Feb 06

The Divisive Albums Podcast Episode 1: Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity

The first “proper” episode of The Divisive Albums Podcast, where I discuss an album by a band who are inherently pretty divisive: Dream Theater, and their 1997 album Falling Into Infinity!

In the episode, I discuss the following. SHOW NOTES!

0:00: Intro and About Me
0:26: Introducing our band: Dream Theater!
0:30: Who are Dream Theater, and what do they sound like?
1:31: Who are some bands you’d very broadly compare to Dream Theater?
1:54: How did Dream Theater first come into the public eye?
2:38: A digression on the technical definition of a “hit song” in the US.
3:27: On why I digressed, and how Dream Theater’s newfound fame affected them.
4:14: Discussion of the immediate followup, 1994’s Awake, and how the label rushed Dream Theater to release it.
4:35: Briefly discussing 1995’s “EP”, A Change of Seasons
4:50: Introducing the album: Falling Into Infinity! Also discussing the immediate circumstances around the album’s creation.
5:20: “New Millennium” excerpt #1.
6:08: “New Millennium” excerpt #2 and a lesson on time signatures.
7:04: Discussing the length of the album and its songs.
8:20: More song/album length discussion, and how the length compares to typical Dream Theater output (And answering why “EP” from earlier in the notes is in quotes).
8:55: Introducing the record company’s “ringer” to help Dream Theater get a hit: 80s and 90s hitmaker Desmond Child!
9:25: Excerpt from “You Not Me”, a song Child has co-writing credit on.
9:47: “You Not Me” excerpt #2, and discussing drummer Mike Portnoy’s pathological need to demonstrate his drumming prowess whenever he can.
10:50: My opinion of the song, and wondering why this wasn’t the lead single from the album.
11:36: Discussion of “Burning My Soul”, comparing it to “Pull Me Under”, and an excerpt from it.
12:40: Introducing an excerpt from the actual lead single: “Hollow Years”.
13:10: Thoughts on “Hollow Years”
14:02: An excerpt from and discussion of “Lines in the Sand”, one of the more prog songs on the album.
14:33: How Dream Theater could have made “Lines in the Sand” work as a single.
15:02: Discussing some of the record company shenanigans pulled with Falling Into Infinity.
15:35: Introducing and playing an excerpt from “Just Let Me Breathe”, or “Dream Theater Throw A Temper Tantrum At Their Record Label”
16:05: Elaborating a bit on what I mean by “Dream Theater Throw A Temper Tantrum At Their Record Label”.
16:35: How the album did sales-wise.
17:04: And what I think of the contemporary opinion of the album.
17:40: Acknowledging that Dream Theater probably shouldn’t have gone in the direction they did, even if I like most of the result.
18:11: What happened next for Dream Theater?
18:41: How I first discovered Dream Theater.
19:18: How Dream Theater are doing now.
19:51: Final thoughts on Falling Into Infinity.
20:15: Outro and social media: Twitter, Website, Discord

Feb 06

The Divisive Albums Podcast Episode -1: Def Leppard’s Slang

The “pre-pilot” episode of the Divisive Albums Podcast, which I did mainly to test out a few things. The first was whether the concept would hold my interest long enough to warrant my wanting to do future episodes. The second was whether I was good enough and entertaining enough that people would actually want to listen.

In the episode, I discuss the following. SHOW NOTES!

0:00: Intro and what the podcast is about
0:41: About me and my musical tastes, which will influence what’s selected for future episodes
1:17: Introducing our band: Def Leppard!
1:22: Who are Def Leppard, and how big are/were they? (Answer: Absolutely HUGE in the 80s)
2:55: What were the circumstances around Def Leppard’s divisive album? (Answer: Def Leppard were really REALLY uncool by the mid-90s. They were also sick of “being Def Leppard” recording-wise)
4:25: We finally name the album: 1996’s Slang!
4:55: A brief discussion of Def Leppard’s pre-megafame albums, and what I expected out of this album.
5:25: “Truth?” excerpt and thoughts
6:03: “Slang” introduction, excerpt, and thoughts
7:01: Discussing the lyrics on the album as a whole, which are “darker” than typical Def Leppard
7:20: Excerpts from “Gift of Flesh” and “Pearl of Euphoria”, showing some more of the 90s industrial influence
8:20: Discussing the sound of the album as a whole and how Def Leppard put what they’re influenced by in their songs.
8:59: Excerpts from the “Life Is a Highway”-esque “Work It Out” and the 90s R&B imitation “Breathe a Sigh”
9:55: Discussion about how the album sounds like Def Leppard playing at being Everything But Def Leppard for an album
10:20: The album’s chart performance (It was not good relative to previous Def Leppard albums in the US, though it did better overseas)
10:40: So how IS this album (Answer: Actually pretty good, though also different enough from their established sound that it likely would’ve derailed them even if grunge/alternative rock hadn’t rendered them persona non grata in the mid-90s)
11:08: Where to buy the album, and discussion on bonus tracks in the Deluxe Edition of the album
11:54: Outro and social media: Twitter, Website, Discord

