Phil’s Newsletter Is Eighteen and I Like It

Worry not, I am steadfastly refusing to get my shit together

Previously, on Phil’s Newsletter: The witch was dead, we talked about writing for a living, movie night, and my growing guitar pedal collection.

You can subscribe for $5/mo to support me. Phil’s newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best. Especially Jess because she paid the most.

Ok first off, look at this thing:

I feel like I remember seeing these. I feel like I knew at least one person who had one of these. It may not even have actually existed in 1990 but it may as well have. It’s the kind of thing that simply does not and cannot exist in the same context in 2021.

Here’s the part where I take a left turn. I tricked you with nostalgia! Get used to it.

This last week something has been percolating in my brain about how very many different kinds of things we can mean by “leaving [it] behind.”

You can leave something behind accidentally, and if you’re lucky, you can even go back for it. You can try to leave something behind and have it follow you anyway. You can leave the nebulous concept of “the past” behind. You can leave people behind.

It’s such a common part of our language that you can even leave it all behind. The concept is part of our sports legends. They leave it all on the field. Leaving people and things behind can be joyous, or sad, or fearful or some measure of all, and it’s happening all the time in everyone’s life and that’s normal.

It is hard work to be intentional about what we keep and what we leave behind. Each time may be the last, this too shall pass, and so on. I have no wisdom about this. Just distant thoughts.

I Made A 3D Printable Stand For Tiny Speakers

I designed a new 3D printable thing, a very simple little speaker stand for these cute 6W USB-powered speakers I found on Amazon. Here’s how they look in place, with some added padding:

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The monitor stand seen there is still a Work-in-Progress, but this is a sneak peek of the Raspberry Pi workstation computer I’m workin on. Once I’m done it’ll have speakers, a webcam and mic, and somewhere to stash your drugs. You can download it, including the Blender source file, from Thingiverse.

The Music Section

I feel like I don’t nearly write enough about music here. This is not regarding my recent guitar fixation, which I have written far too much about already. OK, one pic:

I use Plex to manage my music library these days. It’s been a real hard year for me emotionally and I’ve noticed that I have been avoiding a few bands, chiefly one of my most-listened-to-ever The Smashing Pumpkins.

[Aside: One thing that sucks about Plex is the music library features. It simply does not have the feature set someone with 15,000+ tracks needs. PlexAmp helps but it is hard to even find out it exists if you are a Plex user. Why not make it part of the regular app?]

To wit: I’m reclaiming my favorite music, and so I’m going to write about them more here, starting with the Pumpkins.

The Smashing Pumpkins were probably my first mainstream “favorite band” that my parents didn’t love before I was born. Aside from “Weird Al” Yankovic. As a weird, poor, unmedicated, “gifted kid” in the midwest Billy Corgan’s lyrics embarrassingly wedged themselves in my otherwise DIY-punker heart. Apparently he’s gone the way of many rich rockstars and is a “just asking questions” conservative or whatever, now, which sucks ass.

Everybody knows Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, their gigantic breakthrough double album which had a whole other double album worth of B-sides (including my favorite TSP song: the 1979 B-Side, Set the Ray to Jerry), but what a lot of people missed was the followup album Adore. It arrived late, sold badly, had two singles with Ava Adore and the 1979 semi-follow-up Perfect, and sounds nothing at all like the previous albums. It was super divisive among fans and lost everyone a lot of money.

Of course, I love it, and since I refuse to listen to the albums released post-2001-breakup it might be my favorite Pumpkins album. It is, ironically, so much more melancholic than Mellon Collie. It was their most… sparse album, as well, which was a big change from the wall of guitars and textures their previous productions had employed. It’s still a great listen, I can strap in and code to it for the duration, and the opening track To Sheila is one of the most beautiful productions in the TSP catalogue and probably the best love song ‘ol Billy will ever write.

Chaser: There was a goofy Johnny The Homicidal Maniac / Smashing Pumpkins mashup internet comic called Billy The Ego Maniac in the late 90s/early 2000s. It was pretty funny IIRC. YMMV.

