11.16.2013

The Fortnight Challenge Model

In his book, "The 4 Hour Body," Tim Ferriss proposes a dietary guideline that involves eating really healthy and restricting calories for 6 out of 7 days of the week, then on the 7th day, basically doing whatever you want...gorge on sweets, eat a stake, drink beer. The plan isn't bad, but when I tried it, it was hard to stick to having just one day of freedom. Actually, it was hard to make it the same day every week, which is sort of part of the discipline of it.

I am going to try a variation on this that I think will be more conducive to my nature. I call it the Fortnight Model.

Basically, I establish a fitness or wellness challenge and do it for 2 weeks, adhering to it strictly. If I successfully complete the challenge, I reward myself at the conclusion of the 2 weeks with something. The something doesn't have to be

The reason I pick two weeks is because it is a manageable amount of time and I have also heard that if you want to develop or kick a habit, you need about two weeks to really ingrain it. I think that anyone can do something for two weeks, even if it kind of sucks, because you know at the end of the two weeks, you can quit doing it, if you want to. The reward period following the fortnight is up to the person doing it, but if they plan to make the behavior a lasting habit, the reward phase should not be more than a couple of days, otherwise the habit will not solidify. If the person is not trying to make the behavior a lasting habit, but just wants to see if they can do it, then it doesn't matter. Let the challenge end and never go back to it. But I want to say that 2 weeks is enough time to start to see some results from a fitness or wellness challenge, whereas one week might not be enough time. And when people get results, it is encouraging. They may get a confidence boost and want to continue getting good results.

So, I am going to try a Fortnightly Challenge. Here is my goal for the next 2 weeks, starting today, Saturday 11/16, and ending on Saturday 11/30:

1. No alcohol
2. Eat only healthy food
3. Exercise for 30 minutes+ at least five times per week

Wish me luck.

It's Going to Get Crazy

This post and several more to follow will probably all appear in your inbox, if you are a subscriber, at once, because I have changed the privacy settings of the blog to only allow a select few to read it. This is for reasons that also can't be disclosed until such time as I am able to make this blog public again. It might be a couple of weeks.

Unrelated to that, I am also going to engage in 2 weeks of purification, starting today. Healthier eating and exercise, as well as lower calorie intake. I might also have to appear antisocial in order to avoid certain temptations that come with association with my inner circle of friends. I don't think they will mind, because they are such good friends.

Last night, after work, I did Gomeroke at the High Noon Saloon in Madison WI. It's live band karaoke, hosted by the Gomers, a local cover band that knows a ton if songs. I did a fairly awesome rendition of "Crazy Train," by Ozzy Osbourne. At least, people seemed to dig it. All the performers were quite good, including a couple of my coworkers, who paired up on "Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealers Wheel.

Stay tuned. More to come.

11.12.2013

Jazz

I am at Tuesday jazz night at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI. This would not be unusual since I am the regular house bass player for this event, but it is unusual because this week, due to a technicality, I am not playing bass. I am spectating. You see, I was potentially supposed to have a country band gig tonight, a few weeks ago when I cleared the night of jazz because of that potentiality. But that gig fell through, and since band leader Charlie had already found a bass sub, I told him to let the other guy play. No longer needed in Milwaukee for the country band opener for some up and coming country star, I decided to come to Mason as a spectator. It is nice to be an audience member for a change and hear what they hear. When I am playing bass, it is a different kind of listening, and I also have to think harder because I am playing and trying to keep my bass part on the rails. Now I can listen holistically and drink finer craft beers and not think at all, just enjoy. It is kind of like going on a road trip where I am not the driver. I can zone out and look out the window or read a book (or write a blog post). So there you go.

Workplace Harassment

I just watched a coworker invade the personal space of another coworker by tickling his ear. I have nothing against man on man physical contact, except when it is unwanted and at the workplace. When said assailant did something similar to me a couple years ago, I went straight to HR. But he is still working here. That is more a consequence of the unprofessional environment I work in.

