Food eaters unite!  Break your bonds of ignorance and eat with knowledge!
I was searching through some older tunes to find something nice. Ended up listening to some sigur rós for that ethereal relaxing vibe that sometimes helps quiet my mind. I like music without words, or even with foreign words I can’t understand. Sigur Ros different in that the dude sings in a language he invented. Yeah, he made up a whole language and he sings all their songs in it. There are even internet sites for fans to go and vote on different interpretations of the lyrics. Kinda cool, kinda strange. But above all the music is awesome so it really doesn’t matter to me.

Found out I’ll be traveling to Texas next week for a couple days, not really what I wanted to do – but the bossman ordereth so I comply. I’ll be giving another presentation. I can already tell you that I most likely won’t fully know the material, because I most likely won’t invest the proper amount of time into learning it. Doomed to repeat my viscous cycle of “getting by,” I’ll do enough to fare well and, over time, forget the sting of not knowing what I should have. I don’t really count myself as having a self esteem problem per se, but I do definitely have issues when I am to be perceived as particularly learned on something and I know I’m not. I suppose that’s more of a guilt thing, but there’s also the slight humiliation that goes along with it. Not that I have a right to complain when you consider it’s all my doing, and that I could bone up and become nearly bulletproof if I wanted to. if I wanted to. Anyway, all that aside – the timing kinda blows because I’m gonna miss an Ima Robot show that’s here in town. Bummer.

Benz informed me that the Notwist is playing at Slims in February, which is cool because counting the Decemberists show this month it looks like we’re off to a well rounded concert schedule for 2004. I hate it when the paragraphs in my entries are all big and then there’s on tiny one, so I’m adding this sentence to fill round out the size of the paragraphs on the screen.

The other night I got this crazy itch to bake some cookies. Not like the kind you buy in a plastic tube and slice off onto a sheet, but like the kid where you need flour and eggs and crap. So I started looking online for recipes, and I kept seeing these crazy ingredients: baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar. What the heck is that junk? I mean the words “baking powder” aren’t all that descriptive. Just what is baking powder? Well, since I was already on the internet, I decided to check it out.

Turns out that baking powder is a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar, along with some flour or something. Well great, a circular definition. The bottom line is, they’re chemicals; all chemicals that act as catalysts for the baking reaction that makes air and causes things to rise. Kind of like yeast substitutes. My question is, when did baking powder come into existence? Who first decided that adding some NaHCO3 to some KHC4H4O6 might make their cookies get all fluffy? Did people use yeast until that crap got invented or what? Anyway, I skipped the cookies, as it all took on some kinda “meth lab” imagery in my head. I envisioned whipping up a batch of peanut butter cookies (with fork marks) in my bathtub while wearing a chem suit, not too appealing.

Food trivia like that is really interesting to me. It amazes me how much I don’t know where what I eat comes from. So much history has gone into the way food is made that we just pick things off a shelf and take it all for granted. I mean, who discovered that you have to boil some poisonous root for days before it turns into delicious tapioca? Some totally hungry dude I’d bet. Where does yeast come from? I know it’s naturally occurring, but if I was stuck in the woods with nothing and wanted to make bread – how would I grow/harvest/cultivate some yeast?

Who first thought of all the crazy things we do to make inedible things edible? That stuff trips me out. What’s more, I like to think about things like “what is baking powder,” because in my mind it’s some small form of questioning authority. The authority that tells me “it’s baking powder, just buy it and use it.” Screw you baking powder conglomerate!! I’m onto you, I won’t be blindly fed your propaganda! Question authority!! Now, why is wheat brown and flour white…. they bleach it?!?! I have so much to learn…

That’s it for today. A fresh-written piece, not canned like yesterday. More cut-n-paste to come this week, but this flows straight off the dome.

