Category: Uncategorized

I Hate Music

The title of this article is something I’ve said in jest for many years, yet recent soul searching has revealed it to be at least somewhat true. For example, if I dislike 98% of all Mexican food (which I assure you is not the case), then one could logically – and safely conclude that I dislike Mexican food. Well, I hate more than 98% of all music, so logically I hate music. There are many reasons I hate music, but the biggest reason is because I actually love music. After all, I am (and have been for most of my life) a musician.

For me, music listening isn’t some half-assed passive thing I do. It isn’t background noise. It isn’t to set the mood for a party or gathering. It isn’t something I do to make a drive more pleasant (though it does help). It isn’t any of the things to me that it typically is to many other people. As a matter of fact, I prefer not to listen to music at times when most people find it to be vital to the situation: I don’t like music when I am working out. I don’t like music when I’m talking with someone, and above all, I absolutely can’t sleep when music is playing.

I believe that last point may serve to illustrate my relationship with music adequately. If I try to sleep with music playing, I will not go to sleep. I will instead, listen to every note, every beat, and every word, analyzing how it is put together. That is what I do. When I listen to music, I almost prefer to not be doing anything else. I want that time to be about the music. I like it to be loud. I like it to be at the forefront, and in order for it to do something for me in that moment, it has to be interesting.

For me, music needs to be either very skillfully executed or aesthetically very unique. It also needs to be hard and driving. My musical tastes require the music to offer something to me on those terms every single time I listen – it needs to be interesting to me every time I listen. As such, the music that meets that criteria for me gets listened to over and over and over and over again, causing me to have a very narrow focus when it comes to music. Most of the stuff that gets played on the radio does not meet that criteria.

I traditionally have found most popular music to be over produced attempts to sell records to people, and that the people who like it simply don’t know any better. Lately, though, I’ve begun to feel as though there may be something wrong with me. Maybe I’m the one who is messed up. Maybe I don’t actually know any better than to be weird for the sake of being weird. When I hear someone say of a particular song, “oh man, that’s such a good song!”, I want to know why. Why is it good? My instinct is to turn my snobby musical nose up and immediately proclaim the song as rubbish. Perhaps it isn’t rubbish.

I’ve found my attitude to be a point of contention with people very consistently throughout my life. I’ve had many unresolved futile arguments with my wife over my attitude toward music. I’ve worn my friends out on the music I love to the point that they hate it. Just today I shared a playlist I made highlighting the music I’ve loved over the years with a gathering of people. It wasn’t long before someone proclaimed in a very disgusted manner, “what is this music? put on some Taylor Swift “. I felt so foolish and embarrassed. I just wanted to crawl under a rock.

I have a saying: If variety is the spice of life, the monotony is the rice of life. I like rice. Perhaps it’s time to put some Tony’s on the rice. I am not going to go as far as to listen to top 40 pop hits on the radio – I’ll kill myself. Below, I’m going to list the bands that have meant something to me over the years with a very brief description of why. Then I’ll have a favor to ask the three of you who are reading this.

Vanilla Ice – First music I truly liked on my own. First songs I memorized.

3Rd Bass- They hated Vanilla Ice. Their rap was top notch.

Nirvana – got me into rock, and showed me how to drum heavy.

Pearl Jam – also helped get me into rock.

Smashing Pumpkins – Showed me what real musicianship looked like for the first time.

Primus – Also great musicians that showed me how to be weird.

Rush – The best band ever. Period. If you disagree, I’ll fight you.

Depeche Mode – not a good musician one in the group, but cool sound, and able to re-invent themselves while still being themselves.

VNV Nation – excellent electronic music. Dark. Hard. Well put together. Showed me how electronic music is done live.

Mind.In.A.Box – Skillfully executed electronic music that weaves a tale throughout the band’s discography.

Rotersand – Dark, hard electronic that is still approachable. Driving.

The Police – Good musicians all around – interesting blend of sounds. Good drumming from Stewart Copeland.

Babymetal – Three cute Japanese girls singing over perfectly executed metal. So weird and beautiful it made me cry the first time I heard it.

Savlonic – A YouTube musician who makes funny silly songs invented a fictional synthpop band. Great electronic music.

Scandroid – If the 80’s synth aesthetic carried on, this is where it would be today. Top notch 80’s-esque music with modern power.

Now, it’s your turn. What is your favorite band? Tell me either here or on Facebook. Tell me why you like it. I’ll give it a listen. It has to be actual musicians that make their own music though. I need more variety.

