5.16.2017

The Lightest I Can Ever Remember Being

I weighed in at a solid 209 pounds this morning, the lightest I have weighed since any neurons in my brain that recalled a lower weight were annihilated, probably during my college years.

Losing almost 40 pounds over the past year was no easy feat, but nor was it especially difficult. It was what people call in the vernacular "not rocket science." I started eating healthy food and limited snacks and junk food to rare or special occasions, coupled with goal setting milestones and rewards (more on this in a minute). I joined a gym with my wife Deborah and began going there about thrice weekly for an hour or more, also incorporating moderate swimming and weight lifting into my regimen, something I never bothered with before. This kept me quite a bit more active through the cold Wisconsin winter months, when I would normally go dormant and sedentary in the past. It also diversified the portfolio of muscle groups that got some exercise every once in a while, increasing my overall basal metabolic rate.

I did not limit my caloric intake at all during my fitness kick, so I did not feel like I was ever dieting. Instead, I focused on eating as much nutritious food as I wanted and limited refined carbs, including keeping unhealthy snacks out of the house. I tracked my weight in a simple smart phone app and set achievable weight loss milestones. When I hit my milestones, I rewarded myself with a dietary "free day." To wit, for one day after achieving the goal, I can (if I choose) eat anything I want without guilt, but only for that one day (and it's a very fun and gluttonous day, I'll have you know). That way, I can still enjoy cake or milkshakes or fried cheese curds or pizza once in a rare while, but it is coupled with my fitness goals in a positive way. 


For example, my most recent goal was to get my weight below 210 pounds. I hit that solidly today, which means I can grant myself a free day here pretty soon. I'll naturally transiently go up a few pounds in net weight right after the free day due to the onslaught of empty calories entering my gut, but my next weight goal after that will be to get below 205 pounds, meaning I have to continue trending downward in weight before I can have another free day. So there is a potent incentive to stay on track, notwithstanding the 24 hours of unbridled gustatory hedonism.

Leave a comment or a question in the COMMENTS section below and I'll be happy to answer ASAP.

5.11.2017

Live in the Now

It's common sense...but good luck trying to convince your pesky mind of this. The only reality that matters is RIGHT NOW.

The past already happened and can't be undone. Regretting past actions or feeling sad about things that happened to you in the past creates negative energy that subtracts from the positivity of the present moment and depletes your human potential in proportion to how much you dwell on past negativity. We humans tend to focus on past bad or sad things and often take past happiness and success for granted. The latter things can't be changed either, but when you are stuck on past negativity, a possible solution is to redirect your focus on something good from the past and use that to guide your present actions. Taken to the extreme, obsessing on past negativity leads to sadness and depression in the now, but that is counterproductive to moving forward in a positive direction and can lead to stagnation and failure to grow and progress as a human. Given that the past cannot be changed in reality, you have within you the power to change how it affects you in the now by using your brain to limit negative thoughts and focus on positive ones.

Exercise: When you catch yourself having a sad thought or a regret from the past, take a moment to reflect on something good that happened instead and embrace that positive energy.

The future hasn't happened yet and even the best minds can't predict with 100% accuracy what will happen. Worry about worst case scenarios or fear of failure in the future is counterproductive to actualizing the future you want. Worst case scenarios seldom occur. No one wakes up in the morning and says, "I am going to make bad choices today and eff up my future." Everyone wants good things to happen in the future. The best way to achieve this is not to think about bad or negative future outcomes, but rather to visualize the best case scenarios and positive outcomes. If you don't already have one, begin to picture a vision for a future that would make you happy. You cannot predict the future in reality, but you can visualize it in your mind. You have that power, and having a solid vision for a positive future can guide your current actions in the direction of that future. You can periodically assess your current actions and situation against the vision and make small, actionable adjustments to steer you on the right path to future positive happenings.

Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down on the couch and meditate for 15 minutes (set a timer if you have to). Direct your thoughts toward a positive vision for your future, and picture yourself in that future. It doesn't have to be realistic, but it should be a future you want for yourself. The goal here is not to set unachievable expectations for yourself, but rather to orient your present being in the general direction of that future reality. Your mind will generate a magnetic pole based on that future vision and cause the present to orient toward it like iron filings to a magnet. Repeat this exercise daily or as often as you like. Over the next few days or weeks, you may be surprised how much progress you make toward your envisioned future.

5.10.2017

Chore Crushing

Deborah and I crushed some chores today. The TO DO list was and still is long, but we strategized for maximal time efficiency and pounded out a fair chunk of it today.

The day started as it usually does, with 15 minutes of calming zen meditation. Most days I meditate on my own to some music chosen carefully from my ample, albeit outdated, CD collection. Today Deborah joined me and we zoned out on some relaxing spa type music she found on Youtube. Afterwards, I put in an hour of piano practice while Deborah got ready for the action packed day ahead.

Our first stop, at around noon, was the Pink Poodle consignment shoppe for women, a store that re-sells womens' undesirable but still fashionable clothes and shoes, and cuts you in on the profit from any sales. With my help, Deborah has been purging vestments from her supersaturated walk in closet and she had a solid pile of threads to ditch on the secondhand clothing market. While the staff at Pink Poodle assessed the value and marketability of the garments, Deborah drove me and a box of books and records over to Half Price Books. I submitted the latter to their Buy Counter staff in exchange for a small amount of cash, some of which then went to purchasing a secondhand paperback by Edward Abbey entitled "Black Sun." Pink Poodle only deemed three or four items of Deborah's discarded wardrobe worthy of resale at their establishment ("shenanigans!"), so we went to another different and less stringent consignment shoppe, which gladly accepted the remaining clothes.

After that, we drove over to Edgewood College, where I'll start graduate school in the fall, so I could clear up a financial aid biff on their part. That went smoothly enough and then we were off to Costco for a much needed supply run there.

