An Irony

It's ironic to me that the lowest calorie (190) Lärabar flavor is Chocolate Chip Brownie. Most other Lärabars range from 200-220 calories.

Your thoughts?

Leave a comment below.


A Less Marathonic Weekend Road Trip

This year we decided to make our annual "mecca" to Oshkosh for the Northeast Wisconsin Horror Film Fest a less marathonic day trip rather than a full weekend endeavor. This was far more enjoyable on many fronts, including doggie day care options and overnight lodging expenses.

We carpooled up to the fest with some good friends mid-morning and our timing was perfect for grabbing some warm, caffeinated beverages at the New Moon Cafe when we rolled into Oshkosh, before the fest started. We enjoyed various and sundry short and long horror films, interspersed with ample breaks, during one of which I won a door prize! I was geeked, because I almost never win door prizes. During the 90-minute dinner break, we feasted with some friends from Oshkosh that we see only about bi-annually, with horror fest weekend usually being one of those times.

The films ended earlier than anticipated and so we grabbed more warm, caffeinated beverages before driving back to Madison, where we arrived home at a decent hour.

Dietary habits were thrown to the wind on this road trip, as they often are, but we had anticipated this and scheduled a dietary "free day" to correspond with this trip. This allowed for some flexibility to eat popcorn and enjoy a fulfilling dinner at a waterfront brewpub. However, Deuteronomic and gastronomic reforms will be re-implemented tomorrow.

I have been successfully using the Lose It! app to quality control my eating and exercise habits to conform with my nutritional and wellness goals. It allows me to make wiser dietary and fitness choices in order to stay within specified goals, which are easily tracked with the app. I lost seven pounds within the first three days of using the app, because I had set my goals at maximal aggressiveness. But I subsequently made the goals less stringent.

How was your weekend? Leave a comment below.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Perfect Storm of Quietude

Due to a conflagration of non-events, I find myself with a "free day" on my hands, for the most part. I intend to exploit it for self care purposes.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock



Deborah and I created bullet lists on our giant whiteboard. A bullet list is a ridiculously simple and somewhat artistic way to establish and, more importantly, measure process goals.

First off, what are process goals? They are DO* goals...things that you do, rather than things that you achieve. So, for example, a GET (achieve) goal might be to lose 10 pounds, but the corresponding DO goals might be to go to the gym 5x per week and adhere to a particular diet regimen for 5/7 days of the week. These DO goals should, logically, move you in the direction of your GET goals.

The advantage of DO goals over GET goals is that GET goals are pass/fail. You either lost the 10 pounds or you didn't, and if you didn't, it's marked in your mind as a FAILURE. And nobody likes failure. It's demoralizing.

DO goals can be graded on a continuum, are adaptable to change, and are less prone to failure. For example, if you were only able to adhere to a particular diet 4/7 days of the week instead of 5/7, that's still better than 0/7. You were successful 80% of the time, a solid B-minus. Far from an F grade!

If, after several weeks, you realize that you can consistently get to the gym 3x per week, sometimes 4x, but almost never 5x, you have permission to modify the DO goal to a more realistic objective. You learned something about this goal and that information is factored into the DO goal algorithm going forward, so it is self correcting. That's a win, not a failure.

GET goals are still very useful though. If you really want to get to the gym 5x per week, but you find that work interferes with 2 of those times, a GET goal might be to find a better job. GET goals generate more DO goals. If you want to GET a better job, you can set a DO goal to send out 3 job applications per week. Again, you may not GET a new job, but your chances are much higher when you send out resumes than when you don't.

In summary, ordinal DO goals are superior and more achievable and adaptable than binary GET goals, but they work together synergistically.

Anyway, Deborah and I set some DO goals using bullet lists. You have bullets for each time you DO the thing you set out to do. I set DO goals for practicing music, exercising, meditating, and eating. Associated GET goals are to lose some weight and reduce stress/anxiety.

*They can also be DON'T goals.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Saving Animals is Secondary

There is no compelling case to be made against a vegan diet. This is supported by the fact that no scientific study has ever shown that eating more fruits and vegetables is bad for your health. Ever.

But individual health benefits aside, a vegan diet has other advantages societally as well. Most people know, even if they avoid acknowledging it, that animal-based foods require roughly 10 times the natural resources to produce as do plant-based foods. This is Ecology 101 stuff. Each level of the natural food chain wastes about 90% of the energy obtained from the level below it, due to metabolism and waste. This is illustrated by the fact the 99% of the corn you see growing in midwestern farm fields is feed for livestock. It's not even edible for humans.

The ecological argument for avoiding meat, eggs, and dairy is strong and explains about half the variance in why I began being vegan. My eco-footprint is 90% smaller. That may seem insignificant, since I am but one person, but my contribution adds to a growing subset of humanity that is making informed dietary choices. Most of the rest of the variance is explained simply by the significant health benefits I have gained since starting on this diet. I haven't felt this healthy in years and my annual preventive lab tests quantitatively support my qualitative perceptions. Very little of the variance is explained by my desire to promote animal welfare, but if a few less cows, pigs, chickens, emus, or bison die over the course of my lifetime thanks to my dietary choice, that's just gravy.

Vegan gravy.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


There is No High Like the Runner's High...

...is a statement I seldom make. The implication is that there is no high BETTER than the runner's high. However, that's hard to back up unless you have a specific operational definition of what "better" means. If better means "higher," then I don't think that's a supportable claim. There are a lot of things - drugs mostly - that could likely get you much higher than running.* If better means "more natural, with fewer side effects," a fair case can be made. However, when I run, the side effects are unpleasant. I am not a runner by nature and when I run after a long period of not running, I often suffer uncomfortable muscle pain (in muscles that haven't exerted themselves that hard, if at all) for several days after, which is a deterrent to further running. I also have an arthritic injury in my left big toe that remains fairly pain/inflammation free as long as I do NOT run. That being said, an endorphin/enkephalin induced euphoria similar to that obtained by running also can be obtained by other highly aerobic activities like biking or swimming. So there is an argument to be made, albeit semantic, that there are at least two highs like the runner's high: the biker's high and the swimmer's high. I consent that the descriptor "runner's" is a catch-all, albeit discriminatory, for many other aerobic highs. If better is defined as "more health promoting," the statistics probably back that up. Take a look at most dedicated runner types. They are seldom portly individuals, as compared with sedentary people, or even with bikers. However, my observations suggest that regular swimmers are even less rotund, on the main, than runners.

The point of this post is to illustrate the importance of operationalizing the definition of something and to always compel others to operationalize their definitions, so you know what the hell they are talking about.

*Note: I work in the mental health field...and my qualitative observations support this.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Road Trip: A Solid A-Minus

I am fully back from my road trip with my folks, driving them back home to Ohio after their summer up north at our family's cottage.

The trip went really smooth, notwithstanding seeing some harrowing moments of human error on the Interstates and Tollways. I give the trip an overall grade of A-minus. It exceeded expectations. I generally give a B-minus when expectations are met, but not exceeded. An A-plus would only be warranted if something gratuitously awesome and unexpected happened. An A-minus is a solid grade. I would have given it an A but for the fact that I had to dock a few points for dairy toxicity.

As many of my readers (possibly all 7 of them) know, I chose to adopt a vegan lifestyle at the beginning of the year and the elimination of all dairy has had incredibly unforeseen health benefits for me. The arthritis in my left big toe joint all but vanished. I lost a goodly amount of weight and kept it off without any purposeful caloric restriction. My thinking is clearer and I have a general feeling of being "more healthy than healthy." That's a fancy way of saying my constitutional resiliency is higher, such that I am able to ward of negative environmental challenges more easily and consistently.

