Anytime friends talked about runners' high, I'd usually roll my eyes and think to myself "you've obviously never tried real drugs". I was wrong.

The Coronavirus quarantine adds a bit of extra time to my day, since I no longer have a commute (working from home). I'm trying to use this time wisely, so I've been doing things I'd been neglecting previously - exercising, reading fiction, learning new career skills.

For exercise, I chose to try the Couch to 5K program for the third time. It's a nine-week program - my first attempt lasted four weeks, my second attempt only one or two. I'm currently five and a half weeks into the program, and I'm shocked to say that I'm really enjoying it this time around.

The runner’s high is part of it. As the runs have gotten longer, I certainly experience a decent amount of euphoria at the end of training sessions. After each run, I return home, drink water, and go for a shower. I turn on some music and take a speaker to the bathroom, and the shower is one of extreme contentment.

The other great part of all this is the sense of accomplishment after each run. I’m a lazy person. I eat, well, whatever. Prior to quarantine, I smoked half a pack to a pack of cigarettes a day. But I decided to do this running thing.

I’ve stuck with it so far, and each week, runs become easier. While the runner’s high and contentment are qualitative things, the increasing distances and my increasing speed are quantitative proof that I’m getting better at this.

Life consists of three parts: health, wealth, and the pursuit of happiness. Right now, that means I need to improve my long-neglected health, grow wealth, and figure out what in the heck makes me happy so that I can pursue it.

Eight months ago, I got a day-job at a digital marketing firm in New Orleans, and that’s allowed me to grow wealth after seven years of living paycheck to paycheck while being self-employed. But I had not made strides in improving my health and figuring out happiness. I’m happy to say that’s no longer the case.

This is far from a comprehensive list, but it's just enough for a fun night gathered around my new-used vintage audio set-up with some Fireball hot chocolate. These songs pretty much span from early '80s onward, so this playlist actually is a good indicator of the sonic and stylistic changes in hip-hop over the years. Merry Christmas!!!

  1. Run DMC - Christmas in Hollis
  2. Nappy Roots - Nappy Holidays
  3. Swae Lee - Christmas at Swae's
  4. Yo Gotti - Three Kings
  5. Snoop, Nate Dogg, Daz - Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto
  6. Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin'
  7. The Dogg Pound - I Wish
  8. Outkast - Players Ball (Original)
  9. Juelz Santana - Christmas in the Ghetto
  10. Ghostface Killah - Ghostface X-mas
  11. Busta Rhymes feat. Jim Carey - Grinch 2000
  12. David Banner - The Christmas Song
  13. Dana Dane - Dana Dane is Coming to Town
  14. Gucci Mane - St. Brick Intro
  15. Eazy E - Merry M'fing Christmas

What an awesome phone. Got it September 2017.

Nearly stock Android, so didn't have to deal with too much vendor nonsense. The Motorola specific add-ons were actually useful, like some "Moto Action" that would cool the color temperature at 9PM every night or something like that so the screen wouldn't keep you at night or something.

Camera was fine outdoors and during the day. Took some good stay-cation photos on this camera. Indoor was bad. Night shots were bad.

But the real star of the show was the battery life. 5000mah. With every other phone I've ever had, I try not to leave the house for more than an hour with less than 40% battery. Not with this phone. I could happily leave the house with 40%, lose track of time and end up out drinking for like 8 hrs, then still have 10%-ish battery with which to call a Lyft.

Used this phone with Sprint, Wing Alpha, and Mint Mobile with no issues. Sprint usage also involved roaming in India with no issues.

Ended up having the phone fall out of my coat pocket while at a bar and cracking the screen in December 2018. Used this and a backup cracked Moto E4 until March 2019 when I got a 2016 Google Pixel, which I love so much.

Stumptown - 8/10 - will continue watching.

Sunnyside - 6/10 - will continue watching.
*update 11/5/2019* maybe not. the writing really could be better.

Bob <3 Abishola - 8.5 - will continue watching
*update 11/5/2019* love it so much

Carol's Second Act - 6 - will continue watching.

