Some Advice for the Ladies

I had a dating fail recently and for the first time in a while I dropped a girl off after the date and didn't spend the night when she asked me to.

Things were going well on our first two dates. But here's a tip.

On the third date, it is wise not to talk sh!t about your date to your date's close female friends. That sh!t will get back to him right quick, which it did.

Now, I could care less if someone talks sh!t about me. I am a secure and confident guy. But when you turn around and act all lovey dovey when your date is standing next to you, that just seems two timey. Inconsistency is a big turnoff for most guys.

Plus excessive clinginess and PDA at a live music concert is not cool.

Buddy Took a Crap on the Kitchen Floor

My dog Buddy has not dropped a deuce in the house for a long time. It’s been a few years.

During the night last night, he ended his impressive track record by pumping a gargantuan snicker on the kitchen floor.

Luckily, the faux dark wood laminate flooring of my kitchen is easy to clean.

This is perplexing, because I had let Buddy outside a bunch of times before I went to bed last night.

Normally, if he is in danger of an emergency, he will let me know by whimpering at me, even if I am asleep in bed.

He gave me no warning. Or if he did, I slept through it.

Last night Sherry was over and we made baked squash. We didn’t give any to Buddy, but this morning when he went outside to “take the Borwns to the Superbowl,” I could see what looked like stringy squash bits in his dung. So, somehow, that bandit got into some squash.

I thought perhaps he had eaten the squash skin and scraps that I threw into the compost pile, but I didn’t put those into the pile until the morning, after he had already blown colon on the floor. So the cause and effect is all wrong there. Plus, when I looked into the compost pile, the squash scraps and other compostables were still there, uneaten.

So, it’s not clear how he was able to ingest squash, but he apparently did, and I would guess it is responsible for the hyperactive gut.

I let Buddy out at lunch today, just in case. He was still runny, so I will have to keep an eye on him the next day or two.

Changes

I am not one to be reactionary, but after last week’s less than optimal GUPPY EFFECT show at Tower Lanes in Beaver Dam WI, I have started to assess my musical projects and think about changes for the future.

I read a blog post by Derek Sivers a while ago that resonated with me (No More Yes...). It basically said, when presented with an option to undertake something, there are only two alternatives. HELL YEAH or NO. In other words, there is no YES - doing something that just doesn’t feel that right even if it is perfectly doable. It's a way of disenfranchising mediocrity.

I decided not to play a couple gigs with the country band on January 9 and 10, because they are 3+ hours away in Minocqua WI and the idea of driving that far in the dead of winter on my birthday weekend did not elicit a HELL YEAH. There is a sub bass player who can do the gig in my stead, so I am not leaving the band “out in the cold,” no pun intended. I would have done the gig if they could not find a sub.

I wish the country band would perform more gigs locally to Madison WI, where all our friends are. We only ever seem to play up north, mostly in Minocqua, and with only four gigs a year, it is almost impossible to build band momentum and generate fan base. I don't know how much longer that can go on. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of motivation of the band to play locally, even though country is hot nowadays. How long do I wait for them to pick up the pace?

I am not feeling HELL YEAH with GUPPY EFFECT's current repertoire of songs. I need to cull that list down a lot and start adding more rocking material. That probably means putting GE on hiatus until I get the "product" I want. We used to play fun and interesting songs. Now the songs we play are kind of stale. I can't let the GE brand be associated with lackluster music performance and presentation.

Space Games (#nanowrimo #digiwrimo)

Chet peered intently at his LED screen as he sat in the control room inside the larger lobe of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P as the humans, thankfully, abbreviated it.

Chet hit the intercom button. “Biff, are you witnessing this shit?” he asked, then released the button. A moment later, the speaker crackled to life.

“I cannot believe this,” Biff said dramatically. “Are they seriously LANDING ON US?” Biff yelled the last three words, causing the intercom speaker to distort.

Chet hit the button again. “That’s what it looks like,” Chet replied. “A sight close to the thruster exhaust too, if you ask me…”

“For the love of Morg…I did not sign on for this,” Biff whined. “Hang on…I’m on my way up.”

Chet looked at the clock next to his screen console. About 6 Earth hours had passed since the small lander module the humans called Philae had ejected from the main body of the “mother ship” they called Rosetta, a puny and primitive spacecraft when compared with the advanced alien technology of Chet and Biff’s reconnaissance ship, encased within an organic crust of 67P’s asteroidal material. Apparently, the disguise had worked a little too well.

The control room door opened and Biff entered, shaking his head in exasperation and taking the seat next to Chet at the console.

Biff and Chet were the only two observers assigned to this quandrant of the Milky Way, tasked with observing the technological advancements of the humans, who were not far from achieving galactic citizenship, if they could stop killing each other for five minutes and focus on exploring their delightfully pleasant part of the universe. They were not allowed to interact with or attract the attention of the Earthlings, but they had not expected an encounter with a human spacecraft.

“They had an entire solar system full of space rocks to choose from, and they picked ours,” Biff said. “Do you think they are onto us?” Biff asked.

“No. Based on their communications, they are totally oblivious,” Chet replied. “I mean, if they are aware of us, they are keeping quiet about it, and they certainly aren’t capable of sneaking up on us. Our radiation signature is scrambled by cosmic radiation by the time it reaches Earth, indistinguishable from background noise.”

Biff chuckled and they both stared at the screen for a few moments in silence. The descent of the lander was painfully slow, but Chet understood the limits of the humans’ technology and computer speeds for navigating in three dimension. They had come a long way though, which Chet had to admit was surprising, given their penchant to use their technology to blow each other to smithereens.

The gravitational pull of the asteroid was negligible compared with earth, and the lander had a relative mass of about one metric gram, in the decimal units humans used. If 67P had any kind of atmosphere, the landing the humans were attempting with Philae would have been virtually impossible, as the probe would have no resistance against the slightest breeze.

“Hey,” Biff said, with a mischievous look at Chet. “You wanna fuck with them?”

“How?”

“Well, they don’t know we’re here, and it looks like they are putting that thing down right next to the thruster exhaust. Are you with me here?”

“Oh shit yes,” Chet said. He leaned toward the console and pressed some icons on the LED control panel. 67P shuddered slightly as the engines rumbled to life.

“Nothing too nuts,” Biff said. “Just fart on ‘em a little.”

“I think they are going for that flat spot right next to the vent,” Chet said.

“Just wait until Philae’s just about to touch…” Biff said.

They watched as the lander narrowed the distance between 67P and its landing gear. Just as the lander touched the surface, Chet hit a button on the console twice in rapid succession. The whump of plasma exhaust and resonated in the control room and simultaneously the tiny Philae sailed back up into space, away from the comet.

“Oh, that was a little too rough,” Chet said, sheepishly, making an apologetic face, but hiding a smirk beneath it.

“Do it again,” Biff said. “A little softer this time. And maybe knock it sideways a little.”

It took a couple of minutes for the miniscule lander to descend again in the low gravity. This time Chet hit the plasma exhaust when the lander was about a meter above the surface and the tiny cluster of metal and electronic instruments lurched sideways, coming to rest in the shadow of one of the cargo bay hangar awnings.

When it came to rest, the tiny probe ejected three harpoon tipped cables intended to attach the lander onto 67P’s surface, but the titanium spikes were no match for 67P’s protective outer hull. Constructed to appear like an ordinary space rock, the hull was fantastically indestructible, a necessity for the long distance travel of the research star ship. They had had their fair share of run ins with cosmic junk and space pirates, always coming through unscathed.

“Turn on the radio,” Chet instructed. “I want to hear how they reacted to that.”

Biff flicked on the long range antenna. “It’s going to be about an hour before we’ll hear their reaction. They haven’t gotten past relativity yet. I’ll bet they’ll be pissed that it landed in a shadow, where those solar panels will be useless.”

“Yeah, we can kick it out into the sunlight after a few hours, when their scientists are good and panic stricken. It’s fun to fuck with humans.”

#nanowrimo #digiwrimo

"You Cannot Unsee This"

In retrospect, the next few actions Joe took were not very well thought out.

He pulled his bike jersey awkwardly over his head to reveal his hairy chest and back. Dropping the jersey and it’s contents on the ground, he climbed the steps onto the platform and stepped under the stream of water pouring from the shower head. The coldness of the water startled him, but it felt great as it washed over him, carrying away some of the road grime from the day’s bike miles. He ran his hands over his head to help wash away the sweat and dust on his bald pate, and this movement soon morphed into a brief awkward dance that elicited applause from the women working the nearby beer stand.

After a minute, he left the shower platform and descended the steps, to be greeted at the bottom by high fives and compliments from his teammates on his impromptu theatrics.

He pulled his jersey back on and strolled toward the beer stand to get a drink. A bearded young man in “plain clothes” approached him.

“Hey, that was a nice little dance there,” the man said.

“Oh, thanks,” Joe replied, sheepishly. “I am not beneath a little RAGBRAI exhibitionism."

