Andy Laub

Andy Laub is a designer & developer in the Twin Cities.

Categorized Life

Undid »

See? If you just avoid doing things eventually you won’t have to do them anymore.

Somehow I ended up on an old post I made shortly after getting the Saab, about the things I planned to do to it (strikes added):

  1. Alignment, check-up, oil change – scheduled for Monday.
  2. Wash, wax, buff out the small clearcoat scratches – as soon as the weather gets nice.
  3. New speakers – as soon as I can figure out how to fit the back ones.
  4. De-badging – I’m thinking I might remove the “SAAB” and “9-3″ from the trunk, but I’m not sure yet.
  5. Possibly get some smoked side markers to replace the amber units – I don’t think this would be complicated but I’m on the fence about doing it at all.
  6. Replace the black interior door handles with chrome ones – if I can freaking find any.
  7. Replace the lower center console – the current one has a hole drilled in it and some scratches, so if I can find a cheap one it might be a weekend project.
  8. New tires – maybe around fall, and these would possibly be accompanied by new, larger wheels as well.
  9. Look into getting the one larger scratch buffed out – we’ll see how the car holds up before I decide whether professional cosmetic work is worth it.

Huh.

Curation »

Sometimes less really is more. Or at least better.

Sometimes I’ll look around and think I have too much stuff. And it’s true – I have a lot of stuff. We have a lot of stuff. No, it’s not an episode of Hoarders when you walk in the house, but it’s just… a little overwhelming sometimes.

Most of the time this feeling comes and goes, but occasionally it reaches critical mass and drastic measures are required. There was a period of time after buying my LeMond in which I owned three bicycles. I don’t think I ever tried to convince myself that this was logical; I think I just tried to ignore it. At a certain point it became clear the Bianchi was purely excess and was no longer a necessary possession, so I sold it.

When I was still in school and basically didn’t have any money, being able to own things was a sort of goal. And while owning things continues to be nice, I’ve also become somewhat attracted to the idea of only owning the “right” amount of things. In essence, carefully managing both the quality and especially quantity of what I have.

That’s why I’m willing to take somewhat of a hit when selling an old (in the sense of having been made redundant) bicycle or iPhone or television. True, making a little extra money is nice, but whoever buys whatever I’m selling is also doing me the favor of getting it out of my life.

At some point in December my left brain and my right brain finally got together on something and concluded that owning two cars is neither practical nor enjoyable. The Miata was fun for awhile, but I really just got kind of sad when thinking about it because I didn’t feel like I was being a good owner. And of course, having two cars means maintaining and insuring two cars, and while the Miata was never a burden, it was definitely excess.

So I sold it. Or planned to sell it, anyway. At the same time, the Saab has been getting long in the tooth, and without the Miata my sole car would be one with an automatic transmission and a lot of miles. So I decided to sell that too. This could have turned out really badly, with one or both cars languishing on Craigslist until I desperately accepted the first offer I received. Worse, I’d miss out on a car that I wanted to buy because of my self-imposed “all cars must fit in the garage” policy.

Miraculously, this was not the case. In what has to be the best Craigslist experience I’ve ever had, I managed to buy a car and sell two others in a span of four days, and actually be pretty pleased with how it all shook out financially. But what really makes me happy is that instead of having two marginally good cars, I now have one car that I can really get excited about.

Defining Moments of 2010 »

See you in 2011.

I did this before. Here it goes again:

As January hit Wisconsin, we were running down the middle of the street trying not to fall on our asses. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the year.

February took us to Chicago with some friends who used to live there, and we did all kinds of good stuff.

In March I bought a camera and took some pictures.

April was not so great, but in retrospect it was actually not so bad either.

I read a lot of books in May.

In June I loved the iPhone 4. And I still do.

I relaunched this site in July. (Side note: wow, that was only July?)

I rode my first ever half-century in August, which dovetailed nicely with my first ever 500 miles run in July.

On the subject of running, I ran a 10K race (off road!) in September. So much fun!

I accidentally another play in October. Is that bad?

In November, Conan came back and I made a pie. Both were delicious.

December. Miami.

Novelty »

Without number eight, I’d have to wait another 5 hours to post this.

The top ten things I’ve seen in the last 72 hours:

  1. Miami Beach, daytime
  2. Miami Beach, nighttime
  3. Exotic cars being driven ever so casually
  4. Exotic cars for rent, should you only need that Rolls Royce for a day
  5. A submarine (from the air)
  6. Cruise ships (from the highway)
  7. The Atlantic Ocean (from the beach)
  8. Free in-air WiFi
  9. The Miami Opera House, because it’s so cool-looking
  10. The Miami International Airport, because it’s so huge*

*I didn’t fly into or out of MIA, but it’s worth mentioning that I was on the phone for about ten minutes at one point and we were driving past the airport the entire time.

Mutually Exclusive »

The iPad ain’t no notebook (and vice versa).

When the iPad landed there was no disputing its novelty, but at the same time I wrote it off as “…a larger version of a device I already didn’t have a use for.

Harsh, I know, but true. I could never really wrap my head around the iPod touch (a device made completely redundant by my iPhone), but as I’ve spent more time playing with iPads and seeing the new apps that are being made available, I’m starting to “get it”. It’s the size.

An iPad is an ideal away-from-desk computer. There are some instances where I’d like to relax and watch a video that lives on my desktop, or read an article while watching TV, or reference a game as I’m playing, where all I basically need is a screen. For now the iPhone is an adequate solution, but the extra screen space would be a welcome addition.

The thing is, I’m also finding myself more and more in need of a computer I can take with me to meetings, some of which are not local and thus require more flexibility from such a machine. It’s this away-from-home situation where a “normal” notebook computer still shines; I know that in a pinch I can browser-test in Windows, edit a file in Creative Suite, or do something as basic as charge my phone. Preparation is the keyword.

