Review: I Fight Dragons – “Canon Eyes”

Cover of Canon Eyes

I have been following I Fight Dragons for almost a decade now, including their journey from self-produced to being a label band and rejecting that to going back to being self-produced. I was a backer on their last album, the ambitious concept record The Near Future. That was a seemingly long five years ago. I’ve said before that I ended up enjoying the B-side of the record a lot more, and I think that’s because the lyrics resonated a bit more with me. But for a while I thought maybe the stress of the Kickstarter (in which they ended up ditching an almost completed version of the album and starting over) had split the band.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about I Fight Dragons is that they seemed to make rock for adults rather than kids. I think they’re probably just writing music for themselves and we seem to be roughly the same age. A great example would be Suburban Doxology from 2011’s KABOOM! talking about the burnout that can come from a desk job. An analogy I’m starting to probably use a bit too much: as a kid I sympathized with Ariel in The Little Mermaid, now I sympathize with King Triton. Or, to bring it back to music: last week I listened to MxPx’s Teenage Politics, one of my favorite albums in middle school. It was not the same to listen to it. Lest you think it’s just nostalgia, Barenaked Ladies Stunt, which I got as a present when I was in high school still holds up because it’s much more adult (in fact, In the Car was a bit adult for me back then!) I feel that Canon Eyes is a great return to what I love about I Fight Dragons.

I was a part of the Patreon for this album and I enjoyed hearing the sound evolve from the acoustic demos through to the final mixes. I was afraid that, having heard variations on the songs for the entire cycle, I wouldn’t get as much out of the final album. My  fears turned out to be unfounded because the final mixes put that final necessary bit of polish onto the songs that still made them sound fresh in the final sequence. The band stated they were going for a 90s sound and I think they were successful without the music sounding dated.

I think this is I Fight Dragon’s best album so far and, after a week of listening, here are my impressions per track:

  1. Artifact – a song lamenting the current lack of popularity for rock. A good rocking song and a great opener for the album. My favorite line: “I am a dinosaur/ I was alive before we started fighting gulf wars”. Goes along with what I was stating above that this is rock by and for an older crowd who still loves to rock.
  2. Not Done Yet – Another great song that deals with getting older. A lot of rock, being for the younger crowd is about how the world needs to take them seriously because they’re here and they’re ready to take on the world! This song considers being a bit older, but realizing that there’s still time left for our dreams. I LOVE the opening lines: “When I was young I thought I knew everything about most everything / the answers had that ring of easy truth. But the older I get the more I see that everything I thought was black and white was grey and undefined the whole damned time.” So. Damn. True.
  3. Punch Drunk Destiny – a torch-carrying love song that doesn’t annoy me. 
  4. Oh the Places You’ll Go – a gem of a song. I think this is going to end up being on a lot of birth videos and/or graduation videos. Every time I hear the song, I think of my kids and tear up a little. While it takes the premise of the Dr. Seuss book of the same name – the person hear it still has so much ahead of them – what really gets me are the lines where the singer talks about how there’s hardship that the listener will experience and they can’t be protected from it all, but reassurance that they’ll come out of it stronger. 
  5. A New Brain – this is another great song; this time from the perspective of Dorothy when she gets back from Oz and is trying to deal with the experience ending back up in Kansas.  
  6. While We’re Still Young – This song occupies an interesting spot in the middle of the album as if to say, “yeah, we’re older now, but not THAT old!” I think it might be the second-most 90s song on here. It’s also, in an album full of awesome songs, the one that scores second-lowest for me, even though it’s not a bad song.
  7. Never Go Alone – it’s a more mature version of the love song trope – things are better with me. It shows that maturity with lyrics like  “sometimes it hurts / sometimes you lose your way / sometimes the words run off the page / just take a breath, we’ll be ok” as well as the chorus. Essentially this isn’t your teeny bopper song where everything’s hunky-dory because you’re together. But if you put the work into it, things will really work out well.
  8. One and Done – a song about those days where you just keep getting in your own way. Again, not a bad song. But surrounded by so many great songs, my least favorite on the album.
  9. Lighthouse on the Sea – another love song. This one, as you can probably guess by the title, is about being someone’s rock or….lighthouse. I mean, it’s kind of a perfectly self-explanatory metaphor.
  10. The Devil You Know – the most 90s song on the record (in my opinion) and it definitely sounds like it’s from an alternate universe Cake album. This one had quite a few transformations throughout the album process, but I think this final form works really well. 
  11. Burning it Down – this song and the next one show off singer Brian Mazzaferri’s range on this album. It’s a ballad that takes things down a notch as the album nears its end. It’s about leaving behind the things that aren’t working for us. But rather than a power-rock song, going for a ballad gives it a lot of power. It also causes guitars that come in at the end to create a really powerful song. It was the most transformed throughout the process, but it came out all the better for it. It’s probably my second or third favorite song on the album depending on how I’m feeling about the songs at any given time.
  12. Good Morning Sunlight – an almost acoustic song that’s kind of the perfect song to end the album on. It’s about having finally come out of a dark time and looking optimistically forward. 

