A Friday haiku

The week is over
It seemed so long and dreary
Let’s start the weekend!

June Mile-a-day challenge Day 23

I can’t believe I made it this far without waking up at least one morning and going, “Maybe I’ll sleep in and run later.” I’m actually proud of myself for getting this far.

Wednesday I added at 1° incline to the treadmill. The readout says that means I burned an addition 5 calories per run, if you believe in the accuracy of those things.

I did notice my cool down heartrate went up from 114 up to 124 after that first incline run. Today it was down to 119.

Something else I noticed which surprises me. I’m not feeling stiff or have any aches in my joints despite not taking any rest days.

Add in that I also walk an average of 20,000 steps each weekday, so my leg muscles, ankle, knee, and hip joints are always in use.

If you had asked me what would hapoen if I ran a mile a day for a month before I started this, I probably would have predicted some sort of overuse or stress injury. Shinsplints, for example, which had forced me to quit running almost 2t years ago.

But no, I feel pretty good. I’m contemplating keeping this up as a regular daily activity. Maybe I’ll even bump my distance up, gradually, and start July running 1-1/4 miles each day. That means I would have to get up 5 or 10 minutes earlier.

Hmm. We’ll have to think about that.

Music and running

When I first started treadmilling, I’d put on a record. A record. Yes. Some of us still call them that and for a very good reason: I still have a vinyl collection and a quality turntable — a classic, refurbished AR XA.

Anyway, when I was starting out, I could listen to one side of a vinyl record and my run would be over before the record was. Each side of a vinyl record usually has a pkaying time anywhere from 15 to 22 minutes.

Once my runs went longer, I switched to watching something on TV because otherwise you have to jump off the treadmill, lift the needle from the record, flip the record over, then tey to gently place the needle down despite shaking hands from an elevated heartrate. It just wasn’t worth it risking a scratch.

So television. I found coverage of Track and Field events were the best motivator, but unfortunately, they’re few and far between.

Since I’ve now been running just a mile each day, my treadmill time is less than 10 minutes, which means I can go back to enjoying one side of an album.

Yesterday, I put on Boston’s eponymous (I always wanted to use that word) first album and listened to side A. Today, I ran to Side B.

And I discovered something. Running to music makes the time seem to go by faster whereas watching an episode of television seems to make the run drag on and on.

I wonder why that is?

And commercials last forever!

Weigh-In Friday

I’ve managed to drop below the 200 pound wall again. I’m at 199.4 now. And my average fat went down -0.7% while my average muscle went up +0.5%.

Life’s Good = LG

We’ve been with US Cellular for almost two weeks now. So far, despite my problems with all my previous phones, my LG V20 is holding up nicely. By now, my other phones would have been starting to show signs of glitchyness trying all day to find a crappy Verizon Wireless signal here in my Faraday Cage we call a building.

But so far, the LG is working flawlessly. I always have a 4Glte signal (knock wood) and I can place phone calls from nearly anywhere inside the building. Even it’s battery lasts for most of the day. All my other phones needed to be recharged after just a few hours.

I’m not claiming the LG is the best smartphone out there, but on the US Cellular network in downtown Milwaukee, it is greater than any Verizon Wireless phone I’ve ever owned.

So glad I made that switch.

Gina update

I’ve been driving our 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge for about 2 months now. Usually, by this time with any newer car I’ve owned, the newness and novelty would have worn off. I’d become, if not jaded then bored with it.

Not this car. I’m still having a blast driving it around town. I actually look forward to driving to and from work.

I’ve read many a review on this little Fiat and the majority of them are, if not downright negative, at least less than praising. I can’t help but wonder if they’re talking about some other car. Or possibly, years of driving and reviewing dozens of cars has made those automotive journalists jaded or possibly they just don’t appreciate the fun someone can have driving a minicar; they only value cars that have peel-your-face-back acceleration along with a throaty growl.

