3.29.2014

Riddle

Why did the vampire take Nyquil during the day? To keep from coffin. OK, not the strongest riddle.

I decided to take advantage of my last couple days of health insurance coverage with Unity to swing through the Urgent Care at UW Health because I seem to have developed a lingering secondary bronchitis after last week's fairly minor cold. I hope the UC doc will spot me some antibiotic, even though they tend to not do that anymore because of antibiotic resistant bugs. I am no doctor, but it seems to me that most secondary infections are bacterial and get you when your immune system is suppressed from a prior cold.

Apparently a plague is raging across the land because the UC waiting room is quite full and I might be waiting a while. Thank goodness I am a writer and can punch out blog posts while I wait.

This UC visit may throw off my scheduled agenda for today, but as long as I am in Waukesha WI by 2 PM, to pick up my dog Foster from my friend Sherry, who was pet sitting for me, I should be OK. The contract job paperwork can wait. It is not technically due until Monday morning, though I wanted to pound it out to be done with it.

It is a little after 11 AM right now. If I am out of here by 12, I should have time to pick up a prescription on my way home and still make it to Waukesha by 2. I can always pick up the prescription later if I have to. Curse this bronchitis!

3.28.2014

Chillaxin'

The eagle has landed. I am back from my nice trip to Colorado to visit family. Tonight is the calm before the storm and I am going to take full advantage of it by largely chilling out and relaxing, aka chillaxing.

I do find the cupboard bare because I handed off all my perishable foods to my friend Sherry before my five day journey. So unless I want to eat Cheerios for dinner, I do need to make a trek to Piggly Wiggly for some stir fry or salad fixings. But that is about the extent of my efforts for tonight.

I do have some clerical duties to attend to with respect to my next contract gig that starts soon but I do believe I can conquer those minor tasks "on the morrow," as they say in the vernacular. The morrow happens to be Saturday and the contract firm doesn't need said papers until Monday, I presume, being as it is already after hours on Friday.

I can validate the need for chillaxation tonight on the grounds that the rest of this weekend will be quite labor intensive. In addition to the aforementioned clericals upon which my near term livelihood loosely depends, I will be putting in several hours in the recording studio tracking songs with my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, on Saturday evening and most of Sunday. The Sunday session(s) will be followed by the open jam/stage at Funk's Pub in Fitchburg, at which I will both perform and live stream the performances of others on the Web. I have been doing this rather successfully for a while now.

Before heading to the recording studio on Saturday, I have several chores to accomplish. At 8 AM, I will pick up my dog Buddy at the kennel and drop him off at home before driving to Waukesha to pick up my other dog Foster, who my friend Sherry was kindly dog sitting this week. Sherry and I will probably go out for coffee and commisseration for a spell, since both of us are currently exercising our free agency in the universe and trying to find sources of underwriting for our excellent lives, via THE MAN.

On that topic, when I get back from Waukesha tomorrow, probably about 1 PM, I will complete the paperwork for the contract gig that I am putting off tonight in favor of slackery. This mostly involves scanning into my computer the forms I largely completed whilst in Colorado and emailing them back to my esteemed colleague at the recruiting firm. I believe I can accomplish that in about an hour, which will give me ample margin to take my dogs to the dog park around 3 PM when there is putatively a showing of my house, which is up for sale. I am optimistic my house will sell this year. It is an awesome house and it has served me well. I will miss it but it is about time I move closer to Madison, where I conduct most of my business and pleasure these days. I will not miss the commute, even though I have grown quite accustomed to it these past 7+ years. My poor little 2001 Prius, while still a valiant workhorse, is nearing 200,000 miles and I would like it to be able to live out its retirement years in as chillaxed a way as possible, mainly some short city trips punctuated with the occasional fun road trip to somewhere.

I am actually going house hunting with my realtor on Monday. I am not sure I will find something I like, nor would I be able to make an offer on a new house until my current one sells, but I would like to see what's out there.

