i’m no nike shill

I just liked the colors, that's all.
Home from work, 6:30pm. Off with the shoes and shirt and pants, on with the fuzzy slippers, t-shirt, and sweats. Around 8:30pm I decide to run. For some reason, having an iPod makes me want to run – more time to listen to music on that little gem of modern technology. The hard drive takes my puny strides without missing a beat; I hate running, but I’m trying to do it three times a week – maybe Keaton won’t have to look quite as far back as my high school pictures to ask, “Daddy, you were skinny?” I don’t think I’ll ever get off on running like those people on the sneaker commercials seem to, but if it’ll keep me from an early, artery-clogged, grave whatever… I’ll give it a shot.

Well, not to tread over and over and over again on the same theme – but I really am having trouble keeping the “appropriate” focus on work these days. It’s a mixture of some form of “senioritis,” the inevitable winding-down that overcomes most people when they know a big break from the grind is coming, and a general sense of work seeming less-than-important. I find my mind distracted by all things baby. Thing is, we’re now pretty much ready, nursery-wise, for Lil’ Chino’s arrival. The room’s painted, the crib, changing-table-dresser thing, and glider/rocker are all set up, waiting. Out registries are, for the most part, depleted – for which I consider us to be very lucky, babies are not cheap to welcome home. But, I catch myself letting work pile up, slip, and fall off… I sit in front of the screen and work on things of little importance, but things that keep me engaged. Writing Visual Basic for scripts for Excel… sure, it’s valuable – but it’s nowhere near as high as the things on the priorities list I’m shirking while doing it. Right now, nothing’s more important than this fetus.

Y’know, funny things happen when you look at your budget under a microscope as part of a simulated-Chino re-budgeting analysis. Thing like discovering that you spend $35 a month on Starbucks coffee at work, and that’s just one a morning each morning. That’s too much to spend on coffee, methinks. So, you head to the local-economy-ruining Wal Mart and buy a buy of Verona for $6, then you spend 5min each night telling the coffee maker you got in college to make you a fresh brimming mug right before you leave for work. Throw that in a travel mug, kiss the morning ritual of “going down for coffee” goodbye, and save $30 a month. Sure, $30 may seem petty… but it’s funny how making simple trades like that can add up if you really need them to. Me, I’m not going to mind the extra $30 one bit. $30 a month on dang coffee!! Stupid Starbucks.

Time to link you up a bit. If you’re a music nut like me, you’ll surely appreciate this outstanding blog I recently discovered: coolfer. With a keen eye and ear for industry news and other music-related info, it reminds me of my days working retail and reading Billboard or ICE weekly – solid music news on a daily basis. Also, snagged from a God-blog I read from time to time, I found this quick “God plausibility” test kinda cool. You’re presented with a list of checkboxes and told to mark as many or as few attributes which the God you believe in has. Then, a team of “metaphysical engineers” tell you how plausible your conception of God is based on the combination you choose. Frivolous, but kinda neat. My God? 0.9; plausible.

I shaved my beard. Just when it was getting nice and shaggy. I also left a sweat-towel from last week’s inaugural gym visits in my truck over the weekend, now the whole thing reeks of football locker room. Goodnight my friends.

the baby budget

How much for bananas?
We got back, just in time to leave again. Gonna spend these precious three days I have in town trying to cram in a month’s worth of work. Will it work? Likely not. Do I care? Ehh.. maybe a little, but definitely not as much as I should. I’m signed off for the month, I really am.

Starting upon our return in January, I’ve told Sharaun we’re going to begin the “baby budget.” What’s the baby budget, you ask? It’s simple, we’re going to try and live our last two non-baby-havin’ months as if we didn’t not-have a baby. Got it? A kind of “breaking in” to the money situation we’ll be adapting to when Lil’ Chino gets here. Beginning January, Sharaun’s paychecks go wholly into savings, and we subsist solely on my earnings. An end to my daily going-out-to-lunches with the boys from work. Less Friday night eating-outs with cronies, more dedication to not having fun. The way I look at it, it’ll be good for us to get an idea of just how tight things’ll be as a one-income family, and, hopefully, we’ll realize that a few adjustments here and there will make things easier to get used to. Sure, we won’t have true baby-expenditures until the true-baby actually gets here – but it’ll at least be a good measuring stick. Baby-budgeting, oh joy.

