frank and the road to nowhere

You know... I don't know how this ties in... sorry.
Missed yesterday because I was in a class all day, being taught how to “Work with China.” I guess because my whole industry is “offshoring” work to China – so I need to get better at working with these folks by better understanding their cultural and political situations. The class was interesting, mostly just because history and culture are interesting to me to begin with. Anyway, at least now I’m prepared for the eventual communist China takeover of the world’s tech industry. Sign me up, me and Mao go way back.

I had this whole entry written Friday to post Monday, so it would appear my writing hadn’t slacked off – but I decided against it, as it was mostly religion-themed. Who wants to read three pages of my rambling about the scientific vs. Biblical age of the earth anyway. So really, by not posting yesterday – I saved you. Your faith, assuming you have any, is safe from further erosion by my misguided “intellectualism.” But for real, 6000 years old and we lived with dinosaurs? I just don’t get it anymore. Oops, sorry.

Talked to Frank yesterday, he’s still in the Army. He’s signed up to go to Alaska and build roads in some remote town for a month in June. When I asked him why they were building roads there, who’s driving there – he responded by calling the place “the Alaskan whore.” Apparently all the branches of the military go there and build stuff. If you believe him, they have no reason for building it other than to round out some defense budget. In the Army they call the project, unofficially, “the road to nowhere.”

Other than building pointless roads in order to spend money and keep busy – he’s doing pretty good. He also said he’s leaving for Iraq in January of 2005, which seemed a little far off to me for him to already be so sure about? but he swears he’s already slated for the tour. When I asked about the fact that Bush said we’re pulling out and giving the country to the Iraqis – he just laughed. Comforting. Good to know we’re paving rainforests and fighting wars for the betterment of our country. Jeez, I think California is turning me into a pinko liberal… umm… “kill the poor and gimme back my guns!” There… that’s better.

This weekend was a busy one. Rented a jackhammer to plant some trees in the backyard. Yeah, a jackhammer. Makes the digging so much easier in a backyard that’s more rock than dirt. Got six holes dug and filled with trees, and it really “greens up” the yard. Soon enough I’ll have something that looks more like a suburban backyard more than it does the surface of Mars. Mowed the lawn, edged, pulled weeds, and did various other yardie stuffs. Still found time to see Kill Bill 2, drink a little bit, and head out for some wakeboarding on Sunday. Didn’t get to ride though, as my crazy-allergy-itchy thing came back with a vengeance on the river. What’s wrong with me?

I had another paragraph here, but it was dumb so I deleted it. Like the last song on Let It Bleed, or falling gold bars, I’m out.

you did it

Where my droogs at?
Sitting here ripping my CD collection, listening to some great stuff that I haven’t heard in years. Tonight we’re on the Bs. We listened to everything from Ben Folds Five to Black Sabbath to Badfinger. Sometimes I’m torn between wanting to write every detail of my daily stuff and wanting to write down stuff from the olden days. Sometimes olden days are more fun.

One day I was playing “doctor” with the girl from next door. I must have been in the 5th grade. It was her, my brother, and me – and we were hiding out between our two houses. My mom was out and about somewhere, and my dad was home. Since we were so young, I really had no idea how to play doctor – I just think I wanted to see something I’d never seen before. We were in the middle of the proceedings, and the little neighbor girl was in a compromising position – when my mom drove down the street on her way home. The picture looking out the car window must’ve been pretty telling. Two boys and the neighbor huddled in the corner between the houses, she’s striking some unnatural pose or lifting something that shouldn’t be lifted? while the two boys look on intently.

We saw mom drive by, and immediately canceled the game of doctor. I think my brother and I headed home, hoping that mom wouldn’t suspect us. Bad news for us, the neighbor told her mom about the new game she played with the brothers from next door. Bummer. While my mom was in the living room talking to the neighbor’s mom, I put my plan into action.