Dave out.

another thing to work on

The boy's got the devin in 'em and it needs to come out!
I watched the collectors edition five-disc version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on Friday afternoon while Sharaun was busy at a salon of some sort. The additional scenes were absolutely excellent, and really aide in conveying the spirit of the story. I wish I could’ve had Sharaun see this extended version first, as it helps to explain things much better for those who may have not read the books. Though I doubt I’ll be able to convince her to watch it again now that she’s sat through the screener version I originally downloaded. Although, she did say she really enjoyed the non-extended version. Anthony and I have talked about having an all day marathon when the last dvd set comes out. Starting in the morning and watching until the end. I heard that the Return of the King dvd cut will clock in at four and half hours, that means watching all of them in a row would amount to something like eleven hours of movie. I’m up for it, and I think it’d be an awesome experience to watch them all in sequence as a whole. I know it’s because I enjoy the story so much, but I honestly think the films are some of my favorites; ever.

I’ve found my next frivolous project.

Friday night we also played some more DDR over at Anthony’s place, and I’ve got the totally busted calf muscles to prove it. I’ve been considering downloading the game for the Xbox and then buying a couple dancepads, since that’d be the cheapest option. However, during our Friday night DDR playing, Ben managed to find a few open-source DDR emulators online. A couple seemed really good, but StepMania seemed to be the best. So, Saturday I BitTorrent’d the complete DDR mix package for StepMania. With over 1000 songs, you get a lot more variety than just having the Xbox game. All you need is a computer plugged into your TV and some dancepads. I picked up some PlayStation dancepads and ordered a PS-USB converter so I can use them on the PC with StepMania. I’ve already started on the project, because it kills two projects with one stone. Lemme explain:

I want to create a complete console emulation machine. A small computer that plugs into the TV and has joysticks and can play all the old console games from Nintendo, N64, Super Nintendo, Genesis, etc. It’s actually a relatively easy thing to do, since the emulators and ROMs for most consoles are readily available and work really well. I’ve been messing with Nintendo and Genesis emulators since college, and am really familiar with them. Cool thing is, the emulation machine and the StepMania machine mentioned above can be the same machine. Throw it all in a small-form-factor PC case and hook it up to my wireless network, and maintenance becomes a breeze. Anyway, the emulation and output-to-TV parts are already working, and I just need the PS-USB converter to make the StepMania portion work. Now all I need is a pretty frontend menu system to choose what games you wanna play, and it’s done! All in a couple days, not bad.

Well, I wrote a lot over the weekend when we got back from vacation – so I’m basically just cutting and pasting a bunch of paragraphs per day of pre-written blog. I do “proofread” it and add up-to-date stuff here and there, but for the most part it’s canned for the next couple days. Sorry this entry comes so late, but at least it’s here.

Dave out.

uncharacteristically vivid

It's funny because it's probably true.
Wow! I have a lot to write about from yesterday evening to now. While I was writing yesterday’s entry, Dan and Sara stopped by to give my a belated birthday present. Hopefully you can tell what it is from the picture, but if not – it’s the coolest t-shirt in the world. It’s solid black, and in medium white letters on the front it says: “I’m blogging this.” I thought it was the coolest thing ever, what an awesome gift. Here’s a picture of it, although mine doesn’t have the URL on the back. Anyway, it’s a sweet shirt.

Yesterday I watched some New Year’s Day football, and then headed over to Anthony’s place to try the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) game he got for the Xbox. If you’ve never heard of DDR before, I’ll try to break it down: it’s an interactive dancing game. There is a dancepad that registers your steps, and you try and keep up with the foot positions shown on the screen. There are varying levels of difficulty, and a bunch of different songs that suck. The first time I ever saw the game was in an arcade at a mini-golf place, and some little Asian kid was going crazy on it. I mean, he had a towel and everything. It was truly amazing to watch this kid jump and spin and shuffle around to the footsteps on the screen. Anyway, I’ve been kinda intrigued by the game ever since. I looked it up on the internet and found that they have championships and everything, but I never dared play it in an arcade.

So last night I was anxious to give it a go. Anthony assumed I’d hate it, probably due to my intense hatred of dancing, but man I loved it so hard. It was so fun. We started playing around 9:30pm and went until 1am. By the end, I had a towel on my head and was covered in a thin sheen of sweat from head to toe. That game is no joke, you get a little workout trying to hop around and keep up. At first I was terrible, but I started getting the hang of it about midway through. What a blast, I could play that game for hours? wait? I did. I am seriously considering buying it for our Xbox here so Sharaun and I can play it. She’s really good (of course), and tore us all up. Today my calves are tight from bouncing around on my toes so much, but it was totally worth it. I brought my camera and got some footage of us in action, so maybe I’ll post it later.

