Holiday Travels Part 13 - It Wouldn't Kill You to Burn 10 Extra Calories

Americans are, collectively, pretty fat. This isn't me being a dick; it's statistics, and biostatistics in particular, and epidemiology specifically. Math doesn't lie. That's why it always amazes me how many people ride the escalator or the moving walkway at airports, when stairs and non-moving walkways are a freely available option. Like...pretty much everyone. Except me. I like using my leg muscles. They are some of the biggest burners of calories in my body after my abdominals (and yours too), real powerhouses, thanks in fair measure to bicycling. If I use the stairs or non-moving walkways at the airport, especially with a carry-on bag slung over my shoulder, I can probably burn 10 to 15 more calories than I otherwise would. It's not much, but it's not zero.

I can understand that some people are unfit. Or maybe they have emphysema and pass out on exertion. Or maybe they packed cinder blocks in their backpacks. But everyone? I don't buy it. I can understand it, and in fact appreciate it, when families with small children take the automated route. It entertains the kids and it also keeps the youngsters out from underfoot as I burn extra calories taking the analog route. Win win.

I guess some of it is probably peer pressure too. They are following the herd. If everyone else is taking the path of least resistance, there's a strong social pressure to follow suit. But like my mom says, "NOT ME, MAN!" I enjoy committing micro non-conformities in public (though usually not micro aggressions...see below).

The chick sitting in front of me on this plane from Denver to Madison though...she seems to thrive on micro aggressions. Check out how she draped her coat over her seat so that it's totally in my already super confined space. WTF? I don't know you, beeotch! Maybe she is OC germ phobic and did it so she wouldn't have to touch the seat during the flight, but if that is the case, then she did it wrong. The inside surface of her coat is all over that seat now, and I'm guessing whatever germs are on the seat will be on her the next time she puts on her coat. I'll confess though that I micro aggressed right back a little bit by tucking the slack ends of her coat into the seat pocket in front of me. She'll never even know how many germs the coat will collect on this flight. Again, I am not the dick here. If I were a dick, I'd rifle through the inside pockets of her coat, which I can freely access without her knowledge, looking for bounty. I may still do that, and if I do, feel free to call me a dick. But I have clearly wasted more mental energy than I should have on this micro aggressing millenial's obliviousness. Suffice to say, some people suck and deserve to be publicly ridiculed.

When I started this post, I was sitting at Gate A46 with some time to kill before the plane boarded. I was mostly engrossed in my writing, but my ear space was invaded by a couple of passengers trying to one-up each other on who had the worst recent flying experience. Canceled flights, long delays, re-routing on other airlines that cost them "thousands of dollars." Damn. I am sure glad my air travels have been fairly smooth and painless. I can't back this up with science, but I am pretty sure some people ATTRACT bad experiences, drama, and negativity. There is even a name for it: The Law of Attraction. To wit, you attract that which you put out to the Cosmos. If you think and act negatively, the Cosmos doubles down on sending negative things your way. It works similarly for positive thoughts and actions...the Cosmos sends more good things your way. It sounds hokey, but it kind of fits my empirical observations of the world. There are lots of explanations that don't require cause and effect. The directionality of the Law of Attraction may even be reversed. Maybe when negative things happen to a certain kind of person, they embrace it with a kind of "life is suffering" mentality. Maybe such people conflate negative experiences and minimize positive ones, even though both positive and negative experiences happen to them with about equal frequency, more in accordance with the Law of Averages than the Law of Attraction. This hypothesis holds some water for me because during times when I am feeling positive about my life, I've been more attuned to positive experiences, such as receiving money unexpectedly in the mail or scoring a lucrative music or writing gig. My mind creates the cause and effect, though the probabilities are no different than what would be predicted by random chance.

Anyway, I leave it to you, dear reader, to ponder the ins and outs of your Cosmic destiny. But I advise trying to maintain a positive outlook on life whenever possible. In a very real sense, the Universe is trying to kill you, but thanks to evolution by natural selection (your genes), socialism (in the broader sense of being a social animal), and a planet with "Goldilocks" attributes,* it's actually pretty effing hard to die. In fact, sitting on this airplane (now in flight at cruising altitude, and notwithstanding some significant turbulence) I am counterintuitively one of the SAFEST HUMANS ON THE PLANET. Flying airplanes are ridiculously safe spaces (notwithstanding occasional micro aggressions) and your chances of dying on one are lower than your chance of death from just about EVERYTHING ELSE, even controlling for the probability of sudden cardiac death (R.I.P. Carrie Fisher), which has about the highest probability amongst deadly things of killing you. This includes, I believe (though I can't access the Giant Internet Brain to verify it because my tablet is in airplane mode), death from brain eating parasites. So if you die on a plane, it will probably be from some pathology, and for the record, Carrie Fisher didn't technically die ON the plane thanks to a fellow passenger who was an EMT. She died later in the hospital, which as you might expect is a place with a very high per capita mortality rate.

As this plane was taxiing to the runway to take off, some crackerjack in the seat across from the micro aggressing millenial made a last ditch run for the lavatory. Maybe he made the mistake of downing a large coffee and two bran muffins before boarding, but whatever the case, the flight attendants were in strong objection to this move and pre-empted his ablutionary ambitions, sending him back to his seat. Almost as soon as the plane took off, the guy took advantage of the temporary absence of flight attendants (seated way up front) to bum rush (pun intended) the lav again, this time successfully. I urge and beg my fellow humans, please stop being idiots! I realize our culture and mainstream media glorify and exalt buffoonery, but in this case I strongly back the guiding philosophy of "what would Jesus do?" I am pretty sure Jesus would have taken a huge sh!t before getting on the plane.

I took the scenic route to getting to today's perhaps final entry of my holiday travels (unlucky #13 notwithstanding, I still have only epsilon chance of dying on this plane, where epsilon is a number negigibly larger than zero). I awoke on a memory foam mattress this New Year's Eve morning about 8 AM and found my parents and sister having a granola-ish breakfast upstairs. I opted to make an egg white frittata with a bunch of veggies, after which I bade my sister a huggy adieu, for she had to run off to some prior commitment she had and would not be back before my folks and I had to drive to Denver ahead of our flights home. I had about an hour to kill before we had to leave, so I used it efficiently to practice piano up in my niece's room (she being in absentia sleeping over at a friend's house). About two minutes before I finished practicing, my mom hollered up the stairs at me, "We have to go in about 10 minutes!"

"I'll be ready in two!" I hollered back. As it turned out, we were both off by about five minutes.

The drive up to Denver was pretty smooth. I filled up the rental car with gas at a Sinclair gas station near my sister's house, since I knew the gas stations near the airport rental car places would be overpriced and wanted to minimize the financial hit. My parents were booked in at a Denver airport hotel for tonight, because their flight back to Ohio isn't until early tomorrow morning, and we arrived there early enough to have a trip concluding lunch together at an Applebees across from the hotel. I had a Santa Fe chicken breast with a side of steamed broccoli (it came with rice, which I willfully ignored: "Yo no como arroz."). After lunch, I drove my folks up to the hotel entrance and we hugged out some farewells. I topped off the gas in the rental car before going to the EZ Rental Car return. I discovered the latter was closed but followed the sign posted there that said: If the office is closed, return your car at [wholly owned subsidiary] Advantage. The latter establishment was just a few doors up and the car was returned expediently to the underpaid (I'm sure) Somali (I'm pretty sure) attendant in the lot. Equally expediently, a shuttle bus to the airport was waiting for me, as if on cue.

