9.28.2016

Flu Shot Roulette

I got my flu shot today, a relatively painless process (if you don't count the actual needle poke itself, which felt like a mild bee sting). I called ahead to my clinic to confirm that I could just walk into the Pharmacy without an appointment, which I then did. They collected my insurance information and since flu shots are rightly classified as preventive care under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it was free. It was also Thimerasol (mercury) free, which I liked, even though there is no conclusive evidence that the trace amount of mercury in this vaccine preservative is harmful in any way.

I haven't a clue whether this year's flu shot will be effective, and for the most part neither do the epidemiologists at the CDC who helped design it. It's all a numbers game.

I am just really glad flu vaccines are free. Before Obamacare, you had to pay for them, even if you were insured or just went to Walgreens. That was never a big issue for me, but I can imagine there were a fair number of people who spent that $25 bucks or so on other more immediate needs, like say food.

A lot of the effectiveness of vaccines has to do with "herd immunity," a group level health effect whereby you don't have to vaccinate everyone, just enough people to prevent the spread of the flu virus. It's a statistics game that takes into account contagiousness and incubation period and chance of fluid exchange between people. If you are unvaccinated, herd immunity means there is far less chance you'll encounter an infected, contagious person and further propogate the virus. Even if you do get sick, you are unlikely to encounter another unvaccinated person to spread it to.

You are basically just improving the odds that the virus can't spread fast enough to infect unvaccinated people. Here's an explanatory video: https://youtu.be/rAGHXMq9ttw.

9.27.2016

Intensity at High Levels

This 100 Day Challenge is brutal. I haven't worked this hard since graduate school and to be honest this is probably even harder than that. The difference is I am enjoying everything about the challenge, which cannot be said of graduate school.

9.25.2016

I Have Not Found a Good Live Streaming App Yet

Live streaming things is pretty easy, but all the apps suck. They are either too advertisement heavy or totally user unfriendly or impractical. Facebook's LIVESTREAM app is awful. I am kind of disappointed in Facebook's livestream team and hope they all get fired. I am back to using Ustream for most of my live streams, because it is the simplest and quickest, but pretty much nobody is willing to sit through the 30 second ad on the front end. That being said, thanks to all the somebodies who do tune in here and there. If it took more than two minutes to set up the livestream gear, I probably wouldn't bother. But since I can usually set it and forget it, the cost/benefit ratio is very minimal. Who knows, some day a million people might tune in as the ritual goat sacrifice that blesses the start of all my live streams goes viral.

100 Day Challenge


My Mastermind accountability group is rounding out the last 27.4% of the year with a mad dash to the finish line we are calling our 100 Day Challenge. It's kind of like Masterminding on steroids. The last 100 days of the year through December 31 are broken into 10 day blocks and each block has ambitious but achievable goals.

The challenge has forced me to really focus on my primary goals and structure my daily activities toward the end of achieving them using a Deep Work strategy (RE: Cal Newport). I can definitely feel the pressure now, so I can tell the Challenge is having some good effect on me. There is a noticeable ramping up of work intensity, requiring good time management.

9.21.2016

Things Are Afoot

Today at my weekly Mastermind accountability group meeting, my free agent colleague Wendy and I prepared to launch our 100 Day Goals calendar. It's beyond the scope of this post but it's basically 10 structured blocks of 10 days focusing on achieving important primary life goals - kind of like Masterminding on steroids, but not literally...or at least that was not discussed. It kicks off tomorrow and ends on December 31, a mad push to conquer some goals by year's end. In fact, I need to prep my first 10 day block tonight after I finish this post.

Some music opportunities are opening up for me soon. With GUPPY EFFECT on indefinite hiatus for reasons discussed in prior posts, I'm whoring out my musical talents to other worthy bands. I have several gigs lined up with these bands over the next few weeks and months, with more to come, I'm sure. I need to learn and hone some songs to prep for these and I'm quite thrilled about that.

We've been having some crazy stormy weather this week. Meteorologically, it seems more like Spring. Deborah and I are leaning toward Hawaii for our winter vacation this year.

