still pooping taiwan

Put da needle on da rekkid...
Home is a good place to be. Even though I’m back around the same unfinished things that have been bugging me for months: the perennially unfinished backyard, the shower that needs new grout, the unpainted walls and unfurnished front room. Yes, it’s all here and all still calling to be completed. For the long term projects at least, it looks as if they’ll have to remain unfinished for the next month or so. Talking to Sharaun the other night, I realized that I’ll be away from work-proper for the entire month of May. Two and a half weeks in Taiwan again, then one day at home before leaving for another two days in Oregon, then a week off while my sister-in-law and her husband are in town. And poof! The month of May is gone.

When I was a kid, my cousin Nathan introduced me to U2 and Depeche Mode, funnily enough – he also introduced me to music in “compact disc” form at the same time. Anyway, I became a die hard Depeche Mode fan… collecting all the cassettes I could find at the local mall’s Camelot. Remember that “frequent buyers” card they’d stamp each time you bought a cassette? I think I got my Ah-Ha or Pet Shop Boys or Wang Chung tape that way, y’know, the 10th one is free or something. Yeah, my head was fried on tunes even at that age. Wow, I apologize for getting off track – but there’s something good about that – it’s writing for writing’s sake! It’s feeling free to follow my thoughts as I go. Back to the story. Today I was sitting around hacking up a bunch of MP3s with Audacity so I could import some nifty new ringtones into my phone, and I was browsing the collection for good songs to splice and dice. I fired up Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration and eventually came to the closer, “But Not Tonight.” I tell you, something incredibly meaningful from my youth is associated with this song. I can’t remember specifically what it is, but just the first few strains of the tune are enough to elicit chills and nearly stir up tears.

Ben and I were talking the other day about open source and free software, and how we’re all proud of our legal machines. However, and it sounds stupid now, I had never really thought about a piece of software that I use on all my machines, and the fact that it includes pirated warez. I’m talking about the K-Lite Codec Pack, which contains several key codecs for all sorts of file types. I use it for DivX and Xvid movies, and all sorts of other junk. Come to find out, it ain’t good y’all. So, I promptly uninstalled it and went looking for an open-source alternative. As usual, SourceForge did not disappoint, offering up the Gordian Knot Codec Pack, which contains everything I need. I am writing about codecs, what’s wrong with me?

For some more semi-tech talk, a couple things. First off, I think it’s totally awesome, and pioneering actually, that the Grateful Dead has started to sell their famous Dick’s Picks and From the Vault series of CDs as digital downloads. For years, the Dead allowed tapers to freely record their shows, offering special tickets for the tapers section. Free distribution of these recordings was also encouraged, although everyone knows that exchanging tunes for money is bad karma. Trading of tapes and eventually DATs or MDs was done in large tents at the show, where people were always in search of an upgrade to their favorite shows (because 10th generation tapes sound like ass compared to sweet, sweet binary cloning). Anyway, you can currently buy all the CDs in MP3 or the lossless, and open-source (again, pioneering) FLAC format. To me, this is the future of music: compressed, lossless online sales for reasonable prices. And when I say reasonable, I mean we get to subtract all the costs that go into a physical disc: manufacturing, packaging, transport, storage, etc. We pay for raw music, right off the soundboard or out of Pro Tools.

Soon, I think we’ll start to see more and more bands offer their music this way – at least, if their big corporate contracts have expired and they are free to do with their art what they will. I mean, who needs packaging? A sweet animated Flash experience or interactive online event is way more cool than glossy inserts. If you think about it for more than a little, you can actually visualize a world in which record labels and contracts are not nearly as important as they are now. At least, as a mode of distribution. Conceivably, you could record and “release” your efforts online without any middle-men. No contract, no percentage to someone else’s pocket. I realize that labels are currently still important as PR machines and the deep-pockets behind payola-funded radio play lists. But there is a hint here of a new paradigm in music publishing and distribution. Homogenized radio is dying, and digital music is reaching an adoption rate where Marketing 101 tells us it will begin to drive a secondary wave of goods and services. Perhaps, with good marketing and some initial investors, you could circumvent the majors altogether. Problem is: you gotta be good. The internet, the global audience, is the A&R man of the new century – we decide what’s good. Hey, I think we just cured another symptom of the majors. So, c’mon expired-contract open-minded artists… let’s do this thang.

And, because it fits really well here, considering the context – I’ve been busy listening to the new, and freshly-leaked, Nine Inch Nails album, which comes out in a few weeks. I like it. I like it more than that double album I bought in college and hardly listened to, and consequently can’t remember the name of right now. Anyway, some songs are very good, some are OK. Oh, and the contextually relevant bit of this rambling? Seems that Mr. Reznor has released one of the album’s tracks via the NIN website as a GarageBand2.0 file. What that means, essentially, is that he’s released the source multi-track recordings – just like a producer would get before mixing down a final track. He’s encouraging fans to “… create remixes, experiment, embellish or destroy what’s there.” What an awesome idea. At least there are some musicians out there who are embracing this age of everything-on-demand, no-secrets digital freedom.

