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).

Fixins

Today Deborah and I are in charge of making a Thanksgiving feast that remarkably few people will probably join us in eating. Deborah's sister is in the hospital (she'll be fine) and her son and his GF, flighty millenials that they are, have not yet comitted to joining us at the preselected eatin' time (roughly 4:30 PM). A couple other invitees have about 2:1 odds of showing up. So it may just be Deborah and I a-feastin', which is actually a major boon to my stomach and my social anxiety.

Going through the motions will be good practice for the real thing too. And character building.

11.25.2015

The Month of Pain

The Month of Pain is nigh. That is the month bounded by Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and characterized by excessive commercialism and fiscal pain. I do not like this month, though I do like the holidays, especially when I can visit friends and family. That is what it should really be about, not presents and spending. The latter is just a proxy for the real human interaction.

I'd like to see the human element come back to the holidays. Maybe I'm too cynical, but the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is depressing. I try not to subscribe.

This Black Friday, I will be doing a Slack Friday instead. There is an open mic at the Bos Meadery in Madison, where I sometimes perform music, from 2-5 PM on Friday afternoon. I wilst most probably repose myself there for some tunes and a couple tankards of mead to escape the commercialism. Although, technically buying a tankard of mead would be in violation of the commercialism boycott, but at least it is supporting a local business.

The point being, I won't be doing any holiday shopping. Just chillin'.

Eve


I don't even have a topic for this post. But you know the drill. It's all about the daily DOING, even when the muse is taking her Thanksgiving holiday a little early, the slacker.

The purpose of this blog is the mechanics of daily freewriting to improve my skill as a writer overall. So it is really important to put finger to touchscreen (the new pen to paper) every day, even if it feels like squeezing blood from a stone.

Actually, this isn't too bad. I am a full two paragraphs in, with a third on the way, and unbelievably you're still reading (Ha! I win!).

Boring day at work, huh? Or do you just have the Holiday Head? I do. That's where your brain is anticipating a holiday so damn hard that it is useless for much else, including coming up with viable topics for a daily blog post (my albatross).

Instead, I'll just take this Thanksgiving Eve free write as an opportunity to share with you the topics of some of my recent and much more coherent posts:

How to Make Fruit Yogurt at Home: I wrote this on my CJ Scientific Communication Health and Nutrition blog after mixing up a concoction of unsweetened plain Greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, and a packet of Stevia sweetener last night, creating my own "fruit on the bottom" yogurt on the cheap and healthier for me (low calorie, no added sugar).


Green Coffee Bean Extract: This was also posted on the aforementioned health and nutrition blog. GCBE has been touted for weight loss (due to its high chlorogenic acid content) and this is supported by the unscientific case study I ran on myself. Placebo effect? Could be, but I lost five pounds.

Mini House Concert: On Monday, I took the day off from work and, among other things, recorded a 15 minute mini-house concert, live streamed all over the Intarwebz. It was actually closer to 19 minutes and I also recorded an additional encore song in a second video. It was a lot of fun and somehow I didn't make too many biffs.

That'll do for this lackluster Thanksgiving Eve post. Have a good holiday.

11.24.2015

Vegetarian Dinner Ideas


How are things?

In a couple of days, Americans will celebrate the time long ago when our ancestors arrived as immigrants from overseas and committed horrible acts of terrorism on the native people living here.

It's called Thanksgiving and we engage in those festivities without too much thought about it. We get the Sunday school blather that the Native Americans gave the pilgrims maize so they would survive the harsh winter. They leave out the part where the pioneers gave the Native Americans blankets infected with small pox, to wipe them out, essentially.

Thanksgiving for me is a time to celebrate that there is only one more month left of the hellish holiday season and then we can settle in for the deep freeze (in Wisconsin) of January and February. Too cynical? Probably...

Here's some optimism...I am very thankful that I will be escaping the cold weather during the first two weeks of February by going on a Caribbean cruise, followed by a week in Florida. With my luck, ISIL will probably do something sh!tty and foul up air travel right when we have to leave for our trip, but probably not (statistically). It's too bad there is so much overblown hype and fear about Islamic terrorism. I don't know who is fanning these flames, but probably the fear mongers in government and corporate media. I researched the subject a bit and it turns out more Americans have been killed by domestic terrorists than foreign ones and you are still statistically more likely to die from almost anything else than from a terrorist attack. In fact, if you are black in America, you are over 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist.

I don't pull these numbers out of my arse. Google that sh!t. (Sorry, I am not going to do your homework for you, but you can start here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-terrorism-statistics-every-american-needs-to-hear/5382818.)

"Toxoplasmosis is a brain-parasite. The CDC reports that more than 375 Americans die annually due to toxoplasmosis. In addition, 3 Americans died in 2011 after being exposed to a brain-eating amoeba. So you’re about 22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than a terrorist." (SOURCE)

Giving Thanks


I have a lot to be thankful for. I like to spread my appreciation for all these things out over the entire year, not just cram it all into one food and drink engorged afternoon with friends and family in late November. But I am the odd man out on that, so I will be a grudging participant in the massive turkey holocaust this coming Thursday.

