Friday, May 30, 2008

Azazel - Ashes to Ashes CD Review

According to the press release for this disc, Azazel are “possibly still one of North Carolina’s best kept secrets.” It sounds weird to consider a band who is now broken up a secret, but it's apparently a selling point. Ashes to Ashes is actually a re-issuing of Azazel’s EP Music for the Ritual Chamber with a few remixed versions of early demo tape tracks. Even more odd is that this is considered the complete discography of Azazel -- one EP and a couple of demo tracks. Maybe the band is such a well kept secret because they hardly put out any music in their time together.

After Azazel broke up some band members moved on to other projects, most notably Between the Buried and Me and Aria. Let’s just say that Azazel’s output doesn’t measure up to the projects undertaken after their breakup. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it's pretty hard to measure up to BTBAM. Even when not holding Azazel up to such high standards, Ashes to Ashes is still slightly underwhelming considering how important Tribunal Records wants you to believe it is.

As with many modern metal bands, the vocals presented here are the deal breaker. The growls are, quite unfortunately, strained and forced. For a significant portion of the CD it feels like the vocals are being pushed out with so much force it’s unhealthy, and we’re not talking about having a powerful, forceful voice that can command a band. Instead, this is a voice that feels like it could go out at any moment from the strain. Who knows, maybe that’s why the band had to cash in their chips after a single EP.

Underneath the throat wrenching yells is a competent metalcore base. There are also some shots of deathcore to be heard here and there as well, which at the time this was originally recorded probably seemed pretty unique. Unfortunately every third band in the metal world is doing this nowadays, but let’s not cut the band short. This was a very promising start for a new band. There are some truly gargantuan riffs throughout this EP (see the entirety of “Touch of Dying” for a song full of them), but it’s the connecting fiber between these big sounding sections that feels a little bit also ran.

For the metal collectors and historians out there, this is most definitely a strong purchase, but for all the trend hopping kiddos bouncing around, I can’t see them digging into something like this which isn’t glisteningly produced and scene entrenched. For what it’s worth, I’m glad to see Tribunal Records releasing some older albums that have some history behind them, even if they stretch a little bit the impact the band or album had.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

That Podcast Thing I was Talking About...

The first episode is in the can! Head on over to Decoy Music to check out my first podcast. I'll be the first to admit that it's definitely a work in progress and this episode didn't come off nearly as smooth as I'd have hoped, but I'm taking it as a learning experience that I can hopefully put towards ironing out what I've noticed doesn't work.

If you want to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or whatever podcatching software you use (I use my Zune software), here's the podcast feed. I'm hoping to do this weekly, but with my crazy ass work travel schedule it may end up being whenever the hell I get time. Hopefully I can get something recorded this weekend before I head out to Miami next week for a training session I have to help lead.

Anyways, if you listen, let me know what you think. If you never listen again, at least you gave it a shot. I hope that it gets better as things go on. Next episode I promise to fix the levels so that my voice isn't so low in the mix. I'll also try to be less reserved and just go with the flow to keep it interesting. Anyways, that's that. Here's to seeing what'll happen going forward.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guitar Hero Help?

I saw this article up on Geekologie and thought it was hilarious. Someone is willing to pay another person to beat some Guitar Hero songs. What's more hilarious is this person is right here in Minneapolis and actually lives not more than a stone's throw from where I used to live in St. Louis Park.

It's too bad the guy isn't more flexible with his time because I'd totally have my brother come up and do it for a few extra bucks since he'll be up here in a couple of weekends trying to play in the Guitar Hero tournament at Mystic Lake casino.

I was reading the rules for the tournament since it's a pretty big deal having a $20,000 purse with 10K going to the winner. They expect in excess of 2,500 people there, which I could definitely see happening, and I'm sure all of the solid GH players in the area will be hitting it up. Oddly, there's one rule that makes no sense whatsoever:
Qualifying and Quarterfinal Rounds will be played on medium difficulty level. Semifinal Rounds and the Final Round will be played on hard difficulty level.

Really? You're going to have a butt-ton of people there, lots of them really freakin' good, and you're going to have them play on medium to start and then on hard to finish? That's outright ignoring the expert level that almost everyone plays at. Heck, I'm not very good at GH and I still play expert on some songs. Seems pretty counter to having good competition since there will be a lot of really close matches because everyone will be almost (or will be) getting perfect scores. It'll pretty much come down to luck where if the guitar doesn't register a note or something as being the deciding factor.

