Compelled to Smells

I packed two apples in my carry on bag for my fairly short one day one way trip by air transport to Akron OH from my current home town of Madison WI.

Airport food is both expensive and not especially satisfying or healthy.

I am sort of half assedly on a health kick to eat better, get in shape, and live healthier. I would like to be whole assedly in pursuit of these goals, but it has been challenging, and half assedly is at least better than nought assedly.

In any case, I insightfully packed the apples to keep hunger at bay in the airports while also snacking healthily. Two hurdles exist, though I fully intend to overcome them. One is that apples are not particularly filling for me and they actually seem to make my stomach grumble more than when I eat nothing at all. The second is that the smell of airport food is remarkably compelling. My departure gate has a hotdog stand nearby that is emanating a ridiculously good smell and my scent sensitive emotional reptilian brain is rattling its cage in an effort to convince my reasoning rational higher brain to give in to temptation.

However, I shant.

I don't think.

But it is fun to observe the mind games played by old brain vs. new. Or perhaps more accurately, my new brain is entertained by the old, in the way that a crocodile trainer is entertained by the behavior of the crocs. The trainer knows what he is doing but must be ever vigilant to the tricks of the crocs.

A Karmic Update

Seeming to take offense at the part of my prior post about reason preventing me from taking the idea of karmic return seriously, the Cosmos ironically decided to "love punch" me in the arm by changing my connecting flight a second time, this time to an entirely different concourse at Ohare (E instead of F).

Luckily, this was not painfully far from the gate I had taken a seat near after the first change.

The lesson learned here is to fully embrace karma and cosmic forces, even if they cannot be easily explained with science and reason.

My flight is still on schedule as of now, with about an hour to spare.

I love you, Cosmos, and I promise not to question or doubt your mightiness until after my travels are through. Are we cool?

This Never Happens

Despite yesterday's small fire at an air traffic control facility in Aurora IL that services Chicago's Ohare airport, and which snarled air travel at Ohare, my flights from Madison WI to Akron OH via Chicago were completely unaffected. They were, in point of fact, on time.

The weather in the midwest is about as perfect as can be, sunny and mild. There was no line at security in Madison and I even had a short chat with the TSA agent about how her day was going ("slow") and if she had any word on Chicago delays (she was remarkably on top of the status reports, though she did not recall seeing or hearing anything about my particular flight).

The Madison flight took off on time and had no delays getting a gate once it landed in Ohare. It was Gate F 11B.

When I got off the plane, the LED screens of flight departures were right across the concourse and they indicated that my connecting flight to Akron was leaving, on time, from Gate F11A...the adjacent gate.

This never happens. The Cosmos was clearly smiling upon me. Could it be that my active efforts last week to be kind, polite, and helpful to as many people as I could was now being redeemed in a karmic jackpot?

But that's not all. The Cosmos wasn't just smiling upon me. It was actively advocating for me. When I took a seat at Gate F11A (there were several conveniently available) and turned on my phone (power outlet right next to my seat), I had the following email from United Airlines Customer Service:

Gate Change:
United flight UA3256 will depart from gate F11a.
Departs: Gate F11a, Chicago, IL (ORD - O'Hare) at 12:55 p.m. on September 27
Arrives: Akron/Canton, OH (CAK) at 3:10 p.m.on September 27

So my Akron flight had originally been at another more distant gate. I don't know what gate because my boarding pass just says "Not Yet Assigned" in the gate field. But that is neither here nor there. The point is that the Cosmos took it upon itself to make sure my connecting gate was as close as possible to the gate I arrived at on the Madison flight.

Maybe helping that little old lady in traffic the other day while I was bike commuting caught the "eye" of the cosmic powers that be and they decided to reward me. My rational brain, of course, rejects this notion as unscientific, but the facts on the ground are indisputable. The fluctuations in the quantum vaccuum energy (dark energy) work in mysterious ways.

My Akron flight doesn't depart for a couple of hours yet. I gave myself a long layover in anticipation of total cosmic disregard for my trivial existence and Ohare is a notoriously hassle-ridden airport, frought with flight delays and cancelletions at the best of times, never mind the day after a fire at one of their air traffic control facilities. So the down side of this karmic payday is a long time to wait. But waiting for me is opportunity to think, write, and possibly read. There is no such thing as boredom for an introvert like me. It is a nonstop party in my head. Win-win.

