Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for February, 2007

Moore’s Creek

Monday, February 26th, 2007

I did a road ride on Saturday. I felt like taking a new route, so I rode out Smith Road to Snoddy Road (yes, that’s really what it’s called), and took that to Moore’s Creek Road. It was warmer than it has been, but still only in the lower 40s, and it was quite windy. I made sure to wear a bunch of layers, and was actually pretty warm — except for my left foot again (argh!), and my wrists were cold where there was a small gap between my gloves and the sleeves on my jacket.

I’m still trying to adjust to my road bike, and road riding in general, so I have been extra cautious, especially with all the salt/sand still on the roads. I also need to learn how much traction those tires provide, and how they react to different road conditions. There were also patches of ice here and there, with which I had to contend.

I really liked the route I took, as it had a lot of rolling hills, but not many really big climbs, and some parts of the ride had some fun winding roads. I’m in terrible shape, but I can see that once I’m in better shape, those rolling hills will be even more fun, since I’ll be able to better use momentum to carry me through the climbs.

As I was riding on Moore’s Creek Road toward a state recreation area, I rode down a big hill and then around a turn and saw that the road in front of me was covered in two-inch thick ice! I put on the brakes and (thankfully) stopped before I reached the ice. There were “Road Closed” and “High water” signs, although in this case it was high ice, not high water. I took a few photos, turned around, and went home.

I wish I had taken a few more photos, but it’s sort of a pain to get my point & shoot film camera out of the bag on my bike, which is just one of the ones that hangs from your saddle. Ultimately, I want to put a rack on the back of the bike and a trunk on it, so I could hopefully bring more stuff, and access it more easily. I especially want a shot on the way back on Snoddy Road, from this one spot where you can see hills rolling into the distance.

All told, I rode about 14 miles in around a little over an hour. 14 miles seems to be the standard length of a ride for me right now, although I certainly hope my rides will get longer over time (and as the weather improves).

Once I get my film back, I’ll post some, if they turn out well. I still have to use the rest of the roll first.

Piling It Up

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Note: this was actually written on Feb. 20.

For my birthday (which is actually tomorrow), Sarah booked me flights to go jam and record with the excellent and insane band Halaka this past weekend. My plan was to take just Friday afternoon off work to go, but I didn’t get much sleep and woke up late on Friday. I ended up just taking the whole day instead, which is what I probably should’ve planned to do in the first place.

On my first flight, I was forced to check my carry-on bag due to a lack of room in the overhead compartments. When I arrived at my row, there was a very fat man sitting in my assigned window seat. Normally, I would ask him to move, but I realized that if I did that, I’d be stuck between him and the window, and I really didn’t want that. So I sat in the middle seat, leaning over toward the aisle quite a bit. Fortunately, there was a small man sitting next to me, so I was able to lean into his space without much trouble. By the end of the flight, my spine was nicely curved.

I headed toward the baggage claim area, and saw a man, who pointed at me. He introduced himself as Kingo, and said that the guys with him were the other guys. This nebulous introduction left me initially thinking that Fanch was Madhog and that, in turn, Madhog was indeed Fanch. I quickly realized that I had them reversed, but it took me a couple of hours to overcome my initial misconception and really know intuitively which was which without having to think about it.

We went to Arby’s for some food, and then headed to Sacky’s house and started setting up equipment in his garage. I was informed that we were not allowed in the house until a floor was cleaned or somesuch, and that the sink doubled as urinal. Pooping was to be done at Arby’s, where we’d just come from, so that wasn’t too helpful.

It was pretty funny setting up, because I just had this one small thing to set up, and Kingo and Madhog each had piles of equipment with dozens of cables, samplers, keyboards, tape decks, effects units, and god only knows what else. Fanch had a turntable.

I brought my synth (which is very small), and Sacky had a MIDI keyboard there which I could use. It didn’t have pitch bend or modwheels, which was a bit disconcerting, but he also had a midi controller with some sliders that we hooked up. It wasn’t quite the same, but it worked.

Sacky was in charge of setting up the computer for recording, and he did most of the cable routing and crap to get everything hooked up to the computer. I was impressed with his ingenuity, drilling a hole in the wall to pass a 30-foot firewire cable to the other side of the garage, allowing him to put an audio interface in there since there weren’t enough long 1/4″ cables available. He also had a lot of nice gear, tons of available channels, mics, guitars, amps, drums, etc.

