12.31.2015

Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" on PBS


Last night as I took my maiden voyage on Deborah's elliptical machine, I watched the show "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan (author, best known for his book "The Omnivore's Dilemma") on PBS.


It didn't take long for me to realize this was one of the most important broadcasts of 2015 and possibly ever, as far as human nutrition and health. It was fantastically well done and informative. Although eating unprocessed whole food seems like common sense, very few people actually do, and in truth there is actually a shortage of such food due to our obsession with corn and soybean monocultures that we devote vast amounts of arable land to.

That's kind of scary when you think about it. If you took away refined, processed, value added foods from grocery store shelves, what would be left is basically the entire produce section (including nuts and seeds), most of the seafood cooler, and a small amount of other meats (excluding mass produced, corn/soy fed, highly processed animals). There is literally a famine on the planet when it comes to whole food.

12.30.2015

Reflections on 2015

My girlfriend Deborah says I have a bad short term memory, mostly for the things that she tells me. I disagree. I would argue that I have a mild case of Selective Hearing Disorder (SLD). It might not be a condition recognized officially by the “American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” But then again…it might. Go check! It definitely should be.

Anyway, I open this post talking about memories, because 2016 is almost here and this “lost week” (as one of my co-workers called it) between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a time to reflect on the past year’s memories and look forward to bigger and better things in 2016.


2015 didn’t start the greatest for me. My 15 year old dog Buddy started to enter canine senescence and deteriorated fairly rapidly in the first few months of the year. I had to put him to sleep in the spring. On the one hand it is sad to lose a loyal pet. On the other, he had a pretty kickass life with me after I got him from the pound at one year old. Dogs can’t live forever and we probably wouldn’t want them to, honestly. 15 years is a long full life for a dog and he enjoyed all of his. In human years, he would have been a little over 105 years old when he met the BIG SLEEP. So I have no problem with that, and I am all about minimal suffering for geriatric pets. But it was still hard.

I was also “let go” as bass player of the pretty good country band DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS in early 2015 and replaced (me!?). That’s only the second time I have ever been told by a band that my services were no longer needed. I have actually been fired by bands more often (twice) than by day jobs (zero, I am proud to say). There are no hard feelings whatsoever about this, obviously. It’s just always a little discouraging to not feel like you are an awesome and indispensable musical asset to a band you are in. The perfectionist in me sometimes looks at it like a personal failure on my part, but it is merely a circumstance beyond my control, and failure is really a form of “learning” as one of those touchy feely self help gurus once said (*eye roll*). Rationally, I know I did the best I could and that's all a guy can do. Not everyone is going to like it and that's how it is. In retrospect, my GF Deborah hates country music, so it is probably good that I am not with them anymore. More on her later…

Conversely, I started rocking with punk rock outfit EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE more ferociously at the start of 2015 (I joined them in Rocktober 2014). It’s one of the funnest bands I have ever played in, even if I am not on my primary instrument (bass), but rather on rhythm guitar (and backing vocals). The original punk rock songs written by band leader Tim (aka Eddie) are great old school style punk compositions with clever lyrics and they are super fun to play live, with 3 part harmonies and all. The band also has a “classy” stage presentation that I admire (we wear suits and ties) and the fans are awesome. Playing guitar gets me a little more out of my comfort zone and makes me a better guitarist, so I am enjoying pushing myself as a performing musician. It was a bit of a downer when this band had to go on a fairly lengthy hiatus in Rocktober 2015 because the drummer got an offer he could not refuse to tour Europe as the road manager of another musical act. I totally don’t blame him for doing that (I would have done the same), and I have been following his travel blog, which is highly entertaining, religiously. But the drummer's travel opportunity arose just as the band was starting to gain some momentum locally and now I feel like we have to rebuild from scratch once he returns in February 2016, when we have a CD release planned for an as yet incomplete CD. That's probably overblown though. I practiced the songs just the other day and they came back to me just like riding a bike. Plus, after such a long waiting period, the fans will be eager to come see us again. It's just that the perfectionist in me likes to keep things rocking and suspended animation is a challenge. But that’s all very trivial relative to the enjoyment of playing in this group, so I will do my part to further the band goals once we are back up and rocking again in 2016. The next order of business will be finishing the CD.

On Memorial Day weekend I met my dream woman and current GF, Deborah. We had stumbled across each other on one of the free so-called "dating sites" and messaged back and forth a little before making plans to meet for coffee or a drink or something (there’s the SLD again!) about a week or so before Memorial Day 2015. She bailed at the last minute, citing a migraine headache. I didn’t think too much of it. People get migraines and I have a three strikes policy, especially when it comes to online dating, where a certain degree of flighty behavior is par for the course. On Memorial Day, I had plans with some friends to go see a buddy’s hard rock band play outdoors at a local bar. On a whimsy, I invited her to join us (keep in mind, we’d never met and I just invited her to come meet a bunch of other people she also never met)…and she said yes, amazingly, earning brownie points. It was definitely not an optimal ice breaker setting, with loud music making it hard to talk and my attention spread between her and my friends (who were thankfully well behaved and inviting). But after the band got done I asked her if she wanted to grab dinner and we went to the Great Dane and had a nice long talk. I liked her right away, but she actually took a while to warm up to me. I don’t blame her, since she met me on a dating site and these often have a lot of creepy characters (keep that thought to yourself!). I invited her to a rock-n-roll house concert at my house the following week, hosted by my band HIATVS (always on perpetual hiatus, except when we’re not), and I still joke with her that it was my frenetic rocking at said party that seduced her. She begs to differ. Whatevs. Anyway, we’ve been inseparable since. Like minded perfect soul mates. I moved in with her later in the summer, since I was pretty much at her house non-stop anyway. We hardly ever argue and we know each other too well to hold any grudges when we do. Blah blah blah and [insert sickly sweet romantic cliches here].

Moving on…

I went to Ireland with my bike team for a week in August, my first time there and the first significant amount of time I was away from Deborah since we had met. It was a fun experience, although I realized that I no longer drink alcohol like a 25 year old and most of my bike team still does. We saw some great parts of Ireland by bike (my travelog is here, if you want to see some pictures) and sampled many local beers, ending our trip at the Doolin Craft Beer Fest in Doolin Ireland, after a 10 mile power hike along the Cliffs of Moher (those beers were definitely deserved and appreciated). I also learned from this trip that the Irish roads are breathtaking, in the sense that you take deep breaths of terror at every brush with death on the narrow roads and hairpin turns, not too mention huffing and puffing up and down some of the more mountainous terrain. Overall weather cooperated with us and I am glad I went. The Irish people are super nice and fun. Great country. Visit some time.

