Amazon Fire Stick

This is my living room, our new T.V., and the remote to our Amazon Fire TV Stick. We have had a few T.V. streaming boxes and a Playstation 3, which we used for streaming, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick has become our favorite!

– Very affordable
– Easy to use
– Remote is great to use, small, and feels quality
– Faster wireless streaming than all our other TV streaming boxes

– Inputs and outputs are very limited

Right now these cost about $40. I already know that there are better TV boxes on the market, but the Amazon Fire TV Stick is my favorite of the cheapest ones. I am just using this for Spotify, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and Plex mostly. It has 8 GB of storage, so I know that it could also be used for playing Android Video Games, which is pretty cool! My favorite use for this is using it along with my Plex Media Server, which I will have to share how I do that in a future blog.

I really like the look of the menu. The screen saver often shows beautiful photographs of landscapes from around the world.

Because of how well the Amazon Fire TV Stick works, and how cheap the price is, I want to get one for every T.V. in my house. I highly suggest this for a cheap T.V. streaming solution, but not if you need more inputs and outputs such as USB and Ethernet.

PocketGo Portable Retro Emulation Handheld


I got the Pocket Go for Christmas this year from my friend Cameron from my band Motor City Skyline. He said as he gave me the gift, “Ben, you always give great gifts at Christmas and I wanted to out-do you this year. I hope you like it!” Now being late January, which is about a month that I have had this system, I have been having a lot of fun with it for sure! It is my most played handheld system now. I will be listing the pros and cons of the system in my opinion and then talk about the system and my experience with it.

– Screen color and brightness is great
– Adjustable sound with slide control
– It emulates GameBoy Advance and earlier systems great!
– Easy to recharge
– Saves game progress automatically
– Sound is loud
-Fits in your pocket easily

– Screen is smaller than I would prefer
– Updating firmware and adding ROMS was challenging
– Battery life is short (about 4 hours per charge)

Shortly after receiving my PocketGo, I wanted to get it set up and playing as soon as possible. I was determined to just get it done one night and at least get it good enough to where I can have fun with it. I changed out the A,B, X, and Y buttons to the other color that came with the system. Doing so meant that I had to take the whole thing apart, change the buttons, then put it back together. After that I had to use my laptop to upgrade the firmware and also add my rom files. This involved searching the internet for a bit to find the firmware file and also downloading special software to add the rom files. The entire setup for me took about 3 hours. That was not fun, but I got it all done that night.

Now that I have the system, I find myself playing it just about every day! I had a Sega Game Gear as a kid, then I got a Nintendo DS right after finishing college. I felt like I missed out on the Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. Now that I have the Pocket Go, I can play those classic games anytime I want. I don’t have to worry about batteries, and I can easily save my progress!

I mostly use this system for playing games designed for handheld systems. It can play Sega Genesis games well, but I much more prefer playing those on my living room T.V. I would suggest the Pocket Go system for someone wanting a great way to play classic handheld systems in the most portable way!

Changing careers to Graphic Design

I am working on transitioning to a new career of Graphic Design and/or media related field. I have been designing graphics with a computer on-and-off since I was 15 and started playing guitar. I am excited to take my hobby to the next level, learn more, express myself more, be creative, and open more doors in my life. Here is a link to my portfolio.

My Biggest Recording Weakness: Failing to Complete Audio Projects

My biggest recording weakness is failing to complete audio projects, and this year it has changed and will changed. My biggest failure is not completing two albums of two bands that I was in 5 to 10 years ago. These are some rules and strategies that I am doing now to overcome my weakness and thus make completing audio projects efficiently a strength.

