Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Favorite Songs of 2009

It's New Year's Eve and this year there seems to have been so many "Best of" lists of not only 2009 but of the decade as a whole. Not to be left out, I thought I would post my top 10 favorite songs of 2009.

I first want to point out that these songs do not have to be written or released in 2009, just discovered and listened to a lot by me during the year. And while I love all of these songs, they are listed in order with the number one song being my personal favorite song and most listened to of 2009. So here goes!

10. "Walking with a Ghost" by Tegan and Sara

From their album "So Jealous," I came across this song like most, by accident. Kayla and I were cleaning around the house and listening to one of Insight's digital music channels on the TV. This song popped up and I thought it was instantly really catchy and had a great simple melody. It also gets stuck in your head and stays there!

9. "Starstruck" by Lady Gaga

I know it is kind of lame to put a Lady Gaga song on this list but it really was her year when it came to mainstream music in 2009.
Although I am not a big fan of her loud, outlandish style of performing, I think her music is great and very well produced.
For whatever weird reason, I have always had a weird, unexplainable like for dance/electronic music and this song is one of the best on "The Fame."
It has not been released as a single and is not as recognizable as "Poker Face" or "Love Game" but I played this song more than any other on the album, so it makes my list.

8. "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson

I had to put a Michael Jackson song on this list because I have been a fan since childhood and with his death this year, he was thrust back into the spotlight. So many of his songs could have made this list but I listened to "Human Nature" the most because it has an almost melancholy feel to it which goes along with the sad news surrounding his death. It was also included in the film "This is It" as well.
The one positive that came out of Michael Jackson's death was the return of respect for him. During the last few years, he had become such a joke and with his death, the public listened to his music and came full circle, appreciating how great he really was.

7. "Alive" by Black Eyed Peas

The album "The E.N.D." by the Black Eyed Peas had a big 2009. It was without a doubt my guilty pleasure album of the year. For all of it's auto-tune and over-produced production, at it's core, it had some great, catchy songs on it.
I am a huge Daft Punk fan and it seems to me that the Black Eyed Peas decided to copycat them and make a techno album.
...And you know what? I'm cool with that. I loved "Boom Boom Pow" but I played "Alive" more. It just has a great vibe to it.

6. "Forever Young" by Alphaville

Here is a throwback for you!
One of my favorite movies is the classic "Napoleon Dynamite" and I always loved the campy, yet surprisingly good song that played in the background during the school dance. It sounded so nerdy but at the same time, it has a great melody and sound to it.
I always noticed it but never took the time to find it. Then one night we were watching "Big Love" on HBO and they played the song during the closing credits. This caused me to like the song even more, so I finally got on iTunes and downloaded it.
It's a great song! It's so 80s but that's cool.

5. "Stand Back" by Linus Loves featuring Sam Obernik

As we break into the top five, this is the song nobody is going to understand, and frankly, I do not either. I have no idea why I like this song. It's basically just a copy of a really good song by Stevie Nicks but I guess it's my unexplained like of techno making it's appearance again.
There is also a longer instrumental version of this by Linus Loves called "The Terrace" that I really enjoyed listening to as well.
Plus the music video is a little camptastic.

4. "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear

I just discovered this song last week. It could be potential too fresh to make the list, but after a few minutes thinking about it, I put it on the list anyway. I really like this song!
I found it while listening to a best of 2009 segment on Bob Edwards weekend. They played a clip of it and I was completely hooked.
I love the production of the harmonies. It sounds like a great Beach Boys song.
"Two Weeks" is very similar to a lot of songs that make my best of list such as "Phantom Limb" by The Shins.
I guess I like sad depressing songs.

3. "Colony of Birchmen" by Mastodon

Well I have to get my heavy metal entry from somewhere and this absolutely fills the void. This song was included on the video game "Rock Band." I remember playing through it and saying to myself, "this is one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard and actually liked."
It's very abrasive but you have to respect the musicianship. The tempo changes and riffs they unleash are amazing.
I bought their album "Blood Mountain" and it's great, but none of the other songs give me quite the hard rock satisfaction this song does.
Don't be scared by this song, give it a chance!

