Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Time to get moving.

I hopped on a scale this past weekend and was kind of surprised that I have not put on as much weight this fall/winter has I did last year. This despite my lack of discipline on the treadmill and the trainer. Been getting quick treadmill workouts in maybe 2 times a week. And the stinking bike is still not hooked up to the trainer in the basement. Ugh.

There is time before the real spring riding weather hits for my backside to get reacquainted with the saddle on the Felt, but I can't keep fooling myself too much longer. I have not set goals for the 2007 season, but if I can improve on my 2006 milage, complete the longer challenge ride routes up in Wisconsin (the 200k routes west of Madison), and keep up with the faster riders, I'll be a happy camper.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day recap

Well, another celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and lengthening daylight has passed. The risk of broken ankle has increased about threefold in our house. Toy-mania. It's incredible how much stuff kids can have.

In the end, they return to the tried-and-true beat-up/worn-down plush doll that gets them from dawn till dusk and beyond. Or it's whatever is conveniently located to pop into the mouth, if you happen to be 6 months old.

What's with packaging these days? Every plastic trinket has to be shrink-wrapped and then connected by wire, which is then twisted a dozen times and then taped down for good measure. The Chinese must have a pretty good racket going to have to package everything thus. They have to be laughing, too, at all this junk they sell to the rest of the world.

In any case, as usual, I got more than I needed. A half dozen CD's, including the most wonderful Ways Not To Lose by The Wood Brothers. Chris Wood (of Medeski Martin & Wood) and his brother Oliver just laying down sly, funky, chill acoustic tunes. Incredibly relaxing and engaging at the same time. As for other loot: Got the requisite socks (DeFeet wool Blazes, nonetheless!), requisite shirt/sweater combo, a wind vest for riding, another Bernard Cornwell book (The Winter King), a Mag Light flashlight, and a pound of good Caribou coffee. Also got a Borders gift certificate, which will be put to good use, I'm sure.

Alright. Now it's time to get back to work.

Selah, Cheers, Huzzah, and Salud!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand...

Cool Hand Luke was on AMC the last few nights. I was able to catch the first hour one night and the last 30 minutes or so last night. What a quality film. I mean, seriously, this movie could be released today and not feel dated. And probably win or at least be nominated for some awards. They just don't make them like that anymore, it seems.

George Kennedy as Dragline is awesome. He can't quite figure out Luke, but looks up to him the same. I always forget that Mr. Walton and Dennis Hopper are among the prisoners. And the "What we've got here is a failure to communicate..." monologue is easily one of the greatest speeches in all of moviedom. I'll even forgive Guns n' Roses for using it in "Civil War."

Make sure your kids eventually see CHL it when they are old enough to appreciate it. This is one for the ages.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Shot In The Arm

Was listening to Wilco's live album Kicking Television on my way to work today. Always loved the band and the discs prove to be very worthwhile. Their sound has changed tremendously since Jeff Tweedy spun the band off of Uncle Tupelo in the mid-90s. I caught them about a dozen times between 1994 and 1999. The music went from the alt-country guitars/mandolin/violin sounds of Uncle Tupelo to the keyboard-laden Summerteeth to the more experimental Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Kicking Television is filled with synth and keyboards and guitars. Very good stuff.

Checking my drafts, I found this comment on the third time I saw the band.

Wilco - 1995 - American Theatre, St. Louis - On a whim caught this show the night before Thanksgiving. It was the third time I had seen the band and the first time I saw them delve into the more adventurous side of their catalog a full year before Being There came out. When Jeff Tweedy began pacing the stage screaming "I AM SO..... OUT OF TUNE.... With you..." in "Sunken Treasure," the audience seemed a bit confused, but as the song sank in, we knew something good was happening. Opener at this show was Paul Kelly.

Moving to Chicago in 1997, I would catch the band in various venues, including Lounge Ax, which was their defacto home base until it was shut down. Tweedy would test out songs there and the band would play warm-up gigs before going out on the road. What a fun place to see them. Loud. Cheap (once they played a free show billed as "a band whose name rhymes with Bilco."). This was before they blew up and could easily sell out the Auditorium Theatre for several nights in a row. I think the last time I saw them was late in 1999 when they opened for REM at the World down in Tinley Park. They weren't as much fun in such a massive shed.

