What's New?

How are things with you? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what's new in your life. I post fairly regularly here and I know I have a few regular readers (Hi Mom!), but it's rather a one way dialogue and I would like to change that. The whole reason they include a comment space below each post is to get conversational feedback. I know life is busy and hectic, but you can spare two minutes, and besides you should allow yourself some time to relax and interact with the world.

For example, tell me what you think about Bernie Sanders (unless you are Bernie Sanders...he does read this blog!). I am a big Bernie Sanders fan, but I'm not dogmatic or ideological about it. I want to hear opposing views. I am open minded. I know everyone has different views and beliefs and I won't insult you for being wrong or dumb (See what I did there? Just kidding, I swear. I am just as dumb as you are...).

Anyway, things are good here in Wisconsin. I'm writing a lot and working on some classes. I just wrote a short piece for my flash fiction class and I'll probably publish it on this site in a few days. I am just waiting on some constructive feedback from some friends I shared it with. I might tweak it a little bit based on that, then throw it up on the Intarwebz for all the haters to throw their jealous firebombs at.

Last weekend my fun original rock-n-roll band, GUPPY EFFECT, recorded some demos at guitarist Stefan's house. Our main goal was to track drums, which we accomplished, and now we are working on getting the remaining tracks done. Drums are always the hardest thing to capture, so once that's done, the rest is pretty straightforward. I'll probably spend tonight pounding out any remaining bass tracks and then send the raw audio files to Stefan to start adding his parts.

It's supposedly date night tonight, but Deborah has succumbed to a power nap, so I am going to let her have some much needed rest. Ciao!


Demos and Stuff

My band GUPPY EFFECT spent the better part of today recording demos of some of our original songs. Our stated goal was modest...to record a solid, quality demo of our newest hit, "Roundhouse," and principally to get biff free drum tracks recorded, because they are the most cumbersome and technical to track, requiring multiple microphones and strenuous gear setup.

"If we have time left over, we can track another song or two," I told drummer Verge and guitarist Stefan, knowing from experience that recording always takes way longer than you think it will.

However, that being said, we are lucky to have a phenomenal drummer in one Verge Manyen. He is a monster and rarely biffs. Even though Stefan was delayed by some external factors and we started a little late, we captured about five good takes of "Roundhouse" in about 90 minutes and had tons of time left over to record additional songs. Three more in fact, for a total of four. We hit our goal and exceeded it to GUPPY EFFECT specifications. To wit: Thrice the rocking power of other name bands.

We still have to track guitar and vocals, and I want to redo some biffy bass parts, but we got the drums captured as planned.

Since Deborah had a nightmarish smart phone buying experience tonight and is exhausted, I will probably use her downtime to track some redo bass tonight. But first, I am going to eat some chicken.


Weekend in Review: Bos Show, Songwriting, and "Real" Tofu

This past weekend kicked off with a rocking, albeit modestly attended, GUPPY EFFECT show at the Bos Meadery* on Friday evening, right after work (actually, I had to leave work a little early to get there and set up). I realized too late that I had poorly promoted the show to friends and fans. Nonetheless, a fair number of people had resourcefully gleaned the info elsewhere and it ended up being a fairly full room for most of our 90 minute set of original tunes (we threw in a couple choice covers to fill some time). Everyone had tables and chairs from whence to view the band and imbibe Bos' priciple beverage option, mead (you can also order PBR tallboys there, which seems oddly contradictory to me, for some reason).

I live streamed the show using the "drummer cam" format, whereby the HD camera is placed next to the drummer so that viewers can have the quasi virtual experience of drumming for one of Madison's most rocking original bands. The microphone was of course strategically placed for optimal sound capture, near the sound board. The down side of "drummer cam" format is that the viewer only sees the backs of the musicians in front of the drummer (and only the occasional peripheral shot of the drummer). However, those that would prefer "audience cam" format, viewing the band from the front, can always simply transport themselves to the venue and watch in person, is how I see it. Basic operant conditioning. It was a free show after all.

