Saturday, July 26, 2008

Out in Colorado

Maybe now that I'm on vacation I'll have a chance to write a little more. Truth be told, I don't know if I'm even ready for this vacation. The last couple of weeks have been killer work weeks, partially because the week before and week after a vacation are always uber-busy trying to cram all the stuff you need to do while you'll be out into the time before and after your jaunt away. So really, vacation isn't all that much of a vacation. It's more of a shifting of when your free time is. I'm sure it'll be a fun time, though.

It's a family vacation. My mom, dad, two brothers, and myself are staying in Colorado Springs for the week to see the sites in the area. We hit up the Colorado Springs zoo today, which was pretty fun. It's a well put together zoo and has a very diverse set of animals to visit. I do feel somewhat melancholy when I'm at a zoo, simply because I don't like the concept of locked up animals, especially those that should be out in very large open spaces (wolves, elephants, giraffes, etc.). Although it is nice to get to see animals that I usually otherwise wouldn't.

One animal that I really have a hard time visiting in any zoo is the Silverback Gorilla. I don't know what it is, but whenever I look at a Silverback, especially when our eyes meet, I feel like there's something more going on in that animal's head than any other animal in a zoo. It's like you can sense there's something more than simply instinct present. A self awareness maybe? Potentially a realization of their captivity or the reality of their situation? I don't know, but whatever it is, I feel almost as if they are partial people and keeping them confined is somehow immoral.

Now today is the first day of vacation, but it almost feels like I've been here for a couple days already, most likely because I had a 6:45 am flight from Minneapolis to Denver after a night of not really getting any sleep. So today has been a long day. The flight itself was also a tad bit stressful, mainly because it was the most turbulent flight I've been on. There was a chunk of the flight, probaly about a solid 10-15 minutes where we were being thrown all over. Cups, magazines, and anything that was loose was pretty much getting tossed every which way. It was a little nerve wracking, especially when there's a sharp move of the plane in a certain direction or a loud slam as the wind or dense cloud hits. Thankfully the rest of the trip was only normal turbulence.

It's getting to be late (10:30 pm home time, 9:30 here) so I'm running mostly on pure caffeine and delirium. Sleeping tonight is going to be a heck of a re-energizing experience that I'm quite looking forward to.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Decoy Podcast 009: From the UK with Love

Back again for show number 9. One away from double digits! This week is a great one. First, there's a Misery Signals interview that I'm sure you're all interested in. Also, I was joined by Alex Davies all the way from the UK. Having him on was a lot of fun. I'm also starting to narrow down some of the technical issues that have been affecting me. It looks like the recording software I use doesn't exactly sync things up correctly since the recorded conversation has lags and pauses where there were none in our actual conversation. So when there's a pause and I start laughing, it's not because I'm some crazy loon or dimwit.

As always, subscribe to the feed or through iTunes and let people know about the show!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crash Coordinates - Ansible CD Review

You’re probably not going to recognize the title of this album... that is unless you’re a sci-fi reader who has had a chance to read Orson Scott Card’s Ender novels. In these novels, an ansible is a communications device that allows instantaneous communication between two points, regardless of distance. It’s a clever album title, alluding to its ability to instantly “reach” the listener, and it actually manages to, but part of the reason this album does “reach” you right away is that you’ve heard some of it already.

There’s a familiarity to the band that exudes a sense of comfort, a knowledge that you’re hearing something you’ve stumbled across in the past, but you can’t necessarily pick out what it reminds you of. It would be easy to peg this band as a knock-off spacey, emo version 2.0 style of band, but that’s only giving you half of the picture, especially when you consider this band is still unsigned and young.

After a few spins you’ll start to pick up on the influences as the album grows itself on you. Here and there you feel some mellower Armor for Sleep moments, especially in parts of “Reverie”. Maybe it’s because the song is about dreams and living forever in them (similar lyrical territory as Things To Do When You Are Dead), or maybe it is simply the song's structure. It’s definitely not the vocals, however. Sung in a very youthful tenor, or at times in a semi-spoken style, they bring to mind a less polished Quietdrive using a different approach. Unfortunately, the vocals are the weakest part of Ansible, not so much because of the voice, but because some glossier production, for once, actually could have helped out a band, whereas in most cases it becomes a hindrance. The rest of the band is quite polished (for the most part) so there’s a bit of a disconnect between vocal and instrument clarity at times.