Pitchfork’s got a great read in their feature this week, a look back on a 1980s-era documentary outing the Satanic evils of rock music. I remember a little bit of the so-called Satanic Panic, the Salem Witch Trials of the ’80s. I can remember watching Geraldo interviewing scuzzy metalheads with O-Z-Z-Y tattooed across the joints of their fingers who claimed to be Satanists, being afraid of the “Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez, etc. Those things stuck with me, made an impression on me, even influenced me. I remember once, after my high-school “discovery” of Christianity, the preacher of our small church in Florida asking me, who he knew was a devout Beatles fan, if I could print him the lyrics for John Lennon’s Imagine. He told me that, before he’d been converted, he loved that song. Recently, however, someone had told him how sacrilegious it was, and he wanted to check it out for himself. God and popular music will always be at odds. Anyway, anyway… back to what the heck I was talking about – read that Pitchfork feature, it’s a good one.

That’s it for this evening folks, ‘night.

sometimes you just write

Add it up, add it up.
Friday y’all. Friday and I don’t have to wake up tomorrow. But now, Thursday night, it’s getting late and I have only the Lindsay Lohan and World of Warcraft paragraphs done (read on, you’ll see what I mean) – and if that’s all I can muster, you’ll never read this. I have no real original content tonight, just links and link commentary.

My new Maxim came with a free 14 day trial of WoW, and I am so tempted to install it and give it a shot. So many people I know are obsessed with it, and it does seem to be right up my alley. See, these are the things my sedentary lifestyle allows me to think over: whether or not to install a free game and invest some sitting-on-my-ass time in running around in it. I’m no gamer, but I have a feeling I could become addicted to a large fantasyish MMPORG like WoW or EverQuest. And… why I’m writing about this, I have no idea. Let’s move on then.

Found an interesting link today while doing random browsing of del.icio.us, a free online book (in PDF format) written by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. But, this is no comic strip, just what Adams calls “… a 132-page thought experiment wrapped in a fictional story,” and recommends that, “For maximum enjoyment, share God’s Debris with a smart friend and then discuss it while enjoying a tasty beverage.” So, I figured I’ve got plenty of smart friends, and the premise of the book does sound interesting: Imagine that you meet a very old man who—you eventually realize—knows literally everything. Imagine that he explains for you the great mysteries of life—quantum physics, evolution, God, gravity, light, psychic phenomenon, and probability—in a way so simple, so novel, and so compelling that it all fits together and makes perfect sense. What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything? Compelling, no?

I’m about 40 pages into it and already it’s struck several chords with me, Divine omniscience vs. human free will, the odds of choosing the “right” religion, what exactly quantifies “belief,” etc. The narrative style reminds me a lot of Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, actually. To temp you even more into reading, should you be the temptable type, an excerpt I particularly liked:

“Let’s say that you and I decide to travel separately to the same place. You have a map that is blue and I have a map that is green. Neither map shows all the possible routes, but both maps show an acceptable—yet different—route to the destination. If we both take our trips and return safely, we would spread the word of our successful maps to others. I would say, with complete conviction, that my green map was perfect, and I might warn people to avoid any other sort of map. You would feel the same conviction about your blue map.

“Religions are like different maps whose routes all lead to the collective good of society. Some maps take their followers over rugged terrain. Other maps have easier paths. Some of the travelers of each route will be assigned the job of being the protectors and interpreters of the map. They will teach the young to respect it and be suspicious of other maps.”

“Okay,” I said, “but who made the maps in the first place?”

“The maps were made by the people who went first and didn’t die. The maps that survive are the ones that work,” he said.

“Are you saying that all the religions work? What about all the people who have been killed in religious wars?”

“You can’t judge the value of a thing by looking only at costs. In many countries, more people die from hospital errors than religious wars, but no one accuses hospitals of being evil. Religious people are happier, they live longer, have fewer accidents, and stay out of trouble compared to nonreligious people. From society’s viewpoint, religion works.”

Scott Adams, God’s Debris

And we all blog about the same things in the end, don’t we?

