2.26.2014

Natural Sleep AId Case Study

Tonight will be the third consecutive night that Biff tries the all natural herbal sleep aid I recommended for him. He is kind of like my guinea pig, a one man case study, to see if this stuff actually works.

It's got hops and valerian root in it, as well as passionflower. It's also got GABA in it, which is supposed to be an anxiety reducing neurotransmitter, but that might be a bunk ingredient, because I can't imagine an enzyme or protein would survive very long in the hostile human digestive tract. But who knows? The micronutrients in the herbs are probably a bit more likely to get absorbed more or less intact, but truth be told that is also speculative.

Biff reported that the sleep aid has worked well the last two nights. Three is the charm I suppose. It could totally be a placebo effect, but I don't care, as long as my buddy Biff is catching his ZZZs and feeling well rested in the morning, which he is.

"Aren't you afraid you'll develop a tolerance if you take it every night?" Chet, Biff's evil twin brother, asked. "Maybe you should only take it after a rough day. Otherwise, pretty soon you might find you need two capsules to get the same anti-anxiety effect, then three, and pretty soon it is useless."

"I guess that is part of the experiment," Biff replied. "If it stops working as well after a few consecutive nights of taking it, I will take a break from it and then only use it as needed."

Crack Babies Are a Myth

I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio today and the program called "To the Best of Our Knowledge" (TTBOOK) was doing a show about things that are not, strictly speaking, truthful.

I consider the 1980s to be the dawn of fabricated mainstream media (MM) hype, although I am sure it existed before then. It was during the 1980s that the MM latched onto the crack baby meme as a way to demonize primarily African American minorities. To listen to the clips, which I did because TTBOOK played some of them, you would think crack babies were an epidemic, the repercussions of which were going to plague.

Then, those pesky scientists did some...well...SCIENCE.

Turns out crack babies don't exist and never did. Yeah, there were some mothers (of all socioeconomic classes) who did crack during pregnancy and gave birth to some messed up babies. But it turns out those mothers were also drinking, smoking, taking other drugs, and leading pretty rotten lives, as far as their embryonic passengers were concerned.

When the scientists controlled for these other variables, to look at the effects of just crack cocaine on the babies...nothing. Turns out, doing crack is just a proxy for having a sh!tty life. It's a sh!tty life that Fs up your fetus, not crack per se. Alcohol and tobacco are remarkably more destructive to the prenatal physiology and development, and their use during pregnancy is far more prevalent as well. 30 seconds of rational thought could lead one to conclude this on their own and realize that booze babies probably represent more of a so-called "epidemic."

Not only that, but this crack baby urban myth was debunked pretty much immediately after it started popping up in the MM in the 80s. But the bloodthirsty MM did not want to hear that message, and scientists from that era reported having their words twisted and perverted to convey the wrong message. The MM wanted crack babies, goddammit. And they were going to get crack babies. They, and their wealthy underwriters in advertising and government, needed crack babies, to propagate their other myths about welfare mothers and criminal undocumented workers from Mexico, and scare the bejesus out of the middle class white folk, so that they would go buy comforting new products and vote for heavy handed douchenugget politicians.

Pesky scientists, always causing trouble. Global warming schmobal warming.

The moral of the story is that mainstream media is completely corrupted and conveys the wrong messages. Avoid it and your head will begin to clear, and you will see more of the truth about America.

The ACTION ITEM of this story is to go and support public radio. They are mainstream and often get it wrong, but the difference is they will own up to it. They are like honey badger, just not giving a sh!t what THE MAN wants.



P.S. I also learned recently that a single, for profit company does all the vote counting for every election in America. Even though polling places collect the votes, this one company has the contract to do all the actual vote counting and decision-making, answerable to no one. It's possible you are being lied to.

2.23.2014

Intellectual Property Definition

What is intellectual property?

This is something I wanted to know. I had a general idea, and I was more or less correct, but I did a little research to make sure I got it right.

Intellectual property is basically any creation of the mind for which exclusive rights are recognized. These can be artistic creations (copyright) or inventions (patents), among other things. It also includes trademarks and a few other things.

The great thing about intellectual property is that it comes from the mind. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.

My mind is a factory of songs and blog posts, both of which become intellectual property when the are manifested in the material world, via recordings and online publishing for the world at large (like this post). An idea for something is not intellectual property until is is represented in the external world in some way. So if I am thinking about an idea for a clever blog post, it's not intellectual property until I actually compose and publish the post.