Somewhere in between all this running around, Deborah used the Magical Internet to submit some of our wedding pictures to Walgreens to get tranformed via alchemy into prints that we'll send to my mom as a Mothers Day gift (not a spoiler, since my mom asked for this...HI MOM!). After Costco, Deborah dropped me and the groceries off at home. While she went to Walgreens to pick up the pictures from the photo wizards there, I attempted to find space in the kitchen to put away all the goods. This necessitated purging a bunch of expired flour, spray oils, canned goods, drink mixes, and other abandoned crap from a portion of our pantry, a task that needed to be done anyway. So add that inadvertancy to the tally of destroyed tasks today.

"I feel like we maybe don't need to go to the gym," I told Deborah after she got home. "I think we got a good workout running all those errands."

"Yeah. I'm pretty wiped," she concurred.

I made some food and then we both succumbed to power naps to round out a very productive day. After I woke up, I did some creative work, culminating with this blog post. Now I am going to call it a day and watch some TV as I slowly prepare for a good night's sleep.

The key is herbal energy supplements, my friends, most importantly RHODIOLA and ASIAN ENERGY BOOST from Life Extension, a high end nutritional supplement company. They work!

5.06.2017

An Unscientific Study Result

As many of you know, dear readers, I have been using myself as a guinea pig to study how lifestyle behaviors affect health and well being. I have a conclusion to report based on this ongoing, unscientific case study.

Working out at the gym for one hour, three to four times per week, leads to significant weight loss when conducted for a six month period. I have lost about 30 pounds since applying this protocol. This result is confounded somewhat due to the simultaneous implementation of healthier dietary habits over the same period. However, it is believed the diet variable acts synergistically with the exercise variable on body weight outcomes. This result is applicable to the cross section of the population that is ME.

Today, my body weight was 209 pounds, down from a high of 240+ pounds a couple of years ago. Most of the weight loss occurred during the exercise treatment period.

5.04.2017

Da Wedder

Dear Giant Internet Brain and Associated Carbon Based Gangliar Nodes,

It's a beautiful weather day here in the analog world of Middleton WI. The weather forecast online in the digital realm claims that the high today will top out at only 58 Fahrenheit degrees, but I will be perfectly honest with you...I was just outside gardening for the past 90 minutes in a tee shirt, and the ambient temperature of the atmosphere is currently pushing 70 degrees and rising, so I'm gonna call shenanigans on the GIB's assessment of reality. Analog reality trumps virtual reality every time.

After morning meditation and a half hour of jazz piano practice, I took a fresh jug of Roundup out to the front garden bed and applied a proverbial "scorched earth" policy to the embryonic weeds that foolishly chose to settle there. There is about a 50% likelihood of collateral damage to some of the non-weeds in the flower patch, but well worth the risk when it comes to exterminating ISIS...er, I mean thistles. Once that was completed, I took to the backyard and raised bed garden with the spray weedkiller.

Last week, Deborah and I bought a bunch of top soil and composted manure fertilizer. My next gardening task this morning was to dump said "dirt" into the raised bed garden, grade and level it, and cover it with black landscape fabric, which I secured with landscape staples. This will help to keep weeds to a minimum in this year's garden. The way it will work is that we will buy vegetable seedlings at the garden shoppe and I will cut holes in the landscape fabric where we want to plant them. We will only have to weed the weeds that come up through the cut holes and the sides of the raised bed.

Deborah and I had considered installing a second raised bed garden this spring, and we still might, but it was found to be cost prohibitive this year. Apparently, we got a really good deal on the Costco raised bed materials last year, but they aren't offering them this year and these cost three times as much on Amazon. So we might put in a smaller raised bed and just plant a flower or prairie garden.

Gardening complete, my sights are turning toward today's exercise regimen. Last week we bought Deborah a sweet new bike and with weather this awesome, it's the perfect time to take it out for a spin. Deborah will be trying out clipless pedals with SPD cleated bike shoes for the first time and I want to make sure she feels comfortable using them. She's busily making phone calls this morning to change her last name with various banks, businesses, and bureaus.

After biking, we may run a few errands before I head out to drive Uber and Lyft a spell. She wants me to get new glasses, even though my prescription hasn't changed, because my old ones are wearing out. I am not sure I want to spend a ton of money on glasses though. But if it makes Deborah happy and I find something reasonably affordable, I'll do it.

Ciao now!

5.02.2017

10 Minute Free Write on Tuesday 05/02/17

I really love my new wife and eternal soulmate Deborah. I know it sounds totally gushy to say, but this is a free write and I am not allowed to edit what I have already written. That said, I promise not to gush about Deborah any further, other than to say she is the awesomest.

I was in a super shitty mood on Monday (yesterday). I had insomnia on Saturday and Sunday nights, due to some rude and inconsiderate house guests, and got a combined four hours of sleep over the weekend.

"You're a dick!" I yelled out my car window at a punk-assed millenial in a shitty car who smugly blew through a red light in front of oncoming traffic. His window was down and I knew he heard me, though I don't know if he cared.

Realizing my mood on Monday was not conducive to my usual Monday job of Uber and Lyft driving, I instead took my car to Tires Plus for an oil change. They had an opening in their schedule, so I left my car there and walked the 1.5 miles or so home. The exercise did my mood a little bit of good.

Right now, I am at Barriques coffee shoppe in Middleton WI working on some reading and writing. I am reading Stephen King's book, "On Writing," a non-fiction of his where he basically gives his two cents on the art and science of writing. He says a person should read as much as they write, if they want to be a good writer. I am down with that. I am going to go read that book for a spell right now, before doing some REAL writing work on my science fiction novel.

4.29.2017

The Circle and Wellness

I had a kickass workout today, but this is an absolute rather than a relative descriptor of said workout, because my workouts are pretty much always kickass, inasmuch as any workout is infinitely better than no workout at all, almost by definition.

That was a bit of a run on sentence. Apologies to any reader offended by that.

Deborah and I went to the "quiet gym" this morning, being as it was Saturday and the so-called "noisy gym" was apt to be rife with rambunctious children. The quiet gym is a satellite workout room in the other building of Harbor Athletic Club, where we are members, and far fewer people use it for whatever reason. Most importantly there are never any kids in there! It's a cleaner facility too.

