Boxed, Sealed, and Archived

Some time around the middle of July, I decided (after giving the matter lots of consideration) to temporarily un-publish all of the posts on the blog. After my last post, I kept reading through the archive and decided that I needed to wipe the slate. When I first decided to start keeping a blog a couple of years ago, my intended outcome was a lot different than it is today. At the time, I was struggling with a lot internally and had started actively reading on the topic of personal development/self-improvement. I imagined compiling, over time, a kind of public online journal chronicling all of my internal/external changes as I sorted things out. Unfortunately, what I ended up drafting wasn’t as progressive and meaningful as I’d hoped. Instead, I ended up writing would have best been kept as offline DayOne journal entires — the thoughts and feelings that shouldn’t be readily available to a search engine query.

Personally, I’d have no personal issue with leaving them publicly available. I’m constantly cognizant of how much I’ve changed throughout my life, so much to the point where I’ve ended up externalizing different periods of my past and see them as the different people I’ve been over the years. In turn, I treat the things I write as what’s one day going to be the past of my future self. I’m human and imperfect, but not ashamed of myself in any way. Same goes for photographs; I don’t subscribe to the idea of deleting all unflattering photos of yourself. I don’t see a point in creating a record of your life if it’s not going to be honest.

However, in this hyper-networked era of social networking, mobile computing, and evolved search engine technologies, it’s imperative to put your best foot forward and craft an online presence that leaves a good impression. All of my existing content doesn’t support that goal, and it’s certainly not what I’d want a neighbor or prospective employer seeing first. Not only that, but that narrative doesn’t suit me anymore. I’m not the 17 year old that developed that writing style over years on LiveJournal. With all of the information available on the web, it’s time to step up the game and start creating things that are worthy of consideration.

So, now that that’s settled, let’s get this show on the road.

Sweet Sweet Progress

As covered in my previous post, last week was pretty terrible in terms of performance due to the blistering from all the running the week prior. Earlier this week on Monday, I went ahead and drained the blister before heading out on a run. When I returned, I was disappointed to find that the new preventative measures I tried failed, and had a new blister formed in the exact same spot as the previous one, only one skin layer deeper.
New Blister
 
I turn, I took a few days off to let my foot heal up. When Thursday rolled around and I realized I was still only 1/4 of the way through my 20 mile goal for the week, I tried a new tactic:
My Blister Prevention Solution
Using a combination of J&J’s friction block stick and medical tape, I went out on my second run for the week. My fitness app ended up pausing for a good chunk of a mile, so I actually ended up running about 6 miles that day. When I returned home and checked to see how well my new workaround had fared, I was pleasantly surprised. The blister site wasn’t further aggravated, and I now have a reliable way to combat future occurrences.
One of the things I find myself enjoying most about modern technology is how encouraging it can be in relation to personal health. I have a Withings Smart Scale that integrates my RunKeeper activity (which is highly accurate since I use a Wahoo Heart Rate Monitor and a Wahoo Stride Sensor) in its body tracking functions. When I stepped on the scale yesterday, I was surprised by how much progress I’ve made.
Withings iPhone App Dashboard
I’m only 6 pounds away from breaking under 200, on track to meet goal if I run 5 miles today and 5 miles tomorrow, and am really close to meeting my weekly 2lb loss goal. Having all of this data compiled and calculated in such a useful format without having to force myself to build spreadsheets with formulas and manually log the data is great. Not only does it save me time, but it actually makes me eager to get geared up and go exercise. The advanced metrics available in my Withings dashboard on a computer browser are even more motivational.
Screen Shot 2013 04 13 at 2 11 12 PM
Ever since we moved to this new apartment and have started exercising regularly, things have changed more than I realized. Hard to believe that just 3 months ago, I was 12 lbs heavier. If I keep up the pace, I’ll be within objective range by the end of this year, and that excites me a lot.