Anyway...on the two day road trip, we overnighted in Angola IN...not a bad little town. I googled and found a restaurant with potential vegan options and we went there. I ended up ordering a pasta dish that had a much creamier sauce on it than expected, and notwithstanding my conversation with the waitress about the vegan options at the place, the cook(s) put Parmesan cheese on top of the noodles. I could have sent it back, but I decided to power through it...elevated constitutional resiliency to negative environmental challenges and all.

The dairy-ness of the meal was a bit of a shock to my system, which had gotten used to an exclusively plant-based diet. My gastrointestinal tract cried out in protest, in the form of mild cramping. My sinuses also got congested. I attribute the symptoms to the animal antigens in the meal and even though it was my choice to consume them, it mandated a slight lowering of the overall road trip grade.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Fat Burning Ambiguity

Americans generally collectively have an obsession with losing weight, specifically with the obstacles toward doing so. Billions are spent on marketing of various products and services for shedding pounds and trimming fat, while people bemoan the ineffectiveness of most of these offerings. This is why it always surprises me that the low/no-cost, low-hanging fruit of weight control seem to be neglected by a lot of people.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at American airports. I am in one now and here are two pertinent observations I have made:

1. In the food court, McDonalds has by far the longest lunch line.*

2. Almost everyone takes the escalator or moving walkway instead of the stairs or stationary walkway (aka, walkway).**

*Note: I am in no way discouraging people from eating at McDonalds. I own Mickey D stock and the obesity epidemic is directly proportional to my retirement savings. The net gain to my Etrade account is far greater than the net loss to my health care budget, notwithstanding the contribution unhealthily overweight people make toward inflating the cost of health insurance (no shame...just a fact...keyword UNHEALTHILY).

**Note: A case can be made that some people are carrying excessive baggage, both internally and externally, that encourages the use of automation assistance. However, this cannot explain the neglect of physical exertion by those with minimal encumbrance while traveling, such as those with small backpacks and carry on bags with wheels. WHEELS, mind you!

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Dietary Challenge Test

As a vegan, it's not always easy to find decent food options when eating out, especially in rural "Trump Country." That being said, it does offer an opportunity for some scientific testing of dietary effects. Trapped in Angola IN tonight, we sought out and found an eatery with some potentially vegan entrees. However, the pasta dish I ordered proved to be considerably "cheesier" than anticipated. Even as I ate my first bite of the meal, my body seemed to psychosomatically reject the food, so conditioned am I to a healthy, animal-free, plant-based diet. I got mild stomach cramps, stuffy sinuses, and a runny nose. I also think my thinking got foggier, but that might have been due to the beer I ordered with dinner. I still ate the meal, because I had to eat. But it was clear that I had presented a dietary challenge to my body that illustrated the low-level, chronic toxicity of an animal-food based diet. On the short term, such a diet is fairly low risk, but subjecting a human body to that chronic inflammatory state over a lifetime is why such a diet is linked to all manner of deadly chronic diseases. I hope you will consider this and if you disagree, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your take. I am not trying to persuade anyone to adopt a vegan diet. You can do whatever you want...it's your life. I can only report the vegan diet's effects on my own health. My arthritis is gone. I have clear thinking. I feel great. My cholesterol and blood sugar is healthier than healthy. It works for me, but maybe it's not for you. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself...are you following the healthiest possible diet, or are you simply justifying your desire for animal-based foods? I care about your long term health, but ultimately your choices are your own, and I am OK with that.

Travels in Trump Country

I am deep into a road trip with my parents, which means I am also deep into Trump Country, doing my best to avoid interaction with undesirables, and mostly succeeding. They are such a bunch of turd nuggs and they drive like @#$%.

I should do some case progress notes tonight, but I am still a little too anger escalated from this past week at school and internship. Best to calm down and de-escalate for now. I am feeling a lot better, after a few hundred miles of Interstate, which allowed me to ground on the fact that I need to give less @#$%s about stuff and people I can't change. Incompetence is a fact of life, so I need to let my high expectations and perfectionism go sometimes.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Trombone Trance

After a four hour road trip up to the cabin, I'm chillaxing on the couch and decompressing to some mellow bebop jazz playing on my dad's Bose radio. The song, whatever it is, features a trombone. I think it's public radio. Groovy stuff like this doesn't get played on commercial radio.

My chillaxing was interrupted a moment ago when I had to take Deborah's dog Maddie out to poop. I'm back, but the bebop playing now is a bit more frenetic. Still relaxing and trance inducing. It makes me want to throw a jazz rhythm section together and play some gigs. In a perfect world, I'd do it in a pinch. But the town I live in doesn't have the quality resources to do it properly.

I still wanna put my instrumental surf rock band concept together. It will only play November through February in Wisconsin, designed to create a balmy tropical musical paradisic bubble inside which the brutal reality of the midwestern winter is totally banned. See? Fabricated reality can be a positive and good thing when not in the hands of douchy evil-doers (#truthisnottruth). And when it's a choice. Picture Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts, sandals and ukuleles, inflatable palms and bikinis. UV lamps will be aimed at the audience to simulate actual sunshine...people can go home with mild suntans.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock



Self-care is very important. There is a time for hard work and a time for idle lounging. Never let anyone tell you different. Furthermore, when you work, work hard. When you lounge about, lounge about hard as well. Partition these things clearly, with well-defined time boundaries.

I've gotten much better at this in recent months, concentrating my periods of hard work into smaller and smaller time intervals, through efficiencies, and keeping my lounge time free from anxious rumination. I'm still not perfect at this. Last night, I had planned some self-care, but I decided to spend a few minutes prepping for a concentrated episode of work I had planned for today. This mild preppage rapidly escalated, and before I knew it, I had completed and submitted one of my graduate school homework assignments, well in advance of its deadline.

It was good that I pounded out that first assignment ahead of schedule as I did, because it allowed me greater discretion in completing a second assignment, which I worked on for the better part of today, even though the professor of that class had made it clear that we would "pretty much get full credit just for submitting something." I have never been one to submit mediocre work though, notwithstanding an open invitation to do so.

In conclusion, the above information would seem to suggest that I am not an idle lounger at all. But I am. It's just that I'm strategic in my idle lounging, planning out when and for how long I can be idle without sacrificing the quality and quantity of my work output. It makes no sense to waste mental energy worrying about assignments well before they are due, especially when the amount of effort involved in completing the assignment is a known, fixed value. A better approach is to save that mental energy in reserve and channel it into the task at hand when the chips are proverbially down.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


If I Did Not Have West Nile Virus Before...

Leaving "work"* today, I decided on a whimsy to exit the building through a service entrance on the south side of the building, which opens onto a grassy knoll next to some woods. That was a mistake.

With all the rain and flooding the past couple of weeks, the mosquito population has exploded, while the number of blood engorged victims has largely not. As such, I was set upon by as ferocious a swarm of the hungry little blood-sucking critters as I have ever beheld before in my life. Many of them had their probosci in my flesh before I realized what was happening and the rest pursued me as I beat a hasty path to my bicycle on the other side of the building.

Luckily, I had packed a bottle of deet in my saddle bag and quickly sprayed a cloud of the chemical repellent around myself with one hand while crushing frail insectoidal exoskeletons (and entire future mosquito bloodlines) with the other, until I was able to secure a perimeter, mount my bicycle, and flee the area completely.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

School's On...Drive Safely!