The fates have conspired against me and I am now a reluctant co-host of Thanksgiving festivities. Deborah and I were not originally supposed to host the Thanksgiving dinner but a perfect storm of horse manure has placed us in the hot seat. I am not a naturally social person (I have to work at it) and my introversion leads to high anxiety when I need to host social events. I'd be lying if I said my belly is not so full of dread right now that there is barely any room for pumpkin pie and turkey flesh. I will get through it though. In reality, my social anxiety is inflated and it should be far less taxing on my nerves than I envision it will be (*crosses fingers hopefully!*).

I am trying hard to adhere to the philosophy of my own chosen religion, Dudeism, and "abide." It is not easy. But some new facts have come to light, man. So, like...whatever.

I will make the best of it, but I need a beverage, badly.

11.23.2015

A Mini House Concert for You


Today, I had the day off. And what do I like to do on my day off?

CORRECT!

Play music.

In this case, I played music and video recorded it as one of my mini house concerts.

This is one of my favorite things to do. I pulled up my master set list on the computer and practiced a few songs off it until I had enough for a 6 or 7 song mini set. Deborah was out running errands today and I had the house to myself. So once I got my recording gear set up and my guitar and vocal levels dialed in, I started rocking. This is good practice for my birthday show on January 8, 2016 at the Bos Meadery in Madison WI (6-9 PM, fyi).

The first video below is the 15 minute mini house concert (rated PG, I think) I recorded this afternoon and live streamed it to the entire Intarwebz.

Below that is an encore video of one song (rated PG13).

Enjoy.


CACTUS JOE's MINI HOUSE CONCERT on 11/23/15


ENCORE

PSA: Vote for Bernie Sanders.

11.20.2015

Blizz

I am getting mixed messages on the nature of this winter storm we are supposed to get in Wisconsin this weekend.

Weather maps show most of the significant snowfall well south of Madison (sorry Illinois). 

But the meteorologists are saying they are still unsure of which direction the storm will track. 

The hourly forecast on Weather Bug shows chance of precipitation below 50% for most of the time the warning is in effect, and down to 0% at times, at least in Madison. 

I’m going to wishfully believe that Madison will get a slight bit of snow, but no more than 3 inches, and that it will melt fairly expediently, since temperatures will be in the low 30s. 

But I am fully prepared to get socked with a foot of snow too. 

Other than going to SUNSPOT at the Club Tavern tonight, I have no plans for the weekend that are not somewhat flexible. Deborah and I were going to do some Thanksgiving grocery shopping on Saturday, and with the grocery store a block away, only the most ferocious of blizzards would prevent that. We can always do that on Sunday too, my preference even if snow is light on Saturday, because EFF SNOW. 

I am very happy though that I have an accepted offer on the sale of my house and won’t have to shovel snow there past the closing date of December 29. YAY!

11.19.2015

Strange Smells


I am dipping down to body weight levels not seen in several years (222 pounds this morning).

A few years ago, when I worked in R&D at a vitamin company, I underwent a clinical detoxification that comprised several of the company's nutritional products and a whole food diet. It wasn't designed for weight loss, but dropping a few pounds was a consequence of the healthy diet and the diuretic and colon cleansing powers of some of the supplements.

A side effect of the detox was an increase in body odor, as toxins were excreted from oil and sweat glands in the skin. That was one indicator that it was working (biometrics like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar were also measured).

The following is TMI that may make some readers uncomfortable. Stop reading now if you are a sensitive type. You have been warned.

The past couple days, I have had the "pit stank" pretty bad and I could not figure out why. I showered in the morning and wore freshly laundered clothes, but still developed a Pig Pen like cloud of BO around me by noon or so. This rarely happens.

I gave it some thought, and my current hypothesis is that with all my recent healthy eating, exercising, not drinking beer, and losing about 15 pounds over the past two months, maybe I have inadvertently put my body into a detox mode.

More specifically, I have not been this light in years, so perhaps I am starting to hit deep tish "brown" fat reserves that haven't been exposed to my metabolic processes since my 20s and early 30s (relatively toxic periods in my life compared with now).

If that's so, then this rank stank I have been wafting out the past two days is a good sign I am not only losing weight but detoxing too.

Another hypothesis, which I favor less, even though it is probably more likely, is that I am sweating "fear." That is, I have been anxious lately because of some stressors in my life, most notably the pending acceptance (or rejection) of an offer to buy my house from some interested buyers. I don't feel that worried about it, but if I am producing excessive levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, this could be contributing to elevated perspiration and secretion of the breakdown products of stress hormone metabolism (aka "the smell of fear"). It is not fear in the traditional sense. But these hormones are also manufactured by the body during fight or flight responses, hence the name.

In essence, sweating out stress hormone metabolites is a form of detoxification, so in some ways both factors described in this post may be at work.

