8.31.2014

Bears and Tornadoes

Today was a glorious weather day up at the cabin on Shell Lake WI. Windy, sunny, and cool. The wind out of the south created some great "surf" on our beach.

I set a personal fitness goal to run/walk the nearly 10 mile circumference around Shell Lake this morning, which I achieved, and conditions could not have been better.

It was mostly cloudy and I think the temperature was in the upper 60s, so it was not brutally hot and the sunscreen I had put on wasn't really necessary. There was a decent breeze too that felt great.

I ran along the lake road, slow and steady, and I allowed myself to walk whenever I felt like it, but I probably ran about 97% of the time.

The route is pretty flat, because the road basically runs along the shore of Shell Lake. The only small hill was near the end of the run/walk when I was almost back to the cabin. It wasn't too taxing, even though my muscles were getting pretty sore by that point in the run/walk.

Up until this challenge, I have only been doing 2.5 - 3.25 mile runs with my friend and neighbor Danielle in Madison WI, where I live. So I was surprised how well I did, notwithstanding the fact that I was not pushing myself super hard. My only goal was to complete it. Basically, I mentally thought of it as doing three 5Ks back to back, which is essentially what it was.

According to the Map My Ride app on my phone, I burned about 1,600 calories or so, but it may have been a little more than that in reality, because I had MMR set to "power walk," and actually it was more of a slow jog.

I did not see any black bears, which are prevalent up here, although I had kind of hoped I would...at a distance. Bears are kind of reclusive and seeing one is kind of a rare treat. I have seen them from the car before and even on a bike, but they are usually just crossing the road or standing by the side of it, glaring back at us.

I have never seen a tornado, but as dangerous as they are, I would like to. The beauty and power of nature fascinates me. Again, I would like to see one at a distance.

We are supposed to get storms tonight in Shell Lake, some severe with possible hail and tornadoes. I love that shite. The enjoyment I get far outweighs the fairly low risk of death or dismemberment. So I hope the forecasts are accurate, though they have not been lately, at least in Madison.

Anyway, today was a fantastic close to a pretty fantastic summer that included:

1. Buying a new house and moving to Madison.

2. Biking to work a lot more as a result of #1.

3. Going on RAGBRAI, and being in good shape for it thanks to #2.

4. Having HIATVS play in my new jam space finished basement at my house warming party.

5. Some GUPPY EFFECT shows and Sunday night open jams.

6. Grilling some tasty meats and vegetables, Paleo style, on the new gas grill that my family got me for my house warming.

7. Running with Danielle and completing today's fitness challenge run/walk.

It was a great summer weather-wise too. The same polar vortex that made last winter so brutal also brought cooler arctic air southward this summer.

This weekend was supposed to be BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA weekend, and it still was, except that no one signed up to go this year but me. So I adapted by doing my run/walk in lieu of BWOWM. Just as fulfilling.

Don't get me wrong. I am not consenting that seasonal summer is over, even though recreational summer is winding down. Recreational summer ends for most people on Labor Day weekend because their kids go back to school. I don't have kids, so my recreational summer usually goes well into September and part of October until the true chill of fall arrives.

Speaking of school, though, I signed up for a six week piano class through the University of Wisconsin Continuing Studies Program. It starts on September 15, I think. It will finish well in advance of my departure for Australia in late November.

Well, I am going to tip a (Spotted) Cow and sit on the deck at the cabin waiting for the hail and tornadoes.

I would love to know how your summer and Labor Day were. So kindly leave a comment on this post if you would.

I will leave you will some northwoodsy pictures from around the cabin. This year there were some crazy toadstool blooms.

8.30.2014

I Am Tired and I Have the Wanderlust

I am jonesing for some travel. This wanderlust will be satisfied in late November when I go to Australia with my extended family for almost 3 weeks. However, in general, I do not travel nearly enough.

Travel is one of my top 3 passions in life, along with music and writing. My regular readers will question why I did not list bicycling in the top 3 and that would be a valid question, but the answer is simple. Bicycling is a large subset of my penchant for travel.

A bike is a great vehicle for traveling. It is cliche, but you experience a lot more on a journey by bike than by most other forms of transport. You are more exposed to the ambient environment and your pace is slower than traveling in a motor vehicle, so you can see more yet cover more ground than you can walking. I must here note that, forced to choose, walking would be superior to driving when a bicycle is not available and the distances are manageable.

When I travel to faraway places, I like to exercise the bike option (no pun intended, honestly!) whenever possible. And I often go on bike rides locally for their own sake, to enjoy the local color.

The point is that bicycling is contained within the broader passion that is travel. So it is a part of my top 3 favorite things to do. So that said, back to the thesis of this post.

I have the wanderlust and I grow weary of not being able to indulge it often. Therefore, I need to engage the creative process that assists me in manufacturing the conditions that permit me to indulge it.

The creative process is a mechanism for manifesting desired outcomes in art and life. It is not an easy process, but it is a straightforward and logical one, with basically three steps.

1. Vision
2. Observation
3. Action

The first step is to visualize what you want. It doesn't have to be a crystal clear vision but it should be solid enough to give you a sense of direction and it should be something you are passionate about pursuing, so you will be motivated to take action.

Next, observe what you currently have and compare that to the vision. This is a compare and contrast to determine how far from the vision you are and what resources are available or needed to bring the current reality closer to the vsion.

Then, take action that you think will lead toward manifestation of the vision. Not every action will contribute to manifestation of the vision. So you need to repeat step 2 and observe present reality after each action to see if the action has brought you closer to or further from your vision. You need to be brutally honest with yourself at this stage, because reality waits for no one.

Over time, you will get closer to your vision. It may be slow going and you will undoubtedly hit obstacles in your path. But if you are truly passionate about your vision, you will find a way to go over, around, or through any obstacle.

