help me out!

October 20, 2007 at 1:15 pm (announcement, nonfiction, personal)

progress on my novel has, frankly, been pitiful. i just have NOT been working on it nearly as much as i should have. but now that my t’ai chi class is done, i will have much more free time on tuesdays and thursdays so i have even less reason not to work on it.

i am going to make an promise to myself to work on it for one hour every day.

but i suck at keeping myself honest about these kinds of things, so i’d like your help.

if you talk to me, whether face-to-face or on the internet, ask me if i’ve done any writing on my novel yet. if i say no, tell me to get on it.

seriously, this would help me a lot! please harass me for my own good!


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all i wanted was dinner and philosophy notes

October 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm (news, nonfiction, personal)

the time: october the 8th, 2007, about 3:30 in the afternoon.
the place: the campus of st. ambrose university, davenport iowa.
the question: do i hang around campus for 3 hours, being hungry and trying to study until my night class and continue being hungry until i get home at about 9:30, or do i go home and get food?

sometimes i’ll just suck it up and be hungry. sometimes i’ll buy food on campus. that day, however, i realized that the main thing i needed to study (my notes for history of ancient philosophy) was at home.
this made the decision.
i would go home. i would eat, i would study for my upcoming test, i would go back to school for class.

the time: 3:45 pm, the same day.
the place: the intersection of jersey ridge road and 53rd street.
the question: what the hell just happened?

i’m going home. no problem. i’m want to go by my bank and through the atm to check my balance. so i head north up jersey ridge road, intending to cross 53rd street and take 65th street over to utica ridge. as i’m heading up to the intersection i see that the light is solid green. awesome. i don’t have to wait. but then someone starts turning left from the north side of the intersection, from jersey ridge onto 53rd. i have to break a bit. i’m cursing at the stupid, selfish jerk a little, but it’s no big deal.
what IS a big deal is the car right BEHIND that person that is ALSO turning. i slam my foot down onto the brakes but it’s too late. bam.

the driver of the other car was a 16 year old girl. i’m still not sure what the hell happened. if she just wasn’t paying attention or if she was distracted by her cell phone ringing (i think she said something about that afterwards) or if she was following too close on the tail of the big, black SUV that was right in front of her and didn’t see me, or a combination of all of those things.

all i know is this sucks.

detailing anymore of that day is probably unnecessary. i was fine, physically, and so was the other driver. my car was ruined, however. i don’t know or care what happened to hers.
i think that, possibly, the following two weeks were worse than the accident itself. dealing with the insurance companies, looking for a new car. all very frustrating, stressful, and depressing.

fortunately, it’s mostly all over now. i have another car (though it wasn’t my first choice… that one got bought out from under us) paid for (mostly) with the settlement, which seemed pretty fair and reasonable, all things considered.

i never really did get much of a dinner, or any studying done.
but i did fine on the philosophy test anyway.

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fall updates

September 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm (nonfiction, personal) (, , , )

well it seems like maybe its time to do another one of these things.
the first semester of my last year at st. ambrose is pretty well underway at this point. it’s still a bit too early to know just how intense this semester will be, but things are going fairly smoothly so far. the semester should be less brutally english focused than some of my previous semesters. i’m knocking out a lot of gen ed requirements this time. my only two english classes are american lit 1 (last required lit course! w00t.) and senior seminar. am lit has a lot of short papers in it, and senior sem has one really long paper, the topic of which is pretty much up to us. i’ve decided to write about the haruki murakami novel kafka on the shore. so by no means is this going to be a light semester as far as the english is concerned, but i don’t have huge amounts of reading to do like i did in the spring.
other classes include: history of ancient philosophy (a very lecture heavy course – there isn’t even a text book), bio-medical ethics (with the same teacher i had for vanilla-flavored ethics last semester, and as such, a very enjoyable course so far), politics and film (i’m not really sure how i feel about this one so far, honestly. doesn’t seem like it will be difficult, however), and finally t’ai chi.

