2.28.2015

On a Bus

I am on public transportation - a bus to be exact - going from my house (actually 2 blocks away...is the bus stop) downtown, for my writing class. I opted for the bus because the teacher of the class told us there is some kind of wrestling tournament going on downtown and parking might suck. I am low on gas anyway and this way I don't need to pay for parking. I will save about a dollar using the simplest math. Round trip bus fare is $4. Parking is usually $5. My Prius doesn't use a lot of gas, but whatever gas I save doing this can be tacked onto the cost savings. Plus I can postpone having to get gas again until probably Monday.

But of course, the real value of taking the bus is stress relief and peace of mind. No dealing with traffic. No parking hassles. And someone else is driving. Granted the bus has its First World problems. There's the destitute narcissist who asks the bus driver to wait 15 seconds so he can check to see if he has the bus fare. There's the punk assed petty larcenist who takes a seat and immediately starts talking too loudly on his cell phone, bragging about how he totaled his friend's car to get some insurance money.

I thought my writing class was tomorrow but it is today, which presents a conundrum, because today is also the last day of February Album Writing Month (FAWM) for which I still need to write about 8 songs. That means I can't begin churning out songs until about 6 pm tonight. FAWM closes at midnight at the International Dateline, which gives me until 6 AM Sunday to finish and upload the 8 songs. Since I have no intention of staying up past 2 AM (I like sleep), I have a bold ambition to do about one song per hour starting as soon as I get home from class. This is actually doable...but it means no advanced production, just an acoustic guitar and whatever lyrics I cobble together. They will be sketches to elaborate on later if any are good ideas. The only forseeable caveat to this plan is if I hit upon some pure genius and decide to put all my eggs into that one hit basket. Then I will not achieve the desired quantity of songs (8) but I will get a probable hit song. I am definitely a QUALITY vs QUANTITY kind of guy when it comes to songwriting.

I am almost to my destination so will have to sign off. I will end by saying I hope this writing class offers some opportunities to sketch out some song ideas and maybe lyrics.

Riding the bus is fun and productive. Stay tuned, dear readers.

2.27.2015

Poor Buddy

A week ago, I took my dog Buddy to the vet and found out his anal gland cancer surgery was a success. The vet couldn't feel any tumor regrowth and his calcium levels had returned to normal, indicating no cancer spread.

Since Buddy's thyroid hormone levels were low, the vet put Buddy on a cheap medicine to supplement it.

This week, though, Buddy took a turn. He had a couple of pee accidents in the house on Tuesday and Wednesday when I got home from work and didn't let him out right away. I didn't think too much of it, because he has always been a big water drinker. However, he rarely has accidents and in these cases he did not go to the door or whimper or give me any warning at all. He didn't even try to go somewhere to do it secretly, he went right in front of me. That was actually good because I was able to stop him and throw him outside.

On Wednesday night though, he started stumbling around the house, crashing into chairs and walls and falling down. He couldn't stop drinking water, even trying to lick the snow when I took him outside. He also subsequently couldn't stop peeing. Because of the bladder control issues, I put him in his crate, lined with a towel, to stop him from crashing around and peeing on the floor. The crate has a plastic base with a lip to keep any liquid in. In the morning on Thursday, I called the vet and brought him in for a day admission for observation.

The vet ran a test and Buddy has Cushing's Disease, a condition where the brain and/or adrenal glands produce too much stress hormone, resulting in a lot of symptoms that Buddy has (and has had for a while) - stiff joints, lethargy, drinking a lot, fat pads on his shoulders, disorientation, instability, etc.).

I took Buddy home Thursday night and kept him crated as much as possible so he could rest and to give me a respite from using the steam vac on his accidents. I had bought some doggie pee pads after work to line the crate, and he soiled a few of them during the nigh. These pads are super absorbent and have a waterproof base to they can be disposed of easily, so clean up was pretty easy but I had to get up three or four times during the night when he barked (letting me know he had peed or crapped himself).

I worked from home for most of the day on Friday and Buddy was not in very good shape. He was very disoriented, fell over a couple times, and seemed to have no energy. I wasn't sure if he even recognized me. When I took him outside, he just lied down on the snow in this freezing cold weather. I had to lead him back into the house. His water drinking is reduced a bit though.

