Roadside Dog

The Music of

Steve Watkins

Ginger: our latest Roadside Dog (12 weeks in Nov 2014 and 2 years in Aug 2016)
Vernazza, Florence and Venice Italy: 3 places we visited on our tour of Europe in 2014

About 1: An Overview

Art and Science
At heart I am both an artist and a scientist.
Art is usually more fun than science for me,
but I am somehow comforted by the laws of science.
I studied physics and philosophy as an undergrad,
thinking I would become a scientist or an engineer.
By the time I graduated my ideas had changed.
I headed for the open road as a musician and world traveller,
playing and traveling in the US, Europe and Asia.
After five years as a starving artist, I came back to science.
Ever since then, my life as been a mix of art and science.
I depend mostly on science to earn a living wage,
but I always have at least one music project going on.
My art is mostly music, although I also write and occasionally draw.
I enjoy the right-brain non-rational experience of creativity.
Am I being pretentious to call myself an artist? Maybe.
I have a broad definition of artist. To me an artist is anyone who creates:
musicians, painters, poets, writers, video/film makers, actors, dancers,
craft makers. Engineers and scientists can also be artists (but somehow
most engineers and scientists seem different than other artists).
Pablo Picasso had some good quotes regarding art:
All children are artists.
The problem is how to remain an artist when the child grows up.
Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.
The horn player Clark Terry said this about copying:
It's OK to be a copycat, as long as you copy the right cat.
The sax player Charlie Parker said this about logical musical theory
vesus being in the moment:
Master your instrument, master the music, then forget all that stuff and blow.
The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said this about creativity:
Creativity is the power to act. Creativity is the power to reject the past,
to change the status quo and to seek new potential.
Will My Music Make an Impact?
Will my music ever make an impact? Probably not, but who knows?
There must be thousands of songwriters and musicians out there like me
with some good songs and good chops, but they never make it on the cultural
radar. They make good music, they have fun and adventures on the road,
but they never find that band that can stay together. Then the road begins to
wear on them and they start to long for a more normal life (whatever that is).
The digital revolution has proved to be a double-edged sword for songwriters
and musicians like me. It has made it possible for us to produce high quality
recordings in home studios and to distribute our music via CD's and iTunes.
But the downside result of digital technology and downloadable content has been
to flood and overwhelm the musicscape with oceans of material and to kill CD sales.
Even big stars have to tour to make a living in music these days.
Much of this Website is indirectly about world travel and the open road.
Travel is a good thing for an artist, for anyone, when it's a choice.
When travel is a choice, it's a blessing.
When travel is forced on you, it can become a burden.
Travel can open up your mind. It can help you see the world and reality more clearly.
If you have never traveled the world, get out there! Go with a friend or find a group.
If you are brave, start out alone and you'll meet fellow travelers.
Jack Kerouac wrote a lot of good lines, this is one of them:
Fuel up on pie and diner coffee and mystic visions and the freedom
of not knowing what's coming next except that you're burning the road to outrun it.
Travel provides the best education possible in this global world.
It teaches you about culture, geography, economics, politics, religion and psychology.
It helps you learn patience, especially when you're waiting in line at a border checkpoint,
or wondering if that 16-hour trans-Pacific flight is ever going to end.
It teaches you how to follow your heart (your right-brain natural intuition).
Because travel throws more experience at you than your normal everyday life,
it helps you learn to think on your feet and also to follow your heart.
And of course, travel is often also a lot of fun. If you're like me, there's nothing better
than hanging out on a tropical beach, watching the surf break or diving on a coral reef.
Travel does not have to be expensive; anyone who is motivated can do it on a shoestring.
Airfare is still relatively cheap, and rail passes provide an inexpensive way to get around,
especially in Europe and the US. You don't need to eat in restaurants;
you can survive on fresh bakery bread, market cheese and fresh fruit.
For lodging you can always find a youth hotel, a youth hostel or a dive hotel.
If you are really adventurous, you can find a job teaching English in many different
countries, especially in Asia (but research the jobs carefully to avoid scam artists).
Start with applying for a passport, if you don't already have one.
Then get yourself an up-to-date travel book like something from Lonely Planet,
and start planning your trip.
I also enjoy the left-brain experiences of doing math, science and engineering.
For some reason I really like the laws of science,
and the way they play together to explain and predict.
I especially like physics with the Four Basic Forces of Physics
(gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear and the weak nuclear),
the concept of Entropy as a measure of order
(the universe becomes more disordered while life creates order)
and the wild Theories of Everything (like string theory).
I'm also very interested in climate change and the politics of climate change denial.
See some of the sections on the About 2 Page.
My science is mostly computer science and electrical engineering.
My Ph.D. research was in Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the Caltech/NASA
Jet Propulsion Laboratory applying neural networks to climate modeling.
Today I spend much of my time designing computer chips and writing software
for mobile phones. But I am really a closet physicist, because my BS is from Caltech.
At Caltech I was exposed to a lot of physicists, including Richard Feynman.


