2.25.2013

Rockstar

Me and my team of superstars at work once again swooped in and saved the world of radiation oncology from the gimps who are paid to thwart us.

2.23.2013

20 Minutes - Awesomeness


Hi. It's Joe.
There are two kinds of people in this world.
Awesome people.
And not so much.
As best I can tell, the world has about 10% to 15% awesome people. To some this might even seem a little high. But trust me, the awesome people are out there.
It's rather subjective though.
I honestly think that you, my reader, is awesome.
I appreciate that you take the time to read what I write. I strive to entertain you.
Today, I have to say I was pretty awesome. I didn't have to be, but I was.
A huge project is coming due at work, and due to a lot of factors, a lot of last minute stuff came in. But it was Friday and everyone was checking out for the week. So I found myself alone facing a horde of Mongols (a metaphor for a pantload of work).
I could have turned tail and fled. No one would hold it against me, least of all THE MAN (not a real man). In corporate America, there is little reward for going above and beyond the call of duty. I know full well, I shant get a reward. And no one was expecting me to act any different. That's just the way it is in cube drone land.
But I would have held it against myself if I did not face the foe and crush it.
I did so.
I can't really say that I did it alone. I was working with some pretty awesome engineers who were definitely pulling their weight. We worked long and hard and I think we more or less met the day's objective. There is more to do, and I fully expect to have to go to work on Sunday. That is totally fine.
I got a real sense of satisfaction from kicking total ass. I wasn't doing it for a reward, except personal satisfaction.
I hope that it earned me some human capital at work, but it probably didn't and that's not why I gave it my all. Well, to tell you the truth, I did gain human capital with the people that mattered, the engineers I was working with toward the common goal of completely dominating a handful of document updates for a product launch.
After it was done, I wasn't exhausted. I was energized by the victory. I then went and applied to like three writer jobs online. I am still hedging my bets as far as job opportunities. My current situation is not good, a fact made tolerable only by the idiotically huge sums of cash they are paying me to stick around (I am definitely earning it too!). I am a linchpin, an indispensable asset. They know they need me. But they have to earn me. And they had better start listening to me if they want to keep me around. I am brazenly anti-corporate bullshit. I am not a manager but I am at the top of my game in what I do. I know it inside and out and I know exactly what they need to do to succeed, if they will only listen.
I saw a job posted for a marketing writer with a technical writing emphasis. I snapped that right up. I kind of want to get back into the kind of science and technical popular writing I used to do at the vitamin company, and this opportunity sounded like a good one for bridging the gap.
I am glad more people are reading my blog, or so they tell me. I have no idea why, but I hope they are entertained. I only do this damn blog because I am honing my creative writing talent with my book writing goal in mind. So I guess if people are reading this blog, my writing is decent. Perhaps not awesome, but decent. And decent is good enough if it makes people want to read my book.
The book is about corporate America and since that is what I often talk about with this blog, happy readers are not a bad thing at all.
I need to write more FAWM songs this weekend.
Time.

2.13.2013

10 Minutes - Eye of the Storm

Hi. It's Joe.

Today is February 13, and that is a very interesting fact. This date falls between Charles Darwin's birthday on 2/12, when we atheists celebrate his discovery of evolution by natural selection and how awesome we are for winning the 3.5 billion year lottery that is life on earth, and Valentine's Day on 2/14, when I face the reality that my Darwinian fitness is extremely low, probably because of my atheism, which is despised by almost everyone with an inkling of religious belief, no matter that said beliefs are completely irrational and unscientific. Atheists are the people that God fearing folk least want their daughters to date, and no doubt this has been my experience. Then again, I rather like the free agent bachelor lifestyle, notwithstanding the stigma that goes with that (their problem, not mine). I get to hang out with multiple people and can have recreational partners at will (not that I do...I am not that type of guy...but I could), even though such liasons would not improve my fitness in the strictly Darwinian sense (hopefully). There are no restrictions on behavior relating to the awkward state of having a mate. I can go hang out with my female friends and no one is going to criticize me for it. I am not saying I wouldn't like to find a soul mate, just that until I do, this free agent, devil may care lifestyle works just fine for me. In any case, a true soul mate would have trust in me and not feel threatened by other women, by definition (nor would I probably feel inclined to visit with other women, if I was with a true soul mate).

