Category: Off the Grid

My Favorite American Cities

I recently went to Miami for the first time. It was only my second time in a state I have tried arduously to avoid. A 2000 vacation to Spring Training when my high school buddy was with the Braves in Orlando had permanently and adversely affected my opinion of the state. This opinion that has only been emboldened in the recent decade by “Florida man” and other such anecdotal material. Enough people have opined breathlessly on how amazing and wonderful Miami is, so I obviously wasn’t expecting a clone of Orlando, but was nonetheless unimpressed.
A colleague, who makes no secret about Miami being one of his favorite cities – “I’ve been there 300 times!” –  brought up the excellent observation that  I neither spent the prerequisite $5000 for bottle service in South Beach nor spent the majority of my time on the beach. Fair enough. Regardless, The quote that sparked this email thread was, “Miami is not even in my top 15 American cities.”  We toyed around with a little bit of discussion and then he said that that would be a perfect conversation to memorialize, so let’s get to it.
#1 – Los Angeles. Here is the latest paean to the city that I wrote for Quora a few months back: in short, I find it hard to believe that any city – at least that I’ve seen – has the breadth of activities, food, cultureS, quirks, people, ideas, space and creativity. Super glad that my birth lottery dictated I was born here, and no matter how fun a vacation may be, I am always excited to come back.

#2 –  New York. Every time I go, the first three days are amazing and then I think about living there and become claustrophobic and suffocated. It’s amazing, and I truly believe the adage “if you make it there…” Absolutely wonderful city in every regard, but just “too much city” or my L.A. ass to challenge for the top spot.

#3 – Las Vegas.  I mean, it’s the best of the best and the worst of the worst but all the rules are laid out carefully before you go. You know *exactly* what you’re getting into. However you pursue your day (and night) is up to you and therein lies the pleasure (or pain, if that’s your vice).

#4 – San Diego. I used to think the city was too casual, too said, to Republican, too white. Then I realize the diversity the city and the stupendous nature of the cuisine. It is also a city that I could very much see myself living in, and the proximity to Mexico is a huge plus for me/my family.
#5 – Seattle. Kind of a “home-field advantage” for me, if you will, as I was a resident from 2002-2003. The secluded nature of the city and the fact that it’s a city in the middle of a  rain forest make it unique and extremely interesting. I also find it’s a city that revels in its overlooked nature and the arts and technology that come out of there are unparalleled for the city of that size. The food, specifically the seafood, is amazing – and the proximity to Canada is a plus in this case.
#6 –  San Francisco. Although the rise of Silicon Valley (and Silicon Beach) has detracted from the level of tech innovation and overall excitement in the city, it is truly a World City of Renown, and frankly reminds me more of a European city than anywhere in the United States. The food is good, though not as great as it once was, and the weather, especially during the summer, is the pits. But I have fun there and I get genuinely excited when the work schedule brings me that direction.
#7 –  Washington D.C. I initially thought I ranked the city too high but I’m sticking with it.The summers are ghastly with humidity, the winters are frigid with snow but around every corner, literally, is United States history in its most literal sense. There is also a different energy here than any other city I’ve visited, directly attributed to the cast of characters plugged in to the city’s main industry – politics.  It has the best, most efficient mass transit for my money in the United States, good food and a fine collection of old-school bars give it some much-needed flavor. Strictly based on gravitas it also holds extra points in my mind.
#8 – New Orleans. For sheer fun, and I’m not talking about Bourbon Street, this city literally can’t be beat. Grown-up fun of all kinds or you don’t feel the need to be in your 20s to party balls off. The music scene is incredible, the selection and variety and uniqueness of its culinary scene is stupendous,  and it’s deceptively walkable, even on the outskirts. That said, I wouldn’t want to spend more than five days here consecutively and don’t feel the need to go back every year.
#9 – Savannah.  I kind of can’t believe how enchanting, mystical and whimsical this city is. The vision of southern hospitality is alive and well here. The people are probably the most generous and kind that I’ve met in the states. The food is great, everywhere you walk feels like a novel, and drinking is highly encouraged when it’s not Sunday. Really cool place that I’m willing to bet it’s similar to Charleston (where I have not been but is high on my list).
#10 – Austin. Kind of like New Orleans, but clean and with a different cuisine. Also literally too hot during the summer and I say this as somebody who spent my youth on the streets of the San Fernando Valley where 110° wasn’t abnormal. It just *really* feels like the sun is hotter during the summer there. That said, Congress and Sixth are two of the coolest, most fun boulevards I’ve experienced domestically where the music is awesome and the drinks are dirt cheap. I’m not a huge fan of TexMex so it gets derogatory points for it’s overrated food scene, but the outstanding barbecue is worth having time and time again. Some funky, great hotels and I’m always a fan of universities so to have UT in the middle of the city is a huge plus.
Honorable Mentions:
Atlanta –  Cool, fun, probably didn’t see enough Flavor to give it a real ranking.
Philadelphia – Believe it or not, just misses this list. Amazing and underrated food scene, tough but approachable people, really cool history.
Hawaii –  I mean if I can include the whole state this definitely makes the list. Top five, in fact.
Palm Springs – Really, really fun if you’re in the right places. And great for a romantic getaway.
Portland – I know it’s supposed to be hipster central so if I love Seattle and Austin why doesn’t Portland get much love? Basically because I feel that it’s trying a little too hard even though it really is a great city. It’s also smaller than I would have imagined for it outsized reputation.
Denver – I went during the Spring and I loved it but I have a feeling that it would’ve been better if I was there during winter. Didn’t amaze me but it was definitely a cool city.
Miami – see intro.
Chapel Hill –  The University of North Carolina campus alone is worth a mention.
Charlotte, St. Louis, but both pale in comparison of “worst”ness to Orlando.
Bucket List:
Charleston, Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Providence, Minneapolis, Nashville, Madison

