Archive for October, 2012

Song Recommendation: Chasing the Wild Goose

I’m a huge fan of Bad Religion. The punk rock band headed by Greg Gaffin has some of the best lyrics, even after 33 years of playing. As implied by the name, a lot of these lyrics involve religion. But instead of being direct, the lyrics are more poetic, not hesitating to use allegory and emotional appeal that can come from, and apply to, more than just an anti-religious message.

Another unique thing about Bad Religion, for me at least, is that I like covers of their songs as much as the originals, sometimes more. I discovered this one day after having heard their acoustic version of the song “Sorrow”, I searched to find some other acoustic versions. I stumbled upon some YouTube musicians playing their own Bad Religion covers on webcams. I tend to shy away from covers done that way, because they can go very bad, but these were actually really good. And that leads us to this recommendation.

Emily Davis covers Bad Religion’s “Chasing the Wild Goose

There was a man who banged his head against a wall
he banged for 20 years, the damn thing wouldn’t fall
he left an honest life he left a broken wife
he left it all behind, just to see what he could find

millions and millions chase the wild goose tonight
to conquer loneliness they’ll chase it all their lives
and when they find it they can just lay down and die
it seems the game is mostly pointless in the presence of the prize.

there was a woman who had a man as cold as ice
he built four walls so strong and he kept her locked inside
she harbored loneliness her husband couldn’t guess
that she’d take off her dress and kill herself without a mess.

millions and millions chase the wild goose tonight
to conquer loneliness they’ll chase it all their lives
and when they find it they can just lay down and die
it seems the game is mostly pointless in the presence of the prize.

In Gaffin’s greatest lyrical style, he begins with a story, and then turns around in the chorus to proclaim a more universal truth. And while Bad Religion is stellar on most of their songs, I feel that Davis’s voice, acoustic style, and emotion really capture the feeling of this song better than the original ever did. So give it a listen. Even though it’s a webcam, I would rather listen to this than many studio recordings I’ve heard in my day.


Informed Voting and More Direct Democracy

If, like me, you live in a state that always votes for the same presidential candidate, elections may seem pointless. After all, we have an electoral college. However, elections are about more — much more  — than who sits in the White House.

For example, my state has eleven amendments on this ballot next week, and my county has another one of its own. There’s a great resource that I knew about before, but forgot… called Ballotpedia. Even if you don’t care who occupies the Oval Office, or don’t like the main two candidates, please inform yourself of amendments and propositions on the ballots in your state and vote accordingly. (Click your state and click Ballot Measures).

Because that’s really the most direct form of democracy.


Venn Me!

A couple of weeks ago, I jokingly declared on Facebook that someone should make a Venn Diagram about me. Well, my brother went for it:


Halloween Grinches

You think we’re losing the spirit of Christmas? Trust me, the spirit of Halloween is completely getting its ass kicked. I know Halloween doesn’t have the same “feel” since we don’t get off work. But can’t we just TRY to be festive? A little bit?  The following people I can do without:

The Anti-Costume Crowd

“Oo, look at me, I’m Three-Hole Punch Jim!” No you’re not, you’re a pretentious cock.

This includes “non-costumes” such as “Oh, I’m an office worker” or “Oh! I’m a student”, but it also includes half-assed costumes that are preoccupied with not looking like costumes.  I understand a desire for comfort (though I tend to sacrifice that in my own life) but the preoccupation with not looking like a dork? With being “too cool” to let yourself go just a little bit? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. A good fictitious example of this is Jim Halpert from The Office. His costumes have been a “three hole punch” version of himself, him wearing a nametag that says “Dave”, or writing the word “book” on his face, and claiming he’s Facebook. If there were a Halloween version of “A Christmas Carol”, Jim would be Scrooge.

Annoyance Level: 7.5 / 10

The Weekend Partiers

For the “weekend partiers” the holiday is more about getting drunk than having fun, so they just have one of their standard Saturday Night Shindigs, and add a half-assed costume. Even if Halloween doesn’t happen to fall on a Saturday. Every Halloween, I ask people what they’re going to be, and they say “I already dressed up on Saturday night”.