“So, my name is John and I am with the Des Moines Register,” the man, John, continued. “I was wondering if you’d give me permission to print the pictures of you I took up there on the RAGBRAI website?”

Later, Joe would ponder why he so quickly acquiesced to the release request, but it was probably the thrill of the moment and the hubris of being granted a little bit of local celebrity in the main newspaper that covered RAGBRAI events.

“Oh, yeah, no problem,” Joe said, his mind still speeding from the adrenal rush of the shower dance. “What do you need from me?”

“Well, if you could just spell your full name for me, that’s all I'd need,” John said.

“OK, it’s Joe…J, O…” Before he could finish spelling his first name, the loud hard rock band on the beer garden stage fired up a song, drowning his voice in saturated guitar distortion.

He started again, talking loudly to cut through the cacophony of the marginally out of tune instruments. “Joe. J, O, E…Leonard…L, E, O, N, A, R, D.”

“Where are you from?” John hollered over the din.

“Madison Wisconsin.”

***

When the team arrived in Westgate IA, Joe pulled up the RAGBRAI photos page on his smart phone and scrolled through to find the pictures John the reporter had taken.

“Jesus,” he said to Sherry, who was walking next to him from the RAGBRAI van. “Not just one but three pictures of me under that shower…and not pretty ones either.”

He held the phone up to Sherry so she could see one of the images.

"Oh my," Sherry said, making a long face.

His last poor decision was posting one of the images to his Facebook page, with the caption…”15 seconds of fame on RAGBRAI.”

A few minutes later, he saw that someone had commented on the post. It was Jason #1, with the quip, “Warning…you cannot unsee this.”

#nanowrimo

A Pile o' Bikes

Joe imagined he stood out like a sore thumb in the Cooler corner bar in Shell Rock. Having showered and changed into a clean t-shirt and shorts at Justin's house, he did not fit in with the scattered clusters of road weary RAGBRAI cyclists in their grime adorned spandex shorts, colorful bike jerseys, and various embellishments that trended toward popular cycling team memes. But the local resident patrons of the small Iowa "towny" bar wore blue jeans and t-shirts bearing logos themed toward such things as NASCAR and Harley Davidson. Without the accompaniment of members of his own team, the Crazy Birds, he felt out of place, but the gravitational pull of the local regulars was stronger and he sidled up the the bar next to some faintly blue haired older women.

He ordered a Budweiser "heavy" as the locals ironically referred to the non-light version of the beer brand. Joe smiled with amusement, as he glanced around the bar at the portlier patrons who clutched Bud "Light" cans, their beer bellies pushing the tensile limits of the tenuous cotton fabric of their t-shirts, stretching and contorting farm machinery and motorcycle logos as if they were viewed through a fish eye lens.

I Think We Should Just Be Friends

"I think we should just be friends," Kaitlin said. Biff felt a hot flash in his sternum almost at the same time those words left her mouth.

"For serious?" Biff asked.

"Yeah," Kaitlin said. "Look, it's not you...it's me."

"Really? You are going to throw the 'it's not you it's me' speech at me?" Biff asked. "I can totally respect your need to just be friends, if that's what you really want, but I really thought we were hitting it off good. I mean, it wasn't like you were 'the one,' or anything. But I mean, we had good times."

"I just think I am looking for something else," Kaitlin said. "I need to put some distance between us."

Biff nodded. "Well, I have no choice but to accept that, I guess. Why don't you take some time and just go radio silent, think things over."

"Radio silent?" Kaitlin queried.

"Yeah, you know, like no contact or communication for a fortnight or so. Then if you still feel the same way, we can do the whole friends thing."

"I would probably need at least a month," Katlin said.

"Seems excessive, but alright" Biff said. "I mean, there's no hard feelings really. I can get past it. But you gotta do what you gotta do."

***

"She gave you the 'it's not you it's me' speech?" Chet chuckled and shook his head, then took a sip of his latte. "What did you say?"

"What could I say?" Biff replied. "Whatever. It's fine. She and I were pretty different."

Chet didn't say anything, so Biff continued, "I liked her though. She wasn't my type, but I was embracing the novelty of that, you know what I mean? Like, I never dated a girl like that, so I kind of wanted to try it out for a while and get out of my comfort zone. I mean, for God's sake, she wore high heels as casual wear...who does that?"

"I tell you what...let's go down to the pub and get pissed, meet some chicks," Chet proposed.

"You know, that's not a bad idea," Biff replied. "And the fact that it's a rather compelling idea tells me that splitting with Kaitlin was probably smart. I can do better."

"Plenty of fish in the sea, my brother," Chet said.

November Novel Writing Month

As soon as Biff walked into the house after he got home from work, he could tell that Chet was agitated.

Chet was in the kitchen, preparing some kind of meal. He was moving at a frenetic pace, opening and closing cupboard doors, banging pots loudly as he removed them from their various hiding places in the kitchen.

"Woah, brother," Said Biff. "You in a hurry or something?"

"Oh, hey man," said Chet, seeming to notice his brother for the first time. "Dude, I am freaking out."

Chet set a medium sized pot on the galley kitchen counter and walked over to Biff, taking him by the shoulders with both hands. Chet's eyes were red. He let out a long sigh and Biff could smell beer on Chet's breath. Chet lowered his head and stared at the floor, still clutching Biff's shoulders. After a few seconds, he looked up an met Biff's gaze.

"I just found out November is National Novel Writing Month," Chet blurted. He let go of Biff's shoulders and stepped back, waiting for a reply.

"OK..." Biff said slowly. "Are you going to write a novel?"

"YES!" Chet cried, grabbing the hair on either side of his head with both hands. "Of course I am. But that's why I am freaking out. November is like half over...and I am just finding out about this now...man."

"Well, to be totally accurate, November is only about a third over," Biff said calmly. "It's only the eleventh."

Biff's face contorted in a look of puzzled disgust. "Semantics, brother! Semantics. I gotta get to work on this thing."

"Why are you dicking around in the kitchen then?" Biff asked. "Have at it."

"Because, dude, my mind is all over the place," Chet said. "All over the goddam place. I needed to do something to take my mind off it."

"Um, I think you need your mind on it, if you plan to actually do it."

"I know, I know," Chet agreed. "It's like there is a demon inside me, distracting me."

Chet paced the kitchen. Both brothers looked at the stove at the same time as the pot of boiling water there began to overflow onto the burner with a hissing noise.

"Oh, shit..." Chet said moving toward the stove. Biff stepped between Chet and the stove, placing a hand on his brother's chest to stop him.

"No, brother. I got this." Biff deftly grabbed the pot by its plastic handle and lifted it off the burner. When the boiling quelled, he placed it back on a cold burner and faced Chet.

"I will make dinner," Biff said. "You need to go into your study, turn on your computer and start typing. That novel isn't going to write itself."

"But..."

"No distractions," Biff interjected. "Go! Now!"

Biff could see from Chet's expression that he was struggling with resistance to his will power. But after a few seconds, Chet sighed and nodded.

"Yep, you're right, bro. I gotta do this. Everything else is procrastination."

Chet walked down the hall to his study, went in, and closed the door.

Work Brain vs. Play Brain

When I get done with work for the day, my brain is usually in an overly energized hyper state from tackling the day’s tasks at work and just being in a corporate workplace. It’s alien to my real personality, which is pretty laid back and fun.

People have noticed this about me, mostly when coworkers get to see me perform a rock show. I am like a totally different person to them, clowning around and totally un-serious. Just recently a friend of a friend said something to the effect that I appeared to be channeling something from a whole ‘nother place when I am on stage. Could be.

In any case, it usually takes me a bit of time to transition from work brain to play brain. That’s what I am doing right now, because I have an ice breaker date tonight after work with a cellist I met on an online dating site. These sites give me the creeps and I am not getting my hopes up (I am a little jaded).

But she seems nice enough, from the conversations we have had online. She enjoys and plays music and even likes indie horror movies.

I don’t want to go on any kind of date while still in work brain. Work brain is distracted and not easily amused. But play brain is.

So I am writing this blog post about a half hour before I leave for the day, to decompress, turn off work brain, and ramp up the throttle on play brain.

Two Strikes Against Obamacare Today - System Down Again

As a private contractor and free agent in the universe, I am reliant on the (Un)Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) for my health insurance coverage.

Health insurance is a pretty important thing in peoples’ lives, so I kind of have an expectation of high quality service.

The ACA web site is mediocre but navigable, for the most part. However, I was locked out of my account because I couldn’t remember my password and had too many failed login attempts.

The only way to get back in, so I can re-enroll for next year and change my options, according to the site, was to call a toll-free number.

So, I called. The first customer service representative asked for my Social Security number so he could find me in the system. Almost immediately, he reported to me that his system was “really slow.” He asked to put me on hold while he troubleshot the issue.

About three minutes later he came back on to tell me his system had fatally crashed and he would not be able to help me. He advised I call back and try with a new representative. I am not sure why he couldn’t just have transferred me to a new representative, but I said, “OK,” and called back.

