A Christmas Eve Tale About a Childfree 30-Year Old Nihilist

It was a Christmas Eve like no other!

For one, it was the first Christmas Eve in recent memory where my employer did not require that I work. So, I offered to work anyway, as well as Christmas day. This was an alien thought to him, so instead I am enjoying “second weekend”, as I have come to call it.

I woke up and noticed it was a slightly soggy and gloomy overcast morning. Wonderful! I opened all the windows, grabbed a blanket, and played Dragon Age on my couch with my dog for about 7 hours. I ate leftover pizza and drank a lot of Mountain Dew. I beat the game, but am considering picking up my save from about 90 minutes prior, as I made a decision which brashly affects the family of my character from the first game. Whoopsie!

I enjoyed not having any allergies today. The rain kept the usual allergens down, and since I don’t see the point in ironically decorating Yggsdrasil in the genocidal culture that burned their temples down to build their churches atop of, my apartment doesn’t reek of dead tree.

I became hungry, looked around the kitchen and came to the logical conclusion of: fuck cooking. Fast food giant Jack in the Box is open all major holidays, and although they are a shining star of mediocrity, carry a great nostalgia for all the times my mother and I went there on major holidays, because holidays are dumb. She died this year by the way. Did I mention fuck this year with a bonesaw soaked in ebola and sadness?

I pull up to the restaurant and I gasp. Are they closed?! Is my last resource in this hick town lost on me? The lights are all off; the sign, the drive through menus, and the in-house lights are dimmed. I pull up to the drive through anyway where the order screen gives me this empty stare of bright white light. No text, no logo, no anything. A booming, enthusiastic voice yells at me “Hi there! Welcome to Jack in the Box! What can I get for you today??!?!?!?!?!!!!111!!!!1!!!!one”
“Oh, hi. I need a minute. It’s hard for me to see the menu without lights out here.”
“Oh yes, sorry. We’re trying to get that fixed.”
How many Jack in the Box employees does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

I place my order and pull around. The cashier is literally hanging out of the drive through window. As I approach, he yells at my car “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” (no, I am not making this shit up). I greet the cashier and his horrible lack of professionalism and begin the financial transaction. I am forced into a conversation.

He exclaims: “I can’t believe they have me working this late on Christmas eve! I should be home!”
“Huh. This year is the first time I’ve had a job that didn’t require I work holidays.” I’m balding and wearing my pajamas. I believe the look of horror on his face was him looking into his future.
“Really? Uh, wow. Wait, you said french fries right?”
“Curly fries.”
“Oh okay. HEY BOSS! IT WAS CURLY FRIES! YOU CAN KILL ME LATER! Here’s your card back. Are you having a good Christmas so far?”
“Eh, I really don’t celebrate Christmas.”
“Oh, what do you celebrate then?”
“Nothing, really.”
“Nothing? Not even Hanukkah? Why?”
“I’m 30. I don’t have any kids and I don’t believe in any gods. There really just isn’t any point.”
“Oh yeah, I flip back and forth. Like-”

Okay, I hate to cut that conversation off, but the rest is him dumping all of his teenage philosophies on life on me until my cheeseburger is ready.

I get my food, say “Enjoy your holiday, you weird fucker”, and then promptly leave. Since then, I’ve mostly been drinking beer and watching Angry Video Game Nerd episodes.

And that my friends, is what Christmas is like when you’re a nihilist.

Why Babymetal Is the Best Thing To Happen to Heavy Metal Since the Marshall Stack

Do you like heavy metal? I certainly do. From stealing my mother’s copy of Blackout by the Scorpions when I was 5, to my Gothenburg phase as a teenager, and into the current era of slow building riffs, I’ve always had some heavy metal in rotation. It’s not the only thing I listen to, because well, that would be stupid. However, if a power chord on 11 doesn’t make you want to get up and throw shit, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. That last sentiment, however, is exactly why the world needed Babymetal. There’s this horrible thing called sub-culture where people define themselves by the crap that they’re into. If you don’t think you’re silly, think about Juggalos for a second. Haha, I know right?! You look that stupid. You really do.