Another level of madness was added to the motorways today with the official start of the school year. There are now two afternoon rush hours, one that occurs just after 3 pm and the usual one about 5 pm. Throw into the mix the packs of teenage track and field athletes running pell mell through roadway intersections and it's something of a "Wild West" out there.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock



It's Labor Day. Long weekend holidays like this always seem to bring out the worst in automobile drivers. You see stuff on the roadways that no one should ever have to see. That's why I took the "scenic route" home from the cabin this weekend, circumnavigating the heinousness of the Wisconsin Dells.

Because it is better to be doing 60 mph on a 55 mph road than 25 mph on a 70 mph road. I was actually amazed to discover that very few other people share this philosophy with me, as evidenced by the scarcity of traffic on the single lane county highways, notwithstanding the holiday and the documented fact (thanks Google Maps) that the avoided Interstate Highway was chock-a-block with cars.

KEYWORDS: punk rock, lifestyle coaching, labor day

High Expectations

I set my goal too high. It was, if you recall, to journal daily. I missed the goal yesterday, in large part because I fell asleep before accomplishing it. I need to lower the goal threshold. Let's reset it to journaling five days per week and see what happens.

KEYWORDS: journaling, lifestyle coaching, punk rock


Biking in Trump Country

This daily journal entry needs to be short for the simple reason that in 2 minutes it will be tomorrow and I will have failed in my goal to journal daily...

Mission accomplished.


Automobile Drivers Go Mad When Their Routines Get Altered

Daily Journal Entry - 08/31/2018

Road construction should probably be outlawed as a public health menace. Largely, I am not adversely affected by road construction due to the nature of both my occupation and my values. But I care about other people, and when I see the mental health of others in my community precipitously decline due to environmental factors, I feel I should speak out.

There is currently some road construction happening not far from my home, near the route along which I normally bike commute to work. As a result of this civil engineering in progress, automobile traffic has been re-routed somewhat, meaning that I have been observing first hand the lack of coping skills that many motorists are afflicted with. Routine is comforting and when forced outside of their comfort zones, many peoples' limbic brains kick in with a sort of "fight/flight/freeze" response. The limbic brain was not designed for fine motor skills and impulse control, which is the domain of the rational brain. So the net result is a complete breakdown of roadway conventions. I'll grant you that the recent road closures due to floods in our area are not helping matters.

Well, there. I have spoken out. Of course, I have no solutions. Or rather, my solutions would not be embraced by the general public (i.e., bike commute more). For my part, I am simply being more vigilant when I bike commute. The morning ride isn't bad, but by about 2 PM, the roads are largely an unregulated "wild west."

Unrelated to any of this, this weekend is the annual BIKE WITH JOE social bike ride event up north.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, bike commuting, punk rock, vegan diet


Thursday, August 30, 2018

The great thing about having my own blog is that I don't have to follow any of the normal conventions of writing. I don't have to adhere to any style guides. i can write in all lower case letters. I CAN WRITE IN ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS. The latter style is conventionally considered the written form of yelling, but that's on the reader, not on the writer. In fact, my posts are quite silent. They only make sounds inside your mind.

Today was the last Thursday in August and the second to last day in August. This upcoming weekend, the first weekend of September, I'll be driving up to the cabin to host another annual BIKE WITH JOE (not yelling!) event. I believe I started hosting this social bike ride in 1999, so this would be the 19th year. Next year, convention should dictate that I do something special to commemorate 20 consecutive years of hosting the bike ride. But as you can probably tell already, I am all about non-convention.*

For one thing, it hasn't always been a bike ride. A couple of times, it was an approximately 10 mile run-walk. In fact, one of these years I would like to try kayaking the entire 10 mile circumference of Shell Lake, the body of water alongside which sits my parents' cabin.

This morning I rode my bicycle to "work."** It was a beautiful day, sunny and 70 some odd degrees. I was slated to see two clients and co-facilitate a smoking cessation group today, but no one showed up to the anti-smoking wellness group and one of the clients did not show up, so it ended up being a pretty laid back day of administrative paperwork. I met Deborah about 2 PM for a late lunch at a pub near "work." My bike ride home was almost as pleasant as my morning non-motorized commute, with the slight disadvantage of there being a lot of crazed and disoriented motorists on the road. Notwithstanding, it was still a lot better to be biking than driving.

When I got home, I did a few chores, like loading laundry and unloading the dishwasher, and packed a few things for my weekend trip. I ate a modest dinner. Deborah arrived home whilst I was making it. Some TV was watched and then I decided to free write this blog entry. Going forward, I think I am going to try to make at least one short journal entry each day, just to keep the writing chops limber.

I'm going to wrap this up now and go read a book that I am almost done reading: "Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey Into Australia," by Roff Smith.

A good day to you, dear reader.

*Note: Also known as "unconventional."

**Note: For all intents and purposes, my unpaid internship at a community mental health center is a job, albeit pay- and benefit-less.

KEYWORDS: punk rock, lifestyle coaching, family therapy, bicycle tours, bike rides in australia


I Am Still Staying Ahead of Global Climate Change...but Barely

On Wednesday morning of this past week, I woke up to discover that our house was now atop a small island surrounded on all sides by a newly formed lake. This was due to a proverbial "100 year flood" that hit the part of Wisconsin where we live. Our basement began to fill with water, but thanks to a reliable sump pump that worked overtime, this was more of a mild detriment than a major disaster. However, the event made me realize that global climate change is accelerating and gaining on us faster than we have thus far been able to outrun it. Deborah and I have been toying with the idea of moving for some time now, but clearly we need to get much more serious about that agenda, with an emphasis on attaining "higher ground."

In an absolute sense, I don't mind global climate change. In fact, I greatly enjoy observing "extreme nature" in action, especially storms. But I don't like to observe it that close up. I am also accepting of the fact that humanity as a whole has little will to address climate change. I no longer engage in arguments about whether humankind's industries are causing global climate change, but as a realist, I also do not deny the observable reality that the climate is changing. Even global climate change deniers like to point out another true fact...that the Earth has always gone through natural cycles of heating and cooling, with the implication being that what is happening now is "normal." So that argument suggests the deniers also must accept on some level that climate change is happening, even if they don't believe humans are perpetrating it. Their passivist argument has one glaring flaw though. While it is true that the globe has warmed and cooled cyclically throughout its history, it is also true that humans were not around for 99.9% of that history. Human technology and ingenuity notwithstanding, our species is fragile and can only survive within a very narrow range of climatic conditions. You only need to listen to people complain about how cold or hot the weather (not the same as climate) is on a daily basis to know that humans experience a lot of discomfort outside a very narrow temperature range from about 65 to 85 degrees F. That's why we have furnaces and air conditioners and bring space heaters into workplaces.

Global climate change, natural or not, is intolerant of human survival. Since collective humanity isn't doing much to reduce climate change and its associated severe weather, those of us who are not deniers have to do what we can individually to secure ourselves against the consequences. Ultimately, climate change will catch up...when freshwater and edible crops diminish to dangerous levels. But that won't happen in my lifetime (I don't think) and I don't have kids, so my goal is simply to outrun the floods, fires, storms, and earthquakes for as long as I can, and I thank Mother Nature for the stern reminder this past week.


Dry Roasting Almonds

I don't like raw almonds. I do like dry roasted almonds. The great thing about raw almonds is that they can be converted to dry roasted almonds in about 10 minutes, via alchemy.*

*Note: Alchemy = 10 minutes on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F oven.