11.10.2013

A Sunday Night Post

I had band practice tonight. It went OK I guess. But it wasn't awesome. I wanted it to be awesome. I am just a perfectionist that way. The main issue I have with this startup band is that the guitar player's favorite songs are the ones I like the least. I should probably admit that is a fundamental philosophical difference and can the project. But I want to give it a fair amount of time. I have decided to try to give it until the end of the year. Then I will assess how things look. But this band really needs some better songs. I understand these songs are good crowd pleasers, because most people who go to see live bands are musically illiterate. I am not though, and so I am not sure how long I can stomach this generic pop drivel. In addition, the band overall is not very tight or awesome. I think it could be, but my constructive critiques on how to fix and improve things always seem to fall on deaf ears. I want relatively biff free performances of the songs and we seem to be far from that right now. I guess beggars can't be choosers. Besides the country band, which is pretty awesome, I don't really have any rocknroll cover band projects. Still, I have this gnawing feeling that I could do better, and generally when I go with my gut, it ends up being the right choice. So I will keep you apprised, dear readers.

As for everything else, I got some decent piano practice in this weekend. Not looking forward to sticking it to The Man this week. But I totally will. I have to stand up to the school yard bully and disenfranchise the weak sauce.

Morning Brain

I feel like I do my most creative work in the morning, especially writing. This pertains to my theory of the "stress cup."

After a decent night of restful sleep, the brain is rejuvenated. In the course of a day, even when you are not working for THE MAN, your brain is gradually stressed, little by little, by all the stimuli (including distressing mainstream media) and all the things you have to do, good or bad. It is like a cup, and it slowly fills up. And when it is full, you can't add anything more to it, good stress or bad stress.

Even though writing is fun for me, it is still effort and causes eustress (good stress). A full stress cup cannot take on any more good or bad stress. That is why you might get grumpier about bad stress at the end of the day and why it is harder to motivate to do eustressful things (like exercise) then.

There are two things that help empty the stress cup. Rest and exercise.

A good night's sleep basically just empties the stress cup so that you can start filling it again the next day. Regular exercise actually increases the size of the stress cup so it is capable of handling more stress. I like to do my exercise in the morning as well, because it is much easier to motivate then and gives me a bigger stress cup for the rest of the day.

That's the theory anyway.

In the morning, my stress cup is pretty empty and that's why I am able to do better creative work, like writing. In the morning, I don't have an overflowing stress cup that is spilling all over the floor and distracting me from my creative endeavors.

11.09.2013

Good Morning, Saturday

Last night I went to a friend's house for a social, which some of my other friends were referring to as an "absinthe party," because there was going to be some of that elusive liqueur there. There was a lot of mystique surrounding the absinthe, much of which could have been done away with via some web surfing. But it is probably the mystique that makes the whole idea of an absinthe party cooler than just a regular party. So it is probably better to willfully suspend the truth and enjoy the mystique.

The mystique comes from an ingredient in absinthe called wormwood, although it is questionable whether the absinthe at this party had any of this. The urban myth, totally unsubstantiated, is that absinthe with wormwood is banned in the United States.

I don't think wormwood is banned in the United States. If it is, then the vitamin company I used to work for was violating some laws, because they sell an ethanolic extract of wormwood. There are several supplements containing wormwood that can be purchased easily online.

In any case, if wormwood is one of the defining traits of absinthe, then it seems like wormwood-free absinthe is a bit like sugar free soda or decaffeinated coffee.


If the production of absinthe is anything like the production of herbal supplements in the United States, whatever wormwood content it has is probably highly suspect as well. Even with FDA regulation of the supplement industry, there is a huge variability in the content and quality of product ingredients. The companies rationalize this by saying that their more natural ingredients have more natural variability, which is good, because, you know...it's coming from nature, and anything that comes from nature must be good, right? I can tell you that is totally a marketing ploy, having worked in the industry myself. It's a way of spinning quality control laziness and poorly sourced ingredients into profit. And vitamin companies are diabolically good at spinning their products. For example, a manufacturer is not allowed to say a product lowers cholesterol, but they can say it supports healthy cholesterol. Most consumers don't see through it, which is why the supplement industry is so profitable.

Anyway, the party was fun. The preparation of the absinthe beverage involved lighting liqueur soaked sugar cubes on fire, even though that is not the traditional method of preparation, because the fire burns off alcohol content and reduces flavor. The burning sugar cube is considered a modern day gimmick, mostly for show. Anyhow, someone tried to prepare absinthe in a plastic cup, and sure enough, a flaming melting plastic cup of absinthe soon resulted. It's not a good party until there's an absinthe fire. Always make sure there is plenty of glassware at an absinthe party.

