What's In My Bags?

4 December 2022 • Personal

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I’ve always been a huge fan of the “what’s in my bag” posts. Any time anyone I follow posts one of theirs, I pore over them, looking to see what kinds of cool bags are out there, what they’re stuffed with, and how I could improve my own bag setup.

Since I’ve been working remotely for nearly 3 years, my bags have gotten a bit neglected. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road in recent weeks, so I’ve gotten the bag re-packed and set up just how I like. I figured it’d be fun to share them with you.

The Backpack

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The backpack is a discontinued, older model North Face Big Shot. I’d been talking for years about how I wanted a different backpack with some extra compartments to carry my various devices, and my wife saw this one day on a clearance rack during Christmas vacation. It ended up being exactly what I was hoping for at the time, and while I’m always on the hunt for The Perfect Bag™, this one has done the trick for over 8 years now.

And as for what we have packed inside:

Top row

  • Composition notebook, for various notes (this one is filled with notes for a D&D campaign I want to write)
  • Laptop: 2021 16” M1 MacBook Pro (M1 Max, 32GB RAM, 512GB storage - easily the best computer I’ve ever used) for writing code & blog posts
  • MagSafe charger + extension cord
  • Warby Parker Ames glasses (I’m trying out these new glasses with blue light filtering lenses to see if they make extended computing or gaming sessions a bit easier on my eyes. So far I’m very happy with these.)
  • iPad (8th gen, 32GB, mostly used as a portable TV)

Left of the bag

Under the bag

  • Gum
  • Tissues
  • USB-C to Lightning + USB-A Apple Watch charger
  • A travel grooming kit with nail clippers and tweezers (literally the only conference swag I’ve ever gotten that I actually use, and somehow never impounded by TSA)
  • Tylenol & allergy meds
  • Chap stick (I’m partial to Burt’s Bees)
  • Batteries, both AA and AAA
  • Quarters, in case I need to feed a parking meter

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There are a handful of changes that I’d like to make to this setup.

Additionally, I’m always looking into different bags just to see what’s out there. While the Big Shot is fine, I’d love to get something that feels a bit less “repurposed hiking bag”. I’ve always been a fan of sling bags, but most of them either a) can’t carry a water bottle without spill potential, b) doesn’t have enough compartments to keep things from sliding around, c) doesn’t stand up on its own when placed on the floor, or d) all of the above.

The Sling Bag

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I’ve been carrying a sling bag since my daughter was born. Having extra space to haul things, even when I’m just going on a short trip to the store, had been invaluable to making sure I remember everything when walking out the door. I’d been using a generic fanny pack as my sling for months, but I just got a Aer Day Sling last week, and I’m loving it so far. Here’s what’s loaded inside:

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There’s a handful of changes I want to make to this setup as well.

  • This is a brand new bag, so I’m still working on figuring out the best organization for everything. Right now, the front pocket is only for my keys, and that seems wasteful.
  • I need to pack some Tylenol and allergy meds in this bag as well.
  • A multi-cable charger + brick for emergencies wouldn’t hurt.
  • Other small items, like a notebook + pencil, gum or mints, & snacks would all probably be great if they fit.
  • While the headphone case I have is the official one from Bose, it’s a tad bulky, so something smaller would be ideal.

So that’s it! That’s my bag setup as of today. What do you think?

  1. I use this key organizer out of spite - when I purchased it, someone told me “oh you’ll only use that for like 2 months”. I put a reminder in my calendar to rub it in their face 2 months later, and then brought it up any time I remembered. That was… like, 5 years ago. 

  2. I was FURIOUS that it took me 32 years to discover how amazing being able to actually see properly while wearing sunglasses was. I’ve never been a contacts guy, so I’d just take off my glasses and put on sunnies, or get huge oversized sunnies to put on over the top of my glasses and look like a huge dweeb. 

Creativity

4 September 2022 • Personal

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I just spent 16 hours in a car over the last 2 days as my wife, my daughter, and I all zipped off to a vacation. I spent a lot of that time listening to podcasts, and so many of them happened to talk about being creative, calling yourself “a creative” vs. “an artist”, and similar conversations. I listened to a lot of people talk about their creative endeavors, and getting inspired to pursue mine.

But, since I was stuck in a car, my mind instead wandered to “why do I have such a hard time actually being creative?”

I have so many random creative projects in flight. An incomplete list:

  • A new EP (which may be on hold - see my last post if you’re curious0
  • A D&D campaign I’d like to get back to running, which is a prelude to…
  • A D&D campaign I’d like to actually get written so I can run it at some point
  • Learning Swift, so I can make a couple iOS apps
  • Learning how to draw
  • Learning how to crochet

I have absurd admiration for people who create things from scratch, and every once in a while I’ll get the itch to try, or get back to trying, my own hand at it. But I’ve got a problem.

I talked last time about my endeavors with learning to play piano. I always saw my music as a creative outlet, but what I did was more about precision and exactness. About perfection. If it wasn’t perfect, I had to drill it over and over again until it was. If I had any sort of creative flourish to add to something, too bad, that’s not how the piece was written, can’t do that.

