6.25.2017

Cool Spell

We had a bit of a cool spell this weekend in Wisconsin, particularly today, but that didn't preclude us from going on our pre-planned Sunday morning bike ride. It was in the upper 50s when Deborah and I got up around 7 AM to prep.

"It'll be 60 by 10," I said, looking at the weather app on my phone. "No sign of rain right now. 10% chance by noon."

It was still brisk outside when we arrived at the Verona Park and Ride, where we were meeting some fellow biker friends, a little before 9. We were the first to arrive. There was a chill wind coming out of the west, the direction we'd be biking. Deborah waited inside the warm car while I unloaded our bikes from the rear rack.

"Might be a bit of a headwind at first," I told her. "But coming back we'll have a tail wind at least."

After our friends arrived, we kicked off for the first leg of bicycling on the Military Ridge bike path, from Verona to Riley. It was a bit of a struggle biking into the wind, but we covered the 7 or so miles easily enough.

We parked our bikes and went into the Riley Tavern, which has a Sunday morning breakfast menu. It used to be just pancakes and sausage, but they've added some more Atkins friendly options, like steak and eggs, which I ordered even though the kielbasa sausage and eggs sounded pretty good too (Side Note: I consistently eat a high protein/fat whole food diet, low in refined carbs. I had my annual physical last week and my cholesterol numbers were all excellent and in the normal range. I'm not saying...I'm just saying.).

After eating and paying, it was on to Mount Horeb, about 6.5 more miles along the bike path. The "rails to trails" bike path had a slight uphill grade most of the way to Mt. Horeb, which combined with the headwind to give us a decent workout. So when we rolled into town, I had skurried up a decent appetite, notwithstanding the Riley breakfast about 45 minutes earlier

We had lunch at the Grumpy Troll restaurant in Mt. Horeb and sat outside in their patio, which was chillier than we'd anticipated, because the sky had clouded up a lot. I checked the weather map again and saw no rainfall near our location, even though some of the clouds looked fairly darkish and suggestive of precipitation.

"It's mostly downhill with a tailwind now, baby!" I exclaimed to Deborah as we got back on our bikes to ride back to Verona. This exclamation was mostly true. After Riley, the trail graded slightly upward again, but the tailwind still helped a lot.

Before returning to the cars at the Park and Ride, we stopped at a small microbrewery in downtown Verona called the Hop House and sampled some of their beer. I got a flite with five different IPAs that they make. My favorite was called Hidden Stash. Try it if you ever go there.

It was a short ride back to the cars. We bid our friends farewell and headed home. Overall, it was a fulfilling day and the rain held off until later.

6.17.2017

Weekend Thing

I attended a music conference in Madison WI today. Butch Vig of the band Garbage Skyped in from his studio somewhere in, probably, California. Garbage is in the recording studio right now, working on new songs ahead of an upcoming tour with Blondie. Remember them? I had no idea they were still rocking, but I'm glad they are.

Butch said modern technology is allowing musicians to produce great songs on laptops in home studios and release them to millions of people, bypassing the gatekeepers in the record business who used to decide what was "popular." But now the marketing itself has been popularized and it's kind of a revolution. The record industry has lost control of the pop cultural music pipeline, and it has opened up a lot of possibilities for independent musicians and songwriters.

There was an issue with the Skype audio and Vig's dialogue was a little choppy at times, but I picked up about 80% of it.

The Avett Brothers performed at this conference at 3 PM, giving everyone their two cents about music, songwriting, touring, and whatnot. Apparently they are all the rage right now, but I won't lie to you...I never heard of them before this conference. According to some dramatization of pop culture I saw somewhere, they are "the hottest thing in Americana music today," but I'm not sure what that even means. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because they seem to be doing quite well for themselves, which means someone is digging them. Folk and Americana music don't do much for me though, no matter how good the musicians are, though these guys were pretty good, as far as that goes.

About 5:30 PM, I attended a song listening panel session at Audio for the Arts where my song "Becca" was critiqued. I got some good pro tips and my sound was compared to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I have been compared to Elvis Costello before but it was more poignant coming unsolicited from music industry pros. To be honest, I was never much of an Elvis Costello fan for most of my life. I started listening to his music after getting the soundalike comment from several different people over the years, but not before I wrote the song "Becca." So I guess what I'm getting at is that my music (and more precisely probably my voice) just happens to be naturally somewhat Elvis Costello-esque and that's not a bad thing at all. Subsequently, Guppy Effect has learned a couple Elvis Costello tunes and added them to our live performance repertoire. To wit, they are Alison and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.

6.16.2017

Night Riding

Thursday evening, I attended the kickoff of the Between the Waves Music Conference and Fest, which goes all weekend. I signed up for it many months ago and got an early bird discount. The weather was fantastic, so I decided to bike on down to the thing, which was taking place on the UW Madison campus.

The introductory session of the BTWCaF went until about 9 PM, so it was dark when it let out. I had predicted this and brought my bike head- and tail lights. The tail light is red and blinks, so it is pretty visible to even the most oblivious car drivers, a large proportion of who live in Madison WI. The headlight is "brighter than the sun" and really lights up the road in front of my bike. I picked it up a couple years ago at a bike store in Whitewater WI, called BicycleWise, whose proprietors, John and Liz, I know. I told John I was looking for a great light that would allow me to see and be seen. He sold me the next model down of the brand of LED head light that he uses. I cannot imagine how blindingly bright his light must be, because mine can pretty much burn your retinas if you look right at it.

Anyway, I attached the lights on my bike, turned them on, and tooled home. I love night biking. The first segment of my ride was on busy University Avenue, but in short order I was on the bike trail that goes most of the way back to my house. There are few other bikers and no pedestrians on the trail after dark. It's quiet and somewhat meditative/contemplative.

Due to an ultimately fortuitous set of circumstances, Deborah and I are sharing one car now, more than halving our carbon footprints (mostly because I am not driving Uber and Lyft anymore...stay tuned for a post about this soon, which will expose some ugly truths about the ride hailing companies). It's always been a dream of mine to drive less, or not at all. I am just about living that dream now and it is fantastic. I don't foresee a need to have two cars in our household at least until after I have completed my first year of graduate school next summer, and possibly even until after I finish my residency in marriage and family therapy some three to four years hence. Graduate school is not cheap, and think of the money we'll save not having to insure, register, and maintain a second car. That few hundred bucks could buy pretty much ALL my books for school.

There is some mild inconvenience and discomfort that comes from sharing a single car, but nothing insurmountable, and certainly nothing worth the substantial financial and environmental cost of having a second car. We have to think a little harder about our daily schedules and coordinate accordingly, but since I am self employed, I can very easily work around Deborah's 9-5 day job. There is a bus stop right in front of our house and I have three bicycles in the garage at my disposal. Biking is something I love to do, so for me the car sharing is not a limitation to my lifestyle, but rather a boon in terms of compelling me to bike places more. The secondary cardiovascular fitness and weight loss benefits of being more physically active are frosting on the proverbial cake.

Some people we know, particularly - and not surprisingly - those who work in the automotive industry, have a difficult time wrapping their minds around our unconventional choice to share a single car between the two adult members of our household. I pity them a little bit, but mostly don't really give a crap. We do what works for us and other people need to live their own lives, not meddle in ours. If America is to survive into the future, we need to cut our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and it has been predicted by experts (Google it) that if every American were to cut their fossil fuel consumption by 50%, the oil crisis and associated senseless violence in Middle Eastern countries would end...just stop, overnight. So Deborah and I are saving the @#$%ing Earth! Boom.