On a completely unrelated note, caught this story via Slashdot over the weekend. The part that really caught my eye was the statement: “They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.” Things like this always intrigue me, and I must admit that it’s not always for the most noble of reasons. Somewhere in me, I have this secret wish that some long-lost Christian writings would come up that really through a wrench into modern Christian dogma. No, I’m not rooting for some discovery that would completely deflate billions of peoples’ believes and values – I’m just talking about something that might force people who are staunchly set in their ways to think outside the box and perhaps view their religion in a different way. And I don’t mean things like the Dead Sea Scrolls or Nag Hammadi texts, which stubborn believers can easily write off as offshoot-group documents which simply aren’t part of the Biblical canon. With the whole process of canonization having effectively relegated any non-canon writings to irrelevance; something like an early version of on of the New Testament gospels, maybe on rife with all sorts of Gnostic ideas, would be an awesome rock in the pond. Some small evil imp in the back of my brain would really love to see some self-important, card-carrying Southern Baptist have to chew on a lost verse of John in which Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, women can speak the word of God as well as a man.”

Holy crap this turned into a long entry… I hope I didn’t blow my week’s wad in one shot. Stay with me, we’ll see what we can come up with. Actually, I haven’t written an entry this easily in a long time, maybe my near week off last week did some good for my writer’s block or something.

Goodnight.

cussing in church

Curse like one.
Several paragraphs, some well thought-out and written with care, some written fast without much style – every single one about something different. Taken together though, I think it stands as one of the better entries I’ve done in a while. You be the judge.

A much better day, a return to normalcy: meetings, e-mails, phone calls; no clenched teeth or fevered concentration. Instead bracing myself against the stormy seas of imagined deadlines, I was able to loose myself from the mast and enjoy the slow rollers of a normal workday. I like it that way, actually. With a little spare time to refresh CNN in between meetings and keep up with what’s going on outside the cubicle. Speaking of the cubicle, I had the chance last night to chat with a guy who does electrical work for new construction – wiring, etc. We hadn’t yet got around to what I do for a living when he mentioned that he “…couldn’t stand to be inside all day, stuck in front of a computer.” There’s something to that, y’know, although I’m not entirely sure I’d like to be inside walls or crawling on rafters all day either. For the job-satisfaction to money ratio, I like what I’m doing better than anything else that’s immediately available to me. And, to me, that’s enough to keep me happy. And everyone knows, happiness is what counts.

Taiwan is looming. I’ll be doing a return appearance as a speaker at a conference I actually attended last year. Funny thing is, I presented twice at the conference last year – my first appearance being what I remember as my worst public appearance ever (you can read about my post-presentation shame in my entry that day). I can recall the feeling like it was yesterday, and I’ve made it a point to not get myself into the same situation this year. This year, I am a master of the material… and I have enough “extra” info to expound if necessary or answer tough questions. If pre-conference confidence is an indicator of pending success, I’ll do 100 times better this year than last. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever given such a stinker as that single hour last year… it pains me to recall it.

I think it would be cool to build a simple plugin for Winamp that keeps track of the songs you play, and can then analyze time-defined chunks of the logs to see what mood you are/were in. AMG has all of its music organized into “mood” categories, and although I’ve never really used that information, if the classification is decent it’d be interesting to use their data to see what “mood” my last-week’s or last-month’s playlist said I was in. For instance, today I got a blues-itch, and started at Muddy Waters’ Fathers and Sons, after which I moved onto the guitar-god-rife White Boy Blues, and am currently listening to the Allman Brothers’ Brothers and Sisters. Using album-level for mood granularity, AMG’s mood-classifications tell me that I’m feeling both “earthy” and “passionate.” I like that, actually. I’m feeling rather passionate today, I mean… look at the figuratives I used in that opening paragraph… if that ain’t passion…

The other day, Pat and I were talking about how we write. The nature of the discussion was work-related, as we were saying what perfectionists/revisionists we both are when it comes to writing. It’s true, before I send an e-mail (especially if it’s an “important” one), I read and re-read and then re-re-read it again. I often decide to change the structure of my sentences as I type, reorganizing or rewording to better communicate what I want to say. Finally, when I’m satisfied with my missive, I fire it off and immediately click over to my “Sent” box and re-read the thing again. It’s a habit, or perhaps an OCD manifestation, I dunno. For me, it’s not limited to e-mail, it’s writing in general. And that’s what Pat was saying, he was wondering how I manage to write every day when I’m so picky about how things sound, how they come out. I just do it; and believe me, it takes time. I can tell you though, that I think everyone would get a good laugh if they could watch one of my entries be typed in real time… with all the backspacing, word-looking-up, organizing and re-organizing, etc. It’s a messy process.