 

Commuting to Work Via Bicycle

A few days ago, as I was reading one of the many bike forums, I read one of the forum members’ signature. It read, “Work is just the 8 hours between bike rides.” The phrase stuck with me, as I have recently become quite familiar with such sentiment. As I am prone to do from time to time, I recently embarked on one of my “challenges”, wherein I try something I have always wanted to try for an extended period – something that usually would seem off-putting to my peers, but will be beneficial for me in the long run. In this case, I decided to try commuting to work by bicycle. I have thought many times about bike commuting as a means to give me more time in the saddle, as well as improving my overall fitness. In fact, I did it quite successfully last year at Tyndall during ABM school, and again when I was working at my guard unit in Gulfport. However, bike commuting here at home is a completely different animal entirely. My squadron at Tyndall was only 4 miles from home, and my unit in Gulfport was less than a mile from where I was staying. Both places, being costal areas are also very flat. Here at home, the safest route from my home in Kokomo to my office in Columbia is 15 miles, complete with steep rolling hils in some places. The logistical challenges alone of such an endeavor would be off-putting to most, myself included… until recently. In the last few weeks, I have decided to give bike commuting a serious go. What follows shall be my experience bike commuting along with the pitfalls and lessons learned.

Never to be one who looks before he leaps, I decided to take on my new challenge full-force. I took my car to work on a Sunday after church, with my bike strapped to the back. I left the car along with the clothes I was wearing at work, donned my cycling kit, and embarked on my first journey home. The rest of the week proved to be something of a false start. Weather thwarted my rides several days. My 2005 Fuji Roubaix Pro, though fast, smooth, and nimble, has a frame geometry that is great for racing and exercise, but uncomfortable for commuting with a backpack. Additionally, the clipless pedals make negotiating traffic a daunting task. To compound matters, my fitness has wanned a bit over the last few months, making the hills between Kokomo and Foxworth absolutely grueling. To top it all off, the 1:10 commute time means I have to hit the ground running at 5:00 AM if I want to make it to work at 7:00 (breakfast, shower, clothes and all…). The next week, suffice to say, I wasn’t really digging the prospect of continuing my experiment. Yet, I didn’t let that stop me.

If you read any article about bike commuting tips, many suggest driving half way, so as to ease your way into riding to work. Following that advice, I decided to leave my work car at work, and drive my personal car from home each morning to my church in Foxworth, cutting out about 6 miles, and all of the really bad hills. There are still hills on my commute, but now, I’m not totally burned out with nine miles left to go. In addition to shortening my distance, I decided to use my vintage 1981 Concord Freedom Selecta 12 road bike as my commuter. Recently outfitted with a Brooks leather saddle, it is an absolute pleasure to ride. The Concord fits me a little better, and has a more relaxed frame geometry. It also seems to handle climbs better than the Fuji. With those adjustments, I am now entering my third week of bike commuting, with no plans to quit.

Lessons Learned – Logistics

I you plan to bike commute there are a few things you will want to consider. First, you’ll want a solid plan for clothing. Unless you own some cycling-specific casual clothes, you probably don’t want to tackle any great distances on the bike in your work clothes. Proper cycling kit is the way to go (jersey, padded shorts). I’ve found that it’s best to leave some jeans and casual shoes at work. This makes for less bulk in your backpack since all you have to bring along is a shirt, socks, and underwear. Second, many fear that they’ll be sweaty and smelly after the ride. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Take a shower before you ride, and apply deodorant. When you get to work, you can use some baby wipes (which you will have left at work) to freshen up, applying more deodorant if needed. Also, wait until you cool off before changing – this is a trick I’ve used often on days when I’ve worked out at lunch. You won’t be smelly. Last, always have a backup plan. I have my work car at work, so if I need to drive, I can ( I realize not everyone has access to multiple cars, but have a ride from a friend/family member lined up just in case).

Lessons Learned – Gear

For your bike-commuting adventure to be a success, you’ll need the proper equipment. A good, well maintained, functional bike is a must. The bike should not make yo miserable. Make sure the saddle is the right type for you and your bike – a big cushy saddle is not always the best option. If you plan to ride during hours of darkness, you absolutely need lights. I use a headlight that can light up the road in the pitch pitch black wee hours of the morning, and has a flashing mode that can be seen by motorists when the sun starts to come up. I also have two flashing red tail lights – one on the back of my bike and one on the back of my helmet. These tail lights are so bright that if you make the mistake of looking at one when you turn it on, it will blind you (not literally). Between these lights, I’ve found that motorists can obviously see me since they give me such a wide berth that they nearly run off the other side of the road sometimes. You may also want fenders for your bike, or at the very least an ass-saver to keep water off of your…, well, you know.. Additionally, a good backpack is a must.

Conclusion

Apart from the health benefits and gas savings, cycling to work is very rewarding. I get to experience the sights and sounds of my town in a way that I otherwise would never notice. I get to speak to people along the way. It wakes me up like coffee simply can’t. Overall, so far, I’d say my latest challenge is a success. Now, if people would put their freakin’ dogs away…

Review of my DW Collector’s Series Drums

My two favorite drummers are Neil Peart and Brian “Brain” Mantia. What do those drummers have in common? Absolutely nothing. Their playing styles and philosophies regarding drumming are polar opposites. Well… I say they have nothing in common – there is one thing: They play DW drums. Ever since the days when I was a huge Primus fan, and Brain was my favorite drummer, I have wanted a set of DW drums. I have always heard very good things about them. I’ve read about their attention to detail. I’ve heard the robust tones they create in the music of my drum heroes. Yet, one trip to Musicians Friend to check the prices on a set of DWs has, in the past, put them far out of reach.