Review: The Hand Glider

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I was cleaning my photo library, and found some photos I took for a review of the Hand Glider that I never got around to writing, so I decided to go ahead cross it off the backlogged to-do list. I first read about the Hand Glider at the start of June via a post from The Unofficial Apple Weblog, when it became available for order on their website. The product had tried it’s run at a Kickstarter donation campaign for funding, but apparently failed to meet its goal. I guess the inventor, Joseph Bell, found an alternative means for funding and was finally available for purchase. I immediately made a mental book mark about it, since it seemed to elegantly yet simplistically solve a long-standing issue I’ve had with the iPad. There’s a lot of awesome note & drawing apps available for it, but the inability to rest my hand on the surface of the tablet really takes away from the experience and in some cases, hinders usability. The concept seemed sound – I’ve tried using touchscreen devices in the winter months, and they’ve been impossible to use when wearing gloves. In turn, I had no difficulty believing that a glove specially designed to only cover the contact points of the user’s hand would be a great way to work around that problem. Especially when it received an endorsement from someone named Kyle Lambert, a very competent artist judging by the pieces he has on his site.
So, how well does it work? Skip ahead to the end of the post for that. Leading up to that, I’m going to detail the entire purchase experience, since that’s just as important of a step in the buying process as the experience with the actual product. (All email text is copied in it’s original form)
Saturday, 06/09/2012
I placed the order for the Hand Glider through their website. The order confirmation email doesn’t contain any information regarding shipping time. Even though I see on their website that the estimates are 1-3 weeks, I write an email to verify that time frame. The nightmare begins.
Friday, 06/15/2012 (Week 1)
All week, I waited to get a shipment confirmation, and never heard from the company. I replied to the email thread and asked about the ship time again, pointing out that they missed the window they’d given me. At that point, I was still cool about the situation. I respected the fact that Joseph Bell had come up with a creative and simple solution that resulted in an innovative and stylish product. I also realize that behind every small independent business, there’s a person trying to realize a goal/dream. I know that if I were to take an idea to market, the launch would be a little rough. I would need time to learn how to get things running smoothly. I don’t know when I sent it, since that message seems to have been deleted from Gmail’s archive. Definitely somewhere between Thursday (06/14/2012, when the week moved past the “early” phase) and Wednesday of the following week. All the stuff I wrote in the paragraph I also communicated in my email. I wanted to make sure that my email would be perceived as angry and demanding. I was still all about supporting the man’s idea, and was simply looking for an answer to a very simple inquiry.
Friday, 06/22/2012 (Week 2)
I receive a reply to my email:

Jimmie,
Your order is scheduled to ship next week.
-The Hand Glider Team

I got a little annoyed; that was a curt response to the long and cordial email I sent. They just answered the question, and didn’t even acknowledged the failure on their part to follow through with what they’d told me. Still, I keep things on the nice side side of the spectrum, and wait to hear from them again. At this point, even the 1-3 week estimate ship time on their website has been exceeded.
Thursday, 06/28/2012 (Week 3)
The same exact thing happens again. I send another email:

On June 15th, I was told it was going to ship “early next week” (the week of 06/18). Then I was told on the 22nd that it was going to be shipped this week – it’s already Thursday, and I still haven’t received any information regarding shipment. Should I still expect it to be shipped out this week? 

I was starting to get mad at this point, but still didn’t try to jump down anyone’s throat. So I waited for their next response.

Friday, 06/28/2012 (Week 3)

Jimmie,
We apologies for the delay, we have been hit with an enormous amount of orders that have put us behind schedule. I personally will update you with a shipment date by tomorrow the latest. Thanks for your patience with us. Your going to love the Hand Glider.
-Joseph Bell

Okay, more than EIGHT days later, I get a response. Even though it took way longer than it should have, I feel a little better – it’s signed by Joseph Bell. The big boss is aware of the problem, and makes a sincere sounding promise. It sounds reasonable, and after this long what’s one more day?
Saturday, 06/30/2012 (Week 4)
I learn that Joseph Bell’s word doesn’t mean jack shit.
Tuesday, 07/03/2012 (Week 5)
10:10 AM
I refused to have to wait until the end of the week to get an answer. I sent another email, still not allowing myself to fly off the handle over the situation:

Joseph, 

Your message from four days ago said “I personally will update you with a shipment date by tomorrow the latest”. It’s now Tuesday, July 3rd, which means that not only have I not heard back from you yet, but in 6 more days it will have been an entire calendar month since I’ve placed this order and I still don’t even have a proper ship date.
I’m aware that you must have a lot of orders – I found out about the Hand Glider by stumbling on the Kickstarter page after the funding period has closed. I think it’s a great idea that you should make money from, and have been very patient and understanding the past few weeks. However, after so many missed ship times and lack of follow through, I will admit the only thing keeping me from canceling the order altogether is that I don’t know of any viable alternative product. I don’t doubt that I’d love the Hand Glider – my doubts are concerned with whether or not I’ll be seeing it arrive anytime in the near future.
I look forward to hearing back from you regarding the matter, and hope you’ll have good news regarding the shipping status of my order.
Best Regards,
~J.

