tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:/posts Matthew Supert 2018-09-24T17:00:07Z Matthew Supert tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1321241 2018-09-24T02:06:36Z 2018-09-24T02:06:36Z Ridelog: 07-29-18

Playing some catch up on posting some summer rides. This was a solo ride up to Wisconsin. I was intending to test out a route and I definitely need to tweak it a bit. The ride up through Illinois around Johnsburg and Fox Lake was fully of stop and go traffic. Things didn't open up to an enjoyable ride until I actually got into Wisconsin, so it may make more sense to just slab it up to there and then enjoy the ride from there on out. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1321243 2018-09-14T03:15:00Z 2018-09-24T17:00:07Z Videogaming: Quantum Break

Xbox Game Pass has been a really cool service that I have been taking advantage of lately. It is sort of like a Netflix type service for Xbox, where a library of games is available for you to play for $10 a month. One of my most recent plays was Quantum Break. This game really surprised me. At the time of its release it caught a lot of flak and didn't seem to get very good reviews. 

Microsoft tried to do something interesting with the game, mixing live action "TV Episodes" that aired on a weekly basis to build upon the story. The idea is that decisions in the game would influence the live episode the next week. I'm well past that point, but the overall execution worked out pretty well in my opinion. 

What really blew me away though in Quantum Break was how well they told a time travel story. The logic and science behind their methods to tell the story made complete sense and didn't cause any sort of paradox problems within the story. In fact, if you think about how they executed the ending, the whole foreshadowing throughout the entire game continues to be consistent, even if you did "defeat the bad guy". It has to be one of the better sci-fi uses of time travel that I have ever seen. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1307900 2018-08-15T19:01:51Z 2018-08-15T19:01:54Z Italy

Back in June and July Megan and I visited Italy for my brother's wedding. The trip was a two week adventure visiting Milan, Bergamo, Verona and Lake Maggiore. The idea was to vacation with our family the week prior to the wedding and then spend about a week in Lake Maggiore for the wedding itself. 

]]> Matthew Supert tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1310163 2018-08-08T01:43:47Z 2018-08-08T01:46:06Z Book Review: The Fifth Season
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow!!!! How do I describe this book? This was simply fantastic and ranks up there with one of the best books I have ever read.

The world building here is superbly done, bringing in just enough that is familiar to us, while also being strange and fantastic at the same time. Jemisin brings a lot to this book to discuss race, racism, social caste systems and more. It is all done in such a way that makes you repulsed by it, but at the same time understanding of it, at least in the context of this world. It is complex and multifaceted. Her writing style is extremely eloquent as well. While my previous read (Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman) talked about how he is the quintessential "storyteller" by the way he writes and talks. Jemisin immediately comes across in an almost scholarly fashion in her style.

The topics of love, acceptance and family are also explored in a deep and unconventional way here. Watching our main character, Essun, rise and fall in her emotional relationships was exhilarating and devastating at the same time. The moments near the last third of the book with Innon, and her family are something that was truly touching, even if they don't fall into what our traditional social context of a family may be.

The characters are also truly engaging. Alabaster, Hoa, Innon, Tonkee. All were deep and diverse in their own respective ways. They were dimensional, having motivations that were both internal and external to their character arcs. They were interesting, each with their own goals in life.

My only really gripe about the whole book, and the only reason it doesn't get a full five stars from me, is one of Essun's character traits. Throughout the book she is persistently negative about every situation presented to her. I understand that of her character profile, but her negatively is so aggressive and outwardly projected that I lost that "suspension of disbelief" with her character at times. Even when circumstances in her life changed, even for the good, she is shown as chronically negative about every situation and environment around her. At times it is used as a motivating factor for her character. Her, "It's not right", stance makes sense, but other times she seemed to resist and challenge the other characters in a scene for no apparent gain, only to give in for what was obviously the only course of action.

Despite all of that though, this book was riveting from beginning to end and I immediately want to read the sequel.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1307906 2018-07-31T02:35:18Z 2018-07-31T02:35:18Z Book Review - Night's Master
Night's Master by Tanith Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed what this book had to offer. Its format and overt sexuality might take some readers by surprise, but if you think of this as written like a book of mythology, it works perfectly well. The chapters in the book are each a stand alone story. Some of them build upon previous chapters with events or characters, but not all.

