problem #1: ignorant people

GIS for bleeding heart?
I know, it’s been a few days. Well, get used to it. I don’t plan to write much all next week when I’m away on holiday. I’ll try and drop a few entries on ya, but I’m not making any promises. I guess I’ve just been kinda bummed lately with this whole CIU thing… a visit to the allergist this week confirmed that I won’t be able to go on our planned rafting trip next weekend, which meant I had to cancel those reservations. Even crappier, since I didn’t find out until pretty close to the event, they’d only refund me 75% of what we paid in – which effectively means that this “disease” screwed a bunch of people out of $40 each. So, not only was I feeling bad for not being able to make the trip, I felt worse for hitting people in their pocketbooks because of it.

So I did what I do when I’m down, I took a morning off work and used it to work in the yard. I was at the Home Depot by 6:30am and swingin’ a pick by 7am. It’s amazing how much you can get done before noon when you don’t wait until 10am to get started. Got all of zone two sprinklers done, and covered. Just having a flat, un-trenched backyard makes things look so much better – even if it is still all dirt. I formed up the patio, and seeing the outline visually really helps the imagination – you can almost see what it’ll look like when it’s done. Also got five yards of decomposed granite (the base for the pavers-based porch) and 3 yards of cedar mulch for the slope above the retaining wall. After putting just a little mulch on that slope, it makes a big difference? this thing is actually starting to look like a backyard. I’m going to change subjects now, mixing in some of the half-written things I had for the days I skipped this week.

Getting older and taking more of an interest in politics must go hand in hand. Am I supposed to have this much hesitation and distrust of all news sources and politicians? I honestly don’t think I am. Were early Americans so leery? I mean, I have a hard time taking anything as 100%. What do I mean? I mean that whenever a politician or pundit speaks, I automatically assume that at least some of what they say is “spin” or pure crap. Where did this doubt-factor get built in to my thought processes? It’s the same kind of doubt that I have with auto mechanics, thinking that at best they can utter half-truths only. When it comes to politics, I have this built in notion that I have to take whatever I hear with a grain of salt. Everyone, from learned people I know and like, to analysts on Capitol Hill, has their agenda… where can a brother go for the straight dope? Not the Post, not Fox, not CNN?

Right now I’m listening to the new Interpol album, and I gotta say it’s outstanding. I needed to be weaned off the Killers, and I think this may be just the album to do it. My mind is in other places though, calculating volumes of rock and sand and mulch for the backyard, drifting hive-less down a river during my upcoming week off, or thinking back on my weekend on the range (I can still smell the campfire smell on my sneakers, and it’s awesome).

So, to it then. The weekend was outstanding. And like all things that I enjoy immensely, I’ll probably never write a proper entry about it. Suffice it to say (sufficed to say?) that we had a blast, playing cowboy in the high-desert under the shadows of the Sierras. It was relaxing, cathartic, and perfectly timed. Now I’m back in the working-world and once again feeling the pull of Summer, baiting me with every cloudless sunny day, taunting me. I can make it through these next two days and onto my vacation, I know I can.

In other news, today is my fourth wedding anniversary. I’ve been married for four years, been in CA for four years? it’s simply flown by. Four years ago today I was in a small church in Cocoa, Florida, getting married to someone I’d already been with for nearly eight years. Four years ago tomorrow we were arriving at our bed and breakfast in Martha’s Vineyard. I’m old.

Last night I checked my e-mail at home and found a forwarded letter waiting for me. It was from Sharaun’s grandmother, a woman who I love dearly – but also a staunch conservative who often sends Bush-loving, Kerry-hating missives that are making the rounds (you’ve seen the one about Kerry’s houses and that stupid ketchup rumour, I’m sure). I’m not going to get into politics, why quibble over the lesser of two evils – but this letter was a little different. It was a forwarded letter that was supposedly originally written by a father to his sons, regarding the war and terrorism and whatnot. It was long, but it caught my interest and I read the whole thing. For the sake of background, here’s a webized version of what I’m talking about (which is good because it doesn’t have the one-million carats and typos that come from a grandmother-forwarded e-mail). As a disclaimer, I have no idea what that site is about – it was just the first Google return for “muslim terrorists love dad letter.”

Now to the letter, it’s well-written, but some of the lines that I love are: “Why were we attacked? Envy of our position, our success, and our freedoms.” Yeah? Seems a bit classist and elitist to me. I mean, perhaps envy played a role – but I think the real reason lies in these peoples’ belief that our country is so immoral that they are commanded by God to destroy us. Not only that, but they feel that we attacked first. Read Osama’s letter, he tells us why they attack us. Anyway, there is some decent text in the letter, the portion addressing speaking to all Muslims being bad and Hitler’s Germany, etc. But for the most part it takes on a bit of a “conspiracy theory” vibe, talking about France eventually “fading” to the Muslims. I’m not sure, but is this guy trying to justify genocide here? What does the war in Iraq have to do with Muslim terrorists? Are all Iraqis Muslim terrorists?