away from classes, but still related to school, i started worked in the tech services department at the st. ambrose library this year instead of in the computer lab. since i’m strongly considering going to grad school for an mls, i thought i should have at least a little experience working in a library. so far i like it. i don’t have nearly as much free time to work on homework while getting paid for it (in fact, i don’t have any of that) but i’m also rarely bored. and all of the librarians are really nice people. i will tell you this much though, if i am ever in any position of authority in library, i’m going to make sure that if the library is named after a person, that person’s name won’t actually be put onto any materials. you never know what can happen to disgrace a person, potentially resulting in a name change for the library. and being required to remove part of a name from every single book in a library is no small task. if you don’t understand to what i’m referring, just read this quad-city times article.

on other topics… as usual i’m not doing nearly as much work on my novel as i really ought to be. so once again, i extend the request to anyone who reads this to feel free to harass me about it any time you talk to me. i need pressure! i’m not good at putting pressure on myself.

since gen con, i’ve also been trying to do more gaming. i’ve acquired a fairly large number of roleplaying games that i’ve never actually played, and i’ve made it a goal to play more of them. i’ve been intending to do more short term games so that i can experience a variety of things.
towards this end, i had a bit of a geeky gaming party on labor day weekend that went quite well. we didn’t play any roleplaying games, but we did play a few other games including the deluxe version of kill dr. lucky, a few rounds of ca$h n’ gun$, and a round of the big idea. fun was had by all.
the plan to play more rpgs hasn’t been going that well unfortunately, but i did get the chance to finally play the shab-al-hiri roach this weekend. i’ll be doing a play report in a separate post.
finally, on the gaming front, i’m undertaking a small quest to try to get a few of my non-gamer friends from school to try something. we haven’t done anything yet, but given the large variety of different games i have, and the fact that a LOT of the new ones i have put almost their entire focus on telling stories rather than mechanics and rules, i think they could be a lot of fun. currently i’m really interested in trying to get a couple friends from school to join me in a game of dirty secrets, a game made for telling noir crime stories. i think it would be really cool to set the story on and around the ambrose campus. another friend of mine has expressed some interest in playing a game i have called grey ranks which is about teenage soldiers during the doomed warsaw uprising of 1944. i think this game also sounds really cool (if rather grim and dark) but not that many other people seem keen on it. apparently they don’t find the idea of playing child soldiers who are quite likely to die or go crazy and whose overall mission is doomed to failure to be a fun way to spend their time. go figure.

well i think thats enough of an update for the moment. i’m going to wrap this up so i can do the AP report for the game of the roach we played on saturday.

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summer summary

August 26, 2007 at 2:32 pm (gaming, nonfiction, personal)

well summer’s over already, and i’m not quite sure how i feel about that.
i don’t really feel like i had all that much of a break, even though i know many people that worked a whole lot harder than i did all summer long.
still, while i feel like it would be nice to have more time off, i’ve also been starting to get restless and unfocused, and being back in class usually helps me get my brain working again.

so anyway. summer.
this summer was . . . all right, i guess.
i found a pretty decent temp job, working for this company that converts documents into digital formats. not too bad a gig, some of the work required a little more thought than a lot of data entry, and some required less. they liked me there, which was cool. they definitely would have let me stay as long as i wanted, but frankly, despite it being the first job on which i was allowed to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks for pretty much the entire day, i was happy to get out of there. too much longer and i’m sure i would have been in danger of getting carpal tunnel or something.

beyond that job, most of the summer was fairly uneventful. at the beginning i took a summer class, american lit 2, and it was fast and intense, but went quite well. i now only have one required lit class left, american 1, which i’ll be taking this fall.

