10.31.2013

Jeff Lynne and Electric Light

Happy Halloween. Today is kind of a blow off day at work, because wearing costumes is as good an excuse as any for the company to effectively shut down. I mean, who is going to take you seriously on a day like this? I don’t take most of my crackerjack coworkers seriously any day, but this day especially.

Tonight, my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, is performing a rock band themed Halloween show at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI. We are covering almost the entire Traveling Wilburys repertoire, in addition to some other stuff. I need to go home at some point this afternoon, probably about 2 PM (picking up my CSA box en route), to let my dogs out so I can stay late in Madison tonight for the rocking. When I go home, I will probably run the songs one more time for a couple hours, for two reasons. One is that I want to be super solid on the material so the performance will be maximally awesome. I really like to feel like the material is second nature to me, so I can focus on stage presence and having fun. The second reason is to set an example for my band mates, who hopefully are also feeling solid on the material, and if they are not, then to shame them with my excellence. I tell you there is no substitute for being solid on the musical material. It just makes life so much easier. The long hours of practice and muscle memory make for hard work, but the payoff is ridiculously awesome. The songs are forever stored in my brain and body, and I can pull them out at any later date. The exercise also improves my overall music skill and my mental faculties, hopefully preventing or delaying any mental declines in old age. Or at least if I do go senile, I will still be able to communicate by laying down bass grooves like nobody’s business. I will be the life of the old folks home party.

In a few minutes, there is a Halloween banquet at work, with a costume contest. I do not think I will enter the contest, but my costume is clever. It is basically a suit covered with “frivolous laws,” written on strips of paper. It’s a Frivolous Law Suit.

My costume for tonight is the Traveling Wilburys character Jeff “Clayton” Lynne. He was formerly of ELO. This is the most esoteric costume ever, in my opinion. I get to wear an Afro wig, which is superb, because the hair will not go in my eyes, nose, or mouth. One thing I always hated about wearing wigs on stage during shows is that the fake hair gets in my mouth when I am trying to sing. But not anymore, baby. Afro wig floats far above the treeline.

See ya.

10.30.2013

Group Effort and Collective Value

When I play music in bands, it is all about the music and the performance for me. It is most definitely not about me. Although I usually have to like the people I am playing with and be happy with the musical repertoire, this is not the priority. The priority is producing the best possible whole band performance - the music and energy. The show is the end product. Not the band itself. This is why good cover bands are popular. They are playing other people's songs, but packaging and presenting them in a pleasing way. Most amateur musicians I have played with don't grasp this, I am not sure why. All the musicians have to contribute to the end product, rocking live or recorded music. But the musician is not the focus. The band is, and musicians have to relinquish their individuality to the collective whole when they play in a band. It is very Zen. This is why musicians have to practice their individual parts and be solid so it is second nature. Then they can focus on the performance and presentation. Wheat from chaff.
 
When you work for a company or are self employed producing a product or service for people, you as an individual are rather inconsequential, even though you might be very good at what you do. What matters to the customer is the quality of the end product or service. Your skills contribute to the quality product or service, but the customer is not purchasing you...they are purchasing the VALUE you provide or contribute to.
 
Music is no different. When a band plays a show, the audience does not care how much time and effort the musicians put in at their own personal cost to get ready for the gig. They often don't even care about the musicianship of the individuals in the band. They are appreciating the whole band, holistically. They might occasionally focus in on a guitar or drum solo or appreciate the groove laid down by the bass player, but none of those musicians is worth much outside the context of the whole band performance. That is where the value lies.

10.29.2013

Gigs This Week

I have to make this kind of quick, because I need to go and practice some songs for reasons that will become clear very shortly.

I have a lot of music gigs this week.

Tonight (Tuesday 10/29) is the usual weekly jazz night at Mason Lounge from 9 PM to midnight. There is some new material they want to play tonight and I am going to practice on it for an hour or so.

