2022 Celebrations: DNR!

This was the year that I put my money where my mouth is and actually got going with a band, DNR. I had first auditioned on December 30, 2021 but met the full band at my first rehearsal on January 15th. It was awkward for me at first because as the frontman / lead singer the band would often look to me for direction on what song to work on next. It was my first band and my first freaking rehearsal, so I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just winged it, though, and figured it out as I went. I’m the noob in the band and the youngest, with the rest of the group having a decade or more of playing. They make it easy for me to fit in, though, and we’ve spent hundreds of hours of diligent rehearsing to perfect our sets. We played three private parties in 2022, which was great experience to be out in front of an audience, but I’ve always hungered for more! We have a dozen or so gigs lined up for 2023 at local bars and breweries and I can’t wait to get out there and entertain folks again!

2022 Challenges: Matt Feath dies

I learned on December 21st that my friend and shipmate, Matt Feath, died after some recent heart surgery. Matt was a flaming liberal in a military uniform disguise when we served together on the USS ELLIOT. I kept my politics to myself when I served and he did as well, but once he had retired and I Was out I really began to appreciate him. It is a lonely thing to be progressive in a conservative culture like the military. I assume Matt did it for the same reason I did it: purely out of love of country, and not because of some forced, fake patriotism that drives some on the right. He and I traded messages on Facebook every few days, swapping takes on national politics, good bands and musicians, military life, and mutual interest in spooky topics such as UFOs, remote viewing, and the like. I was delighted that our friendship has blossomed the way it had. I smiled at all the photos Matt shared of time he spent with his kids, on whom he absolutely doted..

Matt was very loyal to his family and friends. He helped me find my way as a liberal veteran – that is, a former military member who actually gives a shit about others. He introduced me to a lot of good music, too. He was an atheist for much of the time that I’d known him but I suspect some of the woo woo interests I’d shared with him may have made him think that perhaps there is something more to material life. When I eventually cross the border into the next world, I look forward to sharing a beer with my good shipmate, Matt.

2022 Challenges: COVID arrives at the Turner household

Twenty twenty-two was the year that COVID came home to roost at the Turner household. After masking nearly everywhere, Travis went to his high-school chorus rehearsal unmasked on April 6th and the next day was sick. He spent the next week or so coughing and hardly leaving his bed. Kelly and I masked and tended to him and she and I dodged the bullet.

It was a little over a month later that it was Kelly’s turn to get COVID. She tested positive on May 15th and was sapped of energy for about a week. Kelly isolated in our guest bedroom while I took care of her. We’re not sure where she picked it up: possibly a work event or a social event.

Hallie is the latest to come down with COVID when she tested positive on December 22nd. She had dodged COVID when it affected her Carrboro roommates, drove for hours with her sick friend Jonas as they traveled the state, and kept healthy during her semester at Highlands with the exception of a short bout with the flu. She isolated in her bedroom here at home for over a week, always answering a sad “not good” when I’d asked how she was feeling. Only after Christmas did she seem to start feeling better. We all masked up in house and I kept the HEPA air filter running day and night and thankfully we are all healthy again.

I have never tested positive for COVID, neither PCR or rapid antigen tests. That is not to say that I dodged COVID because I think the odds of that are pretty small. Still, I have never stopped masking up in public places. I got another COVID booster vaccine in May and the bivalent booster in September. Yet, in spite of the negative tests I have noticed the “COVID toe” phenomenon appearing occasionally. And the day before I thought to test Hallie, my right shoulder began aching – the same one that I got my last COVID shot in. It always makes me wonder that I’ve been exposed to COVID but perhaps my body is very good at fighting it. Who knows? I am adamant on staying healthy and that’s that.

2022 Challenges: Job changes

The biggest challenge of 2022 for me personally was job changes. Up until June, I had a job that I loved at Pattern Health, working with old friends at a startup and building new skills. It was about all I could ask for until one day in June when my boss called me into an impromptu Zoom meeting to tell me the board was cutting the workforce and I had been laid off. My manager, John, is a good friend. He was as surprised and saddened as anyone and I know it must have been tough for him to do it. I didn’t take it personally – startups don’t always succeed – but it is never convenient to have to look for work. The silver lining is that within two days, I had 42 leads from my huge network of friends. I had to make a spreadsheet to keep up with all the suggestions.

After a vigorous job search I wound up getting three job offers. I politely turned the first one down. The team was really nice but the role itself was largely Windows-focused and I didn’t want my Linux skills to atrophy. The second was for a local startup company that would’ve gotten me (or at least one foot of me) back into sales engineering in addition to DevOps. I considered it but turned it down as well since I didn’t think I clicked with upper management and there were some things I saw that raised some ethical questions.

