Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A birthday tune. Sort of.

Happy Birthday to the much better half of my whole!

This one's for you.... :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Behold! The McLovins!

Who doesn’t love a band that starts in mom and dad’s basement rec room. These guys are the next big thing.

The McLovins. An apropos moniker. I want to see these guys in concert.

Note for note on much of Phish’s “You Enjoy Myself.”

A funky version of The Meters "Cissy Strut"

And they even have an original or two out there. The title of this song is perfect:
“Please Refund These Sleeping Pills”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Training Wheels

I'm terrible at dedicating myself to good health and fitness. No matter how many times I say I'm going to start working on the core, or lifting some weights, or eating sensibly, it just doesn't seem to happen. Horrid self control.

But when it comes to some aerobic work, I was pretty disciplined last winter about hitting the treadmill and eventually the trainer. It helped out significantly in losing some weight and gaining some endurance once cycling season hit. I didn't start in earnest until after the new year, but it did help. This year I planned on starting a bit earlier to stave off the holiday lazy poundage that so easily occurs.

With that, yesterday I hooked up the bike to the trainer. The loud, boring, go nowhere trainer. It's a necessary evil if I plan on being able to hang with anyone next spring for more than the three miles of warm up on the Tuesday night ride.

Having something to watch is essential or the trainer/treadmill become unbearable for more than about 10 minutes. With some entertainment to distract attention away from the monotony, time slips by more efficiently.

Anyway, here's the Winter Training Camp setup. Note the massive 19" color TV, the luxurious surroundings, and the lovely scale off to the bottom right corner. Gotta know that progress is being made, or at least regression kept at bay, no?

Alright, that's that. But look at this setup. This is what makes riders weak and soft and slow. Who would want to train in such miserable conditions? The temptation of the candy in the curio cabinet. The stocked wine rack. The relaxing recliners beckoning. Bah. Aham, this is not right, my friend!

I am only a little bit jealous, but love to keep in mind how Rocky Balboa trained by chasing chickens in miserable back alley Philly to go the distance with Apollo Creed and ran up a mountain in cold snowy Siberia while wearing a leather jacket en route to whupping Ivan Drago.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'll Have A Pint

The bloodmobile was at work today, so I stopped in to drop off some of the good stuff. Don't worry, I'm not banking it for next cycling season.

It's been far too long since I've donated blood. I need to get back into the regular habit of doing so.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure.... Pete Townshend's "Give Blood" featuring David Gilmour on guitar and about fifty backup horns, percussionists, and singers. The edits throughout just scream 1985. The original album on which this song appeared White City: A Novel was one of the first things I ever taped from my brother when I was 12. It's not Who's Next, but it's still a great record.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Facebook is going to be the end of me.

Holy moly.

Facebook is a trip.

People I haven't seen or heard or talked to or even thought of in almost 20 years are out there. It's crazy. And cool as hell.

Thanks be the almighty that my work network blocks it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Well, DUH!!

This is better than the Pepsi Challenge:

Bacon Rules, of course.

Thanks to John Scalzi's Whatever blog for this one.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Lines? What lines?

A few things about voting today.

It's 70-something degrees and sunny. I rode my bike the 1/2 mile to the polling place in a t-shirt and jeans. Odd weather for November.

There were lots of people at the polling place, but no lines. Very well organized operation. The only 'glitch' was that I went to a voting machine on the wrong side of the room and my access code didn't work. Going to a machine on the correct side of the room makes a difference.

I like the voting machines we use. They are electronic and use a scroll wheel to move through the ballot to make selections. And after validating the picks, the selections print on a roll of paper to the side so that they is a hard copy of the selections as fall back. After about three times of "are you sure? really?" checks, the ballot is cast and it feels pretty secure.

From leaving home to coming home, it took maybe twenty minutes.

Also, my dear sweet wife rode her bike to the poll with the kids in the trailer. Very cool way to spend a beautiful Fall day.

It's really simple, people.

That is all.

Monday, November 03, 2008

10 Songs That Start With "G"

Strange day. A weird sense of dread and melancholy has been knocking around my head for most of it. Maybe it's work. Maybe the impending election has got me preoccupied or something. Maybe it’s knowing it’s going to be pitch black when I walk out the door to head home.

I was working later than usual on some dull number/paper pushing that just has to get done, so I popped the mp3 on and the list below somehow started to lift the veil of whatever it is. Here's what came out.... 10 songs starting with the letter G.

1. Phish – “Ghost” (live Halloween 1998) – Short at 8 minutes, but was a cool ending to eerie Vegas third set. Yeah, I was at the show.
2. Sugar – “Gift” – Amps to 11. Crunchy power chords from Bob Mould. Rapid fire drum fills from Malcolm Travis. Saw Sugar for a second time when this song came out back in 1994. Loud and fast.
3. Husker Du – “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” (live version, yeah) More Bob Mould power chords, but this song is Grant Hart’s. Man, I’d have loved to have seen these guys when they were still around.
4. Matthew Sweet – “Girlfriend” See below.
5. Beastie Boys – “Girls” Is this song misogynistic? Maybe. But it’s fun as hell.
6. Dave Edmunds – “Girls Talk” (live). Elvis Costello wrote this one, but Edmunds’ version is ten times better.
7. Todd Thibaud – “Give Back My Heart” – A duet with Kathrine Wilhite.
8. Tracy Chapman – “Give Me One Reason” – Tracey’s blues.
9. Sleater-Kinney – “God is a Number” – Rock. And. Roll. Corin Tucker’s shrill tremulous voice is a wonder on this track.
10. Elizabeth Mitchell – “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” And we’re back to melancholy. This track is truly heartbreaking.