I Got an A

I somehow got an A in one of my summer classes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I seemingly rock at my new career field of marriage and family therapy. For whomsoever cares, the class was Working with Kids and Adolescents, and it was all about doing therapy with children of any age up to 25 years old (still considered adolescents). As is often the case, I appeared to be "a natural" in as much as I did well in spite of not really knowing what I was doing about half the time. I have started working with some adolescent clients at my internship site and they are generally good kids, just misunderstood or overlooked. Often they are crazy smart and have a lot of strengths that aren't appreciated. In short, they just don't fit the very narrow and homogenized norms of society, even those of somewhat progressive Madison WI.



The weather in northern Wisconsin this weekend is not conducive to water testing the new tandem kayak that arrived earlier this week, half of which was a birthday present for my wife Deborah and the other half of which was mine! On top of sour weather, Deborah could not join me at the cabin this weekend to help me baptise the vessel...


Moderate Success

I just finished my summer semester of classes moderately successfully. On paper, I appear to have completely dominated them with full marks. In practice, I have to admit that I did not give it my usual 110%. Honestly, I only gave it about 96%, for very legitimate reasons. Most notably, I am also devoting considerable mental bandwidth to both my clinical internship in Marriage and Family Therapy and also fun, outdoorsy summer activities, like biking and kayaking and hanging out with family up north at our cabin. Deborah and I just purchased a tandem kayak that needs to be lake tested STAT! Now that summer school is behind me, I need to maximize on fun before the fall semester begins in just three weeks! Only one year of classes to go, then I can graduate, get licensed, and start figuring out how to pay off student loans on a meager resident's salary.



A Guideline

As a general guideline, I find it unwise to meditate late in the day, particularly if I still have things I want to accomplish. These late day meditations tend to segue very smoothly into power naps, which have a tendency to sap my ambition for further evening activities. What is your experience with this? Leave a comment below.


People...Are Dumb

I don't know what chemicals they put in the American junk food supply these days to dumb people down, but some people must consume supratoxic doses.

Case in point...

I am at the airport, near the gate where I will board my flight in about 90 minutes - and I grant you this is probably excessively early to be here...but let my caution serve as a counterpoint to this exemplar of stupidity...

As I was walking down the concourse toward my gate, I heard gate agents making a last call for passengers on a flight that was about to depart from that gate very soon. Not only that, but they were specifically calling for a passenger who had not yet boarded...by name...urgently encouraging them to get there ASAP or else!

So, I seat myself near the gate and go about minding my own business. The gate agents close the door to the plane 10 minutes before departure, as they always do. About three minutes later, a woman and her pre-teen daughter (who I had seen when I was going through TSA security...clearly not in any kind of rush) SLOWLY saunter up to the gate, expecting to board. The gate agent gives them a look that can only be described as incredulous, before telling the mom she is too late to the gate, as they say in the vernacular, and she cannot board. The mom then throws a fit, arguing that the plane isn't due to leave for another - by this time - four minutes, and she should be allowed to board.

It is hard for me to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, but I will assume she has not flown domestically in the U.S. since before 9/11. Nonetheless, the gate agent communicated to the woman the absolute impossibility that she and her daughter would be boarding this particular plane, even though their baggage had probably indeed done so, and would be waiting for them at their destination when they arrived there on a later flight.

My hypothesis about the toxicity of the American junk food supply as the underlying cause of this woman's mental flatulence (aka, "brain fart") is the most parsimonious one given the observable facts available to me. However, I am open to other educated guesses that my admittedly groggy morning cognition has not yet fathomed.

If you have any thoughts to share about this, please leave a comment on this post.


Bring the Tropics to Me

I have tried to persuade Deborah to move someplace tropical. We briefly considered Florida before circumstanes changed and I went back to school in Madison WI. Additionally, the case has been made that Florida may be under water in 20 or 30 years, and that would suck for old people, which is what we will be on our way to becoming in 20 or 30 years. By the same token, meteorological models indicate that with current trends in global climate change, Wisconsin will get a lot warmer and wetter over the same 20 to 30 year time period, essentially becoming more tropical. So really all I need to do is be patient and the tropics will eventually come to me. Win-win.



There are some absolutely revolting nutrition bars on the market. But I learned something today. If you eat an absolutely revolting nutrition bar after eating an even more absolutely revolting one, the second one tastes RELATIVELY good by comparison.

That is what relativity means. A good day to you.



Today might be a "two coffee morning" (2CM). I slept an ample number of hours last night, and fairly deeply, I might add. So I have little in the way of rational explanation. The mind is a terrible thing...


I Love Heat

Wisconsin is supposedly under a heat advisory this weekend. Bring it! I love heat. I once rode my bike 110 miles in 110 degree heat in Iowa in July. I grant you that I literally had to stop and drink an entire bottle of iced cold Gatorade about every 12 minutes while doing this, but boy were my pores cleansed. The high this weekend will be 92. Child's play.


A Potent Holiday Weekend in Colorado

Deborah and I got back from Colorado last night, just about midnight or so. It seems like often times when I depart from the Denver airport, there is some kind of weather incident afoot and yesterday was no exception from this perceived norm. In the couple of hours prior to my sister driving us from Colorado Springs to Denver, I had been watching storm clouds muster over the Front Range around Pike's Peak, grumbling thunder and flashing lightning. Often these afternoon rumblings amount to nothing and the storm's moisture dissipates in the thin, arid Colorado air. But yesterday the inclemency gained potency right around the time we hit the road for Denver and torrential downpours seemed to follow us on most of the trip.

Notwithstanding this, our plane took off on time. We got to the airport plenty early, anticipating holiday traffic delays. My sister backroad shortcutted a good bit of the route, eliminating a lot of that congestion, and so it was only the weather that slowed our travel a bit. When we pulled into the Terminal West departure area if Denver International, the eye of one of the thunderstorms was nigh upon us, though we were moderately protected from the precipitation by an overhanging awning.

Airport security was a bear, highly inefficient and disorganized and slow. In an absolute sense, I don't normally mind TSA weak sauce, given that modern aeronautic technology allows me to fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour to pretty much any destination in the world I want to go. But from a relative standpoint, it was pretty awful. Apparently, a bag of deluxe mixed nuts looks "pretty scary" (direct TSA staff quote) when viewed via x-ray machine (three times!). Yet even with the airport security gods working against us, we still made it to our gate with ample time to seek food before boarding our flight. Finding vegan options at the airport is never easy, but after a little searching, we found a place that could customize us a vegan salad, more or less. The only caveat was that they were out of the tofu they usually substitute for various meats on their salads. Sigh... The world is not vegan friendly, but we knew this when we signed on to this beneficial dietary lifestyle change, so we coped with the avocado that substituted for the tofu that substituted for the meat.

By the time our plane took off, the aforementioned thunderstorms had moved off to the east of Denver. The down side of this was that we had to fly east to get back to Madison WI. For safety, our pilot flew us north for a spell, into Wyoming, before turning east to bypass the apparent wall of storms now barreling across the Great Plains (which, incidentally, should be rolling into Wisconsin tomorrow some time). The flight was plenty turbulent, notwithstanding thunderhead avoidance, so much so that the flight attendants could not safely bring the drink/snack carts through the aisles but had to deliver their product manually. It wasn't tremendously bumpy in the sky, I didn't think, but they weren't taking any chances I guess. About midway through our flight, things settled down, but by then the flight crew had pretty much served up all the mini pretzels and juice cups manually.