What we get here is a fantastic crafting of a world and all of its myth. The place setting was mostly in the dessert, almost an Arabic sort of description. It all game across as wonderfully exotic and mysterious. I really enjoyed this and definitely would read more.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1307903 2018-07-31T02:30:21Z 2018-07-31T02:30:21Z Book Review - Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating book. A look inside the first 100 days of the white house illustrated by chaotic, and sometimes combative events between opposing factions, all fueled by a President who is completely incapable of managing it all.

What surprised me the most from reading this book was how the various events that we have all seen play out in the news mostly derived not from maliciousness, but rather pure ineptitude. The who event played out continually like a "Parks and Recs" episode of stupid decision after stupid decision, often times made out of what appeared to be pure spite for another individual. This all led to the bewildered state for the reader that these people operating in the white house seem to have no idea or no care about the broader implications of their actions on the country as a whole. It is like a soap opera where they only care about their own personal standing and position with other people inside this weird close nit circle.

The books is well written, entertaining and paints at the very least, a fun story of what was happening in this white house. It is amazing, a year later, that names mentioned in the book, like Michael Cohen, are now making their way to the headlines in current news cycles.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1303348 2018-07-15T21:10:10Z 2018-07-15T21:10:10Z Ridelog: 2018-07-08

This was a nice ride from a couple of weeks ago. I think it was my first ride with MEWs this year. It was a big group, sixteen riders, which is usually way too many for me, but we had a great tide. Lunch was fun at the Crooked Roof in Lanark. We then rode to Lowden State Park to view the Blackhawk Statute. The guy is in a bit of rough shape. 


Good ride with a good group. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1296505 2018-06-23T22:29:37Z 2018-06-23T22:29:37Z Ridelog: Demoing the BMW K1600B, the "Bagger"

My local dealership was doing a special demo ride event for the new BMW K1600B. This is BMW's new touring bike, built upon their K series engine. They have had the K1600GT and GTL in their lineup for years and those bikes have been known to be some of the best touring bikes out there, right up there with the Honda Goldwing. Last year BMW introduced the B or bagger series. As far as I can tell, the major difference with the B versus the GT series is the lower seat height and overall profile. It has a more "American" style cruiser seating profile. 

I was a bit surprised when I got to the dealership. This wasn't an organized test ride with a group leader and 12 bikes following. They had four bikes sitting outside. You walked up, said you wanted to ride, they got you on and then said "see you later". I was able to ride wherever I wanted and they didn't give me any stipulations. It worked out great since I was able to ride the bike how I wanted to. 

You can see my thoughts on the bike in the video below. In short, it is a very nice bike, but it clocks in at around $24,000 I think. It is super smooth, but also boring to ride. I don't feel any character to the bike at all. The engine, when I can hear it, feels like I am riding a semi-truck. You can pile the miles onto this bike though. It is super comfortable with a very easy riding position. 

The bike is unbelievably heavy, but at the same time surprisingly nimble while on the road. The seating and leg position is still upright enough that I think could really lean into turns if I was given the opportunity. I wasn't sitting so far leaned back and legs forward that my riding technique was compromised.  

I think ultimately the next bike for me would be an R1200RS or RT. Both still have that boxer engine that I really enjoy and they could give me more of that touring feel if I was really looking for it. For now though, I am going to stick with my 1200R. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1291363 2018-06-06T16:56:13Z 2018-06-06T16:57:08Z Book Review - Burial Rites
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a very well written book read by an extremely good narrator. The dialect and accent on the spoken passages in Icelandic seemed spot on in the audio-book and really brought the reader into this world.

This book is heavy and dark. The premise is depressing at best, and the entire mood is heightened by place, in the grey, cold reaches of Iceland. As a reader, you have an idea of where this book is going to end right when you come into it, but it is the journey through the final months of the main character's life that really drive this book home.

The characters were very well written, with the young priest being the exception. His place in the book was largely not necessary and I never felt he was critical to the story or the development of Agnes through her final days.

I would not consider this to be a light read, and in fact, was a difficult one to get through when the weather was so pleasant out in the spring and early summer. This is the type of book you read on a rainy October Sunday in front of a fire with hot tea and some cookies. You are going to need those tea and cookies because they are the only thing that are going to make you feel good while you read this. Agnes is almost the stereotype of a tragic character. Almost everything that could have possibly gone wrong in her life has, and there is a deep sense of depression painted around her. The reader receives only the briefest moment of melancholy relief when her story finally ends.