On Thursday night (Halloween night), the Driveway Thriftdwellers country band is performing a dress rehearsal at the Mason Lounge, in anticipation of our Saturday 11/2 show up north at the Minocqua Brewing Company. The dress rehearsal serves to satisfy the musical cravings of the band's Madison fans who will not be able to go up north on the weekend. We are doing a Traveling Wilburys band Halloween theme. I need to tighten up those tunes as well, now and tomorrow night. They are not as easy as they sound and have lots of vocal harmonies too. I thought I would be behind on song learning because of my two weeks in Europe, but it looks like I am ahead of the curve, based on last night's practice. Everyone is struggling with them. But, hey, it's a Halloween costume with music. It just has to be passable and recognizable, like a faux leather Batman tunic and cape.

On Friday evening, the Driveway Thriftdwellers are also performing a Milwaukee wedding. This should be a no brainer, because we will have the dress rehearsal behind us. We can pick and choose whatever songs we want to do. Some of the band members are in the wedding, so I have a feeling this is lower stress and less formal than the other gigs.

DWTD also has a show in Milwaukee on Tuesday 11/12, opening for some up and coming country star. That would be cool, except that I need to find a sub for jazz night on fairly short notice.

Well, that's enough for now. I should go practice.

10.28.2013

Mellow Weekend

I picked up a bit of a cold over the weekend. However, it is fairly mild and I was still able to practice songs for the Driveway Thriftdwellers (country band) shows coming up this week. I would have liked to practice more, but I needed to rest up and partook of a couple of power naps that killed some valuable time. I think I am pretty solid on the tunes though. There is only so much practice you can do before the return on investment becomes too small.

I went up to Oshkosh on Friday night and took Todd and Sherry out for some fine dining, in exchange for them dog sitting Foster for me while I was in Europe. Afterwards, we went out to the Reptile Palace and heard some bands that were quite good. They were hard rocking, but a little less punk/metal than the bands usually performing at “The Rep.”

I cruised home Saturday early afternoon and took one of said power naps, before spending the rest of the evening honing songs for the gigs. I mostly focused my Saturday night practice on the new Traveling Wilburys material. The country band is doing a Halloween themed tribute to the Wilburys. I am apparently playing the role of musician and producer Jeff Lynne, which is probably about the most understated Halloween costume ever. I may substitute “The Dude” for the Jeff Lynne costume at the Thursday night dress rehearsal show to mix it up a little. I think I may have lost my Dude wig, but I can still sport a goatee and bathrobe.

I went over to a buddy’s house on Sunday morning for an impromptu brunch. His gal pal had made a tasty egg casserole dish. After I got home from that, another power nap was incorporated. When I woke up, I refreshed and reviewed all the existing DWTD material from prior shows that we might perform on Saturday 11/2 at the Minocqua Brewing Company.

I should be passable for all gigs. There is one last rehearsal tonight (Monday 10/28) to run down the tentative final set list. I have Wednesday night free for any last minute song practice prior to the dress rehearsal show at Mason Lounge in Madison WI on Thursday 10/31 (8 PM and free). On Friday, we are performing at a Milwaukee wedding, and I don’t think we are doing any of the new Wilburys stuff at that. On Saturday, we road trip up to Minocqua for a Halloween party show there, and that is when we pull out the Wilburys stuff a second time. I will be coming home from Milwaukee after the wedding gig, so I should have some time on Saturday to put the finishing touches on the songs before we road trip up north. But I feel pretty confident that I could wing that gig if it were happening today, so any additional practice I get will be frosting on the cake.

10.24.2013

Zombie Biker

This morning, the 10 of us rode our bikes into some tiny town to gather some supplies. #10 had noisemaker duty and scared up (pun intended?) the horde for us. As the zombies spilled into the road from the shops and houses, we descended on them atop our bikes and smashed heads. The slow zombies are no match for a fast bike, as long as you know what you are doing and pick them off one by one. You have to avoid groups.

We cleared out most of the free undead expediently and then took to our feet to dispatch the few that remained trapped in cars and buildings.

