It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Let’s face it. More and more and more of our communication happens online or in text of some sort. Text messages, emails, messaging, tweets, the whole nine yards. I’d estimate that probably >60% of my communication happens in some sort of text format, with some days higher than others. And I know that’s not uncommon, especially for others in the tech field.

I think that’s why when I come across someone who doesn’t pay attention to spelling, grammar, and capitalization, it really gets underneath my skin. I’m not afraid to say it; I think less of that person. I’ve heard excuses from “well, my fingers get ahead of my brain or vice versa” to “well, these computers are still a new thing in my lifetime, so people don’t expect perfection.” Both of them are true, I don’t disagree. I think we can all relate to when we’re quickly hammering out an email or tweet and miss words or punctuation. I know I’m guilty of it from time to time. Likewise, people don’t often expect perfection. But what they do expect is readability.

Text has some inherent problems. Tone, inflection, and often meaning are lost when words are written instead of spoken. Different fonts or styles can be used to convey meaning, but that only goes so far. Sarcasm almost never translates, hence a rise of the use of /s to denote the end of a sarcastic statement. If even a well written sentence can lose meaning, imagine how much more is lost when someone can barely understand what you were trying to say.

I’m not saying we have to be perfect in our online communication, but people look for 3 main things when they’re reading:

  1. Spelling. In this day and age of spell check everywhere, there is no excuse for misspellings. If there’s a word that you just can’t remember, plug it into Google. It’ll probably say “did you mean X?” and there you go.
  2. Punctuation. Sometimes I can’t figure out if someone just sent me 3 sentences or one horribly mangled sentence or some sort of freeform poetry. Sentences end in periods. The word “don’t” has an apostrophe in it. Same with can’t, won’t, and haven’t. There are rules to these things. Follow them.
  3. Capitalization. When you’re talking about yourself, I is capitalized. Always. When you start a new sentence, that first word is capitalized. Proper nouns, like that vendor you were talking about? Yeah, those are capitalized too. You’re not E. E. Cummings, it’s not an expression of yourself. It’s an email to your boss, capitalize your words.

I know I got a little ranty there, but isn’t that what blogs are for? If you, or someone you know needs some help on some of these, maybe you’re a little unfamiliar with some of those rules that I was talking about, I suggest Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.”

And please, for everyone’s sake, take those extra few seconds after composing your tweet, email, or message and save some brain cells for the people on the other end. Doing just those few little things will make your communication seem more professional, easier to understand, and people will think you’re smarter for it. Or at least they won’t think you’re dumber for it.

On Being a “People Person”

I’ve been training my replacement at the office these past few weeks, and it has shown me a lot about myself. I think the biggest thing is that I’ve become what one might call a “people person.” Now, if you had told me that when I was in high school and the first few years of college, I don’t think I’d have ever believed you. I preferred the company of computers and a very small group of close friends over meeting new people and getting outside of my comfort zone. I still have those moments, but they’re much fewer and farther between nowadays.

I think a lot of that just comes from a natural building of confidence over the years. I found a beautiful girl who married me, so that was helpful. I figured out what I was good at, both in college (history) and in work (Infosec). But along the way I picked up a few tricks, too. Things that make you seem more like a people person, until all of a sudden you are. It’s that whole “fake it until you make it” thing.

I often see posts on reddit and such where people ask how to have confidence. Most of the time, the top answer is just “act like you’re confident, and one day you’ll just find out that you are.” And in my experience, that’s exactly how it works. As a consultant, a lot of your success depends on the ability to tell the customer that you don’t know something without making it appear that you don’t know anything.

So, my tips for confidence and being a “people person”:

  1. Names names names names names. We’re busy people. At any given time, we’re thinking about a dozen different things most of the time. And as a result, when it comes time to meet someone, we’re often not giving them our full attention.

    I saw a talk by a memory expert, and that was one of the first examples he gave; we just don’t pay attention when people are telling us their names. But it’s so easy to do, and it makes a huge difference when you don’t have to be told someone’s name multiple times. Especially if it’s people you’re going to be working with. The ability to say “Oh yeah, Bob controls that, right?” and already know the answer shows that you’re engaged with the environment/client/workplace/party/whatever. That goes an awful long way in shaping peoples’ perception of you.

  2. Posture and positioning. I can’t count the number of times that my mom told me to stand up straight and look people in the eyes when I was growing up. I hit a growth spurt right when I turned 13 and grew to the height I am now in just a few months. As a result, I slouched a lot when I was younger because I was uncomfortable being taller than most of my friends at the time.