In a perfect world I’d own both of these devices in addition to my iPhone and Mac Pro which would leave me consistently covered for all scenarios. And while that day may eventually come (and probably sooner rather than later), for now the away-from-home computer has taken priority and that’s why I ordered an 11″ Macbook Air.

Second Chances »

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

This is a post about Fallout 3. It is a highly-acclaimed video game that came out almost exactly two years ago for a multitude of platforms, and one that I purchased on its release date.

It’s also a video game that, somewhat indicative of the time, I picked up only briefly and then almost immediately gave up on. Oh sure, I made it through the prologue and into (out to?) the wasteland, but from there the game became so overwhelming in so many ways that I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

A year later, or somewhere thereabouts, I tried it again, made some incremental progress, then likely got distracted by something else and continued to write it off as “not for me”. Despite certain insistences that is in fact very good, and I should give it another chance, I couldn’t commit.

But New Vegas pushed me over the edge. Maybe. You see, after what basically amounted to a one-night stand with Splinter Cell, I was looking for a game I could settle down with for awhile and really get to know. All the hype about New Vegas rekindled my interest in the Fallout franchise, and I vowed that I would give Fallout 3 an honest-to-God second chance.

And this time, it just clicked. Much like my picked-up-and-put-down experience with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, I opted to start over from scratch and basically just not be such a pansy when it came to fighting this time. I also took advice from the internet and chose my skills a little more carefully, as I didn’t realize how critical certain abilities are when I started the game before.

I had also previously described Fallout 3 as “Borderlands, but much more lonely and dismal.” While that holds true somewhat, there is still a sense of humor woven into the game that keeps it enjoyable versus depressing. And while the loneliness is somewhat overwhelming at first, after awhile I wouldn’t want it any other way. Put another way: there are opportunities throughout the game to acquire a follower, but I’ve avoided them. Mostly this is because I don’t want to be responsible for their deaths (which are, logically, permanent), but also I’m kind of a badass so I don’t need their help.

Once the balance of terror vs. curiosity shifted in my favor, the game became a lot more fun and interesting. I didn’t worry about stumbling into the “wrong” place, because such things are encouraged and rarely lethal if you’re prepared. There’s still an ever-present threat of not having enough ammo (merchants only have finite amounts) and the degradation of weapons and equipment (which are repairable but not without some hassle), but it doesn’t feel like tacked-on difficulty; instead it really does fit with the overall theme: if you don’t succeed, this could very well be the fall of humankind and the decay of everything associated with it.

Whoa.

Miscellany

  • V.A.T.S. (the combat assistant) takes some getting used to, but it is tremendously useful when you figure it out.
  • Maps and fast travel are lifesavers.
  • I am using the Fallout Wiki probably way more than I should.
  • The Broken Steel add-on is crucial.
  • Dead Rising, on the other hand, was not better the second time.

Sleepless »

There’s a fine line between “motivated” and “crazy”; for me it occurs at six in the morning.

I’m generally pretty consistent in my sleeping habits, becoming somewhat functional around 8 AM and calling it a day by around midnight. This is a slightly updated, delayed version of what used to be; a side effect of a new work situation and sharing a house with a teacher on summer break.

Sometimes there are bonus days, where I’m awake (and by that I mean actually ready to be finished sleeping versus being reminded by the cat that “hey it’s been nearly twelve hours since I’ve had food and I thought maybe you’d forgotten to feed us even though never once has that ever happened.”) well before usual, and I find that’s a great time to accomplish things. There are always things to accomplish when the internet is involved.

This is awesome when it happens in the morning. On the other hand there are times when I wake up during what I would consider to be “the middle of the goddamn night” for no conceivable reason, where it’s simply too early not to try to go back to sleep because anything else borders on dysfunction. Then you get blog posts like this.

Philosophy »

I just realized I never wrote this down.

When my life as an employee was coming to an end it gave me some time to think about exactly what led to my overall frustration and that would contrast with my new life as a business.

The conclusion I reached turned out to be relatively simple. Your working life is about projects, and the relative success of each affects your self-esteem and work ethic. In my case, those projects were websites, and my metric for success was “does this finished site make me happy?” While there are some I am distinctly proud of, they are decidedly the minority; beacons of light in an otherwise hazy ocean.

However, when you become a business, the business becomes your project, and what used to be projects become tasks to further the progress of that project. The previous metric of success for individual tasks is no longer the deciding factor in your happiness; instead, you’re happy when:

  1. You have more work to do.
  2. Your client is happy, because it begets #1.

For me, it’s as simple as that. When you can be proud of an individual project, that’s a bonus.

Gadget Neurosis »

Oh, that was today?

As a technophile, it’s should be pretty apparent that I deal with an awful lot of gadget-lust. I’ve been getting increasingly better at shrugging it off, but that temptation becomes exponential on launch dates of particular devices. There’s something in the air on days like today; tech blogs go crazy, Twitter explodes, and nerds around the world line up outside of stores for the privilege of… giving away their money.

But you might be surprised to find that I didn’t join the masses today (or two weeks ago) considering my rabid enthusiasm for the newest iPhone. I toyed with the idea of preordering, but when the date jumped from July 2 to July 14, I figured that I’d be able to pick one up locally before then.

Yet this morning I got out of bed, did some work, ate a banana, went for a run, and came back here to write this. What I didn’t do was drive as fast as I could to Walmart (the only local reseller whose stock isn’t allocated to preorders) the minute I woke up, desperately hoping to get my hands on a shiny new toy. Don’t think that it wasn’t a major possibility.

In the last few days, though, I’ve been trying to pin down just why I so desperately wanted this phone that I felt compelled to inconvenience myself to acquire it. I couldn’t answer that question, beyond what I can only describe as a really strange sort of peer pressure, where by “peer” I mean “nerds and blogs”.

The only other explanation I can offer for this specific instance is that it’s the first time I’ve actually been eligible for a new iPhone at the time of its launch. AT&T didn’t even exist here when the first iPhone hit, and I was in the middle of my contracts for the 3G and 3GS.

But look! This is me, taking a stand.