By the way, if you ever wondered why “Girlfriend” is such a great song, it’s not the stalker creepy lyrics. The secret ingredient is the maniacal lead guitar of the late great Robert Quine. He’s all over the place in that song stretching and pulling and bending. He plays on much of the rest of the album, as well as on the follow up Altered Beast. Quine just owns the show when he’s playing.

Oh yeah, it’s worth noting that the “Girlfriend” video is so classic. We used to stay up hoping MTV’s 120 Minutes would play it late on Sunday nights back in 1991.

P.S. -- Go Vote tomorrow.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mileage? November > October

It's a sad fact when I rode more miles in November than in October. Especially when it's only November 1st.

Even sadder fact: the ride was just a touch over 28 miles.

In any case, it was good to ride again after a long layoff. The weather was 50 degrees and almost no wind, so it was bearable. A good ride out of St Charles out to the west and back with four others, all of whom are in better riding shape than me. Fortunately they were taking it easy before a 'cross race (or in one case, a 10K run) tomorrow, so I was able to hold on.

Plus, there were coffee and pancakes at a local diner afterwards, which made the morning complete. I love it when they just leave the pot of coffee at the table. My apologies to Psimet if I drank most of it before he even refilled his cup.

Speaking of running, it appears a challenge has been laid down by Skinny Bing. Signing up and paying for the humiliation of running 6+ miles? C'mon now. That sounds nuts.

An observation from today's ride. Wearing amber lenses makes fall colors look really cool.

And a follow up to the tree post from a while back, here's how red the silver maples get around here before they all drop their leaves:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Decision 2008 - Potholes and Zombies

Are you tired of the Presidential campaigns? Yeah. Not me. I'm loving it still, but need to turn my concentration to the things that matter. You should, too.

Ask yourself this: Who are you voting for in the race for County Clerk? How about County Auditor? State Senator? State Congressional Representative? County Coroner? Mayor? City Council? Property tax increase for the local school district?

These are the people and issues who get things done on your street, right? I mean, are you going to call Obama if you need a pothole filled? How about Zombie Abatement? McCain may look like he's up to the task, but I think I need a more experience County Coroner to tackle that problem.

I printed out a few sample ballots and will do a little investigation in the next few days so hopefully I can walk into the voting booth and know what I want to do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lawn Care for Dummies. And Some Pictures of Trees. And 7 Years Ago Today it Rained. A Lot.

We live in a newer subdivision (~6 years or so) and as such were equipped with foliage and sod in the front 40 acres. The back 40 had a lovely grass seed bed that never has been the envy of anyone, really. I’ve been working on that recently by scraping the thatch from the backyard and an attempt at overseeding with hopes that next spring will yield something a bit more lush for the kids to run around on.

The dethatching, that’s some hard work. And since I’m a semi-miser, I did it myself with a metal rake borrowed from some neighbors who looked thankful when I walked away from their garage wielding the implement of backbreaking torture. It only took me a few weekends of on again off again labor, the dead yellow grass piling up and offered back to the ‘wetlands’ beyond the yard, but I got it done.

Our neighbors on either side, well, they have more sense than I do. They paid someone to dethatch, aerate, and fertilize their lawns last year, so they have sweet pitches that would make the keepers at Sox Park proud. I’m jealous. But if my lawn comes back with some good old fashioned American manual raking, well, imagine how satisfied I’ll be. (jeez, I am an idiot)

Beyond the grass, though, we’ve planted some trees over the years. Talk about long term projects. Our backyard gets full-on western sun all year (part of why the grass is so fried, I suspect… well, beyond my neglect, that is), so I’ve always envisioned some shade trees. Again, being the stooge, I ignored the most important mantra in planting trees: The best time to plant a tree is last year. None of our trees in the back are 6 years old, so that shade is coming along quite slowly.

Presented for your amusement. Okay, more for my amusement so I can do a comparison next year. If I can find some older pictures, I’ll add them side by side for current growth comparison:

Aristocrat Pear – Planted Spring 2004 – Up until Spring of 2007 I could reach the top of this tree, but that summer it grew about three feet. Same for Summer of 2008. Very cool. The silver maple is in the neighbor's yard and was a big tree when it was planted back in 2003.

Flowering Crab – Planted Summer 2006 – Not sure exactly what kind of flowering crab this is, but the blooms in spring are amazingly fragrant.

Cleveland Select Pear – Planted Summer 2006 – I think we planted this one crooked, but if it makes it in the long run it will be very satisfying, since it only cost $5.

Silver Maple – Planted Summer 2006 – This one is technically not in our yard, but we planted it along with a few more trees below. It survived some deer gnawing on the bark last year. Spring of 2008 I could reach the top. By summertime the top was out of my reach. This one should start zooming up in the next few years.

Spruce pines – Planted Spring 2006 – These two are what remain from five pines planted that spring. One other spruce and two white pines died out. These have not grown much in height (about 3 ft), but have gained some diameter. They are survivors and I expect they’ll start heading skyward next year if their roots have taken.

White Pines – Planted 2007, 2008 – One of two planted that spring that made it to 2008. Its companion was taken back for a full refund at The Home Depot (1 year warrantee FTW!). Another White Pine was planted in its place. These seem to be kind of delicate, so I hope they make it in the long run.