If you are reading this, I hope you are enjoying this small patch of intellectual property. Lay out a blanket and have a picnic. All are welcome and no fees.

When I record a song or publish a blog post, I have generated intellectual property. It doesn't take much to publish a blog post. Anyone can, technically, do it, and as such there is not a great deal of worth to a blog post like this, since the demand is low and the supply is high. On the other hand, I invest a lot of time and mental energy in the composition, recording, and publishing of songs. I guess I probably should get paid something when someone "consumes" my intellectual property. A lot of my songs are registered with Broadcast Music International (BMI), a performance rights organization that pays me royalties whenever a registered original song of my creation is performed in live or recorded form, provided they know of said performance. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, intellectual property rights are granted by law to compel innovation and provide a monetary incentive, in some cases, to get people to create intellectual property.

Even though I write my songs for VALUE not MONEY, I like knowing that another person can't just come along and say, "I am going to take that song and profit from it." If they take the song, and if they profit from it, intellectual property law mandates that I get a substantial cut, and the terms have to be worked out up front on paper, not after the fact.

Take for example my song ROAD HOG, technically intellectual property because it is "published" on my buddy's Internet server, accessible to the public, and also registered at BMI.

ROAD HOG is an awesome song. Someday it is going to be a fairly well known song. A lot of people are probably going to download it for free off the Internet and I won't see a dime of money for the few hours of songwriting and recording time that I put into it. That's OK. I am not complaining. I like that people get value from my music. I like that thanks to the digital age, the song will exist in perpetuity. I like to think I am compensated in other ways for my songs, like when people hear them and dig them, and then come to one of my band's shows. Presumably I am getting paid to play said show or will have t-shirts to sell people, so they can express their gratitude for my behind-the-scenes efforts. So in a way, my free and publicly available songs are kind of like a marketing tool, more than anything else. And everyone knows marketing is PURE OVERHEAD.

CLICK HERE FOR A T-SHIRT (or unmentionable...). I need to sell some of these buggers this year, says my accountant. And they are pretty good - black shirts with white print, so people can't see the sweat and dirt resulting from how hard you rocked out to my music ("...paging the HUBRIS POLICE").

Technically, when my band plays my original songs at a live music venue show, BMI is supposed to pay me royalties for that (any form of live or recorded broadcast). Music venues have to be licensed with the performance rights organizations to broadcast any published music that is registered with a PRO. All such venues pay an annual licensing fee to the main PROs, of which BMI and ASCAP are the best known, but there are many.

Tonight, my band GUPPY EFFECT is performing three original songs I wrote (including ROAD HOG) at Funk's Open Jam in Fitchburg. If that all goes to plan, I can go to BMI's website and register the short setlist, date, and the venue there. In about nine months, I should get a royalty check for $0.27 cents. I have done this in the past, and the PROs consistently pay me, as long as the venue has paid their licensing fee to have music (even if the venue just has digital radio or a jukebox, they still have to pay into the pot, since they are theoretically profiting from having music playing). I would assume that Funk's has paid for their music license, since they have both live and recorded music there, being a sports bar and all. But I am going to wait and make sure. I don't want them to get "busted" by BMI for not registering if they "overlooked" it. But it is the law, and if they are going to profit at musicians' expense, ought not they to pay up?

You tell me.

That's why this gosh darn blog site has a COMMENTS section after all. Don't be a stranger.

Also, tell your friends to read my blog. They probably won't. Who has time in this day and age? But tell them anyway. Tell them you like reading it and think they might too. But only if that is true. If it is false, stop reading right this instant!

2.17.2014

New Band Performance Model

The open jam at Funk's was incredible tonight. They are still ironing out some kinks, but as far as GUPPY EFFECT's three song performance was concerned, it was a solid A minus (an A plus if you were an audience member getting firehosed by our rock love, and not paying too close attention to the very minor biffs).

The Sunday evening jam session is a goldmine and I am so glad it has manifested. Much of the backline, including drums, is provided by the pub, so it is plug and play. I just bring my bass and my vocal chords, and that's all. If my band isn't there, I can jump up and play bass with the house band, MUDROOM, on a handful of songs we mutually know (FYI, the house band's drummer and guitarist both did stints in GUPPY EFFECT, so there is some history). But Sunday evening is a pretty available time slot for my band to gather and play at the thing, and that is what we did tonight.