There was talk of some late night jams at the party, but everyone bailed before that happened. I guess rocking is not a compulsion for some people to stay at a party. If I were a guest at a party with live music jams, I would stick around to hear them. But whatever.

I got some decent jams in on Thursday night, when I went to Clifford James' open mic night in Whitewater WI. I often have conflicts on Thursdays, usually band practice, but this was a free week. I had planned to just swoop in and play my songs, then leave, but I have a new friend who lives in Whitey and she stopped down to the open mic. So afterwards, I took her to the Brass Rail tavern down the street so I could reminisce with her on the handful of years I spent living in Whitey (actually while I was working at the vitamin company, which is not far from there). The Brass Rail was my favorite place to hang out, a very chillaxed bar with a great jukebox (still great, and the place has not changed much at all). Some of my bands even played there, although it is a small place. Good memories.

So now it is Saturday morning and I am taking it pretty easy. I did not indulge in any absinthe last night, I just had a very small taste to see what it was like. It was pretty much like ouzo, with a strong licorice (anise) flavor. It may very well have been ouzo, bottled and labeled as absinthe, based on what I said above about the quality of product ingredients.

I have a very free weekend for once, and I am going to take great creative advantage of it. I am going to play lots of music and also work on my book writing. The only band practice I have this weekend is Sunday evening with the floundering band with Jon and Phil. We have six pretty easy songs on the practice agenda, so I should be able to knock those out pretty quickly. This band practice is kind of an acid test for the band though. This project hasn't really been going anywhere and we are going to spend the next two months analyzing progress. Everyone should arrive at practice fully prepared, knowing the songs solidly. I think one of the reasons this band is lacking momentum is because the songs aren't solid and we don't practice enough to make them solid. Those two things have to change, and that is what we will be analyzing over the next two months. If it's not there by the new year, we shut it down and walk away, no hard feelings.

11.05.2013

Mockery

I sometimes get mocked for my strange and odd ways. For example, when I rode my bike across Iowa on RAGBRAI in 2012, I carried my money, credit cards, and cell phone in a small plastic ziploc baggie. Everyone would look at me weird and sometimes even make a comment like, "Nice wallet."

So, one night a group of us bikers were at a beer garden doing hard boiled egg tequila shots, and doing selfies of it on our smart phones. It was in this wide open parking lot with very little shelter. There wasn't a lot of warning between the light patter of rain drops and the torrential downpour of an unexpected cloudburst. Our minds clouded with albumin and cactus juice, we had not taken much heed of the distant heat lightning that preambled the cold front barreling across the dark prairie toward us like a silent midnight freight train.

As the windblown sheets of water raced across the asphalt of the parking lot, my comrades began to shove their smart phones into pockets and backpacks in a futile attempt to protect them from the aggressing rain.

"Put them in here," I said, holding aloft my plastic ziploc baggie, into which I had already placed my phone. I took out my money and cards to accommodate their electronics. As each of them placed their devices into the water resistant safety of the baggie I saw looks of both relief and understanding. I did not care if my money got wet. The baggie was mainly for protecting the phone from freak aquatic phenomena I knew I might encounter while riding my bike across the plains. I just threw my money in there to keep it all in one place.

It was, effectively, my wallet. But functionally it was also a raincoat for my phone.

Those people never enquired or commented on my baggie wallet again, except perhaps to praise my good thinking.

It just takes one geek with a baggie for a wallet to save the day. That is the moral of this story.

Hybridding It

I am on a hybrid electric bus on my way to work. I drove my hybrid electric car to the bus stop. Mother Nature is feeling pretty good about me today. Maybe I can go the whole day without using any eco unfriendly transportation.

Actually, that happens most days, since I drive a Prius.

It's Tuesday, the day I usually commute via alternative means. From mid spring to mid fall, I bike commute part of the way to work. It is too far to bike to work all the way from Cambridge, unless I want to get up butt early, though I did it once. The partial commute is fine though, because I pick up the bus on the east side of Madison, completely avoiding the lemmings congesting the so-called "beltline highway," which is effectively a wall of imbecilic buffoonery between home and work. I am only on country roads for the car leg of the trip.