In some ways I am at a loss for how to wrap up this review. This book is written beautifully. The writing is almost poetic at times and the attention to detail with the use of the Icelandic language was masterfully done. That detailed use of language though is also what makes the book as deep and as heavy as it is. This isn't the type of book for everyone, but it has all the markings to become a "classic" that is still recognized decades from now.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1303341 2018-06-03T17:00:00Z 2018-07-15T20:57:51Z Ridelog: 2018-06-03

Nothing special on this particular ridelog. This is  your standard shot down towards Starved Rock. As you can imagine it was very crowded. There are some really great roads south of I-80 that you can take down to Starved Rock for a pleasant trip, most notably W Dupont, Pine Bluff and River Road.
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1303337 2018-05-27T17:00:00Z 2018-07-15T20:49:28Z Ridelog: 2018-05-27 Memorial Day

Nothing particularly exciting about this log. Just a highway shot up to the in laws for a Memorial Day cookout. I did take some time though after dinner to ride the twilight hours up near Bull Valley. There are some very pleasant roads up there and twilight is always one of my favorite times to ride. Those 15 minutes right before the sun goes down are just magical. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1303334 2018-05-19T17:00:00Z 2018-07-15T20:44:29Z Ridelog: 2018-05-19

I have been delinquent in posting my rides this year. I haven't even tracked everything. I need to get better about that. Anyways, here is to making up on some of that. 


This was a quick ride up with a couple of friends to Wisconsin for lunch. Two of the riders in our group were doing the Tour of Honor ride challenge, which is a brilliant idea. Here is a description of what that is from their site: 

The Tour of Honor Motorcycle Ride is a great reason to hit the open road, honor our nation's heroes, and contribute to a few good charities. The event is a season-long, self-directed ride to memorials and monuments around the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. Beginning April 1, visit as many sites as you want, with any route you choose. Finishers Certificates are awarded to those who visit any seven sites.

I wish I had found out about it sooner, but it is definitely something I will be signing up for next year. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1283592 2018-05-15T01:54:20Z 2018-05-15T14:13:19Z Sometimes it all goes to shit....and the DM just smiles

Last week we had what was arguably a great or a terrible D&D session, depending upon where you were sitting around the table. Our adventurers found their airship crashed and in disrepair in the middle of grasslands, just west of the city of Longsaddle. 

Having successfully defeating attacking pirates, our group discovered, while going through the wreckage of that airship (also crashed), twelve slaves who were chained in the lower hold, forced to power the airship with their labor. 

Our group decided to free the slaves, but they now had to deal with the additional mouths to feed and bodies to take care of. Weak from their tireless labor and malnourishment, the slaves were all but helpless. Our adventurers had also lost three of their eight crew members during their crash and their ship would take four days to repair it. 

That evening we had a new player joid our group to play and I slipped them in as one of the freed slaves. Our evening seemed to start off to a good start, until I decided to roll for a random encounter. In front of me was a d100 table that had a large number of random encounters that varied depending upon the terrain in which our party found itself. Most of the time when I roll from this table, the encounter is innocuous. Sometimes some bandits, sometimes a weather event, more often than not, nothing at all. This evening though I rolled a 66. Looking through my table and checking the  terrain for grasslands I found that the encounter was 1d4 frost giants. 

"Ohh," I thought to myself. "This should be interesting". I rolled the 1d4 and up comes a 3. Three frost giants then emerge from the edge of the woods. Seeing the two ships crash in the night and the explosion of the fire elemental, their interest is piqued.

My party freaks out!!! 

At first they think that the frost giants might not be threatening. After all, they worked with a frost giant called Harshnag only a few months earlier. Well, our party's assumption cost them dearly. When the giant's arrived, seeing the disrepair of the ship and the condition of our party, they ordered the adventurers to turn over all of their weapons, armor and valuables, which included three precious relics . This was all promptly thrown into a giant bag of holding. Our giants then turned and marched back into the forest, leaving our party with nothing, and 17 mouths to feed. 

One party member, who is rather reckless, decided to charge into the woods after the giants to track them. He promptly failed his wilderness saving throw and got lost. The rest of our group spent the remaining three days repairing their ship and limped back to the city of Yartar.

Beaten and with their heads down they found that two of the slaves whom they rescued were nobles and upon returning them our party was paid handsomely, which allowed them to at least re-equipment themselves a bit. Things once again turned sour however. Our party was invited to stay in one of the noble's house as a thank you. Our new companion however got into a fight with another party member in the guest house, blew out a window and had the party promptly thrown out of the house.   

