Severe Yoga!
September 10th, 2011

Man it has been a while since I posted a blog entry….

But I have exciting news! This Sunday I started a 28 day Ashtanga Vinyasa It’s Yoga Teacher Training, held at Asta Yoga, a studio I started going to in January.

This might be somewhat shocking to many people – “But Severe, aren’t you like, all about the Bikram? Well, yes I am, but I’m not sure teaching Bikram is really the right path for me. First of all it is ridiculously expensive (as in, ~11K). There’s no flexibility in how to study it. You have to go to a training, live in the expensive hotel room for 5 weeks, give up everything, and succumb to the cult of Bikram. I’m not necessarily opposed to the cult of Bikram, but I do feel that some Bikram yoga teachers don’t get it – they think the only way to teach is to be a militant screamer. While that approach does work in some ways, I feel it overlooks the heart of the practice, which is to shut up, listen, and just do the yoga and let the benefits manifest.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant against Bikram – I do love Bikram. But the Ashtanga Vinyasa series appeals to me in a lot of ways, especially in the flexibility of structuring a class. Also, I’m able to work a few hours a day at the jobby-job (Sometimes onsite, sometimes from home) in addition to doing the program, which is awesome, AND it’s considerably more affordable. Originally I was going to take the training in October, but was told to do September b/c they might not be offering October. Once I got the okay from work, I was signed up and ready to go.

That’s not to say it’s easy – it’s actually quite exhausting doing some work, taking at least one class a day, being onsite for the daily “Circle”, and then trying to get another practice in (whether at the studio or at home). But I am feeling great, strong, and not even all that sore.

There are some growing pains – I am learning about my body and what years of bass playing and computers have done to it. I’m noticing things that I overlooked for quite some time. I never knew that my left pinky finger clawed up when I transitioned into Downward Dog (Ardho Mukhva Svanasana – yes, I have to learn some Sanskrit). I’d been standing w. my feet too close together all this time as well. There’s more too.

Not everyone who takes this training ends up being a yoga teacher – in fact, I’d guess about half don’t. So do I want to be a Yoga Teacher? I do. Is it my next career path? Maybe not. I sort of feel like I still have a bit to go in my practice before I’m ready to teach – at the same time, I know the best way to get better at something is to just do it – regularly and with intention. So if I want to help others find yoga and what it can do for you, the best way to do that is to start sooner rather then later. We’ll just have to see where the cards fall. I’m not ready to quit my job – I still like my job actually. But if this can be the start of a healthier and more aware Severe, then that can only be a good thing, right?

Another reason I’m doing it is I need a challenge. Every few years I like to take myself out of my comfort zone (by going to musick school, or Australia, or moving across the country, etc). It’s been a while since I’ve had to do that. I’ve been working this job for 3.5 years, living in this house for just about as long, and while I like routine, it’s nice to break it up and push myself so I can come out the other side stronger and more confident.

The big thing is though, that doing this now feels right. I feel that this is exactly what I should be doing right now. In some ways it’s really good that I’m doing this so early in my practice – I can correct those bad habits that some people might continue doing for years. And it’s really opening my eyes/ears/chakras to the fact that the physical practice of yoga is really just a proponent of the lifestyle. It seems like a pool so big you can’t measure it, and the more I keep swimming/diving/exploring, the more I realize that this is just the beginning. I’m not sure what it is the beginning of just yet – and maybe I won’t find out. But as I’ve heard in many different situations, It’s the journey, not the destination.

Wormwood in My Backyard
June 19th, 2011

I have not blogged about my backyard in quite some time. Most of this is because I actually haven’t been doing anything with it recently. Honestly, I put a lot of time, effort, and money into last years attempt and didn’t feel it was quite worth it. However, I did learn quite a lot about how to garden more effectively, and this year I think I’m going to focus on less plants but hopefully get more useable food. One of my big problems last year is that I started everything at the same time – so I would go weeks without anything to harvest and then suddenly WHAMMO! I have 3 huge kale plants, 6 heads of lettuce, 2 giant zucchinis, and more string beans then I could eat in a week.