I ordered one from the Apple Store while I was writing this.

Floodgate »

When life gives you lemons, and all that.

I’m just going to put this out there: April of 2010 will go down in history as one of the more tumultuous months I’ve basically ever had. A lot of things happened very differently than I would’ve liked and there were a number of times where I was contemplating what would’ve amounted to a total reset on my life, even up until this week.

Thankfully, I think my coping mechanism has finally caught up and kicked in, and I’m feeling substantially better than I have been for the past few weeks, and I’m able to look at April as a month of “silver linings” versus simply being bad.

The biggest news is that I’m now officially self-employed. {hire} became my full-time pursuit at the end of April, and has been going about as smoothly as you can expect a sudden transition to freelance work to go. I’m very excited about both existing and potential partnerships, and also for the freedom allowed by my new schedule. Suffice it to say, it’s both the most and least stressful job I’ve ever had.

As a result, my daily routine has changed dramatically, as have my priorities. The awesome weather has made running every morning a joy, as has the fact that I now have the time to run every morning (instead of afternoon or evening). I haven’t been on the bike nearly as much, mostly because my commute now consists of walking up the stairs, but I’m trying to fit a longer ride in here and there as a break (ha!) from running.

Maybe it’s because it’s summer, but I’m also not gaming much right now. The Saboteur and God of War II are both sitting, unfinished. The only console game I’ve really enjoyed lately is Borderlands, and that’s because it’s a social activity. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot more; something I hope continues even as I slowly run out of books around the house.

Finally, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a break from theatre. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities over the last few years, but more recently it’s been taking its toll on my mind, my self esteem, and my schedule. Now is a good time for a hiatus, especially considering the aforementioned career change.

Breaking in is hard to do »

My placeholder text for the draft of this was “Vans. So many Vans.”

I have a lot of shoes. Many of them were acquired during my years of work for a place that may be described as a “foot locker” of sorts, but even after my departure for greener pastures, I still find footwear (of the sneaker-ish variety) relatively enthralling.

As a result, I don’t tend to wear any given pair a lot, and so they all reach a point of looking somewhat worn but not completely broken before I move on to the next thing that catches my interest. And that’s why I’m confounded by a pair of Vans I bought 5 years ago.

When I first started wearing the Slip-Ons, I was somewhat skeptical. It’s not that they were uncomfortable by any means; more that I wasn’t sure if I liked how they looked on my feet. But I quickly acclimated to the sight of that solid white strip of sole, and the Vans became my go-to shoes. They’ve been with me to Chicago and Vegas (among other more local places), rehearsals and performances, work and play, and they’re one of the few pairs of shoes I have that remains consistently stylish (I believe the word is “classic”) regardless of what they’re paired with.

It soon became clear that I had found a staple to my wardrobe; I wore the Vans more frequently than any other shoes. Like a great pair of jeans, they got more comfortable and better-looking with age, each little rub and tear adding to a perfect patina. But, paranoid as I am, I knew they wouldn’t last forever, and I knew that I’d want to have a replacement on hand for when that time came. My first second pair of Slip-Ons were the vaunted checkerboard colorway, which were soon joined by a cappuccino pair (both on sale, so why not?).

The thing about Slip-Ons is that they get better with age – the blackened sole, worn down logo on the heel, the weathering of the seams. So when presented with a choice between unbroken new shoes or perfectly-worn not-new shoes, I almost inevitably choose the latter, which is why both of the other pairs are still relatively new-looking. I’ll be honest: I think brand new Vans look a little goofy; it’s only after they start to wear that they look like they should. The problem is convincing myself to push through that goofy phase (it’s kind of like when your hair is too long to be short but too short to be long) instead of just wearing the other pair of shoes that I already like.

But I’ve been feeling for awhile that my favorite pair has been close to critical mass. They’re not as bad as they could be, but it’s time to transition them to semi-retirement status. Fortunately, I think I’ve lined up a suitable replacement (for real this time), and so the cycle begins again.

Defining Moments of 2009 »

I’d be remiss if I didn’t do something to commemorate this arbitrary changing of years.

Last year I introduced the new year by participating in what had to have been one of the lamest questionnaires ever. This year I feel the need to again look back on the year that has just passed, but I want to do something that’s a little more original. Instead of a bunch of arbitrary questions, I’m choosing one event or experience from each month that has held the most significance in my mind.

The year started strong. January didn’t bring the same drama this year that it brought in 2008 (thankfully). Instead, I get to point out that that was the birth of the current iteration of this website.

February was relatively uneventful as well, aside from preparing for shows. But I did put together some awesome LEGO.

I spent a lot of time complaining about the weather this year, as I was already raring to get back on two wheels when March rolled around. That was only exacerbated by the new toy. The day trip to Minneapolis to pick it up was awfully fun too.

In April I put new wheels on my car. No, I mean I put them on. By myself.

May brought the first of a number of shows last year: The Last 5 Years, in which I was approximately 50% of the cast. It was a great experience and the theatrical accomplishment that I continue to be most proud of.

Then Godspell happened in June, and that was awesome too! Great cast, great technical staff, great venue, and a great show. Probably one of WCT‘s best, ever.

Things wound down a bit in July, but we had the official Godspell reunion / cast party up in Tomahawk. AKA Real World: Godspell. TEXT MESSAGES!

August was a quiet month, so I spent a lot of time on the bike, and did my first (and second!) 40-mile ride(s).

After years of planning and months of labor, Citizen Wausau 2.0 was finally launched in September, much to the excitement of those involved.

In October, I ran.

The only potentially negative item on the list happened in November, when I passed out on stage. Even then, it’s just something that happened, but I don’t think of it as being decidedly “bad”.

I had such a great vacation in December, you guys. Seriously, it was wonderful. Plus it was my birthday!

EOY Game Savings Report »

The title says it all.