1:10 PM
I get a generic response from “The Hand Glider Team”. It was basically another “next week”, but at least made the effort to try to switch things up by getting more specific about the ship date they were going to miss next. Neither on time nor personally delivered by Joseph Bell, and…c’mon, Week 6. Things were well beyond ridiculous at that point.

Jimmie,
Our new shipment comes in on Sunday and will ship by wednesday. We apologize for the delay.
-The Hand Glider Team

Monday, 07/16/2012 (Week 6)
I gave up after they missed yet another ship date, and decided to just wait and “be surprised”. I walked into the office to find that it FINALLY arrived…but there was something wrong with it.

Hello Joseph & Team:
I finally received my Hand Glider in the mail today, one (1) month and seven (7) days after I placed my initial order for the Hand Glider. When I tried to test it out with my iPad and stylus, and opened the envelope and removed the Hand Glider. As soon as I took it out of the envelope, I immediately noticed a large loose thread (attached: IMG_0700.jpg).Upon investigating the thread, I noticed that it was loose at a point where the inner lining and outer lining are stitched together along the wrist, resulting in a gap that’s about 1cm long (attached: IMG_0701.jpg). At this point, I don’t even know what to say. When I placed the order on your website, it said that orders ship within 2-3 weeks. After waiting over a month to receive The Hand Glider with so many missed ship dates and lack of follow-up in communications, I was very angry to find what I received in the mail is a defective product that was already falling apart before I even received it. This entire has experience has been a nightmare of an ordeal, and the state of the product upon receipt is unacceptable. I appreciate your prompt response.

Hand Glider Defect (1)   Hand Glider Defect (2)

Tuesday, 07/17/2012 (Week 6)

Jimmie,
We apologize that after such a long wait for this product you are in satisfied with it. We will ship a new one out to you this week. We want our customers to be happy with the money they spent. Please return the defective glove to the address on our site.
Again we apologize.

I’ve received more apologies from these people than I know what to do with. Not only has there been delay after delay, but then they have the gall to ask me to mail it back to them. They’ve wasted so much of my time, and then I’m supposed to pay out of pocket to send them back their defective product? Wow.

Saturday, 07/21/2012 (Week 6)

Jimmie,
Your exchange was shipped yesterday. We will look out for the defective glove.
Monday, 07/23/2012 (Week 7)
The replacement Hand Glider arrives! I pull it out to examine it, and notice that something feels different. I looked for the original one they sent me, then compared the two. It seems that loose thread wasn’t the only defect.
The Hand Glider makers have never heard of quality control
 Left: Original   Right: Replacement
In my disappointment with the original one already coming apart at the seams, i didn’t bother to look at the rest of it or even try it on. When I compared it to the replacement, I realized that it wasn’t even SHAPED properly. The first one they sent doesn’t even look like it’s shaped for a hand…unless your pinky happens to be the size and shape of a penis.
IMG 0720  Version 2
See it now?

THAT SUCKED…BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dmCoCa3_DI]

If the video doesn’t play for some reason, here’s a clue: it doesn’t.

Here’s a screenshot I took after the test in the video:

Screen cap after using the Hand Glider for the iPad

If you’re wondering, I was trying to write “Does this thing work?” The Hand Glider doesn’t. Resting my hand on the screen with the glove on prevented the iPad from properly detecting input from my Wacom Bamboo Stylus, and even created a few random dots.