Rock & Roll was the devil’s music as soon as it landed. The genre’s name was a reference to fucking, it was invented by blacks and sold to white kids when atheism was as hated as Islam, and people of color were hated even worse. About 15 years into Rock & Roll’s life, its louder, ugly cousin named Heavy Metal was born. More sexual innuendo, simpler chords, bigger fuzz boxes, bigger amps, bigger hair, pointier guitars, Robert Plant’s package on full display, and now they were actually writing songs about Satan! That’s right, before Ozzy Osbourne was a tv dad no one respects, he was the scariest son of a bitch in popular music. The moral panic kept growing until grunge killed the genre and nobody cared anymore.

This started to cultivate a personality type associated with heavy metal. We listen to scary music. Glenda in accounting was horrified when I put on Mercyful Fate the other day. Hah! Fuck her! There was a time and a place for this kind of anxiety, it was called the 1980s. Satanic Ritual Abuse was a huge conspiracy theory that wasn’t outright debunked by the FBI until the early 90s. Dungeons & Dragons, a role playing game where players could practice the imaginary kind of magic that so many great metal songs have been written about, was being taken too seriously by kids and lead to a few deaths. The problem is, after the people who play Dungeons & Dragons accepted that their hobby was just nerdy bullshit, metalheads never did the same.

Enter the 90’s. The death metal scene was emerging in the late 80s, but oh crap, it’s landed. Louder, meaner, more violent, and all those songs about sex now involve necrophilia and knives. Satan is still a big topic. This really enabled the metalhead as we know him, but then an abomination was dropped onto the genre that it never recovered from…… Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. This is an album that almost single-handedly destroyed heavy metal forever. Now there was a section of heavy metal that was only about how tough you are. Your music is tougher than other people’s music. How do you know this? Philip Anselmo told you so when he was inciting a small riot of methamphetamine addicts full of beer who beat their girlfriends. The album’s dumb riffs and pseudo-political commentary just swim in the shallow end of a white trash pool that’s better left explored by proper misanthropes and junkies like Eyehategod. Have you been told you listen to pussy rock by a Disturbed fan lately? Thank Pantera for that.

Meanwhile in Japan, Christianity was never a widely established religion, fucking has been the norm, and mixing genres that don’t belong together has become a casual hobby. This was the perfect climate for a teen pop producer to casually go “Hm, this needs more blast beats”. Thus, Babymetal was born! That’s right, Japan has found they can sell extreme metal to 12 year olds if they throw in teen-pop harmonies and random breaks for dance beats because nobody there is afraid of it. The record spends its time going down a whole mesh of heavy metal tropes whilst doing random genre breaks for hip-hop, reggae, and house music just because it can. Basically, if Mike Patton were involved, everybody would be on this album’s nuts.

But, no, so many metalheads are butthurt. Those who aren’t butthurt, but don’t like it, just don’t care. They don’t listen to it. It’s that Vulgar Display of Small Penis that has men on the internet in droves screaming about how heavy metal is being destroyed by this. It’s because the album features all the things that usually make them macho: blast beats, death growls, grinding guitar riffs, fast chromatic guitar solos, all these things they’ve sworn for years make their music more masculine than what the jocks who beat them up in high school listen to, and it is in no way scary, brutal, or in validation of their masculinity.

Let’s be real here. Listed below is a picture of my little sister. She competes in amateur MMA tournaments in Reno. She listens to R&B. If you’re a pussy, but you listen to goregrind, you’re still a pussy. Just come to terms with it.

Follow her on Twitter Please

This is why Babymetal is so important to heavy metal. It strips that delusion away. It takes every element you’re familiar with and places it into a context that it just doesn’t belong in. This gives you the opportunity to reflect on some things, like wow, a lot of heavy metal these days is really over produced. You know, drum triggers, guitar amps so oversaturated they have no dynamic range, and that death(mall)core shit really has the clean vocal choruses dialed in like radio metal schlock such as Five Finger Death Punch. Your taste in music has never made you tough, scary, or validated your masculinity for you. If you go listen to The Cure right now, you’ll only be as gay as you already were.

