Ask Bark LIVE with the Boost Brothers!

I’m thrilled to bring you the first of two Ask Bark LIVE installments with our good friends, the Boost Brothers. Today’s installment features a letter from a gentleman who’s looking to get a new car for his growing family (and he also has a RAV4 project car!). Somehow we manage to discuss the Crazy/Hot index, Craigslist personals, breast pumps, and Obamacare along the way. Check it out!

Made In The USA: Unicomp Buckling Spring Keyboard

Good afternoon, everyone.

Meet Unicomp.

Unicomp makes keyboards. If Shinola is the perfect example of made-in-USA-as-branding-tactic, then Unicomp is the anti-Shinola. They make everything, soup to nuts, right here in the States. They are the inheritor of what is perhaps the oldest existing tradition in the relatively young field of personal computing. Their products are reliable beyond imagining and they are cheaper than the Chinese alternatives. If you want to own the best of something — anything — and you work at a keyboard, then today is your lucky day. You don’t even need to finish this article. Don’t need to click the jump. Off you go, friendo.

What? You want to hear the whole story? You have that kind of time? Well, let’s start with this: If you ever think that your childhood was lame, compare it with mine. Pretty much the biggest highlight of my nine-year-old life was going to my father’s office once a week or so, because I had a chance to use his secretary’s IBM Selectric II. What did I do with it? Very simple: I wrote the weekly newsletter for my school’s video-game/computing club.

Easy there, ladies. I’m spoken for.

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Vignette: The Author Takes A Stand With His Fellow Young Riders Against Those Lame-Ass Old Millennials

Saturday was the third time, and the third weekend in a row, that John and I have gone to Ray’s MTB park in Cleveland. He’s progressing in rapid fashion. I’m doing okay, as well. I managed to clear the first nine jumps of the “Profile World” section in a row; there are two jumps after that but I’m too God-dammed tired to get over them. After years of putting up pretty good numbers on elliptical machines and treadmills I’d fooled myself into thinking that I was in good cardiovascular shape despite being overweight. Lifting 275 pounds of bike and rider into the air nine times in quick succession will cure you of those delusions. Even the teenagers are panting when they finish. Only my son can ride “Profile World” three or four times in a row without stopping; as pretty much the only seven-year-old to wander outside the easy stuff, his energy amazes everyone.

We warm up at the novice section, as you can see from John’s handlebar-mounted GoPro footage above — watch it in 1080p! Periodically, a group of twentysomething-to-thirtysomething mountain bikers will leave the dedicated cross-country trails and arrive to try their hand at the short drop-in and small box jumps. They show up, and they leave, in packs. Very few of them, it has to be said, can ride for shit despite their $5,000 bikes and carefully-chosen sporting-wear ensembles. John’s faster through the boxes than the vast majority of the “grownups”; John’s father, despite his sallow complexion, labored breathing, and unflattering sweat stains, is on another planet entirely.

The novice section can also be ridden backwards, if you want to use the roll-in as a vert launch. Some of the teenaged BMX riders like to do it that way so they can practice fly-out stuff like 360s and tire-grabs. They’re very careful around John and nothing even remotely worrisome has happened, so I don’t care that they aren’t “following the arrows”. This past Saturday, as I sat there catching my breath, one of those kids happened to be riding in the wrong direction out of the roll-in when a group of brightly-colored mountain bikers showed up, moving fast in a tightly-bunched single-file line.

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Weekly Roundup: A House Is Not A Home Edition

About five years ago, a friend of mine took a job in West Virginia. I had my concerns about the job, to put it mildly. And when I saw the house she’d bought to go along with the job, I had serious concerns. It was “vintage”, you might say. And a “fixer-upper”, you also might say. The first night I spent there with her, I had to take a shower in the basement because that was the only place any of the fixtures worked. She said she was going to make it her own, do most of the work herself. I nodded my head but privately I thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew.

While I traveled the world and got in trouble and crashed cars and fell in love and fell out of love and won races and lost races and got so drunk I couldn’t stand and spent money I didn’t have and learned how to be a kinda-sorta father… she worked on the house. One little bit at a time, neat and tidy just like she was neat and tidy, precise just like she was precise. After the crash in January of 2014, she rushed to the hospital to see me. Told me that she had the answer to all of my problems, that she could save me from this catastrophic thing that I’d brought down on my own head. She told me that she’d chosen that job, and that house, so the two of us could be together for the rest of our lives. I didn’t know what to say. I told her to leave my hospital room and never come back. It was rash and after a few days we had some conversations. Hard, unpleasant conversations, full of things that couldn’t be taken back. I did it on purpose. I wanted to scare her away. I thought — no, scratch that, I knew — that she’d be better off without me. Then we said our goodbyes, because that was all we had left to say.

