Recording an Album is Tough!

I’ve thought about writing this article for a while to explain just how tough it is to record an album and partialy, maybe even an axcuse, as to why I didn’t record my own music perviously.

I’ve been in the studio and recorded a few times with a friend of mine and the very first experience was just as most people have had. You take a deal from a local studio as a package recording session and make a demo or short album. We did it about thrity years ago and it was fun, but rushed, and far from perfect. At that time, I was basically just playing guitar for my friend Jon on his songs and didn’t really have a lot of my own music. I had some nascent songs and a few instrumentals then but those would all blossom into some of the songs I recently recorded for Metal for Morgan. Back then, I never had time to focus on writing due to working and other parts of life that just seemed to get in the way.

In 2007 I had a motorcycle wreck that induced some changes in my life that were positive towards my music in the long run, and some negative. I had spent years playing other people’s music and covers and had a lot of ‘pent up’ creativity just waiting to be let out and that it did. Once my wrists healed from the wreck, I couldn’t hold a guitar pick without pain so I started playing entirely with my fingers and wouldn’t go back to the pick until just recently to record this album. I bought some acoustic guitars and started listening to some of the great acoustic virtuosos like Andy McKee and Tommy Emmanuel. I began writing instrumentals and they just came to me like pouring water from a pitcher. I had so many new pieces of music, so fast, that I struggled with remembering them that I decided I would have to name them to do so and everyone who had touched my life (family) and even my cats got a piece of music. It wasn’t long after that when I started to actually finish some of the songs like Mother Nature and You Know Me, that I wanted to record.

I then did was most of us do, I leaned on my network of friends from the music community in San Franciso and went with one of the people I had met that I knew produced and recorded. My friend Jordan had a space in the city and we fleshed out and recorded one song, Mother Nature, just so I could get an idea of what I wanted to do and see how well we worked together. Jordan is great and has an awesome band and I really liked the first recording, but it wasn’t exactly what I felt it should be inside of me, but I also didn’t really know what that feeling was and how to bring it out. I had only played my songs acoustically at that point and didn’t really have a larger vision for them. I was working for the video game developer Double Fine Productions at the time and we brought on a new audio intern who just happened to play drums. I had a Roland TD20 kit and invited him to jam with me and so the bigger picture became a little clearer. The drummer, Brian, had a more metal background than even I did and loved playing double-bass. We had a lot of fun experimenting with my songs and improvising on new material but we never made it to the studio and only played a few gigs together that were little more than the feature at the Hotel Utah open mic and a few small house concerts at my apartment that were poorly attended.

A few years later, I was just starting to work on an album when I met my son’s mother and that took over my whole life and I put recording on a shelf and became a dad. I figured I would eventually get back to recording with my friend Scott, who is a great producer and engineer and really helped me realize that I could sing, and sing harmonies with little effort. We fleshed out a few songs but again, between working a new job and a baby on the way, I had to stop. The stuff we did was great and I honestly wish we could have worked on more material together but now it’s been so long that I’m a different musician and person and would want to start completely over.

The years ticked away and it took being laid off to really pull me back into the music enough to even think about recording again. I was working far too much before that and trying to be a dad two weekends a month which takes a lot of work and makes it difficult to focus for me. However being a dad is what made me want to really tighten my focus and get back in the studio so that I could capture my songs and music and leave something behind for my son to have to hopefully inspire him and to also leave some solid memories. Not that I plan on leaving this world anytime soon — I just wanted to set that stuff in stone and record some stuff I wrote specifically for him. In fact, that became the entire theme for the album and title ‘Metal for Morgan’. My son, Morgan, fell in love with Crazy Train by Ozzy and mostly because he loves trains and the song mentions them, but it’s also melodic and has a great vocal hook. When I picked him up for our weekends, I would already have the song queued and waiting for him and as we drove off from his mother’s house, we would jam to it.

Morgan likes music with energy, although he equates it with being angry and not just energetic, the fast beat of drums and distorted guitars make him dance and thrash around and that’s where the title of the album came from. I would play guitar for him and he would ask me to play metal. Once I was laid off and started working on the album, the title for it came almost immediately.

To circle back to how I was able to find the time to record, I was laid off from my previous job, and to me, that usually means I do something big in my life to improve it and me, and grow as a person. The previous time I was laid off was in 2013 from Double Fine Productions, my self-improvement was to go back to college and take a full semester of music theory classes. That in itself was an achievement as I crushed my foot in a motorcycle mishap during the first month but fortunately got some help and was able to stay in school and only miss one day. I finished the semester at the same time I found another job so the timing was perfect and I was back to work at just the right time.

I had just picked up my Greenfield acoustic guitar in the fall or 2014 and that had inspired me to record again and it was to be acoustic focused to capitalize on the guitar’s amazing sound. I just want to add and not really get into the details, but my Greenfield is the most amazing sounding acoustic guitar I’ve ever heard or played and just about everything Michael makes will probably qualify that statement but I’ve only played Andy McKee’s guitars for reference and they’re amazing as well!

I kind of got out of order in the sequence of events for this article but I think the explanation works better this way. After picking up my Greenfield and then working with Scott to record a few songs, I met my son’s mother and now we’re back on track as far as the timeline goes!

Shortly after being laid off in 2021, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a place to record, hang out, and work on my music. I didn’t really care about the order but I do wish I would have had more time to practice and develop my tones as well as practice with a pick before recording, but we don’t always get a choice in the random nature of events that lead us to where we are at any given place in time. A friend of mine messaged me about recording with her husband who was also a good friend of mine. They’re super lucky to both be musicians and awesome people, and it just clicked for all of us. I went to visit them and we jammed and it was good.

We had our first jam and discussion about my project and set a rough date to start working as well as some parameters, and made some basic recordings for a scratch pad to work from. Now, I didn’t know that my friend Ryan, had a love of metal music and really had forgotten my own love and still don’t listen to it on a regular basis. I took my Bogner Uberschall and the guitar I used to test it when I bought in 2004, and there was a little bit of magic going on when we fired it up for the first time. We both clicked immediately and the first few jams were as good as anyone could hope for and some of the base tracks for the songs on the album were pulled from those sessions. We played together well and we were both just in great spirits, eating good food, and drinking good beer, and enjoying the company of each other, and I’m sure that helped set the tone (har har) for us to click and make some great music.

The change to play a more metal based album wasn’t something I was expecting but became obvious quite fast as the combination of the Bogner and my green ESP is a killer match and have quite an amazing sound together. Ryan loved them from the beginning and seemed quite blown away from the pair. I watched him smile from ear-to-ear and swing his drum sticks around like we were playing live in front of 10,000 people. It was pure energy and magic and some of the best first jams I’ve ever had in my life. Like I said, we just clicked and new parts to old songs were improvised on the spot and kept as though they were always there. The song ‘Rule the World’ was an old riff with a new chorus that had never really been fleshed out but the first time we played the song, I came up with the new parts and fit everything together on the spot. That song is my favorite on the album and was the impetus to play heavier and make the album more ‘metal’, even taking songs that I never intended to be played with distortion and make them what you can hear on MfM.

I returned home after our first jam saying and thinking “I’m making a metal album” and even though it’s not heavy metal and only really has three truly metal instrumentals on the album, the synergy and inertia was there and only got stronger when we started really working on it.

When I decided I was going to make this album, I had it all laid out and as anyone who has done this before knows, that changed as we started to work on the music and some songs were dropped and a few added. Again, I intended to make a more rock and roll but lighter album with just my acoustic style songs and didn’t even think about playing more electric guitar than acoustic. Some of the pieces I dropped were three really strong acoustic instrumentals and we did record two of them but ultimately decided to save them for either singles or for the next album. I made a spreadsheet with all the songs, what guitars, amps, and effects I would use, and all my ideas and then used it to track progress and changed it as we evolved the ideas. The spreadsheet was a great idea and I will use the same format for the next album but I also think with the next one, I’ll have a much better idea as to what and how it will be. After the first album, I got a little more in touch with what I wanted to do and what I like. I think I was just sidetracked with the acoustic guitar music and that really, deep inside, I’m still and will always be a rocker. Now, that’s not to say that I wont record a full-length acoustic album, and that is on the list to do but this album went to my roots and I’m glad it did. Time will ultimately tell me how that works out and I completely expect for me to change my mind a few times, because that’s just how it works.

