so every company wants to dance with sriracha

I guess you know a food ingredient has become all powerful when McDonalds starts to hock the stuff as part of their latest harebrained scheme to forestall irrelevance. They got Ronald McDonald to descend into the Thai jungle to pick up some ideas.

Given the danger he brought a large number of his posse. McDonald got the map and compass. Grimace essentially functioned as a pack mule. The Hamburglar got the grease gun. Birdie carried the radio, and Officer Big Mac, wait, wait, who the hell are all these other mascots?

Anyways, but seeing as only Ronald McDonald emerged from the jungle alive and without product, they just came up with this thing called Sriracha Mac Sauce. Which they trademarked. Seriously.

Sriracha is everywhere. Almost any restaurant chain or potato chip maker is all over this. I guess it’s trendy? Everybody loves spice and Asian so folks think they can mint money on this. But what really is sriracha? It depends.

In Thailand it’s basically just a random chili sauce with vinegar and spices. But in America what folks know as sriracha is just the Huy Fong Foods bottle. It’s just one kind of sriracha. But to most people I suppose it’s the sriracha.

Huy Fong’s story is actually pretty awesome. David Tran fled recently conquered South Vietnam in 1978 and was eventually granted asylum in America. He named the company after his refugee ship Huey Fong.

To me, the look of the bottle is pure genius. The contrast between the green and red, the unique rooster logo, the various languages and styling, it’s just great. It’s what made them successful, that and the unique taste.

But because Tran either cannot or will not trademark the word sriracha, basically everybody else can do what they want. So folks might think that McDonalds is partnering with Huy Fong to make their sauce, but they’re not. McDonald just made it on their own. Hence McDonald’s own trademark on their version of the sauce.

Hey I want to expand the planet’s variety of food choices too, but not at the expense of silly fads driven by faceless corporate goons in suits. Sriracha is basically just Thai ketchup. It’s not the emperor of all Asian hot sauces. I wonder how many folks have ever heard of Korean gochujang paste? It’s mind bogglingly awesome in its own right.

Want sriracha in America? Go ahead and buy the Huy Fong bottle. Or, go get a unique version from an Asian grocery. Don’t give Ronald McDonald more cash to file his next cutthroat trademark.

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Based designed sauce bottle in human history.

San Diego – Cuyamaca Rancho Park

On travel for work?  Got that rare day off?  Get outside, run.  Run away before they change their minds.  They know where you live, it’s how they pay you.  Run!

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, about a hour or so east of San Diego depending on whether you exceed the posted speed limit.  The park itself is massive and you could spend weeks there without seeing it all.  I had a day.

I did no research other than just to drive to the park.  The state highway snakes through it and you can get off at various campgrounds, trails, etc.

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Stonewall Peak.  One of the greatest feelings on the planet is to see a mountain and you’re like, “I want to climb that.”  So you do.  A campground sits at the base, you can park there for ten bucks or so with the park rangers.  It’s two miles up and two miles down.  It’s not too difficult if you regularly hike.  I did some other shorter hikes off the highway, but this was the longest and best part.

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The climb for the most part is a series of switchback trails carved into the side of the mountain.

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After a while you get the creepy idea that this place burned in the past.  Turns out I was right.

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In 2003 a lost hiker lit a signal fire in Cuyamaca Rancho and started one of the largest wildfires in California history, which is saying something.  Nearly the entire park burned including just about every long growth tree.

Once upon a time, the firefighters of the American West were dedicated to putting out every fire no matter how natural, no matter where it was.  This was a mistake.  It allowed decades worth of growth to accumulate into the forests.  Nature needs fire.

A forest of the West needs to burn as part of the natural progression of its ecosystem.  It cleans out brush, certain species of plant need the flames to reproduce, etc, etc.  By putting out every fire folks got in the way of this.

So when Cuyamaca Rancho burned for the first time in like five decades.  It burned hot and massive.  If you have a wildfire once every ten years or so, the ecosystem can recover.  That’s the way it’s meant to be.

But it seems when it burns once in a century, that the system can’t recover.  They’ve waited for Cuyamaca Rancho to regrow for these near 15 years and it’s become clear that some species aren’t coming back.  They were wiped out by the intensity of the flames.  So the park service has begun replanting by hand instead.

When you hear people talk about allowing natural wildfires pay attention.  This stuff is important.  It’s also why some folks who build brand new swanky houses up in the forests and then demand the state protect them are in many cases actually doing their surrounding forests genuine harm.

