Matt meanders.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Martinis and Manhattans

I'd like to talk about my two favorite cocktails: martinis and Manhattans.

First of all, the long and short of cocktails:

Short drinks are cocktails made primarily from spirits and use very minute (if any mixers), so martinis and Manhattans.

Long drinks are cocktails that use mixers as primary flavor, so screwdrivers and bloody Mary's.

Martinis are short drinks made primarily from gin, mixed with vermouth and served in a martini glass. (Vodka may also be used, but this is a "vodka martini," not a "martini.")

To start with a 3:1 ratio is a decent place to start with the mixture of gin and vermouth. You pour the mixture into a mixture filled with ice and stir it until it's cold (slowly for about 30 seconds), then strain it into a Martin glass, add one or three olives, and enjoy.

Do not shake your martini... It increases air flow to the gin and "bruises" it (basically sharpens the flavor by releasing molecules, it can make your martini too cloudy and too junipery). The reason James Bond wants his, "shaken, not stirred," is because he orders a Vodka martin (vodka doesn't have infused flavors, so it won't "bruise" like gin).

A manhattan is similar to a martini but uses sweet vermouth instead of regular (white or dry) vermouth and bourbon in place of gin. The mixing ratio is the same (it won't bruise, but I still prefer them stirred) and garnish with a maraschino cherry instead of an olive. They are also served in a rocks glass and can be served "on the rocks."

These cocktails are most definitely and squired taste that requires tenacity and experimentation (gin tastes like a pine tree, so it takes a while to learn to appreciate subtle differences). Some variations you may want to try:

Dry: less vermouth ratio than the normal recipe (I've heard stories about bartenders pouring a single drop into an empty glass an letting it evaporate before filling with stirred gin). A dry manhattan is served using regular vermouth instead of sweet (adjust the ratio from there).

Wet: more vermouth than normal (gross, in my opinion... Vermouth is rotten, infused white or red wine)

Dirty: mix some olive juice into the ratio before stirring.

Gibson: uses two pearl onions in place of the one or three olives.

My suggestion on alcohols is as follows:

Vermouth: Martini and Rossi

Gin: Hendricks or Tanguery 10

Bourbon: Maker's Mark

What do you think?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guerilla Warfare

I'm doing some research on Guerrilla warfare, so I started with manifestos written by some of the most successful revolutionaries of the 21st century. These are some of the quotes from those, submitted without comment or context, for now:

Mao Tse-tung
On Guerrilla Warfare :

How are guerrilla bands formed?
How are guerrilla bands organized?
What are the methods of arming guerrilla bands?
What elements constitute a guerrilla band?

by Che Guevara

It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.

1. Popular forces can win a war against the army.
2. It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.
3. In underdeveloped America the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting.

Of these three propositions the first two contradict the defeatist attitude of revolutionaries or pseudo-revolutionaries who remain inactive and take refuge in the pretext that against a professional army nothing can be done, who sit down to wait until in some mechanical way all necessary objective and subjective conditions are given without working to accelerate them.

It ought to be noted by those who maintain dogmatically that the struggle of the masses is centered in city movements, entirely forgetting the immense participation of the country people in the life of all the underdeveloped parts of America.

It is important to emphasize that guerrilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. The guerrilla band is an armed nucleus, the fighting vanguard of the people. It draws its great force from the mass of the people themselves. The guerrilla band is not to be considered inferior to the army against which it fights simply because it is inferior in firepower. Guerrilla warfare is used by the side which is supported by a majority but which possesses a much smaller number of arms for use in defense against oppression.

The guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area. This is an indispensable condition.

Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery. He launches himself against the conditions of the reigning institutions at a particular moment and dedicates himself with all the vigor that circumstances permit to breaking the mold of these institutions.

When we analyze more fully the tactic of guerrilla warfare, we will see that the guerrilla fighter needs to have a good knowledge of the surrounding countryside, the paths of entry and escape, the possibilities of speedy maneuver, good hiding places; naturally, also, he must count on the support of the people. All this indicates that the guerrilla fighter will carry out his action in wild places of small population.

