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?