To record the album, I would go to a private studio that’s really just a soundproofed space with drums and a small recording rig, but it has some very nice, professional details that make it great, and the overall product is just about what I expected and wanted. I was fully prepared to painfully record each song to a click track and do it as clean and neat as possible, but I despise click tracks and honestly, my budget didn’t allow for me to spend that much money and time. I divided the budget between recording, food, and art. I could have spent a lot less on the artwork, but I wanted the album cover to be something that my son would love and always cherish and I got that. Of course I wanted the recordings to be as good as I could possibly make them, but there’s a balance when you have a budget and that’s the biggest variable that comes to play when you start to figure out the algorithm for the process. I know that even more seasoned recording artists don’t know for certain what exactly the outcome of the recording process will be and keep their minds open to that. Ideas come to us when we’re feeling really good and happy and although I was unemployed and missing my son, I had some really good times that brought out the best ideas.

Like I said, a lot of the base tracks for the album came from our first two jam sessions and contain some improvised parts. I have never liked clicks and the sound drives me nuts, and even against the advice of Ryan and many conversations about how to proceed, we did the majority of the album live — or to say we just jammed for hours and recorded it and then picked out the best stuff. I actually like the feel of a live album done this way more than a perfectly timed, and to me, more rigid process. Yes, I do agree that we could have made the album tighter and cleaner, but I also could have practiced for a full month with a pick in a cabin in the woods and made it overall better as well. I wanted to do that intially but the reality of time and money were a factor and I wanted to also take a big trip back east to visit family and friends that I hadn’t seen in years, post pandemic restrictions. So we set a time frame and worked out the best way to complete the project which involved a lot of base of tracks being just jams with some improvisation which actually worked out quite well, if you ask me.

Postmortem to the process and the overall project left me with new ideas for the next project and process but I may approach it in entirely the same manner which starts with some jamming and recording and then listening to the material and making decisions based on how it sounds and how I feel. I’ll talk a little bit about anything that I would do differently another time and maybe it’s not that important because there’s little that I would change other than the time of year we worked because it was hot and during fire season so we had smokey air to deal with on top of all that. I really can’t think of anything else that I’d change beyond what I mentioned other than more budget for recording and yes, maybe do more tracks with the dreaded click.

The whole process was a learning experience and one that all my previous experience barely helped. I think the biggest takeaway is that you just can’t expect much to be the same at the end of the project as you expect it to be in the beginning. There are just too many variables that come into play and as we all know, nothing works out as expected unless you’re lucky, and no one is lucky every time. I used to fear recording and would get nervous and it took me time to ease my tension and loosen up. I think I grew a lot in that regard and the next time in the studio is something that I am eagerly waiting for and excited to get back to. My time management during the whole process was a pretty solid and despite the smoke from the fires in California causing some changes, it worked out almost exactly as I expected for the budget. In fact, the budget worked out and the artwork only cost a little more than anticipated however I did make a miscalculation on timing the art and should have set the schedule a little more forward. My expectation was that it would take longer for the mixing and mastering but that was super smooth and the mixes were really good up front and didn’t require a lot of back and forth to get them where I wanted. The masters came really fast after that and I was super impressed with them and how good they sounded. So I could say that again, expect the unexpected and the timing was better than what I feel it was.

The only real hiccup was with my publisher accepting my tax information so that I could accept royalty payments and that took over a month for them to sort out. As a software developer, I’m going to guess that they had a bug somewhere and it took them identifying it, verifying it, then getting it bugged in a ticket for a developer to sort out, then submit the fix to QA for testing and verification, then off to production where my issue was solved. I won’t get into the details but trust me because I’ve worked in software development with web based applications for a long time and it was all too familiar. The information that was eventually accepted was the same as the first time I submitted it.

For this release, I had planned all along to go digital at first and just get business cards with the album cover on one side and a QR code on the back that will take you to a listing of places where you can listen to or maybe even buy my album. I have the cards now and they’re okay — not perfect and I might just get new ones made but I’ll probably still hand them out and go on with it. I may get CDs and vinyl copies made and have kept that in mind during the whole process. I just need to get back to work before I can justify the spend because being a musician doesn’t really pay much and frankly I’d rather be a producer of music than a touring artist, but I will say that I love playing live and if I can work that out, I’ll do it.

I used to think that writing songs was the hardest part of the whole thing but now I think it’s the post recording process of releasing and all the other pieces that need to be put in place where the hardest work resides. I have yet to do a lot of the post production parts but I’ve been busy looking for a new job and visiting family and friends and just taking a break. My son has listened to the album and loves it and that was the biggest goal and well met although I still want to be a full-time musician, I understand how difficult it is to get established and actually make enough money to keep going. For now, I’ll find another job and get back to work and keep planning out the next few albums. I’ll get back to California and back to visiting with my son every other weekend and we’ll have our album to listen to as we play with trains and trucks and have fun. Once I get the groove of life back, I’ll get a schedule in place and I’ll start recording again but probably at a slower pace than the last one, but again, you never know and I’ll take it as it comes.

Autonomous Trucking and the Future

Trucks resting at Bonneville

I recently applied to a few positions in the autonomous trucking industry and I have a few impressions that I think need to be explored and tackled by the industry.

If I apply for a job outside the normal industries or markets where I would usually work, I will do a lot of research so that I one, fully understand the sector in which I could possibly work, and two, make sure it impresses me with stability, growth, and will provide me a path to retirement as I get older. For the autonomous trucking industry, I did just that and what I discovered from the perimeter is that the existing trucking industry has very mixed emotions about the introduction of autonomous technology. The business side loves the idea because it will increase productivity, decrease fuel costs, and especially, decrease accidents. The truck drivers, in general seems to be a mixture of people who think it’s going to replace them, those that just don’t think it’s not viable due to myriad reasons, and that small segment that seems to embrace it.

If I were working in a strategic position in marketing or business development for an AV trucking company, I would want to win over as many of the drivers as I can and help ease fears amongst the ones that seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how AV can be a benefit and how they could potentially make more money driving autonomous trucks and be safer.

Articles about level 5, driverless trucks scare people the most, and this as I see it, is the origination of the majority of fears and misconceptions. We always see news articles and stories on TV about the most dramatic examples of everything, and showing a fully automated delivery truck without a driver is just not going to be a reality for a long, long time. There are so many challenges to overcome with the technology, legislation, and implementation that when you see where company X is going to have autonomous delivery, you have to understand that’s going to be like gig-speed broadband — do you have it in your town, county, or even state? Many regions of the country don’t even have cell phone service and a lot of these AV trucking systems rely on such things to communicate and monitor. If you don’t have cell-phone service at any level, don’t expect AV anything for some time.

The impression is that once company X implements the technology that it will be ubiquitous, instantaneous, and absolute and as with anything, that’s just not going to be the case. Please remember that we have many states that do not have the same laws and do not act or move in the same ways. Little to nothing happens at the federal scale gets implemented like this.

In AV trucking, the middle-mile is the main target for the majority of companies and level 3-4 autonomous driving is going to be the first, widely successful adaptation of the technology.

The first thing you have to understand is that AV is hard, super hard. When it comes to driving about a very dynamic and highly unpredictable environment like a city or town, the biggest challenges are to be found. In fact, think of it like this: If you go from Atlanta to Los Angeles, you’ll find a dozen different driving styles in between, as well as different road hazards, driving conditions due to weather, interaction with wildlife, to even the amount of bugs that are present — a truck in some parts of California will have to clean it’s sensors and cameras a lot less than one in the deep south because there’s just a huge difference in the amount of bugs.