I went into my brother’s room, and told him “you were playing doctor with that girl.” “No I wasn’t, you were,” he replied. “No, you did it,” I answered. Then, without giving him enough time to answer – I kept drilling it into him. “You did it!” “You did it!” “You did it!” “You did it!” Over and over and over and over again. Finally he stopped protesting and started crying. “I did it,” he whimpered through tears. “That’s right, now go tell mom.” And, he did. He went out and told mom that he was the one who was playing doctor with the girl.

Never have I been more ashamed of my treatment towards my brother. I’m sorry Frank. I know you didn’t play doctor with that girl. Oh, and I’m also sorry I brainwashed you into “admitting” you were the one who scribbled all over the toilet seat with mom’s mascara – I know it was me. I’m also sorry I threw the cat on you while you were taking a bath, and that I shot model rocket engines at you out of a homemade PVC pipe “bazooka.” Oh man, no wonder?

OK, so I posted Thursday’s and Friday’s at the same time. Sue me, Dave out.

urticarian inklings

Still one of the best albums of this past year, I'm listening to it again.

I’m totally going to the doctor. Beginning last Wednesday, I started getting all blotchy-red and itchy at seemingly random times. At first I noticed it early in the morning on the way to work, now I’ve pinpointed it as coming on with temperature change. Every time I go inside from outside, get out of the shower or get wet going wakeboarding – my skin turns mottled red, and I itch like crazy. If I scratch, it only gets worse. Sometimes there are hives, but mostly it’s just the rash. It’s been consistently happening several times a day for over a week now – and I’m getting tired of it. WebMD wasn’t too helpful, other than suggesting it might be the HepB (don’t you die from that?), so maybe the doc can help me out. I’m sure he’ll just be baffled and give me some antihistamines, I have no faith in general practitioners.

I made some good headway in the GDM project last night, setting up the 120GB RAID1 array and ripping several discs. I’ve been spot-checking the resulting MP3 copies to make sure they’re not funky, and I’ve been totally impressed with the quality of the rips. I’m using the Radium-hacked Fraunhoffer Group codec instead of LAME, since I like it a little better. I expect the first batch sale to happen sometime next week.

Speaking of next week, I looked at making reservations for the semi-impromptu overnight trip to Yosemite – and of course all the campsites in the entire park are full that night. I swear, finding a campsite there come April is near impossible. We’re gonna take our chances with the walk-in camping in the valley. It’s first come first served, so we’ll have to roll in pretty early. But at $5/night per person, and up to 6 people per spot – it’s perfect for what we need. I think we can arrive early enough to snag a spot.

Seems I’ve hit a sore spot with my parents with my kind-hearted jab at them in the Cast page bio for my in-laws. Apparently they saw that write up when I linked it from an earlier blog this week and were shocked by my referencing them as the “AV club” compared to Sharaun’s folks. Well, first I had to explain to them that by calling them the “AV club” I meant they were nerds, you know – the Audio-Visual club from high school? Anyway, my mom wrote me an e-mail defending her coolness – and my dad called me admitting his nerdiness but telling me that mom was cool. I guess that’s right, my dad’s the true nerd. My mom has always been cool, and I think she was even cooler before the years of being with dad rubbed off on her. Owell guys, I wouldn’t like you nearly as much if you were bungee-jumping nudists or vegan hippies? so be glad for your nerdiness because it’s what I’ve come to love.

Dave out.

spending the day with mom

No whammies...
You guys remember what it used to be like to stay home sick from school? Maybe my experiences are atypical, but I have some really fond memories of sick days. Not the middle through high school sick days where it was nothing more than playing hooky – but those gradeschool days where your mom actually judged you too ill to go to class. For me, those days were awesome – in spite of whatever was ailing me.