The down side of the quiet gym is that there is no pool in that secondary building, so we can't do a cool down swim after our weekend workouts. It's a small price to pay to avoid the unsupervised pre-teen urchins of the noisy gym.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Deborah and I work out in the noisy gym mid- to late-morning and coordinate the cool down swim phase to coincide with ADULT SWIM in the sport pool of that facility. No kids are allowed in the sport pool between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's fantastic. All we have to contend with are a few older adults doing pool calisthenics, and we can remove the rope that demarcates the deep end of the pool because there is no risk of drowned kids during that time.

Today in the quiet gym, I put in about 45 minutes on the stationary exercise bike, at moderate "fat burning" intensity (120-130 hbpm), and burned 500+ calories according to the machine's energy consumption algorithm. It actually said I burned 600 calories, but I think that's an inflated figure, because a similar workout on the bikes in the noisy gym only yields about a 510 calorie burn. Regardless, it's good stuff. After the bike, I did 100 abdominal crunches on a cool but surprisingly simple device. It felt like I was really tightening things up down there, but I can't say for sure. I guess I'll know in a day or two if/when my lower torso feels sore.

I felt great after the workout.

Deborah and I are going to see the movie "The Circle" this afternoon. It's a matinee, but it still cost us $11 frickin' bucks a piece. I read the book and it was great, so I hope the movie does the book justice. There are a lot of great scenes in the book that if they are excluded from the movie will basically disqualify it from being rated AWESOME. I will update you soon.

4.28.2017

I Want a Pedal Paddle Boat

It has a small platform mounted on top of two floating pontoons. It has pedals connected to a paddle wheel by a chain. It has a rudder. The concept and design is pretty simple. And I want one.

4.26.2017

ALIEN CONQUEST - One Off

My name is Chet. I play in a pretty good rock-n-roll band. Actually, it's better than pretty good. My twin brother Biff tells me we are the best band he has ever heard. But he is probably just being nice. He is my brother after all. We are fraternal twins, not identical. We don't even look that much alike. He has blonde hair and mine is dark brown. He's quite a bit shorter than me and I think I might have tried to kill him in the womb. I'm glad I wasn't successful though. He gives me a lot of support in life.

I said my rock-n-roll band was pretty good, but that doesn't mean we are pretty rich or pretty famous. My band mates both have day jobs. I don't, but I live at Biff's house. He works at the university in our city, Madison WI, doing top secret government work. It's that work that led to me telling this tale that is about to unfold. But you need to know some of the backstory.

First off, I like psychedelic drugs. I have ever since I was a teenager and some stoner chick in high school sold me a couple of microdots of mescaline. The stuff ripped my mind wide open and it's never fully closed since, which probably explains a lot about my subsequent path in life. This story isn't about the drugs, and I'm not sure why I brought them up, but I think it's useful information for some reason. Maybe that will elucidate itself later, I don't know. I have never let drugs come BEFORE rock-n-roll. The music was always first and always separate. I never took LSD and tried to perform music in front of people. I imagine that would be awful, trying to focus on playing a bass guitar while the strings turned into serpents and winged elves danced around my head. I've been told the Grateful Dead used to take drugs and perform. I think it's probably an urban myth, but by the same token...maybe it is true. After all, they weren't the tightest musicians in the world and a lot of their 20 minute noodle jams could be explained by introducing squirming serpents and dive bombing elves to the mix. Since a lot of the Grateful Dead's fans were also on drugs, I suppose the music probably sounded perfectly fine to them and all the trades worked out. Anyway, I digress. Where was I? You see? I am a bit of a scatterbrain. Maybe it's because of the drugs, who knows?

Based on my life trajectory, conventional society would probably label me a loafer and a ne'er do well. I went to college and I did pretty well for myself there, getting good grades in between prolonged episodes of partying. I majored in music and I formed my band, ALIEN CONQUEST. It's a power trio consisting of electric guitar, bass, and drums. We write and perform hard rock songs with a lot of science fiction themes. The guitarist's name is Brian. He and I both sing in the band in addition to playing our respective instruments. The drummer's name is Mike. He's a good kid and super talented, albeit quite flaky. Most good drummers are flaky, in my experience, and I have experienced a lot of them, due to the aforementioned flakiness. For a while, Mike and I were rotating drummers in and out almost weekly in order to cover all the shows we wanted to perform at local dive bars. Biff has seen the drummers come and go from ALIEN CONQUEST and he even went so far as to posit a mathematical Law of Nature about drummers: "Their flakiness is directly inversely proportional to their talent," he said. If a drummer is super good at drums, then he is bound to be pretty flaky, and Joe is no exception. He definitely puts the sex and the drugs BEFORE the rock-n-roll. But he's a fun loving guy and he brings a lot of good vibes to the band, so we keep him around. We don't tell him that we have a couple mediocre drummers in reserve to fill in on the shows he invariably forgets to put on his calendar. "I'm sorry, man. I totally spaced it," he'll say. "But now I have to work...is that cool?" He'd always have us over a barrel when he ended his sentences with, "Is that cool?" If we didn't submit to his flakiness, the implication was that we were in fact NOT cool. And we wanted to be cool, so we'd call up one of the subs and play the show decently well. But when Joe plays with us, he is on fire and his drumming complements the counterpoint of the bass and guitar perfectly.

ALIEN CONQUEST rehearses in Biff's basement. I may as well just admit it now that I live with my brother. He's got a nice house and he is pretty well off thanks to his high security clearance government job. I'm supposed to pay him rent, and I sometimes do, but seldom is it as much as it is supposed to be. I rationalize it by telling myself he doesn't really need my rent money, and he doesn't. He knows I do music full time and can't afford to live on my own as a result. I wish I could. I will soon, if everything goes to plan here in the next couple hours. That's why I have to get these words down fast, because it's unclear if I will be alive after that. I am trying to get the whole story pounded out here, which is why it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you right now. I'm scatterbrained, like I said. But keep reading. Maybe it will make sense.

