Pages

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Words Don't Work

In recent years, I've felt my brain getting weaker.

My memory is shot for things like, "What actor was in that movie?" I rely on Google, the world's most powerful search engine, always available in the palm of my hand to feed information.

But after last night, it really hit home. I have all of these emotions and feelings and I have no way to express them. The city I love is in flames, divided, and I feel I can't elegantly describe anything.

Of course, both sides have their knee-jerk people who all of a sudden have degrees in Law, Sociology, and American history.

Some want to answer centuries of racism and oppression by shooting "all those hood rats." I'm not kidding, multiple people on my Facebook feed had this as the answer.

Some believe a prayer will bring peace. Unfortunately in this instance, we need to not only pray for peace, but we have to pray for a solution to the problem.

On the other side, I have friends that are happy and excited that police cruisers are being burned. They discuss times of police corruption ignoring that evidence is available for the public's eyes to see. Ignoring that if the Grand Jury was unable to get 9 members to vote for indictment, there was no way a unanimous decision would be found if the trial went further.

And this is where teenage Dan comes into conflict with adult Dan. When I was a kid, I was moody like most. But I had a sense of purpose. I didn't just hole up in my room listening to sad music. I was a man of action.

I knew things were bad in the country in 2003. This was when I first started paying attention to the 24 hour news cycle.

And when I was punk rock Dan, there were times I believed that a brick through a Starbucks window was the only way to get things changed. My philosophy was, "things are so bad, we have to burn it all down so we can truly start over."

And then last night I saw looting at mom and pop convenience stores. I saw Little Caesar franchises burning down. I saw people warming their hands over burning cars at a dealership.

And I couldn't figure out what this accomplished.

A major reason for the severe disparity between say West County and North County is the unemployment rate and pay scale.

As thousands of people left the older, northern, suburbs in the 80's and 90's for larger houses and greener grass out in western Missouri, jobs started moving too.

And thus, those that once were in the city and finally scraped up the money to move to the suburbs, to give their kids a better life, found a mostly abandoned neighborhood where there were no jobs or enough tax money for the school system to run properly.

The cycle continues of unemployment, people turning to crime to feed themselves, dropping out of school because why go when the school isn't teaching you anyway. I saw it many times over in Myrtle Beach. 17-year-old kids left behind by the world, relegated to a live fast, die young world.

So why would destroying businesses that remained in your community help?

I was excited when people were starting to address the segregation that exists in St. Louis. I imagined that some public figure would step up like Martin Luther King Jr. and lead successful peaceful protests. I imaged a scene, much like this one. And I was honored that it was going to happen in St. Louis.

I looked forward to marching with my neighbors and possibly fixing some of the underlying issues for all the hate.

Instead, my neighborhood burns. Silhouettes highlighted by the senseless fires of a few people that want to take advantage of a situation. People ruining their community and reputation for some hair products and snack food.

And the camera's love it. The "leaders" coming in from out of town on both sides of the debate, just here to stir the pot and see themselves on television again. We feed the 24 hour newscycle. Reddit is filled with constant postings about safety when visiting St. Louis. We will not recover from this for many years to come.

Then again, maybe we haven't earned the right to recover from this.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Rules of Attraction

There's a lady I collaborate on projects with fairly often. We have enough of a rapport that we can usually get a hours worth of work done in 40 minutes and then we spend 20 minutes dishing.

I told her about the week we were having. Lot's of drama, long days, and flat tires.

I was telling her about it because it was like a movie. It was comedic. She laughed for a moment and then said, "Dan, you have dark energy in your life. You have a great perspective on everything, but the amount of negative stuff that happens to you is wrong. You have to change your energy."

She went on to tell me that I need to put rose quartz under my bed because it attracts love and positive energies. She also told me to get the house cleansed with sage and to watch The Secret.

Humoring her, I did watch The Secret on Netflix. It's corny. There's a lot of famous quotes thrown on the screen while someone whispers the words in the background. There's a guy with his shirt half unbuttoned talking about how he kept envisioning that he would have a better car, and soon he did.

It's really a bunch of rich Californians dreaming of big houses, beautiful women, and fast cars. BUT... the main message is solid.

If you put out positive vibes, you'll attract positive vibes.