A few weeks ago someone told me that my old friend’s house was up for sale. He didn’t say why. Didn’t say if maybe she was moving in with someone, maybe getting married, maybe just changing jobs. I didn’t ask. Didn’t think I had the right to know. Eventually, I yielded to temptation. I took a look at the listing. I wanted to see how far she’d gotten with the place before making the decision to give up. To walk away.

It never occurred to me that the house would be empty in the photos that accompanied the listing. That she would already be gone. I don’t think I was prepared to see that. It made me think about how lonely she’d been in that house, made me think about how lonely most of us are. How sometimes you can’t say the things you need to say to someone when they are right in front of you. It feels like you’re both covered in gauze, maybe. Like you can’t quite get the words out. It’s that same helplessness that you feel in dreams, where you could solve the problem or save yourself if you could just get the words out. But you can’t open your mouth, can’t say anything at all. Then you wake up and you have this unpleasant cut-glass clarity about everything that was so gauzy, so fuzzy, just a moment before. All the answers are right in front of you. It’s just too late to do anything about it.

I miss her. It’s not that I wish that I’d gone to live with in her house. She really is better off without me. No matter what’s happened since the day we said goodbye. I believe that. I have to believe that, just to continue getting up in the morning. But I do wish that I’d made better use of the time we had together. And I wish that I’d loved her the way she wanted to be loved. The way she loved me. Not grand and dramatic and sweeping and overpowering. Not the kind of love that makes you risk your life or cut your wrists or abandon everything you’ve ever known for some romantic dream. Just the kind of love that makes you paint a wall. Or fix a bathroom. Or keep a space empty in your garage, in the hopes that someone will come to visit. Or hold on to a house that you can’t really afford, for just another month or another year, hoping that you’ll wake up one day next to someone who loves you, too.

Without further ado, let’s see what I managed to get out the door this week.

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty

Sea lion woman, black dress on
For a thousand dollars, she wail and she moan
Sea lion woman
— “See-Line Woman”, traditional

The common name for disrupting or attacking someone under the guise of a legitimate concern or lack of knowledge is “concern trolling”, but I also like the neologism Sealioning. It’s a tactic that is currently enjoying a sort of Golden Age on the Internet because it’s hugely passive-aggressive and because it is generally supposed to be immune to a libel suit. You can’t go on a stock-trading website and post “WMT (or the stock of your choice) is headed for a big fall because they’re engaging in massive Social Security fraud,” because you will be the target of a civil suit before you get home that evenings. Seriously. Don’t do that, no matter how anonymous you are or think you are. People have lost everything they own, and more, doing that. You can, however, probably get away with posting, “I’m just really, really worried about all these rumors about Social Security fraud regarding WMT. What does that mean anyway? I’m just trying to understand these rumors I’ve heard.”

Yesterday, a commenter on something I wrote posted “What is a MILF? I don’t understand.” You’d have to be an utter fool, or suffering from recent head trauma, not to understand that the sole purpose of making that post is to “sealion”; after all, it’s literally three times as difficult as getting the definitive answer yourself. The easiest thing for me to do would have been simply not to respond, but instead I made fun of the troll character who posted. Now we’re in the middle of yet another civility discourse over at TTAC.

My purpose here, however, is not to comment on the rightness or wrongness of the original comment, my response, the responses that followed, or the subsequent site-wide convulsion. I’m no longer the E-I-C over there and I don’t set policy; I don’t even really want to comment on TTAC policy in public. It’s tough enough to run that site without having your predecessors second-guess your decisions. Instead, my purpose is to discuss why I treat some commenters with absolute respect, even when I disagree with them or they are personally offensive to me, and why I treat some commenters like they are utterly beneath contempt and completely deserving of the worst ridicule that can be heaped upon their heads. How do I determine who is “real” and who is not? The answer: fingerprinting.

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Ask Bark: How To Replace A Long-Term Love

That’s right, bitches (I only call you bitches because I don’t know your names individually), Ask Bark is BACK! I have a gazillion emails sitting in my box, and I have this nifty website that I can use to answer them, so why not? Plus, since this site is not designed to generate anything resembling “clicks,” I can ramble on and on about whatever I want, and I’m not obligated to pick something “interesting.” Also, here’s a cool picture of a Bronco. Yay!