i made a small dent in my huge reading list and managed to resist buying any more fiction. not counting kurt vonnegut’s breakfast of champions, which i read for american 2, i read four other books, and got a good start on a fifth. i know, not very impressive. but it’s something.
during the summer i finished reading if on a winter’s night a traveler by italo calvino. i recommend it. especially to people interested in unusual ways to tell a story, or language in general. it’s a strange, very meta, but very interesting book.
i also read predator’s gold by philip reeve, the 2nd book of 4 in the hungry cities chronicles. it was pretty good, though i think i liked the first book better. still, if you’re tired of reading harry potter but want to read something written for about that kind of age group, reeve writes good stuff.
then i read the anubis gates by tim powers. a few people have recommended his book last call to me several times and (despite owning it) i still haven’t read it. but the anubis gates was great so i’m looking forward to reading more of his work.
finally, i read the latest book by haruki murakami, kafka on the shore and it was quite excellent. i had issues with the wind-up bird chronicle being a little too surreal, confusing, and convoluted. i mean, i love my surreality, but that book had no real, consistent plotline that i could follow, and so while i enjoyed parts of it, the book, as a whole, didn’t work for me. kafka on the shore on the other hand, was perfect. very surreal and strange and mysterious, but i could still follow the basic chain of events and plot. it’s a good ‘un. check it out.
then i began to read jonathan strange and mr norrell by susanna clarke. this is one big, fat book so i knew i’d better get a good start on it before classes began or i’d never have a hope of reading it in the near future. i’m about a third of the way through it now, and it’s pretty interesting, though it moves a little slowly. part of the whole 1800’s setting and feel the author was going for to a certain extent. still, there is enough magic and mystery and amusement to keep things interesting. hopefully i’ll manage to keep reading and finish it up at some point.

my writing schedule was less successful even than my pretty sad reading schedule. but anyone who ever looks at my blog and has noticed the lack of movement on my word count meter is already aware of that. i simple did not get done what i had planned and intended to get done over the summer. but as i said, being back in class usually helps my mental focus, even as it depletes my free time, so i’m hoping that i’ll be able to start making better use of the time i do have in the fall.

the final big thing that happened this summer was that i went to gen con for the 2nd time (and 2nd year in a row) and it was a pretty good time, as i expected. i won’t go into too much detail here, because some people might not care, and if i do want to go into detail, it should probably just get a post of its own . . . but as last year, i didn’t do quite as much as i wanted to do, and i spent more money than i really should have, but i also met some cool people and brought back some really neat things.
and, in terms of gaming, i’ve decided that i have WAY too many rpgs that i’ve never played. i’ve become something of a collector without ever really intending to do so and starting now i’m hoping to change that. i’m going to start trying to play more and shorter games. i’ll probably start trying to play or run games that last somewhere in the range of 1 to 5 sessions for the most part. some of the games i brought back from gen con (or ordered earlier in the year) are real cool, interesting things, and i’m tired of them just sitting on my shelf. if i manage to make this resolution stick, you can expect to hear more about what i’m playing on here in the future.

and thats about it. it was a fairly uneventful summer, but all things considered, it went pretty well. as long as the fall doesn’t bring too much misfortune with it, i’ll be pretty content.

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birthday thoughts and reflections

June 24, 2007 at 6:51 pm (nonfiction, personal)

last wednesday i turned 26. for some reason it feels like kind of a milestone.
i’m not entirely sure why, however. for awhile i kept saying i felt old. i said that “i’m now closer to 30 than i am to 20” but really that was true after i hit 25 as well, i just didn’t really think about it.
still, ages that once seemed to be a very long way in my future now seem to be just around the corner. it wasn’t so long ago that i felt like i had no idea what might be going on in my life by the time i hit 30. now it seems like i barely have any time at all before i get there.
on the other hand, i really don’t feel “old.” i don’t feel that much different from the way i did, say 4 years ago for the most part. certainly i feel pretty much the same from a physical standpoint.
i think i feel not so much “old” as, well, “behind.”
i’ll turn 27 shortly after i graduate with my bachelor’s degree, and yet about a year and a half ago, if i am recalling correctly, my sister-in-law’s younger sister (who is just about exactly my age, i believe) got married and acquired her master’s degree. and i know of a few other people my age whose situations are similar.
i try not to dwell on things and have a lot of regrets. it’s a waste of time and energy, for the most part, i think. on the other hand, i wouldn’t try to pretend that i wouldn’t do some things differently if i had my life to live over again.
still, i also know that, with the life i have lived, i’ve come to my current position in the best way that i could. i wasn’t at all ready for college at the age of 18. hell, i wasn’t ready for it at 21. i think i was probably ready for it about 3 years ago when i finished up my long delayed associate’s degree. the year and a half after that was more a financial decision than anything else.
so. i’m pretty happy about where things are now. part of me would have preferred to take the more “traditional” route through college right after high school, but i am well aware that if i had i would have either probably flunked out like too many other people i know did or ended up with a degree in something i hate. i had no idea what the hell i wanted to do with my life when i was 18. now i feel like i at least i have a vague destination in mind, even if many of the details are still hazy.