So I encourage all my domesticated friends to go out and enjoy your Hallmark mandated romantic holiday. If that's important to you, why not? But I choose to be a libertine.

For now anyway. The other great thing about being a free agent is that I am totally open to change and opportunity. I could find myself in a relationship tomorrow, if opportunity presented itself and I wanted to make that happen. Ironically, many of my past relationships seem to have started or ended around this time frame. I can't say there is a connection. But let's assume there is.

Time.

2.12.2013

15 Minutes - Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Hi. It's Joe.

Today is Charles Darwin's birthday (1809, if you are curious).

Charles Darwin is the closest thing to God we atheists have, although objectively speaking, Alfred Wallace pretty much simultaneously came up with the theory. I am not going to get into that. Sir Isaac Newton is typically the one to whom calculus is attributed, but Gottfried Leibniz, Newton's contemporary and rival, also landed upon it around the same time.

The common feature here is that these people were contemporaries of each other, and if you have an open, analytical, and free thinking mind, there is no reason you should not come to similar conclusions based on observations of the reality around you.

That is the great thing about reality. It waits for no one. You can believe whatever you want and more power to you. Nay...GOD BLESS YOU! Let's just go for broke. The point being, you don't know shit. Reality will just keep on keeping on, with or without you.

But, let's be honest, wouldn't you rather reality included you in it's embrace?

I know I do.

Humans are social animals, and we dig hierarchy. We like patriarchs and leaders and father figures.

But reality don't give a shit. Reality is like Honey Badger.

"Look at that sleepy fuck!"

To tell you the truth, the evolutionary traits that make us so social and adaptable are the same ones that obstruct us from knowing reality. I am actually quite amazed that Charles Darwin was able to evade his fairly religious upbringing and discover reality like he did.

But at the same time, once you realize Darwin was a free thinking non-conformist largely isolated from mainstream media (aboard the Beagle), and on vacation off the coast of Ecuador...yeah, it all kind of does start to make sense in a weird way.

But you don't need to see eye to eye with me. I refer you to my comrade above, the Honey Badger. He don't give a shit. He eats larva.

FYI, CHECK THIS OUT.

Watch What Darwin Never Knew on PBS. See more from NOVA.

 

Time.

2.10.2013

25 Minutes - Dogma

Hi. It's Joe.

Today, I would like to post about dogma.

I like to call myself a non-conformist, even though most of my beliefs fall in line with those of self-identified progressives. I am a progressive in my values and some of my actions, but I am not a dogmatic one (as evidenced by other of my values and actions).

Actually, a better term to define me is as a rationalist. That is subtly different from a realist. I don't think anybody can truly be a realist, even though they might want to be, because everyone is imperfect enough in their senses and cognitive processes that true reality will always be out of reach. What we experience is a PROXY for reality (and for some people, a poor proxy at that), or to be precise, as close of an approximation to reality as our imperfect beings and our world views (beliefs) allow us to be. Reality waits for no one, and the fact that you could be hit by a bus tomorrow illustrates your incomplete grasp of reality, for if you truly saw the world as it is, you would only get hit by that bus by choice. If you are a good rationalist though, you can greatly lower your chances of being plowed into the asphalt by said bus ("Hmmm, perhaps I should not jay walk across this busy street...").

ASIDE: Interesting thought, but I heard on a radio show that it is actually statistically safer to fly on a plane today than to be in your own house. I am sketpical, of course, but when you reason it through, given the low rate of plane accidents and the higher rate of gas leaks and natural disasters and gunplay and the like, it could possibly be mathematically true.

A rationalist is also different than a skeptic. Although most rationalists can be skeptics, when it comes to questionable claims and stances on important things, skeptics are often dogmatically skeptical even when they don't need to be. They do it just to be dicks.

A person is dogmatic if they hold a worldview or perform an action, without actually doing the intellectual work of rational thought (for example, Prius drivers smugly think they are doing the world good, and when limited to gasoline consumption only, that is probably true, but when you look at the big picture, they may make the world a less hospitable place, because the electronic components take a huge toll on natural resources and cause exploitation in African nations).

