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!