Thursday, May 31, 2007

Eekin' out the MPG and reducing the footprint

These are my kinds of people:
Hypermilers slightly overinflate their tires to cut rolling resistance, seize every chance to coast with their gasoline engines off, and sometimes “draft” like race cars behind larger vehicles.
Though I don't own a hybrid like these folks, my manual transmission allows me to conserve a bit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The making of Summer Camp (Rated R)

“There was a lot of tolerance for psychosis.” This statement comes from the History Channel show called Hippies. And though I'm not old enough to personally have experienced hippieness in its original state, I'm pretty familiar with its demented child... er, i mean its modern remnants.

Having not seen the History Channel program, I can't really comment on its content. But, as to the quoted bit of text above, I can say with certainty that psychosis is still tolerated, if not encouraged, in the community.

I spent Memorial Day weekend down in Chillicothe, Ill. at the neo/pseudo-hippie Summer Camp music festival, where approximately 10,000 people gather every year to camp, cook, imbibe, and smoke, and listen to some subpar bands. And, oh yeah, there's the portapotties, or "Little Johnnies" if you prefer, which, at certain horrifying parts of the weekend, inevitably end up filled to the brim with a foul brew of modern-day hippieness.

It was my third Summer Camp. Mostly I've been prodded into going every year. See, I used to be into the whole jamband scene, back when the bands were pretty good. I've seen Phish more times than I care to count, and I've seen scores of other noodly shows. But it got to the point where I felt most of the bands were either poor Phish/Dead imitators or just terrible, terrible songwriters and singers. While a few good bands still grace the scene, I now prefer my noodles in the form of unbleached whole wheat flour and appendages.

Don't get me wrong: I absolutely love improvisation, which is at the root of the type of music that hits the festival circuit every summer. But it's gotta be good, productive improvisation that takes you on a journey and challenges you to question the fabric of reality. I know, I'm a demanding listener, but that's what improvisation is to me. While not the worst of the bunch, Moe. and Umphrey's McGee, the "headliners" of Summer Camp, are far from challenging. And most of the lesser known bands suck even more. I enjoyed three sets of music all weekend (Drop Q, Brainchild, and Toubab Krewe), two of which I already knew I was going to enjoy. All of this detail is to explain just what mediocrity composes the modern hippie experiment.

It's pretty sad. All the drugs (and then some) of the original hippie movement flood the fields of modern festivals. And people just don't know how to take their drugs responsibly. Granted, this year wasn't as bad because the authorities cracked down pretty hard, but still, almost every drug you could think of was available without a prescription, no matter your age or mental state. In fact, I'd say drugs take center stage at these festivals, with the music an afterthought or, in some cases, a vehicle for the drug user.

And this is where psychosis is still tolerated. People want to trip so bad that they're willing to take all kinds of things in liquid, powder, and solid form on the word of complete strangers--many of whom are there mostly to bank. Then the trippers run around all night doing weird things until they're so strung out all they can do is walk around like zombies and fall into people's tents. (It never fails; I always see someone crash into someone's tent at a festival.)

And then you've got the folks who think they are the gatekeepers of love and can see into the souls of everyone. They'll tell you your aura is bad or good (and then you're totally pegged!), or they'll talk about lightning bolts coming out of necks (not making this one up--no joke) and other such what I presume to be vague derivatives of vague derivatives of Eastern religion/philosophy that they use to establish their superiority.

And then there's the portapotties. While sanitation is probably one of the most crucial advances in our society, some people at Summer Camp don't care. They stuff all kinds of random stuff into the poop and pee receptacles, causing the latter to often clog, which is especially fun at night. Oh yeah, and let's not forget that someone always feels obligated to smear their crap around in there; don't know how or why, but it happens a lot.

Anyway, psychosis is the only plausible explanation for some of these actions. And people obviously love it: just consider the yearly increase in attendance for Summer Camp and other larger festivals like Bonnaroo. It's the modern incarnation of Woodstock. Hippies left a bad legacy in this regard.

