Three months of Real Pie

In a sense, this is a follow-up to a previous post regarding all of the changes in my life. It’s been about four months since I wrote that article, and all of the apprehension I had concerning my big career decision have fallen away and been replaced with excitement and anticipation, and the horizon is filled with opportunity.

So, the first three months at the new job are coming to a close. After some 70 odd months on my own, the first three for someone else have been unexpectedly great. I’ve traded in an hour long commute (each way) for a bike ride that won’t even allow me to finish two songs of my most played album right now, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I’ve traded in the long hours and sleepless nights working, for long hours and sleepless nights with my new baby. And, I’ve traded a lonely office with one, sometimes two, at our largest, 4 other employees in-house, for an eclectic band of merry gentle[people] numbering 10. I loved Go Farm, and all of the time, learning experiences and projects (well, most), but that chapter closed at the right time, it appears.

Generally speaking, things are grand. There’s lots of stuff on the horizon. Tons of great projects are starting up shortly, and we’re about to break ground on the new company site in the next few weeks. I’m really feeling challenged in my new position, and look forward to strapping up the shoes and rolling up the right pant leg each morning to crank off to work.

There is a continuing trend in my life: I love going to work. I’m not one of those people that is counting down the minutes to 5 or 6pm. Actually it’s quite the opposite. There are not enough hours in the day to finish what I want to do. This is a direct result of being in a career that I’m passionate about, and continually challenging myself to get better at what I do. Also, I try to expand the list of what it is that I do, which means my skill set grows and grows and grows. Learn a new program, study a language, take personal inventory of your strengths and weaknesses; you’ll be happier for it, I promise.

And as excited as I am for work, that feeling pales in comparison to the excitement overflowing as I leave the office each day at lunch to hang out with my wife and new precious daughter Zurhi. There’s very little in the world that can top the smile and giggle of your little ones, and this part of my day is so key. Ugghh, just thinking about those moments makes me miss holding her.

I have a handful at work, and two handfuls at home right now. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world…

Here’s to hoping your lives are all just as blessed!

For all you USC haters out there

I’ve got a bunch of words for all of the sports writers, flip-floppers, and folks that have jumped off the bandwagon and completely abandoned the Trojans this season. But I’ll start with a very couth and sophisticated two: blow me. I’m really tired of hearing, “What’s up with your team?”, or “How does it feel that the USC dynasty is over?” Look folks, it’s really hard to win week in and week out when your the starting lineup you began the season with looks like Swiss cheese, but even still, the dominance USC has enjoyed over the last 5 years is hardly over. Here’s a note from USC’s weekly release:

Already this season, 10 starters or projected starters have missed games with injuries: S-CB Josh Pinkard (5 games – done for the year), C Matt Spanos (3 games), TB C.J. Gable (2 games – done for the year), LB Brian Cushing (2 games) Pre-season All-American, CB Shareece Wright (1 game), OG Chilo Rachal (1 game), C Kristofer O’Dowd (1 game), CB Cary Harris (1 game), WR Patrick Turner (1 game), TB Stafon Johnson (2 games), and TB Chauncey Washington (1 game). Pinkard and Gable have season-ending injuries. And the last two weeks we added a few more: QB John David Booty (1 game), MLB Rey Maualuga (3 quarters Saturday with concussion) Pre-season All-American, OT Sam Baker (3 quarters Saturday with high hamstring) 2 time first team All-American, and RG Zack Heberer (?).

Out of this entire list, I really hope that everyone returns and is healthy. But I do hope that John David Booty stays on the sideline. I rooted for Sanchez to take the spot Leinart vacated, and last year called for Booty’s job multiple times, especially after his losses at Oregon State and UCLA. Make no mistake, the team certainly has been beatable and continues to show weaknesses, but Booty’s inability to show up in clutch situations means he’s not the one to lead this team.

So, for all you yahoos out there trying to say that USC’s dynasty is over, I say, it’s going to be fun watching you eat your words in the coming years. USC isn’t going anywhere. Their depth is ridiculous, especially at the talent positions. They need to get their O-line and linebacking corps healthy soon, and if they can, they’ll be back in the hunt. When this team is healthy, they are dangerous.

It’s a crazy year so far for sure; from Appalachian State over Michigan in the big house, to upset Saturday which saw 5 top ten teams topple, SC getting shocked last weekend in the Coliseum by unranked and unnoticed Stanford, to this weekend watching numbers 1 and 2 LSU and Cal, respectively, fall to teams they should have beat handily. No one is safe…save for maybe South Florida that has already beaten its truly tough opponents.