So that is basically my action packed weekend, carrying over into Monday a little bit. I hope it is clear why it is so important that I slack off, laze about, loaf, and generally do nothing useful tonight except eat and maybe watch a little Dexter on Netflix. I need to recharge and have all possible brain power available to me this weekend.

Speaking of loafing, I just started a new book. It is called "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America," by Tom Lutz, a former ne'er-do-well turned non-fiction writer in middle age, not unlike my own unofficial business plan. I thought it might be kind of a trivial screed but Lutz does quite in depth research on the nature of work and its institutionalized avoidance by some people and groups. I think I can consider it source material for my own book on maximixing one's human potential while minimizing the burden of labor in one's life.

I am only on Chapter One, and already I have learned that for most of history, work was considered something not to aspire to, but a necessary evil and sometimes a duty. It is only in the modern day that the idea of work for work's sake has taken root as a virtue and many people reject the idea, myself included, which has given rise to the idea of the slacker personified. Historically, slacking was the aspiration of most people and so an iconoclastic slacker persona did not really exist. Work is a means to an end, but holds no intrinsic value in and of itself, even in the arts. It is, as I mentioned earlier, necessary and sometimes distasteful underwriting for the higher aspirations in life like art and intellect.

I sat next to a pleasant woman on the last leg of my flight home tonight. She was on her way to Madison to assess the possibility of attending graduate school at UW in chemistry. We had a delightful, albeit short, discourse on the plane and exchanged contact information for future networking. It is somewhat rare for me to have an agreeable traveling companion on a flight in North America, so that was a nice way to round out my travels.

Well, I have slacked off quite enough writing this diatribe on my blog. My belly longs for food and I feel compelled to acquiesce to its call.

Ciao, my dear readers.

Random Airport Thoughts

I have noticed that people in airports are quick to criticize or offer a snide remark about the airlines and the flying experience in general. I perceive that I am much more likely to hear a negative complaint or comment than a positive one. You don't often hear people say how they love to fly or how well they were treated by airline staff. Most people overlook the fact that although the flying experience may be distasteful at times, there is almost no place safer on earth than the inside of a flying plane. You are more likely to die in your own house, statistically, than you are to die on a plane. And don't even get me started on your likelihood of being killed by a policeman (8 times more likely than by a terrorist, at least in America, if you must know).

The safety of flying and the surliness of people who fly, airline customer service staff and passengers alike, are largely uncorrelated. I would be more concerned about the emotional states of mechanics and pilots, truth be told, and I generally have little if any interactions with these personnel. The few times I have encountered a pilot as I entered or exited an aircraft, he or she has always seemed rather jovial. If they are in a state of white knuckled angst when we are in the air, they never convey that over the plane's intercomm when they make announcements.

TSA personnel can sometimes be rather surly, but I have found if you smile at them and speak graciously and respectfully, they respond similarly, even as they violate your civil rights. Since this is often the first interaction with airport personnel that passengers encounter upon arrival to the airport, perhaps it sets the tone, good or bad, for the remainder of that passenger's trip.

If so, I have a proposal. TSA personnel should hire clowns and give out free cupcakes at security. Wouldn't that set a groovy tone for your trip?

Social Acceptance

I remember going to Europe before smart phones had become ubiquitous in the U.S. Always technologically ahead of us, and driven by economic factors, the Europeans were early adopters of handheld smartphones. I remember being entranced at all the people I saw talking and texting away in public. "This will never happen in the States," I naively thought.

Today, the ubiquity of smart phones and social acceptance of their public use seems to be global. In fact, I am hacking out this post on my Android phone at the Ohare airport, feeling not the least bit stigmatized since many people around me are behaving similarly - on phones, iPads, laptops. I am actually sitting next to an ever more common thing at airports...the electronics charging station. This one just has regular wall outlets, but there is another one nearby complete with USB connections as well.

As I was walking the C Concourse at Ohare to get to my connecting gate, I saw a woman pressing her entire iPad to her ear, using it like a phone to converse with someone at another point in cyberspace. She looked like she was pressing a small hot plate against her cheek.