Let’s kick this off with a letter from an actual female reader who’s looking to replace her tired ‘Lude.

Jenica writes:


I’m attempting to look for a reliable car within my preferred ($8000 or less) budget, that’s a little sporty. I’m about ready to break up with my faithful partner of about 10 years, at over 200k miles, a ’98 honda prelude. A manual is a must, and a coupe is quintessential. Of course within my budget, the only cars I like (ie: have style) with less than 100k miles on it come with a sad salvage title. I’m having some trouble weeding out the ones that will last as long as my current partner without numerous major bills. And as much as I would love to own an s2000, I do need something with some semblance of a back seat. I live north of Sacramento, Ca in the Chico area.

Looking forward to your reply,


First of all, congrats on having a cool, unique name. Also, congrats on being a woman who drives a manual transmission and would love an S2000. Now, let’s get to the answer—it’s not as simple as either of us would like.

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1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic – Baseball, Apple Pie and Broughams

Once upon a time, back in the ’70s, there were full-sized cars. And unlike today, lots of people bought them. Single people, families, professionals, you name it. It was the Time Before SUVs And Combovers..Oops, I Mean Crossovers. People bought actual cars. True, there were SUVs and Jeeps and pickup trucks, but people who bought them back then were more likely to use them for something besides schlepping to work and dropping the kids off at school. There were, of course, any number of compact, subcompact and mid-sized cars, but back in 1976, there were still plenty of people who stepped up to a big Chevrolet. And the Caprice Classic was the Broughamiest of them all.

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Monogamy and Friendship by a Woman Who’s Failed at Both

I don’t keep in touch with many friends from my youth. People change, right? Or maybe we don’t change, but we become more comfortable with who we really are. That is probably what makes life long friendships hard to maintain.

I have exactly one Ride-or-Die, Letty-and-Dom friend who has stood by me through the thick and thin of my messy adult life. We’ve been friends for a decade and she is, without a doubt, my soulmate. We speak several times a day (often comical because we live in different time zones), and she is  my go-to person about everything in my life. We often joke about how we can’t wait to get old so we can sit in rocking chairs and drink whiskey on the porch in the house we’ll buy together. Of course, when we met, I didn’t have a porch. Or a house. Or much of anything.

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Vignette: The Author Discovers A New Way To Jimmy And Is Despised For Having Done So

I blame science fiction, and all the various ideas of consciousness that it contains. You see, for much of my life I’ve struggled with a fear that goes something like this: Sleep is essentially equivalent to death. It’s a break in consciousness. So when you go to sleep, you basically die. The “you” that wakes up tomorrow isn’t actually you, any more than a clone would be. It’s just picking up the dropped thread of consciousness where you left off, the same way you are picking up where yesterday’s version of you left off. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll still be around tomorrow, any more than watching someone else’s home videos makes you that person.

The logical, if absurd, conclusion to this philosophy is that all of us are only alive for a single day. Remember the song? “Sha na na na na na live for today, hey hey”. The only things that you will ever experience before you “die” are what you’re going to do today.

It’s a very seductive theory, and there’s a bit of evidence to support it, but I’ve had to convince myself to let it go. First off, truly believing that today is the only day that I will ever be alive is a terrible incentive to skullduggery/adultery/aggravated-assault/impulse-purchasing/ZX-14R-wheelies and the like. Secondly, it’s hugely depressing on the days when nothing good or interesting happens. Consider today, if you will. The weather was miserable. Work has been annoying. And then there’s my usual $7.27 lunch at Jimmy John’s Subs. But wait! Today wasn’t entirely worthless, because I got to make other people unhappy.

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Introducing Esperanto Audio!

A $1,200 guitar cable. One thousand, two hundred dollars. That sounds insane. There is, however, a certain amount of logic to it. From a strict Veblen-good perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to connect a $15,000 PRS Private Stock guitar and a $10,000 boutique amp with even the nicest $65 Mogami Gold cable. But there’s more to it than that. Since the dawn of electric-guitar time, long cables have been a nightmare. They’re noisy and they actually modify the tone of the guitar.

My friend John Marks has solved these problems by applying the same outrageous materials and processes used in the audiophile world to the humble guitar cable. The precise length is calculate to minimize interference. The materials are all top shelf and roughly equivalent to what you’d get in the very highest-end copper audiophile cables. There’s an oiled wooden block on the amplifier end for reasons that still make no sense to me.

It’s bad-ass and it works better than FourLoko on a first date. Click the jump to see and hear it live.

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