Anyways, I'm sure it'll be one giant clusterf*ck of a mess, but whatever. That's what Mystic gets for setting this up ass backwards.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Love the Broken Engrish

You will be unusual successful in business.

This was the fortune inside of my fortune cookie from lunch. I wonder if "unusual successful" is some sort of street slang for being really, really successful. Y'know, kind of like when kids are "mad good" at something or got some "wicked huge" air skateboarding. I think I'm going to start referring to people who do really well as being "unusual successful".

Man, that Warren Buffet is unusual successful, dog!

Tripping E

I'm one of the unfortunate souls who has been cursed with the beleaguering plague of having to deal with migraines. I used to get them a ton when I was a kid, but grew out of it by the time I was in high school. They didn't really rear their head again until college when I would get them on occasion. Later, towards the end of college I had a stretch where I was pretty much living with a constant migraine that wouldn't go away. The doctors couldn't figure it out and thought I was fine. Eventually they subsided, but ever since then I can expect to get a knock-down, kick-me-in-the-face, make-me-want-to-die, head's-gonna-explode migraine once or twice a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it's pretty dependable.

When I get a migraine at work, I try to stave it off until I get home by jacking up my caffeine intake, downing about 8000% of my vitamin B complex for the day, and suck down as many Excedrin as humanly possible without it becoming toxic. It's that last step that always gives me a laugh when I'm going through my migraine combat routine.

I don't know how many people have taken Excedrin, but the round pills in the office have a big "E" stamped on them. I like to imagine that instead of taking an over the counter drug for pain management that I'm popping some Extacy to get me through. I've never dropped E, but from what I've seen it makes you pretty nuts and I'm sure it would cure my migraine. I like to imagine what it would be like sitting at my computer working on some data analysis all hopped up on E. It would probably be a hell of a lot more interesting than in my non-E state.

Once I get my short laugh from imagining myself high, I go back to battling the pain and suffering through work. Crappily enough, I just got done with my laugh and I'm now staring down a 5 hour battle with my head...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Snub

It's interesting working for an accounting firm in a practice office when I'm not involved in the local practice. Essentially, I'm on my own in the office since my team is based elsewhere and I do a lot of international work, so this means I don't have any team members in the local office and I rarely interact with anyone outside of saying hello at the coffee maker or nodding as I pass someone in the hall on my way to the crapper.

In being a pseudo-outsider here in the office, I often find myself getting quasi-snubbed by other people in the office. I've been here for over two years, but there still aren't all that many people who actually know me. I'm more of an office anomaly or curiosity. I'm not a part of their world.

This manages to make itself known in little ways throughout the day as I'm, as I like to describe it, snubbed by co-workers. Truthfully, I'm just as guilty of it myself, but I try to do my best about not being a snubber.

So, this snubbing I'm talking about... you're probably wondering what it is. To me, being snubbed is not being acknowledged or being ignored on purpose. Now this will happen a lot to me since no one no knows me. They're more familiar with our office printers than they are with me, which leads to there rarely being a common ground to even start small talk about. This then manifests itself into an awkward silence where both parties know the other person is there, but forcefully ignores the other.

This is most easily noticed at lunch time. I don't go out for lunch often and usually bring in something to snack on or microwave. When I'm in the kitchen waiting for my stellar meal of ramen or soup to finish microwaving, I'm stuck standing there twiddling my thumbs while other people come in and out. Usually there's the customary hello or nod in the other person's direction followed by silence, which is fine since there's nothing to talk about, but there are cases where the other person does not even nod, say hello, look in my direction, or acknowledge my existence in the least. It's this purposeful ignoring that irks me and makes me wonder why the other person won't even look in my direction. Shyness? Arrogance? Dickheadedness? I'm not really sure.

The other time that I really notice it is when I am walking through the office and I meet someone in the hall. I try to nod and say hello, but some people look at the ground or straight forward doing their damnedest to ignore the hell out of you. Is a cursory hello that torturous? Last I checked, I didn't think so.