Red Maple – Planted 2008 – Here’s hoping this one survives the winter and we get some shade from it 15 years from now.

Silver Maple
– Planted 2002 – This one is along the parkway part of our yard and was planted by the developer. In recent years it has grown tremendously. In the summer you can look and see that the bark has split vertically where it is growing.

Not Sure What Kind This Is – Planted 2002 – This is also along the parkway and has been pretty pathetic. All the leaves are already gone. The tree behind it is the same kind, but is in front of the neighbor’s house. I’m tempted to chop it down and start over with a better looking tree.
Weeping Cherry – Planted 2002 – We were lucky to get this one, as it was planted by the developer in the front yard and is unique on our street. This one has grown in thickness, but not so much in height. In springtime it covered in amazing blossoms.

Oh yeah, if you’ve endured this post to this point, congratulations. You’ll be glad to know that today is the seventh anniversary for me and my lovely sweet wife. October 13, 2001. Holy crap, did it rain that day! Not just rained, but freakin’ POURED. It was insane. So much for all those pretty autumn wedding photos we were going to capture. But I’ll have to hand it to all the people annoying us that day with “Rain on a wedding day is good luck!” They were right. I’m one lucky guy. Here’s to my sweet one!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Time to buy stock in Moet

I guess 20 years since Kirk Gibson hobbled into baseball lore have pent up some frustration at Chavez Ravine, but this is ridiculous:

And with less World Series titles in their ignominious history than the Cubbies, Connie Mack's descendants had some unwinding to do:

Come on here, people. You just won a DIVISION SERIES.

This is not winning any kind of championship. It’s like a team cutting down the nets after the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament.

At least win the LCS before saying you won something, yeah? And even that’s like cutting down the nets when reaching the Final Four. It’s kind of premature.

Weird thing is, a team will cut down the nets when making the Final Four, but not when they win the National Semifinal game.

The sporting world is strange, but I bet the sparkling wine lobby surely smiles upon the MLB's six division titles, wild cards, and three tiered playoff system.

I say we just stop keeping score and give them all trophies for participating. And then go out for pizza afterwards and celebrate our good sportsmanship.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It's a warm Fall Tuesday. Perfect day for a ride. Tonight we're pushing forward the Tuesday night ride time drastically, as in recent weeks it's just gotten too dark near the end of the ride. Soon enough we'll have to call it off for the season.

It's not the cold I dread about the next six months, it's the lack of daylight. And the cars who choose not to see riders once the sun goes down. I am a bit skittish about riding when it's dark, so soon I'll retreat to the treadmill and trainer in the basement.

Maybe this year I won't wait until January to get started on my fitness for the Spring.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2008 Psimet Invitational

A whole mess of hammers got dropped on Saturday.

This past weekend was the 3rd Annual Psimet Invitational in Hampshire. This ride is pretty special and big kudos to Psimet who put it together. This ride has been instrumental in a whole lot of riders connecting in our area.

The ride is a three loop progressive century through Kane and McHenry Counties. That is, if you want to ride 100 miles you ride all three loops. If you only want to ride 30- or 60-something miles, pick a loop or two and show up to ride. And though we try to make this a social ride, it tends to get zippy once the jackrabbits hop off the front.


A bowl of oatmeal and a couple of cups of coffee and I was out the door for the relatively short car ride to Hampshire F.P. I thought I might ride there, but decided to stamp some carbon footprint and drive.

Cars slowly streamed into the parking lot and Psimet shows up with that annoying Flobots song about handlebars oozing out of his car speakers. And he had a bag of hammers. He dropped the hammers. He’s too legit to quit. Go MC Psimet!

The weather was looking wonderful. The first couple of Psimet Invitationals saw riders with arm warmers, wind vests, and knee warmers. This year there was nary a knee warmer in sight and only a few riders sporting arm warmers.

I spent my time snapping some pictures and sandbagging. Honestly, my quads were still smarting from two days prior on the treadmill, which I have not been on since the spring. I wasn’t sure how my legs would react, especially with some notoriously fast riders in attendance.

After the requisite photo ops (Psimet taking the pics, so he’s not in the group shot…. oops), the motley band rolled out to the north.

Loop the First

There was lots of chatter as the group formed two lines at a steady pace. Shider and ColorChange led the parade and began to ratchet up the pace a few miles in on Briar Hill Road. Alas, the pace was to come to a complete halt as the left line passed over a pothole that caused two flats. I was fortunate to hear Shider holler out “HOLE!” at the last second and I was able to bunny hop the flat causing road cavity.

As the tires were patched, the B group rode by. I could tell they were feeling smug about taking the lead role on the ride. They stayed up there quite a while, too, as after we got back rolling, another tire went flat. This time it was a pinch flat most likely from the same pothole earlier, just a slower leak. So again the A group stopped as Psimet worked his tire changing magic and chided MJH2 the whole way through the change about not lining his tires with baby powder. Hmmm….. I would get that same lecture. Remind me to not let Psimet change my tire until I can throw some Johnson & Johnson’s in there.

Again we rolled out, and in jest I took a flyer off the front. Note to self: Don’t fake an attack when Shider’s around. He will chase. He will pass. He will keep the pedals turning in a very fast manner. ColorChange and aham join the chase, even as I let up. Cripes. I’m in the swim now. Nothing to do but catch a wheel and hang on for dear life. Miracle of miracles, my legs reacted.