I have chosen to write and perform rock-n-roll music. That's my career and my calling. It's not my fault that the pay is for shit. I didn't come up with the system that exploits musicians and pays them dick-squat for their never ending toil at making the world a much more rocking place. I really appreciate Biff letting me live in his spare bedroom and letting my band practice in the basement of his Madison WI house. I think he truly does know that we have something special in ALIEN CONQUEST, and I hope he is right, given what's about to transpire. I'm taking his word for it.

We are both single guys, Biff and I. Bachelors. Biff went to college for science and got a PhD in physics. He works in a field called Quantum Computing, developing high tech communication devices for the Department of Defense. His university job is a front. He hasn't told me explicitly, but I believe he might be a covert operative for the NSA.

OK, let me just tell you something right now. Biff worked on a top secret government project studying ways to transmit information faster than the speed of light. That's all I really know, because the specifics really are top secret. But it has something to do with what Biff calls "quantum entanglement." Information is stored in quantum computer chips that are entangled and they stay in communication with each other even when they are moved great distances apart, like one in Madison and one in Melbourne Australia, which is why Biff had to go to Australia.

Anyway, Biff has always been driven and smart, like me, in his own field, so of course he figured out how to transmit not just information but actual physical matter through space instantaneously, not limited by the speed of light. This part isn't top secret, because he wasn't working on this for his government overlords, per se, and he didn't tell anyone but me about it. He said he wasn't even sure he believed it was possible, but he was going to test it in his lab soon. He didn't want to tell his superiors about the find because he was afraid of what the DOD might do with such a potent technology if they got ahold of it. Plus, he wanted to be able to test it out without too much oversight, so the less his superiors knew...

I think it is so weird to call your boss a "superior" when you clearly have a far greater intellect than he or she does.

So my brother Biff goes on this trip to Australia for work, about a week before Halloween of 2015. Donald Trump is just starting to get ridiculed in the media, but more on this later. My band was to perform a big show on Halloween with a bunch of other bands at a rock club here in Madison, and Biff was disappointed that he was going to miss it. He'd get back the day after. But then about mid-week, Biff walks into the house. Yes, it was a Wednesday afternoon, because I was getting ready for band practice that night.

"I thought you were down under for the whole week, brosef," I said.

"I came back early," he replied. "I needed to put out some fires at the lab." He did not mean this literally. This was some kind of government speak for solving clusterfuck problems that arose at his university workplace. He was "putting out fires" so often that I started to think he worked with arsonists.

Anyway, he went on to tell me that whilst on his plane to Melbourne, he had sat next to a prominent music producer who had asked to listen to a couple of ALIEN CONQUEST songs on Biff's iPod during the 12 hour trans-Pacific flight. This producer called himself The Hammer. Just The Hammer. I had never heard of him and a quick search of the Giant Internet Brain didn't turn up anything.

"Older guy," Biff said. "Looked to be in his 70s at least."

Anyway, The Hammer told Biff he loved our music and wanted to offer us an all expense paid trip to his recording studio and performance venue in Australia. Sounds too good to be true, right? That's because it was. But more on that later. I was skeptical but unbridled optimism is my Achilles Heel and The Hammer appeared to put his money where his mouth was. The night before our big Halloween performance, we played a smaller show at a different venue in town, called the Brink Lounge. The Hammer sends these threee super hot models to the show to party with us and they come home with us after the show.

The next thing I know, I am waking up next to Mike and Joe in a hotel room on an island off the coast of Queensland Australia. Apparently, the "groupies" drugged us and we were kidnapped by The Hammer. This was, on the face of it, not cool. But on the back of the head of it, you have to understand that our band lived the rock-n-roll lifestyle and there was a certain romantic quality to this adventure. Our lives did not seem to be in any danger and in fact, the place we found ourselves at had a state of the art recording studio and several live music venues - from several small intimate coffee shoppes all the way up to two huge arenas - and we were informed by the staff that we could have free access to any and all of it, at The Hammer's bequest. Tons of famous people were there too, including Def Leppard. They totally suck as a band, but they were there, recording songs that sounded like someone rubbing sandpaper against my cochlea.

So, yes. Our band, ALIEN CONQUEST, was a little bit pissed off at being kidnapped and transported overseas against our will (I know, I know...and I have no idea how they got us through customs and what not, so don't ask!), but this was heavily outweighed by the fact that we now had free access to this musical wonderland on Heron Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Plus, there were tons of bikini-clad hot babes all over the place, ready to go with any of the musicians on the island. Of course, I should have had a "Terra Magica" moment, like  Pinochio on Pleasure Island, but let's blame the drugs here, shall we? I don't know what Australia's laws are regarding drugs, but they were freely accessible on the island, as were fruity drinks and delicious seafood.

"What's this gonna cost us?" I asked The Hammer, when he eventually showed up to greet us, about a week after our arrival.

"Not a thing," he replied. "Everything is already paid for."

"Even on the back end?" I pushed. I knew how musicians could get screwed accepting monetary advances from the record label up front but then owing the company compensation FOREVER and never seeing a dime of profit. But we hadn't signed any contracts, as far as I knew.

"Even on the back end," The Hammer replied. "Make music. Fulfill your musical vision."

A couple days later, Biff shows up on the island and tells us that we are not, in fact, guests of the island, but actually prisoners, and on top of that, we are in a parallel universe. Then it all started to make sense to my psychedlic-attuned brain...

4.18.2017

Morning Meditationals


I've been regularly and diligently meditating every morning for about 15 minutes. I rarely skip it, although I missed a few during the intensive rock-n-roll road trip to SXSW with Sunspot in mid-March.

I find meditation to be remarkably beneficial and a great way to start the day. It's kind of a zen disciplinary exercise that simultaneously achieves a small daily goal and readies my mind for the day. I think it helps me handle stress better too.

When I first started daily meditation, I used to find guided meditation soundtracks on Youtube to listen to while I did it. Now I just select music from my archival CD collection, which accomplishes two things. It improves my focus, because I tune in on the music rather than extraneous thoughts, and I revisit music from my collection that I have not listened to for a while.