A lot of the last rounds of plants didn’t get picked until very recently, so I’m going to post some pictures of what happens when you don’t pick kale, lettuce, beets, etc. for an extended period of time in day or so.

However, I did want to show you what happened to one of my wormwood plants. These started as incredibly tiny seeds, and I kind of bought them on a whim – however one of the plants did very well. Keep in mind I probably haven’t watered this thing in 9 or 10 months:

It's next to a water pitcher for size reference

Yes, that entire plant is wormwood. Holy shit, right? Well, it seems like I HAVE to make absinthe now – although it only calls for an oz and a half of wormwood. So, if anyone out there reading this wants me to mail them some wormwood leaves, please drop me a line and I’d be happy to send you some.

3 Years!
June 18th, 2011

Wow, has it really been 3 years in San Francisco?

I guess it has, considering how much has changed…

Some highlights of the last 3 years:

  • I’m no longer paying overpriced rent to a MIA “master tenant”
  • I have learned exactly HOW AWESOME my location is – I’m next to a Farmer’s Market, two grocery stores, plenty of great bars, tons of excellent restaurants, and am just a 4 mile (flat) bike ride to my workplace
  • I managed to do some pretty serious gardening last summer
  • I am now 30 freakin years old
  • AND WE KICKED THAT FUCKING CHURCH OUT!

GONESKI!!!!

To explain further, I did not just go about being a jerk to a group of well-meaning Christians. I moved in here 3 years ago – 7 years after the church had been here – fully aware of (and even somewhat amused by) their presence. They were a minor inconvenience who had a keyboard or acoustic guitar service a couple times a week, and sometimes a full band played on Friday/Saturday/Sunday. They never woke me up, they never played past 9 pm, and they never bothered us (unless someone wanted to take a nap at 7 pm on one of the few nights they were playing).

However, about a year ago, they put in a new speaker system which would put any night club to shame. They started playing almost every night – at least 5 nights a week if not more. The full band became an integral part of the service, and the house started shaking regularly. Sometimes they would play drums as early as 6:30 am, just to practice! They would play and I’d wait for them to stop around 9…then 10….sometimes playing until 12 or 1 in the morning! One night they not only played until 1 am, they also started things up again at 7 am (I believe it was a Sunday), and didn’t turn anything down until one of my roommates went down and would not leave until they lowered the volume. She was really nice about it too!

Even though I knew this, I still thought they might be reasonable people, so last December I left them a note asking them to please keep the volume down and not play too late, which they ignored. A few days later I went down to ask them to turn down the music, as our entire house was shaking (and church wasn’t even in session at this point). Then I got introduced to the Pastor, a jerk-off named Santos, who first acted like he had never seen me before (even though I’d been living upstairs for 2.5 years), and then insisted he had every right to do whatever the hell he wanted downstairs because he paid rent.

After a month of painful co-existence (in which I called the cops several times, on advice of the sf tenants union, as well as the local police), we had a meeting w. a permits officer, our property manager, and the jerk-off-known-as-a-pastor. The “mutual” understanding was that they were not to amplify music before 9 am or after 9 pm, that they would remove the top speakers (which were literally inches from our floor and 3 of our bedrooms), and that they would install sound proofing. My property manager also told us and the officer that he would look into helping the church relocate to a more suitable location as well.

For months, there was no change. In mid-March I was told the church was going to leave by April 1st. Then April 1st it became April 15th. In this time, I had found it necessary to make a nuisance of myself, insisting that I and my roommates deserved the right to “Quiet Enjoyment“, and that the “church” was willfully taking that away from us.

A real Christian might have shown some compassion and willingness to work with us – I was more than willing to let them continue their services (even though they consisted of screaming, shouting, horrible repetitive music, and an obvious misinterpretation of the concept of Christianity), provided they could at least take some consideration with how loud they were.