Back then, I would never buy anything used, but now buying used things is a way of life for me. I can have the quality items I want without spending a fortune. So, this time, when the “I want new drums” bug bit, it wasn’t Musician’s Friend or Sweetwater I turned to, but rather eBay and Craig’s List. I’ve been playing for close to 27 years. It’s time for me to have a grown-up drum kit. I would settle for nothing less than the DW collector’s series, and if I was going to get one, it would have to be used. To my dismay, DW Collector’s Series drums, even used ones, are outrageously expensive. Before the venom of the “I want new drums” bug left my system, I finally happened upon it – a DW kit of the right size, a color and finish I could live with (my only requirement was that it had to be sparkly), a very reasonable price, and local pickup within driving distance to me.

After ruminating on it for a day, I finally pulled the trigger, and bought the finest set of drums I have ever played – A 2008-2009 5 Piece DW Collector’s Series shell kit in super tangerine glass. After purchasing it, I noticed the seller had a nice snare drum listed. I went ahead and purchased that too since I would likely be selling my old snare. So, along with my sparkly orange bass and toms, I got a DW Collector’s Series solid wood, steam bent, single ply snare drum. Here’s a picture. I had to doctor up the picture because the lighting in my bedroom where the drums are set up is terrible. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

Photo Mar 25, 1 08 06 PM

Initial Impressions – Build Quality

When I met up with the seller (who was driving the exact same make/model/color vehicle as me) and began loading the drums into my vehicle, upon picking up the first drum, I was immediately struck by the quality of these drums. Though shorter than my old drums, these are noticeably heavier. Nowhere on the shells was the wrap separating or bubbling up – it is almost like the wrap is another ply of wood. The mounts are attached to free -floating brackets in which the lugs sit, unlike many other drums on which the mounts are screwed to the shells directly. The hardware is all  sturdy and well made. The clamps on the mounts are spring loaded so when I unscrew them, they open up to accept the tom arm. I don’t have to man-up on any of the tension rods or wing nuts to loosen or tighten them. Everything about these drums just feels solid.

Inside of each drum is printed a musical note that shows what DW calls the “shell note”. This is the note the shell produces if you tap on it. In their instructional video on how to tune their drums, DW says it’s best to try to tune the heads to this shell note.

When handing me the snare drum, the seller asked, “have you ever held a singly-ply snare?”. I told him I hadn’t. When he handed it to me, I could tell this was a quality instrument. Again, like the other drums, it was heavy. Actually, it was very heavy. Usually drums are made out of thin layers of wood that are glued together. This drum is made from a single, thick piece of wood that is bent into the shape of a drum using steam. The only thing I could say was, “That is beautiful…”

Ergonomics

For the past 20 years, I’ve played the same kit, a mid-90s Tama Rockstar. It has these old-school, very tall toms. I’ve always found them very difficult to position in a way that perfectly suits me. The toms could never go over the bass drum in a good position that was comfortable to me – I like the drums to have less of an angle to them, but the height of the toms necessitated turning them at weird angles to be playable. In recent years, I’ve noticed that toms have shrunk, or players have begun to favor shorter toms. Well, the toms on my new DWs are really, really short. I can now position my drums at the perfect angle, in exactly the right spot. My only concern when I saw them on eBay was that perhaps the drums were too short. I was worried that they wouldn’t sound fat and resonant like I wanted. As it turns out, my worries were unwarranted.

Sound

Despite being on the short side physically, these drums sound massive. The higher toms sing, with an almost bell-like tone. The two floor toms are not just heard, but felt. The kick, despite being only 20 inches, is chest-thumping deep. As the drummer behind the kit, I feel almost like an audience member listening to a set of drums through a big sound system with sub-woofers. To me, drums usually sound harsh in person. These drums sound almost like a good recording. DW drums are known for their long sustains and deep resonance. I can tell you, that reputation is firmly based in reality. Even with used two-ply heads, the toms continue to sing long after being struck. I can’t wait to get some coated ambassadors on them! I only wish I had some really nice cymbals to complement the jaw-dropping sound that these drums make.

Conclusion

As I sat behind my drums, talking to my wife who sat across the room, she said something to the effect of, “so I guess you’re just going to sit there all day?..” Or maybe it was something about not paying attention (I wouldn’t know, I was not paying attention). I told her, “I’m kinda awe-struck right now… This is the nicest, best sounding musical instrument I’ve ever played, much less owned…” I can’t believe I finally have my own set of DWs. I know other manufacturers make high quality drums, but I can’t imagine they come close to DW. Color me super impressed!

