Quick YouTube Music thoughts

I got into the early access of YouTube Music, and after a few days, I’m genuinely confused. When I first pulled up the interface, it looked very similar to Google Play Music, however with just a darker theme. Many of the buttons and graphics look the same, and that extend into even the fly-out menus.

It made me wonder why they didn’t just re-brand Google Play Music and give it a dark theme. It seems like that would have been a simpler solution. Instead, you get a half-finished product, that I’m not sure I really want.

Radio Stations

One of the joys of many online music streaming services is their radio stations. It’s fun to discover new music and I’ve managed to find some really good music this way. When I explored YouTube Music I saw that many of the same stations appeared to be in YouTube Music as well as Google Play. These canned stations appear to be the same, which is great. However, there are big differences when it comes to artist generated stations.

I clicked on the “Radio” button next to Trampled By Turtles, and got a playlist that was incredibly eclectic, and frankly, just not that relevant. Whereas GPM gave me artists like Mandolin Orange, Avett Brothers, and Greensky Bluegrass, YTM went the direction of Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver. I just found the selections of YTM to be much less tuned to the actual style that I was looking for.

Also, there’s no way to browse stations.

Self-owned music

This is a pretty simple one. Google Play Music allows you to upload your personal library, YouTube Music doesn’t. Granted, many other providers don’t either, but it’s a significant difference.

YouTube integration

At first, this didn’t seem like a big deal. When you open up the YouTube Music app you’re not inundated with videos or anything like that. It’s all very hidden. Even the user generated playlists don’t show up as videos, just as other radio stations for you to try. It all seemed like no biggie, and that I wouldn’t be forced into watching videos all the time.

Then, just today, I just happened to look at my YouTube history and saw that every single song I played in YouTube Music are showing up as videos played on YouTube. This bugs me to no end. The last thing I want is for my random music browsing to influence what YouTube thinks I might want to watch, and vice versa. These are two worlds that I have no interest in joining.

In fact, this integration might be the thing that pushes me to a different music subscription service. I just don’t want those two aspects of my entertainment to merge, and it bugs me that YouTube would assume that I would. Maybe I’m just over-reacting a bit, but I feel like it’s OK to have some lines of delineation between the different aspects of my digital life.

Garphish Brewing Company

This past weekend I had some time free, so I decided to check out the newest brewery in the north metro area, Garphish Brewing Company. When I say “north metro” that’s a bit of a stretch. This brewery is in the small town of Bethel, MN which is a roughly 30 minute drive straight north of where I live. It’s a mostly easy drive though once you get through Highway 65 traffic in Blaine. Seriously, they need to do something about that road.

I love seeing small towns in out-state Minnesota getting on board with craft beer. These are places where cheap macro-beer is king at the local bar, and if you’re lucky they might have a single tap of Summit EPA or Blue Moon. Infusing some cool new beer culture into these areas is a great benefit to the area, as it helps educate people on good beer, and it draws in people like myself who like to do some beer tourism.

One of the first things I noticed about Garphish was the building it’s in. They’ve renovated an old church into something really fresh and unique. It’s a traditional old church that feels like a split level home. The main sanctuary is up a half flight of stairs, and the fellowship hall is in the basement. For this remodel, the top level became the taproom, and the brewery went into the basement.

The atmosphere in the taproom is homey and small-town. The seating in the space is mostly old dining room sets that look like they just retired from someone’s kitchen. There are also couches scattered around that give off a thrift-store vibe and provide for some casual seating around coffee tables. Despite being in a small town that’s more likely to have a biker bar, Garphish evokes a cool hipster atmosphere that will make people from NE Minneapolis feel at home.

I ordered up a flight of four beers. They had five beers on tap, with a 6th having just kicked. I was told by the beertender that I have to try the Kölsch, so I added that to my paddle, along with an apricot beer, a mild, and a oatmeal stout. I headed over to a couch and started my tasting. I took my first sip of the Kölsch and was immediately assaulted with a cloying sweetness that screamed under-attenuation. I was surprised that the beertender recommended this beer, and I started to worry that I was in for a really bad experience.