The rest is pretty straightforward. I passed through TSA security with minimal exposure to micro aggressions and macro idiotics and found my way to the gate where I began pounding out this screed. At the moment, I can sense the pilot making anticipatory adjustments to wing flaps and airspeed as we near descent into Madison WI where I will meet the loving embrace of my soul mate Deborah as romantic orchestral refrains play in the underscore (not). But we will probably go out for a quasi-romantic dinner and debrief each other on our week apart.

I guess I will leave you with this final scene. High fiber lavatory federal regulation violator guy (let's call him Lou...Lou Stoolz) has been trying to hit on millenial micro aggressor (let's call her Mikah...Mikah R. O'Gressor...ok, I know that sucks...I am in a hurry to wrap this up before we land) for about the last half of this flight, to no avail. So I guess that's sort of a karmic reward. Mikah is micro harassed and Lou is micro rejected. Lose lose.

OK, share it if you like it.

Peace out!

*Note: The spatial positioning of planet Earth in the Sun's so-called "Goldilocks Zone" (not too hot and not too cold, but just right to support carbon based life forms) is not, strictly speaking, independent of evolution by natural selection, because the latter is highly dependent on the former. That being said, the scientific consensus that carbon based life is the be all end all of life in the Universe seems somewhat carbon based life-centric to me, and the silicon based Fire People of Regulus 7 are in agreement with me on this.

P.S. Again, after the plane landed and was taxiing to the gate, Lou Stoolz took another illegal run to the lav and was chastised by the flight attendant for violating the universally understood faster seatbelt sign.


Holiday Travels Part 12 - Last Full Day In Manitou Springs CO

I just finished a marathon 90 minute practice session on my niece Millie's piano. In 2017, I am modifying my jazz piano practice system metrics slightly. In 2016, my daily metric was 60 minutes of piano practice per day (in blocks of 20 minutes) and my weekly metric was to practice five days per week, for a total weekly goal of five hours of practice. In 2017, I am decreasing the weekly metric to three days per week but increasing the daily metric to 90 minutes (in blocks of 30 minutes). You probably did the math in your head and realized that results in 4.5 hours of jazz piano practice per week, a slight reduction in the weekly goal. However, I think this system modification will actually result in more practice time because on off days I will more than likely do a short practice sesh here and there. The hard metric is just what I HAVE to do to hit my weekly goal, but soft practices will be gravy. We'll see how it goes. If it slows my progress, I can easily revert to the 2016 metrics, but I feel like these new metrics give me a lot more schedule flexibility with only a modest reduction in actual weekly practice time. I have noticed that having a day or two off between piano practices actually strengthens my playing more than rehearsing almost every day, and this is true not just of piano but of athletics too. If I skip a day in between going to the gym, it gives my muscles a chance to regenerate and heal, and I feel stronger at the next workout. Something similar must be happening with the piano playing neurons in my brain as well. I have no scientific evidence for this (though I am sure someone does), but it is what I observe and ultimately that's what matters.

It's my last full day of holiday travels in Colorado today and much like the previous few days I'm takin' 'er easy and chillaxin', gearing up to kick off the new year strong. I'm in my favorite comfy chair in my sister Kate's living room. My parents are working hard on a jigsaw puzzle nearby. My sister is doing various and sundry chores. There was some talk of going to a hot spring spa tonight, but my sense is that this plan is no longer on the table because my nephew Ty is going to bed soon. Maybe there is a new plan to go in the morning before my folks and I have to drive up to Denver around noon. I fly back to Wisconsin about 4 PM tomorrow and I have to drop my folks off at their hotel (they leave Sunday for Ohio) and then return the overpriced rental car that we scarcely used at all this week. In retrospect, we probably should have just saved the money and taken the airport shuttle down to Colorado Springs, where my sister lives (actually Manitou Springs, a suburb).

This morning I slept in until about 10 AM, which is late for me, and had a leisurely breakfast with lots of coffee. About noon, I packed some Christmas presents and assorted sundries in a small box to ship back to myself in Wisconsin via UPS so I didn't have to try to cram it all in my carry-on bag. I then did my daily meditation for 15 minutes or so. After that, a plan was concocted to go to a Mediterranean restaurant for lunch called the Jerusalem Cafe that we traditionally go to at least once whenever the family gathers at my sister's, with a stop at the UPS Store to send off the aforementioned box. The Jerusalem has excellent dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and I ordered some in addition to a falafel salad. We milled around the resorty part of Manitou Springs for a bit and did an informal tour of the hot springs spa place that we may or may not be going to. It was pretty crowded but we saw some of the hot mineral spring tubs you can soak in for a pretty penny to heal what ails ya.

After we got back to Kate's house is when I tickled the ivories hardcore. It's about 8:30 PM now and I'm still not hungry after the filling Mediterranean food this afternoon. But I should probably think about preparing some nutriment since I have a long day ahead tomorrow. I think I'll "julienne" some zucchini and try sauteeing it before  season it with butter and garlic if there isn't any red sauce to be found.

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Holiday Travels Part 11 - Julienne More

Tonight my sister Kate made rice noodles for our family dinner at her house. Due to some excessive holiday eating lately, and in anticipation of the new year that is nigh upon us, I sought a lower calorie option for dinner (nothing against my sister's cooking whatsoever). We discussed making pasta substitute for me using a veggie spiralizer machine that my sister thought she had, but she couldn't find it. She was, however, able to supply me with an ample substitute, a "julienne" style vegetable shredder that converted the yellow squash and zucchini I'd bought earlier in the day into delightfully thin pasta-like strands. These I steam blanched for about five minutes until the faux pasta was al dente. After ladling on some meat sauce, I could hardly tell that I was eating healthy, low calorie vegetables instead of actual pasta.

Now, I'm not a materialistic person as my friends and family can attest to. That being said, my birthday is coming up on January 9th. I'm not saying, I'm just saying...if someone perchance got me a veggie spiralizer like THIS ONE (the device my sis could not locate), I would definitely get a lot of use out of it. Even the simpler julienne shredder I ended up using would be more than ample for my needs.

Of course, I don't expect any presents from anyone. I can always score one of these devices myself. But I thought I would just put this idea out to the Cosmos and see what happens.


Holiday Travels Part 10 - Versimilitude

I didn't think versmilitude was an actual word, but I just checked. It IS a word. I'll be damned.

Versimilitude means "the quality or state of being versimilar."

Thanks Merriam-Webster. #nothelpful

On further examination of sources, it is actually a word used to describe something that appears to be true, likely, or probable, though it is doubtful and/or questionable.

For example, "that Morgan Freeman quote on Facebook has versimilitude."

I am well aware that, to this point, this post has very little to do with my holiday travels. So here are some pictures I took today in Manitou Springs CO, near my sister's house, whilst I was on a power walk.