The "drummer cam" format was mainly intended for GUPPY EFFECT fans who have small children at home, and thus can't easily get out to see live music, even at a "child friendly" hour. They can instead put the kid(s) on a well formed stool in front of the TV or computer screen and mesmerize them into a trance-like state by letting them sense what it is like to be an amateur rock drummer. While the children are enthralled, the parents can go about doing things around the house while listening to the good music in the background. As an added bonus, if the kids are bored by the vicarious sensation of being a rock-n-roll drummer, then the parents can breathe a sigh of relief that their child won't someday ask for a drum kit and pound out cacophanous noises that annoy the neighbors. It's win-win.

The early evening "happy hour" time frame of the show was conducive to the band grabbing a bite to eat at the Julep, right next door to Bos, post show. Whilst there, the bartender, who recognized me as a former member of the PEOPLE BROTHERS BAND, told us that the whole area around Bos would be developing and gentrifying in the next couple of years. The charlatanic Frank Productions, a large monopolistic Wisconsin entertainment group, have bought up a bunch of real estate for music venues in that area that will probably suck live music business from the smaller mom-n-pop venues like High Noon Saloon and the Brink Lounge, as well as Bos. Conversely, a new brewery is going into the same building that houses Bos, so on the bright side there may be more accidental foot traffic encountering local live music at Bos. I want the Bos to succeed as an alternative live music venue, with it's good acoustics and classy decor, as well as the earlier show times and unlimited supply of mead.

On Saturday morning, Stefan and I attended a songwriting workshop in McFarland, hosted by the Madison chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, a group I used to belong to, but found the dues to high for the return on investment I got out of it. Notwithstanding, we had our song "Roundhouse" reviewed by the group and a pro songwriter who had Skyped in. We got some good feedback. Later in the day, I went to my Rock Workshop class at the Madison Music Foundry where my group tightened up some of our existing songs and developed some new ones.

On Sunday, I had planned to attend the weekly open mic at the Bos in the afternoon, followed by the open jam stage at Funks Pub later in the evening. However, the Funks jam was canceled due to "sportsball" and so I decided to make Sunday a free day for mindless R&R. So I opted out of the open mic at Bos. I put in a couple hours on my guitarist buddy Stefan's photo project from noon to 2, then spent the rest of the day galavanting around with Deborah. We went to lunch about 2 pm, whence I made the horrific discovery that the Flattop Grill at Hilldale Mall is no longer with us (out of business; for lease sign in the window). We ate at the Great Dane Pub across the street instead, even though the latter may have contributed to the Flattop's ultimately fatal loss of market share.

We discovered an impromptu art fair going on in the mall itself and scored Deborah some nice jewels there. We rounded out the day by shopping for "real" tofu at the Asian Market, and then watching "The Walking Dead" on Netflix after a nice dinner at home.

It was a pretty fun weekend.

* It is pronounced "boss," not "boze," as I have been incorrectly calling it for some time, and will probably continue to do so, because old habits die hard.


6 Word Novel

Florida trip postponed. Thanks global warming...

Pretty Sure I Saw Buffleheads This Morning

I took the dogs out for a walk this morning through the swampy marsh behind Deborah's house (there's a boardwalk through the swampiest parts, although the water was up to and over the planks in places). As I was finishing the loop, I saw some unrecognizable "ducks" in one of the ponds. They spooked easily and flew off, but I took a mental picture of them in the water and in flight, so when I got back home I pulled out the NGS Field Guide to the Birds of North America and looked them up.

<--- a="" href="http://amzn.to/1Z9k6Fj" target="_blank">Buffleheads.

95% certain. So that's pretty cool.

A Happy St Patricks Day to You!

Happy St Patrick’s Day (a little late...) everyone.

My band GUPPY EFFECT is hosting a “Rock Out With Your Shamrock Out” Happy Hour show (6-9 PM) at the Bos Meadery tonight (Friday March 18). I'm guessing it will be poorly attended by those who went out and partied super hard last night (most people), on the official SPD. But its early hour and classier venue should appeal to the more modest partiers who didn't let instant gratis get the better of them last night.

Yesterday, I did a couple hours of contract work for UW in the morning before driving downtown to Madison’s one and only currency exchange to finally convert the pesos from our February vacation back into good ‘ol American greenbacks. I spent most of the rest of the day at the library writing content for my nonfiction book in progress, in between short breaks to read Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" (stay tuned, a review of this racist, albeit well written, screed is coming soon via this blog). I’ve determined that I work best from about noon to 5 or 6 pm and if I spend most of the morning mellowing out and gathering my brain together, things go a lot more smoothly with the writing. I usually do some reading and free writing in the morning to loosen things up, unless I am putting in a couple hours working for THE MAN.