The instruments all come across very well, but there are times where the band shows some rough edges, such as on “The Torino Scale”. The song contains some very Fall of Troy inspired guitar work, and it doesn’t always feel like there is a true command over the material like there is on the more slowed moments, such as the dredg-tastic guitar tones of “Pompeii”. Given some time to mature, it’ll all come together I’m sure.

For a young, unsigned band, this is a great initial salvo into the musical world. Assuming the band doesn’t make any drastic changes, they’re poised to hone their talents and coalesce into a solid musical entity in the near future. Keep a look out because I think you’ll be hearing about these guys some more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Decoy Podcast 008: Quiznos Vs. Subway

It looks like Tuesdays are turning into the usual posting day for podcasts, which is cool by me since it means I am at least being consistent and sticking with it. This week's episode was a little more free flowing as we talked about some new songs from bands and then dove into some video game talk. Capping off the podcast was my interview with John of Inhale Exhale.

We're going to try and act on some of the suggestions that are tossed our way in the next few weeks, so let us know what you like, what you don't, and what you'd like to hear more of. One of the suggestions was to list the bands we talk about in the podcast, which sounds like a great idea, so I'll try to do that going forward. Here is this week's list:

--Brightwood (opening track)
--Fear My Thoughts
--Hawthorne Heights
--The Showdown
--Sky Eats Airplane
--Coheed and Cambria
--Inhale Exhale
--Life in Your Way (closing track)

As always, subscribe to the feed or through iTunes and let people know about the show!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our Friends, Fannie and Freddie

First, I just want to express how swamped I've been lately. I've been at work at least 9 hours a day the last couple of weeks and had every minute pretty much filled with various projects that are all coming together at the same time, with some being intensely schedule driven. My nights have also felt busy since I usually have activities going on at every turn and when I don't, I try to catch up on cleaning and chores. Adulthood... sucks sometimes.

But anyhow, something that has really been on my mind the last week or so has been the fiasco of what is Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two largest mortgage lenders in the US. If you've been reading the news, they're lost about 75% of their value this year and are in serious trouble. Thankfully, in order to prop up our ailing economy because of the buttload of terrible fiscal decisions by banks, the government, and the US population in the last 5 years, the government is stepping in to aid Freddie and Fannie.

I should be happy by this since it's getting my stocks turned back around in the right direction and should be a step in getting this economy to at least level out, but I'm really not. As I've said before, these types of bail-outs are helping those institutions and people who have made terrible decisions and allowing them to "get away" with these egregiously bad choices while the responsible people and institutions are penalized by receiving no benefit.

I don't want to see my tax dollars getting spent on other people's sub-prime mortgage woes. Why should I be punished and have a chunk of my money go towards someone else's mortgage, one that they no doubt can't afford when I was rational, reasonable, and sane when I bought the house I did and stayed within my means? We're implicitly rewarding this bad behavior by saying if those bad decisions are widespread enough, we'll help you out. If the value of my house and the economy wasn't so dependant upon this whole mortgage mess, I'd say let every bank and institution that made these crazy sub-prime mortgages and participated in bad lending practices go belly up. And let every person who can't pay their mortgage to hit the street with a permanent blemish on their financial records and credit reports.

Yeah, I'm a little bitter about the whole thing, but it's because responsible people always get screwed by these types of situations and scenarios. Where's the reward for being smart? If anything, it just reinforces the belief that you don't need to be too responsible because someone will bail you out or pick up your slack. It's sick and if this nation is ever going to be more than a second rate world power in the course of this century, there needs to be some serious overhauling of institutional and personal fiscal policies. Our nation is getting to be too stupid when it comes to managing money.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Decoy Podcast 007: The Max Headroom Effect

Hey everybody. Here's the 7th Decoy podcast. I must apologize up front for the issues we had with it. Apparently somewhere between California and Minnesota the internets were conspiring against us to introduce delay and what I term the "Max Headroom Effect" where Aaron's voice repeats similar to the character from the TV show.

