Life is full of trivial pursuits. A month or so ago, I was in an office, buried in a low-rise commercial district of Tokyo, taking some notes from my boss. He's not yet 40, makes half a million a year (by my best estimates), drives a Ferrari, and sleeps with ten women a week. He spends most of his day schmoozing clients, picking up new gaijin businessmen and swiping their contracts with the big-boy law firms around town. He does his job well, apparently: he gets a level of deference not afforded the two partners who founded the firm.

Now, he was telling me, "You know, if you have to pick a specialization, pick the one you're going to make the most money on. Really, that's going to be securities, banking and finance. Because no matter what you're going to do, there are going to be days when you just don't want to do it. The beauty of this kind of work is, even when you don't want to do it, you can always fall back on 'well, at least they're paying me $100 an hour to do this,' and that makes it all better."

The night before, I paid a visit to my best friend's apartment. It was a tiny place, what used to be a single hotel room, refitted with a micro-kitchen. He was paying $1,500 a month for it, but it was in Aoyama, practically right next to his and everyone else's office, and I figured he couldn't have done much better for the price unless he had a car. "She was so drunk, man, oh God, let me tell you. Dropped her cell phone in the toilet, then got in bed with me and passed out." He had been working for the last few days on some government issue with Osaka Gas, tankers, refineries, that kind of noise. "Then, it's like 5 AM, and she suddenly wakes up, and just starts humping me. It's like she was possessed or something." He took the open cell phone off the plug-in radiator, tried turning it on. "No good. Anyway, now she's gone, but she's supposed to be back tonight..."

"What does that bring your summer body count to?" I asked.

"Four," he said. I could smell the pride coming off him as he took off his tailored Burberry jacket, hung it on a crowded rack of lawyer clothes. We lit cigars, made glasses of room-temperature Awamori, sat on the tiny veranda, listened to the city, and kept talking: about work, women, the future. "They're making me an offer, man."

The week before, we were getting loaded on sushi and beer at our favorite watering hole. We were power men. There were quite a few eyes on the young white men in their nice suits, talking history with the old man cutting up their toro. Someone in that place probably figured we were going to cut some high-dollar deals in the morning, and they were kind of right. On the other hand, I was flirting with a stringy-haired girl, who spoke English as well as I could counter in Japanese, and with an almost-perfect accent to boot.

A few days later, I picked her up after work. We wandered down the road to a bar, took our Smirnoff Ices to a conveniently-located couch, spoke for thirty minutes, made out for sixty, went to see Revenge of the Sith without actually watching it, and found ourselves in my apartment around 3 AM, making love like lesbian jumping beans. I saw her off at the station the next morning, and never saw her again. She was leaving the next day to backpack around Europe.

Between the thought of her body, the taste of the Awamori, the smoke of the cigar, and the strange haze of Japanese atmosphere, I realized, on that balcony, sweating just a little in my good suit, that I never wanted to leave.

"So put in some time at a big firm," my boss continued. "The best thing to have on your resume is that you went to Harvard or Yale. Next best, that you did time at Skadden Arps or White and Case. After a little bit of that, every hiring partner will know that they can drop you at a desk and you can start making money. You'll be the lifeblood of the firm then... the reason they exist. It's the best job security in the world, and you can have the Ferrari and the girls. Now, I've got a Cayman Islands partnership for you to look at..."

I wanted to see just one person when I came back to the US. It wasn't my father, or my stepmom. It was a girl I had fallen for in high school, a long long time ago, who finally admitted that she had a thing for me. Once I had moved out of my old apartment, I quick-booked a flight to Miami and called her to tell her I was coming. She never answered, except to tell me that she had better things to do. And then she went to Switzerland.

Late August, an e-mail comes in from Tokyo. It's the hiring partner at Skadden Arps. He wants my transcript. I realize, for the first time, that I'm bound to make six figures at the age of twenty-three. I realize again that I'm not even halfway to halfway. I never wanted a Ferrari, and the only girl I wanted is in Switzerland. I suddenly want my Lego back.

I am not accustomed to writing in the first person.

My normal writing style is very much shaped by the expectations for undergraduate science essays. The passive voice is prevalent and the third person is used throughout. The writing is formatted for an A4 page using LaTeX. In a daring display of non-conformity, the pslatex and fullpage packages are used. No attempt is made to deviate from conventional sentence structures or punctuation; semicolons — and even the occasional full width dash — are acceptable but used sparingly.

Emulating AP's paragraph style is totally out of the question.

In an academic setting, I am not especially bothered by these constraints. There is still a small amount of fun to be had in playing with words — I recently seized a marvellous opportunity to include both prescribed and proscribed within a single sentence. Ultimately though, scientific essays are there to convey technical information, not be a playground for pretentious literary masturbation.

I can knock together a standard thousand word essay or report whilst on the phone, eating tea or drunk and be guaranteed an A because of the curve. I am competing with zombies churned out by high schools who have been conditioned to immediately recognise alliteration, dénouement, irony and assonance in the works of others but who cannot master apostrophes or paragraphs in their own. The challenging parts of the course, the parts that require imagination and skill, are those which involve doing magic with numbers and code. The writing is an afterthought thrown in with the pretence that it will help in later life.

From a science perspective, this isn't a huge problem. From a human perspective, it is rather boring.

Some complain that E2 is unfriendly to new noders. Some argue that the climate is hostile, that the standards for writing are too high, that too much attention is paid to technicalities like spelling, capitalisation and linking. Personally, I love it.