I wound up taking the third offer even though it was significantly lower than the other two. It was for an even tinier startup because the company was intriguing and I would be working a four-day workweek. I felt good about working for a company that claimed to want to give back, and was looking forward to having some extra time to devote to my own projects. Well, it turned out the company didn’t really live up to its values. Material information was withheld until after I’d accepted the offer. My manager did not play well with others, alienating me as well as the developers we ostensibly were serving. The DevOps work I had hoped to be doing never materialized. The four-day work week? Well, they didn’t really mean that. I was relieved when we parted ways. To think that I had chosen this employer based on ethics is laughable now.

Recap of 2022

So, 2022 is in the books. It was another year on the planet, another year of learning, and for that I am grateful. Still, a few of the lessons of 2022 were pretty shitty ones, overall. Even so, there were great achievements in 2022 as well. So here’s a recap. This year I will mention the things that didn’t go so well right at the start, so that I can focus on the things that did go so well. Part of my focus for 2023 is to celebrate the good things, of which there are many and to which I don’t typically give proper credit.

One year with no alcohol

Today marks one year since I decided to stop drinking alcohol. I can’t say I really planned to get here. It started out as an experiment to see how abstaining would affect my health. I figured that I would probably sleep better and feel batter about my health if I stopped drinking. I was not a heavy drinker. I usually stopped at one drink and can’t remember a recent time where it was ever more than two. Still, I had gotten into the habit of having one drink in the evening and that over time would add up.

One thing I asked myself is why I was drinking. I recognized that alcohol often gives one freedom to shift blame for one’s own behavior. “Blame it on the booze.” I was never one to act crazy, regardless, but I decided it is better to own my behavior at all times.

There are also some people who drink because they aren’t happy with their lives. While my life does have its challenges (just like everyone else’s), again I would own my behavior and accept my situation, whatever it may be. I want to always be clear-eyed.

So, an initial two week trial period soon became a month. A month became six months. Six months became a year. I attended many parties, social events, and company meals where drinks were consumed by others but not by me. Previous attempts to stop drinking always seemed awkward when I would be out somewhere and the only one not drinking. Not this time around! I have learned that I can still have fun, be myself, entertain, and not drink. I feel no compulsion now whatsoever to drink.

It’s been an investment in my health, both physical and mental. I have lost weight and gotten rid of my gut. I sleep better now and remember my dreams far better than I once did. My mood is better. Most of all, I take pride in who I am and don’t feel the need to cede my power to alcohol.

As my streak continued, I debated whether I would have a celebratory drink on my one-year anniversary. In light of the improvements that this choice has brought me, I don’t feel the need for any celebratory drink. This is a path that has proven worthy of following. I think I will see where it leads.

Who is paying to coddle the racists?

Facebook’s algorithms seem to have pegged me as a conservative, which I find amusing but also useful. I get to view ads that have absolutely no relevance to me yet prove to be an insightful look at what kind of red meat right-wing organizations are feeding their gullible followers. Yesterday I saw a provocative Facebook ad that was made to rile up the fearful. The group “Color Us United” is holding a talk next week entitled “How Wake County Is Turning Into Woke County.”

This got me looking into the organization, Color Us United. Color Us United appears to be a Morrisville-based non-profit run by Kenneth Xu, a 24-year-old who it seems makes a living stirring up racial animosity under the guise of condemning it. He’s been profiled in a few of North Carolina right-wing blogs as well as Hill.TV, and his narrative seems to be that racists should not be called out on their racism.
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A return to recording engineering

A side effect of my work on singing has been discovering what tools I need to sound decent. I started with a very good USB microphone a few years ago and then graduated to an inexpensive, 8-channel USB mixer board that I could use with some decent XLR mics I had lying around. When I got my current job, I went out and bought a top-of-the-line Shure SM7B microphone and paired it with my mixer, which got me even closer to the professional sound I wanted. Then I found a used digital sound card, an 8-channel Firewire-based M-Audio 2626 and bought it cheap.

Now, Firewire is essentially an abandoned technology now that Apple no longer ships systems with it, but it is still alive and well in Linux. I took one of my old desktop PCs out of storage, added a hard drive, installed Ubuntu Studio on it, and now have a digital audio workstation (DAW), for dirt cheap! Ubuntu Studio comes with a huge number of audio and video production tools and plugins. It works just fine with this very old M-Audio 2626, too.