Holiday Travels Part 9 - Off the Grid

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@gmail.com

MANITOU SPRINGS, CO - During a rare episode of pre-dawn insomnia, Cactus Joe today made the bold move of removing both Facebook and Twitter from all his mobile devices, well ahead of the planned January 1 start date for his New Year's Resolution to fast from social media for a fortnight.

"I don't know if it was the thinner mountain air or the coffee I drank before bed or what, but I couldn't sleep," Cactus Joe said. "At first I occupied myself by doing Duolingo exercises in Welsh and Spanish, but after surpassing my daily goal for that, I still wasn't sleepy, so I said 'eff it' and just started my social media fast a couple days early."

Anonymous pro social media establishment pundits quickly took to social media to condemn what they are calling irresponsible action by Cactus, apparently missing the irony that the maverick free agent in the cosmos will be completely unaware of their trolling during the fasting period.

"It's almost unheard of for someone to voluntarily disconnect from social media," wrote one of the more literate ones, named TrollBait69, in a far lengthier diatribe that seemed to be mainly intended for their own benefit. "We wholeheartedly believe this behavior is dangerous to both Mr. Cactus [sic] and the online community collectively. If he can do it, what is stopping anyone else from tuning out and depriving themselves of social media distractions like Grumpy Cat memes, Morgan Freeman attributed quotes, and dramatic, if ill informed, political bickering between one's social media peers. The long term economic consequences could be disastrous for online snake oil charlatans and the smug political elites who tell us what to think."

None the less, Cactus Joe appears to be on a trajectory for successful completion of his fortnight foray into the scary and unknown wilderness of social media deprivation.

"My early experiments in corporate mainstream mass media deprivation were remarkably successful in restoring my happiness, reasoning capabilities, and free thought," Cactus Joe said, referring to his controversial early studies that indicated ignorance was indeed bliss. "Social media, though far less relevant, meaningful, and informative than mainstream mass media, is much more addictive and destructive to human ambition, progress, and time management. If I can demonstrate that it is possible to survive a two week social media fast with no adverse consequences, it could be revolutionary in ending the operant conditioning exploited by social media trolls and click bait advertisers. I fully believe humans can be re-conditioned to resist the impulse to press the social media lever in anticipation of a reward that will never come."

Cactus Joe said he plans to fill the void created by the absence of social media with analog antisocial substitutes like reading, writing, exercising, playing the piano, and continuing to improve his fluency in Spanish.

At press time, no one on social media noticed this blog post because it was overshadowed by a brand new hilariously cute video on Facebook of Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund dressed in a Santa Suit.

Holiday Travels Part 8 - Down the Mountain

Shortly after finishing my previous post, most of my family (except Carl) left Carl's mountain cabin and drove off the backside of Pike's Peak down to my sister Kate's house in Manitou Springs CO, where I'm writing this, prostrate on a memory foam mattress in her study/den/family room. The air is 2,000 vertical feet denser here, and although still demonstrably alpine, I feel less shortness of breath upon exertion.

I drove down the hill with my pops in the overpriced rental car while my mom and niece went with my sister in her car, and we made a couple of pitstops at a Walgreens and a Safeway grocery store, respectively, before arriving at my sister's. Pops and I scored coffees at the Starbucks kiosk in the Safeway.

I was thrilled to once again have access to a piano and immediately set about tickling the ivories on the one my niece has in her room. I spent a decent amount of time refreshing some of the songs I often work on at home in Wisconsin. My niece also has a marimba and I noodled on it briefly, but it is a completely different animal from piano, notwithstanding that its keys are laid out the same.

One of my sister's local friends, Courtney, stopped by and my mom had a potent chat with her before we all went out to dinner at Adam's Mountain Cafe, a fancy eatery close to Kate's house. I ordered a chicken curry dish that I envisioned would have far more vegetables in it, based on the menu description, than it did. It was tasty enough, but was essentially a grilled chicken breast in a very shallow pool of curry. My mom remarked that her salmon enchilada dish "had about a tablespoon of salmon" in it and she had to ask for a side of black beans to bolster the nutritional content of her meal. Notwithstanding the dearth of food, the company was pleasant. When the group ordered desserts, I was "good" and just got a coffee instead, which probably explains why I am not sleepy at the moment. I felt a little awkward not getting dessert when everyone else did, but only briefly, because phuc it all, it's my life and I can do what I want.

Before we went out to dinner, I got a call from my sweet baby Deborah back in Wisconsin and we chatted a spell. I am enjoying the reflective solitude of my holiday travels, but I am also looking forward to heading back to Wisco this weekend. In my prior post, I outlined most if not all of my new year's resolutions and I am eager to get a jump on these starting on Sunday (New Year's Day).

I'm especially looking forward to my two week social media fast, during which I hope to pound out a ton of book writing whilst also probably applying to go back to school and pursue a new career direction in marriage and family counseling. I wonder if I can delete the Facebook app from my phone without also deleting Facebook messenger, which I need to keep for certain business related communications. I might scope that out after this. My blog posts automatically publish on social media without me having to log in, so I can still continue my systematic writing without having to access social media. The irony is not lost on me though...while I am enjoying the freedom (and possible withdrawal) of being sans social media for a fortnight, I know full well that my readers will still be mostly finding my posts via social media. But I am not responsible for other people, only myself. I would love to lead by example and have my readers fast from social media with me (it's only two weeks!), but I know they won't be able to shake the potent addiction to soul sucking and productivity destroying social media, and that kind of validates the whole reason for my fortnight of social media fasting experiment.

I am going to go read a book now.

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Holiday Travels Part 7 - 8000 Feet

I overheard Carl say that his cabin in the hills near Woodland Park CO is at about 8,000 feet above sea level, which explains my occasional shortness of breath, pounding heart, and mild headaches (notwithstand ample, albeit somewhat weak, coffee).

I just got back from a 40 minute powerwalk with my folks up the red dirt lumber road that Carl's cabin is on, though "with" is a strong word because my speed was considerably faster than theirs and I ended up lapping them a couple times. I'm going to count the walk toward my daily exercise goal, because it technically met the criterion, even though I usually strive for more vigor and rigor in my workouts. I could also count it toward my daily meditation goal because it was thought provoking and internally reflective "directed meditation." I was pondering the new year's resolutions I need to propose this week, along with the strategies for achieving them and the metrics for measuring them. I also thought about my longer term goals like going back to school for a degree in marriage and family counseling, a career path I feel strongly about doing as I ride out the remaining years of my working life. I've exhausted all the satisfaction and growth I can get from my 20+ years as a corporate technical writer (the soul crushing climb to corporate management has always been repulsive to me) and I feel I have a lot of solid life experiences now to bring to bear on helping other people get the most out of life. I also have more discipline and focus now to embark on this path than I would have had as a young man fresh out of college and full of piss and vinegar.

