Summer's in full effect... (aka: time to sweat)

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IT IS OFFICIALLY HOT.

Well, that's not exactly accurate... It's not only hot, it's obscenely hot and it has been for quite some time now. According to the weather report from this morning, we've had temperatures in excess of 90F for thirteen days in a row, and we've exceeded 100F four days in a row.

Combine that heat with a complete lack of rain (June saw just 0.33" compared to more than 4.25" during a normal summer), and it makes for a crunchy existence. Just take a peek at my backyard, along with a squinty and hot Flea...

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That yard is brown. And crispy. And I'm sitting here, sweating as I type this.

So... it's been a busy few weeks... there's been a lot going on at work, a few motorcycle rides, fewer bicycle rides, even fewer runs, a tour of American Packaging Company, fireworks, and a concert. Let's recap, shall we?

I'll skip the bits about work, running, and riding. Those are necessary evils. Let's just say that I've been working much harder and longer than I have been running and riding as of late. I truly am burned out. I need to find a new activity to help keep my girlish figure in check.

The motorcycle has been doing quite well. I promised some photos a while back, and I apologize for not getting them posted in a more timely manner. I snapped these while on a ride a few weekends ago. I won't bother to describe them, I'll just post them.

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Much to my surprise, the Flea has taken a bit of a liking to the motorcycle. She really enjoys riding in the car, but it was a bit shocking to discover that she was interested in the Hog... here she is investigating the ride, looking for a place to sit.

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I got to thinking, and after some searching online, I found several options for taking your dog along on a motorcycle ride. There were backpacks, chestpacks, tank bags, and trunks. Some cost as little as $20; others cost as much as $600. I hated to spend serious money to determine if the Flea actually liked riding on the cycle, but I didn't want to leave her vulnerable to danger in the event of a crash or incident.

I eventually decided to buy a small crate and secure it to the luggage rack with heavy duty zip ties. This would allow me to keep her safe without having to spend a ton of money up front. I went to the local pet store and bought the smallest crate I could find - it cost $21.

I disassembled the crate and lined-up the bottom half with the luggage rack so that it was centered on the bike. I marked locations on the front and back of the crate so that I could drill my first series of mounting holes. With those marked, I grabbed some Vaseline and applied it to the top surfaces of the luggage rack. I then set the crate on top of the rack, in exactly the centered location.

When I lifted the crate off the rack, I could see exactly where the luggage rack rested on the crate (the Vaseline left perfect luggage rack lines on the bottom of the crate). I then drilled additional holes for the zip ties, in a manner that would allow me to completely secure the crate to the rack.

I purchased several dozen 3/8" wide ziptie packs and went about securing the crate to the rack. When I was done, this is what the base looked like:

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The next order of business was to put the top back on, secure it, and zip-tie it for additional security.

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With the crate secured, I placed an old quilted pillowcase inside, and my work was complete.

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I put the Flea inside the crate, and she seemed to like it. She spun around and sat down.

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We've taken a few test rides - started with a short ride of about 5-8 minutes, followed by rides that have been progressively longer. Aside from the oven-like heat, Flea seems to enjoy the rides. When I check on her, she's looking out the front while lying down. She doesn't seem anxious or upset, so I'm guessing she doesn't mind it too much.

I may take her for a longish ride this weekend, just to see how she does. If she likes it, I may invest in a more expensive, more professional-looking solution. Or, I may keep this homemade system... it assembles/disassembles quite easily, and it only cost about $25 with the 10 zipties.

Fireworks

My friend Matt (aka "Potato Man") invited me to watch the infamous Rhythm And Booms event with him, his wife, some family, and friends. Since he lives near Werner Park (site of the event), and since I really enjoy spending time with him and his wife, this was a no-brainer.

I met at their house, where they had a wonderful cookout underway, complete with roasted organic free-range chicken and a ton of goodies. We ate, drank, and chatted until it was dark, at which point we ventured a few blocks down the road and scored some awesome seats just across from the park. With lawn chairs and coolers in place, we sat back and enjoyed the show.