Buddy seems to be doing better today. Still lethargic and unstable, but seems to be more with it and not drinking as much. This morning I took him into the vet to get some blood drawn and obtain some pills that cure Cushing's. Well, not really a cure, because he has to stay on them indefinitely and they are not cheap. I hope the pills work and give Buddy a new "leash" on life (did you see what I did there?). I know Buddy won't live forever, but he has had a good long life living with me the past 14 years. As long as it continues to be a decent quality of life, that's all I can hope for.

2.24.2015

Potency

I had a great practice with EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE tonight. We worked on some new songs. Afterwards, I did some writing class homework while I mixed the band practice recordings. Now I am really tired and going to sleep.

2.20.2015

Does Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Make Sense?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed that poor people receiving public assistance, primarily food stamps, Medicaid, and/or unemployment benefits, should have to undergo a drug test, and he says he plans to push forward such legislation in his budget.

If you don't think about this proposal too hard, it sounds kind of satisfying initially at a visceral level. There is a certain moral outrage tied to the idea that some deadbeat poor person is going to spend what little money they have on drugs while receiving “handouts” from law abiding taxpayers so they can eat, or see a doctor, or pay the rent.

Why should we the taxpayers help those losers?

However, if you do spend thirty seconds or so contemplating this proposal, some uncomfortable questions start to pester the mind.

The first question I asked myself was, what proportion of welfare recipients do drugs and is this proportion any higher than in the rest of the population?

I googled this. I couldn't find any data for Wisconsin, but based on similar programs that are on the books in 12 other states, the incidence of drug use among welfare recipients is around 2.5%. In the general population of these states, drug use ranged from 6% to 8%. So it would seem from this limited data that welfare recipients do fewer drugs than the rest of us.

Conversely, in Tennessee, the drug testing of applicants is based on suspicion of drug use obtained via a questionnaire that recipients must fill out (certainly, all applicants answer these questionnaires truthfully...). In this biased sample, incidence of positive drug tests was a modest 13%, a fudged number that proponents of Walker's plan could use to make the argument that welfare recipients use more drugs than the rest of us. For argument's sake, let's go with that 13% figure. That still leaves 87% of welfare applicants who are drug free.

That led me to another question. Who is paying for the drug tests? According to one source, a drug test costs between $25 and $75. An uninformed person might think the welfare applicant is responsible for the test fee. However, federal law prohibits this. So if Walker has his way, the cost of the drug tests falls to Wisconsin taxpayers. Is the money saved from denying benefits to the 13% (at worst) of drug using welfare applicants enough to offset the cost of testing the other 87% who are clean?

It may surprise you to know that the answer is actually probably yes. Let's keep the math simple for illustration purposes.

Test 100 welfare applicants who have each applied for $1000 in benefits at $25/test ($2,500 billed to taxpayers). 13 of them test positive and are denied benefits, saving the taxpayers $13,000 (net savings $10,500 after cost of the drug tests). Even if we use the conservative 2.5% incidence of drug use among welfare recipients, it's a wash.

Sounds like this plan might actually work, doesn't it? But let's ask one more question.

Are the positive testing applicants actually denied welfare benefits? One would assume that denying human beings Maslow's basic physiological needs (food, medicine, shelter, etc.) might land one fairly expediently in front of a judge in a courtroom.

Walker has said the state will offer free treatment programs to welfare applicants who test positive for drugs. And by “free” he means free to the welfare applicant, but paid for by taxpayers. So the implication is that if the applicant gets treatment they will not be denied benefits (otherwise, why get treatment? Drugs are way more fun!).

In conclusion, if Walker's plan is implemented, not only do the drug taking welfare applicants get free drug tests (paid for by taxpayers) and free treatment (paid for by taxpayers), at the end of the day they still get their food stamps, unemployment, and Medicaid benefits (paid for by taxpayers).

So how does that save money?

Further questions about Walker's proposal may be moot in light of this, but they include:
  • Does the welfare applicant have to repeat this drug test every time their benefits come up for renewal? That could multiply the cost of testing.
  • What about families? Parents apply for benefits that include their dependent children. Are benefits denied to the children if the parents test positive?
  • Should all government employees be drug tested? After all, they are paid by the taxpayers too and about 8% of them probably do drugs according to the available statistics.