Movie Night #20: “Italian Space Opera Night” Happens In Two Weeks

With the new episode on March 6th we will have done TWENTY movie nights. That’s 40 weeks. Holy shit. Time is broken.

We just can’t stay away from Scifi on Movie Night, and this ep sees up going back to the deep well of janky European Star Wars knockoffs of the late 70s.

We’ll be taking in War of the Robots (1978) and Star Odyssey (1979) both of which are VERY Italian and VERY cheaply produced. Showtime is 7pm Pacific time on 3/6/21. As is tradition, we’ll be watching 30 minutes of weird safety videos before the feature attractions. See you then.

1993 Divergent League Playoffs Start Next Week

We’re getting down to the wire on the 1993 Divergent League Baseball season, and will be switching to night games for the rest of the season.

Tomorrow’s Divergent League podcast will set the stage for the last week of the season, and the Postseason beyond. There’s still time for player teams to make some dramatic comebacks. SOMEONE has to take down the Orioles.

Teh Grood Lonks

These the good lonks, follow them into Internets.

Wow I am sorry for the length of this newsletter, I did not have time to write a shorter one. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing on your feeds, and thank you for caring.

— Phil

Phil's Newsletter Number Seventeen

Dong dong the witch is dead

Rush Limbaugh is dead and the world is a better place without him in it. Fuck that lumpy piece of shit and his entire hateful, selfish, life.

Previously, on Phil’s Newsletter: I got a Big Muff, and Divergent League All-Star Weekend was on the horizon.

You can subscribe for $5/mo to support me. Phil’s newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Jessica Nelson, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

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My hair is out of control. See above. Anyway, this week I’m writing about writing. I’m so sorry. This thing is getting a little Main Character Syndrome-y, I know it.

Today’s post comes via janky ancient bluetooth keyboard, a ThinkOutside fold-up model I’ve had since I first came out west (to Washington) maybe 15 years ago. This thing is so old it has Palm Treo compatibility. I’ve found more and more over the course of this pandemic that changing up the work routine even slightly is essential. Even I get tired of my own bullshit, sometimes.

I’ve spent every day this last several weeks reading and writing and getting paid for it. It’s still so weird to spend 90% of my day NOT looking at or writing code of any kind. I am feeling like I ran away from being a writer for so long, and it has finally overtaken me. The water, as they say, is fine.

Work is going pretty well. I am, suddenly, very busy. This life of mine does not make time for gentle transitions. It’s all or nothin’ over here. This is one of the perils of freelance work, especially if you work on projects that end. It’s the lulls that kill ya, but you look forward to them anyway.

We’re reaching an inflection point in the OpenCV AI Competition- the big announcement of the Phase 1 winners goes out Monday and it has truly been a joy to see the enthusiasm and ingenuity in this community even though my eyes are melting from reading 150+ PDFs.

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The Music channel in my Discord server (pay for a subscription to this newsletter or Patreon for an invite!) is popping off lately and it does my heart good. We’ve got folks across the skill/experience spectrum from buffoon (me) to “has been playing instruments for 10+ years” and that’s awesome. Hank got a banjo. Hearing him playing it is music for the soul, as his dad said, it’s like Homer listening to Lisa play the jug.

I regret to inform you that I have, unfortunately and shamefully, purchased several more guitar pedals. Again, I am sorry. Joining my beloved Big Muff and the It’s Complicated Boss MT-2 will be a cheap Behringer chromatic tuner (this Les Paul does not like to stay in tune), a Boss NS-2 noise suppression pedal (these p90 pickups are noisy and I love that but sometimes…), and a Hotone KRUSH sample rate destroyer. The KRUSH was an impulse buy. It’s gonna make my guitar sound like an Atari. You’re probably either very into that or you’re very not.

The NS-2 has been stuck in Texas all week, because Texas is now a failed state due to Weather. If you’ve got the scratch there are a whole lot of people who could use your help out there this week. Here’s one place to start. Post more in the comments, please.

