12.31.2014

My 2014

Facebook has this meme now where they compile a bunch of pictures you posted on your wall in 2014 into a little memoir calendar kind of thing.

They got mine totally wrong. They give you the option to edit it and choose different pictures and captions and things, but I mean they got it so horribly wrong that it would have been prohibitively time consuming to fix. So I just deleted it.

Plus, I have this blog. I have been posting to it fairly regularly, often with pictures. If anyone really wants to view my 2014 (and honestly, I think that FB meme was more for peoples' own self indulgence than anything...I know I have no interest in looking at other peoples' years in review), they can take a trip down memory lane via this blog. There's an archive of past posts over there on the right sidebar, if you scroll down to PAST OUTBURSTS.

Since this is the very last day of 2014, and my workload is light at work, I think I will take this opportunity to peruse some of my prior 2014 posts and summarize my year for you right here. How does that sound?

My 2014 actually started off pretty crappy. I made a pledge to myself to pretend the first three months of the year didn't actually happen, so I am going to honor that by not even delving into those toxic waters.

Suffice it to say, things started looking up about mid-March when I emerged from the spiritual funk of the mentally and physically brutal winter. Free from THE MAN for a couple of weeks before I began a full time contract writing gig in April, I flew out to Manitou Springs CO to be with my extended family, who I severely neglected during the dark first quarter of the year.

I returned from Colorado rejuvenated and ready to kick life in the pants. The weekend after I got back, the country band I often play bass with, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, went into the studio to record a five (5) song EP. That was fun. I fully expected the EP to be completed and released before the end of the year, and for a while I was getting frustrated that weeks and months were passing with nothing to show for our hard work in the recording studio. But now, as 2014 draws to a close, I have let that go completely. I have freed myself of the expectation that there will be an EP and my mind is at peace. I have done everything I could possibly do to make the EP a reality and now it is in the hands of others. If the completed EP manifests itself some time in 2015 or beyond, my expectations will therefore be exceeded and that will make me joyous.

In March, I became a true Free Agent in the Universe, beholden to no one, and I continue to enjoy that status now. I did pretty well for myself financially in 2014. The contract gig pays well and offers me the flexibility to take time off when I need to. Since it is an hourly role, though, when I don't work I don't get paid, so there is an incentive to work as much as possible to keep the underwriting coming in for my art. My boss and team are super cool, appreciating the quality work I bring to the table and keeping it chill.

I had a cold in March and April that lingered on forever. I remember that, because it was in late March that I had to go on Obamacare, due to being a free agent. That meant switching doctors (yes, Obama did biff that one...badly), which was a bit of a pain in my arse, but my new doctor was excellent and also good looking.

In February of 2014, my band GUPPY EFFECT started attending a Sunday night open jam stage at Funk's Pub in Fitchburg WI. I started live streaming the musical performances on a free Ustream channel. Unfortunately, my band wasn't as thrilled with this Sunday musical outlet as I was and they soon lost interest. I still attend it when I can and run the live stream. It's not a particularly well organized open jam, but the people who come are fun and the venue treats the musicians very well. It definitely benefits the venue more than the musicians though, so the latter are there as amateurs having fun, not professionals making money. That's perfectly fine, as long as everyone recognizes that's what it is and that it won't ever be anything else. I wish more people came to it, because it's great fun. I realized this year that a large majority of people tend to be homebodies for whom a Sunday night is time to decompress (from what?) and get ready for the week ahead. This apathy affliction seems to impact the corporate 9-5 working stiffs the most. However, I look at it as a nice way to extend the weekend activities out a couple more hours BEFORE having to return to the weekly grind. Sleep when you're dead, I say! Well, I don't actually say it. I don't even actually mean it. People gotta do what they gotta do, is more my philosophy of life. You can only change YOU, not anyone else. But let's not get too far afield.

I did a lot of writing in 2014, although my book(s) has/have yet to be written. I developed a few ideas. One was the creation of two fictional brothers Biff and Chet (kind of ego and id personas, respectively), who can tell my stories via their experiences. I am a little bummed that I did not make more progress on the book, just to be brutally honest. I can say I was doing research, and that's important, or I can say I had many irons in the fire, with music projects and day job, but the reality is that I am experiencing a lot of RESISTANCE to book writing. Resistance is basically a fear of failure that prevents you from doing something because you could not bear the idea of failure at that thing. On the bright side, the more resistance you have to doing something you are passionate about, the more certain it is that that something is your right artistic path. The obvious irony is that by avoiding the task at hand and procrastinating, you are guaranteed failure, because the art never comes to fruition. So I need to really work on destroying my resistance in 2015, and that is kind of a resolution. There really is no choice. I am guaranteed failure if I do not write and publish one of more books. Other people do it. WISHFUL THINKING gets you nowhere. Only WISHFUL DOING matters.

The cold winter of 2014 extended well into April, if my blog posts around that time are to be believed. This was caused by something the lamestream media coined the POLAR VORTEX (PV). The PV delayed my ability to bike commute to my new contract job. I was still living in Cambridge WI then and my job was on the far west side of Madison, meaning a painful commute sometimes on the Beltline Highway in Madison WI. One strategy I had to avoid the horrific Wisconsin commuters was to load my bike in/on my car and drive to the east side of town, then bike commute the rest of the way in, accomplishing a decent workout simultaneously with my commute (who says I cannot multitask?). In late March, I had also registered to ride RAGBRAI, the week long bike ride across Iowa, in 2014 with my bicycling team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD, so I needed to get some training rides under my belt. The winter eventually did end and the evil PV became a friend when it brought an unseasonably cool summer to Wisconsin (along with some of the worst thunderstorms I have seen in a few years). It wasn't long before I was out on the bike doing social weekend and weeknight rides with friends. I joined the Capital Brewery Bicycling Club later in the summer, even though 90% of the members are very douchy arrogant elitist bikers. But once I realized I could disenfranchise them from my life pretty easily (they ride fast, I ride slow), it didn't bother me. Plus, I got a steep discount on a sweet looking Capital Brewery bike jersey.

My dogs Buddy and Foster are doing well. Buddy had a couple of surgeries for ass cancer, but he seems to be doing well now. He's 14, so he doesn't have a lot of time left, but his quality of life is good. Foster is about 10 and still a rascal.

In May, I sold my house in Cambridge WI and bought a new one in Madison WI, which I moved into on the first of July. The house selling and moving experience was very stressful (packing and real estate charlatans), but I pounded through it thanks to help from a lot of good friends and became a Madison progressive (my people!) on July 1, 2014. Although much of June was consumed with moving chores and activities, I still found time to bike and play music. My college (grad school) band SINEMA reunited for a show in Ames IA in early June. That was fun and I met a woman that weekend named Lisa, who I am pretty sure is my soul mate even though we hardly had any time to hang out and get to know each other. You know how sometimes you just "feel" a connection? Well, we both did. Then she up and moved to New Jersey (this plan was already unstoppably in the works when I met her). We connect on the Facebook now and then. Obviously, life goes on and you can't wait around for destiny, so who knows what will happen. The fact that I thought that was an important point to bring up in this blog is telling. It just popped into my head... HIATVS, another musical side project, also reunited to play at my house warming party in Madison in August. That band, as its name suggests, is always on hiatus because the guitar player moved to Iowa and has a family occupying most of his time. But we periodically fire up the rock-n-roll engines and play a house concert or other alternative venue.