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Stonewall Peak and the nearby abandoned mine were named after Jackson by former Confederate veterans who’d come out West after the war.  What a tale some of those lives must have been.

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Immune to fire.

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At the summit.  The folks who put this up here were the real deal.  They got to the top before proper trails, before online park maps, and so on.

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Just one hill among many.  So much else to see.

the problem of dominance

If the allure of sports is a great competitive game, then it’s going to be a strange NFL season. In a league built for parity the year begins with probably the most lopsided situation in perhaps all of league history. The defending champs were 14-1 last year when starting Tom “The Quack” Brady.

In the offseason they put the pedal down by adding a bunch of no name scrubs like Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, and Dwayne Allen. They managed to lose almost nobody except their battering ram in LeGarrette Blount. They will miss him, but it’s not fatal. Nobody else added enough talent to match this let alone catch up. Bill Belichick still sacrifices to the Aztec demon god Itzpapalotltotec every night before bedtime. So you know his genius will still be in play each and every week.

Who’s going to compete with all this? The Raiders are distracted by slot machines, the Chiefs are led by a guy who will never (still) win a Super Bowl, and the Steelers are just a few bad games away from complete self destruction. On the other side of the house I suppose you could argue that the Giants, Cowboys, Seahawks, or Packers could keep up? But each of these teams has deep flaws.

The Giants have no running game and a lunatic star wide receiver. The Cowboys don’t have a defense, their paramount offensive line lost two key dudes, and 1/3 of their team is currently incarcerated. The Packers are led by Mike McCarthy. The Seahawks still have no offensive line to protect Russell Wilson’s brittle bones and allow Marshawn Lynch’s seventh replacement to gain yards.

Everybody wants to know if the Patriots can go 16-0 again. I truly think they can. So it might be a boring season. That’s the problem with dominance. It’s boring. It’s for this reason that NFL parity is supposed to exist, that and to keep the cap low so owners can buy their eight boat.

This is why I find the NBA or women’s college basketball so boring. You have to admire Connecticut and the Warriors for their raw talent, but it’s just so darn boring because you know nobody can beat them.

Well, I suppose we’ll just have to admire it. Because I’ll guarantee you this, you’ll never see this again. Never again in NFL history will one team, one coach, one quarterback dominate in so clear a manner. The planets will never align like this again. So, I guess, enjoy the show. While you still can.

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“Yes Itzpapalotltotec. Yes! We shall decorate my basement with the blood of our foes. You shall have your fill. Praise!”  [draws ceremonial knife]

on Russians, sharks, bears, swimming, and who to trust

You, the average normal human, require a new hammer. You use it to fix up your house, apartment, hovel, or yurt. You have several options to choose from. But recommendations tell you that you can have the hammer made by a partially competent American maker at a reasonable price, or the cheap one made by a former KGB assassin. Which do you choose?

Well, I suppose if you lived in Russia you would pick the KGB guy. Or be made to pick the KGB guy. But if you’re not Russian why would you, or anybody else, choose the KGB guy? This question has always been on my brain as folks and organizations have chosen Kaspersky Labs to handle their internet security to the tune of half-a-billion active users.

I mean I somewhat get it, Norton, McAfee, and the many other generic Western firms are only above average at best. But what do you expect when the Internets sandbox is an inherently flawed security nightmare. That doesn’t mean you go running for help with Ivan, aka the guys who are directly responsible for much of the security nightmare. Unless you desire to make the counterargument that because Kaspersky is KGB, that it’s good business to ask the devil to guard your church because he knows how to mix it up, barstool style. But I don’t buy that argument. Eventually the devil will rob you and use your pilfered cash to buy cinnamon whiskey, his drink of choice.

Kaspersky is somehow considered respectable, which further proves the marketing goons of the planet can put a shine on anything and twist people’s brains with glorious abandon. Kaspersky advertises on NPR! So he must be legit, right? And since the beginning Kaspersky has tried to always prove they have an independent hand. Their claim is that Russian they are, doesn’t mean you can’t trust them. They’re separate and distinct from the functioning arms of the Russian state, honest. Eh, if they say so.

As far as my take, I think this Washington Post article sums it up pretty nicely. In particular:

“James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said ‘it’s difficult, if not impossible’ for a company like Kaspersky to be headquartered in Moscow ‘if you don’t cooperate with the government and the intelligence services.’”

Yeah, no kidding. So if you or your business has put your trust in Kaspersky, well, you deserve what you get.

