CORRECTION: I got mixed up between my car-free anniversary and the website anniversary. I originally published this as the 17th anniversary. Simple math shows 2016-1998=18.
The site’s anniversary came and went last week without my really noticing, despite having to pay the domain renewal fees. It’s not just another bill either, since I pay it every-other year. You’d think that would cause some sort of recognition, but it didn’t.
Part of the reason is that I was busy writing. A week ago another member of BikeForums.net asked if he could do an email interview for Loose Screws. Strangely, Loose Screws isn’t a site for those with peculiar eccentricities, but rather, a specialty cycling parts etailer. Which I suppose, is itself a peculiar eccentricity.
I spent a couple of days in full-on writing mode, surfacing only for work and meals. It’s also the first time I’ve let myself be edited. That was a new experience. The result is down to “only” 3,500 words or so, and still sounds like me, but without the occasional salty language, intentionally mangled grammar and dyslexia-induced typos. Surprising even myself, I didn’t change so much as a comma in the approval copy.
Many thanks to Jonathan for wielding the blue pencil with an amazing amalgamation of lightness, depth, and propriety. You can read it here:
In the meatspace, commuting this winter has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’m all for El Niño winters, which here in the Great Lakes translates to relatively dry and balmy.
We’ve had only a couple of isolated days of winter leading up to the past two weeks where we got a very mild dose of it. I have as many commuting miles on the Ribble with its road tires as I do the Portland with its studded snows. Hell, the Litespeed has even gone to work a few times this month.
I’m hoping to inaugurate February by commuting on my 17-mile three-seasons long loop. A brief scouting detour on the way home from work Saturday showed a little more ice than I’m willing to chance with the road tires. It looks very good for Monday, though.
Meanwhile, with 50s and light southerly winds forecast for this afternoon, I think I’ll wrap up the month by taking the Litespeed for a little spin out through horse country.
2015 was a challenging year economically. Obeying the individual mandate for Obamacare meant that I was health-insurance poor. After paying the premium—even with my $225 per month subsidy—I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or afford much else for that matter. And my insurance company was shut down because they were losing too much money. How silly is all that?
Fortunately, New York State fixed that this year with the new Essential Care plan. I now have the best health insurance I’ve ever had and it costs me only $1 or $3 for prescription co-pays. Any politician who wants to take that away from me won’t get my vote.
That relieved much of my concern looking forward to 2016. My other concern was that I wouldn’t be subbing so much as other years. Despite subbing a lot, my income in 2015 was $800 less than in 2014. The two libraries where I sub the most hired good, stable staff. Good for them, bad for me. The Universe seems to have stepped in and I’ve subbed on a Saturday in each of this year’s two pay periods so far. Hoping that signals a trend.
Plus, this will be the first year since Obamacare started that I won’t be using my tax refund for health insurance premiums. There are two years of deferred repairs, replacements and expenses that total more than 150% of the combined tax returns, but I’ll be able to clear the important stuff. Not a minute too soon either. At work I joke that my pants reveal that I do my best work on my knees. Ahem.
That’s not to say it’s all work and no play. Just as last year I tried to strike a balance between needs and wants/rewards, I’m doing the same this year. Part of the tax refund is converting itself from dollars to yen and heading for Japan to buy music CDs and concert BluRays.
I want to say a special thank you to the Federal Reserve for strengthening the dollar, and to the Bank of Japan for weakening the yen. I can buy more music this way. Ditto to the European Central Bank for weakening the euro. More bike parts in the shopping cart.
Despite the weakening Loonie, I think I’ve decided to skip the ONE OK ROCK performance in Toronto on Friday April 15. OOR is appearing as the second act in a four-act line-up, and there are no VIP or meet & greet tickets.
Yes, the tickets are cheap, even in $CND, and the B&B I use in Toronto is in the same block as the venue. Talk about convenient.
But I think my money is better spent on the new 2015 35xxxv Japan Tour BluRay announced today. Sorry guys. Hope you have a great show without me.
Also waiting in the shopping cart at amazon.co.jp is flumpool’s new album Egg. Despite their main fanbase being Japanese women, I’ll admit I’m a big flumpool fan. Their For Roots—Osaka Fields Forever concert BluRay is in high rotation here. It’s notable for the absence of black t-shirts in the audience. They’re just not a black t-shirt band.
One of the things I like about flumpool is that they make nice, yet interesting music with all the hard edges smoothed off. You’ll see what I mean in their 2015 singles, You’re Romantic and Bookstore On a Hill. They’re perfect examples of the flumpool sound, and overall, are little different from their first single, 2008’s Hana ni Nare.
Their new single, 「夜は眠れるかい？」 (“Do You Sleep At Night?”) is a real departure—rich, warm, fat bass and guitar lines, the band in black (Is that leather?), playing at night in the video. And it’s short. With the bulk of their catalog running in the five and six minute range, it’s only 3:49.
Yet, I like it a lot. An awful lot. It’s like they’ve been listening to UVERworld as much as I have. (A black t-shirt band if there ever was one.) They’ve picked up the metal-with-an-EDM-edge that UVERworld works so nicely, and Ryuta even uses effects on his vocals. It’s so un-flumpool that I wouldn’t have recognized it had they not tweeted the video’s release.
Yet, it works, and it makes me anticipate Egg even more than I did SPYAIR’s 4 or OOR’s 35xxxv.
Going in completely the opposite direction, after reading this article in the Japan Times summing up 2015 trends in Japanese music, I tried out and quickly became a big fan of 世界の終わり Sekai No Owari (End of the World).
Sekai takes a very difficult path and plays it to perfection. They don’t just blur the lines between genres, but erase them completely. I love the traditional instrumentation in half a dozen different genres juxaposed with beatbox rhythm lines and the circus atmosphere of their videos. Here’s a selection from the last two albums:
- RPG (English subs)
- Carnival of Forest and Flame (English subs)
- Dragon Night (Sung in English)
- Anti-Hero (Sung in English)
- Mr. Heartache (Sung in English)
And their shows are over the top. They blur the lines between concert, theater and circus. Their Twilight City at Nissan Stadium concert BluRay sits in my cart awaiting the release date. This video from that performance of their song Moonlight Station cinched the deal. How could I not want to see that whole show?
And so this entry sort of encapsulates the 18-year history of the site. Part letter to a friend, part cycling blog, part music blog—like life, I never know where it will lead.
On the back of an El Niño winter, supported by relief on health expenses, and coupled with new things in music, it promises to be an interesting year.
Now, off to horse country.