Saturday, February 6, 2016

We've made it

So, we have a PlayStation 4 now. I mentioned this before Christmas, but we've now had some time to play around with it. Jack's game is both charming and challenging, well-made and well-played. It's infuriating to watch him, however, because he solves the puzzles in ... well, a different way than I would. Like, mess around and do every action except something that would solve a puzzle. Then, 20 minutes later, just go ahead and solve the puzzle.

It's hard to watch.

The new version of The Show doesn't come out until the end of March, so my video gaming is limited to the other few games we have. The PS4 came with the Uncharted Collection, a disc featuring the first three games in the Uncharted series. After playing for about an hour, I simply couldn't bring myself to care about Nathan Drake and whatever he was doing in that jungle.

So I traded it for FIFA 15. I'm no soccer fan (boring to watch, fun to play), but I've always been OK with FIFA. It's well done, the controls make sense, and it's easy to enjoy. And it looks like this:

Nice, right? This is an actual gameplay image, not the mocked up promo image. It's a pretty game. And it's very realistic, too, in terms of the career modes. The trade (transfer) seasons and tournaments roll throughout your regular season. You can coach international teams. Your players complain if they don't play enough.

This week on the PlayStation Store, Madden 16 is $20. That's a good deal — and video game football is about a thousand times more enjoyable than actual football for me. It's similarly detailed and well-made as FIFA (same company), and so far it's way cool.

What I've noticed, though, is that you could play an actual game and spend maybe 40 minutes. But there is so much in-between-game activity, that you might spend an hour fussing with everything. Training, administrative work, scouting, answering bitchy player emails (this is a thing), marketing efforts ... it's all in there.

Some of it is complex. There are arbitration hearings in the baseball game, and issues like team control for extra years have come up. The first really good baseball game I played was World Series Baseball on Sega Genesis. It was like this:

Oof. That's painful. I was always left wanting by games like that, because while it was pretty good, it was still lacking some things ... like more than five or six canned animations. So we got more and more and more and more and now I have emails from players and a marketing director asking me to install another lemonade stand on the second concourse so my stadium is more profitable.

We have made it, video gamers. We've made these things so life-like, it's basically like work. Sure, you have some fun, but you still have Steve in accounting all over you for not staying on top of the projections.

Oh well. Time to punch in.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One down

I rode in Lincoln over the weekend, thanks to a team meeting and a bike-shop run. I ride down there a few times a year, and it's always good to ride with guys I usually don't see until race day. Anyway, between that ride and an easy one on Sunday, January was a wrap.

Considering the snow and cold we had at varying points, I was able to get outside enough. I nabbed the Strava Climbing Challenge badge fairly easily, which means I was either doing hilly rides or the bar was low. Eh, maybe both? It's a meaningless digital sticker, but it's a decent indication of riding time. Oh, and the total was 18,898 feet of climbing over 10 outside rides.

The wind is howling right now, and about four inches of snow has come down in the last 90 minutes. I planned almost a week ago to stay home from work if it was bad. It's bad, and I have not made a better call in a long while.

I'll pour another coffee or three, watch the snow and get started on February here soon. Or maybe later. Either way.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Get a shovel, I guess

So this guy, Frankie, is a thing. He's in Nova Scotia and has autism and DIGS the weather. You may have guessed that by watching the video.

Anyway, this isn't about Frankie so much as the content he shared with us. Yes, it appears it's going to snow on Monday night and most of the day on Tuesday. Perhaps even a lot of snow. (Frankie is actually legit, by the way. He studies the weather. It's his deal.)

So get ready, Omaha. And by get ready I don't mean buy up all of the bread and milk. Seriously, it's going to be snowy, but it's not 1878. We won't be stuck without a supply wagon for the winter. Leave some milk for the rest of us. Bread, too. What are you doing with all of that bread? Do you need two dozen eggs? Doubt it.

Wait, are you making French toast? Is that what this is all about, Omaha? You loot Hy-Vee prior to snowstorms because you want to make sure you have plenty of French toast supplies? OK, I can get behind that. French toast is delicious.

