Record display stand: New iterations

Last July, I set out to design a vinyl record display stand. I have updated the design to be more unique and more refined. While I do not believe it is 100% complete, these iterations are much more improved.

For purposes of 3d printing, the cone feet will not work. The point is too sharp and there is not enough structure for the rest of the build since I plan to print with no support.

I then tried cylinders for feet, but did not like them. Also, I had to still angle the main base since I would not be able to 3d print it as is. I needed to create an angle.

With that in mind, I then ended up at the design below. 

The idea for this design was to introduce some sharper edges and smoother curves. I feel like I accomplished that, but I will continue to work on it.

Open Mike Eagle & Paul White - Hella Personal Film Festival

I came across this upcoming album today on Bandcamp and I am digging the preview track. I like the flow, the lyrics, and the tone of the song and I am very excited to hear more. It looks like I will have to wait until March, but I will just add this to the list of new music I am anticipating in 2016.

Discovering Stuart Diamond

I am taking a negotiation course at Villanova University this semester. A few weeks in, I have been introduced to Stuart Diamond. Stuart Diamond is best know for his book, Getting More, and it is part of our curriculum. In it, Diamond covers many different methods and ideas behind solid negotiating skills. 

One of the things I realized is that I have already been employing many of these ideas without actually knowing all of the theory behind them. Reading the book and discussing these ideas and theory in class have been fantastic exercises in understanding the ins and outs of negotiation tactics and also honing what I already know.

Diamond's talk at Google was also part of our coursework as well and I suggest everyone to watch it. The video gives a very good idea of what he was trying to accomplish in the book and it contains some great insight that can be used in everyday situations.

Stuart Diamond's ideas are filled with common sense and are easy to follow. I find his book and his talk very educational and I am happy that I was able to discover him through my class. Stuart Diamond is a walking, talking Life Pro Tip.

Apple Music has issues

I will spare the wall of text that would outline why I am switching to Apple Music but it is partially because Rdio is shutting down and partially because my daughter finds it convenient. So, while I have been paying for a family plan for the last couple of months, I only started to truly use it myself, this week.

I uncovered two major software bugs and one terrible policy issue.

Software Bug #1 - Clicking on 'Albums' did not work. At all.

iTunes 64bit for Windows 10

I can't speak to other versions of the software, but the Windows 10 version is where I found all of the trouble. On Tuesday, November 17th, 2015, I discovered this "issue". While trying to rebuild my huge Rdio collection in Apple Music, I realized that if I clicked on the 'Albums' tab for ANY artist, I got an endless timeout. Please note, 'Top Albums' worked fine.

I contacted Apple Music Support via Twitter and began a long conversation using Direct Messages. They took my info and told me they were kicking it up to engineering and that it could take days to see any results.

Let's not even get into the fact that text doesn't render correctly if you have installed a different version of the Helvetica Neue font.

This is what I saw when I clicked 'Albums' on ANY artist

To my surprise, yesterday, November 18th, 2015, the issue was fixed. I got phone calls and more Twitter messages letting me know. 

Software Bug #2 - After adding an album to 'My Music', a subsequent search will not recognize that you have already added that album.

iTunes 64bit for Windows 10

Once the first issue was fixed, this new issue popped up. If I clicked on an album after I added it to My Music, the "Remove from My Music" dialog stopped showing up. (See video)

As of this posting, Software Bug #2 has not been fixed. 

Apple confirmed that they were able to recreate these issues on their end.

Policy Issue

It did not sit well with me that I have been essentially doing QA for a multi billion dollar company, for free, as a customer. As a matter of fact, I am paying to help them fix this product. I felt like it was only fair to ask for a credit of 1 month for my Apple Music subscription. This happens all the time with other companies. If Comcast or Verizon have legitimate outages (and boy, do they), they are always willing to offer a courtesy credit for our troubles. It is a very standard practice. 