2. "Change your Mind" by The Killers

I love The Killers. Something about their hybrid of pop, 80s synthesizer, and rock appeals to me. My favorite song of last year was their hit "Human" from the album "Day and Age" so it is no surprise that they make another appearance this year.
"Change your Mind" is actually from their earlier album "Hot Fuss," which has so many great songs on it, but for whatever reason, this song slipped through and I failed to notice it.
I've likely listened to it at least once a day for most of the year. The lyrics, songwriting, and production are all perfect to me.
I was also lucky enough to see them play it live when they performed in Indiana this past Summer.

1. "The Ocean" by Dar Williams

This is a total dark horse winner for my favorite song of the year. VERY RANDOM.
Kayla introduced me to Dar Williams and while I am not into this "Lilith Fair" type of music, something about her songs struck a nerve.
"The Ocean" is a perfect song. Everything from the music and lyrics, to the mixing and production. It's all flawless.
The album "Mortal City" is full of great songs, but this one rises even higher.
It's a very sappy song but I've always said that I will never lie when it comes to admitting what music I like.
It has a very unique sound, especially when you have a male background voice along with the female lead. That is Kayla's favorite part of the song.

Well these were my songs of 2009. What were yours?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Self-serving Note about Me

Well I need to write an updated post in my blog because I'v been lazy, but I can't think of anything to write, so I'm just going to type out the first thoughts that come to my head and see what happens. This should be an interesting experiment. No pre-thoughts, just whatever comes into my head first.

So I'm working A LOT. Between my 40 hours at Insight and another 18-20 hours at Home Depot, I'm staying quite busy. My idea of time off is a day where I work a full shift at Insight Media and get to come straight home instead of working the evening at Home Depot.

But through all of this, I'm actually quite happy. I love working at both jobs and there are great experiences I get from both. I may get tired sometimes but I am happy to be working.

If there is anything I hate most about it, it's the fact that I have less time at home. I don't mind being at my jobs but I hate having less time at home. I think I work best under pressure and the busier I am, the better I am at my job sometimes.

Working at Home Depot again has been a fun experience. It is a lot of fun to work in an environment where you know almost everything there is to know about the department you work in. It's fun to be able to help and teach new employees all of the tricks and helpful tips.

Working at Insight Media has been great too. I am lucky to work with some of the nicest and smartest people and I'm continuing to learn more and more with every month. I never want to get "stuck" and not move further. Luckily that hasn't happened to me yet.

So I am busy, but it's fine because the extra money helps as Kayla is in school and it is very rewarding.

We are now a little more than one week away from the video game "Modern Warfare 2". I am a dork when it comes to this. I actually took next Wednesday off from both Insight and Depot to dedicate some important practice time to it.
I am giving the middle finger to the video game community and NOT preordering a copy of the game. I am proud to say I have never preordered a game, and I see no reason to start.
The Gamestop employees gave me a lot of grief last time I did this when I went to buy my copy of Grand Theft Auto 4. They said:
"I can sell you a copy man, but I gotta be honest, we are actually only supposed to be giving out copies to our preorder customers."
This pissed me off. I wanted to say:
"No offense buddy but Wal-Mart is about 20 feet away next to you. It's really not a problem. I'll walk over there and get a copy." but I didn't say it.
So I hope I get a copy. I'm pretty sure I will.