I remember when I first started going to church with Sharaun. Coming from an established history as a drinker, drugger, and all-around foul-mouth… I was the antithesis of a good young Christian lad. People who honestly believed that swearing one swear or beering one beer might keep them from their God amazed me. During that part of my life, Sharaun and I were pretty involved with the church, and I had many occasion to be alone in the building… setting up this or working on that. And sometimes, when I was all alone in some dark storeroom, where my only companions were Sunday School supplies and Bible-times stage-props, I would give God my own little test. I’d say a big, fat, sinful word; think a big, fat, sinful thought; purposely entertain big, fat, sinful doubts I had. I’d “sin,” in the house of God, I’d deliberately do the things that I couldn’t believe people thought would incur the wrath of God. Just words, out loud and willful. And who would have known – the didn’t bring the Lord sweeping down to cleanse his temple of the scourge that was my open defiance.

If you couldn’t tell, I wasn’t able to think of a graceful exit from my “cussing in church” piece – so I just stopped writing. So, to change subjects… Because the quote seemed important, and also to test my new “quoted text” style, here’s a rather ominous-sounding one from Dr. Rice herself:

I believe that everybody is telling the Iranians that they are going to have to live up to their international obligations or next steps are in the offing. Everybody understands what next steps means.

Yeah, now that looks good. There’s probably a far simpler way to implement it using CSS, font colors and sizes, but I chose to go the old-fashioned route and used transparent GIFs and html “align” tags. I may not be the most cutting edge web developer, but I get the look I’m after most of the time. It probably renders as complete nonsense in anything other than IE, who knows.

And I’ll leave you with that. Goodnight.

sucking out the spirit

Do the numbers lie?
Right now, I’m wrecked tired. Last night I stupidly stayed up until 2am… and the fatigue really hit me around 4pm today. Before I do this, I wanted to tell you guys that I really hesitated about posting another rant on religion. I wanted to write something funny again… like some of the old entries I’m so proud of. I’ve always said though, that whatever ends up getting written is whatever was meant to be written. Forced stuff just doesn’t work… funny just happens. So with that, here’s some super-unfunny crap for ya.

Current estimates* put the world’s population at 6,396,000,000, which, after some zero counting, I decided is near 6.4 billion. When I said yesterday that I find statistics interesting, it got me thinking. Some of the most interesting, and telling, statistics are those about world religion. For instance, out of those 6.4 billion people I mentioned above, an estimated 5.3 to 5.8 billion purport to believe in “… God or a similarly understood higher power(s). “* That’s somewhere between 80%-90% of ALL people, an overwhelming majority that’s hovering close to unanimity; simply amazing. Doing a little statistical analysis with these numbers can yield some interesting thoughts.

I need to make two assumptions before I get into the numbers:

  1. I’m assuming that the probability that any person will be born in a certain geographical area is directly proportional to the population of that area. I.e., The more people on a continent, the more babies of the world born on that continent. For this exercise I’m going to equate a baby’s percentage chance of being born in country X to country X’s percentage of world population.
  2. I’m assuming that if you’re born in a certain area, it’s reasonable to think your religious ideas will fit the statistical data for that area’s religious beliefs. I.e., if you’re born in Thailand, and the population of Thailand is statistically 95% Buddhist, I’m assuming there’s a 95% chance you’ll end up Buddhist.

I realize this 2nd assumption could be argued on the point that people don’t always stay where they’re born, as well as many other points. But as a generality – I think it’s a relatively safe assumption to say that most people stay in the country they are born in, and will align with the statistical trends.

Before we go any further – I also realize that statistics can change over time, and you can’t eliminate the possibility of dramatic change. Whereas Thailand is 95% Buddhist today, who’s to say there couldn’t be a wildly successful Hare Krishna campaign in Thailand, converting 50% of the people in a year’s time? While I readily acknowledge it’s a possibility, and would wreck all this thinking… the fact is that the breakdown of world religion by area has remained largely unchanged for decades. Another factor that I’ve not taken into account is the “growth rates” for different countries. If some countries are humpin’ and reproducin’ at a faster pace than others, it stands to reason that they may have an edge on less rabitty nations. That stuff is all too complicated though, so let’s forget it OK? Good.

With the two above assumptions, we can make some interesting inferences. I’m going to approach this through Christianity, because where I live it’s by far the theology of choice”*, and is easiest for me to hold up to the statistics. Now to the meat.

Christianity is grounded in the fact that you must believe in the God of the Bible to have “salvation” (ignoring a multitude of doctrinal differences over how salvation is truly attained). Earning salvation is the goal of Christianity; to be saved, to ultimately live forever in Heaven once you’ve died on Earth. If you don’t believe in God, you’re not just not going to Heaven for a life of eternal joy, you’re instead going to Hell… which is a “lake of fire” where there is only eternal pain and suffering. This black and white property of Christianity works well when applied to world religion statistics, because you can immediately see approximately how much of the world is going to spend an eternity in the anguish of Hell’s furnace after they die (or, conversely, how many will walk streets paved with gold and have palaces of their own – but the Hell stat is more “in yo face”).

