Rediscovering wrestling

Last year I posted about a cool site that details the deaths of famous pro wrestlers.  Since then, I've gotten back into professional wrestling.  Well, at least a little bit.

To be honest, I'm probably more interested in the meta-commentary than in the shows themselves.  Although I do pull up the occasional match (or even an old special event) on YouTube, I don't follow any of the regular broadcasts or story lines.  It's not necessarily that I'm not interested, it's just that I don't have the time.  Wrestling is a highly visual medium, so it's not the sort of thing you can easily put on in the background while you work (at least not if you want to absorb any of it at all).  I'd rather read a synopsis or watch a summary montage.  

What I have been watching is a lot of behind-the-scenes documentaries and interviews.  It turns out the real stories behind pro wrestling are at least as interesting as the ones on TV, if not more so.  It's a tough business that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, full of creative people whose job is to get attention.  How could there not be lots of interesting drama?  And, as it turns out, lots of compelling tragedy.

Most recently, I've been watching Vice TV's documentary series The Dark Side of the Ring.  It's very well done.  It covers a range of characters and scandals in the wrestling industry, ranging from the "industry drama" of things like the Montreal screwjob to genuine, out and out tragedies, like the story of Chris Benoit.  They include interview with a variety of wrestling insiders (though there are several frequent contributors, like Jim Cornette) and do a pretty good job of expressing the uncertainty and ambiguity of many of these events.

That's actually what I find compelling about many of these stories - the ambiguity.  Many of the interviewees are, naturally, pro wrestlers, which means they're performers.  That means they can speak engagingly, with passion and conviction, about these events.  But for many of these stories, you see that from people on both sides, which makes it clear that these passionate, straight-forward accounts really aren't the whole story.  While the on-screen world of wrestling is very black-and-white, with designated good guys and bad guys, the off-screen world is much more gray.  For all the larger-than-life personas that they put on, these are actually just regular people who are trying to navigate difficult and sometimes unclear situations.  The messiness of these situations is part of what makes them so impactful. 

I've also been watching a number of the "full shoot" interviews from The Hannibal TV.  These are interviews conducted by Devon Nicholson, a.k.a. Hannibal, with a variety of wrestling personalities about their careers.  They discuss not only their in-ring and on-screen rivalries, but also the kind of things that happened back-stage and what it was like being on the road as a wrestler.  They all have lots of good stories, but it's sometimes hard to tell exactly how factual they are.  Joe Rogan has also had some good episodes featuring interviews with pro wrestlers.  In particular, I enjoyed his interviews with Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page, and Mark "The Undertaker" Calloway.

If you're interested in a feature-length documentary, both Andre the Giant and The Ressurection of Jake The Snake Roberts were quite good.  Both men are interesting case studies on the life of a successful professional wrestler.  These documentaries detail the struggles these men went through and how wrestling contributed to them.  The latter also describes Jake's eventual recovery with the help of Diamond Dallas Page.

For me, this real-life stuff does a lot to enhance the wrestling performances that I do watch.  Between the COVID lock-downs and the crazy political situations of the past year, I find wrestling to be a welcoming break.  The on-screen performances, while hardly Shakespeare, can be entertaining and offer a familiar and somewhat comforting "good vs. bad" narrative.  And if nothing else, they certainly are impressive athletic displays.  (Yes, the results are predetermined, so it might not be a "sport", but that doesn't mean the participants aren't athletes.)  Meanwhile, the peeks back-stage are a good reminder than nothing is clear-cut and that while people can be complicated and sometimes contradictory, they all still have value and people who care about them.  That's something that's worth remembering and holding onto amidst the toxic stew that is our current media and online discourse.

Stupid Git tricks: Undoing a stash pop

Here's a handy little Git nugget I learned the other day: if you get conflicts trying to apply a popped stash, it doesn't get removed from the stack.  I didn't actually know this, but it's a very handy piece of information.

In this case, I was trying to stash my changes so I could switch to a different branch.  Normally this is as easy as git stash ; git co develop ; git stash pop, but I failed to account for conflicts.  And this time it wasn't the "nice" kind of conflict, where you just fix it and move on with your life.  Noooooo.  This time, I realized that I actually needed to base my changes on the branch I was originally on.  (That branch was due to be merged into develop, but it just hadn't happened yet.)  So fixing the conflicts would have been a waste of time because I'd just have the same conflicts in reverse when I switched back.

But it turns out you can just do a git reset --hard whatever and because of the conflicts, the stashed changes will still be on the top of the stack.  Very handy!  This little nugget saved me a bunch of time.