Twitter Love

Some people are lukewarm about Twitter (or just plain cold) and others are ambivalent. For me, it’s always been an outstanding resource for information consumption. And I love it. This is how I get the most out of Twitter:

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 8.09.28 PM

my profile is now down to 1,300+ sources that I follow.

ideally, the number should be around 1,000.

I follow solely quality sources (who tend to tweet 1 – 5x daily)

3 bad tweets (meal, shoes, politics, tv shows) and you’re unfollowed

a 10-minute investment in Twitter (bathroom, line, in-laws’ house) provides me a good 1-2 hour in “backtweets”

I never feel the need to ‘catch up’ – it’s like radio. what’s on is on

I figured out my personal interests and placed an emphasis on:
  • Sports
  • Local News
  • Food
  • Dodgers
  • Journalism
  • Politics – left and right
  • Los Angeles
  • Food writing
  • Media Analysis
  • Breaking News
  • Spanish language
I follow VERY few celebrities – namely Bo Jackson, Magic Johnson, Brett Hundley, Kobe Bryant; L.A. oriented people that don’t send subpar tweets. Generally it’s a horrible idea to follow celebrities – or friends – because they waste both yours and their time with their tweets. This is the NUMBER ONE REASON WHY PEOPLE LEAVE TWITTER.
You will note redundancy on my timeline. it’s not annoying or discouraging; the nature of the beast is multiple people talking about the same thing.
That said, I’m pretty good at sourcing people that stay within their realm of expertise, which means you won’t see my athletes talking about Obama or my politicians talking about Clayton Kershaw.
Sometimes, though – in cases like the Emmys or the finale of a Netflix serial – everybody chimes in. Those are the days I just stay off Twitter.
I’m on Twitter for INFORMATION, hoping to find a trove of legitimate and interesting linkouts or tidbits.
As I develop further interests or seasonality approaches
  • Fatherhood
  • UCLA football
  • Water Conservation

I add a few dozen sources and pare down based on quality.

Again, I’m a big proselytizer for Twitter because I find it the absolute BEST universal source for both quick-hit and long-form linkout news and information. I’m not a consumer of entertainment, but I am definitely a consumer of ongoings, especially when tailored to my personal interest.


in honor of jamie moyer (statistics/baseball nerds)

Seriously catch the breadth of this Jamie Moyer’s career – stats below.
He debuted in the bigs in 1986.

