Friday, January 31, 2014

Review stuffs!

Looking for new stuff or just want to know some thoughts on music and dance stuff?
Huh, just realized I included two Glovers in that list. Weird. Anyway, that's it. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Striving for a healthier you.

This was across the street from my gym for a long time.
The owner of my 9-to-5 recently gave everyone in the office Shine fitness trackers after giving a presentation on how he hacked his own diet and activity for significant improvements in his health.* I've been tracking my diet and activity for years—and even more closely recently with a FitBit GalPal gave me for Christmas**—so it's been fun to see the immediate reactions others have for doing the same. I think the most immediate realization someone has when they begin to track activity is that they are far less active than they thought they were!*** And this naturally kicks into reaction number two: the drive to meet one's own daily goals and surpass the goals of others. In fact the greatest strength to fitness tracking is the inner competitiveness that drives you to make improvement in your diet and exercise due to your actually paying close attention to it.

It's fun to see this mindset spreading through the office.

*He takes all new hires out to lunch monthly, along with folks celebrating a birthday or work anniversary that month, and during my lunch with him I stuck my foot in my mouth talking about how much I disliked Crossfit only to have him tell me how much he enjoyed it. In the presentation he gave he said he had moved on to high intensity interval training (HIIT) which means when my birthday lunch rolls around we can talk about that practice since it's been in my regular routine for a month or so already.

**And since I already have an activity tracker that means GalPal is now tracking HER fitness activities with a Shine!

***This was certainly also true for me at first as well. And I continue to discover overestimations I make in other ways. I recently bought a food scale and realized my portions have been off for years! And even more recently I bought a FitBit Aria scale**** to more precisely track my weight and BMI and such so I'm discovering new things through that consistency as well.

****Despite how this all looks i am not some kind of fitness nut. I'd just like to look good as I get ever older and, considering the foods I like to eat and drink, tracking is the only surefire way for me to avoid gaining 300 pounds.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bummer, dude.

I'm sitting at the bar and talking to one of my favorite bartenders and we're getting along and I'm feeling superior to the other schlubs along the rail. I always feel I connect well with bartenders since I spent so many years in the service industry and when I find one I really connect with they can count on me as a regular. Then two dudes with long hair and beards sat next to me and I saw the bartender brighten up because they worked at another bar she frequented and I realized that despite all my years in the industry or how cool my hobbies are or how generous a tip I leave I'm still just a customer now. A mark. The person that's made to feel important in order to get the best tip instead of actually being important and someone they want to be around.

And the camera pulled back and I could see myself at the bar, short blond hair and dress shirt next two hairy hipsters and I realized I am no longer the dude in the know at the bar, I'm now the out-of-touch old guy.

Bummer, dude.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chiberia: round two.

Looking California, but feeling Minnesota. Weather-wise.
It's like Chicago has gone into suspended animation. The deep freeze is keeping most people indoors. Me? I had to go to the office yesterday for a client meeting and despite the senior leadership telling us we could work from home yesterday and today I opted to come in today too. You know why? Because I'm tired of this weather forcing me into the fetal position. Also, sadly, I'm beginning to hit that point where I view -9˚ F as being reasonably warm enough to go outside. As if that's a regular temperature I should just be expected to weather. Because it is NOT.

I will say this, though, and that is how those of us that are out in these insane temperatures all look at each other knowingly; you see the same pride reflected in the eyes of others that you feel in not letting the elements hold you back. We know that we are hardier than the souls who refuse to take to the street in subzero temperatures and seriously subzero wind chills and while we also know that our willingness to do just that marks us as maybe just a little bit crazy, we also know that it marks us as determined to move forward and make our mark even on the days when its physically painful to go outside and do so.

Nothing can stop us.

We're just hanging around.

They've found their happy place. This is an inspiration to me.
While I organize my thoughts around taking pride in braving the Polar Vortex upon its second visit to Chicago, right now I'd like to share a more inspirational moment of levity over the weekend. I like to call this my happy place. Well, at least one of them.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A few quick thoughts on The Grammys.