Both of those situations are tolerable. However, what really pisses me off is a small variation of the ignore and don't acknowledge tactic. In this variation the other person gives a glance in my direction and will even meet my eyes, but that is it. The person then keeps walking or stares me off as I go by, even if I say hello, nod, or otherwise engage the person. No matter what my action, they simply look me over and then go about their business, giving off an overwhelming aura of douchebaggery and arrogant self-centeredness. If I could get away with it and not get fired, after this type of a person passed by me, I'd turn around and cold cock them right in the back of the head. That'd show them.

Maybe this is how accountants simply are, though. They are definitely a different breed of people and are usually quite sure of themselves, no matter what level they are at in the organization, so it could be that this prick-ish attitude just comes with the territory. Regardless, it's still frustrating and pisses me the hell off.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Comcast is Hilarious!

I know that Comcast is blogged about all the time for having terrible service, practicing somewhat shady business techniques, downgrading television signals, and all sorts of other nefarious deeds. I'm not going to do that. I'm here to simply tell you about the hilarity that is Comcast's chat service.

I used their online chat service today to cancel an appointment at my house since our internet, which was down all of Saturday, magically decided to work at some point during the day yesterday. This has happened in the past and we've had multiple techs come out to diagnose what is wrong only to find everything in tip top shape. It's a little disconcerting that their service goes up and down whenever it feels like it with no explanation from Comcast and no discernible reason why it happens, just that it does.

But anyways, I'm getting beside the point. I needed to cancel the appointment I had today and I thought that instead of wasting 20-30 minutes of my time on my cell phone, blowing precious daytime minutes to do it, I'd use the chat option they offer. Heck, I just needed to cancel an appointment so it couldn't take that long, right? Well, it was probably quicker than the phone, but it still took nearly 15 minutes. It was worth it, though, for some of the comedy gold that's included in the transcript below.

Beyond the usual grammar and spelling mistakes (which I don't understand how they can be made since I'd assume they'd use macros for a lot of this stuff) there is the blatant "God bless", the question about how I'd rate this CSR, and the constant overabundance of overbearing positivity. It's surreal. Anyhow, read for yourself and enjoy.

Earl Stanley > Hello Rick_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Earl Stanley. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Earl Stanley > I am happy to have the chance to assist you with your concern. How are you today?

Rick_ > fine

Rick_ > i need to cancel a service appointment that was scheduled for this evening.

Earl Stanley > Great to hear that you are doing fine, Rick.

Earl Stanley > It would be my pleasure to help you today.

Earl Stanley > May I have your account number and the last 4 digits of your SSN please so that I can pull up your account?

Rick_ > i don't have my account number with me. last 4 of SSN are XXXX

Earl Stanley > That would be alright.

Earl Stanley > Thank you. Allow me a few moment to look at your account information.

Earl Stanley > Rick, thank you for waiting patiently.

Earl Stanley > I will now process your request.

Rick_ > thanks

Earl Stanley > My pleasure. May I ask why you wanted to cancel the appointment?

Rick_ > our internet is back up.

Earl Stanley > Alright. Wonderful to hear that.

Earl Stanley > I will now complete your request.

Earl Stanley > Please stay with me.

Earl Stanley > I have successfully processed your request, Rick. Your reference number for this is XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. I am so happy to have assisted you todat.

Earl Stanley > Aside from this, do you have other concerns that I can assist you today?

Rick_ > nope. thanks.

Earl Stanley > If that is all I can do for you, enjoy the rest of the day and thank you for choosing Comcast. Be well and God bless you!

Earl Stanley > By the way, there is a three-question survey after this chat. I would appreciate it if you take time to provide us feedback regarding how I assisted you today. Should I get a good one from you?

Rick_ > potentially

Earl Stanley > I appreciate that form you.

Earl Stanley > Bye now and take care. Enjoy with the service. smile

Earl Stanley > Analyst has closed chat and left the room

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Believe it or not, this is post 1,301 on this blog. Considering that in June I'll have been doing this for 6 full years, here are some fun statistics:
  • This averages out to 217 posts a year.
  • Which is a little more than 4 posts a week.
  • Which means every day, on average, I write 4/5's of a post.
This is actually a little less than I would have thought, although I did have a few small hiatuses where I took a month or two off and didn't write a blasted thing, then again I had some weeks where I went off and blasted out 10 posts or more. I figured that it would average out to about one post per day, which I'm not quite at. If I want to catch up, I'm going to have write some multi-post days throughout the next couple of years, and that's assuming I write every day. I kind of doubt I'll be able to do that, so I should just resign myself to the fact that I don't produce nearly as much content as many of the blogs I read and love. Oh well.