After I got back from Ireland, I settled into enjoying life and finishing moving in with Deborah. We did some kayaking and I introduced her to some longer bike rides. We went up to the cottage a few times and did some weekend excursions here and there in Wisconsin (Door County, New Glarus, other places…). I put my house on the market soon after the Ireland trip and it actually just sold yesterday, generating some significant cash winnings that I banked and will be investing in 2016 (more on that later). Now that I have merged households with Deborah, living expenses are a lot less for both of us. Although she is independently wealthy to some extent (I am leaving out important details for brevity), Deborah decided to take a part time job as a triage nurse at the same company (UW Health) where I have been contracting as a technical writer all year. She is a nurse by training and has a passion for helping people, and she’s really good at it (I’ve heard…see I remember sh!t). Deborah lives only 1.5 miles from where we work, and thanks to El Nino, I was able to walk to work as much as four times a week until just recently. When I couldn’t walk, I biked, and when I couldn’t bike, the drive was easy enough. I love not having to deal with commuter traffic. The increased physical activity along with healthier lifestyle choices in 2015 (principally less beer, with the notable exception of the Ireland bike trip) helped me lose about 10 pounds or so and I want to lose about 10 more before Deborah and I go on a cruise in February 2016, so I can wear tight Speedos (just kidding...).

My other dog, Foster, a Boston terrier, made the transition to Deborah’s about as easily as I did. I incurred some significant veterinary expenses in the summer and fall due to Foster’s genetic defect that caused a lens to fall out of his left eye. This led to glaucoma and ultimately eye removal surgery that cost a pretty penny (financial losses now recouped…thanks to everyone who donated to his fundraiser!). He recovered fully and still has his other eye (though his eyesight is terrible). The monocular vision causes him to occasionally run into walls and doors and things (amusing), and to be more underfoot when he doesn’t see us coming (not amusing to Deborah, as she steps on his toes all the time). But he still loves to chase his tennis ball and noisily farts all over the place as usual (Boston terriers are notorious for their flatulence).

I have continued to attend and live stream the weekly Sunday open jam at Funks Pub in Fitchburg WI, not far from my former house. It's a fun way to end the weekend and allows me to rock weekly and let loose a bit, even whilst my bands are in various stages of hiatus. A few of the attendees have thrown together some impromptu little combo groups thanks to the jam and we've lately made some effort to actually plan ahead and learn songs ahead of time to try to rock them at the jams. I stream the performances live on the Intarwebz and upload them to Youtube for all eternity. They aren't anything awesome, but it's nice to have a visual record of the history of the jams. Until recently, I hadn't live streamed any other music shows around here, but in mid December I was asked to live stream and record some punk rock and metal band performances at the Frequency rock club in Madison, as part of the annual MAXMAS holiday celebration of local music. This event is usually organized and run by the currently AWOL drummer from EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, aforementioned. Since he was traveling in Europe and Sri Lanka, the lucky devil, we wanted him to be able to taste a bit of MAXMAS 2015 via 21st century technology (thanks SkyNet!). He watched it and was happy and that made me happy. It was a bit of a marathon sitting through all those bands and manning the helm of the live stream on my ancient Mac laptop
I was tired out afterwards and I have a greater respect for sound guys who have to sit through long shows and twiddle knobs night after night. Of course, they are getting paid cold hard cash to do it. I am only paid in enjoyment and (I'm told) karmic return. To be honest with you, there is something to this karmic return thing. I try to be the best person I can be and my life has turned out pretty freakin' kickass to date, I have to say, rounding out the year. I know there are a lot of douchebags in the world and it seems pretty unfair sometimes when they succeed by stepping on others, but there is nothing to be gained from stooping to their level. Always be the nicest person you can be and I guarantee you, you will win in the end.

GUPPY EFFECT was on hiatus for a goodly bit of 2015, due to a lack of drummer availability (what is it with drummers?). However, one of the drummers at the Funks jam, Verge by name, stepped up and took over drum duties for GUPPY EFFECT just in the last few weeks. He's the best drummer I have played with to date, I think. He's also really into GUPPY EFFECT's original rock-n-roll and a fast learner. Most importantly, he has motivation and availability, two traits that are essential for successful rocking, me thinks, regardless of innate talent. Stefan and I have had about four practices with him and we already have a full set of material we could start playing live shows with, mostly my songs, plus a couple of covers. I am trying to get us a show at the Reptile Palace in Oshkosh for mid-March 2016, the time of year I usually start to ramp up my live show performances, as weather begins to improve slightly. I take live music hiatuses usually from November to February - winter in Wisconsin - a time when I don't want to go out in the cold and travel anywhere for shows and neither do my music fans. This is why EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE's winter hiatus has not been too tragic for me, in reality.

As a result of the less than optimal full band activity, I have revamped my CACTUS JOE solo acoustic singer/songwriter incarnation, playing a show here and there about once a month. My next one is my birthday party. On Friday, January 8, 2016, from 6-9 PM, I will be hosting my own birthday party and performing some fun songs at the Bos Meadery in Madison WI, a venue that both hosts live music and makes a beverage called mead, which is a little bit like beer and wine combined. I like to rock on my birthday and this will be a good time, complete with free venue and booze.

I have big plans for 2016, but I am not quite ready to launch them, so I am not going to disclose them to you at this time. But soon! Suffice it to say, some dreams will be made manifest in 2016 and all my resolutions are pretty much fully in place. I’ll elaborate in another post soon after the new year.

Stay tuned and have a fun, safe, and happy new year!

12.28.2015

My Take on Making a Murderer

Like many people, I’m watching the Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer.” It’s a phenomenally well done 10 part show on the murder trial of Steven Avery, a man who was released from prison after 18 years on DNA evidence, for a rape he didn’t commit, only to be charged with another murder following his filing a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the cops who sent him away the first time. No spoilers, but watch the show.

With the exception of the defense lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerome Buting, none of the characters in the documentary are particularly upstanding human beings, and that includes the prosecution (last year, lead prosecutor Ken Kratz was forced to resign due to sexually harassing a domestic violence victim). It’s not clear to me if that was the intent of the filmmakers, but the take home message for me was that everyone deserves a fair trial, even people who might not be the most savory of characters.

What is clear is that there was enough questionable evidence and fishy/criminal behavior of police and prosecutors to warrant an acquittal of Steven Avery in the trial. No question about that in my mind, but feel free to disagree. Avery and especially his mentally disabled co-defendant and nephew in the case were obviously not intelligent enough to clean up a crime scene as bloody as the one described by prosecutors, as a special investigator says in the show. Yet the garage where the murder victim, Teresa Halbach, was supposedly shot in the head had ZERO blood to be found. OK, that was a bit of a spoiler, I’ll stop and just leave you with this.

If they make a Hollywood movie out of this, which would be awesome, I think Harvey Keitel should be cast as Lieutenant James Lenk.


Snow Day

Today is the first substantial snow day we have had this winter here in Madison WI, due in part to El Nino keeping things on the mild side. Of course, it comes the day before I am due to close on the sale of my house. I was hoping to escape having to shovel the sidewalk there before the closing. In theory, I can still escape it, because this winter storm is expected to continue overnight and let up in the morning. The city gives you 24 hours from when the snow ENDS to shovel sidewalks, so I would technically be off the hook. But that would be a dick move to make the new owners snow shovel the very day they move in. So I'll probably drive over there in the morning, before the closing, and shovel a bit. I am not going to go overboard, but I'll do the bare minimum and throw a little salt down too.

12.26.2015

Happy Boxing Day

In some countries, mainly those with a more hard and fast class or caste system I think (and also mainly those with their origins in the so called British Commonwealth), today is called Boxing Day. That's where higher class people in those countries provide small gift boxes (hence the name) to the lower class tradespeople and servants (mailman, blacksmith, chemist, housekeeper, gardener, etc.) in those countries, and bosses do the same for their employees.