CLOSING

It’s been little over a month since I gave up on the Hand Glider. After that terrible experience, I didn’t bother to send back the junk glove they sent me the first time. I didn’t bother to email them again and go through more hoops trying to get a refund. At that point, I just wanted to be done dealing with them, cut my loss, and not waste any more of my time. I meant to write this back then, but I stopped myself – I didn’t want to publish something on the internet with my name on attached to it out of anger. I felt if someone was going to call attention to the awful customer service and quality issues of the product, it wasn’t going to be me. Those type of things can have unintended influence – I didn’t want a rant on my part to negatively affect Joseph and his employees’ lives. Now that I was reminded of this as I was going through my photo library, I felt compelled to finally write it and push it to the web.
I no longer harbor anger over the situation, but I don’t want to just write it off. If there’s someone that’s contemplating buying the Hand Glider and stumbles upon this post, I want them to know what exactly it is they might be getting into. It would have made a considerable difference in how all of this played out if I’d known in advance what to possibly expect. I also hope this helps light the fire under Joseph’s ass to get his shit together – selling something that doesn’t work and neglecting your customers throughout every step of the buying process is not the way to succeed in business. If this does happen to have any negative, I regret it – but I don’t apologize for it. Fault for that, if it happens, is all on him and his team.

Assessment

Since this isn’t the first time I’ve set out to make a big lifestyle change, I think I can call this force of habit by now. Still, I always reason to myself that it’s good to write up a post like this to have a point of reference, the idea being that I want to one day be able to look back at this and find it hard to believe that my life used to be like it is now.

0 to 26, in 5 Minutes

When I was a kid, I was your normal kid. As things started getting unstable at home throughout the years, a lot of my dietary choices were left in the hands of my dad, who always defaulted to fast food. So I got “husky”. As I grew older, those bad diet habits got worse, as did my weight – I topped out at around 265 lbs in my sophomore year of high school. Up until that point in my life I’d always been comfortable in my own body. Physically, I still was. Mentally, I was over it. I started waking up before the sun on a daily basis and going on long morning runs. Once I started working and managed to afford my own gym membership, I found that I actually do like spending prolonged periods of time working out. By the time I hit 21, I was down near 200 lbs – not all the way there, but not too bad either. Compared to my old photos from high school, I looked like a completely different person.
Then at 23, things started taking a turn for the worse. Things in the personal life and with work all started crashing around me. Now, I’ve gotten accustomed to things being pretty bad in life – I’ve been struggling with a personal depression dating back since 2005. But that was the beginning of an entirely new downward spiral in life. At 25, I finally found myself bouncing back from everything. I started trying to get myself to care again. As motivation, I forced myself to part with my hair that I’m so very fond of, and told myself that I’d only grow it out once I hit goal weight. Instead of getting motivated, it opened the door for me to turn into someone else. As the problems piled on, I lost sight of myself. I let myself go, and really packed on the on the pounds.

Now

Presently, I find myself halfway through 26. One hand, it feels pretty lame that earlier in life I’d planned to have taken care of this by 21 permanently. Still, rather than dwell in the past, it’s time to look to the future. Now, the weight problem extends beyond image and self-esteem. For me, it’s a contradiction of the perceptions I have of my actualized self. In other words, I’m not me. I’m not living a life that’s in line with who I really see myself as. I’m not as young and stout as I used to be. Age is going to start rearing its ugly head at me if I’m not ready for it. In a sense, I kind of feel like it already has. So now, it’s important for me to finally get this over with. Because I need to do damage control on what I’ve put my body through up until now and take care of myself for the long run, and because I need to really start living my life like its supposed to be. What it’s like now is pretty much the complete opposite of that.
Right now, I’m up near 230 lbs. I’m not entirely sure, since I haven’t been to the gym in about 3 weeks – I’ll be sure to take care of that soon.
I alternate between three sets of pants, since they’re the only things that fir me in my closet and I don’t want to waste money on clothes that aren’t going to fit me in the near future. I’m running low on shirts that fit appropriately as well. My dress style is boring and limited because of this.
I feel uncomfortable in my body at all times. I have a hard time with prolonged sitting in chairs, probably due to a combination of “office ass” and my body screaming at me to get up and move around. This isn’t the fattest I’ve ever been, but it’s been the most I’ve ever been so constantly aware of it. I’m highly attuned to all the problems that are resulting from it, like terrible posture. I’ve got a lot of goals in life, and they’re not going to happen feeling like this.
I’m a heavy user of marijuana and cigarettes. Though my usage over the past year has spiked alarmingly since I’ve been using them as emotional crutches throughout my hardships and in combination with my therapy sessions, I’m really starting to feel the adverse affects. Furthermore, I feel like I’ve reached a point where they’re just no longer useful to me. They’ve been as “helpful” as they can possibly be, and it’s time for them to go. At this point, they’re nothing but a barrier between me and my actualized self.
Now that I’m not so young anymore, I’m also highly aware of the dangers of failing to do anything about this. There’s a history of diabetes in my family. Much as it scares me to admit it, I wouldn’t be surprised to find I’m pre or near diabetic. Since I don’t have the luxury of health insurance, my only viable course of action at this point in time is to take charge of the things I can control, which is admittedly quite a lot.