We played:

"Blue Thing From Space" (mine)
"Black Betty" (RAM JAM)
"The One" (Stefan)

I love that we can play originals at this jam.

GUPPY EFFECT has band practice on Tuesday evenings now. So, with the advent of the Funk's open jam, we learn 3 to 5 songs for Tuesday practice, and get them really tight. Then we showcase the best three at the Funk's open jam on Sunday night. This offers us a kind of "live practice" opportunity, because sometimes a song is great in the controlled setting of my band practice studio, but you never know what will happen when you "go live." Now we can know, and also assess audience responses to the repertoire we pull out. It is from 8 to 10 pm and thus not too late. It's the perfect way to cap off the weekend before going back to work on Monday. Energizing.

We also ran "Next to You," by the POLICE and "Becca," another original (mine) at band practice last Tuesday. We did not play the latter two songs at the open jam, sticking to the convention of playing three songs when you are the guest of the house band. However, the band that played after us did a good eight or so songs, totally violating open jam etiquette, and illustrating some of the minor kinks still needing resolution at the thing. I think they are going to adopt a 3 song policy per guest band going forward. This is a good policy for guest musicians who are playing with the house band too, like I did last Sunday. You don't want to bogart the stage when there are other people waiting to play. It's presumptuous. That said, the band after us was pretty good, albeit sans drummer.

A couple of teenage girls did some folksy two part harmony jams too, with backing band help on at least one of them. I hope this thing carries forward.

2.16.2014

Death and Taxes

They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

That's mostly true. But although they may be certain, you can make them both fairly insignificant to your life.

The goal in life is to live a long, healthy, and satisfying one, and when you do eventually die, drop dead in an instant. Far worse than mortality (death) is morbidity (disease). Although death may be certain, morbidity is not. Disease can be minimized and avoided by leading a proper lifestyle. Certainly, that will not be true for everyone, but statistically, the better the life you lead, the better your chances of living it to the fullest. Avoid stress and disease causing agents like smoking and toxins. Eat a healthy diet and get some exercise as much as you can. The science is pretty solid that a healthy lifestyle leads to longer life, and more importantly greater quality of life.

As for taxes, hire a good accountant and pay him or her to do all the headache work for you. The peace of mind is priceless. You are not only paying for less stress (see above) but chances are your accountant will secure you more of a tax refund than you would get from doing it yourself. You may not be able to avoid taxes, but you can keep them largely out of sight and out of mind. I meet with my accountant for a couple of hours, usually in February, and watch as she deftly handles my tax related finances. I feel content knowing I am in good hands and then I feel glee when money "magically" appears in my bank account a few weeks later.

Death and taxes are certain, but you don't need to let them slow you down or distract you in any significant way. Definitely don't worry about them. Worry causes stress and stress causes morbidity and may expedite death, the very thing you want to avoid. So live your life to the fullest and don't be afraid to pay for some peace of mind. That has value.

Eating a healthy diet can be more expensive than eating a cheap crappy one. But you pay now (healthy food) or pay later (medical bills). Paying someone to do your taxes costs a nominal amount of money, but the free time and peace of mind you get from not having to figure out forms and calculate deductions is contributing to your happiness and long term health, by giving you more time to live life and eliminating stress. Even if you lost money paying a tax preparer, the return on investment is priceless for your quality of life.

My Accountant - Tax Slayer

I did my taxes today. It took under an hour.

Well, to be precise, my awesome accountant did my taxes today, as looked on with contentment and glee for an hour.

The contentment is because I do not have to wade through any tax forms or sort any receipts (though I do save them). This is followed a few days later by glee when she tells me the size of my refund, after efiling income tax for me.

You see, she always gets me tons of money back in the form of a refund. She has mad knowledge and skills.

She is like aspirin for my tax season headaches, which are a thing of the past. She has completely cured them and I will never go back to doing taxes myself.

She is better than H and R Block because she gives me personalized tax care. The big corporate tax preparers don't really give a crap about you; they just want your money. So they aren't as thorough and they don't communicate the little nuances to help you do a better job of getting the maximum deductions and subsequent refund.

What I pay my accountant to do my taxes is more than compensated for by all the money she finds for me, almost as if by magic. She really knows her crap. I don't.

