Worth a Visit? Oak City Meatball, Raleigh, NC

Someone asked me how I felt about testicle humor, because there would be a lot of that going down. You can probably expect some of that in this review. You’re welcome. But on a serious note, I’ve been there, so I consider it my duty to answer your burning questions on whether or not a visit is worth your time.

Are you into testicle humor when you’re eating?

Sometimes you have to have the balls to ask yourself the tough questions. And people seem to be nuts about nut jokes at this joint. You will hear the guy who asks, “How do those balls taste in your mouth?” and you will be a little bit disappointed because it was too easy to deserve a laugh. But YOU CAN TOLERATE TESTICLE HUMOR because it would seem disingenuous to not make the jokes.

How do you feel about lighting quick food service?

You’re not a moron if that’s what I’m asking? If you want the food to come later, you’ll just order it later. The fact that compressing meat into a spheroid and smothering it in any number of delicious sauces is a turnkey culinary event is a huge plus. YOU’RE VISITING!

Wait, did you want to talk about sauces more?

Of course you did. YOU LOVE SAUCES! They may not be something fancy like Sage Brown Butter (The Morgan Freeman of sauces), but they don’t need glory. Even talking about them in this fancy, comprehensive review is making them uncomfortable. They’re thick and hearty and keep the praise focused on the star of the team, the meatball. Think of them like an offensive line. Pesto, tomato, meatsauce, parm cream and mushroom gravy leading the way for whatever ball of chicken, beef, pork (pigskin if you like more holistic analogies) or veggie that belongs in your palate’s red zone. THE SAUCES ARE WORTH VISITING FOR!

Do you feel like four meats and five sauces make this an ultimately limited menu that gives you no reason to come back after more than a few visits?

You could feel that way, but you’d be wrong. There’s always a sauce of the day and a ball of the day. Debatably, the best sauce-of-the-day they’ve ever had is the Sweet Chili Sauce, and there may be one blogger who brings up the potential benefit of “permanent menu status” to management every time he visits. The daily offers are great. And the sides (especially the mac and cheese) are the ballz! There’s variety here, so YOU WILL DEFINITELY VISIT MORE THAN ONCE!

Do you like a snug, intimate environment?

You’re talking about balls, so you might think you prefer more freedom (that was the last one, promise), but the truth is that YOU LOVE INTIMATE ENVIRONMENTS. With dim lighting and a chic downtown interior, it’s a good spot that YOU’D EVEN TAKE A DATE!

But what if you don’t think meatballs and testicle humor is the best place to take a date because meatballs and testicles are neither sexy nor romantic? Is this a good spot for the guys to go chow down?

Guys love meatballs and testicle humor. SO PROBABLY!

Do you like whiskey?

Does Pepe Le Pew like interspecies coupling and dogmatic persistence? YOU’RE VISITING! They’ve got a great menu of whiskey-laden cocktails.

In summation, I’d give Oak City Meatball five out of five meatballs, and deem it WORTH A VISIT. It knows exactly what it is and works its lane perfectly.

Wishing I would have used more testicle jokes,
Dusty “Cool Beans” Riedesel

Kansas City Royals in the ALCS: Faith Versus Science

The Kansas City Royals have made the ALCS, and this makes virtually no sense, other than the undeniable fact that it has happened. We all watched how, so we should know, and yet it isn’t really explainable beyond the old clichés of “they got hot at the right time” or “the game is really all about matchups.” Spend some time on Baseball Reference, and you’ll see that the Royals have abandoned commonly accepted plans for success like “on-base percentage.” Statheads will tell you that KC doesn’t belong in the playoffs (they’re the first playoff team ever to rank last in walks and home runs), and they don’t deserve to advance. But they have advanced. And the meritocracy of sports deems that they’ve earned it. Math can tell you other teams are better or that these wins are convenient statistical aberrations. It doesn’t matter, and anyone who says otherwise is only sparking a debate as old as time. It’s science versus faith.

The deluge of data in modern times creates a thirst for explanation. The more we know, the more we believe we can know how. Millennia of scientific advancement, from the wheel to the iPhone, back that theory. But at the end of every scientific advancement is the less recognized failure of not advancing it further. After all, that iPhone wasn’t always number 6. The point is that our methods, however developed, always carry evidence of being underdeveloped. Because we’re always progressing, we’re permanently incomplete. This is the essence of science versus faith. What is the more we can never reach? An atom is built from protons is built from quarks is built from subatomic unicorns the urinate massless photons. We never reach the end of the rainbow, but logic tells us that something has to be there.