My vision is to have a life with more travel, by bicycle or otherwise. I observe that I am traveling some but not nearly enough. I have taken a few actions that have removed some hurdles to a life road more traveled. There are more actions I can take to improve on my travel capabilities, like saving more money to pay for travel and finding employment that allows me to travel freely.

Actually, my current job is not too bad in that regard. It is contract work and if I want to go on a trip, my boss is pretty cool about encouraging it, because it is unpaid vacation and I pay my own benefits. There is no liability for them. The work needs to get done, of course, so I can't just split for an indefinite period of time. But within reason I can do some decent travel, like my nearly three weeks in Australia at the end of the year.

I am quite geeked for that and fully plan to exercise my passion for writing by travel blogging about it.

8.29.2014

A Couple of Movie Reviews

I watched a movie called “You’re Next” with my friend Sherry a couple of days ago. It was a suspense thriller horror film and we didn’t have much hope going into it that it would be a good movie. It had a few stars on Netflix, but not a lot.

However, we were pleasantly surprised. The premise of the film was a little bit weak, but if you could overlook that, the plot was good and the action was pretty much non-stop and fulfilling. They stole a few clich├ęs from some other home invasion themed movies, but you can't fault them too much for that. The heroine kicks ass and the plot twist at the end does not go as expected, I found.

I watched a movie by myself after that called "Rapture-Palooza," which was hilariously over the top campy. When your movie is themed on the Rapture and Armageddon, you have to live with a plot that has more holes than a fine Swiss cheese. But that was kind of the underlying point of this movie. Again, if you can overlook the fact that a functional Biblical Rapture is ludicrous on the face of it, you just have to have fun with it.

And they do. Craig Robinson as the sex-crazed anti-Christ is beautiful. And you'll love the rain of fire rocks and the cursing locusts and crows.

Check these films out. Not bad at all.

How's Life?

How is life, my dear readers?

I try to write on this blog daily about the mundane happenings in my life, in hopes that someone is mildly entertained or informed.

However, I really want to know more about you.

What has been going on in your life?

You can leave a comment on this post letting me know.

I will reply to every single one.

I am really curious about your life.

In Lieu of Biking...

This year’s BIKE WITH OR WITHOUT MELINDA event looks to have a record turnout.

That is to say, a record LOW turnout. I am in fact the only one attending. Since I have been hosting it since 1999, I am not about to cancel it due to lack of attendance. You never know, someone else might decide to come at the last minute, even if the chance is somewhere between zero and epsilon (a value slightly larger than zero).

I am just going to modify BWOWM to my own tastes. Since social biking is out of the question with no one to socialize with, I am going to challenge myself to a 10 mile run/walk around Shell Lake WI. I will start at the cabin and proceed clockwise around the lake.

So this year it will be renamed RWBJASL (Run/Walk by Joe Around Shell Lake). Isn’t that a fabulous acronym?

I have been running a bit the past few weeks, usually 2.5 to 3.25 miles, with my friend Danielle. I am in pretty decent shape for running that kind of mileage. However, I am not quite ready to run 10 miles non-stop. Hence, I am allowing myself to walk all or part of RWBJASL (I pronounce it ROOB-JAZZLE…how do you pronounce it?).

I also have a blister on my left foot that is bugging me and I don’t want to aggravate it by running on it. Walking should be fine, because I can adjust my gate to avoid the blister.

I will take on this run/walk a “bear horn.” This is a small stadium horn that is modified to scare the bejesus out of black bears, which are pretty common around Shell Lake, even though I have only seen 3 or 4 in my life there and they are generally afraid of people (and nocturnal). I will also bring a jug of water for hydration.

The weather is supposed to be fair and sunny, so I will have SUNSCREEN as well. I plan to do this run/walk on Sunday, the day that BWOWM would normally happen. However, I may do a shorter warm-up run/walk on Saturday, of perhaps 5 miles. I don’t want to exhaust myself though, so there is no guarantee I will do the warmup. I might rest and let the blister heal a bit.

8.27.2014

No Shortage of Aerobic Fitness Today

As BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA approaches, it looks to be a very low turnout year. As of now, there is no one who has RSVP’d in the affirmative, which is totally fine (BWOWM is supposed to be a small event...but not this small).

Past years’ attendees have other commitments this year, precluding them. I still host the ride even if no one comes, other than myself, because it is a tradition. However, I probably wouldn’t stop much to socialize with no one else to socialize with. It will still be fun to chill out at the cabin.

Some years are well attended, others not. It is just the way.

This morning I ran a 5K with Danielle and then bike commuted to work as well. The runs are getting less painful as my body adapts to them and my running muscles strengthen. My bursitis issue has greatly diminished, especially if I remember to stretch and take some NSAIDs right after I am done. This afternoon, I will go into the “comfort room” at work and stretch the hip joint a bit to relieve any residual achiness. The recliner chair in there has an armrest that allows me to cock my leg up just the right way to yank on that tendon or ligament or whatever it is in there giving me grief, albeit much less grief than when I first started running a few weeks back. Danielle is in better shape than me, and younger. She is getting conditioned a lot faster than me, and she leaves me in the dust on uphills, which I hate. I feel like I will eventually hold her back, but maybe I can squeeze in a few solo runs to narrow the skill level between us over time.

Last week we found a nice 5K route in my neighborhood, kind of on accident. If we run again this week, we will probably do that.

I have been driving to work on Thursdays because that is my CSA pickup day, and it is easier to haul my CSA veggies (and eggs) in my car than on my bike. However, weather permitting, I may bike this Thursday (tomorrow) with two saddle bags on my cruiser, with which to haul veggies home. I will put the eggs on top of my clothes in one of the saddle bags, for extra padding. I have successfully transported eggs in the saddle bag of my cruiser before, without breakage. I know my bike commute route really well now and can proceed with caution through the known bumpy and rough areas.

