2006 – Senses Fail – Still Searching


I love Music Monday. It gives me an excuse to tell you about something I have a strange affection for. I never thought of myself as a big “Screamo” fan. I don’t need people yelling at me. But I find myself coming back to this album time and time again because there’s just something about the passion with which it’s sang.

Senses Fail is by no means a “new” name out there, and this album is more than half-a-decade old at this point. When Still Searching was released it was already their third full length album and I had no interest in hearing it. But when a friend told me to give it a listen, I found a few songs I really liked. I listened to it again this week and realized: I have memorized almost every single song on the album. How did that happen?

I have the 2006 original release but there is also a 2007 Deluxe Edition that I haven’t heard, but it gives you a whopping SIX extra tracks. But when listening to the 2006 version, I immediately remember long car rides, tapping the steering wheel to these songs.

Songs about sadness, depression, and people not understanding you. Nothing new here, nothing that wasn’t in prior emo music or even grunge from the 90’s. What sets Senses Fail apart, I feel, is the genuine talent in the band. Vocals are showcased in the title Track, Still Searching, where we switch between guttural growls and beatiful harmonies on the fly. Instrumentals are highlighted when you listen to the metalicious guitar solo in Sick or Sane. And the lyrics are the writing of someone who, I think, is being honest with their listeners. “I’m not the same kid I was when I was younger, I just thought you should know…” and “I hope my mother and my father think / that they raised a healthy boy / — who needs the help of a shrink / to even leave the house” are lyrics from the title track.

Interviews with people who have been diagnosed with genuine depression seem to echo these exact thoughts. The person with depression is deeply concerned with other’s impressions if they were to find out about this medical condition. It’s something doctors explain away as perfectly natural and clinically common, but the person battling depression is still stuck fighting a stigma. I’ve heard it and read it in research papers time and time again, which makes me think that these thoughts weighed heavily on the minds of the band members as they put this album together.

There seem to be lots of personal glimpses throughout the album, and it’s always interesting to see topics like depression handled with care. An interesting departure on the album is the last track (on the 2006 version), called The Priest and the Matador. It’s a very slow song told from the perspective of a man who, evidently, had some sort of brain anurism and is about to die on the street, surrounded by strangers. “Here I lie / I’m staring at / clouds in shapes of / dogs and cats. / I hear a woman / start to yell / oh dear God, I / think he fell.” As the song reveals itself, the protagonist wishes he could get the religious figures around him to leave him alone – but what I find fascinating is that they include in the song how he won’t give up on our subject. The priest who rushes to his side, the stranger who wants to pray with him, and the unwillingness to cooperate. His certainty that religion isn’t going to save him – his conviction that he is beyond saving seems to contradict the album title, Still Searching. It seems clear that something bigger is wanted out of life, but the fear that religion might not be the thing to fill that gap is ever present. A battle many people in our society have.

But I’m not here to discuss religion with you. You can do that on your own, and while you discuss – give this 2006 “new classic” a listen, and see if you have a religious experience of your own.

Need to mute your Android ring tones & notifications? Use Mute.

Mute. from MNO Company is one of my absolute favorite apps on the Android. It’s the simplest, most elegant, most useful app I own. Have you ever had to go in to a meeting, turned the “ringer volume” on the side of the phone down, only to have something like MEDIA volume or NOTIFICATION volume still up? Android made that quite confusing. Mute. makes it easy again.

With one tap, I can literally Mute everything on the phone, EXCEPT for alarm clocks. Just install the app, and place a shortcut on your home screen. When you tap it, you will see a little pop up at the bottom of the screen alerting you that you have been muted, press it again to unmute. Here’s another selling point, it’s totally free, so head over to the Android Market (sorry, Google Play?) and download Mute. for Free.

My IT Toolkit

Nothing specific from the help desk today, but I just wanted to refer you to several tools I use frequently in my job. Some of them I have been using for years, and one of them for literally over a decade. These are applications I trust and I use. I am in no way affiliated with any of these products, and am only recommending them because they genuinely work for me! Put some of this stuff on your flashdrive and you’ll have the Swiss army knife of IT toolkits.

