J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Month: April 2016

How I Broke Into the Music Business and Made $100K

Jackie at the old Loöq Records office on Brannan.

Jackie at the old Loöq Records office on Brannan.

As I’m trying to launch a new career (fiction writing), I’m also taking stock of an old one (producing electronic music). I signed my first track in 1992, at the age of 23, to Mega-Tech records (an offshoot of the famous San Francisco disco label Megatone). I released my latest record, a reggae/breaks hybrid track, a week ago.

Breaking in wasn’t easy. I remember vividly sending out cassette tape demos in padded mailers to record labels in New York City and Los Angeles, following up via phone, and getting shot down by arrogant label runners (I’ve made a point to never be mean, running my own record label, even though our signing bar is very high).

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Success Will Break You (Until It Forges You)

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Conor McGregor just threw a wrench in his own works (if you haven’t been following the drama, McGregor refused to show up for a press conference in Vegas, was cut from UFC 200, and subsequently tweeted his own retirement). He probably didn’t mean for things to grind to such a complete halt, but as he posted on Facebook, the demands of press and promotion were detracting from his training regimen.

Basically, he cracked. He couldn’t handle the pressure of simultaneously training and promoting, and he chose training. Unfortunately for him, the UFC demands both.

I don’t bring up the example to pick on McGregor. Everyone who pursues a dream will break at some point.

It’s too much. I can’t do it. I’m done.

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Can You Greatly Reduce Your Risk of Cancer with Lifestyle Changes?

Collage of mixed fruits and vegetables, MRI, by Wellcome Images.

Collage of mixed fruits and vegetables, MRI, by Wellcome Images.

Cancer. It’s one of the few diseases with a personality. The F*ck Cancer meme is much stronger than the F*ck Heart Disease meme, even though both kill a similar number of human beings. While both diseases can develop with no obvious warning signs, cancer is perceived as a sneakier, meaner disease.

Maybe that’s because cancer is mysterious. There are more than 200 different types, and risk factors and causes are multitudinous: genetics, chemical exposure, radiation exposure (including sunlight), age, certain viruses, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise … the list goes on.

But cancer isn’t a death sentence. As several of the older members of my family have experienced in the past few years, cancer can be successfully treated. Though my family members used both conventional treatments and lifestyle changes, sometimes cancer goes away with lifestyle changes alone.

About half of people in developed countries will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer in the course of their lives. 100% of middle-aged or older people will have small pockets of abnormal cell growth — microcancers — most of which will be either too slow-growing to ever cause a problem, or will be eliminated by the immune system. And if you get cancer and beat it, the only way you know for sure you are “cured” is when you die of something else.

Nobody is totally safe from cancer, but there are things we can do to improve our chances of not developing the disease in the first place. While genetic risk factors play a significant role, so do environmental (lifestyle) factors. The clinical research is there to prove it. We can prevent cancer (or at least improve our odds) in at least seven ways:

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How to Expand Your Cognitive Toolkit

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In this video Stephen Fry calls himself an empiricist. I’m often entertained by Stephen Fry, and empiricism is probably the most useful system of thought invented by human beings to date, but calling yourself an empiricist is akin to calling yourself a wrench.

What do you do when you need to drive a nail through some wood? You could use a wrench, but it’s not the best tool for the job.

Systems of thought are tools. Depending on the problem you want to solve or the goal you want to achieve, you’ll need to use multiple tools in your cognitive toolkit.

This is an idea I keep coming back to. In this 2010 post I looked at empiricism, rationalism, and subjectivism. In this follow up post I wrote about intuition and network analysis as thinking modes, and the third post in the series looks at evolutionary algorithms for problem solving. A more recent post summarizes a number of thinking modes in the context of flexible, persistent problem solving.

Cognitive flexibility is important because it allows us to approach problems and goals in different ways, and pick the best tool  for the job (or use multiple tools, the right one for each part of the job).

But how do you switch modes? Sometimes it’s straightforward, sometimes less so. The list below includes tactics (questions, actions, etc.) for cognitive mode switching (in no particular order). I’ve noted what I think is the core mode in brackets, but many of these tactics could apply to multiple modes. If this list gives you more ideas, please add them in the comments.

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No Car Update (Month 2)

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Recently I wrote about our family experiment of not owning or leasing a car. Both Kia and I had owned cars since our early twenties (sometimes our own, sometimes sharing a single vehicle), so it was a real lifestyle shift. Not having a car is also fairly unusual among our demographic (parents, middle-class, SF Bay Area).

We originally intended to do a one-month experiment. At the end of February neither of us had any desire to buy or lease a car, so we continued the experiment by default. We got around by bicycle, walking, public transportation, Lyft, and CityCarShare.

Cost

Our estimated monthly expenses for leasing, maintaining, and driving our Fiat 500 were $440 a month (including lease, service, taxes, fees, gas, tolls, and insurance). Our February no-car transportation costs came to $225. March expenses were slightly higher, as follows:

  • CityCarShare fees – $235
  • Lyft – about $30
  • Amortized bike upgrade – $15
  • Increased public transportation use – about $10

So $290 in total. That’s $150 less than our estimated monthly car expenses with our previous lease (and probably about $200 less than total projected car expenses including the best lease deal we could get today). March is obviously a longer month than February, and we took two long trips to Marin (long in both miles driven and time) which drove up our CityCarShare expense.

It’s a significant savings. If we continue the experiment for the rest of the year, at this point I’d estimate we’d save about $2000.

Convenience

It’s less convenient not having a car in our driveway, but not as inconvenient as I anticipated. Basically it forces everyone in the family to walk or bike more. Short trips, like going to the video store (yes, I still go the video store) or other trips that are within a mile … in the past I sometimes got lazy and drove. Now I walk. Since walking is basically “free time” (for every hour you walk instead of driving or sitting you add an hour to your life, more or less), that’s a good thing. I prefer walking to biking for several reasons, the main one being that walking and thinking go together. Biking and thinking, not so much. Biking demands the full use of your attention to not crash and die (at least for me it does). Also, bike seats (even my new ergonomic one) aren’t that comfortable, and all the locking/unlocking/helmet/bike light business is kind of a drag. Apologies to bike enthusiasts, but I’m on team pedestrian.

Groceries. I have lucked out in this area. Kia, with her XtraCycle cargo bike, does the grocery shopping. We’ll see if she gets tired of it. I’ve been picking up slack by doing more housecleaning.

CityCarShare has been great. Reservations are easy to make (with the exception of the glitches they had on their mobile app in March, but the website booking worked fine), and we’ve been able to reserve a car within half a mile of our house every time we’ve needed one, often at the last minute. The cars are nice too: leather, heated seats, nice sound system, GPS, all the modern car bells and whistles.

Best thing: Kia was driving when one of the car service lights went on. She made a note in the app, parked the car in it’s regular spot, and walked away. No losing half a day (and some amount of money) dealing with a visit to the mechanic!

Not being responsible for a giant expensive hunk of metal gives us both a feeling of freedom.

Our eight-year-old daughter wants us to get a car.

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