So I'm busy, but life is good. I'm going to sign off and fall asleep watching the World Series. With the time change, I feel like I should be in bed already, but it's only 8:30pm.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let's talk channeling

Let’s talk about channeling. The ability to let a mysterious entity or spirit use your body as a means of communication to our reality. What this means is an individual goes into a trace state, which thus allows the spirit to temporally take over the person’s body.
As crazy a theory as channeling sounds, I tend to believe in it, even being a mild
skeptic. After all, stories about this type of phenomenon can be traced back to the earliest times in human history, so there has to be something to it.
Many of the stories in the Bible were told to people by God. For example, when John
wrote the book of Revelations, he was secluded on the island of Patmos, living in a cave. The story goes that God wrote down the Revelations through John.
Could John have been channeling God? It seems to make sense to me.
So what if someone could channel the devil? Over the last few weeks, George Noory, the host of the radio show “Coast to Coast AM,” had been planning an interview with
the Devil through a channeler. It sounds ridiculous but this man claimed to be able to channel Satan, thus giving him a body to communicate to our world with.
There had been numerous calls into the show from people begging Noory not to interview him because of what might happen, but Noory stood firm saying the interview
would go on.
However, at a recent public appearance, so many people came up to Noory asking him not to interview Satan that he finally decided not to. I think this proves there are a great number of people out there who take channeling very seriously and truly believe in this ability.
Of course I’d been looking forward to this interview for days. I consider myself to
be pretty open-minded but I had my doubts about the authenticity of the channeler,
however, I still thought it would be a fun listen.
One of the most famous channelers was Jane Roberts. I wrote about Roberts in my Nov. 7 column of last year. Her books became extremely popular in the 70s and many of the lessons told to her by her spirit guide, Seth, are still extremely popular today.
There are also many mediums out there that claim to channel the spirits of the dead.
Remember Whoopi Goldberg in the movie “Ghost”? This whole concept has become extremely popular. There are multiple TV shows about it such as “Medium” and “The
Ghost Whisperer.”
The only problem with this is all of the fakes. There are so many people out there
claiming to be channelers and releasing dozens of books, trying to cash in on the
It makes it really hard for people who believe in the phenomenon to be taken seriously when the hard-core skeptics out there are having a field day attacking all the money hungry hoaxers.
However, even with all of the cheaters out there, there are still strong cases that
cannot be explained.
So if these mediums really are talking to dead people then it brings up the question
of what happens when we die. Do we just float around the earth looking for people to
channel our spirit?
Personally, I don’t think we die. Our physical bodies die and our soul leaves the
body and we continue living, so to speak, in a parallel universe.
However, if a channeler or medium allows us, our soul can temporally take over their body, thus allowing us to communicate again in the physical world. I don’t know about you all, but I kind of like the idea of being able to continue living without my physical body. It’s a primitive, bulky machine that wears out over time. I’ll
just float around in my parallel universe and when I have something important to say in the physical world, I’ll just find a medium, say what I need to say and be
Channeling is a subject a lot of people laugh at, but if a person researches it, they
will find it throughout history.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Starbucks Via. An in-depth review

During the last few days, I have been hearing so much hype about this "awesome" new instant coffee Starbucks had come up with titled "Via." I decided to give it a try and write a thorough review.

...But before I do that, let me give you some background into my coffee drinking habit.

I drink A LOT of coffee.

I got this from my parents, mostly my mother, who had a full percolator of coffee hot in the kitchen all day, even during July and August. I had my first cup around the age of 8 and I have been a daily drinker ever since. So I know my coffee.

As for my opinion on Starbucks, I love it. It tastes great and their regular coffee is my coffee of choice. I would drink it every day if I could gather up enough pocket change.

So my love for Starbucks is strong, but I have to admit, I was skeptical of "Via." And rightly so, instant coffee is disgusting, but I was curious.

So this morning came and my boss was kind enough to have a nice black, unsweetened cup of iced Starbucks coffee waiting for me (thanks). She also gave me a free sample of Via she received. So without any further boring talk, here is my review:


The marketing push for this product has been intense to say the least, and I like what they have done. The orange color fits along nicely with the start of fall, and the clever instructions on the packet give you that feeling that you are really awesome and lucky to be drinking this instant coffee. Starbucks also has a strong Social Networking/Internet campaign going as well, which is really smart. So I give the marketing/packaging a solid 5 out of 5 stars.

