6.28.2017

Midnight Ramblings

It'll be about midnight by the time I finish writing this and post it.

Optimized NAD+ Cell Regenerator?, with Resveratrol, 30 vegetarian capsulesI wanted to do a lot more writing today, particularly on the topic of age reversing nutritional supplements via my nutrition blog. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and doing some research on it. There's some interesting science behind the age slowing effects of the antioxidant resveratrol when combined with a nutrient called NAD+.

However, I never got the time to pound out the work on this piece because I was forced to deal with the headaches of setting up my new smartphone. The battery in my old one was on the outs so Verizon gave me a replacement at no charge. The process for transferring my data from the old phone to the new one was not as easy as the tutorial video would lead you to believe. Then Deborah informed me that I'd have to change all my settings and reorganize my apps from scratch. You'd think by now, this far into the 21st century, they'd have figured out a way to map EVERYTHING from your old smartphone to your new, including the settings and layouts, especially if it's the exact same make and model of phone, which was the case here. Anyway, that ate up most of my afternoon.

On the bright side, I ran some errands this morning around town, by bike. It was a super nice day. I picked up some pictures I had developed at Walgreens from an old roll of film I found. There wasn't much there but one of the pictures was a good one that my mom will appreciate. I'll give it to her when my folks drive through over the July 4 weekend, on their way up to their cabin. I also picked up my new, and expensive, glasses. Deborah says they look great on me. I tend to agree.

Tomorrow, we are supposed to get some stormy weather. That will be good for the garden, which is coming along nicely. It also means I'll probably be relegated to the indoors and thus able to focus on the creative pursuits I had to suspend for today.

6.25.2017

Cool Spell

We had a bit of a cool spell this weekend in Wisconsin, particularly today, but that didn't preclude us from going on our pre-planned Sunday morning bike ride. It was in the upper 50s when Deborah and I got up around 7 AM to prep.

"It'll be 60 by 10," I said, looking at the weather app on my phone. "No sign of rain right now. 10% chance by noon."

It was still brisk outside when we arrived at the Verona Park and Ride, where we were meeting some fellow biker friends, a little before 9. We were the first to arrive. There was a chill wind coming out of the west, the direction we'd be biking. Deborah waited inside the warm car while I unloaded our bikes from the rear rack.

"Might be a bit of a headwind at first," I told her. "But coming back we'll have a tail wind at least."

After our friends arrived, we kicked off for the first leg of bicycling on the Military Ridge bike path, from Verona to Riley. It was a bit of a struggle biking into the wind, but we covered the 7 or so miles easily enough.

We parked our bikes and went into the Riley Tavern, which has a Sunday morning breakfast menu. It used to be just pancakes and sausage, but they've added some more Atkins friendly options, like steak and eggs, which I ordered even though the kielbasa sausage and eggs sounded pretty good too (Side Note: I consistently eat a high protein/fat whole food diet, low in refined carbs. I had my annual physical last week and my cholesterol numbers were all excellent and in the normal range. I'm not saying...I'm just saying.).

After eating and paying, it was on to Mount Horeb, about 6.5 more miles along the bike path. The "rails to trails" bike path had a slight uphill grade most of the way to Mt. Horeb, which combined with the headwind to give us a decent workout. So when we rolled into town, I had skurried up a decent appetite, notwithstanding the Riley breakfast about 45 minutes earlier

We had lunch at the Grumpy Troll restaurant in Mt. Horeb and sat outside in their patio, which was chillier than we'd anticipated, because the sky had clouded up a lot. I checked the weather map again and saw no rainfall near our location, even though some of the clouds looked fairly darkish and suggestive of precipitation.

"It's mostly downhill with a tailwind now, baby!" I exclaimed to Deborah as we got back on our bikes to ride back to Verona. This exclamation was mostly true. After Riley, the trail graded slightly upward again, but the tailwind still helped a lot.

Before returning to the cars at the Park and Ride, we stopped at a small microbrewery in downtown Verona called the Hop House and sampled some of their beer. I got a flite with five different IPAs that they make. My favorite was called Hidden Stash. Try it if you ever go there.

It was a short ride back to the cars. We bid our friends farewell and headed home. Overall, it was a fulfilling day and the rain held off until later.