    Now I’ve found that it’s a habit that I’ve had to work really hard to break, and I wish I had listened more when I was younger. 

We as humans use posture subconsciously to determine if someone is interested in what we’re talking about, and how you carry yourself when both sitting and standing goes a long way in showing that.

I could keep going, but this post is already getting longer than I’d like, so maybe I’ll revisit this topic later. That said, do these tips make sense? Got other tips? I’d love to hear them.

Is a trio the best size for a band?

I was at a show for Whores. ( the other night, and it got me thinking about the creativity of  some of the trios that I’ve seen live. Bands like Russian Circles (, Tera Melos (, Zozobra (, and on and on and on have set some really high bars for other bands to aspire to.

So what makes those trios so good? Obviously there’s the fact that they’re just full of good musicians, but I feel like there being only three parts in the band forces a higher degree of creativity for each instrument.

Case in point: Helms Alee, seen here:

Ben Verellen (the guitarist) is playing some crazy guitar parts. Dana James, on bass, is often employing fuzz and chording to fill space while Ben plays solo type riffs. Hozoji Margullis is constantly driving the band forward with heavy hits utilizing the whole drum kit. And they’re doing all of this while each member sings. It all comes together for a unique sound that is just awesome.

Now, I understand why bands go with more members. By adding a rhythm guitarist, a band can allow each guitarist to focus on a different style of playing, and that eases the load on each of them. Adding a vocalist allows members to focus more on their playing instead of the vocals. As a bassist who has tried to sing while playing, I know that either suffers without a ton of practice if I try to do both at the same time.

So I’m not saying that having more members is necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve played in bands with 3 guitarists. One of those guitarists was described as “the guy who plays whale sounds.” I’m not sure that really added a whole lot to the sound, but a lot of post-rock style bands employ that idea.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but the more I think about it as I am working on starting my own band up, I think three piece is going to the be the direction that I head.

But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

Every Time I Die – Ex Lives

March has been a great month for music, and the new Every Time I Die is a great way to start it. Ex Lives is ETID‘s sixth album, and I’ve gotta say, it’s them at the peak of their ability.

If you look at their evolution over time, Ex Lives is kind of the culmination of years of practice, both for Keith Buckley’s writing material, and for Jordan Buckley’s riffage. The lyrics from this album could have been pulled from any one of their previous album, and as soon as you hear them, it’s an undeniable ETID song. Likewise, Jordan’s writing is super strong on this album, with the catch riffs that helped make ETID what they are today. With the addition of Ryan “Legs” Leger’s killer drums as the backline, Andy providing his signature feel to the album, and Josh Newton’s bass filling out the album, Ex Lives is nothing short of a hardcore pièce de résistance.

But that’s not to say the album doesn’t have its shortcomings. Obviously, ETID has their sound down, and they’re definitely sticking to it. They wrote this album for the people who like their music, and that’s painfully obvious at times. You could put most of this album side by side with New Junk Aesthetic and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. They do branch out a couple of times, with songs like “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow” and “Revival Mode”, which feel like throwbacks to The Big Dirty, and “Indian Giver”, which is probably the biggest branch out on the album, with kind of a doom-y feel to it.

Every Time I Die is a band that has found what they do, and they do it magnificently. If you’re looking for all sorts of growth and experimentation, this probably isn’t the album for you, but if you’re looking for the most polished piece of hardcore you’ve heard in a long time, you’re going to want to grab this album. I solidly recommend this album, as it’s just dang good music.

But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Doooooo eeeet

So, I posted on my twitter a mention about how you should give back to the community and mentor for BSidesLV 2012. (

But what I really want to bring up is a lesson for those who are wonder if they should apply from a mentee perspective. Now, I know that the application for mentees isn’t quite open yet, but I want to lend some experiences to those who are thinking about it for the future.

Getting a mentor for my first (and second) BSides talks was one of the best things that has ever happened to my speaking career, and heavily impacted other parts of my career as well. You can read a lot more about that on my mentor’s blog here (

And I know that Michael will resist me calling him my mentor, but the lessons he gave me as I walked through my talk was nothing short of staggeringly important. He helped me unlearn a lot of things I had been taught as a speaking style, and helped me develop a way to properly convey my thoughts. Without my mentor, I can almost assure that my talk would have been little more than a boring 30 minute segment at BSidesAustin2010.