The second customer service representative asked for my name and phone number in an attempt to locate me in the system. She too reported that she had to put me on hold for “two to three minutes.” I was in no hurry, so I said fine.

When she came back on the line, she reported that her system also was not functioning properly and that this seems to be a system-wide problem. In short, ACA's healthcare.gov portal was down.

She recommended I call back in a few hours. I will probably wait until tomorrow. It’s early in the process yet. Open enrollment is from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015, and today is only November 4 (Election Day…I voted!).

Obamacare has not thrilled me for the past nine months that I have been on it. It’s not affordable, in my opinion, at $342/month for limited HMO benefits. My provider, DeanCare, often bills me even though I am on a copay plan, claiming they do not cover the full cost of some procedures.

ACA has two strikes against them during this current interaction. I am going to give them 24 hours to pull their sh!t together and then give them a last chance to not strike out.

What do you think the odds are?

An Upwelling of Glee

I get a sense of glee when the time approaches for me to work on my art of music, as it does now. I have to spend the next 90 minutes or so generating “underwriting” for my art by pounding out the printed word for THE MAN (actually 60 of those minutes will be in a meeting). Then I will go home, eat, and let the dogs out, before heading over to Eddie’s house to work on EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE vocals harmonies, which are challenging but fulfilling.

I don’t have to be there until 7, so if all goes well, I will have a few minutes to refresh the tunes at my house before I cruise over there. He lives about 15 minutes away from me, close to the bike route I usually take when I bike commute to work. After a couple hours of that, I’ll go back to my Rock Cave and work on Traveling Wilburys songs some more, in anticipation of the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS Halloween show tomorrow, at which we will be emulating the costumery and music of the Wilburys.



Another day of “underwriting” lies between me and the Halloween show, but it will be a short day, because I cranked out some long hours of “underwriting” earlier in the week, thus allowing me to hit the road to Minocqua WI with some other members of the country band at a decent hour.

Why I Bought Gene Simmons' New Book

Gene Simmons has a new book out called “Me, Inc.” and I bought it on Amazon, leather-bound hardcover and all.

Sure, I could have waited a few months for the paperback version to come out. But that’d be a few months of NOT absorbing Gene Simmons’ philosophy of life and business.

Truth be told, I am not sure I even agree with Gene Simmons on most things philosophical. I find him to be a bit of an arrogant douche sometimes. But one cannot deny that he’s rich and successful at what he does, and he is in command of his own destiny. I don’t necessarily want to be that rich, but I’d like to be comfortable and be able to pursue my main passions of writing and music. So maybe he has some useful actionable advice I can incorporate into my life.

Honestly, I just like the title of this book. It is specifically about Gene Simmons, but it more generally could be about anyone with a free, entrepreneurial spirit. I consider myself a free agent in the universe, out to make my own fortune in the world. At present, I make my living by working a tolerable day job to pay my bills and underwrite my art. I live within my means, but I am still a wage slave, hired out to help make other people rich. I feel like I have a decent amount of freedom, but I am still dependent on someone else for my income, and that makes me a little nervous. I'd like to shift more of the responsibility for my livelihood onto me, and take responsibility for my success and failure, rather than have it ride on the whimsy of someone else.

So that's what I hope to get out of this book. I like Gene Simmons' band KISS, even if the man himself irritates me sometimes. I like reading non-fiction books by people I respect, even if I don't like them, because I am intent on writing a non-fiction book of my own (about how to be happy and feel good about working in corporate America) and learning something, even if it is that I don't agree with the thesis of what I am reading.

I am also a very open-minded person. I try not to have any expectations about this book by Simmons. Maybe it will surprise the hell out of me.

Bike Hell

Last night, I went to a 50 minute (not 2 hours, as previously reported) INDOOR spinning class with my pal, Danielle.

It was totally alien and repulsive to me. You had to bring your own bike, set it up on a fancy trainer with digital readouts and whatnot, then pedal along to a video displayed on the wall showing other people biking…OUTSIDE. There were all kinds of complexities to the trainers, and your stats were displayed up on the screen, overlaying the video. They had mediocre music playing and the class leader spent most of the time giving us a sales pitch about why we should spend $150/month to take our bikes to their facility and train.

Were I in the customer demographic for this place, the sales pitch might have been compelling. It was basically that doing the class thrice weekly would improve your power and performance for bike racing. You know…to be more like Lance Armstrong.

I am not a racer. In fact, I find bike racer type people to be arrogant dickwads a lot of the time, and I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have them as members. These are the people who, when you are out on a bike ride, race past you screaming “ON YOUR LEFT!” just inches from your left flank, even though they have an entire road width available to them. My first impulse is to punch them in the nut sack, but they fly by too fast for me to do that. Scares the sh!t out of me when they appear out of nowhere thinking they are entitled to the whole road, but mainly the thin strip I am riding on. It’s often a hazard in traffic too.

But this bike spinning class venue markets exclusively to this demographic. I would never in a million years pay money to spend any amount of time in a room with such douchebags. In fact, you’d have to pay me to do it. And a lot more than $150. Maybe I am being too harsh and generalizing too much. This is probably a case where a few bad apples give the whole group a bad reputation. But there are enough bad apples to deter me. I speculate that the racer types have Lance Armstrong Envy. Let’s face it…they are strong bikers…but they will never be Lance Armstrong strong, and that’s got to be frustrating. So they take it out on weaker bikers to make them feel better about themselves. Typical bully mentality, and I don’t subscribe to it.

I bike for fun and exercise. I don’t care if I increase my pedaling power by 10%. As long as I can handle most terrain and get from point A to point B, I’m good.

The class was free, offered to members of the Capital Brewery Bike Club in Madison, of which I am a member, and which does have a large proportion of douchy bikers (but also a lot of normal ones, who I ride with, which is why I joined). So they targeted their marketing appropriately, it is just that I was an outlier.

I can’t fault the bike gym for offering a free class to try to recruit people. I just can’t think of anything less enticing than dishing out discretionary money I don’t have to bike indoors in the winter time with people I mostly abhor. I have a bike trainer at home. It doesn’t have any electronics or digital readouts. But it works and I can hook my bike up to it for FREE. I’d rather watch Netflix while exercising than a team of bike jocks up on a screen tooling down actual roadways out in nature. (Note: Did you see what I did there? I said “tooling” in reference to bike jocks, making a subconscious reference for my readers that these chaps are complete tools).

It is surprising to me that other people have this kind of throwaway money to do a membership based class like this regularly. I guess the venue draws from Madison WI suburbs of Middleton and Fitchburg where a lot of “white flight” type higher income yuppies dwell. I went to a veterinarian in Fitchburg when I first moved to Madison, and their prices and marketing tactics were all aimed at wealthier “animals-are-people-too” types with oodles of discretionary income to throw around. I found a much more down to earth and economical vet soon thereafter.

REVIEW: The Driveway Thriftdwellers Wow Partygoers at Minocqua Brewing Co. on October 18, 2014

On Saturday October 18, I was at a private party at the Minocqua Brewing Company in Minocqua, WI. It was someone’s 30th anniversary party.

The musical guest was a Madison WI-based country rock band called DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, and they were quite impressive. They rolled out a variety of musical genres, from old school country to classic rock and Americana. There was some Merle Haggard and some Willie Nelson, some CCR and some Tom Petty. They even covered the Flying Burrito Brothers. They have a phenomenal pedal steel player, and all the musicians were top notch, synergizing well together. The songs were really tight and not too loud, so the party-goers could still hold conversations.

I was most impressed with the band’s renditions of Gram Parsons’ tunes, such as “Return of the Grievous Angel” and “Ooh Las Vegas.” Several of the band members sing and the vocal harmonies were great.

After their stage set, they came out into the audience and did an intimate up-close-and-personal acoustic set for the remaining guests at the party. It was excellent.

The band doesn't have a CD or online presence, not even videos, which is surprising. But they are excellent live performers and I think more people should hear them perform.

It is a five piece band with the following members:

Jon Knudson: Acoustic guitar and vocals
Ryan Knudson: Pedal steel and vocals
Joe Leonard: Bass guitar and vocals
Kyle Rightley: Electric guitar and vocals
Jon Storey: Drums

Their next show is on Halloween, Friday October 31, also at the Minocqua Brewing Company, where they will be hosting a Halloween party. Word on the streets is that they will be costuming up to emulate a popular band and will play an entire set of this "mystery band's" material.

It's free and open to the public. Check them out if you are in the area - it is well worth it. The venue has a number of fine microbrewed ales on tap to augment the country rock-n-roll experience.

The Uncomfortably Long Handshake

Chet attended the open jam night at Funks Pub in Fitchburg WI after a considerable hiatus. He had offered to broadcast a live stream on the Internet for the open jam hosts, even though they were fully capable of doing it. He used to perform at the jam with his band, PUPPY AFFECT, but his band mates had lost interest in the jam for whatever reason, and Chet's own interest had waned due to that. He liked to rock with his band more so than just guest jamming with the house band.