Here are some photos of the fireworks:

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One of the great things about watching the event with Matt and Jen was that I got to catch-up with Andy (Matt's brother) - I hadn't seen him for nearly 10 years. When the fireworks ended, I bid everyone farewell, packed-up my folding chair and headed for home. It was a great fourth of July, for sure.

American Packaging Corporation Tour

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My cousin's husband Jeff works for American Packaging Corporation, which is located in Columbus, WI. They're celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and as such held an open house to demonstrate how and what they do. It was extremely interesting - APC produces the packaging (labels, wrappers, etc) for the majority of the world's leading consumer products.

Each time you crack-open a mini Hershey bar, or open a can of Pringles, or unwrap a piece of gum, you're peeling away the packaging that Jeff and his fellow employees produce at APC.

APC has several large lines, known as Roto lines - "Roto" is short for Rotogravure, the method by which the packaging is produced. The Roto process uses an engraved cylinder to apply ink to the paper at a high rate of speed. Some of the lines can run at more than 1450 feet per second. That's insane!

The factory is huge - something like 400,000 square feet in size... those Roto machines are massive. Here are some photos from the factory tour.

Roto 2 - one of the original Roto lines. It runs at around 1000 feet per second.

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Roto 2 makes Krackel wrappers, along with other things. Here's a roll of finished Krackel packaging, before being scored and cut into a final product:

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Here's where they mix all of the ink for the various packaging. They start with bulk dyes and then custom mix them to the client's exact specifications. The amount of Quality Control effort that must go into this process is unreal. They use more than 360 tanker trucks' worth of ink per year.

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Here's the area where they store, retrieve, and refresh the cylinders. The cylinders are stored in a large "silo" and are inventoried and retrieved by a computerized, robotic system.

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While slightly blurry, you'll still get an idea of just how large some of these lines are - this is the newest Roto line, and it's an absolute monster. I didn't catch exactly how long it was, but I'd guess it was right around 75-85 yards.

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Here's one of the control panels for that monster. The operators are responsible for identifying misprints, misalignments, feed problems, and so on. Imagine trying to track all of that stuff while it flies by at more than 1,000 feet per second.

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One of the Roto lines was printing labels for Pringles. In Chinese.

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It was a great tour that lasted about an hour or so. At the end of the tour, we were invited into a large warehouse area where APC had free food - brats, burgers, chips, cakes, and the like. Bucky Badger even made an appearance. Here's to another 40 years of success, APC!

Summerfest 2012

I vowed to never attend another Summerfest event, but when I heard that one of the world's greatest heavy metal bands was going to be playing the event, I had to make an exception.

Iron Maiden announced that as part of their Maiden England 2012 tour they would be visiting little 'ole Milwaukee. I purchased tickets as soon as they were available, and a small group of us made the trek to the shores of Lake Michigan to take in the show.

When we arrived to the Summerfest grounds at approximately 5:30pm on the 4th of July, the air temperature was well over 100-degrees. Yikes.

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The blistering heat didn't seem to deter too many people from attending... there were throngs of folks everywhere. Upon our arrival, we took a stroll through the grounds, just to get an idea of what had changed, where the hot spots were, and to see the various stages. This was one of my favorite free stages:

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Alas, there weren't any decent bands playing on the free stages (Summerfest saves the good bands until the late night hours), so we decided to find a place that would be cool(er), and preferably served brews. Within no time we were sitting in the upstairs pavilion for the Water Street Brewery, enjoying a beverage or two.

Here's a shot of our crew; from lower left, working counter-clockwise, we have: Mark (brother of my friend and co-worker, Chris), Mike (friend of Chris'), Chris, and yours truly. If we appear hot, sweaty, and a bit cranky, we were. Even with a cold beverage in hand, it wasn't much fun sitting outside, wallowing in a pool of your own sweat.