There’s a completely heinous construction zone on Gammon Road now that intersects my bike commute route. The d-bag construction people have carved up the road pretty brutally, leaving a sizeable bike-unfriendly “ledge” that I need to navigate carefully.

That’s about all.

8.25.2014

Bike With (or Without) Melinda 2014

This past weekend up at the cabin, Sherry, Jerome, and I rode our bikes along a variant of the BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA route that took us through Long Lake, WI. It was not a bad route, with quite a few lakeside establishments in Long Lake, that included a large pizza feast. We did make a wrong turn coming back to Shell Lake from Long Lake, which was totally Sherry’s fault. Just kidding. It was my fault, though Sherry could have prevented my error by questioning me on my decision to turn right instead of left, as we should have. But no matter, it was still fun.

I guesstimate this alternate BW(OW)M route is about 30+ miles total round trip, considerably shorter that the ~50 mile route of previous years, between Shell Lake and Stone Lake. This new route has a longer option, if there are some potent riders who feel compelled to get some extra miles in. They can pedal on to Birchwood, WI, where there are some food and beverage rewards to be sure. But the stretch between Long Lake and Birchwood is kind of lonesome, albeit scenic. So once you commit to the long route, you have to see it through, or miss out on the rewards in Birchwood. On the other hand, even the short route has a lonesome deserted stretch from Long Lake back to Shell Lake, on Highway D via Sarona, with little in the way of rest stop respite, other than being able to view the lakeside spot where Hamm’s Beer ads are photographed.* But once you are back in Shell Lake, you are almost done riding, whereas the long route riders still have to retrace their lonesome path from Birchwood back to Long Lake and then ride the lonely and deserted Long Lake to Shell Lake stretch.

A partial solution to this conundrum is for everyone to ride the route in reverse, starting in downtown Shell Lake for breakfast at either Michelle’s or else the Potter’s Shed Cafe, then riding the lonely stretch of D to Long Lake, at which point the long route riders can choose more rest stop free riding en route to Birchwood, whilst the short route riders make their way slowly through Long Lake’s varied establishments and eventually to the Roost restaurant in Madge (formerly the Catty Shack) for lunch, and Rummel’s garage bar as the last stop before returning to the cabin, some 4 miles from Rummel’s. By Rummel’s, hopefully, the long riders have caught up. But if not, they know where to go. There is an eternal natural spring between Rummel’s and the cabin, where riders can brave bears if they want to fill their water bottles with Nature’s artesian spring water.

All of this may be moot if there are no riders to speak of on this year’s BW(OW)M. Jerome and Sherry cannot make BW(OW)M weekend this year, which is why we did a pre-ride the weekend before. I have a tentative RSVP from another friend, and a couple of uncommitted maybes. If no one ends up going on BW(OW)M this year, no worries. I will just go on a bike ride of my own and spend quality time with my folks. I am totally OK with that, though I want to share the fun and relaxation of the up north cabin and biking experience with some friends, because it’s quite a nice vacation to round out the summer. But the cosmos may have other plans for people, and that’s OK. Maybe next time.

* This statement has not been validated as true. However, the site in question does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Hamm’s filming locale.

8.24.2014

Bike With or Without Melinda Pre-Ride

This weekend, Sherry, Jerome, and I drove up to the cabin and did a social bike ride a week ahead of BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA over Labor Day weekend.

Sherry and Jerry, as I call them, cannot do BWOWM, so we decided to come up this weekend instead.

I will be up next weekend for BWOWM, but I am not sure if anyone else is going to come. I have some tentative commitments, but these tend to fluctuate as the date of the event nears. Labor Day falls on September 1 this year, which makes the weekend a transitional one for many people who have end of the month commitments. For example, Sherry, who has to move to her new apartment on September 1 and needs to spend the weekend packing up. Similarly, my friend Becky wants to come on BWOWM but has to move some stuff into storage that weekend.

Then there are bound to be one or two people who are like, "Oh...Labor Day is on September 1? I thought it was the next weekend. I guess I can't go after all..."

Weak.

But no matter. I will be here enjoying the northwoods. Anyone else who comes will only augment the fun. Shell Lake, on which our cabin sits, has Native American healing powers, so swimming in it is a great way to rejuvenate. Then there is fishing and windsurfing options.

8.23.2014

#whenidiechallenge

When I die I will bequeath a sizeable chunk of my estate to a charity or a handful of charities that I have observed to have proven themselves worthy over my lifetime.

Unfortunately, because of the #icebucketchallenge, the ALS charity that spawned this awful iteration of the "white savior complex" will not be one of them.

And...GO!

8.22.2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge and Free Will vs. Coercion

Look, I know ALS is bad. People should donate to charities that study and fight it. But they should also give to other charities, and money is finite, at least in my bank accounts.

I donated $50 to WISPIRG last week because I support their cause. I don’t have $50 to donate to ALS research right now, and I am not dumping ice water on my head. So piss off.

I totally encourage people who do have infinite sums of money to donate A LOT to the fight against ALS, if that’s their bag, as well as other charities. Rich people with excessive money should spend it on good things.

Who knows, maybe if you throw more money at ALS, it will magically go away and everyone will be cured. But you know, you also need scientists and doctors to actually do the research and develop treatments and preventive measures. Just funneling money at something doesn’t usually automatically help it along. The money has to go to something, not just into the pockets of the people running the charities.

At this point the #icebucketchallenge meme has gotten so out of control, I don’t think people are donating anymore and some probably don’t even know what ALS is. They are just doing it to hop on the meme bandwagon.

Let me tell you something, this summer is not even hot enough to make dumping ice on my head worthwhile. Some people got electrocuted doing this challenge when a fire truck ladder hit some power lines. People could die from this thing.

And people in California should be ashamed about wasting all that water when they have the worst drought ever going on.