Who knows what the rest of the year has in store. Tough games on the road in top 10 ranked Cal and Oregon, and top 15 ranked ASU, and rarely is a game between USC and Notre Dame ever easy in South Bend, regardless of how the two teams have fared all season. Sanchez will grow up exponentially as he tucks experience and snaps under his belt, and hopefully this weekend will be more of a coming out party for the young future Trojan QB.

Oh yeah, one last note: if you are one of the folks that jumped on the bandwagon and have since jumped back off, please, just stay off. Go start espousing UCLA as the new LA team to beat or spend your time telling us that the SEC is the tougher league. USC is far from done with this streak of dominance, and I think they’re going to right the ship with a couple of tough wins through the latter part of this season. But whether they do or don’t, I stand by them, as I have for the past 25 years as a cognizant fan.

Album Reviews: Wilco and Akon

You could very easily jump over to my profile at Last.fm to find out exactly what I’m listening to, up to the minute. But I think at times those dynamic utilities, at times can be disingenuous to what I’m really feeling. You know, there’s music I throw on when I’m reading a script or writing a proposal, and it’s usually something without lyrics like Yo-Yo Ma, something orchestrated by John Williams or one of the Cirque Du Soliel albums. They’re just so good for inspiring concentration. But they aren’t always the music that I listen to for listening’s sake; they aren’t the artists that spur enjoyment, unless I’m going for the melt-away sleep kinda enjoyment. So, every once in awhile I’m going to drop a few albums here and give you a few words to pump them up.

Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of all time. I first fell upon Wilco back in 1996, in what my close circle of friends dubbed “The Summer of Love.” They came along with Son Volt and the Jayhawks, and stole time from our then constants of The Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz, Bob Marley, and Dave Matthews Band. While I still listen to all of the latter bands, I really hadn’t listened to Wilco in about a decade until I ran across one of their recent albums at the library (read more about this here).

Wilco is a lot of things. Some credit front-man Jeff Tweedy’s 90’s band Tupelo with being the crystallizing genesis of Alt-Country. Tweedy is a guitar force, who’s lyrical genius and musicianship has been overshadowed by the turbulence and inconsistency in his personal life and supporting cast (only recently has the same Wilco lineup shown up in the studio for back-to-back records). Regardless, if you are a fan of what I like to call mid-country rock and artists ranging from Neil Young to The Black Crowes (the poppy-end of the spectrum), you’ll love Wilco. And Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a great starter album.

This album starts with an easy paced mellow tune, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, which serves its purpose as a lead-off hitter, but honestly I usually skip it in favor of one of my favorite Wilco songs, “Kamera” which comes in the second slot. Like a good baseball lineup, the first song gets you in the door, the second song really picks up the pace, and the 3, 4, and 5 slots are heavy hitters. “Radio Cure”, “War on War” and “Jesus, Etc.” which itself echoes Grateful Dead like nothing I’ve ever heard before, are all absolutely great songs. The rest of the album is solid, but the next great song is “Heavy Metal Drummer.”

There are sounds of Jeff Buckley in here, Radiohead, The Dead, The Shins, Neil Young and the what is becoming an unmistakable Wilco quality to the music. The Black Crowes are oft called “America’s most rock n’ roll Rock N’ Roll band.” I don’t disagree, but Wilco is becoming one of the most original Rock N’ Roll bands around. I can’t recommend this record more.

Akon
Konvicted

My review of Akon’s Konvicted is going to be shorter than the review of Wilco above. I suppose it’s because there’s a bit less substance to it. But I’m not sure that’s a completely fair assessment, as I don’t think that Konvicted (which is a pop album) was written or conceived in an effort to rival the depth or structure of a neo-country / indie rock record written by one of the more accomplished guitarists of this generations. But I still say this album is well worth a purchase. It’s a hip-pop album, with some Highlife-Afro flair; a great recipe for mellow beats and smooth rhythms.

While the whole album is pretty good, there is one absolute gem in here on track 7, “Mama Africa.” It’s not quite the enduring reggae standard of the same name by Peter Tosh, but Akon’s “Mama Africa” is rich with near Soukous style guitar riffs and runs that play a nice backdrop to this love song to Akon’s motherland.

The rest of the album is filled with a mix of: well-known club-bangers, two featuring Snoop and Eminem, songs which beside their nice beats are absolutely raunchy songs with absurd lyrics; the radio hit “Don’t Matter” which is what helped catapult Akon into the limelight in 2006-2007, which is really a very solid song; and a handful of songs where Akon’s Senegalese roots shine strong. Top to bottom, it’s an interesting collection, and I’m really happy that the album is on my figurative shelf. It’s been in pretty regular rotation on my iPod and iTunes for the past 3-4 weeks.

***

I think I like reviewing two completely disparate albums next to each other. Looking at them back-to-back forces a glance from a wider perspective, opening angles to both albums previous undiscovered. I’ll try to have a couple each week. So until then, have a good week.