Thursday, November 21, 2019

I Prefer

I prefer albums to singles

I prefer listening to old favorite albums to searching for new favorites

I prefer Austen to Dickens

I prefer running to cycling

I prefer a knowing smile to a stream of flowery words

I prefer public transport to cars

I prefer walking to driving

I prefer maps to step-by-step written directions

I prefer inside jokes with my wife

I prefer rooting for sports teams with my brother

I prefer in-person conversations to telephone conversations

I prefer not needing to set an alarm clock

I prefer listening to the Beatles when I’m melancholy

I prefer John to Paul

I prefer John-plus-Paul to either John or Paul

I prefer forests to beaches

I prefer real Coca-Cola to non-Coke colas

I prefer blending in

I prefer drumming to singing

I prefer finishing to starting to write a new song

I prefer not unearthing old romantic relationships

I prefer libraries to bookstores

I prefer my candor and friendliness after a couple of beers

I prefer constraints, borders, and outlines

I prefer pushing the limits of constraints, borders, and outlines

I prefer sincere doubt to unexamined faith

I prefer rainy autumn days to sunny summer days

I prefer order to chaos

I prefer chaos sometimes

(h/t Susan, Erin, Elizabeth, and Thea)

Friday, November 08, 2019

The Shackles of Youth

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, grass, outdoor and nature

I often daydream about revisiting locations that were the settings of parts of my past. Sometimes, I have a strong desire--almost a hunger or thirst--to walk around a neighborhood in which I used to spend time, or stand in a living room or kitchen in a house or apartment in which I used to live, not interacting with the present residents or inhabitants but merely seeing, drinking in those places.

In other words, sometimes, many times, I daydream about being a ghost.

My own theological architecture doesn't give much space to the contemplation of ghosts, though I don't think it outright denies the overall concept. I don't want to haunt those places--again, I'd prefer my own presence to go unnoticed--but I suppose being a "ghost" is the image that best approximates that desire.

Since I have lived in the city of my birth my whole life, I sometimes actually get to be this sort of (benevolent[?]) ghost. If I choose to drive by the first house in which I remember living (in Frayser), or my maternal grandparents' house (also in Frayser), or the park my mom would take me to after I finished my half day of pre-kindergarten (which happens to be Overton Park), I can do so without much trouble or planning. Of course, some places are forever changed (a shopping center sits on the site of my first apartment, my paternal grandparents' house was razed and replaced by a McMansion), but I can still conjure a mental picture of the places I remember even in the presence of their replacements.

Other settings from other parts of my life, though, have been less accessible. For more than two decades, the biggest hole in my haunting map was the little part of Chelsea in London where I lived for five weeks in the summer of 1995. For years, I would imagine being there, the setting of the Indian Summer of my adolescence (I was 23 going on 16), seeing myself walk down the King's Road and the surrounding neighborhood, not really seeking one specific terminus but simply walking, drinking in my surroundings, reveling in a sense of longing for its own sake.

And then, suddenly, I was able to go there in real life, last fall, when Cindy and I spent a week in London and stayed not a ten-minute walk from the site of my old King's College dormitory. The first thing we did after our first meal the day we landed and checked into our Airbnb was to walk to the King's Road and see the Kings Chelsea Estates, the residential development that had taken over the old campus buildings and also surrounded them with newer, larger condominiums (of course I was already aware of the changes, having virtually walked the streets for years via Google street view).

Seeing them, and then walking eastward along the King's Road for about a mile till we reached the Mona Lisa Cafe (a great place for cheap eats back in '95), felt nothing like being there before. Instead, I had the impression of looking over my own shoulder, or peering into my thoughts and emotions back then without really inhabiting them, seeing them as something to be analyzed rather than felt. It was as if my memories of being there had been a movie projected onto a flat screen, but now that I was there, I could not only see the movie in three dimensions, but experience it in four, pausing certain scenes, walking around the characters and sets. 

There was, no doubt, a brief rush of nostalgia, but also a quick follow-up sense of disenchantment--not dislike or disgust, but a real sense that something that had long held me in its sway no longer did so. The overarching feeling was one of relief. I felt no further need to revisit that particular part of London afterward, and we didn't.