So let’s do it then. Current estimates show that out of the world’s 6.4 billion souls, an estimated 2 billion fit a generalized definition of “Christian.”* Looking at those numbers and drawing the most basic of conclusions, it’s clear that a full 2/3 of humanity, 2/3 of God’s own creation, is damned.

Not only are only 1/3 going to Heaven, but if we go back to assumption #2 – you’ve got the odds of where you’ll be born to factor in as well. Out of the 193 countries in the world*, 120 of them have a population where Christianity is the religion of the majority (>50% population)*. That means if everyone were as likely to be born in Zambia as they were India, you’d stand about a 60% chance if being born into a country where (by assumption #2) you’d more than likely end up Christian. Not entirely bad odds, but a little “coin-tossy” for me. However, by assumption #1, we know that you’re more likely to be born into a more populous country. With that in mind, consider that 37% of the world’s total population is concentrated in two, non-Christian majority, countries. To make it a little more concrete, using the “only Christians go to Heaven” mindset: If you do manage to be one of the lucky 63% of babies not born into either of the world’s predominantly non-Christian heaviest populated countries, you still have to “overcome” your birth-country’s belief-breakdown.

Yes, I realize you have to be careful about assuming that the statistical breakdown of a population’s beliefs will determine the tendancy for someone born in that country to ally with any certain belief. There is, of course, the element of human “choice” to deal with. And sure, anyone, anywhere, at any time can choose something different than they the statistics “say” they will. But with numbers like 99.5% of the people in Yemen being Muslim*, I think it’s a safe bet that the 1st kid born in Yemen in the next 30sec will end up being a faithful Muslim.

I also realize that Christians might scoff at all of this, because of course every person in the entire world has an equal shot at knowing God. It’s as simple as believe or don’t, and that’s 50/50 odds. I gets rather silly, because from a believer’s perspective – statistics have nothing to do with the determination of a person’s beliefs. Belief is a choice, and every choice is yes or no, 50% chance. I mean, from an evangelical Christian’s point of view – being born into a country in which 99.5% of the population is Muslim makes no difference on your ability to be Christian.

Whew… I’m tired.

All that said, I haven’t even mentioned the real figures I wanted to get at with this discussion. See, we’ve broken down odds based solely on Christian vs. non-Christian lines. Thing is, the term “Christian” I’m using encompasses a lot of different faiths, or denominations. There are several of these denominations who believe that they are the only ones doing it right, and therefore the only ones who will escape Hell. For instance, most denominations which sprang from the “Restoration Movement” of the 1800s firmly believe that they are the one and only church through which one can get to God*. There are estimated to be 5,400,000 members of these denominations worldwide*. If you hold to that thinking, the percentage of people in the world who are actually going to live forever with God plummets to .00084%. Think that’s bad? Well guess what, there are even subsets within the “Restoration Movement” umbrella who think that they are the only true church…

I don’t mean to pick on any particular denomination or “movement,” the principle is the same no matter where you start dissecting. When you break down Christianity into branches and denominations, adherents to a particular set of dogma number fewer and fewer. When certain denominations or branches believe they are the only “true” way to God – they are essentially telling an overwhelming majority of people they are damned. Oh sure, they’d tell you that “everyone has a shot,” but I suspect the effect of religious conversion on statistics this large is completely in the noise.

Ooouuch… my head hurts, and I’m not making any sense anymore. I’m sorry.

This thing turned into such a mess of math and statistics that for a while I just started writing down sentences as they came to me. Afterward, I combined them all into (what I hope is) a rational flow. At one point, I was reading through my stream-of-consciousness looking for what “point” I wanted to make next, and I found the sentence “You have a 37% chance of being born.” That cracked me up for some reason. Anyway, hope it ended up being an interesting enough read to justify the time I put into it.