This is less annoying, though, because I’ve been in the same position before. But if it is at all possible, I prefer to observe Halloween on Halloween night. And you should too, because I say so.

Annoyance Level: 2 / 10

The Poison Patrol

Despite there bring  no recorded incidents of poisoned candy being handed out to trick-or-treaters , overprotective parents insist that it’s happening everywhere in the nation, especially in their neighborhoods! The same family next door who holds Fourth of July cookouts for everyone on the block, who walks through the neighborhood Christmas caroling every year – that same family are secretly Satanic Halloween terrorists, lacing candy with cyanide to pass out to your unsuspecting children. Nooo!

Annoyance Level: 4/10 if they believe the tales just out of ignorance. 10/10 if they insist on repeating the tales long after being corrected and pointed to the truth.

The Reformers

This one is probably more common in the Bible Belt than elsewhere, but there are a lot of people of the more “religious” persuasion here who are pretty anti-Halloween.

Sometimes it’s about the spooky nature, sometimes it’s about the witches, and some people like to selectively remember Halloween’s pagan roots, while conveniently forgetting the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter. The way families deal with refraining from celebrating “the devil’s birthday” vary by family. There’s a small minority who make no observance at all. Luckily for the kids, most parents are not that dickish… they will come up with alternative celebrations. The  most common is the “Fall Festival” held at church gymnasiums across the country. These are essentially Halloween in everything but name. Kids dress up in costumes, play games, and win candy, they just avoid the H-word. The slightly more devout might name their not-Halloween party a “Noah’s Ark” party and ask that kids dress as animals. (The snarky hipster kids will dress as Noah or his wife or kids, just to be rebels. Because they’re badass like that.)

“It rubs the theses on the door, or else it gets the hammer once more.”

But the kings and queens of Halloween denial are the ones who declare it to be “Reformation Day”.

For the unaware, Martin Luther nailed his 95 these on the door of the church at Wittenburg on October 31, 15-something-I’m-too-lazy-to-look-up. This is pretty much considered to be the beginning of Protestant Christianity. And that’s all well and good if you want to commemorate a day in your religion’s history, but Reformation Day celebrants are frequently, um… not Lutheran. Evangelicals of all stripes would need to celebrate something concerning John Wesley if they really wanted to celebrate the birth of their theology. But that’s beside the point… they aren’t celebrating Reformation Day because it’s something they want to commemorate – they’re celebrating it because it’s something that’s not Halloween.

Annoyance Level: Wow, this one ended up being the longest portion, so it’s no surprise that it’s 10/10

Now that you’ve read all of my bitchings about the bastardization of my favorite holiday, I will leave you with this: All of my Halloween costumes from 2005 to last year.

2005 – Link

 

2006 – An Evil Wizard

2007 – Two-Face. (Or a more accurate description: Fat Two-Face)

 

2008 – The Green Lantern

2009 – A Vampire Cowboy

2010 – Um… A Random Sexy Dude? I dunno.

2011 – Dream (Morpheus)

 

 

 


Allergies and Depression

I am allergic to pollen. Unfortunately, I am expected to spend a lot of my time in a field full of plants that are pollinating. I don’t want to, but people are constantly demanding that I go into that field. “Just man up and deal with it!” they say. “Just take some medication!” they say. Those are, of course, the few who even know about my allergy. Because I failed to mention before that I live in an alternate universe, where pollen allergies have a stigma attached.

The previous paragraph was a metaphor, in case you couldn’t tell.

The truth is, I suffer from depression. It’s a mental illness, in case you weren’t aware… not just a mood or an attitude. I’ve suffered from it for probably my entire life, but I only truly became aware of it over the past year.

Like an allergy, it is an incurable (though treatable) part of my physical makeup. But also, like an allergy, it’s subject to flaming up when catalyzed by certain triggers.