Hey speaking of failed trust, apparently a whole bunch of people actually thought Discovery Channel was going to get Michael Phelps to race a shark. Instead they just computer simulated it and Phelps lost. Because Phelps is a human, as in, a creature not meant to inherently swim in the water. Kind of like how a shark is. But I digress.

Did folks actually think they’d put Phelps in the water alongside a shark and race them in lanes? Do folks understand that humans can’t order sharks around like that? Gee I sure hope so. How did people logistically think this would occur? Why are they angry with Discovery Channel? How did they trust that this would actually happen?

The only thing I can think of is they’d capture the shark and chain it up like some kind of angry Star Wars arena beast. They’d have him in a lane in the ocean contained by two sheets of transparent aluminum. And Phelps would be on the other side. Then they’d fire the gun and release the shark. Only, but what if the shark didn’t swim forward and instead tried to turn around and attack the folks behind him? As in, the folks who’d just chained him up. Or what if the shark swam for a bit and then stopped? Or what if the shark busted through the transparent aluminum and swallowed Michael Phelps whole in an orgy of chum related violence? Or what if we get Kaspersky to race a 700 pound grizzly bear? Maybe his KGB training, Russian bear familiarity, and Vlad inspired judo can save him? But I doubt it.

Who not to trust? Well for starters Russians who say they’re here to help. And folks who claim a human can race a shark. Along with all other kinds of lunacy that just don’t seem to make sense. Kind of like most of the nonsense written on this degenerate blog.

You could adopt the tact of: trust no one. But instead, just use your common sense. We’ve all got it. It’s pretty neat. Go with that.

fun time

four creatures enter; one creature leaves

why do we enjoy some bad movies and hate the others?

So you catch three hotel movies across three days because you’ve lost your mind with work and they crank in at 13%, 6%, and 14% on the Rotten Tomatoes cult. Is your quality of life improved or degraded? Well, it depends. At home you’d suffer because there’s so much else to do. But in a ditch hotel that for cost purposes is at a place where you can walk nowhere, where your boss has the only rental car and won’t share, and so you’re just killing time? Well, it can work. And so it did.

Say I get a movie at home and folks say it’s good, but it ain’t, then I get angry. When I get a movie at the hotel and I know it’s bad, and it’s bad, I can just laugh at the movie and enjoy it. Then I’ve killed off a section of the multi-day six pack and at least about 90 minutes of my evening. Then I can read some and go to bed. One night closer to going home.

And so on my latest lengthy epic journey at one point I caught two movies in a Texas hotel and the third one the day after in Wisconsin. They were Black Rose, Extraction, and Last Knights. Three movies that nobody has ever heard of let alone watched. None of these three films ever hit the American theater. They were available to my eyeballs purely out of Netflix’s desire to throw content at you.

So where did this leave me? Black Rose is not really good, but holds your interest. Extraction extracted my brain. I actually enjoyed Last Knights, I mean I really liked Last Knights.

Why? Let’s get into it! Because why not? Oh my, I’m such a loser!

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Black Rose

From a bunch of joint American and Russian production companies you’ve never heard of comes 46 year old Alexander Nevsky’s masterpiece in which he directs, writes, and stars. Nevsky is apparently a former bodybuilder. Black Rose is not his first starring role nor journey into the movies, but it sure seems so.

The plot is brutally simple, Russian girls are getting killed in LA. The LAPD can’t get it done. Nevsky is a Russian cop who’s brought in as a ringer. He teams up with LAPD reject and former time assassin Kristanna Loken in a bid to stop the serial killer, before he kills again, and time runs out, for another Russian woman, and she is murdered, by the killer.

It’s everything you would expect it to be. We get dialogue worthy of 1987’s best action flicks, Nevsky has several (like seven) long montage shots of him walking on LA beaches, investigating Russian businesses, and shopping at the local K-Mart. Nevksy is a loose cannon. Loken is the more scientific analyst. They get Adrian Paul to play the Chief, which is backwards, but whatever it works.

But it’s the mystery that actually holds your interest. For whatever reason, Nevksy’s likely use of Soviet weightlifter drugs did not inhibit his ability to write a decent murder plot. I always love a good mystery that keeps you guessing until the last moment. Even if after you know the answer it seems dumb. And boy does the villain’s final answer sure seem dumb. But, I was into it, I wanted to know the answer.

