This song needs a Rosetta Stone.
After such a triumphant return to writing yesterday, I feel the need to keep it up and make sure the blog’s longest dry-spell is put to rest with nary a memory remaining. Anyway, today was the first day back to work, so as you can imagine it was filled with jumbled attempts at getting “back into it.” Catching up on e-mail, answering phone calls, going to meetings, etc. Wow, what a puss job eh? Woulda sounded much more impressive had I said something like: poured a foundation, raised a barn, and helped foal three roans. Foal three roans, man that’s a literary gem. Intro paragraph over.

Have you ever heard a song that could give you chills? I mean, consistently? Like every time you hear it? There are several for me, really, the Star Spangled Banner, when sung well, is one for instance. Are there too many commas in that sentence? Nevermind. I mean, I was thinking about songs that have that “power” the other day – mostly because I was listening to one: “She Sends Kisses” from the Wrens’ Meadowlands LP. An unlikely tune for this category perhaps, but the swelling culmination of harmony and music at the end so perfectly puts a bow on what is already a masterful combination of bleedingly personal poetic lyrics and ingenious song structure, it’s undeniable. Seriously, take a listen to this thing – for me, hair stands up and eyes mist over right around the five-minute mark. Can’t tell what the marble-mouthed New Jersey native is warbling about? Lyrics can be found here, “hopes pinned to poses honed in men’s room mirrors,” and “I put your face on her all year” indeed. Brilliant.

While at the ballgame the other night, I spied an ad in the men’s room for “laser back hair removal – $99.” Nothing like discount medical procedures to get my attention. Now, some qualifying text stated that the $99 was “per treatment,” and I’ve heard that several treatments is almost a universal requirement – but dang. Even if I had to go five times, I think it would be worth it to get these damned culturally-unacceptable locks off me backside. After a little research online, however, I was somewhat dissuaded. But when the miracle-cure for this affliction does roll around, I’ll be the first shirtless dude in line.

Speaking of afflictions, I head to the allergist today to do a follow-up on my cold-induced urticaria. After a couple weeks on every antihistamine known to man, and a week of hard-core antibiotics, we get to see if I’m still stricken (hint: I am, my hung-out-the-window-on-the-way-to-work arm was nice and itchy this morning). Perhaps seeing the actual allergist rather than his PA will pay off more than my previous visit? Who knows, I’m not really keeping my fingers crossed. Crap? I just forgot I never got the bloodwork I was supposed to do for this visit. Sucks. Dang, how could I forget that? Crappy.

Oh, and while doing the research for the “Wrens made me cry” piece above, I got intrigued by the lack of lyrics for the track “A Faster Gun” from the same album. And that’s how I ended up spending nearly two hour with headphones on, replaying the same song over and over and over in an attempt to transcribe the words. Here’s what I got, and after a million revisions I think I’m actually getting pretty close. If anyone can help me out – have at it. Yeah, I have that kinda free time. You envy my luxury? You should, I do what I want.

And should the urge strike you to get the whole album, here ya go. It’s totally worth it, every track is exceptional – with the aforementioned “A Faster Gun” and “Ex-Girl Collection” being among my faves.

Dave out.

you’re just chicken

Hot dogs are beef?  I coulda sworn they were pork.I was thinking of all the jobs I can’t do anymore now that I have my new disease. Can’t be the coach of a Super Bowl winning football team, I couldn’t survive the traditional Gatorade and ice dousing. Can’t be a SCUBA diver or ice fisherman. Can’t be a ski instructor or pro wakeboarder. Can’t be a Shamu-rider at Sea World, or a chainsaw-wielding ice sculptor. Can’t be Santa Claus, can’t be a meat packer. Bummer. Good thing I’m a computer engineer who gets to sit in a climate-controlled cubicle all day. The worst I have to worry about is hemorrhoids or maybe some kind of “repetitive stress injury.” I knew I went to school for something other than a lifetime-long school loan repayment plan.