Our other member (barbarian) who ran into the woods did thankfully have ten days of rations on him. He was able to stumbled to the city of Triboar and now needs to either work or find some way to get himself to Yartar. And that is where we left our party that evening. 

I came away rather amused with myself, quite pleased with how defeated the party was. My players? Well, they walked away rather upset, perhaps arguing to me that I shouldn't have gone with what the dice rolled from the random encounter table. The best part is that several members were not in attendance last Friday and they are going to show up this week and find that they have lost everything in the matter of a week, 

We'll just see how everything plays out. 


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1267878 2018-04-15T17:00:00Z 2018-04-15T17:00:04Z Music Listening: ALAC/Vinyl - Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

https://cigarettesaftersex.bandcamp.com

Keeping in the theme of music, my latest jam comes from a random album from Amazon Music. Cigarettes After Sex is a sort of downtempo, ambient rock group? Yeah, I think so. I like to think that this is the perfect sound for a rainy day. It just so happened to be a rainy March afternoon in the office when I put this on and the mood could not have been more perfect. 


The album's opening song "K", immediately brings you into an almost dreamlike state. Is it possible to have a feeling of "happy" depression, because that is what I get when listening to this album. The guitar sounds share a lot in common with "Tycho", but where Tycho is pure pop bliss, Sex After Cigarettes is the immediate counter point. 

The album does get a bit "same" sounding throughout, but that melancholy vibe does satisfy. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1267877 2018-04-08T17:00:03Z 2018-04-08T17:00:03Z Music Listening: AAC - Diet Cig

I have been listening pretty hard to a band I just discovered called "Diet Cig". They are a alt-punk sort of duo that I heard about a couple of weeks ago. I actually found them completely randomly over at AV Club. While reading an unrelated article the video (below) of the Diet Cig video was posted at the bottom of the page. The song immediately caught my attention and then I found several more of their videos over on Youtube. 

You'll quickly find that they have been featured on everything from KEXP to NPR's Tiny Desk. The song "Harvard" is infectious and evokes and immediate sense of my years in high school. I dunno if it is the sound or what, but I am immediately taken back to summer of being seventeen and listening to Blink 182. I mean, damn, is this not a great summer jam right here? 

I immediately had to go and download everything they have. Go to their Bandcamp and download the music there. https://dietcig.bandcamp.com

All four of their EP's only total to about 38 minutes of music, but damn if it isn't a great 38 minutes. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1267874 2018-04-02T01:20:43Z 2018-04-02T01:20:43Z Synthstrom Audible Deluge: First Thoughts

I was lucky enough to strike a Synthstrom Audible Deluge a couple of weeks ago off of Reverb.com. The Deluge is a groove box, all in work music production workstation. Most of the music I create is with groove boxes. My E-MU Command Station and Korg EMX are also considered groove boxes. They have a sequencer combined with a synth engine that has multiple voices. 

Since the move in January I have been pairing down some of my gear. I sold off a number of pieces of gear and my core setup is now just the Command Station and EMX. Some consideration of those two have made me come to realize that I was able to accomplish just about all of the sounds and sequencing I needed with those. 

I also wanted to to begin building another music setup. If you recall, last fall I purchased the Novation Circuit and Mono Station. I found out that the Circuit was not a good fit for me, something which I go into detail about over on Youtube

I have had my eye on a Deluge for almost a year now. It is a boutique synth, so rather hard to come by and the initial shipment of units sold out quickly. 

The Deluge has flat out blown me away in these first two weeks, so much so that I am changing how I am putting together some of my music gear. It truly is a standalone groove box. The minimalist grid based interface is remarkably intuitive and there is no hard limit on the number of notes, the length of the sequences or the number of tracks it can produce. I have been often so frustrated with many other synths and their limitation of 64 steps in their sequencing. It also has a built in sequencer and two synthesis types. 

Now, the weakest link right now is probably the synthesis engine on the unit. It is pretty basic right now, but I hope that can be improved with some future software updates. One of the coolest things on the box though his that it is battery powered. It is also very small, about the length and width dimensions of a piece of paper. That means it is extremely portable. I can see myself taking this with me on planes or other long distance travel routes to get some music created on a pair of headphones. 

It is with that in mind that I really want to keep it as just a stand alone, portable box for creating on. 