Unlike an allergy, those triggers aren’t as easily pinpointed. I myself can’t pinpoint the specific triggers of my own disorder. I have a few ideas. There are certain people in my life who seem to exacerbate it. Certain situations I sometimes find myself in that will cause it to flare up. But are these the real triggers? Or just superficial symptoms of deeper causes?

When attempting to find my “deepest cause” for depression, it’s simply that “I’m never happy”. But is that a description of the cause, or the disorder? The things that I pretend would “make” me happy are just basic things that every human being searches for. Security. Companionship. Independence. Satisfaction.

So my triggers are all superficial. They’re in simple things like bills running higher than my paycheck can withstand, listening to a brilliant musician whose talent I could never hope to emulate, or seeing someone I used to love be happier with someone else than I could have ever made her.

These are universal triggers… everyone deals with these problems. But in certain seasons, pollen blows through the air that we all breathe. It’s only us allergic people who can’t breathe.


I Kind of Suck at Chips and Salsa, and I Need Your Help

I really like dipping things into other things.

Corn chips into salsa are among my favorites, because both items are inexpensive and delicious. But I inevitably run into the “corn chip dilemma”: I cannot pour a bowl of salsa and a plate of chips, and have their amounts match perfectly.

I either end up with this situation:

Chips left, but no salsa

Or this situation:

Salsa left, but no chips

My typical solution is to simply pour a bowl of salsa and then eat the chips straight from the bag. But this doesn’t always work… for example, sometimes I’ve gotten some chips and salsa to go from a restaurant, or maybe I’ve packed them up at home and brought them to work for lunch.

Another solution is to cover and refrigerate the leftover salsa and reuse it next time I want chips. But when you open the fridge and you see a tupperware filled with used salsa sitting next to a delicious jar of fresh salsa, what are you gonna pick?

That’s what I thought.

So here’s where I need your help: What do you do to solve the chip/salsa ratio dilemma? Leave your answer in the comments. The best answer wins a drawing of yourself eating chips and salsa, drawn by me.


Exhaustion and Insomnia

It’s just after 7pm and I’m worried that I won’t be able to sleep tonight. I’m reasonably tired already, but by the time 9 rolls around, I will have hit a second or third wind. And then I’ll lie awake until well after midnight, unable to wake up for tomorrow’s run, or even early enough to be on time for work tomorrow.

I’m afraid, simply because I dozed off for 15 minutes when I got home from work this evening. I didn’t want to, I tried not to… but I made the mistake of sitting down on the couch, and it happened.

You see, I’ve been exhausted at the end of every work day for several months. The marathon training isn’t to blame, because the exhaustion predates that. Neither is it a matter of not getting enough sleep, because I’m getting a solid 8 hours every night… except for the insomniac nights. Those are the nights, like tonight, when I doze off for brief periods of time upon returning home.

It isn’t that I’m tired during the day. On the contrary, while I’m working I’m fairly invigorated, and my mind is constantly racing, between the code or images I’m working on and thousands of ideas for creative projects or blog posts that I want to begin as soon as I get home. But when I step into the house, my mind is immediately overcome and the overwhelming exhaustion sets in.

I was talking about it with some friends, and one of them suggested that my brain has developed the idea that “being at home equals relaxing”. This would make sense if relaxation was the feeling. But relaxation is sitting down and reading a book, or drawing a picture, or watching a television show. This is something more. If I sit down on anything besides a hard kitchen chair, I will fall asleep. I can’t make it through two pages of a book, or an entire episode of a 30-minute television show.

And when it happens, I am awake until midnight or one in the morning. And waking up at 4 to run before work just isn’t going to happen. Even with the alarm clock on the other side of the bedroom, I practically sleepwalk across the room to snooze, ten to twenty times (three hours) or more.