Wednesday was productive this week. I spent three hours in the morning working on a photo project for my guitarist Stefan before our Mastermind accountability group meeting at noon (only he and I attended). GUPPY EFFECT had a potent band practice from 2 to 5 PM and nailed all the material we’ll be rocking at the Bos show tonight. I had a very solid workout at Orange Theory Fitness Wednesday night too, getting about 20 minutes (out of 60) in the orange zone (that’s over 84% of maximum heart rate). I was satisfyingly sore and fatigued afterwards and through most of yesterday. My bum big toe was hurting after the workout, so I took a maximum dose of Naproxen and that neutralized the pain. No more than baseline joint pain this morning.

Wednesday's workout was my third of four monthly OT workouts that I can redeem at my current membership level (the lowest). I joined OT to motivate myself to workout more and it has definitely been motivating me. When hard cash is on the line, I want to get my money's worth. If you schedule a workout via OT and cancel it (like Deborah did on Wednesday, because she was wiped out after work), thy dock you $10 as a punitive measure. So it really keeps you on your toes (pun sort of intended). My original goal with regard to joining Orange Theory was to make a pact with myself to work out intensively for at least an hour each week. I have modified the goal a little bit though. Now it is simply to get the four workouts completed as soon as I can each month. It's similar to how I approach my work as well. I try to get ahead of it and if I hit my goal early, I "give myself a raise" by rewarding myself with some time off.

Since OT workouts are 60 minutes, I count it as equivalent to two 30 minute workouts per week. The CDC or whatever recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week for maximum health benefits. So if I do an Orange Theory workout once a week at a minimum, I only need to do three 30 minute moderate workouts on my own. This is usually possible because I often try to power walk to places within a couple miles of home, and I bike ride longer distances on the weekends.

If I get my four requisite workouts out of the way earlier in the month, all the better. I will simply workout outside like I usually do until the monthly membership re-ups, then begin the cycle again. It will be a good exercise in...well...exercise...but also self discipline. Orange Theory has an app that works with their proprietary heart rate monitors, so I can still get some of the benefits of the gym workout when I am doing my own thing on weekends, provided I use the damn thing. One of the perks of Orange Theory workouts is that they are led by a personal trainer who can guide your performance and give you tips on good form. I am not sure how much benefit I get from that, or if it is worth the high cost of Orange Theory membership, but whatever. It’s there if I need it.

So, this weekend kicks off with GUPPY EFFECT’s Bos Meadery show tonight. It looks like I am going to a songwriting workshop on Saturday morning where I'll get one of my songs critiqued. It’s hosted by the Madison chapter of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International and I think it is free, even if you aren’t a member (my membership has long since lapsed). On Saturday evening, my Rock Workshop class meets at the Madison Music Foundry (MMF) to work on some songs that will eventually get recorded at Blast House Studios, which is affiliated with MMF. On Sunday, I’ll likely attend the Bos Meadery open mic in the afternoon and then go to Funks Pub for the open jam stage on Sunday night, which I usually live stream on the Intarwebz. The rest of he time, I'll hangz with m'baby and chillax.


My Review of the Film "10 Cloverfield Lane"

Great frickin' movie. See it. No spoilers but it has it all.

I Think I'm Officially Disenfranchised

With Hillary Clinton winning Ohio and Florida primaries on Super Tuesday, I think I am officially a "disenfranchised" American voter...short of a miracle.

So like most other disenfranchised Americans, I guess I'll tune out now. It's actually kind of awesome that I can now ignore American politics until November. I'll probably vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils when the general election comes, if it looks like a nail biter race. I'd say any Democrat ought to beat any Republican in a landslide, but that assumes good voter turnout, and with lowest common denominator candidates on both sides per usual, I don't think that's a valid assumption. The apathy voters just won't make the effort for Clinton.