The point is, donate to whatever you want, or nothing at all if you can’t afford to. No one should force you to do something. Do it for yourself because you want to. If it is not done out of free will, it is not really charitable, it is coerced.

When I see someone do the #IBC, I think, “Wow, I did not know that person was so conformist and gullible…I thought they had FREEWILL.”

I think there is some kind of “white savior” complex driving people to do the ice bucket challenge. But dumping ice water on your head does not make you a hero. Asking others to donate does not make you a hero. Only YOU donating money makes you a hero, not coercing others to do it while you wash away your own guilt with a bucket of ice water.

I hope this meme comes to a speedy end.

8.20.2014

Biathlon or Triathlon Wednesday

This morning I ran 3.2 miles (5 kilometers) with my neighbor Danielle. It was by no means easy, but it was a great workout. I felt great when it was over.

On top of that, I bike commuted to work today, which will be a total of about 15 miles after I bike home this evening.

On the face of it, that constitutes a small standard biathlon.

However, if you include tonight’s marathon of aerobic and energetic rock-n-roll music that me and my band GUPPY EFFECT will be playing at the Mason Lounge (406 S. Park St, Madison WI), then I will complete a medium-sized, non-standard triathlon today, where one of the events is face melting, sphincter exploding live rock-n-roll performing.

Trust me, rocking is a workout, at least for GUPPY EFFECT. A lot of bands just stand on stage and don’t move around. Even they are expending energy, though not as much as us. We (and primarily I) move around a lot. The Mason Lounge has a rather small stage and so it won’t be easy to move in the horizontal axis, but we will definitely move in the vertical axis, via small repeating episodes of levitation.

The show is from 8 to 10 PM tonight at the Mason, if you’d like to spectate and be there when I cross the metaphorical “finish line” of today’s alt-triathlon.

8.19.2014

A Shift to More Nutrient Dense and Higher Protein Foods the Fortnight Prior to BWOWM

It is a little less than a fortnight until BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA, the Labor Day weekend social biking event I host every year (since 1999) in Shell Lake WI, and I am embarking on a pre-ride health challenge to consume a diet richer in nutrient dense and higher protein (healthy) foods to prepare me for the event.

The ride is just a social one of about 50 miles round trip between Shell Lake and Stone Lake WI, with many rest stops for refreshments and food, much of which will be nutrient poor and calorie high. It is not a race but I need to make sure my body has maximum good nutrition before the ride. I also want to reduce my weight by a few pounds, which the ride is sure to restore.

The idea for this challenge came because I got a new grill from my family as a house warming gift after I moved to Madison. My sister inspired me to use it often to cook lean meats and vegetables (it has a slick vegetable cooker tray). I fully plan to do so.

It is also nearing the end of summer proper and my activity levels begin to drop as it gets cold in Wisconsin. That means more storage of empty calories as fat, so I need to adapt my dietary lifestyle to compensate. This challenge will serve as a reset for my summer dietary habits, which tend to be less restrictive due to my frequent physical activity, transitioning to winter habits that are healthier.

At work, the cafeteria has a decent salad bar with a variety of nutrient dense and high protein foods. This is fortunate with respect to my fitness challenge. I am not a dieter, in the sense of restricting calories. Instead, I change the type of calories and the ratio between nutrition and calories. That is, I focus on foods with a high nutrient density relative to calorie content, which are healthier and stimulate less weight gain due to their minimal impact on insulin metabolism.

Beans and nuts and eggs have calories, but the ratio of nutrients to calories is higher than in say, ice cream, which has a lot of empty calories relative to nutrient content.

The salad I bought for lunch today  contained, in no particular order:

Chick peas - protein/dense
Red and green peppers - dense
Broccoli - dense
Mushrooms - protein/dense
HB egg - protein/dense
Walnuts - protein/dense
Spinach - dense
Grilled chicken - protein/dense
Newman's Own Light Italian Dressing (1 packet) - dense (80 calories, all from olive and vegetable oils)
Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (1 packet) - dense (150 calories, from olive and sugar)

The vinaigrette dressing is the only source of refined carbohydrate in this salad and I probably should have avoided it, but it adds a lot of flavor. The Newman's Own brand of light Italian dressing is the only one I know of that contains no sugar at all.

I also avoided dairy in this salad, though I had the option to add several kinds of cheese, including cottage.

I also avoided the mock crab meat, which, albeit high in protein, has a questionable manufacturing process.

Bike Commuting as Passive Exercise

I bike commuted today.

I am a big proponent of bike commuting. It fits my lifestyle well. I am a busy person, and I do not have a lot of time in my day for exercise.

The reason bike commuting fits my lifestyle well is because I designed my lifestyle to incorporate it, over time. My current employer has locker room facilities for showering and changing when I get to work. I have moved closer to work now, which makes the decision to bike commute rather than drive a no brainer. The shorter distance means a little bit less exercise during my commute, but being in Madison gives me access to more activities to do after work, like social bike rides in the evening. There are many bike clubs and groups around Madison WI. Lately, I have been participating in the Tuesday and Thursday Capital Brewery Club rides with some friends. Before I moved from Cambridge, it was a lot harder to do evening activities, because of the distance to get there. I have eliminated that hurdle. Achieving goals in life is really all about eliminating hurdles and obstacles. That just takes a small amount of vision and some elbow grease to make it reality.

I have transformed my commute time into exercise time very effectively, killing two mediocre birds with one stone. Commuting to work is something I have to do most days, except when I work from home. I think I am like most people in that driving a car through traffic to work is not something I am that thrilled about, even when I have good music to listen to. To be honest, I am not that thrilled about exercise either. It is necessary, because I like to stay fit and healthy, without dieting, and there is just no way around exercise, if that is a goal for my life, which it is. My passion in life is performing live music, playing bass and singing. If competitive athletics were my passion, I would probably treat exercise the way I treat band practice, something fun in preparation for a big show, and I would do it regularly.

