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."