If I had to guess I’d say the exhaustion started with the kittens. I adopted my cat in February, and she turned out to be pregnant. Suddenly, instead of one cat, I had five. And as they grew, and the people who had volunteered to take them backed out, my house was gradually ceded to their dominion. It wasn’t “home” anymore, it was a house owned by an army of destructive kittens, and my bedroom was the only escape. Rather than “home equals relax”, it was more a matter of “home equals overwhelming stress” and sleep was my only escape. I finally got the kittens all adopted, six months after they were born.

I’ve reclaimed my home, physically, but maybe I just haven’t reclaimed it mentally. So I am making every attempt to stay just as active when at home as I am. Eventually, home will be “home” again. Until then, I will force my brain through the consciousness it seems determined to try to escape.


Bloody Mary

“If we stay here long enough,
We can play with Bloody Mary
Say her name into the dark,
Activate our nerve endings…”

Silversun Pickups

Concept sketches:

 

Initial sketches on canvas:

 

Filling in color:

 

Coloring / Inking Bloody Mary:

 

Coloring / Inking / Shading Kids:

 

Mirror Frame:

 

Foreground Kids:

 

Ceiling:

 

Shading Foreground Kids:

 

Final Product:


Sometimes I Take Cute Little Tests

Sometimes I do. And then sometimes I post the results:

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-centric thought reign supreme.

Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor


“Cheese! We’ll Go Somewhere Where There’s Cheese!”

Occasionally, I get on compulsive do-it-yourself kicks — especially concerning food. I make my own ranch dressing, spaghetti noodles, fettucini noodles, lasagna noodles (yeah, I’ve got a pasta maker, deal with it). I’ve brewed beers and sodas alike. I won’t eat biscuits if they come from a can.

Like I said, these are just occasional kicks. For the most part, I’m chowing down on drive-thru burgers. But when I get on a kick, it cannot be satisfied until I have at least attempted the creation.

Which brings us to cheese.

My desire to make my own cheese goes back a couple of years, when I first got my pasta cutter. I had the idea that if I could make my own lasagna noodles, I could make my own lasagna all the way — the sauce, the noodles, even the cheese! So I went to my favorite cookbook.

I saw how simple it was to make mozzarella (more complex cheeses, not so much). But around this time, the compulsion fizzled… only to be reignited last week.

The Quest for Rennet

Mozzarella, as I said, was the simplest. Milk + citric acid, heat, add rennet, pull out the curds, head and knead. This is the recipe I used (forgive the Comic Sans). Unfortunately, stores that should have carried the required enzymes just… well, they just didn’t. I ended up going to 8 different stores:

  1. Earthfare – bought a cheesecloth and organic whole milk. They did not have rennet or citric acid, nor did the first two employees I asked even know what those were.
  2. Pearly Gates – bought citric acid, but they were out of rennet.
  3. Kroger on Drake – Never heard of rennet. Bought unchlorinated water.
  4. Publix on Whitesburg – Never heard of rennet
  5. Target Jones Valley – Never heard of rennet
  6. Fresh Market – Never heard of rennet, said they didn’t have it
  7. Publix Meridianville – Never heard of rennet, said they didn’t have it
  8. Kroger on Oakwood – Found rennet, didn’t even have to ask.

The irony being 1) Kroger on Oakwood is where I buy most of my groceries anyway, and 2) Pearly Gates (where the employees were more helpful than anywhere else) had expressed doubt that this particular Kroger would carry rennet.

Anyway, with the quest complete, I began the task of making cheese…

Milk on the stove

 

The citric acid was packaged in the most suspicious way possible

 

This is the little tablet I went to 8 stores looking for.

And here it is dissolving

The curdling process took about 3 times as long as it was supposed to.

 

Cutting the curd cubes.

Stirring the curds in the whey… Miss Muffet’s appetite grosses me out having been through this process.

 

Scooping out the curds…

…and dropping them in the colander.

 

After the excess whey has been squeezed… time to go into the microwave!

Heatin’ and kneadin’ and bumpin’ and grindin’ and spinnin’ and reelin’…

And the final product!

 

I think I was most impressed with how well it grated.