Aside from those dynamic variables are numerous other challenging situations and factors that make AV for cars and especially big class 8 trucks, where everything is heavier, bigger, more expensive, and harder to control, even more difficult to develop and implement. So for now, what you should understand is that it’s not going to be an overnight change and it’s still a long way from fully level 5, class 8 trucks being the norm.

What truck drivers should try to embrace is the idea that you’re going to be able to drive way more miles with a level 4 system in a truck over a year and that can mean more money while saving money on fuel, and safer. For many years to come, there will be drivers in the cab actively watching over the AV system and making sure everything works correctly, and being there to handle the problems that can’t be solved automatically like damage to a sensor or camera, or even cleaning those hard to remove bug remains from them. We’ve all hit one of those bugs that the windshield wipers couldn’t easily remove and had to stop at a gas station so we could scrape away the remanents. That’s also not to mention that as the technology is, and will be in development perpetually, that having drivers on board will still be a required and if anything, it will create even more jobs as the industry expands and adoption grows.

Again, I want to stress that the biggest application for AV trucking is in class 8 semi trucks and the target segment is the middle-mile. When it comes to transporting difficult loads, we’re going to need a human at the wheel for a long time. There are also other areas where you’re going to encounter hard to automate segments and at best, level 3-4 will only be applicable. What that means is a more diverse and dynamic trucking industry where you just don’t drive from point A to B and then back home. The middle-mile segment only covers the easiest to transport portions of logistics. A human driver will be waiting at the end of the trip for the AV truck and again, for a long time to come, that AV truck will have a human riding along.

If you want an even more positive spin on this, one could say that being a truck driver will become even more interesting as the largest, most boring portion of the job will be handled by an AV system which will need human interaction in new, but still classic ways. As a truck driver, you’ll essentially be supporting a robotic machine which could have brand new avenues for you and your career. The industry is going to need people who not only know how to drive a truck but have knowledge of robotics and I understand that some people don’t want to learn new things to do old jobs, but to me, that’s fascinating and the future meeting reality, right before our eyes.

What you will begin to see is the trucking industry maturing and adapting and even more jobs being created. You won’t have to get a degree in engineering and robotics to work in because there will be many associated jobs that are created at end points and for the other, not automated segments. So don’t fear it but understand that this technology isn’t going to replace you, but augement and make your working environment better, safer, and more profitable for everyone, including the drivers. I’ve read posts and replies and seen videos where drivers ask “why not just pay us more per mile?” Well what if you could cover more miles in less time and use less fuel and be safer overall? Because that’s the real benefits to AV trucking and will be for a long time to come. Don’t feel fear when you see company X is implementing a driverless trucking system but understand that even if they are it won’t be everywhere and it won’t replace you; your jobs are going to be safer, and secure, for generations to come.

My first full length album: Metal for Morgan

The album has been submitted for approval and will be pushed to streaming sites and other sites in a few days. Once it’s availble I’ll post links to it and add more notes.

I’ve recorded with friends on their songs, and I’ve recorded a few singles of my own, but I never found the time to record my own full length album until being laid off earlier in the year. I was looking for a place where I could go hang out, work on my songs, and then record them when a friend’s wife saw a post I made pertaining to that idea and he contacted me.

At first, I had planned a mostly acoustic album with the majority of the same songs that are on MfM, but not with electric guitars, or drums, or anything like what I ended up producing. I went to the studio on the very first day with the intention of just doing acoustic and maybe a few instrumentals. Now, mind you, the intent was to make an album so that I could one, record my first full length, and two, have some music online for my son, Morgan, to be able to listen to. I didn’t even think about doing an album like this until I started jamming with Ryan Clark, and then realized that he was an absolutely fantastic drummer and loved metal. I knew he was an engineer and producer, but always just thought of him as this super nice and happy guy who played cajon, and wrote acoustic songs. Ryan even played with me a few times over the years but I never knew more than that impression and was quite happy and surprised after he contacted me.

To explain how I got to the final prduct from wanting to do an acoustic album, I guess the part I wasn’t really thinking about was the Bogner Uberschall that I’ve had for eighteen years and barely used over the last eight. I took it to the studio just in case we might find some inspiration and a few places to use it on the album, not that it would become a hugely inspirational and foundational piece of this entire thing.

The Bogner Uberschall is, in my opinion, one of the finest sounding amplifiers ever made. I originally bought it while living in North Carolina and didn’t understand that it in combination with my old, green ESP Vintage Plus and the Seymour Duncan Vintate Rails, made a matched set of awesomeness and a fairly uncommon tone when combined. I took the same ESP when I tried out the amp before buying it and was immediately hooked on the lush and flavorful tube tones that it produced, but still didn’t get the combination and didn’t truly understand that until Ryan’s eyes lit up and he grinned from ear to ear when he first heard it.

The pairing of the ESP, Bogner, and Vintage Rails gives a metallic and not overly saturated tone. It’s biting and visceral, but still refined enough to cater to rock and roll, yet powerful enough to make a metal song have the bite and growl it needs to fit the bill. I have to say that altough I haven’t tried a lot of new amps for quite a while, this is and will probably always be my favorite amp. Tubes just yield the best tones to me and this baby, loaded with EL34s, makes me smile every time I play with it. It’s the type of amp that you don’t have to turn up to seven to get a rich saturation, and you can quietly play this 120w, 4×12 driven amp in your bedroom at a low volume and it still sounds amazing.

To cover a little more of the gear used on the album, we also used a Bogner Barcelona with various pedals (Keeley modified Rat, Red Bogner) for doubling the guitars, and I bought a new, purple ESP loaded with Seymour Duncan Saturday Night Specials, to help differentiate the tones. The purple ESP, as we refered to it, would end up being used for all the solos on the album and 95% of the doubled rythym. We also used an Orange amp loaded with two ten inch speakers and an SG on one song for a little difference. And to give credit where it’s due: I was against using the Orange at first, but it really does have a great sound and I’m not one to deny facts, and I will always admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong.

The concept of the album came to me quite suddenly, and many thanks to my son for his input, ideas, and inspiration. I made this album for him and the title came after realizing we were making a harder, heavier, and more metal based album because he would ask me from time to time to play metal while jamming on the guitar for him. He loved the more “angry” riffs and would dance around, playing air guitar, and banging his head to them. I would play different riffs for him and ask him to tell me what mood he felt from them and all the metal(ish) stuff was “angry” to him. After establishing the new direction and sound for the album, it easily came to me early on in the process that this album would be ‘Metal for Morgan’. Morgan loves Ozzy and Crazy Train so I had Stella add the T shirt and she came up with a few other east eggs.

To describe the whole album, it’s mostly rock songs, with three heavy instrumentals, and two acoustic songs. I was going to add a few acoustic instrumentals but decided to hold them for the next release. I may even debut them as singles now that I have the momentum and desire to share and document my music. To say the whole album is metal is not true, but rock mostly, and maybe a little bit harder due to the Bogner and how tough it was to turn down the gain on such an amazing sounding amp!

Tracks and Notes:

Diatomaceous Earth — This is an instrumental idea that I’ve had for many years and nearly forgot. Fortunately I had a video of it on Youtube and quickly relearned it. The name came from the substance of the same and was part of the recording experience, which I’ll just leave you to wonder about. No, I wasn’t eating it…

Mother Nature — Most people who know my music or have heard me play out somewhere, know this song and it’s always been one of my more popular tunes. I started writing this when I was about sixteen but put it down for a long time until I came up with more music for it in the early 2000’s, then after moving to California a few years later, penned the rest of the lyrics and finished it. MN is the first song I completed and is about a place I used to walk to clear my head. It was my cathartic process to get all the negative stuff I was experiencing when I was young, out.