Step 1: Opening package and pouring into cup

The package of Via has an easy to use “rip” top located roughly ¼ inch from the top of the package. All you do is simply rip across at this “rip point” to open up the packet.

The illustrated instructions tell you to pour in the Via mixture before you add the water.

This was actually my lowest point during the entire process, because this stuff honestly does not look very good by itself in the mug. It basically looked like I had just poured a tablespoon of dirt into a cup, BUT, I was not going to lose hope just yet.

Step 2: Adding hot water

In our office, I am lucky enough to have a coffee machine that pours out instant hot water. I truly believe that is vital to the success of Via. You HAVE to have truly hot water. Zapping a cup of water for 60 seconds isn’t going to work. It need to be piping hot.

As I added the 8 ounces of hot water to the Via mixture, it instantly transformed into a great looked cup of black coffee. It even gave off a trademark Starbucks smell.
After a few seconds of stirring the water and Via mixture together, I took my first sip.

I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted like a good cup of Starbucks coffee! There is a difference but it is VERY small. But I do not normally drink my coffee black. Will this cup of Starbucks Via accept various condiments or reject them?

Step 3: The condiment test

My perfect cup of coffee consist of a strong brew, with “LIGHT” creamer and one package of Sweet-in-Low (yes I know its bad for me).

I was skeptical that I would be able to add these condiments to this cup of Via. But to my surprise, they blended perfectly. The coffee kept it’s strong flavor, even with the liquid creamer added in. I took the cup back to my desk and happily drank it dry.

Final thoughts

Starbucks Via is good. I’ll actually say it’s really good. I was a skeptic but I am now a fan. I am even seriously considering buying a pack so I can take some with me when I travel to the Lexington KY office. (I don’t like their coffee at all).

I now understand why Starbucks is promoting Via so heavily. I think they understand that they have a good product on their hands and they want to get it out into the public.

Consider me a fan. You should try it and don’t be scared off by it’s dirt like appearance at first.

I give Starbucks Via 4 ½ stars out of 5.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Meditation. Let's start!

Meditation is the backbone of some of the philosophies I like best. Namely Buddhism and Hinduism.
There are numerous reports and stories about how a little daily meditation can totally change your outlook and make life and work much more enjoyable. I like to talk the talk and say I meditate every day but I don't. Why?
I've decided that's enough talk, I'm going to start this weekend. All you have to do is take 15 minutes and sit attempting to clear your mind. That's all it is. There is no "practice" or "getting better." You simply meditate.
It helps to keep your mind centered, thus allowing you to perform better in your everyday activities.
Today people are dealing with a lot of stress managing their careers and family life. If they would just try a little meditation, they would find things to be much more relaxed and easier to handle.

But if you bring up the idea in most of our workplace environments, you get laughed at. I think meditation would be a perfect thing to try at my job for example. The staff I work with are mostly happy and it is a great place to work, but as with any job, sometimes the stress can have an effect.
If we took 15 minutes before the start of the sales meeting once a week to meditate and clear our thoughts, I guarantee you people would find it to be a positive experience. Many businesses out there have found this to be true. But I don't see that happening anytime soon. I get made fun of enough for having this Buddha statue on my desk!
Starting this week, I'm going to make a serious effort to meditate each morning and evening. I don't know if I can get Kayla to join in but I'll ask.

Here are some links below on the subject.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Horizon Archive: "You Don't know the Power"

After watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” for the 827th time last night, I found myself asking the exact same question that I’ve been asking myself since I was six and saw the move for the first time.

Is the Force real? And if it is real, how do I use it?

Let me first start by saying that although this column is going to come off as an extremely nerdy, Star Wars geek tirade, I am really not a huge obsessed Star Wars fan.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars a lot, but I don’t play the RPG card games and I don’t have any of the action figures.