Most of the early part of July had me focused on settling into my new digs in Madison and working to refill the depleted coffers from that ordeal. Because I was closer to work, I could bike commute a lot more, as well as do more after work biking activities that were off limits to me when I had lived in faraway Cambridge. I saved a lot of money on gas too. In the middle of July, my old college buddy Shawn came into town for a biology conference and we painted the town red (not really...but there was a street fest that fortuitously was happening coincident with his arrival). July culminated with RAGBRAI in Iowa and it was a phenomenal time, as always. My friend Sherry did the bike ride for the first time and after an initial couple of days of being overwhelmed, she loved it and had tons of fun. We saw Lance Armstrong up close and personal and Sherry even put a team sticker on him. We have pictures. I was sad when it ended and I had to go back to work.

I started running more after RAGBRAI. I don't like running, but it is a good workout. My hip joint got a little bit inflamed initially, but with practice and ibuprofen, it was manageable. In August, I took a couple of forays up the our family's cabin in northern Wisconsin to hang out with the family. Sherry came up with me the weekend before Labor Day and we biked the BIKE WITH MELINDA (BWM) route. I host BWM at the cabin every year with friends, but this year no one wanted to go, so on Labor Day weekend, instead of biking, I ran the 10 miles around Shell Lake WI. My regular running in August had me in pretty good shape and I was victorious. There were also some more good bike rides around Madison in August and into September, before it started to get cold.

In mid-August, I started doing a little bit of volunteer work at Madison community radio station WORT (89.9 FM). I am basically archiving shows online and I don't even need to go into the radio station itself. I should probably add that to my resume one of these days.

I saw King Crimson perform for the first time in September and also experienced my first actual incident of bicycle road rage that month. I took a five week piano class via the UW that was useful and more to my skill level. I am starting to practice piano more now that it is winter and I am indoors. January and February of 2015 should see some piano progress on my part.

At the very end of September, I flew out to Akron OH and bought my mom's hand me down 2009 Prius and subsequently "gifted" my old 2001 Prius to my dear friends Rachel and Bryon in Iowa, to help them out financially. I totally got my money's worth out of that old Prius and having them take it saved me the hassle of trying to sell it. It was a trusty car and I felt good knowing it was going to the loving home of friends. It was nice to visit my parents, albeit briefly.

In October, I joined the punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE and geared up for Halloween, the last good holiday before Christmas. Buddy had a second cancer surgery, and probably the last one of his doggie life, because if it comes back a third time, that probably spells his demise. Like I said, he has had a good life and I want it to be a high quality life up until the end.

A bunch of cool stuff happened in November, but all of it was inconsequential in relation to my extended family's trip to Australia, November 22 - December 10. It was awesome, and I hope you followed (or will go read) my blog posts travelogging the trip.

After I got back, I played my first show with EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE on December 13, and we have our second one ever TONIGHT, celebrating New Year's Eve at the Frequency in Madison WI.

This past week, I took a bit acting role in a low budget indie horror film production. That was fun. I'd like to involve myself in more of that in 2015.

I am ending 2014 on an all time high, which I guess makes sense since I started it on an all time low (Law of Averages).

Some other cool things happened in 2014 too, but that's a decent enough overview, and I am late for my workout. I have to get in an hour of bike trainer aerobics before I head out for the NYE giggage tonight. Leave a comment or question below.

12.30.2014

Wandering Away From My Comfort Zone (But Not Too Far)

Yesterday, I left work about 10:30 and drove to the east side of Madison WI, to Stalzy’s Deli, where an amateur independent film crew was shooting a scene for a movie. I had found out via the “social media” that the Screaming Like Banshees (SLB) production company needed some bit part actors to play patrons in a deli (Stalzy’s) who interact with the film’s main character in a paranoid delusional scene where everyone turns mean on her and curses her out. I was totally out of my element and it was great fun.

I found out about the opportunity a week prior. EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE had gone into the studio at the Madison Media Institute to do an interview and play a couple songs for a segment of the Bordello of Horror cable access program, hosted by one Rich Peterson. The Madison WI based program broadcasts public domain low budget horror films, and Rich wanted some local bands to record short local music segments to fill time on the show when the movie’s length didn’t cooperate with the available time slot. At least that is what I think the deal is, because the bands invited to record for the show were not particularly horror themed.

Anyway, because the program broadcasts horror movies, Rich networks with other related franchises, one of which was the Screaming Like Banshees group. These people have their fingers in a few indie horror projects, including the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest.

I had “friended” (added) Rich on the FACEBOOK after the recording session, in order to follow up with him and perhaps get a heads up when our music segment was to air on his show (even though I do not have cable TV anymore and thus lack any means to view it directly...).

A couple days after the studio session, Rich shared SLB’s call for bit role actors on his FACEBOOK wall. I saw it and was intrigued. I have always wanted to do a little acting, but never had the time to commit to it on any kind of large scale. I am spread too thin as it is with my music projects, day job, volunteering, and social activities. Every year in early October, I attend the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest for sh!ts and giggles. It’s a fun time and gets me in the mood for Halloween. I am always impressed by the quality of the amateur independent films shown at the fest and I often thought it would be fun to be involved in indie film making in some way, as part of crew or talent.

The SLB movie in production is called HAG. I am not really sure what it is all about, but it involves witchcraft, I think. I have never acted in a film before, not even as a background extra, though I do act theatrically on stage as a musician sometimes. In this case, the filmmakers needed a few bodies to act as patrons in the diner scene, eating and drinking and conversing quietly. The posting indicated there would be a few lines of dialog for anyone who participated, so it was more than just a background cameo role in the crowd.

The opportunity as described seemed like a fairly easy tentative initial foray into the indie film arena that I could handle. The time commitment was only three hours, albeit on a weekday (my boss is super cool and as proof of this, she didn’t have an issue with me taking time off in the middle of a Monday…granted, I am hourly, so she doesn’t have to pay me when I am absent).

The requirements for the shoot were manageable (wear normal street clothes indicative of the character you want to present, and no commercial logos) and we would be paid in free deli food and a DVD of the movie when it was finished (spring of 2015, they said), as well as having our name in the credits.

I arrived at the deli a couple of minutes before 11 and met the cast and crew. They were very fun people and I had met the sound guy before at the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest. I was certainly a little bit nervous, having never done anything like this before. They got me situated at a table, reading a paper and eating lunch. There were a few different scenes to capture. I was sitting quite close to the main actress who was seated at the diner bar and thus I was on camera in a lot of her takes. So I had to be consistent in my behavior and not attract attention away from her.

When the scene in the movie turns ugly, all the patrons begin hurling misogynistic insults at the main character. My line, if you must know, was “Here’s a quarter, ya dumb @#$%...why don’t you go buy a clue? You know he just wants to get in your pants.” Out of context, that probably makes no sense, but whatever.

There’s no guarantee that my bit acting will be used in the film, but I think the chances are really good, because there were only about five people who showed up to the shoot, and only about three lines of insulting dialog. I thought I did my parts really well, although everyone did. I’d be surprised if I didn’t make the cut.

Anyway, that story is all a preamble to a very short thesis on fear and getting outside of my comfort zone.

I was a little bit nervous about this adventure, in part because I have never done anything like this before, and in part because I am an introvert by nature and shy around new people and new situations. There were some moments between when I verbally committed to do the shoot and when I actually showed up there that I started to second guess myself and thought about backing out. Rationally, I knew that was ridiculous. But even such a small risk as this was enough to cause my reptilian brain to resist my best intentions.