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Iron Maiden wasn't playing on a free stage - no sirree - they were playing in the Marcus Amphitheater, which sits on the far south east side of the grounds and requires you to buy a special event ticket to attend. Our tickets were $72 each... and the show was scheduled to start at 7:30pm. If you look closely, you can see the Amphitheater in the background - this was taken from our perch at the brewery's pavilion.

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We sat at the pavilion for as long as we could, and then made our way to the Amphitheater. Our seats appeared to be in a decent location; left of the stage, about 40 rows back. Little did we know the seats wouldn't be that great once the show started.

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As soon as the show began, we instantly recoiled in horror. The sound was absolutely dreadful - nothing but shrill, harsh, shrieking sound. You see, the Marcus Amphitheater has several design factors working squarely against it... it's an Amphitheater, so the stage is set low into the ground, with a shell placed behind it. This works great for non-amplified performances, but acts as a reverb chamber for amplified sound.

The Amphitheater also has a large metal roof that is quite low in relation to the venue. The metal roof helps bounce/reverberate sound even more than the shell behind the stage.

And finally, the entire facility is constructed from concrete, which only makes the reverberation problem worse than it already is. So... as a result, the sound was absolutely atrocious. We know every single Iron Maiden song there is, yet we struggled to identify which songs were being played - that's how poor the sound was.

The showmanship was fine; lots of explosions, good lighting, and props. Here's the stage, almost completely consumed by a controlled fireball:

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I felt really bad for the band - they were playing their hearts out, and they are a super talented group of guys. To be 60-years old and hammering away like they did is truly impressive. They didn't miss a beat, and they played non-stop for nearly two hours in the blistering heat.

Unfortunately, the sound was so bad that I couldn't wait for the show to end. It was literally fatiguing to listen to - it was pure reverberated static, and it was disappointing to say the least.

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The band also mentioned that because the Summerfest stage was so small that they could only bring out about 1/3 of their normal stage set-up. Further proof that the Marcus Amphitheater and Summerfest suck, and that I should've maintained my self-imposed ban of attending any events there. Oh well... lesson learned - never again.

My ears rang for an additional two days because of that horrible venue. UGH.


Bonus content: Clips of Faith

In an attempt to create my longest blog entry to date, I'll pass along one more story.

The New Belgium Brewery (makers of Fat Tire) are big supporters of bicycling. As such, they set up a small national tour called "Clips of Faith" and selected twelve US cities as host destinations. The events raise money and awareness for local cycling efforts - the brewery donates its proceeds from the event to local cycling organizations. Madison was selected as one of the twelve stops.

It's called Clips of Faith because it's essentially an independent film festival that serves some exclusive New Belgium beers along with local cuisine. Entry is free, but you have to pay for your food and drinks.

Chris (from work) told me about the event, and we decided to attend.

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The event was hosted at Olbrich Park, near downtown Madison. While it was warm, it wasn't scorchingly hot, so the event was tolerable. Here's the list of brews offered by the brewery; some of these were really unique and not widely available:

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In addition to the movie screen and beer tents, New Belgium set-up a little "village" of sorts. There were various tents with information, events, and social gatherings. It was really well done:

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We grabbed a few brews (they were available in small, 3oz sample sizes), found a seat on the lawn, and set about preparing to watch some short films. Here's me and the Flea, with a little beverage (they allowed dogs, which was extra cool):

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As soon as dusk landed, they fired-up the projector and started showing films. The films were truly short - I don't think a single one lasted more than 3 minutes. Some were as short as 20 seconds. And, none were very interesting... It's really difficult to "follow" a short film, and the subjects were all over the place... the best part of the show as the intermission - they left the projector set to a white screen and encouraged people to make their own shadow puppet show. That was fun to watch.

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I left the event a little early and was home by 9:30pm. Chris and his girlfriend stuck it out for the entire event, and I'm told it didn't get much better - the films were all equally odd and unusual. At least it was (mostly) free.

FIN

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on July 7, 2012 2:31 PM.

A (potential) new Number One... was the previous entry in this blog.

Fish Fry Review - Owl's Nest, revisited is the next entry in this blog.

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