We four rolled on at a pretty good clip, mostly because Shider and ColorChange were taking monster minutes-long pulls. aham and I were taking more sane 30 to 60 second pulls. Eventually we see riders up. It’s the B group. And one of the KOM points is showing up on the map. Shider powers away thinking he can catch them and take the points, but it was not to be. iab took the points on his 85 year old (or so) steel Cinelli that only has 6 gears (or so) on it. I’m sure he’ll tell us about it for a long time to come. Way to go, iab!

The hill down to Marengo was a lot of fun. The four of us followed the map to the marked rest stop and got some goodies from the convenience store (S’mores flavored Pop Tart FTW!). A couple others showed up and then no one else. Huh? A quick call to Psimet finds that they think we have skipped the rest stop and they are waiting down the line. So we caught them and the band wandered through Marengo to get back on track.

I followed Shider up the incline out of town and turned back to only see ColorChange on my wheel. After a stop sign we saw aham hanging 100 meters back and we slackened the pace to let him back onto the four man freight train. From there we powered it back to the F.P.

38 miles at almost 22 mph average. It was a zesty start to the day.

Intermission the First

Rolling back into the lot we were greeted by a few more folks showing up for the second loop. Also The Inquisitors showed up to ride around the lot. Way cool.

Some folks left at that point, but there were some new faces. SmokinMiles and recursive were there. And the 6 to 1 odds laid down by iab that timmyquest wouldn’t show up were paid off when TQ rolled in. We’ll never doubt him again when he says he might just maybe show up for a BFNIC ride.

More photo ops and the group was out around 11 am for the second loop to the west.

Loop the Second

Another fairly sedate rollout, but as tends to happen, we hit the downhills that happen a couple of times on Kelley Road and the pace nudges up into the mid-20 mph range. With the addition of recursive to the mix, the front of the line is cooking, but this time around more folks are hanging in with the double paceline. It’s a wonder how fast riders can go when they are whisked along with the draft.

As we powered down Melms, I was looking for the upcoming turn onto Polk. The street sign for it has miniscule lettering and we were going to miss it. I hollered out that we missed the turn and the group slowed to get back on track. Well, it may have been a blessing that we missed it, as the road was done up all nice in pea gravel for a chip-sealing. In the formation we had I’m guessing at least one person would have gone down in the turn at the pace we were rolling.

We decided to skip the road and cut the loop by a few miles by staying on Melms. In doing so I missed the rabbits rocketing off down the road and splitting the pack in two. I wanted back up there and burned a few matches to catch the first group, pass them, and then try to bridge up to the fast guys. I did catch them, but it was only because they stopped to cross over IL-23. With them stopping the gang was all back together and stayed that way to the rest stop in Genoa.

For the first time I began to notice how hot the day was. Others had already retreated to the shady side of the building. Rolling out with the group, I knew another one of the KOM spots was coming up, but as we crossed back over IL-23, my legs didn’t respond. A group of four or five riders took off. I stayed back with the second group as we encountered another stretch of pea gravel road. This time we had no way out, so cranked on. The fast guys were still in sight and I thought I might have one last match to get back up there, so I pulled around, took the point and dug deep. After a few minutes I heard Psimet telling me to peel off the point. That was it for my speed for the day.

Unfortunately we were still on the gravel as the road took a left turn. I was at the back and watched almost everyone whoa up to take the bend nice and slow. Unfortunately voldemort didn’t whoa up quite enough and he ended up in a deeper pile of rocks. Out from him went his wheels and down he went. His left arm was scraped pretty bad and he knocked his head on the ‘pavement’ but otherwise was in good enough shape to keep on going. Thankfully nothing broken. Helmets are good.

So we rambled on back down Allen Road and when we got to Hampshire my legs just completely bonked out. I let a few folks around and told them to go on, that I was going to ‘cool down’ the last couple of miles. Ha! It was less a cool down and more a struggle. No more matches in the book as I limped back to the lot.

29 miles at 19.8 mph. For bonking, that's pretty zippy. Hurrah for drafting!

Intermission the Second / Postlude

I was wiped out and ready to go. Thankfully I had already planned to skip the final loop due to a prior engagement. The folks heading out for the final loop all looked a bit knackered, as well. If I read ColorChange’s stats right, this loop ended up being a touch slower than the first two.

As I headed home I took a little detour to Wendy’s for a double cheeseburger recovery meal. I made sure to give aham a call with the information and tempt him to stop at a Wendy’s to get the same corrupt meal. He needs more fast food in his diet. I mean, what else to keep one fast on the bike but fast food, yeah?

A great day. A great ride. Again, big props to Psimet. Can’t wait for the 4th Invitational!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Better than I could put it.

I usually keep quiet on politics in the public arena, but I've been searching for a way to justify just what I like about Barack Obama and what bugs me about John McCain (who I would have been okay with as president until his reckless pick for a running mate and he renounced his high road, semi-maverick status for lies, damned lies, and continuation of damned lies even after the damned lies had been debunked seven times over).

This story from D Magazine by conservative Wick Allison sums up much of what I like about the Barack Obama candidacy.

From the article:

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.