“How bad could it be? It’s a church?” you might ask? When I can’t watch a movie in my room after work, even with headphones on, because there is a full scale band (drums, bass, keyboards, vocals) with more amps then my punk/metal band, I consider it pretty bad. Especially when you factor in that my house is over 100 years old and certainly not equipped to take a live band )

What kind of noise are we talking about? Let me show you what happened one night with a guest speaker….

Download a link if you are curious

Granted it was only that bad every once in a while, but I think this lets you know I was not dealing w. sane respectful Christians…

It’s not like I didn’t try to reason with them – on numerous occasions I asked them to turn things down, or even off (when after 9 as per our agreement), and got nothing more then a dismissive “We’re stopping” (which was usually a blantant lie).

Eventually everyone had enough and the property manager and landlord began to evict them. 5 months after telling us they would, the the-asshole-known-as-santos and crew finally removed the top speakers, altho not before they signed an agreement with me giving me full rights to cut their power if they refused to turn the music off or down. I spoke w. someone on their behalf who promised they wouldn’t play the electric bass or the drums anymore (which they subsequently did, and I asked them to stop, meeting resistance).

They finally pushed me so far that I pulled the electricity on them a couple weeks later, but not before warning them twice, after 9 pm, that they needed to stop. After I did this, they hung out in the dark, screaming their heads off.

They didn’t think it was so bad to live above, and they got kicked out. A lot of people people told me to leave. I didn’t leave. I stood my ground b/c I knew I was right and they were wrong.



So here it is, three years later, and we’ve won. We took back our house.

Three years later in San Francisco and I’m fronting my own band, rocking lots of yoga, riding my bike everywhere, and living in the best room in the house.

The only bad news to the 3 year update is that I’m not playing in Wee the Band anymore as of this Monday. It’s a sad feeling, as I really loved making musick with those people, but the momentum has been lost and I need to throw in the towel for at least a few months. We’ll see if things turn around, but for now, I’m going to be focusing more on Severe Bass & the Bad Decisions, yoga, and this website thing. Cuz it’s time.

So here’s to the future of Severe in San Francisco, a city that has embraced me pretty well, and I love it back. Even though the weather gets on my nerves sometimes (I’m sorry, I like heat and sunshine, and it’s never more then 65 degrees here. But I can deal.)

Bike to Work Day 2011!
May 10th, 2011

HEY EVERYONE! Thursday, May 12th is Bike to Work Day!

I actually get really excited about Bike to Work Day. I don’t know why – I bike to work EVERY day (well, almost every day). My first year in the area I lived in El Cerrito and commuted to San Francisco, so I couldn’t fully participate (moved in 3 weeks later), which meant 2009 was my first (and so far only) time. And it was surprisingly awesome! People really get pumped up about riding their bike to work, and apparently a lot of folks get inspired to ditch their car, or skip public transport, or whatever and just join the mob mentality for a day. I’m not sure why these folks don’t always bike to work, but the point is that they got really excited and that was infectious.

So by May of 2010 I had been getting gradually more and more excited about Bike to Work Day. I was set to volunteer afterwards outside of Rainbow Grocery. And then I got sick. Horribly sick. I did not bike to work last year on Bike to Work Day. I didn’t bike anywhere. I took Muni to the doctor, and it sucked. So 2009 is my only year so far!

Despite how much it sounds like I might be jinxing myself here, this will not happen again. Yours truly will be biking to work on May 12, and I’ll even be participating in the Bike to Work Day Challenge – that is, to dress up on your ride and throughout the day. I decided to do this since a)I bike to work everyday and b)my job is SO casual that this will actually stand out! (I usually wear a t-shirt and a second-hand pair of pants, usually with some bike grease on them)

This is what I'm wearing, and will try to look less awkward then

I’ll also be volunteering after work at the Bike to Work Day party, relishing in the excitement (and hopefully recruiting a new member or too). I am totally pumped for Bike to Work Day 2011, and want to spread the enthusiasm. Biking to Work is awesome! The only thing more awesome then Biking To Work, is Biking To Something Cooler Then Work!