After he set up his laptop for the broadcast and connected the live mix from the sound guy's mixing board to it, he started the Ustream transmission and settled in to enjoy the music.

An older man Chet did not recognize approached him and extended a hand in greeting, as if he knew Chet. Chet had no idea who the guy was but he smiled and nodded and politely took the guy's hand. The guy gripped Chet's hand and Chet gripped back. The guy was saying something but Chet couldn't hear shit over the din of the band and he had his earplugs in. He decided to do what usually worked in these circumstances. He gave the guy his deer-in-headlights look of absolute bewilderment, nodded, and began to loosen his grip on the handshake, indicating it had gone on quite long enough.

Undeterred though, the strange man placed his other hand over Chet's and decided to take the handshake into the "uncomfortably long" zone, maintaining his grip and locking it in with the other hand.

Chet had one last parry to try to end the stalemate. He gave one more quick squeeze of the guy's hand and then loosened his grip almost immediately.

Still the man gripped, showing no signs of ending the handshake. He continued to move his lips, incomprehensibly to Chet.

"Well, this has no good ending," Chet thought to himself. He made a final decision to end things once and for all. He let his hand go completely limp. No resistance. As if the man's relentless clutch had squeezed the life right out of Chet's extremity.

The man still clutched even as Chet began to withdraw his now flaccid hand from the other man's. Finally the man let go and withdrew his arm. With a quick wave the man returned to his seat at the bar, leaving Chet with the creepy feeling that his hand had just been date raped by the other man's hand.

Family First

I keep getting emails from various job boards about how to land job interviews and to rock them.

But I don’t want a job interview, at least not right now. Setting aside that I have a decent contract job at least through the end of the year, I can’t start at a new job until after my 2.5 week Australia trip in late November. If I applied for one now, it would be premature. I would have to ask the new employer to front me some vacation time up front. Some employers are cool that way. But most aren’t, and job interviews are a lot of effort with minimal return. When the chips are down, then I will consider interviewing for new jobs. But they won’t be down until after the new year.

My Australia trip is with my entire extended family, mom, pops, sis, niece, nephew, and sis’s BF. My folks are getting older and who knows if they will be able to handle big trips like this for much longer. So this is an opportunity for some great family travel and bonding. Family always comes first, and definitely before a job.

Anyone who forgets this is losing his or her soul, if it is not gone already.

Hand Me Down Cars

On Saturday October 27, 2014, I boarded a “puddle jumper” jet airplane on the first leg of my one way flight to Akron OH, where my parents live. Over the summer, I had arranged with my mom to buy her 2008 Toyota Prius sometime in the early fall. That time had come.

Once the plane had taken off from the Madison WI airport and was up in the air, I knew I was in one of the safest places on the entire planet. On board a flying plane, you are safer from danger than you are even in your own house. This was evidenced the other day when I was cleaning out my gutters and my finger was stuck by one of the pointy screws that hold the downspout onto the gutter. It wasn’t a bad impaling, but it drew blood and gutters are not the cleanest things. I squeezed some blood out of the finger immediately to try to flush any microbes that might have entered the wound, and then I wished upon the Cosmos that my tetanus immunity was sufficient to handle whatever residual bacteria might have entered my bloodstream and went about my business.

Flying in a plane is incredibly more safe than driving a car, which is what I had to do on my return trip from Ohio to Wisconsin in my new used car, about nine hours of driving, mostly on Interstate highways. The drive back actually wasn’t too bad. I decided to come back on a Monday, to avoid weekend traffic around Chicago. Notwithstanding some morning delays getting away from Akron OH, because we had to wait an hour for the bank to open so my dad and I could sign the title over to me, I hit Chicago in the middle of the afternoon. Traffic was still heinous, as it always is in Chicago, and of course there was a highway detour, which I navigated fairly effortlessly to stay on I-80. I decided to continue on I-80 all the way to LaSalle IL and avoid driving through the middle of Chicago entirely. This added about a half hour to my total drive time, according to GPS, but that half hour could have been lost to Chicago traffic and construction anyway, so the peace of mind was well worth it.

There were a couple of douche nugget drivers in Chicago, but it wasn’t until I reached my town of residence, Madison WI, when the super sh!tty drivers appeared. Maybe it was just that I was at the end of a nine hour day of driving, or maybe it was that I was hitting Madison at rush hour, but the quality of drivers seemed to plummet while their dickheadishness skyrocketed. The most notable occurrence was when I was trying to merge right from a left lane, so I could take my exit for home. Some cockleash in a minivan was hovering in the right lane, giving me no room to get over. If I sped up, he sped up. If I slowed down, he slowed down. Finally, I glared at him and gave him the universal sign for “shit or get off the pot!” That an index finger pointed skyward while making circular rotations with the wrist. I think he finally got the hell out of my way, but what a dick.

My former car is also a Prius, a 2001 with over 214,000 miles on it, thanks to many a road trip and band gig. It has a few issues but still runs decent. I decided to donate my old Prius to some friends in Iowa who need a transitional second car for a while. This only caveat is that when the time comes for them to buy a new/used car, they have to sell the Prius. Whether they give me a cut of the sale is neither here nor there. If theey do great. But the value to me is avoiding the hassle of having to sell it. I wouldn’t make that much and I definitely got my money’s worth out of that car over the years since I got it from my mom in 2008. It is a great little car. 2001 was the first year they made Priuses (Prii?) and I think they wanted to make them indestructible for good customer satisfaction, so they would get a good reputation and people would continue to buy them. Must have worked, because my mom has subsequently bought two more Priuses, the 2008 that I just bought from her, and what I think is a 2013 or 2014 model that she currently drives. Maybe in eight to 10 years, I will buy her current Prius. I like this hand me down car thing, especially since the law allows for gifting between family members.

I dig the 2008 Prius I now drive. It has a more rounded design. Some of the newer Priuses have really sharp edges I don't like. That is just an aesthetic thing though. The ridge lines on the newer Priuses probably help with aerodynamics. Thus far, I have been getting about 45 mpg on the 2008 Prius. My dad said their new Prius is getting about 55, so they have clearly improved the efficiency somehow, ugly body design notwithstanding.

A Fortnight of AM Fasting

As fall ramps up and the ability to exercise outside regularly winds down, I start to think about strategies for weight control. I don’t like to exercise indoors, although I do it out of necessity in the coldest months, November – February, in Wisconsin.

I am not a dieter. I love to eat, and although I choose to eat healthy 80% of the time or more, because it makes me feel healthier and gives me more energy, I do not like to limit myself to any certain type of food. I use physical activity to offset the calories I consume, but this is not so easy in the colder months of the year.

To try to lose a few pounds, I am going to do a two week fitness challenge that involves avoiding food during the AM hours, including the morning between when I wake up and noon.

The so-called “experts” say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and shouldn’t be skipped. I say these “experts” are on the payroll of food manufacturers and cereal companies (this is not paranoia…think about the largest employers of food scientists and dieticians), or at the very least they regurgitate the same tired memes of the dietary industry, and they can be proven wrong via experimentation. So this fitness challenge is my experiment, with an N of 1. I am not making a case that this should work for everyone. It only needs to work for me.

I believe my AM fasting will result in significant weight loss by shortening the time in the day when calories can come into my body. If I eat breakfast, I am taking in calories all day from first thing in the morning until whenever I stop eating at night. The stomach digests what I take in and distributes the nutrients and calories to my body accordingly. When the stomach is empty again, it can be refilled, at lunch and dinner times. But the stomach is a finite space. It can’t be filled too full in one sitting. So if I leave it empty for a longer period of time, it is unlikely I will regain those calories by overeating later in the day at other meals. All I have to do is get through the morning, without temptation, and then I can eat normally after that.

But that’s just my hypothesis. The whole point of this challenge is to test it.

If I do not eat in the morning, I often get the “grumbellies” as I call them. Basically, my stomach growls, telling me it would like some food to digest, please!

However, if I drink water, this seems to keep the grumbellies at bay.

I am allowed to drink as much water as I want in the morning. I started my challenge today and I just drank a liter of water from my Nalgene bottle, about 15 minutes before noon, at which time I will eat the two turkey burgers I cooked up this morning. I am not feeling particularly hungry and that should be enough food for me. I also brought an apple, but I believe I will keep that as a snack, if I need one later in the afternoon.

I am going to allow myself to eat fruit in the morning if the grumbellies ever become too incapacitating, but I do not see this as an issue. The grumbellies usually result when I have eaten breakfast but have delayed lunch. It seems like after a good night’s sleep, my body can ride out the morning hours without a need for breakfast.

I usually have worse gastrointestinal distress if I eat breakfast but skip lunch. Breakfast seems to throttle up my digestive machinery and it has a hard time throttling back when no food arrives at the lunch hour. In these cases, I sometimes get quite painful gut cramps in the early afternoon. But this almost never happens if I skip breakfast and eat a decent lunch.