At the beginning of 2009 and more recently I talked about my efforts to save money and not go crazy buying games. Looking back I would say I did a pretty decent job; I saved myself from a few titles that were definitely not worth buying but still had the opportunity to play through pretty much everything I wanted. Finding a game that you want on sale is an added bonus over just being able to go out and buy it, and practically becomes a game in and of itself. I even managed to mostly abide the “no $60 games” rule, with Forza 3 being an obvious and acceptable exception.

Title Price Saved
Prince of Persia (360) $59.99
$29.99
$30.00
Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (360) $29.99 -
GTA IV: The Lost and Damned (360) $20.00 -
LEGO Batman (PS3) $49.99
$25.00
$24.99
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS) $34.99
$19.99

$7.99
$27.00
The Sims 3 (PC) $49.99
$44.99*
$5.00
Left 4 Dead (GOTY) (360) $59.99
$37.00
$22.99
Indigo Prophecy (Xbox) $19.99
$6.68
$13.31
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3) $59.99
$34.99
$25.00
Shadow Complex (360) $15.00 -
Batman: Arkham Asylum (360) $59.99
$49.99*
$10.00
Forza Motorsport 3 (Limited Collector’s Edition) (360) $79.99 -
GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (360) $20.00 -
New Super Mario Brothers Wii (Wii) $49.99** -
  Total: $158.29

* gift card incentive
** shared purchase

GameTry »

Video games, in your mailbox!

Earlier this year I wrote about how much money my video game habit has been costing me, and how I hoped to be more judicious in my purchasing habits. My goal was to better evaluate potential purchases and determine their worth based on how much entertainment they’d provide. Forza Motorsport 3, for example, is a game where I’m very close to (if not past) the $1/hour mark. On the other end of the spectrum, Modern Warfare 2, while a lot of fun, would’ve cost me somewhere around $6/hour if I had bought it versus renting.

It’s the games in the middle that get you. I knew I could hammer through MW2 well within the 72 hours that it was in my possession, but that’s not always the case. I had been toying with the idea of a GameFly subscription (like Netflix, but for video games), but never made the leap until a recent promotion came along.

The Honeymoon

My initial experience was extremely positive. The first game in my “Q” (ugh) was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The game shipped on Monday and I had it on Thursday, just in time for a relatively uncluttered weekend. I plowed through it and had it back in the mail early the following Monday.

The Marriage

Then I waited. GameFly claims that they work with the postal service to scan games as soon as they’re put in the mail. When a game gets scanned, GameFly treats it as a return, and immediately prepares your next game. However, I didn’t experience this. Uncharted didn’t process as a return until Thursday.

In the meantime, I eagerly awaited my opportunity to play The Saboteur. Unfortunately, being a brand-new game, it must have been in short supply, as they skipped it and moved on to the next game on my list: Prototype. When I read the shipping confirmation email, my heart sank.

Which is odd. I was really excited for Prototype when it first came out, and then I gradually lost interest in it as time wore on. By the time it reached my door (this past Monday), I had little interest in actually playing it (admittedly, this is all my own fault) but I persevered.

The Divorce

Whether the game itself is good or not is irrelevant here. But in playing it I’m finding the achilles heel of GameFly membership: you feel forced to play whatever game is in front of you at the expense of doing anything else you may have preferred to do; only by moving through games and returning them as quickly as possible are you getting the most value out of the membership. Even then, you’re handicapped by the shipping speed.

Netflix somehow manages to avoid these issues, at least in my mind, for two reasons:

  1. The time spent “experiencing” a movie is not the unknown that it would be with a game.
  2. Netflix’s digital distribution methods offer instant gratification.

it would be interesting to see GameFly (or a similar service) explore methods of digital distribution, but I don’t know how it would work. In the meantime, this trial membership has been effective in determining that GameFly just isn’t my thing.

Dear Sir »

I’m sorry I almost ran you over. I guess.

Let me begin by apologizing for the near incident that occurred last week. As someone whose feet are in his top three preferred modes of transportation (pending weather and destination), I want to say that I understand the hassles that accompany being a pedestrian in this fine city we both call home, and that those hassles are only compounded when vehicles (large and small) become involved.

However, I feel that there are a few things that went awry in this situation that could have easily led to a catastrophe. I would begin by suggesting that, when you inevitably need to cross a street, you choose a location other than a few yards around what is essentially a blind corner for traffic. You could’ve begun at the corner itself, where I would’ve been able to see you before I turned, or you could’ve walked the extra block to the next intersection where there are crosswalks and crossed there, or even waited until you were a few yards further down the block so my experience wasn’t just “turning-BOOM-pedestrian” (fortunately not literally).

I am happy you were at least as far from the corner as you were, as when I rounded the corner (with no stop sign, mind you) there was a fair gap between the right side of the street (where you had come from) and where you presently were (nearly in the middle of the road). As such, I altered my course appropriately, veering slightly more toward the right to give extra space between you and my vehicle. I chose this approach as it represented a clear path for me without inhibiting your progress, since it’s preferable for me as a pedestrian to, well, get my ass out of the street as soon as possible since that’s where cars go.

Imagine my surprise, then, when instead of continuing on your way (or even stopping in the middle of the street, similar to a deer!), you decided the best course of action was to jump backwards into the path of my car. You got me good here – I definitely was NOT expecting that move! As I steered to the left in an attempt to avoid your maneuver, I was already sensing futility in this exercise, and was not disappointed when you jumped back the left, and in front of me a second time.

At this point I must ask if you’ve ever been walking down a hallway and encountered someone going the opposite way? If so, you’ll be familiar with that awkward little dance that happens when right of way is being determined. Between two (relatively) slow-moving people, it’s little more than an annoyance. However, I would not recommend playing this game with a car, or really anything larger than yourself. I’ll just say that I’m glad I stopped and did not hit you, but only because of the hassle it saved me in the end. I’d highly recommend that next time this happens to you (and given your self-righteous tirade afterwards, I’m sure it will), you act in a more predictable manner instead of like some sort of wild animal.

Collapse »

I think I got the entire flu in three hours. It was just a very bad choice of hours.