It is usually the first business day after Christmas Day, since this is (conveniently) when the higher classes will next encounter the lower classes. One could say that, technically, Christmas Day is Boxing Day Eve (most of the time), giving the latter psychologically more import, the same way that Christmas Eve is a slightly inferior holiday compared with Christmas Day. If you were a particularly passive aggressive sort of blue collar worker, this might give you a smug sense of satisfaction as your Overlords bestow their trinkets and regifted items upon you.

Boxing day has origins that are somewhat distressing to those of us who view all people as having equal worth. In ancient times, servants were expected to wait on their masters during Christmas day feasts and were then sent home to be with there own families the next day, taking with them small gifts, money, or even just leftover food, in exchange for their subservience.

In some countries, Boxing Day has become a shopping frenzy similar to Black Friday in the United States, where retailers have large sales with the lowest prices of the year. This is economically wise, since the period after Christmas tends to be a time of slower retail sales, so this gives retailers a little financial bump going into the commercial doldrums of January and February. Boxing Day is also the biggest day for unwanted gift returns and exchanges in these countries, which may undo any benefit from the shopping rush.

Some countries have laws forbidding shops to open on Boxing Day.

12.25.2015

Xmas

Some people don't like it when Christmas is abbreviated Xmas, but as an atheist, I do.

Merry Xmas.

12.23.2015

Launch is Imminent

I am launching a new project soon (actually two, but they're related). I'm pretty excited about it and dying to tell you about it, but I can't just yet. I can only tell you I can't wait to tell you! Hopefully before the New Year, but definitely within a fortnight.

12.21.2015

6 Word Novel

Awoke. Fed dogs. Fell back asleep.

In Less Than a Week It Will All Be Over

Christmas Day is Friday. That means this is Christmas week, the home stretch to the holiday season finish line.

I am looking forward to putting the holidays behind me. The whole month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a weird time for me, as an atheist introvert who doesn’t much care for organized Christianity nor large numbers of people. The holidays are not friendly to people like me.

Technically, the holidays end after New Year’s Eve, but the real heinousness ends after Christmas, when you no longer have to worry about buying last minute presents or dealing with traffic congestion and crowds of people (other people buying last minute presents). The period between Christmas and New Years is actually a good time to decompress from the stress of the Christmas season.

Anyway, I hope the week goes fast. Tonight, Deborah and I will probably go out for date night. I’m taking the dogs to the vet tomorrow morning so Foster can get his nails trimmed and Maddie can get her ears checked for a possible infection (she also needs more heart worm medicine). Deborah is hiring maids to clean the house tomorrow, so it should be looking nice if/when people descend on our house for any Christmas festivities (we are strongly encouraging everyone to go out somewhere for Christmas celebrations instead, so we can avoid being saddled with massive and costly food prep like we were at Thanksgiving).

Christmas Eve night, Deborah and I may escape from the world by going to see the Star Wars movie. I don’t have much going on over the long weekend except for a GUPPY EFFECT band practice on Sunday. So I will probably rehearse songs and do some book writing in the sequestered seclusion of my music room.

Right now I am going to go pick some songs for the band to work on at the next GUPPY EFFECT practice. Ciao!

12.18.2015

4 Dimensional Space Time, Waves and Strings, and Finding Harmony


The Cosmos is made up of four observable dimensions, three spatial and one temporal. But there is some physics that says there may be more dimensions, principally String Theory. A lot of physicists don’t like String Theory because it’s hard to study (relying on invisible dimensions that can’t be measured and all). The strongest theories in science are those that are testable and some say String Theory is a bad theory because you can’t test for other dimensions with our current technology. However, that alone does not make it a bad theory. You just need to be able to test for SOMETHING that you would predict to observe if the theory were true.

For example, I cannot directly observe the invisible force that is gravity. But I can still theorize that masses in space attract each other by some force and I can test that theory by standing on the ground and dropping a stone. Pretty much every time the stone is going to fall straight down toward the center of gravity of the Earth. In fact, I’ve never known a stone to do otherwise without some stronger force working upon it (like say, a strong gust of wind or a magnetic field, if the stone is ferrous in nature). On the other hand, astrophysicists are using giant telescopes to look for the presence of actual gravity waves in outer space that are predicted to be there by the Big Bang Theory (also a hard to test theory, since we can’t see all the way back in time to the Big Bang, yet it is still a widely accepted theory). They haven’t found any yet, but they still think the Law of Gravity is a real and good thing.

Assuming, as String Theory does, that there are other dimensions in the universe that exist as quantum strings that vibrate at different frequencies, then there must also be harmonics in the Cosmos that occur as several strings interact, similar to when several vibrating strings on a guitar create a chord with several harmonics of sound. You can have dissonant harmonies or consonant ones on a guitar and this is likely for Cosmic strings as well. Since you exist within the Cosmos, these quantum strings are vibrating all around you. Even though the physical limitations of four dimensional space prevent you from observing them directly, you can observe them indirectly. Sometimes in your day to day life you are going to find yourself in a consonant region of local space time where everything just harmonizes and comes together beautifully, like when you have a good day ("good vibrations"). Other times, you’ll be in a dissonant region of space time and things will get all effed up, like when you are overloaded at work. That could all be a consequence of higher dimension strings vibrating with each other, creating consonance or dissonance, depending on the frequencies of the vibrations. In quantum physics, we know that observing quantum phenomena often influences the outcome (e.g., Schroedinger’s cat or photon slit experiments) so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that your observations of and interactions with the Cosmos may be affecting the frequencies of unseen higher dimension strings. In essence, you are creating harmonies in the Cosmos by your own thoughts and actions. So hypothetically (not theoretically), you may be able to actually create your own reality to some extent. There are Buddhists who would totally concur.

If this is so, the trick is obviously to try to create consonant regions of space time around you and avoid dissonant regions of space time, for the best possible reality. It’s not as hard as it sounds and it is not a random thing either, unless you are the kind of person who just goes with the flow in life (path of least resistance). According to my totally speculative hypothesis, finding good harmonies in life has to do with choices we make and the people we associate with (who are generating their own realities/harmonies too). Have you ever met a really negative person? That person’s strings are probably vibrating dissonantly with yours. It’s possible the other person thrives on negativity or drama, and so for them this seems like a pleasantly harmonious Cosmos, even though their strings may be sucking the energy out of yours and dampening your pleasant harmonies. They are stealing your harmonies (aka, harshing your gig) and thus you perceive negativity when they are near, a proxy for dissonance in the higher string dimensions you can’t see physically, only by way of the consequences on your four dimensional space time. Sometimes another person’s region of space time just isn’t in harmony with yours (you want to go to a show and they want to stay home and play cards). You work it out, fine tune a few strings and reach some kind of harmonious agreement. You RESOLVE it, much like a dissonant chord in music resolves to a more consonant one and it makes you feel relief and closure.

