Matt Hackmann


The thoughts and goings-on of some programmer dude.

Bloggy Blog 19 - Clear Alcohol, Berries, and Soda: An Experiment

Fine, I'll take the loss on the 19th instead of doing revisionist history. I'll write an extra post on September 1st to make up.

I'm currently in a real conundrum with all those berries I bought at the beginning of the week. Early on in the week, I ran out of mojito ingredients (namely, mint and lime) and then I was alone with the wee baby for a couple days (post on that soon), so haven't really had an opportunity to enjoy those. In an effort to use those berries up before the go bad, I'm currently running a small experiment: which clear alcohol with soda and a mash of black-, blue-, and raspberries? Let's find out.

This is one of the drinks. But also all of them.

The Process

The recipe for this drink is pretty simple:

  1. Grab a fistful of farmers marketplace blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries and shove them in a tall glass.

  2. Add 1oz of clear alcohol. For this test, I'm testing vodka, gin, and white rum.

  3. Muddle the berries into the alcohol.

  4. Fill the glass with ice and top with club soda.

The Results

Overall, this is a pretty light and refreshing drink, but each alcohol is bringing it's own thing to the table.

Vodka (Tito's) - I'm not a huge fan of Tito's, but I had some leftover from friends visiting in April so figured this would be a good application to blow it on. Honestly, there was no real alcohol taste, which I suppose is what you'd expect from a good vodka. It was like drunky chunky berry LaCroix with a tiny bit of buzz. Not bad.

Gin (Kirkland Signature London Dry) - I picked up this cheap bottle of gin from Costco during that same friend visit situation and... I actively don't like it. Same situation as above, figured I'd blow it on a dumb experiment. On first taste, you can definitely pick out the juniper and it's not playing with the berries super well. By the bottom of the glass, it was fine.

Rum (Bacardi White Rum) - Rounding out the lower tier alcohols is Bacardi, another alcohol I've soured on since having something much better (I'm sorry I betrayed you, Koloa). There's definitely an extra taste here that wasn't present in the vodka version, but I can't put my finger on it. It's fine.


None of these are stellar drinks, but if I had to pick one as a winner, it'd be the Tito's vodka. I'd like to try this setup using alcohols that are actually good, as I'm sure these lesser versions are dragging down the scores, but I don't feel like being six shots of booze buzzed right now. Also, as somebody who's not partial to soda water in general, there may not be any saving these cocktails.

Now, add a bunch of sugar and we'll talk.

Bloggy Blog 18 - On Broadway

One of the more interesting developments of 2022 was a run of going to see a number Broadway productions. This came about during a visit to New York that February, where we both had our first, second, and third Broadway experiences in the span of a week. It didn't end there, however, as we continued to see travelling shows a much closer to home.

If you were to ask me ten years ago if I'd ever go to a musical production, I'd probably give a shitty remark that would've been offensive to someone instead of a simple "no". But, I'd since gone to and enjoyed a few shows in SF with friends, and then this string with Kayla over the last year. There's definitely something about watching a group of people pull off a real-time professional production that's got a particular feel to it. Appreciation for the craft, perhaps.

But, anyways. The thrust of today's venture will be in writing tiny reviews of the shows that Kayla and I saw together.

Aladdin (10/10) - I think this is the first musical I saw a few years back in SF, and this is the musical that kicked off our run on Broadway. The show hits a lot of the beats of the 1992 movie, but changes things up to really be its own thing (something live action Disney remakes would be good to take note of). "Friend Like Me" is far and away the standout number, and is both a visual and auditory spectacle.

Hamilton (8/10*) - I want to say Hamilton is the thing that got Kayla into the Broadway mood originally. We'd watched the Disney+ version when it came out and were completely confused; so much fast talking. However, she started listening to the recorded version and it began to make sense. The show itself is actually pretty great and most of the songs are bops, and they manage to do a lot with one set and a rotating center stage. We also got a Weird Al polka out of it. That it turns out the real Hamilton was actually the antithesis to how he was portrayed here does kind of taint the experience a bit...