Garbage Trucks — I wrote this song specifically for Morgan and worked on it over a few years untli I found the rest of it due to his input. I had all the music down but writing about a specific subject has always been hard for me and I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it until I asked Morgan and he told me to say something about where the trucks take the trash and go at the end of the day. That was enough for me to complete it and after Ryan pushed me to add more verses, I wrote out a few based on Morgan’s input and we completed it. The guitar solo parts I had in my head for a few months and managed to translate them exactly. All I needed then was a good, solid backing with the drums, a tasty bass line, and the smoke to help me sing it with the right tone! Yes, the fires in California at the time played a big role in recording this whole album, but also the vocals for this song.

I Met a Girl — I wrote this song as a concept a few years back, about how I always met the same type of lady. Now, to preface this song description, I’m not saying anything negative about women at all — this is about me and what I attract, not about women in general. I just always seem to attract the wrong type of women to me and I guess I do have an idea why and this song helped me understand it. But there’s a lot more to it, and in chorus I touch upon an empty feeling I’ve always had inside and a lady that I’ve dreamed about my whole life but I don’t know if I’ve ever met her. The song Said and Done is related to that and may give a more clear definition. I took this song to a songwriter’s group I used to attend and co-host, and they always struggled with me reusing the name Mary Ann, but it makes sense to me!

Rule the World — Rule is my favorite track on the album and was one that I had started to write and shelved about ten years ago. I just couldn’t find what I wanted to do with it and kept thinking that the verse was going to be the chorus. I was looking for a harder edged song for the album after our first session and new direction for the album, and off the cuff, I wrote the chorus, very loosely and didn’t fully realize it until we jammed on it in the studio and I’m pretty sure the rythym in the song was the first take with some improvised parts. I quickly finished the lyrics and the song was done. Now, I know it might be easy to assign the meaning to specific people, but it’s not about anyone, but more about everyone who craves power and money. Maybe more to the ultra rich and how every single one of them loses touch with the humble parts and the sickness of greed takes over.

Moving Slowly — You could definitely say that this track is related to Mother Nature, and more of an adendum to it than anything. It’s about being stuck somewhere you aren’t happy and watching others get out while you’re still there. It’s about several attempts I made to get out of WV when I was young and how I had to come back a few times. I was apprehensive about playing this song with distortion on an electric guitar at first but found inspiration from Ryan due to him identifying the Rush in my influences.

Hammification — The name of this instrumental came from a process I use for making Sous Vide steaks. I add a lot of salt and slow cook them at 126F, which is enough to keep them pink and juicy, but it gives them a rainbow, metallic sheen from being basically cured like a ham. The music was some that I came up with a long time ago and we even improvised a few new parts for it and cut down some of the original. I love the raw, rock and roll feel to it and draw a little on a lot of my roots in it.

Gopher Hunting — I was going to originally call this ‘Potty Training’ and still consider both hunting gophers and training a child to use a toilet at about the same level of difficulty. Which is the same as recording this piece after not playing it for years. I have barely used a guitar pick over the last ten years due to a motorcycle wreck that left me with titanium in both arms and pain when using a pick. It was only after our first jam session together that I picked the pick back up. We improvised a few new parts for this and I wrote a few and even cut out an original part. You can hear the original on my Youtube channel as one of the three heavy samples. This is a throw back to my 80’s metal inspirations and was all the purple ESP. We cranked up the gain on the amps and I practiced the riffs over and over until we recorded it. We spent one day and recorded four solid hours of jamming just this piece. I thought it just about killed us! Ryan looked like he had just completed a marathon and my arm hurt for three days! I think this is by far the most energetic piece on the album it’s definitely not something you should drive and listen to!

You Know Me — I wrote this song kind of for my ex-wife and kind of just a general piece about loving someone a lot but feeling a bit beat up from it. The chorus is just me saying that I liked the old us and never wanted it to get some complicated. You could probably say this is one of my punk songs and I intentionally didn’t put lead guitar on it to emphasize that. I really like how it came out and was surprised when Ryan added the harmonies to it that he said he didn’t think it needed! I think they worked quite well and am quite proud of the final version.

Seasons — This is a song that I’ve recorded before but didn’t think I was really nailing what I wanted to say. I’m still not sure that it’s 100% where I wanted it to be but I’m very happy with this version and adding distortion and electric guitars gave it a very different feel and power. The song is about life and merely just an observation of me looking at it through the lens of seasons. It was a concept song that I wrote during my time in the songwriter group when I first realized I could sing and wanted to write more. It doesn’t really have a chorus as tradionally defined, but more of a statement.

Standard Issue Guy — This was originally just a short acoustic song that I wrote to fit a riff I came up with that I liked. I had played it at a few open mics and wasn’t even going to record it until we jammed on it and Ryan mentioned that he remembered it from me playing it out somewhere and that it had a punk feel to it. We worked on it a good bit and some people might prefer the acoutic at the end over the first part but I liked it and the final version is something I’m proud of and thankful to Ryan for helping me understand how it could be.

Said and Done — Here’s a song that’s a continuation of I Met a Girl, but more in touch with my emotions about it. The song basically just says that I’m still alone and probably never will find this lady who I keep seeing in my dreams. Maybe she’s not real and all fantasy, but I’ll probably never know. It’s also about how there’s nothing new that we can say or do and you just need to take people as they are with all their faults and find the parts you love and appreciate them. We all have flaws and the best of us will always try to overcome those and grow.

Birthday Song — Back when Warner Bros made a stink about their Birthday Song, I had this little piece of music and wrote the lyrics to it as an alternative. Nothing more but to say Happy Birthday!

Liner Notes

All songs written and composed by Brent Shinn
Recorded by Ryan Clark

Brent Shinn
Guitars, Bass, Vocals

Ryan Clark
Drums, Sheep Sounds

Special thanks to Melissa Lyn for making this happen and being an awesome person and friend.

Dedicated to my son Morgan: May you always love music and be humble with your ability and talents. And if you never become a musician, I’ll still love you but I’ll sell my guitars! My baby boy; I’m so sorry life has worked out the way it has, but some stones are impossible to move and all you can do is walk around them.

To my brother Mark Shinn for being an influence in art and music, and to my twin brother Brian Shinn for being supportive when I needed it.

Mom and Dad, I wish you could hear this.

Glad You’re Gone

I wrote this as an exercise so I’m not going to claim all the psychological baggage that gets automatically added. I wanted to go back and forth from D minor and D major and use the major to add a bit of a happier feeling to a song about being glad that someone is out of my life. I have to say that it wasn’t really about anyone, specifically, but there’s always some underlying, subliminal stuff that we can’t help but add.

I recorded a few songs on a park bench in Buenos Aires and this was one good take save for the dog barking but that’s good stuff; I brought it back from the archive to help me get a good sense of my music again and get back in the groove and write and perform more. I don’t know that I’ll be performing anywhere in public, but I do plan to record some songs and sets of songs and post them.

Hope you enjoy!


The things we never know…

No matter how smart you are, or think you are, you will never know everything and you just can’t. It doesn’t work like that and there will always been things that you just couldn’t think of.

We wade through life like water at times, and if you’re a good person, you try to understand the people around you and try to grasp their take on things. I always think of others and look out for people and just feel a lot for everyone. I’ve wanted to learn about them so I can gain knowledge and wisdom that will help me. But the one thing I always find is that there’s always a surprise waiting, somewhere, and it will find you when you least expect it. There’s also probably some cool theory to explain that, but you know what I mean. If you aren’t finding surprises anymore then maybe you just aren’t doing anything new? I don’t know and I still don’t understand. Maybe that’s my problem and I shouldn’t be surprised!

When I was young we moved to a new house in a new area, again, and this was to be my last home with my parents; one where I would embark upon life, all on my own for the first time. There’s a signifigance to that if you moved around a lot like my family did and you don’t really have one place that you call home. So that house represented a period of my life and that’s basically how I look at each home: a period in my life in a different area for a few years, in a different house. But they all had a different perspective and my memories are all categorized in my head by which house we lived in when a particular event occured.