Finally, while I’m not a big pop-culture fan, I did get a chuckle out of Stereogum’s relating of the Lindsay Lohan / Jason Lewis thing (although, I must admit I didn’t even know there was a “Jason Lewis” to impersonate). I think I like it more for the 007 famous-people-infiltrating aspects than I do for any vicarious thrill from this guy’s brush with Ms. Lohan. You can read it, and then when you’re done you’ll feel like my blog today was full of good stuff – it’s the power of linking.

I thought you were gonna start a blog, pussy.

Give up Dave, you obviously have nothing to say. Goodnight.

where are the teeth?

Bless y'allz.
This weekend it felt like I had so much “binned” for today’s entry, I slacked in thinking up topics today. Then, when I logged in to check my almost-finished post – it was only a few topic-sentences and one fully-formed paragraph. Well, so much for not having to write tonight, to the keyboard the fingers fly. Lotta God-talk today, so my heathen brothers will simply have to bear with me.

First things first, thanks to those of you who started populating the sounds familiar Frappr page, it’s a good start (although, as of last night, Frappr’s little pushpins were noticeably absent). If you missed the link yesterday, I’ll be putting it in each entry this week to give you plenty of chances to add yourself to the roll. Hit it now! Be there or be somewhere else.

By luck the other day, I caught a preview for a two-part show on the History Channel called The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross. I set the TiVo with anticipation, as the preview made the program look amazing… a mix of historical storytelling and live-action reenactment. I watched the first two-hour installment tonight and am happy to say it was excellent. A little reminder of the brutality that was the Christian vs. Islam battle of the initial crusade. The history of religion is simply fascinating to me – as are the concepts of religion and faith in general. Anyway, if you get a chance and there’s an encore presentation or something, I highly recommend the show. Whether or not you claim a God, it’s chock-full of world-altering history that provides the setup for so much of the modern global stage – you’re bound to appreciate it. One day, when I have tons of spare money and gobs of spare time, I’d like to take some college-level theology/religious-history classes… maybe this is worth another paragraph…

Sharaun got a bit peeved with me this Sunday on the way to church, as I freely offered my opinion that I thought the pre-service “classes” we attend were of little value. To me, the classes are all the same – always the basics, perennially for the noobs. “God is love,” the Sermon on the Mount, the death, burial, and resurrection; Christianity’s Dick and Jane, the ABCs of faith. Over and over and over, the same simple stories are told, the same banal comments are made, a mass-hypnotized crowd nods in unison to tired themes taken out and trotted around since Reformation Day One. OK sure, so you have to properly indoctrinate the fresh blood… give them them sacred precepts, the bare-bones tenets; fine. But, what got under Sharaun’s skin was my comment, “Where are the teeth?” Where’s the real history, the interesting stuff: the politics, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnosticism, the scholarly review? How many times have you sat through a Sunday School lesson on the Prodigal Son? Tired of it? Know it? Me too. Let’s have a series of lessons on the defining years of Christianity, the first-thousand years AD, the ecumenical councils, the canonization of the Bible. Let’s get into the grey areas, let’s air the dirty laundry, let’s talk about all the stuff we’re afraid to talk about, the hard-to-reconcile, the obviously exaggerated; yeah, all that.

Why do modern Protestant faiths ignore the roads that birthed them? I can somewhat understand the focus: evangelize; win souls; spread the Gospel. After all, those who most need salvation are those least likely to care how 1st Peter came to be in the New Testament and more likely to care that their new God will take care of them in rough times. The problem here is that you end up with an army of blind followers… a mass of believers hooked only on the charisma of Christ, the hope of forgiveness, the promise of something better than today. Is this wrong? I have no idea… maybe not – but I can see how it could be dangerous. Simply flipping the faith switch, just believing – exactly the scenario Bible-toting Christians pray upon non-believers – could be cause for concern. Think about it: this “God,” this supreme being beyond all human comprehension – He will feed your hungry children, forgive you your deepest trespasses, provide for your every need; but what do you really know about Him? Would you die for Him? How about kill for Him? What does it even mean, where does what you hold dear really come from?