All Rise - 7.5/10 - will continue watching.

The Unicorn - 6.5/10 - will continue watching.

Bluff City Law - 7/10 - the only thing Memphis-y is that they eat at a bbq restaurant at least once per episode, but I do love lawyer shows.

Restaurants:

House of Curries / Albany, CA
Indian - good palak gosht, tandoori chicken, and unlimited cups of chai.

East Ocean Seafood Restaurant / Alameda, CA
Chinese - great dim sum and quick service. congi was pretty good too.

Delhi Dhaba & Chaat / San Pablo, CA
Indian - nice aloo tiki, samosa chaat, and unlimited cups of chai.

Mr. Dewie's Cashew Creamery / Albany, CA
Desert - first time trying cashew ice cream. pleasantly surprised, tasty and creamy.

Masse's Pastries / Berkeley, CA
Desert - lovely pastries (both taste and aesthetics).

The Hot Shop / Albany, CA
Afghani-Mexican - tasty and extremely filling burritos here. the "cajun" was great, stuffed and kept me full for eight hours.

Sam's Diner / San Francisco, CA
American - great burger after a tiring day walking around SF.

Kathmandu Restaurant / Albany, CA
Nepali - good momo's and chow mein, seemed like kinda homestyle-type recipes.

Nomad Tibetan Restaurant / Berkeley, CA
Tibetan - really good momo's and the chili chicken was fire - taste and spice-wise.

Aangan / Albany, CA
Nepali - probably my favorite momo's from the list, heavier on garlic than the others though. Chicken choila cold dish is amazing also.

Royal Rangoon / Berkeley, CA
Burmese/Myanmar - really good tea leaf salad and khao souey soup.

Oakland Coliseum Concessions / Oakland, CA
American - had a solid stadium dog and an A's commemorative glass full of RC-Cola.

Semifreddi's Bakery / Kensington, CA
Bakery - got a coffee and croissant here nearly every morning.

Chez Maman West / San Francisco, CA
French - pretty good mussels dish.


Bars

Brass Tacks / San Francisco, CA
Anina / San Francisco, CA
Crown Bar / El Cerrito, CA

I recently found a CD of hip-hop instrumentals that I made in 2004-2005 as a senior in high school and I've put them up on Bandcamp and they should be up on streaming platforms soon as well. Bandcamp write-up below and music below that:

This album is a collection of music I made between the fall of 2004 and summer of 2005. I had an old and basic Yamaha keyboard that I rigged up to the family computer with a MIDI-USB cable and spent a lot of time making hip-hop beats.
Hurricane Katrina hit my hometown of New Orleans in August of 2005, and the computer where all this music was stored flooded, leaving two copies of this material - a physical CD (which this was ripped from), and MP3 uploads on MySpace Music. MySpace Music recently lost all of their stored music during a server upgrade that went sideways, and I thought that my 2004-2005 music had been lost forever, but I luckily found this physical CD during some spring cleaning.
The music probably sounds a bit dated and is pretty raw. There's a big difference in terms of refinement between this and my second round of beat-making in 2011, but I think there are a few songs on here that are enjoyable, or at least hint at me having a sliver of talent.
Enjoy 🙂

[update] phone died a month later and was replaced with a $39 Verizon Moto E4.

I have a Nextbit Robin. Nextbit was bought by the gaming company, Razer, and all warranties were set to end on July 31st, 2017.

My fingerprint reader stopped working. Not a huge deal as I don't use Android Pay, so I just disabled all lock screen security. Inconvenient though, as I'd gotten used to the convenience of being able to log in to online banking apps with my fingerprint instead of having to type in the complicated passwords banks often they require (YOU NEED TO USE 5 CAPITAL LETTERS AND 3 SYMBOLS).