After more than a dozen years of that, I’m unable to just create, or even just try something - it must be perfect, or it’s no good.

Take NaNoWriMo, for example. (For the uninitiated, NNWM is an event during the month of November where people attempt to write a 50,000 word story, which would be the length of a typical novel.) I’ve attempted NNWM 3 times previously. I make it maaaaaybe 3 days before my brain goes “no, you ding dong, you need to go back and edit what you’ve already written,” which goes against the spirit of the event. You’re supposed to just write, and write, and write some more.

There’s a saying about race cars that the most important element is the brakes. It doesn’t matter how fast your car can go, or how easily you can turn, if you can’t stop. I have the inverse problem - my brakes are TOO good. When it comes time to hit the gas and accelerate, my car is held back like the parking brake is permanently on, because well what if I need to change directions suddenly?

And don’t get me started on learning new things. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw, but I remember in 5th and 6th grade that my “drawing” skills were actually me just tracing the final examples in a “learn to draw” book. I started trying to teach myself again last fall, and I did about 2 or 3 things before I went “wow this is kinda tough!” and not touching it again. When it’s not perfect right away, I go “ugh this sucks” and give up. Which is a horrible mentality to have… and yet.

I wish I could turn off the part of my brain that equates perfection with success. I wish I could be ok with learning something new, or making something with imperfections, instead of being annoyed and frustrated with it not sparkling like a gem.

Doers vs. Those Who Do

28 August 2022 • Personal

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I wrote a note to myself at midnight a couple of nights ago: “Blog idea for myself: A Doer vs. A Person Who Does (Related: hello, existential crisis and depression)”. I don’t remember exactly what caused this thought to enter my mind, but I do know what it meant and where my mind was going.

Here’s the general gist of what I was thinking: a doer is someone who really embodies the thing that they are doing, whereas those who do are people who aren’t fully entrenched in the thing that they’re doing; more like a casual hobbyist, or a passerby, or something like that.

Confused? Sure, I get it. Let me give you an example.

I started playing piano at age 4. Picked up drums at 10, bass at 12, and guitar at 14. Went to college for music education, before an injury forced me into a career change. Gigged regularly from age 11 until I was 29 - a solid 18 years of my life. Recorded an EP, with aspirations of doing more.

If you had asked me last week if I would’ve called myself a musician? I would’ve said yes. Yes, I was a musician. I lived it. I considered myself defined by music. I was a doer. I’m not anymore… probably wouldn’t even lump myself in as a “those who do” these days. But back then? Absolutely.

I talked about how I started playing piano at age 4. My mom was a piano teacher with a Masters in piano performance, and the story goes that I sat down at the piano one day when I was 4 and said that I wanted to learn how to play. So, Mom taught me. I played til I was 17. I was really fucking good at it. It fueled all of my ancillary musical endeavors, led to me being an All-State percussionist (twice), and why I decided I wanted to be a music ed major in the first place.

But a lot of people don’t know how much I ended up hating the piano. How much my mom and I fought about practicing (2 hours a day by the end, always before school every day). How she ended up basically owning everything that I did - I never was able to play organized sports because she was afraid I’d hurt my hands. My mom had early onset arthritis, among other things, and looking back, I feel like she was living vicariously through me.

In fact, I think a lot of my first 19 years of life were truly not my own. Piano. Even the pivots into the other instruments. The initial college major. If I push beyond that, my desire to keep playing and pursuing music for the following 10 years after that. In hindsight, I may have been a musician, but I wasn’t a doer, because it was never about me. I was just an extension of what my mom wanted for my life.

And then, she died. She got cancer, and she passed away 2 days before my birthday. On a Monday. And on that Thursday, I went to a practice section for my gig, buried her on Friday, and gigged on Saturday and Sunday. Because that’s what Mom would’ve wanted.

Fast forward 9 years. I have so many things that I felt defined me over the years, things that I would’ve considered myself a “doer” of, that don’t exist to me, or don’t matter anymore - they were just fleeting things that don’t matter to me anymore. Including music. The only things that matter to me are my wife and daughter. The only things I’m a “doer” of are being a husband and a father.

I came to this realization over the span of about 5 seconds on Thursday night/Friday morning. It was so sudden and so all encompassing. It was both a clarifying purpose, and something I can only describe as feeling like I’ve made 300 successful parachute jumps, but realizing that somehow I never had the chute on. That every lifeline that I’d anchored to my being, every foundational layer of who I believed I am as a person, the things I would say that I was a “doer” of, was nothing more than a thin verner on top of a pile of hobbies. Every part of my life, I’m just a “those who do”. Except for my family. And it’s really weird to witness my brain process all of these facts in real time and try to cope with it in a healthy way.

This post might get deleted tomorrow. It might be something that only sits up long enough for me to get some sleep, wake up, and go “oh god, what did I do???” But I think it’s important to really examine one’s life and truly understand what are our bedrock, foundational, “doer” things in life, and where we are just “those who do”.