Stay tuned for an announcement about a music collaboration release that I’m excited about.

1993 Divergent League All-Star Results

Last weekend’s Hardship Draft, Home Run Derby, All-Star Game went swimmingly. Here’s a quick rundown of the events:

  • With Hardship Draft Pick 1 the New York Mets selected Mark McGwire from the Athletics

  • With Hardship Draft Pick 2 the New York Yankees selected Kirby Puckett from the Twins

  • With Hardship Draft Pick 3 the Seattle Mariners selected Mike Mussina from the Orioles

  • Frank Thomas of the White Sox won the Home Run Derby, smashing a 520-foot home run in the process.

  • The National League won decisively with a 3-0 shutout of the AL.

We’re into the Playoff chase now, with a couple of division leaders barely holding on to their top spot. It’s gonna be a showdown, and the Hardship Draft has knee-capped a few of the more powerful CPU teams most notably the Athletics and Orioles.

More stats and news will come in the podcast which drops tomorrow.

This Weekend Is Movie Niiiiiiight

Just a couple more episodes and we will have been doing RetroStrange Movie Night for an entire year. WTF?

As I mentioned in my intro for Movie Night #18 (my greatest ever line: “Ziggy can’t save you now, Al”), this time it’s two Bruce Lee movies with no Bruce Lee in ‘em. The audio chat on Discord has been a real good time the last few episodes, so stop on by. As always, we’ll be streaming the movies free on Twitch.

Patrons get the inside scoop on upcoming movie nights before anyone else! Hint hint.

Did you know that Amazon owns Twitch? Because of their connection, if you have Amazon Prime you can give me free money. Here’s how to use your free Prime subscription to subscribe to my channel. You’ll unlock no-ads-mode, get access to exclusive emoji, and get a shout out during Movie Nights plus other perks.

Boundless affection to jincfunk, seamuscalder, extrafuture, mrsugarmuffin, smashjax666, birdy72, katanma, and d_hock for subscribing to the Twitch channel this month. You are shining beacons of decency in a time of asshattery.

At Last, The Good Links

You deserve these. Take your shoes off. Sit a spell.

Thank you for reading! Thank you for subscribing. Thank you for everything. I had more to say this week than I expected. Now… I have to go finish a press release. See you this weekend for Movie Night and Baseball and next Thursday for more newsletter. My gut says we’re gonna be talking about The Rockford Files. Spoiler: It holds up.

— Phil

Episode XVI: A No Hope

Get it? Like Star Wars. Whatever.

Previously, on Phil’s Newsletter: We talked about gifts and how moms know everything.

You can subscribe for $5/mo to help support me. Phil’s newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Jessica Nelson, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

Oh, My Guitar

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I know lately I’ve been leading off with something heavy, but it’s confession time: I have once again spent most of my newsletter money on guitar equipment. Forgive me, but crunchy, dirty, guitars make me weak. I am but a man(?) whose brain tingles for crackly grimy audio signals.

This time I got a great deal ($59) on a used Vox Pathfinder 10, which I love the sound of, and a used Op Amp Big Muff Pi pedal ($69). I didn’t have an amp before, and plugging into/out of my computer every time I wanted to practice just plain sucked. As for the pedal… just look at this majestic item:

That’s a pedal that can and will whoop someone’s ass. You may recognize the Big Muff sound, especially the op-amp type, from basically every Smashing Pumpkins album. If you know me, you know that is ‘nuff said. That said, I am looking into getting a BOSS Noise Suppressor to help shape the nastiness.

People keep asking me what I’m playing or learning and kept saying I don’t know because I do not know how to play the guitar. I sit with it and grate my fingers but I am not a musician. So I decided to learn some specific things. Here are some things I am trying and failing to play along with, right now:

The Tom Petty one is cool because it uses the same garage-rock-y single-coil p90 pickups I have in my (Epi) Les Paul Special I. The guitar in that song sounds like you could grill eggs on it.

I still like mine over-easy.

This Weekend Is Divergent League All-Star Weekend!