You would think that after a late night of DDR, the remaining hours would be pretty uneventful. Well all that aerobic exercise must have freaked my body out or something, because I had some seriously strange (and uncharacteristically vivid and rememberable for me) dreams during the night. At one point I even yelled the words “fucking idiot!” out loud, waking Sharaun. See, Sharaun, Melissa, and I were in the truck and Sharaun was driving. It was raining outside and Ben was standing on the sidewalk throwing Hershey’s Kisses through the driver-side window at Sharaun while she drove in slow circles around an intersection. He missed the car with one Kiss and it landed in the street. Wanting to get the stray chocolate, Sharaun simply opened the car door and stepped out. The car continued driving in circles, but came too close to a cement utility pole and scraped it all the way down the passenger side. It was at this point that I yelled my profanities at Sharaun, as she ran for the candy on the rainy street. What an odd dream, I bet Freud could write a thesis on the symbolism.

After that, my dream switched to me in jail. I was planning a breakout with some other guy who I knew in the dream but couldn’t name now. I recall the dream being very involved and detailed, but I can’t really remember it all now. The basics were that we busted out by digging a tunnel ala Shawshank, and headed towards some arranged spot. Once we got there we were on the riverbank, and we uncovered a camouflaged boat that was hidden and hanging on someone’s backyard fence. Another strange one for ya. I would have thought I’d have dreamed about dancing or football or something.

On a completely unrelated note, I officially closed up shop on my cd trading hobby today. I mean, I haven’t actually traded in nearly a year – but today I actually changed my cd trading pages to reflect my non-trading status. It’s kinda sad for me, but nowadays I get most of my new tunes online, and there just isn’t that much rare Beatles material coming out anymore. At least, nothing that I’m slobbering over – I’ve grown tired of the endless hours of Get Back rehearsals. So, I’m done with it for the time being. I’ll leave the webpage up, and I’m sure I may get back into it one day… but for now it’s the end of an era.

Well, I guess it’s time to go. Sharaun and I are cleaning up the house and trying to reorganize some stuff that we haven’t touched since we moved it. It’s time to clean out and throw away a bunch of stuff we’ll never use. And, we’re gonna use our steam cleaner to try and de-funk the loveseat. May the force be with us.

Dave out.

time and money

money money money...
Welcome to 2004 y’alls.

I think true economic freedom, from a personal finance aspect, has a lot to do with the decoupling of time and money. For me, money and time are still tightly coupled, and very much dependent on each other. At certain times, my money situation is rosy – other times, not so rosy. We’re never really “broke” like warming-by-the-fire-in-a-trashcan broke, but we do have peaks and valleys – which are mostly dependent on time.

Sometimes spending equal amounts of money becomes either acceptable or unacceptable based on when the spending will occur. That’s the difference between going out and buying $10 worth of pizza or burritos from a restaurant for dinner, or staying home and cooking $10 worth of pasta or meat that was purchased at the grocery store. See, the stuff in the pantry or freezer at home was purchased at a time when there was $10 to spend. Whereas it may not be the best time to drop the $10 for the restaurant meal. So yes, it’s the same amount of money being used – a wash as far as the bottom line is concerned. But it still makes a difference. Even tho it’s the same total monthly/weekly/daily pool of funds – the exact time of expenditure ends up mattering.

The coupling of money and time is used to fool consumers all the time. Car salesmen use time to distort the amount of money you’ll pay over the term of a loan. People who measure money only in terms of present-day output are relieved when the salesman tells them they can lower their payments by $100 a month, even though they’ve just bought thousands more in interest over time. In some ways I envy the ignorance of people who don’t realize that less money over more time is actually a worse deal. I mean, what would it matter if I died having never paid back my school loans. Other than the weight of my conscience telling me I stole an education, a debt on my head when I’m buried and gone means little to me.

When money is no longer coupled to time, I imagine we’ll be able to spend whatever we want whenever we want. But for now, it’s still very much cyclical. As we spend these initial years of married life climbing out from under the shadow of college debt, we’re still basically living paycheck to paycheck – the paychecks are just a lot bigger than they used to be. Perhaps that’s a sign of poor budgeting or management, I’m not sure. All I know is that we’ve managed to make impressive strides in reducing debt, while still managing to have fun and maintain a nice “entertainment” budget.