Beyond the odd recording issues, I think we had a great show. I'm trying to figure out why there was a delay problem since the last time I recorded with Aaron there was no problem at all. I'd love to simply blame Comcast and be done with it, but I'm wondering if it might be something with my new computer and network connection. Anyhow, please enjoy the show despite its few flaws! Or at least enjoy the opening and closing tracks from 3OH!3

As always, subscribe to the feed or through iTunes and let people know about the show!

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Weekend Out of Town

Bucking the trend of staying home for vacations this summer, I spent the July 4th weekend with my parents, gf, and brother Ryan in the Wisconsin Dells. It was really great to have some time to slow down a bit, not worry about work, and hang with the family. It doesn't happen nearly enough any more. As I sat back and really thought about it, next to the campfire that was burning, I am constantly going going going going going... It's either for work or for Decoy Music related stuff (the podcast is a new, large time sink) or for ultimate or for catching up on house work or trying to do some reading or TV watching. There's rarely a moment I'm not doing something or on my way to doing something. So it was really nice to have a change to NOT do something, if even for a couple of hours.

As is usually the case with our family trips to the Dells, we spent most of the weekend mini golfing, grilling food, playing camping games (this time it was ladder golf), and reading. We also made the required trip to Rocky Roccocco pizza. Since it was the July 4th weekend, we also took in the fireworks that the city had and, frankly, we were pretty disappointed, for a couple of reasons.

First, there were two fireworks shows in the town--one by the city and one by Mount Olympus (a water park/go-kart place). The town fireworks started at about 9:15 and Mount Olympus' started at 9:30, so there were two competing displays that were on opposite ends of town so if you were seated in the middle you had to rubberneck it back and forth to try and catch what you could of both. Secondly, the fireworks just weren't nearly as impressive as back home. Last year's fireworks display in Austin, MN was phenomenal and other local MN fireworks displays, even in little towns, outperformed what was at the Dells. So I was a little disappointed, but it was still entertaining to sit out and watch them.

Lastly, we re-visited the Forevertron since Kristi had not been to it and our family found it really impressively unique. I could spend hours at the Forevertron simply looking at all of the unique creations that have been put together out of scrap metal and simple creativity. I can only imagine how enamored I would have been visiting when I was an impressionable young child.

Anyhow, it was a great trip and I was glad I was able to make it. Hopefully everyone else had wonderful weekends as well and were able to enjoy it no matter where you were.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

These Should Come Standard

I know just about everyone who has played Rock Band or been around people playing Rock Band has wished that the drums weren't so annoyingly loud... especially when you're like me and believe that hitting the drums harder somehow makes you better. I just can't hit softly. I end up spending more concentration trying to not pound on the drums than hitting notes. And besides, you're supposed to beat the hell out of a drum kit, even if it's a virtual one.

For those of you, however, that want to damped that sound but still hit like Mike Portnoy on crack, get some covers for your drum kit. Apparently, it looks like they do a good job and don't screw with your playing style. Now, if they weren't $45 I'd think about ordering a set. As it is, that's just a little too spendy. Great concept, however.

Decoy Podcast 006: Here Comes the Joker

Number six is now up. Check it out here. Couple of firsts in this episode. I have a co-host for the entire show, fellow Decoy editor Chris Conlan and I also have our first interview. It's with Tino of Lower Definition. Let me know what you think.

As always, subscribe to the feed or through iTunes and let people know about the show!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Computer Woes

It seems like lately everything I've been doing has been centered around computers and the troubles they bring. If it's not my laptop at work crapping out, it's my brand new computer at home not playing nice or doing what I want it to do or it's my previous computer (which is now the gf's computer) not being as freshly wiped and workable as I hoped. Or else maybe it's my Skype phone not working. Or it's re-installing software on all of these machines. Regardless, I haven't had any free time on my computers that hasn't been spent simply trying to make them work. Freakin' technology can bite my ass.