I have used Turbo Tax before, but even with that I would miss deductions I did not know I could take and there are all kinds of subtleties to do with IRAs and stocks dividends.
Side Note: My theory that beer always pays dividends in good times (celebration) and bad (drowning sorrows) has proved remarkably lucrative...my Sam Adams beer stock is through the roof.
But even if the tax fee I pay my accountant did not pay for itself in cash, the peace of mind is priceless. I would pay the fee even if it didn't get me any extra money back because of the happiness value.

Remember, there is a big difference between money and value. We exchange money to get value. If the emotional value exceeds the cash value of the money we paid for it, we win. Money is a proxy for value but money does not equal value.

Value is an emotional satisfaction. Something is valuable if it is useful or brings some kind of happiness or well being to an individual or a group.

Money is simply a concrete currency that is exchanged for a perceived or expected value.

When you buy a product or service, you feel you need that thing and will get value from it. You try to get a BEST VALUE by paying the lowest possible amount of money for that thing, all else held equal. So the monetary price of a thing can fluctuate, even if the value is more or less the same.

Similarly, value can fluctuate too. Sometimes you "get what you pay for," when the lowest priced item fails to deliver the expected value. For example, I bought some knockoff printer cartridges for my Epson printer that were half the price of the Epson brand name ones. They aren't horrible. They get the job done. But the print quality is noticeably inferior to the brand names cartridges, which I have purchased in the past. If I valued print quality more than I do, I would probably have bought the Epson cartridges. However, these were just for my home printer, where I rarely print anything important. If I need to print something important, I do it at work.

There is also the case where you pay too much for something and do not get commensurate value, such as designer clothing, which more often than not is made cheaply in third world countries and is of poor quality. The value there comes from peer approval that you have the designer name brand clothing, not from the clothing itself. So you see? Value and money are not the same at all. They can be quite divergent.

A lot of politicians and rich people mistake money for value, especially when it comes to paying for things that add value to society (the group) such as infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals, and the like) or social welfare (keeping the most vulnerable among us at a basic level of human decency). A lot of this is because people are uninformed about what their tax dollars pay for or they do not see the value received from it. This is exemplified when people say things like, "I don't have any kids in school, so why should I pay for schools?" They haven't figured out that society as a whole gets value from an educated and informed populace. Another favorite of mine is, "I shouldn't have to pay for someone else's medical bills." This one is pure ignorance, because they already are paying the medical bills of the uninsured. No one can be denied needed health care. That would be criminal and unethical. The way hospitals and doctors compensate for the people who cannot pay their medical bills is to raise the fees of the people who can pay. In turn, the insurance companies raise their premiums. This is why health care costs in America are exploding far faster than the rate of inflation. On top of that, the uninsured typically avoid getting health care until they are very sick. They end up in much more expensive emergency rooms, which kicks the medical bills exorbitantly higher. If you have health insurance you should want to make sure everyone has health insurance. The more people paying into it, the cheaper it is for everyone. But whatever, I am not here to change any minds. Just making a point about money and value and how ignorance can make people unaware of value.

To be sure, a lot of tax dollars are wasted on things that do not bring value (war and the inflated paychecks of politicians, not to mention campaign financing). But the general public is complicit in this, because they don't try to do anything about it, largely due to ignorance...which illustrates why it is so important to invest in schools for an educated and informed society. Don't be fooled. The politicians know this full well and they want an ill-informed populace they can manipulate with negative messages. That's why it is so hard to budget money for schools and so easy to budget it for war. Similarly, people without a social safety net are too desperate to be thinking about politics. They want to know where their next meal is coming from, not how their kids' school is going to pay for textbooks.

I have rambled long enough.

2.15.2014

AC/DC and Steel Panther - The Sex Rock Genre

In my continuing journey through my "hard" music collection (CDs and vinyl, as opposed to SPOTIFY), I threw on some AC/DC when I woke up this morning.

"Back in Black" is such a clever album. AC/DC were writing hilariously metaphorical (and sometimes literal) songs about meaningless sex long before Steel Panther distilled the art form even further. You might say AC/DC were not so much the Fathers of the Sex Rock genre as the Who's Your Daddy? of it (Disclaimer: I don't know if sex rock is an actual genre, but it should be...).