6 Word Novel


He took his writing very seriously.

How Can I Make the World a Little Better and Happier This Holiday Season?

I am a musician and a writer. At least that’s how I identify myself when people ask me what I do for fulfillment in life.

Music and writing don’t pay a lot. That’s a huge understatement.

But I LOVE doing them. They are my passion and I am compelled to write stories and songs and share them with you. You might even say I am powerless against the drive to create.

So what’s a starving artist to do?*

What if you could passively support my art with nothing more than a single click of your mouse?

There is a thing and most of you have probably heard of it by now.

To wit, this blog is loosely affiliated with Amazon. If my blog posts send a little traffic Amazon’s way, they throw me a few pennies (literally, but if there is a lot of traffic, it adds up over time...).

The corporate greed season is nigh upon us, and the looming approach of Black Friday and Cyber Monday signals the optimal time to support my blog in this manner, and by extrapolation, all of my artistic endeavors.

It could not be simpler.

For the next few weeks, my blog posts will include a thumbnail like the one in the upper right there that says CLICK HERE.

All you do is click on the image every time you visit this blog to read one of my posts. That’s it. There’s no cost to you except for the few micrograms of ATP burned by your finger muscles to move the mouse over the thumbnail and click. You might have to close a browser window that opens up (OK, two mouse clicks!).

Even Wisconsin Public Radio uses this clever strategy, so it’s totally legit.

No obligation, but if you happen to think of me before you go online to shop over the next few weeks, stop by this blog and click the image.

Amazon will do the rest. And again, there is no cost to you.

Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Joe

*Note: Actually, I am not starving at all. I have a day job to underwrite the necessities of life. But if I can suckle a little milk off the teet of Corporate America and channel it into good things like my art, it only makes the world a better and happier place. Everyone wins. So click the pic and make the world a happier and better place a penny at a time.

11.18.2015

Unnamed Band Practice #3

Tonight I have what is essentially a third rehearsal with a band comprising me, guitarist buddy Phil, and the remnants of the band formerly known as 5 Minute Rule.

After three meetings, we have developed enough of a musical repertoire for a full set (15 songs). We actually have about 17 or 18 songs, but I suspect we might drop a couple, principally "Woman" by Wolfmother and "Tribute" by Tenacious D. I like these songs, but I am not "feeling" the latter one when we practice it. The former is played in a key that strains Phil's voice and I think we should can it, unless they want to traspose it down a 4th and then I can sing it.

Anyway, things are moving along with this group and I hope they maintain good momentum. I have vowed there will be no more handholding of bands. They either hold their own, or they don't.

Vote for Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts

I am voting for Bernie Sanders. But if for any reason he is not an option on any ballot I am given access too…

I am voting for Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts.

Down Two More Pounds


I wish I could tell you exactly why I am shedding pounds like gangbusters, but I can't. I can only give you possible reasons. Any or all of the following could be contributing factors:

1. Not drinking beer/wine. I have not totally given up drinking beer/wine, because I like it, but I have definitely cut it back by 80% or more. I only have a beer/wine or two on special occasions now. Special occasions include attending band practices and performing music shows of any kind (including Funks Pub Sunday open jam). My usual limit is two drinks (the CDC's recommended healthy daily intake for men), and never more than three. I try to have no more than one drink per hour too. I have tons more energy lately, which I attribute to less brain cell attrition and attenuation from alcohol, and this may be burning additional calories as well. On an unrelated note, I am also saving tons of money not buying beer or paying exorbitant drink prices at bars (I usually drink free at music events).

2. Green coffee bean extract (GCBE). The chlorogenic acid in GCBE is touted as being thermogenic on metabolism (burns calories). As you know from prior posts here and on my CJ Scientific health and nutrition blog, I discovered some GCBE in my GF's nutritional supplement drawer and have made myself a guinea pig in assessing its benefits (possible) and risks (none detected). This is a very unscientific case study because of confounding factors, including #1 above and #3 and #4 below.

3. Power walking a 5k thrice weekly. Now that I live 1.6 miles from work, I can walk there quite often, and I do pretty much whenever weather and daily responsibilities permit. It's a 5k round trip and sometimes I do it more than once a day. This has also allowed me to cut back on driving my car in Madison WI, which has the worst drivers I have ever seen anywhere. So my stress levels are at all time lows.

4. Eating better. Another consequence of moving in with my awesome GF is that I eat more healthy food and less junk. She is very nutrition conscious, so not only do we not keep junk food in the house, but whenever temptation to eat junk (or drink beer) rears its head, Deborah keeps me honest. I keep her honest too. We have a pact. We also grocery shop together most of the time, where we adhere to the "honesty is the best policy" philosophy. Cheese is still a big risk factor for me. When it is around, I eat it. Period. So we don't buy it very often. It does not help that the Carr Cheese shoppe is a half mile from home.