I was aware this was happening. I was able to see it for what it was and resist the resistance. I knew I wanted to do the shoot to get some indie film acting experience and to get a little bit out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t like I was going sky diving or something. It was just a low budget indie horror movie. Nothing to worry about. I have seen some really bad horror movies that were way worse than anything I could do even if I didn't try.

Basically, my mild fear of the novel experience was giving me moments of self doubt. In good health and good spirits, I had no viable excuse to bail on the fine folks at SLB. Yet, repeatedly, I found myself wondering if I should back out. These episodes of resistance were easy to quell, but it bothered me that my “bad conscience,” if you will, kept piping up to tell me not to risk it, to stay in my comfort zone. I am glad my reasoning human brain is able to stay on the higher ground and keep me focused on pursuing novel adventures. As it turned out, I had really nothing to fear. To me, I was a “natural.” Everything went to plan. I didn’t biff any scenes or lines and we got enough takes that they could pick and choose the best parts.

I wonder how fear of risk and resistance to taking chances are cultivated in people, and why some people seem to be huge adventurers with no filters on risk taking. I suppose it is a combination of nature and nurture. I was brought up to be fairly risk averse and to value security and comfort. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just fact. I did not recognize this until a very late age. Now I do, and I try to take reasonable forays out of my comfort zone to face anxiety and fear, no matter how small. I have no desire to go skydiving. Mainly that is because it doesn’t even sound that fun to me. The sensation of plummeting is not something I ever have any desire to feel. I did go bungee jumping once, and that was enough of that. That was another case of having to ritualistically face a fear just to say that I did. I had an opportunity to literally step right off the edge of my comfort zone at the end of a glorified rubber band, and I did. I don’t really have any need to do it again. The mission was accomplished. I have gone snowboarding a few times. That was partly to face a fear of speed on snowy downhill slopes and also to learn a skill/sport. I don’t go snowboarding as much anymore, not because of fear but because of hate.

I hate the cold.

12.28.2014

2014 in Retrospect

Today I realized I will be ending 2014 on an all time high, probably. At least it seems like I have never ended a year this high before. Some of that is the endorphins talking, since earlier today I went to a Jazzercise class with my friend Sherry and shook my proverbial (and cute, if I do say so myself) booty for a pretty decent workout. And I have my bike trainer set up at last for the long cold hard months of January and February in WI, so I can keep my winter weight at bay. I "spun" furiously a few times this week and I had lost 7 pounds by the time I weighed yesterday. Part of that is also my good diet. Thanks to doing the Paleolithic diet study in October, to which I adhered quite well, and cutting way back on carbs in general the past couple months. I did deviate from good nutritional practices a bit during the fortnight I spent in Australia with my extended family in late November and early December. That trip also contributed considerably to the high on life state I now find myself in. I also recently got a second chance to apply for a dream job at a fitness equipment company that I applied to back in July (but was bested by someone else). I cannot say what will be the outcome this time, but it's nice to have another shot at it. As a result of the trip down under, my whole family got to avoid a lot of the hideousness and commercialism of Christmas, celebrating the true meaning of the holiday by being together doing something fun and far away from American drama. Australia has its drama but the general public doesn't eat it up as much as they do here. I also joined a fantastic punk rock band in 2014 called EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE. Six months ago, I would not have envisioned myself playing rhythm guitar in a punk rock band but I am glad I am. The musicians are talented and fun and the songs are excellent.

So that's why 2014 is ending on a high. The weather's not bad either and my income stream is quite satisfactory.

12.27.2014

I For One Support the Food Babe

The Food Babe (aka Vani Hari) has been taking some heat lately for being a dangerously scientifically illiterate dolt.

And she is.

But not as dangerously scientifically illiterate as the general American populace who consumes her sensationalistic fear mongering drivel.

This woman is an example of free market capitalism at its finest. She has something people want and she makes no bones about selling it to them.

A great man once said (paraphrasing), "An expert is just someone who knows more about a subject than everyone else."

It's a sad reality that Americans have now become so dumbed down and anti-intellectual that a joker like Vani Hari can have a successful career selling sensationalistic anti-scientific fables about nutrition to a large demographic of people.

It's a free market of ideas out there. No one is going to hold your hand and tell you what information to consume. You need to be an informed shopper in the Information Supermarket. If you are not, then you are a "mark," and you will soon be parted with your money.

Let this be a lesson to people who fall for this drivel. You should have tried to learn science better in school. Encourage your kids to learn and understand science. Only then will bad information lose its value. It may be too late.

How does bad science get value? Just like anything gets value. People think they want it and they pay money for it. For God's sake, this woman has a book and people buy it!

It makes them feel better. Drama and controversy make them feel something in a world that tries to numb them to everything. Reality TV is wildly successful because people want to know that other people have lives more miserable than their own. It's catharsis.

Ms. Hari's anti-intellectual nonsense doesn't attract viewers. The viewers attract her nonsense. They are willing customers and she has snake oil to sell them. This is the Information Age parallel of the circus carny of the 19th century. The evidence is in the fact that she has a job and a successful career.

The critics should not be lambasting Ms. Hari. They should be lambasting the general American public for being a bunch of drama craving ignorant imbeciles.

Can you blame Ms. Hari for seeing a market for idiocy and milking it for all she can?

I don't. More power to her. To be an informed consumer of science, you need to understand what kind of science has value. If you don't, then you are a pawn of the information age and should expect to be properly fleeced intellectually and monetarily.

12.26.2014

It's Worth It

It's the day after Christmas. That means a little under six days to gear up for NYE celebrations and put some grist on ideas for new year's resolutions.

This year, I celebrated the holiday season with my family via a group trip to Australia November 24 - December 10. As such, I was able to avoid most of the mass consumerism of Christmas Day and it's side effects (drained bank account, maxed credit cards, holiday traffic, crowded retail shoppes, religious services, etc.).

It's not that I am a Scrooge. I just think the true meaning of the holidays has been replaced by blind consumerism and guilt. Most people know this to be true at heart. It should be a time of giving and being with loved ones, with a smattering of worship of the Baby Jesus if you are into that. Most people go through the motions but don't really get the true meaning of Christmas until Christmas Day, after the presents have been opened, the consumerism is over, and people can shake off their zombie trance, look around, and appreciate being in the presence of loved ones for a single day.

I suppose that one climactic 24 hour period and its afterglow makes the weeks after Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas all worth it. You can think of it as a worthy struggle enduring hassles and guilt so that you can experience the joy of seeing your friends and loved ones made happy with gifts on Christmas morning.

All those road enraged drivers and ornery shoppers literally and figuratively disappear on Christmas day, and though the coffers will remain depleted for several more weeks and months, the non-stop onslaught on your bank account ceases and returns to its baseline level.

The joy of having the Christmas season be over is evidenced a week later on New Year's Eve when people celebrate the official end of the year and the holiday season. Most people are relieved when it's over, hence the festivities of NYE, even though the worst part of winter is yet to come (in northern latitudes).

The pre-Christmas holiday trip with my family was awesome because I got all of the joy of the holidays without the side effects. The trip was a group gift to us all and we had not just a couple days but a couple weeks to spend together, sharing the amazing travel experience.