The boys have put together a great album, and I think it’s definitely the culmination of all their talents in writing lyrics, playing instruments, and finding the perfect engineer to bring it all together. I can’t wait until they make their way to the East Coast again so I can hear these songs live.

I Fight Dragons have asked Patreon backers to please not post any audio from the album as they’re releasing the tracks one at a time. Once the whole album is out, I’d like to create a post that shows the evolution of a couple of the songs, using 10-15 clips of a couple of the songs through their evolution.

As for where they go from here, I think if they want to put out another album, but take a break from the more involved process of coming up with an album from scratch, I’d love to hear them do a Beatles cover album. When they teamed up with Nikki Lynette for some remixes, they did a great cover of And Your Bird Can Sing and when they were last in town for a concert they ended their set with a cover of The End. I think they would do a pretty great job either mixing it up or sticking to one album. 

new official band photo

New Dishes I cooked in April 2019

April was a month for getting a little more ambitious as well as trying variations on dishes I’d made before. Among the variations I would count the tilefish, grilled chicken thighs, and bratwust hot tub. The tilefish was just a variation on the Raichlen grilled fish recipe I’d tried before with blackfish. This time I removed the scales to ensure the flavoring on the outside of the fish wouldn’t be wasted. It still wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I think grilled fish like this one is a great candidate for an after-grill marinade. I’ll try that next time. The grilled chicken thighs were a variation on the gochujang paste recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I liked the mustard-tarragon paste, but Danielle was pretty blase about it. Finally, the bratwurst hot tub was the third such variation on braising bratwurst on the grill. It was fine, but I prefer Meathead and America’s Test Kitchen’s versions to Raichlen’s, which was the one I did here.

In the middle I would place the burger and fries. We’d had oven fries before, but I’d never made fries on the grill. I’m also usually not a big fan of the taste of steak fries. I’m more a fan of fast-food style fries – I think those are called shoe-string, but I’m not sure if that implies something else. Still, these ended up tasting great and being a pretty big hit. The Vermont maple-mustard glazed burger was pretty great. I didn’t fully follow the recipe, which would have required a pretzel roll, but so far I’ve been really loving most of the burgers from the Weber book of Burgers.

As you know, when you try to go ambitious, you have a bigger chance of failing along with a chance for a huge success. Starting off with the failures were the scones. I’m still learning my way around baked goods and there were also some complaints in the reviews for the cookbook I used that some of the weights were not very good. But it’s also possible I didn’t know what I was doing. They came out a little overly dry and were more crumbly than coming together before baking. Slightly less of a failure, but still not what I wanted were the crispy chickpeas. I got that recipe from a Milk Street mailing list email. It was touted as a crunchy snack or a replacement for croutons. I thought I was following the recipe, but the chickpeas did not reach true crunchiness. They were OK, but they almost would have been better uncooked instead of being in that weird not-quite-crunchy state. The piadine continued my experiments with different breads, this time a flat-bread. I’d had it on my to-make list for a while, but after eating a piadine sandwhich at Zoe’s Kitchen, I wanted to try my hand at it. It came out pretty good and it was a pretty fast bread. But the biggest surprise for both myself and Danielle were the hot cross buns. She’d commissioned me to make them for Easter and I wasn’t sure – I’d never made a super fluffy bread like that. But they came out really really well and I was proud of myself for trying and succeeding.

