25 January 2013

The Love Below

Listening to: Pop Etc, "How Will I Know." They used to be the Morning Benders, now they are the less offensive but boring Pop Etc. I am not entirely sure how I feel about this cover, even weeks later, but I love watching Chris Chu's awkward yet endearing facial expressions. And well, it's Whitney.

My friend Ameer, who captains our music blog, is a huge speakerphile. Speakerhead? He cruises audio forums, he's got speakers on top of speakers, his goal is to own McIntoshes. Lots of McIntoshes. AMR has regaled me with many a detailed break down of why such and such an amp is good, or how to compare different set ups. All of which is fantastic, because I can always appreciate learning something new. But it's also ruined me.

Yes, ruined me. I can't have shitty audio anymore. Before I could've cared less what the sound coming out of speakers was like. Give it to me heavy and give it to me loud. That was all. I was more concerned about content than audio quality. Now that I've seen the light, I am prone to scrunching up my face if the sound is bad.

For the past five years, I'd been living with these shitty speakers. They squawk when plugged in, the wires are all fiddly, and occasionally the sound drops. It was a desktop audio disaster. I told AMR that I needed to upgrade my speaker situation and after diagnosing my needs, he was ready with an answer. For $15, I got these beauties: Artic USB-Powered Portable Stereo Speakers. I'd link you to the ten minute YouTube video reviewing them but you'd definitely fall asleep. Let's just say that these are the best bang for your hard earned bucks.

As my fellow Artic owner Meggo puts it, "[they] are petite and portable." To that I'll add that they are plenty loud also, with great highs and acceptable lows. Pump too much bass in there and they'll fail, but for fifteen dollars, these little guys are a steal. Upgrade your life, get some now.

And if you are in the market for great but not overly expensive over the ear headphones, may I pass along AMR's recommendation there too? Purchase some Grados. I recently joined the Grados club -- an exclusive place indeed -- and even though I have yet to test them extensively, I am sure they are the best value out there because I trust AMR. After all, he's the genius who came up with the CD for testing audio, so he can't be wrong.

For all you undiscerning buyers who purchase shams like Beats by Dre or something similar, know that we laugh in your general direction. I'll admit that my dream headphones -- Skullcandy Aviators in white -- are a bit cash for flash, but only suckers buy the celebrity endorsed headphones. If you are really that susceptible to marketing and hype, then please contact me because I have some books to sell you. An outdated Rough Guide to Blogging perhaps?
While I'm here, some more endorsements. Lately we've been all in on Clash of Clans. It's a freemium half farming, half tower defense game. The best part of it is that you can give your clan mates stuff like giants, barbarians, skeleton manned balloons, and wizards. The worst part of it is that the game is a total time suck. According to my in-depth research, if you are a new parent with a compelling reason to be awake every few hours, this game is for you! (Currently I am trying to make the move to Arcane Empires, a slightly more complex and in-depth Clash of Clans. The steampunk theme and artwork alone has sold me.)

A goal this year is to be more organized and on top of my tasks. I tried out Bring Home the Milk, Wunderlist, Astrid, and Orchestra. In the end, I went with Orchestra because it's the prettiest. That and the web interface is the best. Did I mention it's pretty? I've been at least 150% more productive already.

My friend Mel goes to a ton of concerts and she introduced me to Songkick, which is an app that scans your iTunes library and then serves up upcoming concerts you might be interested in. I was testing out Thrillcall before but didn't find it all that useful. Songkick has been a delight already and I'm scared I'm about to blow crazy money on live music.

New York has way too many bands coming through and now I know exactly which artists I'm missing. Ignorance really was bliss -- and cheaper. I'm in the process of trying to figure out a metric for which concerts I should attend but right now it's just a free for all. Seen or about to see: Dwele and Anthony David, Jose James, Tegan and Sara, Walk the Moon, Freelance Whales, XXYYXX, and if I can motivate to Staten Island, maybe I'll be lucky enough to see my OTP, Jewel.

So much of me really wants to use/like Spun, a slick looking guide to food, fashion, and music, but so far I've found it lacking. The interface and design are neat, but the utility has yet to be determined. I'm keeping it around and hoping it gets better. I am also on the hunt for a good weather app. Please recommend.

Also, I'm pretty certain I used "OTP" incorrectly. Oh well. Baby steps.

18 January 2013

It's Never Sunny In...

We're hopping out to Philadelphia this weekend, for a quick jaunt. The last time I was in Philly, it was during the East Coast college tour organized by my high school. We visited a lot of top tier schools, most of the Ivys, plus some schools that were actually within reach for mere mortals.

When we toured UPenn, I noticed the abundance of blue safety lights located on campus and said, "No thank you, my sheltered suburban upbringing did not prepare me for this." Now I return, more than a decade later: street smart, intimidating, and afraid of nothing.

Philly is only a short ride from New York -- just over an hour by train, two hours by bus -- so it'll serve as an easy day trip. I'm riding out with friends from here and then another friend is meeting us from Houston. Right now, our plans are to do the Mural Arts Love Letter Train Tour, which takes you to see fifty murals painted by graffiti artist Steve Powers. "The project...collectively express a love letter from a guy to a girl, from an artist to his hometown, and from local residents to their cherished neighborhood." The tour starts at ten in the morning and we're leaving on a seven thirty bus from New York, so we'll see if I'm actually awake for this thing. Wish me luck.