The bus takes about the same amount of time as bike commuting my "long route," and follows roughly the same path through town, convenient if something happens to my bike or I cannot bike back to my car for any reason. That has only happened once, due to a flat tire on my bike, and only because I was too lazy to change the tube on the bike after a long day at work. I was equipped to do so, I just didn't. Every other time I had a flat, I just changed it. But that doesn't happen often. Anyway, I am getting off topic.

It is a longer commute when I bike or bus, and even though I save some money on gas when I bike, I actually pay slightly more taking the bus than I save on gas. At full fare, the round trip bus journey is $4 (Note to self: Order 10 ride Metro pass online). Even when gas is close to $4/gallon, my Prius still gets 50 mpg. Since bus commuting only shortens my driving distance by 36 miles, I am actually paying more for the bus than I would for gas for those miles.

But those are just the "hard costs" in dollars. It is hard to put a pricetag on the value of bike commuting or bussing. Biking simultaneously kills my daily workout as well as my commute. Bussing gives me peace of mind and the freedom to do creative things on the bus, like writing this post, while someone else drives.

For me, bussing is kind of a zen discipline thing. I am working on a book. I don't know when it will be done, all I know is that finding time to work on it is hard, what with work and music and life in general. Taking the bus forces me to carve out creative time, even if it is only 30 minutes or so when all is said and done (because I usually spend to much time on this pre-writing exercise of writing a blog post to loosen up my creative neurons).

I am going to have to wrap up now, to go do real writing. Don't forget that Tuesday also means jazz night at the Mason Lounge, 9 PM to midnight and totally free admish. I will be flaunting my bass skills the whole night. It looks like drummer MG is back this week as well, after a brief hiatus to go have a kid with his wife. The latter situation appears to be under control.

Sorry about any typos, spelling issues, or grammar mistakes. I cranked this out on the proverbial fly. See ya.

11.04.2013

Monday

I am sitting in the lunch room at work with two of my favorite peeps, who also happen to be the two other members on my team at work.
 
Neptune is doing a dietary detox this week, so she is struggling with chopping up carrots and celery using one of the dull stainless steel lunch room butter knives.
 
St. Louis just ate a ham and cheese with bacon sandwich that was leftover from our lunch at Free House in Middleton WI last Friday. She says it was still pretty good after three days.
 
I also had leftovers, re-heating half a spanikopita from my early dinner at Sammy's place in Fort Atkinson WI yesterday, with my buddy Branden. They have the best Greek food there, though it is a little greasy. But it is healthy Mediterranean olive oil grease, I assume, so I do not feel too bad about it.
 
Tonight, I have my piano lesson and I am gloriously ill prepared. I am going to have my teacher help me work on fingering for the new song, "Blues for Alice," that is on my list to learn. Even though I am behind, because I have been focused on learning new repertoire on bass for the country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, I want to keep adding new jazz standards to my piano repertoire and force myself to forge ahead.
 
Now that DWTD's awesome gig up north in Minocqua is behind me, I have a lot more time for piano. We had an aggressive song learning agenda for our Halloween tribute to the Traveling Wilburys, and I was in Europe for a couple of weeks, which briefly put me behind the learning curve on those songs, so I had to struggle to catch up. We don't have any shows on the books for a while, so the country music practice pace should throttle way down for the time being.
 
I think the focus of that band now should be on tightening up our backstrokin' and focusing on tasteful nuances and vocal harmonies on the songs. That will set us apart from the mainstream.

11.03.2013

That Rocked

I am so tired right now, I can barely find the energy to write this post. It is a good kind of tired. It is the fully satisfied kind of tired when you have rocked with all your might and got the job done and now it is time to sleep.

The band I play bass for, the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, always seems to pull itself into perfect rocking form at the last minute whenever we rock the Minocqua Brewing Company up north. And we did rock it. Everything just flowed. Even the biffs were minor and we shrugged them off and had fun. It was touch and go there for a while getting ready for this big shindig. I was a fortnight in central Europe and even though the band practiced in my absence, I wasn't able to do any bass work while I was riding my bike around over there.