Saturday started innocently enough. A half-hour run, followed by some delicious cereal and a couple hours of nerdery before making my way downtown to prepare for the first of the day’s two performances of WCT’s 1776. It was shortly after noon when I walked through the stage door of the Grand Theater with my recently acquired sandwich, which I made short work of as I readied myself for the 2:00 matinee. Life was good.

As the show began, I felt awfully tired. I wrote it off to the heat, and after the first scene took the opportunity to rest a bit backstage as I had a long while before I need to return. I was still feeling a little sluggish afterward, and digestively something just felt… off. My next scene came and went, and while the tiredness went away, the nausea did not. I opted to miss my next entrance and spend some time in the bathroom (fill in the blanks), which seemed to help, and felt cool and rejuvenated for a short period after that. The feeling was short-lived, and the final few scenes left me feeling beat from every direction. I was still nauseous, and the tiredness from before became a full-on exhaustion.

It’s fortunate for me that 1776 is based around congress, and as such there’s a lot of sitting, because there’s not a lot else I was able to do at that point. It was a struggle just to keep my eyes open, and the lightheadedness I felt was becoming worse every time I had to stand for any reason. There was a point where I experienced what seemed to be a total disconnect between my brain and the rest of me, as I could not make my hands function.

As the show neared its end and we all approached center stage to sign the Declaration of Independence (spoiler alert!), I was struggling to keep it together for just a few more minutes. All I had to do was stand for a few moments, and then make it through bows, and then I was done. I failed.

My first thought: SHIT. I awoke to the curtain call music and the face of Edward Rutledge, one of a group of my fellow congressmen to carry me to the wing. If you’ve ever fallen asleep slightly while in a lecture or meeting or any other place where it’s inappropriate to do so, you may be familiar with the state where you start to dream and then you kind of wake yourself up. I think that’s what happened to me, except while I was standing up, and on stage. I’m fortunate that I was surrounded by others so I never even made it to the ground.

The next few minutes were… interesting. I only opened my eyes briefly after waking up, but I was so exhausted that I couldn’t keep them open. They sat me in a chair offstage, and I felt like I could’ve sat there basically forever and been happy. I can’t describe how relieved I felt (physically – how I felt mentally is an entirely different story) to just finally stop. I can certainly understand the cause for concern, as while I was totally lucid, that’s probably not what it looks like when somebody collapses and then just sits there with their eyes shut for ten minutes.

Eventually we went down to the orchestra lounge, where there are couches, and I rested a bit more. Abe brought me a Subway-brand cookie and that was delicious (did I mention he was in the audience for this show and this show alone? I was thankful for that). I was still feeling a little off when I stood, but I had some delicious pizza with the rest of the cast and felt a lot better. Fortunately the brother of a fellow cast member was able to step in for the Saturday evening performance (and did so with aplomb!), which left me free to go home and rest.

So it could’ve been a lot worse. Some people thought the collapse was part of the show (because that apparently happened when it was hot in congress back then), so I guess I can consider it my body’s own personal ad-lib. Fortunately I was able to return for the closing matinee on Sunday and celebrate the end of yet another fantastic WCT production with the rest of the cast and crew. I also owe them my thanks for their concern and help both before and after the incident.

(PS: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually the flu.)

A New Addiction »

Wheels and cogs give way to shoes and earbuds.

I’ve made it no secret that I’m a huge bike nerd. I’ve spent countless hours poring over cycling websites and forums, reading about new gear, and just generally obsessing about things that a normal person wouldn’t give a second glance to. I have brand preferences, and I can list off the parts that I would put on my dream bike at any given time, from memory. I’ve cleared well over 3000 miles this year on a bike I’ve only had since March. So why have I only broken 100 miles (nearly all of them indoors) this month? There are a few reasons:

Weather

It’s October, and apparently it’s been decided that good weather is done for the year. It’s cool at best; windy and rainy at worst. I feel bad for not riding to work, but I don’t miss the hassles that it brings in terms of clothing and preparation. I’ll admit it – when you’re used to getting places under your own power, driving becomes one of those guilty pleasures.

Reliability

I’ve been constantly afflicted by a flat rear tire in the past two months. I couldn’t figure out what was causing it, but I was going through a tube every few rides or so. For that reason biking was no longer a reliable mode of transportation for me. I couldn’t justify trying to squeeze in 15 or 20 miles if I knew I’d have to spend a portion of it on foot, hoofing it to a gas station.

Time

I was trying to average 20-25 miles a day when I was riding during the summer. It wasn’t terribly difficult when I was going to and from work twice a day, but no matter how you slice it that ends up being nearly 90 minutes of riding, which is a time commitment that I’m just not interested in making when reason number one comes into play.

Disinterest

When all the reasons above combine it makes for an experience that’s just not enjoyable anymore. One alternative is to train indoors (I picked up a set of rollers earlier this year), but it is seriously boring, and not something I want to do everyday (if at all).

A Solution

With all this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to start running.

Here’s the funny thing about that. I suck at running… or at least, I did. I couldn’t run a mile to save my life, and if by some miracle I did manage, my lungs would be on the verge of exploding so it may have been a self-defeating act. My very first run (in recent history, at least) consisted of a distance of about 1.5 miles, half of which were walked.

I paid for it dearly. My major mistake was opting to wear the Nike Free’s that I used for Wii Fit. While they were fine for a more aerobic use, they were terribly unsuccessful at dealing with the foot-to-pavement interaction, and my hips were out of whack for two days afterwards.

When I finally did recover (read: when I could walk without being in pain), I decided to give it another go, this time in a pair of borrowed Nike Shox. While I didn’t much care for the feel of them (Shox in general seem relatively heavy) they did a much better job of absorbing the impact and left me feeling much less damaged the second time around.

The fact that I committed to a second run at all is something of a miracle, as I don’t think I’ve ever reached that phase before. Apparently, that’s all it took. I lucked out and found a pair of Nike Zoom Start +, and the deal was sealed.