We are interested in the other type, the case of an armed group engaged in struggle against the constituted power, whether colonial or not, which establishes itself as the only base and which builds itself up in rural areas.

In guerrilla terminology, strategy is understood as the analysis of the objectives to be achieved in light of the total military situation and the overall ways of reaching these objectives.

After the objectives have been fixed and analyzed, it is necessary to study the order of the steps leading to the achievement of the final objective. This should be planned in advance, even though it will be modified and adjusted as the fighting develops and unforeseen circumstances arise.

At the outset, the essential task of the guerrilla fighter is to keep himself from being destroyed. Little by little it will be easier for the members of the guerrilla band or bands to adapt themselves to their form of life and to make flight and escape from the forces that are on the offensive an easy task, because it is performed daily

The blows should be continuous.

Therefore, along with centers for study of present and future zones of operations, intensive popular work must be undertaken to explain the motives of the revolution, its ends, and to spread the incontrovertible truth that victory of the enemy against the people is finally impossible. Whoever does not feel this undoubted truth cannot be a guerrilla fighter.

The strike is a most important factor in civil war, but in order to reach it a series of complementary conditions are necessary which do not always exist and which very rarely come to exist spontaneously. It is necessary to create these essential conditions, basically by explaining the purposes of the revolution and by demonstrating the forces of the people and their possibilities.

It is essential always to preserve a strong base of operations and to continue strengthening it during the course of the war.

When the guerrilla band has reached a respectable power in arms and in number of combatants, it ought to proceed to the formation of new columns.

It is thus that guerrillas reach the stage of attack, of the encirclement of fortified bases, of the defeat of reinforcements, of mass action, ever more ardent, in the whole national territory, arriving finally at the objective of the war: victory.

In military language, tactics are the practical methods of achieving the grand strategic objectives.

In one sense they complement strategy and in another they are more specific rules within it. As means, tactics are much more variable, much more flexible than the final objectives, and they should be adjusted continually during the struggle. There are tactical objectives that remain constant throughout a war and others that vary.

The fundamental characteristic of a guerrilla band is mobility.

Another fundamental characteristic of the guerrilla soldier is his flexibility, his ability to adapt himself to all circumstances, and to convert to his service all of the accidents of the action. Against the rigidity of classical methods of fighting, the guerrilla fighter invents his own tactics at every minute of the fight and constantly surprises the enemy.

The fundamental thing is surprise and rapidity of attack.

The importance of a suburban struggle has usually been under-estimated; it is really very great.

V. I.   Lenin

Guerrilla Warfare

The argument that guerrilla warfare disorganises the movement must be regarded critically. Every new form of struggle, accompanied as it is by new dangers and new sacrifices, inevitably “disorganises” organisations which are unprepared for this new form of struggle.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Trust me, I'm Lying, a review.

I just finished Ryan Holiday’s newly released Trust Me, I’m Lying. Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Really, this book is a great read and important in the context of today’s media, which is driven by page views and clicks more so than legitimate journalism.

I had some interactions with Ryan a few years ago on the Tucker Max message board and have read his blog since its initial start, so I have looked forward to reading this book for some time. Ryan’s blog centers around stoic philosophy and living a deliberate, virtuous life. I have always looked at him as a source of inspiration for me and some of the rabbit holes he has lead me to have had profound impact on my life and the type of person I am.

His book is a refreshing departure from the mostly philosophical writings on his blog; he describes the dark world of public relations, new media and marketing that he has used to make his living for several years (he is a self described “media manipulator”).

I found the book sobering, terrifying and a much needed expose on how media cycles run, get news and how people, like Ryan, can (and do) take advantage of this system to turn fake news into real news.

Ryan articulately explains and demonstrates something we’ve all noticed breathing under the surface of the news we read, but ignored for one reason or another: it’s not really news.

What we call news is really just a series of lies and manipulations designed to place and sell products, perpetuated by a lot of irresponsible “journalists” (read: poorly paid bloggers) and media manipulators trading up the chain.

In book one “Feeding the Monster,” Ryan describes exact steps one can take to manipulate media (starting with bloggers and working up to the national level) and get stories published to your end. He describes a system where the incentives are to post “news” as quickly as possible, without checking sources or going back to make real corrections.