I don't get NFT

I only recently learned about the existence of NFTs as a "thing".  If you are also unfamiliar, NFT stands for "Non-Fungible Token".  CNN has an explanation here, but t's essentially a unique digital token, stored on a blockchain, that represents some digital asset.  Apparently NFTs have recently become the latest hot trend, with some of them selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

However, this Slashdot post points out that there are some potential issues with NFTs.  Basically, NFTs don't actually store the asset you're purchasing.  So if you buy an NFT for an image, the image doesn't actually live on the blockchain.  You've only bought a reference to the image, which is actually hosted someplace else.  So if whatever server or service is hosting that image goes away, you will no longer be able to access it, regardless of owning the NFT.

So I guess what I'm confused about is: what's the point?  I mean, what are you really getting when you buy an NFT?  In a theoretical sense, I can see how an NFT is better than "conventional" digital assets in that it's not tied to a particular service.  Your ownership of that item is recorded in you crypto wallet which is independent of any particular service an can be used with multiple NFT marketplaces.  And that's a good thing. 

But when you look at it functionally, there's not really much difference.  The actual asset still exists completely independent of the blockchain, so it's not like a physical asset - there might only be one token, but you can still infinitely duplicate the asset.  And as far as I can tell, buying an NFT doesn't actually mean you're purchasing the copyright for the asset.  So you're just buying a copy and there's nothing to stop anyone from making other copies.  And because the asset isn't stored on the blockchain, if you want to ensure you always have access then you need to download a copy of it.  So...how is this different from buying a service-specific digital asset?

It seems like the point is less the actual asset and more that NFT is the same thing as Bitcoin - that it's just a different way to speculate on blockchain stuff.  Especially when you're talking about something like spending $2.5 million for jack Dorsey's first tweet, it's hard to see any other rational explanation.  But even for less absurd cases, it's not clear to me what the practical benefit is.  The main reason that blockchain "works" for cryptocurrency is because the thing on the blockchain is the thing you're transferring.  As soon as you introduce a disconnect between the thing being traded and the thing on the blockchain, it seems like you lose a lot of the benefit of the blockchain.  

Handy comparison pictures

So here's a random fitness-related link.  It's a handy page I found for doing visual body fat comparisons.  I particularly like this one because (at least for the men's section) a bunch of the pictures are of the same guy.  Apparently he must have lost a bunch of weight and kept good track of it.  That makes it much easier to see the differences in physique than when you're looking at different people with different sizes and shapes.

If you're not into fitness, you might not be familiar with body fat measurement.  Body fat percentage is one of those metrics that are handy for gauging your fitness level.  It's basically just the percentage of your body weight that consists of fat.  If you don't train, then just tracking your weight is fine, but once you're lifting weights or doing other strength training, you're going to build muscle.  Since muscle is more dense than fat, it makes weight tracking less reliable - you can get into a situation where you're getting thinner, but are actually gaining weight because you're burning fat and building muscle.

There are a number of ways to measure body fat: there's the DEXA scan, which stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and is considered the "gold standard"; there are multiple techniques using calipers to measure skin folds; and there's the seriously low-tech method of eyeballing it, i.e. using comparison pictures. Of course, none of these measurement techniques is exact.  Even the DEXA scan is just an estimate that can be influenced by a variety of factors.  The only 100% accurate way to determine your body fat percentage is to excise every gram of fat from your body, weigh it, and compare that to your total weight - which can't be done without killing you.

Looking at pictures is the method I use.  It's obviously the least accurate and the least precise, but it has the benefit of being by far the cheapest and easiest.  I mean, you're just looking at pictures on the internet, for crying out loud!  And for my purposes, the exact number doesn't really matter anyway.  It's more a reference point for helping to figure out what weight changes mean and where my general fitness level is.  It's nice to have a general idea, but it's not important enough to me to spend significant time or money on it.  It's just one metric among many.  How useful it is depends on your needs and goals.

Conference talks

The other day I decided to go back to something I did when I was still working in the office: putting tech conference talks on in the background while I work.  Sometimes it's nice to have a little background noise if I'm not trying to concentrate too deeply on something (what I'm currently working on involved a lot of waiting for CI pipelines to run).  Of course, sometimes I my concentration level ramps up and I totally tune out the entire talk, but sometimes I don't and it ends up being interesting.

This particular afternoon I was listening to some talks from the GOTOpia Europe 2020 virtual conference.  This one had an especially good lineup, including talks from Dave Thomas, Kevlin Henney, and Allen Holub, who are some of my favorite presenters.  Cat Swetel, who I'd never seen speak before, also had a very interesting presentation on metrics that I would heartily recommend.

It might not be the same vibe as the live conferences, but it's at least nice to be reminded that the entire world hasn't been canceled due to the pandemic.  And there are always some interesting discussions at GOTO, so it's worth a watch.