Thinking about it, though, 6 years is quite a while. As I go back and read the archives, I'm confronted with so many bad posts where my writing style was terrible (or at least a little more terrible than it is now), I was talking about something completely ridiculous, or I was trying to be all "emotional" or witty or something that wasn't natural for me to write. On the flip side of the blogging coin, I noticed that I had a lot more drive back when I was starting out and also put a lot more of my personal life out there. I really tend not to do that any more just because I like to keep some parts of my life private, but it is interesting to think back to my mindset 3, 4, or 5 years ago.

At the time, I never worried about what I was writing getting back around to the people I was writing about because, in all seriousness, there wasn't anyone that really read it. I was simply journaling my thoughts, but instead of it going into a diary I put under my bed, it was tossed onto a server and was accessible via the internet. I, quite naively, assumed that I'd have tons of people just randomly falling onto my blog and would stick around to read it. Even more naively, I thought that was actually happening since I wasn't really keeping stats on how many page views I was getting. When I finally figured out how to track that, it was a huge let down to figure out that I was getting 10-12 page views a day and 8-9 of them were me making sure I had my formatting correct.

As it is now, I get anywhere from 15-75 page views a day, which is pretty abysmally tiny when it comes to blog popularity, but I've tended to care a little less. Sure, back in 2006 I had probably a few hundred views a day... but then I took a hiatus and no one really came back. Now, if you take into account that I have 25-30 people subscribed to my RSS feed, then I might be hitting 100 people in a day, which is pretty cool for a lame ass blog that has no real direction, but I still catch myself every now and again wondering how awesome it would be if I was widely read... but then I re-read my posts and realize that if I was ever going to get to that point I would need to post more, actually proof-read my stuff, and I'd need some type of focus. I'm not really willing to do that, however, so this site will be as half-assed as ever going forward.

Let's see if I have another 6 years in me... or at least shoot for one more and then see where this goes when I hit 7.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Days...

Spring is the worst. Seriously, I hate every minute of spring... but only between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm since I'm stuck in my cube indoors wishing I was outside. All day I long to be anywhere outdoors, away from my stuffy, life-sucking cubicle. When did we, as a species, let ourselves become so caged? Think about how much time the average person will spend couped up in an office or cubicle in his or her life time. It's astonishing. And I'm one of those people.

It's especially hard to deal with on days after ultimate games. I get to spend an evening outside, playing a sport I really enjoy, sucking in the fresh air, and living in the wide open expanses of the outdoors. Once the day is done, it's off to bed for sound sleep. Then the next day I get to get up and... take the freaking bus to freaking work inside of a cramped freaking building.

Talk about a huge buzzkill. All day I am counting away the minutes, longing to get back outside. I would give just about anything to be able to pick up laptop, take the elevator downstairs, walk outside, and set up shop somewhere in a park or, heck, my back yard. If anything I bet I'd be more at ease and able to find the motivation to tackle tasks throughout the day instead of struggling through them, feeling like they're a chore.

Unfortunately, we're all still too entrenched in our cubicle dwelling work world. It sucks, but that's the way it is right now. Maybe there will be some type of paradigm shift in the future that will allow more of us working stiffs to get outside, but I'm not holding my breath. Tell you what, though, if a company were to ever offer me the chance to do my job outside in the spring, summer, and fall I would seriously consider taking a pay cut to be able to do that. That's how much I can get to hating being stuck in a cube all day. I don't know how people do it and not go bat-shit insane. I'm sure if I'm doing the same thing when I'm 40, you can start fitting me for a straight jacket.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mario Kart Made Me Do It

Annotations of an Autopsy - Before the Throne of Infection CD Review

It was a couple of years ago when a lot of us were first hearing the debut EP from Job for a Cowboy. They weren’t just an everyday, standard metalcore band like many of the other countless EPs that circulated around at that time. No, they had something that set them apart — pig squealing vocals. It was oddly annoying and captivating at the same time. Hearing a “wee wee WEEEEEEEE” over the top of a brutal breakdown or two was pretty interesting, for what it was, but now it is a couple of years later and the approach isn’t all that unique any more. It looks like Annotations of an Autopsy thankfully recognized that… but instead of trying to expand upon the Job for a Cowboy mold, Annotations simply picked up a bunch of other techniques that are trendy right now and slapped them onto their songs.