All of these things may be contributing factors in my weight loss lately. It must be noted that I have been doing #1, #3, and #4 for some time with no significant change in weight after an initial five pound drop. It was only after adding GCBE to the retinue that the pounds really started sloughing off. Still not scientific enough to draw any firm conclusions, but strong circumstantial evidence.

There could be other unknown factors too. I might have a tapeworm or an as yet undetectable cancer. However, that's highly doubtful given my awesome lifestyle. Still possible though.

Anyway, I was two pounds lighter this morning than I was yesterday morning. A good day to you.



Snow in the Fork Assed

There will be a little snow around here.

Saturday most likely.

I hate snow.

In other news, an offer on my house may be coming soon.

Sorry to anyone that missed out on buying my fantastic house. Better luck next time.

11.17.2015

Rainy Day Fun

Deborah and I met for lunch today. We went to the Prairie Cafe down the street. It was her day off, but not mine. It rained most of the day. The End.

11.16.2015

Feeling Down About Stuff

Open enrollment for health insurance has started and it's a real downer. The premium for health insurance through my employer is going up 4x and then some, with less good coverage, AND they are changing insurance providers to boot, so I will probably have to find a new primary care doctor. Depressing.

The new employer provided health insurance gold plan is still cheaper than the cheapest bronze Obamacare plan, but the only difference between my employer's gold, silver, and bronze plans is on the deductible. All the plans have a 20% copay in network rather than a flat fee ($25 per visit on my current 2015 plan, which was great!) after you first hit the deductible paying full price, up to the out of pocket max. Obamacare is no longer "affordable" health care.

I really hope Bernie Sanders wins the primary election and the Presidency, and moves us toward a single payer health care system like every other modernized country in the world. But when I look at the political landscape, I get even more depressed about my situation and that of the American middle class. It is virtually impossible for anyone to get ahead, unless you are a billionaire. At least I am not in debt though.

Open enrollment season brings me down. Way way down.

On the bright side, I was able to power walk the 3 mile round trip to work today without getting rained on, burning a few hundred calories in so doing. I skipped breakfast but had a veggie wrap with turkey and grilled veggies from Funks Pub (takeout) for lunch and some stir fry with tofu for dinner. Generally a good day other that the health insurance bummer.

I have a couple people possibly interested in buying my house. Cross your fingers. That's one albatross I will be glad to see gone.

11.15.2015

Reversed Psychology

I think next week I am not going to promote the Funks Pub open jam at all. Not at all. Because promoting it doesn't seem to make a gosh darn difference in attendance. In fact, promotion seems to actually harm attendance. Therefore it is my duty to not promote it. I will try reverse psychology and see if that helps. Don't come. Okay. Thanks. Bye.

In other news, SUNSPOT is playing at Club Tavern next Friday and I am going to try to make it. I'd better not promote it. I might jinx it.

The Doing

A couple of lifestyle refreshers.

1. If you want to accomplish something, you have to do it. The lawn won't mow itself, nor will a novel manuscript magically manifest on your desk. Doing is the only option for actually doing something.

2. You can't improve your lifestyle without making changes in your lifestyle. Put another way, eating a bag of potato chips is completely incompatible with losing 10 pounds.

Happy Sunday!

11.14.2015

One More Saturday Night

I need to be working on the novel, and I am going to start momentarily, but I needed to do a few minutes of writing muscle flexing first. This is a free write. Deborah has a bit of a stomach upset and we are not going out tonight, as originally planned. This is kind of a relief because although I wanted to go out and support local music tonight, I also have a strong hankering to write portions of said novel. It's a sci fi novel that involves parallel universes. I am trying to get a crude rough draft outlined in November, because it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I got a haircut today. Remember this is a free write, whatever comes out comes out. I am not doing No Shave November, because I am doing NaNoWriMo instead. My beard was getting too long anyway. So I had it shaved off today. Well, truth be told, I had it shaved mostly off. The Barbershop, where I got my hair cut, does not do straight razor shaves. It has to do with barbering licensure in Wisconsin. Anyway, they used the shears on it and took it down to the stubble. Deborah says she likes the stubble. The rest of my head got a quarter inch buzz cut. I drove some Uber this morning. It wasn't a very busy weekend, thus not too profitable, but I made a little pocket change. OK, I am going to go write novel stuff for an hour now. I probably won't post this free write, because it is lame. But maybe I will. Bye.

11.13.2015

Baked Goods

At lunch, Deborah and I discuss date night options.

“If we go to Pizzeria Uno and get stuff off the 2 for $12 menu, I get bonus points on my credit card,” I propose.

She’s not overly thrilled by this quasi self indulgent idea of mine and says she thinks it will be too much food with limited choices.

“They have salads on there as items,” I weakly counterargue. “Plus, more credit card points means more free airfare when we go to Tasmania next year.”

This Tasmania idea came to me the day before, when my sister had sent me some pictures of my dad’s Australian ancestors, part of a geneology research project my niece and nephew are pursuing in school. My paternal grandmother and her tribe hailed from Tasmania, eventually migrating to Melbourne AUS where both my pops and I were born.