Wicked (6/10) - The final show we saw actually on Broadway, Wicked is a reconfigured telling of the Wizard of Oz taken from the angle "what if the wicked witch wasn't actually the bad guy?". It was... fine? Of all the shows we saw, this one felt like the most classical stage production. None of the songs grabbed me and the story and sets were fine. It was fine.

Dear Evan Hansen (5/10) - Dear Evan Hansen was our first show seen in San Jose and follows the exploits of one Evan Hansen as he gets caught up in an perpetuates a lie about how he was best friends with a rando classmate who offs themselves. We'd actually watched the movie version of this first and came away with a less than stellar impression. The handling of the core conceit was... offputting? I dunno. The stage version fared a little better, but an overall lack of bops and spectacle just made it meh.

Come From Away (9/10) - Come From Away is based off the true story of a small town in Newfoundland who saw an influx of "refugees" after the grounding of aircraft immediately following the 9/11 attacks. A cast of about a dozen people perform the roles of two or three times as many characters, all without costume or set changes, and filled with a delightful array of Irish folksy songs (apparently, Newfoundland had a lot of Irish immigrants). I didn't know what to expect going in, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Lion King (?/10) - We had tickets to see this, but then I got COVID and we had to cancel last minute. Whoops.

Cats (8/10) - Cats and I have a bit of history. I first became aware of it forever ago when it breezed through Tulsa and was being advertised on local TV. I thought it was the dumbest looking shit I'd ever seen. Then (and more specific to me) they released it as a CGI monstrosity of a movie that struck all the right chords for "so bad it breaks my brain" levels of enjoyable entertainment. I made one of my best friends watch it on a visit and it broke his brain so much, that became a cornerstone of his best man speech. With that setup, I had to see the play when it blew through San Jose. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a shockingly enjoyable experience. The plot is nonsensicle and only exists to provide a framework for the musical numbers, but (most of) the musical numbers had their own unique charm in a way that I think only works as a live performance. Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat and his light up, color changing vest was something to behold. I think I'd actually watch Cats again.

Moulin Rouge (6/10) - Kayla had been rotating Moulin Rouge songs through her Broadway playlist and it left me mildly confused and a little curious. The soundtrack consisted of mostly (if not all) medleys of pop songs, hence my intrigue. In the end, that's about all it had going for it. The story was generic and outside of a couple of numbers, I don't remember many of the songs being that spectacular. This was the first show we saw in the city (SF, for outsiders) and it's worth noting that every other show we saw in that theater still had confetti from Moulin Rouge hanging around. Oh, and don't watch the movie version unless you're a really big fan of Dutch angles and fake slow motion...

Book of Mormon (10/10) - It's a musical about Mormons made by the creators of South Park and half of the musical team from Frozen. You're gonna have a great time. The spectacle is there, the hilarity is there, the story is delightfully satiricle. Honestly, to that last point, it draws a lot of parallels to Monty Python's Life of Brian, which is a delightfully satirical look at religion as a whole. This was my second time seeing the show, and it may have delivered even better than the first.

Frozen (7/10) - It's interesting seeing a Broadway show of a movie that stars Broadway singers, namely Idina Menzel (the voice of Elsa, who starred in Wicked) and Jonathan Groff (Kristoff in Frozen, King George in Hamilton)... and the actors portraying those characters not quite nailing it as well. Honestly, it's Frozon; you know more or less what you're getting into. I enjoy the movie well enough, but I don't think this production really brought anything new to the table. Honestly, I think the version that they used to put on multiple times every day at Califirnia Adventure for the price of park admission was a more enjoyable experience. The kid who played young Anna in the Broadway version was fun, though. She was clearly having the time of her life.

Six (6/10) - Rounding everything out is Six, a pop musical about the six wives of King Henry VIII. This was another soundtrack that Kayla had incorporated into regular rotation prior to seeing and... kind of the same issue with Moulin Rouge: seeing it acted out didn't really add a whole lot more. I'm only partial to one or two of the songs, so that didn't really leave a lot left. Also, it just had me remembering all that time spent on European history that I didn't care about :|.