my first of two years at st. ambrose has gone quite well, i think.
i decided to go to ambrose almost on a whim. as i said, after getting my AA it was decided that my best bet would be to work and save money for awhile until i hit the magic age when everyone stops considering to be dependent on my parents. when i hit that point, i did all the FAFSAs and whatnot then started looking into applying to schools. ambrose had no application fee for transfer students. they said “we’ll take you, and give you some extra money.” i considered the pros and cons and said why the hell not.
so far i feel like its been a pretty good decision.
i think, among other things, that i got lucky with my advisor.
though he has criticized me a bit for taking so many classes with him, it’s really not my fault that he’s teaching all the stuff i’d want to take no matter who the professor was. regardless, carl is a really cool guy, and he’s definitely, in my opinion, one of the best teachers i’ve had in my college career. in certain ways he reminds me of a teacher i had in my last year at scott community. i had a certain instructor for two political science classes and i was struck, as i have been many times, how for so many subjects (which ones probably depend on the student, however) it’s really the teacher that determines whether or not the class is enjoyable. political science is one of those subjects that can be incredibly boring, but with a teacher who is enthusiastic and utilizes a discussion rather than lecture format, i really enjoyed both of those classes.
similarly, last fall, my first semester at ambrose, i took an expository writing class taught by my advisor. a class consisting almost entirely of writing essays and formal papers could potentially be incredibly painful, but it wasn’t. it was pretty awesome. as awesome as can be expected of such a class, certainly. and i haven’t been disappointed with any of his other classes.
really, i haven’t been disappointed with hardly any of my classes at all. most of the professors have been pretty great. like anyone any teachers i’ve ever had in my life, they all have certain things about them that i like and certain things that can make being in their classes difficult, but on the whole i’ve had about as pleasant and as educational a time being an english major at st. ambrose as i’ve had at any point in my entire educational career.
besides the teachers and the classes, i’ve also met some other fellow students who are pretty damn rad. ambrose is a pretty small school, and since my AA knocked out the vast majority of my gen ed type things, most of the classes i take are those i need for my major and consequently, i see the same people over and over again and i’ve started to get to know a few of them pretty well. i would go (and actually have gone) so far as to say that some of the people i’ve met at ambrose are also some of the most awesome people i’ve ever met. unfortunately, coming in as a transfer student i’m not going to get the chance to spend particularly large amounts of time getting to know these people in classes. a few people i had started to become friends with already graduated and in the next six months to a year either the rest will graduate or i will. it makes for a situation which is inherently sad even while i am enjoying it. sort of like the situation i had with a group of people in 2003. regardless, things are going pretty well and i seem to possibly be making a couple new friends (thus doubling my total friend count!). though, in what was certainly the most depressing situation of my entire last year, my nascent (but seemingly promising) friendship with one of the aforementioned most awesome people fell apart. this was probably my fault, as such things usually are.
but, fouled up interpersonal relationships aside, the year has gone well. i certainly did better than i expected to in terms of my scholastic achievements. i can only hope to do so well in my next year, and i can only try to do better in the social realm.

currently it appears that i’ll spend the majority of the summer working a decent little temp job. in between i’ll be attempting to get my word count up on this project which will hopefully eventually evolve into a novel. as well, i’ll need to start looking into grad schools quite soon and studying for the GREs. there isn’t, unfortunately, all that much that you can really do with a BA in english, at least that’s how it seems. as such, i am definitely planning on moving on to grad school shortly after i finish, and possibly immediately. currently i’m considering either going for a master’s in library science or a master’s in fine arts with a fiction focus. the first would increase my employability, the second would increase my skills in my actual chosen craft but would not directly contribute towards making me able to survive and put food in my mouth. i’m currently leaning more toward the MLS so that i will not starve to death and freeze in the street, but either way you can bet i’ll be applying to the iowa writers’ workshop (though i figure there’s really no way i’d actually get in).

so that’s it. that’s my life recently. as a final note, i’d like to point out that if you’re reading this because i emailed you and told you about it, you can be absolutely sure that i’d really like to hear from you, so feel free to email me or something and let me know what YOU’VE been up to lately. i know i haven’t done that well at keeping in touch, but neither have you bastards either. but whatever. i still love you all.

so i’m done for now. gonna go read or something for awhile before this old man has to turn in. it’s almost my bedtime.

