Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer update

It's been awhile since I updated this blog, as I've been busy getting my priorities straight and settling in to my new pad in Madison.  I have a few random thoughts to post here, just to clear my mind.

-I'm taking a break from face-to-face selling of anything.  I've had nightmare experiences at the swap meet (see my previous posts), and I just tried selling a motorcycle on craigslist, something I've done many times in the past.  This time, everybody was a tire kicker, and when someone finally bought it, it broke immediately and they demanded their money back.  So, I'm done.  At least for now.

-Job hunting in Madison is almost a chore, but still easier than the more rural areas of Wisconsin.  After a short stint at Milio's as a delivery driver, I was hired over at Burrito Drive, again as a delivery driver.  Milio's was a soul-sucking, corporate machine designed simply to crank out sandwiches at an acceptable rate.  The quality wasn't great, and the GM was kind of a single-minded jerk.  I feel like I made the right decision.

-I'm facing some strange ideological questions as of late.  When I start a new job, I get the same line of questioning from everyone;  where are you from, why did you move here, etc.  I'm finding it harder and harder to explain why I moved to Madison, and why I want to be a delivery driver.  Now that you're here and you have a job, what now?  It's a question I had not really considered, ever.  So, I guess it's decision time.

That sums it up for me right now, I think.  I don't have any cool stories or rants at the moment, but as soon as something comes up, I'll be back to share/vent.  I'll leave a picture of my truck without fenders or doors, for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Class Distinctions...

Have you ever been to a swap meet?

A swap meet is basically where a bunch of car guys get together and try to sell their junk to other people.  Said junk can range from new car parts to used chainsaws, and everything in between.  Essentially, anything that you could make a buck on. 

I've been heavily involved in the local swap meet for many years.  This would be the third year that my friends and I have bought a space and sold parts there.  However, it will also be my last.

The crowd that shows up for such an event is less the eclectic.  From my observations, it is roughly 50% white men over the age of 40 who wear baseball hats all the time.  About 25% is younger white guys who range from cocked-flat-brim-hat-and-saggy-jeans-and-Monster-shirt-wearing jerks to overalls-without-a-shirt hillbillys.  The other quarter is unhappy girlfriends/wives, really old guys on power scooters, and some black and latino guys.  The racial slurs muttered by the majority are enough to infuriate anyone of even moderate tolerance, and yet the majority tend to be the biggest jerks overall. 

We are always selling Volkswagen parts.  There isn't a whole lot of demand for such things in Southeastern Wisconsin, sadly.  It's more of a networking experience than anything else.  "Oh, you guys like them beetle-bugs? (referring to our split bus' that we vend out of)  I know (somebody) with a barn full of parts for them.  Want (their) number?"  In this way, the swap meet is a very useful tool for obtaining parts.  Unfortunately, this doesn't sell parts.

The final straw, for me, was more of a moral issue.  Say I have a part with a $30 price tag.  Say that this item sells for much more than this online or elsewhere, but I just want said part out of my life immediately.  What kind of mindset allows a person to offer $5 for such an item?  This happened for EVERY SINGLE thing I had for sale this past weekend. 

I love bartering.  However, I think a line should be drawn, with one's own conscience.  How would you feel if hundreds of strangers told you over and over that everything you own is worthless, and they'll only take it away if you give it to them for next to nothing?  It's a mentally draining, and smashes one's ego to bits.

The cheapness and sleazyness of the swap meet goers is something that I can no longer tolerate.  Yes, you must be quite the parts hoarder, never paying more than half of the asking price for anything at the meet.  You insult people with your offers, but who cares?  YOU reap all the benefits, right?  Who cares if some other guy is trying to break even on his swap space?  That doesn't effect you, does it?