My approach to personal finance is pretty simple. Pay off debts, save and invest, and most of all have fun. I’ve also decided it’s important to realize that there’s no such thing as “extra” money. “Extra” money is always balanced out by “unexpected” expenses. If you find a $100 bill, chances are you’ll lock yourself out of the house and have to pay $100 to get back in. For all the time I spend worrying and thinking about money and finances and budgets and debt, I spend way more thinking about sunshine and music and food and nothing at all. So I think I have a pretty healthy handle on the whole money thing, and I’m not too terribly obsessive.

OK I’m going to publish this without even re-reading it. Sorry if it makes no sense and sucks.

Dave out.

messages from your dead aunt

Ben if you're reading, it's back and worse.  Help.
Ahhh? finally a “free” morning where we’re not running around. Kinda nice actually. It’s the day before we leave, the time seems to have gone so fast. I can hardly believe we’ve been here a week already.

This morning I had the house to myself, so after I read some in my books and made a nice bowl of leftover spaghetti, I sat down to watch some TV. That show with that dude who talks to dead people was on, you know the one where he does “readings” for audience members? I have mixed feelings about that show, it’s amazing to see how hard some people fall for his junk. So part of me feels bad, like he’s tricking these poor people into thinking their dead aunt is communicating with them. It’s like he’s taking advantage of these peoples’ weaknesses. On the other hand I think, what’s wrong with it? I mean, if he were telling people to go on a killing spree maybe it’d be bad – but what’s wrong with telling someone their dead father is watching over them from beyond? Some of the people were so happy and relieved to “hear” from their departed loved ones that it made me at least think he’s doing something a little nice for them. I dunno. He’s feeding the dementia of these people, so that’s probably not the best – but he’s also giving some people some kind of happiness. Either way, he’s a straight up fake – but it’s fun to watch him.

The weather here is so nice. It makes me want to get out and do something. I had this idea that I was going to drive around town and take pictures of all the places we used to hang out. Pictures to go along with all the stories I have. But, I didn’t really get the chance to do it. I stopped and took some pictures of a couple old haunts, but nothing more than that. I’d really like to go back to Astro and get some pictures, if anything remains to be photographed. Doesn’t look like I’ll make it down there either tho.

What I do know is that it’s high time I get spontaneously rich. Preferably within the next week or so, making it so I won’t have to return to work. It’s not that I hate work, I actually like my job a lot – but I would much rather not have to work. Owell, I guess that’s the dream of most. As Drew Cary said: “You say you hate your job? I’m sorry to hear that. There’s a support group for it, it’s called ‘everybody’ and they meet every night at the bar.” Well, I don’t “hate” it, but I would much rather be independently wealthy and not have to do it. I’m just waiting for the idea of a lifetime to come into my head, so I can quietly collect my riches and retire at 30. I’ll letcha know when it happens.

Well, I gotta go take a dump, and I’m tired of writing. Hope everything is well with all of you. Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane bound for home, and then I have a few days off before I have to return to work. Hopefully we’ll get some time to relax and maybe do a little work around the house.

Dave out.

newcastle?, you mean bud?

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Davis
What a busy past few days. I’m glad I don’t write over the weekend, because I’m not sure I would have had time.

Friday night was my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It was very nice, just casual and laid back. A nice time to chat and further get to know people. At the bar before we sat down, I was again reminded that we were in FL. When I asked the bartender if they had Newcastle, he gave me an odd stare. When I followed up by asking for Guiness, he almost walked away from me. Finally, I ordered a Michelob Amber Bock and was done with it. I think he sensed that I was just some dumb yank who doesn’t worship at the alter of Anheuser Busch – and took pity on me by suggesting their darkest and most exotic brew.

When Anthony visited Florida recently, he came back having noticed a few stark differences between California and here. Firstmost, he noticed that foreign cars are nearly nonexistent here. He also noticed that from supermarkets to restaurants, you can only get the most generic, US brew beers. Both his observations have proven true by me. I never really noticed before, but you really have to go to an Irish pub or specialty beer bar to get anything other than Bud and it’s not-so-distant cousins. Strange, but I guess you only need to give ’em what they want.