Anyway, I ramble. Another thought I had briefly on my power walk is that Colorado is a place I could see myself living someday. I love the scenery and the dry climate and the people seem a little more rational, collectively, than people from say Arizona, another state that appeals to me aesthetically, were it not for the crazies. Colorado has its fair share of crazies, especially in Colorado Springs, the fundamentalist Christian capital of America where my sister lives (she's not a fundy and is largely shielded from their nuttiness by the progressive university system that employs her), but crazy is becoming the new reality in America, so I guess we rational types (aka Vulcans) need to adapt to that as best we can). The Coloradans seem mellower these days, maybe because they legalized recreational marijuana use (unsubstantiated hypothesis). Colorado also has seasons - spring, summer, winter, and fall - that, while not of great import to me (I'd be fully happy in the year round tropical constancy of somewhere like Hawaii, truth be told, its climate buffered to within a few degrees of optimal human habitat by the vast expanse of Pacific Ocean that surrounds it), is something my significant other, Deborah, has expressed a penchant for. Colorado's winters are far less bleak and lengthy than Wisconsin's and they are often punctuated with episodes of more temperate weather. For example, on my power walk this morning, three days after Christmas day, the air temperature was approaching 50, and it felt much warmer due to the thinner air through which the sun's radiant energy has to pass here. (Side Note: I still believe that people who claim to enjoy the seasons are mostly rationalizing their poor geographical choices via cognitive dissonance, but I can't prove it...).

Well, I should hash out these new year's resolutions, I suppose. If you are still reading, God bless your patient heart. I'm afraid the conclusion to all the suspense I've generated may be a bit anticlimactic, and if so I am sorry (in the sympathetic sense, not the apologetic one, since we are dealing with reality here). You see, much of my resolve is merely an extension of the final 100 days of 2016, during which I established several systems, with related goals and metrics, as part of my participation in a Mastermind accountability group. I plan to continue going to the gym four to five times per week to exercise. I've lost over 20 pounds since I began doing this for the 100 Day Challenge back in September. The goal is five times per week, with four times per week (80% adherence) still being counted as success. I have similar metrics for a couple other of my systematic goals (goals oriented on a system of DOING rather than some pass/fail objective or milestone), learning jazz piano and languages (Spanish and Welsh). These systematic goals are ongoing with gradual improvement over time. Ultimately I'd like to be a jazz pianist fluent in three languages (including English) and I hope this happens before I die, but the main goal of a system is just to DO IT consistently. So I have a metric to do one hour of piano practice four or five times per week and to complete a certain number of language exercises in the Duolingo app also four or five times per week. On the advice of my spiritual advisor (Deborah), I may reduce the metric on my gym, piano, and language goals to doing them three to four times per week. This is because even though I did not have too much difficulty hitting these metrics in 2016, I did so at the expense of another important goal: WRITING MY BOOKS. Time management was the main obstacle to success in this goal in 2016 and I plan to remedy this system for success in 2017. My primary (but not my only) income stream in 2016 was Uber driving and I made the mistake of trying to do book writing in my car while I was idle between passengers. On paper, this was not a bad idea since I prefer to Uber drive during the day when demand for rides is low. The net amount of available time for writing was ample for the established book writing metric, to write for three to four hours on four to five days each week (emphasis on weekdays, because Uber and other pursuits demand more of my time on weekends), but I failed to appreciate that successful writing output requires uninterrupted blocks of deep work time. Uber driving proved to disruptive to my writing workflow, so near the end of 2016 I did a major restructure on the writing system goal and I will implement it fully in 2017. To wit, the system goal is to put three to four uninterrupted deep work hours in on writing per day four or five days per week and this writing should be done before Uber driving or other demands break up my day into blocks of time that are too small for successful deep work writing output.

One system that I may codify as a new year's resolution in 2017 that was not one in 2016 (though it was a rough guideline) is to adhere to a more whole food based, Paleo-leaning diet. The difficulty here is how to implement it with goals and metrics. I am pretty good at following such a diet at home or other places that have dietary options in line with this paradigm, but I am never going to starve myself if the only nutritive options fall outside the scope of it. The best solution is probably a goal with a binary metric, something like "adhere to the optimal diet five out of seven days per week," with a metric of one (1) or zero (0), where one represents adherence for the day and zero a lack thereof. This has some advantages if I start my week on Monday, because the weekends tend to be the most difficult times to eat consistently well. Thus, if I am adherent on all weekdays, I can cut myself a little slack on weekends. As always with such metrics, I give myself a passing grade for 80% success. So if I only stuck to my healthy diet on four of five days in a given week, it would still be a success.

Finally, I am going to beta test a two week resolution starting on January 1, 2017. I am going to attempt to go a fortnight with absolutely ZERO social media use, where social media is defined as principally FACEBOOK and TWITTER, but includes things like Instagram. My field research has concluded that social media is highly addictive and very destructive to human intellect, productivity, and progress. It is in fact designed to keep people distracted from their own goals and ambitions for long periods of time and it offers only enough "useful" media content to keep the rats (people) pushing the lever for a promised reward that never comes. So I am going nihilist on social media. If the two weeks of social media fasting is successful and yields greater productivity on my "real" goals, I will implement a longer term trial. There are minor exceptions to this goal. Facebook Messenger has become a useful messaging tool for many of my peers and musical colleagues. I need to keep it active for good reasons, but as with email, I will use it sparingly and only at selected times during the day (morning and evening, primarily). The Messenger app also stands alone from the Facebook app itself and doesn't require a login to Facebook per se.

I'll also successfully submit my application to the Marriage and Family Therapy masters program at Edgewood College during the first fortnight of 2017, a goal with a binary metric that will be synergized by the social media fasting goal.
That concludes this outline of my 2017 new year's resolutions. Specifics to come later. Suffice to say, I was very successful on my 2016 goals and 2017 looks to be even better.

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Holiday Travels Part 6b - Carnivores' Dilemma

We finally got around to playing a practice run of the EVOLUTION board game I got for my family for Christmas. My mom and pops and I played to get a feel for the rules. They are fairly straightforward with a few questionable nuances. For example, if one of your species has the trait card called WARNING CALL, does it protect that species from predatory carnivore attacks or only adjacent species?

One thing that is fairly certain...the game is more interesting with more players. The game is designed for a maximum of six players, but that is only a structural limitation that is easily remedied with simple household objects (such as small bowls to be used as food collection bags or drawing additional species boards on a piece of paper).

Another observation is that it doesn't seem optimal to have carnivorous species early in the game, but rather bring them in later when there are more species and larger populations available to eat.


Holiday Travels Part 6a - Fiesta Mexicana

I just ate an orange. Keeps the scurvy at bay. I'm back at Carl's mountain shack after the evening's shenanigans, which involved seeing an awful movie (The Assassin's Creed...don't bother) and eating decent Mexican food with my sis, niece, mom, and pop down the hill in the town of Woodland Park CO. Between the flick and the food, I had my sister swing by a grocery store where I picked up some eggs and a block of cheese, because there seems to be a dearth of hard protein at Carl's. Kate's family leans toward the proverbial "granola" region of the 3D dietary spectrum.

I succumbed to a bit of a power nap this afternoon. I think the thin mountain air makes me sleepy. It definitely makes me thirsty because it's so dry. The power nap disrupted a planned practice run of the EVOLUTION board game I bought my whole family for Christmas.

My nephew Ty is sitting across the kitchen table from me now watching episodes of "The Six Million Dollar Man" on DVD. I watched a little bit of it and I am always amazed that I once thought shows like this were good. "Magnum PI" is another one. In 40 years Ty will probably look back on today's "modern" programs with a similar feeling of disbelief. The actor Lee Majors sure looks young. I most recently saw him in "Ash vs Evil Dead" playing the father of the show's main character, Ash Williams.

