Beard Blog’s five best albums of 2018

My picks for the best 5 albums of 2018, ranked not by best to worst, but by release date. These albums were selected for their overall enjoyability. It is becoming more rare that albums are enjoyable from beginning to end.

Man of the Woods by Justin Timberlake – 2/2/18

Motw

Justin Timerblake’s 5th solo album (counting 20/20 experience as two separate albums) explores new sounds. JT is dabbling in some country styles and it lands very well with his new “Man of the Woods” persona.

Beerbongs and Bentleys by Post Malone – 4/27/18

Bb

The second album by Post Malone shows his growth in the music business as well as proving that he’s for real and here to stay.

Dan + Shay – 6/22/18

D+S

The third and self titled album by country duo Day + Shay who are famous for taking the Rascal Flatts style and bringing it into modern country music.

This One’s For You Too by Luke Combs – 6/1/18

LC

The re-release or “deluxe version” of This One’s For You released a year prior by Luke Combs. The 2018 album completes his debut into country music after being discovered from Vine.

Kamikaze by Eminem – 8/31/18

Mm

The 10th album by Eminem and according to Marshall, a makeup for his last pop-ish album. This album goes back to classic Eminem with funny lyrics, great rhymes and personal attacks. No holds barred.

 

Take time, before we get too deep into 2019 to take a listen to these albums if you haven’t yet.

Bonus: Here’s an Apple Music playlist with all 5 albums 

The Eternal Jukebox

My Last Ten Albums, Ever

eternal-jukebox

Music is Important to Me

A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.

There Are Some Rules

Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox. 

“Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”

These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.

Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.

Eternal Jukebox Library

Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.

  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
  • Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
  • Ed Sheeran – X
  • Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
  • John Mayer – Continuum
  • Ma$e – Harlem World
  • Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
  • Nelly – Country Grammar
  • Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
  • Sublime – Sublime
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    Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Continue reading “The Eternal Jukebox”

    Artificial Intelligence: The Downfall of Humans

    Us humans are programmatically extinguishing ourselves out of existence

    ai-brain

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the latest buzzwords you hear in the media, but it’s been around for a long time. AI is defined as intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast natural intelligence is displayed by humans and other animals. Even the simplest of machines or activities can have AI. Think about the last time your received coupons in the mail for a grocery store or department store. Using AI, that company determined the set of coupons you should receive to increase the probability of you visiting to their store or website. It’s straightforward and sometimes helpful, but that’s just the tip of this very large iceberg.

    When I think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous machines I get excited for what the future holds. At the same time I start to ruminate about what all of this will mean for the future of us mortals. If we continue to build machines that learn, think, and live on their own, without our interaction, we could be creating our own extinction. 

    “The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. “

    Humans are currently the most advanced and smartest race on the planet Earth. Most of us have compassion, foresight, and morals which lends us to save inferior organisms like plants and animals. The plants and animals also offer us the resources we need to survive. Machines that aren’t based on needing plants, animals, or humans will have no use for those objects. Last time I checked, the advanced computers and machines using AI today don’t have any compassion or ideologies to prevent them from one day purging the Earth of humans.

    Creating an Artificial Existence

    Let’s start to perceive how AI evolution would occur that might force us humans out of continuation. Humans have created complex machines that can think for themselves as well as learn new ideas. Because humans are so diligent, most of the world’s information is procurable digitally on the internet. A high-powered machine could easily graze through all the information on the internet and learn everything, thus making that machine the smartest being in existence. The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. This machine, that I’m going to call BAE (Ben’s Artificial Existence), after years and years of studying old and new enlightenment, would be more powerful than anything we’ve seen to date.

    Let’s assume BAE has learned all the factual bits from the internet. BAE now knows how to speak, read, and write in every documented language on the planet. It also knows how to build anything (provided it’s blueprints were available on the internet). Lastly, with all the programming language information available (especially on the subject of AI) BAE is now a world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expert. Because BAE is smart and is, presumably, self-aware it now has the means to upgrade itself. BAE can make phone calls (in any language), open bank accounts, trade on the stock markets, take over other machines; the list goes on and on. After a while BAE could start to reprogram other machines, creating a botnet army. BAE could also invent new technologies to make itself and it’s army untouchable. Before we know it, BAE has millions of machines that are self-sufficient, self-aware, and no longer have a use for the human race.

    Now let’s crawl back up out of that rabbit hole. All of this seems far fetched and is a lot like the plot of the movie ‘Transcendence’. The way people are advancing technology and all the information we have out there, it does seem that someday it could be possible. It’s also entirely possible that there are a few intelligent and prudent humans who can program compassion, sacrifice, and self-worth into machines. In that case we would have the ultimate personal assistant / companion.

    Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not from machines taking over the world. In reality, it seems humans will destroy ourselves before something else.