Music of my Life (part 3)

13 August 2022 • Personal

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Welcome back to the final installment of Music of my Life, a series of blog posts that started as an exercise of “what songs do I love” and quickly spiraled out of control into something that has occupied a ton of my time and sent me down a ton of nostalgia rabbit holes. If you missed any of the previous posts, check out Part 1 and Part 2!

For this final installment, we’re talking about the 10 year stretch that has happened since I graduated from college, ages 25 to 35.

The last 10 years have been… a lot. New jobs. Living in 4 cities, and working in 7. A relationship that turned in to a wonderful marriage. Our first child. There’s so much that has happened, and my musical tastes have definitely reflected that.

Pink Floyd - Time and Coming Back To Life - I’d always been a casual fan of Pink Floyd over the years, but it took until my graduation for me to actually latch on to the band as one of my favorites. Time is definitely a classic, and I feel like I’m cheating a bit tossing it in here, so I’ll actually link one of my favorite tracks that isn’t as well known. Coming Back To Life is a song from the 1994 album The Division Bell, one of the least well known Pink Floyd releases, and this track just hooked me in with the guitar tone.

Of Mice & Men - Second & Sebring - Ok, time for some sad. 2 days before my 26th birthday, my mother passed away due to cancer. The lyrics of this song had been hooking me since I found out around 3 months prior, and I remember listening to this song the night she passed and really getting pummeled by them. I still can’t listen to this song without feeling sadness and loss. (On a lighter note, if you are not familiar with crabcore, read this article and then watch the video.)

Porcupine Tree - Time Flies - Porcupine Tree was the band that finally tipped me into the prog rock/metal world. I saw a video of their drummer doing a clinic on one of their other songs, Bonnie the Cat (here’s the video), and fell down the rabbit hole of listening to their entire catalog, both as a band and as Steven Wilson’s solo content.

DispersE - Dancing With Endless Love - Back in the day, I used to listen to my entire library on shuffle; thousands of songs just randomly chosen by the app. I’d had this album in my collection, but had never listened to it, and this song came on one day. It’s an instrumental intro track with a beautiful melody, transitioning to a heavier feel. It was much later that I finally listened to the whole album, and realized that the melody was a motif that returned for the final track of the album (skip to 2:49 if you want to hear where it comes back).

Snarky Puppy - Lingus - Out of all the tracks on today’s post, this is the one where I encourage you to carve out 10 minutes, get in whatever situation is best for your musical enjoyment, and watch. This is musicianship at its finest, and one of my favorite videos on the internet.

Tycho - Awake - A song for anything and everything. A car trip. A workout. A meditation. One of the best instrumental songs ever written, in my humble opinion.

Hidden Hospitals - Trilogy and Rose Hips - Steve’s band is back, this time with their full length album. The whole album is worth a listen, but these two are some of my favorites. Trilogy is a calm, atmospheric track that suddenly punches you with a heavy riff, while Rose Hips tries to rip you to shreds with dissonance. I’m sad the band is no longer together as a group, but they left behind some wonderful tracks for us to enjoy forever.

TesseracT - Phoenix - I love TesseracT. Such a wonderful band with a truly unique sound. This track is my favorite because it showcases Dan’s incredible vocal range (starting around 1:30).

Devin Townsend - Deadhead - A few points:

  • The Spotify playlist song is the album version. You want to watch the live YouTube link.
  • Devin is incredibly sick when they did this show
  • The best part happens at 6:28, so at least watch that (you’ll know when it happens)
  • I wish I could’ve been at this show
  • I wish I could be Devin’s friend; he genuinely seems like such a swell individual
  • If you need a YouTube rabbit hole to go down, look up “vocal coach react Devin Townsend” and enjoy.

Intervals - Epiphany - I started getting into instrumental prog metal around this time, and this was the song that tipped me over the edge. The little riff at 1:18 that leads into the first heavy section is just so beautiful, and the rhythmic riffs hook me straight to my core. (Also, the drummer for this band, Anup Sastry, did the drums for the end of Devin Townsend’s most recent album, and his video playthrough is absolutely stellar. Great drum videos are probably my favorite. You can watch Anup “shift gears” at 2:36, and again at 3:22, and it’s just cool how infectious that energy is.)

Plini - Handmade Cities - This whole album is a masterpiece. This track somehow manages to stand out above the rest. The solo starting around 3:28 is just perfection (so much so that apparently Doja Cat “borrowed” it for her EMA performance? The things I learn looking up videos for this blog.)

Sleeping At Last - I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) - Making their return to today’s list, Sleeping At Last managed to mellow out a wonderful love song into something powerful and soulful. This was the song Becca and I danced to at our wedding. Such a beautiful song.

Thrice - Hurricane - Thrice was a band that I knew of in high school, but never got into for whatever reason. I remember hearing an acoustic version of this song and thinking “huh, I should check this band out”. Such an incredible voice, an edgy 90s rock sound that still carries weight 30 years later. So good.