With that out of the way, here are some things you should do to get ready:

  • Get a shovel. You should have a shovel. If you're going to be out driving around on Tuesday (don't be), bring it with you. You're going to need it to get back into your driveway (or neighborhood). 
  • Find your boots. Do you have boots? If Frankie is correct, you're going to want boots. 
  • Get some ice-melt stuff. Don't put it on before it snows. That seems like a good idea, but when you have a foot of snow on top of it, you're just making sure the bottom inch or two is extra slushy and extra heavy. Save the ice melt for after you clear the snow. Your sidewalk will be clear and nobody will wipe out. (You will probably be the one to wipe out, by the way.)
  • Maybe have a snowblower? I know there are some hearty folks about who say "pish-posh" to all that. Those people are suckers. Get a snowblower. My dad has had a bad-ass snowblower for, like, 30 years. And he used to get paid in cinnamon rolls by the old neighbor ladies. Those cinnamon rolls were delicious. Do you have any old neighbor ladies? Get a snowblower. 
  • Get Beer. Or whatever you drink. You might be inside for a while. Not "make French toast six times" a while, but maybe long enough to have a beer or four. 
  • Clear your Tuesday schedule. Chris and the kids will probably have a snow day, if Frankie is correct. Do you need to be at work? Probably not, unless you're, like, a doctor or something. Just stay home. I'm going to. 
  • Get gas for your snowblower. This is as important as having the snowblower.
Between now and Mondayish, you should try to do these things. It's going to make Monday night and most of Tuesday and, hell, maybe Wednesday a lot more bearable. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Good miles

It took me a long time after race season to actually get on my cyclocross bike and find a gravel road. This is due mostly to not being willing to actually prepare that bike to be ridden. I rode it in the mud at Frosty Cross, cleaned off the important bits and left it that way for a month ... and then some.

And then when I did go out on it, it got covered in cement-like gravel. Again, I cleaned the important bits and called it good. Now I just call the extra stuff weight training. I'll hose it off at some point, maybe when it's warmer in the next week or so. Maybe.

Anyway, the riding over the weekend was solid. It was windy as all hell and pretty cold when I got out on Saturday morning. I wanted to get it done early, since the forecast wasn't terribly awesome at any point during the day. While I've long had an excellent jacket and gloves dialed in, I've never nailed the footwear selection until Saturday. I'll post it maybe tomorrow, because this needs to be illustrated.

As it was, I got 2.5 hours in the chilly stuff and felt good doing it. Sunday was another 90 minutes, though easier. The gravel was starting to get soft by the end, and I was glad again that I went out earlier.

And tomorrow is when the formal plan for 2016 gets started. Over the past couple of weeks I've just been grabbing workouts here and there trying to stay consistent and steady. The power test went great, and I'm happy with the number. Now it gets applied to everything going forward. I'm optimistic for a good start to things.

Of course, I'll be less excited when the alarm goes off tomorrow, but that's the way things go.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Suit of Lights

At various points over the last two months or so, I've sat and considered my relationship with my bike, and cycling, and racing, and all of that stuff. I went from, "Screw this, I'm not racing," to "I must begin training at once!" to, "Hand over the video games," to, "Man, bikes are the best."

That's where I am right now. That's where, I think, I've been this whole time. I've been "training," such as it is, since right before Christmas. And it's going quite well in terms of my butt on the bike. I've been consistent and I'm the right weight and I feel strong. I'm doing a power test maybe today (or maybe already today) or maybe tomorrow, so I'll find out for sure, I guess. 

One of the things I've written about already recently is the experience of just loving to ride my bike. Racing is certainly fun, but being on the bike is the best. Long rides, new routes, fun climbs — yes. All of that. It basically fits this article, which says, "blow your money on experiences, not things." 

Since late summer, when a Rapha sale email landed in my inbox. As I've previously written, the imagery and feeling of cycling comes through in all of the company's materials. Of course, this mostly just means that Rapha's marketing department is dialed, because good advertising evokes a passionate response. Reading the stories and browsing the website makes me want to ride all day. 