So I’m gonna keep talking about this thing because it’s what’s on my mind of late. I was reading online that cold-induced urticaria can come up at any time, and last either: a) forever, or b) one to five years. Gimme a #2 and that scantron… I’m clearly and neatly bubbling in ‘b’ on this one. For real though, one to five years? I wonder what deity I angered to be cursed with this? Not only is it an extremely crappy ailment, it comes off as very dubious to the uninitiated. Like when everyone is like, “Come on y’allz, let’s swing off this kickass ropeswing into the lake!” And everyone is like, “Heck yeah, that ropeswing looks so fun and awesome!” Then Dave goes, “You guys go ahead, I’ll just stay on the shore – I’m allergic to cold water.” “Yeah right,” says everyone, “You’re just too chicken to do the ropeswing so you made up a fake disease!” “No, for real guys, it’s called cold-induced urticaria,” I reply. “Sounds more like cold-induced chicken-caria to us, bawk bawk!” comes the chorus. Sigh… woe is me.

While telling everyone about it at work, the question that comes up most is “Is this very common?” Which, I’m pretty sure, is a polite way to ask if it’s real or if it’s just something in my head. Either way, that got me thinking… how can I make some money off my new sickness? Maybe I could start a webpage that would be like a cold-induced urticaria support group. Then I could charge money or something. You know, cold-induced urticarians unite! Power to the people and all that crap. Maybe now that a person of such high profile, such as myself, has this disease, it will raise awareness of the tens of others who are suffering this very minute.

On the music-tip, I’ve had my MP3 IV set on a full drip of the Killers’ LP “Hot Fuss” for about a week now. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. From front to back it’s got some great tunes, even if they are in that becoming-ever-more-popular Hot Hot Heat/Franz Ferdinand vein. I don’t care, I’ve come to realize that, with the sudden increase in popularity of good music, I’m gonna have to be OK with sometimes finding new choons from the MTV or even a Toyota commercial. It’s cool, I’m cool with that. So yes, it was me you spotted driving around town with several lengths of 20ft schedule 40 PVC hanging out either end of a green Ford Explorer, listening to the Killers’ track “On Top” at a heinously ear-ruining volume. I don’t even care, that song kicks major butt… I’ll listen to it non-stop if I want to… so shut up. You’ll still not catch me with the Justin Tenderlegs or Ursher or anything featuring Lil’ John coming from my Alpine.

Time to go practice for my presentations tomorrow, nothing like being last minute. Dave out.

my body has betrayed me

Now watch this drive.

Twenty-seven years old and my body has betrayed me. Honestly guys, taking in a prescription is usually not a big thing to me – I mean, who cares. But taking in a prescription for a “kit” that you should keep on you at all times in case you start dying… that’s a little different. So, great, I’m allergic to cold water – is this even real? Apparently it is but no doctor on earth has any idea how to treat it, other than recommend I “stay out of cold water.” Well duh, but I was looking for something a little more definitive. So, I pressed for a referral to an allergist and got this prescription for something called an ANA-kit. Yeah, it’s an epinephrine shot – which I’m supposed to take if I get to that not-breathing passing-out state again, because otherwise I might actually die.

Really? Twenty-seven years in and my hold on life is now this tenuous? I mean, I realize I’m being dramatic about it – but it really did almost make me want to cry to think about having to carry around a freakin’ shot everywhere I go. My only hope: the allergist will be able to better diagnose whatever this is – and the whole life-support kit will be deemed unnecessary. So, I’m not really worried about dying or anything (at least, no more than I’ve every been) – but this whole mess really does suck balls. Where did it come from? Will it ever go away? And why in the world do I have to be allergic to something that I like? I like cold water, I like swimming. Why not make me allergic to tanning booths or health food stores? How about brussel sprouts or weight-lifting? Maybe clothes-shopping or movies with singing? Stupid allergies.

Anyway, this thing has really de-motivated me (de-motivated?). I think a combination of burnout from work, coming-up-soon vacations, and the whole Saturday episode have made me just want to take some time off. So I used Monday as a “sick day” at work, staying home to go to the doctor and lab, and using the rest of the day to work on the backyard. I just ignored work as much as I could, even when people tried to call me on my cellphone. Work in the backyard is so much more immediately rewarding, seeing stuff happen after a day out there in the sun… I think I needed a day at home to myself. So, I took one.