Daft Punk photo via The Grammys
The musical performances largely sucked and showed just how out of touch the show's organizers are when it comes to what's actually entertaining. The fact that there are 82 Grammy Awards but only a smattering get handed out live on television is pretty insulting to all artists. And running credits over Trent Reznor and Queens of the Stone Age is a travesty only suprassed by the travesty of bringing Lindsey Buckingham onstage with you and then playing zero Lindsay Buckingham songs.

But there was one huge surprise last night. On the telecast a lot of the awards actually went to people who largely deserved them. And while America probably largely scratched its collective head wondering why robots and Paul Williams were collecting all the big Grammys while Jay-Z and taylor Swift spent the majority of the show in their seats and not onstage I was sitting in front of the TV actually smiling at the Grammys for once.

And of course there was this.

Maybe next year the producers should hand over the reins to those guys in the video and let them plan the show.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow joke.

More snow is on the way. The polar vortex is coming back. People are already freaking out and talking about closing offices on Monday. Hey winter, enough already. We are a hardy bunch here in the Midwest but this is just ridiculous.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Music, some you should maybe and some you should definitely, check out.

Brendan Benson heard I reviewed his album and now he's curious. Photo taken by me.
I've written a few reviews over the last few days for recent releases. Yesterday I covered the new albums from both Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Brendan Benson. I liked one quite a bit and was rather cnflicted about the other. Read on and find out which was which!

Earlier today I reviewed the debut album from Z, formerly the frontman for Ultra Sonic Edukators (one of those local bands that was surprisingly good and even more surprisingly never really broke out before breaking up). If you like Britpop of Blur / Damon Albarn, you're going to like this stuff. I really think you should read my review. But I like this album so much I'll also include the whole thing streaming and downloadable below for free.

If you dig it, spread the word.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Teaching by example.

The ladies in my life show me how it's done. 

Everything thrums yet nothing comes out when you want it to.

Rat-a-tat-tat the recent posts have been sub-bullets and it's not because I have nothing to say but every time I think of what I ant to muse about I'm nowhere near a keyboard or if I am I'm too busy to redirect my efforts towards the personal. It's frustrating. And it also means I have to get better about taking notes on the flashes of inspiration because they are harder and harder to recapture as my brain ages. Instead the thought flickers and flutters just behind my eyeballs, reminding me that it's there but resisting my attempts to recapture and form it further.

It's actually worse than writer's block, if you ask me; you have the ideas just not the time t illuminate them properly so they can stand on their own forever.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Super gross commutes.

Today has made Tuesday most definitely into a Monday, thanks to the CTA, and that's all I'm gonna say.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Back to reality.

This was a really great weekend. But now it's time to get back to the real world. At least in re-entering the regular routine finally feeling refreshed. I didn't vacation over the holidays and due to when the holidays actually fell it never felt like I really had time off so this was badly needed. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Three day weekend!

This couldn't have come at a more perfect time.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ouch, my head!

Who fell flat on his back and hit his head due to an unseen patch of ice on his way home Tuesday night? You guessed it, this guy. Who ended up in the ER yesterday morning because he was feeling funky and his doctor's office scared the holy bejeezus out of him and though he should get his head scanned. Yup, me! And who ended up having no sign of an internal bleed, news which led to elation until the supervising ER doc also told me that two scans in two years meant my head had taken in radiation equivalent to "hundreds" of X-rays and I probably didn't want to expose myself to much more in the near future? Me, myself and I!

My head still hurst but I'm glad it wasn't a concussion as bad as my last one, even if I'm now soaked in radiation. Also, maybe it's time for me to just start wearing a helmet when I walk to protect my head.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The world is not built on absolutes.

Photo by Chelsea Gomez (Oakes)
I am truly growing concerned that people are only learning how to react to and not actually think through and evaluate a situation. Too many times I'm amazed at how folks will take an opposing stance to something and then refuse to budge even when a fuller picture comes to light. It's sad but it's also worrisome because I'm seeing even people I consider to be really intelligent becoming hobbled by a narrow worldview.

We all have our beliefs—and I'm not suggesting we should become so wishy-washy when it comes to viewing all sides of an issue that we never form an opinion—but the world is not built on absolutes. It's built on complicated and often conflicting components that build complex situations and to latch onto one piece of a larger problem and claim that's the only segment that matters is no way to solve it sensibly.