  1. Do all or most of the editing during recording process while the band is there. Don’t leave editing for later.
  2. Get the tone, performance, and being in tune all right during tracking.
  3. Capture amp tone and DI signal of the guitar in case the tone isn’t right during tracking.
  4. Always have a completed goal recording in the session to compare my current project to.
  5. Check EQ with an audio analyzer.
  6. Only take on small recording projects and complete those before moving on to bigger projects.
  7. Set goals for each day of recording and mixing.
  8. Know when to call it good enough and move on to the next task.
  9. Understand that past struggles and failures have been learning experiences.
  10. Persevere. Never give up. You can do this.
  11. Make due with the gear you have.
  12. Continue to buy gear; especially gear that will make the process easier and faster.
  13. Communicate clearly with the band what type of project they are doing. Is this a fast demo or take lots of time well polished recording.
  14. Have fun and take breaks.
  15. Have work and life balance.
  16. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or a second opinion.

Now I have this list done so I can easily check it and stay on task. If all goes well, I should be releasing lots of music in the short future.

Weight Loss

In a world with an abundance of food, and being surrounded by processed foods, sugar, and caffeine, it has been challenging for me to become fit. I have been working on reaching my weight loss goals for years, and these are things in my daily routine that I do in order to lose weight. This information might be helpful to others, or it may not. The importance is to try to find a routine that will work for you and fit into your life.

Ben’s Weight Loss Rules:

  1. Start the day with a glass of water.
  2. No food or drink other than water until lunch time.
  3. Only eat two meals a day.
  4. Time limit eating to 45 minutes for the whole day. Ex: 15 minute lunch and 30 minute dinner.
  5. Only two drinks other than water a day.
  6. Pop is a treat and should be consumed very rarely.
  7. No energy drinks.
  8. Cook most of my meals from scratch.
  9. Walk outside.
  10. Take the stairs.
  11. Stretch often.

Macaroni and Cheese

This is a simple macaroni and cheese recipe, which doesn’t involve making a rue. It can be done in one pot. The pasta water will bring the sauce all together. It is extremely important to not drain off that pasta water.

Serves: 3 to 4 people


For cooking macaroni:
1 cup Macaroni
1 3/4 cup Water
1/4 tsp Salt

For cheese sauce:
4 tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Milk
3 oz Cheddar (cut into small chunks)
4 slices of American Cheese

Other tools:
Pot and Lid


  1. Add water to a pot and bring to boil on the stove.
  2. Add salt and macaroni, then stir.
  3. Cook until pasta is fully cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not overcook pasta!
  4. When pasta is about 2 minutes from being done, add the butter.
  5. When pasta is done add milk, stir and return to light boil.
  6. Turn off heat. Add cheddar, and American cheese. Stir then cover with lid.
  7. Wait about 7 minutes for everything to melt, then uncover and stir. Your macaroni and cheese is now done.
  8. If cheese needs to melt a little more, then you can turn the heat on low and stir for a little bit to finish.

French Onion Chip Dip

This chip dip is my take on Quality Dairy’s French Onion Dip.  I served this at my family’s Pumpkin Carving get together this year, and it was a huge hit!  This is so easy to make, and there is no cooking involved.  Be warned that it is addictive.  Enjoy!

Serves: 1 to 2 people

1 tbsp Milk
16 oz of Sour Cream
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Parsley
1/4 tsp Mayonnaise
1 bag of your favorite original or rigged potato chip for dipping


1. Transfer sour cream in to mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Add all of your ingredients and mix well.
3. Put in storage container, cover, and set in refrigerator for preferably 4 hours to let the spices marry.
4. Stir before serving.

Vilest’s First Show

Justin Parkhouse and I at The Loft in Lansing, MI 6-22-19 – Photo Credit: Candace Robinson

My band Vilest finally had our first performance ever! It was a ton of fun! There is also a long story leading up to finally performing.

I have been a guitarist in a handful of bands in the Lansing, MI area, but it has been a long time since I have performed live. The story of Vilest for me starts with my last heavy metal band.