I feel sorry for them. My Fiat still is bringing a smile to my face.

Welcome to the new dark ages

Anyone else beginning to feel triggered just seeing TheRump’s face or hearing his voice?

Anyone else feel that, “OK, things couldn’t possibly get any worse?” And then it does? How many more rights, how many more safety and environmental regulations can they dismantle?

How much more power can they give to the rich and corporations? How much further can they erode the middle class’s ability to make ends meet?

How many more lies will the American people swallow before they finally rise up and scream, “ENOUGH!”

Resist.! None of this is normal. We don’t have to accept it. The revolution must begin now

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

because this land was made for you and me, not the corporations, not the robber barons, not the elites, and definately not some ignorant, bigoted Orange Turd.

Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land

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These were a few of my favorite stores

As a child, my favorite store to hang out and just browse all the cool shit was the hobby store at Capital Court mall. It was called The Hobby Horse, I beleive. Both it and the mall are long gone, just childhood memories now.

But back then I was into plastic modeling and racing HO cars (those little slot car racers made by Aurora). HO cars, like trains, were a huge fad back in the 1960s. Unlike today, where you get a cheap race track set for a few bucks that runs on batteries, has crappy cars that won’t stay on the track or even run half the time, and you end up throwing the whole piece of shit in the trash in a month, the HO cars of the ’60s were well-made, durable, and customizable.

Everything on the car, from the chassis itself, to the wheels, magnets, bushings, and the conductor rails, were replaceable with higher end accessories designed to give you an edge in a race. (I still have my cars and parts.)

Many  a Saturday afternoon was spent in the Hobby Horse just window shopping for all the latest car designs or the newest plastic model kits.

Then, sometime around when I was 14 or 15-year-old, my tastes drastically changed. It happened when I heard my first Black Sabbath album and read my first fantasy novel (Tarzan or Conan, can’t remember which was first). My new favorite stores to browse in became Walden Books and 1812 Overture, a record store on the corner near my home (as well as downtown’s Radio Doctors).

I’d spend hours at each, just browsing, picking up books that caught my attention, or flipping through records in the bins. Walden’s then had a great selection of current books in the science fiction, fantasy, and pulp adventure reprints. Back then, it seemed like every visit brought a plethora of new paperbacks that smelled fresh off the presses: a new Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, or Conan.

And the record store as well was an aural and visual delight. The store’s staff always had some new music playing and just browsing through the bins was an adventure. This was back when album covers were truly worthy of being called art. Many artists of the day created some frame-worthy pieces, most notably Roger Dean.

Yes's

Yes’s “Tales from Topographic Oceans” by Roger Dean

Then in the 1980s, the VCR became affordable for consumers and video stores opened up, like Suncoast Pictures, where you could go and browse for your favorite movies, TV shows, or musicals, and to reserve copies of the newest upcoming releases. Browsing a Suncoast was a movie-goers dream: they offered not only videos, but posters and other Hollywood memorabilia.

For many of us, browsing is a thing. We could spend hours sifting through records, or videos, or perusing books. It was a truly enjoyable experience and one that has in many cases gone away.

Today, everything is digitized and available on the Internet.

Record stores are just a memory. No one buys albums any more (except for the current nostalgic fad). Music is just a bunch of binary 1s and 0s and album art is also a thing of the past. I mean seriously, is it possible to appreciate a postage-sized graphic representation the way we could a 12 inch by 12 inch gorgeous piece of artwork?

Video stores are all gone and book stores, like Walden, B. Dalton, and Borders are all out of business. Only Barnes and Noble survives, but they’re becoming just a shadow of their former self, catering less to bibliophiles and becoming more of a gift shop, specializing in action figures, Legos, and manga. For book browsers like me, a trip to B&N takes mere minutes now.