Review: The Misbehavin’ Maidens – “Swearing is Caring”

When I backed The PDX Broadsides’ Kickstarter, they pointed out their friends, The Misbehavin’ Maidens, also had a Kickstarter campaign going on. As I mentioned in the review for Relatable Content, The PDX Broadsides started off as a pirate shanty band. The Misbehavin’ Maidens still are a pirate shanty band, or at least a few of their songs on Swearing is Caring follow sea shanty song structures and melodies. And, other than tamborines and drums, they’re an acapella band.

I got to see them when The Doubleclicks came to Maryland on their most recent tour and they were a ton of fun live, especially when they sang the Space Shanty. The album contains some fun, irreverant lyrics revolving around feminist and LGBTQ+ issues as well as nerd topics. It’s a pretty great mix of topics. However, this album is not for those who dislike protanity or explicit lyrics; Tipper Gore would not approve.

1. Bibliophilia – I’m a HUGE lover of puns, so an entire song revolving around library puns and sexual innuendos was enough to get me to back the album on Kickstarter.

2. Slytherins are Misunderstood – As I mentioned before, I’m just a little too old for the Potter craze, but I still really enjoy this song.

3. Mermaids and Queers – I first heard this song live when they were on the Doubleclicks’ tour. The delight comes from the ingenious ways the Misbehavin’ Maidens have devised for mermaids to doom all members of the sexual spectrum.

4. Space Shanty – I shan’t give away what this is about because that’s 99% of the fun. But it’s awesome live and I hope they do it again next time I see them live.

5. Smile! – A cover of the same song by The PDX Broadsides. It’s about how rude it is for others to tell you to smile. The phenomenon definitely disproportionately affects women, but it’s definitely annoying even if you’re a guy being told to smile.

6. Bunnies in my Brain – bunnies as a metaphor for anxiety; Also first heard this one at their concert.

7. 600 Miles (Dragon Con) – a fun song about traveling really far to perform for their fans. Funnily enough the PDX Broadsides also have a song like this that’s kind of lovingly annoyed at the sacrifices they make for the fans. Perhaps it’s a trope in the filk world or shanty world.

8. Dock Worker’s Song – a very explicit song about being a sex worker at the docks.

9. Pillowtalk – as someone who’s been on the offending end of this one – sometimes the most random things come to my head in the quiet after, I was able to knowingly laugh at the examples they came up with.

10. Mansplain Man – A song about how annoying it is to be mainsplained to.

11. Drinks Don’t Have a F**king Gender – JD of Scrubs would have loved this song. It’s about enjoying whatever drinks you want no matter what.

12. Dumb Ways to Con – a really fun song about things you shouldn’t do at a nerd convention … or any convention, really.

13. Do You Take It – Another explicit song. To quote my wife, “I guess it’s OK since girls are singing it?”

If you like nerdy topics, acapella, and dirty lyrics, you should DEFINITELY buy this album and support this group. ALSO, they’ll be opening for The PDX Broadsides when the do their east coast tour this fall, so I think it’s definitely worth seeing this awesome pairing.

Review: The PDX Broadsides – “Relatable Content”

This year I have sponsored a lot of Kickstarter creative work, including lots of music. One that I was very excited to support was The PDX Broadsides’ latest album, Relatable Content. They started off as a pirate shanty band and have evolved into a nerd filk band whose songs range from silly to profound. I really enjoyed their last album, Trust Issues, which had some pretty timely songs like Noncompliant (superficially about the Bitch Planet comic, but actually about the Me Too era) and We Want Rey (about representation in nerd toydom). It also had some fun songs (both feature Christian as the lead) like Tiny Little Octopus and Robot vs Boy (which I want to see made into a mini-musical). Their last Kickstarter also had a dirty album called Lust Issues that continued their trend of Shakespeare music with the great Dirtbag Romeo and their dirtier songs from their pirate shanty days with It’s Just Sex.