Once we landed in Madison, everything was smooth. I retrieved our car from economy parking whilst Deborah scored her suitcase from baggage claim. I had wisely taken Deborah's credit card with me to pick up the car, because for whatever reason the auto pay machines in that lot do not like my credit card. Driving across town from the airport to our house in the middle of the night is always pleasant, because there are few drivers (Madison has some of the worst) on the road. We tried to watch some TV when we got home, but we were so tuckered out from the fun weekend in Colorado that we had to hit the hay rather expediently.

The weekend itself was action packed. We watched my niece and nephew compete in a homemade boat regatta race as well as some volleyball games. We also went up to my sister's partner Carl's mountain compound, where we partook of his wood fired sauna and made some pizzas on a barbecue grill (because his oven was on the fritz...that being said, the grill pizzas turned out really well and there were even some vegan ones!). We even had some down time to study for our summer classes and I took a two mile walk around my sister's hilly Manitou Springs neighborhood for some much needed exercise.

Those are the highlights. I hope you had a good Memorial Day holiday weekend too. I'd love to know what you did, if you feel like leaving a comment at the end of this post telling me how you spent it.

KEYWORDS: vegan diet, best weight loss diet, lifestyle coach, punk rock


It Is Rare That I Pound Out a Day as Potent as Today

I biked all over the place today. In total, I rode 17.77 miles. That wasn't my initial plan for the day. It began as a rather humble and short 3.5 mile round trip bike ride to the post office and back to mail a small package to my sister and her family out in Colorado (Hi Sis! Keep an eye out for a small package, the contents of which are self-explanatory). En route to the Middleton USPS branch, I swung by my wife's place of work and caught her at the tail end of lunch just to say HI. It was a phenomenal weather day (aka, a perfect day, in the vernacular). After returning home from leaving the package in the trusty hands of the USPS staff, I got a text from a friend who had lent me her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) last year for a class. She wanted it back to study for her licensure exam. We coordinated to meet at a coffee shoppe for the handoff and I decided to bike there and back, given the fantastic weather. That was about a 12 mile or so round trip. After Deborah got home and we had dinner, I decided to go to the gym, whilst Deborah had plans with her family. I had gotten ample aerobics biking during the day, but I wanted to lift some weights at the gym (see my prior post about Popeye arms). I biked to the gym anyway, because it is close to our house and the route is pleasant - relatively flat and passing through a scenic nature area. Plus, I had not driven in an automobile yet today and I wanted to keep that trend going....you know...to save the planet! The weight room at the gym was overrun with testosterone engorged blood sausages, so I did my weight lifting expediently and left before I got splattered with explosive raw machismo. On the way home, I stopped in at the Common Ground coffee shoppe, a new local venue that hosts live music. I actually performed there last Saturday. I wanted to enquire about the open mic nights there. As it turned out, an open mic night was happening when I arrived. It was a low key affair, because other than the host, there were no performers present. The host asked if I wanted to play. I did want to, but I was sans guitar. The host said that was no problem and let me play his guitar. I punched out 4 tight songs to an audience that numbered in the single digits and then stuck around while the open mic host, Alan somebody, rounded out the night. I biked home feeling like I had really maximized my day, even though I hadn't really started it until shortly after noon and some of the successes were happenstance. Well done, if I do say so myself. The only downside is that I only burned about 900 or so calories with all that biking. I thought it would have been at least 1200 calories, based on my caloric burn when I do the exercise bike at the gym for an hour. I grant you that I took the biking at a leisurely pace today, but it was still over two hours in the bike saddle, all told. Nonetheless, I am fully satisfied with today's level of potency.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, punk rock

A Solid Yard Work Day

The weather yesterday was not originally supposed to be phenomenal...but it was. And even though I did not get out into said weather until about noon, it was action packed when I did. I mowed our sizeable and substantially overgrown (due to a lot of recent rain) yard, using some of the grass as mulch in various weed prone places in the yard. I also cleared the back deck of tree litter from the accursed weeping willows that loom over the back yard. I even fired up the grill and cooked some vegan veggie burgers for Deborah and me. Then I hypothetically planted the vegetable garden. What I mean by hypothetically is that I put seeds* into the soil in the raised bed and I hope to soon disprove the null hypothesis that they will not germinate and grow, thus supporting the alternative hypothesis that I successfully planted the garden. Once that milestone is achieved, the next hypothesis to be tested is whether I will get any yield from said vegetable plants. I planted green bean, scallop (aka, pattypan) squash, and habañada pepper seeds in the soil of the garden. I did transplant one preformed seedling into the garden, a roma tomato plant I picked up at the local grocery store. So, to the extent that it takes off and yields, as romas oft do, I technically have, at present, a tomato garden. This acts as a sort of control group in the aforementioned empirical gardening experiment. This experiment is confounded by the fact that I am using grass clippings as garden mulch this year. According to my web research, grass clippings make good mulch for raised beds. They are rich in nutrients and proved a weed preventing thatch, while also being porous enough to allow the soil to breath. In previous years I have used landscape fabric to achieve this goal but why not make use of already available and easily applicable yard waste? Our lawn is ridiculously dandelion free due to a professional "weed and feed" application we have done semi-annually. So I am not worried about dandelions infesting the garden at the moment. Anyway, I have rambled on far too long about the garden. After completing all the spring cleaning in the yard, I somehow still found the energy to go to the gym for 30 minutes of aerobics and 10 minutes of weight lifting. This morning, I can quite exquisitely feel many of the muscle groups in my body that had been underutilized this past winter, notwithstanding regular gym attendance. Mowing, raking, sweeping, and hauling use a wide assortment of the body's available musculature that simply cannot be replicated at a conventional gym.

Anyway, it was a potent day yesterday. The weather today looks to be comparably awesome, and since most of the immediate yard maintenance needs are taken care of, I am not entirely sure what to do with myself. I will take it moment by moment, starting with the preparation of a nice breakfast. I will probably read some articles in anticipation of my summer class that begins a week from today. It's a class about working with children and adolescents in marriage and family therapy and I expect it to be both educational and practicable. I was not expecting to have pre-assigned readings before the first class, but that would appear to be the case. So much for a week off between spring and summer semesters! But at least I love what I am studying.

*Note: Thanks go out to my buddy Brandon for sending me a sampling of garden seeds, as well as some coffee beans that I am going to try to cultivate indoors.


A Lull

I wrapped up a potent semester of graduate school at the end of last week. I think I got all A's in every class, although I did get docked a point or two here and there. Mostly the small demerits were for good and minor reasons and included constructive feedback. There's only one I am somewhat ambivalent about, and I'll journal it forthwith as a form of catharsis (see below). But first, I wanted to say that I currently have a week off between finishing my semester and starting my clinical internship training next week. To say it is a week off is really a bit of an exaggeration, because I actually have to cram a pantload of spring cleaning and yard work, weather permitting, into this week and next weekend. But I should find time for ample self-care and mental recharging.

This past Mother's Day weekend, I performed a music show on Saturday night, and I have been kind of riding the afterglow of that the past couple days, doing pretty much nothing directly useful on Sunday and Monday. I did study a bit of Spanish whilst at the gym both days, and I made a vegan dark chocolate chip banana bread today, mainly to use up three overripe bananas. But Deborah forbade me to keep the decadent loaf of sweet, warm, moist goodness in the house, and so I promptly delivered it to Deborah's mom, who lives not too far away, on my way to the gym this evening. I also did an hour of hospice volunteer work on Saturday morning, now that I think of it.