Aug 14

Podcasteye

Boy I jump from project to project, don’t I?

This was initially a post for The Divisive Albums Podcast. I’ve moved that here, so go check it out.

Also, join The Empty Nest Discord!

May 06

Artistic-Eye

About a month ago, I bought a Wacom tablet to use with the Humble Bob Ross Bundle from mid-March. I’ve been enjoying it, and have been trying to use it to, well, draw stuff each day. This will be a repository for that art. You can click on any of the links below to see the picture itself.

18-001: Shoutout to Twitch Chat
18-002: A Walk at Night
18-003: Bowling Time! (You may not want to view this one at work, though it’s not pornographic by any means)
18-004: A Clash of Seasons
18-005: Island on the Rocks
18-006: Magic Lesson
18-007: Petrified Forest
18-008: Water Water Everywhere

-EE

Mar 28

A Time of Transition

I began writing this on March 27, 2018 at about 8 PM.

My previous laptop sounded like a swarm of bees toward the end of its life. I tried fixing it, and the end result was a laptop that sounded like a swarm of bees and would sometimes blue screen and fail to boot up when it restarted. Needless to say, this isn’t good. So I’m currently writing this on my previous/”chat” laptop from my streaming days, while watching a Twitch stream on my Kindle and using Discord on my cell phone. It’s an interesting existence.

As I sit in transition between two laptops, it seems like a good time to take stock of my leisure activities/passions, and see where I want to go with them from here.

A sort of open question in my head is “Do I want to resume streaming sometime? If so, streaming what, and where?” The last part of the second question isn’t as obvious as it seems. Despite my affiliate status on Twitch, I’d basically be starting over at this point, and from the outside, the way Twitch has been run of late has me considering alternatives to it. Mixer appears to be the main potential competitor at the moment, what with hitbox getting bought out and turned into Smashcast. The big thing now for that would be finding the time, as well as the motivation to basically re-build everything.

If I decide to do so, the other question is “What kind of stream would I want it to be?” Someone on Twitter mentioned doing a parody account called “Dr. Respect”, and I actually like that idea on some level. My spin on it, though, would basically be me playing games while reciting some of the self-help stuff I found most useful (I’m partial to Jim Rohn if I had to pick just one “self-help guru”, even if I think he places a little too much faith in capitalism as a meritocracy), and seeing if it helps other people too. I’m not exactly sure what I would play, if I would resume doing a variety of RPGs or try something else (Presumably, I’ll be able to play/stream PC games that are a bit more modern than, I don’t know, Diablo II).

And the time issue is especially a concern since I’ve been continuing to slowly chip away at various self-help books, and working two jobs. I recently finished The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and am working my way through Tribe of Mentors and Extreme Ownership simultaneously. I’m enjoying both, though I think I prefer Tools of Titans to Tribe of Mentors thus far. As for Extreme Ownership, I’m already taking some nice pointers and sayings from it, despite only being about 20% through it.

Another thing I’m trying to do in my spare time is learn Spanish. I figure this is a skill that’s only going to get more useful as time goes on, both in-person and online. Something interesting I learned recently is that “Spanish Youtube” is absolutely huge. Plus, with the Internet being the global entity it is, the more people I can communicate with online, the better.

Lastly, I’ve still been going to the gym, and I’m within about two pounds of my goal weight this time around, which is awesome. It’ll be difficult to hold that over the next couple weeks–I’m a bit under the weather, and I’ll be going to visit some friends next weekend–but I’m hopeful I don’t fall off the wagon too much in that timeframe.

In all, the next little while will be interesting, depending on what I decide to put my energy into.

-EE

Mar 18

Book Review- What Your Boss Really Wants From You by Steve Arneson

What Your Boss Really Wants From You: 15 Insights to Improve Your Relationship sounds like a bit of a “magic formula” book from the title. On the other hand, who doesn’t want a better relationship with their boss?