I mentioned it before, but I was supposed to be in San Francisco yesterday and today, for a big conference where I’m presenting. But, since I’m not actually presenting until Wednesday – I postponed my planned Sunday departure in favor of leaving today. Honestly, I don’t feel like going at all. What I feel like is it being July 13th already and me being off for a week while Sharaun’s folks visit. Anyway, I plan on leaving sometime tomorrow (see guys, I write these the night before – so the today/tomorrow/yesterday thing can sometimes be tricky). Either way, the next entry will come from San Fran – so expect a meat-free, liberal-minded, environmentalist rant. Not really, those are just stereotypes.

With the near-death experience over the weekend, I didn’t get a chance to write about seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 this Friday. Ben and I Fandango’d the tickets earlier in the week, which was good because all showings were sold out. So, what’d I think? As a self-identified liberal-with-a-side-of-conservative, I found the movie really interesting. I’m not so far right that I’d refuse to see Moore’s movie at all for fear of funding the wacky leftist media, but I’m also not so far left that I’d waltz into the theatre ready and willing to accept all that he said as gospel. After it was all over, I liked it. There were some interesting things that I hadn’t known before, and there were some things for which I was thinking “come on Mike… gimme a break.” Overall though, the movie was good. If you’re of voting age, go check it out.

I have nothing more, I’m outta here.

a snickers and a diet coke

I feel so busted, what's wrong?

Saturday sucked.

I had big plans, working in the backyard – and I had the rare motivation to actually see it through. However, we had made tenuous plans the night before to head up into the mountains to go to this out-of-the-way creek which people say has “natural waterslides.” It actually sounded really cool, like you could slide down these waterfalls and into these deep pools below. So around noon the crew amassed: Melissa, Ben, Erik, Sharaun and myself. We had some sketchy directions which led us about an hour and a half up in the hills and instructed us to park by a large gate on the side of the road, at which point we would have to go ahead on foot for about two and a half miles down trails into the woods.

We arrived at the gate at about half past two in the afternoon, and started down the trail. The part of the directions that covered the trails to the falls were not the best, instructing us to walk for about a two miles and parallel a creek for about another quarter mile before looking for a “descending path.” We passed a kid coming up the trail, and he asked us if we’d ever been to the falls before – and gave us a little more information about how to get there. As we went further down the trail, we came to a point where it split and headed off to the right – but chose to stay on the straight path and keep going, as we hadn’t really walked what we thought was two miles yet. We eventually came to a creek, and a path that paralleled it – just like the directions had said. Figuring we were only a quarter mile from the falls at this point, we plodded ahead. It’s worth mentioning now that we had been hiking for hour, and had stupidly neglected to bring anything to drink.

After much more than a quarter mile down the trail, we saw a “descending path” and headed down. Not too far down, however, the path became overgrown and choked off. Figuring we’d made a wrong turn somewhere, we decided to head back and see if we missed anything. So, summarizing, we walked down every possible combination of trails that you could possibly take. Finally, as it was nearing five in the afternoon and we’d been walking for nearly three hours with no success, we decided the falls had eluded us and we’d better head back. Around 5:30pm we had hiked back to the original fork in the trail where we’d continued on the straight path. Ben decided to poke his head down the right-tending fork, and said he heard voices and people. By now, we were all so frustrated, tired, and thirsty – that we were bound and determined to find this waterfall.

After a brief discussion, we decided to strike out down the other fork. We walked down a couple steep paths, and again came upon a trail that paralleled a creek – just like the directions said. We immediately knew we were on the right path, as there were arrows formed with sticks on the trail, pointing us in the right direction. Walking for what must have been another mile, we found another “descending path,” and were sure we were on the right track this time. Heading down another steep dusty trail, we eventually ended up at the falls. The girls were trailing Erik, Ben and I – as they weren’t quite as motivated as we were at this point. As we came upon the falls, we happened to run right into a friend of mine from work. He was headed back for the day, with a buddy of his. I begged a bottle of water off of him, and shared about half of it between the three of us – saving the remainder for the girls when they finally made it.