“We can eat ourselves to a trip down under,” I say, smiling persuasively, I hope.

The Tasmanian adventure concept, as abstract and distantly in the future as it is, goes over a bit better with Deborah.

“That’s appealing,” she says. “But still, I don’t think they will have anything I want to eat. And really? You only want to spend $12 on date night?”

“What do you mean?” I ask. “$12 is a totally normal price for a typical date night meal. We’ve paid less than that before.”

Deborah rolls her eyes and I think I understand her confusion.

“Not $12 total,” I say. “Each. It will be like $25 bucks or so total, depending on drinks and tax and whatnot. I am not that much of a cheapskate!”

“Yes. You are,” she says.

“I’m frugal,” I counter. “Not miserly. Plus, now that the unlubricated financial sodomy of Foster’s vet bills is behind me, I am feeling a lot less stressed about money.”

Deborah laughs at the visual metaphor, almost spewing yogurt across the table in the cafeteria at work.

I point out that, in fact, it is actually her turn to spring for date night, not mine, and I pull another Ace from my sleeve.

“Since it’s your turn, how about this?” I enquire. “If we go there and you get a 2 for $12, then I will buy to get the CC points, and you can do the next date night. But if you decide against the 2 for $12, then you buy, per protocol. Everyone wins.”

She ultimately agrees to Pizzeria Uno as the locaysh and shortly after we get home from work, we head out for the eatery. I drive.

We get seated right away and a young man appears, introducing himself as our waiter. I don’t think much of it when he seems thrown for a loop by my request for water with no ice. But when he returns to take our order, Deborah and I both notice that he appears completely stoned out of his gourd, literally not understanding what we are ordering from the menu.

We speak words…

“I want the baked haddock with grilled veggies and steamed broccoli as sides,” Deborah says.

He looks at her dumbfounded and seems to have difficulty putting his pen to paper.

“Um...sides?” he queries.

“Yes,” Deborah replies, holding up the menu and pointing. “See here it says the baked haddock comes with two sides. I want the grilled veggies and the steamed broccoli.”

“Um, OK, yeah,” the waiter says slowly and eventually scribbles on his pad.

My order goes only marginally more smoothly: A salad and a deep dish pizza single as my 2 for $12 selections, as well as an appetizer of pretzel bread sticks.

As an afterthought, Deborah asks the waiter, “Can I also add a walnut salad for $2.99 to my meal?” This completely shatters the waiter’s fragile eggshell mind. Deborah again points to the menu where a graphical bubble indicates the discounted add on to her haddock dish.

About 5 minutes after taking our order, the waiter returns and asks Deborah, “What did you order again…the stuffed chicken?”

“Um, no…the BAKED HADDOCK!” Deborah says, exasperated. He leaves again and we look at each other with amazement.

I am fully entertained by this comedy of errors, of course. But Deborah not so much. She is more inclined to be the heckler at the Comedy Club of Life.

When a blonde manager woman stops by the table next to ours, whose patrons had the same waiter, Deborah flags her down.

“I hate to ask this,” Deborah says to her. “But is our waiter on something? He just seems really out of it.”

The manager says she will check it out and I am now certain our food will be spit upon, possibly repeatedly.

Needless to say, the food takes forever to arrive. The pretzel bread stick appetizer comes out with the main meal, not before it. Weak. The grub is all really tasty though and no visible signs of sputum are observed.

The walnut salad doesn’t manifest, so Deborah reminds the waiter about it. When it comes, it is lacking the very walnuts that give it its name.

“Ah, no walnuts,” the waiter says. “That’s what’s missing.” Deborah and I look at each other in pure disbelief. He returns a minute later with a small bowl of candied walnuts.

The blonde manager stops by our table as we are eating.

“Thanks for letting me know that,” she says. “I am going to send him home.” She doesn’t elaborate, and we are not sure if we should feel good or bad about this news.

“I don’t want to get hepatitis from this food,” Deborah says after the blonde manager leaves. I am not entirely sure how to interpret Deborah's comment. Does she also suspect the presence of salivary secretions in her walnut salad? Or is she proposing intravenous drug use as the underlying cause of our waiter’s dimmed wits. The waiter’s arms are covered in tattoos, so perhaps she was making reference to “bad ink.”

In any case, we finish eating and the blonde manager, not the waiter, brings out our bill. We assume the waiter has been dismissed.

I look at the bill immediately, with certainty that our waiter’s math skills are fully compromised, and I am correct. Deborah was charged $5.99 for the walnut salad rather than the $2.99 special add on price. We bring this to blonde manager’s attention and she apologizes and recalculates the bill, giving Deborah the walnut salad pro bono for all our troubles.

As we leave, we see the confused waiter still working tables.

“I guess they didn’t send him home after all,” I say to Deborah.

“I wonder if she was just giving us a line,” Deborah responds.