I’ve read a small number of the Win at Work Bundle books now–this one is my fourth–as well as Tools of Titans. I’ve also listened to a number of speeches/seminars from Tony Robbins, the late Jim Rohn, Les Brown, and some others. And one common theme in a lot of this self-help material is that “self-help” starts with “self”. The idea is that you don’t control a lot of your circumstances, but neither are you a victim of them–you can control your response to them.

What Your Boss Really Wants From You is no different. One of its central points is “Look, don’t expect your boss to change. Instead, change your style to maximize your relationship with him or her.” (The book, to its credit, takes a unique path in making the “boss” male in the first part, female in the second part, and alternating genders in the third part)

In terms of the actual content, the book asks you to ask yourself fifteen questions regarding your boss, and try to figure out the answers. Part one deals with the first set of questions, which revolve around your boss themselves–how do they manage? What are they worried about? Where’s their sphere of influence? These are just some of the questions the book asks you to figure out the answers to. And if you’ve never thought about them before, they’re a solid starting point–to have a good relationship with your boss, it helps to consider them within the context of the company as a whole. The second part involves thinking about how your boss views you–your strengths and weaknesses, and their history with you. The third part gets back to the previous paragraph, and can basically be summed up as “Change your attitude to change your relationship with your boss”.

The good news is that the book provides example to show that taking responsibility for the relationship really can work. Almost every chapter includes a story or two that Arneson relates to whatever is being discussed, and the end of each chapter comes with a recap and insights to take away from it.

The other good news about the book is that it’s short. This sounds more like a slam than I intend it to be–the content isn’t bad by any means, although it may not be for you if your goal is to change your boss without having to do any work to change yourself. But the book is under 100 pages in PDF form–you can read it on a night off, or certainly within a weekend. It’s good that the book doesn’t wear out its welcome or endlessly repeat two or three key points for hundreds of pages.

The downside to this is that, while the content is good, and I don’t mind the occasional short book among the twenty I bought in the humble Win at Work Bundle, I’m not sure it’s worth $10 on its own. The content-per-dollar-spent ratio just isn’t very high, especially as compared with something like Tools of Titans.

-EE

Feb 25

Book Review- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tools of Titans is the fourth book by Tim Ferriss. More accurately, though, while Ferriss authors some interludes about various aspects of life that are sprinkled throughout the book, his main role here is as a collector and curator of the “greatest hits” from various interviews he’s conducted, some of which were episodes of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show (Which I recommend listening to, incidentally).

The book’s full title is “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers”, and Ferriss interviewed over 110 hugely successful people from all walks of life in it. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Who also wrote the foreword, which you can read here), Peter Thiel, Alexis Ohanian, Tony Robbins, Amanda Palmer, and Scott Adams are just some of the people whose insights Ferriss mined for Tools of Titans. His purpose in doing this was to, in his words, “tease out” various nuggets of wisdom, routines, unusual habits, etc. that these world-class performers use–essentially, to find out what makes them tick.

Ferriss notes in the Intro (Also available for free) that the book is set up like a buffet of sorts, where you can read the interviews and sections you’re interested in, and skip what doesn’t appeal to you (He does recommend going back and at least glancing over what you skipped, and asking yourself why you did so). I actually elected to read the book cover-to-cover, and learned a few things in the process. First, there’s no one magic path to world-class performance. Some of the interview subjects contradict one another, and Ferriss noted in the intro that, in giving feedback for the book, the parts some people felt were essential to keep were the parts other people would have cut. Secondly, though, there were some common patterns that emerged. A number of the interviewees mentioned meditation as an essential component of their day, for instance.

In between the interviews, Ferriss intersperses short articles on topics ranging from The Slow-Carb Diet, to Fear-Setting, to “Productivity” tricks (His quotes, not mine). Some of the sections are more directly applicable to “the average Joe” than others–I’m not about to use the Slow-Carb Diet chapter, for instance, but I did enjoy the “Testing the Impossible: 17 Questions That Changed My Life” one–but the breadth of what’s covered is such that you’re likely to get something out of one of the interludes.

Even the interviews with people who come from fields utterly irrelevant to me were pretty fascinating, in particular one with Martin Polanco and Dan Engle on the use of iboga/ibogaine (A psychedelic drug) to treat opiate addictions. Martin and Dan both reserve its use for addicts so far gone that they’re likely to die from either their addiction or drug-related violence soon. Why? Because iboga can be fatal in itself for roughly 1 out of 300 people.