Speaking of the gym, I am implementing a modified fitness regime of doing five 30-minute aerobic workouts per week, instead of three 60-minute ones. Mathematically, this saves me a little bit of time on the gym floor, although the time saved is probably going to be lost to the additional driving to the gym and changing into and out of my gym clothes. Still, it feels easier to find 30+ minutes on any given day to work out than 60+ minutes. Additionally, the modified plan is also designed to allow me 10 minutes or so on either side of the aerobics to lift weights a little bit. I was noticing last week that I am starting to get "Popeye" arms, losing muscle tone in my biceps and triceps. My forearms have always remained well toned because I use those muscles a lot in everyday activities like writing and music. So that's about all that I have going on. I suppose it's time to commiserate on the aforementioned cognitive dissonance about one of the project grades I received this semester.

For my final presentation of the semester in my last class of the semester, I put together a really nice Powerpoint presentation and honed it to a razor sharp edge. I included lots of redundancy on the infrastructure side to prevent technical difficulties from derailing me at any point, including emailing it to myself as well as the professor, and uploading it to the proverbial "cloud." In an effort to save the planet a little bit, I decided to bike to class that night, giving myself ample time for the 3.5 mile bike ride. I had packed a change of shirt in my backpack in case I got sweaty on the ride. Nonetheless, as I was leaving the house, I had a slight feeling I was forgetting something. But in my head, everything had been checked off on my TO DO list. I arrived at the remote adult continuing education campus of my school, where my class was held, with plenty of time to cool off and don my fresh, clean tee shirt.

When I arrived in the classroom, the professor noticed my attire (shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt) and informed me that it was not up to snuff for a formal class presentation.

"Were we supposed to dress up for this?" I asked, surprised. None of my classmates had gussied up very much for their presentations the prior week.

"Yes, it's supposed to be a formal presentation," the professor said. "You are supposed to dress like you would at a professional meeting."

"Bust! I totally missed the fine print on that," I admitted, chagrined.

"It was in the assignment description on Blackboard," chimed in one of my classmates who had overheard this exchange. Blackboard is the online assignment submission interface we use in some classes.

"I biked here," I said, for lack of any other justification for my normal casual classroom attire.

"I gathered that," the professor said. I should note here that I am paraphrasing the conversation as I remember it. This is a skill I will need to hone during my internship as a marriage and family therapist, although I have no idea how good I am at doing it.

I was furious at myself for overlooking this minor thing. I brainstormed and decided to call my wife Deborah and ask her if she might bring me a collared button down shirt, since we live not far from campus. She kindly abided the request and delivered me a crispy pressed shirt just in time for me to change into it before I presented. Granted, I was still wearing sandals and shorts, but the shirt gave me a serious upgrade in my appearance and I was even able to incorporate the incident into my presentation in a clever and humorous way.*

Even so, when I got my grade a couple days after presenting, the professor had docked me two points (out of 25) for the dress code biff, notwithstanding my partial save (this meant I only got a 92% on the presentation...an A minus! NO!!!). I can't argue against it, since on paper I had failed with regard to the fine print on the assignment (I really should have read it more carefully). However, a part of me thinks I ought to have gained two points of extra credit for quick thinking in a crisis situation, which would have canceled out the demerit. After all, I am well on my way to becoming a marriage and family therapist, which will necessitate improvising in crisis situations, which I did in this case. Plus, I was saving the frickin' planet by biking to class! Conversely, I appreciate that this professor was trying to keep my humble by slapping me with a small fine. So I'm torn...

What do you think? Should I have been docked the two points or was it a wash?

*Note: The presentation was on "The 5 Love Languages," by Gary Chapman, and one of these so-called languages is doing "Acts of Service" as a way to show love and admiration for your spouse or partner. Deborah illustrated this love language in bringing me the shirt and so I incorporated that into the presentation with a bit of humor.


Pounding It Out and Burrowing Through

Today was potent. I burrowed through.

I was tired most of the day. Because I got up earlier than usual. Much earlier.

In school, the mad push toward the end of the semester has begun.

Assignments are coming due. I need to focus and pound out project work. I did so today.

The projects are fun and educational. But they still consume considerable mental bandwidth.

I ate a vegan breakfast of porridge, with the usual fruity and nutty add-ons.

Shortly after Deborah left for work, I went to the gym. I spent an hour on the stationary bike, at a light-moderate intensity. I read about the neurobiology of trauma. I eat that stuff up. So interesting.

I spent the afternoon at a coffee shoppe, drinking coffee to stay awake and reading about models of group therapy: cognitive and rational emotive behavioral therapy, solution focused brief therapy, narrative therapy, and even feminist group therapy. It all made sense. I took good notes.

I went to class in the evening. I ate dinner during the break. It was vegan chili with lime over brown rice. I made it yesterday.

When I got home from class, I chillaxed with my beautiful wife for a short while. Then I went to my study area and finished the chapter on the neurobiology of trauma. I didn't finish it at the gym.

I wrote this post. Now I'll head off to sleep.

KEYWORDS: vegan diet, best weight loss diet, punk rock, lifestyle coaching, group therapy, trauma informed care


Bliss Hard

I live in Madison WI. One year ago today, it was 80 Fahrenheit degrees, sunny, and a little bit windy. I know this because I got married to my beautiful soulmate Deborah on April 15 of last year (Happy One Year Anniversary to us!).

Here is a picture from a window of our house today...

It's currently 30 Fahrenheit degrees and we are under a so-called Winter Weather Advisory. In short, it's a snow storm! This is the nature of weather variability in Wisconsin from year to year. 50 degrees different!

Deborah and I had signed up for a day long meditation retreat downtown today, but it was canceled yesterday due to a forecast of predicted travel treachery today. So we have a "snow day." I guess we'll probably laze about and watch some TV.

But we shall see what the day holds in store. In honor of the kiboshed meditation retreat, I am going to focus on being mindfully present and in the moment today. So right now I am going to wrap up this post and go eat a hearty vegan bowl of oatmeal porridge with pecans, blueberries, grapes, apple, maple syrup, flaxseed meal, and unsweetened almond milk.


A Thorough Caloric Burn

Last night, Deborah and I went to see one of my favorite local rock-n-roll bands, SUNSPOT. This is one of the rare live bands I am compelled to get out on the dance floor for (the others being, in rough order of compulsion from highest to lowest, COWBOY MOUTH* and ELECTRIC SIX), and last night was no exception. Even though we were not at the show for the whole performance, the band fortuitously managed to put several of their most flailable** songs in the first set, resulting in a substantial cardiovascular and lower body workout for me. On top of that, I had gone to the gym for 45 minutes of stationary bike cycling just prior to attending this show, so my body was primed for a thorough caloric burn, and it got one.

I am 50 years old, a fairly recent development. It has been a long time - probably several months - since I flailed at a SUNSPOT show, much less as vigorously as I flailed last night. In that time window, I adopted a vegan diet and increased my gym attendance (both activities were part of graduate school class projects, but the health benefits were obvious and immediate, so I stuck with them). When I got out onto the flo' (as they say in the vernacular) last night, it was immediately apparent that I have indeed substantially reversed the aging process of my body through good health and wellness practices. In my admittedly subjective assessment, I have never EVER flailed more energetically at a SUNSPOT show than I did last night, even way back when I first started to go see this band something like 15 years ago (damn...that long?), when I was mid-30s-ish. My body responded to my brain's flail commands fluidly and instantaneously last night, as if I were not 50, but more like a 25-year old. And not like a sluggish American 25-year old either, mind you, but more like the generally fitter and healthier European or Australian 25-year olds. I was as incredulous about this as were the 30-somethings*** bopping around me with age-appropriate zeal at the show.