Instead of being pissed in traffic on your way to work, focus instead on the podcast you're listening to or how good your coffee is. Think of it as a way to have some leisure time before work. Or just envision being at work and sort of block out the traffic.

I've been trying this since Thursday of last week. Just trying to send out positive vibes. And guess what, I had one of the best, most relaxing weekends I've had in a long time.

On Friday, I spent time with Brett and Rosie. We had some killer Pasta Carbonara and prepared some bottles for one of my new brews. Saturday, a bunch of us got together to watch the Blues game at Southtown Pub. We had great barbecue, had delicious beer, watched a Blues win, and some got up for Karaoke.

And today, we woke up at our own pace, went to Steinberg Skating Rink, and for the first time since my injury, I ice skated in the snow while listening to some Floyd blasting from the speakers. And it felt good and natural. I'm hooked again. I couldn't skate backwards very fast and I couldn't do a hockey stop, but I had speed and control going forward. The other's will come back as soon as muscle memory kicks in.

So, the positive vibes and stuff might not have actually caused the greatness of the weekend. But, I figure if nothing else, it's good to throw positive vibes out in this messed up world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Hamster Wheel

It's been a rough month financially. Between the roof stuff, my computer crapping out, the trip to Phoenix, and Sal having to rotate every week between going to the dentist and doctor, we've been tapped out.

When I've discussed finances with those that have been in the adult world longer than us, we most often hear the same thing, "You will always be in debt."

That sounds crazy and wrong on so many levels. It's like being stuck on a hamster wheel. Like I was only shooting for a better paying job, to get a bigger house, a newer car, a better cable package and keep the debts managed. If there was no end in sight, why would I wake up at 7 every morning to clock in.

It sometimes made me want to drop Netflix, sell our car and take public transportation, and move into a one bedroom apartment.

There have been many times where I wished we didn't own a home. I hate doing the yard work. I hate seeing the house projects that need to be done. I get anxiety thinking about selling the place in 5-10 years knowing that there are big ticket items I need to fix first.

The tax deduction and the equity we're building on the house don't seem to equal the amount of money and time we put into it. (Yes, I put a financial value on my time often to figure out if things are worth it)

There's often a part of me that would rather have pay $250 less a month on utilities and mortgage than owning a house. At least then, we could put that money toward the car or student loans.

But, there was a conversation I had recently that gave me the warm fuzzies inside.

A lady I work with has a similar story to ours. She turned 40 this week and said, "I would never want to go back and relive my 20's or early 30's."

She set up her story by explaining that she had a similar job, similar student loans, and similar debt.

She's now 40, her debt is paid off, she owes a little on her house, and she is able to go basically anywhere and do basically anything whenever she wants to.

She told me that they bought a house within their means, they struggled for 10 years with debt, but kept pushing, and now that she's 40, she's having the time of her life.

That gives me hope. Instead of being told the doom and gloom of, "You will always be in debt" I was told, "you have some great times ahead of you."


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And Then it Clicked

Typically, I learn best when someone shows me how to do something.

I'm terrible at reading books. I'm terrible at test taking. I'm terrible at online courses. It's a wonder that I graduated from a major university with a pretty decent GPA.

For the first 2 years of brewing, I didn't really have anyone to show me anything, and I still haven't had anyone around to show me how to make bread.

For the most part, I've spent years having wet dough stick to my hands, ugly looking garbage baguettes, and beers containing hop pieces in the bottle. Basically, I could've been playing with Playdough and making hoppy tea and I would've been accomplishing very similar things.

I just kept doing and reading and doing and reading, hoping that things would click.

And sometimes they do.

The most recent example of something clicking is a method for mixing dough. I've read so many baking books that describe this fold over method. They even have nice splash pages with pictures showing how to do it. I've looked up videos on YouTube. None of it made sense to me. I couldn't make my hands make the pretty looking dough in the pictures.

A few weeks back, I was making some dough, and then it was as if power was restored to a part of my brain and it just clicked. It was one of those moments where you can't remember the week previous when you had no idea. It was something you always knew. I fully understood the folding method and my breads have been much more flavorful since.

I met a few guys that brewed beer over margaritas at some random Mexican restaurant a few years back.

I was starting to figure out some basics of brewing. I understood the basic premise and why things were done a certain way, but I was still years off of figuring out how to make my own recipes. And then I started going to brew days at these guys houses. I saw their setups, how they kept beers from getting hazy, how they steeped hot water through the grains, and how they cleaned up.