I have spent a lot of time--probably too much time, in fact--listening to and thinking about the remix of REM's Monster album that was done recently by the original album's producer, Scott Litt, and that is included among the bonus material accompanying the 25th anniversary packaging of the album. I was both intrigued and skeptical when I first read about the remix project a few months ago.

I always liked the idea of Monster more than the act of listening to it start to finish, but it was still an album by favorite band at the time, and despite its never becoming my favorite of theirs, I listened to the hell out of it for months and still revisit it sometimes. I hoped that the remix would be revelatory in the way that Giles Martin's recent remixes of Beatles albums (especially the White Album) had been, but secretly feared it might end up being the aural version of George Lucas's tweaking of the original Star Wars movies, which was sometimes benign but other times heavy handed.

Unfortunately, the first released track from the remix--"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"--was more Lucas than Martin. The sound was bright and clean, but I noticed changes right away: The "machine gun" tremolo guitar riff--one of the catchiest and most memorable individual parts in the original recording--had simply been removed, as had been the final two lines of the chorus (including the concluding "Don't fuck with me"). "Kenneth" was my favorite song, and it seemed to have been changed for the worse; what was going to happen to the other songs?

But one quirk about the original version of Monster is that ""Kenneth" was something of an outlier. Although it, too, featured loud, layered guitars that more or less buried the vocals, it had a brightness and expansiveness that contrasted with the claustrophobic sound of many of the other tracks. Those other tracks somehow sounded both layered and flat, closer to an aural painting done impasto than to a sonic sculpture.

And it wasn't till I listened to the second track, "Crush With Eyeliner," that I began to get a feel for what the remix was accomplishing. Listening at full volume to a new mix of a song I'd heard literally hundred of times, I could actually hear the different layers individually and could feel their interplay. The flat screen projection became a solid object through which I could walk. The experience held for the rest of the album as well; and the sludgier and flatter the track was in the original release, the more shocking the revelation of hearing the sonically expansive remix. "I Don't Sleep, I Dream" and "I Took Your Name," two of my least favorite recordings on the original, are easily two of my favorites in their new versions. The enhancements, far from sanitizing the record, make it that much sexier, that much more glam, the lyrics (though now decipherable) that much slipperier, the narrator that much harder to pin down.

And listening to the remix gave the opposite emotional effect that walking around Chelsea did. Instead of providing distance and closure, it immediately dropped me into the mental and emotional space of my 1994 self--a mixed brew of insecurity and bravado, cockiness and crushing doubt, the feeling that I could be anything I wanted as long as I did not think beyond the present moment. I got that feeling on my first listen last Friday, and I got it again when I listened the next few days in a row. Listening to the remix isn't doing a haunting--it's being haunted.

Which is why consciously stopped listening to it a couple of days ago. I am not my 1994 self (22 going on 15), nor do I miss him very much. I can't live in that headspace any more than I can function walking around drunk (both things I know from experience, fortunately or unfortunately). Maybe I'll revisit the remix someday if I can do so in a less immersive way, but I'm letting it go for now.  


Coda: For fun, here is my quick take on which Monster songs I like better in the original release and which I like better in the remix:

Prefer Original
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
King of Comedy
Star 69
Strange Currencies
Let Me In

Prefer Remix
Crush With Eyeliner
I Don't Sleep, I Dream
Bang and Blame
I Took Your Name
Circus Envy

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Avaitor

The men's book club at my parish recently read and discussed The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin. Spoiler alert: I loved the book. Second spoiler alert: I'll try not to spoil the actual plot of the book here.

The conversation was particularly stimulating and energetic, with everyone who had read the book making interesting points and asking thought-provoking questions. J____ asked me one such question: "What was it about the book's plot that affected you so strongly?"

My answer was somewhat rambling. I noted that the book was as much a punch to the gut and a bruise to the heart as it was a workout for the mind (while definitely stimulating, I would not say the writing itself was difficult to follow). When asked what especially moved me, I struggled to respond but was able to articulate one thing that hit home: the slow physical and mental disintegration that seemed to be leading to a slow disconnection from someone with whom one had an intimate connection. The slowness of the loss seemed as tragic as the loss itself.