Those were the days where I didn’t have to get up on time, get dressed, etc. The best part was spending the day with mom. I can remember doing puzzles with her, watching TV, and her bringing me blankets and juice while I laid on the couch. You could play Nintendo, read a book, whatever you wanted. And let us not forget the jewel in the sick-day crown, getting to watch the Price is Right at 11am. Oh man, maybe they’ll show Plinko? no other game is cooler. Being sick as a kid was awesome, unless it was debilitating sick that is.

If you couldn’t tell, I cancelled my Taiwan trip and am still here in the good ol’ USA. Upon further consideration, the timing of the visit just wasn’t right – so I decided to let the company take the $100 cancellation fee and postpone. It’s fine with me really, since there is a lot to get done around here. I’ll have plenty of chances to head over there this year, so what’s a few weeks anyway. Now I can be home for all the closing of affairs with our refi, and be there when our free shade trees get delivered from SMUD.

I think we’ve decided to do pavers in the backyard instead of pouring a concrete porch. Part of the reason is because I think we may be able to save some money on materials by buying the pavers as “seconds” from the same place we bought the retaining wall stone. Also, Sharaun prefers the look of pavers to plain concrete, and to top it off – we can do the labor ourselves and at any pace we want. I’ll just price and choose what kind of stones we want, have the pallets delivered, and go at a comfortable pace the same way we did the retaining wall. Should come out looking nice I think? now I just need to come up with the scratch for the stones. My math says it’ll be about $700 for a project our size. Sprinklers, pavers, sod, landscaping – that’s the order we’ll go.

Sharaun’s folks are coming to visit for the 4th of July, it should be really fun. The more time I end up spending with my in-laws, the more I tend to look at them as family. I really like them, whereas I used to be a little afraid of them. Now I look forward to their visits and going back to Florida to spend time with them. We got a tentative rafting trip planned, one that we’ve done before up north on the Feather River. It includes an overnight stay where the rafting company takes awesome care of you and cooks dinner, has free margaritas, etc. It was so much fin last time – so I’m pretty excited about doing it again this year.

I have nothing more to say guys, lest I get even more boring. Out.

please don’t add me to the axis

With a brother in the Army, I think sometimes about those guys. I got curious about how much the government pays its dogs of war, and come to find out that’s all public information. You can find out what any military employee makes as long as you know their rank and years of service. Turns out that the low-man on the totem pole doesn’t make that much. This page says an E3 with less than two years time only grosses about $1500/mo, with a variable housing allowance depending on where you’re stationed. Of course, if you’re fighting overseas or away from family you get a little more for hazard and hardship – but I bet it’s still slim. I figure the majority of the “soldiers” actually stalking around the desert and shooting people would be Ex ranks. Only the brass make the bucks it seems. While it’s not my job of choice, I’m damn glad there are people willing to do it. Just like I’m glad there are people that want to fix cars for a living, or teach mentally handicapped kids or unplug toilets. All things I could not, or would rather not, do – but all necessary. Army – I’m not trying to compare you auto mechanics or the mentally handicapped, just using a bit o’ parallelism to make a point. Please don’t add me to the Axis of Evil.

Sharaun’s been so stressed lately with her class. It’s apparently school-wide knowledge that she’s got the absolute worst bunch of kids. She said she’ll take her kids to another room for Spanish or computers, and when she comes to pick them up the resource teacher just hugs her and whispers, “You’ve only got three more months.” A couple of her bad apples are constantly getting suspended, and not just for cutesy elementary school things. They’ve got fistfights, sexual harassment, public urination, grand theft, and a laundry list of other offenses.

She’s got good kids, but I can see how it would only take a few kids to make the whole situation a complete nightmare. What’s worse is the parents who actually complain when their kids are sent to the principal. It’s never the child’s fault. It’s either racism, singling out or harassing a child for no reason, or not giving them enough focused instruction. Anyone’s fault but the kids, or God forbid – the parents. In the same day, parents will come to the school to bitch at the administrators for “depriving” their child of classroom time by sending them to the principal for peeing on the playground, and won’t show up for meeting scheduled months in advance to discuss that child’s possible learning disability and behavioral problems.