Steel Panther is definitely a novelty, and the music is remarkably well written for the subject matter it targets. But AC/DC does this kind of music a lot more tastefully and simply, in my opinion. AC/DC's music might be more raw and less refined/produced compared with Steel Panther, but the latter's music just isn't as classy. Compare the album cover thumbnails in this post. Steel Panther's is humorous and over the top, but AC/DC just give you a plain black no nonsense cover. AC/DC have it where it counts, on the inside. Steel Panther has to seduce you in with visual erotica.

I don't know...I would much rather hang out with AC/DC than Steel Panther, at least as far as their rockstar alter egos are concerned. I think the members of AC/DC would just be more intelligent and fun. In my mind, the members of Steel Panther would be just drunken sex crazed imbeciles. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I have higher standards. In reality, the "actors" who play the rockstars in both of these bands are probably fine and normal people, nothing like their respective stage presences would suggest. Art is rarely literal. Lord knows my extroverted rock-n-roll alter ego only comes out when I am performing. The mild-mannered introverted writer side of me prefers to chill out in the morning, drink some coffee, and keep largely to myself.

You know how sometimes you get asked the question, "Who is someone alive or dead that you would like to meet?" I can never really think of any particular person. There are tons of people it would be cool to meet, but I don't rate any of them higher than any other. Today, I guess I would answer that question by saying I would like to meet AC/DC.

I'd probably classify Motorhead in the sex rock genre too, although Lemmy's songwriting is more diversified across the spectrum of hard rock topics.

This stream of consciousness has been brought to you by me. Have a good day.


2.14.2014

13th Floor Elevators

I have this weekend largely to myself until the open jam at Funk's Pub on Sunday night. I kind of need that so I can think about things and have some peace and quiet. I have been in kind of a transitional period mentally lately, where I know I am not going in the right direction I want to go in, creatively and in life, but I haven't yet figured out how I got off track and what my next steps are to get back on the right track. I think I am basically just burnt out on corporate America as a whole. It's just a paycheck and it's unsatisfying. I don't feel especially bad about that. I just know something needs to change. I am basically sacrificing my creative pursuits to make some corporate entity profitable, and it's not a particularly fair or equitable arrangement. The work is not that difficult, but it doesn't fulfill me at all anymore. It kind of sucks at my soul like a vampire, slowly draining me of my will to live and be creative. But my creative soul fights against that resolutely. I know I am awesome and I have a lot to give the world, artistically and creatively. But my whole life, society has been trying to beat the muse out of me, shaming me for wanting to create intellectual property and devaluing it and suggesting I am selfish for wanting to pursue my creative goals.

I don't like it. I just don't yet have a better solution. I need to develop one, and that's why I am in a bit of a funk. Not a depression or anything, just a sense of being a bit stumped in how to achieve my true life goals right now. Working my whole life for soulless corporate entities is definitely not a goal. But that seems to be the path I am on and I need a more balanced path that allows me to do my art more fully.

One thing my current job has illustrated is that I am capable of cranking out an amazingly large volume of work in a very short time if I am focused and uninterrupted. I have been rocking everything they throw at me, but it is just too much and I know I am going to burn out sooner than later, so I need to have some plans B. I should be applying that level of commitment and focus to my own artistic creations. Nights and weekends just isn't enough time to do it, especially after having my brain flogged all day at the corporate workplace. Sure, the people are great and the work is straightforward. In short, it's an overload of boring tedium. How do people do this their whole life? I will tell you...by killing their soul, or at least locking it away in the attic and letting it die a slow and miserable death.

But my soul is too alive, and that's a problem. It is a bit of a pugilist, and wants to fight off the things that are trying to chain it down and murder it. My true passion is to travel and investigate and write about cool places and things. I'd probably have to do that freelance. I know I have the skills and the motivation. Worst case scenarios seldom happen, so I am not too worried about failure. I would definitely do my best, as the 4 Agreements encourage. That's all a guy can really do. I'd also like to spend more time with family. I totally feel disconnected with them right now.

All that said, here I am wasting what little precious creative time I have busting out a fairly pointless blog post. I need to go have at it.

So this weekend I am going to kick out some FAWM songs and work on my book some more. These are my priority goals. The softer goals are to meditate and think and be happy. I will probably dabble in some piano. There is talk of a sledding outing with some friends on Sunday evening before the open jam.