Compiling my commute and exercise into the same 30-45 minute time span allows me to have my cake and eat it too (sometimes literally).

On the down side, I am a fair weather biker and I do not like to exercise outside in the winter time. I try to be as active as I can during the fair weather months, to tide me through the winter, when I definitely gain a few pounds, no thanks to the holidays. I have a bicycle trainer machine that I usually throw my bike onto in the winter to get some indoor exercise, but since I can’t combine my commute and exercise times together as well in the winter, I tend to let the exercise slide a bit, especially in January and February. I give myself fitness challenges during those months to try to inspire myself to stay active, and I watch my diet more. Plus, there is always snow shoveling to give me some small amount of aerobic exercise. In truth, I can’t use limited time as an excuse in the winter. My band is usually playing less and there is less to do socially as well. It is a time management thing. I can totally make time for exercise, provided I do it in the morning. I think the lack of motivation is more to do with the seasonal downers I get in winter, due to the shorter day length. It just makes me want to lay about and hibernate. I really need to live someplace warmer and sunnier someday, where I can be active outdoors all year round.

Yes, there are winter sports I can do, but all of them seem like an excessive hassle to me. When I want to ride my bike, I just change into some shorts, get on my bike, and go. If I wanted to do cross country skiing or snowboarding, as fun as those things are, there is the planning and travel to a place to do it, registration fees, weather issues, sometimes lodging expenses, and people to deal with (I don’t like crowds or spending a lot of money on exercise). For whatever reason, I like to do winter sporting activities with friends, whereas I am fine with biking solo. Motivating friends to do winter sports is just as hard as motivating myself, and I don’t want to be trying to motivate two people when I can barely motivate myself. You dig?

I have started running a little bit in the morning, under three miles, with a friend. This is just kind of an exercise booster, above and beyond my bike commuting, especially on days when I cannot bike commute. Running is a quick and effective activity. It takes less time than biking to burn decent calories and it gives me tons more energy and a longer lasting feeling of well-being than biking (the runner’s high).

If I am going to do exercise outside of bike commuting, it usually has to be in the morning. That is the time of day when I don’t have other responsibilities or demands on me. In the evening, after a long day at work, I am stressed out and less motivated to get off my keister and run. I just want to relax and decompress, or sometimes I have other commitments that further divert me from the path to exercise. But after a good night of sleep, I am pretty motivated in the morning. There’s nothing else to really do in the morning, except drink coffee and let the dogs out - no people to deal with or commitments to attend to. So if I am going to run, I make myself do it in the morning.

8.18.2014

The HIATVS House Warming Concert Was a Huge Success

I had a house warming party this past Saturday at my new house in Madison, and my band HIATVS (usually on hiatus) came off hiatus for it. My immediate family and a number of friends attended and it was a very fun time. The performance got off to a bit of a late start, as is usually the case with these things. I had the party kicking off at 5 PM, assuming people would be fashionably late, which was true, and hoped we could get the rocking going by 7 PM, allowing people time to socialize and eat before the music started.

My family all chipped in for an awesome gas grill for the back patio at my new house. It required some assembly and there was some confusion about how to use it, so the grilling was delayed by a few minutes, which meant the eating and subsequent rocking were delayed a few minutes. But no matter, we still got to rock and it was a fun time. My new basement jam space is bigger and has better acoustics than the one at my old house in Cambridge WI.

HIATVS had planned to perform two short sets of music, but we ended up merging them into one marathon set. We were quite entertaining, and thanks to a couple of rehearsals prior to the show, and a lot of woodshedding on our own time, I felt the performance was as biff free as it could be.

Everyone was attentive and applauded often. We were told afterwards the acoustics and the mix were good, principally that all the vocals could be discerned. We were also told that the music wasn’t very audible outside the house, which is good news as far as not annoying the neighbors (who were invited, but had other commitments of their own).

A friend named Shawn did a guest appearance with us, singing the Jeffery Dallas song, “Akbar,” which has a backstory beyond the scope of this post (but suffice to say, this song became my bike team’s theme song on RAGBRAI back in July, and Shawn was the one who introduced it to us on that bike ride).

The new grill worked fabulously, and I used it again on Sunday afternoon, when we were visited by my parents and our friend Todd, to cook some more meats and also some grilled vegetables using the vegetable grilling tray that came with the grill. I am going to try to use the grill a lot more this summer and into the fall. My sister says she uses her grill almost every day to cook foor and it seems economical. The propane tanks are supposed to last a long time, provided you don’t accidentally leave them on.

Overall, it was a great weekend, although I was fairly tired due to the effort of the house concert and not as much sleep as I would have liked. But I did get a decent night of sleep last night and met my parents for breakfast at their hotel this morning, before they traveled back up to the cottage in northern WI for some more R&R.

8.16.2014

Running and the Mysterious Disappearing Hip Joint Bursitis

When I first start running after a period of hiatus from the activity, I get bursitis (I think this is what it is, at least according to my osteopathic doctor friend, Tyler) in my left hip. It usually bothers me for a couple weeks, maybe 3 or 4 runs of 2.5 miles or so, then pretty much goes away and I can run just fine without any pain thereafter as long as I keep it up and don't go on another long hiatus.

It is not clear to me why this pain goes away after a while. I would think that my hip joint would continue to get inflamed with every run, so the bursitis should be chronic. All I can think is that maybe it is a muscular issue and as with my other sore muscles, with training and repetition comes strength and adaptation of the muscles to the new activity. This hypothesis is supported by two pieces of evidence.

1. The bursitis seems to go away in about the same time frame as the soresness in my other muscles.
2. The pain can be diminished with proper stretching of my glutes and IT band.