That concludes all the Broadway shows we saw since that journey to New York. A real zero to sixty in a hurry situation, but I'm not against going to more shows. Or the symphony, that's always fun.

With a baby, though, who knows when that'll be.

Bloggy Blog 17 - The Future is Lasers

As had been mentioned before, last year I invested in a laser cutter. How I got to the point of getting a laser cutter is an interesting tale of random coincidence. During the middling part of the pandemic, where Kayla was back teaching in school but I was still working from home, I did as I do and would go on very long walks over my lunch break. This gave me an opportunity to explore the streets and areas around our house.

One day, I was wandering around the area I like to refer to as "Olde Town Silicon Valley", an area that's all old 80s/90s office buildings that are either now abandoned, occupied by tech companies that nobody's ever heard of, or about to be plowed under and replaced with offices for Google/Facebook. As I was wandering, I saw a sign for "Maker Nexus" that I'd not seen before. Curious, I checked out their website as I finished my walk and they were a maker space that had very recently relocated. They did regular classes on the various big machines they had and one of those series of classes just happened to be for laser cutters.

Continue Reading

Bloggy Blog 16 - HakkGPT

When doing these blog challenges, I generally try and find a way to churn out a least a few low effort posts. You've seen them this go 'round in the form of the "minute blogs". But, this is 2023 and we have technology and I cannot believe it only now dawned on me to have ChatGPT write a blog post for me. So, that's what I did. Here was my prompt:

matt hackmann is a 37 year old man who was born and raised in oklahoma and has resided in the san francisco bay area for ten years. he is a staff software engineer at surveymonkey, having gotten a start in software development as a teenager. he's been married to kayla for almost two years and has a new seven week old baby boy. his writing style is very casual, full of pop culture references and self-deprecating humor

write a blog article in the voice of matt hackmann about the challenges of being a new father

As you can see, I tried to set the stage with a little bit of who I am and a wee bit about how I might write. This is what it gave back:

Diapers and Dad Jokes: Navigating the Hilarious Chaos of New Fatherhood

Hey there, fellow humans of the internet! It's your friendly neighborhood software geek turned sleep-deprived dad, Matt Hackmann, here to share a little slice of life with you. Now, if you're in the same boat as me – juggling baby bottles, sleepless nights, and a desperate need for caffeine – you're in for a treat. Grab that leftover pizza slice, buckle up, and let's dive into the wild world of new fatherhood!

Chapter 1: "From Code to Cooing"

Remember the days when I used to debug code at 3 AM? Well, those late nights have taken on a whole new meaning now that I'm a dad. Instead of semicolons and brackets, it's all about deciphering the mysterious language of baby cries. Seriously, why didn't they teach us this in programming class? One day, I'll crack the code of whether "Waaah!" translates to "I'm hungry" or "Change my diaper, you rookie!"

Chapter 2: "Pop Culture to Poop Culture"

Gone are the days of binge-watching Netflix and debating whether Han shot first. These days, my pop culture references are all about baby burps, poop explosions, and "Baby Shark" on an infinite loop. The other day, I caught myself singing "Poop, there it is!" as I tackled a diaper blowout that rivaled a volcano eruption. Oh, the glamorous life of a dad!

Chapter 3: "From Sleepless to Speechless"

Remember those nights I'd spend perfecting lines of code? Well, let's just say my "code" these days is mastering the art of changing diapers in record time. Who knew it was possible to change a diaper while half-asleep? It's like a special ops mission – precision, speed, and absolutely no room for error. And don't even get me started on sleep deprivation. I used to survive on coffee; now I survive on the sheer force of will and maybe a few baby snuggles.

Chapter 4: "Self-Deprecating Dad Jokes"

Ah, the cornerstone of my personality: self-deprecating humor. It turns out that dad jokes and self-deprecation go together like peanut butter and jelly. Picture this: I'm in the grocery store, juggling a crying baby, a shopping cart, and a sudden realization that I forgot the one thing my wife told me to get. What do I do? I crack a joke about being the real-life embodiment of "Dude, Where's My Car?" Cue awkward laughter from other shoppers. It's all about survival, folks.