In Memoriam: Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs

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It’s been five days since Steve Jobs passed away. Even now, five days later, it’s still difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that he’s gone forever. The world has lost a living legend and an amazing modern renaissance man. Jobs’ contributions to modern society, be they Pixar animation studios or the iconic iPhone, have changed the course of human culture and technological development in previously unimaginable ways. He was to us what DaVinci was to the world in the 1500’s. Like so many others, I mourn the loss of one of history’s most talented visionaries and leaders.

Now, I would love to continue to extol the virtues of Steve Jobs, but that would be misleading on my part. The truth of the matter is that my opinion of Steve Jobs has not always been the most favorable. See, for the longest time, I was a strong opponent to Apple products. Not out of allegiance to the Microsoft brand, but out of my love for technology as a whole.

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Boom.

Though I am primarily a Windows user, the Mac OS has been a large part of my computing experience as a whole. I first taught myself to use a computer using outdated Macintoshes in my elementary school’s computer lab, and later on using my Uncle’s Macintosh LCIII. Every time I used a Macintosh, I enjoyed it. As a child, it was intuitive and user friendly.

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However, I also had been given a Packard Bell D160 Multimedia PC by father as a Christmas present in 1995, and grew to love the Windows operating system. Though in hindsight it wasn’t that great, at the time the immersive Packard Bell navigator software that booted with Windows was impressive. It simulated an actual living environment, each room with a specific function – living room for media, office for documents, etc. The games that were available (The Journeyman Project comes to mind) offered me a way more impressive computer experience at home than the ones at school did.

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In the years since then, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and revived the company with the iMac. At the time, I was enrolled at Lewis Middle School, whose school slogan was “Leading in Technology”. They lived up to it: every classroom and every computer lab was stocked with both the color all in one iMacs with the hockey puck mouse, or with the latest variants of the classic Macintosh line. I once again grew to love the Mac experience. Though I hate to admit it, I loved playing the shit out of Nanosaur at any chance I could get.

Still, Macs came at a premium, and my Dad governed the computer purchases. He was a fan of the more practical Windows platform, so that’s what I got at home. I remember wanting to eventually get a Mac to do graphic design work on when I was in high school. Unfortunately, by then, the revolution started by the iMac sparked the elitism of the Mac brand: if you own a Mac, you’re better than everyone else. As a computer enthusiast who had grown up with an enjoyable Windows experience, I stuck with Microsoft. I understood the power of each platform, but didn’t agree that one necessarily had to be better than the other. Since they were both good, I felt I needed to stick with the one I’d grown up with and was subject to very harsh criticism.

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In the years between high school and the present, that resistance to Apple became an absolute disdain for it. I loathed the arrogance of the Justin Long Mac vs. PC commercials. Steve Jobs was perpetuating that elitist attitude I couldn’t stand. This became even worse when my best friend Chris switched from PC to a Mac. At every chance he could get, he would interject how my computer is pathetic because it runs on Windows. Any performance hiccup was interpreted as a plea for a gospel on the superiority of the Mac. Or, in layman’s terms, he became very fucking annoying.

Now, as much as I had grown to resent Apple, I was still a techie, and I still liked my gadgets. I’ve purchased many iPods over the years. When I was a teenager and finally had the option to upgrade from my Nokia 6682 to a smartphone running a real OS, my only viable options for a good 3G phone were the iPhone 3G and the Blackberry Bold. Android was only barely starting to gain traction, and AT&T went many years without carrying Android devices in favor of its exclusivity with Apple for the iPhone. Though I’d always wanted to get a Blackberry throughout my time in high school, I found myself going with the iPhone simply because it’s unique touch screen allowed the best mobile browsing experience possible. So it was with heavy heart in December of 2008 that I “sold out” and became an iPhone user.