If you've not ordered from Rapha, here's what the packaging looks like when you place a good-sized order:

Ooooh. Fancy. So that's a box that opens up and displays a mountain road that seems awful, yet fun. And the black envelope has your packing slip and a voucher for a free neck kerchief and skinny jeans. It's nice. It instantly makes you glad you placed an order, and it makes you want to ride your bike. I had plenty of fun stuff in the order, but so far the best has been this:

Rapha was originally behind Rouleur in 2006, and later sold it. Mondial is the twice-yearly Rapha magazine/journal thing. It is only loosely based on cycling, which is actually OK. I don't read enough, and I read this thing cover-to-cover. 

Inside, the story on post-war Italy was fascinating, and the reflection on the mountains was a good read. But the best piece is "The Suit of Lights," by Rigo Zimmerman. If you do some Googling, you'll find that "suit of lights" commonly refers to the costume worn by a matador. He uses that phrase in this story: "The Weather." It's fantastic. 

And it makes me want to ride and ride and ride. Soon enough, when the snow is gone and the sun is warm again, we'll all don our own suit of lights and push away from the driveway. I hope this year it will be more than just a costume; that it won't simply be an empty distraction. All flash, no dash, you know? 

January is almost over already. It won't be long now.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some weather we're having, huh?

It is winter in Nebraska. Part of the deal with winter in the midwest is cold weather. Probably some snow. Probably a week or two where the highs are ridiculously cold.

Welcome to that period. Wednesday and Thursday were beautiful — 50 degrees or so both days. My current career goal is staying at this company long enough to be granted another week of vacation. And when that happens, I'll be able to blow off work at noon on days like that and go ride my bike. And by the time the next week rolls around, that half-day of PTO will have been replenished and I can do it all over again. Hey, only two more years left. (Sigh.)

This weekend, I was hoping to get out for at least one ride. I haven't been outside in two weeks, thanks mostly to a very cold weekend and icy darkness every other day. Saturday, with that high of 20, looks to be the day.

Sunday, I'm hoping to not leave the house for any reason at all.

The good news, if there is some good news to be had, is that we're not far from this stuff being gone. Six weeks or so? Max? I'll take that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Too late

We have a tendency in society — especially in the social media age (but it was around prior to that) — to lionize the dead and remember them far greater than they ever were in life.

I remember specifically when Johnny Cash died, how he was held up high after a late-career resurgence. Ray Charles, too. (We're talking about music for this post, by the way.) George Harrison. Freddie Mercury. Kurt Cobain.

When Warren Zevon was nearing the end, David Letterman had him on the Late Show and gave him an entire show.

Zevon was, at the time (or around the time), finishing his final album, The Wind. It was released in August 2003, and he died in September. As expected, it got a big dead-guy boost and ended up winning a pair of Grammys — the only two of his career.

I watched the Letterman appearance and later picked up The Wind. It was a compelling story, but I hadn't heard anything other than "Werewolves of London" prior to that. While Zevon is way the hell out there sometimes, I learned to appreciate his work and catalog. I'm a fan.

I mention this because David Bowie's new album, released just a couple of days before he died, will likely hit No. 1 this week. He never had a No. 1 album in America.

Being a little bit younger than a lot of the people chattering about Bowie — hi, Fred! — I never really had an awakening with his music. That said, "Space Oddity" is wonderful, ever since I heard it first in college. "Under Pressure," with Queen? Yes, of course.

Probably my favorite Bowie song, "The Man Who Sold the World," wasn't even introduced to me by Bowie. It's Nirvana who did the honors there.

The shorter way of saying all of this is, while I spent almost no time digging into Bowie or his music, I can appreciate what he did, simply by taking a listen to the small handful of songs I did know. The stuff I mentioned is tied to specific times in my life — like almost all of the music you listen to — and it helps enhance the memory of that time.

I'll probably get Blackstar, the new album, at some point. Maybe even on vinyl, because that's the thing to do these days. And, also, because this song is fantastic.