Vulfpeck - Dean Town - Yes, I put a bass solo up here. Vulfpeck are so much fun, and this song makes you want to groove with no lyrics. Bonus: here’s the track performed at their show at Madison Square Garden (and the audience sings along, which is my favorite), and here is probably one of my favorite mashups of all time - Vulfpeck + Beyoncé.

Bear’s Den - Stubborn Beast - The version on the record rules, but seeing this band live with my wife in Minneapolis the year before the pandemic hit is still one of my favorite memories.

Periphery - The Way The News Goes… - I thought about writing a blog post just for Periphery. Easily my favorite band out there working today. Energy and emotion and rhythm and riffs for days on end. They continue to blaze a trail for progressive metal, as musicians but also producers, software creators, and more. News is a chill song compared to most of their catalog, but the riff is divine and the drop into the heavy section at the end makes me want to run through a brick wall. Honorable mentions: Reptile and Satellites (just carve out 25 minutes to listen to both of these).

Leprous - Nighttime Disguise - The first entry to all 3 blog posts. This was the song that had been stuck in my head for a few weeks when the prompt was first presented. A great representation of the musicality that is prevalent within the metal community right now, and worth your time to listen to.


So that’s it! That’s the end of my list of inspiring music. There are so many more tracks that have impacted me throughout the years, but these are the ones that have stood the test of time over many, many years. Let me know what you think - did you have a favorite song? Anything new I introduced you to that you now can’t get enough of?

Music of my Life (part 2)

10 August 2022 • Personal

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Welcome back to Music of my Life, a series of blog posts that started as an exercise of “what songs do I love” and quickly spiraled out of control into something that has occupied a ton of my time and sent me down a ton of nostalgia rabbit holes. If you missed Part 1, check it out!

Last time, I talked about music that imprinted on me from ages 12 to 20. This time, we’re talking about 20 to 25.

Post-Breakup, College Dropout, and College Pt. 2 (2007 - 2012)

A LOT happened during this block of time, which is why I cut it down to only 6 years (and even then, it’s STILL 27 songs… sorry).

  • My college girlfriend and I broke up, sending me into a deep depression.
  • I discovered World of Warcraft.
  • I dropped out of college. (Yes, it happened in that order. No, I’m not certain they’re related, but I’m not ruling it out.)
  • I spent time working as an IT guy for a major manufacturer, which afforded me a lot of free time.
  • I hung out with friends from my childhood, got high as fuck, and copied about 30 GB of music off of his hard drive. I had no clue what most of it was.
  • I went back to college & made new friends.
  • I got an internship that had me driving 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) every summer and winter for 2 years.
  • I joined a Christian rock band.
  • I graduated at the ripe old age of 25.

During this time, I discovered entirely new genres of music that I didn’t know existed. I went full emo for a time. I found solace in silence, and peace in a lack of lyrics. I started writing an EP around the end of this time. Dubstep became a thing (and I loved it).

I tried to put the first post into a real timeline of discovery, but stuff in this window is really jumbled and messy. There’s also a lot more of “where I was/what I was going” thoughts instead of “how did this make me feel”. (Also, I was VERY much into Christian rock and CCM around this time, but I’m NOT putting any of that in here, because it’s extremely triggering for me.)

Deas Vail - Light As Air // Peter Bradley Adams - Los Angeles // Weaver At The Loom - You can’t evade them. // Sara Bareilles - Love Song

This first batch of 11 songs are ones that I have a distinct memory of listening to at my major manufacturer IT job. We had an entire month where one of the major facilities was shut down, so my team and I were tasked with walking through all 4 of the sites spread across town and cataloging all the computers and where they were located. I can still smell the oil and feel the soot between my fingers as I listen to these.

These four songs are much more mild, emotional, contemplative. I had a massive yo-yoing of emotions during this time, and this was the quiet & calm side of me. I got to play piano on Love Song for a gig, and that was a ton of fun (“oh wow I didn’t know you played piano!” “… yeah, for like 16 years now.”)

Secret & Whisper - You Are Familiar // Damiera - Obsessions // Emarosa - The Past Should Stay Dead // Emery - Edge Of The World // The Butterfly Effect - Worlds On Fire // Polar Bear Club - See The Wind

Some additional, much more energetic & heavy songs. Damiera was a band introduced to me (and later joined) by my friend Steve from yesterday. The Emarosa and Polar Bear Club tracks both opened their respective albums, and absolutely punched me in the face - “oh yeah, I’m gonna LOVE this!” The ending of The Butterfly Effect’s track ended that particular album, and more than once I’d rewind that song to just listen to the last minute over and over. All of these songs continue to rule just as hard today as they did when I first discovered them.

He Is Legend - China White - Getting a standalone callout here. I Am Hollywood remains one of my top-to-bottom favorite albums of all time, a wonderful concept album talking about the darker side of fame. Smack in the center of the album is this beautiful song. Out of anything in this whole list, I encourage you to listen to this song.