The most important question to answer on any sort of road trip is to figure out "what am I listening to?" At first I was just going to fire up J.Period's Best of the Roots and call it a day but then I realized that so many great artists hail from Philadelphia. So I took it upon myself to make the greatest Philadelphia mixtape. Hyperbole included.
Yo Adrian!
Track list - Zip file
Disc One: Cheesesteak
18 songs, 1 hr 12 mins, 95.0 MB

Disc Two: Hoagies
16 songs, 1 hr 06 mins, 86.4 MB
All the artists from the mixtape are either from Philly, associated with Philly, covering a Philly native's song, or literally singing about Philly -- with one notable TV related exception. The songs lean heavily toward hip hop and New Soul, because that's the sound I personally associate with Philadelphia. As with the Ultimate Mraz, I broke the mixtape into two sides: "cheesesteak" is upbeat and "hoagies" is for easy listening. Or just mix it all up in one iTunes playlist and see what you get.

The biggest omission, aside from some rap artists, is Will Smith. I know, how can I leave off the Fresh Prince? Honestly, I couldn't find a song of his I wanted to put on the mixtape. The obvious choice is "Summertime," but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It's winter now and the song would just be teasing me. So no Will Smith, and no"Motown Philly." I figured "Motown Philly" gets enough love already, and thus I opted for a lesser played Boyz II Men track.

I was delighted to learn that Hall & Oates are Philadelphia, and they're the only artist that gets two tracks. Everyone else receives one. I only got into Hall and Oates last year or so, and I was/am obsessed. Daryl Hall and John Oates met at Temple University and the reason they sound so damn good is because their producers were behind a lot of the Philly soul sound. I don't care if they were co-opting black music, it's too good! Hall and Oates deserved two selections.

Last thing: I pre-loaded images from the Love Letter Train Tour murals as the album art. When you pick a theme, you gotta go all the way right? Download Yo Adrian! today and let's ride.

17 January 2013

Primary Colors

Taking a cue from the local Nets of Brooklyn, black and white is in! While everyone else is trying to make their uniforms/websites gleam with cutting edge technology and graphics, I decided to follow Hova and go from rainbow to monochrome. Classy to ashy.

A quick template change later and the blog is done with its annual refresh. I also made the agonizing decision to go with truncated posts versus showing the entirety of each post. I have long strongly believed in having completely scrollable posts for personal blogs, no matter the length -- ala most of my favorite (defunct) blogs, such as Hipstomp -- but this template looks much nicer with the "read more" enabled. Most people cruise blogs through the RSS anyway, so it should be no big loss. Sorry for all the forced click clicking.

Also, since it's tough to call yourself an author when you haven't written anything in awhile, I'm shifting this space back to random flotsam and jetsam. YA will still get its due but more likely that'll shift over to a new young adult site Kiersi and I are pulling together. So this redesign is a return to the basics, and a return to the things you missed, and all of the things you didn't. Black and white and read all over...

Speaking of those Brooklyn Nets, I got a chance to visit Barclays Center about a month ago. The outside of the monstrosity is as ugly as everyone says it is, but the inside is beautiful. Right after you get through the doors, you're already in view of the main court, and it's quite impressive. There's no walls or tunnels blocking your way and the scoreboard and seats just materialize right in front of you. Also, there's a practice court or something on the side, which is also kind of neat to look down at.

I was ostensibly at Barclays to cheer for Michigan versus West Virginia, but I have no sports loyalty to my college and barely knew who the players were, much less that we were actually good this year. I know, I'm a disgrace to the UofM community. The nachos were delicious though, and there's a Cafe Habana inside the stadium. Corn is kind of like maize right? Go Blue?

07 January 2013

50 Ways to Say Hello

So my first couple days of January have been spent re-doing the fiftyfifty.me site. Lilly and I started fiftyfifty.me last year thinking just a few people would join. I mean, who else wanted to challenge themselves to read fifty books and watch fifty movies in one calendar year?

Turns out, a lot of people! As the weeks rolled by, we watched the number of participants grow all the way up to 350+. I had laughed when Lilly initially said she wanted to hit one hundred sign ups. Guess I lost that bet.

Both of us scrambled hard to complete the challenge, which we accomplished with some late December cramming, and now we're ready to rock again!

Last year's fiftyfifty.me site was last minute thrown together and since I had no idea it would have to track so many people, a simple blog ended up not being quite up to the task. My goal for 2013 was to make the site more functional and better all around.

With the help of Wordpress, Buddypress, and bbForums, the new fiftyfifty.me site has member profiles and a community space for people to interact. Last year I was seriously using a Google Doc to organize everything. It was, suffice to say, a bit unwieldy. Now all the "Overachievers" can gather and cheer each other on while I sit back, sip a sweet tea, and get caught up on my reading. Seriously, it's only a week into January and I already feel behind because I haven't flipped open a single book yet.

You'll notice the new site looks amazing. That's because Susie (boygirlparty) remade the logo and contributed new artwork on every page. Seriously, it all looks so cohesive and pretty now. I just want to hug the entire site. Like forever.

Go read the 2013 welcome message and sign up a year of books and movies! Then hit me up so we can compare notes because there's nothing I like to talk about more than stuff you've seen and read. I mean, what else is there?