Had we got to the falls by the direct path, and hadn’t been walking for 10+ miles, and brought some water and snacks, I think we would’ve had a great time swimming and sliding and relaxing in the sun. But as it was, we were all tired and thirsty and just glad to be there. We knew we didn’t have much time to hang around, as it would be getting dark before too long. All the guys slid down the three cascading falls, the coolest one having a ~5ft drop into a pool below. The water was pretty dang cold, and my dreaded cold-induced-urticaria was beginning to act up. I was red and itchy, but still glad that we had finally made it. After climbing back up to the top of the three falls/slides, I sat on the rock feeling fine, if a little itchy, and talked to the girls. They had decided that they weren’t going to go down, and we were all pretty much ready to go. It was kinda understood that we hadn’t really made the final push down there so we could spend hours sliding and having fun, it was more just to prove a point.

As we all more or less agreed it was time to go, Ben and I decided to go down the slides one last time. He went down all three again, but I started feeling pretty crappy after going over the first one and came back up. As I was hiking back to the top of that first slide, I started having a really hard time catching my breath. I’d experienced the same thing a couple times before, both times also being after getting out of cold water while wakeboarding on the river. By the time I reached where the rest of the crew was sitting, white was creeping in on the edges of my vision and I could feel the color draining from my face. About to pass out, I quickly laid down on the rock with my head propped on Ben’s backpack. Laying down helped the about-to-pass out feeling, so I just stayed that way until Ben made it back up from the bottom of the three falls.

Getting up to head back up the trail, I immediately felt woozy and short of breath, and once again had to lay down. By now, the others were realizing that something wasn’t right, and they were telling me that my face looked blue. I could tell that I was close to falling out, so I just stayed laying down about a five feet from where I’d been laying before. By now I started shivering, which had also happened the two previous times I’d experienced whatever this was. It’s not a shivering because I’m cold, although it’s the same shivers – but it’s more just an uncontrollable shivering for no good reason. We tried to move along up the steep trail, but I couldn’t get more than a few feet before I’d have to sit down for fear of passing out. Half an hour later, and with light fading fast, we’d managed to move only a few feet up the trail. I could hear Ben and Erik discussing what to do, about sending someone back to go get help, etc.

Finally, it was decided that Erik and Melissa should head back to the car, and Sharaun and Ben would stay with me. I told them I didn’t need a stretcher or a doctor or anything like that, and just asked them to bring me a freakin’ Diet Coke and something to munch. After the party split, I continued to try and make my way up the trail – slow and steady, having to stop and lay down several times before we reached more level ground. After what seemed like forever, and now walking in the dark, we could hear cars on the highway and we knew we were close. I was basically on autopilot, just picking up one foot after another, not talking or anything. I hadn’t needed to stop and rest since we hit the level trail, and Sharaun and Ben said I had my color back in my face. All I wanted was a big drink to quench my thirst and to go home and get some rest.

Sometime around 9pm, we finally rounded the last corner. We’d started seven hours earlier, and had been hiking for probably five and a half out of those seven hours. Making that last turn, we could see lights ahead on the trail Sure enough, we trudged up just in time to see an ambulance pulling through the large gate where we’d parked the car off the highway. Feeling pretty stupid, I walked into the fleet of rescue vehicles and just let them take me.

Paramedics, heart monitors, pulse monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and general awareness questions. What year is it? What is today? Who’s the president? (Ugh, that brainless idiot Dubya). Finally someone gives me some water, and I’m feeling much better. I explain the situation, and the whole cold-hives allergy thing. They see that I’m feeling much better, and am alert and conscious – and I’ve got them convinced to let me go. My blood pressure is a little low, so they tell me they’ll let me sit until it gets above 100 on the high side and then I can head home and get some rest. On a whim, the guy checks my blood sugar with a prick on the finger and finds it at 62 when it should be at 80-something. This, apparently, is a “transportable condition,” and now we’re off to the hospital. An hour drive on bumpy country backroads, an IV, oxygen, and finally we get there. They wheel me out on a stretcher and into the emergency room.

I get the same round of questions, but by now I’m in high spirits – having been intravenously re-hydrated and re-sugared. I just want to go home. A little more than two hours and a soap-opera’s cast worth of ER patients later, I’m discharged with no information about what happened. I try to tell them I think the shortness of breath and fainting has something to do with the cold water, since it’s happened exactly like this before but to a lesser degree. A quarter to one in the morning, and we’re headed home from the hospital up the mountain. Feeling embarrassed, tired, and sorry for making everyone hang out so late… I try to make the best of it by joking and making people laugh. Finding out that Melissa and Erik jogged the trail up to go get help, I feel even more stupid.