They’re going to once again release a commentary album that will explain all their songs (that was a really awesome part of the last KS), but since it’s not out yet, I’m just going to talk about what I get out of each of their songs and what I think they mean.

1. Let The Wild Rumpus Start – this song references Where the Wild Things Are and, together with the next track have a late 1800s/early 1900s sound to them. It’s a fun sound for the band to explore and I’d like to maybe see a concept album go in that direction.

2. Together Breakfast – I’m not sure what this song is referencing, but overall it kind of just makes me think of having breakfast with a best friend or significant other and the fact that it’s usually comfort food that can make things feel great.

3. Jerkbrain – this one is pretty self-explanatory (and also they explained it during a Kickstarter update). It’s about when your brain betrays you like saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way for a situation.

4. Buffalo – Another Christian silly song. It’s also my kids’ favorite song on this album. It involves the narrator attempting to ride various wild animals and having things go awry. It’s pretty silly, but it’s really fun to listen to.

5. Love Good – I’m not sure what, if anything this is referencing, or at least I wasn’t until I googled “Nargles”. I figured this would lead me to the reference and it did. It’s a Harry Potter reference (I’m sure all the younger book readers got that right away, but I came to it in college and so while I appreciate the books, they don’t mean as much to me as the younger crowd). Essentially, it seems to be an ode to being neuro-atypical using Luna Lovegood as a metaphor.

6. Orpheus – I had to look up Orpheus because I’m not really well-read on the greek stories beyond the main characters – Zeus, Hercules, etc. From what I can hear of the lyrics, I think it’s about media, social media, etc consuming all of our attention so that we can’t engage in critical thinking. The singing is powerful and I enjoy the music as well.

7. Rewind – I love this song both lyrically and sonically. Basically it’s about moments you wish you could rewind. That happens to me all too often if I’m trying to be clever or speak without thinking things through.

8. Lost at Sea – A slow song that really showcases singing range. I’m not 100% what the metaphor is, but it’s almost definitely about a relationship ending.

9. The Alligators – Uses alligators as metaphors for all the haters out there. Very enjoyable.

10. House of the Wind – Based on the Kingkiller Chronicles – I only know this because of a Kickstarter update. I think they mentioned it’s about the feelings of performing on stage.

11. Heartless – About the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. It posits that she used to be much nicer before, but some crisis has left her heartless and that’s why she acts the way we see her in the stories.

12. Serotonin Dopamine – A song about those chemicals that control our emotions and how much they affect us. I really like Christian’s cadence in the song and the backup vocals work really well where they appear.

13. Winter is Coming – A really fun song from the point of view of Arya from The Game of Thrones. It was their first single from the album and probably my second favorite song.

Overall this is a great album that has the group continue to evolve musically and lyrically and I heartily recommend it. The best part is that you can listen to it for free on their bandcamp page or listen via Spotify or one of the other music sites before deciding to buy. (And buying does support them more than streaming fees)

2019 Concert #4: Anberlin with I The Mighty

My fourth concert of 2019 was also the first one in which I had someone else go with me as Danielle went to her first concert of 2019. It was fun to have someone to share the experience with, especially her. Anberlin was the first band I introduced her to that she also came to like. Many of their albums were bonding moments for us from dating through our married life.

Just like that last time Anberlin was in town, they played at The Fillmore and just like last time they basically sold out the venue. We got there as the concert was starting and the entire first floor was packed and on the second floor there was only standing room left.

I The Mighty was a good match for Anberlin, sonically. Apparently they met at the same Warped Tour I attended in 2014 and decided to tour together for this Anberlin reunion tour. I enjoyed nearly all the songs they played and have considered going on Spotify or Amazon Music to see which of their albums has the most music I’d like so that I can buy it.