Goodnight goodnight goodnight.

turfwar

Take that, unrecognized papal authority!
Remember the six extra paragraphs I mentioned on Tuesday? They were mostly a boring narrative about the history of the Catholic church, and where other major world religions came into the picture. Don’t ask me, some overreaching effort to aggrandize mankind’s role in defining the divinity of popular faiths. Problem is, it was boring and soap-boxy… and I’m hardly educated enough to point out the mortal makings of supposed God-breathed dogma. But, I couldn’t bear to get rid of so much writing, so I condensed them into a one-paragraph analogy to rap feuds. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Religion is full of interesting history. For instance, did you know that the whole “eastsiiiide” vs. “westsiiiide” thing started with Christianity? That’s right, the Pope was throwin’ up the westsiiide ‘W’ with his fingers, and the Emperor in Constantinople was flippin’ it sideways to show he was down with the east like four flat tires. The result was much like the divisive rift that developed between Biggie and Pac, ‘cept instead of simply polarizing rap fans by the US coastlines, it effectively polarized world religion into two major camps. I guess you could say that Leo IX was the 2-Pac of the Great Schism… spittin’ vicious rhymes dissing Michael Cerularius (the Schism’s Notorious BIG, or Big Poppa, or Biggie Smalls). Pac was only emulating history when he dropped the notorious east-coast dis “Hit ‘Em Up.” A history established when the pre-Schism westsiders penned a fiery dis-track called the filioque clause, to which the east responded to by refusing to unleaven their bread. It was a confrontation, y’all, be sure of it. Too bad the rap-world equivalent of excommunication is to have several caps popped in thine ass. Dirt nappin’…

Ahem… well then, now that that’s over.

I get criticized a lot (mostly by Sharaun) because I say I wanna do something to get in better shape (eat less, exercise more, etc.), but I don’t actually ever do anything. I think the disparity in what I say I care about and what my actions show bothers her more than the fact that I’m not really doing anything at all to get fitter. I’ve always been like that I guess. Motivated, but not quite to the point of action… if that’s possible. Anyway, sometimes I’ll get frustrated and make a statement like, “I’m gonna eat less from now on,” and then renege on it moments later because I just really don’t care. I hate exercise that’s forced for some reason, maybe it hearkens back to my awkward uncoordinated days in middle school gym. I really enjoy things like hiking and… OK, mostly hiking. Any activity that’s a sort of exercise in disguise thing.

I get carried away sometimes. I sat down to write one paragraph about considering biking to work, and the intro sentence for that one paragraph morphed into the entire preceding paragraph. I guess that’s OK, since it makes my entries look more substantial. But back to the point: I was thinking today about buying a bike and using it as my primary mode of transportation to and from work. I live ridiculously close to work, a 5-10min drive. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that’d be something like a 15-20min ride by bike. It’s not much of a time adder, and with some headphones on it would even enable me to get a few more tunes in along the way. Plus, I think I’d like having the time to think… or not think, either is just as well.

I haven’t mentioned my idea to Sharaun, since I know she’ll just write it off as another one of my un-acted-upon “get fit” whims. I can’t blame her, really; and that’s why I kinda just want to go do it, y’know? Go out and buy a bike and just bite the bullet. I suppose winter in Northern California isn’t the best time to decide you want to start biking to work, with the rain and all… I’m also worried I’ll invest in a bike and then never use it, the danger of knowing yourself too well I suppose. But, I almost feel like I could get into it… maybe not from the “healthy alternative” angle, but I figure more likely from the “non-polluting, hippie, holier-than-thou” angle. Maybe if I keep writing, I’ll end up convincing myself. We got a little bonus at work recently, and it would go nicely towards the purchase of a serviceable bike. Yeah… that’s the ticket.

Seems like this article made a much bigger splash in the international media than it did here. A Google news search today finds it running lead on several overseas media sites: the BBC, Turkish Press, Lebanon Daily Star, etc. To me it seems like a big deal, being that we voted for war based on the premise. If they were wrong, why not say so? People have been wrong before… it wouldn’t be the first time, although the stakes me a be a tad higher. I know we have to stay the course now… but isn’t this just a little bit more than simply an excuse for liberals to say “I told ya so?” I wonder sometimes what the history books of my grandchildren will say about this war. Will time uncover an alternate justification that was kept under wraps as a matter of national security? Or will time conclude that a nation voted to go to war based on bad intelligence, or worse, something that amounts to nothing more than utter fabrication and chest-pounding? Ahhh… time… you cloistered little bitch… you keep your secrets well.

Lets see now… we got religion and politics… maybe a paragraph about abortion next, or capitol punishment? Social Security solvency, Medicare? Welfare reform, gay marriage, NAFTA? Shit, who’m I kidding? I could care less about Medicare, I’m no geezer. Alas, I once again feel I’ve bitten off more than I can truly chew… and mayhap overburdened you, dear reader, with ramblings too thick with uncomfortable topics. I call for a return to levity (a bit of brevity wouldn’t hurt either, my good man)! Egad my writing hands are in a strange mood… schisms and rap, liberal huff-n-puff, exercise!!!