I spent over 60 minutes on phone calls with at least 3 customer service representatives who all told me that Apple was not equipped to give out full or partial credit whatsoever for Apple Music. They went as far as offering me song and movie credits (which I declined), but they said, if I wanted credit for the service, my subscription would be instantly cancelled. 

It was at that moment I decided to write this article. This entire experience has baffled the hell out of me. How could a company like Apple not QA their product? 5 months in and I am finding these issues? And how could a service launch without the idea that there may be some unhappy customers down the road who would possibly want to remain an Apple Music customer, but would also like some compensation for craziness like this?

I spent my time recording, noting, and explaining major issues for a multi billion dollar company which does not seem to have the ability to credit me $14.95 back to my card for my troubles. I also have been paying for a product that clearly is NOT complete, at least on the Windows side. 

How could any of this be possible?!!?

Destiny: Year Two

I will start by saying that I did not play one single second of Destiny: Year One for 2 reasons:

  1. I did not own a console.
  2. I did not want to.

Consider my total surprise then, when I decided to buy an Xbox One, got Destiny as a free game, and fell hard for the game which had just begun its second year. I truly believed that Destiny would just be a game I messed around with until newer games and backwards compatibility arrived. Now it seems that I may favor Destiny over anything else that may be available in the near future. How did this happen?

Apparently when I started the game back in September, a lot had already changed and because of these changes, the game was better than it was in Year One. That worked for me as it is the only version of the game I knew. The Taken King had just come out, but I doubted that I would like the game enough to buy the expansion, let alone all of the DLC it required.

So there I was, leveling my Warlock (Blind class pick by the way. I had no idea.) I got him up to around level 14 when I discovered The Crucible. Up until that point, PVE questing was OK, but there was not much there to keep me engaged. As I began PVP, I discovered a whole new game. Destiny, it turns out, is a very fun and satisfying multiplayer FPS with quality map design and game modes. What really sealed the deal for me was when I realized I was gaining the same, if not more XP toward leveling than PVE and the loot rewards at the end of each match seemed much more valuable to me than PVE as well.

It was not long after that I plunked down the cash to buy all the DLC and The Taken King in one fell swoop. What was most important was that this opened up all of the multiplayer modes including Rift, Salvage, and my current favorite, Mayhem Clash. 

It has been roughly 2 months and I am doing Crucible bounties almost everyday. I started a clan and almost have light level 290, which I hear is recommended for raiding. I am PVP focused but my friends and I will do a daily heroic story or even Nightfall on hard once in a while along with the occasional quest. I rely on PVE to break up any PVP frustrations or monotony. Right now, it is a good mix.

I do not know what Destiny was like in Year One and I think that is for the best. But why do I love Destiny so much? It boils down to a few things:

  1. The game plays very well. The control feels very good for an FPS.
  2. More often than not, it feels like network connectivity in multiplayer is solid, so I can do my best (It does have its hiccups though)
  3. The game does a great job with loot. There is always an item to chase or a way to upgrade what you already have and this happens often.
  4. Destiny has been spiced up during the time I have been in game. It has been kept fresh. One weekend was an Iron Banner event (Which I excitedly earned rank 5 in). We are currently in a Halloween event (Festival of the Lost). And I hear that an arena event is just around the corner.
  5. Amazing things happen in multiplayer. This is important for any cornerstone game. I have so many clips of cool stuff happening in Destiny. Part of the reason I play is to be a part of that, whether it is a last minute miracle win or performing an amazing last second denial in Rift (See video).

Right now Destiny is my game of choice. I still find time to sprinkle in a little bit of Hearthstone though. Who would have thought that a year old game that I got for free would be one of my favorite games of this year?!

A love letter to the Fall

More than ever, I feel a strong sense of my favorite season this year. I work at a school so every Fall is marked with a refreshed yearning to learn and acquire knowledge. You can sense it in the air. This year, this yearning seems stronger for me than the last 4 years. 2011 marked the last time I took any college courses for myself. I am beginning new courses this month and I attribute at least some of that to the inspiring feeling that the Fall brings me. I also have an urge to read more and I am doing just that, thanks to the wonderful October Reading Club.