I The Mighty on stage
I The Mighty

Danielle and I had seen Anberlin on their final tour, also a great concert. But they had an album to go along with that tour, Lowborn, and so the set was heavily weighted towards that album and their later albums. Those are also the ones we liked the least. We were definitely more into the first half of their discography with a few songs we enjoyed on the later albums. This tour, being a reunion tour, had a much more balanced set list, making it a much more enjoyable concert for us. In fact, in my head, it appeared they played slightly more of their older songs than their newer songs.

Anberlin on stage

Stephen Christian still has an amazing singing voice, exemplified when he did an acoustic version of The Unwinding Cable Car. It was electric in The Fillmore, demonstrating the power of live music and why a great band can make a concert so much better than an album, with its precise engineering (which I also LOVE, it’s just a very different feeling!). Also, probably thanks to social media, he learned there was a couple in the audience who met at a record store buying Anberlin and then got married. So the band played a song for the couple to slow dance to.

Stephen Christian singing The Unwinding Cable Car

As of right now, this is probably going to be my penultimate concert for 2019 (based on future concerts I want to attend) and the money spent was DEFINITELY worth it. (Even if it did make me wish Anberlin would put together a new album)

slow-dancing to Anberlin

New Release of my Extra Life Donations Tracker Software

If you follow the blog, you remember I’ve been working on a GUI for the donation tracker. Part of making that work involved changing the code to be object oriented. Also, it required moving the user-defined configs to be moved out of the main code. I’ve done that and finally tested that it works (I had a silly bug involving a typo that I had to correct) and merged the code into master over on the github repo. The new code required a change in the directions, so I made new instructional videos to go along with those changes:

Instructions for using EL Donation Tracker on Linux
instructions for using EL Donation Tracker on Windows

Also, while I was looking through my Github page, I was surprised to find that I’ve gone from just one fork of my code, to three!

a screenshot of the forks section of the Insights tab on github
A screenshot of the forks of my code

It’s like my code is growing up from just being hobbyist baby code!

Animal Portraits from Baltimore Zoo

Back in March we went to the Baltimore Zoo and I took my 120-400mm lens. I think this may be the first time I’d taken that lens to this Zoo (although I’d taken it quite a few times to the National Zoo in DC). I took lots of photos, but some didn’t come out the way I wanted and others just looked too much like they were in a zoo. I wanted (as much as I could) to have photos that could have been taken in the wild. I didn’t succeed with all the photos I chose for this post, but I was happy with the way they came out.

I don’t know what it is about prairie dogs – if it’s their silly chubbiness or their meerkat-like behavior, but I always love taking photos of them. This time I was able to get close up enough to see him sticking his tongue out at the zoo-goers.

I don’t think anyone would ever see this photo and thin I’d gone to Aantarctica or South Africa, but I did like that I caught them about to dive.

I’d seen flamingos my whole life, having grown up in Florida. But until this photo I hadn’t realized their eye color or the peculiar way their beaks bend. I remember reading once that they’re pink because they eat shrimp…but shrimp are only pink if you cook them. So I wonder if that’s true or not.

My absolutely favorite thing about this photo (that you may not appreciate unless you’re at least viewing it on a tablet) is the way the ostrich feathers look. They’re like little fir trees. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen feathers that look like that before.

The unease I feel at this ostrich staring at me is a good reminder that they’re living dinosaurs.

I know this photo isn’t perfectly crisp, but if you contrast the frozen water with the zooming ducks you’ll get an idea of just how fast they were chasing each other. My kids loved that they were chasing each other in circles.

I was pretty lucky this swan was posing for me for 30 or so minutes.

I don’t know what bird this is, but I do not want to get on his bad side. Not only is the one of the most bad-ass looking birds (behind an Eagle, of course), but that pointy beak looks like it could do some damage.