Dogmatic people stick to a world view, because it is easier than trying to seek the truth through rational exploration and reasoning (think Biblical literalists). They regurgitate a belief system they have assumed is correct. I am not even going to try to say I am not dogmatic about some things (for example, that unethical behavior has no place in a corporate work environment). But I strive to be rational instead (objectively speaking, unethical behavior may further the self interests of individuals or increase the short term profitability of the company, and while this may not be a morally GOOD thing, it is fact). Rational thought is a much better way to go.

There are dogmatic progressives and dogmatic conservatives. There are also rational people on both sides of the political spectrum (which, by the way, is not a linear binary spectrum, but for purposes of this post, we can use that as a PROXY for the reality of the situation). The problem occurs when the dogmatic people set the agenda (RE: Fox News or Huffington Post). The rationalists get sidelined and the viewers are not taught how to break the issue down rationally and think about it. Our educational system also fosters dogmatic thinking (teaching to the test, instead of teaching how to think rationally and ask questions).

One dogmatic view is that money is the most important indicator of whether something is good. For example, when people say an economic policy or government program is bad because it will lose the country money. That's a dogmatic view because it does not ask the question whether that policy or program brings VALUE in exchange for its monetary cost. Value is not the same as money, and money is often a poor proxy for value (as evidenced by the unethically obtained billions in cash that America's largest banks now hold, thanks to government policies and programs that were supposed to help the economy).

Well, I said all I need to say about that.

Time.

2.09.2013

25 Minutes - Strong Sauce

Hi. It's Joe.

This morning, I am all about the strong sauce, as opposed to the weak sauce. Truth be told, I am seldom into the weak sauce. I have an almost uncontrollable hatred for weak sauce, which is probably my Achilles heel. Not to say I don't sometimes inadvertently firehose some weak sauce onto things. But when I do, I feel really bad about it and try to remedy the situation. I am not what I call a "weak sauce weasel," someone who produces weak sauce and then tries to weasel out of it by blaming other people or unfortunate circumstances. While those obstacles may be a part of the problem, they can't be used as excuses to avoid responsibility for the weak sauce stains all over everything. People need to own their shit and take pride and responsibility in it. If it is not your shit, you don't have to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders and try to take ownership of other peoples' shit. Focus on your shit and own the shit out of it. I said shit a lot there. Sorry.

I think it boils down to personal responsibility and being a realist (neither a pessimist nor an optimist). Accepting reality, good or bad, is the best way to go through life. Celebrate the good and deal with the bad. But always keep it real. There is meaning in those words. Real meaning. When people say "keep it real," they often have no idea what they are saying or why they are saying it. But it often means something. It means accept reality and take ownership for your plot of the reality space. No one else is responsible for your reality space, and you and only you can choose to make your reality space awesome or weak sauce.

It is presumptuous and weasely to burden others with your reality space. This manifests itself as energy vampirism. You know the kind of person...you avoid them because being in their presence or talking to them drains your soul of life force and leaves you feeling dirty. Negative Nellies or Debbie Downers are common terms for these people. What these people are doing is abdicating ownership of their own reality and expecting whoever is around them (you) to bear the burden. There are ways to become immune to energy vampires. You have to neutralize their negativity with positivity. They hate this. You make positive suggestions to them about how they can get a handle on their own shit (sorry). You make it clear that you know what they are doing, trying to get you to carry their shitload (sorry) for them. You make them take ownership of their reality and not accept their victimization mentality.

Problems arise when you try to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. There is nothing wrong with helping out a friend or family member. In fact, this is part of taking ownership. Networking and cooperating and altruistically helping people strengthens your soul. But only when the people you are interacting with are also positive energy realists who are doing their best to do their part. Then the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Anyway, I am at the Waterhouse Cafe in Lake Mills WI this morning, taking ownership of my new year's resolution to write a book. I am going to be here for about 3 hours doing writing in my book journal and forcing out some inspirado. After that, I will go home and write a FAWM song, then practice for the big rock-n-roll show tonight. GUPPY EFFECT and HIATVS are double-teaming a youth hockey fundraiser at the Capital Ice Arena. It's $10 to get in and that covers free food and beer and rock and hockey. Starts at 8 pm and goes to about 11 pm. Do come if you are in the viscinity tonight (Madison/Middleton, WI).

Time.

2.05.2013

10 Minutes - Spread Out Over About 25 Minutes

Hi. It’s Joe.