Problem number one: ignorant people. Problem number two: the belief in divine justification for certain deeds. Either of these problems by themselves can be deadly, but the combination of the two is most certainly. When you have a person or group or persons who believe that they are called by God to do something, and that a) if they don’t do it they will be held accountable by said God, and b) that because it’s done in God’s name and at his command, it is beyond reproach or examination, you’re against a wall. There’s no arguing with it, there’s no logic that you can apply, there’s nothing. Whatever, I’m not defending terrorists… at least that’s not what I intended to do here. Hate me because California is turning me liberal, I guess.

I have nothing more, but I’m sure my logic above is all flawed? so tell me about it. Dave out.

technically, illegal

So I was lazy last week, didn’t write on Thursday or Friday. Well, lazy may not be the right word, more like busy as crap. Work was kicking butt, after-work schedule also kicking butt, and just a general lack of things to write about. I’m not making excuses for you punks, so don’t think I’ve gone soft – I’ll still break your ass.

Worked on the backyard a bit this weekend, forming up the sidewalk that’s going down the right side of the house. Even though I’m now gonna redo it (I want to make a little “landing” where the garbage bins can live), I was proud of the work. Now I just need to get some fill dirt to level it out and then I can pour concrete (sometime next week I think). Also bought some do-it-yourself interlocking landscape curbing, for the little garden strip I’m doing on the left side of the place. Sharaun hasn’t really seen my vision of that yet, so she was a little confused. I’m totally confident it’ll look utterly rad when it’s done though – plus it simplifies the sprinkler layout on that side. I thought about my goal of having things pretty much wrapped up by Sharaun’s folks’ arrival in mid-July, and I’m just not sure. I’ve got concrete, sod, pavers, and plants left to do. That’s about $500, $600, $400, $500, respectively. I think I may be able to do all but plants before they come – which will at least give us grass. Then there’s all the little expenses that add up, like sand for the pavers, edge restraint, etc. At this point it’s the wallet that’ll give out before my back does.

This weekend we’re doing an adventure-camp trip up the Sacramento River. We went yesterday to scout possible riverbank campsites, and found a really nice one about 15mi up from where we launch. Nice sandy beach complete with a little hollow to have a fire. Technically, camping on the river is illegal – but I think we found a pretty good spot. There’s no road on that side, and the bank is probably farmland – as there’s an irrigated grove just over the levee. I figure we should be able to camp for the weekend without getting busted. And if we do get busted, we’ve got a backup plan – the owner of some seedy riverside bar said we could camp behind his place for free if we got booted out by the cops. Should be really fun. We’ll go up Saturday, setup camp, wakeboard all day, then repeat on Sunday and Monday. As long as we don’t get eaten by river rats, accosted by pirates, or chased off by farmers, it should be a success.

Heading to Oregon early tomorrow morning for work, returning sometime Wednesday – which doesn’t give me much time to work on the yard before we’re gone all weekend. I was thinking about taking Friday off, to maybe do my concrete work and just get a jump on the long weekend, but not sure yet.

I’m done. But guys, I got some bad news: that stuff we thought was lamb curry, it’s not lamb curry – it’s goat curry. Yum, goat. 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.

finance my backyard with CDs

National still-bustin' day.
Short entry today, I spent last night working on a new project. Without writing much about it, you can read it all at the project’s very own webpage here. If things go well, and I can keep up any kind of pace – I might be able to finance my backyard with CDs. Who knows.

We’re going down to Chowchilla this weekend for Easter. To hang out with Anthony’s family and do an Italian Easter dinner. His folks own and operate a farm down there, and there should be plenty of fun stuff to do. My list includes shooting some guns, driving a tractor, and doing some four-wheeling. Should be a redneck good time. I’m just happy to be doing something for the holiday. Maybe we can visit where all the kids got buried.

It also looks like we may be doing some pre-summer hiking and camping the weekend after this one. My folks are going to Yosemite for their wedding anniversary, and asked Sharaun and I to come down and see the one day while they’re there. I asked the guys if they’d be interested in some freezing cold camping and maybe a short day hike or something. I was surprised when everyone was game, so it seems like we’ll be going down early Saturday and staying over through Sunday. We should have a little time to spend with the parents and then maybe do a hike to the top of vernal or something. Should be fun. I’m really looking forward to some camping, even if it will be 30 degrees out.

