Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dear Penthouse...

I spent most of yesterday in the penthouse equipment room atop the UW-Green Bay Labratory Sciences building, attempting to determine cable routing amidst the pipes and HVAC equipment. Normally this wouldn't be that hard of a task, but this penthouse was crammed with equipment. See for yourself:

The worst of it dealt with trying to get behind the massive AC condenser. That was a tight squeeze. There was also good fun to be had hanging off a ladder on the side of the penthouse to get this shot:

All told it was a good way to spend a day, and I didn't have to worry about ticks or getting lost in the woods.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Drive-by Truckers @ The Pabst Theater

Or: Drinking Pabst at the Pabst with DBT Part II.It's hard to believe, but it has been nearly two months since E Eugene and I ventured forth on a Thursday night to see quite possibly the greatest Rock Show on earth - the Drive-by Truckers in full rock mode. Two years prior I had gone to Milwaukee to see DBT at the venerable Pabst Theater with Natan & Joe. This time Natan found himself in Vegas at the time of the show, and it should be taken as a testament to the power of the Truckers that he seriously considered cancelling the trip to Sin City. I called Joe, who immediately agreed that this would be a must-see. The stage was set for an extremely fun night.

I cut out of work a bit early and met up with E Eugene at the Chalet around 4. It was at this time that Joe called with a bit of bad news - he was stuck in Elgin working at a house that was taking much longer than he'd planned. I told him that I would leave a ticket at will-call for him, but I figured that he wasn't going to be able to make the show. Too bad for him. E Eugene and I made our way to Milwaukee and I paid too much for parking near the Pabst. Last time I was able to find street parking for free, but no such luck this time and I think I payed something on the order of $15 for the night. Fucking Milwaukee. Anyway, E Eugene and I grabbed dinner at the down the street from the Pabst. It was crazy busy when we walked in, and we actually were seated at a table for four with another group of two (a pair of middle-aged out-of-town salesmen, by the snippets of conversation I eavesdropped in on: "Ooh, bratwurst, sauerkraut and red cabbage - that's so German! Have you met Tony with Allied? I sold him a lot of product at the convention last year."). Strangely enough, the place emptied out after around 30 minutes, until finally it was just us and the salesmen in our dining room. After dinner we still had a bit of time to kill so we hit up the Newsroom Pub for a quick drink. I didn't realize at first, but while we were sitting at a side table I noticed a black and white television showing what appeared to be closed-circuit security footage of people doing strange things with hula hoops and various other props. As it turns out, the Newsroom Pub is owned by the Safe House, the spy-themed "secret" restaurant & bar. I went there with Missy last year, but I hadn't realized it was that close. Sure enough, I saw the International Exports, Ltd. sign down the alley as we walked out. The Felice Brothers opened the show, and I was looking forward to seeing them once I had listened to a few of their songs on MySpace. However, I was blown away by their live set and the songs became instant sing-alongs with the crowd up front. The band is composed of actual brothers, and their sound is something of a rustic Americana-twinged folk-rock based upon lyrical stories. The lead singer had a raspy twang that reminds me a bit of early Dylan. The instruments included acoustic and bass guitars combined with accordion and violin, with organ and washboard thrown in for good measure. The entire band was highly engaged with the crowd and brought a real energy to the venue. They were the perfect opening act, and I made it a point to pick up their self-titled debut album the week it came out. E Eugene and I had also planned to catch their free show later in March at the Rathskellar, but unfortunately his wife rudely scheduled her birthday dinner for that night. It was a tough call. The only downside was this: during the Felice Brothers set E Eugene and I were first introduced to several drunken fans in the crowd. Foremost was a bald middle-aged man that was a DBT super-fan. He also was highly intoxicated and proceeded to get more so during the show, drinking PBR tallboys he had stashed in his overalls. I'm not one to claim the high road when it comes to being on best behavior at concerts, but I usually try not to be "that guy" that keeps shouting and bumping into everyone. Maybe I'm taking it personally, but I was relieved when he was kicked out of the theater after getting caught smoking twice. The Drive-by Truckers came on stage after a moderate intermission, long enough for E Eugene to procure a couple of Lakefront Riverwest Stein beers (there was actually no drinking Pabst at the Pabst this night). Patterson Hood started off the show with two acoustic-based numbers before Mike Cooley blasted in with "3 Dimes Down", all off the new Brighter Than Creation's Dark. Three more new songs followed, all of which I sang along to every word. I really enjoy Brighter Than Creation's Dark and I had been listening to it non-stop since getting it the day it came out. However, I felt that the crowd wasn't as receptive to the new songs since it appeared that not many knew the songs. When Hood started playing "That Man I Shot" I was ecstatic - this song is the most kick-ass rock song I've heard in quite some time. In a few years, when the rest of the DBT fans catch up, this will bring the house down. Instead, it was the older (and still great) songs off of The Dirty South and Decoration Day that got the crowd really going. The previous time I had seen the Truckers they played an acoustic set sitting down at the Barrymore in Madison. Great show, but E Eugene had correctly maintained that the true glory of DBT is in their Rock Show. No debate here - even with high expectations coming into the show I was blown away. DBT played 19 songs during the main set, eleven off the new album, and for once I actually remembered the set list in order. We actually left before the encore, because snow was in the forecast and E Eugene had to get back to plow. It turned out to be a hellacious drive back to Madison on an unplowed and potholed I-94. I think it took about two and a half hours to get back home. Even with that headache, and the requisite fatigue the next day, I wouldn't have even considered not attending this show. It was exceptional, and it takes an exceptional band like the Drive-by Truckers to make the exceptional seem routine.