Wait.. what’s that? You’re tired of this crap, I’m not making sense anymore? You say that, instead of this junk, you wanna know what the hottest tracks have been in my personal rotation last week? OK, here’s a quick snapshot (more details in my ‘scrob link in the sidebar) of what I’ve been swaying my head and slapping my thigh to (all with linky goodness for the curious):

Arctic Monkeys – A Certain Romance
The Joggers – Night of the Horsepills (sadly linkless)
The Strokes – You Only Live Once
Rogue Wave – 10:1
The North American Halloween Prevention Initiative – Do They Know It’s Halloween? (wait for it to load, or grab it impatiently with this nifty Firefox extension)

Ummm… OK, I have nothing more to write (actually, I do, and did, but once again “binned” it for tomorrow). Goodnight.

crunching numbers

Could be hand outstretched for money, like the 1st paragraph; or religious hands like the last.
Writer’s block removed, if only for a day. Four of six paragraphs written made it, not so bad. Let’s get to the lucky four then, shall we?

Last night I did something I’ve been meaning to do now for a while: overhaul our finances spreadsheet to predict what things will be like once Lil’ Chino arrives. I had been avoiding it because I don’t really use the spreadsheet for much other than reference anymore, which I guess tends to happen when you’re not for wont of money. I’m not all Greenspan with my finances or anything, I tend to be happy if we have some pocket money, are able to save some each month, and aren’t getting past-due notices. But our plans for a one-income post-baby household had me more than a little curious – just how realistic is that? Well, after some serious modifications to my OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet (I made federal and state tax deductions automatic), I was able to plugin whatever numbers I wanted to run various financial scenarios. I guess the good news is that we won’t be penniless; we’ll still be able to save each month, tho perhaps not as much, won’t be getting past-due notices, and should even have a little scratch left to get a cup of joe in the morning should we want. It gave me comfort though, seeing the bottom line in the black… made me feel just that much more like we really are ready to have this girl.

Changing subjects drastically…

A friend asked me the other day how I always manage to recall some long-ago-written entry and link back to it as something related to my current topics. I don’t know really, I guess I do tend to remember a pretty surprising amount of what I’ve written. Sure, there’s lots of crap in there that I’ve forgotten – but I think, for the most part, the stuff I forget is filler anyway, “fluff” to make the page look full. If I put time and thought into something I wrote though, odds are I’ll remember that. That’s not saying I haven’t found myself about four or five paragraphs into what I think is going to be a stellar entry when I start thinking, “Have I done this before?” A quick search of past entries proves it: you dumbass, you wrote about this eight months ago. But, in general, I’m pretty good about keeping that stuff in my brain-bone. Stuff I’ve written, lyrics to songs, obscure math equations, all sorts of inconsequential stuff… but things like mom’s birthday or paying the city utilities bill, not a chance.

I got almost all the Halloween stuff packed away, stowing the growing collection in the garage is becoming more and more Tetris-esque each year. I’m glad that, as part of the remaining backyard landscaping I broke down and decided to pay for, I’m getting a pad put in. I plan to use it for one of those ready-made sheds from Costco or the like, and a convenient place to store the three garbage cans this city gives me. Speaking of the landscaping, I think this weekend will be a big one… I’m expecting tons of progress, none of which will be made by the sweat of my brow. I’ll try and throw up some pictures if it’s dramatic enough. In fact, I like my new media gallery, Coppermine, so much, I’ve been thinking of re-putting up all sorts of pictures that I once had online but have since gone away. Yeah… when I get motivated…

Wow, them Catholics are on a roll. I wonder if we’re seeing the makings of a secretive Catholic “marketing” campaign here: Bring religion into the 21st century; make it “fit” with the modern collective’s advanced state of consciousness and understanding; make it less fanatic and legalistic and more about raw human spirituality and virtue; tout its complementary value to scientific and medical knowledge instead of championing its archaic disparities as universal truths. I guess, depending on your personal mix of worldliness and spirituality, there’s a religion for everyone… from barely-believin’ to handling-snakes-and-speaking-in-tongues.