I'll have to think more on the shows. The venues were all different. Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, The Blind Pig in Champaign (just a bar, really), the aforementioned American Theatre, Lounge Ax, The Riviera, the 1998 Guinness Fleagh festival at Arlington Race Course. All were great places to see them play.

Good times.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Few Centuries Later

Through the end of The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte and on to new things. I will read the next book in Whyte's series, The Eagle's Brood, but I don't feel a pressing need to start it. It will be there when I'm ready to see what the new viewpoint of Merlyn has to say. I did pick up the book at the library, but also picked up Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom. About 40 pages in and it is enjoyable and engaging. Not knowing much of the first millennium in England, it's nice to get at least a fictional account of how Britain has been invaded/conquered/colonized/defended throughout history. In Cornwell's book, it's the 9th century and Danish Vikings are invading. Swords, warfare, kings, earls, and general mayhem. Makes for great cold weather reading.

I've got other books on my to-be-read pile, but getting up this head of steam to read is slow. I can't seem to get myself to pick up the fifth Harry Potter book. Maybe before the movie is released I'll get to that one. A few others waiting for attention: Raymond Feist's Magician; K.J. Parker's The Colours In The Steel; Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I've got a whole wish list over on Amazon to keep me going for a while. Many suggestions culled from over at ASOIAF bulletin board.

Oh yeah, I am eagerly waiting for the final installment of Hunter S. Thompson's correspondence, due to be released just after the start of 2007: The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings, and Missives from the Mountaintop 1977-2005 . One of my favorite collections ever is volume one of the HST letters, The Proud Highway. Insanely entertaining and informative. Well, maybe "insanely" is the wrong word there, as HST was not yet into his gonzo phase at that point. He was struggling. The insanity hits in the second volume, Fear & Loathing in America. In any case, HIGHLY recommended.

Speaking of the library, I can't believe I have not been checking out books there all along! My local library is a
beautiful new facility right on the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois. It's cool to pick up a few books to peruse, find a quiet spot on the second floor, and enjoy the view of the river and far bluff.

Running in front of the library is the Fox River Trail, which is part of an extensive network of bike paths that run throughout the Chicago 'burbs. The weather's colder, but not too cold, so perhaps a ride along the path is called for. I was out there the Monday after our warm Thanksgiving (and just before the first major snowfall of the season) and the path was pretty much deserted. Very peaceful.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Kickstarting the Reading Habit

Been trying to get my mind into more reading. It's tough to find the peace and quiet needed with two wee ones in the house, but I have had some time to delve into some plot-driven historical fiction. Right now I'm reading The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte, the follow up to The Skystone. It's set in the last stages of Roman control of Britain in the late 4th Century. The story provides ancestral background for Arthur and Merlin, as well as the origins of the sword Excalibur. It's none too complicated, which is exactly what I needed to kickstart my consumption of literature.

I picked up Whyte's Skystone after seeing it for $3.99 in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of a Borders or Barnes & Noble back in November. It's nice to find a bargain and enjoy the product. Trolling the Sci-Fi/Fantasy stacks is filled with a lot of temptation, as I'm a sucker for the brightly colored, garishly illustrated covers, but I have bought enough books in my past to know that an epic drawing doesn't always mean I'll be entranced by the story within.

The $3.99 price was similar to the same way I picked up George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, which sucked me into his A Song Of Ice And Fire saga last December. Four massive tomes filled with amazing intrigue, incredible politics, and about a million secrets left to be revealed. I found Martin's work by looking at the online reviews for Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which I think is up to like 11 books now. I read the first four in that series a few years back, but the books got stuck in too many sub-plots and not enough moving toward the inevitable "final conflict." Many reviews echoed this feeling and so many mentioned Martin that I just had to check him out. Now I am eagerly anticipating the fifth installment, A Dance With Dragons, which he is still writing.

I've got a list of books to check out from the library and a stack here at home waiting for my attention. Just need to find that time!