This last house was in a cluster of five houses right together and everyone knew everyone and in fact, two of them still live in the same place and never moved. One family had two young kids, 10 and 11 at the time, and I would babysit them periodically and just hang out with them and their mom because they were cool and just felt like family to me. On the days that I watched them, we would watch Aliens and usually all three back-to-back! They had the lines of the movies memorized and I want to remind the younger readers that ‘back then’ there wasn’t an Internet and in many places you didn’t even have TV cable and some folks shared phone lines. They had VHS tape recordings and that’s what we watched, every day. They weren’t even good copies but they were cool movies and I never really did mind and wonder now if those movies affected them? Or me for that matter. I just had to message one of them to ask if they still remember all the lines to them.

But therein lies a world of wonder and surprise. I haven’t thought about that period of my life for a long time, but I do still randomly think about little things here and there and the house and my dad and all the events over the four years I lived there. Even through all those thoughts and memories and even lessons and wisdom gained, I never thought about the impact I might have had on the kids and how they really ever thought of me. The older kid, the girl called me her brother since day one and I’ve always thought of her as a sister. She even has a nickname for me that’s she’s always called me. But I haven’t talked with the younger kid since living in that house so I just didn’t have his perspective in mind at all until just now. He had messaged me online about something on a post I had made and wanted to mention it to me. We started talking a bit and then he tells me today that I was somewhat of a hero to him way back when, and it brought me to tears.

You know what it’s like if you’ve lived long enough. It’s just hard to keep up relations once we all start moving around and some people who you may never expect to, have strong ties to you that have had an impact, or touched them in some way that left a lasting impression on the person they grew to be. Now, I’m not saying that’s what this is, but all my heroes left one with me and I wanted to be like them in some capacity. I feel that there’s something I took from each person I knew that I still have somewhere in me, even if I’ve forgot what it is or whence it came. But the revelation and the surprise is that I was actually even “somewhat” of a hero to anyone. It touched me and I’m a bit teary eyed writing this now. I feel bad for a few reasons and I know it’s not something I could really have thought of, but I never went back to visit him. I did see his sister a few times but I never managed to see him although I always asked of him and how he was doing, I never did see him and it’s now been over thrity years. My last memory is of a ten year old boy but I’ve talked with him online over the years and know him.

People who live their whole upbringing in the same house just won’t be able to understand this but when you have grown up in a dozen different places and houses, you make a lot of friends and it becomes very difficult to keep in touch with everyone. It’s very difficult for me, anyway, but I had a lot of best friends and I still love them all and talk to most of them. One killed himself years ago after I had introduced him to another best friend of mine and not that it’s related but I’ve lost them as well. I’ve lost many friends to suicide and the one that was really close to me had lifelong impact on how I think and feel about certain things. We grew up in a time without the safety features built-in, and labels slapped on everything. There were no guard rails on life and when you grew up in the deep hills, often the only road out you find is one you have to make. I moved away and then came back and then away and back and then away for good. It’s like a heavy gravity your home state. You’ll love it no matter how much you hate it, and it will always be in name, be home.

Life has been weird to me and although I have a big family, and getting bigger, I’ve discovered that we find other family members out there, even though we may not be genetically related. And to those people, when you discover you had more of an impact on them than you realized, and you feel strong emotions that overwhelm you, then that person really was ‘family’ in any and all sense of the word. And the impact was bidirectional and I’m now glad I know this and plan to visit my family soon and more often in the future.

The scale of economics

Or a guide to getting the fuck out of West Virginia, or another similarly impoverished area with ultra-low paying jobs, and overbearing politics.

If you live somewhere like West Virginia (which there really isn’t anywhere else like), and you want to move away, you have to deal with what I call the ‘scale of economics’. That might be a real thing and I didn’t research it because I’m just simply refering to the differnce in costs between two places like California and the aforementioned impoverished place, and what it takes to move to CA. Yes, that’s probably just about the most extreme example I can give save for maybe Puerto Rico where they are poorer and you’d also have to add in a longer flight or boat ride to get you and your stuff out.

I’ve always used this concept to explain to people why it’s so hard to go from WV to CA even just to visit for a vacation. Visiting California is just not something you hear about much when you grow up there. The few people you know who have even visited California are either in the Navy, or just the coolest and most interesting people otherwise. California is a fantasy place in a land, far, far away and one you just don’t image yourself being able to afford to visit or even move to.

You have a few options and I mentioned the Navy already and there’s also the Air Force and Coast Guard which are great ways to get the fuck out. You can even get paid to go to school and unlearn some of the crap you thought you knew. The second options is couch surfing and that one is the most random, fly by the seat of your pants way of getting there and that’s how I did it. But, you can’t have a plan like I did because it just randomly unfolded in front of me and that is all about the luck you create. You just have to be able to spot the opportunities as they present and jump. I had a lady I met and we were interested in each other and that gravity made it so much easier. The random reasons I even met her were a crazy series of events that ended up with me in a chat room and an offer to visit California.

I’ll explain my journey later, but for now I want to talk about the other options and the saving money one is probably the only realistic route you have. It costs a lot out here. I pay $4.20/gal for diesel. I pay $40 for a steak from the grocery store that I still have to cook. I can take you down the street and get you a $9 beer and a $20 hamburger and they’ll be damn good, but nothing is cheaper out here than it is in West Virginia expect opinions. And before I continue, let me rant a bit: Californians who have never even visited KY, WV, TN, VA, AL, etc… know so much more about it than you do. Now, stop laughing and listen up, because when you come from somewhere like that, this shit is already obvious, but the jerk from San Francisco who has a never been there, knows how to solve all our problems, and won’t even listen to you explain whlie they anxious wait to blurt out their next ignorant and misguided idea. Out here, we have people who are more than activists, their what I refer to as ‘assumists’, and they assume they already know everything because they’re from California.

I won’t pick on California because I love it here and I’ve been able to reap the rewards and live a good life for a long time. I got out because I didn’t fit in and I never did. I think my greatest failure in life was not getting out earlier, but I don’t think I was ready and that’s attached to another failure I have, that I didn’t go to college, or should I say that I didn’t stick with it. I’ll have to explain that all at another point but I definitely think that young people need to travel a lot and see as many different places as possible. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I really started to understand a lot of the information I had accumulated from years of reading about all sorts of different topics. I think if I had front loaded the experiences that the information would have made immediate sense, even though at the time I read it, it made sense to me, I didn’t understand as much about perspective then as I do now. The flow of learning things naturally is often a lot about luck as well!

So, to suffice to say that the perspective is hard to explain to someone who lives here in California, but who has never visited one of these places and has never really seen a fifty year old house trailer on cinder blocks, with junk cars in the yard and kids playing about the broken down machines and what might appear as junk to you. That junk often provides parts and money to the people who collect it. It’s all about the perspective!

The price of rent really hasn’t increased much in the thrity years since I rented my first apartment. I paid $350/month back then and I can find places to rent that are equivalent quality and factors for $4-500 and then a range that’s just all over the place and I’m sure the quality and location as well. A trailer on a hillside, up some hollar with a dirt road is going to a lot cheaper than an apartment in the city but if it’s a new trailer and they have city water, then it costs more. You don’t hear that out here ‘city water’ and it’s been some time since I’ve heard it said, but I kind of miss it. So the rent has barely moved there in a long time but out here it’s ten times what I paid thirty years ago, and 8-9 times more than what I would pay right now if I were in West Virginia. I do see with the pandemic that there are some deals to be had and it looks like prices on apartments have dropped some out here but that will change and go back to normal in no time. Corporations are buying up all the houses out here and eventually will own it all and just rent it back to us.

What has gone up are utilities and the price of food, and guess what, they pay basically the same damn prices for electronics, cell phones, the service for them, etc… and they make a lot less money. Your new TV is the same price, the Internet sucks and is barely available and costs a lot. I have gig fiber at home and I’m super spoiled with it and don’t even have a phone line or cable. Internet is all I need but if you live in West Virginia, you have to get cable and pay too much for it because the Internet isn’t going to good enough to stream everything. You’ll still have to have a land line because you might live somewhere that doesn’t have cell service or Internet at all. Yes, in America that’s entirely true in many regions just like West Virginia. You’d think the east cost of the US would be all fiber and advanced like that but it’s not and more like a third world country in many ways.