If you are a risk taker, you may find yourself stumbling into dissonant space time from time to time (on purpose). This may not be a bad things for risk takers. For them it is the resolution of dissonance to consonance that creates the harmony for them. That’s part of why they do it. Take for example an extreme surfer. She might look for the most chaotic (dissonant) waters and then try to find the consonant regions within the chaos (the perfect harmonious wave). Sometimes she effs up and get scraped across the coral reef in a mass of foam and sand and coughing up salt water.

In conclusion, the Beach Boys probably had it right all along.



12.17.2015

The Morning Joe

Good morning, readers. I ponder as I sit at the dining room table post coffee and a bowl of Cheerios with blueberries and banana just what exactly is happening in this wacky world. Before I moved in with my GF, I was living without mainstream media to a large extent. It was partly my desire to not pay money to the monopolistic charlatans at the cable company, but largely a willful media fast, that kept mainstream media largely marginalized and disenfranchised from my life. I got my news and information from online sources by choice and occasionally NPR (less infotainment and more rational and objective, with minimal opinionated editorializing). Now mainstream media is trying to assert itself back into my life...and it's terrifying. Deborah has Direct TV with what seems like 8 million channels of drivel. Some of that drivel is corporate mainstream network news. Having freed my mind from those poisonous social cues (aka memes or sound bites) over the past few years, I became very aware of how toxic it really is. It's like when you eat a healthy diet and one day you eat some junky fast food and feel nauseated.

I am able to turn off mainstream media when exposed to it though, just as I am able to avoid free donuts at work. Mainstream media is poisonous junk.

12.14.2015

Now It Has To Be Good

I actually have to write something fairly compelling now, and henceforth as well. I seem to have inadvertently, or advertently, activated my Twitter account to auto post to my Facebook wall, so now all my blog posts will appear on Facebook, unless I can turn it off. In the meanwhile, I have to make any posts here top notch before I publish, since everyone on the entire planet is now likely to see it. And by the entire planet, I mean my small sphere of social media contacts. Very small indeed. I think my blocked list on Facebook is now longer than my friends list. Hey, my social media...my rules?

Are still reading? What the heck is wrong with you? Stop this instant!

If you defied me and are reading this sentence, all I can say is anything that follows is on you.

Let me start by telling you what I am not going to write about here: politics, religion, or sports. First off, discourse on these topics is almost across the board a waste of time. When it comes to these subjects, there are basically three kinds of people in the world.

1. People who don't give a sh!t. At the first sign of these topics, whole regions of their brains literally shut down, manifested by the appearance of blank stares of complete and utter boredom or confusion. I fully admit being in this class of people on the subject of sports.

2. People who care but disagree with you. Nothing but angst down that path, dear reader. Total mine field. Just don't go there.

3. People who care and agree with you. Nothing new to talk about here. You will never get any closer to understanding the devotion #2 people feel for Donald Trump or Jesus. Best to just enjoy the pleasant company of sane people over a couple beers and talk about music or cool places you've visited or science.

That said, there a wide variety of topics to talk about. At random, I will choose Caribbean cruises as a topic to briefly write about here.

I have never been on one, but at the behest of my girlfriend Deborah, I am going on one in early February. She speaks highly of cruises. I like boat rides, and free food, and tropical paradises as much as the next guy, especially if I can escape the dead of winter in Wisconsin while enjoying those things.

The closest I have ever been to an actual cruise was vicariously experiencing one via a hilarious creative non-fiction story about one in Harper's magazine years ago.

I am not a huge fan of people or luxuries, both of which, I understand, are in great supply on cruise ships. However, I am reassured there are plenty of options for escaping such excesses.

I am sure I'll be travelogging my cruise journey via this blog, though perhaps not in real time because of exorbitant wifi fees on cruise ships. Feel free to follow along when I do.

That's probably enough rambling for now. If you suffered through all that and are still reading...I accomplished my only real goal. I win.

Ciao.

Ahead of Schedule

I am ahead of schedule this morning and with 20 minutes to spare, I am not sure what to do with myself. That's not really enough time to do anything useful. But it is enough time to crank out a daily blog post. The weekend was nice. On Saturday, Deborah and I did some much needed grocery shopping, then she went and bought a new car (technically, she leased it). Her previous car, the fancy Audi, blew a gasket and the damage was irreparable and not covered under warranty (those car manufacturers always find a way to weasel out of paying for expensive but warrantied repairs). Deborah wasn't about to shell out money to those charlatans to put a new engine in her car, so she went to the competition and got a new one.

On Saturday night, I went down to the Frequency and live streamed the Ghosts of Maxmas Past holiday show there. The sound guy, Dustin, gave me a direct mix from the sound board and it sounded really good, although the vocals were a little hot. But better the vocals be too loud than too soft, I always say. Next Friday, I'll do it again for Maxmas Part 2 at the Frequency (different bands).

Yesterday (Sunday), I rehearsed some songs in the morning, then Deborah and I went out to brunch with her extended family (sister, son, nephew, and nephew's GF). After we got home, I rehearsed a little bit more before heading over to my old house for band practice with GUPPY EFFECT. We are training new drummer, Verge, on the songs and he is catching on fast. GUPPY EFFECT made a rare appearance at the Sunday night jam at Funks Pub and rocked socks off.

That's about it for my weekend. Ciao!

12.13.2015

Ben Folds and Guppy Effect Share a Stage

Let me say right away that the title is a bit misleading. Guppy Effect made a rare appearance at the Funks Pub open jam tonight, since our new drummer Verge is a regular at it and Stefan had a free Sunday night. We had Verge trained decently on about 5 songs, so we rocked them. Earlier this week, I had been talking to the regularly attending keyboardist at the jam, Chris, about doing some kind of Ben Folds tribute. This was before I knew if Guppy Effect was available to perform. Chris was totally down so we picked 3 Ben Folds songs to debut at the jam tonight. Guppy Effect performed second at the jam and the Ben Folds tribute mini set was right after that. So Guppy Effect (the band) did share the stage with Ben Folds (the songs). But it's a stretch.

12.11.2015

What's On the Agenda This Weekend?

I think I might be running a video live stream of the Ghosts of Maxmas Past show at the Frequency in Madison WI on Saturday night. I was asked to do so by someone a few days ago, but there was not much in the way of followup. So, I’ll probably load the live stream gear in the car and head down there to see what’s up. I’ll need a wifi connection and a safe location to set up the gear, in addition to free admission to the show (as a courtesy for the pro bono work).

On Saturday, I am probably going car shopping with my GF Deborah and her son in the early afternoon, and I’ll probably spend the evening rehearsing songs for both GUPPY EFFECT practice and the Funks Pub open jam on Sunday afternoon and evening, respectively. I’ll likely rehearse Sunday morning as well. The keyboardist at the jam, Chris, wants to try to play some Ben Folds tunes Sunday night, two of which I need to refresh and one of which I need to full on learn. Chris and I conceived an idea to maybe form a Ben Folds tribute band, which would be superb. There is also talk of some of the jammers pulling “Journey to the Center of the Mind” by Amboy Dukes out of our butts. That’s a fun but tricky song, with thick vocal harmonies that need to be tight. The Funks jam organizer, Tyler, also wants me to start learning a tough song for the jam, although that might get a hearing at a later date, not this weekend.



