3.18.2017

Kohl Center Behind-the-Scenes, Madison, WI

Turns out my first trip to the Kohl Center for a men's hockey game was merely an appetizer for an invitation I received through my alma mater's alumni program. One of our alums now works in the Kohl Center and decided to offer local alums a chance to go behind the scenes - count. me. in.

The invite read, "[an] Illinois alum and videoboard production specialist for UW Athletics will be giving the Madison Illini a very special behind the scenes tour of the Kohl Center. Get in the spirit for March Madness and see some of the same cutting edge technology that is being used in the new State Farm Arena."


I immediately clicked their sign-up link and added my name. Sweet, I was in. Once the day arrived I donned some orange and blue and left work a little early to get back into town on time. Upon arrival at the Kohl Center it was clear the alumni in the area, or perhaps merely the ones interested in this event, skewed toward retirement age. However, this mix provided us young whipper-snappers a chance to ask them about their history on campus in Champaign and hear their stories about being in Wisconsin.

The tour began in the Nichols Club-level seating area, which was as swanky as swanky gets, imo.





Then we headed over to the Women's Hockey stadium, via an underground tunnel/path/hallway.



The official name of this arena is the La Bahn Arena and is where the Men's and Women's teams can practice and all Women's Hockey games are played. This stadium holds about 2,200 fans, where the Kohl Center holds 17,000 for basketball and about 15,000 for hockey. The increased seating occurs when the basketball court is laid out over the normal ice hockey playing surface.


 


The Women's team has all of their coaches and other staff offices in the same building, with a nice reception area. We also got a glimpse in some of the other sports lounges, cafeteria, weight room, etc. It was pretty interesting to realize that all this is housed in a relatively compact place. Student-Athletes can spend much of their day doing what they do best, train and study. There's even a studying center in the Kohl Center for the student-athletes.






Now the main gist of being on this tour was their in-house video production services. The main outlet for this product is the big video board in the center of the Kohl Center that plays all the video segments during an event (Men's Hockey or Men's/Women's Basketball in this case). One small room/area in the Kohl Center handles the video feeds for the Kohl Center, Memorial Stadium, and other venues. The feeds now go through miles and miles of cables spread in and out of the facilities. They even send their feeds into special trucks that back up to a dock during basketball games. Networks then choose which camera/angle to show during games, picking from the UW staff's feed, or using their own.




Below is the heart of their production area, with up to 10-12 people taking part in the production of a single game. They use sheets that guide everyone through the games, much like a musician in an orchestra and their sheet music.




  

Finally, after about an hour of walking around, we got the chance to head out on the basketball court, ready for the high school state championships that were about to start that week. I think the most surprising thing that struck me was how bright it truly was under the many many light on the floor.



You can see a whirlybird camera right in the middle of the American Family Insurance sign, used or all kinds of special views and angles, like a perfect tip-off of face-off shot for the start of all games.


We also learned that the company that makes virtually all stadium scoreboards, Daktronics, is already working with the University on a major scoreboard and "LED Ring" update for the Kohl Center. LED Rings are the ring or rings that go around the stadium's seating areas, which provide further cheering prompts (Charge!!!) and sponsorship real estate. You can bet that the new version will be even more impressive and make games even more fun.

I had a great evening walking around these incredible spaces and getting a different view into the lives of UW Student-Athletes. Thanks again to the Madison UIAA president for making it happen, and our host and tour guide for the event.







3.11.2017

Quote of the Day

'Patience is a virtue except when it comes to being treated the way you deserve. Don't settle" 

- B. Oakman


Found on this cyclist's webpage: https://www.kateeperry.net/

3.08.2017

International Women's Day


Adapted from a diagram originally produced by Craig Froehle https://goo.gl/a4DQ2Z

2.27.2017

Quote of the Day

‘Your appetite grows based on what you are eating.’ 
- French saying

2.26.2017

Badger Men's Hockey, Kohl Center, Madison, WI

A weekend with a sibling visiting Madison, plus 60-degree weather in February... well, I think it's high-time to take in a hockey match at the University of Wisconsin's Kohl Center.

We rode down to the Capitol areas well before the match, to see the sights, enjoy the sunshine and get ready for the game with some New Glarus Spotted Cow and tasty bar food from State Street Brats. It was a busy afternoon due to the weather and games happening that weekend at the Kohl Center (both men's hockey and basketball).


Once we made our way to the arena, it was clear this is a very nice, relatively new center of sporting events on campus, afterall, it handles the wood floor required for basketball and the ice required for hockey (much like our hometown United Center (Chicago Stadium of yore)).


They gave out free Wisconsin Hockey pom-poms, cha-ching!