6.17.2017

Weekend Thing

I attended a music conference in Madison WI today. Butch Vig of the band Garbage Skyped in from his studio somewhere in, probably, California. Garbage is in the recording studio right now, working on new songs ahead of an upcoming tour with Blondie. Remember them? I had no idea they were still rocking, but I'm glad they are.

Butch said modern technology is allowing musicians to produce great songs on laptops in home studios and release them to millions of people, bypassing the gatekeepers in the record business who used to decide what was "popular." But now the marketing itself has been popularized and it's kind of a revolution. The record industry has lost control of the pop cultural music pipeline, and it has opened up a lot of possibilities for independent musicians and songwriters.

There was an issue with the Skype audio and Vig's dialogue was a little choppy at times, but I picked up about 80% of it.

The Avett Brothers performed at this conference at 3 PM, giving everyone their two cents about music, songwriting, touring, and whatnot. Apparently they are all the rage right now, but I won't lie to you...I never heard of them before this conference. According to some dramatization of pop culture I saw somewhere, they are "the hottest thing in Americana music today," but I'm not sure what that even means. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because they seem to be doing quite well for themselves, which means someone is digging them. Folk and Americana music don't do much for me though, no matter how good the musicians are, though these guys were pretty good, as far as that goes.

About 5:30 PM, I attended a song listening panel session at Audio for the Arts where my song "Becca" was critiqued. I got some good pro tips and my sound was compared to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I have been compared to Elvis Costello before but it was more poignant coming unsolicited from music industry pros. To be honest, I was never much of an Elvis Costello fan for most of my life. I started listening to his music after getting the soundalike comment from several different people over the years, but not before I wrote the song "Becca." So I guess what I'm getting at is that my music (and more precisely probably my voice) just happens to be naturally somewhat Elvis Costello-esque and that's not a bad thing at all. Subsequently, Guppy Effect has learned a couple Elvis Costello tunes and added them to our live performance repertoire. To wit, they are Alison and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.

6.16.2017

Night Riding

Thursday evening, I attended the kickoff of the Between the Waves Music Conference and Fest, which goes all weekend. I signed up for it many months ago and got an early bird discount. The weather was fantastic, so I decided to bike on down to the thing, which was taking place on the UW Madison campus.

The introductory session of the BTWCaF went until about 9 PM, so it was dark when it let out. I had predicted this and brought my bike head- and tail lights. The tail light is red and blinks, so it is pretty visible to even the most oblivious car drivers, a large proportion of who live in Madison WI. The headlight is "brighter than the sun" and really lights up the road in front of my bike. I picked it up a couple years ago at a bike store in Whitewater WI, called BicycleWise, whose proprietors, John and Liz, I know. I told John I was looking for a great light that would allow me to see and be seen. He sold me the next model down of the brand of LED head light that he uses. I cannot imagine how blindingly bright his light must be, because mine can pretty much burn your retinas if you look right at it.

Anyway, I attached the lights on my bike, turned them on, and tooled home. I love night biking. The first segment of my ride was on busy University Avenue, but in short order I was on the bike trail that goes most of the way back to my house. There are few other bikers and no pedestrians on the trail after dark. It's quiet and somewhat meditative/contemplative.

Due to an ultimately fortuitous set of circumstances, Deborah and I are sharing one car now, more than halving our carbon footprints (mostly because I am not driving Uber and Lyft anymore...stay tuned for a post about this soon, which will expose some ugly truths about the ride hailing companies). It's always been a dream of mine to drive less, or not at all. I am just about living that dream now and it is fantastic. I don't foresee a need to have two cars in our household at least until after I have completed my first year of graduate school next summer, and possibly even until after I finish my residency in marriage and family therapy some three to four years hence. Graduate school is not cheap, and think of the money we'll save not having to insure, register, and maintain a second car. That few hundred bucks could buy pretty much ALL my books for school.