So this weekend should be fairly laid back, with the exception of the Frequency show, which will probably stress me out. It’s nice that I don’t have to run the live stream and also perform at the show. I am not a good multitasker (Asbergers). But I think I can rawk the live stream, if the aforementioned minimum requirements are met.

12.10.2015

Taxing

The rhodiola must be working. The past few days have been pretty taxing, but I've been adapting just fine. Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb, which basically means it helps you handle stress and stressful situations better. The rhodiola Deborah got me from Life Extensions, her preferred supplement manufacturer, is doing just that.

I had started work on a new band project with some guys and one of them threw a hissy fit when he didn't get his way and decided to take his angst out on me. Eff that. I bailed from that project quite expediently. I have been around the block enough times to know instantly when a project is destined to be a flaming bag of sh!t. I have no time for negativity and drama, that main source of flaming sh!t bags in bands.

Then there was some stuff to do regarding the house I am selling. Minor things. Paperwork.

There are also a lot of people coming and going at Deborah's house right now and that's disruptive and stressful. I usually just go into my room and chillax when the commotion overwhelms my Asbergers. Deborah says I don't have Asbergers, but I think I have a mild case. I am on edge.

That reminds me of a joke. Have you ever had donkey burger? You aren't missing anything. It tastes like ass.

Tuesday night was the most stressful. Deborah set off the alarm system. Cops and fire engines came. The dogs went nuts. Bad.

I think I might be live streaming the Maxmas show at Frequency this Saturday, but I haven't gotten any followup from the organizers. I am gonna need some deets. I am happy to do it if I can set up and get on the Frequency's wifi.

Don't Take Anything Personally!

One of the screeds I sometimes turn to for inspiration and/or inner peace is “The 4 Agreements,” a spiritual guide by Don Miguel Ruiz that is purportedly based on ancient Toltec wisdom (the Toltecs did not leave any written records, so the term is used somewhat loosely to convey ancient Central American spiritualism...it's new age sh!t. Don't think too hard about it.).

The second of these Agreements is: Don’t take anything personally.

Lately, I have been struggling with this one a bit.

When I fell in love with my soul mate and girlfriend Deborah back in May, we both knew it was “The One.” I don’t know how we knew, but everything in the cosmos just seemed to come together in one perfect harmonious tapestry immediately, both internally and externally. Weird how that happens.

To Deborah and I, there is no doubt and no issue that we are to be together always. There’s total love, trust, and respect (the three legs that comprise what I call the “well formed stool” of a relationship). Sure, we bicker every so often, but we can usually stop ourselves before the fisticuffs (just kidding, there are never fisticuffs!). We both hate bickering and have a strict NO DRAMA policy. We have tons of other stuff in common too and we synergize well, which is why it is so perfect. She even likes that I play rock-n-roll music and supports it fully, which is still hard to get my head around, since very few of my past partners have appreciated that essential part of my very being (“it’s just a hobby…” eff off!). It’s my reason for being (aka, raison d’etre in French). Without rocking, my soul would die. But I digress.


The fact is, Deborah and I don’t think twice about the fact we are together. It’s just as natural as can be.

But then there is everyone else. Most people have been totally supportive, or at worst neutral. They are happy for us. But there have been a few naysayers – not many, but some – who are critical and or upset with us for various reasons.

To be fair, some concern is justifiable. After Deborah and I met, things moved fast. Since we were pretty much inseparable and I often stayed at her house, it made perfect sense for us to move in together, merge households and share life together as well as cut costs (always the frugal pragmatist…that’s me!). It didn't bother Deborah or me at all. Our parents (also presumably in lifelong soul mate type situations) totally "got it." They were happy and supportive.

But I had acquaintances* say things like, “I know Joe…it won’t last.” Ouch! It’s hard not to take something like that a little bit personally.

But then I think about The 4 Agreements. It’s not on me to be what other people think I should be or do what other people want me to do. It’s on them. They don’t know me, even if they think they do! They are saying negative things (Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your speech) and making false assumptions (Agreement #3: Don’t make assumptions; this one has made it into modern vernacular as “never assume…it makes and ASS out of U and ME,” although really it only makes an ass of the assumer). It's of no consequence to me.


I’m just being the best ME I can be (Agreement #4: Always do your best).

Another source of inspirado for me is the personal growth work of Derek Sivers, former owner and founder of CD BABY, an independent music distribution service I still use. He recently posted a video of a speech he gave that was titled: “DON’T PURSUE SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE SAID YOU SHOULD WANT.” The full recount of the video is neither here nor there, (though I am posting it below if you want to watch it), but the crux was that you should solve a problem you think needs to be solved, not pursue things you are told you SHOULD want (like a good job, wife, kids, house, that sort of thing).


The post could not have come at a better time. I was struggling with drama in a band project that was floundering because one of the members was literally pushing me to pursue something he said I should want…but I didn’t. I was verbally attacked and berated for not wanting it and it was just a lot of unnecessary drama. No thanks! (See No Drama Policy above…) Derek also wrote an inspirational blog post some time ago, titled: “No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no.” Basically, if you don’t find yourself saying HELL YEAH about something you are asked to do, don’t do it. Say NO instead.

I was not feeling HELL YEAH, so I said no. It’s hard to say no. It makes you feel like you are giving up and it is easy to internalize that and take it personally. It feels like failure.

But actually it is quite the opposite. Continuing with the “meh” project would have been the true failure. Bailing on it makes room for other better projects that I do feel “HELL YEAH” about and I can invest more mental energy and time there. That’s actually SUCCESS. Failure is not a bad thing anyway. It’s an educational tool. Failure is directly proportional to TRYING something. It builds character and redirects you to your creative goals.

Another great man, Brett Newski, said: “Take Risks. Wait for No Man. Don’t Die.

Words to live by.


* I use the term "acquaintances" rather than "friends" because by my definition of a friend is someone who supports you, and a good friend supports you unconditionally. This doesn't preclude "constructive criticism," which is different from naysaying/negativity, and which true friends should offer up when needed.

12.09.2015

Another Hump Day

Happy Hump Day. I can't believe it's Wednesday already. In fact, I am not entirely sure it is. But it must be. Monday night was date night. Last night, Tuesday, was a chaos of barking dogs, police cars and fire trucks, that basically sent me into sequestration in my music room to escape the mayhem. So tonight must be Wednesday. That means I have to drive to the Great Dane in Fitchburg to meet with some musicians with whom I am exploring a possible cover band project to discuss our business plan. I hope it ends up being a good project, but the formulaic idea put forth by one of the guys is awful. So this meeting is really to see if we can come up with something better and if I feel HELL YEAH about it. Right now I am lukewarm on it, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they can come up with a viable plan that is also worthy of my time investment (aka fun and fulfilling).

12.08.2015

Are You Mental?

Sometimes people say and do weird things and I want to ask them, "Are you mental?" It's probably not PC nowadays, but Wayne Campbell said it in Wayne's World, so I think it's valid pop culture vernacular.