Nike +

It was no accident that I ended up with a pair of shoes that are Nike + compatible; that was basically one of my only requirements when searching. When it comes to exercise, stats have worked in my favor in the past, so I had no doubt they would work their magic again.

I was right. When base your distance on landmarks instead of hard data, it’s easy convince yourself you’ve gone farther than you actually have, and to feel more entitled to a break. The little voice in my ear told me otherwise, which made the little voice in my brain say “Keep going! You can do it!”

As it turns out, I can do it. In spite of the extremely temperamental weather (which fades to the background once warmed up) and the sporadic pain (which is assuaged by time on the rollers) I’ve found that I actually do love to run. It’s such a simple activity, and that’s why I was always frustrated that it always seemed to escape me before. It carries a lot of the same traits that I enjoy about cycling without the drawbacks. I’ll openly acknowledge that it’s harder on the body, but I’m getting more done in less time (in terms of exercise) and I don’t have to worry about random equipment failures.

And I can listen to music while exercising, which is basically a deathwish on a bike when you’re on public roads.

Urbanimals »

When nature attacks!

Speaking of raccoons, allow me to regale you with tales of urban nature this Labor Day weekend:

Tale #1

It was about 9:00 on Friday night when we were sitting in the media room. I was messing around in Little Big Planet while Abe was doing… whatever he does. We heard a noise, but didn’t think much of it, as we live in a house where noises are practically de rigeur. Honestly, I’m not even sure I heard the noise at all. I don’t really pay attention well.

So ten or fifteen minutes later, we go to the basement bedroom to find that the screen in the window has been pushed outward, leaving a much-larger-than-cat-sized opening and reducing the number of active cats in the household by one. From what we can deduce, Marshie (shown in anger mode), saw something (most likely a cat) outside that caused him to lunge at the screen. Imagine the surprise of both parties when the screen gave way and Marshie was suddenly outdoors.

By the time we got out there, he was frantic and desperate to return to the safety of the house, but so confused and upset that he ran past us several times. He finally showed up at the back door, where we were able to let him back in. He was still pretty upset, but a few minutes and some Party Mix brought back the Marshie we know and love.

Tale #2

We were driving and saw a raccoon. That was pretty neat.

Tale #3

So, it’s now 4:00 on Sunday morning. Sleep is happening, because that’s what I like to do at that time of the day, when I awake to banging on the same basement window as before. Inspection reveals two subjects: Subject A is a white cat sitting on the ledge of the window well (at ground level) – it’s the neighbors’ cat, and very likely the one that riled up Marshie the other night. Subject B is a rabbit that the cat has chased into the window well, and is now trying to escape.

This particular window well was added to the house when the previous owner started to finish off the basement. The window is probably 4′ x 3′ or so, and this well is sized to accommodate a human who would be climbing out of that window in the event of an emergency, so it’s of similar dimensions. That would be why the rabbit is having so much trouble. They are pretty impressive jumpers, but aren’t exactly practiced in the vertical leap; he’s manages to get about six inches from the edge, but then falls back down.

Let’s finish this story. I grabbed a towel and a pair of gloves and went outside. I managed not to step on the rabbit when I jumped down into the window well, and that’s pretty good considering I was only half awake. It was when he continued to run in circles that I realized getting the towel on him might be more challenging than I had originally thought, but he finally paused for a second so I went for it. Unlike birds, mammals just freak out more when you cover them with stuff, but fortunately he just kind of bumped into the window and stopped long enough for me to pick him up.

I set him down next to the ledge and uncovered him, and I think he was dazed for a minute because he just stared at me. Then he hissed (I swear!). Then, finally, he ran away, where he was probably eaten by that cat. I went back to bed.

How was your weekend?

Cadence »

I’d rather be riding.

First, a confession: I haven’t picked up Wii Fit since April, if that. Instead, I’ve been biking. Riding. Cycling. I think I like that last term the most; it sounds so official. I never felt comfortable calling it that when I just rode my mountain bike(s) around town; you need drop bars and skinny tires first.

I’m pretty much smitten with the LeMond in spite of the combined efforts of the weather and mechanical gremlins trying to make me hate riding. I mentioned after picking it up that my goal was to reach 1100 miles on it this season – equal to the cost of the bike. I figured it was doable, but what I didn’t know was how quickly that milestone would be reached.

Not quite three months later, I had my answer – I reached that goal on June 11th. Then came 1500 miles, and yesterday I hit 2000. I’m finding that 500 miles or more a month is pretty easily attained, especially now that I don’t have constant after-work commitments.

Furthermore, weather this year has been awfully strange; it seriously feels like everything is delayed by 1-2 months. If this trend keeps up, the great biking weather could continue well into November. In the meantime, I’ll ride outside as much as I can until the snow falls, and then I have to figure out what kind of routine I want to use to keep the exercise up – Wii Fit again? Rollers? Some other ridiculous Wii game?

Time will tell. For now, I bike.

Wrapped, Again »

Such an appropriate title that it needs to be recycled.

Back in February I talked about a show that I was going to be part of called The Last 5 Years. Rehearsals for that picked up in early April and posting here (at least as far as articles of substance) correspondingly became few and far between.

Well, the show ran at the end of April/beginning of May and went absolutely great. We got so many compliments, and the Jefferson Street Inn totally delivered as a venue – seriously some of the nicest staff ever (thanks for the cookies). Shortly thereafter… actually, that’s not accurate; while L5Y rehearsals were going on, auditions and rehearsals for Godspell also started. I’m not going to go into details here with regards to the story of the show (uh – the bible, basically), but I will say that there were a couple weeks in April in May where I found myself totally overwhelmed with the prospect of a) working on two shows at once and b) catching up on the second show after the first show wrapped. There were some rough nights as I struggled to pick up choreography that I was absent for, and to experience that bond that actors get after they’ve been seeing eachother on a daily basis for 3 weeks in a row.