The problem with the faith versus science debate is that most parties are ready to vehemently defend their side, even though both sides openly admit their shortcomings. Faith, in any regard, is defined as complete trust in something, whether proof exists or not. And we experience what science doesn’t know with every time we sleep. Why we feel compelled to fight each other about what believe instead of bonding together over the desire to know more is a shame. It probably springs from our need for personal security, but it’s how it is. We don’t know so much, and it should be completely okay. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing. In fact, it’s very healthy to embrace the fact that you don’t know stuff. That unexplained sleep will come much easier.

A fast, defense-oriented baseball team with a lights-out bullpen isn’t some realized referendum on the existence of the great beyond, and yet they exist as a tiny little nod to the fringes of magic that seems to happen in sports all the time. When a moment is so narratively perfect that it feels as if we’ve all collectively willed it to exist. Even though it’s logically absurd, we all feel it. We did give it a very pointed shot this year with USA Soccer. Science’s analytics tells us that the Royals shouldn’t be able to keep up these wins. They shouldn’t be able to pull this off for an entire post-season. But faith tells us that they are completely capable. It can definitely happen. We can all feel it, and nobody can disprove it. Not yet anyway.

A man of faith and science,

Controversial Opinion: Music Sucks!

In the audible diet of life, music is dessert. Sure you can live on dessert. There’s caloric value in it just like there are ideas in music, but the lean protein of information and experience is rarely there in the abundance needed for intellectual growth. The musical sugar toys with people’s mental glycogen to lift them up and down, addicting them. Maybe booze is a better analogy. How many people drink their coffee and listen to c-span or talk radio on their way to work, and then jam out to a brain-unplugging tune on their way to a post-work beer?

Never in the history of man have people had access to such an audible buffet. You could be reading The Sound and the Fury on your morning commute instead of listening to T-Swift shaking it off for the 37th time. And yet most people I know keep going to the chocolate fountain instead of the carvery. Your brain deserves better.

On a budget? Listen to podcasts. Ideally something that gives you counter-intuitive ways to look at the world. Comedians like Marc Maron and Pete Holmes have famous and interesting guests and have a habit of asking questions successful habits, beliefs about God, and the double-edge of relationships. You know what makes the Dos-Equis guy so interesting? Life experience. And you can be learning the pivotal life experiences of some of the world’s most interesting people while your pounding the treadmill to atone for last night’s Oreo’s.

Now, I like music. I listen to it while I write (Blues Traveler is playing right now), and I listen to it while I work out. Those are times I like to be a little raw and emotional and just let myself be manipulated by it. I love the way it controls the tone of movies and TV. Like sugar, the world would be bland without it. But it’s the opportunity cost of playing to our emotions instead of our minds that’s unsettling.

This thought came to me upon noticing a wild snapback in my mental dialogue in the car. I was listening to Slacker Radio (my first mistake), and “Colorblind” by Counting Crows came on. I found myself reminiscing on something I wrote once: “I thought we made minutes small to trick ourselves into thinking that life is long. But I think the real trick is that the minutia of time was built in cycles. Hours, days, weeks and seasons repeating in perpetuity so that the future always looks like a cul-de-sac instead of a dead end.” Only minutes later, “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind was on, and I was thinking about the time me and three high-school buddies jammed out on air instruments in a Toyota Corolla. With no one around, the memory had me smiling ear-to-ear.

I like going to both of those thought spaces. I just don’t like the concept of something external shoving me there, commandeering my personal mental agency. I’d rather maintain an even emotional keel while learning about the (possibly crackpot) ideas of Deepak Chopra on the “reality sandwich” of material, quantum, and virtual aspects of the universe. That stuff kills at cocktail parties.

One last thing about music. Here’s the first Google image of the artists that are in the top 5 at Billboard right now.

Teenage girls love pure sugar.


Kobe Bryant’s Diary: The Cross That Greatness Bears

For years, Kobe Bryant has decided to keep a diary to document “the year he caught Jordan”.  While Kobe refuses to remove the diary from a pedestal in his trophy room, he has allowed Writing Bareback the exclusive rights to post these excerpts.

April 18 – Los Angeles

You never like to find yourself in the gossip rags. Maybe that was a thing you were into when you took Brandy to prom, or when you started dating your future wife while she was still a 17-year-old high school student, or when you loved her too much for a prenuptial agreement. And maybe the rags will make some overblown statements about “alleged rape” and “an oversized ego sabotaging a dynastic duo” or accuse you of completely undiagnosed libel like “chronic infidelity.” And of course the rags feast on the rigors of evolving love when that lack of a prenup would later force you to temporarily divert your once-in-a-generation focus from basketball—the only thing that matters in life—to buying a marital redemption ring that costs more than the collective net worth of the “team” bench unit. Gossip rags notice little stuff like that sometimes and you just have to deal with it because you can’t have nuclear power without some fallout. While I’d never be so arrogant as calling myself a Christ-like figure, negative attention is simply my cross to bear.