I know that if I write something, it will not be skim-read by a bored marker who does not want to be surprised. It will be read by people who care about content, who care about style, who care about originality. I know that comments on split infinitives or the Oxford comma will come from people who understand the issues rather than from someone repeating something he read from a book. I know that the feedback I receive will be helpful, that the advice I receive will be sincere and well-considered and that the audience actually wants to be reading. I know that positive feedback will have been earned. I know that at least one person will pick me up on my use of 'personally' in the previous paragraph.

And I know that if I were to write a string of incoherent crap or miss a capital letter, my writeup would quickly be decorated with insulting softlinks, down-voted and nuked.

This is liberating. I can experiment with formatting and structure, play with words and (where appropriate) write in the first person without having to worry about being told that my opinions are valid, that spelling and grammar are a matter of interpretation or that I can use words to mean whatever I want them to mean.

I spent the best part of twenty years learning English. I want to use it.

I was listening to Talk of the Nation earlier today. They had Cindy Sheehan on.

She is possibly the rudest interviewee I have ever heard.

She made frequent hostile statements toward Neil Conan, segueing off his comments into tangents that were nearly non sequitirs - for instance, when Conan asked a rather innocent question about the fact that her son joined the army without talking to his family about it, she started ranting, asking what that had to do with the "illegal and immoral war" he was sent to fight in. At least once she refused to answer a question because "she'd answered it on so many occasions already".

The best part is when she reveals to us the reason for the continued occupation in Iraq: "...This seems to be the President's reason for continuing the war: because he's killed so many American soldiers already, he has to kill more."

Oh, and then with the interview only maybe five minutes in, she informed Neil that she only had two minutes left - despite the fact that she was scheduled to be on for the entire first segment. Classy.

Anybody who knows me knows I'm no fan of the Bush Administration, but this is just ridiculous. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. People should not be supporting this woman just because they don't like the war or the administration. We would all do well to ignore her completely.

Speaking of people being stupid, during an conversation about the evolution "controversy", Larry King asked the biologist in the program, "How can you reject creationism completely because if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?"

The horrible phrasing of that question aside, the fact that anybody in the news business - and King is, albeit only peripherally - is even capable of asking that question with a straight face is quite disheartening.

What disturbs me more, though, is the thought of the number of people at home who probably thought this was a completely legitimate question.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott

It’s a rainy Tuesday morning and I once again wake up in a place that is not my own. The weather folks say that it’s the remnants of Hurricane Katrina as she makes her way north and spends whatever energy she has left on us in the form of soaking rains and gusty winds. Most likely, today will be spent indoors.

As I sit glancing out the window, I’ve taken notice of this huge spider web. It’s circular and some raindrops glisten and shine on the tiny little strands. In its center, is its host. Huge and a sort of grayish brown, it looks intent on something to have for breakfast. I mention it to the woman of the house and she says he builds in the same place almost every night, over the koi pond where the hunting must be good. She says the pond itself attracts insects and that the spider is doing them a favor by helping to keep the peskier one’s from turning into a real nuisance. She says that most of the time, everybody wins in that trade off except for the few times she’d forgotten about the web and blew right threw it on the way to the car. It doesn’t seem to faze the spider, he rebuilds as he must.

I think that the easiest lies to get away with are the ones you start telling yourself. I should know, I’ve been doing it for too many years. Smoking like a chimney when announcing your intentions to quit, eating like a pig when trying to shed a few pounds and drinking like a fish when you’re supposed to be out getting some exercise aren’t exactly the steps one would follow if they were serious about their intentions.

It’s so easy to do it to yourself though. A little soothing voice in your head says that you can always start tomorrow. After all, life is here for the living and you might as well make the most of it. The other upside of that is that you only have yourself to answer for or to. Your friends might ask occasionally how the “new plan” is going and all you have to do is respond “Fine” and deflect the conversation towards easier, less touchier subjects.

My lies have caught up with me. I know it, my body knows it, my friends and family know it and now you know it. It doesn’t feel too good and I’m not very proud of myself.

When I was in the hospital, they asked me who would be caring for me once I was discharged. Since I live by myself, I told them that I could handle it on my own. They weren’t too keen on that and offered up assistance in the form of a social worker to drop by every now and then to make sure I was getting along okay. Some friends stepped to the plate and now I sit and look out from their lovely kitchen window and am surrounded by gardens and koi ponds and hummingbirds and spider webs.

I think to myself that that spider and me might have more in common than you would think. We’ve both been allowed to build our web for a portion of time until it’s time to go find another place to go and build. In my case, it might be a week or two. The spider is probably driven by the change of seasons.

The generosity and caring nature of my friends is a constant source of wonder and amazement for me.

They couldn’t hurt a bug even if they tried.

The Bush administration is ruining this nation. He is destroying everything he can get his hands on, ripping to pieces and selling the bloody chunks to the highest bidder. A failure in every business he ever ran, he is now stripping this country like a hostile takover.

First, he destroyed the surplus, then the economy, then the CIA, and soon the middle class. Right now he is desroying the Army by wasting them in another stupid quagmire. This time he has even thrown the backbone of the country, the National Guard, into the meat grinder. (What a freaking hypocrite.)

The purpose of the Guard is to be there for their communities in places like Lousiana and Florida, helping devastated neighborhoods pull themselves back together. They were not intended to fight a foreign war of conquest (built on lies).

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