future from your cable or satellite provider - you need to go around them via your high bandwidth connection and then use a device like a computer (or some TV's build it in) to utilize the 4k content.


As major buildings and more sophisticated business users detach from cable and go to fixed wireless, which can be set up and upgraded in a fraction of the time as cable, then you will start to see other effects.  The "network model" means that everyone pays in and then they spread the costs across a huge base of users.

The other model is when the bigger and more sophisticated customers defect and leave behind the slow adopters and less wealthy customers.  Whole buildings can offer 4k TV as a service perhaps and maybe buy a bundled series of programs (or enable on demand or custom packages) and then as the internet gets faster, go to even greater levels of resolution or capabilities.  Meanwhile, the pokey cable company is for those that don't or can't upgrade, and their costs will go up while their best customers leave.


There are a lot of complicated threads being linked together here.  Key points:

  1. Microwave Fixed Wireless will steal many major cable customers
  2. Microwave Fixed Wireless will offer substantially higher bandwidth which will enable additional services such as 4k TV
  3. Third party services are growing to enable users to get content w/out going through a set top box.  They can use dongles or features built into the TV
  4. You may not even need a TV in the future depending on how monitors evolve and the capabilities of laptops / chromebooks / tablets / MACS.  May be easier just to go through your device
  5. In all of these cable is stuck with a huge infrastructure, many older customers who do not want to upgrade, and they won't be able to compete with high bandwidth solutions on features
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Great Video

I saw a link to this over at Metalsucks.net and this is a hilarious cover of "The Trooper". Sorry about the dumb ad you need to sit through for the song that is just modern Youtube I guess... but it is worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Different Views of Fashion and Beauty

The supplement to the NY Times has a fashion magazine which is a large, thick magazine featuring hundreds of models with clothing of all types and shapes, and the naturally beautiful models to boot. And this is what they picked out FOR THE COVER:

All I could say was WTF? Her hair and makeup are intentionally messy and she is wearing what appears to be a shapeless drab winter coat. Of all the women in this magazine and all the fashion that was available, this was the "best" for the cover?

The answer is clearly yes, because I'm certain armies of editors and "experts" chose this cover carefully and sweated over every single photo shopped detail. This answer, however, is because THEIR idea of beauty and fashion is completely opposite from not just middle America but of most Americans anywhere. However, we aren't the audience for this magazine, so our opinions are utterly irrelevant.

I am still astonished that they could take such a beautiful woman and make the entire shot so unattractive. And to go further, this was one of the most attractive shots with this model (she appears to be wearing a shapeless sack in other photos). But obviously, it isn't aimed at me, so what the heck do I know.