MLB Totals MLB 267 206 4.24 688 630 33 10 0 0 4031.0 4169 2044 1897 513 145 1139 67 2410 .267 1.32 0.92
Minors Totals[+] Minors 23 19 3.06 52 51 8 2 0 335.2 312 133 114 27 6 96 7 205 .246 1.22
1986 CHC NL MLB 7 4 5.05 16 16 1 1 0 87.1 107 52 49 10 3 42 1 45 .311 1.71
1987 CHC NL MLB 12 15 5.10 35 33 1 0 0 201.0 210 127 114 28 5 97 9 147 .271 1.53
1988 CHC NL MLB 9 15 3.48 34 30 3 1 0 202.0 212 84 78 20 4 55 7 121 .272 1.32
1989 TEX AL MLB 4 9 4.86 15 15 1 0 0 76.0 84 51 41 10 2 33 0 44 .283 1.54
1989 TUL TEX AA 1 1 5.11 2 2 1 1 0 12.1 16 8 7 1 0 3 0 9 .320 1.54
1990 TEX AL MLB 2 6 4.66 33 10 1 0 0 102.1 115 59 53 6 4 39 4 58 .290 1.50
1991 STL NL MLB 0 5 5.74 8 7 0 0 0 31.1 38 21 20 5 1 16 0 20 .319 1.72
1991 LOU AA (2) AAA 5 10 3.80 20 20 1 0 0 125.2 125 64 53 16 3 43 4 69 .260 1.34
1992 TOL INT AAA 10 8 2.86 21 20 5 0 0 138.2 128 48 44 8 0 37 3 80 .246 1.19
1993 ROC INT AAA 6 0 1.67 8 8 1 1 0 54.0 42 13 10 2 3 13 0 41 .211 1.02
1993 BAL AL MLB 12 9 3.43 25 25 3 1 0 152.0 154 63 58 11 6 38 2 90 .265 1.26
1994 BAL AL MLB 5 7 4.77 23 23 0 0 0 149.0 158 81 79 23 2 38 3 87 .271 1.32
1995 BAL AL MLB 8 6 5.21 27 18 0 0 0 115.2 117 70 67 18 3 30 0 65 .265 1.27
1996[+] MLB 13 3 3.98 34 21 0 0 0 160.2 177 86 71 23 2 46 5 79 .276 1.39
1997 TAC PCL AAA 1 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 0 5.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .063 0.20
1997 SEA AL MLB 17 5 3.86 30 30 2 0 0 188.2 187 82 81 21 7 43 2 113 .256 1.22
1998 SEA AL MLB 15 9 3.53 34 34 4 3 0 234.1 234 99 92 23 10 42 2 158 .256 1.18
1999 SEA AL MLB 14 8 3.87 32 32 4 0 0 0 228.0 235 108 98 23 9 48 1 137 .267 1.24 0.88
2000 SEA AL MLB 13 10 5.49 26 26 0 0 0 0 154.0 173 103 94 22 3 53 2 98 .281 1.47 1.22
2001 SEA AL MLB 20 6 3.43 33 33 1 0 0 0 209.2 187 84 80 24 10 44 4 119 .239 1.10 0.81
2002 SEA AL MLB 13 8 3.32 34 34 4 2 0 0 230.2 198 89 85 28 9 50 4 147 .230 1.08 0.81
2003 SEA AL MLB 21 7 3.27 33 33 1 0 0 0 215.0 199 83 78 19 8 66 3 129 .246 1.23 0.82
2004 SEA AL MLB 7 13 5.21 34 33 1 0 0 0 202.0 217 127 117 44 11 63 3 125 .272 1.39 0.88
2005 SEA AL MLB 13 7 4.28 32 32 1 0 0 0 200.0 225 99 95 23 8 52 2 102 .283 1.39 0.76
2006[+] MLB 11 14 4.30 33 33 2 1 0 0 211.1 228 110 101 33 5 51 5 108 .277 1.32 1.02
2007 PHI NL MLB 14 12 5.01 33 33 1 0 0 0 199.1 222 118 111 30 5 66 3 133 .285 1.44 1.01
2008 PHI NL MLB 16 7 3.71 33 33 0 0 0 0 196.1 199 85 81 20 11 62 4 123 .262 1.33 1.11
2009 PHI NL MLB 12 10 4.94 30 25 0 0 0 0 162.0 177 91 89 27 10 43 1 94 .279 1.36 1.03
2010 PHI NL MLB 9 9 4.84 19 19 2 1 0 0 111.2 103 64 60 20 6 20 0 63 .240 1.10 0.98
2012 COL NL MLB 0 2 4.22 2 2 0 0 0 0 10.2 13 8 5 2 1 2 0 5 .283 1.41 1.23

For my Baseball Card Heads

Cool article. Whats even cooler is the experts didn’t know this one existed. Ironically probably decreases value for the other ones that do exist.

Holy card! Nuns auctioning rare Honus Wagner

AP – Wed Oct 27th, 2010 7:06 PM EDT

BALTIMORE – Sister Virginia Muller had never heard of shortstop Honus Wagner. But she quickly learned the baseball great is a revered figure among collectors, and the most sought-after baseball card in history. And thanks to an unexpected donation, one of the century-old cards belongs to Muller and her order, the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The Roman Catholic nuns are auctioning off the card, which despite its poor condition is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. The proceeds will go to their ministries in 35 countries around the world.