Right as we were getting ready to leave, this alligator was out on his own with a circle of people around him. The Florida person in me thought that was madness. But the photographer in me was happy to get a chance to take some really close up photos.

And also enjoy this video I shot of the crazy noises flamingos make.

2019 Concert #3: Lionize with Distinguished Gentlemen and Caustic Casanova

I had a series of almost back-to-back concerts as 2019 started up; Neon Trees and Fitz in the Tantrums at the beginning of May, The Doubleclicks and The Misbehavin’ Maidens in the middle, and then Lionize right at the beginning of June.

Oliver Brewing Company Tasting Room

This concert was at a venue that was new to me, the Oliver Brewing Company. Lots of restaurants and places call themselves a brewing company, usually to signify that they will have some of their own beer on tap. But this was literally a factory floor that had been cleared to set up a stage. I could see all the empty, unlabeled aluminum cans that would eventually hold their different brews. Perhaps because it was a factory floor and not a club or concert hall, the acoustics were pretty amplified. The venue seemed to know it was an issue because they were selling ear plugs for $1 each. (Probably from the stash they give to their factory workers during a regular day) At any rate, it was the first concert where I actually wore ear plugs because it was just too loud for me to enjoy; especially because my OSHA training kept reiterating that hearing loss is not recoverable. Surprisingly, it simply dampened the sound, but I was still able to hear the vocals everything. If anything suffered from the plugs it was a slight loss in the higher frequencies that I noticed during Lionize’s set. One other thing I noticed – of all the concerts I’ve gone to in the past few years, this is the first time I wasn’t one of the older audience members. There were a fair number of grey beards there to hear the different bands.

Oliver Brewing Company “stage” and audience area.

This was the first concert in a long time where I didn’t end up getting into at least one of the opening bands. It’s not a knock against either of the two openers, they just didn’t click with me. The first opener, Distinguished Gentlemen, had a much harsher sound than I prefer for my rock. The second band, Caustic Casanova, was sonically very good. In fact, near the end of their set, they revealed that their drummer was drumming with a busted ankle. They also had a neat thing going with male/female vocals. But, unfortunately, while I thought the music was pretty great, I didn’t care for the lyrics.

Lionize was great and my enjoyment was enhanced by the relative lax nature of the venue. I guess mostly because it was an older crowd (I think everyone was at least 30), there wasn’t any kind of venue “security” keeping the crowd back or from doing anything silly – because no one would think to do anything silly. Also, the bands weren’t on a raised stage. So I was standing about 2 arm lengths away from Lionize’s singer, just about eye level. It was like getting a private concert and it made the experience all the better. From what I can remember, the set was mostly from Nuclear Soul, with a song or two from Jetpack Soundtrack. Unfortunately, from what I could see of their set list (again, I was a few feet away and level with the band, so I could see the set list) they stopped a couple songs early because the venue had a hard stopping time. As in, during the last song they turned the lights on and off a few times to let the band know “time’s up!”. No chance for an encore or anything.


Still, more than any other genre of music I listen to, rock is best experienced live and it was really awesome to hear them play again after a few years. It got me excited for their new upcoming album. 


New Dishes I cooked in March 2019

March was a bad time to have gluten allergies in my house. I did a lot of baking and most of it turned out great. The bake-sale muffins (used blueberries) in particular were a huge hit. I never knew blueberry muffins could taste so good. I’m kind of mad at every place I’ve ever eaten them before for making me think they couldn’t taste all that great. On the flip side, I was not a fan of the banana-poppy seed muffins. I think for now I’ll stick to banana bread and banana snack cake when I need to get rid of some ripe bananas. The lemon-buttermilk pound cake fell somewhere in the middle. It was good, but I find the loaf lemon pound cake I make to be easier and taste just as good. Then again, I have some mods I need to make to this recipe next time around to maybe get a better consistency.