In book two, “The Monster Attacks,” he shows exactly what happens when these tactics are used (hint, what goes around, comes around). He also describes the world of journalism today as a delegation of trust that, truthfully, was never earned. People rely on links as their “resource” and no longer have to prove themselves right. If someone else said it first, whether they were wrong or not, it becomes a source in the form of a link (that no one is going to click). In essence, what’s wrong with journalism today is lack of any form of scientific method or fact checking (especially on the interwebs).

He leaves us with a conclusion that really is the only solution, to stop feeding the media monster. Will it happen? Only time will tell, but I have the firm belief that people are stupid, individual persons are not. It’s up to us as individuals, really, to make conscious decisions about where we get our news and what sources we maintain as accurate. It’s up to us to live a virtuous life and set the example for others to follow.

I may be naive, but I believe that being genuine and honest will be the next wave of marketing and, as people see through more of the bullshit, time will prove me right.
In the meantime, we will have fake news that is manufactured for our entertainment and to drive page clicks and link backs.

I have broken Ryan’s arguments down to the most simple understanding, but you will not regret reading Trust Me I’m Lying. It’s a great book, an important book and one you should definitely read.


Book One

It was a little like a Ponzi scheme, and like all such schemes, it went from boom to bust.

What begins online ends offline.

This hidden cycle gives birth to the memes that become our cultural references, the budding stars who become our celebrities, the thinkers who become our gurus, and the nes that becomes our news.

I create, to use the words of one media scholar, a “self-reinforcing news wave,” People like me do this everyday.

It’s a simple illusion: Create the perception that the meme already exists and all the reporter (or the music supervisor or celebrity stylist) is doing is popularizing it. They rarely bother to look past the first impressions.

Every decision a publisher makes is ruled by one dictum: traffic by any means.

Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one.

The big names have to stay big to stay on top.

Professional blogging is done in the boiler room, and it is brutal.

Or in the words of Henry Kissinger: The reason the knives are so sharp online is because the pie is so small.

It’s a great time to be a media manipulator when your marks actually love receiving PR pitches.

Bloggers aren’t held accountable for being wrong or being played, so why should they avoid it?

The angrier an article makes the reader, the better.

Sadness depresses our impulse for social sharing.

Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well.

Humiliation should not be suppressed. It should be monetized.

What thrives online is not the writing that reflects anything close to the reality in which you and I live. Nor does it allow for the kind of change that will create the world we wish to live in.

Being final, or authoritative, or helpful, or any of these obviously positive attributes is avoided, because they don’t bait user engagement. And engaged users are where the money is.

So goes the art of the online publisher: To string the customer along as long as possible, to deliberately not be helpful, is to turn simple readers into pageview-generating machines.

So today, as RSS buttons disappear from browsers and blogs, just know that this happened on purpose, so that readers could be deceived more easily.

Their job is to think about the headline above all else. The medium and their bosses force them to. So that’s where you make the sale. Only the reader gets stuck with buyer’s remorse.

Blogs have picked a handful of the most straightforward and cost-effective metrics to rely on (wonderfulness is not one of them).

If a blogger isn’t willing or doesn’t have the time to get off their ass to visit the stores they write about, that’s the problem.

Since bloggers must find an angle, they always do.

It’s why I can safely say that all the infamous American Apparel controversies were made up. Either I made them up, or bloggers did.

Today, I’m not impressed anymore. I am depressed. Because the corrupt system I helped build is no longer in anyone’s control.

Of course they want to send updates to your mobile phone and include you on e-mail alerts. If the user stops for even a second, they may see what is really going on. And the the business model would fall apart.

The conditions on which the delegation of trust and the link economy need to operate properly no longer exist. But the habits remain and have been mixed into a potent combination. The result is often embarrassing and contagious misinformation.

Nobody clicks links. Even interesting ones.

Don’t be a perfectionist, he’s saying; join the link economy and delegate trust.

But I side with Descartes and have more faith in a scientific approach, in which every man is responsible for his own work- in which everyone is questioning the work of everyone else, and this motivates them to be extra careful and honest.

Iterative journalism makes the news cheap to produce but expensive to read.