Let's be honest from the get go here and acknowledge that the deathcore genre is really the new metalcore. Up and coming bands that don’t want to be “trendy” by playing metalcore are now adding triggered blast beats, some death metal and grind vocals, and doing a bunch of open chord chugging after playing a death metal chord progression. Sure, that keeps a band from getting pegged with the dreaded metalcore tag, but it’s attaching the almost as damning deathcore tag. Think about it for a second. When metalcore was new, it was a novelty to have hardcore breakdowns mixed in with heavy metal song structures, but now it’s pretty much a running joke that any heavy band that can’t write their way out of a bag simply tosses together a whole bunch of breakdowns and calls it an album. Hell, Emmure and Bury Your Dead have made a career out of doing just that. Unfortunately, no one has told bands such as Annotations of an Autopsy that deathcore is the becoming the next dumping ground for talent-less hacks.

It’s a sad state of affairs when songs this abrasive and menacing feel trite and boring. Giving a listen to the 5+ minute long “Years of Disgust”, for example, you’ll be wondering why the song had to be longer than 2 minutes. There is no build-up, no movement, no variation, no nothing. The song starts out with an ear piercing combination of screams and growls over a breakdown and then is followed by pig squeals, growls, a few chord progressions, and some more breakdowns. The transitions between these elements on this song and throughout the entire release, as well as the composition of these pieces, feels completely slapdash and, when it does feel somewhat natural, it’s simply because it is following an established deathcore genre convention.

There’s no doubt that this album is going to appeal to the deathcore scene junkies, but just as quickly they’ll move on to the next trendy release and never listen to this one again. Why? Because this is nothing more than a heartless, identity-less, generic, trend-centric, shallow attempt to get big in a burgeoning scene. If you want a mish-mash of what’s trendy in deathcore, Before the Throne of Infection will get you mad scene points and will also work as a crib notes guide to the growing scene. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and steer clear.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Change in Format

Looking back over the last few months and the posts I've made, it appears that more often than not the content contained here is almost 50% music based and when I do write it appears to be very burst-like. For example, I'll have a stretch of 3 or 4 days where I cram 5 or 6 posts in then I'll have a week or two where I get maybe 5 or 6 posts in, then I'll have another burst, then I'll lay off. Consistency has been rough, especially for non-music related writing.

I started thinking about this on my drive back home from my parents' house yesterday as I was listening to TWiT and wondered if maybe I was getting worn out on the normal blogging format. It's been like, what, nearly 6 years since I started blogging? That's a long time to stick with anything and I'm thinking maybe sitting at my desk typing away some of my thoughts might not be what I'm totally interested in right now.

It might be easy to pin my lack of writing on a lack of material to talk about, but that's simply not the case. I've always got random crap to talk about and anecdotes to relate and junk that I like to jabber about that no one else probably does, but when I get behind my keyboard, I sigh and think to myself, "Ok, I can get something done, just go quick." I then rip through some half-assed post or put up one of my music reviews. Lame.

As I listened to TWiT, however, I wondered if maybe what I need to do is just start talking about stuff instead of typing about it. I've never had a problem talking. Heck, give me a chance and get me going on something I can blabber about and you'll have hours of material. So why not move over to podcasting? Well, previously it was because I didn't have the technical know-how to do it. Ok... that's not really true, but I kept telling myself that was my excuse. That and I didn't really think I could do a solo show, but then I started listening to American Cliche. That's essentially a one-man show and it's great. Sure, there's an interview or a guest here and there, but for the most part, it's all one dude and it's totally interesting.

I don't want to just jump into the podcasting world ripping off other people, though, so I rationalized to myself that I needed to come up with some type of angle first. For a while, I couldn't come up with anything, but then, as I was searching for a good rock/punk/metal podcast to subscribe to... I found nothing of interest. So here was something staring me in the face that I could babble about for hours and wasn't done (so far) in a way or style that interested me.