Then #9 made a grievous and dumb mistake. A zombie we must have missed was ambling up the main street toward us. #9 got back on his bike to go take it out. I don't know if he was showing off or what, but as he drew close to the zombie, he popped a wheelie to knock the zombie down with the fat front wheel of his mountain bike.

The wheel went right through the rotting sternum of the zombie and got stuck firmly in the ribcage, so the zombie pulled the bike down with it as it fell, and #9 did a pretty bad faceplant. He scrambled to his feet pretty quick, but not before the zombie bit his leg. The fall hadn't destroyed the zombie's head. I think #9's plan had been to knock the zombie down then crush its skull with the weight of the bike. He killed the zombie right away, but the damage is done. He is for sure infected. He might have 2 or 3 days before the infection kills him and he turns.

It is really hard on everyone. #2 wanted to kill #9 right away and save us time and grief. #1 over ruled him and the rest of us were relieved. He is still a person until he dies, although he will be contagious before that, which I think was #2's pragmatic take on things.

#8 is #9's woman and she is a wreck. She wants to spend as much time as possible with #9 before he is gone. #1 proposed that #8 and #9 leave the group and go spend #9's last hours together somewhere else. Then #8 could do the dirty job of dispatching with #9 when he finally died, but before he turned. I am not sure she will have the guts.

But there is no other good option and #8 knows this. #9 can't stay here. He already seems to be dead, accepting of his fate. He just sits and stares blankly, the light that once shone in those eyes replaced with darkness and doom. It's a darkness we can all relate to. It could have been any of us, life cut short because of one dumb stunt.

For all I know, #9 was probably trying to impress #8, and bring a little entertainment to her and the group. Tragic.

Let's Revisit THE ROCKING

I had a really good band practice with the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS last night. They are such a good band, with talented musicians who actually like to rehearse. A lot. Almost MORE than I like to rehearse (but not quite). That is rare, indeed. Most bands I have played in find every excuse to not practice, so there is no momentum and growth in terms of talent, stage presence, and new song repertoire. A band that puts in the time like that will definitely have a greater chance of success than a band that coasts passively along.

After band practice, I felt energized and wanted to keep learning songs after the musicians left. I did a little bit, but it was getting pretty late, and I didn’t want to lose too much sleep. I have a pretty tight and action packed schedule the next couple of weeks, and solid rest is important for keeping the rock-n-roll locomotive on the tracks.

We added the Big Lebowski soundtrack song "The Man in Me," by Bob Dylan. Great tune.

THE MAN is still underwriting my musical endeavors for the time being and pretty much keeps to HIMSELF as far as my true callings in life, music and writing. I think the country band can go places, but will never probably provide an avenue to profitability. Then again, I am optimistic. Country music is ridiculously popular and we could probably get a lot of sweet gigs around here if we just had someone with the marketing and promotion skills to get us out there.

The only down side of the country band is there are too many musicians in it, with a lot of redundancy. This is OK, as long as the soloists practice judicious use of space. But when everyone is jamming along at full intensity, the nuance is lost and it becomes, to my ear, a cacophonous jamble that is sometimes unfun to listen to. I much prefer playing in a smaller group, but when the group on stage is larger, everyone needs to pull it back and do less. Less is more in that case. It takes a tasteful and creative musician to understand that space is just as important as notes in music. It’s not about how good you are and how much you play. It’s about the music and the presentation. That is all it is about. It is very ZEN because the individual musician is not the focus. They are just a small contributor to the overall creation, which is the musical performance. The performance needs to have a good mix of good musicianship and also energy, aka “the rocking.”

A lot of bands overlook the importance of “the rocking,” focusing only on the musical aspects and not the energy and chemistry of the presentation and audience interaction. So you will see a good band, all staring at their shoes, and it is uninteresting. But you can see a musically mediocre band, and if they are “bringing the thunder” as far as energy level and good vibes and stage presence, then that is way more fun. You can be the most talented musicians in the world, but if you fail to rock, you actually suck.