Antivirus:

Anti-Malware:

Password Recovery:

Data Recovery:

Drive Imaging:

Now I know some of you may say I left out some other useful tools, or your favorites – this isn’t a comprensive list of everything I use regularly, these are just some of the ones I immediately turn to. I’ll gladly say I also use several resources like RogueKiller and ComboFix from BleepingComputer.com, sites like InternetHealthReport.com to diagnose internet connectivity issues, and use other products like Microsoft Steady State, Comodo Time Machine, RollbackRX for keeping a system in running order, MetaSploit, BackTrack, and ImmunityCanvas for pentesting, and Acronis TrueImage or even Norton Ghost when they’re called for in system imaging. But the list above are some of my favorites. If they’re not working for you, I’d encourage you to find something that will by using AlternativeTo.

How to find the Xbox Deal of the Week

This week’s Xbox Tip of the Week isn’t difficult – infact it’s VERY simple. Xbox Live, over the last year or so, introduced the Xbox Deal of the Week. These deals are for Xbox Live Gold subscribers, and every week they put a small handful of DLC, Live Arcade games, retail games, etc… on sale. But, after dashboard updates, sometimes it gets a little confusing trying to find what games are on sale this week. Or, what if you’re away from your console? What if you’re on vacation and you’re missing out on a 50% off sale on a game you’ve been thinking about paying. We’ve got a solution for you!

Xbox.com has an easy to bookmark Deal of the Week Page right on their website! Even better, from there you can click on a deal you want, log in with your Live ID, and purchase the game at the sale price. Then, the next time your turn on your console, whenever that is, it will download to the Xbox 360 unit. I use this site myself, frequently, and encourage everyone to bookmark it!

What if Star Wars Episode I Was Good

I was introduced to this video this week, it’s up to half a million views, but I hope it grows to a hundred times that and someone tells George Lucas to go back and do what this kid says. Star Wars will always draw people in to theaters, no matter what – but that doesn’t make them good movies. It just means we keep hoping that it will be good. We want Episode I to be better than we remember it. If it were done the way YouTuber Belated Media wishes it had been done, I would actually own the movie!



The Backorder: Final Fantasy VII

Back on WinBreak.com, I started a series of articles called The Backorder. The Backorder would feature either reviews or just a little announcement of sorts that I would be playing a game that I should’ve played long, long ago. It’s time for a new installment of the backorder.



It’s also time for a guilty admission: I never played Final Fantasy VII. It’s not that I never beat it, never finished, never loved it, never hated it… I literally never played it. I have fond memories of watching friends play through it. I watched them traverse some beautifully created hand drawn landscapes, and watched them cast spells with CGI effects that rivalled Hollywood cinema. But I never once took a controller in my hand and led Cloud and co. on their journy.

It’s true, and I’m not too ashamed to admit it. I’m not a big RPG fan. I always hated combining items, or being over-encumbered, or not knowing when to use which armor against what attack… the games had too many little details to pay attention to. I’m a gamer-jock: I just wanna go in and blow stuff up. So I never played many RPG’s, and most that I did, I never finished. But I’ve looked back at several and decided this might be the year I finish a lot of games that I started ages ago (or never started at all), particularly those in the RPG genre. I’m thinking this year will involve Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. But I have to start with the game that gets every person I know to say “you know what the best time of all time might’ve been?”

My quest isn’t just to play the game, it’s really an attempt to find out what made non gamers, girl gamers, boy gamers, hard-core gamers, JRPG gamers — so many different people — all say how much they love this game. I started playing it again, and I’m only 30 minutes in. I have to tell you, the graphics don’t hold up well. It’s blockier than I remember it being, I can see why people are begging for an HD Remake. But the combat is tight, the soundtrack is still incredible, and the action is still palpable. I’m looking forward to getting to know my characters and playing through the story that spawned an entirely new generation of RPG fans and really gave rise to a new era of JRPG gameplay elements. I’m hoping to see what everybody else saw. The kind of thing that makes people want to pay over $200 for the “black label” edition of the game.

If you have any particular memories you wish to share, or tips for me while I’m playing Final Fantasy VII, feel free to share them below!