And so if you’ve been thinking that you want to find a way to tell people what you’ve got bouncing around in your head, please, please consider applying for the mentee program. I guarantee that the folks who I’ve seen mention that they’re considering mentoring for the conference know their stuff, and the vetting board is nothing short of awesome. Having someone more experienced to bounce stuff off of can do nothing but help you, and it will certainly teach you something.

Keep your eyes on the BSidesLV page for when the mentee part opens up, and start brainstorming your talks!

2011 Wrap Up – Part 2

It is now time for Part 2 of my round up. Hopefully you found something nice in the last post, and without further ado:

Larry and His Flask All That We Know – I reviewed one of Larry’s albums earlier, but their new album blows that one out of the water. It’s got this bluegrass/folk-punk feel to it, and still conveys the band’s raw energy even without the heavier vocals that the earlier albums kind of carried.

Apparently Larry and His Flask absolutely killed it at Warped Tour this year, and I’d believe it. These guys are incredibly talented, and are finally starting to properly establish themselves. Also, a fun bit of trivia: The accordion solo on “Beggars Will Ride” is actually played by the accordion player for Dropkick Murphys.

And So I Watch You From Afar – Gangs – You know, I would throw in a little review of this album, but I kind of feel like Jeph Jacques, from webcomic Questionable Content, summed this up the best with his post on this album: . Suffice it to say that you want one of those albums that can always put a smile on your face, this is that album. Also, the breakdown on “Think:Breath:Destroy” is one of the best breakdowns ever, hands down.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You – Help! It’s in my brain, and I can’t stop listening to this album! But seriously, since this album came out, I’ve probably listened to it at least every other day or two. It’s obvious that the musicians grew between albums, and even though Kiedis’ lyrics are as or more nonsensical than they have been in the past, this album is just solid all around. Flea’s playing continually blows me away, driving all the tracks forward, and the subdued guitar work that Josh Klinghoffer brings to the table adds a really cool dynamic to the album.

This Will Destroy You – Tunnel Blanket – This is one of those recommendations I have to recommend with a caveat. I didn’t like this album the first time I heard it. I was listening at work, through my laptop speakers, and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t until the band actually tweeted me and told me to give it another shot that I realized how incredible this album was. It’s a textural masterpiece, as layers of sound build upon each other and eventually reach their crushing conclusion. Good headphones or a wicked sound system are an absolute must for this album, but it’s dark and atmospheric and wonderful if you can get into it.

I’m going back and forth on whether or not to do a “wall of shame” for the next post, because there were a few bands that put out some really disappointing stuff this year, we’ll see. As a whole, I found a ton of great new music this year, and these two posts have only scratched the surface of all the great music out there.

2011 Wrap Up – Part 1

Well, we’re reaching the end of the year, and there were a few album reviews that I didn’t get to but would have liked to, since they were some of my favorite albums this year. As a result, I’m gonna whip together a couple of posts over the next few weeks highlighting some of my top albums of the year. Some of them will be released this year, some of it will be stuff I just happened to find this year, and none of it will be in any sort of order. Enough yammering! Time for musics!

Maybeshewill – I Was Here for a While, Then I Was Gone – Such a good post rock album! I gotta say, I’m not usually one for intro tracks, but Maybeshewill rocks it.

Piano-driven awesomeness abounds on this album, and it’s one of those albums that I can (and have!) listened to on constant repeat.The way that they go from all out, heavy riffage to gentle piano parts and back and forth creates an album that is always an engaging listen. This one comes very highly recommended by me.

Russian Circles – Empros – I believe my comment on twitter about this one was “Do you have ear-holes? Put good things in them and listen to this album!” or something along those lines. If I had to pick a top album for the year, this one would probably be it. Crushing distortion, fantastic drumming, and crazy skilled guitar playing abound on this album. Also, if you ever get the chance, see these guys live, because that was probably one of the best shows I have ever seen, hands down.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien – Probably the best indie rock album I heard all year, straight up. Fantastic musicianship all around, and catch tunes, led in by the killer “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)”. If you only listen to one album to get your indie fix this year, make it this one. Also, Brian (the keyboardist) is super good people, and makes incredibly awesome pedals that I would totally like to purchase someday.

Crotchthrottle – Everything Odder than Everything Else – I have no idea what category to put this album in. It’s not post rock, it’s not electronica, but it has those elements.