As announced on the Divergent League website, this weekend is 1993 Divergent League All-Star Weekend. The schedule includes the Hardship Draft and Home Run Derby on Friday, then the All-Star Game on Saturday night. We hope you’ll join us for some wildly divergent baseball action. What is the Hardship Draft? Glad you asked. From the About Divergent League page:

In July of each season is All Star Weekend, with the Home Run Derby and All Star Game. All Star Weekend is also where the Hardship Draft occurs. In the Hardship Draft the bottom 20% of the league (by record) are allowed to pick an additional ball player from any non-controlled team.

Players up for grabs this season include: Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff. It’s sure to be an eventful weekend of fake baseball.

Tomorrow’s edition of the Divergent League podcast will be a doozie. Last week’s power rankings are available on the site.

Did you know that Amazon owns Twitch? Because of their connection, if you have Amazon Prime you can give me free money. Here’s how to use your free Prime subscription to subscribe to my channel. You’ll unlock no-ads-mode, get access to exclusive emoji, and get a shout out during Movie Nights plus other perks.

Boundless affection to jincfunk, seamuscalder, extrafuture, mrsugarmuffin, smashjax666, birdy72, katanma, and d_hock for subscribing to the Twitch channel this month. You are shining beacons of decency in a time of asshattery.

Feb 20th: RetroStrange Movie Night #19: Bruceploitation Night

Last weekend’s Movie Night went pretty well. I’m happy if 3-4 people show up in Discord and we keep hitting that mark. Here’s my intro from that episode if you missed seeing / hearing me as a weird cartoon character from inside TV (embedded below):

If you’ve been waiting to check out RetroStrange Movie Night, the next one on Feb 20th is a great time to start. It’s our first ever Bruceploitation Double Feature. Two Bruce Lee movies without Bruce Lee in ‘em.

That’s right, we have plumbed the depths to bring you Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976) and The Real Bruce Lee (1973). There’s gonna be a lot of kicking and punching about stuff, I just know it. More on the RetroStrange website.

This newsletter is free but I depend on your support. I’m a freelance, independent, creator in a really scary and uncertain time. If you like me or what I do you can help by sharing this URL (it really helps a lot!) on your social feeds, directly supporting me here on Substack and/or Patreon, or sending a cash tip on Ko-Fi / PayPal. Every little bit really does help.

Phil’s Good Links

The good links are always here for you. Count on it.

That’s all I got in me today, folks. Work has picked up, which I am thankful for. It has been some lean times in terms of my own mental health and ability to provide for myself. We aren’t out of the woods but we aren’t looking so bad. Still… tax season is giving me the collywobbles.

Thank you for reading, watching, listening and thank you for subscribing. I’ll see you next week.

— Phil

Phil’s Newsletter XV: The Recollectinating

It is always better the second time and always worse the third

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: Me and my nephews shot some hoops unstuck in time. It was almost my birthday.

Phil’s newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Jessica Nelson, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

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I am a midwestern transplant in San Francisco [For now. - Ed.] and when I came out this way a decade ago I wasn’t necessarily intending to stay here. But, I fell in love [Sort of like falling in a ditch -Ed.], and so here I stayed. I slipped out of Michigan without much of a plan and left quite a lot behind. [Like our 20s -Ed.]

As such, for the holidays and my birthday, with the requisite candy and cry-inducing drugstore greeting card with mom’s handwriting inside, my family sends along stuff of mine. Little things- a stuffed animal [Sparky. -Ed.], or our old backyard wrestling belt [The defaced JWA championship -Ed.], dusty photographs from a time before Digital Film. I eschewed these kinds of clutter for most of my life. I see their value now, in this pandemic, in this place.

My mother’s gifting is by measures practical and whimsical. Small things for fun: Bendy straws, whistles, and so on. The most fun you can have for $1/ea. The bigger gifts from her are more protective: Blankets, thermal tops, little flashlights or multitools, framed photos of half-forgotten summers with the family… warm, light, and nostalgic things to keep me safe against the encroaching cold and dark and uncertainty.