My latest addiction is TWiT.tv

I wish I were on TWiT.tv. A lot. I watch it, literally daily, and it both educates and entertains me. The TWiT network started, essentially, as a dream back in the days back of TechTV. When it morphed in to G4 TV and became more about entertainment than the real tech, several members of the old guard, the first tech evangelists, the true technology journalists all banded together and began This Week in Tech, TWiT. Several years after it began, it has taken off as the premiere network for all types of technology, including broadcast radio technology, daily tech news headlines, a question and answer program called The Tech Guy, ham radio, Google Specific, Android Specific, MacBreak weekly, Windows Weekly, gaming headlines and several other daily live webcasts on live.twit.tv, which can are recorded and released as podcasts for people who can’t join live. For those who can join live, there’s also a chat room. The community is busy, and a very fun group of people.

I used to listen to several weekly podcasts… including KOXM, TalkRadar, One Of Swords, Major Nelson’s podcast, and so many more. I always thought about doing my own podcast. Just a weekly thing, talking about whatever came to mind – or whatever my blog was about at that time. I even thought it would be neat to do something like A Life Well Wasted – produced like a radio broadcast news article. But I’ve never so much as bought a microphone. I’m afraid I won’t be interesting, won’t have the time to podcast, or won’t have anybody to podcast with (one man pod casts get pretty boring). So I’ve never gone ahead and recorded anything, other then a few clips for other shows (very few of them made it to air). But a man can still dream, and while dreaming, he can be educated and engaged by something as fascinating, and hopefully long-lasting & succesful as the TWiT Network.

Scanner Radio for Android

Scanner Radio is an Android app I have been using for a while. The base model, a free app, lets you stream police and emergency responder radio feeds to your phone. There is a pro app and plugins which can enhance the experience, even going so far as to add chat. You can use a “near me” function to allow the app to use the GPS in your phone to provide you with the closest feeds relevant to your area.

I was reminded ofthe app last weekend when I was sitting at home hearing lots of sirens in my neighborhood. By the time I thought to turn on the app, there was no chatter about what was going on. But I left the app running for a few minutes and suddenly a full blown police chase had broken out in Rochester, New York! This spontaneous, random event turned my day from a groggy Saturday morning in to the edge of my seat drama! I was listening, live, as it all went down.

The police initiated a chase. The vehicle was identified as a stolen vehicle. The suspect wanted, allegedly for multiple robberies and home invasions that same morning. Once the police involved in the chase were over 80 MPH and the suspect was reportedly over 100, they called off the chase. Minutes later the car is spotted in a nearby township and the chase resumes. The suspect drives erratically, trying to escape, “westbound in an eastbound lane” and “running stoplights” are reported in. The chase is put on hold once more – when moments later another officer trying to respond to the scene sees the car. The suspect hops out of the car and takes off on foot. After a tense minute: “suspect apprehended” chatters out of the my cell phone. The good guys won! And through all of it, I was part of the adventure. A real life action sequence, that unfolded before me by happenstance, all thanks to Scanner Radio.

If you missed the link above, yes, it really happened.

Awesome Windows 7 Wallpapers and Themes Straight from Microsoft!

In my job in the help desk, I remove a lot of viruses. A lot of times these viruses come down with fancy screen savers, wall papers, and general themes designed for specific holidays or whatever the reason may be. To avoid viruses, I advise people to download their themes straight from Microsoft. Unlike the good old days where themes were complex, large, and not even that great, the new themes for Windows 7 are stunning, awesome, beautiful, amazing, cool, stellar – pick your adjective. You can see just one of the many wallpapers below, in the screenshot where I describe how to get to these themes.

Many themes, like many of the stock Windows 7 themes, include multiple wallpapers which your computer will cycle through periodically. They will automatically adjust the “Aero Glass” color scheme, and most will change the sound scheme, though most don’t include new soundscapes – they just use the ones that came with Windows 7. My favorites are fractal art, dark abstracts, and ice water. That’s right, ice water. High definition photographs of ice cubes in water. There’s a similar, more colorful theme called party ice.