In addition, John Dickerson at Slate helped quell some of my fears and panic by reiterating that Obama's cool (and that of his extended campaign for that matter) has been kept in recent weeks in ways that echo how he kept his cool throughout firestorms in the primary season.
Or maybe [the Obama campaign is] not rattled because they've been through this before. If they'd listened to the polls and Democratic experts, they'd never have gotten in the race. In the summer of 2007, there were lots of Obama supporters who thought he should panic a little more—or risk losing to Hillary Clinton. The Obama campaign stuck to its plan and won. Aides often cite this lesson in explaining why they're not going to overreact now.

Cool under fire. I like that in a leader.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

RIP, David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace hanged himself on Friday. He was 46.

Who was DFW? He was most well known for his mammoth novel Infinite Jest, a novel I bought when it was first released in 1996 and to this day have never made it to the quarter mark despite numerous tries. I figured I just was not smart/patient enough to wade through the plot and keep flipping to the copious end notes. Who needs that hassle?

Why even try this book? Well, fresh out of college and working in a completely mind-numbing swing shift job I thought I needed the challenge. And I very much enjoyed a tennis related essay from Esquire entitled "The String Theory"1. So I saved up, bought IJ and found out that attempting to bash my way through a novel in which I had no feeling except sleepiness was really not worth my time. Maybe someday the book will surprise me and I'll get through it, but not yet.

So why stick with Wallace material? Well, a year later a collection of his stranger than fiction essays, including the Esquire article was released. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again contains some of the funniest writing I've ever encountered and it hit me at a time in life when I needed a laugh. I've loaned my copy, bought copies for others, and even own the book in hardback and paperback versions.

Wallace's take on mundane subjects, such as the Illinois State Fair2 are riddled with his own insecurities, prejudices, and elitist notions. He's a Midwestern guy with a northeastern education/mindset, who has returned to write/teach in the heart of Illinois. It's easy to feel elite along with DFW as he wanders the fairgrounds taking everything in from carnies to FFA/4H kids to politicians.3 He seems to look down on the activities, yet want to experience as those who leave their inhibitions and daily cares at the gate. But he's so wrapped up in his own experience of the experience that he can't let go. His own vision of life supersedes the event.
"One of the few things I miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid? -- that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow? -- that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit? Does anyone else identify with this memory? The child leaves the room, and now everything in that room, once he is no longer there to see it, melts away into some void of potential or else (my personal childhood theory) is trundled away by occult adults and stored until the child's reentry into the room recalls it all back into animate service. Was this nuts? It was radically self-centered, of course, this conviction, and more than a little paranoid. Plus, the responsibility it conferred: if the whole of the world dissolved and resolved each time I blinked, what if my eyes didn't open?"4

Wallace's other essays are riddled with this same self-centered notion. In writing about David Lynch later in ASFTINDA, DFW is so scared to shatter his own illusions of Lynch that though he has journalistic access to the director, he stays away lest the image explode. We don't want our own notions about the world disturbed, so we leave them alone. It's easier to opine on them from afar than to get into the scrum and enjoy the actual living and experiencing.

This is not a guess or attempt to analyze why Wallace ultimately chose to take his own life, but more my own take on the things that paralyze me in day to day life. I read these essays at a time I was pretty paralyzed by my own notions of the world, but in hindsight I can recognize that in some small way DFW's writing contributed to me popping out of a deep funk and back into the land of the living. Even when supposedly fun things turned out to be blah, at least I knew first hand why they were blah instead of guessing. And in the process I found a lot of life that was not blah that I would have missed.

It's a bloody shame we have lost one of the most unique literary talents of our time.

1. The full and ponderous DFW title of the essay: "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Atristry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness."

2. "Getting Away From Pretty Much Being Away From It All."

3. One critic I read once described Wallace as having an IMAX eye for seeing everything.

4. From essay in footnote 2.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I See You And I Dilate.

No, this is not an Ani Difranco post.
Yesterday I went to the eye doctor at lunch time.  They dilated my eyes.  Driving home in the full sun yesterday was a blast.  Short range vision blurred.  Squinting through old pair of scratchy sunglasses jammed over my regular glasses.  The works.
Hungry as I was, I decided it would be a good idea to drive through at Taco Bell.  What was I thinking?  I couldn't read the stinking board.  Here's me: "Yeah, uhh.... ummm.... I'll have a..... uhhh.....   Number 5?"  Heck, I had no idea what a Number 5 would contain, except that it would have the same 5 ingredients that are in everything Taco Bell has ever made from the dawn of time.  It ended up being Nachos Bell Grande and a hard shell taco.  With a Mountain Dew.  It's been a while since I had some Taco Bell and it was pretty satisfying.  Now I don't have to go back for another 6 months or so.
Anyway, back at the eye docs there were about six blue haired ladies checking out frames were prattling on about Sarah Palin's glasses and how there had been a run on similar frames in recent weeks.  Seriously.  I guess it was better than hearing them attempt to talk about all those in-depth issues Palin's been parroting on the stump. 
As my eyes were all out of whack from the dilating, I did not get a chance to really shop for frames, but when I go back I'm asking for some Harry S Truman frames.  Now there was a cat with style.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"He's Gone....

....2000 miles..... is very far....."

Ahh, Pretenders. Yeah, I semi-whined about the odometer on my bike a while back being lower than some others, but I did hit the 2000 mile mark today on a short afternoon ride.

Pretty good, considering last year was my first 2000 mile year and I didn't hit that until Psimet's early October century ride.

And while I didn't join aham's mystical 700 club, I did ride over 500 miles in August. Not bad.