There is some mild inconvenience and discomfort that comes from sharing a single car, but nothing insurmountable, and certainly nothing worth the substantial financial and environmental cost of having a second car. We have to think a little harder about our daily schedules and coordinate accordingly, but since I am self employed, I can very easily work around Deborah's 9-5 day job. There is a bus stop right in front of our house and I have three bicycles in the garage at my disposal. Biking is something I love to do, so for me the car sharing is not a limitation to my lifestyle, but rather a boon in terms of compelling me to bike places more. The secondary cardiovascular fitness and weight loss benefits of being more physically active are frosting on the proverbial cake.

Some people we know, particularly - and not surprisingly - those who work in the automotive industry, have a difficult time wrapping their minds around our unconventional choice to share a single car between the two adult members of our household. I pity them a little bit, but mostly don't really give a crap. We do what works for us and other people need to live their own lives, not meddle in ours. If America is to survive into the future, we need to cut our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and it has been predicted by experts (Google it) that if every American were to cut their fossil fuel consumption by 50%, the oil crisis and associated senseless violence in Middle Eastern countries would end...just stop, overnight. So Deborah and I are saving the @#$%ing Earth! Boom.

6.13.2017

Meditation and Social Media Fasting

I meditate daily. Maybe you do too. Either way, the kind of meditation I do is what you might call "poor man's," a very easy and basic simplification of Zen meditation. Essentially all you do is get comfortable in a quiet place, with or without some comforting music playing softly in the background, and attempt to focus your mind on your breathing to the exclusion of all other thoughts for a short period of time (15 minutes is my usual time commitment, but sometimes I will double it if I feel a need). It's pretty hard to do this focusing on breathing thing to the exclusion of other thoughts, especially if you have a lot on your mind, as I usually do. But actually the goal is not success at that, because failure is certain; the goal is actually just DOING IT...going through the process...and if you do, then that is the success. If you just do it, you win. That's why I make it a point to do my daily meditation first thing in the morning, after drinking my coffee, because if I let the demands of my day take priority, I might forget to do it or run out of time. In other words, I have made daily meditation a priority in my life, and if you read on, you will see one of the ways it has benefitted me.

"Real" Zen Buddhists and transcendental meditators call daily meditation their "practice," and that's a good descriptor, because it is about training your mind to push out extraneous thoughts when they happen (and they will) and recentering your mind on the present rhythm of your breathing. With regular practice, you get better and better at recognizing when your mind has wandered (as it always will) and bringing it back to thinking of only your breathing. The skill is not so much keeping all extraneous thoughts out (impossible) as recognizing when they have crept in and then kicking them out with a solid combat boot to the arse.


The daily practice of meditating helps train you to center and calm your mind in everyday life as well. A practiced meditator can recognize when life is throwing non-essential chaos and drama his/her way and can then willfully choose to block it out by centering, perhaps finding a quiet safe place to take a few deep breaths and be in the moment. Meditation is really all about practicing how to be in the moment, the present moment. The application of this in everyday life is often casually and appropriately called "being present." When I am worrying out loud to my wife Deborah about future events that have not yet happened, she will often remind me to "be present" and enjoy the NOW, which is usually quite pleasant most of the time. Worrying about things that haven't happened yet is a waste of finite mental power that can be better applied to making the present the best it can be.

Most extraneous thoughts we have tend to be reflections on things that happened in the past or will happen in the future. When such thoughts are negative, we often call these regrets (past) or worries (future). But being present in the present is a null state. Literally NOTHING happens in the present. What we call the present isn't even the present. Let me explain that. Due to the latency of our senses and nervous systems, things we perceive as the present actually happened a few hundred milliseconds ago, give or take. Our minds autocorrect for this latency and extrapolate what we perceive as the present. For example, if you are in a flying jet airplane traveling at cruising speed, the airplane is actually about 500-600 feet ahead of where you perceive it is. When your senses receive stimuli from the external world, the interior of the airplane for instance, the sense organs convert the stimuli into electrophysiological impulses that travel to your brain at far far less than the speed of light. Once in the brain, the impulses then have to be processed, which takes a few more milliseconds, before you actually become consciously aware of the external stimuli. As a result, you are really always a little bit behind the times. If your airplane crashes into the side of a mountain, you will actually never be aware of it, because it happened about a half second before the sensory stimuli of the crash could reach your conscious mind. A half second is a long time (some might say an eternity) when your brain is disintegrating under several tons of metal, glass, and plastic in a mountainside explosion of kerosene jet fuel.