They also have an excellent historical display for almost every UW sport in the spacious concourse in the arena. You can see much of the history of UW teams and athletes as you make your way around the concourse to your seats.



That's an old rowing sweater.

Even fine art is on display, like this below from known modern artist, Dale Chihuly... he's kind of hard to miss and not identify. I've mentioned him in previous posts too.


Finally, the seats were secured, the ice cream treat was in the tummy and we were ready for the game to begin...

This was a great rendition of our national anthem, helped very much by the UW Band and the crowd's own voices.

To that end, all game long, the crowd was more engaged than I've seen in most sporting events, especially at the college level. They had cheers and chants for all sorts of occurences (goals, penalties, etc), and we had them almost down pat by the end of the match. The team played their hearts out and garnered a 6-4 victory against their Big 10 opponent, the University of Michigan (boooo!).

We sped home on our trusty velocipedes in the much cooled night-time temps, but made it back around Monona without too much trouble... just icy cold hands for one of us.

2.23.2017

Suds It Up Car Wash, Madison, WI

With an early spring seemingly already here in central WI, I had to get the winter grime off the car. I headed to one of my happy places - a local, family-owned business called, Suds It Up Car Wash. It's a better than average "touch" car wash.

"Touch" means it actually uses bristles and brushes that touch your car's finish and take the grit and grime off. They make "touchless" car washes now, but it's like paying some kid on the corner to spray your car with a strong hose. I tried to tell me Mom I washed something "touchless" once... she touched me alright, with the back of her hand!

Perhaps the best, and certainly most tactile, part is that once you're done with the exterior wash, they have 18 vacuum bays waiting for you to handle the interior.

"What's a vacuum bay?", you ask. Allow me to explain with pictures...

Long hoses of vacuuming suction just waiting for you to open your filthy car interior.

You get two attachment options, both literally "sucked" to their parking spots with suction power, either crevice or carpet/multi-surface. I prefer the latter for most of my car's interior. It does a fine job of all manner of debris, including all the salt from a winter of driving. And please, no loud music.

Option 1, or...

... Option 2. They stay stuck to their respective "parking spots" with the suction coming through the hoses from the master "canister". It's a pretty slick and simple set-up, imo.

I've never seen a car wash like this place before, but I think I'll be going back without question... maybe just to watch people clean their cars, or frankly, to volunteer to vacuum people's cars out for them. I mean, if you want something done right...

2.20.2017

My First Fatbike, Part II, Madison, WI

This build has taken about a month in total, from getting most of the parts to finally riding the bike for a short spin to bed-in the brake system. I wanted to highlight the build process and some of the parts.

Everything went together just fine, with only some minor issues along the way. SunRingle MuleFut 80 SL wheelset and Bontrager/DT Swiss thru-axles mated well. The SRAM GX 11-speed Gripshift shifter and NX rear derailleur went together with no problem and shifted great from the first click. RaceFace's Cinch typer bottom bracket and Next SL Gen3 cranks were a treat to build up and install. 

The biggest issue would be that it doesn't appear that mechanical disc brakes will work well with the rear stays of this bike. I couldn't find a brake that would fit on the frame without having the actuator arm of the caliper find issue with the seatstay. So, I had to source some full hydraulic brakes instead (which also why you may notice the rear brake hose still needs to be trimmed down to size). I was lucky enough to source a set of SRAM Level Ultimate full hydraulic brakes and am very happy it all worked out. They installed without much fuss and bed-in well. 

Of course, now that it's in ride-able form, the snow has pretty much melted away here in Madison, So, unless we get some more in the next few weeks, it will likely be seeing more dirt than snow in its first 6 months of life.




and here's how the fork's paint job looks as installed on the bike...

2.19.2017

My First Fatbike, Part I, Madison, WI

You know what a "fatbike" is, right? It's like this...

If I have my history correct, they were oroiginally thought up by and designed to run in Alaska's Iditarod race. A multi-modal, multi-weekend, multi-species race recreating the saving of a town from diptheria, crossing the snowy landacape from Knik to McGrath, AK.

The bikes designed for and now from this event needed to ride well on packed snow, so rims and tires kept getting bigger and bigger to handle the demands of the riders and terrain. I believe, a company in Minnesota, called Surly, was the first brand to commercialize or produce products for this market, including rims, tubes, tires, etc. And now you can go down to your local big box store and get a fatbike-like two-wheeled steed for your kids. Ah, progress.

I've wanted to own one for some time, maybe even years, so it was time to make it happen this winter. However, it was a bit bittersweet when I realized not too long into my project that if I wanted to own my very first fatbike, I would have to build it up myself. Bitter because it takes more time, effort, and usually money to build a bike up on your own. Sweet because it's a great winter project, I love working with my hands, and it usually lets one be more creative with the bikes they ride and own.