This morning, I withdrew a quasi-bootlegged Grateful Dead CD, "Dick's Picks Volume 9," from my CD rack. Some guy named Dick used to go to pantloads of Grateful Dead shows and record them, then make CDs and sell them. I am not sure if these can be called true bootlegs, because the Grateful Dead fully endorsed people like Dick taping shows and sharing them around. Conversely, I think the intent was that such recordings should be shared for free amongst fans of the band and I am pretty sure the many volumes of Dick's Picks that were made were sold for profit. Nonetheless, I believe Dick had special permission from the band to do what he did, so I still don't think his "picks" were bootlegs in the truest sense, but it seems like a good topic for me to look into and write about for a subsequent post.*


In any case, I did a full 30 minutes of meditation this morning because these jams that the Grateful Dead perform live tend to go on for quite some time and I might only hear about a song and a half if I limited my meditation to 15 minutes. The GD are an OK band, even if their songs tend to be a bit languid. They weren't too obsessive about tuning all their instruments perfectly or singing on key, but the song structures and chord progressions are pretty interesting. I'd like to have a band that covers Dead songs with a bit more energy and edge, maybe in a grunge or punk rock style.

*Quick and Dirty Note: Dick was an audio archivist for the band and worked with the band's studio recording engineer to master the live recordings for commercial publication. When Dick died, a dude named Dave took over the role (Dave's Picks).

4.17.2017

We Tied the Knot

Deborah and I got married on Saturday. It was a small and awesome "courthouse" affair, but since the courthouse was closed on Saturday, the judge (aka, justice of the peace), one Paul Higginbotham, came to us instead. We sealed the deal a little after 3 PM at Deborah's parents' house on Lake Mendota. We wanted to do it outside on the deck or in the backyard, but it was too windy and everyone's hair and dresses would have blown all over the place. The living room worked just fine for the short and sweet proceedings. We didn't want a big, expensive, conventional wedding and so we didn't have one, something that many people couldn't seem to get their heads around at first, although all eventually did. We didn't want a lot of gifts or glam. Definitely no churchy stuff, both of us being dirty atheists. We kept it very modest and it was perfect in every way, exactly what we were hoping for. We didn't send out any invitations and told our immediate family that in-person attendance was totally optional, so with the exception of my parents, who flew out from Ohio, attendees were mainly all family that lived nearby in Madison WI. I ran video of the parsimonious ceremony using my smart phone so Deborah's and my siblings, living in Florida and Colorado, respectively, and Deborah's parents, on an Asian cruise, could watch it if they wanted to at their convenience. The wonders of modern technology...

After the paperwork was signed, the eight people in attendance (me, Deborah, Devon, Gretchen, Julie, Josh, and my mom and pops) all went out for a fantastic dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant called Naples 15, downtown. I highly recommend this place. Great food, fun staff. The chef had called Deborah ahead of time to arrange a special five course meal for our group, not even aware that it was a wedding party. There was a pantload of food, all of it amazing. We couldn't eat it all, and we gave the leftovers to the kids, Josh, Devon, and Gretchen, so that Deborah and I would not be tempted by it on Sunday (Side Note: I gained six pounds between the Saturday night feast and Sunday morning, most of it just actual food weight that should dissipate soon.).

Deborah and I have been living together as domestic partners for over a year now, so the wedding was, for us, frosting on the cake, figuratively speaking (there was no actual wedding cake, though the dinner at Naples 15 included a dessert of angel food cake, with pear sauce, not frosting...).

On Sunday, Deborah and I were pretty wiped out, notwithstanding the relatively low stress wedding on Saturday. We lazed about for most of the morning and in the early afternoon, we took my parents out to lunch at Ha Long Bay, a fabulous Thai resturant on the east side of Madison. Then we went over to the Memorial Union Terrace on the campus of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and chillaxed overlooking the lake. My mom and pops got a couple cones of the infamous Babcock ice cream, made from milk from cows at the UW's Research Dairy Barn.*

Right now, I'm free writing at the Mezz, a little common area with a bar on the second floor of the Festival Foods grocery store downtown. This morning, I had breakfast with my parents at their hotel before taking them to the airport. After they left, I drove over to the airport cell phone lot and turned on the Uber and Lyft driver apps. In short order, I got pinged for a ride from an arriving air passenger. He was a university professor from Austin TX, in Madison for the day to attend a meeting. After I dropped him off at his destination, the Fluno Center on campus, I decided to head over to the Mezz to do a few hours of writing. I left the Uber and Lyft apps on as I drove in that direction. I got pinged again for a ride on my way there and, fortuitously, this passenger was going to Festival Foods also. It could not have worked out more perfectly. I dropped her off, parked, and came up here to the Mezz with my writing utensils (Android tablet, bluetooth keyboard, notebook, pens, and my phone to use as a wireless hotspot for wifi so I don't have to trust the Mezz's public free wifi).

This concludes today's free write. Time to go write something useful. Bye now. 

*Note: I can't back this up.








4.14.2017

Zombie Worship

Sunday is Easter, but I don't worship zombies. So it will mostly just be a regular Sunday for me of enjoying life to the fullest possible extent. The weather is supposed to be nice, so I am wishfully thinking I'd like to get out for a bike ride on what will be my first official full day of wedded bliss to my soulmate Deborah. This may be overly optimistic though. My folks will be in town this weekend (for Deborah's and my small and intimate Saturday wedding) and I want to maximize my time with them during their short stay. They leave Monday. There may be a parsimonious way to make the bike riding correspond to the maximum socialization quotient, but I doubt it. So I will probably just sneak away to the gym for a short workout when it is most convenient for everyone else, and then we'll probably just spend most of the rest of the time enjoying the good weather from sedentary positions on the back porch of our house.

4.02.2017

Rare GUPPY EFFECT Sighting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Leonard (info@cactusjoeproductions.com)

April 2, 2017 (Madison WI) - The local rock-n-roll power trio GUPPY EFFECT plans to make a rare appearance this afternoon to whip up a couple hours of prohibited original rock-n-roll music, which has put many area pop music fans in a tizzy, notwithstanding that it is only a rehearsal.