The bigger the fuckup, the less likely people want to cop to it. It’s called “cognitive dissonance.” We’ve known about it for a while.

Instead of prompting them to discard the old thought, as intended, corrections appear to tighten their mind’s grip on the now disputed fact.

We place an inordinate amount of trust in things that have been written down.

Why are we cheering our own deception?

Public relations and marketing are something companies do to move product. It is not meaningful, it is not cool. Yet, because it is cheap, easy, and lucrative to cover, blogs want to convince you that it is. And we’ve mostly accepted that, consuming such schlock like it’s news.

I don’t think it’s buzzworthy; I think it is pathetic worship of our own deception.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Better Googling

Googling has become our society's past time. There is not a conversation that happens anywhere about anything without someone whipping out their phone to fact check some bullshit. 

I do it all the time. Usually, it goes like this. I am curious about something so I google it to find the wikipedia article and read that to get a rundown of the idea. From there I either read books on the subject or dive into google if I need to go deeper or find more up to date information.

How it works: Google indexes sites that enter the world wide web using programs called "spiders" that essentially follow links and catalog sites on the internet. From there, sites are ranked by a number of factors based on the number of pageviews and external sites linking back.

From this index, sites are picked by google to show you, based on the keywords you type in your search bar.

This is very important to remember because one of the most important concepts to understand about internet research is page ranking does not necessarily mean it’s factual or the best choice. It just means google’s software thinks those sites best match the words you typed into the search bar. You should always fact-check information pulled from the internet (usually a consensus among reliable websites is fact enough (not fact enough by themselves: wikipedia, blogs, most news articles, etc.)

With that in mind, I’ve learned quite a bit about google search from the power searching with google lessons, where google experts describe some of the awesome functionality of google search. If you ever wondered about better searching, or how to find the information you need faster, you should take the courses. They start out at the most basic level and work up from there, so don’t feel discouraged, no matter what your level of computing.

I want to share some of the best stuff I’ve learned so far:

Keep your queries (the words you type in the search bar) to a minimum. Think about the main idea of what you need to find out and search for that (especially instead of typing a question, which I am known to do from time to time).

Don’t worry about spelling. Google has suggestions. USe them. (Google is smarter than you. which is ok, because that’s what it’s there for.)

Hitting the command key (control on a PC)  and F opens a find menu which lets you find words on a page. This is especially handy for long pages or for jumping to a specific area of an article.

You can search “define [word]” and get a good definition. (If you hit the speaker thing, it’ll pronounce the word for you. Pretty cool.)

You can use the left hand side of the screen to limit ranges of dates, search for articles that are translated from native languages. (Say if you want to read an article about a specific french bakery, but you can’t speak French. Google can.)

The right side of the screen will give you a basic rundown of the idea and suggest other search terms or places to look.

And so much other really awesome functionality for anyone who wants to learn something but feels overwhelmed trying to sift through the results. The lessons are very manageable and have immediate applicability.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some of my photos

These are some photos I took today for my photography class. The subject was Reflection, Line and Pattern.

They were all taken on 35mm black and white film. 

These shots were taken in and around Manitou Springs, CO to meet the requirements of the assignment. I specifically wanted to work on bracketing. I used a tripod for every shot.

Pattern: I like the framing of this shot, but feel like my focus is just a little too far into the picture, on the second rail as opposed to the first. The wider aperture really helped soften the background and imply more length to the bridge than is actually there.


Reflection: I had one shot left and saw this really cool puddle, saw the reflection, metered it, and snapped it. The puddle almost looks like a portal back in time (the house looks old, there aren’t any wires in frame, etc.)

 Line: I wanted to meet the assignment specs of architecture, but I knew that 35mm film doesn’t really do big architecture well (at least from the photos I got from other shoots tell me that I don’t like them), so I wanted to simplify a bit and lucked out by finding this old steel door. The lines of the door separate the wall into two pieces, with a white line between them. Because I used a narrow aperture with a longer shutter speed, the photo carries depth of field into and beyond the shadows. This, combined with the angle the shot was taken give a somewhat fantastical feel to the photo. I find the door strangely inviting, which makes me nervous it’s locked.