I have an ongoing discussion with mikey about music economics, (NOT AN ARGUMENT DAMMIT!) mostly on FaceHell but that must wait, let it be, let it be

Also, there is much to be said and shouted about TurdWaffle and his misbegotten imaginary Presidential ambitions, not to mention the depredations he is inflicting upon Wisconsin, a once beautiful and progressive state.  I am thinking I may need to bring back more frequent blogging just to drain the pus he is creating within my psyche.  Expect some Fuck You Fridays, o my yes…

But all of that must be put aside Because there is MUSIC.

Many people came to Robyn Hitchcock during a brief mid-80s dalliance with MTV stardom; although he ultimately proved too weird, and the channel moved into hair metal and rap and then into reality television, so he was likely better off; who wants to see Robyn drinking the blood of Hall & Oates in an abandoned warehouse building?  I mean, besides me?

I digress.

I was introduced by a comp tape produced by an architectural student friend, Ken, who had a running competition with one of his friends who was a jock on a campus station out east.  This tape was stellar; it opening with “Pink Frost” by the Chills, then went into “Shadow Of A Doubt” by Sonic Youth.  anyway, it had three songs from the man One Particular Bastard calls Uncle Robyn:

It says something that unlike most songs, you don’t have to put the band name in the search to come up with a relevant link.  Also, I am currently all on the iTunes Radio algorithm, and it just served up a Mekons song (one that features Neko Case vox, no less!) between some Yo La Tengo.  O well played, Apple robots!

I mostly always prefer the Egyptians period of his work, but I have seen him play several times in both incarnations (he asked about the gas station visible across the street, saying he didn’t recall it from the first time he played Shank in 1991).  Saw him with the Egyptians at Summerfest once, natch…

But he is an endearingly weird and engaging performer in any format.  He is obsessed with sex, fish and death, although he also played a song more-or-less tailored for Wisconsin:

I almost passed on this show.  I am swamped with Klark Kent duties, robotics is eating my branes, and winter is consuming our souls.  But Wife Sublime questioned that decision, so I pulled the trigger and SO GLAD she made me change my mind.

He is touring with an Aussie named Emma, and although she is diminutive, she has amazing pipes and she joined him for several songs.  Their voices blended wonderfully; but the real payoff was when they brought out Yvonne, ostensibly their driver, for the final song.  Their encores were all covers, and while one might expect them to be the covers on his recent album (The Crystal Ship and The ghost In You, for the record) ONE WOULD BE WRONG.  One of them was Love Hurts, and actually my favorite cover of that is by Milwaukee expatriate Kevn Kinney (yes I spelled that right, dammit)….

…umm, where was I?  O yeah, the final song.  The three of them, Robyn, Emma and Yvonne did an AMAZING version of Brother Lou’s song “Pale Blue Eyes”, trading verses and join on the choruses and was it sweet?  You tell me, but if you don’t think so, we might as well fight right now.  As I told Wife Sublime, I could sit there drinking beer and listening to the three of them sing songs all damn night…

plus, I need to have my hairdresser work my melon into this hairstyle.  Dammit, my hair is almost PERFECT.  maybe a bit more wavy.  But we can make it happen:


I have mentioned that I had been on the periphery of the Milwaukee music scene in the 80s and 90s.  The owner of Shank Hall is an acquaintance of mine from college days – I did load-ins and load-outs for the gigs he booked on campus, and once spent a drunken afternoon setting up his expansive entertainment system in his apartment (he is legendarily fumble-thumbs).  I knew the sound guy working tonight, and later this week we are seeing one of my favorite local artists, Scott Wooldridge at the same damn place we were tonight.

I have seen Scott and his bands since they moved up here from Indiana, and helped them finance both his solo album and the upcoming Wooldridge Brothers album…I have requested a long-dormant song (named after a street we lived on at the time) and Scott has said he will see if he can dredge up the chords.  But hell, since I am credited as a “Contributing Producer” on his album, maybe it will happen!

I have had a not-wonderful early 2015, but as anyone who reads this bloggo knows, nothing evens my keel like music, especially live music.  I have like 8 shows in the next 4 weeks, several with one of my best friends; one of them is Wussy in Chicago, for which both of us are so stoked that we are willing to STAY SOBER ENOUGH TO DRIVE HOME!