With that, here are some Babymetal videos on Youtube if you want to start deciding that kawaii metal is actually adorable and not ruining the identity you’ve wasted your teens and twenties trying to achieve.

1 writer, 1 producer.

As I have now seen at least 3 variations on this meme reposted at least a million times, usually by people who know nothing about music, I have wasted several minutes of my own life forming my counter graphic. Have a nice day.

songwriters

Another encrypted root on FreeBSD 9.x blog, multiple partitions with one key!

Yes, I’m bored enough to write a how-to article. I’m consolidating my own FreeBSD crypto strategy here because the advice I got from the other google’d blogs of other random open-source dorks mislead me I feel.

I’m totally geli…. There, now that I’ve alienated anyone who didn’t actually need help, an encrypted filesystem is a good thing for any paranoid weirdo who is afraid of his/her computer being stolen, confiscated (what have you been up to?), or poked at by prying roommates (mine are actually pretty cool). The average person has all kinds of saved passwords, credit card numbers, and hate letters their shrink told them to write but not actually send floating on their hard drive. This is serious stuff people, don’t let the monster in your closet steal it.

A lot of tutorials go for ZFS. Are you building a server for a Fortune 500 company that needs reliable mirrors? No? Then stawp. Are you building a regular desktop system using FreeBSD because GOOD GOD why do all the Linux distributions have to be so needlessly overmanaged? Then chances are you want a separate /home partition (at least) so your personal data survives any mood swing root formats. ZFS will over complicate our lives for that purpose, so let’s be old fashioned and boring.

Get a FreeBSD 9.1 installer that isn’t “minimal”. The DVD is safe that I know of. Begin an installation and when it asks you about partitioning, choose “Shell”. Make sure that $6 4GB USB flash drive you bought at Walmart is plugged in. I mentioned I’m that annoying guy who tells you to put /boot on flash right? No? Whoops, sorry.

gpart destroy -F da0
gpart destroy -F ada0

This kills any lingering boot code floating on your flash drive or your hard drive. Change devices as needed. If it errors out, that typically means there wasn’t any bootcode to kill, so just move forward.
gpart create -s gpt da0
gpart add -s 128 -t freebsd-boot da0
gpart add -t freebsd-ufs -l boot da0
gpart bootcode -b /boot/pmbr -p /boot/gptboot -i 1 da0
newfs -U -O2 /dev/gpt/boot

Okay, so we added bootcode to the flash drive and formatted the rest of it’s space to FreeBSD’s native UFS. We’re going to use a keyfile and a password to unlock our hard drive, so if somebody manages to figure out our password or steal our keys (keep your boot close to your crotch), they only have half what they need to read that letter about how your Aunt Betty… nevermind. Moving on…

Let’s mount our flash drive and drop our encryption key on it. I personally named mine “errormesg”, because it amuses me, but will likely not stump anybody smart enough to attempt to crack a 256-bit AES standard. For the example I use ada0.key.

mount /dev/gpt/boot /mnt
dd if=/dev/random of=/mnt/ada0.key bs=4096 count=1

You can skip this entire step if you want. Just don’t use the -K flag for the geli init or the -k flag for the geli attach. You’ll then have a password-only encryption. Use something long and difficult, but that you can actually remember. I assume no responsibility for the loss of your pr0n collection.

kldload geom_eli
geli init -b -e AES-XTS -K /mnt/ada0.key -l 256 -s 4096 /dev/ada0
geli attach -k /mnt/ada0.key /dev/ada0
umount /dev/gpt/boot

You can change the encryption standard after the -e flag if you want and/or know what you’re doing. When the geom_eli driver loads, it should show if your motherboard supports hardware decryption or not. If you’re running applications that are data intensive (say, a database server), this might be relevant. Using a 7200rpm hard drive on a regular desktop machine with an Intel Atom, I can tell you I have no real problem with software decryption.