I moved on to the apricot, and was pleasantly surprised with a decently fruity and well brewed beer. I’m very sensitive to the chemical taste of fruit extracts used in many fruit beers, however, I could tell this one was mostly real fruit. It was nice and smooth and had just a slight bit of fruity tang to it. My hopes were rejuvenated that perhaps the first beer had been a fluke. I then tried the mild, and from the first sip I knew that this was a very traditional Scottish type of mild. Very earthy and peat-y with a light mouthfeel, yet some texture to the flavors. I was very impressed that a small town brewery had the guts to brew something so unique to American palettes. This quickly became my favorite beer of the trip.

Finally, I tried the stout, which I found to be overly roasted. It was brewed properly, but I had to let it warm up quite a bit to let the roasty-ness mellow. It was while I was drinking this beer that I was surprised by a paper airplane that flew over the couch and crashed in to my arm. I looked behind me to see a young boy standing on the stage looking sheepish. His dad exasperatedly told him that he can’t do that to the customers, and that’s how I met Brandon, the owner and brewer.

img_2811Brandon came over and apologized for his kid, to which I informed him that it was perfectly alright and pretty funny. I was actually impressed with the kid’s aim! Brandon and I started talking, and I told him that I was from down in the cities, and loved traveling around checking out new breweries. We started talking about the beers, and I brought up my disappointment with the Kölsch. He was shocked that I thought it was sweet because he brewed it with tons of jalapeño. He then went back to the bar and poured two more samples and had me try it again.

What I tasted that second time was a completely different beer. I got lots of nice heat and a smooth crisp beer. I asked him if he had two taps of the beer with different batches, and he confirmed that he did. He brewed the beer two different times, and the second time, he used a different yeast. It appears that it made a huge difference, and he agreed that he’s never going to use that particular yeast again. I was so impressed with the proper beer that I went back in and re-checked it in to Untappd with a better rating.

We spent some more time talking, and he agreed that the stout was too roasty, and he was going to dial that back next time. He then shared some of his growth plans and how he’s put together some of the equipment that he’s using. One of the things that impresses me about a brewer is when they can have an honest conversation about their creations, and not get defensive. Talking with Brandon showed me that he’s got a good brewing head on his shoulders and I’m excited to see what else he can do to bring great craft beer to small town Minnesota.

I had a great time at Garphish, and although it’s too far away to be a regular stop for me, I can certainly see myself stopping by from time to time. They’ve got a great atmosphere and they’re brewing some decent beer. They’re doing a great job with teaching people about craft beer, and I’m happy to see the popularity of good beer spread to more than just the metro.

Made a tool choice

A few weeks ago I asked for some advice on Facebook. My old Ryobi tools were showing their age. They were heavy, and I had multiple bad experiences with the battery technology in them. I decided that it was time to step up a level and get something just a smidge better.

When I read through all of my friends comments it looked like it came down to Makita (7 votes), Milwaukee (5 votes), and DeWalt (4 votes). For the next few weeks, every time I was at Home Depot, I stopped by the tool aisle to evaluate these three brands. I pretty quickly eliminated DeWalt, as they just seemed bulkier than the others, and the 20v batteries felt heavier and more unwieldy.

That left me deciding between Makita and Milwaukee. I have a corded Milwaukee hammer drill, so I’m familiar with the quality of the build. However, as I handled the Makita’s I really liked the slimmer and lighter form factor. Tonight was the night I was going to pick one of them and despite multiple trips to the store, it still took me forever to make up my mind. In fact I had to make it up twice.

I had decided that whatever I got, it would be a two piece set with a drill and a driver. Both brands had a couple of options in these ranges, with different choices depending on battery size (2ah or 4ah). Makita has a 2ah set or a 4ah set that came with both tools and two batteries. Milwaukee had a set that came with one of each. Milwaukee also had a special going on right now where you could get a 3rd tool for free with the purchase of the set I was considering. I handled both sets and while the Milwaukee fit my hands way better, I decided to get the Makita because it was slightly lighter. I put the box under my arm to continue shopping.