So I'll assess the polls around Halloween and if it looks like my one meager vote might swing the election, I'll consider giving it to Hillary Clinton, the lesser of two evils. But until then I am leveraging it, pledging it to the Green Party until the chips are really down. Because I want Clinton to go above and beyond the bare minimum and really appeal to progressive Democrats and apathy voters. It bothers me more than it probably should that Clinton was once a Republican, because that label has so much vitriol these days (thanks Donald Drumpf).

Swearing off politics for a while. Ciao.


Rocking the Reptile Palace

The GUPPY EFFECT show at the Reptile Palace rock club in Oshkosh WI this past Saturday night (3/12/16) was a huge success and went even smoother than anticipated. I had lined up the gig a couple months ago, securing a couple other bands to support the bill (A DOG NAMED SEX and SATELLITE ECHO, Fox Valley locals). GUPPY EFFECT played in between the other two bands and our set was solid, given that we'd been rehearsing songs hard the past few weeks.

The venue wasn't packed or anything, but the draw was decent. It's a smaller venue, so it doesn't take a lot of people to make it feel full. Daylight Saving Time took a 15 minute bite out of all the bands' sets, since an hour was lost at the end of the night. We still got to play most of our songs though and only dropped two or three of the weaker ones.

Deborah and I road tripped up to Oshkosh in the late afternoon on Saturday to meet my buddy Todd and his fiancee Beth for dinner at 6 PM. They were gracious enough to host us and let us stay overnight at their house, so I treated them (music business expense). We went to the Fox River Brewing Co (formerly Fratello's) right on the Fox River, where my band mates Stefan and Verge met us too, and we had a great meal before heading back to Todd's to hang out before the show.

Deborah captured video of GUPPY EFFECT performing my original rock-n-roll song "Nixon" at the show, complete with biffs, and here it is.

The only down side of the gig was that all the band members had to drive separately and we didn't make much money at the show, so I think we barely covered our gas expenses, much less our other costs, like food and drink. But those in attendance said they really enjoyed themselves and the music, so I think we made a good impact. On the up side, the Daylight Saving Time clock switch meant we got out of the venue about an hour earlier than usual for a gig night, a little after 1:30 AM I think, which was nice. Normally when I perform at the Reptile Palace, we all go out for late night all you can eat pizza buffet after the show (it's a college town after all). But we skipped the hedonics this time around, and I don't regret it, because that kind of gluttony usually leads to poor sleep and indigestion and feeling crummy the next day.

As it was, when we got up early on Sunday morning to leave I felt pretty good, albeit tired from insufficient sleep. I took Deborah to the New Moon Cafe in Oshkosh for breakfast before we cruised back to Madison on Sunday. I pushed through the rest of my day attending the Bos Meadery open mic in the afternoon and the Funks Pub open jam stage in the evening. I am probably going to host the Bos open mic on Easter Sunday 3/27/16, so I will have to come up with a good atheistic or polytheistic theme for that.



I guess the feature presentation of this weekend for me is the GUPPY EFFECT show at the Reptile Palace rock-n-roll club in Oshkosh (b'gosh) WI on Saturday night. It's GE's first official rock show of 2016 (I consider my birthday show back in for January as more of a private party) and it's both a road gig and our debut show at this particular venue.
That being said, the weekend unfolds something like this...

I'm working today (Friday) for a few hours, starting at noon. This is a preambulatory 10 minute free write, which I always like to do before work to get the writing juices flowing. I'll break for dinner with Deborah when she gets home from work about 5:30, then work a couple more hours tonight.

We work out for an hour at Orange Theory tomorrow morning (Saturday), around 8 AM. That will supply me with the endorphin surge that ought to last through GUPPY EFFECT's hour long set of rock at the Reptile tomorrow night. During the day, I have a couple of objectives. The primary one is to hone GUPPY EFFECT songs to make sure everything is super solid, principally a new song we are debuting called "Roundhouse." I wrote it for FAWM a few years ago, but only now have sufficient band stability to work it up for live performance. It's a challenging number and I have to give kudos to my bandmares Stefan (guitar) and Verge (drums) for working hard to make it sound good. Secondarily, I want to put in a couple hours or more on a photo project I am helping Stefan with. That will generate a little "road scratch" for the road gig (gas, food, etc.).