The card is part of the T206 series, produced between 1909 and 1911. About 60 Wagner cards are known to exist.

A near-mint-condition T206 Wagner card sold in 2007 for $2.8 million, the highest price ever for a baseball card. Muller remains aghast that the 1 1/4-inch-by-2 1/2-inch piece of cardboard could sell for even a fraction of that.

“It just boggles your mind,” Muller told The Associated Press. “I can’t remember a time when we have received anything like this.”

The brother of a nun who died in 1999 left all his possessions to the order when he died earlier this year. The man’s lawyer told Muller he had a Honus Wagner card in a safe-deposit box.

When they opened the box, they found the card, with a typewritten note: “Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21st century!”

The card was unknown to the sports-memorabilia marketplace because the nuns’ benefactor had owned it since 1936.

It has a big crease in the upper right-hand corner, and three of the white borders have been cut off. It has also been laminated. But even in poor condition, a T206 Wagner card is prized by collectors, said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, which is auctioning the card.

“The T206 set is known as ‘The Monster’ among collectors. It’s just really tough to complete the entire set,” Ivy said. The Wagner card is “one of those that’s always sought-after, always desirable, and there’s not a big population of them. Even in a lower grade, they do have quite a bit of demand and command a strong price.”

Wagner, nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman,” played for 21 seasons, 18 of them with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He compiled a .328 career batting average and was one of the five original inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The card was printed during the prime of Wagner’s career, but the American Tobacco Company ended production soon after it began. Some say Wagner didn’t want to promote tobacco products to children. Others believe it was a dispute over money that led to the card being pulled.

On the card, Wagner appears stocky and pale, with his hair parted down the middle and the city on his jersey spelled as “Pittsburg,” the official spelling at the time.

The auction ends Nov. 4, and the highest bid was $60,000 as of Wednesday morning.

Muller is making frequent checks to the Heritage Auction Galleries website — an unusual practice for someone who’s taken a vow of poverty. But potential bidders should know that the sale of the card will help people worldwide.

“The money that we receive from this card will be used for the many School Sisters of Notre Dame who are around the world, who need support for their ministries for the poor,” Muller said.

Music for a Sunny Sunday Afternoon by Spinwell

This the type of day that makes swaths of Southern California feel downright heavenly. Awaken awash in sunshine, with a hint of autumnal crispness injecting energy into a Sunny Sunday. . .in short, a perfect day to blaze one to the first formal effort from notorious Bat Caver, Spinwell: Music for a Sunny Sunday Afternoon.

A hardwood floor reflects an emboldened sun on the cover, immediately setting the tone visually as track one (3582,Sound Imaging, 2001) breezes into an ill sample, foreshadowing the next hour’s journey:

“We have a fine program today. Today the orchestra is going to paint pictures for us; pictures in sound. But we have to listen very carefully. . .and use our imagination. . .”

The CD art is exceptional as well, a personal slice into the crates of Spinwell, featuring vinyl classics such as K-Otix, Dusty Fingers, Zero 7, etc). . .here’s a small shot:

As the album launches into the wonderfully sentimental, piano- & horn-laced Atmosphere track, God’s Bathroom Floor (1997), the compilation reaches full chill mode. Perusing through the uncharacteristically introspective liner notes from the reclusive, analytical mind of Spinwell, the listener is complemented by the processes of the track selection, which encapsulates the album’s intended mood precisely.

From the words of Spinwell:

Few things are higher on my list of preferences than a lazy sunny day
on the weekend. If you really want to get specific, then it’s one
starting  with brunch with my wife, maybe the Sunday New York Times,
and at some point opening up the blinds to let the sunlight shine
through and reflect off the hardwood floors. The hardwood floors are
critical. Because few things sound better than good music vibrating
off toasty hardwood floors.

As the bass reflects of of said florrs, the smoke dissipates into the ethereal nature of the album. Quasimoto’s Boom Music (2000) gives way to the underground classic Pete Rock remix of Black Star’s Respiration (1999) featuring Black Thought. Mos Def delivers one of the ultimate introductory couplets on record:

“I push my pen and wrote this scribe/Like the morning wouldn’t find me alive”

Followed by an obscure but oft-sampled early funk record, On the Hill by Oliver Sain (1972) and segueing into the Brit Hop stylings of Emmanuel (Let’s Go Away, 2005), Spinwell ensures that his international palate is satisfied without compromising the overall feel of the record.