As for the breads, the garlic rolls and the rosemary focaccia were the biggest hits. The reason I made the garlic rolls 3 different times in one month was due to family demand for more rolls. And the focaccia was eaten in one sitting. The kids (mostly Sam) just kept asking for more and more bits until the plain half (which I’d done for them) was gone and the wife and I had the rosemary half to eat. The rustic Italian loaf was good, but just white bread – nothing special.

Moving on, the fish and chips recipe was great and showed how well America’s Test Kitchen thinks about their recipes to get the timings perfect. Their boiled carrot recipe also resurrected that usually bland side dish for me. We also really enjoyed the skillet-roasted cauliflower. I was the only one that liked the black bean soup, but it was good.

Unfortunately, I really did not like the chicken burritos mojados. It’s not ATK’s fault, it was just a flavor profile I was not into at all. I think it was the amount of chili powder in the recipe which wasn’t actually spicy, but seemed to overwhelm everything.

Moving outside to the grill, I liked the gochujang chicken, but I was alone in that assessment. The Vietnamese rolled beef (bo lui), however, got rave reviews all around. We’ll probably do it again some time in the next week.

Red Hat Summit 2019

self-portrait at Red Hat Summit

Red Hat Summit 2019 was my first Red Hat Summit. I heard quite a few people saying it was the largest one they’d been to yet and that it used to be a pretty small convention. That was not the case this year; it used up the entire Boston Convention Center. I’ve said before, concerning video games, that the best use of trophies and gamification of the meta-game are to get the player to take actions they wouldn’t normally take. Red Hat did a pretty good job of this during the summit. They provided points for filling out session surveys, which most wouldn’t have done otherwise. They also provided points for posting to the convention’s feed. I normally wouldn’t have, but reaching 1000 points netted the player some money towards merchandise at the RHEL store. So I posted about getting my custom t-shirt. This led others to comment on my post to find out where it was taking place and I was able to direct them there.

I’ve been to lots and lots of tech convention keynotes and they’re usually only slightly less boring than a commencement speech. But all the keynotes at the Red Hat Summit were very exciting and had lots of good speakers. A lot of the excitement came from the way that many different hackers, companies, and charities were making use of RHEL technology to do things. Of course, the most exciting were the charities. At Wednesday’s keynote there was a group here in Baltimore using FarmOS (based on RHEL, naturally) to teach kids about urban farming and change the conversation about where our food should come from. Another group was a school in Israel teaching programming to Jewish and Palestinian kids as a way to show them that they were not really so different from each other. Finally, a school in Minneapolis used tech and dance to get some kids into STEM.

Other Red Hat-planned events that I loved included the launch of RHEL8, which was done with a pretty incredible amount of fanfare. On the show floor I finally learned what Foreman is – the new Satellite upstream. I didn’t like Spacewalk, the upstream for Sat 5.0 and below, but Foreman looks pretty great. I plan to use it on my home network. After hearing various speakers talk about operators in Openshift, on Thursday I attended a session that finally made them make sense for me. They really change the game in Openshift and it’s neat to see so much innovation in that space. Also I got a preview of how a future release of podman will have a subcommand (pod) that will essentially be able to replace docker-compose.

On the more personal side, one of my highlights was Tuesday when I had lunch with a bunch of guys from Pixar. We got to geek out on a lot of the technical side of the company. Also, I walked 10.3 miles that day according to my Garmin – and that was pretty typical for most of the days. Speaking of fitness, on the Wednesday of the convention I ran my first-ever 5k which was blast. I actually placed really well and surprised myself with my times.

Red Hat 2019 Summit Swag

2019 Concert #2: The Misbehavin’ Maidens and The Doubleclicks

My second concert of 2019 was almost the exact opposite of the first one. The first one was a big outdoor concert venue (it was in Boston, but was configured like Pier VI in Baltimore) while this one was in the basement of a pizza place called Joe Squared. The first one featured pop artists that everyone has heard while this one featured niche bands that mostly nerds have heard. The first one featured full bands while the Misbehavin’ Maidens performed acapella and The Doubleclicks used an electric cello and other stringed instruments.