My next stop was for a tool chest. I picked out a model and as I waited for them to bring the box down from the top of shelf storage I started to question my choice. After I had the tool chest loaded on my cart I walked back through the tool aisle, and looked at the sets again. I then completely changed my mind, put the Makita back and settled on Milwaukee. It simply had a better ergonomic feel in my hands, and the bonus of getting a third tool for free sealed the deal.

IMG_2795.JPGSo that’s the story of how I decided on my new set of tools. I got to use the driver briefly to help put together the tool chest and it worked like a dream. I like the fact that I have both a 2ah and a 4ah battery and can swap between the two as needed. Plus, I now have a grinder/cut-off tool that I can use if I need.

I’m grateful to all my friends for helping me with suggestions, and hopefully, I’ll be happy with my choice for years to come.

 

Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run

Ever since I changed my running philosophy this year, I’ve been much happier with where I’m at. I’m not stressed about “the next big race” because I don’t actually have any races planned. I’m just doing things when I feel like it. Case in point, the Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run that I did on Sunday. My wife had signed up for this run a long time ago, so I knew I would be there, but I didn’t decide to join in until 9 days before the race. It was another moment where I said, “what the heck, that sounds fun.”

Treasured Haven Farms is one of the hidden gems of the trail race world here in Minnesota. It’s a small organic farm that opens up their property to trail races a few times throughout the year. We’ve done a 7 mile race there before and it’s a lot of fun. This is old-school trail racing at it’s finest. No chip timing, no big fanfare, just a bunch of land with trails on it, and a clock at the finish line.

When we arrived we were greeted by a few other UMTR friends who had also made the trek. They had opted to do the 3 and 6 hour version of the race, which was probably smart given the predicted high temps for the day. This was going to be one of the hottest days of the year with temps reaching into the 90s. We also found out that besides my wife and I, only one other person had signed up for the 12 hour race. This factor would be key later in the story.

img_2720At 7 am the race launched and I started out at a decent pace figuring I should, carefully, bank some miles while the air was still cool. I locked in to an 11:30 pace, which under most, flat, circumstances is my “go all day” pace. The loop that we were running was 3 miles long around the edge of the farm fields, with a couple jaunts on to some beautiful wooded paths. These wooded areas became sanctuaries throughout the morning as the temps started to climb and the sun started beating down hard.

The first couple of hours melted away pretty quickly for me. Just over two hours in I had a solid 10 miles on my legs and was feeling pretty good. After three hours I decided it was time to move to a run/walk strategy to help conserve energy and survive the climbing temps. By this point the 3 hour runners were finished up, however our amazing friend Ann, and another friend’s husband DuWayne (she was running the 6 hour) decided to be our crew for a while.

Every time we came in from a loop they were right there making sure we had everything we needed, throwing away our trash, and generally taking care of our every need. They stuck around for a lot longer than they needed to and treated us amazingly. We were humbled and grateful for how wonderful they were to us. Another friend of ours, Bob, showed up with trail running fixture, Pearl the dog. He lives near the farm and so he stopped by a couple times to encourage us. That was a huge surprise and really lifted our spirits as the day wore on.

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Pearl! pc: Bob

As the race continued I caught up to my wife who was a loop behind me. We would occasionally stick together but usually one of us would move ahead of the other as we were feeling good. As the loops wore on I ended up spending a lot more time at the main aid station, taking my time as I felt like it. I went in to this race with very minor goals, and so I wasn’t pushing too hard to do anything phenomenal. A few days before the race I thought it would be amazing if I could get 100K or 50 miles, however as the weather report got hotter and hotter, I decided that if I could bang out a 50K I would count that as a success. By 5 hours in I was already at 20 miles, so I knew a 50K was pretty much in the bag.

As the 6 hour run was finishing up a huge blessing rolled in, in the shape of clouds and a light rain.  Suddenly everything started to feel right in the universe again. There was a breeze with the clouds and the temps dropped in to the 70s. It was a little bit of heaven. Granted I had still been running for 6 hours and was feeling all that pain on my legs. I had a major blister on my right big toe that I got covered up, but it still was an irritant. As the hours wore on it also became apparent how lonely the rest of this day was going to be. After the 6 hours folks finished up, the only people left were myself, my wife Lisa, and another runner named Eric.