I took a short walk up the dirt road Carl lives on this morning with my mom and pop. It wasn't sufficient to count toward my daily workout goal, but it was good to get outside.

I am not sure how long we'll be up here at the mountain cabin, but at some point I think we are going to some kind of mineral hot springs place that has Native American healing powers. My sister likes to play things kind of loose and be adaptable, so I'm just biding my time letting my brain go to mush and generally meditating on life in anticipation of the start of the new year.

I'll think on my new year's resolutions and put a proposal together here shortly. Thanks to my Mastermind accountability group, I already have a pretty good handle on goals and objectives. The most pressing matter when I return to Wisconsin in a few days will be exploring and likely applying to the Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program at Edgewood College.

Well, Steve Austin is about to save a bunch of people from disaster, so I'm signing off.
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Holiday Travels Part 5 - Eats

After the purging outdoor sauna, I took a shower in the bathroom of Carl's mountain cabin and then set about learning the rules of the board game EVOLUTION that I got my whole family for Christmas. It's a pretty straightforward game of "eat or be eaten," as you try to develop (feed and reproduce) your species' Darwinian fortitude.

My sister made a lamb stew for supper, which we subsequently ate. Carl had gotten me a variety six pack of mostly Coloradan craft beers (the two outliers being a Czech and a German beer) so I used the holiday as an excuse to break my dietary restriction on beer drinking and had one of them with dinner. It was a Scottish Style Ale and though it was quite tasty, it didn't agree with me, as Scotch Ales often don't.

I rounded out the evening finishing the book "The Girl on the Train" on Nook next to the wood burning stove while the rest of the fam' watched the movie "Dances With Wolves" for the Nth time where N is most likely a double digit integer.

My sister paused the film after the epic tatanka hunt scene in which no bison were actually harmed, because she wanted to put my niece and nephew to bed. Everyone else took that as a cue to start their nightly ablutions, so I took the opportunity to do my daily Duolingo exercises in Welsh and Spanish before it was too late. Goal met. I'm also counting today's sauna toward my meditation daily goal.

As I conclude this post, I'm on an air mattress covered in blankets that can only be described as faux bear furs. Everyone else is in slumberland and I suppose I'm not far behind them. I wish the love of m'life Deborah could be here with me, although that's mostly selfishness on my part. I'm am sure she's having pantloads of fun back in Wisconsin. But at least she can enjoy my holiday travels vicariously through these blog posts.

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Merry Xmas!


Holiday Travels Part 4 - Frostburn

It's nighttime and I'm sitting naked outside on the stoop to the Swedish hot rock sauna behind Carl's mountain cabin as a cold dry alpine wind whips my body, restoring my elevated core body temperature to normal. I went four rounds in the steamy hot box behind me and my pores feel fully cleansed. Steam rolls off my hyperthermic skin into the brisk night air as the breeze pushes the wooden door of the sauna against my right leg. Moments ago, I rubbed handfuls of fluffy snow against the skin of my arms, legs, and head. Breathtaking. Authentically, you are supposed to go roll in a snow bank or jump in an ice hole in a pond to rapidly cool off, but I'm not quite that bold.

The outer door of the sauna leads to a lamp lit antechamber where there are towels, some small bottles of herbal essences, and assorted sauna related paraphernalia. The thicker inner door is closed, retaining the heat of the wood burning stove within the sauna room itself. The inner chamber is small, perhaps seating two comfortably on slatted wooden benches covered with a towel, since the bare surfaces border on too hot to touch directly. The wood burning stove resides in the corner of the chamber. It has a basin built into the top filled with rocks that are heated by the flames beneath. There is a wooden bucket of water on the bench, dosed with herbal essences and containing a wooden ladle that is used to splash the liquid onto the superheated rocks. Said liquid is rapidly converted to a cloud of hot steam that fills the small room and forces open the pores of any exposed human skin therein. Entrants to the sauna sweat themselves silly, taking periodic breaks to drink water and cool down in the cold outside the sauna as I am doing now.

I stare up at the starlight twinkling through the thin, clear Colorado air and think this counts as daily meditation. I'll log it later once I go inside.

Holiday Travels Part 3 - Up the Mountainside

I'm at my sister's partner Carl's mountain cabin in Woodland Park CO and my 11-year old fraternal twin niece and nephew, Millie and Ty, are handing out Christmas gifts to the rest of us, saving most of their's for last.

I'm feeling great since I am on a bit of a sugar rush from the stocking stuffer candy I was presented with after taking my seat in the "family room" area of the cabin. My Christmas Eve travels carrying a heavy backpack strained my neck muscles a little bit, so I am also wearing an analgesic pain patch on my shoulder, courtesy of same said stocking.

When I left you last night hanging from the proverbial cliff, I was about to retire at an airport hotel in Denver (technically Aurora CO), sharing a room with my folks who were both in Ambien comas when I arrived. I slept somewhat restlessly due to shoulder pain and a lack of my own usual sleep adjuncts (primarily Benadryl).

Though I had earplugs in to block out most extraneous night sounds, the lighting scenario in the room was disruptive, since my folks like to leave the bathroom light on for nocturnal micturations.

That being said, I eventually slept and it was largely solid and deep, punctuated by the occasional aforementioned parental bathroom run that temporarily blinded my pineal gland. I woke a few minutes after 8 AM as mom and dad were beginning their morning ablution rituals.

In short order, we proceeded down to the hotel's restaurant for a complimentary breakfast that included eggs to order and copious amounts of much needed coffee.

After breakfast we packed up, checked out, and piled in the rental Hyundai Santa Fe for a roughly two hour, quasi-treacherous drive through the mountains to Carl's. A stiff west wind was blustering off the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains sending occasional blasts of red dust and tornadic snow devil's across the road.

My dad used some of his time in the front passenger seat to skim the vehicle's user manual.

"It says here, 'Due to the low center of gravity this vehicle may not handle well in windy conditions...consider driving more slowly in high winds,'" my dad said.

I already was driving cautiously, but I eased off the gas a little more.

The last leg of the drive, the six miles from the actual town of Woodland Park up to Carl's cabin, was the most treacherous, because the road, Highway 67, was pretty icy. But traffic was light and we were in no rush.

Carl is a mountain man of sorts and he built a Swedish sauna house that I fully plan to use later today to sweat off the chocolate gold coins, panda cookies, and garlic pepper beef jerky I just ate.

Holiday Travels Part 2

It's barely 20 minutes into Christmas Day (Mountain time zone) and I just moments ago arrived at the Airport Hilton where I'm sharing a room with my parents before we head down to my sister's place in Colorado Springs in the morning.

Things were going smoothly and expeditiously up until I arrived at the inappropriately named EZ  Rental Car dock to get the car that we'll use this week. The line there was slow and the staff were unhappy to be working Christmas Eve, but at last I secured transport (I believe it's a somewhat appropriately named, given the occasion, Hyundai Santa Fe) and drove the seven miles to the hotel. Once there, I was greeted amicably by reception, handed a key card after brief introductions, and directed to our room on the fifth floor. I must sign off now to retire. In the morning, I anticipate a grand breakfast spread at the hotel before we hit the road to Colorado Springs.