We were up really late Friday night setting things up and doing the first jam/recording session. It went a bit over 50 minutes. Kingo and Madhog played with their samplers and other stuff and sang, Fanch played on the turntable, and sang, and Sacky was on guitar and also sang. Fanch might’ve had a guitar at some point, I really don’t know anymore. There were a lot of cool noise parts in this session, but the highlight for me was the “Welcome to my house, I’m afraid you’ll have to shit at the Arby’s” section.

Unfortunately, Madhog’s pile and vocals didn’t get recorded somehow. The computer recorded a few seconds of that stuff and then it just stopped on those tracks. Nobody knows why. So the whole session is missing a whole musician.

After that, we pretty much went to the hotel right away, had trouble parking because they didn’t even try to plow the snow and the lot was filled with wood chippers and trucks with extensions for trimming trees or working on power lines. Once in our rooms, we crashed pretty quickly, although I had trouble getting to sleep for some reason.

Saturday morning came, and we slept in until maybe 10ish. We acquired breakfast at the Plum Crazy Diner and headed to Sacky’s. Some errands were run, such as picking up cables at a music shop and a Radio Shack. Most things that were sought were not found.

The first recording we did on Saturday was recorded to only four tracks and included (to the best of my recollection) Kingo on pile and vocals, Fanch on bass, Sacky on guitar, Madhog on drums, and me on violin. This went on for approximately an hour and included some real greatness. Some people played horns they didn’t know how to play. All tracks recorded successfully this time, and of note was the mic that was used on my violin was a Peavey PVM480 and did a great job of isolating the violin from all the other instruments, which were louder.

I hadn’t played violin in years, basically, so at first I was rusty, but eventually got in a groove even though I had never improvised before, although by the end of the hour, my hands were sweating and my fingers were sliding around a bit on the fingerboard. So my playing started out relatively crappy, got better, and then got worse. I also played without rosin, which was disconcerting but worked better than you’d think.

At some point, many bricks of margarine were found in the fridge in Sacky’s garage, which were used for throwing in the road and as baseballs, hockey pucks, and other kinds of projectiles. Some Halakans used cardboard boxes as sleds, indeed racing said sleds, and Kingo attempted to use some cardboards as skis, which pretty much failed.

Another piece of thing was recorded involving everyone playing things they had no idea about, the Halakans playing horns and me playing the bass. Probably other things were played as well. That only went on for about 7 minutes. Everyone who played a horn had a sore face for at least the rest of the day.

Some pizzas were acquired, Madhog made many vegetables, and preparations made for the next session, for which guests were expected in the form of a drummer and Mrs. Mackerel’s brother, who played saxophone and other similarly-reeded instruments. Mrs. Mackerel is Sacky’s wife; apparently, Sacky’s full name is Sacky Mackerel.

Setup took a long time for this huge group of participants, and was almost complete when the computer crashed and had to be restarted. Eventually, the festivities were under way.

The guest drummer played drums. Sacky played guitar, as did Fanch and Madhog had a guitar going through his pile, I believe, and he also sang. Kingo played pile and sang. I am not sure about Madhog and Kingo exactly as they were in the other garage. Mrs. Mackerel played viola and oboe — even though she does not play oboe, she practiced for a while and picked it up impressively quickly. Mrs. Mackerel’s brother played some saxophones. Someone played a piccolo at some time, and I know other instruments were played as well. I played the smiley face guitar run through my synth and also the synth itself.

It was a beautiful mess. Nobody could hear everyone else. Everyone could hear different participants, so for instance, Fanch would play off of Madhog, who would play off Sacky, as would I, and the horn would play off Kingo and Mrs. Mackerel, and the drummer laid a bed for all of it. I couldn’t hear the guitars, Kingo couldn’t hear the drums. I couldn’t hear my own self much of the time. A wide variety of styles were eclipsed, some real heaviness, a few mellow moments, some cock rock, and death metal about throwing margarine in the road and riding boxes through the snow. This session went on for over an hour and a half, and the whole thing was listened to afterwards.