I was a founding member of a melodic metal band called Toilsome from Lansing, MI. We were active from 2002-2008. In that time we recorded a few E.P.s an L.P. and did a few tours. When that band ended there was a huge void in my life for playing extreme, heavy, dark music. I continued to play rock music, but skill level for fast playing went downhill quite a bit. I knew I wanted to get back into playing that kind of music. Also, I had a lot of challenges balancing work, school, home, and band life. I was still in a band called Quarter Past Never, which evolved into Motor City Skyline.

In 2016 I reached out to a metal band on looking for a guitarist. I auditioned, got the position, and began playing music with musicians that were previously from a Lansing, MI band As Empires Decay.

The new band had a few songs, and now a complete lineup of members. They were patient with teaching me the songs, we were working on a band name, and we were talking about playing a small show. Hindsight is that it would take another 3 years to hit that milestone.

In short over those 3 years following Vilest’s formation, the instrumentalists all grew tighter in their skill, wrote more songs, and became hungry to play a show. At the same time we had a lot of vocalists in the band that just didn’t work out. The main reason most of them didn’t work out was because they would fail to show up to band practice.

So now it’s 2019 we have a new singer, the band sounds good, and we want to play a show but we don’t have lyrics. We then got a show offer to perform and play a tribute show to any band of our choosing. We talked it over with the band and decided that was a good opportunity to get back on the scene, and it was a good goal to push up. We decided to do a full set of songs by the band In Flames and we had about 2 months to prepare. After learning songs for a month our singer stopped showing up, and communicating. We immediately got a fill-in vocalist and a fill-in for the fill-in, and practice continued. There was also a change in the set list to help out the new vocalist.

We continued to prepare by learning the songs, and getting tighter, while feeling the pressure of the deadline getting closer, but sounding better and better each practice. We knew we could do a good job.

The day of the show finally arrives and we have sold almost all of our tickets. We knew there was going to be a lot of support for us.

We performed those songs very well, had a lot of fun, made some contacts with other bands, and completed our goal of playing our first show! Now that I have recently been on stage I want to know when I get to do it again next. I am feinding, like a caffeine addict, to play another show! Special thanks to the band members of Vilest: Chris, Cody, Dustin, and Theron. Also special thanks to our fill-in vocalist Justin Parkhouse and our fill-in to the fill-in Ben from Canada Dry. Thanks to the other bands: Laurentian Tides, Cold Faction, Dedlights, Freak on a Leash, The Maension, and Square Hammer! Thanks to the promoter Alfonso Civile of Heartsick, and The Loft! Lastly thanks to our friends and family that bought tickets and came out to support us in following our dreams!

BBQ Sauce

This is my homemade barbecue sauce recipe. So far it’s really good, but a little too sweet for me. It is still a good starting point!


1 1/2 cup Ketchup
2 tbsp Honey
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke
2 tbsp Molasses


  1. Put ketchup in a pot and cook on stove at low heat.
  2. Add all of the other ingredients.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Turn off heat and transfer to a bottle or storage container.



In this recipe I use a food processor, but it isn’t needed. You can just finely chop up the jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro.

28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
28oz can Diced Tomatoes (drained)
1 Jalapeno Pepper (half with seeds and half without seeds)
4 cloves Garlic (or add Garlic Powder to taste)
1 Lime
2 tbsp Salt
1 handful of Cilantro chopped (about 1 tbsp)
1 large Onion (or 1 and 1/2 smaller Onions)
1 and 3/4 cups Water
Food processor (optional)
Cutting board
Large spoon


  1. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes to a food processor.
  2. Chop up jalapeno pepper (half with seeds and half without seeds), salt and garlic, then add to food processor.
  3. Cut lime in half, and squeeze juice into food processor, then pulse.
  4. Add a handful of cilantro to food processor, then pulse.
  5. Transfer to large bowl.
  6. Add 1 can of diced tomatoes (drained), 1 chopped onion, and 1 3/4 cups water to the bowl and stir.
  7. Transfer to storage containers. I prefer glass containers because of the tomato. Put in refrigerator for 2 days, then your salsa will be ready to eat!