10.23.2013

The Rocking

Last night, I played jazz at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI, after coming back from a fortnight in central Europe. Tonight, I have band practice with the Driveway Thriftdwellers country band. We have an important gig coming up on November 2 in Minocqua WI and I have a ton of material to catch up on. The dress rehearsal is actually on Thursday October 31 at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI, so I need to be largely ready by then. That means this weekend is going to be a marathon of practice.

Life is all about rocking. Working for THE MAN is just underwriting, and provided HE is not a douche about it, we will have a loose and tentative working relationship.

Disenfranchising the Weak Sauce

Optimizing your life for optimal happiness and success is, on paper, a fairly straightforward matter. It basically boils down to eliminating as much negativity and weak sauce from your life as possible, so that what remains is positivity and strong sauce.

In most aspects of life, it is possible to eliminate negativity and weak sauce by avoiding and disenfranchising it, respectively. If you meet someone who is negative or an energy leech, simply avoid associating with that person. There is no need to try to change their outlook on life, because that is generally fruitless. So you just change your own behavior to disenfranchise that person from having access to you. It may mean avoiding certain friends if the Debbie Downer is an ever present player in your circle of friends. But that begs the question...why are your friends associating with the negative person? In life, we usually encounter weak sauce in the form of service or product providers, and there are avenues for remedying (i.e., Better Business Bureau) or disenfranchising (i.e., Angie's List) the weak sauce. But sometimes we encounter weak sauce in the form of unreliable people. They too can be disenfranchised, though it is sometimes more difficult if you know the person personally.

The most difficult place to disenfranchise negativity and weak sauce is the workplace. I have a coworker who sits in a nearby cube and spends literally 80% of his day venomously bitching and moaning about everything to anyone who will listen. I avoid him like the plague, but it is hard to escape his non-stop negative banter because he sits so close and I hear it. I cannot make him go away, because I don't have that authority. Instead, I immunize myself to his negativity by listening to music with headphones, thus drowning him out. Negativity is a fairly easy thing to dispatch with at the workplace because it is avoidable.

Weak sauce is harder to disenfranchise at the workplace, because you are often forced into working relationships with weak sauce people and cannot simply disenfranchise them, or else the work won't get done. My strategy has always been to clearly and explicitly define the distribution of project work and my responsibilities, then, knowing what I have direct "ownership" for, I do my best work and rock it out like nobody's business. The rest of the work I throw into the courts of the people responsible and because they own that work, any weak sauce is directly attributable to them, not me. This also provides some fodder for giving myself a raise, because I know when I put the ball in the court of someone who is weak sauce, I am not going to see it again for a long while, maybe even days. That means lots of opportunity to head out to the pub a little early for a pint or two. When the clients come looking for the delayed deliverables, they are going to harass the weak sauce individual who is holding things up because of failing to complete their portion of the work, not me. I can be enjoying myself at the pub with not a care in the world. But to be clear, I always get my portion of the work done expediently and with high quality so my work is both complete when needed and unimpeachable when the weak sauce hits the fan.

Optimally, your workplace should not have too much weak sauce to begin with and ought to put some effort into disenfranchising excess weak sauce. If you find yourself at a workplace with intolerably high levels of weak sauce, you may have to disenfranchise the entire workplace by finding a new job with less weak sauce. There is no excuse for allowing weak sauce to negatively impact your life or foreshorten your God given right to tip a few pints with friends at the pub. That is, after all, where all the strong sauce people are hanging out, having put in the time and effort to do their jobs properly. You need to surround yourself with strong sauce often in order to keep the weak sauce out. Networking with an inner circle of strong sauce strengthens your own compulsion to be awesome and helps you see what weak sauce needs to be kept disenfranchised in the outer circle.

In summary, awesomeness comes from eliminating negativity and weak sauce from your life so only strong sauce remains. The only question is, DO YOU WANT TO BE AWESOME? If the answer is yes, get cracking on the weak sauce elimination, wherever it may appear?