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Even with iPod and iPhone in hand, I still continued to resent Apple solely because of my resentment of Steve Jobs. I’ve jailbroken every iPhone I have because I don’t agree with the limitations Apple has set on the device. They sell you something they will allow it to do for you, not something that can do everything it can for you. I was outraged at the 30% Apple started charging for in-app purchases, forcing competitors to rely on webapps to circumvent the unnecessary fee, thereby making iBooks a more attractive option with simple in-app purchasing. I was pissed when Steve had his Apple townhall and called Google’s “Do No Evil” mantra “bullshit”. I was furious when Steve set his crosshairs on Adobe (yeah, the company that makes the software that most professional Mac users use a Mac for) and Flash. Even worse was when the iPhone Developer ToS were updated to render the flash-to-iPhone compiler Adobe was planning on including in the upcoming CS update unusable.

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Google is bullshit and Adobe is lazy, says the Goblin King!

So, Steve did shit that pissed me off because I like Apple, but I also like everyone else that Apple has been absolutely shitty to. This led me to say (and by say, I mean “post online”) very many ugly things about Steve. God, I couldn’t stand the guy. I admired him for his achievements and business acumen, but hated his totalitarian approach.

A few months ago, I decided that I was going to invest in the Mac platf
orm. As an iPhone and iPad owner, I want to explore the integration that iCloud will offer across it’s devices. I remember that it was only two days after I first had this thought that Steve resigned as CEO. I remember laughing to myself that it was as if by simply having that thought in my head, Steve had won. I was interested in finally giving in on the one front I staunchly refused to give in on, the PC computing experience, and so his work was done. He stepped down in victory.

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Once he resigned, I found myself missing having him in charge. Without Steve at the helm of Apple, there was no reason to really resist Apple. My love-hate thing with Steve only worked when he was still in charge and ready to do something more. So in the time that I would normally read the latest on Steve Jobs, I started reading about Steve Jobs. I then started to realize the true extent of his genius and innovation, and the importance of his contributions. I also have come to realize that the very things that I hated about him were the things that I admire the most about him. He was innovative and decisive. He had great standards of excellence and amazing insight. And most of all, when it came to something he had made up his mind on, he just didn’t give a fuck. His word was final.

So, I’ll say it. I miss you, Steve. Furthermore, I’m glad to have shared time on earth with you. I can say that I lived during the era that Steve Jobs revolutionized the world. I don’t regret that I spent so much time hating you – you were kind of a real prick. However, the fact that you had the balls to do all the things that set me off was always something I secretly admired. Now that you’re gone, I only wish you were still around to keep doing what you did for another 20 years.

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Rest in Peace, Friend.

Review: Dir en grey–“Dum Spiro Spero”

Dum Spiro Spero

Pretty Wicked Cover, Gotta Say…

So, this is the first review I’ve written since the old LiveJournal days. Bear with me, I don’t quite have a format nailed down.

ABOUT:

This is the eighth studio album by Japanese Rock (well, technically Japanese Metal as of around 2007) outfit Dir en grey. I’ve been a fan of these guys since 2000, back when they were a major name in the Japanese Visual Kei (read: Japanese version of Glam Rock) scene. For over a decade, I’ve seen this band reinvent both themselves and their musical style with a frequency that would make Madonna jealous. I managed to get ahold of a leaked copy (along with the rest of the internet) of their latest offering, officially dropping on 08/03/2011. I could go on, but this is a review, not a biography, so without further ado…

WHERE IT EXCELS:

If you like Metal and experimental/progressive music, this will definitely hit the sweet spot. The album sails through a drop-tuned turbulent sea on some interesting rhythm patterns and timing changes. Any given song will switch moods on you like a heroin junky going through withdrawals, said mood selection being limited to darker, darker, and darkerer (yeah, that’s grammatically incorrect, but with these guys there’s never an absolute “darkest”.) Long time fans have grown used to Kyo’s use of various screams in place of singing. Not here; a pleasantly surprising amount of the vocals are sung, and man, are they CLEAN. Fans of the screaming and growling won’t walk away disappointed – there’s plenty of them to go around, they just don’t take up the whole album.

WHERE IT FALLS SHORT:

Ever since I discovered this band, I’ve always felt their rhythm section to be their strongest asset. Not to insinuate that Kyo’s vocals and Kaoru & Die’s guitarwork is anything to scoff at (quite the contrary, actually), but Shinya’s drumming, Toshiya’s basslines, and Shinya’s drumming (see what I did there?) are easily the best parts of any of their songs. Sadly, their production team isn’t on the same page as I am. While not terrible, the mixing on the album could do more to really give the drums and bass the prominence they deserve. Focus, as is the unfortunate norm for a lot of rock genres, is on the guitars. They’re good, but come on, let’s acknowledge the other guys too.