The thing I don't understand is why it is only in my left hip and not my right. If it is muscular, shouldn't I be feeling it in both?

Your thoughts?

8.15.2014

Phenom

This week has been pretty phenomenal.

I managed to work out 3 out of 5 work days this week, and also got a social bike ride in last Sunday, with a group of friends. The social ride was hampered by the destruction of three bike tubes due to flat tires and I wasn’t able to finish it (I had to get sagged by my friend Danielle). However, it was still super fun and a great weather day for riding and socializing at the establishments along the Military Ridge Bike Trail that goes southwest out of Madison WI.

I ran with Danielle on Tuesday morning, then bike commuted to work on Wednesday (~15 miles round trip). I am not usually able to bike commute on Thursdays, but I was able to squeeze in a Capital Brewery Thursday Night Ride after work (~17 miles) and before GUPPY EFFECT’s gig at Mr. Roberts Pub on Thursday night. GE really brought the thunder, opening for touring singer/songwriter Dixie Duncan and a Madison punk rock outfit called Son of a Gun. A lot of talent there last night. I ended up staying out until almost bar time to hear the last band and get caught up with my friend Tami.

I had planned to run this morning with Danielle, but due to the late night, I decided to sleep in and canceled on Danielle. However, we might run tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and if so, I will have 5 workouts under my belt for this week (what is under my belt is the problem that necessitates more workouts…I love to eat!). Tomorrow will be a very busy day though. In the morning, I have to cruise over to Whitewater and pick up my dad’s bike, which I took in for a tuneup at BicycleWise. En route, I will get an oil change at Cambridge Auto Repair Shop (CARS), where I used to go when I lived in Cambridge. It’s hard to find a good mechanic, so when I have a chance, I take my car to Terry at CARS. So I need to get up buttcrack early if I am going to squeeze in a run before that.

In the afternoon, HIATVS is going to dress rehearse for our performance at my house warming party on Saturday evening. My whole family will be in town for that, as well as numerous friends. It’s going to get pretty crazy at my house on Saturday. I am hoping for good weather so people can congregate on the back patio. I would like to secure a grill for the party, and might be able to work that on Saturday, if my pops can help me transport one in his SUV.

Last Tuesday night I went into the WORT 89.9 FM community radio station and signed up to do a bit of volunteer work. Sounds like a fun low maintenance gig and the station is right off the Southwest Commuter Bike Path that I can take from my house. I am helping the webmaster archive some past radio shows on their web site, so people can listen to them later. The webmaster Tim is a really nice fellow, enjoyable to work with.

That’s my news. What’s yours? I would love to hear it.

8.13.2014

Portents

It was a superb morning for bike commuting today. Mild and sunny. This entire August has thus far been remarkably cool and dry for Wisconsin weather. It irks me because it’s so unusual. It portends ominousness.

I made the mistake of leaving my bedroom door open this morning, so my roommate Sherry’s Boston terrier, Bella, decided to jump on my bed and wake me up with slobbery dog kisses at about 6:30. My alarm was set for 7. I kicked her out and dozed off for a few more minutes, but the sudden introduction of canine stimuli had done its work on my nervous system and I got up. Sherry also bike commuted this morning, and she left before me because she likes to get to work quite early. She works downtown in Madison WI and has a sweet bike commute along the Southwest Commuter Bike Trail. I rode that trail last night, when I went down to the Madison community radio station, WORT 89.9 FM, to do some volunteering. However, I work on the west side of Madison (Middleton, actually) and although my commute distance is only slightly longer than Sherry’s, I have to take roads mostly and it is a little slower and more time consuming. The back roads I take are not bad as far as traffic, with the exception of a stretch of Grand Canyon Road where the cars seem to be driven by mostly bike hating douche-nuggets.

If there is net global warming, then somewhere on the Earth right now it is miserably hot and humid, because the climate in the Midwest has been remarkably mild and dry this summer. RAGBRAI, the big bike ride in July that I participated in this year, is miserably hot and humid most years. But this year, it was almost perfect weather. It got a little bit hot a couple of days, like into the 80s, but this is nothing compared to the 90s and 100s that are seen on some RAGBRAIs. It also only rained briefly one morning during RAGBRAI and we were able to wait it out and then ride, albeit a bit behind the pack. I cannot complain about this great weather, and yet it is worrisome. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so this great weather has to be compensated for in a cosmic sense to not violate the laws of thermodynamics.

8.12.2014

Fabulous

It was a fabulous night to ride my bike downtown to the community radio station I am going to volunteer with a little bit, so that's what I did. It is WORT 89.9 FM. I will be archiving some radio shows onto their web site for people to stream after the fact, at first. Eventually, I will expand into other areas. I put "health writing" as an option on my volunteer application.

I drove to work today for a number of reasons. One of them was getting new locks on all my doors as a security precaution. I just moved to a new house in Madison and it never hurts to change the locks. You don't know who the previous owner gave keys to. Anyway, I had to wait at home in the morning for the locksmith to arrive, during which time I got caught up on some episodes of Hemlock Grove on Netflix.

Work involved prepping for a meeting and the meeting itself, mostly. A small amount of fecal matter impacted the fan, but it wasn't tragic. It just slowed things down a bit.

I got home and made a quick dinner and let the dogs out before I tooled down to WORT on my cruiser bike and met the web development guy, Tim, at the station who trained me on the archiving process. It's pretty easy, but has a bunch of steps and requires some finesse in selecting descriptive meta tags so people can find the shows when searching the Internet. My friend Holly was there too. I am kind of taking over her duties and that is how I found out about this volunteer gig. I will probably give them 3-4 hours per week. It's a fun and very laid back radio station.