Great, now Sharaun’s gonna be mad I swore on the internet again. I can’t win.

i know because i know

Creation of man.
Working from home, always an iffy premise… the “working” part, at least. Today though, I’m trying to do my best, as there is a lot of “working” to be done. One thing I’ve always wanted to be able to do while “working from home” is use my desktop PC to remote desktop into my laptop. That way, I can access all my work stuff while sitting in my comfy chair, using my big monitor, a regular keyboard and mouse, and tucked away in a quiet room away from the TV. It’s much easier to do work while sitting at a “real” PC rather than being hunched over a 15″ screen on the couch. For some reason though, every time I tried to use XP’s remote desktop from desktop-to-laptop, I’d manage to connect and then the laptop would immediately drop the wireless connection, which in turn dropped the remote desktop connection. I tried tweaking all kinds of settings, but I got the same behavior every time. Out of frustration, I decided to try good ol’ VNC, and lo and behold it works like a charm. It seems to be a little “laggier” than XP’s native remote desktop, but it’s permissible simply because it works. Now the laptop can sit in the living room while I work in the comfort and isolation of the “data center.” Dang I’m a nerd.

I’m sorry… I’m gonna talk God.

Saw a report on the national news tonight that sparked a question in me, but I’ll frame it with a story… to set the backstory, if you will. Back in high school I started regularly attending church with Sharaun. I’ve long been fascinated by religion. History mingled with faith, unquestioning love mingled with elitism; something about the mystery and power of religion has always been attractive to me. I would attend with an open ear and open mind, taking in every lecture, every sermon, every study, trying at all times to learn for myself. On one occasion, I guest preacher was visiting from out of state. Known for giving very passionate (remember, this is a non-denominational congregation of the Protestant, back-to-the-Bible ilk), and engaging sermons. His sermon on that day was about Jesus’ time in the desert after being baptized by John the Baptist.

For those of you who were absent that day in Sunday school, after being baptized, Jesus was called by God to wander the desert for forty days… all the while being tempted by the devil. The Gospel of Luke recounts one moment of Jesus’ temptation: And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” For some reason, this statement struck me. I thought about it for the rest of the lecture, and afterward found the preacher to ask the question I’d formed: “By what authority does Satan offer Jesus this? Who gave it all to him? How can he offer it?” The preacher responded that Satan must be lying; he is, after all, the devil. Still, I always wondered why Jesus just didn’t call him on it: “You have not the authority to offer this Satan! Only my Father owns all, and only He can do with it as he sees fit.” But he didn’t, and the explanation would have to stand.

Anyway, back to my story. On the news they were talking about the tsunami and how it has rocked the faith of many living in the regions hardest hit. “How can God allow this to happen?,” they asked. “Why’s it have to be God,” I thought, “Why couldn’t it be the Devil’s doing? Wouldn’t that make it easier to swallow?” Then it hit me, it couldn’t be the Devil’s doing… because… when you get right down to it, just what can the Devil do? The concept of the Devil is kinda flawed, because God is omnipotent. So blaming bad things on the Devil really doesn’t work… because they were first run by the proxy filter that is God’s divine will, right? So, in essence, God let the Devil’s evil happen, right? What real power does the Devil have then? If he can’t affect anything without God letting it happen, he may as well be powerless. In fact, the Devil is only a powerful force if God allows him to be… right?

If you take it one step further, you run into the whole omniscience of God vs. human free will problem. That is, how can God both grant us the free will do make choices between good and evil, yet already know the result of every choice we’ll make. If God already knows how we’re going to live our life, and whether or not we’ll end up in Heaven or Hell, why even make us live? If he knew all along that Adam would accept the apple from Eve, did Adam every really have a choice at all? So, I dunno y’all. The simple explanation is that God is not, in fact, omniscient, or that he has some kind of limited-omniscience. I just dunno. But luckily, I don’t have to figure it out anytime soon… or ever, for that matter. So, keep on believin’ what you believe, ’cause I don’t have the answers.

Whew… that’s it. Did all the heathens come through OK? Good.

Another mystery of the universe that’s always perplexed me, although not quite on as high a level, is why TVs sometimes “buzz” when certain things come on the screen. I know I’m not the only one who’s seen this, right? Something like a telephone number or some words are flashed on the bottom and an audible buzz comes from the speakers? Sometimes, it seems like the reds are “too high” or something, and only red portions of the image get all staticy, and are accompanied by the buzzing. It’s almost like the colors get so bright that they bleed over into the sound. Anyway, I always wondered what makes that happen. Turns out, that’s pretty much what’s happening. The scientific explanation? The “overmodulation of the video carrier (higher video content equals brighter picture) on a television transmitter results in loss of carrier such that the TV demodulation circuits cannot demodulate the sound carrier properly.” Thank you, today’s lesson is over.

Man, what a dismal entry thus far. I gotta pick up the pace or something.

You know what’s interesting to me? Snuff. Not like the modern stuff you put under your lip, but real honest-to-goodness old school snuff. I’m almost interested enough to get some and try it… how exotic would it be to carry around a snuffbox and paisley handkerchief for the brown snots that would result. I could feel so stuffy and British, snorting milled tobacco for the nicotine high. How very Elizabethan I should be! The most foppish dandy, not to mention the dandiest fop, of them all.