Human behavior can be explained pretty easily. There are two brains at work in people. The thinking brain and the emotional brain. The thinking brain gives people higher reasoning and analytical powers. The emotional brain gives people feelings. Biologically, the thinking brain is the neocortex, the curvy folding surface layer of the brain. Everything people think of as intellect happens there. The emotional brain is composed of the lower levels of the brain and brainstem. Some call it the "reptilian brain" because it is evolutionarily quite old and makes up most of the brain of reptiles.

Thinking is great and people should do it as much as they can. But there's a problem. Evolutionarily, the thinking brain hasn't been around that long compared with the emotional brain. As such, the emotional brain is much more potent than the thinking brain and it can sometimes overwhelm and short circuit the thinking brain, especially when the two are at odds.

Here is where it gets interesting. The emotional brain can sometimes hinder the thinking brain but it can also augment the thinking brain.

This is highly correlated with good and bad emotions. Good emotions like love and happiness foster thinking. Bad emotions like hate and fear hinder it.

When you have a creative hobby that you love and that gives you joy, you think positively and rationally about it, and this allows you to succeed at it and think of ways to be more creative.

If you are angry or fearful or sad, this tends to create negative thinking that is self destructive and not creative. Negative emotions make thinking difficult. For example, bigoted people who hate or fear minorities are immune to acquiring knowledge and information that could educate them about reality. They will avoid or ignore information and are unable to engage in objective analytical thinking.

In conclusion, think more and have positive emotions. Your life will be a lot better if you do this and avoid negative emotions. It's generally a good idea to avoid emotionally negative people too - haters, insecure people, whiners, passive aggressive people, easily butt hurt people - because they will suck your life force out lickety split.

I am lucky to be a fairly positive person, largely free from negative emotions, and to be in a relationship with a smart and positive woman who also uses her brain a lot and keeps me honest.

Brains Don't Help Most People

Most people have a brain in their head, literally.

I mean, there was that one guy who had like almost NO brain (SOURCE).

But most peoples’ skulls are packed pretty full with brain matter.

That’s why it is so astounding how little use brains are to some people.

Don’t get me wrong, brains do a lot of good things behind the scenes, like making you breath without having to think about it and letting you know when you are hungry and regulating your hormones and body temperature, that sort of thing. Brains do tons of good things.

But thinking is something brains don’t do very well. We think they do it well, but they really don’t, which is kind of the perfect transcendent example of failed thinking.

Take for example fear of flying. Some people irrationally think they will die in a plane crash when they fly. That’s totally unhelpful thinking. In fact, it can do some harm, if you avoid traveling to cool places because you don’t want to go on a plane.

Statistically, your own house is a death trap compared with the inside of a flying plane. If you fear flying, you should be pants-sh!tting petrified of your own house, because you are like 4 times more likely to die there than on a plane (SOURCE).

One of the reasons brains fail to think helpfully so often is because we are wired to respond more potently to emotions than to information. This is easily observed every day in American politics. Politicians like Donald Trump can say the most fear and hate based inflammatory things and people will eat it up even if it is verifiably false, as 75% of Trump statements are (SOURCE). When planes crash, it is terrifying, but highly unusual. The emotion of terror is what short circuits your thinking brain and makes it useless for rational thought. That’s what terrorism is designed to do, make your brain go totally spastic and lose all ability to function rationally. Did you know that you are more likely to die from a brain eating amoeba than from terrorism (SOURCE)?

No, of course you didn’t, because your brain sucks.

Emotions overwhelm rational thinking most of the time. It takes some serious effort to get useful help from your brain.

In conclusion, brains are not very helpful.

12.06.2015

My Eyes Are Going Soft

In a rare bout of vision insurance coverage this year, I had my eyes checked and my glasses prescription got oh so slightly stronger. I hooked up some new glasses and set about wearing them. It makes seeing easier, but the boundaries are narrower. My close vision is going soft. I have to take these new glasses off to see things close up and I can't see them as close as I used to. On the bright side, I can see things I would normally need to hold close to my face more clearly at arms length. Costs and benefits, I suppose.

The Uber Men

My buddy Shawn drives Uber too.

We talk about it sometimes when we get together for band practice with the embryonic band we are toying with called YOUR MOM.

I drove a bit of Uber today, but not much. The flexibility is nice.

Always With the Bands

I want to give it to all my musical colleagues straight. In 2016, I am adhering to Derek Sivers' "No YES; it's only HELL YEAH or NO" philosophy strictly. It works great. I am only signing onto projects that make me want to say HELL YEAH. Otherwise my answer is no. Be thrilled and honored if I sign on to your project because it means I feel HELL YEAH about it. Don't be angry or frutrated if I don't sign on. Honestly, do you really want someone on your project who isn't HELL YEAH about it? It's win-win.

But that said, if you want my involvement in your music related project, make me say HELL YEAH about it. That simple.

Here are some, but not all, of the projects I am HELL YEAH about in 2016.

Rhythm guitar and backing vocals in original punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE.

Bass and vocals in original hard rock band GUPPY EFFECT.

Bass and vocals in hard rock cover band SCHOOLNIGHT BENDER (planned).

Solo acoustic guitar and vocals as singer/songwriter CACTUS JOE.

Sunday night open jam stage at Funks Pub (Fitchburg WI) - performing and running live stream.

My sci fi novel.

My non-fiction lifestyle coaching book.

12.05.2015

Exploding Drama

Today's award for worst service experience ever goes to Martin Glass of Madison WI. I am selling my house on December 29, and as part of standard protocol, the buyers requested I fix a cracked basement window. No problemo; common courtesy.

So I scheduled Martin Glass to come do the job today at 11 AM, because this is who the buyers' realtor used for the estimate, and they were also recommended by my realtor.

For whatever reason, contractors in Madison have a tendency to arrive upwards of 15 minutes early, which is less annoying than arriving late, but still annoying. So I decided I would arrive at my house at 10:30 to play it safe.

Didn't matter...the guy still beat me there. Then he parks his van square in the middle of my driveway so I can't pull into my garage. So I park on the street.

The guy is a surly churl who doesn't engage socially. I lead him to the broken window.

"Do you need anything?" I ask politely.

"No," he answers, churlishly.

As I load in my music gear from my car for this afternoon's band practice, over a much farther distance than anticipated since I was relegated to street parking, the guy proceeds to make a huge ruckus dismantling the broken window's glass into the recycle bin in my garage. He seems to relish the sound of smashing glass as it explodes at the base of the recycle bin. It's so loud, I have to put my earplugs in and I hope, for his sake, that he has hearing protection in as well. If he doesn't, I am sure it's an OSHA violation.

Anyway, he does the work seemingly very quickly (more on this later...). Then he seemingly disappears. I see he has turned off the basement light and closed the door, the universal sign for "I'm all done here." But he is nowhere to be seen. I go to see if his van is still in the driveway and he startles me in the upstairs hallway of my house.

I jump a little as he says, "I was looking for you..."

I literally thought for a couple of seconds I was going to be murdered.

Then he adds, as if to pacify my anxiety, "I had to use your bathroom real bad."

He tells me he is all done and shows me an invoice.

"Do you take credit cards?" I ask.

He says they do, though had I known what this actually entailed, I might have paid cash instead.