Anyway, I could have driven to the station but it was a beautiful evening, so I decided to bike. And besides, it is moving week for the college kids, so parking might have been a chore. I took the Southwest Commuter Trail which is quite close to my house and runs right past WORT in Madison. It is exactly 30 minutes door to door. The bike path is mostly downhill going into town and slightly uphill coming back. The trail was a bit crowded on my way to the station, but by the time I came home it was very underpopulated, which I like.

A good day, and I am tired and will probably sleep well tonight.

GUPPY EFFECT had band practice last night, in anticipation of our show at Mr. Roberts this Thursday 8/14/14, and our show at the Mason Lounge on Wednesday 8/20/14. We are pretty much doing the same set, though I am not sure why we are doing two shows so close together in Madison. I guess the Roberts show will be good for our late night partying fans who do not have to work on Friday and the Mason show will be for our working stiff fans who have a curfew, because the Mason show will be pretty early, 8 to 10 PM.

My house warming party is this Saturday, with rocking provided by HIATVS.

8.09.2014

Is the Toure de France Sullied Forever Because of Lance Armstrong?

Lance Armstrong argues that there is no way to win the Toure de France without doping and I have verified this with an independent credible source.

So I think that means one of two things for athletes in the bicycle racing realm.

1. Don't dope. Do it for the love of the sport and support your cycling team. Never aspire to win or achieve more than your personal best.

2. Dope.

I am not making a case for letting Lance Armstrong off the hook. He still cheated and lied about it. The latter is probably the more heinous crime. He did eventually come clean. He has to live with the fact that his wins (subsequently revoked) were unfairly achieved. One could argue that many of his competitors were also doping, thus perhaps somewhat leveling the playing field for the handful of top contenders. But it is still an artificial win that diminishes the true human strength and skill needed to win a bike race.

Yet, if it were not for Lance Armstrong's TDF wins, would we have Livestrong, the charity he started to raise money to fight cancer? If he were just a non-doping 5th or 6th place loser bicycle racer, would he have had the media presence to raise awareness about cancer? Would the cyclist who would have won the TDF in this alternate universe have struggled with cancer himself and dedicated himself to fighting it? We don't know.

What we do know is that Lance Armstrong continues to do good via his charity. He is a fallen angel in bicycle racing, and thus imperfect. Are any of us perfect? Maybe now Lance should be recognized not as a champion cyclist but rather as a champion in the fight against cancer.

In any case, who is winning the Toure de France these days and should they be more carefully scrutinized?

Because it is without a doubt that doping continues amongst the top contenders.

I am even curious to know if maybe Lance came clean in order to expose the issue of doping in bicycle racing. Maybe all that anti-cancer charity work gave him a conscience and he saw what is really important in life.

On RAGBRAI, my friend Sherry and I got up close and personal with Lance Armstrong because he was slinging beers in the beer garden in Rock Valley IA, where the week long pedal across the state of Iowa began this year. Sherry even slapped a TEAM CRAZY BIRD sticker on him...quite a coup.

It was exciting to be near this infamous celebrity and his checkered past did not diminish the thrill of seeing him in the flesh. Heck, I would probably be excited to see Al Capone or Chuck Manson in the flesh, just for the spectacle of it all.

Your thoughts?

8.08.2014

Running

I like running in the morning. It energizes me and fills me with euphoric endorphins, an effect that lasts most of the morning and usually well into the afternoon, so that I am riding high at work.

I ran this morning, as well as last Tuesday morning, with my friend Danielle. Today’s run, or more appropriately its after effects, will serve me well today, for reasons I cannot disclose until next week. That’s not a ploy to get you to subscribe or regularly follow my blog, but stay tuned if you want full disclosure next week.

This weekend, my old band HIATVS will reunite in my basement jam space for a rehearsal in anticipation of my house warming party the following weekend, on Saturday August 16. I think my whole family is coming down for that and a handful of friends will be there too, so it should be a good time.

Tonight there is some kind of microbrew beer event on the east side of town, which I will probably attend with HIATVS guitarist AquaMunkee once he gets into town, and after we delight in some fish and chips from the Seafood Center, a place we used to eat at (albeit at another location) when he lived in Madison. On Saturday morning, I have a bunch of errands to run before the HIATVS rehearsal and may grab lunch and catch up with my buddy Branden. On Sunday, I am leading a social bike ride along the Military Ridge Bike Trail, from Verona WI to as far as we get (maybe Ridgeway?).

There is no open jam this Sunday, which is annoying, because HIATVS was planning to make a rare appearance at it and the planets looked to be aligning, what with Aqua being in town and all. But maybe we will just jam some more at my place and tighten up our backstrokin’.

8.05.2014

I Ran This Morning

I went for a run this morning with my friend Danielle. It felt pretty good. We went at a slow pace and only did 2.25 miles or something. It was my first run this year, I think, so I didn’t want to push it, but rather ease into running again. I’d like to run before work three times per week. Now that I live in Madison and am closer to work, I have the time to do it. Running is a great workout, because it’s intense and quick, as compared with biking. The runner’s high is more noticeable too and energizes me for several hours of the day. It elevates my mood and makes me more focused and in tune. I have to remember to take NSAIDs before or after running, so as not to inflame my arthritic left big toe (achieved via a spinning bike injury many years ago).

The first run of the year usually feels pretty easy to me. But there is a big recovery period because I am using muscles I haven’t used in a while. So within 24 to 48 hours, I get really sore. After that pain period, I can run again lightly and work out the lactic acid buildup. My goal is to run again this Friday morning, with or without Danielle.

8.02.2014

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong was at the beer garden on the first day of RAGBRAI 2014, slinging beers for charity.

This fallen angel of the bicycle racing world didn't seem to be suffering any shortage of adoration from the throngs of cyclists who joined the crush around the beer kiosk to get a chance to see this infamous icon, or better yet...get a selfie taken with him.