As with most “self-improvement” books, I went into this looking for one concept or quote I could apply to my life. And I got one, from retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. The quote was “If you want to be tougher, then be tougher!” It’s a reminder that you control a lot more than you think you do, and sometimes it’s your own fault if things aren’t going the way you think they should.

In all, I’d highly recommend Tools of Titans. Besides picking up some concepts and tricks to try in my own daily life, I was also entertained by all the interviews and anecdotes. Even if you’re not into self-improvement, you’ll probably find something to enjoy story-wise or anecdote-wise that will make the book worth it.

-EE

Feb 15

State of the Emptyeye- February 2018

It’s been about two months since my last personal update about trying to improve myself. How have I done since then? Here we go!

Physical Fitness: After a bit of fluctuation, I’m down another three pounds, to 150 even as of the last time I weighed myself (Monday morning). I struggled with this a bit, with New England weather combining with my work schedule to knock me off the gym train for a bit (The New Year’s Resolution Crush making it so I could barely find parking at the gym after work didn’t help either). But I’m back to 4 times a week now, and indeed, got back from the gym about an hour ago as I’m writing this. I’ll put some pictures at the bottom of this. I’m not sure you can really see the progress from them, but trust me, I’m slimmer and feel better than four months ago.

The drinking-less-soda thing…has not gone well of late, though I’m doing a bit better with it the last couple weeks. Since I started tracking my diet soda consumption, I’m at about 9 per week overall (Worse than two months ago, though still an improvement from when my doctor first told me to stop drinking so much), with an even 10.5 per week over the last month (1.5 cans/day). Part of this was due to work stuff, which I’ll get into in the next section. But suffice to say that it was stressful for awhile, which caused me to not care so much what I was drinking. I’ve taken to drinking a lot more decaf coffee over the last couple months, but I want to rein that in as well.

General Betterment: This is actually going quite well. For one, I’ve stepped up a bit at my primary job, which hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’m trying to keep that up by volunteering to take over supporting some applications, and indeed, I was forced into quickly becoming an expert on one particular application thanks to a vendor change that shouldn’t have gone into production but did. Everyone seems to agree that I did pretty well in handling that, though I’m not sure that I actually did.

In addition, I’ve continued reading various self-improvement books, and have also been listening to stuff from Youtube while I work (Primarily Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn–the latter in particular has a grandfather-like quality to his voice that’s simultaneously relaxing and motivating). It sounds weird, but it really is helping, and I’ve started trying various tricks and techniques to be more productive around the condo and away from work as well.

Weaning Myself Off of Twitch: Well, considering I’m listening to Lord BBH as I write this… Related to the previous paragraph, though, one thing I’m finding is that I can step away from my computer post-work a bit more easily, thanks in part to basically tricking myself into doing so. Essentially, if I have something productive I need to do around the condo, I set an alarm on my phone to force myself to get up and do it for an hour or so. It’s weird, maybe a little childish…but it works, and I find I even start on the task before the alarm actually goes off (In part because it’s better than “dreading” the alarm going off).

General Creative Stuff: I’ve made more posts here of late. That counts for something, right? OoB Glitchless is something I do want to get back to, so I wonder if I can use my “force myself to be productive” trick toward that end. I’ll have to try it sometime.

-EE

Jan 16

General GDQ Musings

Some general musings on GDQs, inspired in part by a Reddit post I found particularly amusing.

Sam Viviano, Art Director for Mad Magazine, once remarked that the magazine was at its best “whenever you first started reading it.” I thought about this when reading this thread, because I feel like something very similar applies to GDQs–the best GDQs were the ones you first watched. I don’t really think they’ve changed all that much for about 4 years now, and it amused me that this particular thread included AGDQ2013 and both 2014 marathons. The 2014 ones I found funny because that was when the “They killed all the HYPE from last year, there’s NO FUN ALLOWED anymore!” criticism cycle you see every GDQ really started to reach a fever pitch.