Have you ever dropped a heavy object on your foot? If so, you know that the pain is not instantaneous. Your eyes see the object fall on your foot and the visual stimuli are actually processed by your brain (something to the effect of "holy shit, that's gonna hurt") faster than the pain stimuli traveling up the nerves of your leg to your spine, and eventually to the pain centers of the brain (when you holler bloody murder and blast out a few expletives while hopping around on one foot). That is because your eyes are a lot closer to your brain than your foot is, so the visual stimuli reach your brain and get processed sooner than the pain ones from way down in your foot. Your brain does a post facto latency adjustment to make it all seem simultaneous, but it really isn't. However, I digress.

The thing about meditation is that it is more in the present moment than is the external environment. Your internal thoughts are being generated in real time, hitting your consciousness at pretty close to the exact moment in time they occur. They don't have far to travel because they bubble up from right there in your brain, already pre-processed. That's why they are able to creep in even while you are trying to keep them out. There is a latency involved in recognizing the presence of a thought and quashing it. That latency is not very long, but it's enough. Focusing on your breathing helps to preoccupy your mind with something, to take up mental bandwidth that useless extraneous thoughts are competing for. As soon as you recognize that a thought has crept in, refocusing on breathing pushes it out.

One area of my life to which I have applied centering and being present is on social media. Have you ever found yourself scrolling down your Facebook feed for a long time looking for something interesting to stimulate your mind? This is by design. It's beyond the scope of this post, but social media companies (underwritten by their advertisers) actually engineer their apps to essentially "addict" you to your device screens, the same way that addictive gamblers will sit at slot machines pumping in quarters for hours on end in hopes of that eventual cash reward. They are "renting" your eyes (for free) to garner ad revenue. As with casinos, on social media, rewards are engineered to come just often enough to keep you engaged, and even though these rewards are small (a grumpy cat or Morgan Freeman meme), your brain gets a tiny dose of the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine every time, enough to motivate you to continue looking for the next micro-high. Google it...it's actually pretty fascinating, albeit diabolical. 60 Minutes did a spot on it that you can probably find on Youtube.

Deborah and I refer to the social media trap as "the sinkhole." Once you get sucked into it, it's hard to escape and your valuable time is wasted. You can't get it back. If you use social media, you know what I am talking about. We often help each other get out of the sinkhole. If I see Deborah glued to her phone (or vice versa), I will just ask her, "Are you in the sinkhole?" About 50% of the time she will look up, chagrined, then shake her head as if a spell has been broken and put her phone down. I am the same way.

When we are alone, we don't have this teamwork effect to help us disengage from social media. That's where the daily practice of meditation comes in handy. As I said, the skill you develop with meditation is to recognize and transcend your extraneous thoughts to focus on the present (usually your breathing, but you can focus on anything as long as it is happening in the present). You can also use the skill to transcend undesirable behavior as well. This skill can be directly applied to escaping from the ill effects of social media (and there are many besides just wasted human potential...Google it). Think of social media use as your extraneous thoughts. You can apply the same technique of recognizing the presence of social media and then willfully stop engaging with it. When I recenter myself after falling into the social media sinkhole, I make myself log off whatever app it is. I've implemented additional safeguards as well, like keeping social media apps hidden on my phone to reduce temptation and logging out of the apps whenever possible (hard, since so many other apps we use are, also by design, tied into our social media login credentials).

The goal with this, and I feel I have achieved it to a large extent, is to get a bigger dopamine bump from successfully escaping or outright resisting the pull of social media, rather than from social media itself. I need social media sometimes, particularly to post information about social events my band GUPPY EFFECT is hosting. I don't need social media for much else. Social media is very adept at trying to undermine my avoidance of it though. Every time I go on Facebook, for example, I see at the top of my news feed a picture or video of a fond past memory from a year or so ago. That's a pure dopamine injection into my brain's pleasure center, bringing back good memories from the past, and hard to resist. Then I am at risk of starting to scroll down to look for more good memories...and they aren't there. But with a little pre-social media centering prep, I can usually avoid the sinkhole entirely.