That did strike me as a bit odd, but anything goes in the digital age. I would like to be able to say that smart phones and electronic devices are tools that make our lives less stressful and more expedient. I am not sure I would make that leap, after seeing someone hold a large glass and metal rectangle awkwardly against her head.

On the other hand, I am probably the late adopter here. After all, it is only a matter of degrees. My Android phone is nothing more than a rectangle of glass and metal, if perhaps a few times smaller than an iPad. I willfully risk low level radiation exposure whenever I hold it to my head to use it as a "phone," and increasingly I use it as more of a mini-tablet, writing e-mails, surfing Facebook, and - like now - posting to my blog. Its funtionality as a phone decreases all the time and I sometimes feel inconvenienced when I receive a call on it.

The social norms are ever shifting and one might say that those using this technology in interesting ways are nothing if not early adopters. So more power to the cheeky trend setting iPad user.

Grandma and Grandpa

I like vacationing with my family in Colorado. I like Colorado and I like that my family is fairly low key. There is no expectation to find things to do and everyone can go at their own pace.

With the exception of music, I think I have a fairly introverted personality. I don't mind having alone time and my brain seems fully equipped to keep me entertained with thoughts when not much else is going on externally.

At my sister's, when my family is there, everyone takes it pretty easy. To the outside observer, particularly an extroverted one, it might seem like I am bored. But nothing could be farther from the truth. It is recharging for the introvert personality to have down time. It gives us more endurance for dealing with the outside world when we have to.

I had a great recharge.

3.26.2014

Can It Be Wednesday Already?

I am chilling out in Manitou Springs CO with the family. It's a pretty mellow time. I have been interspersing new job and house hunting paperwork with bouts of Breaking Bad binging. I finally finished up the last season on Netflix and it was just as horrifying as everyone said it was, without spoiling it. But, I mean, how could it not be horrifying? Did anyone really think that the show could have a happy ending?

I head back to Wisconsin on Friday, and I will have an action packed weekend recording songs with the country band. On Sunday night, I will once again be performing at and live streaming the open jam stage at Funk's Pub in Fitchburg.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Colorado and even though I don't know what we are going to be doing, I would wager it will be mellow and fun. There is still a good portion of today left too, and that will mostly involve doing some reading, eating a healthy dinner with the family, and probably some card or board games. That probably sounds unexciting, but I need to relax my brain in anticipation of the upcoming action in my life, which involves a new contract job, some music gigs, and working on my book writing.

3.25.2014

City Rock

This morning, I took my niece and nephew to a rock climbing wall facility in Colorado Springs CO, called City Rock.

It's a big place. I have never been to a climbing wall place before, so it was cool to see. Most of the walls have tension pullies with ropes that lock into a harness. Then if you fall, the pullies let you down easy. The more advanced climbers can do it with a spotter, who acts as a counterweight. However, I saw one guy lift his counterweight off the ground when he "fell." His spotter was a considerably smaller and lighter woman, and she even had an extra "anchor" attached to her.

My niece and nephew seem to have an unlimited enthusiasm for the rock climbing and associated activities. That is probably why my sister likes taking them here. It keeps them occupied for hours and tires them out at the same time. They stay physically fit too. Colorado is notorious for its collective leanness of the physical form.

3.24.2014

Free Agency

I am at the Denver Airport awaiting a flight to Colorado Springs to hang out with my sis and entire immediate family. It is a much needed week off after what seemed like a grueling winter. It is still cold, but mentally I feel like spring can't be far off and a weight has been lifted from my shoulders because I recently made a major life decision to return to free agency and be self employed at pursuing my art. To do this means garnering some underwriting via contract work periodically. My next gig has been lined up and begins April 9. Danged if I am not going to rock the crap out of my book writing and music endeavors these next 2 weeks. I do have to confer with the client for a couple of meetings about the project next week, but that will only be a few hours on a couple of days. I hope to get some bike rides in too, between marathon bouts of book writing. Whilst I am in Colorado, I will also be doing the paperwork for the contract gig. I love being my own boss as well as a service provider to my clients, utilizing my skills and creativity. See ya.