Shortly after that, power button stopped working as it should (power button IS the fingerprint reader on this phone). To turn the screen on, I'd have to tap the lower edge of the button and it would work. Then after a few days, I'd have to tap the top edge of the button and it would work. Every few days, it was something else, until I pretty much just had to bang my fingers against the button 5-10x to turn the screen on or off.  [10 second video clip of trying to unlock screen]

Irritated, I was getting ready to buy a new phone (this phone is only 7 months old). Then I thought about alternative ways to turn the screen on/off, and I remembered my mom's old LG G2 had a knock to unlock feature, where you knocked on the screen twice and the phone unlocked.

I ended up finding an app called Smart Screen, which allows you to turn the screen on or off through a number of different methods. I chose to use the "wave" feature (basically, covering and uncovering phone's proximity sensor), where I wave my hand in front of the screen to toggle screen on/off.

So screen toggling was taken care of, but screenshots were still problematic. Then I found out Google Assistant can take screenshots. So you just long-press the home button, then Google Assistant pops up, and you just tell it "Take Screenshot" - and voila, you have a screenshot.

It's certainly not ideal to be forced to use workarounds for some of the most simple tasks required of a mobile phone. However, this lets me continue to use the phone until the day that I run out of battery, plug in the phone, but get no response when I try to power on the phone (or basically, when the power button completely fails).

Hoping to make it to the one-year mark (January 2018), but I'd be surprised if that actually happens.

Step 1: Bought a Stereo
I bought a fairly powerful Panasonic stereo on Craigslist. It has CD, AM/FM radio, AUX input, and USB input. Originally set it up on the carpet, but Patty dog sheds a lot and I didn't think the system would last very long with dust and dog hair flying into it all day and night.

IMG_20170804_150846545-01

Step 2: Added a Makeshift FM Antenna
The stereo didn't come with a FM antenna, so I had to figure out something for this. I tore apart the headphones that came with my Samsung Galaxy S4 and loosely attached the headphone wire to the antenna port.

IMG_20170804_153442936-01

Step 3: Attempted to set up Digital Media Center
I wanted to listen to MP3's, FLAC files, and podcasts. I had a old laptop that was gifted to me a year ago (Toshiba Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM that I installed Ubuntu 16.04 on). So I wanted the laptop hooked up to the stereo, and I wanted to use an old smartphone (Alcatel Idol OneTouch 5.5) as a remote to control digital media playback on the laptop. This is where I started having issues.

Attempt 1: Mopidy
I read awesome reviews and saw a lot of people using it on raspberry pi's to set up awesome music servers, but I simply couldn't get it installed. Differing versions of Python, all kinds of errors, dependency-hell, just ended up giving up.

Attempt 2: Installed Rhythmbox + Web Server Addon + Rhythmbox Android Remote Realized I was making things more complicated than need be and that Mopidy was sort of overkill. Installed Rhythmbox & addon & Android app, added mp3's to rhythmbox library, and was able to control music through Android app and it would play perfectly on stereo. So music was good, but I added my podcasts in Rhythmbox on the laptop, but the Android remote app wouldn't allow me to access the podcasts - only music. So removed Rhythmbox.

Attempt 3: Installed Clementine
I've used Amarok & then Clementine since 2007ish and love it as a desktop music player, and I saw that the Rhythmbox Web Server addon was a fork of the the Clementine Remote App, so I figured this was going to be the solution. Alas, same issue with the Android remote app not allowing me to control podcasts.

IMG_20170804_150735060-01

Attempt 4: Installed Kodi
I've used Kodi for video purposes for many years now, and I've succesfully used Yatse (Kodi Android Remote) to control Kodi with my Android phones, so I thought to myself, well, this is truly severe overkill as I don't need any video functionality, but this may be my best bet as I figured there'd be tons of Podcast addons for Kodi and things would be great. So I added music library to Kodi, but saw there weren't too many highly-rated podcast add-ons.
I remembered seeing sharing options in the Android share panel along the lines of "Yatse - Play on Media Center". So I said, hmmmm, what if I just continue using Stitcher for Android for podcasts and then just stream them to Kodi using the share option. Sadly Stitcher didn't have the Share option, so had to figure out something else.