I can't lie to you. I'm sore this morning, especially in my legs, from all the high energy jumping around to the music I did last night. But it's not age-related soreness. It's "Damn, I haven't used those muscles in a while" soreness. It's like the soreness you get after your first 3-mile jog outside in the spring after not running for a few months over the winter. You know the feeling...or maybe you don't. It's caused by lactic acid produced anaerobically by muscles pushed to the upper limits of their tolerance specifications. The main thing I noticed while I was out on the dance floor last night was the ease with which I was able to repeatedly propel myself into the air (also known as "repetitive levitation," a phrase coined by the time-traveling fun rock band, HIATVS). I attribute this to two things:

1. My regular lower body (cycling, primarily) workouts at the gym have substantially strengthened my leg muscles and cardiovascular system (with the side effect of giving me ridiculously well-defined calf muscles...my sexiest physical feature, in my opinion), allowing for sustained flail stamina.

2. I have had significant weight loss, due in large part to the aforementioned exercise, as well as the adoption of veganism (one of the best weight loss diets**** I have ever tried). As such, I have considerably less total body mass (on the order of 40 pounds less) to hurl into the air under the power of the magnificently sexy pistons that are my calf muscles.

I've lost so much weight so fast in the past year that I seriously considered the possibility I had a tapeworm or some type of rare cancer. I kid, but only "on the square." Before adopting a vegan diet, I had been exercising regularly, but I was never able to get my body weight down to under 210 pounds, a goal I had set for myself. After becoming vegan though, my weight quickly plunged below that ever elusive bathroom scale metric, and now I actually have to really try to get my weight above 210 pounds. I am not kidding...yesterday I had two big slabs of vegan lasagna for dinner, along with a rich salad containing caloric nuts and avocado, and I drank some overpriced beer at the rock show too. I fully expected that kind of gluttonous hedonism would push me over 210 pounds, but when I got up this morning, I weighed in at 208 pounds - the same weight I have been hovering at for most of the past few weeks. I attribute the sustained weight control to both regular exercise and the well-documented health and wellness benefits of a 100% plant-based diet. The vegan diet has three attributes that I...well, attribute...to its health and wellness benefits, including healthy weight management:

1. It's been scientifically documented to be a thermogenic diet [SOURCE]. Your body "runs hotter" on a plant-based diet, which means your basal metabolic rate is set higher, so you burn more calories just by being alive, never mind exercising.

2. It's a nutrient dense but lower calorie diet than an animal-based diet. Your body can get ample nutrition from a vegan diet with a lower net intake of calories. In addition, the high fiber content of the diet slows the absorption of food in the gut, which effectively lowers the average glycemic index of the diet. High glycemic index diets stimulate the pancreas's production of insulin, the hormone that tells the body to store energy as fat. The vegan diet does less of this. Also, the body has to do more work just to digest the whole food matrix of many plant-based foods (recall that your body burns more calories digesting a piece of celery than the calories contained in that piece of celery).

3. It's a high fiber diet. My wife insists that I not blog about the colon-blowing attributes of a plant-based diet. So, dear reader, I will have to let you contemplate that one for yourself. Suffice to say, Metamucil is not needed on this diet.

According the modern medicine and mainstream media, American 50-year olds
*****  simply do not lose 40 pounds and improve their ability to dance (flail) the night away by a power of magnitude. Indeed, it is a conventional stereotype of pop culture that Americans in middle age get inevitably and irreversibly fatter and slower over time. Alternative outcomes simply are not allowed according to the scientific wisdom of the American medical model. This is in part by design, a consequence of capitalism and reductionist empiricism. To wit, the industrial food industry in the United States survives economically only by the grace of government subsidies and dietary policy-making that encourages consumption of caloric, processed (aka, "value-added"), and animal-based foods [SOURCE]. The production of animal-based foods requires about ten times the investment of natural resources compared with plant-based food production, due simply to the biology of food chain ecosystems. When people get sick from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), as they inevitably do, they are rarely encouraged to change their lifestyle habits. Instead, they are sent to doctors and hospitals that are largely guided by a reductionist, medical model that treats all diseases with drugs or surgery. Rare is the physician who treats a chronically diseased patient with a health-improving, age-reversing lifestyle intervention like a plant-based diet. But there are some health practitioners who use lifestyle interventions as an adjunct to standard medical treatment.

By American food industry policy standards, I should be pre-diabetic, hypertensive, and erectile dysfunctional at my age. That's the sad health profile of my demographic. But damned if I haven't non-conformed with the conventions of the medical model of health and corporate mainstream media stereotypes in full punk rock fashion!

*Note: Cowboy Mouth, in fact, has a mandatory requirement that show attendees vigorously engage with the dance floor, and their frontman/drummer will verbally taunt and ridicule anyone who is non-compliant. I have to respect their strong enforcement of this stance, even if I pity first-time Cowboy Mouth show attendees who are unprepared for the onslaught of over-stimulation.

**Note: I use the term "dance" very loosely. What I do on the dance floor is more akin to flailing, but the phrase "flail floor" is not a part of the popular lexicon due to the difficulty with which it falls off the tongue.

***Note: SUNSPOT has been rocking and rolling for over 15 years, I think. So, the people who were in their early 20s when they became fans of the embryonic band way back when are now approaching their mid- to late-30s. Just an observation of fact, not a judgment.

****Note: I dislike the word diet here, because it implies a transient behavior with a before and after time boundary, as in: "I'm on a two week juice diet." Veganism is a more permanent lifestyle behavior than a "lose weight fast" fad diet. It does not require any portion control or caloric restriction, only that no animal-based foods be eaten, including eggs and dairy (and even, technically, honey).

*****Note: I grant you that I am 1/2 Australian by birth, but I am still demographically Anglo-European by heredity.


Addiction Remission and Substitution

When people with alcohol addiction stop drinking, they often start consuming larger quantities of other things, like sugar, caffeine, or nicotine to fill the void left by the absence of booze [SOURCE].

I recently quit using Facebook, my primary "addictive drug" of social media. I quit cold turkey and, notwithstanding some mild withdrawal symptoms of irrational anxiety about "missing something/someone important," it's been more positive than negative. Principally, I've noticed a massive increase in the productive time available to me and also a release of significant mental bandwidth to devote to more useful pursuits than simply being a "product" bought, sold, and manipulated by online advertisers (the actual "customers" of the giant social media platforms). I've been playing more music and writing prolifically to fill the void, and it's been awesome.

I had considered quitting Twitter as well as Facebook, but upon reflection, I decided that since I almost never use Twitter, except passively to auto-share blog post links, I could leave that alone. I did decrease my Twitter presence from three separate accounts (two for music and one for health and wellness coaching) to one aggregate account for all three (SEE IT HERE). I assumed that my Twitter use and engagement would remain essentially nil. But an interesting thing happened. Without Facebook to provide the pleasure centers in my brain with microdoses of norepinephrine and dopamine, I found myself turning to Twitter more frequently than in the past. Much like the person who quits drinking alcohol and increases coffee consumption, I had subliminally begun to substitute Twitter for Facebook.