It’s…awesome. That’s what it is.It’s even more awesome because it was put together by the talented jrmy from the I❤ Fuzz forums. Fuzzy, filtery goodness oozes from this album, and it’s dirt cheap to boot. Check it. 

And this only starts to scratch the surface of the great stuff I came across this year. I’m gonna see what I can do about getting a couple of posts out this week to keep recommending stuff.

Mini Reviews! blink-182, Primus, and Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’ve got a couple minutes, and I’ve actually been itching to write (not enough papers to write at the moment, or something weird like that) so I thought I’d crank out some quick mini-reviews of some albums I’ve been listening to lately. Here we go!

Blink-182 – Neighborhoods

Well, blink-182 got back together and put out a new album. Or at least they claim they did. From the sounds of this new album, it’s more like Angels and Airwaves added themselves a new bassist and drummer. I’ll admit to being a big fan of their old stuff, even (especially) their self-titled album

 in ’03. So when they got back together, I was cautiously optimistic. “Maybe they’ll continue their maturing process and put out some awesome stuff.” So far, the answer is no. Poppy, synth filled stuff, with Mark only doing vocals. Give it a listen, but find somewhere to stream it. Don’t pick it up for full price.

Primus – Green Naugahyde

Oh man, oh man I like this album. It’s been way too many years since Les Claypool and his dudes put out a totally crazy weird album, but they definitely haven’t lost their edge. Les’ awesome playing style comes through with some bubbly envelope filter goodness all throughout the album, and there are some definite hits on this album. Moron TV and Tragedy’s A’ Comin’ are some of the songs that stand out, but the whole album is incredibly fantastic. Get this post haste.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Well, the Chili Peppers are back from their hiatus, and they bring with them a new guitarist, some new schooling for Flea, and a pretty excellent album. Now, don’t be fooled, this isn’t Blood Sugar Sex Magik by any means. There never will be another one of those, so we kind of have to move on from there. I’ve talked with a guitarist buddy in a history class of mine, he claims their guitar work isn’t quite what it was when Frusciante was

around, and I’ll kind of agree with that, but Flea has grown by leaps and bounds in this album. He brings the funky bass lines in spades, especially on stuff like Factory of Faith, which has quickly become pretty inspirational for my own playing. It feels like this is a stronger album overall than Stadium Arcadium – Jupiter was as well, which I rather like. Definitely worth a listen to develop your own opinion, because I have no doubt that you will.

In the next few days, I hope to put out a few more reviews, I’ve got some great stuff by Maybeshewill and Cymbals Eat Guitars to review.

But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

“Post-rock” Recommendations Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Last week, I left you with some recommendations, and got a ton of views and and favorable reviews of the post, so today will bring about the next installment of recommendations. We’ll see if this ends the series, it depends on how many bands I feel like recommending. Let’s do this thing!


These guys have rapidly risen to the top of my favorites list. With 3 full length albums and plenty of EPs, there is no shortage of their awesome work, and it’s all pretty great. I feel like their shining albums are Inventions for the New Seasons and Pyramid of the Sun, but Passages is nothing to scoff at either. They focus on great, driving beats and riffs soaked in delay to perfection. Just great stuff all around.

Stuff to listen for: The drumming of the sadly deceased Jerry Fuchs on all of the Pyramid of the Sun album. Incredible stuff, and his passing was definitely a tragedy.

If These Trees Could Talk 

This band is actually what inspired me to write this series of posts. I mentioned that I had been listening to them, and a couple folks thanked me for introducing them to the band. They feel fairly bass driven, which is always a bonus in my book. They have one EP and one full length, I recommend getting both and running them back to back. I’ve been known to to put that list on repeat. It’s just that good.

Stuff to listen for: One of their best tracks, hands down, is “What’s in the Ground Belongs to You” on Above the Earth, Below the Sky. The bass riffs are great, excellent drumming, and fantastic guitar work.


Pelican is another band similar to Russian Circles. More post-metal type than post-rock. But all sorts of awesome. Plus, they have a very, very unique habit of doing an acoustic interlude in their albums, which always provides a neat bit of texture to the albums. I have only listened to their older albums, Australasia and The Fire in our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, are short in song numbers, but the epics they wind are fantastic in their own right. If those albums are any indication, their stuff is incredible.

Stuff to listen for: Sit down and listen to these albums straight through. The art of telling a story with music is a lost art, but Pelican does a great job recapturing that.