I'm ashamed to ever have associated with this group of people.  I'll still go to the swap meet, but I won't participate in the selling side any more.  I'm not cut out for sales, apparently.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Motorcycle Dreaming

I'm dreaming about riding a motorcycle.  I've had my license for almost 6 years now, and I've had 41 (that's not a typo) motorcycles to date.  The issue is my frugal tendencies leading to the purchase of some less than stellar machinery.  After amassing as many derelict bikes as possible, I then attempt to fix them all at the same time, which inevitably ends in a tragic case of "too many projects" syndrome.  I then sometimes sell off bikes as projects, part them out on eBay, or set them aside until I can make time to fix them properly.

Right now, I only have 3 motorcycles, which is much less than I've had in prior years (up to 20 at one point).  All three are complete and titled, but all are in need of varying degrees of work.  My persisting problem is lack of focus, in many ways.  I want them all to be fixed, but I need to concentrate on and finish them one by one.  I'm already failing, as I've pulled the carbs off of my '72 CB350f while my '86 VF 700c only needs a new clutch and a rebuilt front caliper.  All the while, my most recent acquisition, a '75 XS650B, glares at me from the corner of the shed, knowing full well its fate as "the last bike in line.  Basically, my focus should be on the bike nearest to completion, to fulfill my dreamy first sentence.

The lesson I've learned many times, but only now take to heart:  if I have no bike to ride, fix the one that's easiest to fix and ride it, regardless of what it is.  I'm picky.  Very, very picky.  I've daily ridden a ton of bikes (short list:  Honda Trail 90, CL 350, CB 450, '83 Yamaha XS 650, '79 Suzuki GS 750e.  There were a few others, but I didn't put too many miles on them.), but I'm wary of riding the VF for some reason.  I think it's the built in padded sissy bar, stepped seat, teardrop tank, and square headlight.  Of course, the bike has been dumped many times, and has many gouges in the frame and gas tank, and many parts have been replaced with junkyard units, complete with the yellow grease pen writing.  Basically, it's super ugly and representative of a styling period in motorcycles that I don't much appreciate.

But, it runs great.  After I replaced one of the coils, it runs perfectly on all 4 cylinders.  It doesn't run hot, and fires right up with a touch of the electric starter button.  I've never even taken the battery out before.  All the lights work, to some degree, and it has decent tires.  Basically, after the burnt clutch and sticky caliper are fixed, I'll have a perfectly functioning motorcycle.  Yes, it is a beater, but at this point, I'd rather have reliability over looks.

The 350f, for your viewing pleasure:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Signs of Spring

Yesterday, it was 84 degrees outside.  Not a completely abnormal temperature, but some factors must be included:

-I live in Whitewater, Wisconsin
-It's April.  In fact, yesterday was April 10th

These contributing factors make yesterday's weather an oddity.  It was also very, very humid (somewhere in the 90% region).

These conditions reminded me of where the Wisconsin summer is leading, and where I would like to be.  I'm moving to Madison in less than 2 months, but where will I work when the temperature is regularly in the 80's?  I haven't given it much thought, and time is running out.  Also, what will my daily routine look like?  Currently, it is completely random, as my class and work schedule is pretty random right now.  I dunno, the looming future brings me more anguish than happiness.  Sure, I'll be happy to get out of Whitewater, but beyond that happiness, I simply don't know what to expect.  And it's great.

Unrelated picture:  My bus getting ready for summer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The infinite beauty of sleeping in

Yeah, sounds like a typical college student talking about typical college student stuff.  I'd like to take the discussion further than just sleeping in on a Thursday.

So, I woke up at 11 am today.  In all honesty, it's not something I'm super proud of.  I'd have rather gotten up, fixed the flat tire on my bicycle, and gone for a ride.  Maybe I could have considered looking into my taxes (which I haven't done yet) or my research paper (due next week).  Hell, I could have even had breakfast AND lunch before class at 12:30.  But I missed all those opportunities.  Or were they really missed?

Opportunities such as this are not something to get used to.  Normally, I would be up early doing homework and surfing reddit, but where will I be once I've moved from Whitewater and the whole undergraduate thing?  Will I be in bed by 11 and up by 6?  5?  I have no idea where I'll be in 2 months, so should I squander these last few weeks of "freedom" from an actual schedule?  The way I look at it, I'll spend the rest of my life waking up early.  I'll see plenty of sunrises, enjoy plenty of coffee early in the morning, and I'll be to work on time, every day.  For now, I'll enjoy my irresponsibility, as it seems my irresponsible days are limited.