That would be the last of the music for the trip, everyone returned to the hotel, Fanch and Madhog I believe crashed, and Kingo and I watched a Louis CK HBO comedy special that us laughing so hard that tears were streaming down our faces and we couldn’t even breathe. It was too late when we finally went to bed.

Sunday morning found all the Halakas, plus Mrs. Mackerel and a baby and me all crammed into a booth for breakfast, again at Plum Crazy. We returned to Sacky’s to pack things, and Kingo dropped me at the airport.

My flight was delayed, at first they said by just 25 minutes, but it ended up being over an hour late. This made me late for my connecting flight in Detroit. Upon arriving there at the precise moment my other flight left, I deplaned just in time to wait 2 hours for the next flight. A meal voucher was provided, so I ate airport enchiladas and cheesecake and caught my flight. I didn’t arrive at home until 12:30am and had to be at work at 9 on Monday and was a zombie, but still managed to be productive somehow.

Our new dog Rob, and some rides

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

We got a dog! Sarah and I had been thinking about getting a dog for some time. So far, we’d avoided actually looking at any, because it’s very hard to look and not get one. Well, on Saturday, we saw a poster from a the shelter at one of our favorite restaurants with pictures of available dogs on it. We skirted the issue of whether to go to the shelter, and ultimately decided to go.

We weren’t necessarily planning to get a dog, but after looking at all of the dogs and spending some time with Rob, a laid back brownish orange mutt, we decided to take him home. Sarah mostly picked him out, I wasn’t that impressed with him while he was in his cage, but she said we should get him out.  Once we started hanging out with him, he turned out to be really cool.

Rob II
Our new dog, Rob

They tell us that Rob is a labrador retriever/hound mix. Who knows if that’s really true, but he’s a great find. Very affectionate, friendly, and so far very well-behaved. He’s 2 1/2 years old and housebroken and knows “sit.” Really the only mischievous thing he’s done so far was to gather a bunch of our shoes together on the couch with him while we were gone. He didn’t chew on them at all. Tomorrow will be the true test, as he’ll be home alone from about 8:30-5:30.

Rob has incredibly deep brown eyes

On Saturday, Dave and I tried to ride on the trails at Brown County, but the 3-4 inches or so of snow was too much — we couldn’t get enough traction. We started riding, and our bikes were fishtailing all over the place. We didn’t get far at all before turning back — we just didn’t have much control. There were a couple of tire tracks there already, and if the snow had been more packed, we would’ve been able to ride. But it just wasn’t working.

Instead, we rode on the roads in the park. This was better than nothing, but it was really cold and the air was cutting right through us. Also, Brown County is extremely hilly, to the point where we were pretty much climbing all the way to Hesitation Point, and going downhill almost the whole way back. It made for a lot of climbing and a very short, very cold ride back. Still, I’m glad we rode.

Today was warmer, so I decided to do a proper road ride. This was the first real ride on my road bike, which I’ve been dying to ride. It was pretty great. I set out at around 2:00 this afternoon, at which time it was 34 degrees. I took State Road 45 to Mount Gilead Rd., and rode that until it looped back around to 45, taking the highway home. I went 13.7 miles at an average speed of 14.5 mph — pretty good for me at this fitness level.

The new bike has a really smooth ride, and it’s so much more lightweight and efficient than my mountain bike — I can really feel the power being transferred directly to the road. I’m not 100% sure if the stem length/angle are right. I had them put a fixed stem on instead of the adjustable one that was on there — in hindsight, maybe I should’ve stuck with the adjustable one long enough to make sure everything was right.

The shifting is buttery-smooth for the most part, there were a few hiccups, but nothing major. It’s a lot slicker than the drivetrain on my mountain bike. I had some trouble at times with the shifters since I had thick gloves on and it was hard to push the smaller lever.

I want to plan out some other road routes in the near future. That’s one thing I can do while the weather is crappy that’ll get my psyched to ride more, and then when I get a good opportunity, I can pick a route and ride it. Some routes I want to do are to/past Lake Monroe (Paynetown and across the Causeway), out Smith Road to Snoddy Road and to another part of the lake there, to Brown County State Park from my apartment (that one will have a lot of killer hills), out SR 135, and countless others. It’ll be fun to plan some routes.

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