Four Straight Hours of Zen Discipline Starts...NOW!

For the next four (4) hours, starting now, I will be writing. I will not be writing this blog post for that entire span of time. That would be ridiculous. In point of fact, I will be writing this blog post for somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes, most likely, in an effort to warm up my mind for a marathon of homework for my writing class. Optimally, I will finish my homework tonight, or at least generate some decent rough drafts that I can tweak a couple of times before Sunday night, when the assignments are due. There are only two assignments this week (Week 4 of the class), whereas normally there are three. However, the word count is the same (two 750-word exercises vs. three 500-word ones).

The focus this week is on pure non-fiction. The assignment is to generate factual non-fiction that is still interesting and fun to read, but we cannot draw on the tools of creative non-fiction (adding opinion or coloring the truth to embellish factual events). This is a challenging assignment, but I think well within my bailiwick.

I'll take this opportunity to stretch and warm up my mind by telling you about this past week of mine in a non-fictional manner.

It was a light week as far as band practices. In fact, there were no official band practices. As I said in yesterday's blog post, GUPPY EFFECT had a band meeting on Wednesday night, during our regularly scheduled band practice time, to discuss ideas and goals, underwritten by a $50 cash surplus left over from a fairly recent fundraiser show. However, no music was performed. EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE had the week off from practice (normally Tuesday night) in part because we played a gig last Friday night at which we performed all the songs in our repertoire and also to save the bass player, who lives in Kenosha, from having to commute to Madison. The country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, did practice last night (Thursday) but not with me. The backup bass player is playing the next two gigs with DWTD, a Johnny Cash fest on Friday February 27 (sorry you will miss that, mom!) and a happy hour set the Tuesday after the Cash Fest, at the High Noon Saloon. I stopped by country band practice last night, but only so I could get my gig money from the show we played last Saturday at the Port Huron Brewery in Wisconsin Dells. I generally do not have band practices on Monday nights, although that will be changing soon, because BABY ROCKET, the cover band, has some fortnightly Monday practices scheduled in anticipation of some summer gigs. However, the last three such practices have been canceled for a variety of reasons, including the one this past Monday. That was fortuitous, because my friend Sherry wanted to hang out after her Jazzercise class. We hadn't gotten together in a while.

Sherry and I cooked a gigantic winter squash of some type that was given to me a few weeks ago by drummer MG from the Funk's Open Jam. I had let one of his side projects use my basement jam space to practice for a show and my payment for that was the squash and some beer.

We cut the massive gourd into four pieces and drizzled the exposed insides with olive oil, as well as some garlic salt and pepper, after disemboweling it of its seeds. Then we baked it for an hour on a cookie sheet Sherry had brought and when they were done, we scraped the delectable mush into bowls and topped it with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. In addition to the squash, I had also whipped up one of my specialty spinach and tofu salads. We watched Netflix while we ate and then Sherry went home.

I had planned to get a start on my writing homework earlier in the week. Things have gotten busy at my day job as a technical writer and I made the discovery that after eight hours pounding out grueling IT policies and procedures, I do not have a lot of brain power left in the evenings to do much other than veg out. Today (Friday) is really no exception. I was at work until almost six PM working on the same project I had been working on all week. However, being that it is Friday and I don't have to be at work tomorrow, I was able to drink some coffee when I got home from work to re-activate my fried neurons. That should power me through these next four hours and even if I can't fall asleep afterwards when I go to bed, that's OK. I will read for a while and whatever time I fall asleep, I know I can sleep in tomorrow because it is Saturday.

I have tomorrow blacked out for writing homework as well, if for some reason I do not get the bulk of it done tonight. But if I do get the bulk of it done tonight, then tomorrow is blacked out for February Album Writing Month (FAWM.org), which I am pathetically behind on (although, one of the three songs I composed so far this year, "Punk Rock Unicorn," did get a very positive write up on a blog that reviews FAWM songs).

Tomorrow night, I have a date, and after that said date and I are going to a rock-n-roll show at the Red Zone rock club in Madison. GOVERNMENT ZERO, one of the other bands Tim from EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE plays in, is opening for a band called CIRCLESWITCH, for whom my buddy Peter (a former GUPPY EFFECT drummer) is the drum tech.