So now that I have the technical know-how, I have the confidence to do a solo show, and I have a topic that I would love to tackle what could possibly be my excuse? I don't know, I can't think of one, so I may very well have to take the plunge. Maybe it'll last all of a couple of shows or not even get off the ground, but I might as well try, right? I've got a perfect outlet to get it going with my work over at Decoy Music. There are way more eyeballs (and potential ears) over there than if I just started it from here.

Hmm... well, there you have it. I think you're all witness to me signing up to undertake a new adventure and see what happens. Maybe I can get some people to do it with me, who knows, but even if I can't, it sounds fun, right?

Ricky G's Weekly Dozen

Time for another musical mix of phat trax, this time coming to us from my college years... which would be the first few years of this millennium for those of you who don't know when I was in college. Anyhow, try some of these gems on for size. Listen to them all right here.

1. Pearl Jam – “Why Go”
2. Sloth – “Open Your Eyes”
3. King’s X – “Complain”
4. Testament – “Ride”
5. Vex Red – “Sleep Does Nothing For You”
6. Edgewater – “The Story Of…”
7. Crosscut – “Roll the Dice”
8. Nothingface – “Dead Like Me”
9. The Offspring – “Nitro (Youth Energy)”
10. Further Seems Forever – “The Moon is Down”
11. Tool – “Sweat”
12. Skillet – “I Can”

Friday, May 09, 2008

Riding the Bus

Well, I figured it would happen sooner or later with the exploding gas prices, so I shouldn't really be surprised that public bus fees will soon be going up here in Minneapolis. I really can't complain too much since $2.00 each way to and from work isn't all that bad. $4.00 a day beats having to drive into downtown, somehow secure parking and pray that it doesn't cost your left nut, and then plow through traffic on your way home.

I don't know how much public transit costs in other cities, but when I visited Seattle last year, I remember the buses not costing very much so maybe Minneapolis is expensive when it comes to mass transit, but I would think even if they raised prices to $2.50 each way I'd still consider it ok.

Coffee Shop Talk

Lord knows I can't make it through my day without copious amounts of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. As such, I've grown to like and enjoy the various drinks at the coffee shops in the Minneapolis downtown. I predominantly visit Caribou Coffee, but will occasionally make a run to Dunn Brothers as well. I refuse, however, to set foot in a Starbucks. I don't know what it is exactly, but all of their coffee tastes like it was first burnt in the roasting process and then brewed through a dirty jock strap or old pair of gym socks. It seems like no matter what you get at Starbucks it tastes like liquid ass and I don't know why people continue to go there.

Anyhow, getting back on topic. Most often I get skim mochas at Caribou since they have the sweetest mochas of the shops around. If I'm going to get coffee instead of an espresso drink, it's always Dunn Brothers. Every now and again, however, I like to get something different at Caribou, usually one of their cold or iced drinks.

So this morning as I was in Caribou getting my weekly mocha, I noticed an advertisement for their new cold drinks--various combinations of tea and fruit. I don't know about you, but mushing together green tea and mango just simply sounds atrocious. True, I'm not much of a tea guy, mostly because it tastes like warm, slightly flavored water, but adding it into a grossly colored smoothie isn't appealing.

It's crazy stuff like this that makes me remember why they're a struggling company. I've wanted to invest in them in the past since I like most of their products and they're local, but it's crazy crap like this that I can't get behind... well, that and their negative EPS.

On the other hand, I did run across a Caribou product in Target the other day that I simply have fallen in love with. They are selling, via General Mills, mocha flavored granola bars. How can you go wrong with a granola bar that has a slight mocha flavor, a refreshing espresso smell, and a dash of caffeine to get you going? You can't.

It's really too bad that Caribou can't continue to make more interesting products like their granola bars that seem to have more legs than their crappy-ass new drinks. Given time, hopefully they'll learn...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Earthworm Holocaust

I love a good thunderstorm or rain shower as much as the next weather lover, but every now and again I feel bad for our little friends, the earthworms. We've had a couple of decent overnight rain showers in the last month or so and I've simply loved hearing the trickle of rain on my skylight as I sleep through the night. Walking to my bus in the morning, however, is usually a depressing block and a half jaunt.