So you’re going to move to California and get a job and live the good life for a while. You now understand that you’ll have to save first and last and the deposit, right? So your rent might be $3,000/mo so that will be $9,000 up front and you need money for utilities and the deposits. It really starts to go up and saving northward of 10k for anyone from those areas is a huge thing. Especially in an area where the minimum wage isn’t $15/hr. You need to start saving when you’re five if your dad can keep his job the whole time and your parents don’t need your money. It’s going to take a long, long time to save the money that you have no guarantee will be enough. You really need to find a job that will relocate you but that’s pretty rare unless you’re a highly educated, professional type or a programmer with lots of experience. You do not want to have a plan that involves you sleeping in your car because that will end up bad, every time. You’ll be robbed. If not while sleeping in it or when you’re not with it, someone will break into it or outright steal it. Cars with crap in them get broken into here. It’s a career out here so that’s the worst option. After the car is gone you’ll only have the street and it’s really, really bad out here right now if you live on the street.

It’s all about the money and when you’re from a place like I am, that money seems like it’s on another planet with California. You just daydream of getting out of there and seeing all the amazing things you’ve read about and seen in movies.

At this point you have few other options and I just want to stress again, that sleeping in your vehicle isn’t an option you want to try. There are so many that try and some that are successful at it, but they’re also usually the ones that are permanently living in their vehicles and they’ve got experience and wisdom from the road. They’re figured out a lot of the stuff that you have no idea about and they also figured that stuff out in a different time. California is way different than it was twenty years ago, and another twenty, etc… There’s always been a dangerous element and you know all the movies about serial killers, mad bikers, whatever, it’s just a lot worse these days and there are other, potentially more dangerous elements from the side effects of hateful politics, waiting to explode.

I think you can still manage to couch surf in this crazy, pandemic ridden world, but it will have elements that I never had to deal with. Maybe you can find someone that will let you pitch a tent on their deck or in their enclosed back yard. If there’s a will, there’s always a way to find something safe, or at least safer than the street. You have to remember, if you don’t live our here and have never been out here that there are elements you may have seen on TV but cannot begin to fathom until you experience them in person. Most homeless people do not want to be on the street but have no choice because of numerous factors, and mental health is often a big part. We do have a lot of pandemic displacement but oft times, a lot of that was a from a population of folks, already in tight situations with life that are easily disrupted. Then once they get out there, they’re just one of thousands in a line for soup, or another need. Once you’re on the street, a lot of normally available opportunities go away because or more than perception and bias, but prejudice. Don’t be quick to judge something you have no immediate knowledge or experience with and that’s a common misconception from West Virginians I hear about homeless people. There are a few in WV, and not many. My mother used to make blankets for them. It just gets too cold in the winter and you won’t see them as much, so you just don’t have perspective.

I met a lady online and she made an offer to visit. I took her up and immediately fell in love with it. I’m not saying that you should aim for the same place or ideals; there are many other states and locations where you could upgrade your lifestyle and not spend as much getting there like Florida. The only thing California has in common with Florida is palm trees and sunshine. Absolutely nothing else at all.

My advice is to get an education in the first place and pick a career that has jobs in the place you want to be. I was given my first job in California because they told me they were impressed with me because I just up and moved to California without more than a couch to sleep on. You see, out here, someone will look at that as evidence of ambition and desire. It also shows a ‘can do’ attitude and that you’re not afraid to take a risk. Out here, failure is seen as experience and hopefully wisdom gained. They look at people who don’t move around jobs a lot as though they aren’t ambitious. You have to show a career that looks like you’re eager to climb the ladder. Someone who just sits at the same job doesn’t appear to have ambition here and that’s so backwards from the notion I got growing up in West Virginia where you want to get a job and cling to it by all means. You don’t want to see too ambitious because they’ll fire you. You want to be plain and boring and just hard working.

Breaking into certain industries isn’t easy and many don’t want what they consider outsiders. Take the video game industry. Hard to get in if you’re never had experience! That’s a catch but you just have to get an opportunity and then be able to show them what you’re capable of and that’s not easy. That’s another luck thing and you don’t want to be one of those annoying people who have no real skills and persistently hang out around the game developer hangouts. They show up at all the hiring events and GDC, WWDC, you name it, if it has to do with video games, you can expect some of the same folks, over and over again, trying to get jobs that they just don’t fit. But once you have experience and if you’re a likable person, then there are a lot of opportunities and recruiters and HR managers are more willing to talk to you. Shit, they might even read your resume then. I know film and the music industry are the exact same way and you need a marketable skill and some experience to get in.

If you’re from West Virginia, you probably got pushed to go to some vocational program and learn welding or autobody or something like that. Those are useful skills that once mastererd can earn you a lot of money out here, but you need to be good because they get applications from all 50 states, all the time, from young, eager and ambitious people like you with mad skills.

I don’t know if many Californians know that West Virginias are some of the hardest working people on the planet, but if they’ve ever worked with one they would know. That could be a benefit to you anywhere that has that same experience. As a West Virginian, we are an esoteric anamoly. I think there needs to be a campaign to educate people about just how hard we work but then they might try to lure us all away! But isn’t that what we want? Not really as I would love to see my home state prosper, but until it does, the jobs and money are elsewhere.

It ain’t always about what you think it is

In my travels, I’ve learned a lot of things about people and their nature. I’ve learned that what I’ve learned is just based on my interactions with them and observations of them with me adding my bias and wisdom to sum them up in a way that probably only makes sense to me. From that I try to add some optimism and doubt so that I’m not so sure that I’m not entirely incorrect. What I’m saying is that we only see things from our perspective and we all wear self-tinted glasses, so-to-say. We have impressions we learn from our experiences which won’t match what most other people have. Sure, we will have a lot of common experiences, but there are always unique qualities. Think about two people observing an even take place from different sides of event. One person will see it happen from left to right and the other from right to left and there you already have the premise to make the observations different. Now take a car crash and the driver is killed on the side of the car you are observing. You see the driver die but the other person observing does not and walks away thinking ‘people need to learn to drive’, while you experienced death and a tragedy that you will never forget seeing. Now, let’s take a look at a place and try to think about it like the guy who saw the driver die and not the guy who saw the crash then walked away because he didn’t see the driver die and he was in a hurry anyway.

I’m going to talk to you about West Virginia and I’m going to talk about a few things that I don’t think are well known or understood and that I think need more talking about.

Every time I’ve met a Mexican who has worked with a West Virginian, they’ve offered to buy me a drink. You see, and I haven’t met everyone on the damn planet so I’m not really qualified to say who is the most or best of anything. I only offer up my opinion, from my experience, that Mexicans and West Virginians are the hardest working mother fuckers I know of, on the planet. It’s like a competition to us and if the guy beside us is busting his ass, then we’re going to work harder than they are. So when these two different gentlemen I encountered met someone just like them, they understood it. They had met someone else who has been shit on, used, lied to, abused, murdered and killed and tortured and exploited, since before the places we all name to identify our origins ever existed. We’re both hard workers with integrity that show up every damn day and don’t complain. We do our jobs and that’s just the way it is.

When I moved to North Carolina I got fired from a few jobs because I worked too hard. They even told me that and said that if they didn’t get rid of me then they worried that they would be expected to work as hard or that I’d just get promoted while they didn’t. I would imagine some places automatically rejected us West Virginians on that basis because we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They had developed a working culture in North Carolina that was just plain lazy. I had never seen so many temporary job companies. It was amazing to me that I could just find a job and go work and get paid without driving two hours. I thought I had struck gold at first and got myself a temp job at a mill making carboard tubes. What a braindead thing to do and I quickly thought that there was no way I could do such a repetitive task for more than a few weeks. Fortunately, I worked too hard and they canned me in a few days. Then, I went to another place and it was the same thing. They didn’t like me because I worked hard and didn’t need ten breaks and then didn’t bitch about everything.