My Command Station and EMX will continue to exist as they have much deeper sound palettes. The question though is what do I do with the Monostation? Do I keep it? Do I build a modular synth to go with it?   

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1263857 2018-03-21T13:43:29Z 2018-03-21T13:43:29Z Synthstrom Audible Deluge - 2 Hour Challange

"Create a piece of music within 2 hours after unboxing your new Deluge from Synthstrom Audible"

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1258048 2018-03-07T15:35:11Z 2018-03-07T15:35:11Z Final Thoughts on the Novation Circuit

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1258044 2018-03-07T15:32:35Z 2018-03-07T15:33:15Z The Decline of Harley-Davidson

If you have read the news in the motorcycling world lately you will have seen the headlines about the declining state of Harley-Davidson. Articles have been popping up everywhere for months about the company's poor financial outlook. There is a measure of angst going around as some people are using this as a measure of the health of motorcycling in the United States. It may be true that HD is the largest US seller of motorcycles, but their declining sales may not be a measure of motorcycling as it once used to me. 

The HD condition, as I will call it, it largely a product of their own making. I would not call myself a fan of HD, but I am not a hater either. I can respect the sort of "mechanical" nature of their motorcycles. I personally am not a huge fan of bikes with tons of gadgets on them, electronics, and all that. With the exception of their top of the line bikes, HD has remained true to that image. However, their image overall is precisely what I think their largest problem is. They have spent decades cultivating a cultural identity and biker image. Up until recently that has largely been a boon for them, creating a "fraternity" of sorts for motorcyclists to rally behind. With that fraternity though has also been the creation of a mentality that "you're one of us or you aren't". 

One of HD's (and motorcycling in the US') biggest problems is the age demographics of riders. HD riders are old, as are the riders across the country in general. Those individuals tend to be able to buy a $15000+ motorcycle, but in order for the industry to stay healthy you need to get younger riders into the market. 

The new batch of millennials coming into the market don't appear to embrace the current image that HD has cultivated. Many are turning to sports bikes or adventure touring bikes. Another large sector seeing a resurgence is the café racer, "hipster", city rider. Brands like Roland Sands, Icon, and others are tapping into a new style for younger riders. Just about every manufacturer from Kawasaki, to Yamaha, are now releasing "vintage" styled bikes that appeal to a younger crowd. 

Coupled with increased pressure from a "new" US brand in Indian Motorcycles, it makes you have to wonder how HD is going to respond and if HD can respond. The market now has more options and more sub-groupings of biking identity then it ever had before. No longer are biking communities split largely between sports bike riders and cruisers and with that growing division comes a smaller slice of the pie for HD.

They have spent such a long time cultivating the image that they have, I am not entirely sure they can attract a different audience with women, younger riders and a different demographic without alienating those individuals who have been with them for decades and spent tens of thousands of dollars with them. HD may finally find itself in a position where it has to cede its dominate market presence over the coming decade.

  

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1249779 2018-02-19T02:59:32Z 2018-02-19T02:59:32Z Let’s try Zesty Blood Orange Diet Coke


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1246301 2018-02-12T03:34:31Z 2018-02-12T03:38:52Z 2018 International Motorcycle Show

This weekend was the IMS in Chicago. I go to this show almost every single year. This year I was terribly sick with a head cold, and I probably should not have gone, but I was looking forward to attending for weeks, so I had to go despite the sickness. Sorry, I was so out of it that I didn't get any photos of the show, but I'll try and post what I liked below. 


Royal Enfield Himalayan 

This was by far my most anticipated bike to see at the show. I have had a fascination with Royal Enfield long before I got my motorcycle license. The look of their bikes invokes something "classic" and despite the issues with the build quality, something about their "old fashioned", mechanical nature is appealing from a motorcycling perspective. Single engine, carb'd bikes on steel frames. 

The Himalayan has been discussed for a couple of years now. The Himalayan is a 400cc single cylinder adventure bike. Not quite a a dual sport and not quite a full on adventure bike. The ADV touring segment is huge at the moment and BMW arguably dominates this world. Their bikes also cost >$20,000 most of the time. The Himalayan comes in at $4500 list. 

What immediately made me think this could be a great bike is a memory from watching the "Long Way Round" documentary a few years ago. In that show Ewean McGregor and Charley Boorman took BMW's across Russia (and the world). At one point in their adventure their camera operator's bike broke down and he ended up getting a small motorcycle to use across the countryside. While the two BMW's got slogged down in the mud, this small, light and simple little bike took to the terrain effortlessly. 