In an era when information is coming at us at an astounding speed it's even more important than ever to truly process this stuff instead of selectively grabbing this bit or that piece that fits nicely with your own beliefs.Yes, it's incredibly easy to do just that but that makes it all the more important that you don't.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's good to remember these things.

I saw a girl today that reminded me of someone I had a huge crush on in the late '90s and early '00s. She was about my age, and pretty but unconventionally attractive.When she's talk to me I'd be all ears, and she'd drag me around with her until a guy she thought was cute would walk in the room whereuponI was promptly forgotten. And I put up with it. Back then I still believed that if you just proved what a nice guy you were a girl would eventually like you. And while this is true in some cases, it's almost never true when you're in your twenties and working in bars or service industry jobs and you're respected but just not cool enough for the bad girls to chase. At that point I wasn't a bad boy. (That came later, for a spell, I'm not wholly proud to admit.)

I ran into this girl again a few months ago and we again hung out in a totally friends-only fashion yet when some guy walked in the room and she stopped talking to me and went to flirt with him it still hurt. It was ludicrous for me to feel that way—not least of all because the woman I'm with is a thousand times smarter and a thousand times hotter than my previous crush—but it just reminded me of what it was like to be a 20-something who was still trying to navigate the world of romance (or at least hooking up without completely embarrassing oneself). Seeing her lookalike today brought up a brief flash of heat which only served to remind me that no matter how old or cool or confident I get, somewhere deep in there's still a fragment of the kid still trying to learn the ways of the world. It's actually a really good thing to be reminded of, I think.

Friday, January 10, 2014

This is SO something Betty the Beagle wold have done!

What a smart, and I'm sure an absolute handful of a, dog.

Betty would be proud.

[h/t Gawker]

Thursday, January 09, 2014

That thing where an old friend posts a bunch of photos of you and your friends from twenty years ago.

What AM I waving at? And WHAT am I WEARING?
The sensation of seeing your 20-year-old self surrounded by your friends at the time reminds you that no matter what the era, the wild youth will always have questionable tastes in clothing. And hair. But goddamn am I glad my friend Traci was actually one of the few to actually photographically document that era and still has the photos to upload into the digital realm (for me to view with fond sentimentality and you to get a good giggle out of).

I still own this suit. Also, my friends and I wore suits one night and then skirts the next. CRAZY.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Best Of lists are hard. At least this year.

I finally narrowed down the albums I want to write about and am in the midst of writing about them but jeebis it gets taxing about ten summaries in! Also, I think I'm going to need to rework my introduction because I wrote it a few days ago and upon revisiting it I think I just come off as a crotchety old man instead of a gentleman speaking from years of wisdom. If I do change it, maybe I'll reprint the original here where only a few hundred instead of a few thousand will see it.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

It's still freaking cold in Chicago.

Yup, we're still dealing with negative temps today, but now it's only -9° F instead of -16° F so life is returning to normal. I mean look, we totally have the cold weather gear to handle this. 

See? Totally got it under control. I can't wait until this weekend when it hits the 30s and we trade in our parkas for speedos!

Monday, January 06, 2014

One year ago.

One year ago today Betty the Beagle passed away. I still miss her and my heart jumps a little every time I see another beagle bouncing down the block with their little nose to the ground. So here's a few videos to remind y'all just what a cutie she was.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The future looks bright.

Everyone else is focused on the near future, specifically this coming Monday when temperatures are predicted to range between -8˚ and -52˚ F in Chicago, but my eyes are on a focal point more distant. My eyes are on something bright and shiny and in my future and I believe the gears that will crank me through 2014 have already begun to carry me towards where I'm supposed to be. And I'm not pretending every step will be an easy one, but for once I do believe every step will feel like a natural and necessary one.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Not quite snowmageddon, but...

We've gotten well over a foot of snow. I've shoveled our walk eight times. It's finally stopped for now but we're expecting temperatures to arrive where the day's high is UNDER 0° F. And we've all gone into work; no snow days here. 

And why haven't we moved out west?*

*Who am I kidding, I'm not moving westward any time soon. This weather builds character! Or something like that.