Science is the best system of thinking we have to arrive at the truth,

but logical scientific belief systems have their limits. Scientific theories are

continually evolving and any particular current theory is not always right.


Some Good Books on the Philosophy of Science


If you want to understand the limits of scientific belief systems,

Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem is the place to start. In 1931 Godel proved

that the strongest form of logical thought, mathematics-based logic, will always

contain paradoxes and will always be defeated by some questions it can't answer.

The result is that logical arguments and science will never be able to answer

the biggest questions like: Does God exist? What is the purpose of your life?

Is there life after death? And so on. If you want to know more about Godel's Theorem,

here's a Wiki starting point based on Hofstadter's great book:


Godel, Escher and Bach:



Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions also explains more about the limits

of science, mainly that scientists can be just as irrational and wrong as the next person.

Old scientists often have to die off before new scientific paradigms are accepted.

A Wiki link to Kuhn's book:


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:



Jim Holt's book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story will give

you some more food for thought on the limits of science and logical thought. I saw Holt on

the Colbert Report and I like what I've read so far. Here's a link to the book on Amazon:


Why Does the World Exist?



Dark Energy and Dark Matter


These two phenomena currently have scientists very puzzled: Dark Energy and Dark Matter.

To borrow a line from Firesign Theater: scientists know they exist, but they can’t explain them.

All of these concepts from the world of science are amazing and in some ways incomprehensible:

the mysteries of life and death, evolution, Einstein’s theories of relativity, the space time continuum,

quantum mechanics, parallel universes, black holes, plate tectonics (continental drift),

the Big Bang as the birth of the universe and the Big Freeze as the death of the universe.


Human History
Here's my new short view of human history which was inspired by our recent visit to Odiham Castle
in Hampshire, UK (King John probably spent the night there before being forced to sign the
Magna Carta the next day at Runnymede):
There have been three main periods of human political and economic development with our
society organized in three different ways:
  • Hunting and gathering for the first 5 to 7 million years (since we split off from the Great Apes)
  • Agriculture and technology for the past 10,000 years with one dominant male as leader of
        each tribe. This period marked the beginning of private property and Capitalism
  • King forced to share control with the One Percent as mandated by the Magna Carta since 1215
The One Percent is composed of the wealthy and powerful: Kings, dictators, the Pope,
other religious leaders, politicians, lobbyists, generals, CEO's, wealthy merchants,
lawyers, bankers, war profiteers, leaders of organized crime, etc.
Not much has changed since the days of the Magna Carta.
The democracies of the US and many other nations are mostly Kabuki Theater
with the One Percent in control and those of us in the 99 Percent mostly at their mercy.
To be fair, some of the One Percent use their wealth and power to help the rest of us.

Humans face many problems today:
Overpopulation, a deteriorating biosphere, climate change, huge unemployment, marginalization
of blue-collar workers, increasing economic inequality and continued war and violence.
I have many questions but no answers.

We may or may not evolve to a more equal, more compassionate society someday.
Things are as they are for powerful reasons (human nature, the laws of science, etc.),
but things could be worse and there is hope for change.

Take a few deep breaths!
Humans are sometimes very dumb, but sometimes we are very smart.
We have done a lot of bad things to the planet and to each other,
but we have also done good things.
Life is too short to be angry about the way things are.
Maybe we have to accept the way things are before we can move on.