Now I'm not going to claim anything ridiculous like earthworms deserving as many rights as humans or starting a "save the worms" campaign, but I do get a little sad for the worms I see out in the street the day after a rain.

As it rains the ground gets saturated with water and the worms need to come up above ground until the water drains through. Living in the country I'd often see them coming up across the gravel of our driveway or making their way across the cement slab outside of the garage. Usually they'd make their way back to the grass and go about their business once the standing water had cleared away. Occasionally, however, you'd see a few that didn't make it and got dried up by the sun. It's sad, but there weren't all that many most of the time.

Here in town it is quite different. As the worms make their way out of the ground and search for a temporarily unflooded place to hang out for a bit many will crawl over the curb and into the road. Once they fall down that curb wall, they're pretty much goners. Having no way to climb back up the curb they're stuck facing down a long day of drying out in the sun. Sure, they'll try their hardest to hold on, finding some build up of dirt here and there or trying to make their way across the road to a better place, the fact remains they will never see their earthy homes again.

Yeah, call me crazy getting worked up over a bunch of earthworms, but I have an odd tendency to superimpose myself and fellow human beings on animal life. It keeps me entertained when I'm bored, ok? Anyhow, I imagine what a horrible thing it would be to suddenly be stuck in an area that you can't get out of and can't survive in for very long. Think about it. It's raining out so you run to try and get out of it only to fall over a ledge that you didn't see (because you don't have eyes... y'know because you're an earthworm) and now you're out of the rain but you're also sentenced to an inadvertent death sentence, and a long, drawn out one at that.

Now I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I guess the takeaway could be that it sucks balls to be a worm in the city on the days that it rains. So next time it's raining out and you're cursing yourself for forgetting your umbrella, don't get so worked up, it could be worse - you could be an earthworm inching towards its cement killer.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Believe it or not, I'm a very organized person. I have very precise, unique organizational schemes that I use for just about everything. My DVDs are alphabetized in three distinct groups--the DVD movies I have not yet watched, TV on DVD I haven't watched, and all of the DVDs I've watched (TV and movies combined). My CDs are in alphabetical order. My books are organized a little more crazily. I just like being organized, but at times it sure doesn't look like I'm organized at all.

Anyone who sees my desk at work must surely wonder what tornado made its way through my cubicle. I have documents all over, CDs strewn about, cords everywhere, and crap all over the place. The thing is, though, I know where everything I need is. For example, the latest DB spec that I'm working with is underneath my exchanges list document right next to my Canada stuffed football. Or if I want the release notes for the last version of the app I'm working with I know I have to look in the folder pile that's next to my mini-tiki mask.

It would probably drive anyone crazy to have to work in my cubicle and, from what I see walking throughout the office, everyone else seems to be really, really neat as well as being organized. I'm sure everyone thinks I spend most of my time finding what I'm working with, but just because I'm not tidy doesn't mean I'm not organized. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go hunt down that requirements document in that pile of papers next to my Dwight Schrute bobblehead.

Burbis - Curse of the Golden Dracula CD Review

It would be next to impossible to review music, movies, or… well, anything for that matter, if genres didn’t exist. They are wonderful helpers that can be used to set the confines of whatever is being discussed right at the outset. Simply by saying that a CD is hardcore or that a movie is a comedy, the target audience, genre conventions, and personal influences on that particular subset of media come into place. Just a few words of description can put a piece of media into a proper context, but it can also paint it into a corner, which is always the associated risk with using genre tags. When I say “instrumental rock” there is automatically a stigma attached to whatever I will be talking about. In most cases, that’s ok, but not always. In this case it’s quite appropriate for Burbis to be governed by the confines of the “instrumental rock” genre, but there should be an asterisk next to that tag when talking about them. They may be restricted to this genre, but they do their best to add a little flourish here and there to set them apart.

With your first run through Curse of the Golden Dracula you will definitely hear the influences of post-rock heavyweights Explosions in the Sky and Caspian. There are more than a few passages where the trademarked EITS twinkling guitars are used to push a song forward, but unlike the aforementioned band Burbis inject some much needed weight to the usually sparse and mellow twinkles EITS are known for. Along with this added oomph, there are still moments that seem to blatantly rip off EITS and all of the EITS clones, such as the majority of “The White Snake”. This song is over nine minutes long consisting of about seven minutes of growing, slow burn build-up to a bursting crescendo of instrumental glory. I bet you’ve never heard that a hundred times before...

