Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting Tired

When I was a kid my favorite activity was riding my bike.  I could go anywhere in our small town as long as I was home by dinner time, or if it was after dinner, I had to be home by dark.  I don't know how many miles I logged riding my 20" bike around Dalton City, but I'm sure it was a lot.

I rediscovered my love of biking when I was in college.  I commuted to school and parking on campus cost a fortune so I would parallel park in a nearby neighborhood for free and ride the last few miles on the bike I hauled on the back of my car. (I might add, parallel parking was probably the most useful skill I learned in college, and I got really good at it).  As a bonus, I would have my bike to get around campus on as well.  I never could have made it to my meteorology class on time without a bike.  It was in a building on the north side of school about a mile from the quad where my previous class was held and I only had 10 minutes to get there.  

I bought a cheap mountain bike from Walmart (they called it the "Mountain Fury"), and after riding road bikes with thin tires and curved handlebars since I was a teenager, I was pleased to find this was like a bigger version of the 20" bike I rode growing up.  I could jump curves and ride off road or in the snow.  It was awesome!

Unfortunately my Mountain Fury was stolen, as were two other bikes I had during the 3 years I lived in Rantoul.  (My street was Maplewood, but we called it Maple hood. Fortunately the stolen bikes and an egging to my car were the only crimes we experienced while there.)  I still miss the Fury, but when Heather won a lightweight crossover bike (built like a mountain bike, but with thinner tires more fit for road use) that was too big for her, I was able to reconnect with my inner child again.

The Trail behind my house

I found a trail behind our house that's pretty fun to ride on, but I had to take turns super wide or the bike would start sliding out from under me.  The street tires just weren't cutting it.  Fortunately, I got a flat last week after running over a thorn while off-roading, and when I took it in to the bike shop I had them put a new tire on the wheel in addition to a new inner tube.  The new tire is much more aggressively treaded.  After taking it for a test run what a difference some decent traction makes!  I can turn with ease and speed, just the way I like it.  Now I'm flying down the trail, jumping ditches and loving life.  I'm glad my attempts to patch the old inner tube proved futile, and Walmart didn't have the right size tube to replace it or I wouldn't have made it to the bike shop and would still have my crappy tire.  Gotta love serendipity.

I'll be enjoying this scenery flowing by at faster speeds now

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It was Almost Like a Song

Once upon a time, in this very blog, I talked about how much I love music, and pointed to a Bruno Mars song that is a great combination of good lyrics and an acoustically complex, compelling tune.  Unfortunately, I had the displeasure of hearing one of Mr. Mars more recent songs the other day, and oh how far his star has fallen.  But more about that in a minute.

One of the great discoveries I have made is Slacker radio.  It's a music app similar to Pandora, where you pick a genre and can stream music to match your tastes, even banning songs or artists you detest and marking other songs as favorites so that they are played more often.  I have actually discovered talent on Slacker that I would not have otherwise listened to, such as "Red" (who has a lead singer with a crazy ability to go from screaming at the top of his lungs to singing beautifully seconds later) and "Need to Breathe" with their wonderful jazzy/smokey vocals.

While I normally listen to the Christian Rock station, Heather prefers Country & Western, which I don't particularly care for, which is a nice way of saying that I hate it.  However, I found a compromise in the Classic Country station.  When I was a kid my parents listened exclusively to Country and Western music, which back in those days was actually Country, and not Rock and Roll with a cowboy hat. Because I was raised listening to it, I actually like a lot of the old country songs, and don't mind listening to it, and Heather likes the old stuff as well as the new, so we're both happy.