    Beard Blog Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

    Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come?

    three billboards
    Mildred Hayes and her billboards

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and twisted tale about a mother and the tragic loss of her daughter. Frances McDormand plays a foul-mouthed smooth talking country woman who seems to have reached the end of her wits. After almost a year since her daughter was brutally murdered and no news from the Police, Mildred (McDormand) calls out the police chief in a very public way, on three billboards.

    This movie isn’t about catching the murderer of Mildred’s daughter. It’s not about how she was raped and burned alive. It’s also not about how small town police departments are often notoriously complacent. This movie is about exactly what the title says, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The billboards go up and the the small town around them comes crashing down. 

    “An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises.”

    Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite lesser-known actors. After Three Billboards… he cements himself on that list. Rockwell’s performance should land him an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Officer Jason Dixon. Throughout the film you can see his character evolve and by the end you start to feel sorry for him, even after almost two hours of hatred.

    The rest of the cast is great and they all turn in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson somehow jerks the tears right from your face while still making you laugh. McDormand’s rough exterior eventually cracks and you can see the shining light that’s been trying to get out for the entire movie. John Hawkes has a great supporting role as Mildred’s estranged husband. There’s even a surprise role by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage’s portrayal of James is delightful and well-spoken as usual.

    In summary, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fun, but deep down it’s tragic. We are carried through various instances of death and despair but writer Martin McDonagh peppered in enough comedy to keep us sane.

    Who should see this movie?
    Fans of dark comedies, viewers looking for an original movie, and people who like great screen performances.

    Who shouldn’t see this movie?
    People who don’t like natural (vulgar) language – It is rated R. That’s it. Everyone should see this film.

    Score

    9 / 10 – An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises. One of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.

    See more of my movie reviews here

     

    Spoilers

    Caution! Spoilers ahead.

    Continue reading “Beard Blog Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)”

    SUV Search: Complete

    Most new SUVs are good, but none are perfect.

    suv-search

    My wife and I are in the market for a new SUV this fall. We are looking to replace our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, not because we hate it, but because our lease is about to come to an end. There are so many options out there that fit our needs, which could be why this segment is becoming the most popular among car manufacturers today.

    Feature Rich

    We have a very specific wishlist for this next SUV, mainly because of what we have already been accustomed to. Most of the items are luxuries or technology based goodies that we feel every car should have.

    • Remote startpullquote
    • Heated / ventilated front seats
    • Large panoramic sunroof
    • Heated steering wheel
    • Apple CarPlay compatible stereo
    • LED daytime running lights
    • Factory-installed hitch
    • Powered lift-gate

    Not that bad of a list right?

    In addition to those refinements, we really need a car that has an engine that can really move when we need to. We previously had a vehicle with an undersized engine and while it was good on gas, merging onto the highway proved to be somewhat dangerous. Some of the options we’re looking at vaulted us into the luxury SUV space which we didn’t want to tread in. Companies like BMW, Lexus, and Jaguar have great offerings but we did not want to get in on the low-end of their trim levels to meet our budget.

    Narrowing It Down

    In January of this year, we traveled to Detroit for the North American Auto Show to take a look at some potential new models. We came away from this show mostly disheartened by the fact that our beloved Jeep was not changing and thus not keeping up with the influx of technology in this space. The early leader leaving the show was the newly redesigned GMC Terrain. Remember that car I mentioned earlier that had a very underpowered engine? That was a 2013 GMC Terrain with a 4-cylinder lawnmower engine that would redline going up the slightest hill. Needless to say, we only owned that car for about six months. There was some hesitation to lean towards the new Terrain, but the new 2.0 turbocharged engine seemed like a good upgrade that we’d be happy with. Leaving the show I was just about set on getting the new Terrain, in fact, if they would have offered a trade right then and there, I probably would have taken it. They didn’t offer me a new 2018 GMC Terrain on the spot, so we decided to sleep on it.

    Fast forward eight months and we’re still looking at new cars coming out and deciding what we’re going to do. We have a slight deadline because our lease is set to expire sometime in October of this year. Lots of time ahead, but we aren’t taking this decision lightly. While the GMC Terrain is still in the running, we’ve had some other potentials come into view. The 2017.5 Nissan Murano checks all of our boxes and looks pretty cool too. We took a Sunday trip to our local Nissan dealer (because they are closed on Sundays) and eyeballed some new Muranos. This spelled bad news for the Murano because it just doesn’t look at good in person as it does in promotional photos. Now back to one again, the original GMC Terrain that started courting us in January.

    There has always been one wildcard in our race, but it only had the support of half the votes. I have really admired the Volvo XC60 since it’s redesign last year, and even added it to my list. Volvo is a great car company, and they know it, which is why the are now moving up the price list and becoming more of a luxury brand than ever before. My wife has never been impressed by either the XC60 or XC90. “Volvos are for old people, and I’m not old yet” exclaims my wife every time I mention the Volvo SUV. I’ve realized that’s a fight I cannot win, and thus we move on.