TRACK BY TRACK: (In 3 sentences or less)

1) Kyoukotsu no Nari [狂骨の鳴り – “The Cry from Lunatic Bone”]: Less than two minutes of ambient noise. Sets the mood, sure, but I’m far more used to strong opening numbers. They used this approach on the previous album, but Uroboros’s “Sa Bir” succeeded far better at this thank Kyoukotsu does.
2) The Blossoming Beelzebub: Kind of a disappointment for a track with a length over seven minutes. It’s not bad, but there’s no cohesion or clear progression. The best part is the end of the track, which sports a flurry of drums and slap bass that nicely transitions into one of the best tracks on the album
3) Different Sense: This one beautiful beast of a song, blending elements from every phase of their musical career. The contrast between heavy verses and the melodic chorus dares you to try and not to like it. Oh, and it has a solo – remember when those used to happen regularly in Dir en grey’s songs?
4) Amon: Don’t know why this song got a special release with some photobook of sorts. The bass and drums do the most interesting stuff, but even then they’re forgettable. It’s kind of a bland dirge, to be honest.
5) “Yokusou Ni Dreambox” Aruiwa Seijuku No Rinen To Tsumetai Ame [「欲巣にDREAMBOX」あるいは成熟の理念と冷たい雨 – ” ‘Nesting Within the Dreambox’ Cold Rain and the Philosophy of the Mature”): Another dirge, but this one has some semblance of cohesion, along with a schizophrenic personality. The vocals are interesting, and are at their best during the chorus. I dig it.
6) Juuyoku [獣慾 – “Animal Lust”]: Drums go bang, bass goes boom, guitars go everywhere, and vocals go “rawr”. The title fits the song appropriately. You’ll fire this up when you want melodic noise, but you’ll be heard pressed to remember what the song sounds like in your head simply by looking at the title.
7) Shitataru Mourou [滴る朦朧 – “Trickling Ambiguity”]: Love the intro drums – very reminiscent of the Deftones’s “Digital Bath”. Love the way the guitars convey a sense of frantic despair. One of my favorite tracks on the album.
8) Lotus: There’s been some touchups, namely to the vocals and bass, from the previously released single version. Strong chorus, and a great overall mood. Loved it before, love it again.
9) Diabolos: Another let down due to the long length and lack of progression. It goes through a wide range of phases, but they’re not really pieced together in any particular way. It ain’t no “Vinushka”.
10) Akatsuki [暁 – Dawn]: This is a pretty crisp track. Popping bass, banging drums, and interesting guitars. Enjoyable, but alas, not exactly memorable.
11) Decayed Crow: Lots of screaming and persistent instrumentation. Sadly, at this point, it all starts to sound the same.
12) Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami [激しさと、この胸の中で絡み付いた灼熱の闇 – “And Violence, Tangled in the Burning Darkness of my Heart”]: Another previously released track, in retrospect set the foundation for the musical direction from this album. Like the other singles on the album, it’s had some upgrades done.
13) Vanitas [Emptiness]: THE BALLAD! As much as Dir en grey does melodic dissonance well, they’ve got a real talent for ballads. Though not their best, it’s different from their previous ones and still very good. A nice breath of fresh air for something that sounds distinctly different from the rest of the tracks on the album.
14) Ruten no Tou [流転の塔 – “Tower of Vicissitudes”]: Manages to pull off the feeling that things are coming to a close, but aside from that, I can’t really describe it without saying things I’ve already said about other songs on the album.
-BONUS TRACKS-
15) Rasetsukoku [羅刹国 – “Kingdom of Demons”]: Unlike previous remakes of old songs, this one is VERY faithful to the original version. Even the lyrics sound unchanged. A much appreciated metal rendition of a high energy rock track.
16) Amon (Symphonic Version): I like that it uses symphonic instruments to supplement the original rock instruments instead of replacing them entirely. I don’t like that the original version of this song was pretty lacking. I’m tempted to delete and replace the original “Amon” with this one.
Dum Spiro Spero Review

CONCLUSION:

If you’ve read interviews and reviews, you know that this is a highly experimental and unusual album for the band. True music lovers will appreciate it for those qualities, but won’t exactly be blown away by them. Lovers of the band will find a way to convince themselves this fresh offering from the band is the new best thing ever even though they’re won’t truly grasp the meaning behind the music. Dir en grey’s previous efforts have proven successful because they’re not afraid to get weird, unconventional, and experimental and fuse that with more accessible rock/metal songs. This album is 75 minutes of nothing but those very qualities and comes off as a professionally executed metal jam session between the five of them.
Bottom line? This is an album put together for themselves, not the fans, and they don’t give a fuck: it’s up to you whether to take it or leave it, and that’s both it’s strongest quality and greatest weakness.

Smoking (as in “,Quitting”)

It’s bad for you. Common sense, right? Hard to believe that I’ve had this habit for almost 10 years now. The irony about this is that I used to be so vehemently opposed to smoking as child, to the point where I would insert toothpicks in the center of all of my Mom’s cigarettes in a vain effort to dissuade her from the habit. I first started smoking back in my high school days when I found out about the existence of Djarum clove cigarettes. I stuck with those delightful cylindrical flavor bombs until recently, when Obama signed a bill that rendered the sale of all flavored cigarettes (save menthol, of course) illegal. At the time, I figured that I would be force to drop the habit, since I never cared for the taste of normal cigarettes. Then, Chris introduced me to the menthol cigarette. It wasn’t nearly as good as my beloved cloves, but it wasn’t too terrible and it got the job done.

In part of my redefinition of my life, I had determined that I can’t continue with this habit. It’s both extremely detrimental to my health, and counterproductive to all of my goals. I downloaded the Livestrong quitting coach app for the iPhone a while back. However, I didn’t write or post about it, as doing so would legitimize a commitment to seeing it through. Now, it’s a must.

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The app is not only very well designed and responsive, but also extensively featured considering it has a pretty streamlined and simple focus. It’s got a nice customizable motivational home screen, detailed tracking, and taking a page from Xbox Live, ACHIEVEMENTS! That’s right: quitting smoking is now like a game. A very fucking stressful and challenging game.

So, without further ado, my customized quitting plan:

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<p>I’d say wish me luck, but I’ve got unshakable determination on my side.

Towards a Thinner Tomorrow: An Update

First, some math:

239 lbs – current weight
160 lbs – goal weight
79 lbs – difference between current & goal weight
39.5 – number of weeks it’ll take to lose the difference at a rate of 2 lbs per week
9.8  – number of months it’ll take to lose the difference at a rate of 2 lbs per week
 
I’ve clearly got my work cut out for me. Since my last update, I haven’t been doing as much as I can. That said, I have been easing myself into both dieting and incorporating physical activity into my days. I think I’ve finally hit the point where my body is retrained and resilient enough to engage in physical activity on a routine basis without having something as simple as running a mile result in extreme soreness the next day. I’ve also been cooking healthy foods instead of relying on buying food. I haven’t quite nailed down what my exact tracking methods are going to be, but I have been experimenting. So, here’s my report for 04/05/2011:

What I ate:

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What I Did

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My bike ride to the gym

 

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What I did at the gym. Twice.

 

<
p align=”left”>So tonight, about 924 calories were burned. My basal metabolic rate (calories burned by merely being a living person) is currently 2079 calories per day. So…guess that means I did really well today, huh? Smile

Towards a Thinner Tomorrow: Measurement Monday

STARTING POINT


Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 160
Day # 1
Date: 03/21/2011
Measurements
Neck 17.5
Upper Arm (Left) 13
Upper Arm (Right) 13.25
Chest 45.5
Diaphragm 45.5
Waist 44
Abdomen 46.5
Hips 44
Upper Thigh (Left) 25.5
Upper Thigh (Right) 25.5
Calf (Left) 16.75
Calf (Right) 16.75
 
Total Inches 353.75
Total Inches Lost
Weight 242 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 34.72
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 82 lbs.
 

PHOTOGRAPHS

(Edited for content: the point is to show off my disgusting gut, not my junk)


 
IMG_0845          IMG_0855
Front                                                         Back

IMG_0848          IMG_0850

Right Angled                                                Right     

IMG_0852          IMG_0854

Left Angled                                                 Left       

 

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The only haircut I’m allowed to have

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The jawline and hairstyle I look forward to having again