Wife Sublime and I are in love with live performances; she leans toward theater, and I lean toward music.  Both of us, however, are completely captivated by the efforts of artists on some kind of stage, blowing their best out at you; the electricity of performer connecting with an audience is one of the best things humans do.  It connects us; it grounds us.  It reminds us that we are social, it reminds us that we are all artists.  In certain cases, it inspires some of us to stand up, to pick up a guitar or a script or a paintbrush or a camera or….whatever.  It reminds us that humans, despite all evidence to the contrary, are still a Creative bunch.

OK, that creativity includes the Romantics.  Shit.

I tend to like latter-day Marillion better (probly because that’s the period I’ve seen them live) but this makes all the Fish days worthwhile:


All the fucking snow is even making the dogs testy:


Also, a favorite song:



When she kicks that stomp-box, I get chills….


Robot updates:


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Posted: January 30, 2015 in Fuck You Friday, Humanity is a virus, Shovels

Sorry for the lack of postery.  Midst of the robot building season, plus a six-story building to design, plus, still recovering from that hairball of a loss to the SeaChickens.

Speaking of the Poop…errr, Pope…. regardless of his meager movements toward a less repressive Church, like bringing it into the NINETEENTH century from the fifteenth- he recently made some very stupid and repulsive remarks about the Charlie Hebdo attack.  And the creator of Mr. Deity responded in Fuck You Friday Fashion, so I hereby outsource FYF:

All I can do is stand and applaud.

Of course, this only makes me think of another NSFW video about the Poop…errr, POPE (albeit a different one):

Speaking of robots:

IMG_1930 IMG_1931

Better get busy.

after dominating the entire game, the Packers had a couple of breakdowns and some stupid bad luck that tossed the overtime to the SeaChickens.

Well, at least they didn’t need incompetent refs this time around.

So, the Bradys and the Seachickens in the Stuper Bowl.  A friend will be having a party, for which I will be preparing the traditional jambalaya.  And we will be hoping that the halftime entertainment will explode and take them all out.


Two posts in [one] two days, guinea pigs.  Manic depressive disorder is no joke, kidzos….

But we had a great day of robotics on Saturday and robot-building zombie must share.

For the second straight year, we had the first week of Build Season disrupted by scary-cold, dangerous-cold weather.  School was closed for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Ouch.  three days during the first week of a six week project.  Well, THAT makes things easier….

I remember a couple of years back, when we had a dipshit, disruptive mentor who suggested we ask the FIRST organization for allowance to extend our build season accordingly.  Amazingly, somehow I resisted mocking him ridiculously -“Yeah, like a client ever gives you an extension because you’re too damn wimpy to get to work while it’s CHILLY”

However, when I got to the school and saw the gaggle of teens standing out in the cold (including one whackaloon who rode his bike in 10 inches of snow) I made an audible and we re-convened at our house, even if it was just to get them out of the cold.  And after a little robot review, much email, Facebook, and phone discussions, we relocated again to the nearby Urban Ecology Center, which is one of the coolest things that exists in Milwaukee (check it out) and is three blocks from my house and have a lovely building designed by the son of one of my neighbors.  While there, we discussed how great the space is, and we think we may do much more of our initial design there next year….

This year, we may be a little short on money, but we have managed to add several great mentors with a great mix of skills.  A couple of them grew up with other FRC teams, including one from Team 64 (if you know anything about FRC, the lower the team number, the longer they have been active.  For comparison, our team is 2830, and the current rookie teams are over 5000)

We finalized team and robot strategy and broke into sub-system teams.  We finalized the drive train, ordered parts, worked out sub-system design concepts, and got all the kids involved.  It was a great space, and we were easily able to work in a big group and break into sub-groups and the staff at the UEC were accommodating in every way.

Two of our mentors and one of our veteran students spent much time on computers, analyzing drive trains, gearing ratios, and laying out the primary parts of the drive train system on PTC Creo.  In case your interested, we will be using Mecanum wheels driven by CIM motors resulting in ± 10 fps maximum speed.  The system that will lift and place game pieces, inventively called The Elevator, will run at a maximum of 3 fps. FWIW, the mechanism that grasps and controls the game pieces is named The Chuck, after one of our mentors.

IMG_1926 IMG_1928nanotube clearance (dragged) 1 nanotube clearance (dragged)


The addition of new mentors is so important, because we have taken some huge strides as a team in the last couple of years, and the new folks allow us to continue to do break into new grounds – I think the coolest things for mentors is the ability to do new things they don’t get the opportunity to do in the Klark Kent life.  One of the very skilled engineer-mentors who is a Principal Engineer (of which there are a very small handful in his company which I will not name but which rhymes with Shee-Mee) says that his work on the Robotics team allows him to learn some of the higher-end abilities of the modeling software (I hesitate to call it CAD anymore, because any reasonably functional professional level is inherently 3D) and that makes his daily work  more effective.