Leave a comment or PM me if you are interested in discussing how to do simple meditation or to escape a time-sucking or aspiration-crushing social media addiction. If you are interested in some punk rock lifestyle coaching, I offer new clients one free 60 minute session, with no obligation to continue if you don't get anything useful from it. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. I'm a happy and successfully self-employed free agent in the universe and I want to teach you how to be one too.

6.07.2017

The Power of Positive Thinking

During my morning meditation this morning, I listened to the KISS vinyl record album "Destroyer" on my little turntable so I could assess it's sound quality for potential sale (it was crap), but that's neither here nor there.

Earlier in the morning, I read a short essay that showed up in my email inbox about the negative effects of worrying. It was from some self-help blog that I must have subscribed to at some point. In summary, worry is counterproductive because it causes stress and anxiety about future events that haven't happened yet. Worry causes us to fabricate mental scenarios that are, in all likelihood, unlikely. The essay went on to propose the logical solution that instead of worrying, try mentally envisioning a positive future outcome of whatever it is you had been worrying about.

Lately, I have not had a great deal to worry about. Everything is going to plan on preparing to start graduate school in the fall and the forecast for summer fun is looking great. However, I am dealing with a minor stressful situation right now, the details of which are inconsequential, and it has caused me to worry a little bit. So, long story short because I have to go do some freelance yardwork in a few minutes, during my meditation I decided to focus on positive outcomes for the aforementioned situation. I visualized the best case scenario and everything panning out the way I want it to.

I have no scientific basis on which to say that the Cosmos heeded my positive wishful thinking on this matter, but later on in the day I received an email from one of the parties to the situation who told me that, indeed, it looked like everything was unfolding in very close approximation to the best case scenario. That was probably going to happen anyway, so I don't attribute this to any divine or supernatural power, but it does illustrate the wasted energy that goes into unnecessarily worrying about something.

Multitasking

I do not endorse multitasking as a general rule. It's very inefficient. Better to do one thing really well than two things just kind of well. That being said, tonight I walked downstairs to get my dog Foster's eye drops from the kitchen while simultaneously brushing my teeth on the way down, and I did both tasks about as well as when I do them individually. However, actually administering Foster's eye drop required that I first completely finish brushing my teeth, so it wasn't a perfect scenario, but it did save me a little bit of time.

Although not technically multitasking by the strictest definition of the term, Deborah and I synergized our workout today with going to see my buddy Phil's band, YOUR MOM, at the Capital Brewery. We accomplished this with a bit of good planning and time management. We set a goal of arriving at the show between 6 and 7 PM and worked backward from there. About 4:30 PM, we rode our bikes the two miles to Deborah's folks' house on Lake Mendota where we borrowed their kayaks for a jaunt on the water. The weather was phenomenal. After almost an hour of the watersports, we biked another couple miles over to Capital Brewery, arriving within the specified time window at 6:55 PM. We socialized and enjoyed the music over a couple pints with friends before biking the short distance home before dark. I am not convinced that more calories were burned than were consumed, but it was a successful outing within the predetermined framework. We treat exercise as a process goal and the metric is binary: Did we do some significant exercise or not? All other things held equal, it is better to do some exercise than none at all.

6.05.2017

Happiness is Doing What You Love Doing - Are You?

There are so many free ways to make money using the Intarwebz and doing fun and fulfilling things you already do every day. Take Moonlighting for example. It's an app you can download free and then just offer services you can do for other people. Slick.

6.03.2017

The Life

One of the things I quite enjoy is selling some of my vinyl records on Ebay. There is some research work that goes into figuring out the market value of used records and what kind of supply and demand is out there. But there is also a fair amount of chillaxing in my ottoman chair and listening to classic vintage vinyl, which is how I assess the condition of these records "on the ground."

Right now I am listening to Paul McCartney and Wings perform live concert  songs on side 4 of the album "Concerts for the People of Kampuchea." This double live album doesn't garner a lot of interest from the classic rock and vinyl savvy Intarwebz, apparently. There are a lot of reasons why this could be, but one of them isn't the artists and songs on this record. The Clash. Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The Pretenders. Queen. The Who. Great bands. And this record is well produced with Paul McCartney at the helm.