Being a teacher must be extremely hard. I would imagine that in some ways it might be like being a nurse or doctor, where you have to learn to not take things personally. In those kind of jobs, you’re the catalyst that defines another person’s outcome. Nurses and doctors are in the driver’s seat with peoples’ health and lives, and teachers are responsible for the academic development of young minds. I realize that neither the nurse, doctor, nor teacher is really 100% accountable for the outcomes of others – but that must be a hard thing to keep in mind when you’re actually working those jobs. At least, I know Sharaun has a hard time with it. No matter how much you try, it must be hard to not question yourself when your class performs poorly on something.

These last few weeks for her have been hard, with open house, report cards, and her formal evaluation – all in the same week. A formal evaluation is when the principal comes in and watches you do a lesson plan with the kids. They take notes on all sorts of criteria and schedule a review meeting a few days later to discuss the results. I’m writing this, these past three paragraphs, and I’m realizing I really only wanted to say one thing: Sharaun’s review meeting for her evaluation went great. For the third quarter in a row, the administration had nothing in the way of negative feedback for her. Her review lasted a mere 10min compared to others which lasted over an hour. She gets nothing but positive feedback, which is like a shot in the arm to her. I love to see it when she’s been reinforced like that, her whole perspective changes a little and you can tell that some of that “burden of accountability” for her dumbass kids is lifted.

I’m glad I’m not a teacher. I’d have a hard time not simply discounting (or throttling) the flotsam and jetsam kids of the educational ocean. Props to teachers. And car mechanics and soldiers and plumbers. Thanks.

I dunno guys, I think that’s enough for today. Dave out.

lost in cyberspace

The original sin.
Ever since I being a teenager, I can remember being interested in religion. No one religion in particular, just religion and theology in a historical sense. I find myself fascinated with the various ways mankind dealt with the unknown throughout history. How beliefs developed, how they theological issues affected culture at the time, and just the sheer amount of beliefs and ideas that are out there. I routinely try and trace the branches in the family tree of religious and philosophical thought, going back to the “beginning” and working forward through names like Hermes, Zoroaster, Plato, etc. There are so many interesting insights that can be made into how certain lines of thinking either came to prominence or got squashed. It’s not just age-old religion and philosophy that I enjoy, I also enjoy reading up on the more modern developments. Everything from Mormonism to Scientology, and as far-reaching as modern Freemasonry and Extreme-Right Militia nuts. There are nuggets of wisdom to be found in all of them I guess, even if they are the Berenstain Bears “what not to do” kind. Example? While reading about post- and pre-Christian Gnostic thought, I found a very interesting redux of the Gnostic creed: “Gnostics do not seek salvation from sin, but instead seek to escape ignorance, believing that sin is merely a consequence of ignorance.” Sounds relatively right to me.

Thanks to the great free online encyclopedia Wikipedia for all the reference links in the above paragraph.

The creepiest thing happened the other day at work. I got a phone call from what I think was my dad’s cell phone. However, instead of my dad on the other end, it was a kind of radio-static sound, like someone switching stations. There were several voices talking over each other at first, and I couldn’t make out much. After a couple minutes the signal cleared up and I could hear a child’s voice reciting a list of dates. It sounded like a little girl, and she was just reading dates: “January 15th, January 26th, August 12th, etc.” She read dates for about 5 minutes (I copied most of them down in case it was a message about my future or something). As the call went on, it became clear that the child was talking to her mother, and I could eventually hear a woman replying. I heard some brief talk about money and insurance. Finally I decided that my dad must’ve inadvertently called me from what I figure was most likely the pharmacy. So Pop, either you’re gonna get a huge cell phone bill for accidentally calling me and not knowing it – or I got some freaky Twilight Zone call from the future, with some child letting me know important dates-to-come. Weird.