Speaking of aham, he's on a kick to sign up for Ride The Rockies 2009. I'm onboard so long as I can raise the funds and get the time off of work. It's been a while since I have been in Colorado and I miss it whenever I see pictures or maps of the state. Plus it will be a great training focus for the coming darkness of winter.

First up, though, is getting through Labor Day weekend. The neighbors have a bouncy house in the backyard, the cooler is stocked and the grill is fired up. Beautiful weather for it, too.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Super Slo-Mo

Here are a few grainy videos I shot when riding around northern Georgia. For longer winded details on the trip to the south, click here.

First up: Wolf Pen Gap. This one goes on for a while because it was still early and I had the energy to put up with holding the camera for over two minutes. And despite the last line saying this is not yet half way up, it actually was pretty close to the top.

Next: Brasstown Bald. This is right after I clipped back in on the wall. Very short video. I needed everything I had.

Last: Neels Gap. This is getting to the top just before the hostel going south toward Turners Corners. Note this is a busier road. The downhill on the other side of this is amazing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pre-Ride Burgers

Reminder:  Don't hit the Wendy's drive thru before a ride.
Had a horrible Tuesday night ride with a 99 cent cheeseburger and chicken nuggets sitting like cooling lava in the stomach.  Legs like lead.  Falling off the back almost from the warm up.  Terrible feeling.
The faster guys slowed down early on and Dejan encouraged me to just sit in for the ride, but the legs wouldn't go.  I hung on for a very short time and then watched as the lead three floated out of site down River Road.   
Rode rest of shortened route with Nick, listening to his tales of riding in France a few years back.  Legs never came around, stomach never stopped feeling like heaving.  
What a change from a week earlier when I kept pace with a fast ride down in Bartlett, TN.  That ride I was in much bigger gears, my legs responded to accelerations and took strong pulls.  I attribute that to the power of eating Huey burger for lunch that day.
Next week I'm going back to my pre-ride Boca Burger.  Yeah, Bocas are fake meat, but for some reason I usually feel pretty good on rides after having one for dinner.  And because we don't have Huey's in Chicagoland. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Tuesday... This Must Be Memphis

Been gone since last Thursday.  Atlanta, Birmingham, and now Memphis.  Tomorrow it'll be St. Louis.  And then points south and west before getting the family truckster back up to Chicagoland.

I have ridden a few times.  Tonight was a 36 mile 22 mph average group ride out of Bartlett, TN, with only a Huey burger as fuel.  Yesterday it was a short morning leg stretch in Birmingham.  Birmingham has hills.  Steep hills.  Who knew?  Last weekend it was a group ride in Dunwoody, GA.  And the day before that was.... epic.  That will have to wait, though, until I can get pictures loaded.  The story will be better with pictures, for sure. 

Until then.... 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Damned Perfect Weather!

What the heck is up with August?

Again, this weekend was freakin' perfect outside for riding. Absolutely beautiful! I'm going to wilt like the proverbial hothouse flower in Georgia later this week.

I got in a very early 45 mile ride on Saturday. Early enough that I was back home a just past 8 am and ready to take on the rest of the day. The temps were in the low 60s and there was almost no wind to speak of. Great for zipping along. Sunday I waited until the afternoon sun was up for a 55 miler. But the temps were barely 80 and it was so comfortable. At least there was a bit of an odd north/northwest wind to give a bit of resistance so I wasn't coasting a whole lot. Good stuff.

The best part was riding 5 miles on Sunday with the family around the neighborhood. That was fun. The second best part was eating terrible food at Chili's on Saturday for lunch and chasing it that evening with a bowl of Fritos covered with chili and melted cheese. The riding sure helps, as I didn't add an ounce on the scale and I'm at my lowest weight of the year. High metabolism FTW! I can only imagine what would happen if I started eating healthy....

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Bad Tendency To Fizzle

Sometimes I wonder why certain songs never catch on. Highly addictive and sing-along ready songs that were released as singles and did receive a bit of airplay, at that. But then they just fizzle and are never heard again.

Here’s one from Semisonic, of 1998’s “Closing Time” fame, from a follow up album in 2001. It’s nothing revolutionary, but, as jangly pop songs go, is a tasty summertime three chord gem. I heard it a few times on WXRT here in Chicago, and this song would seem to fit right into their ongoing rotation, but as happens never seems to get played outside maybe a Saturday morning flashback show for 2001.

It’s almost like U.S. radio wants to ignore stuff like this so they can keep bands like Semisonic in perpetual one hit wonder status.

In any case, this is a clever little romantic pop song with a Rube Goldbergish themed video and it deserves better than the dust bin into which it was summarily thrown by U.S. radio.

Semisonic – “Chemistry”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemonade.

It was a perfect day to ride. Almost.

It’s funny how a half-assed training agenda can get so screwed up by one of the most beautiful weather days of any August.

A few days ago I made (yet another) day trip up to Cross Plains, Wisconsin, to ride the hills. This trip was ostensibly part of my preparation to ride down in Georgia a few weeks from now. Well, I got only part of what I wanted, the hills. The other parts I was looking for, hot and humid, were not in abundance. The temps were in the low 80s and the humidity was quite low, which makes for an awesome combination to ride all day long, but it wasn’t what I was looking for!

Give me lemonade and I can make lemons.