To wit, the remainder and probably lion's share of his time at my house (the first time...more on this later) consists of him trying to charge my credit card for the work. He has to call it in to his shop manually and the lack of 21st century electronic invoicing technology perplexes me, given that they guy is wearing a wireless earpiece for talking via his smartphone, hands free. This process takes about 10 minutes, I estimate, though time dilation due to ensuing akwardness makes it feel much longer.

First he calls the wrong number, though I don't know this and mistake his self effacing exclamation of "dumbass!" as some form of Tourette's Syndrome. The situation grows considerably more uncomfortable when he dials the correct shop number and immediately begins berating and verbally abusing whoever answers for a couple minutes. He makes a couple of failed attempts to read off my CC number to the shop person. To be sure, the numbers are not easy to read because of the design on the card. Even so, the listener on the phone fails at least three times to capture the digits with 100% fidelity.

Suddenly the window guy violently throws my CC on my kitchen counter and yells, "Goddamit!" I start, wide eyed, and once again question inwardly the longevity of my mortal existence, a feeling that competes fiercely with an overwhelming desire to be just about anywhere else - inside a vocano, swimming with hungry sharks, naked in Antarctica... He makes some obscure comment about the "damn Gilligan farm," that I can't comprehend, then proceeds to verbally abuse the person on the phone a bit more before eventually, I think, getting all my billing information conveyed. Then he takes my email address for the purpose of emailing me my receipt, and leaves.

"Have a great rest of your day," I say as he steps outside. He trails incomprehensible mumblings as I close the door and lock it securely.

At this point, I am about 75% certain my identity is in the process of being stolen and 95% certain that I shall never see the promised email with the sales receipt for the window job, which I need for verification at least a week before my house sale closes. These percentages soon escalate dramatically, along with a growing probability that I will have a shiv jabbed repeatedly into my carotid artery.

To be fair, I probably overestimated the stringency this fellow applied to his own work ethic, given the referral by two realtors. So it takes me a few minutes to go down to the basement to examine the work. As I go down the basement stairs, I wonder why it seems so much colder than before. It is December, so I assume the short period of time the pane had been out of the window while the guy fixed it had let in some wintry air, which would be remedied by the furnace in due time. I keep the thermostat set very low since I am not living there. But alas, such would have been good fortune indeed, compared with the reality of the situation.

It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that the glass repair guy had done a half assed job, LITERALLY. He had replaced the broken one of two panes, but had completely failed to reinstall the original unbroken pane, which was nowhere to be found.

I call my realtor, Julie, for advice on what to do. She comes right over, along with my girlfriend Deborah, who is her sister, and there is an immediate violation of my strict NO DRAMA policy as frustrated calls are made to the Martin Glass "shop" (completely uncooperative in all respects) in an attempt to remedy the situation.

Total clusterfuck. I am able to locate the missing old unbroken pane of glass in the garage, nearby where the guy had been making a ruckus. When the guy finally calls me back, he plays dumb.

"You didn't finish the job," I say.

"I didn't?" he replies.

"You forgot to put the other paine of glass back in."

"That's real easy to do yourself," he says.

What? He takes MY money and then wants me to do the rest of his work for him? Fail.

"I paid for you to do the work and I want it finished. TODAY," I say firmly.

"Well, I am finishing a board up job right now," he replies, stubbornly. "I can be back over there in about 40 minutes."

"Get here." I was not playing any games.

When he calls back a few minutes later to say he is on his way, he sounds a bit less churlish, though by no means apologetic. Julie and I surmise he has been given a serious talking to by his supervisor, someone named Jamie, according to Martin Glass's unhelpful customer service (who refuse to give us Jamie's number...).

As the three of us, Julie, my GF Deborah, and I wait for the repair guy (named Carie or Kerry) to return, we all discuss the significant probability of our mass murder on this cold but sunny Sunday afternoon.

"It's perfect," I say. "My band mates show up for practice and find us in various stages of being cold bloodedly murdered. A scuffle ensues and blah blah blah...total horror movie fodder."

Carie or Kerry or whateverthefuck shows up. He's sullen and quiet as we proceed to the basement. I am happy to let him install the other pane and get the fuck out as quickly as possible, my sense of untimely doom ballooning rapidly. But Julie, rightly so, demands he clean the sealing caulk and fingerprints he left all over the new glass pane, which seems like a significant struggle for the guy. I am not entirely certain this struggle is over cleaning the window or subduing his inner homicidal maniac.

Initially apologetic, Carie (?) seems to have demons and angels battling for control of his words. He mumbles "I'm sorry" to me at one point during the fixit job #2, but later he turns to Julie and tries to guilt her for "making Bonnie cry." Bonnie is the aforementioned resistant-to-altruism customer service rep at the "shop."

Stahp yourself, Carie! I think inwardly. This will not go well for you.

Where was Carie's sympathy for bringing someone to tears when he was verbally cussing out the poor person at the "shop" as he tried to bill my credit card? That may very well have been Bonnie too, for all I know.

I begin to have pugilistic notions of having to defend petite Julie against this sizeable character, who seems to be very much on drugs.

But Julie takes none of his lip and simply says, "Well you didn't do your job." This silences him.

Both the discomfort level in the room and my anxiety exceeds safe limits as Carie (?) wields a razor blade to scrape residual epoxy off the new glass. I am glad Deborah is upstairs so she can run for help if/when she hears Julie and I screaming seconds before our larynxes are severed, silencing us.

Carie finishes, and as he leaves he tells Julie, "It has been a rough morning," by way of excusing his weak sauce.

"It has been a rough morning," Julie says, pulling the top of her blouse to the side, revealing the catheter installed there. "I was in the hospital all morning." This is true, though HIPAA rules forbid me from elaborating.

For some reason, Bonnie from Martin Glass calls Julie after Carie (?) has left and they exchange further drama. Apparently Bonnie accuses Julie of intimidation and again Julie has none of it.

"I shant be doing business with Martin Glass again," Julie says and hangs up. I admire her chutzpah, though she tells me its all in a day's work for a realtor. I promise myself to ladle generous rewards upon her in the near future, but must turn my attention to the pending band practice, still anticipating a murderous return visit from Carie (?) at some point, and now 100% sure my credit card is on a 6 state shopping spree. But Julie assures me she will get not only a receipt for the work but also a full refund for me when she talks to Martin Glass's owner on Monday. Then she and Deborah leave and I wait for my band mates.

The ensuing band practice is productive and relieves some of my tension.

If you don't hear from me in a few days, I am dead. Just fyi.

Happy Saturday.

p.s. share this blog post with the cops if leads are needed in a multiple murder that includes me as a victim.

12.01.2015

Life Hacks and Pro Tips (Volume 1, I Guess...)

I am sure many of you already practice this life hack and I am often amazed how many times I fail to do it, even knowing that it works consistently most of the time.

To wit, when you go to a large box or grocery store, ALWAYS PARK NEAR THE DOOR WHERE YOU WILL COME OUT OF THE STORE.

It would seem like common sense, but go to any big store and you will find most people park near the entrance. It’s almost instinctual, especially in crappy weather, to park as close as you can to the entrance, not the exit. It’s a type of instant gratification, but ignores longer term consequences.

Think about it…you eventually will exit the store, possibly through a different door and probably carrying a shite ton of groceries or assorted products.