That said, you’d like to think it’s even beneath a cheap lie-monger like Radar Online to publish a single quote from Donald Sterling. I hate to even proliferate their garbage here, but sometimes you have to step into the darkness to appreciate the light.

“Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 but not suspended for referring to a referee as a ‘f*cking f***ot’ on television,” Sterling said in his first example of his speech-related offenses. – Radar Online

Small-minded indeed. There’s a difference between being a young, historically legendary competitor who slipped one single time during the heat of competition with an insult from his youth that has long been abolished his vocabulary along with millions of dollars he donated to charitable organizations as a show of true contrition and change, and being a decrepit, old bastard who has literal decades of racial hate and homophobic bigotry on the books.

Plus, last time I checked, nobody bought season tickets to watch an owner sit in his chair. That’s a harsh reality we’re forced to face when we evaluate two very dissimilar situations, but when dealing with topics as sensitive and subjective as moral truth and proper penance, you have to take a 360-degree view. And three or four or five rings goes along ways in determining someone’s societal worth. So just like a great winner has to deal with the scrutiny of the masses, the masses have to be forgiving of a single, verbal, insensitive hiccup from a great winner. It’s compromise and forgiveness like that that really makes you greatful to be a part of this world.

Anyway, I just needed to exorcise that very heavy topic here in my private journal. You never want to head to your 4 a.m. gym session with that weight on your soul. That 700th elbow jumper is heavy enough when you think about age, your “teammates” abilities, and Jordan-esque expectations of a sixth ring in a truly competitive conference. You don’t need some spectre of public criticism ebbing it’s way outside of the neat categorical hurt locker you’ve created for it in your mind.

Sometimes I think of Tim Duncan. He’s probably the only one who understands that kind of thing. We’ve always been so similar.

A Free U2 Album? Lessons on Ignorance, Compromise and Truncated Opinions

So Apple forcibly gave away a free U2 album, and the internet is pissed. It’s easy to forget that the internet is made up of real people, so it’s easy to dismiss the web’s outrage, something I was 100% ready to do in regards to this topic. But then I didn’t ignore it.

I listened to the “Do You Like Prince Movies?” podcast as I drove home last night. The show is hosted by Alex Pappedemas and Wesley Morris, two—in my opinion, very impressive—writers for Bill Simmons’ website, Grantland. Listening to these guys is infuriatingly great because I nearly always disagree with their worldviews. If the topic holds interest to you, I’d suggest listening, especially as guest Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorites, gives some great counter-intuitive questions that help put the topic in a new light.

But here are a few thoughts that this caused for me:

Our complaints are usually born of our own ignorance. That Apple can simply invade your phone and affect your personal agency should not be upsetting anymore than it is not surprising that no one reads licensing agreements. Did you know that Microsoft owns all information discussed over Skype, proprietary or otherwise? It’s in the licensing agreement (maybe don’t give your social on there).

I doubt it would have changed anyone’s purchasing decision had a sales representative told them, “Look, we don’t really know when, but there’s a good chance that if you buy this phone, the phone’s parent company might give you a free album of one of the most successful bands of all time. They’ll give this you by surprise, and buying this phone gives them permission.” And I’ll bet it wouldn’t have changed anyone’s mind if they’d been asked that before upgrading their iOS or upgrading their iTunes. But it’s there. What people are really upset about, in my opinion, is that they don’t have as much control as they thought they did, and it’s unsettling. But everyone made choices, and that has consequences.

Every decision is a compromise. You can’t have the best of everything in life because no one thing has all the things. This is common sense that’s commonly ignored. Men, think of a woman. Have you ever met one who is the funniest, hottest, smartest, best chef, most sexually fulfilling, and most maternally affectionate while inspirationally holding you and your genetically perfect children accountable for your actions? And even if you have met this woman, she’ll get old. It’s like Senator Cleary said in WeddingCrashers, “All we can do is use the information at hand to make the best decision possible.” In the Internet of Things—which is a real thing that’s coming like Ultron’s vengeance—you will not be able to take advantage of technological conveniences without sacrificing personal agency. Compromise will be made with every purchase. All you can do is try to limit the opportunity cost.

Your opinion only matters in democracy. And most of life is not a democracy. Most of life is a meritocracy with a fluid definition of merit. You don’t earn what you deserve, you earn what you can negotiate. Saying “I don’t like” or “I want” is the easiest way to make people stop caring about what you’re saying. It only works when casting a vote (although political pessimists are probably laughing at that too). If your contribution to a conversation like this U2 bit starts and stops at “I think it’s bullshit,” then don’t even speak. If you have a “why” to that opinion, just lead with that and then maybe wrap with “in summation, I think it’s bullshit” if you can’t help yourself.

Now Apple has taken steps to make it easy for people to delete the album because the storm of popular opinion on the Internet does matter to PR people and stock holders. But my opinion on that?

I think it’s bullshit.