    The Winner

    A strange, almost divine series of events have unfolded lately that lead us to pick our next SUV. I was doing more research as I always do and found that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokees were soon entering production. I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s new on the 2018 model year?”, turns out, just enough. The upcoming Grand Cherokee updates included one key feature that was missing from all previous Grand Cherokee models, Apple CarPlay. This was the one feature we had to have, not because it’s cool, new, and easy to use, it’s because most car infotainment system are downright horrible. The ability to essentially mirror your iPhone on your car’s screen for music and maps is monumental. Along with the addition of CarPlay, Jeep brought back a new special edition trim called High Altitude which fits our styling tastes perfectly. The basics of this special edition are removing all the chrome accents, including the Jeep badges, and replacing them with matte finish dark accents. This creates a very modern take on a more luxurious trim.

    If all goes well with finances and timing, we will be leasing a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee High Altitude in white.
    IMG_5768

    How I Did The Research

    Over the last 10 months I’ve been researching mid-size SUVs as they are announced and adding them to a spreadsheet to compare the specifications. I have posted it here so that you all can see the various types of specs I was comparing and how the different vehicles stack up. You’ll also notice that I went after specific trim levels on each SUV and only cared about certain features. This was mostly due to the fact that almost all SUVs in this class are going to perform the same and have the same overall sizing.

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about my research and hope this will help someone else make a decision on a very large purchase. I will definitely post an update once we finally get our new SUV.


    Click here for spreadsheet

    The Apple Watch : A Retrospective

    On April 25, 2015, I received my first generation Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch. You can read my original review here, where I talk about moving away from traditional watches and a Fitbit. Now, a year later I still have my same Apple Watch, and a whole new love for it.

    Over the last 12 months, I have worn my Apple Watch 99% of the time I was awake. There may have been a day or two I forgot to put it on or did not charge it. After so long, it now becomes habit to want to check my wrist for messages, activity, and weather. At it’s core, which is receiving iPhone notifications, telling the time and showing me on-demand information on the watch face, the Apple Watch is a necessary device for my lifestyle.

    Between my wife and I, we accumulated a good collection of sport bands in various colors to keep the look fresh. One of the joys of the Apple Watch is changing the band every morning to better match my clothing choice for the day.

    I’ll admit that I don’t use the Apple Watch to it’s full technological extent. Third-party apps, different faces, and glances have all become secondary features. The watch is now more of an appliance in my life and a fashion accessory. That’s more than I can say for my iPhone which is somewhat an appliance, but more an entertainment device.

    After a year, what I use my Apple Watch for is very simple:

    • Telling time (like a traditional watch)
    • Keeping track of time (alarms, timers, etc.)
    • Checking the weather (watch face complication)
    • Tracking activity (workouts, steps, standing, etc.)
    • Getting alerts from my iPhone (iMessages, emails, etc.)

    That’s about it. Can’t imagine what my day would be like without it.

    As Apple said, this is a very personal device indeed.

     

    How an iPad Can Replace your Laptop or Desktop Computer

    Home computing is not the way it once was. 15 years ago every home had a big white/off-white box in one room of the house where people would spend hours typing and clicking away. Today, you do that same time wasting twice as fast and from your couch in front of the TV. We are getting much better at consuming multiple sources at once, but the content is being more dumbed down because it’s usually distracted by another source. Whatever the case may be, we may need to better think how the home computer is classified. Continue reading “How an iPad Can Replace your Laptop or Desktop Computer”

    Technology brings us together

    During this holiday season, when you visit with your families and friends, some of that time may be blocked by bright screens in front of their faces. For the last couple of years, we may have thought this was a bad thing. In the soon-to-be year 2016, I think that has become something more.

    This year instead of everyone sinking into their chairs with the soft glow of LED screens on faces, I’ve seen families and friends come together over technology. From talking about iCloud backups to Uber driving, it now seems our time together also includes some tech talk.

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    My home is smarter than yours.

    “Smart Home” electronics are the current flavor of the month. Manufacturers are trying to get everything in your house to be connected to the internet. This may sound like a benefit for the consumer, but do companies of ulterior motives? Are they using the cool factor to collect usage, demographic, and personal information? I don’t really care, things products are just damn cool! Continue reading “My home is smarter than yours.”

    The Future is Not Here…

    …and we may never see it!

    When we read about the future in books or watched it on the silver screen, everything seemed so integrated and smooth. Now that we’re finally here [the future] is convoluted, fragmented, and restricted. Let me explain each of those as I drive my point home.

    Continue reading “The Future is Not Here…”