Explosions in the Sky 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend these guys. One, they’re Texas natives, which is a good start, but they are considered some of the heaviest hitters in the post-rock genre. Known for writing pretty much the whole soundtrack of the movie Friday Night Lights, among other things, I guess you could say they’re kind of a big deal. Unlike most of the other bands I’ve recommended, these guys focus on more wandering guitar work, so they’re not on the top of my list, but they’re great in their own right.

Stuff to listen for: Check out the album Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever. Any time an album leads to 9/11 conspiracies, it has to be at least worth a listen or two.
Like I mentioned last week, I recommend a good sound system for this stuff. You’ll get somuch more out of the music if you can hear the intricacies of the bass from Maserati or Pelican. This should be a decent little launching pad for an introduction to the genre. From there, I suggest taking some of those bands you liked from the list and plugging them into for recommended artists. It’s how I find a good deal of the music I listen to, and it’s hard to go wrong with anything in this genre.

But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.




“Post-rock” Recommendations Part 1

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient/post-rock music, and it seems that every time I mention a band on twitter, someone says “thanks for telling me about them!” So I figured I might as well put together a list of what’s been playing on my list lately.

First, though, a quick disclaimer: I’m going to use the term “post-rock” with a very, very broad stroke. Some of these bands (Russian Circles, for instance) don’t quite fit into the category, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m gonna lump them in. Nothing personal, just an ease of categorization thing. Honestly, so many bands these days transcend so many different genres that it feels the whole classification thing is becoming a moot point, but that’s neither here nor there.

Without further ado:

Red Sparowes

Why am I starting with Red Sparowes? Because it’s what’s playing as I write this. They have 3 full length albums, spanning from 2005 to 2010. I can actually say I haven’t listened to The Fear is Excruciating, but Therein Lies the Answer yet, but it’s right on my list. Long, ambient albums is Sparowes’ forte. They tell a story, both with their song titles and with their music. Both At the Soundless Dawn  and Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun are incredible albums. 

Stuff to listen for: The fantastic bass work. In At the Soundless Dawn, the bassist is Jeff Caxide (now of Isis), and he does a fantastic job. But the switch to Andy Arahood in Every Red Heart doesn’t slow them down. The bass harmonies and riffs running throughout their albums are incredible.


In writing this post, it looks like I’m missing some albums from great bands. Caspian is one of those. I’ve given their The Four Trees album a couple of listens, and I like it more and more. This is about as quintessential post-rock as a band can get. I will admit, I can’t give as full of a review for these guys, as I’ve only listened to the album a few times, but if you like anything else on this list, you’ll almost certainly like Caspian.

Stuff to listen for: I love the guitar work on Sea Lawn on The Four Trees. Sounds like probably a slide guitar into a delay, and it’s such a cool sound.

Constant Seas 

I can admit to being a bit of a fanboy on this one, but cut me some slack. The drummer is a friend of mine, and they’re a local band. I still haven’t

gotten a chance to see them live, which bugs me, but their album, Circles, is awesome. The second half of the album is especially good. I’m a sucker for up-beat post-rock (which I feel is kind of an oxymoron), and songs like Alamo, Our Grave and Into the Abyss are fantastic. The opening riff to Into the Abyss is a ton of fun to play on bass as well, which is a double bonus.

Stuff to listen for: Like I said, the bass riff on Into the Abyss, but also the drumming towards the end of Alive and Well.

Now, this is starting to run a little long, so I’m gonna break up this post into two posts, and wrap up with one more recommendation:

Russian Circles 

This band is one of those bands that might challenge the post-rock moniker, and move more into a post-metal/post-hard rock type genre. With three full albums under their belt (Enter, Geneva, and Station) and some huge tours, these guys have made it pretty dang big. I like Wiki’s description of them: “instrumental, sprawling music which runs the gamut of heavy discordant metal, to soft,

delicate passages.” These guys play some incredible music, and it fits just about any situation. All of their albums are fantastic, and definitely worth a listen. Plus, they apparently have a new album coming out later this year, which is also quite exciting.

Stuff to listen for: Brian Cook’s bass work on Geneva and Station is fantastic, and considering he was the bassist for These Arms Are Snakes and Botch, it’s no surprise.

That should provide you with plenty of listening for a few days. One caveat: If at all possible, listen to these bands on good, surround sound headphones or a decent speaker system. You’ll get so, so much more out of the music. Decent bass response is a necessity here.

But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.


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