"This kind of music is so contrary to the conformist values of mainstream pop that it endangers our children," said Bob Crotchett (34) of Fort Atkinson WI. "They claim this is only a rehearsal, but that inevitably leads to live public performances down the road and the next thing you know...your kids are throwing goat signs all over the place."


The FDA requires a black box warning label on all music produced by GUPPY EFFECT. However, studies have shown that the youth of today are enticed to seek out the proverbial "forbidden fruit" when they are told they should not consume it. Bands like GUPPY EFFECT have been accused of exploiting human nature with their catchy brand of old school rock-n-roll and vocal harmonies.


"When kids are exposed to misfit, unconventional, and...my God...ANALOG music, they start to become free thinkers and disenfranchise stupidity," Crotchet said. "Once their addiction to commercial pop music is broken it's nearly impossible to win them back. They start leaving the comfort of their computer screens and social media networks to go attend real live music shows at seedy, unregulated venues, exposed to actual flesh and bone people who could do them real harm."


3.27.2017

10 Minutes - Today Was More Productive Than I Thought It Would Be

First off, happy birthday to my buddy Branden M. I think he still reads m'blog...?

I had anticipated today to be somewhat inefficient from a productivity standpoint, but it exceeded my expectations, which is always a good feeling.

I meditated a full 30 minutes this morning (goal is 15), with a jazz backing track, before Deborah and I went to meet with our accountant Pam at 10 AM to finalize taxes. We had a RAGBRAI planning meeting scheduled with our friends Sherry and Tyler for 11:30 AM across town, and I was afraid the time between meeting Pam and that would be too short to do anything productive, but I was wrong. I eeked out 30 minutes of jazz piano practice in the interim. The timing could not have been more perfect. After the RAGBRAI planning meeting, which spawned some action items, Deborah and I talked on the phone with Deborah's dad, who's a lawyer, about the ins and outs of making a prenuptual agreement before Deborah and I wed in a few short weeks. We didn't prepare it yet but were simply schooled on the various components of one, and it makes a lot more sense now (Thanks, Howie!). We then went to the gym and had a pretty good workout. I did about 15 minutes of weight machines and then 45 minutes on the exercise bike, sweating hard and burning over 500 calories. I completed my Duolingo language exercises while pedaling too. After the gym, I worked a few hours before heading home to watch some TV shows with m'honey.

Very little time was squandered today, yet we weren't rushed at all, and I like that a lot.

3.22.2017

Strip Down to Texas Tour - Days 8 and 9: Full Throttle

The SUNSPOT South by Southwest (SXSW) rock-n-roll tour drew to a close on Tuesday morning as we packed up the van in preparation for the long drive back to Wisconsin from Austin TX. Before loading, I gave the van a once over, removing trash and cleaning out the cooler with soap and hot water to remove the residual funk it contained. Wendy had wisely put the jumbo cooler ice packs in Vic's freezer the day before so they were solid and cold when we loaded the cooler with water and some snacks (mostly apples and cheese).

A little bit after noon, we all hugged it out with Vic and bid him farewell and thanks for his hospitality. Then we piled in the van and departed, heading north on I-35. In Oklahoma City, around 7 PM, we stopped at a pizza place called the Wedge that Wendy had found via the Giant Internet Brain. They had salads, so I got one in an effort to maximize my vegetable consumption. We collectively decided that we would push on through the night without stopping until we got back to Madison, taking the driving in shifts. I drove first, until I was relieved by Mike some time after midnight. In Austin, we had usually been going to bed in the pre-dawn hours and our diurnal rhythms were off, so I wasn't all that tired when I ended my shift at the wheel but it was important to rest up for the marathon drive. So I took some Benedryl and an herbal sleep aid to force my mind into a light slumber. Sleeping in the van was not especially comfortable given the close quarters, but I was eventually able to position myself in a way that was tolerable and drifted in and out of sleep.

Stuart drove the last leg of the all night marathon drive and I slept most soundly between about 7 and 10 AM. All of a sudden I awoke and we were pulling into Wendy's driveway. Yay!

Everyone but Mike disembarked the van with their stuff. Mike drove home to the east side of Madison with the van and Stuart decided to drive back to the Twin Cities, foregoing Wendy's offer to take a power nap at her place before he did so. Wendy drove me home to Middleton and I thanked her for the fun and fulfilling opportunity to join SUNSPOT's 2017 SXSW road crew. Once I had my stuff unloaded into the house, I put in some laundry and headed upstairs to power nap until Deborah came home from work.

The End

3.21.2017

Strip Down to Texas Tour - Day 7: The Horro'

With the departure of the band GLASS MANSIONS on Sunday afternoon, at the conclusion of the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival, Vic's house became considerably less populated by rock-n-rollers and the living room couch became available real estate for sleeping. So I slept there Sunday night, substantially more comfortably I might add than sleeping on my thin camping mat on the floor of Vic's study. I slept hard and long and woke up very well rested Monday morning.

Vic's was far less frenetic than the previous mornings during the music fest shenanigans. I chillaxed on the back porch, drank some coffee, and enjoyed the perfect Austin TX weather. Gradually, we started to collectively embrace the idea of getting some food in our bellies, and around 2 PM, Vic took us to a great little vegetarian restaurant nearby, the Bouldin Creek Cafe, for a late breakfast (non-rockstars would call it a late lunch). I had a veggie omelette, marginally increasing the vegetation quotient of my road trip diet and significantly decreasing the refined starch quotient in favor of protein. After eating, Stuart borrowed Vic's scooter and took off on it to go visit a friend of his for the afternoon.