Open Jam

The Sunday open jam at Funk's Pub in Fitchburg has been growing and expanding. More and more musicians are attending and bringing friends and fans. They have had to extend the hours and it now goes from 8 PM to midnight. I have updated the ustream live web streaming event with the new hours and my duties have now expanded. I don't really have any more work to do, because once the equipment is set up for the stream, I only have to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't biff, but now I do have to stay later into the night. Ustream does most of the actual work though, once I set it up and start broadcasting/recording. I use a good microphone and even though it is a mono recording, the fidelity is good and it picks up the room sound very well. The video feed is not the greatest. It is filmed using the built in laptop camera, so the image is not crisp or HD, but it is good enough to get the general idea.



GUPPY EFFECT rocked a mad set last night. We really kicked it up a notch. We played The Seeker, No Denying (orig), and Take On Me (Reel Big Fish's version of the 80s Aha song). By request, we also tacked on Black Betty and exploded some sphincters. Messy but worth it.

3.23.2014

I Have a Theory

I have a theory that if and when Judgment Day comes, you will only be judged on if you have a soul.

Things that diminish your soul: war, corporate america, bullying, not having fun, closed mindedness, immorality, unethical behavior, torture, inability to play, lack of compassion or empathy, etc.

Actually, lack of compassion and empathy might be consequences of lacking a soul, so that might not be a causal relationship.

The point being that you should avoid those things that kill your soul so you have enough left on Judgment Day to "pay the ferryman," if you will, and I hope you will.

Everyone who doesn't make it into heaven has to roam the earth for eternity as a zombie. Just a theory.

Underground in Oshkosh

Tonight the greatest thing happened. That's really all I have to say about it.

But I will elaborate somewhat. I met a troupe of beautiful people who do beautiful things and still have their souls. They run a little hippy trippy music and arts venue called UNDERGROUND in Oshkosh WI.

Sometimes you need to be a kid again. Grownups oft forget this. Tonight we danced to crappy pop and hip hop and it was superb. We themed our dance moves on occupations. Astronauts. Secretaries. Dentists. Even hit men. Then we transitioned to bird related dances.

It was a place to unleash the inner child.

The only side effect of tonight's shenanigans seems to be that I cannot get the sound of autotuned vocals out of my head. Someday the youngsters will disenfranchise that particular violation of authentic art. Did Picasso use autotune? Hell no.

Oh Oh Ay Oh!

Prior to the all night underground head space rave, we saw a great band at the Oshkosh Masonic Center. It's an esoteric venue, but they actually host great rock-n-roll bands and I am going to get GUPPY EFFECT in there, and also at the Underground, if they will have us.

I would like to get my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, into the Underground as well. The organizer at Underground shared my dislike of mainstream pop country (which was ironic given the bland mainstream pop dance music that was playing as we spoke) and I had to reassure him several times that DWTD was old school good authentic country. I think when he hears us, he will appreciate it immensely. But the likelihood of him ever hearing us live is slim for a lot of dumb reasons, mostly having to do with transportation and money.

Being a kid again...

But GUPPY EFFECT could for sure play in Oshkosh and would probably do it for free food, beer, and gas money.

3.18.2014

Tonight is Band Practice Night

I have GUPPY EFFECT band practice every Tuesday night and this one is no exception. I am looking forward to it, because I am well rested and we have a large agenda of items to get through. I think there are over 5 or 6 songs. I might try to do a video stream of it, just for sh!ts and giggles. Tune in. http://ustream.tv/channel/cactusjoeproductions

Next Sunday, GUPPY EFFECT will once again make an appearance at the Funks Pub Open Jam/Stage. We will probably play the top 3 or 4 songs that we favor from tonight’s band practice. So if you do tune in to the stream tonight, you will get an idea of the small repertoire of songs we will be choosing from.

Ciao.

3.09.2014

Fatigue of the Awesome

There are two kinds of fatigue. Awesome and non-awesome.

Right now I have the former, awesome fatigue. This is the kind of fatigue that results from doing something awesome.