My friend Sherry and I entered the fray and inched our way closer and closer to Lance and his security entourage. It was Sherry's first RAGBRAI and as we got close to Lance, I pulled the packet of TEAM CRAZY BIRD (our bike team) stickers from my jersey pocket and peeled one off its paper backing.

"Here, Sherry," I said, handing it to her. "Slap a team sticker onto Lance Armstrong when you get close."

"Really?" she asked. "Is that OK?"

"Of course," I replied. "Look at all the stickers he already has on his t-shirt."

"Should I ask him first?" she asked.

"If you want to," I said. "As a courtesy. But I am sure he will be fine with it. A TEAM CRAZY BIRD sticker is one of the most prestigious awards you can ever receive."

I took Sherry's iPhone and turned on the camera, holding it high to get a good vantage point as she moved in. I could not hear what she said to Lance over the din of the crowd, but he smiled and nodded, so I assume he acquiesced to her stickering request. Sherry pressed it onto his shirt just below his rib cage on the right side of his abdomen.

I snapped two good images, the first of Sherry holding up the sticker and moving it toward Lance, and the second a post application shot. Here they are.



Why is Lance Armstrong still so popular after his fall from grace? I suppose it is his celebrity. Granted, he lied and had his seven Toure de France trophies revoked for using performance enhancers, and he's a bit of a dick to women. But he still raises a pantload of money for charities and at heart I think he means well. No one is perfect, and his imperfections are magnified by the scale of his fame and mainstream recognition, good and bad, and that is what draws people to him.

Kim Kardashian is popular, even though she contributes less than nothing to the advancement of society or human well-being.

There was a story on NPR recently about a painter who successfully forged fakes of famous painters for years and made huge sums of money selling them, even to museums and collectors who should have known better. When he was outed, his fame turned to infamy, but he suffered no decline in popularity. Indeed, more people began to come to him clamoring for look-alike paintings of famous painters, and he continued to charge hefty sums for these.

A friend of mine despises Lance Armstrong for his lying and womanizing, but I think she misses the point. It is this dichotomy between ideal and imperfection that intrigues people and draws them in. People want to see this fallen angel. It makes them feel better about their own imperfections and insecurities and bad habits.

All of us think we are generally good people even when we stumble and make mistakes or do bad things we know we shouldn't. Lance personifies this.

A few years ago, during the years when Lance Armstrong was raking in Toure de France trophies, I sat next to a bicycle racer on a plane and he gave me the inside scoop. This gentleman assured me that all the top racers took performance enhancing drugs. He also claimed that he did not, and that he could never hope to do better than fourth or fifth place in a race against competitors who were illegally doping. I don't know how credible this guy was, but when Lance was exposed, it kind of validated what he had told me on the plane. I wasn't too surprised, but I did feel kind of let down by Lance anyway. I wanted him to be awesome and he was just pretty good. One could rationalize and argue that if all his competitors were also on performance enhancers, then it was kind of a level playing field, but that would be kind of a weak sauce rationale. Plus, his competitors would all have to come clean and admit to doping too.

One can sympathize with Lance to some extent, in that he was made an example of by the bicycle racing anti-doping agency, whatever their name is. See, Lance Armstrong is still a recognizable name and the agency that seeks to expose dopers is not memorable. That says something.

In any case, I got a bit of a thrill being within spitting distance of Lance Armstrong, and I had no compulsion to spit on him. One of the cockier members of my bike team had wanted to ask Lance if he thought beer was a good performance enhancer, but he never followed through on this comment as far as I knew. I think that would have been fair game, although it would probably have annoyed Lance and his handlers.

8.01.2014

I Should Definitely Use Craigslist More

Last night I borrowed my friend Chris’s pickup truck and went about gathering up some things I found on Craigslist, with the help of my drummer Jon, from GUPPY EFFECT.

One of these things was a fairly new queen bed for the guest room for my new house. It was just a box spring (still in plastic wrapper) and mattress, no frame. But it is perfectly fine without a bed frame, for now. I may get one someday. My friend Sherry is renting my spare room for the month of August until she can move to her new apartment on September 1. I am so geeked that Sherry decided to come to Madison for work (instead of Milwaukee). She is a great friend and we like to do a lot of things in common, like biking and going to see good bands (including GUPPY EFFECT).

I also found an outdoor wicker love seat, chair, and small table for my back patio. They are metal framed, comfortable, and look great.

After the furniture haul, I filled the truck with gas and returned it to my buddy Chris, then took Jon to Vintage microbrewery and restaurant and bought him some food and drink in exchange for helping me out. We talked band stuff and commiserated on the poor public support for great local music like our own.

This weekend, I am going to head up to the cottage and visit with the family for a spell. I will cruise up late on Friday night so that I can have all day Saturday to chill and do a tad of fishing and biking and whatever else. I will also have most of Sunday up there, and head home late afternoon. I may or may not go to the Funks Open Jam on Sunday night, depending on when I get home.

On Monday night, I am borrowing the truck again from Chris and will go and secure the last of the items on my Craigslist haul, a glass topped patio table and some matching chairs. Then my patio layout will be complete, in anticipation of my house warming party on Saturday August 16.

I do not have a BBQ grill anymore, and that might be useful for the party, but I don’t grill a lot. I might try to borrow a grill for that event.

A Positive Week

I had a difficult recovery from RAGBRAI this week, physically and mentally. I had a lot of sleep to catch up on due to bike ride fatigue, and I did a pretty good job of catching up. So I feel decently rested today.

Last night I borrowed a friend's pickup truck and scored a new queen bed and some patio furniture I found on Craigslist. I really like Craigslist.

I am going to get some more patio furniture next week, if all goes well, and that should round out what I need for my house warming social on Saturday August 16.

I bike commuted to work today, which makes it 4/5 days this week that I did so. I still have almost a full tank of gas in my Prius, which is good because I will be driving up to the cottage tonight to spend the weekend with the whole extended family.

Ciao!