I am well aware that a lot can go wrong in two hours but I am going to remain optimistic that this quantum bubble of karmic advantage will remain stable until at least after my air travels are complete. Then if the Positron particles holding it open decide to tunnel to a lower energy state after that, no troubles bubbles. I only had a one way flight to Akron because the purpose of my trip is to buy my mom's 2008 Prius, which I will be driving back to WI on Monday, again via Chicago.

So I will see if the Cosmos can navigate me fairly effortlessly through Chicago traffic. I will help by timing my drive through the city to not coincide with Monday evening rush hour. Still, clearing a path through Chicago traffic would be a formidable task for even the most potent deities. I will definitely post an update after all my travels are behind me on Monday night.

In the meanwhile, I guess I will continue my crusade of being the best person I can be and see if the Cosmos likes that.

Calming Chaos

I was bike commuting home yesterday when I came to one of the intersections I don't like - the one at Grand Canyon and Mineral Point Road in Madison WI. It has a traffic light, but there is a lot of turning traffic and oblivious drivers that requires a cyclist to be quite assertive in exercising our hybrid of vehicular and pedestrian rights.

In this case, I had ridden my bike up onto the sidewalk so I could press the pedestrian crosswalk button, mostly to expedite the light change so I could go, but also so I could use the pedestrian crossing, which I perhaps erroneously believe some car drivers pay more attention to.

The light turned yellow for the cross traffic and after glancing both ways to ensure there were no Audi or BMW drivers gunning it to get through the intersection, I began to roll forward slightly to let the car driver on my left that was turning right know that I was wearing my pedestrian helmet and exercising my right of way in the pedestrian crossing.

As I started toward the median, a car driver in the left turn lane of the cross street blared their horn at the car in front of them, which was first in line to turn. My attention caught by the loud horn, I began a rapid analysis of what was going on, lest it impact my ability to cross the road.

The beeping driver was a douchebag in an SUV who was apparently upset at the little old lady in the car in front of him for not taking her left on the yellow light. To be fair, the little old lady's car was less than a foot over the line markings on the road and wasn't appreciably "in" the intersection, so she was within her rights to stay put and not complete her left turn. And it wasn't like SUV boy would have been able to follow her through the intersection. He might have tried, but that would be metaphorically "over the line."

The horn honking, however, confused the little old lady a little bit. I could see the worried look on her face as she glanced around to determine why she was being honked at and then she started to roll forward, insecure about whether she was meant to go.

This all happened within a span of a couple of seconds and I was still barely into the road. But my course was going to take me in front of the old lady in the left turn lane and I didn't want her confusion to imperil that course of action. The old lady saw me as she assessed what to do. When she caught my eye, I simultaneously smiled at her and put my open hand up, palm toward her, in the universal sign for "stay put...you are fine right where you are."

I saw a look of relief cross the old lady's face. My hand signal was clear and authoritative, and she seemed glad to have definitive guidance on what to do. She hit the brakes and nodded at me in both understanding and thanks.

I turned my head toward the SUV behind her, and although I could not clearly see the driver because of the tinted windows, I threw a stern look of disdain right through the dark glass into their face. The obscurity of the windows totally prevented them from throwing any body or "sign" language back my way, so they were foiled by their own too cool for school window modification.

I made it the rest of the way through the intersection without incident and feeling as if I had reduced chaos in the cosmos ever so slightly. Of course, the laws of thermodynamics state that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So my reduction of chaos locally may have increased entropy somewhere else in the cosmos and the potential energy of it is now probably stored in the frustrated mind of the SUV driver. It is hard to know the future kinetics of that mental chaos but I hope the SUV driver does not take out his or her angst on a bicyclist later on.


In the Court of the Crimson King

Last night, I went to see King Crimson at the Barrymore Theater with my friends Bryon and Rachel Dudley, who drove out from Ames IA for the concert.

It was a good concert, although the low end and bass were muddy, so I did not have good fidelity of Tony Levin’s awesome bass and Chapman stick playing, even though we were sitting right near the sound board, which usually correlates to a good mix. It might have been that the room just resonated badly at those lower frequencies, but that’s still not a great excuse because those things can be compensated for by a knowledgeable sound crew.