 

Depeche Mode’s Latest Albums Are Still Depeche Mode

depeche-mode-tickets-jpg-870x570_q70_crop-smart_upscaleIn the last number of years, Depeche Mode has risen to the top of my list of favorite bands, not second anymore, but now equal to Rush. Depeche Mode is almost the antithesis of what I typically look for in a group of musicians – they’re not virtuoso instrumentalists, and they don’t even have a drummer! Yet, there’s something about their music that keeps me coming back for more, time and time again. They are often mislabeled as an 80’s synth pop band, however, they are so much more. In fact, they are not and 80’s band at all. Actually, they are one of the few “pop” bands from the 80’s that has never stopped making albums (as a matter fact there are some blasphemous rumors that there is a forthcoming album and tour in 2017). Apart from that, they bring to the table a dark aesthetic and soulfulness that truly sets them apart from other bands that one may commonly associate them with. I love Depeche Mode. I celebrate their entire collection… well, almost their entire collection, that is, until recently.

As with anyone who has a favorite band, I tend to get totally sucked in to the band’s current collection as it exists at the time that I discover them. Anything after that tends to seem somewhat foreign to me. I’d be lying if I pretended to not be disappointed with Depeche Mode’s later albums. They don’t seem like “Real Depeche Mode” – and I’m not speaking about some perceived lack of depth in their music after the early 90s departure of Alan Wilder. There’s something more, and I finally found an opportunity to explore that.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an occasion to listen to Depeche Mode’s last four albums, “Exciter”, “Playing the Angel”, “Sounds of the Universe”, and “Delta Machine” in their entirety. While listening, I had a long time to evaluate the music and give lengthy consideration to why I haven’t paid much attention to these albums. I discovered, in fact, that these albums are not only brilliant, but quintessentially Depeche Mode. Heres why:

The issue is not totally with me or even with the music itself, but rather with the nature of what Depeche Mode, at its core is – an electronic band. Throughout their career, they have been a band full of keyboard players whose sound relies heavily on the technology of the day. Unlike my other favorite band, Rush (we’ll use them as an example here), who can play one note, and you know without a doubt it is Rush, Depeche Mode’s sound has changed drastically over the years. Sure, an 80’s Rush album sounds 80’s, and a 90’s Rush album sounds 90’s, and so forth. Yet, no matter the era, Rush is still a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer, giving them a common thread despite adapting to the times with their sound. Synthesizers, on the other hand have changed drastically since their inception both in terms of sound and application. Furthermore, the very nature of electronic music, even in the last 10 years has evolved. Just as a band like Rush alters their sound to fit the era in which they are playing, so too must an electronic band like Depeche Mode. Combine that with the aforementioned technological changes, and you can see how Depeche Mode’s sound might change a great deal.

Just listen to a song like “Just Can’t Get Enough”, and compare it to “Walking In My Shoes”. Now, compare that to anything on “Delta Machine”. On the surface, you will undoubtedly notice a very serious difference between the three. In each case, the song sounds like an electronically created song of its time, but given a further listen, each song is without a doubt Depeche Mode.

Now before I go on, I will make notice of personal preference briefly. I like electronic music a lot, and have even been a practitioner of said music once in my life. Aesthetically, in music and art, I like things to be rather hard-edged. I like sharp, punchy sounds. I like drum patches to be loud and noticeable. I like synths to be hard and gritty. In fact, I once was letting a friend of a friend listen to some of the music I created, and he asked, “why do you always use that drum machine sound”. This should have clued me in to the fact that people who were into modern electronic music at the time were looking for a more soft, ambient type of sound. Guess who was doing that at the time? Depeche Mode. Yet, as I stated previously, deep down they were still totally, unabashedly, Depeche Mode. Let’s Make a checklist:

1. Dave Gahan. Check!

2. Martin L. Gore. Check!

3. Andrew Fletcher. Check!

4. Synthesizers. Check!

5. Dark, yet approachable sound. Check!

6. Bizzare electronic percussive noises interspersed throughout. Check!

7. Weird synthetic sounds somehow bludgeoned into fitting the music. Check!

8. Intentional discord that enhance the dark aesthetic. Check!

9. Thoughtful, well placed transitions. Check!

10. Lyrical themes exploring the not so pretty side of love. Check!

11. Martin singing the odd, very emotional songs. Check!

So you see, The soul of Depeche Mode is alive and well. Maybe I was alone in ever thinking it was’t, but if not, then I hope I have persuaded you to give these latest albums of one of my favorite bands a listen. There are some killer tracks to be heard for sure!