After the meeting, though, I knew that my answer was not so much inaccurate as incomplete. Yes, the impending loss moved me deeply, as did an earlier, similar loss of connection with another character. But, more than that, I think the book held up a startlingly clear mirror to my inner self, and I saw much that was familiar in the book's observations. And much of what I saw was hard to look at. The following all seemed to be reflected back at me:
  • My own mortality and the mortality of people I love - imagining if I were the protagonist and Cindy were the wife, or that she were the love interest from earlier in the novel.
  • My own sin - What dark deeds and thoughts lurk below the level of my consciousness? Are there things I've done that I'm afraid to admit--to confess--even to myself, let alone to God before a priest?
  • My fear of dementia/losing my memory/being physically alive but decresingly able to communicate and connect with people around me, especially my wife.
  • My unwillingness (out of laziness? out of fear? out of indifference?) to do the long, taxing work of repentance. Vodolazkin's protagonists tend to do something awful when they're young but then spend the rest of their lives in active, humble (even humiliating) penance. Am I even sorry for my own wrongs?
On a completely different level (perhaps), my reading of this novel in light of having read Crime and Punishment, with which it shares some thematic and geographic elements--makes me want to visit St. Petersburg in the same way that I so long wanted to visit London. I don't want to do a big touristy tour--I want to feel and smell the streets, parks, bridges, churches, cemeteries. Its a longing that may pass. But I feel it, deep down.

Friday, January 18, 2019


I limp to conversations
And brace myself
Waiting for the bottoms of boots
to crush me
into the playground blacktop
Waiting for the voices of amateur comics
to shout me
as a punchline
to a joke yet unwritten
Waiting to be unheard
or heard, and ignored

I see you
Brace yourself
And I remember
For a moment
How heard
How loud
How crushing
My words can be
Your silence calling Bullshit
on mine

Monday, December 31, 2018

State of the ...

This is the spot in which I typically summarize the brewing success and failures I had during the past year. I'll still do that, but I'd rather think out loud (or at least in virtual print) as a way of clearing the mental cobwebs before focusing on beer yet again.

My relationship to my avocations is changing. Compared to many I know, I have been blessed to have relatively few Really Big Demands (health, family, job) placed on my time and energy, My job is not physically taxing and also allows me to leave work "at work," so I really do have the freedom to choose what I do with fairly large swaths of time. Within those swaths, however, I do have regular commitments, some of which make me accountable to others and some of which I simply choose for myself. These can be categorized, roughly, as follows:

Commitments in Which I'm Accountable to Others*
  • Chanting/singing./reading at St. John
  • Playing drums/percussion with Ted Horrell and the Monday Night Card
  • Serving on the Board of Directors for the Orthodox Christian Translation Society
 *Not listed here but assumed are my commitment to my wife, which is my reference point for all other commitments, as well as my commitment to being available to spend time with my nephews (of which I could do more) and my godchildren (likewise).

Self-Focused Commitments
  • Running
  • Brewing
  • Writing songs
  • Reading
The first item in each list is the one to which I give the most time. I chant at a minimum of one service per week, but most weeks include two or more and some seasons require an even larger commitment. I also try to lead a chant class/workshop every other week outside of liturgically dense times. There are times when the chant workload feels a little heavy, but only when I'm not actually there; I never regret chanting or being present at worship when I'm actually there.

As for running, I still like to do it three times per week even as I move away from the competitive aspect of it; the moving is a product of a combination of bad diet (I'm just not in good enough physical shape right now to run fast) and a peace about not needing to define myself by running competitively (I enjoy the regular routine of running way more than I do the focus on planning and training that accompanies races).  

I wish that I could say that my need to define myself in relation to how I compare to others has decreased for my other activities like it has with running. It hasn't. Or at least it's still a big part of the mix.

I love playing with Ted's band, and doing so has allowed me to remember how much I enjoy simply playing drums--without having to try to sing at the same time. Musically and personally, it's as good a band situation as one could hope to find. I've also had fun reconnecting with my friends in The Petty Thieves a couple of times in the past year or so, playing covers we all dig.

But a part of me wants to be the one putting his own work out there, and my main outlet for doing that until recently has been with Dewey Starr and its antecedents. The Umsteds and I pretty much ceased being a working band after a fairly unpleasant acoustic opening gig in January. I don't think any one of us wants to revisit a situation in which we play for folks who clearly don't want to listen to us; plus, one of the fellas (Dave Jr) has a pretty sweet cover band gig going with his dad in which the group (1) draws crowds and thus (2) makes money, and all of them have multiple children and their own separate time commitments.