Even thought there are some been there, done that songs on this album, there are a couple of gems as well. “Winter Bloom” offers up a novel addition of Nintendo-ish keyboards to complement the melodic and sparse guitar work of the song. As odd as it sounds, this funky keyboarding actually works. The keys found here, and on a couple of other tracks, never overwhelm the song or feel completely tacked on. Instead they actually feel like they’re an integral part of the song. If only Burbis could have found a way to integrate this unique instrumentation into the majority of their songs, since then Curse of the Golden Dracula would have felt a little more unique instead of suffering from a lack of uniqueness on about half of the tracks. The combination of the keys and some of the heavier post-rock moments, such as what’s found on the title track, would be a heck of a combination that could really get this band noticed, but they’re not quite pulling it all together at this point in time.

There’s a significant amount of potential to be found in the members of Burbis, but they’re playing in a genre that is becoming quite crowded and has some extremely talented bands reigning over all of the up and comers. As mentioned before, they just need to do something that will get them a little separation from their peers. Once they achieve that, it’ll be a simple thing for their talent to take over as they create something really great. Until then, however, Burbis are definitely creating competent music, but it just doesn’t quite reach its full potential.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Getting My Iron On

Well, according to Rotten Tomatoes, it looks like Iron Man is the best reviewed movie of the year so far. That's a pretty good endorsement for the flick if you ask me. I must say, I'm still going to keep my hopes tempered until after I see it tonight. I've been hopeful that it would be good, but I didn't think it could be great.

Back when I first saw the previews I figured it would bomb. The CGI wasn't complete, the story (from what I could tell) seemed somewhat contrived, and I didn't think they could pull off making a second-tier comic book character into an A-list movie. After seeing the latest trailers, however, and reading the reviews it sounds like it's going to be a ton of fun.

I'm also a little hopeful that it does well being a Marvel stockholder. This is the first of their in-house movies to be released so it will be setting a precedent, hopefully a good one, since I don't see The Incredible Hulk doing that well later this summer. Sure, it has Ed Norton, but I think people will have a bad taste in their mouths from the last Hulk movie. I thought Ang Lee's Hulk was great, but most people didn't.

Anyhow, if you don't have anything to do this weekend, I'd suggest giving Iron Man a go. It's not like there's anything else decent to see coming out this weekend.

Upgrading is Never Easy

In the quest to always have the latest and greatest, I volunteered to be a guinea pig at work and test out a new migration tool and build in order to have a newer laptop, as well as to have the latest software packages available. My prior computer was also having some issues, so this seemed like the logical thing to do. What comes with being a guinea pig, however, are all of the associate little issues that haven't been worked out yet.

For the most part, the transition to my new laptop went pretty well. It took about 4 hours for everything to get transfered from my old machine to my new one, but just about everything made it over. However, I did have to dedicate a few hours to re-installing a bunch of programs that I had on my old machine that I needed on my new machine to feel at home again. I just can't use a default Windows XP environment. After having so many utilities and tools that have made my everyday activities so much easier, you can't go back.

I got everything moved over, all my settings copied over, and it looked like everything was up to speed and rocking. Unfortunately, that was too good to be true. My mouse wasn't working and I figured maybe I just needed some updated drivers, but since it's a bluetooth mouse, there was a whole other world of pain associated with trying to get the thing working (and it still isn't as of right now).

In my most humble opinion bluetooth is a horrible technology that was poorly thought out, has been poorly implemented, and proves to cause more problems and headaches than it is worth. In my experience, I've never had an encounter with bluetooth that went well and this was another case. There was firmware mismatches, software mismatches, driver errors, and everything else you could imagine associated with my mouse and computer. What's crazy is it is a Microsoft mouse and we can't get the damn thing to work on a Microsoft Windows XP machine using Microsoft's drivers and even trying out a Microsoft bluetooth attachment. It's all Microsoft technology, but none of it works. Thank goodness I sold all of my MSFT stock so that I don't feel bad when I talk crap about them.

Anyhow, let's just say that having a new laptop is awesome, but bluetooth is not since it wasted a couple hours of my day and will cost me more in the future since my dumbass mouse still isn't working.