A.M. Architect - Unspoken // The Glitch Mob - Between Two Points // Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious // Closure In Moscow - Kissing Cousins // HRVRD - French Girls

Another batch of “where was I?” songs. I got DEEP into World of Warcraft right around the time the first expansion, “The Burning Crusade”, was released. Right around this time, I also got into listening to a lot of electronic, house, and trance music. When I listen to Vicious Delicious, I can still picture myself roaming across Hellfire Peninsula with my Tauren Paladin. Between Two Points was deep in the heart of Zangarmarsh. The following year, I’d be galloping around the “Wrath of the Lich King” zones listening to Kissing Cousins and French Girls. So many songs have deep rooted memories with WoW, that I actually have to be careful listening to them that I don’t find myself sucked back into the game that I spent so much time with. (HRVRD’s The Inevitable and I is another fantastic top-to-bottom album; if you like French Girls I encourage you to check it out.)

Dream Theater - The Spirit Carries On - One of the good things that came out of my time in that afore-mentioned Christian rock band was that the other guitarist introduced me to Dream Theater. I still watch their “Score” live concert with regularity, and this song is easily the best part of it. John Petrucci is one of the pioneers of modern progressive metal, and his guitar playing on this song is absolute perfection. (Also, I very much miss Mike Portnoy on the drums for this band.)

Lowercase Noises - Stars, Pt. 2 and Ambient Song 22 - I’m cheating a little and putting 2 songs by one artist here. It’s my list, I’ll do what I want. I don’t remember exactly how I discovered Andy and his music, but Stars was the song that made me go “ok yeah, I want to make ambient instrumental music” (remember that EP I mentioned earlier? Andy was the one that did final mastering on it.) All of Andy’s stuff is excellent. But he hit an absolute gold mine with Ambient Song 22. A little series of live, one-take recordings that he’d post on YouTube churned out this huge hit with over 3m views. It’s not available in the playlist, so make sure you click on the link (here it is again) and take a listen.

This Will Destroy You - Quiet // Tides of Man - New Futures - Once I discovered ambient instrumental music, I went on a quest to find more. These songs aren’t the only ones by a long shot, but they remain some of my favorites to this day.

Derdg - Ode To The Sun - Andy also introduced me to this band. They get a little bit wackier in some of their other releases, but Ode has such a terrific riff and hook, and it’s cemented as one of my top songs of all time.

Hidden Hospitals - Swan Dive and Picture Perfect - My friend Steve (from yesterday and from the Damiera track above) formed a new band with the Damiera singer. These are two tracks off of their first two EPs. Goddamn, do they slap.

John Mayer - Belief (Live in LA) - Another live track, another masterpiece. If I could be David Ryan Harris for like 30 seconds, I’d pick the time when he got to play this little riff. If I could go back and time and be at any concert, this would be in contention for shows that I would go to. John gets a bad rap sometimes, but he’s an everyman artist - some people love him for his crooning voice and love-y lyrics, and others love him for his masterful guitar playing.

Killswitch Engage - This Is Absolution - I’ve been listening to Killswitch since I was in high school, but it wasn’t till about 2010 that they really hooked me in. The breakdown lyrics hit me like a truck when I was trying to come out of my depression; “anchor yourself to the foundation of everything you love, believe you have just begun to live”.

Skrillex - Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites - Where were you when you learned about dub step? I was at a party where I realized a whole bunch of high school friends, a bunch of college friends, and my cousin were all apparently in a big friend group now, and I had no clue. It was awesome. I may have been sampling the Devil’s Lettuce that evening as well, so hearing this absolutely blew my mind.

Sleeping At Last - Night Must End - SAL has had such an interesting journey. I picked up with them when they released this album, Ghosts, but really started to pay attention around the time of Ryan started doing a musical project called Yearbook. He recorded 3 songs every month and released them for an entire calendar year. It was such an inspiration, and drove me to dive further in to my efforts to write and record my EP in the coming years.


So there we have it. Music of my formative years, ages 20 to 25. Anything you love or vibe with? I’d love to hear about it.

Music of my Life (part 1)

8 August 2022 • Personal

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I was talking with a group of friends in our Discord this past weekend, and a great prompt came up. “Share 3 songs that you feel like summarize your musical preferences/your journey through discovering new styles of music.”

Y’all realize how hard it is to narrow that prompt down to just three songs? Cripes.

Anyway, I fulfilled the prompt, but a lot of us were talking about our honorable mentions. This led me down a rabbit hole of figuring out what were my personal defining songs from my life, and now… well, it turned into 3 blog posts.