This is just the first post in a series highlighting the build of this bike. I started out with a Trek Farley Alloy frame and fork. I decided to upgrade the fork to a Trek Haru Pro carbon model, in order to run a 150mm front hub, and save a little weight with the carbon too.


Additionally, I was able to try some Duplicolor Custom Wrap coating and help the fork match the frame with some highlights of color. This coating is removable within 6 months of application and was quite a fun project.





I'll post once more with the final pics and some thoughts on the parts I used. Stay tuned...

2.18.2017

Quote of the Day

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you ever know."

Winnie the Pooh

2.15.2017

Governor Dodge State Park, Dodgeville, WI


As a child, my family kept gaining/making/having more and more kids. What numbered 3 when I was born became 5 by 1981 and finally 7 by 1987. With good jobs, but many mouths to feed, limbs to dress, and things to care for, we didn't take elaborate vacations to exotic locales, especially if  a plane flight was required, too expensive. (In fact, I didn't fly in a plane until I was 23)

What we did do though was camp. And boy did we. With a week off for Dad, and a station wagon full of kids, treats, & gear, we'd head into the great state of Wisconsin for some outdoor adventures - "I call the way-back!"

The place we seemed to bring that rental pop-up trailer to year after year was Governor Dodge State Park (GDSP) in Dodgeville, WI.  On the map below, it's the green feature at left-center - Madison proper and its blue lakes, are on the right.


Could it be that after many years of camping in GDSP, I would be living under an hour drive from that very place?! It not only could be, it can be. I decided during my moving that I had to take a quick day trip to the park, possibly in winter, to see if I could find some of the old spots that we found way back in the 80's. It turns out, though some of the park had changed, in many ways it was still the same old place.


I started in the main park office, to pay for the day's pass and make a pit-stop. Which is fortunate as I got to see some of the local animal life preserved for my enjoyment in the office.






I don't recall seeing any of those as a kid.  Nuts.

Now, only some of the park's road system is plowed in winter, so I had to park near a trail head and walk my tired old bones into the Cox Hollow Campground. It sounded like a fun adventure to me, as I gained the power and energy from my youth simply by being back in GDSP. It was a bit sloppy and wet out, but no more than 3-4" of snow cover still left on the ground.


Of course, it being winter, there were no leaves on the trees, which made finding the first feature I wanted to revisit on this hike much easier. I was looking for an ominous patch of their forest that, as a 10-year old boy, seemed to drop off the face of the Earth (what did I know at 10?).

You can already start seeing/feeling the forest starting to drop off...

A little further in and it becomes a little steeper still...

Until you slip and slide (thanks, Winter) to a point that clearly can't be traversed on foot. It drops off for a good 10-15 feet at the ledge, then picks back up below.



Doesn't that look treacherous? I mean, at 10 years old even!? Well, it looked like trouble even on this trip. But I recall falling falling falling down this steep grade as that 10-year old and was luckily "clothes-lined" by my older brother, avoiding the ultimate plummet to my death... or at least another trip to the emergency room for my family at GDSP. He saved me. Thanks, Brother.


Of course now there are more hiking, biking, and skiing trails connecting parts of the park that weren't there when we were children. Many of the paths are situated behind the camping areas, so there seems to be less of a chance of getting lost and stumbling down a steep embankment to an early grave. Fine, today's youth, don't have fun.

I presume these central-WI hippies have been recycling since the 70's - thanks for modeling the way.

I liked seeing that! There's families here, Folks!

The second feature I was specifically looking for was a stretch of campground road that, as kids, was all gravel, very steep, and included a nice left hand turn to further test/mess with kids' bike-handling abilities. I found it alright, right where Park Ranger Brian told me to look.


It starts off innocent enough, but quickly becomes something of a widow-maker... just ask my older sister who lost her eyebrow and a good bit of skin one summer. You start high on the hill, to the upper-right in the pics below. Then roll a steep, sweeping left-hander to the end of the route.


Of course, now it's paved with blacktop, instead of gravel... so I'm sure it's easier for little hell-rasiers to navigate (I used to walk to school, uphill, both ways!). But, I have to say, it seemed much longer and a bit steeper overall than I remember. It's possible that having only one sibling loose some skin and hair on this thing was actually coming out of it pretty lucky.


After finding a couple things I wanted to, walking back to the car, and looking for a few more by car without much luck, I called it an afternoon. I can come back when it's nice out and bring a bike too.

Here's a final shot of some interesting "hairy" tree bark, no seriously, it's funny-looking alright. Maybe a Grizzly bear did it?!




transplanted.chicagoan

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