For those of us who love to browse, the Internet and digital technology is our bane. Its sad because people need that adventure of discovering new music, or a new author, or what have you, that only comes from physically holding the object, enjoying the tactile feel, appreciating the visual aesthetics, reading the cover blurbs or liner notes. You can’t do that online, not like in real life.

In comparison, online shopping is one-dimensional. You can only see what they want you to see. The experience is static, artificial, and unfulfilling. Maybe one day businesses will realize this and attempt to give customers more of the old-fashioned, hands-on shopping experience. Sure, they’ll never return to brick and mortar stores, those are proving to be too inefficient, but maybe three-dimensional holographic stores could be the answer. With a pair of glasses, you can log-on to Amazon (or online retailer of choice), choose books or music, and voila! You’re transported to a virtual bookstore, with shelves lined with books, just like the good old days, and you can pick them up, look at the front and back, open them, peruse them, and discover books you wouldn’t have just scrolling through page after page online.

Maybe. One day.

A fella can dream, can’t he?

But, until that day, at least I still have guitar stores to go to and browse.

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Classic Rock You Should Own, But Probably Don’t, Part 3

In the first two parts of this series I discussed two hard rock albums, Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep’s Look at Yourself. Just so you don’t think all I listen to is hard acid rock, this next album is one of the most tasteful electric blues albums of all time by the premiere British Blues band led by one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, Kim Simmonds. If I ever do a series on “Guitarists You Should Know, But Probably Don’t” Kim will be the first one I discuss.

Savoy Brown Blues Band. Looking In. 1970. Genre: British Blues.

Savoy Brown’s first release Shake Down came out in 1967. By 1970 they were releasing their sixth album, Looking In, and Savoy Brown was in its second or third incarnation. Savoy Brown was a hard-working and touring band and because of it became a revolving door for many musicians with founder/lead guitarist Kim Simmonds as the one and only constant.

One might wonder about the quality of the music when a band releases six albums over a three-year span. No need to worry in the case of Savoy Brown. They consistently produced some of the best British blues on vinyl. From the insistent beat in Train to Nowhere to the amusing She’s Got a Ring in His Nose, and a Ring on Her Hand, the drug anthem Needle and Spoon, and the soulful Stay While the Night is Young, Savoy Brown was putting out some great blues.

In fact, if you enjoy the blues or boogie music, you can’t go wrong if you pick up any of their late 60s and early 70s releases such as Blue Matter, A Step Further, Raw Sienna, Street Corner Talking, or Hellbound Train.

Looking In finds the band at its peak. It is the best the lot and some of the tastiest blues guitar work ever pressed on vinyl resides in these grooves. What I would call a perfect album from start to finish. Every song is a keeper and Lonesome Dave Peverett’s vocals are often painfully mournful; he has just one of those perfect blues voices. After this album the rhythm section ran off (everyone kept leaving poor Kim in a lurch) and formed Foghat with the addition of Roger Price as lead guitarist.

The album art was done by one Jim Baikie, a well-known illustrator who is known for television adaptations of Star Trek and The Monkees along with Judge Dredge in 2000 AD, and recently Alan Moore’s Tomorrow Stories.

Here’s a great example from that album, Take it Easy.

Sitting An’ Thinking is a great instrumental. I really like the slide guitar. I assume it’s slide, it doesn’t sound like a whammy effect to me.

And here’s a more recent live set (Kim Simmonds is the genius on the Flying V) of another song off that album, this is Poor Girl.

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Classic Rock You Should Own, But Probably Don’t, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of Classic Rock You Should Own, But Probably Don’t. This blog series presents a list I’ve compiled over the years of classic rock albums I suspect few people own, but should. Each featured album is a classic in its own right and deserves to be in any classic rock record collection as much as anything by Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Bruce Springsteen, or the Beatles. Part 1 focused on Captain Beyond and can be found here.

This time around I’d like to introduce you to:

Uriah Heep. Look at Yourself. 1971. Genre: Hard Rock.