Goodnight mofos.

where the grass is greener

Sister Ima Hypocrite
I love the USA, and I love my USA friends. From the moment I got home, I was able to hang out with my friends. All of my friends are good people who I enjoy spending time with. Remember when I mentioned that Sharaun and I broke down and finally put some color on our walls? We never quite finished – and we’ve been living in a half-painted room for months. Well… Saturday morning, Pat and Cynthia showed up for the regular watching-football-all-Saturday regiment – but this time they brought along the tools for painting. Cynthia immediately set about prepping for painting and motivating Sharaun to do the same. Then Erik and Kristi came over to help with the Halloween setup. How awesome is that?

I think I’ve ID’d at least part of the cause of my recent work-slump. It seems I’ve just lost interest in what’s going on, lost that “fire” that was driving me a few months back. Part of it is due to the big worker-bee-to-manager transition, I know that. The model of my tasks has changed so much that I can’t help but feel somewhat “lost” or aimless with respect to how I’m doing things now. But, that’s not really it. What’s really got me dragging at work is how extremely great things are going at not-work.

I mean… In comparison to my personal life right now, work is bland and stupid-boring. I thought about it this morning while talking to Wes at work – I feel like, right now, things in my life are arguably the best they’ve ever been. Sharaun and I are enjoying the pregnancy so much, the excitement over Lil Chino’s February arrival cresting so that at times it makes some nights like a near-sleepless Christmas Eve; we’re safe and happy and comfortable all-around, even working on getting nagging little “nesting” type tasks taken care of before she arrives: painting and furnishing rooms long stark and empty, finishing the backyard, shopping for cribs – things I never thought could be so fulfilling. Just looking at the miniature pink one-piece outfits in the baby-store makes me a bit giddy – you’re gonna be able to fit in that? Nothing’s broke, nothing’s wrong, nothing’s pressing, nothing’s weighing on my mind.

And that, my friends, is my theory regarding why I currently care a little less about work than I used to. Sure, somewhere in me I realize that the means work provide me enables a lot of that happiness – and I’m not eschewing that – it’s just, I can get along at work without making it an 18hr/day thing like it was back in the last peak. Right now, I’ve got down time and I’m gonna enjoy it. Call me slacker, if the shoe fits.

Now, fate will probably make me get hit by a bus or go bankrupt for saying all that – just to show me that life can’t be all ups with no downs, but I’m not too worried about jinxing the whole deal. That’s right, I flaunt my happiness in fate’s face… right were he can smell it but not grab it, like that dog on a rope from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons – I know right where that line is. I’m not afraid to say things are going good, because I know for certain that there’ll be times where they are once again not so rosy – it’s just the way things go. So, why not relish a little in the sunny spots? Linger, hang out and enjoy it without reservation – I know I will. That’s just how I roll.

Yay God! Let’s go.

I don’t know what it is, and this may sound silly… but more and more lately the concept of religion being practiced in a way that would most closely relate to modern Catholicism has been appealing to me. I feel like where I am, spiritually, is beginning to align less with the charismatic Reformation-based practices, and more with the interesting mix of longstanding tradition and somewhat more liberal interpretation that comes with modern Catholicism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really looking to “convert;” my heart’s not really signed-up anywhere anyway. I could honestly care less where I choose to go, maybe even if I go… I haven’t fully fleshed that out yet. I guess what I’m saying is, by non-denominational loosely Protestant standards, I’m guess I’m becoming a “watered-down” Christian. Or, I’ve always been one – and I’m just now OK with saying it.

I’m believing less and less by the letter, and more and more by what’s in my chest. I want to acknowledge something, but I don’t know what it is – and I’m OK with leaving it at that. Maybe it’s nothing; a yen for spirit that’s hard-coded into human DNA, who knows. But whatever it is, and however you get it – be it climbing mountains or handling serpents, there’s no denying it’s there. Plus, I enjoy acknowledging it. Maybe it’s the kindred feeling I get to the whole history of humanity acknowledging something similar – an entire race searching for something greater than themselves. I don’t want to say I believe things I know I don’t believe anymore – there’s no point. Oh sure, I can still go to a church that believes those things, but I’m not gonna front anymore. You can deal with this “faith issue” however you’d like – I’m comfortable with it and that’s all that matters.

So what, become a Unitarian – get the best off all worlds. Sure, whatever, like I said I don’t think I really care. I like the virtues that religion attempts to uphold. Yeah, I know, you can be super-virtuous without religion, don’t forget I was once the antagonistic agnostic as well so I have all the secular arguments before I put down the outlandish non-secular ones.