“I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that he just had to close out his remaining tables,” I say optimistically, though not really believing it. “If it was me, I would have at the very least given us a free meal voucher or something to make up for that. A free salad doesn’t quite cover it.”

Deborah and I both agree that it will be a long time before we go back to Pizzeria Uno for a date night, notwithstanding the great tasting food. As of this writing, neither of us has come down with raging hepatitis. Whew!

11.12.2015

Housekeeping

I am going home about 12:30 PM today so as to meet Mary, the housekeeper, and let her in to clean. It will be her first time cleaning Deborah's house. She used to clean my house in Cambridge when I lived there and also the Madison house I am currently trying to sell.

Hiring out housekeeping is a big stress reliever for me. I neither have the time nor inclination for cleaning house. The return on investment from hiring Mary is infinite. By the numbers, priceless (infinity) divided by the cost in dollars equals priceless (infinity).

While Mary is cleaning, I wilst probably return to work, thereby generating guaranteed income, although I may turn on the Uber Partner app and see what comes of it. Being a bad weather day, demand for ride shares could be high.

Tonight, Deborah and I have date night. If we go to Pizzeria Uno, I believe I will earn a pantload of credit card points, according to some sort of promotional thing my bank sent me. We have to each order one of their 2 for $12 menu items to get the deal. Hopefully I can persuade Deborah to indulge. We can always take leftovers home. Honey Badger don't give a sh!t. $24 bucks or so plus tax is a very economical date night. I am still in financial recovery from the un-lubricated anal penetration caused by Foster's eye surgery last month. Things have finally settled down. After we get home from the fine dining, I believe we have some TV shows to catch up on, including American Horror Story (we are almost through Season 5 - Hotel).

Speaking of TV shows, I have been enjoying Ash vs Evil Dead, the most recent installment of the Evil Dead franchise. It's just as campy as I'd hoped, and the musical soundtrack is rich in old school prog rock classics by the likes of Deep Purple, ELP, and the Amboy Dukes, one of Ted Nugent's early bands, before he went all right wing nutbar, and best known for the edgy psychedelic hit, "Journey to the Center of the Mind," which I fully plan to learn on bass/vocals and encourage my musical comrades to join me in said endeavor, so we can perform it live at some point).

The Audish and a Lifestyle Biff

I had a good audition last night, for a bass player role in a harder rock cover band called Amped 11. I prepped decently well and went into it confident, though not sure what to expect.

Like I said in a prior post, I was looking for a HELL YEAH, and I was not disappointed. The musicians were all top notch and fun, and we gelled on the rocking. They all seemed to dig my playing. There are enough vocalists in the group to be very versatile on song selections and allow for redundancy, if someone were to be sick let's say. Two of them are lead singers. If I joined them, I could field a few songs probably too.

That said, I have no idea if they'll pick me over the other bass players they are trying out, though the odds are pretty good, since I am one of the best around, both musically and reliability-wise. An audition is only able to prove the former, though I was punctual and had clearly learned all the material, even the accursed song "Photograph" by Def Leppard.

I dropped the ball a bit yesterday on maintaining high lifestyle standards. Everyone makes mistakes now and then and that's OK as long as you recognize the biff(s) and redouble your efforts. In truth, a good lifestyle should not be an effort, it should be part of the natural flow of your life.

In summary, I ate too much food yesterday, including candy at work and a ton of cheese. Plus, I had a beer that was offered to me at the band audition (albeit a Natural Lite, which is really just soda water lightly scented with beer).

There is room in a healthy lifestyle for beer and wine. Studies show there are health benefits from a drink (for women) or two (for men) per day, although I am pretty sure these studies are conducted by male scientists who drink. Therefore, the Natural Lite tall boy at the audition fell well within lifestyle parameters.

The candy and cheese were my undoing yesterday. Plus, for expediency, my dinner was exacted from the salad bar at the Copps grocery store near home. Plus, I ate again after I got home from the audition, late at night, before bed, a conventional no-no.

On the other hand, I power walked a full 4.5+ miles yesterday, burning extra calories, and skipped breakfast. There are two schools of thought on the importance of breakfast. I go to the school that says if you aren't hungry in the morning, don't force yourself to eat. The rival school, attended by my super smart and nutritionally savvy girlfriend, says it is never good to skip breakfast. Some malarkey about putting your body in starvation mode which hinders calorie burning. My school clobbers the other school, especially in Dodgeball.

11.11.2015

The Stuff


Tonight (Wednesday) I am auditioning on bass for a cover band. I hope it is a good one. I honestly have no idea. I won’t waste my time on a mediocre one though, that's for sure. It’s either HELL YEAH or NO. The songs they want to cover are decent (with the exception of "Photograph" by Def Leppard, which is God awful!), and somewhat esoteric in my opinion, which is good. But my opinion may be quite wrong, because I don’t listen to a lot of commercial radio, so these songs could be a lot more well known than I think.

Thursday night, Deborah and I are doing date night at an establishment TBD.