A quote from Cycleworld summed up what I thought was perfect. 

"Where are the bikes that are perfect for once-a-week adventures, not once-in-a-lifetime ones?"

Sitting on it at the show immediately caught me. It felt great, and at $4500, almost comes in at an impulse buy (at least as far as motorcycles go).

Honda Goldwing

First off, I am not a Goldwing rider. Heck, I am not even a touring bike type of rider, but the new Goldwing has been getting rave reviews from every news outlet out there. It even has Apple CarPlay and airbags. Did it look good at the show? Sure, especially that brown color. You know who I saw standing around it though? A bunch of old guys. 

Not the type of bike for me. 


Kawasaki H2 SX Touring

Another bike I have heard a lot of good things about. The H2 SX looks to be an insane engine, packed into a sport tourer. The primary requirements for a my type of motorcycling is I want a machine that I can "load up" with luggage for touring and then also "strip down" for one day rides on twisty roads. I don't want to see luggage permanently grafted onto the bike, or tons of "stuff" that adds all sorts of weight. The HS SX would fit my criteria almost exactly, except for all of the plastic fairings. But, as you can see from the photo. It looks great "stripped down". 

When sitting on it, I liked how it felt, but I did feel like I was leaning forward a bit for 10+ hours of riding straight. I suppose I would like to actually test ride this one in the real world though. It is a sharp looking bike, but also comes in at about $23,000. Yikes. 


Other Things at the Show

I was in the market for some new boots, but I unfortunately didn't see much at the show this year. I'm not sure if the vendors didn't seem as prevalent or if it was because I was very sick, but I didn't see much boots for sale at all. Just patches and "Harley" leather. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1246289 2018-02-12T03:02:47Z 2018-02-12T03:03:48Z Book Review - The Road
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a "heavy" book. The subject matter, the style of writing. All of it carried a tremendous amount weight to it and you felt as if you were carrying that weight with you all the way through the book. Every plodding step that our characters took was just as painfully dragged along with you as the reader.

The writing style of this book was the most profound thing that I noticed. The structure was very "pointed" and succinct. Sentences were punctual with very little punctuation.

The story overall was very well written and I can see why this has won so many awards. The subject matter and style of the writing sets this apart as a "work of art" in terms of literary writing. While I did enjoy this book, I somehow did not find myself emotionally attached to it. Perhaps it was because of the impending doom that we all knew coming at the end, but the conclusion of the story here left me neither emotionally engaged, nor hopeful. Perhaps that was exactly what McCarthy was going for, a story that reflected the insignificance of its importance in the world that it was written in.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1239091 2018-01-28T05:32:49Z 2018-01-28T05:32:49Z My best photos of 2017 (as determined by Apple Photos)

Apple Photo's Memories feature is pretty cool. It put together some photos from last year. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1236469 2018-01-23T04:16:35Z 2018-01-23T04:30:33Z Let’s try Ginger Lime Diet Coke

Coca-cola apparently has three limited flavors of Diet Coke. I don’t normally drink Diet Coke, but the flavors sounded pretty good. Megan saw them at Target, so we are going to try them out. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1234672 2018-01-19T21:43:17Z 2018-01-19T21:44:27Z Book Review - The City of Brass
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a first novel by S.A. Chakraborty, this is a fantastic first entry to a trilogy. City of Brass has a wonderful world set around it. The middle eastern and Islamic setting is wonderfully done. It was exotic and new for a fantasy setting, but grounded in our own world, all while not making me feel like it was too alien to me.

I was enthralled by the context of the deserts, the flying carpets, the Ifrit and more. I was perplexed though with the Djinn culture. At times it seemed wonderfully magical and exotic, at other times a bit too human. The call outs early on in the book to the morning prayers specially stuck out to me, mainly because we never did get a better understanding of what the Djinn religion was, why it mattered, or why Ali was considered devout. These things were all mentioned several times, but never explored, so they felt like they didn't really need to be there. Ali just as easily could have been chaste (which is alluded to) because he was the second born (again alluded to) as it had to due with his religious devotion. I felt Chakraborty, danced around the edges of all of these topics as justifications, but didn't explore any of them deep enough to have them mean anything.

Chakraborty's characters overall I felt were pretty compelling, especially the king and the rest of the actors in the political court. The writing there to show how adept the king was at managing the political balance and teetering civil war was well done. Overall the supporting cast was fantastic.