The things I have from my mother, from my home in the middle-west, are like armor. I am aware that the material properties of a blanket are not changed by its origin. However, like so many things today the physicality of the object seems… immaterial. My depression hits the dimmer bulb for dramatic effect.

“None of this is real, anyway.” [Little bit esoteric -Ed.]

It is a blanket, but it is a blanket my mother got me, and I love her, and I miss her, and if there is one solid fact it is that sadness and worry and love are impossibly powerful forces to try and hold for long. Binding them within an object is no small feat. Not possible, even, because as we know magic isn’t real.

But then again… Moms know everything.

Patron Love // It Is Movie Night This Weekend

First things first: I have finally added a Supporter Wall of Fame to the RetroStrange website. Our Patrons and subscribers are so fucking cool.

This Saturday is a movie night! Last time went almost suspiciously well, thanks to everyone who showed up, so let’s keep that momentum! Our audio chat on Discord was lively but not overwhelming. Come on in, the water’s fine.

We’re watching a pair of schlocky 1970s horror movies: The Werewolf of Washington and All The Kind Strangers. If you’re a Facebook user you can join on the event page there.

I’m still back-filling the RetroStrange YouTube channel with our previously-watched content. Do please hit like and subscribe on it. If you already did that, maybe share it around? I bet your friends like cool stuff.

Did you know that Amazon owns Twitch? Because of their connection, if you have Amazon Prime you can give me free money. Here’s how to use your free Prime subscription to subscribe to my channel. You’ll unlock no-ads-mode and get a shout out during Movie Nights plus other perks.

Boundless affection to seamuscalder, onbase85, fresh poetic, smashjax666, mrsugarmuffin, jigcfunk, and birdy72 for subscribing to the Twitch channel this month. You are shining beacons of decency in a time of asshattery.

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Divergent League is still broadcasting every Tuesday and Sunday on Twitch. I am still doing the weekly podcast. Soon you’ll be able to pay $5 to buy a hand-made Season Ticket for this (in-progress) season from the On Base Productions online store.

In about 1 week we’ll be at the All-Star Break. Stay tuned for Divergent League All-Star Weekend news.

Phil’s Good Links

No day-job-talk this week. Too much of it! Let’s get to the Links.

Thank you again to everybody who said something nice or [Especially -Ed.] subscribed / bought me something for my birthday. This has been and will continue to be such a strange time for [Almost -Ed.] everyone. I am glad we are in it together.

— Phil

Fourteen Feet High and Rising

Back to the future of the present

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: It was a dang ‘ol palindrome. Biden is prez. It was alarmingly chill.

Phil’s newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Vikas Reddy, Kat Angus, Adam Rodnitzky, David Demchuk, and Ian Scott. You are each, individually, the best.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey

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It’s Thursday, and you know what that means… it’s time for Phil’s Newsletter.

I’ve been hanging out with my nephews a bit on Discord lately, playing guitars and dropping into their Minecraft worlds so they can show me around. They’re building a little replica of the downtown area where they live, and it’s pretty good. Like much in recent memory (and every child in history), they’re growing up so fast. We trade barbs and joke with each other like old friends, and I honestly feel almost… honored? That these tweens want to spend time with their ‘ol Uncle Phil. They’re good kids.

Last night’s hangout, where Ev was teaching me how to use redstone and note blocks to make music, had me thinking about the last time I got to see them in person- which would’ve been sometime in 2019. Back then we were learning to play basketball. They had a little nerf hoop against the garage, and possibly the worst shooting form I have ever seen. So I went into coach mode with ‘em for the afternoon.

At the time, it was such an innocuous thing, but looking back now it’s all mixed up with me learning to shoot baskets 25+ years ago from my recently-deceased father. Like all attempts to teach kids, it starts with us rolling ours eyes but indulging the “old man” with bad knees… until suddenly on the 20th try or so, it works. They almost can’t believe it, it must be some fluke. No. The next one misses, but it’s an honest miss- just off by an inch or two. The realization is almost jarring, it makes the hair on your arms stand up. This is how you shoot a basketball.