Eric was crushing the course, lapping us repeatedly as he racked up miles. He was a solid runner and a super nice guy, however, it sounded like he was just doing this for a training run and that the only reason that he bumped up from the 6 to the 12 was because only my wife and I had signed up for it. One of the times he was passing us he mentioned, “Hey if you guys want to call this early just let me know, I’m cool stopping whenever.” At this point I think we were all feeling a little silly having just three runners keeping a race open for an extra 6 hours.

My wife and I talked about it and decided to keep going for a bit longer, but that if any one of us decided to drop that we’d all probably call it a day. At the eight hour mark I took a solid 15 minute break as my wife and I talked about things. She was hurting bad and just wasn’t feeling confident that she wanted to go on any further. The rain had stopped a long time ago, and the sun was coming back out. The temps were predicted to climb back into the high 80s before we would be done. She decided that she was done. I looked down at my watch and realized I was at 30 miles, so I opt’d to go out for one more loop and knock out a solid 50K.

33781994_1983613511649334_4959292251567030272_oAs I headed out for this final loop I found my body working really, really well. Maybe I had just adapted to the pain, but I felt like I could run again. I ended up running almost all of that final loop and knocked out a 35 minute 3 miler. That was almost as fast as my initial loops early in the day. Since this was going to be my final loop, I decided I had better leave everything out there on the course, and so I pushed myself to sub-11 minute pace as much as I could and crossed over the finish line with a few minutes before the 9 hour mark to spare.

With ~33 miles and 9 hours under my belt I decided it was a good day, and I was more than happy to join my wife in calling it done. That’s the beauty of a timed race like this. You can stop whenever you want and if you decide you’re done earlier than the bell, that’s totally up to you. I clocked in my second 50K of the year, only 4 weeks apart, which is light years beyond where I’ve been in previous years.

I probably could have gone on another three hours and finished out 40+ miles, but I wasn’t out there with anything to prove. I kept moving for 9 hours, completed a solid distance, and even found a second wind late in the day that propelled me to some solid running on tired legs. That’s one of the biggest ‘wins’ that I took away from the whole day; proving that just because you’re in pain at one point in a long race, doesn’t mean you’ll be in pain the entire race. Pain is temporary, and our bodies are often able to do a lot more than we think they can.

img_2721I’m incredibly happy with how this race turned out. I don’t know what is next for me, as I’m not doing any long term race planning this year. I’ve got my favorite 5K (Endless Summer French Park 5K) coming up soon, but other than that it’s all up to whatever I feel like. That’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a runner in a long time, and it’s made all the difference in my attitude and enjoyment of running overall this year. Low pressure and running for fun. It’s what trail running is supposed to be about.

 

Quick Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We got out today to catch a showing of the latest and greatest movie in the ever expanding Star Wars universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is a film set in the younger days of our favorite scoundrel, Han Solo, as he begins his life and career, long before he ever met Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I’ll keep this review short and spoiler free, and simply say, this is one of the most fun Star Wars films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a heist-style plot (as might be expected with Han being a smuggler) that jumps from one tough situation to another. Just like future Han, sometimes things just seem to always get worse, no matter how good a feeling he has about things. In this movie we meet an array of characters that are new, as well as a couple old friends. In particular Lando (played by Donald Glover) was a complete scene stealer, just like in Empire Strikes Back. He was smooth, cocky, and witty, despite not always being able to get himself out of his bad situations.

The entire movie plays out with lots of action, which flows together smoothly into a wonderfully fun plot that doesn’t require you to have to think too hard. This is a movie that you can just sit down and enjoy. You get nods to a lot of the broader Star Wars universe, but it never pulls you away from the swashbuckling that is happening right in front of you. Solo doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s just good, solid, Star Wars fun.

I realize that it hasn’t gotten overwhelming reviews, but in my book it’s one of the most fun movies I’ve been to in a long time. It brought me back to my youth as a big Star Wars fan, with high stakes adventure that is fun to experience. It’s well worth the price of theater admission in my book. Just don’t go in with expectations for anything other than a fun romp.