Laws of Human Behavior
Humans have been developing the science of psychology since the early Greeks. Here is my
amateur attempt at some laws of human behavior similar to the Four Basic Forces of Physics.

Who we are can be defined by our:
personality, belief system, behavior, quality of life and mental state (happy, sad, depressed, etc.)
and there are Three Forces of Psychology that determine who we are.

The Three Forces of Human Psychology:
  • Human nature due to biology based on: Darwin's Law of Natural Selection and Dawkins'
       Selfish Gene (Google Dawkins evolutionary biology) and sex (straight female/male, LGBT, etc.)
  • Our unique individual brains, experiences and histories (biology contributes to this source too)
  • Tribes that we belong to as individuals and the laws and culture of these tribes (see below)


We are social animals and we are members of different tribes. Tribal membership can be
complex. We have no control over some tribal membership, like the family we are born into
and the geographical location where we are born and raised. But we do have control over other
tribal membership, like political parties and religion, and we usually chose these tribes based on
our personal experience (but not often based on logic). The large tribes I identify most with are:
scientists, musicians, Buddhists and skeptical Liberals (as a skeptical Liberal I don't believe
promises made by any politician).

These are the main tribes or groups that affect who we are:
  • Family: your immediate and extended family
  • Friends: platonic, romantic, partner
  • Work, school, sports, etc.: other circles of interaction
  • Geographic: national and local cultural rules of behavior
  • Religious: see below
  • Political: see below


More details on religious and political tribes and their laws:
  • Christians: the Bible, 10 Commandments and some Commandments from Jesus
  • Muslims: the 4 sources of the Koran, the Sunnah, collective reasoning, individual reasoning
  • Hindus: the Vedas, 5 Principles and 10 Commandments
  • Buddhists: the Teachings of Buddha, 4 Noble Truths and the 8-fold Path
  • Jews: the Old Testament and 613 Commandments
  • Other religions (Quakers, Sikhs, Jains, etc.): similar laws to the above religions
  • SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious): individuals pick and choose their spiritual laws
  • Atheists: Bill Maher's New Rules
  • Liberals: Morgan Spurlock's Laws of Compassion and Empathy (mostly Democrats in the US)
  • Conservatives: make as much money as possible (mostly Republicans in the US)


The field of psychology ranges from the early Greeks to Freud and Jung to William James
and B.F. Skinner to Carl Rogers and Maslow to cognitive psychology. The above is my 2 cents.
In terms of existing belief systems, I am drawn to the psychology and laws of human behavior
as described in Buddhism, in the Chinese Tao Te Ching and by Ram Dass.
The challenges for most human beings:
  • How to play the cards we are dealt and balance the obligations we have to ourselves, our families, partners, kids, friends, co-workers and our society?
  • How can we live a satisfying life in the moment that also includes some planning for the future?
Being born into a disadvantaged social/economic situation makes the challenges harder.
Even being able to consider the challenges and ask the above questions means you were
born a little bit lucky.
On the other hand, being born with a silver spoon does not guarantee you will succeed in
meeting the challenges either (the road of life is littered with the ruined lives of trust fund kids).
And there are legions of millionaires and billionaires wasting their lives just trying to make that
next million or that next billion.
We have a logical side of our brain and our behavior that is open to logical analysis.
But we also have a heart (the emotional side of behavior) that is not so open to logical analysis.
Like other fields of science, psychology will never be able to explain everything.
A little mystery is a good thing.
Click on the Links Section on the left side of this page to explore.
What's On the Website
In the following pages you'll find songs and some of my musical history.
Please check out the Songs 1, 2 and 3 links to some of my music.
These are a few pictures of my family (Sebia, Matthew and Roadside Dog Gromit) and the Railheads.
We are still morning the loss of our dog, Gromit.
The main Roadside Dog passed on to the next world on June 9.
It will take us a long time to recover.
We now have a new Roadside Dog named Ginger who was 12 weeks old on November 1, 2014.
She's a Collie Shepherd mix rescued through the Helen Woodward Animal Center.
Roadside Dog Gromit is named after Gromit of Wallace and Gromit fame:
Click on a picture to enlarge it.