Meeting this group of friends gave me ideas and probably accelerated my skills by several years.

Basically what I'm saying is, yes, I can learn anything, it will just take me a long time like baking did. Or, if I meet people that already know how to do it, and they are willing to show me, I'll pick it up immediately and excel at it.

All I know is at least once a week, I'm eating my bread and drinking my beer and it doesn't cross my mind to go to a bakery or store to pick up someone else's products, and that's a great place to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

First Impressions and Contactors

Every interaction I've had with contractors have not been pleasant.

One neighbor had a team of guys working on our shared fence. They showed up at 6 am for 10 straight days and started hammering and drilling. They set up their saw horses and housed all the lumber in our yard. They ruined parts of our yard.

That same neighbor got a new porch poured not long after. Guess where the cement truck was parked while it rained? That's right, on our yard. The truck slide a good 3 feet during this pouring, destroying the grass and making huge dips and lumps that I've attempted to even out multiple times, but they somehow remain.

The other neighbor had roofers show up. They plugged their power tools into my outdoor outlets, threw tons of discarded roof tiles into my yard, threw cigarettes into my yard, and even left a stained smelly shirt hanging on my porch.

So when it came time to hire our first workers to cut down the tree in our back yard, I was incredibly stressed. I was pissed off when things happened to me, and I would guess the neighbors would feel the same when it was flipped back.

Of course the tree guys let huge logs fall three stories into both my yard and the neighbors yard creating huge divots that still remain. I've dumped a good 30 lbs of dirt into holes (of course fixing the neighbor's yard first) trying to get things fixed. It still is not right.

We had a storm roll through a few weeks back that completely ripped the roof off of our house. Around this same time, we got a new neighbor next door.

He came up to me on the fence line and introduced himself. We had a quick pleasant conversation. I was happy to have a new start.

Well, the roofers have showered his house in pieces of brick, mortar, and tar paper. The dumpster guys ripped a huge steel pipe off of our curb and there's a good six inches sticking straight out in the street ready to ruin someone's wheel. And now I'm the proud owner of a dead side yard because a tarp covered in trash sat for 8 days.

This morning, I was baking bread, trying to quickly mow the lawn, and clean up trash left behind and I was interrupted every 12 minutes by my new neighbor, who was justifiably upset every time he found something new wrong. Instead of spending 90 minutes getting everything done, this was stretched into more than 2 hours as I attempted to call the street department, the insurance adjuster, and the roofer, none of which are answering because it's the weekend.

I can understand the contractor's side. You're doing 12 hours of work a day, in the elements, for maybe $30,000 a year. Your body is breaking down, you have no retirement, and you do the same back breaking jobs 6 days a week. At a certain point, you stop caring.

But dammit, there's also the being considerate side of things. I go out of my way to be considerate to everyone that deserves it. And that is probably why I care so much about this.

Thanks for sitting in on this therapy session.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Death, Babies, Stress, and Mind Running

Buckle up. This was three separate blog posts at one point, but I felt there was a common subject. That subject is, "Everything stresses me out."

As I've written before, Death Scares the Hell Out of Me.

I've been thinking about the subject a lot lately. There's been a lot of anniversaries of important losses in my life, people I care about dealing with deadly disease, and generally the world seems like it's falling apart.

It's just a feeling of helplessness. Like we're spinning on this globe with no say of how fast.

I think I worry about macro things too much. (Or, maybe not enough.) The world issues that I feel like I have no control over scare me the most. It has to be my imagination. There's an issue and then I connect the dots until it kills me.
  • We're running out of fresh water. I've read things that say, at the current rate, we'll be out of fresh water sources in 40-50 years. And then there are plague like things happening to some of our larger fresh water sources:
  • We've got to be on the verge of a major war right?
  • The freaking Ebola virus is running rampant and some of those infected are outside of Africa.
  • And then there are the normal things of possible recession in Europe again, gas shortages, climate change, overpopulation, etc. 
All of these things equate to a Mad Max like scenario where I eventually starve to death, while fighting a plague, until I am executed over the lack of drinking water.


The subject of children has come up often lately. I think the first wave of married folk from 4-6 years ago have started having kids and Sal and I are finding that kids love the crap out of us generally. We get a lot of those, "You know you would be great parents" sort of comments. 