We are heading up to Oshkosh about 4 PM so we can have dinner and hang with my brosef Todd and his fiancee Beth, who are hosting us at Todd's house (the Todd Majal). We are taking them out to dinner when we roll into town about 6 PM. We'll probably head down to the Reptile about 9 PM to load in our gear and chillax until the bands unleash their fury between 10 PM and bar time. After the show, it is tradition to refuel at the all you can eat pizza buffet at Cranky Pats, a few blocks away from the venue, but that may not happen for reasons beyond the scope of this post.
We'll roadie back to Madison on Sunday morning by way of a breakfast stop at the New Moon Cafe in Oshkosh. I want to hit the open mic at Bos Meadery on Sunday afternoon and then, per usual, I'll head to Funks Pub in the evening on Sunday to live stream and participate in the open jam there.
Fulfilling musical weekend ahead, if all goes to plan.


Speed Walking Calories Off Today

I coupled my commute and my exercise today, logging 5.6 miles of pure, fat burning walking.

I took the dogs, Foster and Maddie, on a 3/4 mile walk through "the swamp" behind Deborah's house this morning before work. Then I trekked the 1.85 miles to work on foot. 

About 1 PM, I pounded the pavement 1.5 miles to meet Deborah for lunch and then beat my feet another 1.5 miles home, where I worked during the afternoon.

I am glad the early spring weather is getting nicer, even if it is due to global warming. I can get more exercise outside, supplemented by once per week at the gym.


Phantom Music

I am hearing phantom music playing in the white noise generated by the bathroom fan. Sounds like someone has a transistor radio on at very low volume, so you can't really make out the melody or lyrics. Weird.


I've Gone to the Dark Side and it is Actually Orange

I joined a fitness center. I never thought I would. I have always been anti-fitness centers, since there is a whole giant big world out there to bike and run and play in that doesn't cost any money, and fitness centers often cost a lot of money and they trap you into eternal contracts.

But I joined one. It's called Orange Theory for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog because you can easily google them. I'm not trying to promote it or anything. Deborah joined a few months ago. Now that she has a sedentary day job, she needs something to keep her honest about working out. Recently they ran some kind of contest there where Deborah could earn points for doing various things, also beyond the scope of this post. One of those things, though, was giving away free passes to people for a complimentary workout at the local Orange Theory fitness gym. Always willing to help out my special lady, I said I'd redeem one of the passes so she could get the points. Part of the deal was I had to listen to their sales spiel. Fine. They weren't pushy at all. In fact, what I liked about Orange Theory is that unlike most fitness centers, there are no long term contracts. You can quit Orange Theory by giving them 30 days notice.

Particularly in the cold winter months, I am not good about getting the recommended 30 minutes five times a week of exercise. Even in the nicer months of the year, I usually exercise socially, biking around at a leisurely pace and stopping to eat food while doing so.

Orange Theory isn't any cheaper than other gyms. In fact, it's a bit more expensive. But unlike other gyms, their workouts are led by a fitness coach who can give you pointers for better exercise. I figure if I go once a week, it will keep me honest, and I will get at least two 30 minute workouts, guaranteed (because I am paying for it). OT workouts last for 60 minutes. Then my own workouts outside when it is nice weather will be supplemental. I got a nice OT gym bag and a towel, along with a heart rate monitor that is linked to their computer system and shows your heart rate and calories on a big screen while you are working out. It's somewhat like going to a spinning class, with lots of interval training, but instead of bikes they use treadmills and rowing machines. There is a bike option in lieu of the treadmill, and I might use it if the running aggravates my left big toe injury too much. I had my first official workout at OT tonight and it kicked my ass and aggravated my toe. But I felt great afterwards.

I struggle with weight loss, and it's a struggle I gradually lose every year, so I am doing this as a way to take my health and wellness seriously, at least in some small measure. One gym workout a week I can handle. The trainers are fun and awesome and it's a fun group. I can't with a straight face tell you I have not sold out to the fitness club hype. I have. But as business models go, OT is very low on the charlatanry scale. I'm sure I will give you periodic updates, so stay tuned.



Day of the Dude Costume Party and Live Music Jam (Sunday March 6th)

This Sunday is the official annual Day of the Dude, celebrating the fictional life and times (and philosophy) of one Jeffery Lebowski, aka "The Dude."