I found this site the other day and really dug it. I bet Colin Meloy has consulted it a time or two when writing his songs.

Well, believe it or not… I have like six more paragraphs written. I figure I’ll save them for tomorrow, or next week, or never… because, for now, I’m done. Goodnight.

can’t put brown down

Wisemen... not wiseguys.
Merry Chrimma all! It’s that time of year for family and wrapping paper and ham and making the universal mistake of buying sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole instead of the required yams. Actually, the term “sweet potato” in the casserole‚Äôs name is most accurate. If you do your research, the things that stores commonly sell as “yams” are really a type of sweet potato (there are two varieties, the whiter-fleshed kind which the stores accurately call “sweet potatoes,” and the orange-fleshed kind which stores wrongly label as “yams”). In fact, true yams aren’t potatoes at all, they’re roots. I think because so many people refer to the orange sweet potatoes as yams, the stores must do it too. Either way, Sharaun makes this awesome casserole every year – so we’ve learned the difference the hard way. However, since mom and dad did the shopping this year before we got here – we ended up with the wrong thing again. Damn you, you confusing sweet poyamoes, yamatoes, potams… Wait, can I say “damn” on Christmas?

The non-sweet potato part of Christmas went swimmingly though, the gifts were a’plenty, a’thoughtful, and pretty a’awesome. I got some clothes, new shoes, and even a laser-guided parking system so I can accurately park my truck in the garage to within inches. Not to mention a two-year subscription to Maxim, a razor, socks, underwear (yes, with iron-ons), and some of the little things I always enjoy: silly putty, a Duncan yo-yo (butterfly style, bitch), and a Wacky Wall Walker. Can I say “bitch” on Christmas? Damn. Sharaun seems to like her gifts a lot, I think I did a better-than-usual job of buying this year (thanks Kristi) – and the list she gave me was only part of the reason. Even mom and dad made out pretty well I think. We all had a fine time tearing into gifts and posing for pictures with the cast-aside bows on our heads. As a plus, my folks really seem to dig the copy of Brian Wilson’s SMiLE I got ’em… good music.

Around noon yesterday, while sitting on the couch at my folks house having just finished Christmasing up the blog, I spied a copy of The Da Vinci Code on my parents’ bookcase. Over the years, so many people have told me I would like this book – based on my existing interest in theology, alchemy, Masonry, Illuminati, and countless other things that end in the “ee” sound. With nothing much to do on Christmas eve, I decided to give it a go. Before I knew it, it was dinner time and I was already halfway through the book. Already being familiar with some of the history featured in the book (the Templars, the canonization of the Bible, the Gnostic gospels, etc.), I found it fascinating. Eventually, it was 11pm and I had under a 100 pages to go. I made the call to finish the book that night, and turned the last page around 12:30am. It was a good book, the religious history and theory and code-crap talk right to the guy in me who voraciously read The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.

With the passing of Christmas day, our short vacation in Oregon is over – and we hit the road again tomorrow to head back down into sunny, and almost inconceivably less-liberal than here, California. Whereas the Gods smiled on our journey north and did not hamper us with snow, it seems we must have angered them over our short stay, and they plan to blanket the mountain passes with white stuff. I’m totally cool, I got the snow chains (never used ’em, and only the slightest idea how to put ’em on), and I’ve been practicing driving on ice. Not really, I’ve never driven in real snow or anything. Either way, I know tomorrow means another ten hours on the road… and perhaps even another buffet and embarrassingly-awful cabaret show, who knows.

Well folks, I think that’s my entry for the day – time to Christmarelax instead of writing. Suzy’s Christmas entries were particularly good today, I’d recommend them if you’re hard up for more blog-reading on this, the day of Christ’s birth. Since I don’t normally write on the weekend, I think I’ll take tomorrow off (convenient, since we’ll be on the road all day long). Until Monday, safe and back at home…

Merry Christmas!

the satanic flier


I wonder if there’s anyone who reads this that I don’t know about? I know of a handful who still read it every so often, but I wonder if there are any random people who read it – kinda like me reading the other online journal I frequent. Just a random person reading all about another random person’s daily events and stuff. I guess there’d really be no reason for someone to just “happen” upon the site – so perhaps not. This will be my 168th entry in about 8mos of writing, not bad. (I know that because there are little “hidden” direct-links to each entry next to the date up there, and they have the post number in ’em). It’s a habit now, so I keep going.

The SMUD people came out and did a tree-survey of my backyard. They give free trees in an effort to conserve energy through shade they make. It’s a cool program if you want some free trees, and they have a lot to choose from. The lady mapped out my backyard and then suggested some tree varieties and placements. In all she recommended seven trees, four of them medium-sized flowering pears and three different kinds of larger maples. I don’t agree with her planned placement 100%, but I’ll stick to it for the most part. I just don’t want to eat up all the grassy space with trees. Would be nice to have some shade on that back part of the house though. They deliver the trees sometime next week. Pretty soon my backyard may look somewhat backyardy… with sprinklers sticking up from the dirt and baby trees growing among the rocks. Awesome.