Ensuing tracks include artists such as Siah and Yeshua da poEd, France’s appropriately-named Mike, Thes-One and a YKI favorite, Asheru and Blue Black.

As the album reaches a climax with Common’s I Used to Love h.e.r. (1994), the tape segues perfectly into George Benson‘s The Changing World (1974), which actually is the source for the legendary Common track.

With a runtime of a little over 79 minutes, the beats keep coming and mix melts more and more into the Sunday malaise, just chilling and enjoying the Sun.  Here’s hoping you do the same:

Listen to MSSA Here on Mixcrate

Legit or not, 103mph is REALLY fast

This video will have probably been removed by MLB by the time you read this, but hopefully you can see the video.

Aroldis Chapman, aka the “Cuban Missle,” who was clocked at 105mph in his last start in the minors was clocked at 102, 100, 102, 103 in his MLB debut.

We all know that modern guns are baloney but even with a +/- 5-7%, this is incredible. And he’s Left-Handed, wow.
Cuban Missle” <—excellent nickname. Hope they don’t ruin the kid with Pitch Counts.


ps – Kudos to Craig Counsell for grounding out on the 103mph heater. THAT is a big-league hitter.

USC Bests UCLA in University Rankings

Well, Angelenos, one monopoly really is over. . .the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report has USC ahead of UCLA in their renowned University rankings for the first time ever.

Though the new rubric used to determine the rankings has much to do with this shift, but the budgetary mess strangling the State of California may really be putting a dent in public UCLA’s efforts to keep up financially with the privately funded Trojan coffers.

With all that’s happened with their Athletic Department recently, perhaps Southern Cal will now focus their efforts on being the premier academic institution in the Southland. . .okay, that’s a stretch but still – WOW.  Fight on, BRUINS.


“It was a year to the day that my best friend died and for weeks I sat alone in my room and cried. . .”

While the UCLA Baseball team attempts to duplicate the softball team’s National Championship against TCU in Omaha, the above Murs quote from Walk Like a Man on the genius album 3:16 – the Ninth Edition bumped in my rental Saturn Aura today en route to work – coincidentally, a year to the day that Michael Jackson died. . .

And while certainly not my ‘best friend,’ Michael was truly a ubiquitous childhood presence since my parents purchased the Off the Wall vinyl record for my little record player. Thriller and Bad were soon to follow, along with the decades of drama, controversy and just plain weirdness.

Personally, this is more notable for me because I was with Irene and Rezzy Rez in the Weird streets of Austin. After a day of grinding the hot pavement around Congress & 6th, my beautiful wife & I passed out in the quirky, wonderful room of the Hotel San Jose. . .only to awaken at 9pm local time to a phone call from Denicke claiming that the King of Pop was dead.

Shaking the cobwebs from my overheated brain, I immediately was in disbelief – sure, we all know Michael is crazy/unhealthy/eccentric/nuts but he’s not dead?!?! Sure enough, I had slept through 11 text messages and four other missed calls. Turning the flat screen to CNN, it was all Michael. Shots of the UCLA Hospital flooded the airwaves; vigils were spontaneously sprouting throughout the greater L.A. region – yet here we were, halfway across the country.

I remember wishing that I could be back home – the socio-cultural chaos nearly crashed the internet – so I could feel first-hand what Michael’s adopted native streets were feeling. Texting and calling my L.A. friends as I could, the vicarious feel just wasn’t enough to supplant my melancholy reverence for a childhood icon dying suddenly. We proceeded with our plans to enjoy the city, expecting the ‘normal’ craziness of downtown Austin.

What we saw instead, however, was a vibrant homage to Michael. Each bar was loudly playing his smash singles:the Ventura Blvd.-inspired Billie Jean to Pretty Young Thing to Smooth Criminal to Rock With You were on rotation all night, everywhere. People were talking about Michael nonstop and for this one night – it really was about the positivity, something that hadn’t been associated with Michael in at least two decades. It really was a party, and after about eight drinks (and countless bars), we ran into a street artist, who was putting the finishing touches on this work of at:
We were mesmerized, inspired and amazed – even after the nonsense, after the accusations and improprieties, after the self-imposed isolation, and it was an appropriate tribute to a man that really was able to make us feel like a child again; even for one night.

So this is for you, Michael Jackson. Rest in Peace – you’re still, and will always, be loved.