At a more general level, I tend to spread the spirit of giving and joy over the whole year, not just concentrating it all on one day. There's a lot of altruism and giving at Christmas to be sure. But for most of the year, there's a lot of fear, hate, and selfishness. You only need to look at mainstream media and politics to see this. Christmas now represents something of a hiatus from selfishness and blaming others for all the world's problems. The Baby Jesus' message of giving and love is on display around Christmas and the fear and hate mongers cannot withstand its withering glow, so they go underground and hide in silence for a time. But they will crawl out of their dark holes soon after the start of the new year and the cycle of evil will start again, the fear and hatred and stupidity sending out venomous tendrils that intertwine around peoples' minds, only to start to wither and fade again when the holiday season begins again around the time of Halloween. It's no coincidence that Halloween is all about evil spirits and monsters. They are brought into the light and recognized, after which the remainder of the year is all about reducing evil and selfishness.

My usual new year's resolution is to keep the spirit of joy and giving going all year and 2015 is no different.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

12.25.2014

How to Think Positive

One way to keep a positive outlook on life is to look for the silver lining in any less than optimal scenario.

For example, I get seasonally depressed in the winter. It's not clinical depression or even actual seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I just hate winter and it bums me out, especially as the days get shorter and we switch to daylight savings time (in Wisconsin). I dream about living someplace warmer and I am disappointed when I cannot travel to faraway warm places for a respite from winter.

In Wisconsin, it starts to get cold in November and December, and then really cold in January and February. Toward the middle of December, I start to dread the weather that will come after the New Year. On the other hand, it's not as gloomy as it seems. The shortest day of the year in Wisconsin is the Winter Solstice, which falls on December 21 or thereabouts. So even though the coldest months of winter are yet to come, they days start to get longer again after December 21. So using daylight hours as a metric, rather than simply outside temperature, things are going to get better in January and February (I can still hate these months, but they do not bum me out as much). By March 21, the rate of increase in daylight hours will be at its maximum and spring is just around the corner.

Sometimes you may find your mind wanders toward negative thoughts more often than positive ones, especially when thinking about the future. I know mine does. I am a chronically anxious person, always thinking about the future and worst case scenarios. I would prefer to just live in the now and be happy, but it is not my disposition normally. And that's OK. I am who I am.

Awareness of the tendency to think negatively is critical to avoiding this and instead having a positive outlook. A lot of negative thinking and anxiety is irrational and baseless. Worst case scenarios seldom happen, statistically (in reality, most outcomes fall somewhere between best and worst case...you have to really try to royally eff things up). But even if you can't get your head around this mathematical fact, you can still JUST SAY NO to negative thoughts. When you recognize you are having them, you need to catch yourself and stop them dead in their tracks (sorry, that was a bit cliche).

This is not easy by any means. It sounds easy, but its not, because most of us aren't aware of when we are having the irrational negative thoughts. To think positive, you first have to have an awareness of the negative thinking. Only then can you consciously push the negative thoughts from your mind, which isn't always easy either. So there are basically two somewhat challenging steps involved in positive thinking, if you are not a positive thinker by nature (I envy such people).

Meditation can help develop positive thinking skills. In Zen Buddhist meditation, a person focuses on breathing while being aware of when the mind wanders. The mind always wanders. The goal isn't to prevent the mind from wandering, but rather to recognize consciously when it does. Sometimes your mind can wander off for a while before you notice that it has. This is because the subconscious mind is in control. When the conscious mind recognizes the subconscious has wandered off, it has to take control and bring it back to the focus on breathing.

The practice of meditation is supposed to teach the practitioner how to more effectively recognize when the mind has wandered off and return it to a centered focus on breathing.

Although the Zen meditation practice is focused on breathing and the reduction of a wandering mind in general, the skill can be applied to everyday thinking as well. If you think about it, a lot of negative thinking is just a form of mind wandering - into a dark scary forest of anxiety and stress and worst case scenarios, all fabricated by the subconscious reptilian brain we all harbor. In every day life, you are generally in no danger most of the time. When you are in danger, it's usually immediate danger, and you deal with it in the now (fight or flight). The future, though, is a complete unknown and you have a choice to accept or reject negative thoughts in the here and now.

When you become aware of a negative thought that you do not wish to have, simply push it away. The more aware you are of your negative thinking, the better you will become at catching yourself and willfully redirecting your thoughts. All skills get better with practice. You don't need to be a Zen Buddhist to do a poor man's form of meditation practice. Just get comfortable in a chair or on a couch, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, and it often will, you will eventually recognize it. Simply redirect your mind on the inhalations and exhalations of breath. A word of warning...if you meditate lying down, there is a very good chance your meditation will transition to a power nap at some point. So I personally recommend sitting upright in a comfortable chair if you don't wish to succumb to a nap.

It can be helpful to have a positive thinking "go to" when you are trying to avoid negative thoughts. Think about something that gives you joy or a generalized abstraction of positivity, such as, "Nothing bad is going to happen to me and everything is going to work out in my favor, because the COSMOS loves me."

Actually, the COSMOS doesn't really love you. In fact, it wants to kill you (Darwin's natural selection). So you are right to have some amount of fear and worry. But it does not have to be negative fear and worry. It's perfectly normal to assess your surroundings for immediate and near term risks. Just don't get swallowed up and overwhelmed by irrational nonexistent ones. That doesn't help you and only taxes your mind and body with stress hormones (these can literally kill you...so in a way, stress is an immediate threat to your health and should be avoided - that's why it is OK to punch your douchebag bully of a boss in the nutsack when he is stressing you out for no good reason...he is slowly killing you and you have a right to defend yourself!).

The fact that you are alive should be an indication of just how awesome you are though. You and your ancestors survived 3.5 billion years of non-stop evolution to be here today. That's ridiculously awesome.

So quit being a Negative Nellie and realize that it is awesome to be you...to be alive...and things could be worse (but don't think about those things...).

Are you with me here?

The Time Suck of Anti-Social Media Quicksand

I wonder how much more productive society would be on the whole if it were not for social media?

Social media is a huge time suck. The only social media I use regularly is Facebook (FB), and it gobbles up time faster than a Mrs. Pac Man on meth. I can't imagine how much more useless I would be to society if I was into other social media like Twitter and Instagram. I admit to having accounts with both the latter social media apps, but for some reason I am easily able to avoid them. FB is my nemesis though.

It's so easy to open up FB any time and get some instant gratification from friends' commenting on something you posted or a meme that begins with "OMG, You Won't Believe..." It's not a very gratifying gratification though. It's basically clever operant conditioning by FB.

There's just enough reward there to keep you/me (the rat) pushing the lever, so the behavior does not go extinct. I often find myself having to willfully quit out of FB. Even when I do, I will sometimes mindlessly connect again even just a few minutes after I have quit out of it.

What is wrong with me? Nothing new and revelatory has hit my FB News Feed in those four minutes I was absent. There is literally nothing on FB that cannot wait at least 24 hours or even longer. When I was on Heron Island in Australia for four days in December, I didn't have any phone service (I lacked an international chip in my American phone and I wasn't about to pay the hotel for wifi, which should always be a free service in my rule book). The sky did not fall down. In fact, the sky over Heron Island was awesome, and I was able to experience it that much more fully for lack of social media. I did use my phone camera to score some pictures and I wrote blog posts at night recountng the days events, which I saved for later publication when I had wifi again.

This is the genius of FB and why they are so successful (I bought stock in FB, because I knew it would go gangbusters when it went public, and I was right!). They have basically mastered operant conditioning in human subjects. Not only are most social media types powerless against their compulsions, but they even sacrifice their privacy for it. I have my privacy settings set really high on FB, but even so a huge amount of my data is going into the FB database and those of their affiliates.