As part of this challenge, I am also going to cut out beer for the two weeks. I like beer, but to say that I need beer would be too close to admitting a dependencies on alcohol, which is too close to toying with the idea of alcoholism than I am comfortable with. Beer is also a significant source of calories, usually consumed in the late PM hours, before bed when I will be inactive. I realize not drinking beer confounds my overall experiment. If I lose weight, do I attribute it to the morning fasting or the abstinence from beer?

My answer is that it does not matter. Whatever the protocol, the goal is to lose weight. If I do, then the challenge is a success and if I want to tease out the effects of beer on my weight at a later date, I can run the trial again, without AM food but with PM beer. This is not a clinical trial. It’s a case study and the only outcome that matters is successful weight management in this particular individual, ME!

Tomato Salad It Is Then

It's tomato time at my CSA and I now have a pantload of them in my fridge. I will make short work of them tonight, by way of a large tomato salad. I will cut them all up, along with a CSA onion, and season it with a homemade pomegranate/acai/garlic vinaigrette dressing and some parmesan cheese on top. There is nothing better than an organic CSA tomato. Once you have tasted one, it is hard to buy store bought tomatoes anymore.

I got a box of peaches from the CSA today too. They are a bit unripe but in a few days it will be nothing but peaches...peaches for me.

Conversely, I could chop them up and marinate them in red wine. But that seems frivolous.

I Ate a Watermelon By Myself in Two Days

I ate a medium sized watermelon all by myself over the course of two days. I ate half of it each day. It was full of seeds but it was good. I had had it for a while. I got it from my CSA but hesitated to eat it because I live alone and had no one to share it with. That sounds sad but it isn't. It is just the reality of the situation. I guess I could have invited some friends over.

"Hey...who wants to come over and help me eat a watermelon?" I would have likely coupled it with grilling meat and meat by-products on my patio grill and then made something of a celebration of the melon sacrifice. But meat filled bellies would not have been as empty for the task of making watermelon disappear. However, there were no additional bellies to fill. Not for meat. Not for watermelon. That line of reasoning is neither here nor there. There was only me.

I didn't want to waste it but it wasn't going to keep forever. Because I waited so long, the watermelon was deliciously ripe. I had to eat it slowly because of the seeds. I spit them into the large bowl that contained the light syrupy drippings of the melon half. It was an exercise in discipline and patience. I savored it and because the fruity flesh was mostly water, I was able to maintain a steady pace of consumption.

Watermelon is rich in flavonoids. The mainstream media calls these antioxidants, but that is a misnomer based on an erroneous theory used to explain the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Oxidation is a healthy and natural part of human biochemistry, complemented by the equal and opposite process of reduction. Oxidation and reduction are in balance in a healthy system. An unhealthy system can have too much oxidation. But it can also have too much reduction. Fruits and vegetables do not prevent oxidation. Rather, they help to maintain the body's natural healthy balance between oxidation and reduction. They are like biological buffers, stabilizing the proper biochemistry for health. This biochemistry evolved over millions of years in our human ancestors who were in harmony with nature. Their diet shaped their biochemistry, which in turn adapted to available foods foraged from nature. These were - you guessed it - fruits and vegetables (as well as lean meats and nuts). That is why humans thrive on these "healthy" foods. They are healthy simply because they are most compatible with our genetics, sculpted slowly over the eons by our ancient ancestors. Healthy foods didn't just appear in grocery stores one day. They were always here. But humans began to eat unnatural processed and devitalized foods manufactured industrially and sometimes synthetically. Our genes don't recognize these modern foods and we metabolize them poorly, generating toxic breakdown products that weaken our biochemical balance system and sicken us over time. So we call foods that are closer to nature "healthy" and those that are not "junk food."

I put the rinds in my compost heap. Perhaps the raccoons and possums will have a go at them. Their genetics are predisposed to a foraged omnivory as well. Maybe the organic seeds will work their way into the richness of the soil and germinate in spring. Perhaps my compost heap will metamorphose into a watermelon patch, robust and fertile from the accumulated dregs and drippings of my kitchen waste.

That would be something.

Morning Run

When the clock radio sounded, it tore Chet brutally from a deep slumber and he was momentarily disoriented.

The clock showed 6:01 AM, a full hour before Chet was used to getting up. It took him a moment to remember why he had set it so early.

Good lord, Chet mumbled as he felt for the snooze button on the clock radio to silence the NPR news broadcast, loud even through the earplugs he wore at night. He didn’t fall back asleep, but slowly rolled out of the bed and shuffled down the hallway to the bathroom.

When he returned to the bedroom from relieving himself, he leaned down and gave his Boston terrier, Oscar, a quick rub on the belly. Oscar was balled up on his dog bed and didn’t budge in response to his master’s affection.

“I know…it’s too early,” Chet told Oscar. Chet pulled the earplugs from his ears and set them on the bedside table, then turned the volume knob on the clock radio down and laid back down on his bed for a few minutes, until the alarm went off again, much quieter this time.

He got up and pulled on the shorts that lay crumpled on the bedroom floor. He slid his feet into his slippers and pulled on the red hoodie that also lay on the floor, defense against the chill of the room.

As he walked down the hall, Chet saw his other dog, a lab mix named Brody, sprawled across the floor at the opening to the kitchen. Chet nudged Brody, who was old and completely deaf, with his foot to wake him.

Chet opened the fridge and pulled out the carafe of yesterday’s cold coffee, filling a large mug and putting it in the microwave to heat for a few minutes. He stepped into the living room and turned up the heat on the thermostat to 68. The ambient temperature read 64 on the LED screen.

The dogs watched Chet attentively has he pulled the Tupperware bin of dog food from the cupboard below and to the right of the sink. He put their food bowls on the counter and used the measuring cup to fill each of them with the usual amount of food – one and a half cups for Brody and three quarters of a cup for Oscar.

Into Brody’s food, Chet broke open a capsule of a glucosamine/chondroitin, and then placed a second capsule on the counter.

He used the sink sprayer to moisten the dog food and set the bowls down so the dogs could eat while Chet waited for the coffee to heat. Brody, as usual, started wolfing his food down as fast as he could. Oscar teased at his food delicately, seeming to assess the quality of each piece of food before crunching it up and swallowing it.

The microwave chimed to tell Chet the coffee was ready. He grabbed a handful of ice cubes from the freezer and put them into the hot black liquid, following that with some almond milk from the fridge “to take the edge off,” as he called it.

Chet opened another cupboard and took out two bottles, one of aspirin, the other of acetaminophen. He tapped two tablets from each bottle into the palm of his hand and used the coffee to wash them down, along with the glucosamine/chondroitin capsule he had set out earlier.

When the dogs had finished eating, Chet pulled open the sliding door and let them out into the fenced backyard by way of the patio.

“Wait, Oscar!” Chet commanded, directing the smaller dog to postpone urinating until he had reached the birch tree in the middle of the yard. Without guidance, Oscar tended to pee on the air conditioning unit next to the patio and Chet wanted to discourage that. Brody naturally preferred to wait until he was far from the patio to pee, but had a tendency to pee on his own front paws. When both dogs had peed and pooped, Chet called them back inside, using hand signals for deaf Brody.

“OK, guys,” Chet said. “I will see you in a bit.”

Chet opened the door to the garage, stepped through and pulled it shut behind him before pressing the garage door opener. He activated the home security system using the FOB on his keychain. He heard it chime and begin the 60 second countdown. Oscar began to bark because he had become conditioned to the sound of the chime and understood it meant someone was coming or going.

Chet climbed into his 2001 Prius and backed it out of the garage. In the driveway, he pressed the button on the remote control on the visor to close the garage door, then drove the mile or so to his friend’s house for their morning run.

Kiss Me, I'm the DD

I started a community service organization called "Kiss Me, I'm the DD."

Basically it involves giving people free rides home if they have had too much to drink, subject to my availability.

When I go out to party and have a good time, I don't drink if I am driving. It seems foolish to waste that circumstance when it could be harnessed to help other people out.

It's not a money making venture. In fact, I will probably spend money on it in gas and extra miles. But it has a lot of value to me and those who benefit from it.

The immediate benefit to others is relatively safe passage home without hassles. The long term benefit to me is meeting new people and making new friends.

The way it works is that when I am out with people, I hand out these square business cards I had made that say KISS ME, I'M THE DESIGNATED DRIVER on the front (side note...I am going to have t-shirts made with this on the front that ought to earn me oodles of game out at the bars) and have my title (Designated Driver), my smart phone number, and my FB messenger contact info on the back, along with a tagline that I will change up periodically (currently says, "Why risk it?").

I will only hand them out to people I choose and they will only be good for that night, for obvious logistical reasons.

It is NOT a free taxi service. It is a selective thing. I know that. I can't save the world and I don't want to. But I do want to help out friends and people I like.

This idea was partly born of public safety concerns and partly of my disdain for the draconian methods by which cops deter drunk driving (mainly fines and arrests, rather than prevention and transportation infrastructure).