I am also taking the opportunity this weekend to listen to a bunch of the CDs on my CD rack. With the introduction of SPOTIFY to my life, I have moved away from the "hard" music media and this weekend makes for a good opportunity to get back in touch with that. I started off with some psychedelic acid rock by the 13th Floor Elevators, and followed that with a poorly recorded bootleg of some jam band I don't recognize. I think I am going to ditch the jam band bootleg, but the 13th Floor Elevators are cool. The music is poorly produced and I associate it with impressionist art. It is kind of fuzzy and chaotic, but it impresses upon me an emotional message, as I believe was the intent of the musicians. Check out the 13th Floor Elevators some time if you get the chance.

Happy Valentine's Day Message

I said in a prior post that I would do some research on Mediterranean chili for this blog, and that's no lie. I am just behind schedule. The thing about the topic is that chili tends to be pretty Mediterranean on the face of it. Olive oil, legumes, tomatoes, peppers, vegetables, herbs and spices. Not much in the way of unhealthy starches.

2.13.2014

(Dis)Honesty is the Best Policy

There is a saying that "honesty is the best policy." But I don't know who came up with it, because in practice it seems like dishonesty is the best policy, or at least the most prevalent policy, in modern society.
 
You have politicians and corporate CEO's sugarcoating everything, if not outright lying, and justifying it as wanting to make people feel good and not lose potential voters or customers.
Most people don't speak their minds honestly either. I think people are afraid to  admit the truth sometimes. You know, it is not so bad to admit mistakes or flaws. Chances are other people are not perfect either and will understand. To convince yourself you are flawless is fooling no one but yourself.
That doesn't mean you aren't awesome. You don't have to be perfect to be awesome. You can even be dead and be  awesome. Some people are diabolically awesome at being evil. They are flawed, but still awesome at evil. Like Dick Cheney. How he manages to stay out of prison is totally astounding and thus awesome.
 
Do the best you can. If you do that, you are awesome. And if you are awesome, you can be honest and admit that you are not perfect. Chances are no one else is perfect either. They might still judge you for your flaws, but that's not awesome. That's weak sauce. You are awesome.

2.12.2014

Define Global Warming and Climate Change

A long time ago, I wrote a post about global warming and climate change.

How do you define global warming and what is the definition of climate change?

When I give it more than 30 seconds of thought, I generally conclude that they are not the same thing, even though they are used interchangeably in the mainstream media (which, incidentally, sucks).

Global warming seems to be defined as an increase in the overall average temperature of the earth. So, for example, if you could measure the temperature at every point on the earth throughout the year (and, to be sure, that would be a formidable task…and how far up into the atmosphere do you measure?), and take an average, you would say the globe is warming if that average temperature goes up from year to year. Scientists don’t measure every point on the earth, but they measure a lot of points and do a statistical analysis to extrapolate to the entire globe (math doesn’t lie, but statistics allows it to wiggle a little bit around the truth…).


Climate change is a more elaborate concept. It has to do with average patterns of weather and ecosystems and hydrology and a bunch of factors that all factor into what are the consistent patterns of climate in a given area. One cannot say the earth has an average climate, the way you could say it has an average temperature. Climates vary from place to place.

However, global average temperature is one factor that affects climate, due to the way the atmosphere and the jet stream are affected by temperature. For example, this so-called polar vortex is the result of more warming in the arctic, which pushes the jet stream further south in winter. The jet stream thus carries more of the still blistering cold (on average) weather down into temperate areas.

Warmer air also holds more moisture. Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, so when the atmosphere holds more water vapor, it creates a positive feedback loop of more warming. Also, warmer air masses holding more water vapor tend to cause more rainfall and storms and flooding when they slam into colder air masses to the north. That is what weather fronts are (again, different from climate, but linked to it). So you see more extreme storms and more frequently when the global average temperature rises.

In conclusion, it seems to me that global warming and climate change are different things and that global warming probably drives climate change in ways you would not expect, such as colder winters in the United States, due to a more southerly blowing jet stream. Global warming deniers make the argument, wrongly, that record cold winters prove there is no global warming. But they are actually talking about climate change, not global warming.

This winter has seen some historically cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere. But Australia, in the southern hemisphere, is having record heat waves and drought. The southern hemisphere’s heat is averaging out the northern hemisphere’s cold, and even though we are seeing weather extremes, the average global temperature is rising little by little. But climate is being affected a lot.

That’s why I think it is safe to say that global warming and climate change are different things. A little bit of warming in the average global temperature can really mess things up on a much larger scale when talking about climate.