My biggest problems with this flick are that there’s not nearly enough action and Nevsky is too much like 1980’s robot Arnold. When I’m promised a bad action movie, I need stupid action. Nevsky only kills like three people in this whole movie. I think a car only blows up once. There might be six minutes of combined action available. I guess Nevsky was trying to be serious with his work? But come on.

Also, Nevsky seems to think that acting like robot Arnold circa 1982 (before he could speak English) is the way to go. He spends the entire movie with a mask of the T-100. He doesn’t even really yell at the bad guys. It looks like he popped motion sickness pills before each scene. I’ll try not to get into him too much on this, Arnold only became charismatic on screen once he knew the language, but it makes the flick less fun when the main character is a block of wood.

Overall, we’ll give it two stars.

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Extraction

Do you like money? Who doesn’t. I know for sure Bruce Willis does. Because it’s the only explanation for his presence in this garbage flick. This thing barely qualifies as a functioning movie. It’s got a plot, characters, and they have like things in the movie, like cars and buildings. But that’s about it.

There’s the CIA, spies, people get beat up, whatever. I think this line actually appears in the film, “Sir, I cannot eliminate the target as we have not determined where the package is at this time. We should consult our latest protocol.” Did I watch it? Yes. Did it serve its hotel purpose? Yes. Is it one of the worst I’ve ever seen?

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Last Knights

Why? Why do I like this movie? Apparently folks hate it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s well shot, has great acting, a good story that you don’t realize until like 3/4 of the way through is based off a classic Earth tale, and it’s different. As far as these sword films go, it’s done differently. Don’t let the foolish studio generated clickbait movie title fool you, the folks who made the film clearly cared. Why do we enjoy some bad movies and hate the others?

1) Acting: With Last Knights we get Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman. They don’t disappoint. Both of them are superb in this flick. These guys have been in some terrible, terrible movies, so it’s not like their Shakespeare’s ghost or anything, but they both give it a great effort and it pays off. Their characters effectively suit their acting talents. I don’t normally like Owen, but in this film he’s great, probably the most I’ve liked him in a role. Freeman is Freeman, you know what you get, and I’ve always liked Freeman. Contrast that with Extraction where Willis looks like he’s hungry and can’t wait for the scene to end so he can go get a sandwich. I’ve already talked about Nevsky. The other two leads in Extraction failed middle school drama and/or one or both of them are MMA fighters which is why they were cast, I can’t remember which.

2) Unique: I won’t blow the whole plot by saying that this is a different sword slashing movie. In the first five minutes you realize this. This is (by way of Freeman’s narration) a multi-racial society ruled by a cast of knights that’s different from your usual feudal / medieval structure. They also go out of their way to create a different look to this world. The costumes, the sets, the way people behave is about as far from Game of Thrones or whatever Viking stuff you can get. Even their swords look unique. When Hollywood can only generate films based on characters that were first created in 1936, it’s refreshing to see a film willing to do crazy stuff and take risks. Yes, ultimately you discover that the film is based on an ancient tale, but it’s so subtle and revealed so late in the movie that the surprise is actually welcome and exciting. It sneaks up on you and you’re happy that you recognize the tale that you’re now in.

3) Interesting Dialogue: In the first twenty minutes we get great scenes where Owen talks to some page, Owen and Freeman speak, Freeman meets the villain, and so on. Whereas Black Rose and Extraction have dialogue written at the fourth grade level, Last Knights had me rewinding scenes so I could watch them again. It wasn’t necessarily because the dialogue was fast paced or that I didn’t understand what was going on, I just felt like I wanted to rewatch it immediately. I almost never do this. You can tell they went through a lot of trouble to write sharp, exciting scenes right up front. You may have met Owen’s character only seven minutes prior, but you already know who he is, what he’s about, and already you like him and are rooting for him. And who can’t root for Freeman as the wise revered father of the realm? Did Nevsky entertain me? Yes. Was I ever actually rooting for him? Nyet.

Catch Last Knights if you can. Catch Black Rose if you’re bored or something. You can bin Extraction.  Will you love Last Knights as much as I did? Or is this just a fluke? Well, on the Rotten Tomatoes cult the audience reviews for these flicks (unlike the critic reviews) have a disparity. Black Rose gets 10%, Extraction 17%, and Last Knights jumps all the way to 46%. So clearly I’m not the only degenerate in the audience who liked Last Knights so much more. I say give it a shot, and feel free to blame me if it bombs for you.