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Holiday Travels Part 1

I am sitting at Gate 3 of the Dane County Regional Airport anticipating a flight to Denver in a couple hours. I'm off to visit my sister Kate and her family for a week between Christmas and NYE.

Take off was delayed about a half hour, but not before I checked the flight schedule from home about an hour before heading to the airport. But I can't complain; it's more time to write and read my Nook book.

Other people are complaining though. They're dicks, taking any opportunity to demonize the airlines. Don't get me wrong, the airlines do empirically suck, but c'mon...a 25 minute delay is not something to get bent about, even if it is Christmas eve.

What does suck especially hard for me though is that I am not with my soul mate and love of m'life Deborah. As much as I wanted her to come on this trip with me, she unfortunately works for THE proverbial MAN, and if we intend to go on our planned winter vacation after the New Year, she needs to work this week to sequester some vacation time. A perk of cosmic free agency is that I can take trips whenever I want, funding permitting.

Deborah and I spent the day together doing fun things before she took me to the airport. After we woke up this morning, we did 15 minutes of guided (by YT video) meditation, disrupted only by Deborah's alarm going off unexpectedly during it. Then I did my ritualistic hour of piano practice while Deborah made us protein shakes and chillaxed with her son Devon and his GF Gretchen in town for the weekend and staying in our guest room.

Tickling the ivories accomplished, we packed gym bags and headed to the gymnasium, by way of some quick last minute Christmas shopping, for about an hour long workout. I aerobicized on a recumbent exercise bike whilst doing Welsh and Spanish Duolingo exercises on my tablet, and finished my workout with 100 ab crunches (in batches of 10 - 30 at a time).

The aforementioned interlude of Christmas shopping was a stop at a hand-made soap shop (Side Note: The Welsh word for "shop" is "siop," pronounced "shee-op.") called LUSH. We picked up a few items here with fairly high expediency before continuing on to the gymnasium.
"If a TSA agent asks me what these are," I quipped in the car, referring to some of the recently purchased cosmetics. "I probably shouldn't say they are BALMS."

After the gymnasium (and I am totally using the unabbreviated form of this word for Deborah's benefit, since I am pretty sure she's reading it), we undid both of our entire workouts with large bowls of delicious curry at a local Thai place.

Returning home, we wrapped any remaining unwrapped Christmas gifts. And by "we" I mean mostly Deborah, although I did put label stickers on the gifts post wrapping, with messages like: "To Julie; From KRAMPUS THE CHRISTMAS DEMON."

We spent the remainder of the evening watching some TV and having dinner together before I did a final pack of my carry on bag and we headed for the airport. It sucks to leave my sweet baby on Christmas Eve, but since we aren't religious (she's actually technically Jewish) the Christian perversion of the ancient pagan winter solstice celebration is really only marginally more important of a Saturday than any other. Plus, it was the only cheap flight I could find by a long shot. Normally Christmas Day is the cheapest day to fly, but apparently not when it falls on a Sunday.

So here I am chilling at the Madison WI airport on Christmas Eve, killing about an hour typing out this blog post on my phone until I turn it off to save the battery. The flight to Denver is about 2.5 hours, with a one hour time zone adjustment in my favor (1.5 hours on the clock). I love time travel, even if it's minute. When I get to Denver Intergalactic Spaceport...er, I mean international airport...sorry, I was time traveling a bit to far there, I'll acquire the rental car my dad secured for me and meet my folks at a hotel near the airport where we'll spend the night before, if all goes to plan, driving the 90 minutes down to Colorado Springs CO on Christmas morning.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment...

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I wish everyone a happy whatever.

Enjoy the last week of the year with family and/or friends.

Take a vacation from work because YOU MATTER.

Think about the goals you want to accomplish in 2017.

May you all get more than just coal in your stockings.


SKOOLNITE BENDER's Final Show of 2016 and Whatnot

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@gmail.com

December 19, 2016 (Madison, WI) - One of my bands, SKOOLNITE BENDER, played a solid hour long set of hard rocking cover songs at Funks Pub on Sunday night, our final performance of 2016. I thought it went very well, notwithstanding historically poor attendance at the Funks jam. This band uses live jams as a way to rehearse songs because we don't have conventional band practices, so while large attendance is a perk for promotional purposes, it is not essential to honing our awesomeness as a band, and faces were indeed melted off the few people who were there.

This was not, however, my final performance of 2016. On Friday December 23, I will play my last public show of the year with the KELSEY MILES BAND at the Vilas Zoo in Madison. It's some sort of Christmas special and we have to learn some gag worthy holiday tunes, but it is what it is. I'll be playing bass and doing a little backup singing. Outdoors!

After that show, I'll spend most of Christmas Eve day chillaxing with Deborah before she drives me to the airport in the evening for my trip to my sister's home in Colorado. Most of my family is gathering there to honor the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No, I can't back that up. It's just a simple holiday get together.

At the Funks jam, one of the chefs, Matt, cooked up a batch of Sri Lankan curried chicken for those in attendance and it was superb. I asked him for the recipe and he is going to give it to me some time soon. I'd love to be able to make it for my family while I am out in Colorado.


I Did Not Want To Go To The Gym But What Happened Next Is Ridiculous!

After I got home from work and ate dinner, I was feeling unmotivated to go to the gym.

After about 15 minutes of quiet meditative relaxation, I found the necessary motivation and went to the gym anyway.

I had a moderate 50 minute workout on the exercise bike and completed my Duolingo lessons in Welsh and Spanish whilst pedaling.

Then I did three laps in the pool to cool down, showered, and went home feeling pretty energized.

That's all. Pretty ridiculous, huh?


Case Study Confirms Blizzard Best Time to Go to Gym

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 11, 2016 - In a concise study of all members of their local gym, Joe and Deborah confirmed with high certainty their recently posited theory that the best time to go to the gym is during a blizzard.

"The tricky part of this study was finding a convenient blizzard," said Joe, primary investigator on the study. "It had to coincide with a normally busy time at the gym...and today [Saturday] we were in luck."

The blizzard in question rolled in around 2 PM and was raging full strength by 6 PM, normally a peak time for gym attendance, when Joe and Deborah went into the field to collect their data.

"On Saturday afternoons the place is usually overrun with people, especially unattended children," said Deborah. "That was our primary metric in this study...how many kids?"

"What we found really stunned the entire fitness community," Joe said. "Not only were there no kids, but there were hardly any adults there either. We thought a few hearty introverted souls would brave the snow to have a rare socialization-free workout, but out of all the members of the health club, only Deborah and me and like three other people were in the place."

Critics point out that the study results are only applicable to conveniently timed blizzards.

"If the snow fell during the night after 10 PM, it wouldn't be of much value to people like us," said Deborah. "I'm usually in bed by then."

The study investigators determined that "sh!tty roads" were the primary factor in optimizing the gym environment for minimal human interaction.

"We crossed referenced testimony from Jeff at the front desk of the gym that the roads were sh!tty with our own duplicate measurements that we took driving the short round trip between the gym and home," Joe said. "We are 99.9% confident that the roads were in fact sh!tty by most standards."