The plan for Sunday is to make Art Pancakes in the morning. In the afternoon, the Madison Skeptics are having what passes for church among atheists at 3 PM, and in the evening, I will attend the Funk's Open Jam, where I hope we will be showcasing some new material, including some Led Zeppelin songs. This is very much wishful thinking, but it will not be for lack of wishful doing on my part, because I will have the bass parts honed by then.



Well, I am pushing my 30 minute time limit here, so I had best get cracking on my writing homework. I will be radio silent until further notice.

Donate some money to my coffee fund on the right. I need it!

Ciao!

2.19.2015

The Band Meeting

My guitarist Stefan picked me up at my house in Madison WI around 6:50 PM and we drove over to the Village Bar to meet our drummer Jon. We had a residual $50 left over from the youth hockey fun(d)raiser show we played on February 7 at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, so we decided to use it to underwrite a band meeting to discuss band objectives and goals.

Stefan and I found “rockstar parking” on the street right next to the Village Bar, which saved us having to walk very far in the brutal cold of Wisconsin in mid-February. We looked around the parking lot of the bar to see if Jon’s car was there. We didn’t see it, and we went in.

The Village Bar is a neighborhood tavern with a lot of regulars. When you enter from the parking lot there is a bar on the right that runs the length of the establishment, and there is a small grill and fryer at one end where they cook the greasy bar food. The rest of the cozy wood paneled room has a few tables and Stefan and I took seat at one of these while we waited for Jon to arrive.

Jon walked in a couple minutes later. Apparently, he had had to park a block away, which I guess means the Cosmos didn’t think he was as rock star as us. I kid, I kid.

The Village Bar is cash only, something I should have considered ahead of time. I didn’t bring much cash. They had an ATM so I was able to get the needed band funds, but the $2 ATM fee cut into our meeting stipend a bit (4% to be exact). Still, we managed to stay under budget on the three brick burgers (cheeseburgers with brick cheese) and two pitchers of Capital Brewery’s Winter Skaal seasonal beer that we ordered and consumed over the course of our meeting.

At the last band meeting, GUPPY EFFECT decided collectively as a band to go to an all (or mostly) original music model and get away from the cover band image that is often a drain on morale. We decided to keep a small batch of cover tunes to pull out now and then – ones we really like and perform well, like “Black Betty” by RAM JAM. We also decided to develop a semi-acoustic incarnation of the band and play more venues demanding this style of music. In fact, we played a gig in this incarnation already. The last Sunday in January, we pulled off the acoustic set brilliantly at the Art Nest event at Cardinal Bar in Madison. It’s basically an art show at the Cardinal the last Sunday of every month and they bring in lighter musical acts to augment the artistic experience. Original music goes over well at events like this for a couple of reasons. One is that your role is kind of to provide background music, so the actual genre of music is not as important as the presentation of it. The second is that art shows tend to emphasize originality, so original music compliments that. We got a lot of positive feedback on our music and the organizer of Art Nest bought us a round of drinks.

At yesterday’s band meeting, we discussed, among other things, how to improve our live performances (both electric and acoustic), what new original songs to add, whether Jon should invest in a cocktail drum kit for the semi-acoustic shows, what kinds of gigs to play, how to find such gigs, and possibly changing our band name (we even struck on a decent idea for one, though it’s confidential because we are still debating it and we have to trademark it before we launch it officially).

On the Facebook recently, I was tipped off to a web site called Indie on the Move that assists performing musicians and bands in finding opportunities to perform. I checked it out and it is a great resource for finding appropriate venues for GUPPY EFFECT (or whatever we may start calling ourselves) to play. I have already enquired with a few venues. The site kind of does what I proposed doing with my web savvy friend Branden a couple years ago, creating a site that is like an Angie’s List for bands to rate venues. Indie on the Move has a simpler rating scale than I envisioned, but it is probably more streamlined that way. My idea never got off the ground and now that I have found this site, why re-invent the wheel?