Wendy and Mike run a weekly paranormal podcast called "See You on the Otherside," that focuses on paranormal phenomena and ghosts and conspiracy theories and whatever, and they had an agenda for later in the day to film footage for a video podcast about haunted sites around Austin. Normally, their podcast is audio only, but they wanted to do a video supplement for their loyal podcast fans, as I understand it. About 4 PM, Mike, Wendy, Vic, and I piled into the SUNSPOT van and drove out to the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin where we captured some video for the podcast, including a musical performance by Mike and Wendy at the gates of the cemetery about 7 PM, just as it was closing for the night (it has gained notoriety in recent years as a late night hangout for teenagers and the occasional quasi-Satanic midnight sex party, forcing the city to close it up at night at the behest of local residents).

After a quick stop back at Vic's to freshen up, we headed downtown to the Driskill Hotel, a supposedly haunted site, where Mike and Wendy interviewed a couple of local Texas ghosthunters named Billy and Mark, who host a PBS show about the paranormal called Strange Town. Part of the interview was taped at the Driskill Bar over a couple rounds of Shiner Bock beer (possible sponsor?) and the rest across the street at another putatively haunted site, the Buffalo Billiards Bar, which used to be a brothel.


I should pause here and let my readers know that I am a total skeptic of the paranormal and have never experienced anything that could not be explained by science and the Laws of Nature. There is a reason they call seeing ghosts and hearing haunted sounds "parapsychology," because they happen in the internal realm of the mind, which is capable of extraordinary beliefs and sensations and imaginings that are not bound by external, objective science. The keyword here is PSYCHOLOGY. I have never seen any report of a paranormal happening that was verified by science. In fact, there is a guy named James Randi, a retired stage magician and paranormal investigator, who until his retirement in 2015, offered a $1 million dollar prize to anyone who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties [SOURCE]. No one ever won the prize.

That doesn't mean things didn't happen or weren't experienced by the person or persons reporting the happening, just that they did not meet the scientific standard of proof, mostly reproducibility, but also strong concrete evidence confirmed by objective third party observers. And a million bucks would, I should think, be a pretty strong compulsion to do the rigorous scientific work of proving the existence of ghosts and whatnot. Blurry, unidentified blobs and light reflections that loosely resemble humanoid shapes or spaceships don't cut it for me, but if they do for you, that's great. They don't for James Randi though either. Bear in mind, the human brain is quite good at finding meaning in random shapes. Just the other day I saw the face of the Olympian god Zeus in a cloud formation (though it might have been Thor...but it wasn't a storm cloud, so that's why I am leaning toward Zeus right now).

On the spectrum from skeptic to true believer, I think Mike and Wendy are closer to my skeptical end of the spectrum, but definitely more open minded than me to the possibility of science-defying paranormal weirdness. Billy and Mark seem to fall considerably closer to the true believer axis, I think. They presented some kind of handheld device to Mike and Wendy that could supposedly "translate" localized paranormal happenings into meaningful English words, and the thing was going off like crazy at Buffalo Billiards whilst we were upstairs in the dark and dingy closed off part of the establishment. I have no idea how authentic this ghost sensor was. If it was credible, they missed a huge opportunity to win James Randi's million bucks, but maybe they weren't aware of the challenge. For all I know, they might have built the contraption themselves. It's one of those things some people will willfully suspend their disbelief for, but until I see the peer-reviewed published journal article in Physics Today, I will disbelieve heavily.

At one point in the video footage Mike and Wendy captured, Mark appears to sense something behind him and turns around to look. A moment later, their paranormal Tricorder thing on the table lights up with a new word. One could find a correlation in those two near simultaneous events, but it could also be pure coincidence, or maybe even a gimmick of some kind (presumable Billy and Mark are familiar with how their device operates...so I will just leave it at that). A broken clock is right twice a day, after all. But like I said, people can believe what they want. I am happy to be the token skeptic playing Devil's Advocate and I think that's mission critical to keeping everyone honest when it comes to paranormal phenomena. Leave your thoughts in the COMMENTS below.

"Have you ever experienced anything that you couldn't explain?" Mark asked me at one point during the visit to Buffalo Billiards.

I immediately thought of the only incident in my life I can remember that had a sort of spooky, paranormal feel about it.

"Years ago, I remember waking up from a power nap and I had this weird sensation that something invisible crawled up on the bed and held me down," I said. "I couldn't move for a few seconds and I had to struggle to break its hold on me."

"Wow, interesting," Mark said, seeming intrigued. "So maybe there was something there..."

"Or maybe I was just having sleep apnea," I said. "Hard to know..."

Mark didn't talk to me anymore after that until we bid them farewell at the conclusion of the meeting with them. Both Billy and Mark were super nice guys, whatever their beliefs may be. I was happy to mostly keep my mouth shut and try not to roll my eyes too much.

We had been joined at Buffalo Billiards by a friend of Vic's named Emoo. She was definitely nearest to the paranormal believer end of the skepticism spectrum than anyone else there. She too came equipped with an electronic paranormal sensor gadget. It had a little retractable antennae and a ring of colored lights embedded in the plastic base, resembling a miniaturized version of the electronic children's game Simon Says. According to Emoo, the device was immune to actual real world EMF, including cell phones, and the appearance of a blue light meant something from the spirit realm was "present." The blue light flickered on a few times, but I never felt the presence of a goddam thing.

Emoo joined Vic, Mike, Wendy, and me for a late night dinner at Eureka Pub across the street from Buffalo Billiards. I got a "naked" (no bun) bison burger with a side salad and the portion size was huge, so I got a substantial amount of some actual leafy green vegetables into me, a rarity thus far on this trip. We all then went down the street to Aussie's Pub to have a few drinks (except me...the DD) in celebration of Wendy's birthday (Happy birthday, Wendy!).

We went back to the house and decompressed on Vic's back porch, chatting and sipping wine, before getting an "early night" to bed at around 3 AM. We were still all running on Rockstar Time, but we would be road tripping back to Wisconsin the next day and wanted to be somewhat well rested for the long drive from Austin to home.




3.20.2017

Strip Down to Texas Tour - Day 6: Recovery Day

SXSW is effectively over. A few musical things are still going on, but Austin TX was noticeably quieter when we were out and about today.