Chapter 5: "Changing Roles, Changing Diapers"

In the midst of all the chaos, there's one thing that's crystal clear: my role has changed. From coding algorithms to lullabies, from debugging software to soothing a fussy baby – it's been a rollercoaster. But let's not forget the rockstar partner in this adventure: my amazing wife, Kayla. Together, we tag-team parenting like the Avengers (minus the superpowers, unless you count the ability to function on minimal sleep).

So, there you have it, folks – a glimpse into the whirlwind journey of a software engineer turned dad extraordinaire. From geeky references to diaper disasters, it's all part of the hilarious ride. As I navigate this new world of fatherhood, one thing's for sure: my life will never be the same, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Until next time, keep calm and dad on!

Yours in sleep-deprived solidarity, Matt Hackmann

What can I say, this reads nothing like how I write now (where's the one-liner last zing of a sentance?), a little bit of how I may have written as a teenager/early-20 something, and a lot like a MadLibs. "Ah, the cornerstone of my personality: self-deprecating humor."? A little on the nose, ChatGPT. Oh, well. It was a lot of text for little effort.

I shan't do it again.

Bloggy Blog 15 - Costco Super Stocker

They say the American dream is something about opportunity, being able to build yourself up from nothing, or some other patently false bullshit. I say the American dream is owning a chest freezer and stocking up on things in bulk. The evidence is definitely there. Having a dedicated freezer always felt like it was treated as some sort of life goal, one of those moments similar to getting married or having a baby. Also, the existence of giant bulk box stores like Sam's Club or Costco.

Growing up, my family went through a phase of frequenting Sam's Club and buying ridonkulous amounts of food, mostly to keep the ridonkulous amounts of people in the family fed. When we acquired a stand alone freezer, there were grandiose plans of buying a side of beef and making oodles of freezer meals that never really panned out, for whatever reason. That freezer mostly because a place to lock up Christmas cookies, keeping me from depleting the supply of those delicious morsels before Christmas actually arrived. Side note: I really developed a taste for frozen cookies; there's just something about them...

Fast forward a couple decades and I wound up marrying into a Costco membership. While we may not have ascended to the level of adulthood that would see us having a stand alone freezer, there are definitely benefits to be gained from shopping bulkly at Costco, namely quality, though at an upfront cost.

For example, one of the our standard restock items is USDA prime ribeye steak. These chonky, inch-thick bois usually come in packs of three for somewhere around $50. That probably seems like a lot at first glance, but one steak is large enough that it will feed both of us for one meal, giving a cost of $8 per person per meal. For a steak that fancy, it winds up being cheaper than a lesser cut of meat of similar weight at Safeway. It's a similar story for all of the meats we buy there, and when we get home, I spend an hour or two measuring, cutting, vacuum packing, and freezing all manner of meat.

Similarly, their prices on booze has elevated the level of snobbery of my mixed drinks. Prior to Costco (and meeting my father-in-law), Woodford Reserve is what I considered a nice, sipping whiskey. At your general liquor or grocery store, a normal 750ml bottle would run somewhere around $35-40. At Costco, you can get double that for roughly the same price. So, now my nice whiskey gets diluted with Coke Zero, and I spend the money I've saved on actual nice whiskey when I want something to sip on.

I haven't said much about Costco's in-house brand Kirkland Signature, but following the paragraph about alcohol seems like the best place to mention it: their products are legit. You could spend $60 for a 1.5 liter bottle of Grey Goose vodka at Costco... or you could get buy the 1.5 liter bottle Kirkland Signature "french style" vodka that tastes basically identical... FOR $18! Now, my bar looks a little ridiculous with all these giant bottles of booze (and/or just makes me look like an alcoholic out of control), but this shit lasts months.

Of course, it shouldn't need to be said, but since all of this product is bought in bulk, it's a trip we make once every couple months (give or take some weeks). So, again, the up front cost may be high, but averaged out over that period of time, we're saving in the long run. I can only imagine what life would be like if we had a chest freezer...

...or if I had a much larger bar...