My audio tool of choice for editing was once Audacity, but Ubuntu Studio comes with the open-source, ProTools-like DAW called Ardour. I’ve learned how to do some amazing things with manipulating audio using Ardour, simply by diving in and trying different things. I’m sure there is at last 200% more I can be doing with it when I fully understand its capabilities.

Over the past few days and nights, I’ve spent my free time using Ardour to recreate one of my favorite songs, R.E.M.’s These Days. I’ve often looked for old-school karaoke tracks for R.E.M. but there are few that aren’t the hits everyone’s heard a million times already. I did some Google searches to see if anyone’s done this themselves and hit pay dirt when I found a musician named Clive Butler. Clive posted several of his R.E.M. covers to Blogger from 2011-2018 and I thought I’d start with those. Then last week, I discovered he has fresh versions on his very own YouTube channel so I downloaded his version of These Days.
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Playing in a band – DNR

As I mentioned previously, I’d taken my singing much more seriously over the last few years, practicing for hours each week to improve my technique. At the end of last year, I got good enough to post a few audio clips and videos on a bandmate-finding website called BandMix. It took about a week before a few bands reached out to me, interested to talk to me about fronting their bands. I said yes to one which was a new Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band but we never rehearsed because of a surge in COVID at the time. I wound up leaving the band and it kind of broke up soon afterward. Then I got interest from a Beatles tribute band, too, but didn’t think the music was varied or interesting enough. Finally, a musician reached out who was interested in the same music I was – and it was across the gamut of styles. My interest was piqued!

In Beaufort, NC, tagging along on one of Kelly’s work trips at the end of December, I got a call from Chuck, the drummer, who proceeded to talk my ear off on all the stuff the band planned to play. A week later, I showed up at the practice space at Kit’s home and sang a few songs for him. He didn’t say much but his ear-to-ear grin told me all I needed to know. Thus, I became the frontman for DNR.

DNR is composed of veteran musicians, many with a decade or more experience playing in bands. As for me, this is my very first band. At our early rehearsals, held almost every Saturday morning, I found myself being stared at by my bandmates, waiting for me to take charge and get us playing. It took me a few beats (ha!) to learn how to actually lead a band, but basically I faked it until I figured out what I was doing. I never considered before how cool and powerful it feels to set this band (or any band) in motion. It’s not something I pondered when I was singing solo to karaoke tracks!

So we rehearsed and rehearsed, picked an interesting setlist, and missed various practices here and there due to vacations, COVID cases, and what have you. Finally, after months of hard work rehearsing, we held our first gig over the Memorial Day weekend: a surprise birthday party for Chuck’s wife, Claudia. There were about two dozen people in attendance and friendly faces at that, but re-watching the video I took I appreciate more and more how heartfelt the applause is that we earned.
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A positive COVID test

Over the two-year course of this COVID-19 pandemic, I have taken extra steps to keep myself and my family safe. I’ve kept abreast of the latest medical advice and research. I’ve invested in N95 and KN95 masks. I’ve hauled around my HEPA air filter to places where proper ventilation would be hard to come by. Most importantly, whenever I’ve had the slightest concern that any health symptoms I’d been experiencing might have been COVID, I have gotten tested with Wake County’s free PCR COVID tests. Six times I’ve done this, and six times I received a relieving result of negative. Most recently, we were shipped a set of four COVID antigen tests free from the government, and a test using one of those turned up negative, too.

I kept my precautions up, thinking I had succeeded in avoiding an COVID infection. It turns out I may have been wrong and didn’t even know it.

Last week, I noticed that one of my right toes was a little stingy and looked bruised. I didn’t recall injuring it so I wondered if it might be the “COVID toes” I’d heard about. See, COVID patients reported sores on their toes (mainly. Fingers may be involved, too), and my toe looked suspiciously like this. COVID attacks the vascular system in addition to everything else it hits, and red toes can be a symptom. Around that time, I had an attack of my Reynaud’s Syndrome, with some of my fingers turning numb and white for over an hour. This red toe effect could also be caused by Reynaud’s (which is also a vascular disease), so I couldn’t say for sure what was what. Thus, I popped open the antigen test and 15 minutes later it told me I was COVID negative. Sure, an antigen test is not as accurate as a PCR test but this was at the height of my symptoms so I assumed if I was going to pop positive on anything it would be right at that moment. But, no, it was negative!

Over the weekend, I got to thinking about how my body reacted to the primary, secondary, and booster COVID vaccines I had gotten. Basically, I didn’t react at all! There were no noticeable side-effects whatsoever. I was thinking about this and deciding that perhaps my reaction to the actual virus would be a similar non-event. I decided to contact the VA to schedule a COVID antibody test, knowing that this might show whether I’d been exposed and didn’t know it.
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