The weekend coming up will be devoted to working on my novel, since this is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have a strong concept. I am going to go work on it a little bit right now.

In other writing news, I submitted my 2nd (of 4) flash fiction writing assignments to the instructor of the online class I am taking on this subject via UW Continuing Studies. Here is my first draft, if you care to critique.

Nothing to Hide
by Joe Leonard
Flash Fiction

Vicky brought her new fling to the wedding. She didn’t call him a fling. She said he was The One, her third The One in as many months.

At the reception, we sat with Vicky and The One, named Rob. I had been telling them about my bike trip around Austria.

“Europe really has their shit together,” I said. “Great transportation, one currency, no border hassles. I could totally live there.”

I jocularly added, “Unless the NSA is listening. Then I am only kidding! I love America!”

“I don’t have a problem with government surveillance,” Rob suddenly blurted. “If you're a law abiding citizen and have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t care if the government snoops on you.”

The rest of us looked at each other uneasily in the awkward silence that followed. Where did that come from? I wondered. Uh oh...Vicky didn’t tell him about The Rule. No politics or religion in social settings.

“Who needs a drink?” I asked, hitting the conversational eject button. “I'm heading up.”

“I’ll join you,” Rob said. Great, I thought.

As we stood in the bar line, Rob took out his phone and started browsing.

“Can I see your phone?” I asked.

“Um...ok.” Rob locked the screen and held it out.

“Oh...can you unlock it?”

“Do you need to make a call or something?”

“Oh no,” I replied. “I just wanted to look at your photos, maybe read some of your emails.”

“Are you serious?” Rob asked. “No, I'm not comfortable with that.”

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “I just thought…well, you know…you didn’t have anything to hide.”

11.10.2015

A Couple Jams

Tonight, I rock with Phil and two members of the ex band, 5 Minute Rule. We are conceptualizing and defining a new cover band and its direction, respectively.

Tomorrow night, I am auditioning on bass for a different cover band, called Amped 11, who are seeking a bass player. I have no idea how that will pan out. I am certain I can handle the material. My only worry is that it may not be challenging enough. Still and all, if it garners paid gigs, my metric will have been met.

I don't care that much for playing in cover bands. I much prefer playing my own and other peoples' rocking original music. But, for better or worse, the money is in covers. I want to play more gigs, but I am staying selective in what kinds of gigs. I am done with supplying my own sound for a band. The venue must supply it or hire it out, or pay me to hire it out. There's a minimum standard of professionalism I have to maintain.

11.09.2015

Pleasing to Mine Eye


The weekend was nice.

It was one of those rare ones where I didn't have any concrete responsibilities or demands on my time, but could rather design my own reality, within the boundaries of the Laws of Physics.

I decided to chillax on Friday night. I want to say Deborah and I went out to eat, maybe? Then we watched TV and caught up on some shows.

I had planned to get up earlier than I did on Saturday so I could clean out my car before driving a bit for Uber. But eff it...my weekend, my rules. I had a leisurely breakfast and cleaned my car after Deborah left to go workout. I put in about three hours Ubering.

Deborah baked a boneless turkey and called me about 1 PM to tell me it was about ready, so I signed off the Uber app and went home to eat. It was delicious and more importantly boneless. I totally endorse these boneless turkey roasts for Thanksgiving. They are smaller than a whole turkey, but eff it...buy like 10 of them if you are having a bunch of people over. These things are probably horrible for the environment, but global warming is a foregone conclusion and this is America, the Land of Convenience and Insta-Gratis.

After grubbing on the turkey, we went to Penzey's spice shoppe and bought a pantload of spices, much of it various incarnations of curry powder, followed by a grocery run at Copps.

I spent the rest of the afternoon rehearsing songs for a cover band audition I have coming up this Wednesday.

Saturday night, I went to the Harmony Bar to see my ex country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, play a show. My friend Sherry met me there. Deborah could not be persuaded to come. She hates country music and as best I can tell, it sounds to her a bit like someone scratching nails down a chalk board. However, I thought they sounded good. I captured some video, so you can probably judge for yourself.



DWTD was opening for another country rock outfit called WRENCLAW. I stayed for a bit of WRENCLAW, then went home.


I Ubered Sunday morning for a little while. The Madison Half Marathon kept me busy. I headed home about noon so that Deborah and I could go to a movie matinee of "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse." It was campy and cliche, and generally a good time. My only disappointment was when one of the heroes chose the preppy chick at the end, instead of the rockin' badass stripper (sorry...cocktail waitress) who had earlier saved their asses. The stripper chick was a much more central and interesting character, an empowered woman, if you will, and you will. The preppy chick was barely in the film and seemed really high maintenance. But kudos to the writer and/or director of the film for taking that in a different direction. Anyway, lots of gory fun.

After the movie, I rehearsed some more songs in anticipation of the Sunday night jam at Funks Pub, most notably "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie, then I headed over to Funks to finish out the night jamming there. Deborah opted to stay home and watch the jam via live stream. I have uploaded said stream to Youtube and you can watch it below (my favorite part starts at 13:45).