That’s when you want your car to be close by, not a football field’s distance across the massive parking lot. Am I right?

Most of the time, it’s not a big deal. You enter and exit the store via the same doors. Then it doesn’t matter where you park.

But when you go to those gigantic big box home improvement centers that have a separate entrance and exit separated by a goodly distance, this pro tip is a goldmine.


When you park near the exit, in addition to being closer to your car when you come out of the store with a pantload of stuff, there is another perk as well.

Like I said, most people make the mistake of parking near the entrance, so it is harder for you to find a good parking spot there. But if you park near the exit, you can usually get rock star parking and be even closer to your car when you come out of the giant store too.

I tried this at Home Depot and Menards today as I was cruising around looking for a replacement furnace filter. Neither place had what I needed, but it was nice to be able to get back to my car fast and jet out of the parking lot without having to wait for a half million people to back out of their spots at a snail’s pace. I probably should have gone to the much smaller Ace hardware store, where I eventually found the elusive filter, to begin with, but I really thought the megastores would have simple crap like this in stock. Khaks.

Virtual high five to Ace hardware for coming through for me today.

11.30.2015

Another Funday Night

I arrived at the Funks Jam about 7:30 PM last night, to set up for the live stream. It was pretty desolate when I walked into Funks Pub, but over the course of the night, it picked up.

Rita Witter and her son Jake were there. It was Rita's birthday and she had asked me to bring a guitar amp of hers that I had to Funks so she could use it for something or other. Jake and I went out to my car and transferred the amp from mine to his.

I set up the live stream and chilled a bit before the music started, sipping on a Fantasy Factory IPA from Karben4 Brewing. I call it the "grapefruit beer" because it has a fairly strong grapefruity taste to it. It's one of my favorite beers.

After MUDROOM played their opening set, I rocked a tight set with Phil and MG (MG's HENCHMEN, an impromptu band incarnated from the jam), covering some THE WHO and some KISS, etc. Phil insisted on playing "What I Got," by SUBLIME, which just about everyone agrees is not SUBLIME's best work. Its two chords do not make for interesting bass playing, which is my main gripe about the song. But we did it anyway.

While the Henchies were performing, some musicians arrived who were new to the jam, and they signed up to perform after us. They were quite good, though I did not catch their name.

A series of mix-n-match jams followed that with various musicians, old and new, jumping on and off the stage. After the noodling had exhausted itself, Tyler of MUDROOM invited me back on stage to play bass on a few more tunes, including "Peaches en Regalia" by Frank Zappa and "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie. My singing on the latter song was superior, if I do say so myself. You can have a listen at 16:15 in the music video below (from the live stream). My mom will say I am singing too high above the range at which my voice sounds best, and she'd be right. But it's still pretty good, and I am working on having the other musicians transpose it down a whole step, which will make it sound like perfection. At least the vocals are loud enough to cut through the music.

Because of all the noobs at the jam, the music went well past the usual cutoff time of 11 PM. It's a great problem to have, and the noobs brought friends with them too, which the venue likes. I stuck around until midnight on loose promises from Tyler of getting paid for my efforts, but when the ATM machine did not cooperate with him, he gave me even looser promises of settling up in the future and I bid him farewell for the 20 or so minute drive home.

I participate in the Funks Pub open jam mainly for fun and experience playing live, whilst improving my skills learning music and improvising with others. It's like free rock--n-roll lessons and totally pays for itself in VALUE. But if I can get a few bones thrown my way for gas money, my accountant frowns upon me a little bit less...

Sunday should be renamed FUNDAY.


11.29.2015

Sunday Workday

In about a half an hour, I need to go to work. The office is just a flight of stairs away from where I am currently in repose at the dining room table, after a high protein rock fuel breakfast.

Today's tasks include learning a couple of new songs for the Funks Pub open jam tonight. Guitarist Phil wants our impromptu band, MG's HENCHMEN (MG refers to drummer Michael, whose middle name is Gordon), to be the backing band for one of his muses (read naive floozies within whose pants he would like to get by way of appealing to their vanity). I am happy to play wingman by way of my bass playing talents, especially since this doesn't involve learning any vocals.

Once that task is achieved, the rest of my work day will consist of writing portions of one or both of my in progress books and perhaps running a few solo acoustic guitar and vocal songs for my Cactus Joe repertoire, before heading over to Funks Pub about 7:30 PM for said jamnasium, which will go until about 11 PM, rounding out an approximately 12 hour work day, by the time I pack up my gear and drive home from the jam.

I may take a break about 3 pm for some exercise, by way of a group social hike taking place not far from my workplace (aka Deborah's house). However, that will be dependent on achieving my rock-n-roll goals before then. Even so, I may back out of the hike in favor of creative endeavors.

11.27.2015

Slack Friday @ Bos Meadery

I am calling today Slack Friday, rather than Black Friday.

I am not participating in the Black Friday commercialism at all.

There is no % savings on material goods that would convince me to interact with the brutality of humanity at large today.

However, something that can compel me to socialize is MUSIC.

That's why in a couple of hours, you'll find me in repose at the Bos Meadery in Madison WI, hopefully participating in the open mic they are holding from 2 to 5 PM today as a refuge for slackers like me from Black Friday.

As a freelancer making hourly, albeit fairly decent, wages, I went to the job that underwrites my life this morning. Since hardly anyone is here and my brain is both foggy from yesterday's feasting and still in holiday mode, there is very little to be accomplished. I'll head home in about 15 minutes to eat and gather up my guitar to go bust out a few tunes and sling back a tankard or two (but no more) of mead.

Take 'er easy!

11.26.2015

Is Coffee Bad for You?


I am sitting at the breakfast bar in Deborah's house, about 8:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon of a day that is sure to be tornadic with drama, but at the moment it is peaceful and I have my solace. Deborah, her son Devon, and his girlfriend Gretchen, are upstairs conducting various morning ablutions. I am thankful to have this moment of peace that will inevitably be shattered.

My breakfast consisted of no frills Cheerios (Toasted Oats), with almond milk, frozen blueberries (thawed in the microhorno), and a splash of unsweetened kefir (with a packet of Stevia to sweeten it). And coffee. Always coffee.

Speaking of coffee, a massive scientific study on coffee consumption came out recently, showing that moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups a day) protects against early death by almost any cause, except cancer (SOURCE). This study was not a clinical trial, but rather a longitudinal observational study, in which over 200,000 doctors and nurses were studied for over 30 years, taking periodic medical exams and tests about their diet, behavior, and health. I mean, this study was BIG!

That study provides pretty strong evidence that coffee in moderate amounts is generally good for you. However, always the skeptic, I must also point out that this study did not look at genetics. As it turns out, there is a gene in the liver of all people that metabolizes caffeine and this gene has two different variants (caused by a mutation in a single DNA nucleotide), such that some people are fast metabolizers of caffeine and some are slooooow.

Several studies have shown that while coffee has health benefits in fast metabolizers of caffeine, it may have harmful effects in slooooow metabolizers, which kind of confounds the findings of that big study mentioned above.

Looking at it in a way that most scientists don't, however, it would appear that more studies suggest coffee is beneficial (6) than that it may be harmful (4).