And then I see some people on my Facebook feed having their 4th or 5th kid. And I see them post really ignorant, racist and homophobic updates, and I see them ringing up credit card debt, and buying houses and cars they can't afford, and I think, "maybe we should have kids to balance out the idiots."

I guess this is a sentiment that has been true forever. I shouldn't be surprised. Harvey Danger even sang about it with Flagpole Sitta back in 1997. 

Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding
And of course we would be good parents, great even. If (and it's a big IF) we could have kids, we're just not sure it would be healthy for us.

We've barely been able to travel or complete any of the bucket list items we had in college. We're still playing catch up from losing our jobs back in 2009. Sallie just now is being paid what she should have been when we graduated. There are too many marriages that fail and it seems like a large cause/symptom is having kids when you're not prepared.

Basically, kids aren't in the near-future-cards because of this forced arrested development we both feel.

And also, we just don't know if we could have kids. Adoption might be the only option.

Generally, I think I'm just too stressed. Sal and I have been driving up and down the country for seemingly months now. I think we are just running ourselves ragged.

I know this seems to be my post every 8-10 weeks or so, but it really has felt like that. 

It's been another year full of weddings, and this year almost all of them have been out of town. With out of town weddings, come gifts, hotel rooms, full weekend filled with travel. Just generally tiring. 

Then a few weeks back a freak storm came through and ripped our roof off. I'm not exaggerating. Our flat roof was lifted up like a blanket and thrown over itself. We also had two windows, two doors, and some leaking damage. So every time it gets cloudy, I get stressed again. The new roof can't be put on until there are three solid days with no chance of rain. I'm hoping that's by the end of this week.

And we did that dumb thing where we over commit to things. Yeah, LouFest sounds like a blast back in April when we bought tickets, but by the time it comes around in September, we've been non-stop busy for 8 weeks. 

I guess not using any PTO for the first 5 months of the year really sets a bad precedent. I just feel stressed, rushed, and tired. Even when I've taken time off for just a long weekend to reset, somehow I end up filling that too. 

I'm not complaining that there's not fun things. It's not like every weekend I'm out digging ditches or doing match. Usually the stuff we have is fun. I'm just a guy that likes some alone time. I really only feel reset if I get to wake up, sip some coffee, play some video games, dunce around on the internet, and ease into the day. I need that at least once a week and it just hasn't happened. 

Basically, this is what life feels like lately if I had to sum it up in one picture. 



Monday, August 18, 2014

Happiness as Science

There's a scientific research project called Track Your Happiness which is trying to quantify what exactly makes humans happy. I first heard about this over a year ago on one of the podcasts I listen to.

The scientist said what they are learning is incredible. Things like, people tend to be most happy when they are in a car and not thinking about much in particular.

It's something you don't think about often. What makes me truly happy? Sure, you know things like eating ice cream will make you temporarily happy, but when, during your everyday life, are you happiest?

I decided to sign up to get text alerts and add to the project. I've done it twice now, 6 months apart. My second go around just finished. This is particularly interesting to me because of the completely different life-place I'm in compared to where I was around the holidays last year during my first time doing the survey.

There were a lot of "no-duh" pieces of information.


  • I'm happiest on Fridays, least happy on Tuesdays. (The day I have to take phone calls.) 
  • I'm most happy when I'm doing things I want to do, but also have to do. Which I think translates to, "I enjoy doing certain things (cooking) for other people when I sign up to do it. (family event, dinner party)
  • Right now, I'm slightly more happy when I'm inside. When I did it the first time, back in January, I was slightly more happy when I was outside.
  • I tend to be happiest when I get around 7 hours of sleep. When I get more than 8, I'm less happy.
  • I am happiest when I'm brewing, at a brewery, at a buddy's house, listening to music, or watching a movie.
  • I'm least happiest when I'm at a hospital, relaxing (that's a huge surprise), working, listening to the news, at Target, or praying/worshiping/meditating. 
I think what I get out of this is, when I'm left with my thoughts, I'm the least happy. Which I don't know what that says about my mental well being. 

It makes sense though, my three least favorite chores to do are yard work, grocery shopping, and doing dishes. All things that are relatively mindless, yet it's not easy to listen to podcasts or occupy myself in other ways.