But I digress, and I trust all of you are COMPLETELY DAMN SURPRISED.  Anyway, with the additional new students and new mentors (but for which we are still tragically underfunded) are:

-evolving sophistication in controls and programming.  We are transitioning from LabView to Java, as well as planning on using Field Orientation drive programming (which means that the drive team will not have to constantly try to mentally reverse the actions of our controllers when the robot is turned 180 degrees.  Especially important when we are using Mecanum wheels which allow 360 degree spins…

-higher involvement in planning and design using 3D modeling.  Since I am driving this, it is happening, we are going from ACad Inventor which is hardly used in industry and going to PTC Creo which IS an industry standard tool.  Remembering, of course, that part of this program is to give high school students some skills that are industry-appropriate.

-dedicated mentor involvement in driving students to involvement in fundraising and writing of Awards submissions, grant requests, and creation of videos and graphics.

-inclusion of programmed LED lighting in the presentation and operation of the Robot.

-Design for maintenance:  components and electronics designed to allow repair and maintenance during the harsh environment of competitions.  Part of this feeds back into the design and engineering of the drive train and chassis (during the first couple of seasons, broken chains and stripped gears were a bane.  The first year I worked with the team, these issues were massively reduced; in the last couple of years, they have been eliminated.  In the very limited amount of time available in Pit between matches, any time needed to repair or maintain drive train is time we can’t address other issues.)

-Moving into the Elite Eight.  The teams that in the top rankings, who will be selecting their partners for the playoffs.  We have heard from other teams that our last season has established our team as a contender and a good Alliance partner. We want to make that next step as a top competitive team.

-related to the above, establishment of a Scouting Paradigm.  If WHEN we make the top 8, we will need to know which teams will best complement our team.  We will need a significant number of teams watching from the stands and interviewing the pit crews to know what selections we need to make on Saturday afternoon.  even if we don’t make that day, we need to know which teams we want to partner up with, and make our case to their scouting teams as the Qualification rounds go by.

– a GREAT looking robot.  As a primary mentor, I have a somewhat different POV than many of the engineers.  Engineers, by their inclination are primarily interested in function, and rightly so; my daily work would not be possible with engineers who make it stand up; but on the flip side, it would like shit if that was the only consideration.  And since my involvement, we have stepped up considerably in making our robot look like it is serious and here is the most recent result:

tech info card

A lecture I attended, the leader said that part of scouting was having a robot that looked good and was thus memorable.  In another presentation,  longtime mentor said that the appearance of the robot had an impact; if the robot looked like shit, performance didn’t matter, because everybody figured that if you couldn’t bother with Fit And Finish, they wondered what other systems you didn’t give a shit about, and avoided those robots in Selections.

At the Midwest regional in Chicago, we managed several milestones.  For me, one of the best was when other drive teams would come up to us in advance of matches, and they would say things like “We love your robot!  We are so excited to be on your alliance!” and which it was hard NOT to respond with ” do you realize that a few weeks ago at the Wisconsin Regional, we placed 57 out of 60?”

We’re not a great team.  But we have reached the point that we are competitive team.  The teams that mentored our team, 537 and 1675, have come to view us as peers.

But the best thing is that we have an EXCELLENT group of mentors that encompass a huge amount of skillsets, and even more points of view; and we disagree about almost everything.  And then we show how you work through disagreements and still make decisions (as one mentor said after a particularly long, involved, and non-productive session that nearly made me take a hostage) and then move forward.

I imagine that, sometime in the future, these kids are in a planning session and suddenly they recognize that they first learned this shit in that basement room at Riverside University High School.

And, right now, the kids DON’T EVEN REALIZE that this is the thing we are teaching them…


Hah. judging by the traffic this post is receiving today, It seems like everyone is expecting me to write a gloating Packers post.  OK.


Aaron Rodgers at half-speed is better than Chris Christie’s Bro-Boys at any speed.

or, I could just go Being John Malkovich on you:

Packers. Packers.  Packers Packers Packers Packers. Packers? PackersPackersPackers PACKERS! Packers. Packers. Packers. Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers PackersPackersPackersPackersPackersPackers…. Packers!  PACK-ers.  Packers.


FWIW, Paleotectonics has a somewhat more reasoned response.