I know that I will get limited opportunities to treasure my favorite season in my lifetime. I never ever want to take Fall in the Northeast for granted. I need to savor every bit of it. Fall is one of my favorite yearly traditions. In the 'Fall bundle' of things, I get Halloween, Thanksgiving, Football, new video games, and some time off of work to enjoy it all. One of my biggest moments to savor it all will be my annual trip to Salem, Massachusetts where Halloween is celebrated like it is the most regarded holiday of the year, as it should be.

Gabe and I

2011 was important to me for another reason. I lost my best friend, Gabe. Since then, the Fall has become that much more important in terms of memories and experiences that will no doubt heighten as my body and mind experience this lovely season for the 36th time. Music plays a part in this as well. Certain songs and albums become enhanced from September to the end of November, sometimes, even into the beginning of December. One song I always play during this time of year is Sunny Day Real Estate's "The Days Were Golden". The song feels like the audio version of watching the leaves fall in the brisk October air while contemplating life.

I was born in this magical window of time, so was my wife. We both share a love of the Fall and were married on October 12, 2013 on one of the most beautiful days of the year. This has helped to build up the Fall as that much more of a treasure than what it was to me, say 10 years ago. And, as a song that I wrote (that seeks to express some of these feelings and ideas), reminds me, "Treasure The Fall"

This is also the time of year we pay thanks in America. Every day I am thankful to be alive. It is such an added bonus that I get to experience Fall in the Northeast every year that I have been alive so far.

Here's to many more.

The quest to design a new vinyl record display stand

In 2011, when I began collecting vinyl records again, I wanted a way to display the record I was playing at the time. I was looking for a small stand that was capable of displaying one vinyl record.

While on a museum visit, I came across what appeared to be an unused plastic display stand. It looked like it would have been perfect for this function. I asked a museum employee if I could purchase this item, but they surpassed my expectations and gave it to me for free. This small piece of plastic did exactly what I wanted it to do for the past 4 years.

Unfortunately, this makeshift vinyl record display stand has met its demise by way of an extra hard fall to the floor.

Because of this sudden loss, I set out to design a new vinyl record display stand using this one as a reference. My first iteration was somewhat successful but a bit bulkier in some areas, most notably, the front feet. This was a design choice to minimize cantilevers so the piece could be 3D printer without support.

I plan on making more iterations of this design.

The Sands of Time

Every now and again, I feel the need to create an eclectic playlist filled with many of the genres of music I love. This playlist starts with 100 songs and will continue from there. The playlists I create are always ongoing stories. The Sands of Time is no exception.

This playlist has tailored ups and downs and also a couple of spots where it is designed to "hangout" for a few, notably when Radiohead and The Promise Ring collide. I also go against my previous rule of not grouping artists together. It seems to work because of the abundance of variety throughout.

I think of the Sands of Time as a Summer playlist that celebrates life and the world we live in while also recognizing the peaks and valleys around every corner. - A method of music discovery

I am always looking for more ways to discover music. Tonight, I came across This website has a simple and clean layout where it lists curated tracks for your listening pleasure. It will auto queue up songs in the order they appear on the website, which is handy. 

I found two tracks that I enjoyed so far. The first was a modern take on a Phil Collins classic: "In Too Deep" by Basecamp. I am not always up for covers, but this one is interesting enough.

The second track was a song by the band Bully called "I Remember". Bully reminds me a bit of White Lung and The Distillers. "I Remember" has the passion and the energy that I love in rock music. This is a band I would love to see live and I will now anticipate the band's upcoming album. 

Gojira steals the show

This past Halloween I traveled to Long Island, NY to see Mastodon. I have been a huge Mastodon fan for a while now and was very excited to finally see them live. Gojira was a notable opener for Mastodon on the bill. I had listened to their latest, L'enfant Sauvage and liked it very much.