This weekend is our first Yosemite trip of the season. We’ll probably do a couple short hikes on Saturday and Sunday, and just the one night of camping Saturday. Well, provided we’re able to get one of the 1st-come, 1st-served sites in the valley. Should be fun as we’ll rendezvous with my folks Saturday night, who’ll be there celebrating their anniversary. But the weekend won’t end there this time, not for me. I’m taking Monday off and taking a 40ft boat from Sacramento to San Francisco. One of our buddies works at a boat shop and they take their big ones to the boat show in SF each year, they put in on the Sacramento River and take a nice slow trip all the way over. The weather should be great, so I’m really looking forward to a nice relaxing day on the river – and more importantly, not at work.

When we were freshmen in high school I was reading a ridiculous book which I’d borrowed the book from a girl I was dating. It was a fictional account of a woman who was involved in some manner with satanic ritual abuse. It was an awful book, but I was into that whole occult thing. Being a more exploitive rip-off of the Rosemary’s Baby theme, the book delved into rituals and even contained some mock satanic-speak from the supposed events.

As I said, at the time I was big into the whole occult thing – and I had also been reading these reference books at the library which were like “encyclopedias of the occult.” Each volume of these encyclopedias had a huge Baphomet on the outer jacket. For some reason, I got the idea to make up a fake event flyer for a make-believe satanic gathering. Using a photocopy of the very authentic-looking Baphomet from the encyclopedias and a mixture my own words and the satanic-speak from the book, I created a mock “promotional flyer” for a supposed satanic gathering in my town.

My plan was to pull a prank with the fake flier. I gathered my usual crew of trusted friends and let them in on the idea. An ambitious plot for four freshman, we were going to sneak onto school grounds late one Sunday evening and stuff the folded fliers into as many lockers as possible – concentrating on the “senior” lockers. We ran off 100 copies of the flier and somehow got up to the school around midnight one Sunday evening. After scaling the gates to get inside, we split up and ran down the halls stuffing pre-folded satanic ritual invites into as many lockers as possible. We must’ve made too much noise, because the groundskeeper/security-guard ended up rolling around the grounds in a golf cart. Luckily we all scattered and managed to escape before being caught, and we planted most of the fliers.

Monday morning the suspense was almost too much to bear. By third period the fliers were the talk of the school. Being relatively unknown as just simple freshmen, we managed to stay under the suspicion radar pretty well. By lunch the administration had been involved as several of the more concerned senior girls had shared the flier with the office staff. Near the end of the day, Sharaun and Natalie confronted Kyle and I to ask if we were behind the fliers. We of course denied all knowledge.

Over the next few weeks, there was talk of a satanic cult in the small city of Rockledge. The flier was shown to two separate church youth groups and touted as absolutely authentic in language and symbolism (supposedly even the correct demons were named). I know this because one of our conspirators, Joey, was actually in one of the youth groups where the flier was presented. The entire group of church teens was warned about satanic cults and their influence, the whole time the flier was being used as “proof” that this sort of activity was real and happening right in their own backyard. Supposedly the youth group leader sent a copy of my little prank to a “cult expert,” although we never heard any more on that. I always wondered how Joey kept it together during that speech… I remember he was almost exploding when he called to tell us what had gone down.

Being as the flier was an “invite” to a supposed satanic event, it gave a location and date and time to show up and participate (I kept the date and time non-specific enough so that we could’ve done the prank anytime without having to modify the flier text). Our ultimate goal was to actually stake out said location on the evening of the rumored event and see if anyone (would-be satan worshippers, cops, etc.) actually showed up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it and to this day have no idea if anything actually went down or anyone showed up. In my head, there was a huge turnout of police cruisers, vigilante youth ministers clad in white linens and wielding holy water, and high school senior wrestlers on a mission to defend their cheerleader girlfriends from evil satanists.

So, without further ado – pulled from the shoebox that is the paper archive of my middle through high school years:

The text, for the vision impaired:

In the name of Satan, Lucifer, Belial, Leviathan, and all the demons, named and nameless, walkers in the velvet darkness, harken to us. O dim and shadowy things wraith-like, twisted, half-seen creatures, glimpsed beyond the foggy veil of time and spaceless night.

Draw near, attend us on this night of fledgling sovereignty. Welcome a new and worthy brother/sister, creature of exquisite magic light. Please attend the dark rejoice in the name of our lord Satan this day before the Sabbath at midnight. Steal forth this night and meet by the start of the wood at the corner of Eyster and US1. Thank you and may the power of Satan fill and emanate from within your soul.

The wording at the top is direct from the book, the bottom is mostly my own.

Dave out.