I think the lazy work culture was so bad there that the temporary companies came to be more of a need to fill jobs in a very lazy and unreliable workforce. Where I came from people kept jobs for life and clinged to them no matter how bad or toxic they were. But not in North Carolina. They even had all these colloquial sayings like “laying out of work” which took a while for me to understand. It just meant they skipped work that day and didn’t feel like going so they either called in sick or just didn’t go. I would also wager that this systemic laziness caused a lot of the mills and factories to just up and leave. When you don’t have a very reliable workforce that just bitches about everything and then collectively works to oust the hardest working people, you’re creating a scenario that will fail. Big companies are smart and get big by being smart. Places like North Carolina at that time in the mid ninties was difficult to staff and when they did, they had people who would willing cut their own fingers off just to make a phat paycheck and get disability. That’s actually a thing there. My brother used to joke that you could tell how long someone had worked at a mill by the number of missing fingers. And he had examples of people who bragged about doing it.

Had they put those mills and factories in West Virginia… But that state was hard to commerce due to the lack of highways and had huge hills that caused trucks to use a lot more fuel. Building I77 through West Virginia helped the state a lot and at the time was the most expensive road ever built per mile. That interstate was just a little too late and probably still just not enough to compete with areas like North Carolina for factories and mills. I think it was a stupid mistake on the factories and mills because what they ended up with was a lazyass workforce that they would eventually have to bail on. I still don’t think a lot of people get it, but let me say it again, West Virginians are some of the hardest working people on the planet. If you put factories and mills there, you’ll have lifers whose children will want to work the same damn job that their parents did. It’s like all those sad movies but it’s what we do. It’s an ethic that’s inside us and we see it all around us growing up of people who have to work way harder than average for way less than average.

Maybe if CEOs put factories in places where the people work hard, not just that are easy for management to visit… And that’s always been another problem. No one wants to move there and it is kind of depressing in some areas. I’ll even admit that West Viringia in the winter can be kind of ugly with the snow on the grey trees and all the dirty snow on the highways. I remember it more from days long gone where the pollution was a lot worse and the soot showed in winter from the coal. But far worse than that are the areas with all the runnoff from Mountain Top Removal and waste products from mining coal where people can’t drink their own water and can’t sell their house because of it. But, that’s still not as bad as areas like Lake Washington near Parkersburg or many others and potentially some really nasty ones we just don’t know of.

When you think West Virginia, I bet you think about coal. Well, maybe some dumb jokes as well but none I haven’t heard told to me thousands of times like it was going to be the first time ever. But when I think of home, I think of chemical companies. I didn’t have any miners in my family and we didn’t really live near any mines but for just a short time. But the chemical we had all over Parkersburg and in fact they made a movie about it. In the Kanawha River valley we had, and I’m just refering to my memory of 30 years ago but a lot of them are still there, all the big chemical companies. DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Carbide, Corning, etc… I met a lady from Bhopal India and we had a lot in common considering what they went through. We supposedly had more MIC in Belle than they had in Bhopal and probably in very similar conditions. In fact, a number of years after the Bhopal disaster, a tank of something else exploded at Belle and a piece of it laded right beside the MIC tanks. I worked for a carpet cleaning company when I was 16 and we cleaned the carpet in the offices at that plant. It looked nice and clean but what the hell did I know at that age? Nothing.

If that tank had ruptured, it would have went straight into the river and then downstream to the Ohio, then to the Mississippi. As far as I know, that same scenario still exists today and there a shitload of highly toxic chemicals sitting on a flat beside the river. But they’re not the only ones in a similar situation that if disaster struck, it would be in the river, then down to the Gulf of Mexico. We’re just now learning about all the DDT that’s dumped off the coast of California and if they did that in fucking California, what do you think they did in West Virginia where a lot of toxic chemicals are produced? That’s a serious question I would love to have answered, but what hidden places do we have in West Virginia that are just the same or worse? I would be you any amount of money there are plenty, hidden away up some hollar or in an old coal mine or just plan buried somewhere. In the movie Dark Waters that’s about how DuPont poisened people in a hundred mile radius, including me — I have never been tested but we had a cabin at Lake Washington which was right beside that guy in the movie where they found levels of the chemical C8 was around ten thousand times higher than what even DuPont regarded as safe and you know that had to be ultra conservative. So there’s no way I was less than a mile from that and not exposed. My mother had a health monitor and enough said.

The chemical companies have been there for a long time and have left a less visible impression than the coal industry, and will be there long after the coal industry is gone.

Now I hear West Virginia has suffered the biggest loss of population of any state in the last ten years. It was over two million people when I left in the ninties and now it’s 1.79 million. People cite the same reasons I left which were jobs and pay and just wanting to see bigger and better things. West Virginia is at the bottom of a lot of bad lists and at the top of many others. None are good. It’s not an easy life and getting out of there isn’t very easy when you make so little money and the cost of moving to another state means you need to save up the rent and deposit for where you’re going, which is going to be a lot higher than where you ware. I’ve always said that from WV to CA was basically just adding a zero to the end of everything. I’ve paid more in rent in one month in California than I did for a whole year in West Virginia, granted that was 30 years ago, if you look now, the rent price hasn’t changed much in that time. I actually know one person who pays less in one year than I pay in a month. You just have to embrace the scale of economics to understand how hard it is to leave there and why then, everyone wants to get the fuck out.

Let’s recap my thoughts here:

West Virginians and Mexicans are some of the hardest working people on the planet.
West Virginia has as much chemical as coal and we’re ignoring that.
If you think the DDT off the coast of California is a problem, I’d ask you to kindly look at WV.
What hidden gems have the chemical companies produced in WV?
People are leaving WV because a failure of leadership that has been systemic for a long time.
If you put factories and mills in WV, you will get lifelong, hard workers whose kids will come work for you.

I love West VIrginia. I know people will claim I hate the state because of this, but I’d question anyone who uses that bullshit line that I just hate whatever it is I’m supporting because it’s wornout and braindead. You hear it all the time in policitcs that this or that person hates the country or whatever, but if you fall for it, you just didn’t think about it very much did you? I want to see my home state prosper but it won’t as long as it’s still held in the same train of thought and level of thinking that was created all its problems, and kept it there.

Listening to the news about a DDT dump being discovered off the coast of California and I have to ask what else is hidden in the hills of West Virginia? There were a dozen Superfund sites but you know there are more, undiscovered ones waiting to be found. I’m just glad the coal and chemical industries weren’t tighter!

Oh the times we live in…

EDIT: And the typos we miss…

I don’t know where to begin with anything these days. I don’t know where it ends or where it goes or where I’ll even be in a year from now. One year ago, I was still dealing with the loss of my mother and the brunt of consternation as an event that hadn’t happened in 100 years was unfolding all over the world. Now, we have light shining upon us that shows an eventual end to the pandemic and a return to whatever amounts to normal when all is said and done.

I was finally able to get my first dose of the vaccine and although I can’t shake the powerful impression that the sum of loss has given me, I do feel the beginning of hope and the idea of what I once remember to be relaxation. I can’t get comfortable or relax while I know I have some very big events in my immediate future but I feel tension easing and my expectations are slowly becoming …umm, rosy.

I did get laid off but that’s just a small hurdle to me and I always turn it into something positive. I now have time to tackle big, personal tasks that normally require long weekends or vacations. I can record some music which for me, takes extra focus and time and it has to be the only thing I have going on.

For now, I’m trying to sort out all the pieces and put something new together. I hear people my age in this industry are having a hard time finding work so I’m going to be open to more opportunities than before and maybe some that mean some really tough changes. I made it through most of the pandemic employed and fortunately have a cushion but I see that being used and me maybe leaving California. If it takes more than a few months to find a new job then I’ll have to have plans laid out in advance, meaning right now. Then the next big catch is that I won’t be able to find a new home to lease if I don’t have a job… Oh the catches are endless these days and I almost feel like a giant domino was just flipped over and a whole bunch more are about to fall.