Anyway, the concert was only about two hours long, with no intermission, but it was quite captivating and seemed to be even shorter than that.

Bryon and Rachel arrived in Madison a short while before I got home from work and they grabbed a drink at Laredo’s, a Mexican restaurant near my house. Bryon texted me to let him know when I got home. I bike commuted yesterday, but I had it timed just right to get home about 5 PM. I texted Bryon back that I was home and to score some beer at HyVee on his way over to my house. Earlier in the day, I had scored 2.5 pounds of ground bison meat at the CostCo next to work, along with some buns.

As I waited for Bryon and Rachel to arrive, I fired up the gas grill on my patio and hand molded about six bison burger, which I threw onto the grill along with some Italian sausages I had in the fridge. I was still in my bike clothes, but I figured I would shower before we went to the concert.

When Bryon and Rachel arrived, I showed them to the guest room where they would be staying the night and started to give them a tour of my house. We busted out some wit (wheat) beer they had bought and were looking out over my backyard when my friend Danielle arrived, expectedly (we had discussed it earlier in the day), to borrow my lawn mower and pick up a spare key to my house, because she is dog sitting for me this weekend when I go to Ohio to buy a new used car from my mom.

After Danielle left, I showed Bryon and Rachel my band practice jam space in the basement. Being musicians themselves, they could relate to the functionality of it as both a practice space and a performance space for house concerts. They liked Stefan's LED light rack that we sometimes use for GUPPY EFFECT rock-n-roll shows.

We ate the grillables, I showered, and then we hit the road for the Barrymore Theater and the King Crimson show, stopping briefly so I could get money to afford the $5 beers at Barrymore. Actually, $5 is not bad for venue beer and they served it in large plastic re-usable "Barrymore Theater" cups that you could take with you as a souvenir. It is kind of an admirable marketing ploy actually, getting their brand into peoples' homes in the form of a perfectly useful drinking cup, and actually making money on their advertising that way.

After the concert, we decided to go next door to a local neighborhood bar called Mr. Roberts, where GUPPY EFFECT and my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, have rocked before. Being a Tuesday night, I did not think anything would be going on. But I was wrong.

There was karaoke. And it was good. Bryon and I sang " Just Dropped In" by Kenny Rogers, and I did a rendition of " Gay Bar'" by the Electric 6 that guarantees no future Presidential run for me. Bryon and Rachel did a duet as well. I would go back to this karaoke. It was decent and I like Mr. Roberts as a place to hang out. The crowd is a bit rough around the edges, but lots of hippie types.

On the way back home, we stopped at Burrito Drive, a late night burrito joint, so Bryon and Rachel could experience one of my favorite fast food eateries in Madison. They loved it.

Eventually, we went home and fell asleep. In the morning, no one was very hungry for breakfast, because the burritos were still smoldering in our bellies. I took part of the morning off from work to accommodate my house guests. They eventually hit the road about 10 AM I think. I worked remotely on my home computer until lunch time, then donned my work threads and went into work for the remainder of the day.

Quite a fun Tuesday night, though I did have to skip my piano lesson due to the rock concert. Tonight, GUPPY EFFECT is rehearsing in my basement. We might perform at the aforementioned Danielle's house party on Friday Rocktober 3, and we are definitely performing at the Wisco (Willy Street Pub) in Madison on Friday Rocktober 10. After that, GUPPY EFFECT does not play again until November 14, I think, which will be a Lebowski themed rock-n-roll bowling party at Tower Lanes in Beaver Dam WI.

The country band has gigs up north in Minocqua WI on Rocktober 18 and 31, with a tentative November 1 gig maybe up in the Wausau area. The Halloween gig(s) will be themed on the music and characters of the Traveling Wilburys.

So I am feeling pretty flush with gigs right now, for the next couple months before my big Australia trip. Fun times ahead.

Be excellent to one another.


Psycho Bike Nazi - A Willful Compulsion to Road Rage

I wasn’t going to bike commute today, but the gorgeous fall weather was too compelling. Sadly, a very ugly individual decided to sully its magnificence.

I was about half way through my commute in when I saw another biker up ahead of me. I smiled, because it is always good to see someone else saving the earth and taking one more car off the roadways.