My mom and pops often tell me they want to be more technically savvy about using the Internet and turn to me for help. Little do they know, I actually envy their naivety. My mom, rightly, calls me out for using my smart phone at the dinner table. She does not fully understand that it is a form of mild psychological addiction, and I hope she never does understand it. I don't want her to succumb to the Internet brain's hypnotic power. I want her to keep harping on me about it to stop, which helps keep me grounded in reality. I need to constantly remind myself that social media is not reality. Most of the time it isn't even that social. People use it for their own self satisfaction.

They should call it anti-social media.

I admit I am guilty of falling for those mindless and ubiquitous FB memes. They promise satisfaction, and they provide it just often enough that I keep pressing the lever for the possible reward. Their ubiquity is the natural consequence of peoples' operant conditioning to click on them.

But I have come to the conclusion that I need to boycott these memes, willfully. I am almost never in disbelief when I check them out. It's more like "OMG, you won't believe how much time I just wasted checking out that very believable and/or stupid FB meme."

FB memes can best be viewed as little impish demons that flit about your head, teasing and persuading you to succumb to temptation. When you do, they score a victory (as do hundreds of online advertising firms). Any addiction can be viewed as the mischief of demons. Even if you aren't religious or superstitious, visualizing addictions like this and personifying them can aid in resisting them. An addiction is really nothing more than your own behavioral psychology working against you via your reptilian brain, and this has a lot of parallels with traditional literary demonry (most often described as "sin" in the parlance of our times). Many psychologists who treat clients with addictions or dysfunctions make a distinction between the lower animal brain and the higher human brain, for practical therapeutic reasons. The whole field of cognitive behavioral psychology is essentially based on this duality and it has a biological basis. The brainstem is the most primitive part of the brain. All vertebrate animals have one. "Higher" animals also have a neocortex, a part of the brain that evolved later and allows for more complex thinking and reason (better than 50% of humanity still does not use this higher part of the brain most of the time, and it's a wonder our species has survived as long as it has).

Your reptilian brain likes instant gratification and FB provides a smorgasbord of tasty meme morsels for these demons to consume. In order to starve these demons, you need to harness the reasoning and will power of your higher brain. Think of it like a knight in shining armor doing battle with a dragon (reptilian demon). These imps are actually much harder to fight collectively than one large demonic foe, because there are so many of them trying to get you to slip up and make a mistake.

I don't really need to check out the "unbelievable" coat colorations of 36 domestic dogs or the advertising failures of international companies when they try to market products in America.

FYI, though, GOLDEN GAYTIME is a real thing. I have proof (see thumbnail on right).

Resisting FB memes seems totally doable. It's more difficult for me to resist checking out what my "friends" are up to on FB.

I am lucky to have a lot of Facebook friends whose posts I actually enjoy reading. This is a result of two decisions I made a while ago.

1. I am very selective in who I "accept" as Facebook friends. In general, I have to know who they are and they have to be someone I know and might actually be friends with in real life. I periodically go through my relatively short FB Friends List and cull it. Anyone who hasn't been interacting with me much on- or offline gets the axe. I used to have a FB page that was open to all comers. Most of them didn't know me or give a crap about me as a friend. And most of them were idiots or haters (primarily racists and political/religious extremists). I won't pretend I am not an extremist in some ways (progressive atheist with a penchant for conspiracy theories), but now I try to keep political/religious posts to a minimum on FB (I mainly just post cool science articles I read online or promote my musical projects or events to those who might care).

Most of my FB friends now are either like minded with me, or at least pleasant, rational, and relatively non-noxious human beings.

2. I make judicious use of the UNFOLLOW function on FB. I have some FB "friends" that are more just acquaintances (friends of friends, perhaps) who I accepted more out of sympathy than anything else. I should just UNFRIEND them entirely, and sometimes I do, because I honestly don't want to read anything they post - it's either dumb or excessive. But I usually don't unfriend them in the interests of diplomacy, because it might annoy whoever the mutual actual friend is. In reality, my actual friend probably also thinks the acquaintance is a douche who posts superfluous dumbassery, and they wouldn't care if I unfriended them. But when I am not sure, I just let it go.

I am sure the quality and quantity of my FB posts seem dumb and excessive to some people too, and I fully hope they use the UNFOLLOW or UNFRIEND feature on me. I wouldn't hold it against them. Everyone's unique. But some people are insecure about that kind of thing, I guess.

Anyway, the conclusion I have reached is that I need to discipline myself to 1. avoid social media as much as possible and 2. not waste time responding to what I see there (if #1 fails). Then I can spend more time writing blog posts like this one. Hahaha.

The above two strategies are designed to prevent me from jumping into the social media quicksand to begin with. Once you jump in, it is very hard to escape. The imps do everything they can to lure you in and trip you up. Send them back to HELL!

The best strategy for me would be to avoid social media for most of the day and only jump on at night. This puts a time boundary on using social media...because sleep is the only end game at that point. This would allow me to accomplish a lot more during the functional hours of the day without impish distraction.

I guess that was a long winded way of expressing a New Year's Resolution, which is to minimize useless social media, and be more efficient with social media in general. As I near the conclusion of this post, I am already feeling the imps swirling around my head, urging me to quickly open up FB and gratify my addiction. But social media is not SOCIAL. It's a substitute for the lack of socialization in society at large. The only justification I can make to go on FB right now is that I want to put a link to this post there. I may take the opportunity to cull my Friends List down a bit too. If you haven't been very social with me on social media, you probably aren't reading this post, and so you won't even know you have been cut off. Even if you do, you really shouldn't care. I guarantee you, not having me as a FB friend will have zero negative consequences on your life, and may even have positive ones (one less stupid wall post to read).

Are you with me here?

12.24.2014

Warm Water

My principle beverage is water. I like to drink it warm, especially in the winter.

I'll take my water bottle, fill it at the tap, and put it in the microwave for a minute (in summer) or two (in winter). It's not as hot as tea or coffee, but warm enough to raise my core body temperature.

For some reason, when I do this, everyone looks at me like I am crazy.

"How can you drink water with out ice?" they ask, implicitly or explicitly.

Everyone I know drinks water with ice, even in the cold Wisconsin winter.

I think they are the ones that are crazy. When you drink iced water, you are lowering your core body temperature significantly. This can be great in the hottest part of the summer when you are outside, but in the coldest part of winter, or indoors with air conditioning, it is idiotic.

I love warmth. I hate cold. I have to live someplace warm someday, sooner than later. Wisconsin winters are cold. I don't want to add to my chill by drinking icy water. I want warm water to take the chill away.

Additionally, my buddy Stefan is a health inspector. He said the ice machines at bars and restaurants are the primary source of pathogenic bacterial contamination, in his experience. So even if you drink iced water at home, you should avoid doing so at public establishments.

Ice making also uses energy, which pollutes the air with fossil fuel waste.

So even though I am in the minority, I think the majority needs to explain the compulsion to drink iced water, especially in the cold winter months.

Second Chances

The COSMOS sent me a somewhat welcome early Christmas present yesterday, albeit a small one.

A posting hit the online job boards a second time for a “dream job” that I had applied for back in July, as a technical communications specialist at a fitness equipment manufacturer in Cottage Grove WI, near Madison.

I did not land the job at that time, although I thought I interviewed well. I didn’t take it personally, because all that means is that they hired someone they felt was superior to me in some way(s), and who can blame them for that?