If you recall, Vic hosted an after party at his house last night following the rocking performances at El Mercado by SUNSPOT, GLASS MANSIONS, and some other bands. Vic owns Music Madness ATX, the company that organized the El Mercado show, as well as the Brass Hall show of Friday night. That party reportedly went all night, though I succumbed to slumber at some point much earlier than dawn.

Everyone kind of got up at their own pace this morning, showering and drinking coffee and packing up. GLASS MANSIONS, the other band staying at Vic's house, had to hit the road in the late afternoon and Ben of SUNSPOT was flying home as well.

About 2 PM, a few of us walked the block down to El Mercado and had a nice brunch on their back patio. When we returned to the house about 4 PM, GLASS MANSIONS bid us farewell to continue their rock-n-roll road trip off to somewhere else and Vic took Ben to the airport. Wendy and I opted to take power naps on air mattresses on Vic's back porch. I don't know how long Wendy napped but I was out cold for about 2.5 hours and woke up groggy but highly rejuvenated.

I made myself some coffee-to-go and walked down to the so-called "Bat Bridge" downtown. Millions of bats live under this one particular bridge and at dusk they fly out in big swarms to feed, keeping Austin mosquito free (not really). My timing was impeccable. I arrived there about 7:30 PM, just as the sun was setting and the bats were starting to emerge in small swarms. I got some pics and video but I don't think they can do justice to the live experience. At the height of the bat exodus, there was a sound in the air something like the earie collective chirping sounds that cicadas make and I suspect that this was the aural effect on human ears of amplified bat sonar, or possibly it was just the sound of hundreds of bat wings flapping. But it was cool.


Mike and Vic arrived at the bridge soon after I did, and when the bat emergence had dwindled to a trickle, we walked down the street to Aussie's Pub for some appetizers. Afterwards, Vic drove us down to the State Capitol building and Governor's mansion, where Mike shot pictures for his and Wendy's upcoming paranormal podcast, focusing on haunted sites around Austin TX. I think they plan to tape the podcast tomorrow.

About 11 PM, Vic took me over to the grocery store near his house and I scored some frozen pizzas for a late night dinner for the remaining group, comprising me, Mike, Wendy, Stuart , Vic, and Norman (Vic's roommate). We cooked up the 'zzas and bantered on the back porch for a while. I eventually went inside to fall asleep on Vic's comfy couch, now available for sleeping on since GLASS MANSIONS had left.


3.19.2017

Strip Down to Texas Tour - Day 5: El Mercado

The day started characteristically enough...I woke up a little bit before noon, took a quick shower whilst everyone else slept (except Stuart, the only one who gets up earlier than me), made some coffee in Vic's one hitter machine (I had to acrobatically lean over the air mattress and its occupant that consumed most of the kitchen floor to accomplish this), and decamped to the shade of the back porch to drink said coffee and squeeze in my 15 minutes of daily meditation.

Vic went out and bought a metric pantload of breakfast tacos for everyone. It was exactly what everyone needed and it hit the spot (we love you, Vic!).

Stuart and I decided to walk downtown to scope out the SXSW musical action on 6th Street. It was about a 30 minute walk, and much needed exercise. When we got downtown, we went into an Irish pub that was showcasing Australian musicians and stayed for a couple of acts. The rest of the SUNSPOT crew had taken the van downtown and were waylaid by bad traffic, but we eventually caught up with them at Touche Bar. The group walked a few blocks up 6th to the Star Bar where Roy Elkins, CEO of Broadjam, was hosting a small social. Broadjam is a Wisconsin based company that specializes in music licensing, such as soundtracks for film and TV.* I was surprised to see the ex-guitarist, Joe, of now defunct Madison glam metal band TIGER CLUTCH bartending at Star Bar. I miss that band.

Mike of SUNSPOT had Broadjam duties to attend to, and the rest of the band needed to prep for their show at El Mercado tonight, so once again Stuart and I branched off and ended up at Darwin's Pub where a surly goth looking waitress served us gyros, our lunch. She passive aggressively switched Stuart's and my orders, which we didn't detect until we had taken a few bites, but that was rather inconsequential to us getting some grub into our bellies.

Stuart was coordinating to meet a friend downtown, but I was eager to keep moving and get more exercise. So I hoofed it back to Vic's, mostly uphill, stopping at El Mercado on the way to check out the venue for tonight's SUNSPOT show. The other band staying at Vic's, GLASS MANSIONS, was also on the bill, so I was looking forward to finally getting to hear them rock.

Phase 2

My buddy Brad, who lives in Austin, met me at the El Mercado Mexican restaurant, which is only a block from Vic's house. We ate some pretty grubbin' food before heading into the attached music venue, called Backstage at El Mercado.

The second of the six bands on the bill had just finished rocking and SUNSPOT, who were playing next, were loading in their gear. I helped Mike set up his Twitter livestream and then Brad and I watched SUNSPOT's great set. The venue had great sound and lights, which made it even more impressive. The bands that followed SUNSPOT were all rocking too. GLASS MANSIONS played great music that I will describe as heavy techno synth pop with grungy guitar overlaid on top. It was sweet. The last band was J AND THE 9s, fronted by an energetic chick singer named Jeanine. All the bands had at least one female member, which was cool, though I am unclear on if that was accidental or by design.

Broadjam was the primary sponsor underwriting the El Mercado show and Roy Elkins gave a presentation about Broadjam and its services for musicians and songwriters, offering discounted memberships for those supporting the El Mercado performances and its organizer, Music Madness ATX, which is Vic's company that promotes musical happenings around Austin TX.

After the last band, everyone came back to Vic's for an after party. He had bought a keg and some sandwich trays earlier in the day. It was been reported to me the next morning that the party continued until the break of dawn, but I went to bed long before that. The party was still going strong when I did, so the reports were likely true.

Here are some overflow pictures from the day.


*Broadjam.com is a global community and resource for musicians and their fans with a library of 500,000+ songs and 150,000 members. Broadjam helps musicians promote their tracks and has music licensing opportunities to get independent songs in films, TV shows, and ads.