Anyway, I rambled around for 71.5 miles up and down and up and down. It was a lot of fun and I think I will be ready to tackle Neels, Wolfpen, and Woody Gaps a few weeks from now. Just need to make sure I have enough water. And plenty of ice cold lemonade.

Can’t wait.

Friday, August 01, 2008

She Blinded Me With Elegance

Not much to say, but for some reason I googled this song by Thomas Dolby a few weeks back as it's been on a little list of songs I've been looking to track down that is tacked up on my cube wall at work. I didn't even realize it had a video. It's from about 15 years ago and probably was not much heard, as most folks only know Dolby from his "She Blinded Me With Science" hit back in 1982 or so.

I think the only time I ever heard the following was when I played it on my college radio show and it stuck with me all these years. It's not quirky like his one hit wonder song, but it is somehow elegant in a great way. The video is beautifully done to match the song, as well. It made my day to find this.

"I Love You, Goodbye" by Thomas Dolby

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Low Mileage, Higher Speed, Fresh Pavement

I am a bit behind the locals when it comes to cranking out the miles this year. Psimet recently opined about reaching 2000 miles, while Mr Arron is charging hard to top the 700 mile mark for the month of July. Checking my odometer, it only has 1452 miles. The lack of centuries and skipping out on RAIN this year seems to have taken it's toll on racking up the distance.

This is not all bad, though.

A lot of my miles have come on the weekly 28.4 mile Penny Road Pub ride, which is usually done in a brisk 20-21 mph average, or my miles have come from a half dozen hilly Wisconsin rides. There haven't been a lot of junk miles (not that those other guys are junk miling it).

Yesterday morning I went out early for what ended up being a 42.8 mile ride. Despite the low 70s temps, the air was hazy and humid. I was dripping with sweat. Despite the moisture, the ride was really zippy at 20.3 mph average. A few years ago the same route would have been somewhere between 16 and 17 mph.

I attribute much of this faster riding to the Tuesday night rides. The Tuesday night ride has pushed me to keep up with guys I couldn't keep up with when I started joining in last summer. This year I'm still not their equal, but I can hang much longer in the pack.

The other part of yesterday's higher speed was the fresh pavement on the roads near my place. It's a revelation when a flat road goes from pitted and potholed to smooth asphalt. Worth several mph over a few miles. Wonderful. All roads should be so smooth.

Alright. Going to get out there in a little while to rack up a few more miles. I'm falling behind...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Be on my side, I'll be on your side

Mr. Arron linked to a live Phish performance in his latest blog. I’m kind of wondering how he chose “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the song to link, even though I would have love to been there to party like it’s 1996. I know NYE at the Fleet Center on 12/31/1996 was a decent show, as I’ve got a three tape copy of it somewhere around here, but it’s not what I’d call a transcendent show just upon tape listens, such as one year prior 12/31/2005 at MSG. I wasn’t at MSG, either, but listening to the tapes for years (and finally getting a deserved official release from the band), I could find something in there to blow the Queen cover off the map.

In any case, the post got me to thinking about transcendent moments at shows and I linked in his comments to one of my all time favorites. It happened on a cold October 1998 weekend down in Tinley Park, where Nelson/Young/Mellencamp were hosting Farm Aid for the second consecutive year at the New World Amphitheatre. The year prior, much of the crowd left after a lukewarm set by Dave Matthews Band. The DMB kids took off and missed to the amazing John Fogerty set and subsequent performances by Willie, Neil, and John. WTF? In any case, I’m guessing the organizers didn’t want a repeat of that in 1998 when it was announced that Phish would be on the bill. They placed the Vermont boys at the end of the show, insuring that many of the heads would stick around through all the sets.

The day was cold and blustery as I met up with my old buddy Larry (a Neil Young aficionado) in the parking lot. We had seats in the pavilion, but they were off to the left side where the sound was miserable. Sets by Steve Earle, Wilco, Brian Wilson, Hootie and the Blowfish, and few others went by before the three organizers took their turns. Finally, it was time for Phish. The pavilion had cleared a bit, so we moved to the middle where the sound was much better. The boys played through “Birds of a Feather,” “Moma Dance” and a couple other songs and then finally dropped an awesome “Runaway Jim.” (picked up mid-song here) At a point near the end of the song, another guy walks on stage.

It’s Neil Young.

Aww yeah.

Neil straps on one of Trey Anastasio’s custom Languadoc guitars and the feedback begins. Later on we would find out this was based on Young’s “Arc” but in the moment it was pure cacophonous wonder. As it ends, John Fishman picks up a beat and a recognizable riff starts in. Larry turns to me and shouts “Down By The River!” And thus begins this intense 19 minute workout:

The amazing thing about this is that CMT had it on live. That they showed 19 straight minutes of Neil Young and Phish in one of the most intense and transcendent jams ever is nothing short of miraculous. The look on Trey’s face throughout is priceless. He’s like, Wow… Neil F’ing Young is playing MY guitar and we’re jamming to one of HIS songs!

Soon after, Willie walks onstage to wind down the show with the rest of the day’s luminaries. It was amazing. Simply amazing. I saw Phish seven more times that fall (yeah, I was in a mood to see shows and travel around a bit…Halloween inVegas, Madison, Chicago, Cincy), but I don’t think they matched this high point. Not since set two of the second day at The Great Went. Not again until they let it all hang out after midnight at Big Cypress. But those are other stories altogether.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Higher Ground

Yes, third blog post of the year. I’m on fire!