That’s really it guys, I burned myself out working on the MP3 page and now I’m spent. Dave out.

the first green thing

It's OK to be scared.
I found this site to be absolutely amazing. It contains a pictorial play-by-play from a young Ukrainian woman’s motorcycle ride through the irradiated areas surrounding Chernobyl. She has some kind of clearance in order to get to the areas in the photos, and carries a small radiation meter with her. Even though the English isn’t perfect, you can tell this woman writes well. Such a sad story, and even today the details aren’t fully known. The Soviet Union was too proud to let the world know how bad things were. Anyway, check out the site, the last few pages at the kindergarten are almost too much. Poor people. As usual, the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the Chernobyl disaster, and some links near the bottom to more pictures from the 4000sq. mi. “dead zone.”

Every time I drive by large office buildings at night, I always try to glance in the ever-lit windows. Something is fascinating about looking into an empty office building that’s still lit like it’s the working hours. Every time I do catch myself staring through the night into a lit and empty cubicles, I find myself looking for two people doing it on a desk. No really – I look because one day, I will catch two late-night employees getting some office-booty on the boss’ desk. Just like if I always look at closed garage doors with lit garages inside, I’ll eventually witness a stabbing-in-silhouette. If I keep my nighttime office-window and garage door vigil, I know one day I’ll see a clandestine affair or Rear Window murder.

Friday night Sharaun and I decided not to answer the phone, and to have a night to ourselves. It was great. Not that our phone rings off the hook or that we’re ever the social butterflies, but it is nice to just ignore the world and enjoy one and other for a little. We cooked a pizza and headed out to catch the remake of Dawn of the Dead. The movie was cool, good campy horror – albeit a little overly blood-soaked. Even though you could basically take the plot of Maximum Overdrive, replace the machines-gone-wrong with the rabid zombies of 28 Days Later, and you’d have this flick. Not saying it’s bad, just tried and true horror. And I’m serious about the Maximum Overdrive thing too – there’s an unlikely armory, a quest through sewers, and a last-ditch flight to an island.

Our trip to the movies on a Friday night really made me feel really old. If you don’t know, the movie theater on a Friday night is like the sole oasis in the teenybopper desert. The place was simply crawling with 15 year old girls with bare midriffs, doggedly pursued and ogled by pants-saggin’, crooked-ballcapped boys. It becomes instantly evident that none of these kids are here for movies. This is simply a convenient place for the teen masses to come together to talk, flirt, and hold “look at me” contests.

Am I really that old? I mean, I found myself walking by large herds of these giggly, too-cool-for-everything teens and just resenting them for being there. I had to physically restrain myself from wagging my index finger at the young whippersnappers as I passed. Ugh. Has it really come to this? Honestly though, during the movie we sat in the midst of these punks. They talk, answer phone calls, run up and down the aisles, talk back to the movie, and totally make me want to throttle them. Lord, I know I was exactly like these kids; I know it. No wonder old people hate teenagers, they ask for it. Yeah, so I’m exaggerating – but not by much. If there is such a thing as karma though, teenagers will wreak massive amounts of havoc on me, because I’m cosmically owed it.

Moving on, the rest of the weekend was good. Saturday we helped move Melissa into her new place as Anthony’s roommate. It was OK, except for the part where Anthony left my cellphone on the back of the truck, causing it to fall out in transit and be run over by multiple cars. Some kind person driving next to us informed us of the cell phone incident, and we pulled over to pick up the pieces. Surprisingly, the thing still works – so I was able to transfer off all my data. Now all that’s left is to get a new phone and upload my data and SIM card, and I’ll be back running.

Sunday I spent working around the house. I planted this beautiful Japanese maple that Pat gave me. Pat and Cynthia recently joined the new homeowners club, and this potted tree was a holdover from the previous owner. They decided they didn’t want the tree, which due to it’s health and size is likely worth several hundred dollars, and they donated it to my barren backyard. It’s the first green thing in my backyard that’s intentionally growing, and it looks great. I also mowed my lawn with Anthony’s lawnmower. I had to use Anthony’s lawnmower because I snapped the fastening nut on the blade of mine while trying to remove the dull blade. So, off to the repair shop goes the mower. On another note, I’ve decided to just throw money away for a while. Who needs it?

Tonight Sharaun gets paybacks for all the crappy shows I’ve dragged her to by making me accompany her to see N.E.R.D. and the Roots in San Fran. I’m not too terribly excited, but I am interested to see what a “hip hop” concert is like compared to the indie freak fests I’m used to. Hopefully we won’t get shot.

Dave out.

pigs: can’t catch a frisbee

We don't need no education!
The other day I got a letter in the mail from the Oxnard, CA police department. Seems that I double parked my grey Toyota in the 600 block of Mendoza Ave. last November. Now they want the $60 I owe them for the violation. Only one problem, I don’t own a grey Toyota and I’ve never been to Oxnard. So, I called them up and explained, and they dismissed the ticket. They explained it away as the ticketing officer’s fat fingers miskeying my plates. Whatever, that guy with a license plate close to mine sure got lucky. And I was thinking, couldn’t I just call up on any ticket and say I don’t own this car or this plate? I mean, he didn’t ask me a damn thing – not my name, not where I’m from, not anything. Just said “OK,” and dismissed the ticket. I’ll have to remember that, because it seems a lot better than actually paying a ticket.