All Around Me….
May 2nd, 2011

Read it in...

Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions took another stab at live recording last weekend and I think it came out much better then the last one (and I was relatively happy with the last one). Since the vocals were the trickiest part last time around, I decided to keep the mic levels really quiet (and didn’t really sing anyway) so I could go back and fix them up without too much trouble. The band has also benefited immensely from the last few weeks of recording, so all in all I’m hoping I can at least get a couple demo-quality tunes together.

And the first one I finished is, fittingly, Ants. As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first song I’ve ever written and it still holds a special place in my heart. It’s nothing special, sort of a take on thrash metal (a la Gwar), but it continues to be a lot of fun to play.

I’m still fine-tuning the edits, but all things considered, I think it’s pretty awesome, so I really hope you enjoy.

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8in8
April 28th, 2011

So one of my heroes, Amanda Fucking Palmer recently (as in yesterday) did a really cool project in which she, (her husband) Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds (of the Five) and Damian Kulash set out to write, record, and mix 8 songs in 8 hours. They did all this in Allston too, which is kind of cool, cuz that’s where my punk band used to do it’s thing!

They ended up with 6 songs in 12, which is a nice compromise. Since the album dropped (on bandcamp for a minimum $1 donation), there’s been challenges to cover and record videos ASAP in the spirit of fast production. BTW, the $1 donation goes to the Berklee City Music Network which was set up by my alma mater as “a charity which provides kids with every opportunity to see their musical potential.”

I love a challenge, so took a second listen to the tunes and decided to try and record a cover version. This is the most barebones thing I’ve ever released to the internet, but I think it’s a good idea. I ended up choosing “One Tiny Thing” mostly because it had the most driving rhythm (and least amount of piano, which is the hardest to duplicate on the electric bass). The straightforward beat was another factor.

If I had more time on this I would certainly flesh it out (and tweak some of the vocal effects a bit more) but since this is all about doing it quick, I’m calling it FFN! (Finished For Now). If I were to go back to it, one of the first things I would do is add a little acoustic guitar to the chorus, and put some extra percussion in there. However, I took this challenge upon myself at 10:56, and it’s now 12:29 and, I should probably go to sleep since I have work in the morning.

So here you go, my version of 8in8’s “One Tiny Thing”, embarassingly under-recorded, and probably full of mistakes since I barely listened to it before publishing it. Enjoy!

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I’m playing w. my software….
April 12th, 2011

So on March 6th my band (Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions) did a live recording in the practice space. It was pretty bare-bones – literally two random microphones hanging from the ceiling, plugged into my Fast Track Pro, recorded into REAPER (ie, pretty much the only way I know how to record right now). The performances were somewhat spotty, and the recording was less then awesome, but it was a good learning experience.

I’ve been playing a little bit more with the basic plugins that come with REAPER, and checking out some posts on how to mix your sound, and am slowly getting the hang of it. The biggest complaint from the recordings is that the vocals are pretty low (which ended up being b/c there was a pad on the PA channel for my leads, D’oh!), so I went back and re-did vox on one of the tunes with my brand new Shure Beta SM58. I haven’t quite figured out how to remove the vocals from the original track, but it sort of adds a nice background vocal effect (at least on this song). Or maybe I’ve just been listening to it enough that it sounds “sort of nice”.

Anyway, mixing all that together leaves me with a product I’m not entirely satisfied with, but it does give me hope for the future. Long live bare minimum recording elements (and how I wish I had all these tools 4 years ago, especially b/c they did exist then!)