This morning I got up at 4 AM to take a friend to the airport for an early flight. Because of daylight saving time (Note: It is not "savings." You can't store up daylight and redeem it at a later time, though I wish you could...), it was actually 3 AM as far as my diurnal rhythm was concerned.

I had planned to go back to sleep after my good deed for the day, but I made the mistake of pounding a cup of coffee before my nocturnal foray of altruistic chauffeurism. Thus, I am trying to release some of my mental energy via blog post. I don't mind this kind of fatigue when it results from making someone else's life better or easier or funner.

I will probably need a power nap today. But if I don't get one, I am OK with that.

Tonight is the weekly Funk's Pub Open Jam, and I am going to try something bold. I set up a uStream channel called CACTUS JOE PRODUCTIONS with the intent to record and/or live broadcast music performances of my band and the open jam each week. This first one is a trial run because I need to iron out the issues and bugs. The sound quality should be pretty decent, but the video quality might suck and lag behind the sound a bit. You can't have it all. At least you will have some...

If you want to tune in and leave comments and be a part of helping improve these weekly broadcasts over time, here is the web link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cactus-joe-productions.

It's going to be from 8 to 10 PM Central Standard Time. I think you can freely view the video without logging in or anything. But if you do have to login, you can do it with one click via your Facebook account. I also think the video will be saved for later viewing for up to one month or some @#$%.

I am going to embed the player in this post (another cool feature of uStream), so you may very well be able to watch the thing right here on my blog. Like I said, this is a test. This is only a test.


Live streaming video by Ustream

Ciao.

3.02.2014

Magnesium Supplements and Health

My calves hurt. One of my favorite bands in Madison WI is SUNSPOT, and whenever I go to their energetic rock-n-roll shows, I flail in an aerobic manner. It's not dancing per se. It's flailing. Typically, this involves a lot of jumping up and down and semi-random arm movements loosely synchronized to the rhythm of the music. It's a great workout. However, when I have not flailed at a SUNSPOT show in a while, my calf muscles are not conditioned for it.

On Friday night, I went to a SUNSPOT show at the Branch Street Retreat in Middleton WI, a near west suburb of Madison. SUNSPOT put on a great show, celebrating the release of an EP of new songs which they were giving away for free to anyone who attended. I stayed for the entire show and flailed quite a lot. The sound quality was excellent as well, just as a side note. I always love a well mixed band. I wore my HEAROS high-fidelity earplugs, great for live music because they have filters in them that do not cut any important musical frequencies. The overall volume level is decreased, but you can still hear the nuances.

On Saturday, after the show, my calves didn't hurt at all. I was surprised by that. When my band, GUPPY EFFECT, played at the Funks Open Jam last week, I did some jumping up and down while my band was on stage for a brief 25 minutes or so. My hamstrings were immediately sore the next day, although normally my hammies don't get sore from that kind of jumping. It is usually always my calves. But at SUNSPOT, I was jumping on and off for a good two hours. I totally thought my calves would be suffering the next day.

They weren't. I am wondering if this is because of the magnesium chloride supplement I had been taking the couple of days prior to the SUNSPOT show. Magnesium chloride is supposed to be great for muscular issues. My mom swears by it (Hi Mom!) and she ordered me a couple of bottles of it, which arrived mid-week (Thanks Mom!). I mixed it with juice to mask the somewhat tart flavor of the magnesium "salt."

I have no way of knowing if the magnesium chloride really helped. However, on Saturday, I did not take any magnesium chloride supplement, basically because I was out of juice. When I woke up this morning (Sunday), my calves were really sore. Coincidence?

I know that muscle soreness can sometimes have a delayed reaction after exercise. This happens to me when I go running after a lengthy hiatus from running. The first run feels great and the next day I have no ill effects, but by the day after that, the muscles are sore.

The delay in calf soreness after the SUNSPOT show might not have had anything to do with the magnesium chloride. There are too many variables and the evidence is circumstantial. In any case, I am going to take some magnesium chloride today. I will see if the calf soreness is alleviated by this evening. GUPPY EFFECT is showcasing at the Funks Open Jam again tonight, and I don't want to be limited in my physical stage antics capabilities.