I will probably limit it to friends around Madison WI and college kids in Oshkosh, where I often go to socialize, at first. The Oshkosh police will no doubt appreciate having their DUI paperwork reduced.

Time for Changes

It's time for changes.

The old formulas aren't working.

I want to abandon them and go in a different direction.

It's hard to break the mold. Molds are tough. Solid.

But they must be broken to make progress.

Stretching

Biff could feel the tendon in his left hip tightening up as the day went on. Sitting at a desk was not how he liked to spend his day.

He opened Outlook on his work computer and scheduled an hour in the building’s Comfort Room for 3 PM on his calendar, about 30 minutes hence.

He would have scheduled it for right now, except someone else had it blocked off for “pumping,” which Biff assumed was breast milk pumping, although he didn't know for sure, but what else would you be "pumping" in a locked private room?

Why can’t they mark these entries as private? Biff thought to himself.

He closed the Outlook Calendar and reached for his bike water bottle on the shelf above his desk, next to his saddle bag that contained his bike clothes for the commute home later.

He removed the red top of the bottle and drained all the water in several large gulps, without taking a breath. He pressed CTRL-ALT-DELETE on his computer keyboard, locking the monitor screen, and then arose from his desk chair and took a walk around the second floor of the building, where his cubicle was located.

My Friend Wrote a Book

My friend Elizabeth wrote a book called “Butterfly Valley.”

I have not read it, but perhaps I should. It sounds like a tale of adventure, love, and travel. I dig most of those things.

Reading the books of people I know is like seeing the bands of local musicians I know.

It is closer to home and thus I am more connected to it. It seems more intimate that way.

Elizabeth also has another book called "The Wish-Granting Jewel." Sounds intriguing.

I also need to get cracking on my own book. That must happen soon.

The Day's Stressors and the World's Douchebags

I am up at the cabin, reclining in an easy chair at the so-called "buttcrack of dawn."

No one else is awake yet and it is so peaceful. My mind is an empty cup, tranquil.

The wind and rain from last night's storms has gone. The lake looks placid and still through the cabin window's, cracked slightly open during the night to let in the cooling breeze from the storms while precluding the raindrops.

Even the creatures of the forest outside the cabin are taking it easy. It's remarkably still and quiet out there. I hear the occasional screech of the bald eagles that nest in the dead trees out on "the point."

This is a rare and transient place for my mind to be. Soon the day's stressors will begin to roll in like mist, slowly clouding this current clarity of vision.

Later, I will enter the broader world outside the peaceful safe haven of the cabin. Out there will be douchebags. But even as they annoy me and shatter my Zen, I will smile inwardly knowing that the cabin in the woods at dawn will always be an unsullied and safe place, immune to stressors and isolated from d-bags.

3 Tips for a Healthier Longer Life

1. Less is more when it comes to nutrition. Many foods, especially those with refined grain and sugar, are full of empty calories that provide energy but not nutrition. Focus on eating foods that are denser in nutrients per calorie, like vegetables, legumes, nuts, and lean meats (without the bun!). There is a reason these foods are associated with better health. When you eat nutrient dense foods, your body naturally compels you to eat less of them. That’s why vegetables don’t stimulate your appetite the way ice cream does. Your body knows it needs less of them to get nutrition. It will store the excess energy from ice cream as fat, unless you are a very active person and can burn off those empty calories.

2. Passive exercise can be an effective way to burn calories without taking a lot of your time or requiring expensive gym memberships. Walk and bicycle to places when they are nearby, instead of driving. You’ll save gas too. Play sports socially if you can. Work in the yard. Go dancing to some live music. When you are at work, walk to lunch if there is something close and you can spare the time (if not, see #1). Just move! The more you move around, the more calories you are burning without really trying. Of course, adding some active exercise into your life can’t hurt. Get up a little earlier and go for a walk or a run. Finding time to exercise is easier in the morning when you are fresh and there are fewer demands on your time. As the day goes on, time has a way of getting away from you due to other pressing matters and the demands that people make on you. The morning is often free from this.

3. Laugh.

Ghosts 2

I went for a bike ride around Shell Lake today, with my extended family. Since they ride rather slowly and I like to go fast, I rode out ahead of them and decided to take a right when I got to Round Lake Road. I rode the few hundred yards out to this tiny satellite lake of Shell Lake and stopped at the public boat launch to look out over the lake, where for a decade in the late 80s and early 90s, I used to go fly fishing for pan fish with my Uncle Allan, before he died in 1996.

I was surprisingly unsurprised when the apparition of Uncle Allan in his row boat appeared on the water a few hundred feet along the shore to my left. I could clearly make out the reeds on the edge of the shore through the semi-transparent silhouette of him and the boat. He held a fly rod, the reel resting in his lap, clutched in both hands, his posture characteristically still and serene, his back vertically straight as a board.

Allan's ghost turned and looked at me. He smiled and waved. I waved back. Just then, a sunfish struck his phantom popper resting in the water. Allan's head turned back to the rippling water and he hauled back on his fly rod in an attempt to set the hook on the fish, a split second too late.

His sunglasses were knocked askew as he struggled to regain his balance in the tiny boat, and the heavy green fly line curly-kewed toward him in a tangled, fishless mass.

He straightened his sunglasses, looked back at me with a resigned smile, and shrugged.

In death, as in life, he seemed to relish the randomness and unpredictability of the fishing experience, rather than the actual catching of fish. I knew he must have been in his vision of Heaven, sitting in a boat, on a small quiet pond, and going through the motions for all eternity.

I got back on my bike and rejoined my extended family on the main road, content in knowing I'd be in that boat with my Uncle Allan someday.

Oshkosh Police Denied Funding (From Me)

I have a rocky relationship with the Oshkosh WI traffic cops. Ever since they issued me a bogus parking ticket, I decided to deny them any further access to my money. This past weekend was no exception.

My friends and I walked downtown when we went out in Oshkosh to have some fun. Our cars remained parked safely on private property, untouchable by the Oshkosh cop shop and the charlatans that oversee it. Denied!

I have asked the police chief, mayor, and city council to reign in the aggressive traffic cops in Oshkosh, and until they do, all funding of their coffers from me has been cut off. However, I do plan to contribute to removing the incumbent politicians responsible for the sad state of Oshkosh traffic enforcement and I encourage all my Oshkosh brothers and sisters to vote against the incumbency.

The chief, mayor, and city council all need a hiatus of a few months or years to think about their behavior and how they can better serve Oshkosh motorists, especially tourists who are deterred by the cops' draconian tactics.

The Road Stank

The last weekend of May, 2014, I had a rock-n-roll reunion in Ames, Iowa, with my college band of 20 years ago, SINEMA.

It was a very awesome time, as evidence by the ROAD STANK.

What's the road stank?

Glad you asked.

The Friday before my road trip out to Ames from Cambridge, WI, I bike commuted to work. So when I got home on Friday night, I took a nice long shower and cleaned myself up pretty good.

I had to leave pretty early on Saturday morning, in order to make it out to Ames by noon so that the band could have a dress rehearsal of the set of songs we had been learning on our own up until then (truth be told, I crammed most of them the week before the gig, but don't tell).

I decided not to shower on Saturday morning, reasoning that I had showered after my bike commute home the night before and that I would be driving five hours in a car. No reason to be spiffy clean just to drive in a car by myself.

It wasn't terribly hot that morning, so I drove with the windows partly down instead of running the AC. But it got progressively warmer as the day advanced, so I did perspire a little bit.

When I arrived in Ames, the band was hankering to go out to lunch at an awesome pizza joint that I always enjoy when I am there. So we immediately jumped in my buddy Bryon's minivan and drove to eat. It was me, the drummer Dave, Bryon, and his wife Rachel.

When we got back from lunch, it was time for dress rehearsal of the SINEMA set. That went well and when we felt we had the songs at 80% or better, we took a break. Bryon and Dave decided to take showers before the rock show that night, but I again reasoned that I would be getting sweaty from the rocking, so there was no point to waste a shower on me for the short duration of time that I would be clean. I did change my shirt though. When I did, I realized I had only brought two t-shirts in my road trip bag, the one I was wearing and a spare I had planned to wear the following day. I had planned to pack more t-shirts, but I guess I forgot.

We rocked the show at a venue called THE BAR, and due to my energetic performance and the frequent wearing of head gear, I sweated a lot. After the show, I took off my sweat soaked t-shirt and put on a polyester long sleeve shirt that I had in reserve in my props case, a shirt I sometimes wore during shows.

The polyester had good wicking action and I think it helped me to cool down for the after bar we went to at some peoples' house. When we finally went back to Bryon's to go to bed, I changed into the t-shirt I had driven out to Ames in. It was the least soiled of my reduced wardrobe. I slept in it.

The next morning, I kept wearing that shirt when we went out to breakfast. The day before, we had decided that I would drive Dave the drummer to the Des Moines airport on my way back to Wisconsin via North Liberty IA, where I was going to visit a friend. So after breakfast, we had to load the car and hit the road.