It’s not rocket science. But it is also not intuitive if you don’t spend a few minutes thinking about it. Thinking is very important. That is the moral of this blog post.

2.11.2014

Is Shirley Temple Still Alive?

I guess I am not the only one who didn't know that Shirley Temple was, until very recently, still alive. The Google search query, "is shirley temple still alive?" is fairly frequently searched, enough so that I titled this blog post about it.
 
There are probably a couple of reasons for my assumption she had kicked the bucket a long time ago.
 
The first is that she was a child movie star in the 1930s. Presumably child stars back then faced similar trials and tribs as they do today, in part due to lacking a real childhood. She apparently escaped this dire fate and ended up actually quitting Hollywood at age 21, leaving the spotlight to go be a person, albeit a high society kind of person.
 
She also married and got a new last name, which probably did not help keep her meme in peoples' minds.
 
On the other hand, she was pretty involved in politics, so it is a little surprising she didn't stay just above the surface of the collective consciousness. The most interesting fact I learned about Shirley Temple Black is that she was U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992, during one of the most dynamic times in Czechoslovakia's history.

That last fact is what makes me most alarmed that she was not still floating around in the collective consciousness, although it is not really that surprising given the tragically poor job our mainstream media does in covering international politics.

2.10.2014

Fulfilling Weekend

It was a solid B+ weekend. It would have been an A-, except that I couldn’t seem to nail a decent guitar melody line for my newest FAWM song, which is in progress and should be done soon. It is looking like it may turn into a jazzy instrumental number. I actually t’rew some piano on it.

On Saturday, my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS (DWTD), played a youth hockey fundraiser at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton WI. I have had one or more bands perform at the event the past two years. The country band worked well. The organizers (awesome Bob and Mary Sutor) really wanted more of a background music type band, lower volume, which the country band supplies. Yet the music was good enough that the handful of people who appreciated it could pay attention and be rewarded too. It was an all around win.

Anyway, Friday night was spent practicing DWTD songs in anticipation of the gig. I also practiced some more on Saturday morning, to make sure I had all the newer material solid. I got a solid hour workout in on Saturday too, energizing me for the show. After the fundraiser gig, I discovered my Prius’ battery was dead, because I had apparently left the hazard lights on. Anyway, we jumped it.

Then I went to my friend Danielle’s house warming party and hung out with and made some friends, notwithstanding a slight altercation with one of her dogs. Its tooth connected forcefully with my nose in what was part greeting and part mild aggression. The dog was a lab, and protective of his owner. It was more of a head butt than a bite, but his canine scraped and bruised the bridge of my nose. It didn’t hurt and just bled a little. Looks worse than it is, and really doesn’t even look that bad. Later I bonded with the dog by making him due tricks in exchange for a peace offering of pizza crust.

On Sunday, I worked on my new FAWM song and practiced a bit of jazz piano. My piano lesson is Friday this week, not Wednesday, because I am going to hear a seminar by theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss on Wednesday, if all goes well. Sunday night I attended an open jam at Funk’s Pub in Fitchburg, hosted by some musical compadres in the jam band, MUDROOM. It was a good time, and if it continues, it might be a replacement for Tuesday jazz night, only better because, A. It’s on a Sunday, not a Tuesday, and B. It is from 8 to 10 PM, so not as late for a school night.

Of course, after I got home from the jam, I stayed up way too late trying to develop a good fusion guitar line for the new FAWM song. So I am tired today. But it is a good kind of tired. The fatigue of too much fun.

2.07.2014

Mediterranean Chili

My buddy Todd assigned me an SEO topic: Mediterranean Chili. A quick scan of the keyword in Market Samurai suggests it might be more challenging than I originally hypothesized. I will still complete the assignment, and probably on schedule, but it may just take a little more elbow grease to land some traffic generating keywords. I didn't run competition analysis in Market Samurai yet, so that may shed more light on things.

Why I Like My Carpool

I like my carpool group. They drive decently, behave normally, and have no expectation to chatter on incessantly. It's a peaceful and mellow carpool, and when it is not my turn to drive, I have a good 25 minutes to surf on my smart phone and write random blog posts like this one. Another one will follow this one, because I don't have very much more to say here...except that I wrote another FAWM song last night. It isn't awesome by any means. But it has a good rock-n-roll groove. Check it out after I hyperlink the keywords in that last sentence, which I have to do when I get to work since I can't easily do it via the phone app from Blogger.
 