Muzzle of Bees has an excellent review of the show as well. Here's the set list from the show, for those that are interested:
- Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife (Brighter Than Creation’s Dark)
- Daddy Needs a Drink (BTCD)
- 3 Dimes Down (BTCD)
- That Man I Shot (BTCD)
- The Home Front (BTCD)
- A Ghost To Most (BTCD)
- Sinkhole (Decoration Day)
- Marry Me (DD)
- Dead, Drunk & Naked (Southern Rock Opera)
- Guitar Man Upstairs (SRO)
- I’m Sorry Huston (BTCD)
- The Opening Act (BTCD)
- Gravity’s Gone (A Blessing And A Curse)
- Puttin’ People On The Moon (The Dirty South)
- Checkout Time In Vegas (BTCD)
- You and Your Crystal Meth (BTCD)
- Goode’s Field Road (BTCD)
- Shut Up And Get On The Plane (SRO)
- Lookout Mountain (DD)
-- Encore --

Another Civic Picture

Man, I'm starting to fall a bit behind. I've still got a couple more posts to wrap up the Israel trip, and I've been to four concerts that I'd like to write up, but for now I'm just going to settle for a picture of the Civic from yesterday's site trip to Michigan & Indiana.

That right there is a ski hill, or at least the Indiana equivalent of one. No black diamonds there, to be sure, but it still is a decent if short slope. The cell tower is going on the back of the hill, and I drove along the access drive until I came across a rope tow. So I just turned it uphill and parked on the slope - I didn't think anyone would mind.

I actually was at this site back in November, but the site moved on the property so I had to come back. Interestingly enough, my visit in November was a bit of a wash because I spent too long in Michigan and the sun was rapidly setting as I got to the site, as you can see below. Here's how you can tell it is definitely spring (DST plays a role too) - these photos were taken at about the same time (4:30 PM).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Car Photos

As I've previously demonstrated, I always take a photo of my automobile at the various tower sites I travel to, which I duly save to my computer and use as my screensaver. A couple of weeks ago I stopped by a now-constructed monopole in Mt. Horeb. I had previously visited the site in August of 2006 and taken this picture:At the end of last month I found myself in Blue Mounds, and as Tracy and I made our way back to Mt. Horeb to meet my father for lunch at the Grumpy Troll I stopped to take a few pictures of the tower and the retention ponds. As I drove away I suddenly pulled over, jumped out of the car, and took this picture:It's not an exact match, but pretty damn close considering it was close to two years between shots.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From Yesterday's Trip

Here's an interesting picture from my trip to Milwaukee yesterday:

Sometimes there just isn't much more that I can add, other than I have seen some strange things over the last few years.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Family Fun at the Wollersheim Winery

Three weeks ago some family from my mother's side in Illinois came up for the weekend. Normally it works the other way around - we're always driving down there but it isn't too often that they come north. Part of this is due to the nature of farming, and part of it is due to the fact that there's many, many relatives in central IL while there's just four of us in Wisconsin. Regardless of the reason, it was nice to have them up. The group consisted of my Uncle Chuck, Aunt Linda, cousins Jake & Jeff, and Jake's fiance Mary. They came up Saturday morning and I made my way down. Best of all, my sister managed to come down from Shawano, so it made for a full house.After a delicious lunch consisting of barbecued pork sandwiches from Hoesly's in New Glarus and fresh cheese from the Paoli Cheese Cottage (ELK used to work there!) the ladies drove over to New Glarus to check out the bridal shop while the menfolk drove up to Paoli to look at the industrial juggernaut of Paoli, Kelsch Machine Corporation. After these gender-defined excursions we regrouped and made our way up State Highways 92 and 78 to Prairie du Sac and the Wollersheim Winery. I happen to work in Prairie and I have driven past the winery hundreds of times. I've purchased quite a few bottles of Prairie Fume over the years. I even know a decent bit of the history of the winery from some of the assessments I've done in town. But I've never actually been to the winery itself. I'm happy to say that error has been rectified, since the winery tour offered at Wollersheim is not to be missed. The winery itself is steeped in history and is located picturesquely on a bluff overlooking the Wisconsin River. It's even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Above is a view from the main winery buildings toward an old cave dating to the initial development in the 1870's. We made it just in time to catch the last tour of the day. We briefly walked outside to view the grounds. The winery is currently in the midst of an expansion so there was a bit of fencing up. We walked through the facility and saw the wine-making tanks. We also got to see two of the aging caves.Following the tour was the tasting. I particularly enjoyed the Domaine du Sac. We ended up buying about 15 bottles of different wines, three of which were promptly enjoyed once we had returned from dinner at the Dorf Haus in Roxbury. Here's a picture of Erika hauling away the spoils as we were leaving.