IMG_20170804_150959422-01

Attempt 5: Switched my Podcasting to AntennaPod for Android
I downloaded AntennaPod for Android, and added all my podcasts. Downloaded a podcast, selected the Share button, selected "Play on Media Center", and sure enough, Kodi began playing the podcast. Success!

Attempt 6: Yatse would lose connection to Kodi and remote would stop working
Checked logs, couldn't find errors. So basically had two weeks rebooting the laptop once or twice a day and Yatse-Kodi would re-pair. Also, I'd play one podcast, and after it ended, I'd try to listen to a second podcast, but by that time, Yatse and Kodi would unpair. Very frustrating. Thought maybe the "Play on Media Center" option was affecting Kodi, so decided to try something a little different for podcast playing.

Attempt 7: Synced phone's AntennaPod Downloads folder to laptop
Downloaded SyncThing for Android and synced podcast download folder to a Podcasts folder on the laptop. Added the laptop's Podcasts folder to Kodi's library, so now the individual podcast downloads are actually on the media center laptop. Things were anecdotally a little smoother, but phone to laptop connection issues persisted.

Attempt 8: Created a seperate wireless network just for phone and laptop
My home wireless setup is as such: router in back of the house and extender in the middle, which allows me to actually stream video and such on TV (located in front of the house). Through some testing, I realized that if the laptop was connected to main router and phone was connected to extender (or vice-versa), Yatse and Kodi wouldn't interface. Being that my room is in the center of the house, and I was only dealing with music (so very low bandwidth requirements compared to video), I decided to use the "Guest Network" feature in the router's admin dashboard to create a seperate wireless network to be used only by the Yatse remote device and the Kodi laptop, that way they wouldn't be jumping back and forth from main router to extender (and vice-versa) and they'd always be on the same network. I named the new network "i really should just get a sonos", and I'm now at six days with no issues whatsoever!

Screenshot_20170804-152315

Step 4: Lay in Bed Crying Every Night While Listening to Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor"

IMG_20170804_152246991-01

I went to a "Freelance Friday" event in April that was hosted at Church Alley Coffee on OC Haley Blvd. in New Orleans. I remember getting a lot of work done and meeting some cool people, but I don't remember being as overwhelmed as I appear in the below photo. Also, I'm looking "rounder" than I think I've ever been. The coffee at Church Alley is pretty good and there are two Little Free Libraries, one outside and one inside, so that's pretty impressive. There's a store upstairs that I meant to check up but still haven't, and the back of the space is the Zeitgeist Theater, which is pretty awesome, too. (more…)

I Am was released on April 6, 1999. It was Nas third album after Illmatic (critically acclaimed but low sales) and It Was Written (critically average but sold pretty well). I Am was originally supposed to be a double-album magnum opus, but the changing times did not allow for that to happen. Massive bootlegging and the leaking of album tracks in MP3 format (this was a pretty new phenomenon in 1998) really pissed Nas off and he took tracks off the album, added new tracks, and decided to convert I Am to a single album.

Nas_-_I_Am...

As someone who listened to many of these leaked songs (so conflicted), if the original I Am had been released, it may have been better than Illmatic. I believe that was a possibility because some of the leaked songs are among the best songs Nas has made ("Poppa was a Player", "Blaze a 50", "Drunk by Myself", "Fetus") and in my opinion are some of the best storytelling raps I've ever heard. But that's a blog post for a different day.

I purchased I Am on audio tape a few weeks after it was released; if I had to estimate a day, I'd guess April 18th or April 25th. I remember it was a Sunday in April of 1999, and I bought the tape at the Blockbuster Music in Lakeside Mall in Metairie, LA. Bill Clinton was president, Kosovo stuff was happening, and TLC's "No Scrubs" was the number one song in the country.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwgy6_nas-nas-is-like_music

MTV, VH1, and BET still played music videos. There also a 24/7 music video request channel called The Box, where I first saw the video for "Nas is Like". It wasn't requested too often, but the "Hate Me Now" video got played pretty heavily on there. Also, there was the whole Puff Daddy attacking Nas' manager Steve Stout over the "Hate Me Now" video.