With this, their third effort Heep achieved IMO that perfect balance between heavy guitar and soaring keyboards that all prog metal bands should try to aspire.

The players were Ken Hensley (keyboards and primary song writer), Mick Box (guitar), Paul Newton (bass), David Byron (vocals), and Ian Clarke (drums).

Ken Hensley is generally regarded as the defining keyboardist of prog metal and some of his best work is on this album, most notably the extended solo on July Morning (see link below). Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. has said, “Ken Hensley wrote the rule book for heavy metal keyboards as far as I’m concerned” and who am I to argue with Blackie?

By the time Look at Yourself was released, David Byron had grown as a singer, showing more maturity and range with a great sense of theater.

The band’s next two albums, Demons and Wizards and Magician’s Birthday also shine and are more polished and refined, not quite as heavy as this one. The songs are much more complex and rich.

You may recall Uriah Heep from one of their three hits, “Easy Livin’,” from Demons and Wizards (1972), “Sweet Lorraine,” from Magician’s Birthday (1972), and “Stealin’” from Sweet Freedom (1973). They were a very successful band overseas and were one of the first stadium rock bands, playing to larger and larger houses.

I first discovered the band when they had just released Magician’s Birthday and I was so impressed by them that I immediately when out and bought their first four albums. Every album has something special to offer, but Look at Yourself quickly became my favorite with its hard driving rhythms, Mick Box’s chunky metal chords, and Hensley’s flourishes on keyboards.

The original cover art for Look at Yourself was interesting because it had a die-cut opening and a reflective mirror-like insert (not just a gray haze like on the CD versions).

Another interesting tidbit about Uriah Heep albums, is that Ken Hensley wrote liner notes, a sort of early vinyl version of a blog, that talked about what the band had been doing and how the current album came to be. I know of no other band that did this sort of thing and I felt it made the band seem more accessible to the fans.

The band went through several significant personnel changes throughout its lifetime. Most notably Paul Newton was replaced by Gary Thain who in turn was fired after three albums (he died in 1975 at the age of 27); David Byron was fired (he died in 1985 at the age of 38); Lee Kerslake replaced Clarke then left himself, and Ken Hensley also left and joined the southern rock band Blackfoot in the early 80s. The only constant presence in the band has been Mick Box, who is probably one of the most underrated guitarists in rock.

Despite a minor comeback with the album Abominog, Heep never really regained any sort of foothold in the States. The interesting thing about Abominog was it heralded the return of Lee Kerslake as drummer, fresh off of playing with Ozzy on the first two Randy Rhodes albums. Kerslake brought along bassist Bob Daisley, both leaving over a dispute with Ozzy about royalties and songwriting credits. If you have the original Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman consider them collectors items. Ozzy, in a fit of spite, has since redubbed the drum and bass parts.

Here’s the title track, Look at Yourself. It starts out with some fast paced drumming and Hensley’s patented explosive chords, then the entire band joins in to a crescendo where David Byron comes in. This song is a showcase for how Hensley’s organ could front a hard rockin’ metal song. Mick Box finally makes his presence known with the guitar at 2:19. For the percussion break at 3:32 in the song Heep brought in another now-forgotten band, Osibisa, which was known for its African and Caribbean rhythms.

And here is the longish, July Morning. It starts with a quiet keyboard interlude and slowly builds until the entire band joins in. The song alternates between soft verses focusing on tender keyboards, some acoustic guitar, and Byron’s vocals. Everything soars to a loud chorus which quietly returns to the verse and the whole process starts over again. At 6:44 the song becomes an extended keyboard solo. I was playing this one in the car and my wife looked at me during the keyboard flourishes and said, “What, were you on drugs when you used to listen to that?” Um, maybe?

In Tears in my Eyes (I could only find the live version), Mick Box finally gets to show off his chops. He is the main force behind this song. The tasteful acoustic guitar break in the middle of the song with Byron going “na na na na na” ad nauseum gives way to an extended aggressive solo.

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