And yet, I have a hard time letting go of the Dewey Starr/Archives/Name du Jour idea. It's pretty selfish, really--Dewey Starr was how I was able to get recordings of songs I'd written before the ears of others. We played a few decent-sized shows; more important to me, though, we had songs played on the radio multiple times, which fed a particular craving I've had as long as I can remember. "Look at me, the shy kid!" slipped into "Aren't I fantastic?" and sometimes revealed itself as a raw " LOVE ME!" All of that lay just below the surface of something that was actually pretty great--extended family playing together just like we did when we were kids. The selfish part may have been there all along, but it was less prominent, less intrusive.

Of course, that's oversimplifying things a bit. Maybe even more than the songwriting credit, I valued the songwriting partnership that Dave Jr and I have had. Collaborating on songs with him has probably been the most gratifying creative outlet I've had. Even this year, we put together two really good songs, and I have no doubt we'll continue to do that as time allows (we seem to be able to work on that even when we're not really in a band together).

But since we have reached a pause, I'm re-evaluating my own songs, and my relationship with creating and sharing and how it is shaped or soured by the desire to be praised. I have songs I'm working on, but the (self-focused) noise is still there, waiting to be engaged, ignored, or denounced.

The noise is there with brewing, too. On the one hand, I really do try to approach each batch of beer I brew with the best plan and information needed to make a truly excellent finished product. I love recipe research and development, I enjoy fine-tuning process choices and variables, and I don't mind being an unsparing critic of the beers themselves, pinpointing flaws and working to eliminate them the next time. But the more I brew, the less willing I am to subject my beers to harsh critique from fellow brewers. When I first joined our homebrew club, I brought samples of nearly every beer I brewed to meetings for critique. I learned a lot from that time, but I also received enough praise to start fashioning myself as a pretty good brewer. And, eventually, I started to resent the critiques and cherry picked beers (and brewers) that I figured would elicit (and provide) mostly praise. And now I rarely bring beers in for critique at all. I do still like to enter the large annual competition, but I do so mainly to WIN, not to get high-quality feedback. I've tied my ego to how much others like--and praise--my beers. Perhaps some of that is due to turnover in the club membership--many of the folks I knew and trusted most are no longer in the club--and also due to the fact that I simply don't want to stay late after meetings, which is when the main tasting occurs. But ego-sparing is involved as well.

And I've not come to a true peace about this. I still harbor fantasies of brewing professionally, even though I remain unconvinced that doing so would make sense for me and my family financially and lifestyle-wise. I still plan to enter multiple beers in the next regional competition even as I wonder how committed I am to the community of homebrewers. Brewing--like running--has become more of a solitary activity. I have friends with whom I brew sometimes, but it's usually easier for me to simply carve out time to brew by myself rather than plan around others' schedules. And I still crave validation from others even as I try to be my own worst, and best, critic.

So, the beers themselves:

  • Munich helles - possibly my favorite beer I've brewed. I used the White Labs Budvar yeast strain and the lightest German base malt I could find, and the end result was delicate and contemplative--and an easy drinker.
  • Patersbier - I brewed a few of these, but the best one was basically a Belgian blonde scaled down. A great session-type beer.
  • Barleywine - it took a few months of conditioning, but the use of the Belgian yeast strain and the multiple levels of dry hopping appear to have been worth it. A successful experiment.
  • Oktoberfest - I think I may have liked it even better had I bottle conditioned it, but it was still darn tasty.
  • German pils - this one got better and better as it conditioned (well, at least until it got old). Solid pils, good hop/malt balance.
  • Dry stout - simply and roasty.
  • "Blonde ale" with whole Cascade hops. It didn't age well, but it was super nice when it was young.
  • "Bocce Bock" - helles bock brewed for Italian Fest. I made it slightly less strong than the 2017 version, but it still packed a punch. It did age well, tasting really nice after about 3 months in bottles.
  • The dark beer failures - I had both a honey porter and a strong stout get infected, leading to gushers. I'm guessing cleanliness issues did me in both times.