The Minimalist Grown Man’s Wardrobe

FullSizeRender [186464]A few years ago, as I was browsing Maximum PC’s blog, reading an article listing the 100 websites you must read (or something of that nature), I stumbled upon this article from a blog called “Put This On”. The blog sought to educate men on how to dress like grown-ups. This was one of those magical moments where a real need in my life perfectly coincided with a helpful bit of advice from my source of all knowledge, the internet. At the time I looked like what can only be described as a goth who’d lost his way. Black dri-fit polos and tactical pants were about as professional as it got for me. I needed to look more professional. I was tired of the Wal Mart greeters leering at me as though I was stealing something. As a 30-something father, husband, IT Manager, part-time military member, my look didn’t fit my life. Reading about menswear and how a grown man should dress sparked a long, weird journey to find my personal style. Unfortunately, what also ensued was an unhealthy obsession with clothes and a bloated wardrobe full of things that simply don’t work for me. (A word of warning: Menswear bloggers like the above referenced ones tend to go off into the weeds a lot. My aim here is to approach the subject with an eye toward minimalism)

After a great deal of experimentation, I did find that there were a few items that I tended to gravitate toward. Around that same time, I began to really key in on a lifestyle that is almost the polar opposite of the excesses of my large collection of menswear – minimalism. There is something attractive about living a life free of excess – a life boiled down to the bear essentials. It is a life that I strive for, although unsuccessfully. I have way too many hobbies that require way too many “things” (drumming, cycling, etc.). However, if there is one area of my life that I should be able to boil down, the mundane, utilitarian act of clothing oneself should definitely be the one. I immediately began tossing everything that didn’t fit or work for me from my wardrobe. Several years later though, I still struggle to reconcile the desires to dress respectably and yet, to live free of excess. In this article I shall attempt to show you, the reader (all three of you), how to dress like a grown man without having a glut of excess clothing. I will provide some general guidelines and considerations, and a list of clothing items with an explanation of why I chose each of them.
Considerations and Guidelines

A man’s wardrobe should frame the person, and not the clothes. A minimal man’s wardrobe should contain good quality, versatile items. Every item should be able to match well with every other item. The key, however, is to accomplish this with as few items as possible.

The man’s wardrobe should fit his lifestyle and his job. I work in a place where people wear jeans and t-shirts (or polos) a great deal. Dressing “nice” usually entails a golf shirt and some slacks. I should be able to fit into that culture without going too far over-the-top. I’m also very involved in my church, and a member of the Gideons. Somehow my attire should be flexible enough the bridge my job and my social activities. These considerations will vary from person to person.

A man’s wardrobe should be timeless, and not subject to whims of fashion. If it works now, it should work 20 years from now.

Lastly, a man’s wardrobe shouldn’t break him (monetarily). You can find most of these things at thrift stores in good condition, as they are all staples of classic men’s attire. Also, polyester is the devil.

 

Wardrobe Items

Shirts

FullSizeRender [186462]At a minimum, a man should own a light blue shirt and a white shirt. If you need a little more variety, a striped shirt can be added. The best type shirt to own is the Oxford Cloth Button-Down (OCBD). The OCBD is made from a more coarse fabric than a regular dress shirt, and has buttons on the tips of the collars to button them down. I chose the OCBD because it is absolutely the most versatile shirt a man can own. Wear the OCBD with khakis or jeans, and you’re ready for work. Put a tie and blazer, and you’re ready for church. Roll up your sleeves and put on some shorts, and you’re ready for the weekend. Additionally, the fabric of the OCBD is a little more rugged looking than a regular dress shirt, so if you work in a place where everyone dresses very casually, you won’t stick out too much. My OCBDs are from Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren. I like Brooks Brothers OCBDs the best – they are expensive, so thrifting to find one is key. Ralphie would be good too if they would replace their stupid horse thing with a pocket.

In addition to the two OCBDs, every man should own a gray T-shirt and a dark blue T-shirt of decent quality with no logos. When you are trying to be super casual or low-key, you can throw on a t-shirt with khaki chinos or jeans, and still look respectable. Any brand will do as long as they look decent.
Pants

FullSizeRender [186460]Every man should own one pair of straight cut dark blue jeans and a pair of flat front khaki chinos. Both are comfortable and versatile, and can be paired with various other items for a variety of occasions. Currently I don’t have any chinos that I like, but rather a pair Levi’s khaki pants that are cut like jeans. My jeans are also Levi’s.

Additionally, a man needs at least one pair of khaki shorts – no cargo shorts (note, I own one pair of cargo shorts, and they look stupid). The climate of your home may dictate the need for more shorts.
Jacket

FullSizeRender [186458]One Navy blazer is all you should need. In today’s world where “dressing nice” is a term used very loosely, a navy blazer should serve all your purposes. In fact, if you wear one to church, people will ask you all sorts of ridiculous questions like, “you preachin’ today?” If you wear one to work, be prepared to be asked if you are going to a funeral. My blazer is a Stafford one from JC Penny. It works.

*One caveat to this is if you work somewhere that requires a suit, then own a navy one or a gray one (or both).

 

 

 
Shoes

FullSizeRender [186454]This is a tough one because footwear is where I struggle the most. Not all shoes work for everything. If I had to only pick three, I’d say every man should own a pair of chukka boots, a pair of nice looking sneakers with minimal branding, and a pair of leather dress shoes (real leather please). Currently I have some Nunn-Bush tan chukkas, a pair of Crocs leather sneakers (Crocs are horrible, but these shoes are an odd-ball find that I absolutely love), and a pair of Johnston and Murphy saddle bucks that I thrifted several years ago (they were like new for 12 dollars!). I have other shoes, but if I only had these, I’d have all bases covered.