Saturday was my little brother’s wedding. Man, what a crazy site to see the kid you grew up with standing in front of you getting married. It was a nice ceremony, and the reception was held to only a mild level of crunkedness (thanks Steve), despite my bro’s hoodlum friends. One thing I did think was awesome, they called my bro Frank throughout the entire wedding. The only time they referred to him as John was during the legal vows. Otherwise, even the guy marrying them called him Frank. It said “Angela and Frank” on the napkins, the DJ called him Frank, and even his wife calls him only Frank. I was so proud of my nicknaming abilities I stole a couple napkins so I could keep them for souvenirs. If you don’t know the Frank/John story, check out the bro’s entry in the Cast of Characters page, this paragraph will make more sense then.

Aside from the wedding, we’ve visited with a whole mess of people we haven’t seen in a long time. I drank some beers on the deck of the Cocoa Beach Hilton with a couple guys I haven’t really seen since high school. We visited Sharaun’s grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousin, and others. I finally met Jeremy & Jess’ new little boy, and got to hang out with them for a while. So we’ve been making the rounds.

Well, I’m off. Today we visit more grandparents, more old friends, and have dinner with Bob from FL. Seems like another action packed day to keep us busy.

Dave out.

broken down charm

Jesus Christ and NASCAR.
Florida is just like I remember it. No, I mean just like I remember it. Sure, there are little things that have changed here and there, but by and large this place is untouched from when I left it. Driving into our old home town, I was stuck by how run down and ragged things look. This is an old area, and I don’t think much new money comes in. I’d say there are an equal number of closed up, shuttered, and unoccupied stores than there are open and functional ones. There are large supermarkets that stand as empty as the day they closed when I still lived here nearly ten years ago. Chipped paint and broken storefront signs still scream for repairs like they did the day I left. Strip malls with less than half their stores filled look like a set of redneck teeth, empty gaps more prevalent than not. Faded “for rent” signs still taped to the windows of the same dilapidated commercial properties they pleaded from years ago.

This place is old and run-down, and the years show. Still, there is a charm here. Some kind of beach-bum, Florida-bred, run-down-and-who-cares charm that so well fits the Floridian mentality. Where things are simple, and don’t need to be new and shiny. Where people buy things at the same place their parents bought things. With the Jimmy Buffet attitude, the dusty and outdated facade becomes something nostalgic and not at all unpleasant. There is a history here, and the people are friendly to each other. There is a Mayberry-esque “general store” type feeling that shines through the old-n-busted exteriors and makes me somewhat homesick.

It’s strangely enticing. “Come here and don’t worry.” “Look at this place, this is the pace at which life should be lived. We have all we need and we’re happy this way.” Florida is great for that. Of course, there are newer, more California-minded, areas – as there probably are anywhere you might go. But here in our old home town, it’s business as usual. I’m somewhat envious of it, but altogether not sure if being here now would amount to relaxation, or something more like stagnation. It’s Florida, it’s the South, it’s where I grew up – and it’s still in my blood. I can’t deny the draw of it all, but it’s definitely a double edged sword. For all the reasons there are to admire this place, there are the same reasons to think it a festering sore. Still, the memories are here – and I do smile when I drive around. That’s Florida, that’s where I grew up.

As for us, we’re having a great time so far. Since we’re here for far less time than we’re used to spending, we have to cram a lot of visiting and socializing into our schedule. Today I met my brother’s fiancé’s family for the first time. Above all, they seem like really nice people. We spent time opening gifts with Sharaun’s family, and resting from our harrowing journey from the Schwarzenegger state. Once again, I made out like a bandit on the gifts front. I got lots more nice clothes, and a handful of other cool this-n-thats. We also had an awesome home-cooked southern Christmas dinner. The rest of the week plays out with my bro’s wedding, and visits with friends and relatives. Should be a fun, if hectic, time.

Day two of vacation and I’m still blogging. Although uploading and searching for images over dialup is supremely frustrating. I’m off to bed, good night all. Hope everyone had an awesome Christmas. Oh, and hope you pagans enjoyed whatever heathen rites you celebrate as well.

Dave out.