So this past weekend was packed with the fun. Saturday found the family hopping on a Blue Line CTA train into The City. But this wasn’t just any Blue Line train. It was the WALL-E train. Oh yeah. A big treat for the bambinas on their first ever CTA train experience having advertisements for the new Pixar movie plastered on the outside, inside, and even ceiling of the train car. Pretty cool, especially since they are jonesing to see the movie.

Chicago was Chicago. We hopped off at Damen and wandered down Milwaukee through Wicker Park checking in on old haunts from days gone by. Myopic Books moved to a location closer to the 6-way intersection and had a lot of people just standing around drinking coffee. Still felt like the old Myopic back in the cramped stacks of used books. After getting all the way to Division, we cut east to see if Hillary’s Urban Eatery was open for lunch. Oh No. HUE is no longer in business! Tragedy! That place was a great little restaurant. Oh well. We’ll turn around back to the newer restaurants on Division.

Finally settled on a place at Honore called Moonshine. It had a patio and a breakfast/lunch menu. Perfect. The breakfast burrito plate was incredible. About a pound and a half burrito stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and eggs. The black beans with a small amount of cheddar jack cheese on top were fantastic. And the kids rocked a fruit plate that was much bigger than a typical side of fruit. Preferable to another fast food jaunt, for sure. Plus there was a couple with a pug dog next to us and the kids had a good time going to pet him. So, in sum, Moonshine = Goodness.

Further wanderings into our old neighborhood on Chicago found a block transformed from when we moved away 6 years ago. The old abandoned car lot at Chicago/Wolcott is now a fancy storefront with a Starbucks and condos above. Same for the opposite side of the street. No more abandoned cleaners. New building going on everywhere, it seemed. The old Edmar just past Damen is now an upscale Dominick’s. It probably doesn’t have that old Edmar funky smell, though.

A quick bus ride on the #66 (hey, look, bus stop shelters!) got us to Michigan Avenue, where we meandered down until we finally got to Grant Park for the day’s supposed highlight: Stevie Wonder at Petrillo Music Shell. We were so far back that we could barely hear the music and we took off about an hour into the performance. Oh well. Maybe someday when we can get closer. At least we did hear “Higher Ground.”

Sunday also included some higher ground, but in a more physical sense. aham and I headed up to Wisconsin to rock the Double or Nothing metric route out of Cross Plains (6400 feet of climbing in 63 miles of riding… that’s a lot of climbing!). After warming up into the wind for about 4 miles, the hills hit. Big hills. Steep hills. Roads like Sutcliffe, Zweitler, Pinnacle, Lakeview, Mounds Park, Braun, Garfoot, Observatory, and Barlow are a big challenge for flatlanders like us, but we made it up all of them. Thankfully, the ominous clouds that hovered overhead all day never turned to rain. The climbs would have been miserable or impossible in a downpour.

The best part was aham wondering most of the ride why his Uphill Grind jersey was different than the one I had on. That tight cut through the waist. That little bit of extra room through the top. That lack of elastic at the bottom allowing the jersey to flare out oh so slightly. Upon returning for post ride caffeine, aham discovers the label his jersey says:

Hilarity ensues in coffee shop.

No matter, though. He’s a good sport and I’m glad he offered to drive up there. It’s much easier to climb when there’s someone else suffering, too. And he had Arby's on the way home. CyLowe is a bad influence on people.

Enough for now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jealous Again

Look at that, sports fans. Less than a year between posts!

So I'm throwing another hilly route together in Wisconsin for sometime in July. I use the word hilly in a serious, yet fraudulent, way. You see, the flatlander BFNIC crew get to savor the wonderful riding west of Wisconsin a few times a year, yet just when we think it can't get any better than that, we see a post like this over at BikeForums.net.

Hilly in our world somehow seems kind of flat.

This is what we think is a tough climb (really, 900 feet of climbing in 3 miles is no joke for most folks).
This is Blue Mound in Wisconsin.

Then we see someone who has just done this insanity in Italy.
This is the Passo Stelvio.

Very jealous.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back. Century style.

Well, it was only something like 15 months ago that I last posted here. Anyway, I look to keep this a bit more updated going forward, as others I know have been blogging away contentedly and I'm slipping behind the curve.

Quickly. Today I rode 102.2 miles, 99 of which were with a few guys from the bikeforums.net BFNIC crew. Psimet and Rowdy and me headed out a bit after 5:30 am from the Forest Preserve near my place. Psimet looks at the dawning sky and says, "Red sky in morning..." to which I finished "...sailor's warning." Yep, we got rained on, but not for a while.

First off headed back to casa de CyLowe because Psimet forgot to pump up his tires. No big deal as it wasn't far off the intended course. We did take note of skies off in the distance to the northwest where it looked like rain was coming out of clouds, but we were headed west and then south, so holding out hope that we'd stay dry.

After a quick rest stop in Maple Park, the raindrops started falling. Miles 55-65 or so were soggy wet, but it wasn't a storm. More of a gentle rain that got the roads wet enough for us to be rooster-tailing water on the person trying to draft. The rain relented and the roads dried up, but the crud was on the bikes and the shoes were waterlogged. Ugh.

We finished in sunny, but increasingly muggy weather and the others did a quick ride through the subdivision to top off their odometers at 100 miles. Gotta get that C-Note!

Good ride. My odometer says 1042 miles for the year.

More if I get around to it. If not, wait another year.