History

Prior to high school, I listened to a ton of different stuff. My first 3 albums that I ever owned were (lol in advance) Spice Girls - Spice, Hanson - Middle of Nowhere, and the Mortal Kombat Annihilation soundtrack. I then dabbled with a lot of Creed and other Christian-adjacent bands as I learned to play drums, bass, and guitar over the years. But none of that was really what I considered “formative” - most of those bands I’d heard on the radio, or was convinced by my mom to buy the CDs. Mortal Kombat was an out of the blue album purchase for me - I’d played the video games in the arcades, but didn’t even see the movie until I was in my 20s. I was pretty much relying on other people’s suggestions of what music to listen to until 1999/2000, when I was 12-13.

Jr. High, High School, & Early College (1999 - 2007)

Around 99/2000, I finally started to break out of the shell of “listen to music my parents recommend”, and found things via friends that I really enjoyed. I’ve included a Spotify playlist of 12 songs from that time that I loved/continue to love today, and either where I can picture myself listening to the song, or why I love it so much. (I’m including a Spotify playlist here, but I’ll link every song on YouTube as well.)

Deftones - My Own Summer (Shove It) - My cousin Cory has always been a very gifted drummer and musician, and I looked up to him a lot. Always loved going over to his house as a kid and playing drums (he’s now got his Masters in Jazz Studies). I still remember him playing Rage Against The Machine and Deftones for me as a “check this out” sort of deal, and opening my eyes to a new world of music.

Linkin Park - Krwlng - I still remember throwing on Hybrid Theory for the first time on a way back from some church camp my friend and I went to, and being blown away. The emotion I felt from Chester’s vocals and the band’s instrumentation gripped me and changed my perception on a lot of things. While HT and Meteora continue to be amazing albums, Reanimation has some absolutely incredible remixes, and the harmonies on Krwlng make the original song 300% better.

Norma Jean - Creating Something Out Of Nothing, Only To Destroy It - There was a concert venue just down the street from where I grew up called The Reverb. It was a dimly lit bar on the 2nd floor above some Main Street businesses. I’d be down there nearly once a week, going to shows of my friend’s bands, or other bands that came through. We had a pretty robust straight-edge/hardcore scene (x319x), and I still remember how energetic and chaotic the Norma Jean show I went to was. An absolutely incredible memory.

Beloved - Death to Traitors - I latched on to Beloved as one of my favorite hardcore bands, simply because they brought more melodic structure to their music. They played a show at the local rec center that was a block from my house, and it was nuts seeing kids running all over, playing basketball or throwing a football, while this band set up in the corner and just absolutely ripped.

Anberlin - Ready Fuels - I don’t remember exactly how I discovered Anberlin, but this was their very first track off their first album, and it spawned a nearly 2 decades long infatuation with this band. I spent many an afternoon in my room playing along to this album on my guitar and bass.

Billy Music - Stereofoam - A band that came through my hometown and played a show, and then practically dropped off the face of the planet. I would love to get a group of friends together and cover this whole album top to bottom. Stereofoam is in my top 10 songs of all time.

Incubus - Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song) - My friend Steve LOVED Incubus. Their mainstream releases were all really good, but I fell in love with their super early stuff (Fungus Amongus and S.C.I.E.N.C.E.). This is a song we’d casually drop while playing pep band gigs (along with Are You In? from Morning View).

Thursday - War All The Time - Oh yeah, I definitely had an emo phase that I went through. I distinctly remember listening to this album while sitting at my desk waiting for 1st period Trig to start. This album, plus Full Collapse, were on frequent rotation for me.

Underoath - Down, Set, Go - Underoath is a band that I still continue to listen to on repeat to this day. Soaring melodies, heavy hitting riffs… this band had everything I wanted back in the day, and their music still resonates today. I moshed right alongside a bunch of youths when I saw them live a few years ago.

Mae - Suspension - One of those churchy-adjacent bands that I listened to a lot of, Mae’s music has always been this melodic punky vibe that I seem to click with. The main guitar riff was one that I still play to this day when I pick up a guitar.

Relient K - Devestation and Reform - Exact same as Suspension above, with the only difference being that I’m in the music video for this song.

MUTEMATH - Typical - My college girlfriend and I went to go see The Fray play at her college. Wasn’t a fan, but it was live music, so why not? MUTEMATH opened for them, and absolutely blew them out of the water. Such an incredible performance, I was completely hyped and energized. Bought the t-shirts, the CDs, everything. God, that was such a good show.


So there we have it. Music of my formative years, ages 12 to 20. Anything you love or vibe with? I’d love to hear about it.

Resetting

15 July 2022 • Personal

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Man. A lot has happened.

It’s been almost 7 full months since my last post, and SO MANY THINGS have changed. Mostly for the better. Let’s do a quick recap.

New page

I’ve added a new page to my site called Hello. My friend Patrick was the one that turned me on to this trend, and honestly, I think it’s great. Go check it out.

Theme System Journal

I did implement the Theme System journal that I talked about in my last post into the start of my year, and it was a tremendous help in rapidly prioritizing things that mattered vs. things that didn’t.