So, to kinda follow up on the whole Super Bowl thing, some news outlets are carrying a story about how TiVo says the halftime show “wardrobe malfunction” was the most replayed TV event in the company’s history. Now, call me dumb – but I didn’t know TiVo was tracking my viewing habits. I don’t remember signing any kind of agreement about that, although I’m sure it’s in some EULA somewhere that I “accepted” by getting their service. Seems strange that they can just watch and monitor what I watch and when, even to a level of detail to see what I rewind and pause the most? Big brother truly is watching. Although I try to watch as little TV as possible, I have found that TiVo has totally changed my habits. I no longer “have” to see anything, I just record it and watch it when I want. If something sounds even remotely interesting, why not record it and check it out at my leisure? I can always fast-forward through it or erase it. Plus, jumping through commercials makes the whole thing that much more rad.

Reading another of the online journals I keep up with, I found this “President Match” test. By answering the questions (it’s pretty short), you can see which candidate is most compatible with your thinking based on where they stand on the issues. When I took the test, Bush scored dead last with 55% commonality with my answers. Edwards was 100% aligned with my answers, and Kerry was 98% aligned. Kind of an interesting survey in that it really boiled down some major issued to nice, pointed questions. There was a lot of stuff on there that I really have no opinion on, like some of the Medicare and prescription drug coverage stuff, as well as things that I’m just ignorant about like NAFTA and certain aspects of foreign trade.

Looking at the questions and issues the survey covered, you can really see a dichotomy in the thinking that must be prevalent here in the US. While it’s never as simple as black or white, there are just some issues that will never be decided: abortion, capital punishment, religion, etc. They will always be fiercely opposed to each other and almost certainly never be able to find a happy medium. It seems the US is still a pretty conservative country on average, with things like a national furor over the Super Bowl halftime show showing just how not ready we are, as a country, for that type of display. Whereas in Europe, soap operas show more than that on a daily basis.

I’m not saying that all conservative viewpoints are wrong, nor am I allying myself with all liberal ideals. Hell, for the most part I don’t really care that much – but I know a nut when I see one, and I can spot a crazy idea, liberal or conservative, fairly easily. Politics aren’t really my cup of tea, but I do respect the fact that I can play a role in how things go by voting. While my prevailing attitude towards politics is one of apathy and “who cares,” I do try and keep abreast of things so I can at least know what’s going on. I guess that’s better than most of the Reality TV generation coming up now. Sorry Reality TV generationers, but it’s my duty as your senior to look down upon you as the eventual downfall of this world. Because as we all know, each generation’s junior generation is always taking this world to hell in a handbasket? it’s just your lot. Prove me wrong.

Well, I had some other stuff written which I e-mailed to myself, but it has apparently gotten lost in cyberspace. Guess I can post it tomorrow instead. Dave out.

getting orders

We go to shows down there.
Noise Pop is coming up again, and there are some great shows going down. So many good ones, in fact, that we decided to make a weekend out of one particular run of ’em. Friday the 27th of February, Vanderslice plays with Pedro the Lion. I’ve seen both before and really enjoyed them, so that should be a good show. Then Saturday day the Wrens play, and that night the Decemberists are back with Earlimart. We’ll find a place to stay in the city Friday night, and do a three-shows-in-two-days bender. I’ve never seen the Wrens or Earlimart, but really dig their stuff. Should be fun.

My brother got his orders yesterday, and turns out he was in that 5% of soldiers who aren’t going to Iraq right away. He’ll instead be stationed at Fort Hood, TX. My mom was so happy that he wasn’t sent directly to Iraq, she was totally worried that he’d be over there fresh off the Army assembly line. At least he and Angela will have some time together now before he has to go somewhere, it’d be hard on her if he got turned right out into Iraq too. Anyway, that’s good news. Although I’d expect that if the war goes on much longer he won’t be stateside forever.

A busy day, a short entry. Dave out.