Music Listening: CD - From Sleep - Max Richter

I picked this album up from the library a couple of months ago. Most people know Max Richter's name probably from his song "On the Nature of Daylight". Richter is in all respects a contemporary composer of "classical" music. I put the word classical in quotes because while the music does use orchestral instruments the compositions are really anything but classical. Almost all of Richter's albums could be called concept albums and the music in some instances features elementals of ambient or electronic/synthesizer components. It is all very subtly done though and at first glance most of the music could be thought of as a traditional orchestral arrangement. 

The latest album from Richter follows in much of his previous work, in being a conceptual album. From Sleep is the shortened version of a larger composition which is approximately eight hours long. The music was/is designed to be listened to while one is sleeping and is said to guide you through the sleep process. This album itself is only about an hour long, but it features thematic elements of that larger eight hour composition. 

From a listening perspective, it is a nearly perfect ambient or background music piece. One could easily listen to this before going to bed, while reading or while just trying to wind down after a long day. You aren't going to hear anything here that is on the radio, but this is quite a good album overall for listening. 

Ridelog - May 1st, 2016: Slimey Crud Run

What do you get when you combine 45 degree weather, Wisconsin roads, and a missed motorcycle meet up? Well you (sort of ) get the 2016 spring Slimey Crud Run.

As appears to be a tradition with me, I lead a motorcycle ride in cold weather. Yesterday was supposed to be the annual slimey crud run up to LeLand Wisconsin. The day started out pretty rough. Temperatures in the morning were about 45 degrees with a light rain. It was cold and those who signed up dwindled from twelve to a hardy six when the day started. 

Our ride up to Wisconsin went pretty smoothly. It remained cold, but it did stop raining and we had a nice ride through the Wisconsin country roads. As a group leader though I ended up missing one my my turns, and as you an see from the map that Tim had on the ride, we ended up backtracking most of our way. I made a turn onto County Road KK instead of HH. In the end we missed the actual crud run meet up (we were really close before my wrong turn too), but we did have some great riding though. The roads were a bit hairy since there was a bit of mud and gravel on them, but they were largely deserted. 

We ended our day by heading over to the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb for lunch before calling it a day for the long trek back to Illinois. We hit some rain and cold on the way back so the hot shower when I finally got home was welcome. 

Special thanks to Toni and Tim for capturing these photos you see posted here. 

The Salt Creek Bramble

This past Christmas I received the "Road Biking Illinois" book and two weeks ago Megan and I got out to do our first route in the book. We did the Salt Creek Bramble which was a nice ~35 mile bike ride around the western suburbs. The weather could not have been nicer and the ride was pretty great, hitting up some nice trails through the forest preserve and hitting up some nice neighborhoods. I didn't realize when we firsts out from it that we would be going as far north as Oak Park.

The only major complaint in the book is that the street names changed often from town to town, even while staying "straight" on the road, so there was a lot of stopping and referring back to the book to try and get our bearings. We made a nice stop at the "Brown Cow" ice-cream shop in Forest Park to recharge our batteries a little bit. 

The western side of the ride had a nice detour through Fullersburg Woods, which I would like to go back and walk at some point while also hitting up Graue Mill. We tried to find it in the area, but we couldn't and the woods there has a nice crushed gravel path that I think would be great for an afternoon walk. Great ride for anyone in the western suburbs. Hit up my Strava link to get the route and do it yourself. 

Grumpy Grind #4 - Or the story of how I bonked

So, if you have been following me at all on social media for the past week, you would have known that I was attempting to do the Grumpy Grind this weekend. This was an 82 mile gravel grinder. A gravel grinder is a very midwest sort of bike ride that is focused on riding on gravel roads. 

So for the past month or so leading up to this ride I was preparing myself for some pretty terrible weather. Cold, perhaps raining conditions. What we got instead was a beautiful day. Perhaps a too beautiful one. People were initially joking about how this was the least grumpy of the Grumpy Grinds, but after about 20 miles in I think every found out that the sun and the heat combined with the nearly sand like road conditions made this a very grumpy grind. 

Road conditions, as I mentioned were brutal. The gravel roads were so dry that they were basically powdered sand with rocks in them. It was extremely difficult to find a path on some of the roads. The most brutal section of the route was on Hershey Road, around the 25 mile mark. This area, as I found out, was a killer for many people on the ride. Both my dad and I decided that we weren't going to be able to finish by here and instead we were going to bail out at the midway point. I wanted to make an effort to try and finish the full first half of the ride and tried to get the last ten miles or so. That ended up being a mistake that was more than I could handle. As soon as I started around that 35th mile I was already beginning to cramp up in my legs. What I didn't know is that what lay in front of me were some of the hardest vertical changes that were to be shown on the ride thus far. As you look at the back half of my graph above, you can see that I hit several elevation changes of over two hundred feet. Well that finally killed me. After stalling out on several hills my legs decided to call it quits. I seized up and literally couldn't walk. I had to then call in Megan to act as my SAG to bail me out. 

Overall though, this was a great ride. It was brutal, but you don't know if you can't do it until you try. Great people and a great setup overall though. 

March 2016 - Videogaming

So what have I been playing recently? Well, the Division has been the biggest game that has probably launched and I have spent a lot of time working my way through that game. The Division has perhaps one of the most detailed and intricate world maps I have ever come across. A ravaged New York City has just tons of detail on each and every street in the game. 

The game is a sort of loot based shooter, similar to Destiny in some ways. The story in the game is convoluted and mostly wrapped up into various audio files you find throughout the world. They are remarkably well put together, it is too bad though that so much of the story is hidden behind those and not tied more closely into the actual "story" missions. 

The shooting is fun, but things do begin to get a bit repetitive towards the upper levels. I have no hit the upper level cap in the game and apart from cleaning up the side missions I still need to do there isn't a ton left to play for unless you just want to grind and get better gear. That isn't something I really want to do at this point. 

I have also been playing a lot of Miitomo from Nintendo this past week. I don't even know if I would truly call this one a game, but it is a sort of social app where you answer questions with your friend's and get cute clothes. It seems to be a perfect iPhone type of game to share with friends.