  • Harvest: I’m through 17 books so far, and I’ve only stopped for coffee maybe a dozen times all year (thank you, Trade Coffee, for keeping me stocked with beans).
  • Prune: My Twitter and Instagram lists are both staying small, I haven’t gotten hooked on any long-play video games, and we’ve been doing our best to eat healthier overall.
  • Sow: I’ve been getting out and walking a lot, and I’ve been drinking a lot of water. I’m also in the progress of learning Swift. The other things on that list… not so much.
  • Raze: I’m back on Facebook, albeit very infrequently. I’ve not done anything with Screen Time (honestly forgot about that one), and my nails are still short.

I’m definitely leaning into the theme, even if I’m not actively using the journal as much anymore. More on that in a minute.

New addition to the family

My wife and I welcomed our first child, a daughter (you may see me refer to her as V in some places), on February 28th. We thought we were so prepared. We weren’t even close lol.

V has been wonderful. She’s smiling and giggling, she’s curious, and she gives amazing hugs. We’ve been doing the best that we can to get out of the house and do things. Most of my walks that I’ve been doing have been pushing her around the neighborhood in her stroller while the weather is nice. We’ve been taking her out and about around some friends, and tomorrow she gets to go to a friend’s child’s 1st birthday party. I love her so much.

Community

I’ve been doing better about trying to foster the kinds of communities that I want to be a part of. I’ve been actively trying to rekindle relationships with friends of yesteryear, now that we all have kids and can relate to that. It’s been great to touch base with all of them, swap stories and tips, and be reassured that we aren’t alone in our journey.

I’ve also become a member of the Relay FM podcast network, and through it, made some great friendships with people all over the world. We talk about random nonsense, we share projects we’re working on, and we hold each other accountable for things we’re trying to accomplish. We’re even doing a Play-By-Post D&D game, which I rejoined this month after taking an absence for V’s birth. This has been one of the best decisions that I’ve made in a long time, and I’m so thankful that I took the plunge - thanks to all of you (if you’re reading this) for being an outlet, a support system, and wonderful friends over the past few months.

Jobby Job

I quit my job! Today was actually my last full day. It’s all good though - I have another gig lined up, one that’s gonna be fantastic for allowing me to flex my time & help out my wife and V. Having more time available, and not feeling pressured to be Always On from 9 to 5 is going to be huge (and honestly, hats off to families of the past - I can’t even imagine how hard it would be trying to go to work every day and being away from my family. Yikes).


Those are the high points of what’s been going on with me as of late. I’m hoping to write a lot more over the coming weeks and months as we finally settle into a routine again. No promises, though.

Did you enjoy this post? Did something I say really resonate with you? Am I just flat-out wrong? Check out my Hello page to find a way to contact me, and let’s chat about it.

Year of the Garden

28 December 2021 • Personal

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So I really wanted to do a theme this year. Thought it’d be a nice thing to do instead of “goals” or “resolutions” or anything like that. However! Life is gonna get a little complicated with a newborn arriving in February, and I knew that was going to throw everything into whack.

With that said, my theme is: Year of the Garden.

I want to work on all of the small things in my life, thinking of it like a garden that I need to tend to in order to have success this year, and be ready for future years as well.

With that said, here are my 4 main categories:

Harvest - continue with established habits

  • Read at least 1 book/month (far less than my goal of 50 that I had for 2021, but hey - a baby is incoming)
  • Brew coffee daily vs. buying sugary mochas

Prune - trim down existing habits to be better suited for my future

  • Prune who I follow on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube every quarter (Tokimeki Unfollow is GREAT for this if you’re a Twitter user)
  • Uninstall/stop playing video games that I can’t pause
  • Cook fewer “comfort” recipes, and focus on healthier options

Sow - plant new habits

  • Healthy movement daily (exercise, Ring Fit, walking)
  • Drinking 80+ oz (2.3 L) of water daily
  • Write more (D&D campaign, blogging, journaling, etc.)
  • Practice piano
  • Practice guitar
  • Write music again (possibly Q2-Q3)
  • Learn to draw (iPad? Pencil?)
  • Learn a language (Spanish, Korean, French)
  • Learn a new programming language (Python, Swift, Rust?)

Raze - clear weeds and unwanted habits to make way for better things

  • Get off of Facebook (planned departure date of 1/1/22)
  • Use the Screen Time functions of Mac/iOS to restrict time on Twitter and Instagram
  • Actively identify and implement solutions to stop biting/picking my nails

I fully intend for items to move around in this list. For example, once I “sow” some of these new habits, I intend to move them to the “harvest” category where I continue to pursue them. Some “harvest” items will need to be “pruned” as I go along, or “razed” entirely. I want to leave myself the flexibility to identify and attempt new things, while simultaneously understanding that my time will not be my own in about 2 months.

Ultimately, I want to trim the fat, keep things lean, and identify the things that bring me joy and growth. Lay the ground work and prepare the garden for future years. Practice habit gardening now, so I am experienced with it as my life changes and I need to change.

Deadlines (or, On Writing)

5 July 2020 • Personal

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I love writing.