 

 

Accessories

FullSizeRender [186456]In addition to the main clothing articles, every man should own a belt to match his shoes, a modest but decent looking watch, a tie, some shades, and a white pocket square.

A tie should be of good quality and should dimple near the knot. I have bought and gotten rid of many ties, but my enduring favorite is a blue Chap’s tie with little faint yellow dots – the material is thick, and it matches everything I own.

My watch is a $30.00 Timex I bought from Target. It is a dead simple analog watch with a nylon cloth band that has functioned flawlessly for over 3 years. It looks smart, and adds a nice little pushing agent to my otherwise very plain wardrobe.

My shades are Costa Del Mar. They are expensive, but you can almost look at the sun with them. (Please don’t look at the sun!)

 

 

FullSizeRender [186444]On Wear and Care and Such

Make sure your clothes fit well. Unless you are super thin, avoid slim fit. Non-iron finishes, much like polyester, are the devil. Get an expensive iron (I like Rowenta irons), and get after it. If the shirt has a rounded bottom, it is meant to be tucked in. Your socks should match your pants.

Leather shoes need to be polished occasionally. Mink oil is awesome as well.

You may notice some fraying on my OCBD – this is going to happen, especially if you wear the same 2 or 3 shirts all the time. When your shirts fray, iron them, and wear them like a boss. Do it with purpose, and you’ll come across looking wise and frugal.

Don’t be like me. Don’t wear khakis when you work on your bicycle. Wear an apron when you cook. Clean your chukkas off immediately when you accidentally drop an egg on them cooking. I don’t follow any of this advice, thus my clothes are all messed up.

Conclusion

If you strive for simplicity while still managing to look respectable, I hope the tips I have provided here prove to be helpful for you. Remember: keep it simple and versatile.

 

Some examples of outfits that can be made from these items:

FullSizeRender [186452] FullSizeRender [186450] FullSizeRender [186448] FullSizeRender [186446]

I’m Making Videos

So, in my last post, I mentioned having been inspired to make videos on YouTube. Well, I’ve since made a number of videos. I’ve been trying my hand at short comedy sketches and vlogs. The vlogs, honestly are the hardest. I want them to be personal. I want them to give viewers insight into my life. Yet I also want them to be coherent. It’s tough to find something to talk about for several minutes when I’m the only one talking, and also have it hold together (thank God for editing!).

I’ve had a blast making these videos. I’ve needed to do something creative forever now. It is so gratifying to have an idea, act on it, and see a final product out there for people to watch. Anyway, I’ll be making a tab here for my videos, and also a link to my YouTube channel below. Please, check it out!

https://www.youtube.com/user/audiomatron/videos

So, what’s next? Well, I want to redo my popular “How to Clean an IBM Model M Keyboard” video in HD. I also have an idea for a series of visual puns that I’d like to do. I’m starting to see video ideas in everything. It’s awesome!

Out

I Want To Make Videos!

I’ve had a YouTube channel for some time. I use it to post videos of me drumming and the films that my students and I make in Sunday School. Well, I recently have been inspired by some of the channels I frequent to become more active in creating videos and uploading them to YouTube. Here’s my first vlog along with a video about my bike!

Striving for Minimalism

In my previous post, I wrote about considerations for traveling minimally. Merely thinking about and researching this has inspired me to once again strive for minimalism in my own life. Last time I tried this, I believe I failed because I tried to get my family on board with it – something they simply are not ready for. Really though, when I look at my house, a good bit of the “stuff” is mine. I do have a lot of things I never use that can go. I’d like to take another stab at it, this time focusing only on my stuff. Perhaps in doing so, I will inspire others in my household.

Successes and Failures

I’ve gotten really good at letting go of clothes. I just took a pile out this morning to take to the thrift store. Where I fail is with the small stuff that I don’t consciously think about – DVDs I never watch, LaserDiscs and VHS tapes I don’t even have equipment for, boxes of wires and connectors I never use, old software that won’t run on modern PCs, the 14 Bibles I have when really I only use one or two of them, the drawer full of ties I have when I only ever were the same one or two, all the belts that are too big for me, Military uniform items I’ve shrunken out of, combat boots that are no longer authorized for wear with the uniform, the furniture in my study that never gets sat upon. That’s just the stuff in the house. Don’t get me started on the stuff in the attic.

What I Want

I read yesterday (I think on theminimalists.com) that minimalism is not necessarily about big empty rooms. Well, that’s what I want. If I lived alone, I’d want a small house with only one big table and one chair in it. That’s it. However, I don’t live alone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to live with less.

How I’ll Get It

Often in our home, the tendency is to think that buying more means by which to organize our stuff is the solution (although it’s true our house is woefully lacking in cabinets. It’s like the people who built it didn’t plan on owning towels or bed linens). Really though, the best way to organize our stuff is to have less of it. As I stated previously, I’m not going to beable to force anyone into going along with me on this. I can only handle my stuff.