Anyway, we encrypted the hard disk device, rather than individual partitions under it. This means we don’t have to use a separate password/keyfile for each partition. Minimal headache! Go ahead and partition your hard drive using gpart. I have a 2TB, I did mine as follows:

gpart add -s 50G -t freebsd-ufs -l root ada0.eli
gpart add -s 8G -t freebsd-swap -l swap ada0.eli
gpart add -t freebsd-ufs -l home ada0.eli
newfs -U -O2 /dev/gpt/root
newfs -U -O2 /dev/gpt/home

You may require more partitions. Follow the example and adjust as needed. Now, mount root so we can continue with installation.

mount /dev/gpt/root /mnt
mkdir /mnt/bootdir
mount /dev/gpt/boot /mnt/bootdir

Hit ctrl+d to escape from the shell back to the installer. Continue as with any routine FreeBSD installation. Although you might want to mount /home as well if you’re adding users in the installer. When it asks you if you’d like to enter the shell to add any last minute options, say YES.

We have files to edit! You can use vi if you want, but being an emacs user, I can’t figure that thing out to save my friggin’ life. I use ee and cross my fingers. Add the following lines to /etc/fstab (adjust accordingly):

/dev/gpt/boot    /bootdir        ufs      rw,noatime    1    1
/dev/gpt/root    /            ufs      rw,noatime    1    1
/dev/gpt/home    /home            ufs      rw,noatime    0    0
/dev/gpt/swap    none            swap      sw        0    0

Now let’s rearrange some data:

mv /boot /bootdir
ln -s /bootdir/boot /boot
mv /bootdir/ada0.key /boot

Now create the file /boot/loader.conf and add the following lines to it:
geom_eli_load="YES"
geli_ada0_keyfile0_load="YES"
geli_ada0_keyfile0_type="ada0:geli_keyfile0"
geli_ada0_keyfile0_name="/boot/ada0.key"
vfs.root.mountfrom="ufs:/dev/ada0.elip1"

Now for some goofy reason, when it asks you for the passkey on boot, at least on my system, it kind of hangs at first. Mash the enter key until it says something about the password being wrong and you have 2 tries left. Now type the right password in. Hooray! Our system is booting to an encrypted root fs. Unless you plan on doing anything that requires access to /boot (modifying /boot/loader.conf, installing nvidia-driver, bulding a new kernel, etc.), you can safely unmount your flash drive, attach it to your keychain, and keep it in your pocket. If I kept FreeBSD 5 up for a year on an Intel Celeron 800mhz and FreeBSD 7 for nearly 2 years on an UltraSparc IIe, I think it’s safe to say that you can maintain good uptime and not need to plug that thing in very often. I do however suggest making a copy of that encryption keyfile and hiding it somewhere, unless you have a lot of faith in cheap flash drives. I don’t care if it’s a CD-R in your old Vanilla Ice CD case or an awkward email to your girlfriend that she doesn’t understand, put it somewhere. Nothing is permanent, especially flash memory.

Alright jokers, happy compiling.

Album review: Summer of Glaciers – Small Spaces (2012)

It’s not shocking that wanderlust leads to homesickness. In the case of Summer of Glaciers’ new record, Small Spaces, that homesickness can lead to an album. The one-man-band being Ryan Wasterlain’s previous record Concentric was very enamored with San Francisco. The sounds of that album were full of city lights, fog, concrete, and ocean air. Small Spaces on the other hand, doesn’t sound so much like it’s about his new home in Dallas, it sounds like it’s looking back home through a telescope, and the city is simply floating further and further out of view.
With this record, Wasterlain adds his vocals to the foray of guitar loops, drum machines, electronic glitches and post-rock crescendos. A lot of guitar players tend to fumble on this transition and are uncertain of their comfort zone. Wasterlain doesn’t have this problem; he gives his voice the same abstract treatments as his guitar. The record opens with “Inches Mean Miles”, where a simple 2 line lyric is almost indecipherable as it rolls through heavy delay, ironically expressing loneliness in multitude. Guitars come and go by the dozen, sometimes sounding like anything but a guitar, in this song vaguely sounding like a trumpet at points. 
 