Sunday was warmer than Saturday, but I still preferred to drive with the windows down, rather than run the AC. By the time I got to my buddy Brian's house in North Liberty IA, I was feeling pretty grimy and I could start to smell the road stank on me.

Brian and his wife Molly took me to a place near them for dinner before I chugged on to Madison to perform at the Funk's Open Jam that night, with my current band GUPPY EFFECT. I don't think they noticed my growing stank.

On the drive back to Madison, the woman I had been seeing for a few weeks called me to dump me. It was a bit of a surprise, but in retrospect, due to all my gigs and getting ready to move to Madison, I had not been as available to her as I should have been. Still, it was regrettable. She is a great girl. I guess she just didn't "get" me. It's too bad she waited until Sunday to let me know. On Saturday night, at the after bar, a cute girl took a fancy to me, and I could have acted on it but for the fact that I was not technically single then. I know my ex meant well. She thought she was doing me a favor by not distracting me with a breakup before my important rock show. Double bummer.

I drove through some really severe thunderstorms on my way back to Madison from North Liberty, and when I arrived at Funk's, it was pouring. I dashed into the bar wihout getting too soaked, and was glad for the cooling rain that had reduced my road stank a little bit.

Later that night, when I got home to Cambridge, I was too exhausted to shower. It was a satisfying fatigue of non stop rocking and fun, but I just needed to crawl into bed and sleep, road stank or no. I showered the next morning, finally cleaning 48 hours of accumulated road stank off my body.

Parking Lot

Normally when I car commute to work after 8 AM, the Beltline Highway in Madison WI is fairly uncongested with other wage slaves in their vehicles, but not today. It was like a parking lot most of the way across town from east to west. To make matters worse, there was no apparent reason for it. I didn't even see any particularly imbecilic drivers or tail gaters. There was one douchy tail gater but he wasn't causing any trouble as far as I could tell. Tail gaters are weird. They seem to think that their speed is inversely proportional to the distance they are from the bumper of the guy in front even though that hypothesis is disproven every single time it is tested.

Grading Obamacare

The mainstream corporate media have done a poor job of investigating and reporting on the realities of Obamacare. How easy is it to get? How much does it cost? Can you keep your doctor?

It's not surprising that they obfuscate. They are underwritten by corporate advertisers, including the private health insurance industry, for whom Obacare has been a goldmine. Who wouldn't want the government to mandate that everyone become their customer? That's why you don't hear the private health insurance lobby decrying Obamacare.

I decided to find out for myself what Obamacare is all about. I enrolled. My findings are not that great.

As far as I can tell, the only thing Obamacare does is mandate that you become a customer of a private health insurance company or pay a penalty. There's no real cost savings. You'll probably actually pay more. Enrolling was cumbersome, which had nothing to do with the healthcare.gov web site.

Here's what I found as a healthy, middle aged male, making a middle class income (approximately $60K per year the past two years, though probably less this year).

ENROLLING

Grade: D

You can be rejected from Obamacare for a lot of dumb reasons. If you recently left a job, as I did, and your job offers COBRA coverage, Obamacare won't let you sign up, even if your former employer's COBRA coverage is exorbitantly expensive. My former employer offered a COBRA plan, but it was unaffordable on my self-employed income. So I basically had to fib on the enrollment web site. They asked, "Does my former employer offer COBRA coverage that I am eligible for?" I rationalized my no answer on economic grounds. My bank account makes me ineligible for it.

When I finally gave the right enough answers to enroll in a plan and pay the first month's premium, I got no communication from the insurance company to let me know I was in their system. I didn't hear anything for a couple of weeks and finally called them, to be told I was in the system, but I had not been fully processed yet. On hold and transferred to several people, I determined this system was worse than what I had before with my employer's insurance.

AFFORDABLE?

Grade: D

I will be paying $342/month for the cheapest HMO plan I could find in my area that has fixed copays for visiting my primary care physician and getting prescriptions. That's more than what I was paying on my employer's plan, because on that plan I was only paying half, and my employer was paying the other half. I live in Wisconsin, and thanks to Scott Walker's rejection of federal ACA dollars, there are no offsets. We in Wisconsin will pay full price for our insurance.

I also got no dental or vision with this plan. Vision wasn't even available and if I wanted to buy a separate dental plan, it would not cover my geographic area. Weak.

In addition, there's a donut hole for the poor. Scott Walker lowered the income eligibility for Badgercare (Medicaid in WI) to 100% of the poverty line (it had been 200%) to make his conservative budget look better. However, Obamacare rejects anyone making 139% of the poverty line or below, saying they must take Medicare. That means those making between 100% and 139% of the poverty line get...wait for it...NOTHING. I would probably give ACA an F grade for affordability if I fell in that donut hole.

KEEPING YOUR DOCTOR AND INSURANCE PLAN

Grade: F

In theory, I could have kept my employer plan and thus my doctor. But first I would have had to donate my arm and leg, because that's how much more I would be paying to do so, either via COBRA or Obamacare.

"You can keep your existing provider. Period." What Obama did not say was that it would bankrupt you to do so. It's a lie of omission.

PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

Grade: N/A

I can't actually speak to this because I do not have any pre-existing conditions. However, during the enrollment process there were a lot of factors that could disqualify people.

DISENFRANCHISE THE CHARLATANS

What can you do?

Disenfranchise the system.

Eat healthy. Exercise. Don't smoke. These things can go a long way toward minimizing your interactions with and the cost of obtaining healthcare. Sure, you'll still probably get sick now and then, but if you lead a healthy lifestyle, you are statistically going to prevent a lot of health problems throughout your life, and that means less money in the pockets of the corporate politicians and private health insurance charlatans.

I have been exercising daily in an effort to minimize the amount of money I pay to insurance companies and hospitals. You should too.

Value as Currency

I wish that the currency in the world was value rather than money. I think people have a lot of value to contribute to the world that is not easily convertible to cash value. I would gladly come into the recording studio and play bass on songs for 10 to 12 hours per day. I have been doing that this weekend as I record songs with the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS. I think the value of my efforts and the resulting songs is quite high, even though there is no monetary compensation. It is possible this effort will translate into cash value in time. The intellectual property, once created, appreciates in value over time because the songs can be used to promote the band's music to acquire paid live gigs and the studio quality of the recordings means they could be used in music licensing applications and the like, maybe even getting picked up by a country artist or singer/songwriter, with subsequent royalties. In most of the latter instances though, the studio musicians don't get a cut of royalties unless they were involved in song writing. So my current efforts are pro bono, but they have high potential value. I simply have to bend the cosmos around to the direction of converting value to money.

Centrism

What if humans really are at the center of the universe? I don't ask this question for any religious reason, but rather for logical ones.

When we look out at the universe in any direction, we see that it is expanding away from us at about the same speed all over the place. We also know that in our viscinity of the cosmos, the laws of physics are remarkably consistent and stable.

But what if this is not true everywhere? What if the universe is an expanding continuum and as you get closer the the edges, the laws of physics break down or become increasingly bizarre and inhospitable to stability?

Sure, when we look out toward the edges of the cosmos with telescopes, the space there appears to be similarly stable as it is here. But the light from there is billions of years old and way back then those parts of the cosmos may have fallen in the stability zone, and that's how we see it from our spot still in the stability zone. But in our "now," those parts of the cosmos might be gone or at least so unstable that they don't transmit light or energy as we know it and are thus functionally out of sight.

Maybe the only reason our part of the cosmos is still around is because it resides near a sort of equilibrium point, or center, in however many dimensions are needed to create an expanding cosmos like ours. I am not saying the earth is the center of the cosmos, just that on a grand scale maybe it resides in or near a stable center of an expanding continuum of instability.

We have only been observing the cosmos at a deep level for a negligible amount of cosmological time. The light and energy reaching us during that time is still racing through a very stable part of a massively huge beyond all comprehension cosmos.

Just a thought.

Obamacare Donut Hole Exposed

I have been going through the process of obtaining affordable healthcare via Obamacare. The most affordable plan I could get that met my needs was $342/month, causing me to re-brand Obamacare as "the Unaffordable Care Act." Actually, I can afford it with my current income level, but being self-employed, there may come a time when Obamacare coverage begins to deplete my coffers. As of now, it will be about 10% of my estimated income for 2014 if everything goes to plan (i.e., I stay more or less gainfully employed by others for about 10 months out of the year, which is highly optimistic, though doable).

My buddy, Todd, works in customer service at Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, enrolling people in Obamacare. He guided me through the online process of enrolling, selecting a plan, and paying my first month's premium. I signed up for a Deancare plan in Madison WI, and it is supposed to go into effect on April 1, though this conflicts with the ACA site information, which said it should start May 1, since I enrolled after the 15th of the month (March). I have a printout that says April 1 though, so that is what I am going for.