Jon had on the agenda to talk about what works and what doesn’t for us as a band. On the gig front, we came to a unanimous decision to never play bowling alley gigs again. This is probably already a necessary consequence of our plan to play 95% all originals going forward, since these bowling alleys that have live music typically want 95% cover songs. But we needed to validate ourselves after the disastrous bowling alley gig we played in Beaver Dam last fall (no offense to the five people who showed up…we appreciated you and rocked you as hard as we could). As a Lebowski fan, I like the concept of bowling alley gigs, but apparently almost no one else does. We agreed that some of our best shows have been ones where we played for 45 to 60 minutes, pounding out the songs fast and furious. The reception has always been great at these shows. Maybe it’s because a short set doesn’t fatigue the ears of the fans and leaves them wanting more. A three hour cover band show can be grueling for fans and musicians alike, especially if the energy isn’t there or the fans are disinterested. Everyone wins with the short sets. If we or the fans just aren’t feeling it, we know it will be over soon enough. But like I said, for the most part, these short sets are fantastic for everyone. My only wish is that we would play at the weekly Funks Open Jam more often, but I still don’t think that is likely to happen, even in the simpler semi-acoustic incarnation. But I will keep working on it…

On the performance front, we talked about how to tighten up our grooves as a band and bring out the subtle nuances of the music. There are a lot of rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic complexities to GUPPY EFFECT’s seemingly simple rock-n-roll songs – syncopations, hemiolas, and anticipations in the rhythms, two and three part vocal harmonies, and lead guitar and vocal lines that require a solid foundation of rhythm and harmony – so we want to make sure we hone these things to give the music that little extra push over the cliff. Even though our friends and fans may not consciously notice the nuances we add to the music, it makes all the difference between a good musical experience and a great one in the subconscious minds of people.

On the venue front, we talked about looking for shows where we can jump on the bill with a couple other bands to showcase ourselves to the venues and also garner a few fans from similar sounding original bands. I said I planned to try to get us into some local music fests, like MAYBASH. These are all things to get our name and reputation out there. You can have the best musical “product” in the world, but if no one knows about it, they cannot consume it. Marketing is not the strong suit of anyone in this band, but one thing we can do and enjoy is giving away free samples of our rocking via showcases and playing alternative venues. We also want to try to play venues that have sound and lights provided, at least for the electric incarnation of the band, or make enough money to hire it out.

It was a productive meeting. I hope this new direction pleases our fans. I was pleasantly surprised that all three of us were on the same page as far as playing mostly original music and shorter shows. Jon and I both come from musical backgrounds playing in cover bands. We both have a “been there, done that” feeling about the cover band gigs. The return on investment for most cover gigs is low. You put in a lot of time and practice learning 45 cover songs for a 3 hour show. The venues do very little to help you promote the shows. Marketing and promotion of the shows doesn’t generate a lot of buzz, because there are already a lot of cover bands and people think if they have seen one they have seen them all. Cover band gigs are behind us now.

For our original music shows, we can spend more time honing the quality of fewer songs and thus put on a much better performance with the most positive energy level. We can also benefit from power in numbers by playing shows with other bands who have fans with similar taste in music. The acoustic shows will require less hauling of heavy music equipment…we can basically just show up and rock.

Everyone wins.

2.15.2015

Taxes

This morning I am doing my taxes with my awesome accountant Pam. 2014 was a complicated tax year because I sold a house and I was on Obamacare for most of the year.

I forgot that because I live in Madison now, my trip to Pam's house is only 25 minutes, not 45 minutes like it was when I lived in Cambridge and I almost left my house too early to get there, until I checked GPS, already in the car.

2.14.2015

The Rock-n-Roll Show Rocked and Rolled

"The nice thing about punk rock," I said to my buddy Stefan after my punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE finished our set at the Red Zone music venue last night. "Is the simplicity of the gear. Guitar, amp, some distortion. That's it. Easy on, easy off."

I lugged my combo guitar amp from the stage and set it against the wall near the band loading entrance, then peeled off my sweat soaked blazer and laid it on top of the amp. EDDIE always suits up for live performances - classy punk rock.

"The sound was great out here," Stefan said. "You guys are tight and that little amp of yours kicks it out pretty well."

"Don't tell anyone, but it's not a tube amp," I confided in Stefan, my guitarist in my rock-n-roll band GUPPY EFFECT. "It's solid state."