Wasterlain doesn’t write songs, he writes albums. The build up of “Inches Mean Miles” morphs into “To the Ground”, a track which brings back some of the night driving energy of Concentric. The vocals are so saturated in distortion that they simply become an abstract instrument in the mix with no lyrics being intelligible. The energy chugs along with a darker tone before the car eventually crashes and everything slows to a crawl. This drone leads into “Elevators”.
Somewhat unusually chosen for a single and a video, “Elevators” is pretty minimal compared to the tracks that came before it, but probably represents the theme set better. The song slowly moves up in a linear fashion, but remains claustrophobic until the end. Soft singing is accompanied by a guitar trekking along underneath, and the noises and melodies just build on top from there, but never expand. This and the record’s other isolated moments are the small spaces for which it is named, and they lend a poignancy to Wasterlain’s emotional state after how wide open his prior output sounded.
The record’s second half kind of lingers in the air and plays as a whole. It adopts the Brian Eno philosophy of not demanding your attention. Melodies drone on, additional parts creep in without you noticing, and the feeling of loneliness grows further. “Removal” opens as what could almost be considered a piano ballad, with the vocal performance being more ragged and vaguely hostile. The guitar sounds more like a synth and is abrasive, but mixed so it just lurks on you. “When We Part” wraps up the album with sombre tones and words, “Will you come back for me some day? Time is all we have to lose.” This line repeats continuously, and is deconstructed as if on a breaking down recorder, and everything falls apart around it. The ultimate message is, no, nobody’s coming back for you, now or ever.
I was initially surprised that the press materials said the mp3 version came with a bonus track that the CD didn’t. It just seemed backward to me. After hearing it, it made sense. “The Use of Mirrors” doesn’t fit in on Small Spacesat all. Mostly, the song seems to rise out of a feeling of despair, gets in motion again and starts to progress out of the funk that preceded it. It sounds like it should be the first song on the next album, where that idea would be explored as a complete thought. 
 
I like this album, obviously for different reasons than Concentric. I’m really impressed that the emotional message cut so clearly through the swamp of electronics. Naturally, this record probably isn’t for you if you prefer your music upbeat and sunny. I got in touch with Mr. Wasterlain the other day and told him that this made his last album look like Sgt Pepper in terms of mood. I personally find it easy to relate to, and I’m curious to see what the next direction is going to be.

Listen to Small Spaces below.
Small Spaces by Summer of Glaciers
The video for “Elevators”:

Elevators by Summer of Glaciers (Official Music Video) from Christopher Bryan on Vimeo.

urdoinitwrong

I am definitely against SOPA/PIPA/PROTECTIP/COICA and whatever the hell else they’ll rename it to when it comes back in 6 months. I think Wikipedia’s black out today has been a great way of making a point about internet censorship. However, I’m surprised piracy websites don’t see the irony in participating in the black out. I don’t think it’s helping.

Bugs

At my uncle’s house in Diamond Springs, after the first rain, our house gets bombarded with these large flying beetles. They aimlessly slam into windows, objects and people. They are rarely seen otherwise, and seem to disappear once winter fully sets in.

Yesterday I was walking across the property after the rain, and found one laying on its back in a puddle. It was on a tarp next to some furniture, kicking its legs around frantically, unable to get back up. For the time, I ignore it.

Today the sun was shining bright. I’m outside smoking a cigarette when I notice that the tarp still has standing water on it, and the beetle is still alive and kicking. It’s about the size of my thumb. It tries here and there to flip itself over with its wings, but has no luck. After observing for a while, I take one end of the tarp and fling it up slightly, thinking maybe the bug will take flight. It lands on its back in a dry section of tarp. It begins pressing with its wings again, coming closer to success this time.

“If you can’t get up, I’m going to have to kill you.”

I don’t think I ever meant that ultimatum. It kept trying, but with each press upward, it slid down the tarp slightly, until moments later it rolled into a deeper puddle than before.  It couldn’t even do anything with its wings now, only kick its legs around. I went to the porch and grabbed a broom and dust pan. As I fumbled to unattach the dust pan, I dropped the broom. The handle slammed to the ground so close to the beetle, that had it been 1mm further to the right, it would have crippled the bug terribly.

I realized that I was the beetle.

I swept it into the dust pan and turned it over, then hurled it toward the lawn where it walked away into the grass.