As June rolled around I was still stressed but starting to feel better about things. As though I didn’t have enough going on, I also was trying to squeeze in a daily bike ride and manage the graphic design for the show, which required not only materials for Godspell “the show” but also the imaginary band we created – but I digress.

Because both shows are so great, Abe jumped at the opportunity to direct both of them, leaving him in basically the same boat as me. His vision for Godspell (an interesting attribute of this show in particular is that it can really be set where ever you want, as long as it involves people coming together and forming a friendship) was that it would take place after a massive rock show at the Grand Theater. Thus, the setting for the show could remain as it had been during the concert, and the actors are “fans” of the band that have hidden away in the theater and snuck back on stage after the crowd departs.

So if you’re going to have a rock show, and fans, you need a band. Thus, The Almighty was born. And with the Almighty came posters, CD covers, and T-shirts, plus a generic graphic that could be easily applied to other items.

End digression. Anyway, so yeah, as if being stressed about acting weren’t enough, I was also stressed about the identity for this imaginary band. But in the end, everything clicked.

It would not be a lie to say that this is the most amazing show I’ve ever been apart of. I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of my stage experiences, but this one in particular stood out as the perfect storm of really great material, a strong and original vision, and a cast and crew who came together to produce what we’ve been told over and over is one of the best theatrical experiences they’ve had in a very long time. I really want to thank everyone who had a part in it, because everybody gave it their all and it shows.

I think everyone has their own way of deciding whether a particular performance was strong – I definitely reflect on my own contributions and try to determine what needs to be adjusted. But I also really enjoy trying to read the audience. I suspected we had a winner when there was screaming (of joy, obviously) after the first big song. I knew we had a winner when the standing ovations were immediate, every time. If you’ve ever been to a play, you know what I mean. Sometimes the audience won’t stand at all, or will stand reluctantly and gradually because a couple overly enthusiastic people jumped up right away. That was not the case here. As we lined up on stage, before we even got a chance to bow, butts were out of seats.

And now I’m thinking about it and feeling a little sad. I’m so proud of what we were able to put together. I mean, I’m really proud of my work in Last 5 Years, especially the singing that high, that much for 6 shows and not losing my voice part. But like I said, Godspell was a perfect storm. Of awesome.

Broken promises »

I really suck at buying local.

Here in Wausau, the bike shop of choice is Rib Mountain Cycles. They’ve established themselves as having the most knowledgeable staff and some of the best product. I feel like I have a decent rapport with them, which is not something I can say about any of the other shops in town.

And that’s why I felt so guilty when I bought my Bianchi in 2007 – a bike I chose to buy over the interweb even though it was available locally. As is often the case, the bike as it was online was still hundreds of dollars less than RMC’s price, even after shipping and tuning. And being as the Bianchi was a niche bike, and one I didn’t particularly need, my reasoning was this: it wasn’t a tossup between buying the bike online and buying it locally; it was between buying it online or not buying it at all.

As a penance I resolved (again) that my next bike would be a local purchase, and assuming I won the lottery, it would say “Specialized” on it – a brand I’ve always liked sold by a shop I’ve always liked.

Well, I lied. All of the joy that accompanies getting a new bike turns to sheepishness when you walk it through the door of the shop you didn’t buy it from. At least with the LeMond it’s an easy excuse: RMC doesn’t sell the brand; RMC doesn’t sell a cross bike with disc brakes at all, much less one that I could afford. They even complimented it (that still makes me smile, even nearly two weeks later)!

I feel singled out in this experience, but it’s unrealistic to assume that the crew there doesn’t deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis. Cyclists are a finicky bunch, and a single shop can’t reasonably hope to be everything to everyone. So instead, Rib Mountain Cycles finds success in being a bike shop that is fun to go to; one where the staff is so nice and helpful that I want to spend my money there. And considering it’s biking that we’re talking about, there’s always an excuse.

Drive-by Comments »

Apparently owning a video game console is like being in a gang. Represent?

I like the concept of comments on blogs. While I don’t see too many comments here, I like that the few people that follow my bouts of incoherence have the option for feedback. Of course the occasional spam seeps through, but Akismet is pretty effective in catching that sort of thing.

But I woke up this morning to a comment on a post I wrote months ago about video games, in which the commentor basically just called me biased and said I was a fanboy. While the bias accusation just leaves me stupefied (in terms of bias, that particular article ranked pretty low – you may be more interested in this one or this one or this one) but as a whole I’m not sure how I’m even supposed to react to a comment like this. I could write a real rebuttal or offer a slightly less mature response (the PS3 sucks and so does your face), but both of those would be based on the assumption the commentor is going to show up again, which seems unlikely – they took their shots, why would they come back?

So the only option left is to ignore it, which just irritates me. I just can’t figure out what compels someone to Google “MS NXE vs PS3 XMB” and leave a half-baked comment on the first site they find about how M$ sucks and Sony r000lz. It’s sad, because I love discussing this sort of thing and would be totally willing to have this conversation with a total stranger regardless of bias, yet these are the sort of people who share this hobby.

Oh look – option four is whine about it. I can do that!

XXV »

No matter how I may try, I can’t escape the meme.

While I usually try to avoid doing the self-quiz/meme/etc thing, especially on this site, one occasionally comes along that I find genuinely interesting. The latest as such is spreading though Facebook, and simply asks users to share 25 personal facts. As I read a few lists put together by friends and acquaintances, it became apparent that when you start to add up all these relatively miniscule bits of data your result is a good portion of the writer’s personality. It’s not just the actual facts themselves, but the way they’re presented and the fact that those were the points that were included.