See ya.

2.06.2014

Intellectual Property

I cranked at work today, although it was mostly to get some stuff off my desk so I can focus on more important stuff tomorrow.

Last night, I wrote the musical half of a song for FAWM 2014. It has kind of a Rolling Stones flavor, musically. Tonight, I will write the lyrics hopefully. That is always the hardest thing. This year I seem to be thus far following a formula of writing the music first and then adding lyrics after the musical foundation is there. On only one of this year’s songs did I start the music writing process on bass, FAWM song #3. I can’t say that had any bearing on the quality of the song. The song I wrote last night (#4), was started on guitar, but I decided to add a very complex bass part to it after the fact. It may even be an overly distracting bass part, once lyrics are added. But that remains to be seen.

I have been burning the midnight oil a little bit, to keep a good songwriting pace for FAWM. But only marginally so. I am getting to bed just a little bit after midnight. There was a day when I was so dedicated to FAWM that I would stay up really late to finish songs. But that was mostly when I was “self-employed” at music and had the flexibility to set my own hours. There is something to be said for the trade of producing intellectual property. It’s creative and fun, which seems to be inversely proportional to the ability to make a living at it. Most of that I think has to do with oversaturated markets for certain arts, like music. It’s hard to find a niche market. Most musicians make the mistake of trying to appeal to the mainstream market, because that’s where they think all the money is. But it is also where all the competition is. It’s a numbers game. Even if you have a great product, you don’t want to compete with hundreds of other people who also have equally good products. You want to customize your art and produce intellectual property that appeals to a smaller audience. The difficulty there is finding enough “customers” and getting them in the door, so they actually know your “product” exists. A great product is useless to people if they do not know about it.

I might try my hand at some flash fiction. There is a contest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge” program, in which they are accepting flash science fiction stories of 500 to 600 words, and the winning selections will be read on the air. They have to take place in the near future and relate to science in a way that is believable and credible. I definitely have some good skills there, but the issue is finding the time between work and FAWM.

Where there is a will there is a way. First, I have to put the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS show this Saturday February 8 behind me, so I can focus my energy on other creative endeavors. The country band has been a bit lax in finding rehearsal time, so I have to practice the bass parts on my own. You know how I despise being the weak link in the biff chain. So after I write some lyrics to my FAWM song tonight (or fail to successfully do so), I am going to spend some time on the country songs. I have no idea when I am going to find time to work on jazz piano. Sunday, I guess. I am thinking I might have to go to once a month on piano lessons, because I never seem to have any time to practice.

Well, that’s enough chatter. Until next time.

Random SEO: Motorhead and Lemmy

2.02.2014

Two Down and 12 to Go (FAWM 2014)

I wrote two songs this weekend as part of February Album Writing Month (FAWM).

The first one is called "Second Place (is the First Loser)." It took far too long to write, and I really struggled over it for some reason, probably because I haven't really done much song writing since February of 2013. I seem to do all my songwriting during FAWM and very little other times of the year. This song is fictional, but loosely based on truth, as all things are.

The second song was inspired by the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffmann, and it is called, "Hey Philip." This one came to me a lot faster, but it is also shorter. I didn't want to write a somber song about Hoffmann's tragic drug related death. So this has an uptempo fun vibe, even though there are minor chords to convey melancholy. I think the lyrics are clever.

I pretty much squandered the weekend writing FAWM songs, although I guess it is not really squandering, since it was productive. I just mean it didn't leave me much time for other things, except for sleep and food. I did make a pot of chili on Saturday. I also managed to squeeze in a 90 minute session on my bike trainer, exercise that was much needed. I just finished the workout actually, and I am going to bed as soon as I hack out this blog post.

On Friday night, before FAWM started (at midnight...they are very strict about opening it up only in February), my friend Sherry came to visit. She was in Madison for a job interview and so we went out for pizza and then watched some Netflix. I was in bed well before midnight. In past years I have stayed up until midnight, so I could start FAWM immediately in the first few minutes of February. But I have toned that down in subsequent years, because I don't think it has ever given me an upper hand on song quality or quantity.

Saturday morning, Sherry and I went to the Cambridge Bakery to eat. Then she left and I started writing FAWM songs, which I did pretty furiously up until a couple hours ago, interspersed with power naps and some food.

That's about all I got time for right now. Talk to you later.