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Stone Liberty Station – the descent into another dimension

After all these years of searching I finally did it.  I met an alien.  Whilst seated at the bar (one that you could argue might be in the top ten in the country) a middle aged white guy walks up and orders a white wine.  Alien.

I don’t know what planet this thing hails from, or what they look like when not in disguise, but clearly this alien doesn’t understand that when you’re at Stone Liberty Station you drink really tasty beer.  It’s inhuman to order wine.

Or, maybe this older chap is so confident in his ways & his preferences for life, that he just doesn’t care.  Dude knows what he wants.  Period.  Like if you were so comfortable with who you were that you walked into a vegan restaurant and demanded pork without shame.  In a way, it’s kind of admirable.  But, he should have still ordered beer.

But wait, there’s more!  For reference, I was seated at the closest seat in the corner.

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After the alien departed, two guys (a Cali Korean and Cali Chicano) and a gal (Cali Pilipino) [God Bless America] took up the area to the right without actually sitting down.  Somebody had left an empty beer glass and a partially full glass of rosé.  While continuing to order more beers, the Chicano began to dare the Korean to drink the rest of the rosé.  This went on for about twelve minutes.  I kept waiting for things to escalate, for table dagger fingers to appear, but sadly this didn’t occur.

Off to the left another pair of Southern California template bros were activity hitting upon a gal clearly wearing a wedding ring visible to the whole planet.  She did her best to not look uncomfortable and smiled a lot, but this continued until the husband showed up.  It probably helped that her husband looked like the guy who dead lifts kegs for Stone in the back.  The difference in audible volume of voice for these two guys pre and post husband appearance was stereotypically comical.

Back to my right our Korean friend had decided to take the dare and began sipping the rosé.  Our Chicano chap began aggressively texting with another guy not present with happiness and made a repeated comment along the lines of, “I love ‘Rique man, I love him, I love that bro!”  At which point his girlfriend accused him of being a homosexual.

Other bar regulars begin to discuss a forthcoming special event where Wil Wheaton and two other men I’ve never heard of are famous for an annual stout that’s brewed, then debuted during some kind of video game symposium they hold inside the bar [furrows brow] and folks drink the beer, but play games, but there’s some kind of limit on time or whatever.

In other news, Wil Wheaton did not turn out to be a coked out sex fiend and is in fact a normal person.  The Traveler probably got his head right during their dimensional journey so Wheaton didn’t get child actor syndrome.

Of to the right, our bros killed off the last of the rosé with other friends who had arrived by lying to them about whose said rosé it originally was.  Then they all left and I felt a great absence in my life as I was no longer entertained by casually observing other members of the human race who sat two feet away without acknowledging that I existed.

Luckily a family of Japanese took their place.  We had the Mom and Dad, their son, daughter, and their son’s wife or finance.  The son and wife spoke English, the rest of the family did not.  It was neat to hear solid Japanese again for the first time in a long time.  I’m reduced to near zero skills, so I caught only a word or two here and there.

The son was forced to simplify Stone’s extensive beer list by describing a number of beers as “IPA Gaijin”.  The Father understood the situation better and discussed a number of IPA Gaijin options for selection but ultimately he settled upon the Wheaton stout.

The bartender felt the need to card the young ones.  The son and wife have their Cali licenses.  The sister pulls out her Japanese passport.  The bartender is clearly put off balance because the whole darn thing is in Kanji.  He takes the passport, looks at it briefly, nods once, and hands it back to her without comment.  She gets beer, all without the bartender ever knowing they sell beer in vending machines in Japan.

Father tastes the Wheaton stout and suddenly realizes he’s got something high octane shit in his hands.  He asks his son, who clarifies that Wheaton’s Klingon brew cranks in at 13%.  Father grins, grunts, and growls with pleasure like Mifune over a good sake.  He then proceeds to truck said beer in only a few minutes.  Mother, sister, and wife all get beer flights.  They’re all still there when I leave.

Oh by the way, the food is pretty good.  The beer is astonishingly awesome.  At least a dozen drafts are brewed directly on site.  You are to be challenged to find a fresher sip with such variety.

Built from the remains a former Navy mess hall Stone’s turned it into a satellite station to hold events, beer different beers, and generally create something more than your typical restaurant, bar, or micro brewery.  I truly applaud them for doing something different, something unique that goes beyond the standard all too faceless Bar Americana #728b.

The descent into another dimension is entertaining, to see all the wide variety of humanity.  But really, the only reason to go to Stone Liberty Station is to drink incredible beer.  It’s more than enough.  Such good beer.