Well, maybe one or two, but anyway, as a kid, I always believed in the Force.

I would listen to Yoda’s teachings and, like Luke, would attempt to join in the training.

I would put my right arm out and attempt to move my TV remote with my mind.

Well, now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that Star Wars is simply science fiction,

but I still haven’t really let go of the idea of the “Force” as a real power or phenomenon.

After all, the religion of the Jedi arts is an officially recognized religion in the UK.

Believe it or not, I believe that the Force does exist, more or less.

There is a power in our universe that surrounds us and connects all living things.

And I do believe it’s possible for humans to manipulate that power.

The scientific term for the ability to move objects with your mind is called "telekinesis."

It is a skill that has been proven possible by the famous psychic Uri Geller, who has the power to bend and break metal objects, and has demonstrated his ability many times.

It is a skill many people are said to have. What is most amazing is if one truly studies

the techniques for learning telekinesis, it isn’t even all that different from Yoda’s teachings.

One of the most common theories on how it works is an individual concentrates with her hands cupped together to form a “PSI ball,” which is basically a ball of energy.

They then send out psychic waves of energy through magnetic or electric energy fields that are all around us, and if one concentrates hard enough, the psychic waves sent from their mind will send a shock through the energy field and manipulate the object the individual was concentrating on.

So, as you can see, this is a very simply concept, extremely plausible.

Basically, material matter is really nothing but an illusion.

All of the objects we have are made up of nothing more than force fields of atoms.

Therefore, everything is connected and if we know how, we can manipulate the force field.

I believe that with years of practice and meditation, everyone has the ability to learn these skills, but the public simply does not believe in them.

Which once again comes back to Yoda’s teachings.

If a person goes into a situation already believing they know the outcome, then that is the outcome they will receive. It’s like studying for and taking a test.

If you tell yourself you do not know the material, then, most likely, the test will roll around and you won’t know the material. The Force is the same way: if you don’t believe in it, then you can’t learn it.

During his training Luke said, “I don’t believe it,” and Yoda said, “That is why you fail” is a perfect example. Even as I write this, I do not truly know if deep down, I really believe in it. I have to

open up my mind.

Yes, Star Wars has a lot of fiction in it. The ships for instance are not realistic at all, and much of the technology in the films could never realistically be created; however, the philosophy of the films is a completely different animal.

The philosophical message of Star Wars is what effects its viewers the most.

All of the technology in the world cannot compete with the power of the force and the

Universe Much like Darth Vader’s famous quote from “A New Hope.” “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant to the power of the force.”

Many similarities can be made with this and the current political agenda. It’s not an accident that “The Empire Strikes Back” is everyone’s favorite movie in the series.

I believe it’s because so many people, whether consciously or unconsciously, connect with Yoda’s teachings the idea of the religion of the Force.

I think we connect with it because in one way or another, it actually exists in our world as well. And, just like the characters in the movie did, we have to stop being so close minded and shallow and embrace it.

-Oct, 2005

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Fully Wired(wireless) Household

I think I may be taking this social media phenomenon a little too seriously. Let me paint this picture for you.

  • I'm sitting on my couch watching the Emmys in Hi-Def.
  • Typing out this blog entry on a laptop computer.
  • Listening to the local police scanner because of the flooding rain.
  • Keeping track of my Tweets on TweetDeck.
  • Keeping track of my Facebook status on TweekDeck.
  • Sitting next to Kayla who is using my iPhone to tweet.
  • Watching live score updates of my Fantasy Football matchup.
So, here is the kicker. I'm doing this all right now at the same time!

...........Sorry about the delay, I was listening to the scanner. They pulled the occupant out of the car. They are fine, but the car is going to be stuck in the road until the water recedes.

Anyway, how is it possible that I am doing all this and my brain isn't completely fried? (maybe it is).

It may be information overload, but I'm enjoying it. I just need to make sure I get back into my running routine every day so I don't turn into a big pile of lard.