More than likely, there are just lots of copies out there floating around. Or maybe people don't give a @#$% anymore about the people of Kampuchea (aka, Cambodia), who at the time of the conceiving of the concept for this album in 1979 were being terrorized by war (Pol Pot, the Killing Fields, etc.). It was McCartney's idea to do rock concerts to raise money for these good people. And it rocked a lot harder than the feel good commercial fundraiser concerts of today, if you want my $0.02 cents. So, why not...let's start the bidding at two cents (plus shipping).

I dig this record and I think you will too.

6.02.2017

10 Minutes - Poolside

I called our gym.

"Hi, this is Joe Leonard," I said to the woman who answered. I like to give my full name when I call places; I feel like it conveys a sense of importance or authority to the person on the other end of the line, like they should know who the person is by name. "I was wondering...is your outdoor pool open yet?"

"Yes it is," the woman said, and I thought I could hear excitement in her voice.

"Awesome. Thank you!" I said and hung up.

I turned to Deborah. "It's open," I told her. "I say we go chillax by the pool before or after our workout."

"Maybe we should go before," she said. "Before school lets out and it's full of kids."

"Plan," I confirmed. "But can we hit the post office on the way so I can mail the records?" I had sold some classic vinyl to a good friend of mine and wanted to ship it off before the post office closed.

Our gym, Harbor Athletic Club, has four pools, three of them indoors. The outdoor one is the least sporty of them all and only open seasonally during the warm weather months. It is surrounded by reclining pool chairs and designed for relaxation, an important part of wellness. We spent about 30 minutes poolside, direct sunlight boosting our vitamin D levels, with occasional dips in the water to cool off, before going inside for our usual hour of moderate aerobics and weight training. It was a beautiful sunny day.

We had a few chores to do after we worked out, but we decided to belay them until another day. Instead, we went home and I grilled some veggie and turkey burgers on the back deck as the protein compliment to a main course of yellow squash "spaghetti" topped with sauteed mushrooms and unsweetened pasta sauce. I used our veggie spiralizer machine to convert three yellow squashes into thin strings of mock spaghetti that I sauteed in butter and olive oil with some herbs and spices before adding the mushrooms (cooked separately) and pasta sauce from a jar. The squash spaghetti has a texture like actual pasta, but it's way more nutritious and has far fewer calories.

5.24.2017

10 Minutes

Today is a great day. I feel really positive today, even though it's a little bit chilly outside. Yesterday afternoon, I planted our modest vegetable garden. I am keeping it very simple and sparse this year. A couple weeks ago, I added some fresh topsoil and composted manure fertilizer to the raised bed in the backyard and covered it all with black landscape fabric to prevent weeds. Yesterday, Deborah and I went to the nearby garden center and bought some vegetable and flower seedlings. The flowers are intended for the flower bed in front of our house and we will likely work on planting those tomorrow, weather permitting. The vegetable seedlings were tomatoes (2), broccoli (2), zuchini (1), and yellow squash (2). I don't want to overcrowd the raised bed and all of these vegetables have a pretty large footprint. I cut holes in the landscape fabric and transplanted the seedlings into the garden. This way, I only need to weed and water around the bases of the vegetable plants, because the landscape fabric will minimize weed growth in the area that it covers.

In about six minutes, I am going to start a focus block of book writing work for about four hours, which may be briefly interrupted around noon when the tree guy comes to take care of a fallen weeping willow branch in our yard.

I have some chores I need to tend to that are weighing on my mind. I have a strong compulsion to take care of these chores before I start my focus block, but that's only because I am a little OC about that and don't want the distraction of unresolved chores to impede my writing progress. In reality though, there will always be chores and there is no great urgency on these particular chores. In fact, the ball is in other peoples' court right now, so it is really up to them to do their jobs and my pestering them about it is unnecessary busy work. I had planned to have a focus block today and I am not going to let anything screw it up. Boom. My book isn't going to write itself after all.

I'll conclude this free writing exercise with a non sequitur by noting that Larabars are pretty awesome whole food snacks. Check out the simple ingredients list of these Pecan Pie Larabars. Nothing refined or artificial. No sugar. No gluten or even flour for that matter. Just three totally whole food ingredients: dates, pecans, and almonds.


Deborah and I keep several flavors of Larabars on hand as part of our healthy diet.

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