For example, one of the desirable but not essential skills listed in the job description was being bilingual in French or Spanish (the company markets internationally). It was not an essential skill, but I lack it. So all else held constant, if I was up against a bilingual candidate, I’d expect to lose, and that’s not something to take personally. I might have taken it to heart, which is different than taking it personally, and learned Spanish better in the meanwhile (I didn’t do that either).

Anyway, it is a waste of time to take things personally, if you always do your best, which I did. I know I am pretty rocking on technical writing and I have a lot of experience in the health and fitness realm. So I bring a lot to the table.

The current job description looked identical to the one from six months ago. I am not sure if they are hiring a second technical communications specialist, or if the person they hired before has moved on for some reason and the position is now open again.

In any case, I submitted my application lickety split. It was easier the second time around, because I had saved out my prior cover letter and only had to tweak it a little bit based on what I learned during the previous interview process, as far as what they are looking for. I also still had the contact email of the Human Resources contact person, so instead of applying via the cumbersome online interface, I submitted directly via email.

I received an email back from the HR woman yesterday afternoon, indicating she was glad to see I was still interested and that she would put me in the running for the job. She also said a phone interview wouldn’t be necessary because I had interviewed during the prior year. Score!

I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in jumping at second chances when they come along. It would be sweet to work at this company, a place I could see myself at for the long term, doing work I am about as passionate about as one can be in corporate America (fitness and health).

If I got the job, it would be a bit ironic, since Cottage Grove is closer to Cambridge WI, where I moved from this past summer to be closer to Madison. So my commute would be longer if I got the job, and it would also entail driving on the despised Beltline Highway, rife with imbecile drivers most of the time. However, that would be a minor inconvenience compared with the benefit of landing a dream job.

I like where I am working now, but one should never pass up a dream job. Never.

So let’s hope the New Year brings good news!

Broadchurch TV Series

I stumbled upon a great little British TV series on Netflix called BROADCHURCH.

It's a murder mystery that takes place in a fictional town in southwest England.

The show is filmed in various locations around Dorset UK, most notably the cliffs at West Bay, where the murder and subsequent investigation takes place.

Great plot. Great characters. Great coastal UK scenery too.

Check it out this holiday, if you need something to binge watch while your relatives are visiting.

12.23.2014

Christmas

In a couple of days, the miserable commercialism of Christmas will be behind me. I will once again be able to go to shoppes without encumbrance by mad mindless zombie hordes.

Today was the worst possible day I could choose to go to CostCo for a few essential items, but they could not wait. It is Christmas Eve Eve (yes, two days before Christmas Day) and literally EVERYONE was out doing their last minute shopping, primarily for food and drink, it looked like, for all the Christmas parties and family gatherings. Many shoppes probably close early on Christmas Eve, so I assume everyone was hurrying to get last minute items.

It wasn’t actually as bad as I thought. I found decent parking in the CostCo lot and once in the store I was able to navigate my shopping cart around the oblivious and slow people to get what I needed. If you care, I needed a big bag of grain free dog food, some almond milk, and an HDMI cable (because Sherry is coming over tonight to watch a DVD she gave me for Christmas, called WARM BODIES…a horror comedy). I also got some bison burger, a big tub of ground coffee, and some avocado oil, because it was cheap.

There was a woman at the checkout who took forever to write a personal check. I mean, come on, fill that shite out ahead of time to speed things up. I take pride in moving through a line zippety doo dah fast. I have my ducks in a row and I pound it out. Three steps:

1. Remove CostCo card and cash or debit card from wallet while waiting in line.
2. Hand CostCo card to checkout staff when it is my turn.
3. Pay and leave fast.

It’s so simple, but most people don’t get it. I am the same way in the security line at the airport. I put everything in my carryon bag while I am in the line. EVERYTHING. When I get to the conveyor and metal detector, I put the bag on the conveyor, slip off my slippers, and put them in a tray (yes, always wear slippers on a plane…not only quick on/off at security but comfortable during flight as well). Boom. Done. There’s always a guy with 8 million electronic gadgets and combat boots that need to be unlaced. No.

After CostCo, I went home to drop off the goods. That’s when I really encountered the bad side effect of Christmas – TRAFFIC. Everyone was out doing their last minute shopping.


Still, my Christmas season was relatively peaceful and free of commercialism this year. My holiday season ended on December 10, when my family returned from an extended trip to Australia. We wisely decided to celebrate the holidays with a big international trip and I think it should become an annual tradition. Christmas should really be about spending time with friends and family, not gifts. We shared the experience and all contributed to expenses as best we could. It was fantastic.

It is nice to be able to disenfranchise Christmas proper this year. I did send my sister an AMAZON GIFT CARD, but it was really for her birthday and Christmas combined. She sent me a cool fleece jacket, and even though she shouldn’t have, it is very nice. Thanks sis!

After Christmas is over and done, there is only New Year’s Eve to contend with, but this is a much less stressful time. The commercialism is replaced by consumerism, mostly alcohol consumption, and my stock in beer companies should skyrocket as a result. My band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE is contributing music to a NYE celebration at the Frequency in Madison WI. I will undoubtedly offer my services as a designated driver for friends, though I doubt anyone will take me up on it.

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so more optimism there, because now the days will gradually start to get longer and longer. The descent into winter is over and the ascent begins now, even if January and February are the worst winter months in Wisconsin. January is tolerable because it is my birthday month (January 9) and I usually rock-n-roll on my birthday weekend (this time it will be on January 10, in Kenosha WI, rocking with EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE). February is tolerable because it is February Album Writing Month, when I can stay indoors and write songs with or without collaborators.

By March 21, the rate of change in the length of the day will be at its maximum, just like the tide moves in or out at its maximum speed when it is about half way in or out. Then the worst will be over.

Anyway, that’s my Christmas post. I hope you have a good one, dear reader.

Ciao!

12.22.2014

I Saw 5 Bands This Weekend If You Include My Own

My weekend was action packed. On Friday night, I went to see a rock-n-roll show, where I met my friends Sherry, Peter, and Danielle. The bands were amazingly good, but I was so energized afterwards that I had trouble sleeping and ended up sleeping in on Saturday morning until almost noon. I probably needed the rest. I had no plans on Saturday, but Sherry had invited me to a wine party at the last minute, so I decided to go to that. It was at the apartment of a mutual friend named Abigail. I feasted on cheese and crackers and had nice conversations with people. Sherry was tired, so we did not stay too late.

On Sunday morning, I did the unthinkable. I went to church. Sherry and I went to the 9 AM service at the west side Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian Church. The fact that I went on the Sunday right before Christmas was total coincidence, since I am an atheist. I went there to scope for women, hypothesizing that I could date a woman with liberal values like the Unitarians have. Sadly, the service was attended only by elderly Madison liberal elites that live in the neighborhoods around the church. Fine people, but not my type. But it was still fun. The sermon was on the many different conflicting descriptions of Jesus throughout the ages, a topic of scholarly interest to me. After the sermon, we got a tour of the old Frank Lloyd Wright Meeting House, which is a historical landmark, though no longer used for services because it is too small (Side Note: When I attended this church years ago, while I still lived in Whitewater WI, the service was still in the old building).

Sherry and I went to Einstein’s Bagels for brunch after the church tour and reflected on events from the rock-n-roll show the night before, then parted ways.