10.22.2013

Strong Sauce

I am on the bus again, going home from work. I spent some time on book writing, but it is Tuesday, the most demoralizing day of the week for my team because it is the day we have a morning meeting with an incompetent douchenugget of a middle manager who makes us realize how little our skills and expertise are valued. We are basically no more than glorified administrative assistants to him. As such, most of my writing was focused on how to find a new job and my prospects for doing so soon. It was valuable information, about staying positive and strategies for improving one's chances in the job market (I can speak from recent experience), but it was not very funny, entertaining, or uplifting because I am feeling down. Sometimes it is going to be that way. I probably won't use that material for the book, but going through the mechanics of it was important. It is kind of a zen discipline thing to do some book writing every day to work toward the goal of completing it by the end of the year. I fully expect that only 10% of my hand written material will actually make it into the book. That is why I have to write a lot. Happiness (or alternatively success) is equal to reality minus expectation. If I maintain a modest expectation that only 10% of my written material will be book viable, which I think is reasonable, then 20% viable material will seem like extraordinary success (thus making me happy). It will basically be double what I was expecting.

Here is the thing. We only have this one life to live and it is important to be happy and doing things you love (or at least like) around people you respect and appreciate. That means you have an obligation to yourself - indeed a civil right (pursuit of happiness) - to disenfranchise any and all weak sauce in your life, be it people or things or circumstances. That is really all. Remove the weak sauce and what do you have left?

STRONG SAUCE, that's what.

Good Morning

I had a mild panic this morning, not like a panic attack, but just an unexpected scramble to reorient to new facts that came to light.

I decided while I was in Europe over the past fortnight, enjoying their awesome public transportation infrastructure, that I would start taking the bus to work again, upon my return, so that I could put some major effort into my book writing, since my goal to complete it is the end of the year.

I am on the bus right now, in fact, and I am going to start book writing here momentarily. This post is just a warm up exercise.

This morning, as I prepared to leave my house, I checked the bus routes online to make sure everything was in order. That is when I had my mild scare. Everything was not in order. The Madison WI metro bus system had made some changes to my route that were alarming.

Short on time, I had to make some quick decisions. There was no way I was going to drive to work and miss my chance for productive book writing.

The route I used to take was the 15, which went from the east side of Madison where I park (I have to drive part way because I live outside of town to the east), all the way to the west side, dropping off right in front of my annoying workplace. On the bus map, it looked like they changed the bus route to the 35 where I pick it up on the east side. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the bus numbering. It was the same bus and same basic route, it just changed its number at one of the transfer points. Confusing and illogical, but suffice to say, all was well, except for the fact that the delay caused by researching the matter almost made me miss the goddam bus. I had to make a bit of a sprint to catch it, but my legs, empowered by my recent bicycling expedition to the Bavarian region of central Europe, did not fail me.

The albeit grumpy bus driver was able to confirm I had the right bus and did not need to transfer to another bus. I am pretty sure the bus driver was grumpy because he has to drive a bus in Madison WI and probably doesn't like pesky questions from passengers like me. But I am going to imagine his grumpiness was due to the same exasperation I was feeling about the arbitrary and unnecessary renumbering of the bus routes.

On another unrelated  note, I am currently being refreshed on some of the down sides of public transit by two Chattie Cathies who seem compelled to share their personal conversation with everyone on the bus by talking at the top of their lungs. There are always some characters on the bus who feel a need to be self important and get attention. Just so you know, one of the girls does not like to put highlights in her hair and the other thinks bangs look pretty on her friend. So there you go.

10.20.2013

Nanny State

The U.S. is becoming a nanny state, but not for the reasons oft cited. Most people glibly talk of a nanny state when referring to social welfare infrastructure, which is actually very important for some people.

But corporate America fosters a different kind of nanny state, a nanny state of mind where people feel entitled to be selfish, lazy, dumb douchebags, because corporate America coddles them with materialistic goods and services that make them feel special and grow soft.