We went to the gym tonight and did weight machines and some swimming. I like going to the gym. I didn't think I would but the pools are a strong selling point for me. It feels great to swim and I can pretend I am on vacation. Honestly, my life right now is like one big vacation, pretty effing perfect. I'm doing a decent job of avoiding drama, including political. I accept that America is phucked, not because Donald Trump may win the election, but because he is even running at all. How is Hillary not trouncing him, and if she's unable to...is she the right person for the job? I'm hoping the media is just hyping it as a close race to win ratings and please corporate advertisers. I have to believe that to cling to sanity. But that's more than I even wanted to say on that topic.

Alright, I'd better go. Bye.

9.19.2016

SKOOLNITE BENDER's Short Power Set

My new hard rock cover band project, SKOOLNITE BENDER, rocked a great (albeit short) set at the Knuckledown Saloon in Monona WI yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. As always, we melted the faces off the small crowd who showed up for the benefit show against cancer. We were supposed to get a full 30 minutes to play, but this was truncated down to about 15 minutes due to the first band of the day going over their allotted time. It wasn't that big of an issue except for the fact that we didn't get to perform "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie, which I sing and which is a magnum opus of a song with a huge jam at the end where guitarist Derek Reynolds shreds up a monsoon.

In some ways it was probably good that we didn't "bring the thunder" with that song, because it was a beautiful sunny day and the canopy covering a section of the beer garden was tenuous at best and may not have withstood the hail and high winds churned up by that particular song.

We kicked off the set with Green Day's "Holiday," a song that always unapologetically cranks the party right up to 11, then eased the throttle back a couple notches with "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters, only to ramp it back up with a segway into "Cold Hard Bitch" by Jet. We gently eased the audience out of their stunned amazement at our rock-n-roll prowess with Smashing Pumpkins' dank and heavy song "Today."

It was a fun time. SKOOLNITE BENDER has yet to have an actual rehearsal. All of our honing has come from playing various open jam stages around Madison, usually on school nights (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, etc.). We individually learn an agreed upon handful of songs on our own time at home (like homework) and then find a venue with an accepting (but unsuspecting) audience at which to perform them.

Works great.

9.18.2016

YOUR MOM Rocked a Great Show Last Night

Considering the 1.5 actual rehearsals that last night's incarnation of rock cover band YOUR MOM had before playing a full 4 hour show at Knucklehead's Pub in rural Eagle WI, it was an impressive show. It was a long drive from Madison to Eagle and the provincial crowd of regulars at the bar didn't seem to appreciate our efforts in firehosing them with some good rock-n-roll. So we said @#$% them and had a good time with the small set of attendees who were totally into us, most of whom had also driven some distance to see us, so we couldn't let them down. Most of the apathetic clientele at the roadhouse seemed to be country music fans, but for the most part they seemed pretty musically illiterate since even the few popular country songs we learned special for the occasion didn't get much of a rise out of them. We just treated it like a live (and paid) practice and we were pretty solid notwithstanding a couple biffs - to be expected. The up side of having an oblivious crowd of dolts in the bar was that even our most glaring biffs went completely unnoticed. Hahaha. Chumps.

9.13.2016

Another Library Book Crushed


I just finished reading "Deep Work" by Cal Newport, a book I got from the library that came highly recommended by my friend and Mastermind accountabili-buddy Wendy.

It met my expectations for excellence per her recommendation and was also very well written and clear. It basically describes in detail a strategy for accomplishing deep (read important and intellectually or artistically demanding) work in a shallow world of distraction and interruption. Everything Newport describes is easily doable. One just has to do it, which means blocking off time to do it and elimination the destroyers of deep work such as social media, email, and undesirable people (OK, the last one is my own add on based on personal experience in Corporate America). The only excercise he encourages readers to undertake that looks challenging is memorizing a deck of cards. He clearly outlines the method for doing so and it makes sense...I just haven't attempted it yet.

Another good book I got from the library and finished a fortnight or so ago was "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. That was a fiction novel, also beautifully written.

9.10.2016

Last Night With Your Mom

After rehearsing briefly with Wilco tribute band WILCONSIN, I dodged over to the Club Tavern and caught some of the band YOUR MOM's show. I was asked to guest rock on three songs during the second set, which I did and which was fun. I'll be playing a full night of tunes with YOUR MOM next Saturday 9/17 at Knuckleheads bar in Eagle WI. That's a bit far to drive for a gig, but it should be well attended and pays decently.