All that said, this was my favorite Summer Camp. All our neighbors were awesome and kind (for a change) and there appeared to be less unstable druggies wandering around menacing others. Still, this will probably be my last Summer Camp. I'd rather spend my money on other, more satisfying experiences.

I'll take peace and love and communal living and jamming and saving the earth and enjoying myself--just without all the weirdness. Come on, you pseudo-hippies, it's not too late: don't bolster the Nuge's position, OK?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A-huntin morels, part dos

Nada fungus found. Too dry methinks. Or we're bad hunters. Like the tepid Cubs fan I am, I have no problem making myself feel better with the mantra, "There's always next year."

We did, however, get infested by ticks, mostly of the Wood variety--though those Lyme-carrying Deer ticks were out and about as well. But, once again, it was a beautiful day for a hike. Gorgeous green landscape has returned in force to central Wisconsin.

There's nothing like a glorious, relaxing weekend to make you have an aversion to Monday in the office. Or maybe I'm a bit cynical and/or ungrateful. The wiser part of me would take the beauty of the weekend and inject it into my vocational obligations, thereby making the workweek tolerable or even (gasp!) slightly enjoyable. The hardened side of me, though, is all too aware of this tomfoolery and preemptively smites the wiser part, just looking forward to Friday. And then there's the adventurous part of me (my better third, as I say) that wants to do nothing but try something different. This, my friends, is a Typical Monday™, brought to you by my brain.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A-huntin morels

Me and the fiance went huntin for morels yesterday. It was our first time ever doing it, and like so many others during their first time, we went home empty-handed. We kind of went out on a whim to a local forested area in Stevens Point; I'm pretty sure it was less-than-ideal habitat for morels, as I didn't come across many ashes or dead elms or apple trees.

However, it was a beautiful evening, and we glimpsed a snake, some kind of ground toad, a heron, a pileated woodpecker, a family of deer, and newly flowering vegetation. I did get a couple nice closeups of the snake and the flowering plant, which I'll post soon, hopefully.

On the other end of the spectrum, the ticks and mosquitos are out. I need to dress more appropriately next time.

We plan on doin some more huntin this week, preferably in more suitable morel habitat. It's just about the perfect time of year here I hear. Anybody out there in Central Wisconsin know of a good general area to look for morels? Please help a beginner out. I promise I won't give up your secrets.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Old transportation of the two-wheel kind

I ride my bike to work almost every day. I do it for the earth, my health, and my wallet.

From an ecological perspective, all I emit is the CO2 I exhale during my ride. My bike spews zero chemicals (aside from the occasional lubricant I need for my old chain), all the parts are original, and the bike is probably 15 years old.

As far as cost goes, smart environmental decisions often equal smart financial decisions. Many people in america are just beginning to really figure this connection out, but it has been evident for so long. And, as I said, the bike is 15 years old, yet I haven't had to throw down money on replacement parts. Granted, it's in pretty bad shape, and I haven't always ridden it full time, but it has been quite durable nonetheless. The brakes do need to be changed soon though--before I crash into a tree or get impaled on a hood ornament.

The health thing is definitely the most tangible reward for biking it every day. It's awesome to feel myself get stronger and gain more endurance with each ride. I probably get into work smelling like a dirty hippy and sweating like a crackhead, but life requires such tradeoffs.

My journey is six miles round trip, and I probably do another couple miles during lunch. It takes about 20 minutes to get to work. The most amazing thing about cycling, I've found, is that it's personally fulfilling and liberating to power myself around. And it actually makes going to the office a bit more tolerable.

When I first moved to Central Wisconsin, my round-trip commute to work was about 50 miles. Later, when I went back to school, it took 70 miles to get to and from the university. Now, during a normal week, I put more miles on my bike than my car. I much prefer my current mode of transportation.

I only wish I didn't have to deal with such harsh winters, however. To that end: Anybody from a warmer yet still beautiful area of the country (nudge, nudge--I love the mountains of the Southeast) want to hire me before winter returns? I'll bring you cheese.