With that said, here are some things about me you may not have known:

  1. I like a good conversation, but I have a hard time telling people about myself when they say “tell me about yourself.” And I’m awful at small talk.
  2. I prefer multiples of 5. I always have – for some reason, that seemed like the ideal number to me. I’m pretty consistent in my work about following this compulsion, as a number like 625 or 630 just makes more sense to me than a number like 627.
  3. I never finished college, even though I was there for four years. It would’ve taken another year or so for me to get a degree, and instead I started a full-time job doing the thing that I was originally getting the degree for. Even so, I remember looking at the calendar occasionally and thinking “If I was still in school, I’d be almost graduated, etc”. That feeling has slowly gone away over the years, because…
  4. …I’m not convinced having a BFA would put me any further along in my life than I already am.
  5. I own a lot of stuff but I feel guilty about it, especially given the current economic situation.
  6. I somehow manage to be both hard-of-hearing when somebody is talking to me, and hypersensitive to ambient noise.
  7. I am not totally sure how I should be spelling my middle name. For the longest time I thought there was only one T, but there may be two. I continue to use one.
  8. It wasn’t until I got to around fifth or sixth grade that everybody started to call me Andy instead of Andrew.
  9. I don’t think I know anybody in my family all that well, and while this makes me kind of sad, I also feel as though it’s too late to change that, partially because…
  10. …I don’t think anybody in my family knows me all that well either, and I’m not convinced they are that concerned about it.
  11. A project as it ends up on paper very rarely lives up to the standard I’ve set in my head.
  12. I’ve had a blog since 2002, more for my own sake than anyone else’s. I’m not deluded into thinking anyone else cares that much about what I have to say.
  13. I’ve cut my own hair since I got out of high school.
  14. I’ve never broken a bone.
  15. I didn’t take any serious art classes until college. My electives in high school were geared toward drafting and engineering. I originally wanted to be an architect – sometimes I still do.
  16. I would like to live in a house of my own design someday.
  17. I feel that there is no such thing as “too much” garage space.
  18. I worked at a library in high school – it was my first job. As such, it only supported what was already a pretty voracious appetite for books. However, when I left that job, there was a sort of stigma placed on libraries in general and I while I would happily still read a ton of books, I don’t go to the library to get them and so I end up not reading very much at all.
  19. I generally prefer remakes of movies to the originals (sorry). On that subject, I have not seen very many of the movies that people consider to be “the classics.”
  20. I rarely prefer movies that were based on stage productions – for all the added budget they seem to lose an awful lot of personality and creativity.
  21. I like seeing myself in the mirror but I rarely like photos or videos of me – what I look like in my head is nearly always different than what I actually look like.
  22. I am trying to be less of an asshole this year.
  23. My favorite musical instrument is the piano. I think it’s one that can contribute something of value to any type of music, and the acoustics of a grand or baby grand are just amazing to me. Close runner up is drums, because I like rhythm. I wouldn’t mind a piano + drums band.
  24. I go through spurts of really needing to hang out with people, and then some of wanting to just spend some time alone. It’s not your fault.
  25. I have a million grey shirts, I prefer my electronics in black, and I want a white car.

This Acting Thing »

Singing and all that stuff. I’m at it again!

Until relatively recently, my stage experience beyond the obligatory grade school Christmas Pageants was extremely limited. I was comfortable in the theatre environment and being around theatre people (I live with one!), but beyond The Wizard of Oz in high school and Cabaret in college, I hadn’t really thought much about acting.

Then Urinetown came along and the perfect storm of factors (awesome show + familiar setting + “the itch”) led me to a few solos and some actual lines.

I was hooked.

Connections from that show led me to Wausau Community Theatre, where I eagerly anticipate my eighth new role in the last two years. Again, it’s a show that I’m incredibly fond of, and again it pushes me into a new and strange environment. This is the first time I’ll be working with Abe as a director, and the first time that I make up exactly 50% of the cast.

The Last 5 Years is a story about a man (Jamie) and a woman (Cathy) and their relationship as it develops and ends over five years. The twist, if you want to call it that, is that Jamie tells his side of the story from the beginning to the end, while Cathy starts at the end and rewinds to the beginning. It’s quite interesting, because you’ll hear songs where Jamie is excited and enthusiastic about his life with Cathy, while she is frustrated and unhappy, and vice versa. If it sounds kind of convoluted, that’s because it is; but when you hear the music, it all clicks together and works really well.

Auditions for the show were quite early because of another WCT show happening first, and so rehearsal for this hasn’t kicked in yet and probably won’t for another month or so. Still, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is the most excited and nervous I’ve ever been for a show: excited because it’s a role I’ve often admired, and nervous because I pray that I’m able to pull it off.

Unforeseen Consequences »

More health stuff and a video game reference.

I get headaches. Migraines. It’s kind of hard to pin down a frequency; it seems there are blocks of time that are months long where they’re a weekly occurrence, and then some shift in life or climate or Daylight Savings Time will happen and they will leave me alone for awhile.

If I had to guess I’d say that boredom, stress, and stale/gross air are all factors. Every so often, the perfect storm of these elements comes together my eyes start to hurt. Then the nausea sets in, I plod through the rest of the workday and head to bed when I get home, hoping to wake up headache-free the next morning.

I was resigned to this routine for years. None of the pain relievers I tried made much of a difference, to the point where I no longer even bothered with them.

But I haven’t had a debilitating migraine since September, and I blame it on exercise. Maybe that’s not entirely the case; after all, it was also around that time that I started using Target’s version of Excedrin. Taking one pill any time a headache seemed imminent has actually been effective, but I’m not willing to give medicine all the credit.

For me, headaches have always been caused as much by mental factors as physical. As soon as I feel a headache I begin to obsess about it, which only makes it worse because it’s all I can focus on. Even when taking some kind of relief, I’m more than halfway convinced it won’t do any good – and I am often proven right.

But factor exercise into the equation and that’s where the magic happens. Take today for example – I was feeling the beginnings of a pretty wicked headache by the time I got home from work. I popped a couple of Fakecedrin and ran for half an hour, and just like that, it was gone. Yes, I’m sure the pills did their job, but they were enabled by my complete preoccupation with something else (which is why sleeping it off usually worked).

It’s because of this that exercise for me has now become something even more than just fitness – it’s pain relief. People have asked me if I feel different after losing weight; the answer is yes and no. I don’t feel particularly light on my feet or anything like that, but it’s little things like this that have made life so much easier.