A Simple Record Spurs Me to Complete My Living Room

On friday I had delivered to me a record from an audio project called "Moment's Lost" from Indiegogo. It was a music project to create an homage album to the Blade Runner Soundtrack using the same tools that Vangelis used. I received the digital copy of the album a couple of months ago, but just this past Friday the vinyl record came in the mail. 

The record set is very pretty and super well done. There is some beautiful artwork in in this set and I cannot wait to listen to it. Thing is though I don't own a turntable. So this weekend I ended up ordering a turntable and I am setting up some of my older audio equipment in the living room to setup a sort of listening room. 

But, I don't have any furniture in the living room. So we went out and bought a couple of chairs to setup for listening. I now just need to get the console purchased and setup in the next week or so for this whole thing to come together. Megan spent a really good portion of this weekend designing a custom setup on Ikea's website and I have to say that I think it will really turn out nice when all said and done. My living room is much smaller than it looks and we realized quickly after getting tow chairs that not much else is going to fit in it. It is one of the reasons we have had such a frustrating time trying to find furniture for it in the past. Hopefully it will all come together here in the next couple of weeks. 

Goodbye 2011: The Best and Worst Year of My Life?

Wow, 2011 is done. There is so much that can be said about this year. It had some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I have ever had in my life. Let’s start off with the 800 pound gorilla in the room that for those who have been following me on Facebook and Twitter know was pretty devastating. On January 31st, of 2011 I lost my boss, mentor and one of my best friends. The impact of that event changed me immeasurably and catapulted me into a world that I was not yet prepared for. I suddenly found myself in my bosses’ shoes trying to figure out how to run a department and be the boss. It was hard and there were some points where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. The situation at work was complicated even more by the fact that we lost the other member of our administrative team, so our department went from three to one in the matter of weeks. Emotionally I was tired and that situation only got worse when I found out that my childhood cat had died. He was fifteen so he lived a great life, but there are so many memories growing up that we had with him. This was my family’s first Christmas without him and I could see how he was certainly missed back home. He loved Christmas and was a constant pest during it, knocking over the Christmas tree, getting into the food. Funny how you miss those things when you no longer have them. 

I got to a point in the year where I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. My stress levels were beyond comprehension and I was on the brink of a breakdown. Emotionally I was falling apart. I am not sure how much of my friends, family and colleagues noticed it. I put up quite a tough face, in part because I felt other people around me needed some sort of emotional rock to lean on. 

The year turned around on me though sometime in June. Megan and I headed up to Quebec City for our delayed honeymoon and I somehow found a bit of relief in that experience. Sometimes running away is the best way to help you prepare to confront your demons. May be I just needed to step out of the fray to prepare myself for the reality before me. I guess I could say I matured, but perhaps I found a sense of calm instead. I was still plagued by the loss of Bill and thought about those events in January on a daily basis. It is one thing to lose a grandparent who you know has their days numbered. You can prepare yourself for that, but to lose someone who is forty one to suicide, at work, when you just saw him hours ago……I was left with nothing short of rage. Disappointment. Bewilderment.

Those thoughts thankfully have begun to reside over the summer. My mind is not constantly occupied by them as they once were and they now exist as an image in the back of my mind rather than a trauma in the front. 

After I returned from my vacation the rest of the year opened up tremendously. My wife found a new job, and I received a substantial pay raise from my promotion. If you really look at the bigger picture I am sitting in a better position than most people in this economy. I have a comfortable disposal income now and I have to say I intend to leverage it. 

I completed in Tough Mudder in late July. Tough Mudder is a 10 mile military obstacle course. It was hell, but it was a test of my physical and mental capabilities. It was a very high accomplishment for me. It was an opportunity for me to focus my energy and in some respect a test for me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. A course like this is designed to break you and the true test here is your willpower. I am very proud that I was able to complete that event. 

Also in July I made one of the best decisions I have ever made and obtained my motorcycle license. I cannot fully explain the profound impact this had upon me this year and is one of the things that got me through the past twelve months more than anything. The motorcycle has allowed me an emotional and physical escape that I desperately needed. Because of the inherent dangers of a motorcycle, it demands your full attention, so I am unable to be bothered by the trivial issues stuck in my head. There is something incredibly calming in the raw mechanical nature of the bike as well. No radio, no gadgets….Just four carburetors, a hot engine and the white noise of wind. It is serene and an experience I opine for every moment I am not riding. 

As the summer changed to autumn I began to find my place at work once again. Things were slowing becoming mine. We hired a new employee for our department, which I can honestly say was a godsend. Not only was he willing to jump in feet first, but his personality fit with the organization so well you would have thought he worked with us for years and not weeks. 