I had issues with the main three characters though. Nahri, Ali and Dara all frustrated me on how one dimensional their characters seemed to be, especially in light of more dynamic supporting characters around them who seemed to have more depth in their motivations and political acuity. All three main characters were "extremes", so harsh in their views and convictions that I felt them to be unbelievable. Nahri especially had several passages where her self-doubt and self-depreciation came to the point where I said "enough already, I get it". I understand the character has an internal struggle that she is dealing with, but Chakraborty kept driving the point home again and again that it began to detract from the overall story.

The middle section was slow, mostly because of the aforementioned main characters issues I mentioned above. It felt even slower because none of them seemed to really grow or move at all. Nahri still doubted everything she was doing, Ali was still stubborn with his convictions, despite evidence against them and Dara was still an egotistical, angry, zealot, despite several attempts by the story to show interjections of them all breaking those molds. All three inevitably fell back, with almost no change or growth.

The last arc of the book was nicely written. Pieces were set in motion for the upcoming sequel and there were several instances of surprise that genuinely put a smile on my face. Chakraborty did a delightful job in writing suspenseful action sequences and I am genuinely looking forward to the next book. I just hope I can read less of Nahri asking "What? I don't understand." about the events in the world happening around her. A bit less denial and more self-determination would be nice.

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1223749 2017-12-29T21:03:30Z 2017-12-29T21:03:30Z My Year in Books - 2017

My Goodreads year in books is out. This is always fun to look at to see what I read this past year. Let's take a quick look. I found that I had a lot of trouble trying to read books this year, mostly due to time. The majority of whatI have read this year was either in audiobook form, or it was a comic book. 

Looking at my list I believe only Render, Children of Hurin, Cold and the Castle of Wolfenbach were actually "read" books. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1214906 2017-12-11T15:10:35Z 2017-12-11T15:10:35Z Music Listening: MP3 - Pittsburgh Symphony Brass - A Christmas Concert

It is Christmas time and that calls for some Christmas music. Normally, I am not a huge fan of Christmas music. Let me take that back. I am normally not a fan of "sung" Christmas music. I'm not quite sure why, but I find the lyrics in almost all Christmas songs to be too sappy. I do love some great orchestral Christmas music though and I have found an excellent album from the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass called "A Christmas Concert". 

It is an excellent arrangement of traditional Christmas songs and the brass ensemble really makes many of the songs shine. Unfortunately this one seems a bit hard to find online. It doesn't appear to be on iTunes, but it is on Amazon music. 

You can find a playlist of the tracks on Youtube though.


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1211365 2017-12-05T00:00:01Z 2017-12-05T00:18:56Z YouTube has become my go to destination to watch shows

Youtube has become my go to location for watching evening TV. Not Netflix. Not Amazon Prime. Youtube. 

I still receive a surprised look from people when I tell them that I do not have cable TV, but the truth is, I don'y really "watch" very much TV. More often than not, I will be playing some video games. When I do actually sit-down to watch something, I am typically too tired to really focus my attention on a show that is 45+ minutes. My ideal show tends to be something that I can play in the background and half watch. 

That is where YouTube fills that niche perfectly. Videos that range from 5-10 minutes long are ideal. I might be willing to hang in there for a 25 minute episode of something if it captures my attention for a long enough time.  Subscriptions are the best thing that YouTube has ever implemented, because I can roll through my subscription list through an evening and watch two things or twenty-five, and hey, if I don't see something tonight, it will still be in the exact location tomorrow. 

So let's take a look at some of my favorite channels. 

]]> Matthew Supert tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1206303 2017-11-20T02:40:15Z 2017-11-20T02:40:15Z Book Review - Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book should have been called "Plymouth: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.

This was a well written narrative that chronicles the pilgrims, and their founding of the Plymouth colony through the first generation of settlers and King Phillp's War. This was an interesting interpretation of that moment in history. The story was written with enough intrigue and character development to keep you going through what amounts to be a very detailed description of the events. It is apparent that the English settlers did an excellent job of keeping diaries and other records of their struggles and trials.

It is important to note though that these accounts are largely from one perspective, and the book acknowledges that while even going so far as to try and provide logically explained reasons or alternatives to some actions.

Overall, a great read, especially if you are looking for an in-depth (sometimes too much so) description of the first decades of Plymouth and New England.