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i can hardly believe it . . .

April 30, 2007 at 7:25 pm (nonfiction, personal)

so last week, around thursday, it finally occurred to me that i no longer have any full novels i have to read for class. this is a pretty big deal. i’ve had stuff i’ve wanted to read just for fun since my winter break, but throughout this semester i’ve had a LOT of reading to do for school.

but no longer!

so, with a strange sort of feeling, i started looking around my room, trying to decide what i should read for fun. i realized that, good gods, i have a ridiculous number of books that i’ve been acquiring for personal reading. so, for shits and giggles, i thought i’d list them off here, and if anyone takes a look at this, they can suggest what books on this list ought to be my highest priorities.

currently i’m reading:
If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
and Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

other books that i own (or have been loaned to me) that i have not yet read (in roughly reverse the order i acquired them, that is, newest books first):
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
1984 by George Orwell
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Mister Monday by Garth Nix
A Walk On the Nightside by Simon R. Green
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Big U by Neal Stephenson
Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve
Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve
A Hunger Like Fire by Greg Stolze
Blood In, Blood Out by Lucien Soulban
The Marriage of Virtue and Viciousness by Greg Stolze
Last Call by Tim Powers
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
All Tomorrow’s Parties by Wiliam Gibson
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Count Zero by William Gibson
Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
The Fermata by Nicholson Baker
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
The Lords of Darkness by Tanith Lee
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
Porno by Irvine Welsh

whew! that’s a pretty long list! and if this weren’t bad enough, i know there are at least a few others on my shelf i haven’t read, like all of Frank Herbert’s Dune books except the first one, but frankly, that’s all i had the energy for right now. and if that weren’t bad enough, i could name several more books that i don’t own but which i really would like to read. hell, tomorrow Palahniuk’s newest book, Rant, comes out, and i will probably try to pick it up pretty soon . . . despite the fact that if i just focused on what i already have it’s probably enough to keep me reading for a couple years. guh. oh well. it’s better than blowing my money on drugs and hookers, right?

anyway, beyond the two books i’m reading now, there isn’t anything i’m definitely planning on doing next (considering maybe doing the juvenile lit stuff first since it tends to be a fast read) so if anyone wants to make a suggestion, drop me a comment.

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i’m not goin’ down without a fight

April 16, 2007 at 9:27 pm (nonfiction, personal)

well so those that pay any attention to the scat and trails i leave across the tubular intarwebs are probably aware i haven’t been a very happy boy this last week.

it doesn’t seem to be changing much, either.

no way to tell for sure, really, but this feels different than the usual “blues” i get pretty frequently.
i can’t remember for sure, but i don’t even think i felt like this when i broke up with my last ex.

at this point its clear that the event which prompted my highly melodramatic post a week ago is, while disappointing, in no way deserving the internal reaction that it seems to have triggered.

at this point, i believe that this was something which was waiting to happen. something would have triggered it, if not that, then something else. it probably didn’t really matter what it was.

regardless, there’s no fucking way i’m just gonna succumb to the foolish notions of my mind as i did in the past.
fuck that shit.

so i am currently working on plans to try to nip this crap in the bud, or at least keep it under control.
step one is some return to focus on spiritual matters.
that probably sounds strange to anyone who knows me since i usually identify as atheist.
but back in about ’00 or ’01 when i was in my worst depression i did some reading of eastern religious texts and tried some meditation and it seemed to help me a bit. i’ve always wanted to pick up a copy of the dhammapada (one of the main buddhist texts) and the tao te ching, and so this weekend i did.
i’ve decided that i’ll spend about an hour every day reading those and meditating.