Then they show up at airport security expecting everything to be done for them, and when it isn't, they get upset.

What Does TSA Fear?

Going through customs after getting off my plane from Amsterdam to Minneapolis, we were informed that no cell or smart phones could be used in the security area, or else they would be confiscated.

I could see no reason for this rule except to protect security people from liability when they get filmed screwing up. Your thoughts?

Fat, Dumb, and Slow

I am, sadly, back in America. I try to hate the sin, not the sinner, but it is so difficult. Is there something in American fast food that makes people who eat it fat, dumb, and slow? I have read this before, and I always thought it was the stuff of conspiracy theory, but returning today to the U.S. from a fortnight in Bavarian Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria, I was more observant of the stark contrast between European and American cultures.

I don't want to broadly condemn all Americans as fat, dumb, and slow, because this is not the case at all. What is the case is that the proportion of fat, dumb, and slow people is significantly larger in the U.S. I am not pulling this out of my ass. Google it. They have done studies. Americans are, per capita, more obese, less intelligent, and physically less fit than Europeans, both individually and infrastructurally.

This was clearly illustrated today by the American airport security infrastructure as I left Amsterdam for Minneapolis. The redundancy and waste of manpower and resources was ridiculous. It is no wonder the U.S. government is going bankrupt. My passport and boarding pass were checked no less than three times. Then a team of security agents individually interviewed passengers about their travels and belongings. While I appreciated the one-on-one TLC, this step could have been accomplished during one of the many boarding pass/passport scans, avoiding payrolling an entire team of agents to ask basically three questions that I'll bet any intelligent terrorist could fake the answers to.

What a terrorist would not say: "As a matter of fact, my bags were NOT in my possession at all times and I DID agree to carry a mysterious brown paper package for some seedy character I just met."

Whoever planned the security infrastructure was not working from a visionary master plan. It seems like it has been thrown together piecemeal, with no regard for efficiency or effectiveness.

When I landed in Minneapolis, I got to see both the individual and infrastructural weaknesses of the security and customs process. My passport and customs document were checked twice. Then I had to claim my bag transiently and recheck it to make sure it got to Madison WI. That just added potential for lost and misdirected bag screwups. Then I had to go through regular boarding security again, complete with full body scan for the second time today. At what point after the first run through security in Amsterdam did I have the ability to add forbidden materials to my carry on bag?

Now, American airport security has been effed up for a while. By now people should know the drill. But not the guy in front of me. Oh no! He had to bring his entire collection of home electronics, all of which had to be dismantled and placed in tubs separate from his laptop. You can imagine how long it took him to pull his shit together on the far side of the full body scanner, while the rest of us waited. On top of that he had to take off and then recollect his designer wing tip leather shoes.

Slippers people! I cannot stress this enough. Easy on, easy off slippers for air travel. You will be indoors and on planes while traveling. There is no need for uncomfortable shoes. Pack them in your bag and put them on when you get where you are going.

I have a question for you, America, in two parts:

1. Should we up our game as a society?

2. How should we go about that?

When the U.S. was building the greatest military in history during the 20th century, they had a vision and a plan. I learned this in history class and it stuck with me. The vision was simple: build the greatest army, navy, and air force in the world. The strategy was equally simple: see who currently has the best army, navy, and air force, and emulate them, only better.

There is no shame in emulating the best if you want to be the best. Let us decide what kind of awesome society we want and then do what has to be done to get there, emulating the best in the world in infrastructure, transportation, education, health care, and social welfare, and disenfranchising all weak sauce.

When I was traveling to Europe, the security infrastructure was hassle free. I did not have to claim and recheck my bag at customs in Amsterdam. I only had to show my passport (once). It was assumed that since airport baggage control had my bag, nothing was added to my suitcase. The bag proceeded from Amsterdam to Prague without any added complication, in the expert hands of perhaps slightly baked baggage handlers who may have been making minimum wage, but got low cost single payer health care, no questions asked. It is no wonder Europeans are generally cooler and more laid back about shit.