Mixed Bags/To Be Determined
  • 100% Brett witbier - it ultimately tasted good and had the muted funkiness I desired, but it's just a bit too odd to drink too often. I like it, but I'm also glad the batch was small.
  • Cream ale - I added more sugar than I'd intended, and I get a fruity, almost sherry-like flavor. Not unpleasant, and it accomplished what I intended (an easy drinker to keep at home), but I wish it didn't have that fruity finish.
  • Vienna lager (for Pascha) - I'm probably too critical of this one in that folks dug it, but there was a slight harshness (metallic? from the keg?) to the finish, at least at first.
  • Czech pils - I ended up not using the yeast I'd planned to use; also, I got a little acetaldehyde flavor, so I may not have let this one finish out like I should have done. Still pretty good, just not a stunner.
  • Ordinary bitter - probably more of a success than not--good, if not cravable. Even given the style, I probably could've made it slightly less bitter. 
I have an English mild and a Dortmunder Export lager freshly in bottles, an IPA in primary, and a Czech dark lager ready to brew next.
Hey, I may even return to this blog again sometime before the end of 2019. Or I may not. Regardless, Cheers and God Bless.

As a postscript, here are a few things I've learned this year, or at least things that have come into better focus:

  • Old memories of a place can be replaced with new memories of the same place. That's true anytime, of course, but, for me, I now have memories of London (and England overall) that are not tied to the drama of the romantic misadventures of a 23-year-old guy. Cindy and I visited England for about a week this fall, and though I did a brief whirlwind tour of the sites near where I stayed back in 1995, that sojourn was only a brief prelude to our own time exploring the City (and other cities) as a couple. I'll never forget the earlier trip, but my reference point has changed, and I can now sing the line from Rachael Yamagata's "I Want You" ("But when I think of London / I can only see your face") for real.
  • Generally speaking, and with rare yet definite exceptions, I don't enjoy parties, which seem to be the adult version of finding someone to sit with in the school cafeteria. My favorite thing to do at a party is to have one or two meaningful conversations with individuals, and, frankly, that's better done one-on-one or at least within a small group than at a larger party. (Plus, I've been the Old Guy at a party or two recently, which doesn't have to suck, but still kind of does sometimes.)
  • On the introvert/extrovert scale, I think I still rate introvert (in that I replenish energy via solitary activities). But I've noticed that, after awhile, the thing keeping me from being more social is something either like inertia or else like having a crust, or barnacles: while I'm alone, I have a hard time imagining I'd be happy doing something with others, but I nearly always am glad I did if I make the effort to do so. Solitude can be a habit, I guess, and I am a creature of habit, or at least of moving in one direction rather than veering off (it's why distance running is so much more appealing to me than, say, cross-training). I'm not sure I need to really think this through more than that, though finding a balance of solitude/time with others is an ongoing task. 
  • I'm still afraid to try new things and fail. But I think I'm getting a little better at trying familiar things and failing.  

Thursday, February 09, 2017

State of the Homebrewery Address, Early 2017

 Belgian-style Tripel
It's February, and, as usual, several of my beers are in various stages of fermenting or conditioning. Here's what's currently in progress:
  • Primary: Rye pale ale w/Centennial and Chinook hops
  • Cold secondary: altbier
  • Newly bottled: Belgian pale (v2) for MS Brew Movement
  • Bottled but sitting for additional conditioning: Brett B Saison (probably 23 flip-top bottles)
  • Bottled and ready to drink: Schwarzbier (20ish bottles)
I also have an assortment of bottles still on hand from previous brews:
  • Festbier (probably 2-4 bottles)
  • Kolsch (probably 4-6 big bottles and a small one)
  • Belgian pale v1 (probably 3-5 bottles)
  • Belgian tripel (4 or 5 bottles)

2016 Successes
  • Festbier (really, really tasty...maybe the best thing I've brewed)
  • Science of Beer pale (good clean, hoppy pale ale)
  • Belgian pale v1 (really improved with age)
  • Kolsch (I'm almost always happy with that style)
  • Whole hop pale ale (one of the better hoppy beers I've brewed)
  • Zwickelbier (first go at decoction)
  • Hefeweizen (decoction mashout)
  • ESB v1 (solid)
  • ESB v2 (different yeast, slightly more flavor hops...smooth and refreshing - and won the DeNeuville contest!)
  • Quick German pils (kind of threw it together for 4th race, but pretty refreshing)
2016 Failures
  • Hoppy wheat ale w/citrus zest (ugh)
  • Hefeweizen w/raspberry and blueberry (some bottles didn't carb, others were bombs; the OK ones were actually kind of boring)
2016 TBD
  • Schwarzbier (though I think it's going to be good)
  • Brett saison (super Brett-y...not much saison flavor. Interesting, not sure I hit what I intended)
  • Belgian tripel (not bad, but just never really mellowed out the way I wanted...a little harsh to my taste)
  • Belgian pale v2 (used 3522 to ferment...very nice at bottling time)
  • Altbier (way too early! really a 2017 beer anyway) 