When I got back from overseas, I immediately started cramming the new material and practiced it hard whenever I had an hour or so to spare. Our special presentation at this show was a simulated Traveling Wilbury's tribute. We learned a good 80% or more of their available repertoire. It was very challenging, more so than you would think just listening to their songs. There are lots of nuances and things. Anyway, I got caught up in time for our dress rehearsal show at Mason Lounge on Halloween night last Thursday 10/31. We still had a few rough spots that night but the dress rehearsal helped us see where those were so we could tighten up our backstrokin' before the road gig up north.

It worked.

Also, the core group of the band, sans a couple of soloists, played a wedding on Friday night, where we got to hone the songs a little more, even though we only did a couple of the new Wilburys tunes. This was good, because we had actually been spending so much time on the new material that we had never really refreshed on our existing repertoire of songs, so the wedding was kind of like a "live practice" in that sense and we played some originals and other covers. The wedding also illustrated to me how addictive bland commercial hip hop and pop music can be. At our set break, they started playing pop dance music through the PA and the dance floor was packed with people. When we played, some people danced, but since our music was a bit more esoteric and unfamiliar, the robots didn't know what to do. They fear change and that frightens me. But we still had a blast.

I road tripped up to Minocqua WI with drummer Jon in the afternoon on Saturday. It's a long, boring drive, but well worth it. We have a great time and a great show every time we play there (which is only twice in the case of me and Jon, but the DWTDs have been up there a few times before we joined). This show was no different. I had only been in the bar about 20 minutes when things started getting interesting, so I knew it was going to unfold awesomely, and it did. However, I cannot discuss much about it, because what happens in Minocqua stays in Minocqua.

Suffice to say, though, that our Traveling Wilburys tribute set went remarkably well. We called ourselves the Driveling Thriftberries in order to fuse the band names together and confuse the audience. I am not sure how many people in the audience are even familiar with the Traveling Wilburys full repertoire. They mostly probably only know the few songs played on the radio. But no matter, we still had lots of peeps out dancing and made a lot of new friends. We saw a lot of old friends too, people who heard the band play there before and wanted to come back for more.

Well, I am a big fat sleepy head, so talk to you later, my dear readers.

11.02.2013

Road Gig

I am on the road again. This time I am heading up to Minocqua WI to rock a Halloween shindig at the Minocqua Brewing Company, a classy little brewpub that DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS has played before, although only once with me at the helm of bass guitar. It is going to be an unleashed party, even though I wish the band had had more time to rehearse. That is partly my fault because I was in Europe for a goodly chunk of the available time window for rehearsals. But still and all, when I got back from my fortnight in Bavaria, I kicked up the rock engine to full throttle and got caught up in record time. I then proceeded to exceed the rest of the band in song learning awesomeness, such that by the time of our dress rehearsal for this Minocqua show (at Mason Lounge in Madison WI on Halloween night), I was wanting for the band to be a bit more polished. But I am just being picky now, because honestly the DWTDs are about the best and most professional live band I have ever had the pleasure to rock with. They play alt country and americana. I am normally not a huge country fan, but these guys play it so well and do enough country rock and americana stuff that I enjoy it a lot. The bass parts aren't too challenging, for the most part, but there is a lot of room for improvisation and the vocal harmonies are sometimes very challenging, so I become musically better in a holistic way, not just a bass playing way. I also have to use my ears and listen a lot for changes. The songs are dynamically and rhythmically variable, so I have to pay attention and can't zone out. I like this, but it seems to challenge my bandmates, especially if they have been "pulling tubes in the van." Just kidding. They don't have a van (that I know of).

I am carpooling up to Minocqua with my drummer buddy Jon, who also is working with me to put together some other music projects. He is amazingly talented and I am glad we met. I want to create as many opportunities to rock with him as possible. We have a pop cover band we are trying to throw together with this guy Phil, but that band is slow going and seems to lack momentum and direction. If it doesn't pick up the pace pretty soon, we may have to can it to devote our full mental faculties to more awesome projects.

Like Derek Sivers said, whenever you have a choice to do something, there is no YES. There is only HELL YES or NO. If something doesn't make you say HELL YES, say NO.

Anyway, whatever happens in Minocqua stays in Minocqua, I suppose, unless it super cool and I need to write about it here on my blog. Stay tuned. I think it is going to be a groovelicious show and kickin' party.