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1205493 2017-11-16T01:00:00Z 2017-11-17T02:56:04Z One Week with the iPhone X

I have had the iPhone X for about a week now. There seems to be a lot of talk about this new phone. Some people are loving it while others are scorning it for various reasons. I have been due for a phone upgrade for a while now and we did happen to get a couple of these at work for testing. So, after a week of using it how does it stand up? 

Well in short it is an iPhone. It is a very good iPhone, but fundamentally it does everything previous iPhones did and continues to tread the path of design aesthetic that Apple has been known for. As you can imagine, this is going to lead to some strong opinions on the design. My general impression has been that those who are the strongest critics of the new phone are not Apple fans or iPhone users to begin with. The design choices Apple has made very much stay with their design methodology and whether you agree with that or not really just comes down to you as a user. Here's the thing, you don't have to like Apple’s choices and there are tons of other phones out there if you prefer something else. I do think what Apple has done is interesting though. So let's take a look at what I like and what I don't like.


What I really like 

The Screen 

I simply love the screen. It is bright and crisp and very responsive. The change to the near edgeless design is really fantastic. I really like the look of the rounded corners on the screen. Going back to my iPad with the square corners and the bezels really feels like a step back. I really like how the corner information like the battery and cellular network are tucked away out of the main viewing area with the black tab, but they also still feel cohesive with the background continuing through to the screen area. It is hard to describe, but it does feel like an amazing design aesthetic. 

While we are talking about the screen we might as well talk about the black notch at the top. I have found this to be a non-issue when using the phone and it "disappears" after a few moments. The dual depth cameras and IR sensor that are included in that notch really are a nice asset, and I feel like the phone’s design aesthetic would be worse if the black bar did continue across the entire top. 

There is a "notch remover" app in the iTunes store now which creates a black bar across the top of the screen and quite frankly, I think it looks terrible. The phone feels unbalanced. But, to each their own. 


The Camera

The camera is great and the dual camera setup on both the front and the back adds a lot. This is one of those things that could justify the extra price tag for most people. The portrait photos look fantastic and the low light ability is a huge step up from my iPhone 6. I do wish that Apple had done a bit more with the photo filters or given us something a bit more on the software side. 


Face ID

Face ID is a really cool addition and it works really well. I just wish it didn't involve the removal of the touch ID because I still prefer that in some instances. There are times when you simply don't want or can't bring your face directly to the phone. 


So what Don't I like? 

The Hardware Design 

The phone feels amazing in your hand and it has a nice "heft" to it. Unfortunately this feels like a super fragile phone and the back is made of glass. It is extremely slick in your hands and I feel like this is an instance of Apple just moving with blinders. They really should do a better job of hitting their design aesthetic while making a phone that isn't this fragile. What's the point of making something so pretty if you have to put a case on it? 

Also the continued "bump" from the rear camera. I can't believe that we still have this. Just make the phone thicker so it can rest flush on a table. 

The Removal of the Home Button and Touch ID

Despite the new edge to edge screen and Face ID, I miss the home button and Touch ID. Touch ID feels like a more secure feature, especially for Apple Pay. While the new screen gestures are easy to get used to, you still lose something without the home button. 

I used Apple's "Reachability" feature a lot on the old phone. The new phone is almost impossible to use with just one hand. The reachability mode was previously accessed by double tapping the home button. It now has to be turned on in the accessibility menu. Actions now have to be accessed via a little "bar" on the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, while holding the phone in my hand I can't really reach the bottom of the screen. It makes for an awkward experience at best and at worst an opportunity for the phone to slip right out of your hands. 

I really would have liked to see something on the bottom of the screen. The notch actually mirrored on the bottom of the screen with that touch line and haptic feedback would be really cool I think. You could get the gestures you want while still having a physical component for your hand to be guided to when using the phone. I really want to see touch ID come back. 

iOS 11 UI changes 

Some of the UI changes to accommodate the loss of the home button also are not quite there yet. I like what Apple did by moving them to the corners. I have been using the hot corners on my Mac for years, so this make sense to me, but they are not that responsive. Opening the App Switcher is a crap shoot and it just doesn't feel good. It is also difficult now to figure out how to turn off the phone and force close apps. Unfortunately I feel like these changes were driven by the hardware, and while some of them are good, some just don't hit the mark. 


Overall Thoughts

Overall, this is a nice phone. I like the camera features, but it is too hard to try and justify the prices for this first round. I hope to see the screen design get into future phones and iPads, but I want to see the Touch ID come back. 


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Matthew Supert