To access them, go to the desktop of your own computer. Minimize everything so you just so your existing wallpaper and desktop icons. Right click off in an empty space on your desktop, then click Personalize at the very bottom of the right click context menu. From there, look for the link option that says “Get more themes online.” I have linked to it in the text, but if you ever need to find it again, that’s how easily you can get to the page.

Once you’re on that page, pick your theme, and click the download link. When prompted, just click RUN instead of Save – the theme will download and store itself on your computer automatically. You don’t have to worry about where the downloaded file went, the theme will be installed just by selecting Open! Even if you change themes later, you can always go back to the personal menu and switch between your themes!

The themes themselves traverse the entire spectrum: dark and brooding, colorful and happy, game related (Halo, Gears of War, Bullet Asylum and more games have hi-resolution wallpapers on this page), landscapes, hi-def photography, Christmas, Valentines Day, Halloween, Year of the Dragon, Rabbit, Tiger… the list goes on and on. Download these high definition themes for free, from Microsoft.

2008 – Ludo – You're Awful I Love You


It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Back in 2008, Best Buy promoted Ludo’s album unlike almost any other album I’ve ever seen being specifically promoted by a big box store. I’m not sure what the big deal was, what Best Buy had at stake, but they pushed this album over and over. Outside of the commercials, I heard almost nothing about the band from anyone I knew. Lucky for you, I’ve been a long time fan of the band and actually liked that album quite a lot. I think it’s time you go back and give it a listen.

Ludo has that classical pop punk sound that you’ve gotten used to. Certainly a poppier sound than any emo band out there at the time, but a lot of their lyrics were very dark and filled with lament and loathing. You’re Awful I Love Youbegins with a track filled with backhanded compliments and the kinds of analogies that let you know that someone actually thought about the lyrics they were writing, rather than cranking them out so that just any artist who picked the song from a catalog could be the one to record it.

Ludo has been a band for a long time, and this was their national debut. While they may not appeal to everyone out there, if you like creative and unique lyrics you’re in for a treat. “I found God in a catalytic converter, in Topeka on a Monday night” is just one line that you genuinely think you could overhear in a place like Topeka. “Fill my soul with vomit then ask me for a piece of gum” is over the top for some people, but it does a great job of getting right to the point, doesn’t it? You know people like that, who are toxic for you and couldn’t care less what they are for you, it’s only about you are for them and what you can do for them.

Then you come to a song like Lake Pontchartrain, which feels like an epic story being told to song – all in a neat three and a half minute package. Listening to the story unfold makes you think you’ve listened to “that one six minute song on the album” and then you realize no time at all has passed, but you’ve been involved in a story that was so well written you were busy picturing it like a movie playing in your mind. After that, the band moves on to the next track. You don’t have time for the credits to roll, you’ve already been shuffled along to an upbeat song trying to help someone get through their heart break: “Love, such as it ends… into the flames we’ll start again.”

You’re Awful I Love You probably appeals more to teens, but musically and lyrically, it is a fairly creative and well crafted album. It’s extremely well produced, each track catchier than the last – at least for the first half of the album. The second half of the album feels a little slower and less energetic, but that’s not a bad thing after the pace the first half of the album set. You’re also given a nice treat which breaks from the darker imagery of the first several songs, when you have a luagh of the expense of a creeper. You know the type of guy, a “stage five creeper” as the girls on my college campus used to call guys like Go Getter Greg. “I haven’t seen you at the pool since the barbecue / Not that I’ve been checking / here’s the deal I’ve got this thing for work this weekend and I was wondering if you don’t have anything going on then maybe / okay, hey, that’s cool you’re busy but we should hit up Jose O’Flannigan’s for Jello Shots your call it’s okay not this week / but Monday…” It’s a series of pickup lines by the kind of guy who thinks he has the pick of the litter, but really has no idea how to talk to women. “You could use a guy like me in your life” the lyrics go, as we all have a laugh at the expense of Go Getter Greg. The video reminds you that there is no single “uniform” to identify a “creeper” like that – it could be anybody.

The album’s not perfect, and some people will pass on it as a bit of teeny-pop-punk. But give it a listen when you’re on a long drive some time, you’ll laugh along with some of the absurd lyrics and it’ll keep you awake and moving with the undeniably catchy hooks.