One of the things that made Country music so good was solid lyrics.  Which brings us back to Bruno Mars.  Compare an old country classic about love by Don Williams (who has an awesome baritone timbre, but that's beside the point):

I ain't gonna marry in the fall
I ain't gonna marry in the spring
Cause I'm in love with a pretty little girl
Who wears a diamond ring

And I'm just a country boy
Money have I none
But I've got silver in the stars
And gold in the morning sun
And gold in the morning sun

With this modern tale of love by the aforementioned artist:

Never had much faith in love or miracles
Never wanna put my heart on the line
But swimming in your world is something spiritual
I'm born again every time you spend the night
Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah
Cause you make feel like, I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
Yeah you make feel like, I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long

Of course not every old country song has great lyrics, nor is every modern rock song as terrible as the one above, but there are a lot of good classic songs on the Country playlist.  As a treat I'll leave you with one that Ronnie Milsap sang over 30 years ago, and although some of the accompaniment is noticeably dated, it still sounds great, and the story he tells (as well as the power with which he sings it) makes it a timeless classic. Rather than make you read the lyrics, I'll give you a link so you can listen to it yourself.  Don't blame me if you almost get choked up.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Road Trip to Colorado

Last week we took a trip to Colorado Springs.  The plan was to check up on our rental properties, catch up with some friends in the area, and I would get to hit the slopes with two of my buddies who live in town.  Since we had been mulling over upgrading to a smartphone for awhile, we decided to take the plunge and buy one the day before pulling out.  This turned out to be not the best decision.

When we got the phone we wanted to keep our phone number from the previous phone, which takes 24 hours or so to take effect, so the Cricket lady gave us a temporary number we could use until the phone number ported over.  While on the road we texted the friends we would be staying with to let them know that we would be there around 6 pm, as the GPS said we would be there at 7, but you have to subtract an hour for changing from Central to Mountain time zone.

At least, that's how our old GPS worked.  When I noticed we were 140 miles from our destination at 5:00, I realized that the new GPS we bought already figures in the time zone change.  This makes sense, but I realized I needed to text our friends and let them know we would be coming in an hour later than I had thought.  Unfortunately, between the time of the previous text and now, the phone had ported the new number over.  It was now unusable until we could get in an area with data coverage so we could finish the process of setting up the phone, which wouldn't happen until we got to Colorado Springs.

This was extremely annoying, but we finally arrived and were able to achieve all of our goals.  I learned a couple of our properties need some yard work, we had good visits with several friends, and I even got to do some skiing and snowboarding and didn't break anything.  As a bonus we went on a shopping spree while we were in town.  We bought a new couch and love-seat (who would have thought they would ship to Texas?), new sandals (yes, we bought sandals in February in Colorado - there's no REI in San Antonio), I got new sunglasses (my old ones somehow got broken while attached to the sun visor on the way up) and a video game (after playing Call of Duty with my friend Mike I decided to get a copy for myself).  It was a pretty good trip, though I'm not looking forward to getting the credit card bill.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Welcome to the 21st Century

Today officially ended our hiatus from the internet - or at least from having internet access at home.  After a year and a half of driving to Starbucks, McDonalds, and the (not so) local library (about a 30 minutes drive), we finally have internet at home again.

What's more, for the first time we have a smart phone, aka a mobile social isolation device (look at me, I'm surrounded by people and yet totally oblivious to their presence).  Heather finally couldn't take using an old fashioned flip phone any longer, so I agreed to pay the monthly charges if she would buy the phone.  Heather went with a Samsung Galaxy III, and I get to pay the monthly bill for unlimited calls, text and data (with throttling after 5 gigs).  We can even tether devices to the phone, hence the ability to post a blog from home again.  I just got done doing some banking online and it felt marvelous.

I have to say that while having no internet at home was tough at times, it definitely forced us to wean ourselves off of our connected dependency.  I even got totally off of Facebook during this time, and don't feel particularly inclined to get back on, though I may eventually.

But on to the really exciting part.  Heather's phone is super cool!  After playing with it a while I realized two things.  1. This phone is more complicated than my iPod touch, in a good way.  2. I may have to get one of these things.  Unfortunately the budget isn't ready to absorb a second phone right now, but someday in the future I expect I will finish the final migration into the present.  In the meantime the iPod touch will just have to suffice.