As I was going through the process, Todd showed me the blatant donut hole in the ACA coverage for people in Wisconsin. ACA rejects anyone with an income below 139% of the poverty line, and says they must go on Medicaid (Badgercare in WI). Last year, Governor Scott Walker and the WI Republicans changed the Badgercare eligibility in WI to be 100% of poverty (it had previously been 200% of poverty). That means people with an income of between 100% and 139% of the poverty line cannot get health insurance coverage from anywhere. They are completely disenfranchised unless they lie about their income or maybe even quit a job so they fall below the poverty line.

I know a lot of self employed musicians in Madison who are able to make a sustainable living, but I imagine a few of these people may fall in the donut hole. That is not good.

The mainstream media is likely to ignore this serious lapse in healthcare coverage in WI, with the exception of maybe NPR/WPR, since they are beholden to corporate America and don't really care about the poor and needy. The people in the donut hole will be forced into emergency rooms when they need care and since they will be unable to pay the high medical bills, the premiums of insured people will go up as doctors and hospitals raise their fees to cover the losses.

So keep this in mind if you care about the poor and next time there is an election, vote the bums out.

As for the Obamacare enrollment process in general, it is not terribly hard to do online if you are web savvy. However, answer the questions carefully, because there are some things that may disqualify you. If you tell them you have the option for COBRA coverage from an employer, they will boot you out, even if the COBRA coverage is too expensive and not what you need. So I recommend fibbing about COBRA availability if it will reject your Obamacare eligibility.

Once you select a plan, you have to pay the provider's first month premium to be officially enrolled. However, there is no communication between the ACA site and the provider's site, other than an ID number that ACA gives you, which you then type into the provider's payment page. Presumably, when you have successfully paid the premium, the provider sends a report to ACA's database with a record that the account with your ID number has been successfully enrolled in Obamacare. But there is no confirmation of this, so it leaves you highly insecure that everything has gone to plan.

Deancare did accept my debit card payment, so as far as I know they have to cover me. It is illegal if they don't. The only concern is whether ACA knows I have coverage, so they do not hit me with the tax penalty for not enrolling. Certainly that penalty of $95 for the year is cheaper than the $4,000+ for the year of being covered, even if you never go to the doctor. I would almost say not being covered is a better bet for young and healthy people, especially those with low income.

I was not able to find a decent dental or vision plan so I just passed on those.

Oshkosh Police Encourage Drunk Driving and Deter Tourism to Make a Buck

I was the designated driver last night. I didn't drink so my friends could. In exchange for that good deed, I got a parking ticket.

I was visiting Oshkosh as an out of towner, so I did not know about the onerous and exploitative tactics of the Oshkosh police, who encourage drunk driving and penalize out of town visitors who don't know about the traffic laws.

The city has an ordinance that you cannot park your car on the downtown streets from 2 AM to 6 AM, or you get a ticket. This is purely so the Oshkosh police can make money, but it encourages drunk driving.

The bars close at 2 AM. If you have a car parked downtown, you either have to drive it to move it, or get a ticket. $15 might not seem like a lot to most people, but it can be a huge burden to a poor college student.

At 2 AM, the cops swarm the streets to target people who are forced to drive their cars to avoid getting a parking ticket, looking for DUIs. I am sure some of these people have had too many and should not drive, but the parking laws encourage them to do so anyway, especially poor college students.

As I was pulling out of my first parking spot, a cop aggressively zoomed up and stopped a couple of car lengths behind where I was parked, presumably to see if I made any rookie mistakes so he could pull me over in hopes of nailing me with a DUI. I kind of wanted him to pull me over, since I was sober, and maybe while he was distracted by me, some other people could avoid the harassment and get home. But I signaled my intent to pull out and did everything right. Douche denied.

Anyway, my friends wanted to go to a private party after hours downtown. So I parked near the location where there was no signage saying parking was restricted. We stayed at the party for a little while, and sure enough, when we left, I had a ticket. Punished for being responsible.

I am sure there are people who drink too much and decide taking a cab is a better idea than driving their cars home after the bars close. Those people also get punished for their civil act of kindness by getting a ticket.

So I am just advertising this to the world. Be warned about the draconian Oshkosh cops when you visit that otherwise very nice town. Also be warned that the police encourage drunken driving after the bars close by restricting parking downtown after 2 AM. So the streets are less safe.

You can't win for losing. You are damned if you do (DUI if you don't have a DD) and damned if you don't (leave your car safely parked and take a cab). If they really wanted to encourage people to drive responsibly, they would encourage after hours parking and offer to drive people home if they could not afford a cab.

Someone is going to respond to this post with some rationale that justifies Oshkosh police behavior. Fine. It's a free marketplace for discussion. I am just telling you what I observed.

Daily Digest

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SPACE MONKEY HEAD

I love that there is a Monkey Head in space, even if it is referring to a huge nebular cloud that scientists say is a star factory, which in and of itself is awesome.

TERROR TUNNEL

Israel says it has discovered an underground tunnel used by Palestinians to infiltrate the Jewish state. Maybe the Palestinians were just using it to access stuff like food, which Israel often blocks from Gaza. I think Israel needs fewer terror tunnels and more love tunnels. Are you with me?

THE OCEAN IS BIG

The search for the missing Malaysian 777 has yielded a lot of pictures of amorphous looking blobs floating in the Indian Ocean. Then when they look again...nada. Someone just find the plane, OK?

SNAKES

Speaking of planes (sorry, I could not resist), check out some of the world's biggest and/or deadliest snakes.

Curious Things...

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OBAMACARE HEADACHES

I am not really digging Obamacare, which I am shortly going to be applying for. It's too damn complicated. But, maybe this was Obama's diabolical plan all along. If it gets too cumbersome and everyone hates on it, then liberals will push for a simpler and cheaper single-payer system that everyone just pays into via a healthcare tax (Note to less astute readers: That system exists now and it is called Medicare and we are all already paying into it via payroll taxes - 1.45% of every single paycheck we earn - but only those over 65 are benefitting from it...just saying.).

ASIAN CARP ARE UGLY

These fish are invasive and destructive in rivers and scientists say if they get into the Great Lakes, it will be bad. My B.S. in biology in no way qualifies me to be an expert on this, but I do remember learning that the Great Lakes are oligotrophic, which means they are low in plankton and algae. So maybe these carp don't even want to go into the Great Lakes because they will starve. But, knowing humans, they will probably get into the Great Lakes and wreak havoc, no matter how hard we try to stop them. Electric fences? For real?

RUSSIAN BANKS KIBOSHED

So we know Obama has the power of the pen to kill banks when he wants to, anywhere in the world, kind of like "the pen is mightier than the drone." He used this power to jab Putin in the financial rib cage recently. But why didn't he kill the American banks when they fleeced our economy? Enough said.

ZEN STORIES

I came across this cool sampling of zen stories on StumbleUpon. Quite enjoyable.

Curious Things...

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THAT COULD BE ANYTHING

I don't know...I am looking at this satellite image of what experts think is floating wreckage from the missing Malaysian plane (aka "possible object"), and I am thinking, "What are they seeing that I am not?" This could be anything. A school of fish? A whale? just the playful dappling of sunlight on the ocean waves? If this is the best lead, I am worried. Your thoughts?

HOW IS OBAMACARE WORKING?

You don't hear health insurance companies complaining much about Obamacare, and why would you? These companies basically got 5 million new customers by government mandate. Now these insurers are saying they are going to increase premiums. That would be troubling, if true. But what's to stop them? I don't know what to believe anymore. All I know is I am probably going to hook up some Obamacare here pretty soon and I don't want to lose an arm and a leg in the process. That kind of defeats the purpose.

A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING

Scientists are now offering "clear and accessible evidence" for climate change, which proves only one thing. They do not understand the average American's mind. Reason does not appeal to people, and emotional beliefs trump rational thought every time. What they need to do is appeal to peoples' vanity or values, and convince people that climate change will make them fat or give them wrinkles or endanger their children. Oh, wait...that last one is actually true.

Your Daily Digest of Things I Think Are Cool

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WHEW, THAT WAS CLOSE!

In 2012, a huge solar blast came this close (*holds thumb and index finger almost touching) to annihilating the planet. Well, that's an exaggeration. It came close to knocking out a bunch of Internet stuff though and for some people that is almost worse. Why the scientists waited two years to tell us is anybody's guess.

BIG BANG CONFIRMED

Scientists say they have confirmed the Big Bang based on some new evidence, but it is still virtually incomprehensible to the average person. So, I guess we just...have faith in them?

GREEN FLASH OF SUNSET

The green flash that occurs just as the sun disappears below the horizon is real. A photographer in Australia managed to capture it on film. Being color blind, I will never be lucky enough to see one of these in any way other than a picture, so thanks Aussie guy.

WHERE IS THAT @#$%-ING PLANE?

The whereabouts of the missing Malaysian plane is a quandary. Australia thinks they might have a clue, but who hasn't had some sort of clue the past week or so. I hope they find the thing soon. This distraction is allowing politicians to do all manner of bad things while no one is watching them. One might almost think...well, no, never mind. That's a conspiracy theory.