I was going a bit faster than this woman, and as I approached her from behind, I said, “On your left,” as I usually do to indicate I am about to pass another biker on their left.

When I passed her I said, “Good morning.” I always like to greet my fellow bike commuters, as a form of solidarity and just general good manners.

Her response to my salutation was a sarcastic, “Hello?” I didn’t understand why, but I assumed I just misread her inflection. Because it sounded a lot like she was surprised by my sudden appearance on her left side, even though I had called it out.

Maybe she hadn’t heard me announce that I was passing on her left, because I usually don’t holler it to avoid startling people. But whatever, I was on my way, all good. Or so I thought…

About a block further along, I had to make a left turn onto a somewhat busy road (Old Sauk Road in Madison WI, if you care to know). I was pretty far ahead of the woman I had just passed on her bike, but I had to stop at the stop sign to wait for traffic. So, I got all the way over to the left side of my lane, and slowed down to look for traffic.

I didn’t hear the lady behind me so when it was clear to go, I pulled into the road and started turning left.

All of a sudden I hear the lady yell from behind me, on my left side, “Are you turning?”

I turn my head around quickly and see the lady is inches from my bike, behind me and on my left hand side. “Oh, yes ma’am,” I say. “Sorry, I did not see you there.”

“Why didn’t you signal?” she screams at the top of her lungs, as she brakes and swerves to the right behind my back wheel.

Not sure how to respond, I replied, “Um, well I didn’t know you were passing me. Maybe you should have called out that you were on my left?”

At this point, we were both in the middle of the street I am turning left on, and she is now on my right.

She bellows, “SIGNAL!!!” Yes, it really was a three exclamation point bellowing.

I look back at the psycho lady and adding insult to injury, SHE GOES STRAIGHT! She wasn’t even turning left. She had gotten all the way over to the left, even farther left in the lane than I was to make my left turn, so that she could just go straight. Really? She could have saved herself a ton of trouble by staying to the right or at least the middle of the lane if she was going straight. Why did she go so far left?

No wonder she had a cow. She pretty much set herself up to have one.

Now, to be honest, by the letter of the law, she was technically correct. Bikers should signal their intentions.

But clearly, this lady was looking for a throw down with someone. Maybe she had a bad morning. Her approach could have been less bellicose and adversarial. Had the tables been turned and I somehow idiotically found myself on the left of someone turning left, I would surely have said something like, "On your left here, good sir...just so you know."

I decided to let it go, but I was really glad she was going a different way than me. I would hate to be her family member or significant other.

Perhaps it was a strangely appropos that the street she went straight on was a DEAD END, because if she goes through her whole life with that much anger and angst toward other people, she is going to encounter a lot of DEAD ENDS when it comes to getting along in the world. People don't like angry ugly people, as a general rule, and I generally support disenfranchising them whenever possible.

In any case, this woman clearly is not suited to bike commuting. In her case, I would say that having one more car on the road is OK, as long as she is in it and I am no where near it.


Can You Help Buddy Get Cancer Surgery?

My dog Buddy, who I have had for 13 years since I rescued him from the pound when he was one year old, needs surgery to remove a malignant anal gland tumor.

I am humbly seeking donations of any amount to help pay for this expensive surgery. I want Buddy to have the maximum quality of life and he is healthy in most other respects, except being deaf.

So please contribute if you can. Any amount helps.


N of 1

I want to start a blog called N of 1 where I basically try to validate health claims and nutritional supplements by trying them myself. This could eventually extend to other non-nutritional type services and products. But I don't really use a lot of commercial products beyond health and wellness ones and I don't even use many of those. So this idea might not go far but I like it.


Piano Off the Page Class

I had my first class piano lesson last night. It is called Piano Off the Page, and it is basically a piano improvisation class through the University of Wisconsin Extension (Continuing Studies Program).

There are four people in the class, including me, but not including the teacher (she makes five). We each get to play on a real feel piano with weighted keys and we have headphones on so our biffery is not made public to the entire group.

I really enjoyed the first class and I think the skill level is a good fit for me. Basically, over six weeks, we will take four or five pretty easy but well know songs (Amazing Grace, Danny Boy, House of the Rising Sun, etc.) and learn to improvise on them, given only the melody line and the chord progression.