Picture, for fun.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Band Practice

Every Tuesday night, I head down to the basement of my friend Adam's house, and we jam.  Actually, Adam doesn't like it when I call it a "jam"; he'd prefer to "practice".  Regardless, every Tuesday, we play musical instruments together in a basement with ceilings 6" too low.  Crammed into the tiny room is our homemade PA system, comprising of a borrowed power mixer, a tiny solid state guitar amp head, and a Radio Shack 12" speaker, my Epiphone 5 watt tube amp and cab, Adam's drum set, and a bunch of mic stands and mics.  I suppose my Ibanez guitar hangs out down there a lot, too.

Anyway, so we're in this tiny room.  I would say it's about 12x15, with 5'10" ceilings (I'm about 6'1", Adam's even taller).  The walls are fieldstone and mortar, and the floor is cement with a rug that I destroyed one night after we stumbled home from the bars.  There's a bare light bulb on one side of the room, suspended from the ceiling.  The best part:  we have a mini fridge.  This means that we don't have to go far to get beer while we're "jamming". 

This is the only known photo of the basement, that I could find on facebook quickly, at least.  Observe the tiger towel door and Lost Lake can on top of the PA.

We do have a band, actually.  If you're curious, go to facebook and look up If These Trees Were Clouds.  We've got a few songs up there, along with some videos and pictures.  Check it out, although I won't feel bad if you think that we suck.  Our EP is due to be released before the end of the month...

I guess the real story I wanted to tell is of the jam (yes, jam) we had last night.  We recently added a bass player to our repertoire, so we've been rehearsing all of our songs to make sure he knows what to do.  His name is Charles (pronounced "Chah-lls"), and he's doing pretty well so far.  We also had our good friend Matt over.  Matt has his own project, The Gutsy Tumbler Band, and he's always fun to jam with. 

So, after we rehearsed, a little jam time was deemed necessary.  Now, I love to jam.  I love not knowing what I'll play next.  I love the spontaneous nature of playing music with other talented musicians.  I love getting into a "serious thing" and just playing my heart out.  This is a level of awesome that is rather hard to obtain, sadly, because finding that sweet spot where everyone connects can be difficult.  I can tell you that we most definitely got there last night.  The feeling is hard to describe; it's something of a euphoric blast of emotion mixed with tonal nirvana, with a little bit of pure joy to top it off.  To be playing a part, an awesome part, and to look around the tiny, stone-walled room, and to see your friends all doing their own parts, all connecting, everyone's on the same level, is just an experience that one has to...well, experience. 

The message of this post:  if you can play a musical instrument, go make friends who also play musical instruments, and make music with them.  It can be the simplest chord progression ever; it'll still feel nearly magical.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Remixes (and how they effect my life)

So, I listen to a lot of music.  Not your traditional "a lot", but seriously, a ton of music.  I listen to music while I'm delivering pizza at work, while I'm showering, while I'm doing homework, while I'm falling asleep, and even right now.  My collection is growing almost daily, and on all formats.  But I digress.

I listen to a bunch of weird "electronic" music.  Not any particular genre, just stuff made with synthesizers and computers.  This inevitably leads to listening to remixes of said music.  I mean, I've listened to LCD Soundsystem's "Sound of Silver" album enough times to know nearly all of the words, and yet I feel compelled to then listen to "Sounds like Silver", a completely remixed version of the album.  I love subtle changes to songs, moving verses around and changing key signatures and stuff.  I really enjoy listening to songs that I love, and then hearing other artists' interpretations of those songs.  Hot Chip covering Sexual Healing?  Sounds awesome to me.  Just some random thoughts, enjoy.

I'm currently listening to "We died, they remixed", a re-imagining of Architecture in Helsinki's album "In Case We Die".