As I approached this holiday season I was a little unsure how I would handle it all. I turned 29 on November 2nd.  29!!!!!!! Not sure how I feel about that, but the birthday was one of the best I have had. Low key and just spent with family. Exactly what I needed I think. 

My first wedding anniversary was in November, right before Thanksgiving and I have to say it was great. I am incredibly lucky to have the wife that I do and our compatibility constantly amazes me. Thanksgiving went off wonderfully as did Christmas. I have traditions that my wife is becoming more a part of and we are also developing some of our own. The holidays overall were a nice grounding for me and a good way to round out the year. Everything was simple and it was just a bunch of people basically hanging out together. 

While this year started off as one of the worst possible, it ended as one of the best I could have hoped for. It was  growing period for me for sure, but it also gave me a great opportunity to re-focus my life some. I have found a new peace of sorts with myself (Thank you Yoga!!) but have also identified the types of things that make me happy. I have a new found penchant for adventure. I want to make sure that I get he most out of this life and the passing of Bill has reignited that. I saw first hand some of the problems he dealt with and corners he backed into. I am determined to not let that happen to me and I want to make sure I get to experience everything I can. I want to make sure I don’t say “No” to an opportunity as it arises and I want to make sure I get to experience all that I can. I am the type of person that needs to be challenged and I find reward in completing those challenges. My wife suggested that we both create a list of things we want to accomplish in 2012. It was a great idea and I hope to have that posted tomorrow to outline my thoughts moving forward. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful year. I still miss you Bill. 

Love You all Matt. 

My Thoughts on the Passing of Steve Jobs

Throughout history there are a few select moments that define humanity and its progress moving forward. Some of those moments come in the form of events, people, places, etc. Some people will pass through this evening not thinking much of the passing of Steve Jobs. Others, like myself will take to the news and reflect back upon the real impact that Jobs and his company Apple have had upon our culture. 

We may initially look at what Jobs has done and scoff at the impact. We should definitely look beyond just the iPod as a device that plays music. What Jobs and Apple have done over the past two decades is define the future that we all wanted in the early part of the twentieth century. Computers went from being devices that took up entire rooms, down to a desktop sized machine with an interface the average person could use, opening doors to a wealth of information. The dream of information at our finger tips is now a reality with the advent of the iPhone and the subsequent industry that has grown to try and catch up to it. 

While we certainly cannot credit all of these devices and innovation to Jobs himself, neither can we credit all of the innovations of General Electric to Thomas Edison. Much like Edison though Steve Jobs had the brilliance of mind and the work ethic to identify and cultivate the ideas and devices that would literally change us as a people. We will never be the same as we were five, ten or fifteen years ago because of these devices. Information, communication, content and media are all seconds away. News and the dissemination of information has never been more free (and more challenged) than right now in humanity’s history. Steve Jobs was a visionary, perhaps even a dreamer. Unfortunately we do not have much of a world that still has those. Apple has always been there to cultivate the arts and it has been my belief that the arts are the sciences that truly breed the next geniuses of our era. Perhaps there is six year old kid sitting at home writing an app for the iPhone who is the next Steve Jobs. Perhaps he/she is the next Carl Sagan. Perhaps he/she is the next Martin Luther King. Whoever or whatever that kid is though he/she has never had more opportunities to build, learn and create for themselves than ever before. 

We will miss you  Steve and it is unfortunate there aren’t more like you in the world. Just think where humanity could be if we all had the drive, vision, heart and creativity you did for our own work. 

Ride Log: 10-02-11

After my disasterous ride on Saturday trying to drive the Lincoln Highway, I was invited down by some of the fire fighters I work with to a pancake breakfast in Kankakee. I had to get up early to meet everyone and the tempurature was a cold 42 degrees. Three layers on and I still was numb. 

I had blast riding down on 57 in a group of seven though. Three guys from public works; including myself, three fire fighters and a police officer. Most of the guys riding were in decked out Harley Crusiers, but we had a Honda Shadow, a Buell of some sort and of course my Kawasaki in the mix as well. 

The countryside down in this area was quite pretty. Once you get outside most of Chicagoland the roads open up to some real scenic areas. After breakfast, in what can only be described as a “quaint” little down, we make a quick stop at one of the fire fighter’s house to check out his garage that he converted to a Harley shrine. I would have gotten some pictures, but being the new rider in the group I was of course plagued by some embarassing mishaps. I had a couple of instances where my bike wouldn’t start (It was in neutral) and then while stopped for breakfast my seat wouldn’t pop off to allow me access to my camera. 