At 1 PM, I loaded my guitar gear in my car and drove to drummer Dan’s house for an EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE practice ahead of a studio recording session later in the afternoon. We were asked to perform on a segment of the Madison Cable Access TV show “Bordello of Horror.” So around 3 PM, we carpooled over to the Madison Media Institute and did a few takes of a couple songs, and interviewed with the show’s host. Mostly Tim (aka Eddie), the band leader, did all the talking.

I was home by about 5 PM and made some dinner before heading out again, to see the band STEEL PANTHER at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, with my buddy Stefan, his fiancee Kat, and another guy named Lars.

Steel Panther is a ridiculous hair metal band with a raunchy schtick. They are good showmen, and clever, notwithstanding the cruder elements of their music. So I was entertained. They brought some audience members up on stage (all women) for their antics, but I think some of them were plants, not actual fans, because they acted exactly like the band intended for them to. It was over the top. We didn’t drink any overpriced beer at the show, but afterwards we retired to Cooper’s Irish Pub around the corner for a nightcap. Once again, I was out too late, and I am tired at work. But, it was worth it, and this week is a lighter load as far as work and rocking, so I get to take it really easy most nights. No band practices until next Tuesday. I fully plan to work on some book writing, piano practice, and WORT volunteerism in my copious spare time.

12.19.2014

Workouts

It's winter. And that means less exercise for me. Usually November and December are the worst because it is too cold to workout outside, but I haven't yet taken the initiative to set up my indoor bike trainer at home.

On my fortnight plus long Australia trip, I did a fair amount of walking around, but probably not enough calories were burned to offset the amount of food consumed during our travels.

Before the trip, I had started lifting weights a bit in the gym at work, but I haven't done so since I have been back. Truth be told, I don't like weight lifting and I think it is because I can't read my Kindle or watch Netflix to pass the time when lifting like I can on the exercise bike.

So today I am going to do 40 minutes on an exercise bike at the gym at work.

The Week in Review

This was my first full week back after a very cool trip to Australia with my entire family. It took a while to get over jet lag, and apparently it was not just me, because my parents reported this too. I got back from the trip late last Wednesday night (there were some flight delays) and immediately set about practicing my rhythm guitar parts for a short EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE (EAD) debut show at the Frequency on Saturday December 13.

I had been sans musical outlets in Australia, so I was worried I would be out of practice, but it came back to me really fast. EAD practiced in the early afternoon on Saturday ahead of the show to make sure we were all on the same page, and the show that night was a big success, I thought. Because there were several bands on the bill, the Frequency club in Madison WI was pretty much packed, with each band bringing a contingent of people that collectively filled the place up. It was EAD’s first show in the current lineup, after what I understand was a five year or so hiatus. It was very well received and since there were a lot of people there, the word will hopefully spread so we get lots of people at our next show (slated for New Year’s Eve…also a short set of perhaps 30 minutes).

On Sunday, after the gig, I slept in a long time to rest up. In the afternoon, I had an “informational interview” with Madison WI writer Elizabeth Galewski, who also happens to be the partner of my guitarist buddy Kyle. She has a couple of books published and we talked about the art and craft of writing. I subsequently scored her book, Butterfly Valley, on Amazon Kindle and started reading it. Her writing is very good, descriptive and easy to follow and understand. It’s a non-fiction about traveling in the Middle East pre-911.

In the evening on Sunday, I took Sherry out for Indian food, her reward for picking me up from the airport when I came back from Australia, much delayed. Sherry had also dog sitted for me during my trip. I paid her some money for that responsibility, but still felt like supplementing her some more with the Indian dinner.

On Monday night, I cruised on out to Woop Woop WI in the boonies near Mt. Horeb and rocked on bass with a group that does a mix of old school rock-n-roll covers and originals. The band is decent, but the long drive is a deterrent. If I continue to rock with them, I will only be able to handle fortnightly or less frequent practices. I need to do some homework on their original material.

I had Tuesday night off from band practices, though I did run through EAD material at home in anticipation of Wednesday night EAD practice. The songs all came back to me pretty fast. After that, I went on a date.

On Wednesday night, EAD wanted to attend a Happy Hour meet and greet for Madison Mayoral candidate Bridget Maniaci at 5:30, and then do some EP recording afterwards. The meet and greet was themed on local arts and music in Madison WI and there was a pretty good conversation about how to improve and fund the arts in Madison. My theory about Madison’s weak arts scene was validated by others at the social. What it boils down to is that the “establishment” in Madison is very conservative. Even though it has a lot of elitist rich liberals, who you would think would be into progressive innovation in the arts, they tend to maintain a fairly snobbish status quo that they do not want to pay any money for. In other words, artists are expected to underwrite themselves. This is why Madison has a low infusion of new and innovative artists and musicians and rock bands have to play for peanuts. Hopefully, pro-music Maniaci will work to change this status quo, the basis for the Happy Hour discussion. Suffice to say, the meet and greet went a bit over time and the band decided that it might be a better use of our time to schmooze with Maniaci and other Happy Hour attendees. Maybe we can be involved in providing music for fund raising events before the primary election, which was discussed. After the social, we stopped by the Caribou bar because my band mates wanted to bid farewell to some friends who were leaving town. However, the friends were late and we ended up leaving before they showed up.

GUPPY EFFECT, which normally practices on Tuesdays, practiced on Thursday night this week. We got together at my house at 7 PM, after I got done with a holiday social with some coworkers at Sprechers after work, and we had a serious discussion about our band direction. I was quite happy to find out we are all mostly on the same page. One thing that had been bugging me about the direction of GUPPY EFFECT was the emphasis on playing a variety of covers and performing 3 to 4 hour full shows on weekends, that are usually poorly attended. One of my ideas for the band is to go in an original music focused direction, with minimal cover music, and to play shorter shows of an hour or so, collaboratively with other bands. The drummer, Jon, actually put this idea on the table before I even said anything about it. Stefan and I both fully embraced it and then we set about culling our setlist, deciding what originals to work on for now and what covers, if any, would make the cut as songs to incorporate within a largely original music based repertoire. We jammed on some of the originals and we even had some time left over to hash out a skeletal song idea. After practice, I dug up a couple of other song ideas the band had come up with earlier this year, and I uploaded all of these to Dropbox, so the band can start developing these ideas into full songs.

Now it’s Friday and I am looking forward to the weekend. Tonight I am going to have dinner at Tuvalu Coffee Shoppe in nearby Verona WI around 7 PM, because the aforementioned guitarist Kyle is playing an acoustic show of original music there from 7 to 9 PM. After that, I am going to go downtown and meet friends Sherry and Peter at the Frequency rock club. Peter has a friend or family member, I cannot remember which, whose band is playing at the Frequency.

Tomorrow I have the day off. So I’ll relax and spend a little time rehearsing EAD songs on guitar. EAD is heading to Madison Media Institute on Sunday afternoon to perform on a TV show called “Bordello of Horror” (I think). Not sure what that is all about, but we will play two songs and get interviewed by the host. The band is going to meet beforehand to run the two songs and discuss what we hope to talk about on the show. If there is any kind of public link to the program, I will try to publicize it.

Stefan and I are going to see Steel Panther at the Orpheum Theater in Madison on Sunday night. That should not go too late, so I should not be too tired on Monday. Next week will be lighter at work because of the holidays.

Anyway, I hope you, my dear readers, are doing well. Leave a comment below and let me know what’s been going on.

Happy Holidays.

12.16.2014

A Tuesday Night

In a few minutes, I am going to leave work. I am going to go to CostCo and pick up some bison burger, then cruise home.

Today, I got three dozen CSA free range eggs delivered to me at work. I am going to make a nice bison and egg fritter for dinner.