A Baseball Fan: The Committed Relationship

Because you DO NOT talk about Orioles baseball without mentioning the Iron Man.

As I sit here on a cool, gray mid-September day, watching my Baltimore Orioles in a late season series against the New York (Satans) Yankees, I realize that I’ve been here before. I sat here watching this same game 5 months ago. I did it last year this same time. I did it 20 years ago, when the illusion of me become an Oriole myself was still a reality (you can still be whatever you want to be, kids).

But it’s not just me. I’m also currently in a 6 month long group text message with 4 of my closest buds (we started during preseason because we’re obsessive). This is impressive in and of itself since in general NO ONE likes to be part of a group message. Oh and we text during the O’s games EVERY day. Consider the commitment that takes.

That’s us in 2012 (G went to Game 2). First playoff game at Camden Yards since 1997.

Being a baseball fan is comparable in many ways to being in a long-term, committed relationship. Unlike football, where you get 3-hours of passion, intensity and high action once a week for 4 months. With baseball, you have 6 long months consisting of 162 games that may take 2 hours or 5 hours with some spikes of adrenaline throughout. And God forbid its a “Pitcher’s Duel” where you get 3 hours of ZERO offense and essentially watching 2 guys play catch.

But what does this teach you? It teaches you to look at the big picture. Every game only accounts for .617% of your overall season, which means there’s no need to get super jazzed nor depressed about any individual game. You learn its the whole body of work; how many series you’ve won, do you have winning records vs your division rivals, etc. Most importantly, do you have enough wins in August to be considered “in the hunt” for the playoffs! Like a relationship, every day is a new day. If you weren’t at your best yesterday, do a little extra today and even better tomorrow. You’re in it for the long haul, not the quick hit. With the NFL, every single game is crucial. In fact, if your team starts 0-2 you have like a 4% chance of even MAKING the Super Bowl.

For better or for worse. When your baseball team is bad, just plain not good, they’re going to stay that way for a while. Just ask Cubs fans who haven’t seen their team win a World Series in over 100 years. Hell, even me as an O’s fan, just saw my first O’s playoff game since I was 11 years old in 2012. And bringing in one stud pitcher or hitter will not immediately make your team a contender. Patience, development, growing together; that’s how build a better team, that’s how you build a better relationship. The Denver Broncos went from an 8-8 team in 2011 behind the arm (?) of Tim Tebow to 13-3 in 2012 and 13-3 and a Super Bowl appearance in 2013 behind Petyon Manning. Or the Redskins (not an offensive team name, damnit!) going from 5-11 in 2011 to 10-6 in 2012 behind RGIII. What would this look like in a relationship? “Oh, this isn’t working out and I’m bored. We’re breaking up and I’m going to go date the hot girl who makes my Americano in the morning.”

Disclaimer: Add 3 more winning seasons since the O’s switched back to the cartoon bird in 2012

Finally, being an MLB fan teaches you patience. Not only during each and every game as the batter goes through his pre-approach and the pitcher takes his sweet time picking up the sign, but for the entire season. Even now, as the O’s are nearly a lock to win the AL East, there are still 14 games left with important teams left to beat. Anything could happen. So you can damn well bet I’ll be watching each of those 14 games.

If the NFL is like the relationships in six seasons of Jersey Shore: loud, intense, quick-hit one-night stands. MLB is like the relationship between Lucy and Rick Ricardo for 6 seasons in I Love Lucy: ups, downs, crazy moments, not-so-crazy moments, but always ending up together.

It’s still America’s Pastime,


Pitchman, Writing in the Real World

So I’m a salesman in training at a company called Cisco. Over the last few days, we’ve been told to give 90-seconds-or-less pitches over varying Cisco solutions. As in every situation in life, you just do your best to imagine what Derek Jeter would do (WWJD) and then mimic that idea. So you try to write a tight story about the tech your pitching. Below is my attempt to sell network security. Hope you’re proud of me, Jetes.


Cisco. We’re the network company. That’s been our reputation since day one. But we’re also something else. The security company.

We purchased Sourcefire—the #1 player in the NGIPS security market according to Gartner—we purchased them for $3 Billion dollars because we are the security company.

We provide solutions like IronPort, ScanSafe, Cisco ASA  and ISE for to grant peace of mind with web, email, cloud, firewall and identification because we are the security company.

And we provide world-class service and support because we’re the security company. We know attacks happen on a continuum, and we’ll be there to help you before, during, and after any security attack.

When I was 17-years-old, my high school football coach told me, “Son, you’ll face a lot of adversity and a lot of prosperity in football, just like you will in this life. It’s how you handle the adversity that will define you.”

I can’t predict what security attacks you’ll face. But I can tell you that Cisco, the security company, will put our reputation on your team, so that when that adversity does happen, you’ll be proud of how handling it has defined you.

Thank you,