Oh crap, got interrupted while writing and lost all drive to continue with this same-old-same-old. It’s OK, my God-talk is largely circular anyway, so I’m sure I’ll come back to it eventually. Heathens, you may resume reading now.

So… to close out today’s entry I’ll leave you with some pictures of Halloween progress (credit due to the More’s for all their upholstery and corpse-stuffing help!).

the coffin, painted brown, with red satin lining


bendin’ benton, in his final resting place

benton, rising from the dead to scare kids


the witch at night, with broom

Woulda been the best Halloween night ever if the crank ghost’s motor hadn’t finally given out. It gave a valiant effort over the last two Halloweens, but it sounded sicker than ever when I fired it up this year. Time to get a new motor, and maybe redesign the mount… not looking forward to it.

Love ya all, g’nite.

slaying giants

Sprung forth.
I made a pink blog and a blue one; was ready with either. That’s how much I care about this stupid thing …

Well, we had Lil’ Chino’s sexy test yesterday. We didn’t see a penis, so that either means we’re having a girl or there’s gonna be six more months of winter. A girl! Wow, I was dead-sure that we were gonna have a boy. When they told us, I was actually surprised… I had fully expected to hear “I think this baby is a boy.” Not disappointed, mind you, just surprised. Being honest, the prospect of having a girl scares me more than that of having a boy. I know that may sound silly, but I think of girls as such delicate or fragile little things… and boys being a little more rugged. I’m worried that I’m not gentle enough or something. I guess you know by now that this isn’t a “real” concern of mine, not truly a “worry” at all – just my first thoughts knowing we’ll soon have a little girl.

Sharaun and I both took the day off for the event; well, the sonogram and to get some time to hang out before I leave for a week. After the sonogram, we headed out to an artery-clogging breakfast at the local greasy spoon, and then proceeded to the Babies R Us to look at all the incredibly overpriced and somewhat doubtfully necessary baby merch. My lord y’all, babies need a lot of stuff! She needs a crib to sleep in, a bassinet to sleep in, a car seat to ride in, and a portable crib/playpen thing to sleep in. I think I can accomplish quite the same with an empty Xerox box – a perfect universal carry/sleep thing. Sharaun did not like this idea.

Hey… it’s been a while; let’s talk God a bit, shall we?

If the Catholic church can really pull this off, it may be the single biggest sea-change in the history of modern-day Christianity. Shock and horror, the Biblical tale of creation and the flood are similar to countless other cultures’ creation and flood stories – and are likely myth, not literal history. I think the majority of “young” believers know, in their “heart of hearts,” that the Bible is not 100% literal. But, in some cases, those thoughts are squashed as blasphemy and tickets to Hell by their chosen faith. So, to see the world’s major faith stand up and tell its adherents that perhaps Jonah really didn’t live inside a fish’s belly is refreshing.

Oh sure, TBN will say this is simply Satan’s toehold in the eventual complete degradation of God’s perfect message. But get real folks. In my opinion, in order to survive, hard-line, legalistic, over-literal interpretations of Christianity will need to recognize that times are changing and the masses are no longer satisfied with “magic” as an explanation for things they don’t understand. They’ll need to embrace this and adapt, or settle for a following of unbalanced extremists. Don’t worry TBN, you can still keep your message and you offering plates – just give up and admit Methuselah, while he may well have looked hundreds of years old, probably never really made it past 75.

Turning again to the topic of the Halloween project. I had forgotten that the cylinder I ordered has a 1/8″NPTF inlet, and it seems that no store in the world carries anything but 1/4″ NPT and the occasionally 3/8″ NPT. So, I’m once again hindered by jumping the gun on the project ingredients. I do this every year, and swear every year I won’t order everything the next year until I’ve thoroughly planned out the whole project. And, turns out I was able to get a solenoid for even cheaper than the Ebay deal that feel through. The only drawback being that I now have to wait until halfway through October before I can even assemble and test the coffin prop. I usually like to get the decorations up at least a week-and-a-half in advance of the big night, which only gives me a week after coming back to ensure everything’s working right with all the props.