Let's pull our shit together America. We need to add value to our society or the bullshit will never end. Demand it.

No Nonsense Vienna

I liked the city of Vienna.

The main thing I liked about it was that everyone was nice and minded their own goddam business. People did not hassle you or get in your space. I feel like a person might even get their ass kicked if they violated the etiquette of Austrian personal space and chillaxedness. I feel like that would be totally acceptable to the Viennese and the cops would turn a blind eye to such valid violent enforcement of the social rules.

In all the places in Bavaria I visited with my parents over the past fortnight, everyone was super chill and unobsequious. It was a refreshing change from the U.S. and one of the reasons I really wish I did not have to go back home to Madison WI. Even the four or so beggars we saw on the street were courteous. Most of them just held forth a receptacle for gathering donations, and said nothing. In many cases, they even prostrated themselves on the ground in the position of a praying Muslim. Nice.

The Europeans seem to have their shite figured out. The infrastructure is strong and the society is healthy. Americans bitch about higher taxes, but a good society with a strong infrastructure costs money, and it benefits everyone, if done right. That means popular, not corporate, control of where the money goes. Americans call European countries socialist, but I think they are actually considerably more democratic than the U.S. is.

Imbecile

I know I am in rare form of intolerance today, but let me explain something to you. If your seat on an international flight is 38C, you DO NOT stop at row 13 and debate with your traveling companion if you are at the right row yet.

I do not care what country you are from or what language you speak. Math is a universal and invariant language. 38 NEVER equals 13. Not ever.

Now move along, please!

Fear

The airport security process for boarding a U.S. bound flight is completely ridiculous. There are layers of pointless and wasteful redundancy. My passport and boarding pass have been scanned and approved fully three times at Amsterdam Schiphol airport between my Vienna arrival gate and my Minneapolis departure gate. I think one strategically placed checkpoint would suffice.

At the gate, agents with the shittiest job ever have to interview every passenger about their belongings and reason for traveling. Is this absolutely necessary and could it be done earlier in the travel process? Wouldn't a terrorist just tell these agents exactly what they want to hear? Yes, I packed my own bag. Yes, my bags have been in my possession the entire time I started my travel adventure. Yes, I live in the United States, just like my triple checked passport says.

Fear has really overwhelmed America. They are out of control. I guess this has been the case since 911 but you really notice it more after a trip to laid back, appropriately-normal-amount-of-security Europe.

Thanks

I would like to thank whatever powers that be for not seating the pierced Norwegian black metal dude next to me on the flight from Vienna to Amsterdam. Just a little too bruuuuutal for a Sunday morning flight.

The fat lady of the circus that you did put here is tolerable for this hour or so leg of the journey, since she can't speak a lick of English. But I would like to request a slender brunette with a pleasant personality for the longer international flight over the North Atlantic? Is that cool? If not, I totally understand. Just someone not to invasive to my personal space, dig?

Move!

Why do people insist on standing still on a moving walkway at the airport, thus going even slower than if they just walked in the hallway beside it?

Jesus, people...it's called a moving WALKWAY for a reason. If they wanted you to block everyone else from expediently moving through the airport, they would have called it a PARK-YOUR-FAT-ARSE-IN-EVERYONE-ELSE'S way, not a walkway.

If your legs simply aren't capable of locomoting your hefty carcass any farther through the airport, the options are, I think, two-fold. Either request a wheel chair or else follow the universal moving walkway etiquette of standing to the right so people can pass on the left. This is not rocket science.

The Longest Line

I got to the Vienna airport early and there were about five people in front of me in the KLM check in line. There were only two agents on duty, but the one for first class passengers was fielding proletariat hoi poloi in between bourgois elites. So things were moving like clockwork and I was feeling pretty on top of the world.