AGDQ2013 was a different story. I personally regard this as what I call “The Identity Crisis GDQ”. This is because, while I don’t think the events have changed that much from 2014 on, they’ve definitely grown and become more professional since their inception (Classic Games Done Quick was literally held in Mike Uyama’s basement, though not entirely by choice). AGDQ2013 was the last one held in the 4H Center, and everyone involved probably tried a little too hard to try and keep what they could of the “Gamers In A Basement” feeling, even though it was no longer feasible at that point. Indeed, it was big enough that SMK, then a member of what passed for GDQ Staff at the time, had to rig together a donation tracker after we broke the system we were using (Something called “ChipIn”, the URL for which now appears to be taken over by some kind of cryptocurrency business) from the sheer volume of donations we were taking in. (Side note: In hindsight, it’s amazing ChipIn served GDQ as well as it did for as long as it did, despite everything going pear-shaped at AGDQ2013. I vaguely remember, but can’t confirm, hearing secondhand that ChipIn staff told someone after AGDQ 2012 [Which did about 30% of AGDQ2013 absolute dollars-wise] “Hey, ChipIn was never designed for something of your scale…”.) Beginning with AGDQ2014, everyone involved with running the event really embraced that it had become something “professional”, for lack of a better term. And while there was a spontaneous element of “anything can happen” to early GDQs that I loved and miss, as a whole, I definitely prefer the “modern” GDQs.

The “core” of GDQs are the same, but for the most recent edition, they took a number of risks, primarily moving the Twitch chat to sub-only and not having Super Metroid as one of the games for what I think is the first time in GDQ history (Including JRDQ and HRDQ). While some will point to the total raised this year (It either barely beat or barely didn’t beat AGDQ2017 based on what’s counted in each) as evidence that these were spectacular failures and The End of GDQ Is Nigh, I think these were actually successes. The crazy year-on-year growth had to stop sometime (And actually already did once–AGDQ2016 raised about 20% less than the previous year, and it’s a bit of a miracle it even did that well, given the absolute chaos leading up to the event), and the fact that two relatively big changes didn’t cause donations to crater is a good thing in my eyes.

When I attended GDQs regularly, one of my concerns as each year brought in seemingly triple the money of the previous year was that eventually a point would be reached where people would say “Oh no, we failed, we *only* raised a million dollars this year!” A million dollars is still a crazy amount of money (CGDQ’s starting goal, in contrast, was five thousand dollars, and people thought that was overly optimistic at the time!), but the fact that 2 million seems to be the baseline now is even better.

-EE

Jan 11

Book Review- Managing for People Who Hate Managing by Devora Zack

I have no aspirations to become a manager at either job I presently work at. I would, however, like to become a team leader, or the closest thing my primary job has to one. And so it was with this in mind that I tackled the fourth book I read from the Humble Win At Work Bundle (The link is to the Humble Bundle homepage; the specific bundle is no longer available), Managing for People Who Hate Managing by Devora Zack.

The first thing to note is Zack’s writing style, which is rather heavy on humorous asides and jokes and the like. I found this welcome, as it kept me reading through a book that (Like a lot of “self-improvement” books, if I’m being honest, this one being the worst example I’ve read) was probably longer than it really had to be, even at a scant 176 pages for the Kindle Edition.

As for the book’s goal, it begins by discussing various reasons why people hate managing (Chief among them is that managers can feel like they’re not tangibly adding results to the group. It also changes the relationship between co-workers.). It then goes on to essentially divide people into two groups along a spectrum: Thinker versus Feeler, and discuss how the two groups use language, how they treat their jobs, etc.

One thing I was shocked to discover was that, according to the (Admittedly brief, and maybe not very scientific) test early in the book, I’m actually slightly on the Feeler side of the Thinker/Feeler spectrum. The book has a couple other exercises that I actually tried to do this time around–one gets into how males and females are perceived as managers based on whether they’re thinkers or feelers, another asks you to think of the best manager you had and their traits, and a third makes the point that positive people are better to be around for various reasons.

The book’s main point is that being a good manager involves deducing whether your reports are thinkers or feelers, and tailoring your language to suit their style. The two approach things very differently, to the point that it can feel like they speak different languages. One exercise that Zack had two teams do involved (One of “thinkers”, one of “feelers”) writing down how they would fire somebody. The feelers were, by and large, more concerned with the feelings of the person being fired, while the thinkers were more concerned with discussing procedure (severance, etc). While the thinkers were reading out their results, one of the feelers stood up and said roughly “That’s ridiculous! How would YOU like to be fired like that?!”. To which the thinker replied “What do you mean? this is exactly how I’d want to be fired.”

I think this point is the most useful one in the book, even if you don’t have managerial aspirations. Even if you stop and do the exercises in it, the book is a quick read, and Zack’s writing style makes it pleasant to go through. I’d recommend it to anyone who has to lead a team of any kind, regardless of if they’re officially a “manager” or not.

-EE