i’m also doing some fasting.
that might be more symbolic than anything else. i dunno. but a lot of religions have fasting practices, so i figure it can’t hurt to give it a shot.
will at least help me toward some level of physical if not spiritual purity.

i may also try to do some private journaling again.
that’s something i’ve always wanted to get in the habit of doing, but i’ve never managed to keep it up, especially when i feel like there isn’t anything much going on. i kept a journal fairly regularly all through my year of americorps, and for awhile after that, but i don’t think there’s been an entry in that book since i broke up with my last ex, and that was back in like september of ’04.
still, it might help to give it a shot again.

alls i know for sure is i’m not going down without a fight this time.

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the death of a hope

April 7, 2007 at 11:52 pm (nonfiction, personal)

hope is a strange thing sometimes.
you can start acquiring hope in a certain thing.
about certain things. certain people.

the strangest thing is that it can grow and build almost completely unnoticed.
maybe you have a certain inkling that it’s there if you actually stop to think about it.
but even if you do, it doesn’t always seem that important.
that big.

until something kills it.

it isn’t until the hope dies that you really notice it.
that’s when you know it was there for certain.
when you realize just how much there was.
how big it had grown.
as you feel it dying in your heart.
thrashing in its death throes.

i apologize for this rather melodramatic post.
this isn’t usually my style.
but i’m not happy right now.
the death of a hope will do that to you.

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are you kidding me?

March 8, 2007 at 12:51 pm (nonfiction, personal, rant)

my computer angers me.
windows angers me.
windows media player and itunes anger me.

normally i don’t complain about computer things. as one of my brothers put it fairly recently, since i use windows so i pretty much expect computers to suck. but not QUITE this much.

i buy music from itunes.
there are a lot of annoyances associated with this, but despite them i have continued to do so. in fact, i don’t think i’ve bought a physical cd since i aquired my ipod.
itunes is kind of bastard. it pisses me off that they want to control what i do with my music after i have paid them for it, but i continue to utilize their store anyway because the music is cheaper and i can find all kinds of stuff there that i could never find in a physical store in my area.

so i just recently went on a bit of an itunes shopping spree. among other things i bought the album “Taiga” by this japanese group OOIOO. i don’t have anything else by them, though i think i may have heard a song or two before. apparently they are an all girl group and a side project of the Boredoms. i don’t have any albums by the Boredoms either. so don’t really ask me why i decided to buy this except that it sounded cool.

and it does. i listened to it last night and it is totally awesome. i do not regret this purchase whatsoever. in fact, i’ll almost definitely have to check out more of their music and maybe the Boredoms as well now.

one of the steps i take whenever i buy something on itunes is to burn it to a real cd. after all, if my hard drive and ipod both die, i don’t want to lose all the music i have. a common second step is for me to rip the newly burned cd into mp3s. i don’t really like the itunes m4p format. the drm is annoying as hell, plus the format just isn’t very universal. anyway, i’ve done this with a lot of my cds and never had any problems.

but today windows media player, which i use for the ripping, decided to choke on track 2 of taiga. the first time it did this it just froze WMP. i had to kill it and it wouldn’t come up again. i rebooted the computer. second attempt it chokes on track 2 again and this time freezes the WHOLE SYSTEM! i reboot. again. now i’ve decided that either my blank had a problem or itunes screwed up in the burning. so i reburn.

this time everything seems to work okay.
but, as i’m writing this and i decide to check some things in itunes and play a song, the whole thing starts getting choppy and unresponsive and just slow as hell.

stupid, stupid itunes. stupid, stupid windows.

why the hell can’t WMP recognize when a track on a cd is corrupt? does this happen with other media players? i just can’t believe that a flawed track on an audio cd can cause an entire computer operating system to lock up completely and utterly. what the hell!? are you kidding me?

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February 23, 2007 at 9:23 pm (nonfiction, personal, rant)

this is going to be short and vague.
but i’ve said it before and i feel it bears repeating.
if sexual orientation really was a matter of choice: i’d be asexual
being attracted to women just doesn’t seem worth the trouble most of the time.

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