Each day for a month, I’m going to get rid of something. I saw a game on theminimalists.com that says to start with one thing, and increase the number by one each day. That sounds cool, but I’m not going to do that. In the spirit of what I’m hoping to accomplish, simplicity, I’ll keep this simple. I plan to get rid of something, preferably more than one something, each day for a month. I’ll take the 5 days I’ll be gone to SF for VMworld out. So, until the 18th of next monts, I will rid myself of at least one or more material possession each day.

I started today. I got rid of all those ties, last year’s VMworld backpack, a stack of pants a friend gave me that I don’t want (and don’t fit anyway), a blazer I never wear, some pants I only wore for my dad and Mom’s wedding, a shirt I don’t really like, two pair of combat boots, an old digital camera, all but one of my belts, a polo shirt that’s too big, and these Nantucket red shorts I bought this summer, but that just aren’t “me”. Wow, that was liberating. Perhaps I should list the things I get rid of each day.

Traveling Lighter

It’s that time of year again – time for VMworld (I couldn’t decide if this should be here or on my IT blog). Last year I wrote an article on my IT blog, whomademeanexpert.com, about traveling lightly to VMworld. It travel at least twice a year, once for the Air Guard, and once to go to VMworld. In either case, I absolutely can’t stand being heavily laden with unnecessary junk. Last year’s VMworld was my first experiment in minimalist travel. While it was nice to be able to move with ease through the airport with only one bag, I could have done better. My aim here is to explore my pain points from last year an hopefully refine my process to streamline my travel this year. In no particular order, here were my issues as I recall:

1. My bag was too bulky, thus was a pain to carry through the airports. This was largely due to my Hoka One One running shoes and my Patagonia jacket.

2. At VMworld, while I didn’t pick up hardly any swag, I did take the backpack. I used it to carry my laptop and essential items. Carrying that became cumbersome and irritating. Also, I now had two bags to try to bring back.

3. Being a recovering clothes nerd, all of my garments are 100% cotton. Wearing only two outfits for a whole week didn’t work well as my clothes began to smell bad. I longed for a fresh change of clothes.

4. I carried my jacket around because it gets a little chilly at night in SF. The jacket was too hot during the day, and very bulky in my backpack.

 

Those were my main issues. This year I plan to try traveling lightly again, but with an eye toward solving the above-mentioned problems.

This Year’s Plan

Twice above I mentioned my jacket being a burden. It was really too heavy a jacket. This time I’m considering not bringing a jacket at all. It gets a little chilly in SF at night this time of year , but not that chilly. In addition to my jacket, my running shoes of choice, Hoka One One Mafate 3, are HUGE and take up too much space in my bag. Ideally, I should get some minimal running shoes, but I’m not used to running in those. This time I’ll bring my Brooks Ghost 5s – they are a little less bulky than the Hokas. If I could get past how dumb it would look, I could just wear the running shoes all the time and leave my boat shoes behind. It certainly would be more comfortable.

I still would like to get by with just two outfits, however I still only have all cotton clothes, which get smelly. Minimalists like Leo Babauta would probably recommend washing my clothes in the sink or shower. If I did that, my cotton chinos and OCBDs would never dry in enough time to be worn again. Nearly all of the minimalist travel blogs I’ve read suggest synthetic, or merino wool t-shirts and pants. I’m just not going to buy new clothes, especially when I don’t like the way they look (slouchy). When I think back to my earlier days, I remember always wearing undershirts. If memory serves me well, the undershirts made it so I didn’t have to wash my outer garments nearly as often. My plan is to get a couple pair of “active” underwear and technical shirts to be worn as undergarments. This should help keep me dry if I sweat any, and keep the funk off of my clothes. Plus, synthetic garments can be easily washed in the shower and will dry quickly. The shirts will double as my running shirts.

My main issue, really, is what to carry around all day. I am the only IT person for my company, and as such, I can guarantee that I will have to remote in and work on something. In that same vein, I MUST keep my phone with me and keep it properly charged. For this reason, I need to carry my phone, my portable phone charger, my MiFi, and either my MacBook Air or my iPad 3. I even did an experiment yesterday to see if I could remote in and work effectively with my iPhone – I can, but if I had to do something out of the ordinary, would that suffice? Probably not. At the very least, I’d need my iPad. If it was solely a matter of weight, the MacBook weighs 3.0 pounds, that iPad with my leather targus case is 2.4 pounds (1.4 without the case). The iPad wins

Whch piece of gear I carry also dictates which bag I use. I can use my 5.11 Tactical Rush MOAB 6, which is a small messenger type bag to carry my iPad and related gadgets around during the day. If I didn’t have to bring two pair of shoes, I could even fit all my clothes in the Rush 6 and hand carry the iPad in the airport. If I bring the MacBook, I will need to use my backpack, the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12. Since these two bags are designed to strap together, I could bring both and simply detach the Rush 6 to carry during the day.