But it only takes one selfish dickbag to single-handedly dismantle the entire airline check in infrastructure. I don't really know what happened but it looked like this douchenugget 20-something German kid tried to check an oversized bag at a normal sized bag check in counter, even though the oversized bag counter was nearby and clearly labeled. One would have thought this could be expediently handled by sending the moron over to the correct counter, which had no line and would not have caused him and a woman, who appeared to be his mom, any burden, even though a burden was clearly due.

But apparently the ghost was already in the machine. The agent had to call in a supervisor and even the first class agent was called into the fray, effectively taking her out of commission. The first class and economy lines both began to grow. I was only two people away from being able to show my passport and check my one normal sized suitcase through to Madison WI. So close. The minutes ticked by. My inner fury grew.

At last, two new agents arrived to handle the growing crowd of frustrated, rule-following, normal sized bag-carrying passengers. Although they took their sweet time logging into their computer terminals (less talk, more rock!), I soon stood before one of these agents, relieved. Prepared with my passport and boarding pass already out, I had my bag checked and was on my way to my gate in less than one minute. I even had time to grab a coffee and write this post, but that is because, unlike doucheboy, I always plan for what I call "The Longest Line Contingency."

There is no excuse for one person to take 30 minutes checking in for a flight. It is inconsiderate and irresponsible. I know it is early in the morning on a Sunday and the guy was probably hung over. Not an excuse. Pull your shite together before you step foot in the airport. That's just good form.

10.19.2013

Final Night in Vienna

Tonight my folks and I had our last outing in Vienna Austria and it was delightful. We had a very tasty, albeit overpriced, dinner near St. Anne's Church in the Ring. We then heard a chamber music quartet of two violins, a viola, and a cello perform in said church. Taping was verboten, but suffice to say the acoustics in the church were superb. Attached you will find a few shots from our evening on the town, including the interior of St. Anne's. What she was the saint of, I do not know. But if you know, leave a comment.

Sad

I have to admit I am a tad sad about leaving Europe tomorrow, after a fortnight of traveling and biking in Bavarian Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria.

Part of it is that I had such a fun time. It is so awesome here. I met great people, learned great things, ate good food, saw cool things, and rode a bike (and a farm tractor, albeit briefly).

Most of my sad is that I have to part ways with my folks, with whom I was traveling. I really value any time I get to spend with my parents, especially since they are getting older. I want to keep them active and traveling as long as possible too.

I want to thank Vermont Bike Tours, and tour guides Zuzana and Bodhi especially, for making it a totally enjoyable and effortless European vacation. They were so organized and supportive and fun.

I will my parents again soon, at holiday time. That is only a couple months. But it is still a little sad because it was so nice to have such a big block of quality time with them, watching them together, having fun, being active on bikes, for an entire fortnight. They are great people.

Cherish the time with family as much as you can. It is priceless.

Tonight we will go see our last classical music concert together in Vienna Austria, the world capital of classical music. I am a rocker at heart, but it has been enjoyable to hear classical music performed live by the best classical musicians in the world while we were here. Even a rock-n-roller needs to know and appreciate music history. Mozart and Beethoven and Hayden and Dvorak and more...these guys were writing and performing the "pop music" of the 17th century. In that way, I am a little bit like them, though nowhere near as good. So I can appreciate and enjoy seeing live classical music and imagining the big ballrooms of yore, full of classically dressed high society people, where it was performed, just like ACDC appreciates it too.

Leopold Art Museum, Vienna Austria (a sampling)

This morning (10/19/13), we visited the Leopold Art Museum in Vienna Austria. Photography was totally allowed (sans flash). Here is a sampling of some stuff I saw on floors 4 and 3, featuring works of Gustav Klimpt and his contemporaries. Early 20th century stuff, some of it war related but most of it just cool.

Mom and pops are tiring fast so we may head over to the Matisse exhibit at the Albertina Museum next and then take a break before tonight's concert - Beethoven, Hayden, and Schubert classical music enlightenment at St. Anne's Church.

I am enjoying my exposure the the renaissance arts but I am ready to get back to rock-n-roll...