Sunday is also when Funks Pub hosts its weekly open jam stage (8-11 PM), led by a dude named Tyler, which I and several local musicians often attend. So it's the perfect opportunity for some Big Lebowski themed rocking and rolling. My band GUPPY EFFECT just happens to be making a rare showing at the jam this Sunday, so we have at least one appropos tune in the works. We play at 8 PM sharp, so it's not super late. I hope some people pop down for a caucasian (white Russian) or two. I'll buy one for anyone who shows up in a Walter Sobchak or Dude costume.


I'm actually an ordained Dudeist Priest, though not many people know this, nor would they particularly give a @#$% if they did. In theory, I can officiate weddings and funerals and things. In reality, I just like to take 'er easy, dude.



The Dragon (a Parable of American Politics)

He spent years looking for the Dragon. He was sure it existed. In the countries he visited, the inhabitants would not speak to him of such things. They told him he was crazy. One day he accidentally set fire to a house he was staying in. At least, he believed it was accidental. No one told him the candelabras should not be left unattended...

The fire spread through the night and destroyed half the village, killing many people.

In the morning, the villagers asked, "What happened?"

"It was the Dragon," he lied to them, though he almost convinced himself it was true. "Now will you help me find it and kill it before it destroys more of your villages?"

The villagers' fear turned to anger. "Yes, let's find the Dragon and kill it before it destroys more of our villages."

They never found it, and yet they continued the search. Many of them died scouring the deep mountain caves for the Beast. No more villages were burned by the Dragon in the years that followed though. That was perplexing to a small number of the villagers, but they were largely ignored. Most of the villagers still trembled in fear at the mention of the Dragon and they redoubled their efforts to find and destroy it.

The villagers were so bent on finding the Dragon that they often attacked other villages and burned them to the ground on suspicion those villagers knew the whereabouts of the Dragon but were not telling. A few of the attacked villagers retaliated against the attacking villagers, but not many. Most simply fled.

Eventually they made him King - King Drumpf - because they wanted him to have all the power and resources available to hunt the Dragon. They didn't mind giving King Drumpf their gold for the hunt but they got angry at some of the other villagers who wanted the gold to go to rebuilding roads and helping the hungry and sick.

"There will be plenty of time for that after we kill the Dragon," King Drumpf said.


Orange Theorem

I have a guest pass to workout at Orange Theory that I got from Deborah and I'm redeeming it tonight for lack of anything better to do (and for need of exercise). I have historically not been a gym membership type, since I prefer exercising outside when it's nice weather. However, Deborah likes the Orange Theory and it might be fun to workout with her once a week or something like that. OT apparently doesn't have contracts and allows you to pay by the month. That could work for me.

Tofu Wrapped in Cucumber

In keeping with our idea to try cooking new recipes for date night, we experimented with tofu/cucumber wraps last night.

They were OK. We made some mistakes, but learned from them. For example, it is hard to slice a cucumber thin enough to wrap around sauteed tofu. We were able to get decently thin slices by using a cheese slicer of all things, but not before decimating some cukes trying other methods.

Here's the recipe as paraphrased by me.

1. Take two or three cucumbers and somehow cut them into lengthwise slices about 1/8 inch thick.
2. Cut a block of firm tofu up into sautee-able rectangles.
3. Put the tofu rectangles in a large fry pan and sautee in olive oil until brown (flip to brown the other side).
4. Add about a TBSP of minced fresh ginger, half a tsp of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste to the tofu as it is cooking.
5. When the tofu is done, turn the heat to low and add about a TBSP of any brand of raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
6. Put the tofu on paper towels to absorb excess oil and liquid.
7. Lay out the cucumber strips and stack 3-4 pieces of tofu on one end, then roll it up like a sushi roll (use a toothpick to hold it together).
8. You'll get about 6-8 rolls and a pantload of residual cucumber bits (make a cuke salad!).

Using cucumber as the wrap skin seems to be the troublesome part of this recipe. The seeds make some of the slices crappy and the toothpicks hold the wraps together tenuously at best. But with a little finesse and some practice, these could be a good appetizer for a social function, for example.

Wisdom Teeth (6 Word Novel)

Cloned again. Dental surgery this Friday.