Is it too late to become a musician? And be able to support myself? I missed that boat and sadly now it’s probably too late. But you know what? I’m going to try. I’m going to try to write some, record some music, and explore, all while still trying to find a new job. I don’t even know that I want to do the same type of work at this point. I spent the last three years learning as much about Kubernetes and related ecosystems, that I’m a big exhausted and feel like I need a little break. My skills won’t suffer as I am still learning, just not at a break-neck pace. Just yesterday I was learning how to do things in the latest version of Python versus what I learned ten years ago in 2.6/7. I even thought about founding my own startup since I’ve worked for a few and have a lot of experience with the inner parts. Then I can be like those obnoxious people I used to suffer in San Francisco, constantly reminding you that they, are a founder.

I’m going to hook all my social media up again and stop ignoring the only ecosystem of friends I have right now: online — that I’ve also had for many years before the pandemic, but over the last 2-3 I just stopped interacting and let depression take over. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone but my son and then rarely got to see him. I think he has a deep affect on my depression and when I don’t see him, I’m affected. The sum of a few years of that has made me feel almost permanently depressed. I don’t know how else to get out of that because it’s not something I planned or expected. If I never had a child, I never would have had that little part of me; the part of me that loves and pulls me like a magnet. The pain you feel when you miss you child is one you know you will never get over. It’s not like some crush you had in high school, the love for a child is the deepest I think you can have. They are of our own.

What I fear is that my depression has become an unstoppable thing. Too many years of isolation and solitude to a person that never likes to be alone has long lasting effects and I know I have a really strong mind and I’ve always been able to beat my own demons. I just don’t know if I have the ability to even climb out of where I am emotionally and psychologically.

But I am still me and still not broken, yet. I’m going to try to pull a phoenix and see where it gets me. I might throw away everything I can’t fit in my van and just start driving with no real destination in mind — just go North until something interesting makes me go another way. Where that guy failed in ‘Into the Wild’, I know I could survive and mainly because I have better guns and a 4×4. I should probably get the snorkel installed and quit making fun of them but that wouldn’t be any fun. It just makes the Sprinter look like an elephant. Especially a 144″ wheelbase with a high roof and painted grey which a lot are. Okay, just typing this update cheered me up a bit and I have even formulated more plan while doing so.

I might even torture the world, or at least those who might ever actually read my blog, more frequently! I might even post music.

Some Tips…

My Grocery Store Shopping Tips

I’m trying to develop and evolve my routing so writing it down will help and I can share my ideas and get some tips and ideas from others.

–Bring my own bags that have been disinfected or isolated
–Bag all non-perishable items together
–Bag all perishable items together
–Place bags in a designated location upon returning home
–Clean up process
—-Wash hands
—-Remove clothes
—-Sanitized wipes to keys, phone, wallet
—-Clean door handles and entry items I might have touched returning
—-Clean perishable items and place in refridgerator
—-Put perishable items grocery bag in closet isolation

At that point I can either clean the items in the non-perishable bags or just let them wait it out right where they sit.

The Rest of My Routine

For my clothing I’ve been rotating jackets, pants and my hat. When I return home I place the jacket and pants in a specific spot, hanging on the corner of a shelf on the other side of the room. I have 3-4 of these separated by 4-5 feet while handing so I can go a week or so between wearing one set giving it enough time to hopefully, naturally disinfect. So I wear one set out, then hang it for a week in isolation before wearing it again.

I’ve always kept a container of sanitizing wipes and a large pump bottle of hand-sanitizer in the cup holder of the door in my vehicle. After living in SF and getting three MRSA infections from just living there, I became a bit paranoid about it and started disinfecting. So naturally for me to clean things upon returning to my vehicle after pumping gas or going to a store. I even clean the pump handle and buttons at the pump out of generosity.

As of this morning, I shaved my beard off so I can wear some form of respiratory protection. I have some N95 masks but I do not have a surgical style mask. I also don’t sew or having things to make them from so I’ll try to order a few and wait that out and use the N95 for now. I have maybe 25 N95 in a box that I purchased two years ago; I want to donate them but until our guidance on wearing them is clearer, I’ll keep them. If it gets real bad around here I have a few good places bookmarked to donate them. If the surgical masks arrive soon, I’ll donate the lot unless guidance becomes wear N95 only.

I’ve been getting a little takeout and mainly to help support local businesses but I am a little sick of my own cooking! With the takeout the routine is fairly similar but overall I’ve broken myself of touching my face and if I need to, I have either a single-use tissue or wipe to do it with. If I don’t have something with me, I grab my shirt collar or use the inside of my jacket but grabbing it from the outside, then wiping my face.

Equifax Should Go Away

As most everyone who absorbs a daily dose of news knows, Equifax got hacked and now the personal information for 44% of the US population has been stolen. Most likely, if you’re an avid consumer participating in the credit industry machine, your information got pwned. It’s likely that most of the people you know who work, pay bills, use the Internet, and buy things with credit cards or with loans got pwned.

This has got to stop. Equifax was hacked due to Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638, and a patch was available, but not applied to their web-servers!

I do IT stuff. So to say. I also know that no matter what operating system I use that there are automated ways of updating my OS and software. If there aren’t, then I’ll script something that will do it for me. I install security and functional updates as soon as they’re available. I watch the blogs, security advisories, email lists, news feeds, etc… And it’s probably still not enough. If I had the budget, I’d dedicate someone to security as I don’t think even a small company can afford the type of breach that Equifax will most likely weather and carry on, using our personal information as their product.

And we have to face it: we are their product. Our information is what they use to make money. How the hell is that even legal? Oh, probably because money. Money. That tends to drive most everything doesn’t it? Or at least the love of it and the greed for as much as possible. It’s worse than Heroin, as it seems.

The vulnerability that allowed Equifax to get hacked was specific to Apache Struts, a framework for running Java under Apache. It’s not super common because most people running Apache are using PHP — most new servers deployed on the Internet last year (2016) were supposedly using PHP. Anyway, my point is that you shouldn’t worry that it is a common exploit — it’s been patched and Struts is popular, but not used by everyone.

Still, you have to wonder about their architecture that allowed the balance of all their sensitive information to be plucked away so easily. Did they not perform Risk Management? I would think that such a company with such incredibly sensitive information would have. And if they did and it still happened then maybe they hadn’t implemented their plan to fix any weak parts? I just can’t believe that Equifax took information security serious enough. Equifax is a company with the EXACT information that hackers are always looking for — you’re a prime target! When I worked in the video game industry I found out that as developers, you’re targeted constantly and you have to always be proactive. You can never let your guard down. And in the case of Equifax, they’re probably one of the biggest treasure troves a hacker could ever hope for besides the keys to the bank itself.

When I hear about massive IT failures on this level, I first experience a bit of sympathy for the staff and people who have to work 24×7 until it’s fixed and they’re confident the intrusion has been contained. But, with this, their IT staff blundered in such a way that it will most likely affect me and cause me to have to spend my own time dealing with it. It’s a huge inconvenience to me, their unwilling product.

Deep in my heart, I’d like to see Equifax go away. I’d like to see it sued out of existence. I’d like to see the government step up and slap some hardcore regulations on the industry but there’s no chance of that happening right now. In fact, sad to say, all we can do right now is be mad and buy some credit protection. We don’t have a choice but to be part of this credit industry machine — there’s no way off this ride if you want to be an active part of society and buy things. Even greater is the affect the credit industry has had on renting property, leasing, and even employment — what happens now?

I want to see regulations that say they can’t keep my personal information at all. But you know that’s not going to happen — we have an established industry that has money to lobby and influence. I’d like to see regulations in place that prevent them from at least storing my SSN but that’s the key identifier in credit reporting. A number that was never intended to be used for it — but try to get credit or a loan without giving it up.

So the way I see it now is that they have us and there’s little to nothing we can do aside of hoping for laws and regulations to protect our information. When industry giants screw up it can hurt everyone and in this case, it probably will. We’re their product, unwillingly. And in America, corporations have more power than me or you.