Many guitarists I have known believe it sacrilege to play through anything but a tube amplifier, and don't get me wrong, tube compression has an unbeatable warmth to it, but I am a bass player by trade, and besides EDDIE's lead guitarist Tim (aka "Eddie") has a potent tube amp, so playing second fiddle I rationalize that it is actually good to have a contrasting sound between the two guitars. We always set our amps on opposite sides of the stage when we play to give the guitars some stereo-spatial distance. When "Eddie" shreds his lead guitar solos, I lay down a solid state rhythm guitar foundation, slathered in the cream cheese and grape jelly-esque bass riffs of Matt "Spots" Spatol and propelled forward at breakneck speed by the vibracious (DING DING DING! New word coined alarm!) thunder rolls of Dan "Frank" Stoffels.

EDDIE opened the show last night with a furious 12 song set (not including the three extra times we played our 12-second hit single "I Like Your Hat") to warm up the crowd for the night's headliners, LORDS OF THE TRIDENT. In between us and the Lords was a band from Milwaukee called the BLACK SAINTS. They played original music that seemed heavily influenced by the likes of Guns 'n' Roses. Shredding riff based rock. The singer had great pipes, although I thought he pushed his range too high at times. But if you got it, use it, I always say. No, I really don't say that very much at all.



The Lords brand themselves as the greatest heavy metal band on earth, and my gosh they sure do not strive for anything less than this achievement. As I watched them, I thought to myself, You know...I'll bet there really is no other place on earth right now being pummeled with this much awesome heavy metal. On top of holding down some incredibly complicated music and dual guitar riffs, they had pyrotechnics, sword play, and even a Trident shaped confetti cannon. I would hate to be the clean up crew after last night's show. But if the clean up crew knew how much spent METAL JUICE they were cleaning up, I think they would smile inwardly and humbly acknowledge their important contribution to the prior evening's heavy-metallest (new word!) show EVER!

After our introductory set, I did a brief stint at the EDDIE merch table, giving away our free two song demo CD with "I Like Your Hat" and a new release called "Bright Tomorrows," on it. You can listen to these tunes freely on the EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE web page: www.eddieatetnt.com.

After being 112% fully rocked and rolled by all the bands and great people last night, I returned home quite fulfilled. Unfortunately, I basked in the afterglow too long and did not get up in time to finish my writing class homework. This blog post will have to suffice for my writing for today. I am not worried though. I gave myself an extra day (tomorrow) to finish my homework, which I got about half way done earlier in the week. So as long as I get an early night tonight, I should be in good shape.

In about 15 minutes from now, I am going to load my bass and some music gear in my car and drive over to my drummer Jon's house. Johnny "Thunder" is the drummer for GUPPY EFFECT and also my country band DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS. The latter band is playing a show at the Port Huron Brewing Company in Wisconsin Dells tonight from 5 to 8 PM. We have to get up there a couple hours before the show to set up gear and sound check. After the show, we might hang about the Dells for a bit, but I have to get home to let the dogs out (who did this?).

So much rocking already accomplished this weekend but it's not even over tonight. Tomorrow (Sunday), after I finish my writing homework, Rita Witter and her band (in which I play bass) are going to practice in the evening and then head over to Funk's Pub in Fitchburg for the open jam from 8 to 10 PM. Then and only then will I find satisfying closure on this weekend's rock-n-roll bliss.

Ciao!

2.12.2015

Dog Training and Punk Rock

Tonight I took my friend Danielle's rambunctious dog Lucky to his first behavior modification class because Danielle had a prior conflict.

Lucky did great. Totally obedient. Learned the behaviors as if he already knew them. Ignored the other dogs for the most part (I attribute this to the bacon, ham, and cheese treats Danielle gave me for use in the class...Lucky pretty much kept his eyes on me the entire time).

We did Doggie Zen, where you hold a treat at arm's length and then reward the dog if they keep looking at your face instead of the treat. We did Touch, where the dog nudges your treat free hand to get the treat in your other hand. And we did Leave It, where you place the treat on the floor in front of the dog and make him ignore it, then give him a different treat from your hand. Lucky had no troubles.

I am going to bed so I can get an early start on my day tomorrow and get home from work in time to run the EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE songs once before I head down to the Annex music venue to rock a show with them. I also need a workout in the morning.

2.11.2015

Structure

The topic for week 3 of my writing class is STRUCTURE, specifically a facet of structure: The difference between expository writing and narrative writing.