Ciao!

11.08.2015

The Packers Are a Jinx on the Open Jam

Whenever the GB Packers play a Sunday game, the audience turnout for the Funks Pub Open Jam is poor. I can only conclude that the Packers are a jinx on the jam, and must therefore be thwarted at every turn.

Actually, I can also conclude that Funks Pub is an unpopular place to watch the Packers play.

There are also confounding variables. The awesome bartender Mitch is no longer working Sundays at Funks. He was the main reason people came.

Scratch

I made a little scratch driving for Uber this weekend. It's kind of fun. There is no shortage of demand for Uber rides in Madison. This morning there was a half marathon downtown, with lots of people coming and going, needing rides. Yesterday was busy in the morning, then it petered out.

I made more driving 4.5 hours for Uber this weekend than I would make playing a music show of approximately the same duration, and without the hassle of hauling and setting up music gear. I'd still rather play music for money, but Ubering is a decent substitute when musicking is not to be had. Pleasant people for the most part. I tend to avoid driving Uber when unpleasant people are involved. You can make more money driving drunks here and there on Friday and Saturday nights, but the monetary benefit does not outweigh the human cost. Daytime people are nice to transport.

Conversely, maybe it is unethical for me to avoid Ubering drunkards. My rationale is that other Uber drivers will field the drunkards and deal with potential vomitus on their upholstery. But what if a drunkard gets behind the wheel because an Uber was unavailable? While I am not directly responsible for that, could it have been avoided if I had been Ubering?

I believe I am justified though. If I am driving late at night, I am endangering myself and my riders, because this is Wisconsin and a lot of people here drive drunk at night. I am in harms way and so are my riders. Plus, I have poor night vision. No sir, I believe Friday and Saturday night driving are not for me. I'll take the slightly lower income in exchange for driving more drama free people during daylight hours.

That said, if I ever needed some quick cash, the weekend drunkards are a goldmine to tap at will. Mwahaha. Diabolical laughter.

Anyway, I made some discretionary funds (scratch) this weekend just driving my car around. I wilst most likely spend this scratch on my beautiful girlfriend, Deborah, by way of date night.

11.06.2015

Band Flyers

Last night, I discovered a web site where you can make customized band/concert flyers for free using templates. It's pretty slick and I probably should have looked for such a site sooner than now. But I didn't.

In any case, it only takes a few minutes to customize a flyer on the site and download it as a .jpg file. It's totally free if you allow their web site watermark in the lower left corner of the flyer.

The thumbnail there on the right is one I threw together for my January 8, 2016 solo acoustic show at Bos Meadery.

11.05.2015

Killing Two Birds


I walked the 1.5 miles to work today. Notwithstanding a temperature in the 50s, I still broke a bit of a sweat pounding out 16 minute miles ("brisk walk" is the designation I use in my fitness app, Map My Ride). It took about 25 minutes. A lot of people have longer commutes than that driving cars to work.

If weather permits, I'll achieve three miles of walking today when I commute home on foot. Yesterday, I did the same, plus six miles on my bike. All that physicality paid off, as I was a pound lighter on the scale in Deborah's bathroom this morning (the battery is dead in my scale). I ate quite healthy yesterday as well.

It is a perk to be able to combine my commute to work with my workout. Power walking the 5k round trip to work fully achieves my daily fitness goals. When I bike to work, I don't hit the goal, unless I add some miles along the way, but at least it is better than no physical activity at all.

11.03.2015

Green Coffee Bean Extract's Confounding Effects on My Weight...

A few days ago, I discovered a bottle of green coffee bean extract (GCBE) pills in my GF's vitamin supplement drawer. It turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, she has three or four more bottles of the putative weight loss supplement (Life Extension brand) squirreled away.

Yes, green coffee bean extract is touted for weight loss, most publicly by the TV quack, Dr. Oz. It's also possibly used as a metabolic energy booster, but I cannot confirm that. My energy boosting herbal supplement of choice is Rhodiola rosea.

I started taking one or two of my GF's GCBE pills per day a few days ago, and interestingly, I did lose weight, dropping as much as three pounds without changing my diet or exercise habits. Last night was date night and I took my GF Deborah to a fancy new restaurant in Madison WI where I had two drinks (a glass of red wine and a craft beer) and ate a phenomenal amount (even for me) of delicious food. Deborah could not finish her cheesy omelette, so I also ate about half of her food (mostly the side of red potatoes) on top of my fried eggs and sauteed veggies over quinoa dish and an appetizer of hummus veggies with pita wedges that we shared.

I fully expected to be a couple pounds heavier this morning just from the sheer volume of matter making its way through my digestive tract. But the Laws of Physics were defied. When I got on the scale this morning, my weight was unchanged. UNCHANGED!

Granted, I didn't lose any weight either. But still, I am beginning to think this green coffee bean extract actually works for weight loss. I still need to do more testing to confirm, but stay tuned.