But there was one way in which it was similar – I wasn’t familiar with the opening band. Well, it’s not a perfect parallel because during the Kickstarter campaigns for both The Doubleclicks and The PDX Broadsides they mentioned the Kickstarter for The Misbehavin’ Maidens. Their brand of bawdy nerd music spoked to me and so I backed the campaign. From the way they mentioned the origins of the songs they sang, it appears each of the ladies in the Misbehavin’ Maidens is a song-writer for the band. Each song covered a different bit of nerd culture, but I think the biggest reaction was to a space shanty about Star Trek: The Next Generation. The chorus to The PDX Broadsides’ Smile also got a huge applause and laugh. After seeing them open for The Doubleclicks I can’t wait to see them again this October when The PDX Broadsides come for their east coast tour.

Then The Doubleclicks took the stage. I’ve been following them for a few years now, including backing their last two Kickstarter campaigns, but this was the first time I caught them live while they were in town. Laser said it was their first time in Baltimore (usually they tour closer to DC or Virginia) and they seemed genuinely surprised we knew the lyrics to their songs. That has to have been a bit of fun because the venue was so tiny (maybe 50-60 of us in there – if that many) they could see and hear us interacting with the music. There were a couple songs from their older albums, but as their latest album, The Book was Better, had just come out, the majority of the concert consisted of new songs.

It was a good concert, with a good pairing. I’d love to see either band live again. The only oddity was that the Misbehavin’ Maidens had been asked to do a clean set, but The Doubleclicks had a some swearing in theirs. I don’t care about swearing, I just think perhaps the Maidens could have done some of their bawdier songs if they’d been allowed.

2019 Concert #1: Neon Trees and Fitz & the Tantrums

At the end of Red Hat Summit 2019 (post coming about that soon) there was a double-header concert with Neon Trees and Fitz & the Tantrums. Neon Trees started things off for the night. I didn’t look them up ahead of the concert, because Fitz was a huge band so I thought Neon Trees was just a local band opening for Fitz. Their section of the concert was a lot of fun even though I didn’t know any of the songs. The lead singer had lots of fun banter and seemed to really be enjoying himself.

Then they played a cover of Human League’s Don’t You Want Me and I was having a blast because I love that song – it’s wrapped up in a lot of great memories hanging out with one of my cousins. Then, near the end they finally played their BIG SONG the one EVERYONE knows Everybody Talks:

Then Fitz & the Tantrums came on. I’ve been listening to them since their first album came out, although somewhere along the line I lost track of them and never got their third album. They had such a great stage presence and seemed to REALLY be feeling the music, even if they’ve been performing some of those songs for nearly a decade. Of course, concerts are always more fun when you know the band’s music, so I was rocking out the entire time. Then they did one of the better covers of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) I’ve heard. They also played some music from a forthcoming album, and those seem to continue in their tradition of great soul music.

It was a great start to my 2019 concert year.

New Dishes I cooked in Feb 2019

February is when I started really getting confident about my bread-making skills. Most of it was great although I didn’t like either of the two buttermilk biscuit recipes I made in February. By contrast the Amish Cinnamon Bread (ATK’s version of Amish Friendship bread) and Brown Butter-Cardamom Banana breads were SO GOOD. Both have been made again in the few months since. Everyone who was here to celebrate a birthday party couldn’t get enough of the Amish bread. The North Carolina cheese biscuits were another of those recipes where Danielle was skeptical when I told her what I was making, but ended up really liking them. The pork posole was good, but flavor-wise reminded me a lot of the chili from the same ATK book. The Vermouth cracked potatoes from Milk Street were certainly a different flavor than I’m used to for potatoes, but I wasn’t dying to make it again. By contrast I loved the stuffed chicken. It had a pesto I finally loved (no pine nuts and lots of basil) and great flavor. It was my mom’s favorite dish for the weekend she was visiting. The skillet turkey burgers were also great. The panade made it the best turkey burgers I’d ever had even though I would still prefer a beef burger if given a choice. Finally, the thai chicken soup was good and spicy.