Jake disputed this finding while spinning donuts with his Jeep in the Pick-n-Save parking.

"This is phukkin' awesome!" Jake argued before laughing hysterically and spinning the tires on the souped up vehicle.

Commercial Christmas Canceler

Someone should design an app that let's you cancel your Christmas shopping with other people on your Christmas list.

So let's say Deborah and I set an upper limit of $50 on gifts for each other. Basically, we cancel each other out and don't have to get each other anything (at least not for Christmas...we usually get each other things here and there year round).

Holiday shopping is really not good for anyone except corporate retailers. We collectively bought their guilt trip hook, line, and sinker, even though there is nothing but misery dealing with holiday traffic and annoying shoppers.

You are probably calling me "a Scrooge" or "a Grinch" in your mind right now, which supports my case better than any other evidence I could submit, since I am one of the nicest and most giving people there is.

Maybe we could change the custom so that we only buy presents for children five years old and younger who still think Santa is real. Then donate to charity in the name of people on your list older than that.

*If you didn't get the pun in the Rudolph picture above...it's "you'll go down in history."


Thanks...I'm Good!

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@gmail.com

MADISON WI, December 7, 2016 - On news that the world's "Peak Social Media"* has been reached and surpassed, Cactus Joe has begun divesting emotional capital from social media platforms in anticipation of the accelerated American social death spiral predicted to occur after Donald Trump is inaugurated.

"I had a revelation when I received this email [see thumbnail] from one of the so-called social media gurus I once subscribed to for reasons that I increasingly don't fathom," Cactus Joe said. "The gurus get rich off these Facebook advertising schemes that don't actually work 99% of the time. Don't get me wrong...I own Facebook stock. But mostly for the same reason I own McDonalds stock...people are addicted to it and they can't stop consuming it. But in both cases it's junk and too much will kill you. I don't touch the stuff!"

Facebook and social media use is estimated to cost the U.S. economy over $5 trillion in lost productivity, hopes, aspirations, and dreams.

"Every minute you spend on Facebook is a squandered minute," Cactus Joe said. "That rational political diatribe you spent a half hour writing in response to the divisive right wing meme your "friend" posted on Facebook was completely useless. Although you were certain when you wrote it that it would make him see reason, in fact no one's beliefs or reasoning abilities were in any way bettered by it. Most people didn't even read it. Those that did were actually DUMBER as a result. And you could have been listening to music or taking a walk or even having sex during that half hour..."

*Peak Social Media is similar to peak oil in that demand for social media has exceeded the ability to mine any useful information from it.


I Didn't Go on Facebook Yesterday and Guess What Happened...

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 6, 2016 - I didn't go on Facebook (or other social media platforms) at all yesterday and do you know what happened?

Nothing happened.

That is to say, the consequences of not accessing the popular social media network were somewhere between nil and epsilon, where epsilon is a number negligibly larger than nil. The universe did not quantum tunnel to a new lower energy state annihilating all life as we know it because I was disconnected from Facebook in excess of 24 hours. No one, myself included, was in any way harmed by my absence from social media. In fact, until now, no one even knew I wasn't on Facebook yesterday. The same number of people RSVP'd to my Facebook music events yesterday as on prior days when I did go on Facebook (if you consider zero a number). My importance in social media spheres is literally non-existent for all intents and purposes. These results may be an anomaly, so next I will repeat this experiment for longer increments of time.

17% Fluent in Spanish

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 5, 2016 - Upon completion of today's language learning exercises in the free Duolingo app, Cactus Joe discovered he was 17% fluent in Spanish, according to the algorithm used by the app to assess this.

"I have no clue how it's calculated, and I doubt many users do," said Cactus Joe. "But I have been doing the Spanish modules in Duolingo daily for over two months now and this is good progress. I was 9% fluent when I started."

Naysayers pointed out that this means Cactus Joe is 83% non-fluent in Spanish.

"Fair point," Joe said. "I can read and understand written Spanish a fair amount of the time, but I still can't really comprehend spoken Spanish unless the speaker talks really slowly. But with practice I'll get there eventually."

According to Duolingo, Cactus Joe is 0% fluent in Welsh, the other language he is learning.

"It's just an insane language," Joe said. "Words change their spellings in different contexts and they have sounds not found in English that are hard to pronounce. Still it's a fun learning experience and Duolingo is like an educational game. Rosetta Stone language software is far superior to Duolingo, but it costs an arm and a leg, whereas Duolingo is free."


Snow Day

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 4, 2016 - Sunday's plans were not significantly disrupted by the 4+ inches of snow that fell in the area.

"My day went largely as planned," said local free agent in the Cosmos, Cactus Joe, as he rounded out his day at the Funks Pub open jam Sunday evening. "I meditated in the morning, worked on learning Welsh and Spanish for a bit, had a fantastic workout at the gym, and spent a couple hours practicing jazz piano and some songs on bass for this jam."

Notwithstanding the need to snow shovel in the morning, Monday is expected to proceed as expected as well.

"I'm getting a slow leak on one of my car tires fixed at 10 AM," Cactus said. "I'll probably shovel after Deborah goes to work, between meditating and practicing piano."


Punk Rock Outing Takes Unexpected Turn

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 3, 2016 - The planned outing by Cactus Joe, Deborah, Sherry, and Tyler to see a slew of punk rock bands at the Crystal Corner was unexpectedly sidetracked by financial instability earlier this evening.

"Sherry told me it was a $7 cover," Cactus Joe said. "I guess I sort of knew that, but it seemed less important earlier in the week when my wallet was fatter."

The group of friends had just attended a social dinner at the El Dorado Grill with a large gathering of bike enthusiasts.

"The place was a little overpriced," Deborah said. "So I think the pricetag made us all feel a bit more frugal when we discussed our options at the coffee shoppe before the punk rock show. I didn't even know there was a cover."

The group instead had an enjoyable and lively discourse at the Chocolaterian coffee shoppe and bakery.

"The dark chocolate flourless nut cookies were amazing," Deborah said. "I could have eaten everything in the place, but luckily more level heads prevailed."

Deborah ended her period of Atkins dieting today and was thus free to do whatever the hell she wanted.

"It's her life," said Cactus Joe, who sources say did take a single but substantial bite of the aforementioned confection. "She can do whatever she wants."


Analysis: Weekend Looks to be Chillaxed and Fun

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, December 2, 2016 - With only about a month and a half to go before the existential crisis that will pretty much destroy humanity, an analysis of trends leading up to this weekend suggests it should be a pretty chillaxed and fun time.

"I have a rare weekend off from any substantial music gigs," said Cactus Joe, who conducted the analysis. "No band shows. No open mics to host. The only quasi-responsibility I have is to rehearse a couple songs for the open jam at Funks Pub that I'll go to on Sunday night. But that's a really low stress relaxed environment and I enjoy concluding my weekend there with some good music and a couple pints."

Critics point out that Cactus Joe will still be on his fortnight of Atkins dieting as of jam time on Sunday night, and thus cannot imbibe beer while remaining within the boundaries of this low carb, high fat/protein dietary regimen.