I’ve been mapping out my plan of attack for the backyard, updating my backyard layout file and reading up on irrigation and sod. It’s amazing how much you can learn on the internet. I learned how to build my retaining wall on the internet, how hydraulics work on the internet, and how to make a Flying Crank Ghost on the internet. I also buy movie tickets, make appointments at the DMV, pay my bills, and balance my checkbook – all on the internet. I’ve made camping reservations, hiking reservations, airline and rental car reservations, hotel reservations – all on the internet. I’ve bought all manner of goods on the internet, I’ve found long out-of-print books and albums on the internet. I’ve even used the internet to sell stuff I no longer want. The internet has replaced maps, phone books, travel agents, long lines, middle men, newspapers and magazines, textbooks, checkbooks, and the embarrassment of renting porn. What would I do without ye, o’ glorious net of inter?

Did you guys know that a cow can go from a walking animal to a refrigerated side of beef in less than six minutes? I know people who have seen how meat is processed and gone vegetarian because of it. But really, I wonder when in the cow-to-meat process they find the product acceptable and not disgusting? People are fine buying packaged meat in the store, steaks and ground beef placed on white styrofoam and wrapped in cellophane. So at what point in the cow-to-steak transformation does the product become palatable to most?

For me, I could care less. I actually have a strong desire to learn how to properly clean an animal. I’m sure that somehow relates to my crazy need to feel equipped for a “desert island” survival scenario – but the point is that when I see a cow walking around, I can see a steak that’s not cooked yet. I have no problem associating the walking breathing four-legged animal with the meat that I cook and eat. I think some people see a cow as a cute animal, and a steak as something that comes from the grocery store. They forget all the blood and skin and muscle that used to be around that meat. It may as well have been formed spontaneously in a “meat machine,” where nothing with eyes had to die to create it. But something with eyes did die. It died when they shot a nailgun into it’s head, hamstrung it and slit it’s throat to bleed it out, and then sliced it ass-to-throat to let it’s entrails spill out into a huge drain in the floor. Still want a hamburger for lunch? See, I do.

I also think it’s interesting which animals we deem edible and which ones we don’t. When it comes down to it, I’m sure horse meat and dog meat and cat meat have a taste all of their own – and maybe they’re yummy. But I think as humans, we tend to not eat animals that show some form of intelligence or can be “affectionate” to us. Horses are smart, dogs are smart, cats are dumb as rocks but they show affection just like horses and dogs. So we don’t eat ’em. They can recognize us when we come home from work, they remember us – so we spare their lives. Cows are infinitely dumb, so they get turned into food. Chickens: dumb, turkeys: never purr when you pet them, pigs: can’t catch a frisbee – you’re all on our list. We’re gonna kill you and eat you. Take a hint from the lucky ones and get smart or start nuzzling us – then maybe we’ll elevate you to “don’t eat” status.

Soylent Green is people! Dave out.


Where my grass at?
This morning before work I was staring out of my sliding glass door into my backyard of dirt and rocks, and I got a bug in me. I mean, I was looking at the bumper crop of weeds that all the rain has brought me, and started getting really antsy to get back to work on the backyard again. I was feeling all bummed about the progress in the last few months, which amounts to nil because the weather has been against me. I think these feelings were compounded by the fact that it was a beautiful sunny morning. The kind of morning that makes me want to skip work and get some “real” work done around the house.

I succumbed the best I could without skipping work, I went outside and did some weeding. It was freezing out there pulling weeds at 7am, but it made me feel like I’d at least accomplished something regarding the house. While I was out there I came up with a little experiment too. Noticing I had some grass growing where I don’t want it, and knowing I have no grass growing in spots I do want it – I attempted my first grass-transplant. Instead of throwing out the rogue tufts of grass growing in my mulch, I deftly “planted” them in the bare areas of my sideyard (the forklift that brought the retaining wall stones ruined the grass there). We’ll see if my front-yard-Frankensteinery works or not.

Tonight I finally pushed “submit” on my taxes. I was spurred to action when I overheard one of my coworkers mention he’d already got his refund back. Hopefully with the electronic submission, the refund will get here fairly fast. And, after some more research into the whole “supplemental tax” thing from yesterday – things don’t seem quite so bad. I’ll have to pay a fraction of the amount, but not now – so that’s great news. Hopefully we can use some of the tax money to help finish the backyard. Ahh… so many things to spend money on, so little money to spend.

So then, that’s it. I have nothing else to write and I’m tired. Late entry, barely made it on Thursday at all. Until tomorrow.