What it basically boils down to is that expository writing is done in a straightforward, informational manner. There are no opinions or embellishments, just facts. Narrative writing is more engaging, subjective, opinionated, and descriptive. It can be informational, but embellishes with visualization. To wit, narrative writing SHOWS rather than TELLS.

That's simplifying it a bit. But that's the gist.

Expository writing is typically what is used in non-fiction, like journalism reporting or textbooks. It conveys facts in a rather dull way, which is why it is typically not very engaging unless you are actively seeking knowledge.

Narrative writing is used more in creative non-fiction and fiction. So as usual, there will be three exercises this week - a non-fiction, a fiction, and a creative non-fiction. I am going to start on my assignments tonight (Wednesday). They are due Sunday and I expect I will be doing more than 50% of the homework on Sunday, given my busy schedule.

Tomorrow night, I am taking my friend Danielle's dog to a dog training class, because it was rescheduled and she had a conflict. That should be interesting. I have never attended such a class before. Her dog, Lucky by name, had homework this week too. He had to learn the "look" command. I think such classes are really more about training the owners than the dogs, but I am happy to help out when I can.

Friday night, my punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE is playing a show in Madison, opening for a band called the LORDS OF THE TRIDENT, who are having a CD release party. If I am not out too late, I should have a block of time on Saturday to work on writing class homework some more, but around 3 PM on Saturday I will have to head out en route to a gig with the country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, up in the Wisconsin Dells. That gig is 5 to 8 PM, so I should be back to Madison at a decent enough time to get a good night's sleep. In the morning on Sunday I am doing my taxes with Pam, my awesome accountant. I hope I get a big refund. I sometimes do. Then I can spend the entire afternoon on Sunday finishing my writing assignments. I have the option to go to the open jam at Funk's Pub on Sunday night if my homework is completed to my satisfaction by then.

Structured time management and planning will be the key this weekend. The next couple of weekends I have pretty wide open from gigs, I think.

Since I feel the slight beginnings of another cold coming on, I am fully planning to get an early and heavily sedated (Benadryl and herbal sleep aid) night's sleep tonight. But I wanted to at least sow the seeds on my three writing homework assignments before I go to bed. I am writing this blog post to kind of limber up before I do that, but also because my mom has been enquiring about the dearth of blog posts lately. It's the main way she stays current on my goings on. HI MOM!

The shortage of posts has to do with redirecting my writing efforts at my writing class homework, but there is really no good excuse not to hammer out a few words on the blog every day. I just can't get carried away.

So I suppose now is a good time to sign off. Ciao!

Another Video Cameo by Yours Truly

A couple of weekends ago, I got to cameo in a fun music video made by a music colleague in Madison WI.

See if you can find me...

2.05.2015

Rock-n-Roll Time is Nigh

What day is it? Thursday already? Cool. I am looking forward to the weekend. Work was a bit of a bear this week. It’s not hard or anything. I am just getting pulled in different directions. My boss loaned me out to another department to help them document some procedures, but there is some internal chaos in that group as to what procedures are the priority. So as soon as I start down one path, I am told to put it on hold, because I might be going down another path. I try not to care. I mean, either path, I am getting paid. But it is a little bit frustrating to be spinning my wheels why they figure it out. I don’t want to waste their time and money, nor mine. But when the project does get moving, it should keep me busy. Lots of procedures need creating and updating.

But I am violating my policy of not talking about work in blog posts. The point is that I am glad the week is almost over, because the weekend is going to be productive and fun. I have writing class homework to do during the day on Saturday and Sunday. That is actually going to eat up most of my weekend time, because I wasn’t able to get a jump on the assignments this week like I did last week, due to all the band practices. I may have a chance to work on the assignments tomorrow (Friday) for a little bit.

Saturday evening, GUPPY EFFECT is performing at the Capitol Ice Arena Youth Hockey Fun(d)raiser. It will be our last show as a cover band. Sunday evening is the Jammiversary at Funk’s Pub, the one year anniversary of the Sunday night weekly jam. GUPPY EFFECT is playing at 5:30 PM and I will probably live stream the entire event starting at 4:30 PM and going until about 10:30 PM. That means I need to have all my writing homework squared away by early Sunday afternoon. That means decent nights of sleep Friday and Saturday nights.

I have GUPPY EFFECT band practice tonight to run down the hockey gig setlist. So I had better sign off. Ciao!