"Yeah, that's a bit of a bummer," Cactus Joe said. "But I was just speaking generally, not specifically. I don't need to drink beer to have a good time, although it does make other people more tolerable. But this Atkins diet has shown some significant effects on my waistline and some people are noticing I'm thinner, so I don't want to screw it up. Hopefully, the free appetizers that Funks serves up for everyone during the jam will have some Atkins friendly selections. There was a marinated pork shoulder last Sunday that was...mmmmm...to die for."

Deborah Montgomery, soul mate and life partner of Cactus Joe noted one caveat that could disrupt the weekend's predicted platitude.

"We really need to rake the leaves in the backyard before it snows," Montgomery said. "And by 'we' of course I mean Joe..."

The weekend fun begins tonight when Cactus Joe returns home from Uber driving and goes to the gym.

"I'm hoping Deborah wants to work out tonight," he said. "It's funner to go to the gym with a workout partner. Maybe we'll go out for an Atkins friendly dinner somewhere after that. I need to squeeze an hour of piano practice in there somewhere."

Learning jazz piano is one of Cactus Joe's objectives for the 100 Day Challenge he is participating in as part of his Mastermind accountability group.

"I'm also learning Spanish and Welsh," Cactus Joe said. "I doubt I'll ever need to speak Welsh in my lifetime, but you know...what what if I did?"

On Saturday, Joe and Deborah will join good friends Sherry and Tyler for a social holiday dinner with the bike group that they occasionally rode with last summer and this will likely be followed by the four of them going to the Crystal Corner dive bar to spectate a slew of punk rock bands that are performing there.

"One of my Uber passengers is the drummer in one of the bands, No Hoax, and when he told me about the show, it sounded compelling," Cactus Joe said. "When he said he knew drummer Dano from EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, the punk band I think I still play in, I was sold."

[Editor's Note: EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, Wisconsin's classiest punk rock outfit, is currently on indefinite hiatus.]

Sources close to Cactus Joe said that he will spend a portion of Sunday in seclusion, mastering his martial art of ROCKNROLL FU (aka ROCK FU) for upcoming band performances against unknown musical adversaries (mostly music venue charlatans).


MAKE MUSIC MADISON Showcase at High Noon Saloon Produces "Total Wank Fest"

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 30, 2016 - "It's a total wank fest!" a musical colleague who shall remain unnamed yelled as she stood beside me on the stage at the High Noon Saloon. She was making reference to the 25+ minute musical "breakdown" jam that we were in the thick of at that moment (me on bass), along with several other musicians who were attending the MAKE MUSIC MADISON fundraiser event at the venue.

Upon further analysis, I similarly concluded that the chaotic maelstrom of music emanating from the stage was indeed a metaphor for orgiastic musical masturbation. Various performers were trading shredding solos on the two chord refrain of the albeit ironic song "Don't Be a Dick," composed collectively by several local collaborating musicians. The song encourages listeners to refrain from such dickish and douchebaggy behaviors as being mean to people or driving aggressively.

"It took 18 hours for us to record this song," said Mark Fairchild, drummer and co-writer of the so-called Dick Song seconds before the roughly 8 to 10 musicians on stage busted into the tune. "Which is way longer than it should ever take to record one song. Here we go...a one, two, three, four..."

Prior to the group Dick Song performance, several local musicians had performed short sets on the stage to help raise funds for MAKE MUSIC MADISON, a city wide music event that takes place every year on the summer solstice, June 21 (a Wednesday in 2017, for anyone interested in participating or spectating). The Dick Song was principally sung by one Kelsey Miles, with backing vocals by other musicians on stage. The KELSEY MILES BAND performed the spectacular headlining set of the evening that people can't stop talking about according to unnamed sources.

I have no idea how much money was raised for MMM 2017, but I can tell you the $10 suggested donation at the door was a great value for the music provided in return. The bands were paid in vouchers for free slices of pizza and, supposedly, six packs of good beer (as of this writing unconfirmed).


Case Study Determines 11 AM on Tuesday is the Best Time for Joe and Deborah to Go to the Gym

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 29, 2016 - A ground breaking new case study conducted today has concluded that 11 AM is the best time for Joe and Deborah to go the the gym on Tuesdays.

"Most people are at work during the middle of the day on Tuesdays, so a major obstacle to a fun and productive workout - other people - is eliminated," Joe said. "More importantly, it's adult swim in the Sport Pool from 11:30 to 12:30. That means no goddam kids clogging up the lanes and leaving their crap all over the floor of the locker room like it's their own bedroom or some sh!t."

"Plus most kids are in school at this time of day," added Deborah. "It really is a much nicer environment when the unsupervised kids are eliminated from the equation."

Although unsupervised kids are technically forbidden anywhere in the Harbor Athletic Club facility where the case study was conducted, this rule is weakly enforced if at all. As a result, kid-phobic fitness buffs have to workout during off peak times, such as during school hours or late at night.

"Weekday early evenings are probably the most hellish time to go to the gym" Joe said. "The little phuckheads are out of control then, leaving messes everywhere. One of these days I am going to move all their friggin' gym clothes from the floor into one of the lockers just to mess with them."

"That'd be hilarious," Deborah said. "But you're too nice to do something like that."

"True," Joe said. "Sometimes I wish I was more of a dick, but I don't have it in me."

While this case study only translates to Tuesday workouts, Joe and Deborah plan to repeat the case study under similar conditions on Thursday in an attempt to generalize these findings to other weekdays.

"If we can replicate these findings during a similar time frame on Thursdays, this will have huge ramifications for our fitness regimen and goals," Joe said. "This will guarantee at least two hassle free workouts each week, with the exception of school holidays like Thanksgiving...but who works out on that day anyway?"

Joe and Deborah noted that weekends are always a gamble at the gym.

"Wisconsin sportsball games are generally a safe bet," Deborah said. "It's Wisconsin so even the most athletic people are usually in a bar somewhere stuffing their faces with beer and cheese."


Rock Tuesday Added to Lexicon of Consumer Related Day of the Week Memethology

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 28, 2016 - You've heard of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Add Rock Tuesday to the memethology of silly consumerist day of the week monikers.
The High Metal Council today ruled to allow the addition of "Rock Tuesday" to the lexicon of pop culture memes after long and careful consideration of a petition circulated and submitted by rock-n-roll anti-hero Cactus Joe.

"The basis for the petition was sound," thundered Thor of Norse God fame, just prior to hurling lightning bolts at the Earth in a totally unnecessary display of raw power. "Material and electronic consumerism are well represented in pop culture, but rock-n-roll consumption has always been historically downplayed and undervalued and it's time we changed that."

"The basic premise of Rock Tuesday is to consume as much rock-n-roll music as possible in 24 hours," Cactus Joe said. "Performers of rock music now have a great opportunity to market their wares to rock loving consumers."

By High Metal Council decree, the High Noon Saloon in Madison is hosting a massive rock-n-roll event on Rock Tuesday, the MAKE MUSIC MADISON SHOWCASE, which will feature performances by the very best local rock-n-roll provisioners from 6 PM to midnight. The line to get into this event is expected to be miles long, so rock consumers are advised to get there early.

The High Noon showcase will include performances by face melting specialists YOUR MOM, the KELSEY MILES BAND, and SUNSPOT at no extra cost.