 

The nice thing about waking up butt early is going to work butt early, which means leaving work early, which means making time for FAWM songs and piano practice tonight.

 

There are two ways to circumvent bogus rush hour traffic, which a recent study suggests may cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars (duh!). One is to drive to work before it and the other is to drive to work after it. I usually take the latter approach, because I usually do not get up butt early. I am not a morning person.

 

But today, I am really glad I drove in early, beating the idiots and chaos on the roads, because of THIS. If I had commuted post rush hour today, I would probably have encountered the after effects of this, if not the direct effects. Rush hour traffic usually dies down about 8:30 AM in Madison WI, but when something like this happens, everything goes right to shit and all bets are off.

 

This is another reason why I like to take the bus. Even though it is a much longer commute, don’t have to deal with hardly any grief. I can read books and write my own book and shit, while someone else deals with the imbeciles on the road. It’s like having a chauffeur who only costs $4 (bus fare is $2 one way; less if I buy a 10 ride pass, which I need to go do right now).

 

I am ahead of schedule on FAWM songs this year. My goal this year is to try some unique and different things, perhaps emulate other bands or musical genres. I tried that with the surf rock genre, with lackluster success. But it about the doing, not the achieving. One thing I want to try is doing a techno trance dance mix entirely using analog recorded voice simulations of the various sounds. I mean, it can never be truly analog, because it is digital recording. But I mean I am not going to use electronics to generate the sounds, but rather my voice. This one might be a work in progress, but I want to get a start on it tonight. I also have to disclaim that I might cheat a little bit and add some effects to the various vocal lines, like pitch correction and some flanges and choruses and other ambient atmospheric effects that give trance music it’s underlying qualities.

 

Time.

2.04.2013

10 Minutes - Some Quality Time With the Key of D Major

Hi. It's Joe.

I had my jazz piano lesson tonight. My teacher and I decided that I need to get more comfortable with scales so they become more second nature. So the strategy we came up with is for me to focus on 3 or 4 different scales each fortnight between lessons. We are going to begin with the sharp keys, D major, E major, A major, and probably B major. G major is a sharp key too, but it is pretty easy with only the one sharp. I also made a pact to practice for a minimum of 10 minutes every night, instead of trying to do marathon practices less frequently.

So tonight, I spent some quality time with the key of D major, running two octaves worth of scales with both hands at the same time, using a metronome. I went for a good 30 minutes and near the end I was getting pretty comfortable with the scales, so I mixed it up a little by offsetting each hand by a third. That forced my brain to think harder, but really the fingers are no different, just the muscle memory is a bit different. The timer went off while I was still working on that, so tomorrow night I will have to work on that some more. Then I will flip the offset and do an interval of a sixth. Eventually, I will try all the intervals and then find some other fun things to do in this key.

I am the kind of person who likes to master something by diligently focusing on it. So I will probably stay on D major for a while until I feel really comfortable all over that key. I hope that I can have a good grasp of it in a week, then I can start on E major and do the same with that.

The hardest thing about jazz piano is making things become second nature. I can figure stuff out, given enough time, but I want to be able to freely improvise and that means having a mastery of getting around the keyboard. My teacher thinks my limitation is more mechanical than anything else. I understand the music and the notes. It is just mastering it that is hard. And I wish I had more time to practice too. Tonight I only did 30 minutes because it was lesson night (and that says a lot, because I usually don't practice at all on lesson night). Plus, I have an early meeting tomorrow and I need to get some rest.

I asked my boss to move our weekly meeting to Tuesday morning instead of Thursday because our Thursday meeting kept getting pre-empted by these disrespectful upper managers who have a meeting before ours that always runs over. They don't make any effort to end on time and they never apologize to us, as if somehow their meeting is more important than ours just because they are managers. Well, I had about enough of that, so I told my boss to change our meeting time or I was going to escalate my complaint up the chain. He made a wise choice. There is nothing that sets me off more than a bunch of smug, self important management types that treat everyone else like crap. We are the ones doing the actual work that gets the product out the door. I'd say that makes us the important people. Anyway, my boss moved the meeting to an earlier time slot than usual, probably trying to punish me for being a squeaky wheel. But that's OK. I give upper management no quarter and very little margin for error. We are trying to run a company here. Get yer shite together, people.

Time.