2.03.2015

Banks That Charge Fees Lose Business - Proof

Today I consolidated all my bank accounts, closing my Associated Bank accounts and moving them over to Summit Credit Union. I also opened a second checking account at Summit for my music/writing business finances.

I had planned to do this consolidation for a while, but was procrastinating. Associated Bank forced my hand when they hit me with some exorbitant fees on two of my accounts recently. I am not saying the fees were not my fault (I fell below a minimum balance). But what I am saying is that Summit has totally free and no fee checking and savings accounts. The only fee I’ll be charged is $5 annually for a debit card on each of two accounts ($10 total). How does Associated think it can charge big fees (I consider $10 and $16, respectively, to be fairly big) and not lose customers? Summit literally stole my business from Associated by being cool. Free market I guess.

Anyway, now all my financials are under one competent roof.

I am doing my taxes with my awesome accountant Pam on February 15 and will hopefully have a phat stack of cash to infuse into the coffer.

Goings On, Musical Mostly, Some Writing

I’d like to tell you that interesting things are happening in my life, but all I can say is I started my writing class and so far it is pretty good. Tonight I have to critique my classmates’ assignments and then, time permitting, work on my week two assignments due next Sunday, which I believe are on the subject of TONE ("Don't you use that tone with me!").

It’s also February Album Writing Month (FAWM) and since it started on a Sunday this year, I was able to crank out three tunes the first day, getting a nice start on it. It was Super Bowl Sunday, so I literally had nothing to do all day but work on songs (I am not a sports fan).

My FAWM emphasis this year is to focus on the musical compositions and melody lines, without worrying about lyrics. Lyrics are time consuming and really slow me down. So if I can get 14 compositions produced, I can always come back in later and add some words, using the melody lines (played on guitar) as a guide for the lyrics. I did write lyrics to one of the three songs (Punk Rock Unicorn), on a whim. They aren’t great, but they also didn’t take too much time.

There’s a lot of music stuff happening in my life this week, as there often is. Tonight is my only night off from band practices, in fact. Last night I jammed with Rita Witter’s band and we devised a set list of about 10 songs for the one year anniversary of the Funk’s Pub Jam this coming Sunday (the, if you will…JAMMIVERSARY). 

On Wednesday night, the country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, is rehearsing in anticipation of a gig at the Port Huron Brewery in Wisconsin Dells on Saturday February 14 (V-Day). I am not thrilled about that gig because we have to run our own sound, which means I will be hauling and running all the sound gear. I asked for an extra $50 for my efforts, but I doubt I will get it. At the very least I hope I can car pool with drummer Jon. I will probably just run my bass direct into the PA so I don’t have to haul a bass amp on top of all that other sound gear. 

On Thursday night, GUPPY EFFECT is rehearsing for our gig on Saturday 2/7 at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton WI, where we are the musical hosts for the annual youth hockey fun(d)raiser there. GUPPY EFFECT has done this the past four or five years, I think. GUPPY EFFECT is also going to do a set at the Funk’s Jammiversary on Sunday evening.

The Jammiversary starts at 4:30 PM on Sunday and each band gets about 45 minutes to play. They extend the time to allow this. It is all the bands that have been fairly regular participants at the jam this past year. GUPPY EFFECT goes on at 5:30 and Rita’s band at 6:30. I will probably be doing the live stream of the event online at http://ustream.tv/channel/cactus-joe-productions and staying to hear/stream all the bands. The hockey gig on Saturday is from 5 to 8 PM, so not horribly late.

I guess I will be doing most of my writing class homework during the day on Saturday and Sunday, since I have no other commitments. That probably precludes FAWMing this weekend, so I predict that while I am ahead on FAWM songs right now, I will fall behind this weekend.

Looking ahead, EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, the punk rock band, has a show opening for LORDS OF THE TRIDENT on Friday the 13 of February at the Annex rock club in Madison. Then it’s off to the Dells for the aforementioned country band gig on 2/14.

So it is a musically action packed month, I would say. Things chill out after the V-Day gig though for a spell.

A freak blizzard moved through Madison this afternoon, so I stayed at work late to avoid rush hour heinousness and write this post instead. However, the time has come to bid you adieu, dear readers. Into the arctic wilds I go…