As I think about this more and more, I seem to only further confuse the issue, although I am leaning closer to a decision. This year, when I travel, I want to be where I am. I don’t want to be burdened by my stuff. At the same time I have to be able to live and work and be clean. I’ll post again when I come up with my final solution.

My Top Ten Drummers of All Time List

A co-worker of mine and I occasionally look at “Top Ten Drummers” lists (I don’t know why we do this). Thankfully, the
authors of all of these lists have the good sense to put Neil Peart on the list. However, to my chagrin, I believe some
drummers make it onto the list just because they’re famous (like the one at Rolling Stone that includes Ringo Star…
really?). After seeing all of these top ten lists of drummers, I feel inspired to make my own. You can pretty much
disregard all other lists, as this one will actually be correct.

Below are the best drummers of all time, in no particular order as they all shred in their own ways:

Neil Peart

R30neilRush is my favorite band, so it stands to reason that my favorite drummer is Neil Peart. His painstaking attention to
detail combined with his overall approach to musical composition in his drumming make him, hands-down, the best drummer
alive. He alone has inspired me more than any other musician. The solos he performs at Rush concerts are stunning musical
peices all on their own. What is truly remarkable is his limb independence. There are parts of his solos in which he will
keep a simple waltz pattern with his feet while playing in a completely different time signature with his hands.

 

 

 

 

Tim Alexander

Tim_AlexanderBefore Rush, I was seriously stuck on Primus. Tim Alexander was their drummer at the time (and on most of their albums).
The complexity of his playing echos that of Neil Peart’s. Earlier in my life as a drummer, it was Tim’s work with Primus
that inspired me to aspire to use more complexity in my drumming.

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Portnoy

SONY DSCIn college, my good friend Matt introduced me to a band called Dream Theater. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan, but I
was definitely blown away my the magnificantly stunning musicianship of this band. At the center of it all – drummer, Mike
Portnoy. I recall being abslolutely amazed at the complexity and sheer precision exhibited by this drummer. What can I say,
I like flashy drummers who play big drum kits.

 

 

Buddy Rich

BuddyRich27This guy isn’t (wasn’t) human. I’m sure of it. He’s generally regarded as the best drummer of all time, and I’m inclined to
agree. I could never in a million years move my hands as fast as he did.

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Mantia

brianmantia55If I had a top two, (and I do) Brian Mantia would be in it with Neil Peart. Brain (as he’s often called) is the antithesis
of drummers like Peart and his Primus predecessor, Tim Alexander. In fact, I was a little disheartened to find out that
when the Brown Album came out, Tim wasn’t on it, but instead it was Brain. Over time, Brain’s drumming grew on me, and as a
result, infused a little bit of funk into my own playing. Brain favors a simpler, more straightforward style, but don’t let
that fool you. The dude can shred. Additionally, Brain’s two instructional videos are the best I’ve seen – whether you’re a
beginner or someone needing to get back to basics.

 

 

 

Max Weinberg

Max_Weinberg3He’s the drummer for Bruce Springstein. I couldn’t name even three Sprinstein songs (my taste when it comes to music is
very narrow). Max was also the jazzy drummer/band leader on Conan O’Brien – that’s where I saw him. When I used to watch
the show, I always used to say to myself, “man, that guy with the four peice is ripping!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter Beauford

carterbeauforddunnettCarter Beauford is the drummer for Dave Matthews band. I’m not a fan of Dave Matthews Band, but one of my former bandmates,
Keith, was. I’ve heard enough to know that Carter is actually probably better that most of these other guys on my list. It
irritates me to not see him on other top ten lists.

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Chamberlin

JimmyChamberlin6This was the drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins. Jimmy’s drumming gave me my first taste of real complexity as a drummer.
I’ve been playing some time now, and still can’t begin to play “Geek USA”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Eigner

Christian_EignerNobody probably knows who Christian Eigner is, unless you’re a Depeche Mode fan. Now, why would I include a drummer who
tours with a band who traditionally had no drummer on my list? For starters, and ironically, I’m a hard core Depech Mode
fan – they’re my second favorite band. Secondly, the dude can play. I recall late last year being at a Depeche Mode concert
with several of my old friends. Among them was my former bandmate, Keith. Keith was my guitarist, but has since turned
drummer. He has a deep appreciation of good drumming. Many times during the show, I remember Keith turning to me and
saying, “dude, that guy is ripping!” Indeed. There is someting to be said for being able to seemlessly add very skillful
drumming into places where it shouldn’t even fit (unobtrusively even) – all while keeping time perfectly with electronic
music.

Dave Grohl
davegrohlDave Grohl was the drummer of Nirvana. He was my first favorite drummer. Everything I know about being a rock drummer came
from this guy. He’s not as flashy as the others on my list, but definitely solid. Sometimes providing what the music needs
aesthetically is more important than straight-up raw shredding, and Dave Grohl provided just that. You may also know Dave
as the fromnt man for the Foo Fighters.

 

 

 

 

So that’s my list. I know I left some very good drummers out, but it’s my list.