Already, after the first class, I feel like I made good progress. We just focused on roots and fifths of the chords. The songs are so easy and the melodies are so recognizable, that it simplifies the technical aspect of actually playing the songs and allows me to think about the improvisation part of it a lot more.

I had been taking private lessons for a while to learn jazz, and even though I liked the teacher, I was getting very frustrated because he was giving me very technically advanced songs to learn and they were ones that I was not as familiar with, so I spent a lot of time and energy just learning the songs and had very little brain bandwidth left for improvising. Basically, he was pushing me too hard and I couldn't make progress so I felt like I was failing.

But this class starts very basic and is for people with rudimentary piano skills, like me. The keys of the songs are ones with a lot of white keys and the melodies are easy to read and embellish. I can work on proper fingering too.

With these simple recognizable songs, I can actually think about expanding what I can do with the keyboard. So I am looking forward to the remaining classes and practicing some more.

That said, I have to miss next Tuesday's class because I am going to see King Crimson at the Barrymore Theater with a buddy, Bryon, who is coming to town. The teacher said we can play catchup on the missed material, which will focus on bass lines next week. As a decent bass player, I understand bass lines. But I understand them on bass, and piano is a different animal for me, so I still feel like I could benefit from the class material.

I biked to the class last night, but I won't be able to do that for long. It gets dark a lot earlier, and I think we put the clocks back an hour soon. Plus, it is getting colder outside.


The Next Couple of Weeks

The next couple of weeks culminates with a dog-friendly camping trip somewhere up in northern Wisconsin.

I can't lie...I enjoy the fall. At least, the early part of it when the cool winds descend from the northern plains, and the rains take on a knowing aire. Joni Mitchell captured this feeling in her song, "Urge for Goin'."

By the same token, "I'd like to call back Summertime, and have her stay for just another month...or so. But she's got the urge for goin'...so I guess she'll have to go."

I do get the urge for going when summertime starts fallin' down. I think it's genetic. Nomadic. Maybe even Gypsy.

Come to find my paternal ancestry is eastern European (thanks 23 and Me!). So there could be some Gypsy in there. I think a case can be made for genetic wanderlust. After all, my dad's ancestors ended up in Australia. That's some serious mobility.

Conversely, I have always felt more anchored to my existence due to my mom's no nonsense approach to life. Her ancestry is English and probably Irish (thanks 23 and Me!). These ancestors were island folk, forced to make due with limited resources in a small land area. It is no wonder her ancestors made their way to North America to seek better fortunes. An island can only support a finite population and this means that a larger percentage of island populations are forced to become innovators and creators.

I think I get my creativity and my grounding from my mom, although these two forces are sometimes at odds. Grounding usually wins. But the wanderlust is driven by the genes of both of the gametes that formed the zygote that eventually led to my current state of preparing for a camping trip almost a fortnight hence.

Travel is in my genes and I am compelled to it, especially when late fall transitions into winter proper and I long for the tropics. I get to fully indulge this compulsion this year when I travel to Australia in late November with my entire extended family. It is going to be awesome.

It is times like these when I give thanks to the cosmos that I am in a great place in my life. My contract job allows me to offer my skill set to those in need in exchange for cash, without all the drama of full time, long term employment, and I can travel at will.

Sometimes I don't see how good I have it. Then I do, and I am happy.

Anyway, between now and the camping trip some good things are happening.

My band, GUPPY EFFECT, is playing a show as part of BUBBLE MUSIC FEST in Madison WI. We are playing a set at the Rigby, a downtown pub with an apparent Beatles theme. We don't have that many Beatles songs, but we are such a good band that we managed to hash out a few at band practice tonight.

We will do a punk rock version of HELP, a ska version of HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY, and a fairly traditional albeit better version of TAXMAN.

The band will probably hit the town on Friday night, before we play, to check out some of the other bands.

On Sunday, September 14, there is a big social bike ride being hosted by the Capital Brewery (of whose bike club I am now a member), followed by Oktoberfest (or, if you will, Rocktoberfest...and you will) celebrations. I think a bunch of my Madison biking pals will be participating in this, weather permitting.

Well, that's about it. Signing off.




I got a decent night of sleep last night, in part because I went to bed at a decent hour.

My sleep has been restless lately, and I’m not sure why. Life is good. Work is enjoyable. I am having fun living in Madison.