Obviously, I had good insight on this phenomenon when it occurred, thanks to my ongoing clinical training in marriage and family therapy, and took remedial steps to prevent one vice substituting for another. I still have not deleted my one remaining Twitter account and probably won't, unless I find it starting to negatively impact my social and occupational functioning. One could argue that the fact that I have devoted an entire blog post to the topic of my social media addiction is solid evidence that I am still in the withdrawal phase, and that argument would have solid circumstantial evidence to back it up. However, a decent case could be made that I am simply exercising my creative writing abilities here, since I am not currently engaging in the active social media use that would normally suck this time period into its gaping black whole maw from which no creativity can ever escape.* Instead, I am rather furiously writing on the first topic that came to mind when I sat down for my usual hour or so of creative journaling today. Analogously, the person abstaining from alcohol may, for quite a long time, still think about booze and getting drunk. This is a symptom of withdrawal, but as far as the DSM-5 diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder is concerned, it is not necessary nor sufficient to diagnose the disorder (two or more diagnostic symptoms are required, one of them involving actual use or symptoms of dependency), and the subject is considered to be "in remission" as long as they are not actively using alcohol, nor suffering the negative effects of withdrawal (dependency) [SOURCE]. I am not arguing against the fair case that I am in remission from Facebook use. I am. And indeed, I am well aware of the risk of relapse.**

Interestingly, journaling is a therapeutic intervention used in the professional treatment of people with a variety of mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress and alcohol or drug abuse. As such, writing this post is a form of catharsis and treatment during my recovery from social media addiction.*** It acts as a medium to "externalize" thoughts and feelings relating to the problem so that they can be made explicit and tackled cooperatively by the client and the therapist (both of whom are personified in a single individual, in this case...ME!). Another intervention for addiction disorders is mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or exercise. And, in fact, meditation is what I am going to go do right now, before starting an afternoon of DEEP WORK on school stuff. Ciao!

*Note: Indeed, you are probably accessing this post by way of a social media platform, so in that sense I am passively engaging social media.

**Note: There are degrees of abstinence from social media, just as there are for chemical substances. Some people recovering from alcohol addiction and dependence can enter a tavern and resist the urge to drink with varying degrees of discomfort. Others must avoid bars and social situations with a pro-drinking demographic. Likewise, a social media addict can will themselves not to use social media while still maintaining an "active" social media account. I tried that for a while, but relapsed often. So, I finally had to "delete" my account. This is not as simple as it sounds. To do so, one must first "deactivate" the social media account. Once deactivated, the account remains in existence, albeit "offline," for 30 days before being "permanently" deleted. And any login to the account, purposeful or accidental, within that 30 days reactivates the account back to fully functional and online. That 30 day window is the "danger zone" for the recovering social mediaholic, during which the subject approaches all electronic devices with the "white knuckled" fear and anxiety of an addict (an exaggeration...but not a large one).

***Note: The DSM-5 does not currently recognize social media addiction as an official mental health disorder, but it soon may...and should! If a use addiction is globally diagnosed by its negative impact on social or occupational functioning, social media addiction would definitely qualify. Naysayers would argue that the fact that it is "social" media automatically implies an improvement in social interaction, but any survivor of social media bullying would probably discourage such a claim. Indeed, addictive gambling is a recognized DSM-5 disorder, but you would not argue (I hope) that gambling improves social functioning simply because it happens in a public space in the presence of other like-minded gamblers. A visit to any casino would quickly illustrate the social isolation experienced by gamblers, and in fact, the monofanatical scrolling through social media news by users has been equated to the repetitive pulling of slot machine levers by gamblers...surely, your next cat meme or baby picture is going to garner a ton of dopamine spiking likes and comments [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2].


One Month Warning Bell

One month from tonight, I am performing a rare solo acoustic music show as CACTUS JOE, my punk rock singer/songwriter alter ego. It should be an interesting performance for a peculiar reason...

I am about halfway through my clinical marriage and family therapy graduate program, and I'll start my internship in late May. As part of our training in this program, my cohort of fellow grad students has run a number of different role play scenarios, where we practice our therapeutic skills on each other in various pretend situations as both therapist and client. It's a great way to practice the theories, models, and techniques we are textbook learning in our MFT classes. This has had the indirect side effect of training me to transition more smoothly between perceived roles in my personal life, like my musical personas. As such, I feel like I am more readily able to completely dissociate from my everyday persona as a slightly above average Joe and become, whilst on stage, the lovable punk rock singer/songwriter that is CACTUS JOE.* That's not to say I am not a lovable average Joe too, but the identities are situationally specific. On stage, I am a narrowly defined performer persona who gets on stage and entertains. The hours of rehearsal, travel, and the business of music are not a part of CACTUS JOE's persona. As far as the audience is concerned, CACTUS JOE simply stepped out of a transdimensional wormhole fully prepped and ready to rock, thanks to all the behind-the-scenes hard work of his personal assistant (me).

I suppose when musicians become famous enough to have the business side of music handled by someone else, that's when the trouble starts...because then they have to be the rock star both on stage and off, and the off stage side of the persona is underdeveloped and susceptible to societally imposed templates. I don't expect to ever get that famous as a musician and I am not sure I want to. But if I do, I want to make sure my off stage rock star persona is well developed enough to stand alone, immune to social influence (the very nature of "punk rock" is unconventional non-conformity, as I see it). I think my clinical MFT training has given me the skills to "fake it till you make it," if that makes any kind of sense at all.

Anyway, that was a wordy way of getting to the main point of this post, and if you are still reading this, bless your heart! To wit, on Saturday May 12, I will literally and figuratively don my punk rocker hat and head over to the Common Ground coffee shoppe in Middleton WI to pound out 30 minutes or so of fun, catchy tunes, starting about 8:30 PM. This will be followed at 9 PM by a set of tunes performed by the acoustic duo incarnation of my band, GUPPY EFFECT, with me on bass and guitarist Stefan on guitar.

*Note: There is a fine line between alter egos and multiple personalities, and the similarities are many. The main difference is pathology...that is, if the switching between personalities happens in an unhealthy way that disrupts individual, social, or occupational functioning, it may be a mental disorder. However, if you are a professional actor or musician, totally healthy. This is a gross simplification of course...

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, punk rock, rock-n-roll, alter egos, mental health disorders


I'm Off the Face

My indefinite hiatus from Facebook, which is essentially a hiatus from social media (since that's the only SM platform I really use), started today, just after midnight when I got home from the Sunday open jam at Funks Pub.

When I got home from four hours of Agrace Hospice volunteer training this morning, I spent two hours practicing solo acoustic songs for my Cactus Joe solo set, which I'll be performing at a show on Saturday May 12 at the Common Ground coffee shoppe here in Middleton WI.

Would I have missed this valuable rehearsal time window today if I had been dicking around on Facebook? I don't know, but I suspect it would have at least been significantly truncated. Social media is, by design, addictive. Don't take my word for it...just watch the 60 Minutes segment on it from a few months ago. I am not going to post a link to it for you here...that would be too easy. Go do a Google search! I have a duty to encourage critical thinking in you lot, which means getting you to use the Giant Internet Brain you have right at your fingertips from time to time.

A part of me feels anxiety, also by design, that perhaps I'll miss something important on Facebook whilst I am off it. This is an irrational fear akin to the fear of getting fat that smokers have when they want to quit. In all the years I have used Facebook, NOTHING important has ever happened there. Ever. And that includes my own posts, promoting, say, my band GUPPY EFFECT's shows. I don't think social media has contributed in any way to additional headcount at the music venues and house concerts we play at. Direct communication works way better and is much more engaging.

Anyway, I'm still doing stuff. I am just not utilizing Facebook as a tool anymore when I do it. Other than the time lost to dicking around on social media, nothing much has really changed. Still, I will document any subjective positive or negative feelings or thoughts directly related to this indefinite hiatus over the next few days. Right now, I am going to meditate...and quite probably power nap...for a spell before I have to go to my evening class. I definitely have extra time on my hands today, which is nice, whether it is due to less social media use or not.