Poor Doggie

While I was attending the YOUR MOM show at the Club Tavern last night, someone came into the bar with a service dog, a golden retriever I think. I felt bad for the dog because I thought the volume of the band was quite loud, even though I had earplugs in. The dog didn't seem at all perturbed by what must have seemed to it a cacophony, which is admirable. Still, it must have been hard on the dog to maintain its attention under those circumstances.

9.09.2016

Another Face Melting Skoolnite Bender Show

My new hard rock cover band project SKOOLNITE BENDER took the stage at Christy's Landing last night for the weekly Thursday open jam stage. It was another spectacular performance by the power trio of me (bass/vox), Derek Reynolds (guitar/vox), and Cody Smalley (drums), notwithstanding that our only rehearsals have been live performances at open stages such as this one.

We launched our short set with a blast of Green Day's song, "Holiday," and followed that with several more hard rocking numbers, mostly 90s cover songs. We went retro on a couple tunes: David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" and Ozzy's "Crazy Train," which I sang. Being the oldest member of the band by quite a margin (Derek is 23, for example, which means I have existed on this plant for twice as long as he has, plus two years on top of that), it usually falls to me to sing the golden oldies but goodies. However, I'll be taking on more modern repertoire as the band moves forward.

Later in the night, Derek and I took the jam stage once more, joined by Wendy Lynn of the band SUNSPOT on drums, and ripped a few impromptu numbers. Good times were had by all and the bar patrons in attendance left with severely melted faces. Before they did, a couple of them hooked up our contact information for the potential booking of some future shows, possibly a house concert on Lake Waubesa, on the shores of which Christy's lies. Nice!

SKOOLNITE BENDER fills the void for me that was created by my band GUPPY EFFECT's indefinite hiatus as the guitarist of the latter band, Stefan, awaits the birth of his first child and adapts to the subsequent period of fatherhood. I'm also exploring some contract bass playing with Kelsey Miles' cover band, FIGHTING FOR, and I signed on for a few gigs with college rock outfit YOUR MOM, fronted by on Phil "Why Does My" Dickert. In combination, this diversified portfolio of bands satisfies most of my musical needs (with the exception of writing and performing original songs). I'd like to reach the point of being able to gig most every weekend with one or more of these bands, and get paid enough to supplement my Uber driving during the week. Then I could just about make ends meet to maintain my current modest but frugal quality of life while working on my book writing.

I have a few piecemeal gigs going on too, like a Wilco cover band with some amateur local musicians and the weekly Sunday open jams at Funks Pub, but inasmuch as these generate no substantial income beyond some free beer and food, they are quite low priority for me. They serve mainly to keep me networked with the local music community, which is an important function to be sure.

I wish that original punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE would fire up again, as I quite enjoyed playing rhythm guitar on their catchy songs. However, there are some personnel hurdles to overcome in that group, as I understand it.

9.02.2016

The BIG Bike Weekend

It's time...

...for BIKE WITH JOE.

I host this annual bike ride over Labor Day weekend up at my folks' cabin in northern Wisconsin. I've been running it for about 17 years now, by my calculations, even when it was called BIKE WITH MELINDA and subsequently BIKE WITH OR WITHOUT MELINDA and eventually THE BIKE RIDE FORMERLY KNOWN AS BIKE WITH MELINDA until sheer popular demand forced me to call it what it has pretty much always been, BIKE WITH JOE (I don't like the limelight).

The bike ride itself is on Sunday of the long weekend. We rise at a medium pace on Sunday morning after a Saturday of arriving and socializing combined with water sports and festivities. Then we don our bike gear, mount our bikes, and tool off to a town called Stone Lake (usually), some 23 miles distant, stopping at several carb loading stations and a breakfast establishment. At Stone Lake we meet my folks (who often drive the support car) for lunch. Anyone not doing the long route (23 more miles back to the cabin with one steep hill near the end) can throw their bike on the bike rack and hop in the car to get shuttled back to the cabin.

We grill out and do a fire pit Sunday night. On Monday, people leave at their own pace after helping my folks tidy up the cabin a little (the price of admission).

Generally, the ride always has a few participants. One year I was the only one and instead of biking to Stone Lake, I did a 10 mile run/walk around Shell Lake, where the cabin is. This year, we have a couple of veterans and a couple of noobs on the ride, not including myself. It should be a good time.