I’m the old man with bad knees, now. My dad was actually pretty good, he had a labor job that kept him lifting heavy shit for a living, and so he could fight for rebounds endlessly. His hops were not bad for a white boy. Even in his late 30s, on two fucked knees and a painful low back, he could get low enough to gently stick an elbow in your side if you stopped paying attention. That’s just how you play the game, he taught me.

I skipped that part with the nephews. They don’t play basketball to win, not like Ed Nelson and I did all those years ago. That’s ok. For now, we’ll stick to Minecraft and Telecasters.

My Birthday is February 1st

Normally I invite my friends to go out and get me drunk, but this year that ain’t happening. Normally I don’t make a big deal about it, but I am leaning in to having birthdays this year. Here are some suggestions if you want to buy me a gift:

  • I have an Amazon wishlist

  • Sick-ass guitar pedals of any type (I already have an MT-2 so not that?)

  • Weird electronics projects

  • Old video games

  • You can send me money via PayPal, or Cash App

  • Become a paid subscriber to this newsletter

  • Become a Patron for as little as $3/mo

  • Gift cards (esp grocery stores) are also appreciated, send to

The absolute best, free, thing you can do for me is to share my Patreon, this Newsletter, or my Twitch channel on your Twitter, Facebook, or whatnot! It is bananas how much even one of you sharing these posts increases the subscribers, traffic, and helps keep me on this side of financial solvency. Tell your friends. It helps.

The Next RetroStrange Movie Night Is 2/6

Last week’s show was awesome- we had good viewer numbers (for us), and a bunch of our pals came to hang out in the Discord. Honestly if they were all that good, I’d be pretty happy.

For the next show we’re getting back to our schlocky roots with a couple of trope-y 70s horror films: The Werewolf of Washington, starring Eyebrow-Acting Master Dean Stockwell, and the made-for-TV children-of-the-corn-like All the Kind Strangers starring Stacy Keach.

I’ve also been adding a bunch of public domain movies and shorts we’ve featured on the show to the RetroStrange YouTube channel. Please like and subscribe.

Divergent League Update

Quick reminder: There’s a Divergent League podcast! It drops every Friday and is hosted by The Commish (me). You can find it anywhere you get podcasts.

Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle! This week featured a small flurry of historic activity in Divergent League Baseball.

To start with, the Mets and Blue Jays agreed to what may be the biggest trade in league history- with New York sending over Bobby Bonilla and Doc Gooden, and the Blue Jays giving up Paul Molitor and Devon White. All four players are settling in nicely on their teams, and we watched a game from each on our normal Tuesday game time.

The second part of those games, Mets .vs. Braves, went on for TWENTY INNINGS, making it the longest game in Divergent League history. You can catch the dramatic finish on our Twitch archive.

OpenCV AI Competition 2021, Etc

One of my new gigs as as contractor at is helping run the world’s largest Spatial AI competition. I’ve been pitching in with OpenCV for a couple weeks now, it’s been fun and a good fit. Having already worked together on the massively successful OpenCV AI Kit Kickstarter campaign, there’s a lot of shared trust and that’s very cool. I’m back writing occasional updates on the KS, too.

Due to the competition’s press release… releasing, and the resulting press coverage (see VentureBeat) we made the choice to extend the deadline from Jan 27th to Jan 31st at 11:59pm PST. We may get over 1200 submissions. Guess who gets to read ‘em all? Yes, it is I, your humble narrator.

Mostly reading and writing for a living is weird after spending 20-odd years getting paid to code and design stuff. I’m still open for work, btw. Contractor lyfe.

Phil’s Good Links

What a week. It’s hard to know if we’re moving out of something or just in the eye of the storm right now. In San Francisco, we’re having the first rain storm in what feels like years.

Multiple days of rain! It’s a miracle. I gotta get out of California. Any east coasters need a roommate? I can cook. Sorta.

— Phil

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