It is unclear why I wake up during the night and feel like I do not get deep sleep.

Maybe the Yellowstone caldera volcano is going to erupt soon, and like a wild animal of the forest, I somehow sense it at a deeper level and it agitates me.

However, that seems like a stretch.

It is probably more likely to do with things I want to accomplish and have not yet.

For example, I want to order some temporary tattoos for the band, but I never seem to find the time to do it.

I have an idea for a community service organization I want to start (top secret), but I need to find time to make business cards and t-shirts.

I want to get back into practicing piano.

These are little trivial things. But perhaps they add up and put unrest into my conscious mind.

I am going to go and meditate in the COMFORT ROOM at work for 30 minutes or so. Hopefully, that will ease whatever is keeping me from getting solid sleep.

But last night, I do feel I slept well. I got a full eight hours and only woke up briefly a couple of times.

I suspect I will not sleep soundly tonight, mainly because there are supposed to be severe thunderstorms all night and the mayhem will probably cut through the solace offered by my earplugs.



Because I ran 3.3 miles this morning and also bike commuted to work (about 15 miles round trip, after I bike home tonight), I allowed myself to use a packet of Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing on my salad at lunch.

Normally, I use a packet of Newman’s Own Light Italian dressing because it is one of the few dressings that has no added sugar. The vinaigrette does have some sugar, and a bunch more calories too, as a result.

I earned the slightly sweeter and tastier dressing today, I think.

The run this morning was a real slog, because it was really warm and humid out, with no breeze. I was sweating profusely as my body made a feeble attempt to cool itself. My friend Danielle, with whom I ran, outpaced me near the end. The humidity was just draining me.

I was tempted to walk a couple of time, but I made myself continue running, albeit at a slow pace.

As fall progresses and cooler weather arrives, that should make running a lot easier, although increased precipitation may hinder both running and biking.

I have a narrow window of environmental conditions in which I can exercise outside. For biking, it needs to be over 45 degrees F and not raining. It can be sprinkling or cloudy, no problem. Just no storms, with lightning. I will actually bike in temperatures up to almost 100 degrees F, provided the distance is not heinous and I have ample access to food and hydration. That said, on RAGBRAI 2012, I biked 110 miles in 110 degrees. It was painful, but I made it.

For running, the temperature has to be between about 45 and 65 degrees F. Above that range and I am miserable, unless there is a solid wind blowing to cool me off. Below that range it is just too damn cold.


Why the Funk?

Sometimes I go into a bit of a funk, and I don’t know what causes it, but I don’t like feeling this way.

I used to call it the “All Pervading Feeling of Doom.” It’s not like depression, per se. When I do a self-analysis, I generally feel pretty happy with my life, objectively speaking.

But still something gnaws at me, in my gut, just below the sternum, that something isn’t right.

Perhaps it could be a bit of melancholy. I spent the past three weekends with my family, when they came down to my house warming party on August 16, and when I went up to the cabin the two weekends after that, including Labor Day, to hang with my parents.

Now, I am probably not going to see them for a while, and that’s probably part of why I feel melancholic.

On the other hand, I get to spend almost three weeks with them in late November when we take a family trip to Australia. Between now and then, I plan to fly one way to Akron OH, where my folks live, at some point, to buy my mom’s Prius and drive it back to Wisconsin. So that will be nice. I need to figure out what to do with my current Prius, which was also a hand-me-down from my mom. It has well over 200,000 miles on it and it still runs pretty decently. I could sell it for some pocket change, or maybe donate it to NPR’s “Take My Car, Please” program, where presumably they refurbish vehicles for the needy. I don’t really know. In any case, I should Blue Book it.

I have a strong desire to travel more. I may have mentioned my wanderlust in a prior post. I am going to start looking into economical travel options. Road trips are always a nice getaway. So are bike rides. I am supposed to go on a camping trip with friends the weekend of September 20. I may go up to Oshkosh this coming weekend.

Part of my melancholy might be because Labor Day signals the end of “recreational summer” and I might be a little bummed that as the weather degenerates, so do my options for exercising outdoors. But the weather is still looking excellent out there. I bike commuted today and I am looking forward to bike commuting home.

I might go chill in the Comfort Room at work for a few minutes and mellow out.