So here’s a listen to my (excuse me, our) cover of Sebadoh’s “Beauty of the Ride”. All things considered, I’m quite happy with it. Plus, we’re going to do it again in a week, and we have really been practicing!

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Heavy Metal Tuesday!
March 8th, 2011

Maybe this’ll be a thing. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, here’s your first Heavy Metal Tuesday!

Today it’s going to be personal-like (as in, all about me). I recently found my sophomore high school picture that I had grabbed from a photo album when I visited my folks in my childhood home for the last time (I wrote an emo blog post about it that I won’t link to, hah!):

My first attempt at facial hair


Also, here’s a version of Ants from this Sunday’s Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions band practice!!!!. This was recorded at our practice space with two mics directly into my Fast Track Pro into REAPER. The quality isn’t great (the vocals are really quiet unfortunately), but it’s the first recording of this song being played with a band since the summer of 1999, and I think it’s halfway decent considering it’s just two cheap vocal mics hanging from the ceiling.

(BTW, streaming it usually lessens the quality quite considerably, right clicking to save and then playing it in the audio player of your choice will sound much better!)

Something for Now….
February 15th, 2011

Read it in...

I have been awful about posting or working on my website. This doesn’t mean I haven’t done ANYTHING, but you are also not missing out. Never fear though, I am really working on being more prolific. To tide you over, here’s me playing w. my bass/software (I’ve started using REAPER and it is pretty freaking awesome!).

Anyway, I know it’s not much, but I hope you enjoy!

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Better Late Then Never
January 6th, 2011

Read it in...

On just about anything I suppose, although this title is really because it’s a few days behind the New Year to be writing a post about time moving on. But I’m going to do it anyway.

Last year, I wrote a post about how I don’t believe in resolutions, but instead believe in goals. Sadly, I failed almost every one of those goals this year. (my actual score was 2 and two-halves [two of them I feel I did about half the time or got halfway there], out of a potential total of 8). I don’t feel bad about all of it, but I was thinking about why I couldn’t reach these goals, and I came up with a few things.

What it all boils down to though is that these weren’t the right goals for me. I did many many other things – I accomplished a lot of the brainstorm I had last February about where to put my intentions. I’m not quite as far as I wanted to be, but neither the work I did on myself nor any of my projects is reflected in the goals I identified in January – no matter how well intentioned they were.

So this year I’m going to put more emphasis on intentions and outcomes. And I’ve really realized that what I do can be driven by three words:

Musick. Yoga. Friends.

I consider Family in there with Friends, but I think what this really means is that what I am doing should be with those three things considered. Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t garden next year, or that bike maintenance isn’t a priority, or that I don’t want more money (for the record, I would love more money), or my day job isn’t important. It just means that when I have time for myself, I should check in and make sure that I am doing what I can to pursue these three things.

Why they are important I think is obvious, but I’ll go into them briefly. For musick, I really need to be making sure I am putting my best effort forth to being an active and continually improving musician. That means learning more about the ways I can record my own music on my own time, writing more songs, and practicing regularly. It’s a growing year – time to find my voice.

Yoga is increasingly becoming more important to me because it teaches me not just about my body, it reminds me to keep paying attention to my body and how it is doing. It can help heal that body when it’s not at it’s best. There’s also what it can do for my mind – bikram yoga helps me keep things in perspective and generally retain my composure. It brings a lot of things into perspective, and I love the journey that it’s taking me on.

Friends, as I’ve mentioned, is overarching and really means those who are special to me, related or not. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I need to take effort – even if I feel like I’m almost always the one taking the effort. The effort in the act of initiation is greatly outweighed by connecting and reconnecting with other humans, especially those with the ability to make me think (or crack me up).

Anyway, I am working on trying to keep my posts brief (both for writing sake, but also because translating them into Severe Slang is easier), so I will sign off with the question – what’s important to you in 2011?

Thanks for reading!

P.S. If you want to see what goals I did and did not keep, see here.

P.P.S. Pics from the Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions gig are here!


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