Technically, I guess you could say that I love words. I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember, and I found that I really enjoyed writing as I got into jr. high. I’ve always had an extremely vivid imagination, and it was fairly easy for me to manifest those crazy daydreams into decent stories.

For most of college, I ran or wrote for a handful of blogs or media outlets. Some of the actual reporting that I did still exists over in Macgasm’s archives. Beyond that, I’ve run a sports blog, maybe a dozen personal blogs, a well-meaning (but in hindsight, extremely cringe-worthy) “How To Be A Gentleman” blog.

Yeesh.

Anyway, as college became post-college, and as my free time dwindled & became occupied with other things, I’ve been looking for an outlet to start writing more. I’ve had this site up for nearly 2 years now after I stupidly let my .com address lapse (I mean, I could always get it back [for the low price of $4,000]…), and I’ve gone in spurts with writing posts when I actually have something to say. But beyond that? I haven’t done much of anything.

It’s crazy, too… I haven’t done a lot of creative writing in that time, either. Something that I used to love to do has now become something that I’m ashamed of, or at least apprehensive about sharing with the world. It’s the same with my music; when playing in front of a huge crowd, it’s no big deal. When playing for a small group, and ESPECIALLY family? Hard pass. I don’t pretend to get it, but that’s the way it is.

But I think that I have FINALLY found an outlet. One that not only affords me the ability to creatively write again, but also share it with a smaller, more intimate group & setting.

Becoming a Dungeon Master.

The returning popularity of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has been something I’m very thankful for. I’ve been playing since I was in high school (surprise, Mom & Dad), dabbled a bit in college, and then completely dropped off of it until about 2 years ago. I’ve only played in other people’s campaigns up until this point, but at the encouragement of my group, I’m starting up my first campaign next weekend.

I’ve actually been dabbling with a story/plot for the better part of these 2 years that I’ve been playing again, but I’ve not really taken the time to sit down and finish it. Actually, the plot spawned off of a novel series idea that I had about 5-6 years ago, and I’ve been just poking at with sticks every few months ever since. Occasionally I’ll get a new idea for the campaign, but they’re usually big, grandiose plot points that don’t fit in anywhere & would require a full rewrite of the story in order to accommodate.

Well, that happened again mid-June, but this time, I just took the idea and ran with it. It’s simultaneously a small yet huge plot, with a ton of threads that I’m having to ensure don’t unravel when you pluck at them. It’s been a great exercise in not only writing, but organizational skills as well (which is something I’ve struggled with for years, so yay, more practice).

The additional benefit? I now have deadlines to hit.

Do you enjoy writing or playing D&D? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to keep your worlds organized? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

Digital Pruning

26 June 2020 • Personal

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When I woke up this morning, I was following 733 Twitter accounts. As of right now, I’m following 435. 298 just got the boot.

I’m not sharing this to brag, or to to make you feel bad. I’m sharing this in case it helps you out.

There are moments when pruning the digital garden that we’ve cultivated is beneficial. My Twitter feed, for example, had an extremely low “signal to noise” ratio. It was all just people retweeting stuff or being angry or whatever, and not a lot of good thoughts, important content, & the like. My friend Patrick made mention of a service he was going to be using called Tokimeki Unfollow, and I decided to give it a once-over.

It’s actually really hard to go through all of the accounts you follow & try to determine who stays & who goes. Old friends you don’t talk to much? Companies that you really enjoy? The one person that shares a ton of content, both good and bad?

The thing that kept me going, and being really decisive about pruning, was the little line above the “Unfollow” and “Keep” buttons on the Tokimaki site: “Do the tweets still spark joy or feel important to you?”

As I went along, I made up a few guidelines for myself:

  • People over products
  • People over companies
  • Thoughts over mindlessness

So… following the people that were part of a podcast is more important than following the podcast itself. Similarly, following the people working for a company or publication is more important than following the company itself. In both cases, I can expect that the important content from the parent company will filter through via RTs.

Additionally, I cut out a bunch of people who did nothing but RT without substance. A friend (I believe it was Patrick (EDIT: I was right)) imparted some wisdom to me years ago; instead of a blind retweet, they were more interested in actually knowing what the person thought about the content they were sharing (often done via quote tweets). Thoughts over mindlessness. Signal over noise.

I’m not saying I won’t add these kinds of accounts back; on the contrary, if I find myself missing the kinds of things that they posted, I’ll absolutely follow them again. I’m just trying to do a hard reset for my feed, and for my mental well-being.

Additionally, for my sanity, I’m doing 2 additional things:

  • Removing Facebook from my phone
  • Installing (and using) an RSS feed reader

The former, I’m removing so I stop wasting so much time. The latter, so I can have a dedicated location to read content from all of those companies, blogs, etc. that I want to read.

I have no idea how it’s going to go. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a prune before. But especially with everything going on right now, I think it’s vital to have peace of mind wherever we spend time, and this is how I’m going to attempt to give myself some.

Did this help you? Do you have your own suggestions for how to keep your digital garden pruned? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!