There's a scene where Nas was being crucified, and one version of the video had Puff Daddy being crucified as well, but the final edit had only Nas being crucified because Puff decided it was against his Catholic faith. Problem was, MTV was accidentally sent the edit with Puffy on the cross and they premiered it on TRL. So Puff beat up Steve Stout. Yikes...

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpd6y_nas-ft-puff-daddy-hate-me-now_music

The intro - so dark, clips of past Nas songs from "Live from the BBQ" on and perfectly segues into "NY State of Mind Pt. II", one of two DJ Premier songs, and possibly the best song on the album. "Small World" has amazing storytelling, and a dark beat by Carlos 6 July Broady and Nasheim Myrick, perfectly complimenting the feel and subject matter of the song. "Nas is Like" is the other DJ Premier cut and was the first single, awesome flute samples on the track, and as the first single, did a good job of letting the fans know Nas still had it (although maybe it was a little cruel - I think people thought this being the first single meant the album as a whole would be more underground-y). The final song, "Undying Love", is another one of the best storytelling tracks I've heard. If the original I Am had been released, if it ended with "Undying Love" and began with "Fetus (Belly Button Window)", well, I can't think of an album that would have that flawless of a start and finish other than maybe Ready to Die.

The thing about listening to an album by someone as talented as Nas is that even if it's not necessarily his best work, if you listen to it over and over and over again (yes, I've listened to this album a lot), you hear things, and feel things, and notice new things all the time. Which is why even though I have a lot of problems with the following songs, I still consider them good, some almost great.

Hate Me Now (featuring Puff), Favor a Favor (with Scarface), and Life is What You Make It (with DMX) just don't have the same feel as the true stand-out tracks on this album. Life is what you make it seems kinda forced, like it was made simply because DMX was big at the time (I realize they starred together in the movie Belly and were probably friends). The Scarface collab seems a little forced, regional integration kind of music - I say that even though I like the song, and I consider Scarface and Nas' "In Between Us" from a few years later to be one of my favorite songs ever. Enjoyable track, but being critical, it just sounds like some of that late '90s mafioso Scarface imagery that was all the rage in rap. Hate Me Now just consisted of three Nas verses that I felt were nowhere near his best or even particularly average. Nas doesn't often sound generic, but this (and quite a few songs from his next album, Nastradamus) are like that for me.

Now I complained about the above songs, but I actually do like them and would never fast forward or skip them for any reason. "We Will Survive", "You Won't See Me Tonight", "Big Things", and "K-I-SS-I-N-G" aren't on that same level. The tracks in the last paragraph all have flaws, but none big enough to really inhibit my enjoyment of the album. Here though, "We Will Survive" just has what I feel is a super-corny Kenny Loggins sample (ugh, Trackmasters), "You Won't See Me Tonight" sounds like a forced commercial record (RIP Aaliyah), "Big Things" has Nas trying to do his best Twista impression (spoiler: he's better with his normal flow), and "K-I-SS-I-N-G". Actually, if "K-I-SS-I-N-G"'s chorus didn't exist and it was just the R. Kelly sample, it probably would've been up in the previous category of good but not great songs.

Going somewhat critically over the album as I'm doing here forces me to rate it somewhere between 3.5/5 or 4/5. But it's one of my favorite albums - ever. I listened to I Am atleast once a month from when I was 12 years old to when I was 18 and it both means a lot to me and brings back a lot of memories. My original cassette tape got flooded and thrown out in Hurricane Katrina and all I have is these horrible clean-sounding, digital-y MP3's of the album to listen to. It almost feels as if the album is lacking something without the tape hiss. Nas' best music either makes me feel like I'm living right next to him in the Queensbridge projects, or he tells stories with themes that are universally-relatable, and that brilliance is on display in I Am. Not consistently. But it's there.

Buy at Amazon
Album Cover Art Image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12496526

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