2016 Miscellany
  • I kegged a beer (pale for Sci of Beer) for the first time in a couple of years. It tasted good and I liked having beer on tap, but a spigot mishap led to several quarts of beer spilling onto my rug and wood floor, so I'm not too motivated to keg again anytime soon!
  • Relatedly, I acquired and then discarded a used dorm fridge--leaked condensation. I'll miss the extra lagering space, but the leaking was a bad deal.
  • Quick lager fermenting (ie, fermenting cold till just over 50% of attenuation has taken place and then letting temp rise) has served me well, as has the ice-pack method of temp control.
  • I continue to be inpatient with bottled beer--let those bottles condition, son!
  • Brewing with friends (eg, Joel, Donnie) is fun, and so is brewing alone. I need to mix in a few more social brew days in with my solo outings.
  • As usual, I ended up with more beer in the fridge than I could drink. I need to give more away and buy less commercial beer!
  • The sump pump/ice bath technique (thanks Jeff K!) really helps me get wort temp down to lager fermentation range.
  • I still struggle with constructive criticism of my beers--I'm way too defensive and am my own greatest hindrance in becoming a better brewer!
So...what do I want to brew this year?
  • ESB/bitter (w/seasonal yeast - split batch between 2 yeast strains)
  • Small saison (no brett...maybe use base recipe from brett one, and really ramp up finishing temp...dry is good)
  • More lagers! I'd love to give a triple-decoction Czech-style pils a go, and I wouldn't mind brewing a German-style pils around the same time for side-by-side comparison. I think another festbier or a Maibock would also be great. A couple of nice lagers would be suitable for Italian Fest.
  • Another fruit this time!
  • Another witbier (for Cortney's wedding, but maybe also a trial run beforehand)
  • A traditional bock



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Travelogue 2015

Let's see...Cindy and I took the following trips in 2015:

Madisonville, TN (twice)

New Orleans (by train)

Sandersville and Atlanta

St. Louis

Iowa City/Minneapolis/Red Wing/St. Louis

Rosemary Beach

Some thoughts:
  • Other than the first trip to Madisonville (which I took alone to see my grandmother one final time), all trips were with Cindy. Traveling together is much better than traveling separately. 
  • Compared to recent years, we traveled less, but we took one longer-than-average trip (Iowa/Minnesota/Missouri) and two other longish ones (Georgia and Florida). 
  • We did not take a single flight in 2015. I really do not mind long road trips, especially if I am the one doing the driving; fortunately, Cindy does not particularly care to drive, so I drove pretty much the whole way on all of these trips.
  • Cindy and I are blessed to have the same preferred rhythm and pace when we travel: both of us have learned, through experience, that we enjoy our trips most when we can balance variety of activity with simple down time. Sometimes, it's better to leave a few possible attractions unvisited, a few meals uneaten, a few beers undrunk. I think our trip to Rosemary Beach was our most "successful" in that sense--much of what we did was within walking distance of our rental, and we started every morning on the late side with a bike ride and ended every day with a walk on the beach. 
  • Although I had my share of good beer (especially in Minnesota), I didn't treat any particular trip as a "beer-cation" in 2015. I love visiting breweries, tap rooms, and brewpubs, but, by and large, I'm less keen on making those visits the main focus of our trips. (That said, I'd very much enjoy a beer-centric return to St. Louis one day!)
  • We traveled with our nephews twice in 2015--and took them on their first just-with-Cindy-and-me vacation (to St. Louis) in May. They boys really do travel well and are also old enough to enjoy a variety of food/restaurants, making for a fun and relaxing trip for both them and the adults.
  • It might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Cindy and I are blessed to have the financial means, time off work, health, and inclination to travel; we're both way more interested in traveling than we are in acquiring stuff, and I'm so thankful that we can share our adventures.