Gojira absolutely stole that show in a number of ways. Their energy blew me away. The venue had terrible acoustics, yet Gojira sounded as good as possible. Mastodon was a let down mostly because Brent Hinds' microphone was off throughout the entire set. Gojira made my trip worth it and I became a true fan of this band. Here is a video I took of their song "Vacuity" which interestingly enough has become one of my favorite songs by them.

Warlords of Draenor launches tomorrow

Warlords of Draenor launches tomorrow. More than any other World of Warcraft expansion, I feel a question mark as to how this expansion will be received because there seems to be a lot riding on it. On paper, it looks like it will be a top notch offering. Many of my friends never truly liked Pandaria as an idea, but we all played it because it was very high quality and very well made. Luckily, the core of the game was not lost among the cartoony pandas.

I transmogged my Paladin into a Death Knight 

Looking back on the MoP expansion has me a bit torn. On one hand I initially loved it for the quality of design, music, and changes to game systems. On the other hand, it is safe to say that Pandaria is my least favorite WoW expansion (It is the only World of Warcraft product that I refused to buy the Collector's Edition for). I was always opposed to and turned off by the Pandarian concept. The whole idea of taking an April Fool's joke and turning it into a playable race and story within the game still seems a touch silly to me especially when there were so many other great races that could have been chosen. I know Blizzard had their reasons and you can see what they were going for, but ultimately, it is clear that fans want WoW back to its roots and that is exactly what it seems Blizzard is doing with WoD. 

WoD will bring us back to a world which we know, to an extent. Also it is a world in which many players enjoyed their stay. Yes, bring us back to Outland even if it is a different version of it. It will bring back the war. Pandaria was a bit light-hearted and philosophical. WoD, at its core, is about hunkering down and preparing for war. Its main selling point, Garrisons, is exactly that.

So here we stand on the edge of the end of Pandaria and on the brink of Warlords of Draenor. WoD holds so much promise and hope for many players. Mix that with updated holiday events and the 10th Anniversary celebrations and this game is poised to keep me away from all other video games for the rest of the year. I'm not complaining about it either.

So clear your quest log and read that guide about Garrisons. Also fire up this Warlords of Draenor inspired playlist I created on Rdio as a companion to doing battle.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Every now and again a game comes along that grabs my attention unexpectedly. In 2011, that game was The Binding of Isaac. The original had some shortcomings that I overlooked like the lack of controller support and choppy performance. 

With Rebirth, those shortcomings have been resolved. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth comes with controller support the second you boot it up. Also, the sometimes choppy nature of the original is a thing of the past since it is no longer a flash game.

This game grabs me in the way that Rogue Legacy or Hearthstone grab me:

  1. -Easy to pick up
  2. -Easy to put down
  3. -Playthroughs are on the short side
  4. -Playthroughs are always different
  5. -The sound and visuals are engaging and pleasing

Those 5 factors are what make this game great and stand out and is what many new games strive for but very rarely accomplishes.

Sprinkled in between those 5 factors are other great things that add to replayability like the ability to continue a run, more secrets and unlockables, and even local co-op.

BOA:Rebirth was designed to keep players engaged early and often with more frequent and exciting powerups. In this complete run, I got the powerup 'Daddy Long Legs' where a huge shadow followed me around and Daddy's giant foot basically stomped on anything that posed a threat.

I end up feeling way more powerful than I did in the original game, at least on Normal difficulty and that makes it way more fun for me. There is always a sense of wonder about what items and powers I might find. In this case, random is good. Another feature added is seed codes in which you can pause the game and write down a seed code which you can use to build a run around later, after you die.

In the past, you were able to get the original game for about $1. That was an insane value. Owners of the original were able to save almost $5 off the $14.99 price of Rebirth. But I have to say, even if I paid $14.99, the value of this game goes way beyond that especially compared to other games in the price point. It's easy to sink a ton of hours into this game, but more importantly, those hours are usually made up of fun...and excrement.

This is a rare case in which a great game is made better and improved with its reboot.