A fellow I work with told me a few weeks ago that one of his favorite things about riding a bike are the smells. I can totally agree to that. On the way back we caught some hints of burning leaves. Saw some apples laying in the road from some side apple trees. Just felt like fall and it was a really great ride. My bike still hurts my rear end though, but I suppose I can’t ask for too much from a first bike.

View Ride Log: 10-02-11 in a larger map

Ride Log: 10-01-11 (Failed Lincoln Highway Attempt)

Attempted to make a run today on the Historic Lincoln Highway in Illinois. The initial plan was to head out towards the DeKalb area. Unfortunately I ran into problems unable to find the historic placemarkers to get me in the right direction. You can see from the trail below that I had several instances where I had to backtrack. Overall not a bad ride, but not productive either.

View Ride Log: 10-01-11 in a larger map

Ride Log: 09-23-11

A good ride this afternoon on some back country roads. As is probably the case with a lot of riders I got lost in the moment and got a little bit cocky. Several of the turns along the route had gravel on them, in one case I hit a straight up gravel road. That definitely humbled me.

I attempted to get some good photos of myself and the bike near Brook Road, but found my camera does not have a timer feature on it. Regardless though the trip was a good one, but I can see already that my bike begins to hurt my butt and back. Most likely the angle at which it sits.

On a side note I noticed that I was covered in bugs after the ride. I had to clean off my jacket and my helmet. From the photo you can see what I am talking about. This got me thinking though that apart from the safety of a helmet, wouldn’t a person want to wear one just so they don’t get a face full of that?

View Ride Log: 09-23-11 in a larger map

Down the rabbit hole I go

Amazing how motorcycle ownership is a bit of a secret society. People who I never knew owned bikes or who I did and never really had a conversation with suddenly seem all the more interested to hold a conversation with you. This is not even mentioning the ritualistic wave you get while riding.

So I have owned my motorcycle for all of about three weeks at this point and I am already getting wrapped up into the world of gear, accessories and other bikes. I was surprised to learn about how many people own more than one bike. I can see why now. With the riding ranging from touring to dual sport there is so much to do. Even before I got this motor ycle I was I treated in touring. Something about heading out west appealed to me. Not a huge fan of the giant bikes though. After reading the Fuzzy Galore blog though I now have an interest pique in dual sporting. Have I mentioned I have only owned this motorcycle for three weeks?

Technology Burnout

For most of you who know me, you will know that I am one of the biggest tech geeks around. I love gadgets and keeping constantly in touch with the world. Over the past year I have found myself striving to get a break from that constant connection. It started a bit with my trip to Montana last year in which I was completely disconnected from most technology. With my recent purchase of a motorcycle I found a bit of freedom in the simplicity of the machine. While it is of course still a piece of technology, there is something inherently raw about a motorcycle, having no modern electronics, GPS, air conditioning, etc. on it that we see with modern cars. The motorcycle requires my constant attention while riding it and all I hear is the wind rushing past my ears while I ride. 

I have to admit, just going out and heading in a direction without a destination or a route is incredibly difficult for me. I have become incredibly reliant on GPS for most of my travels these days. I have found the experience quite rewarding however. As I do with most adventures that I find myself getting into, I dive fully into the experience looking into as much of the detail as I can. I already find myself looking at new accessories and upgrades I can get for my bike. As I continue with riding I think I will begin posting some of the routes that I take here on the blog. 

Where is the music?

Wouldn’t I like to know. I actually had a very productive weekend composing. I just need to get some recordings down to share to the world. I know i promised to post some videos of Sunvox a couple of months ago. To be honest I find myself using it more on my iPad then I do on the computer, which I suppose isn’t all bad. I think my productivity is slighted stalled by the fact of me trying to put my studio back together. Ever since I tore it apart to get new carpet installed it has only slowly been making itself whole again. My turntables are still in fact sittingin my basement waiting to be re-assembled. I also need to get fresh recordings of my faux 8-bit tracks for an EP put together, which again just sort of entails me sitting down and hitting that damned record button. 

May 2011 Reading List

Cranked out two books this month, well two if you consider and audio book a book. I “read’ hunger games about a week ago listening to it through Overdrive from my public library. I normally don’t do a lot of library reading since I can never read the books fast enough. Two weeks generally just is not enough time for me. I figured though that I should be able to crank through the Hunger Games though pretty quickly as an audio book and I have to say I really enjoyed it. 

The other main book I read this past month was Cordelia’s Honor. It is an omnibus of two books by Lois McMaster Bujold. Quite a good read actually that features a very strong and well written female main character. I finished that yesterday just as the month is ending. Next up on my list is N.K. Jamisen’s “A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”.