I have no idea what happened, and I swear I’m not one to overact if something’s really not that bad. I just couldn’t stand up without wanting to pass out. If I could have powered through it without mentioning it, I would have – that’s just some inborn hard-headedness that I have (which I think I get from my dad). I just couldn’t power through this, whatever it was. I did my best, and eventually made it up – taking it real slow and easy… but man. Those guys were thinking about sending in a helicopter and crap, oh jeez how embarrassing.

Yeah, Saturday sucked. Dave out.

crazy itchy hives

Good thing I wasn't born an Eskimo.
Did you know that the word “carrot” has four homonyms in the English language? You’ve got “carrot,” “caret,” “karat,” and “carat.” What a dumb language. Tonight we’ve got a surprise Shins/Decemberists show in Davis, so that should be fun. Now onto the meat!

Well, after going to the doctor once and getting a prescription for some kinda allergy drug – I still get crazy itchy hives when I come in contact with coldness. I will say that the medicine has stemmed the reaction a bit, in that it doesn’t happen every morning when I go outside anymore (aside from a little itching and tightness in my hands). But doing things that are super cold, like wakeboarding, still bring out the hives and itchiness in force. Sunday we were on the river, and when I came out of the water my whole body was on fire with itch – and covered with mottled red spots. I looked like a tomato, and all my skin felt tight and warm – and like the last time I was in the river, my chest got tight and I felt dizzy. It’s so strange, after being in the water for a while I get short of breath and woozy, not to mention itchy and bright red.

Being that I just didn’t believe the whole thing to just be “allergies,” I decided to do some research online. A couple refined Googles brought up information on a condition called “cold urticaria.” Seems like it’s a real thing, and while it can come at any age – it’s most prevalent in younger people. An allergy to cold? How much does that suck? But dude, the symptoms are dead on exactly what I experience under the exact same conditions. Sounds like I’ve been stricken with the urticaria, maybe I should hold a benefit concert? Anyway, several websites say you can test for this malady by holding ice against your skin for a few minutes. So, Anthony and I went downstairs at work yesterday and filled a napkin with ice from the soda machine. We sat down in the cafeteria and I held the ice to my forearm for about 5min. Went back upstairs and within a couple minutes my whole arm was blotchy red, warm, and itchy. Oh, that proves it – I’ve got the cold urticaria, ain’t no denying.

OK, so when I first listened to this new Wilco album – I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, there’s been a lot going on with this album. It was leaked, in an unfinished form, nearly a year prior to it’s release. Being that so many people had the album so early, Wilco set up a website for fans who downloaded the leaked copy – allowing them to make donations in whatever amount they thought fair compensation for the music, all of which would be donated to charity (Doctors Without Borders). Here we are in May, and the album is still unreleased (there were some label problems, some lineup changes, some rehab time served) – and I’m sitting here listening to it and liking it more each time. Like I said, I wasn’t that impressed on first listen – a sentiment that Ben echoed (although he went so far as to call some songs “uninspired”). But the more I listen, the more emotion the tunes convey. Not only does it have a Pavement-esque indie tinge, it’s flirting with that 70s drug-country vibe. Drug-thick minimal rock-country arrangements ala JJ Cale, Jesse Colin Young, or Brewer & Shipley. Just something to sit stoned on a mountain to while looking out over God’s creation. What, a whole useless paragraph about one album – sorry.

I guess work really does sink into my brain more than I’m willing to admit. I mean, I like to think that, regardless of how much I think about work when I’m at work, work-related thoughts are only accessing the periphery of my brain. I don’t want to let them into the real stuff like installing sprinklers and checking account balances and what’s for dinner – work stuff needs to be relegated to the edges where I’m sure I’m not really “thinking” about it at all. It would be a shame if I couldn’t learn the lyrics to a new song just because I have some work junk taking up the neurons where those lyrics want to move in.

Anyway, I guess it’s all this talk of offshoring to China or something – but last night I had a dream that Sharaun and I were over in Shanghai picking out an apartment. I guess we were going to live there for a while or something. Freaked me out in the morning when I woke up and remembered it. Stupid China.

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.