Then I am going to practice EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE songs ahead of Wednesday night’s practice. I am pretty well honed on the material we played at MaxMas last Saturday, but I need to refresh on some of the other material that I have not played since I got back from Australia.

The country band is practicing tonight too, but they don’t need me because a sub bass player is playing the January 9-10 shows up in Minocqua. That’s my birthday weekend and the thought of driving three hours to northern Wisconsin in the middle of January did not sound like a very good birthday present, even though I am sure the shows would have been fun. I had offered to go to band practice tonight and record it for the benefit of the other bass player, so he can hone his parts. But the band never confirmed if they wanted that, so I’ll assume not. Plus, the EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE songs are a top priority. EAD is doing some kind of indie horror TV show thing at the Madison Media Institute this coming Sunday afternoon, prior to Steel Panther at the Orpheum (which I am going to with Stefan).

After rocking a while, my date is picking me up at 8 PM and we are going someplace for fondue chocolate and dessert.

Such is my Tuesday. It’s actual EAD practice Wednesday night and GUPPY EFFECT practice on Thursday night. I hope to cull the setlist for GE a bit on Thursday and persuade the dudes that the band should go in a more original music direction and get away from all but a few choice covers.

More work involved in that strategy. But also more fun and satisfaction.

12.12.2014

Lag

I am still suffering from jet lag.

Tired in the afternoon and evening.

Wide awake and restless at night.

I should be able to reset this weekend.

Getting an early night, if it does any good.

I am tired now. In a couple hours I will be wide awake.

Herbal sleep aid in full effect though.

12.10.2014

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

This has been a rough couple days for airplane mechanics, I think.
First, my QANTAS Boeing 747-400 from Brisbane to LA was delayed 2.5 hours due to a leaky fuel pump. That was fixed but my sister's family and I both missed our connections to Colorado Springs CO and Madison WI, respectively, in LA. Because the connecting flights were not with a QANTAS partner airline, there was nothing they could do to accommodate us. I thought at the very least they might cover our rebooking fees with United.
Luckily, our awesome travel agent, Kari Tannis, was on the ball when I emailed her the deets from the Brisbane international terminal, which had free wifi (without the weak sauce security hoops to jump through). I had to go dark once we got on the plane, but while we were somewhere over the Indo-Pacific, Kari hooked my sister's family and me up with alternative passage to Colorado Springs CO and Madison WI, respectively.
She put me on a flight from LA to Madison via Denver (an airport I dig infinitely more than Ohare) with a pretty tight layover in DEN. If there had been any significant delays with the LAX to DEN flight, there might have been further angst and confusion, but remarkably, that flight went without a hitch, other than me sitting in a non-aisle seat.
However, the DEN to MSN flight was a different story altogether. I made it to the connecting gate in plenty of time and they started boarding on time. I walked down the "plank" onto the plane and took my seat next to a pleasant enough sort of woman. I put my sestbelt on. I got the sea salted macadamia nuts out of my carry on bag and started munching on some while we waited for boarding to finish and the safety demo to begin. Before that could happen, the woman next to me got an automated text telling her our flight, the one we were presumably on, had been delayed and was boarding at a different gate.
A couple minutes later, the crew announced that, indeed, we had to disembark this plane and go to a new plane at a new gate. Reasons were given...something about an auxiliary power unit that had to go to Madison...but suffice to say that has never happened to me before. And we were delayed about 45 minutes by my estimation. My good friend Sherry gets high eternal praise for tolerating all these delays and staying up extra late to come get me. I owe her big time and I am sure she will fully redeem that debt of gratitude.
On the bright side, I like it immensely more when mechanical problems with planes are discovered on the ground vs. in the air.
I also have a confession to make. I let a huge silent fart drop as I was going through First Class during boarding. Hehehe. Simple pleasures.

10 Things I Am Grateful For

I am reading kind of a goofy touchy feely self help book right now called "You Are a Badass." I don't agree with all of the assumptions and theoretical framework, but a lot of it I do and the rest I can at least tolerate as well meaning.

It is basically about positive thinking and manifesting positive outcomes by way of said thinking. Most authors of these kinds of books take a spiritual angle rather than a rational one using science. It must be that they have difficulty making a strong scientific case. So I will make one, and it is pretty simple.

Positive thinking = positive doing.

A positive thought is a creative thought and the creative process is an integration of a whole bunch of small creative iterations leading to the creative goal. Positive thinking is visualizing what you want to create, then having an open mind to opportunities that move you in that direction. Where are you now and what actions can you take that bring you closer to the goal?

Seems easy enough. But then there is negativity that creeps in and works against positivity.

When Michelangelo made the David, he looked at the marble block and saw David. He didn't see what wasn't David - non-David - except to know where to chisel away marble to reveal the envisioned David. But I am sure there was negativity working against him. He probably suffered from the poor ergonomics when he had to paint the Sistene Chapel. His landlord was probably a douche harshing his gig to stop being a starving artist, get a real job, and pay his rent. Even with negativity undermining him, he still focused on a positive vision and succeeded in achieving it. 

Maybe there were other creations Michelangelo abandoned because of negativity. But we only have his positive creations and they rock.

Anyway, this book I am reading had an exercise to write down 10 things I am grateful for. So what the heck, I am on an airplane, I'll do it. She wants me to do it daily, but baby steps. Let's see how it goes.

1. I am super grateful for the opportunity I just had to go to Australia for over a fortnight with my whole extended family.

2. I am grateful that even though I have a middle seat on this flight from LAX to Denver, it is not a really long flight and my parenthetical seat mates are not fat.

3. I am grateful that I like to write and do it fairly well.

4. I am grateful for the large cup of coffee I got at LAX that is (barely) keeping me conscious, so I can burl on through to bedtime and hopefully crush jet lag with a good night's sleep.

5. I am grateful this LAX to DEN flight took off on schedule and I will more than likely make my connection to get to Madison by 10:50 tonight.

6. I am grateful to play rhythm guitar in awesome punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE and to know and work with band leader Tim, who I highly respect and admire as a musician and songwriter.

7. I am grateful that in Australia I got to eat fish and chips, swim with sea turtles, and go to many places I haven't been to in a while or ever.

8. I am grateful I have dual citizenship with Australia so I can live there someday.

9. I am grateful that QANTAS airlines serves free booze on all domestic and international flights.

10. I am grateful that I met Tim and Holly on the long QANTAS flight to LAX yesterday, that they were fun and pleasant seat mates, that I learned about Perth and Western Australia from Holly, and that Holly smelled really nice, like flowers, the whole trip (really quite amazing...I smelled like dank hay and corn chips).

11. I am grateful that my sister offered up her day room at the LAX Travelodge today so that I could shower off 13 hours of 747 international air travel stank.

That's one more than the assignment required. I suspect over time, if I keep this up, it will be hard to stop at 10. These go to 11.

Discuss.

Water Conservation Tip

Don't drink directly from a waterfountain. Fill a cup or bottle and drink from that. That way you don't waste the residual water that falls off your lips when you take the direct approach.

If everyone did this, Los Angeles will not become a ghost town until 2060, rather than 2023, when all feasible water sources dry up and it become cost prohibitive to supply it with water.

Plus, if you use a disposable water bottle for this, you are also reusing and recycling plastic that will then not end up in the sea and get eaten by endangered baby sea turtles.

So next time you drink from a naked water fountain, just remember you are a baby sea turtle killer.