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What the fuck was that? I certainly don't know. It was the single most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my entire life.

At 1:35am EST on Tuesday, July 30, 2002, my friends and I were hanging out in one friend's backyard in Fairfield, OH. We were sitting on his patio, talking about philosophy, religion and Vampire: The Masquerade, when there was suddenly a brilliant blue light that appeared over the house. The source of the light was moving West to East, as we could tell by the way the house's shadow moved. I leapt up first, immediately thinking of the bright blue ball of light (http://devtoolkit.wtop.com/news/newsdetail.cfm?newsID=584517) seen over Maryland that I had read about a day or two previously. I stared in disbelief upward, but could only catch a fading blue trail, stretching across a small portion of the sky.

I don't know what it was, but it was terrifying. It was, I thought, far too bright to be a meteorite. Ball lightning, I had read, usually has an accompanying smell. It was definitely not a conventional aircraft.

All of my friends saw the same thing. All of us are clueless, but agree that it was the weirdest thing any of us has ever seen.

Something similar was reported by many people in Maryland, and I've heard that someone in California saw it the same day. I saw it today. Can this really be discounted as nothing?

If anyone has any ideas, please tell me.

Update: On August 1, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a small article. They don't know what it was either, but they suspect a meteor.

I called in sick today, which means the opportunity to spend smoking time with some seriously important people will pass. My project is about to finish, and the final months of any such undertaking are always spent socializing, smoking in groups, commenting on nice cars and particularly expensive fishing rods, asking about whatever boring but financially sound lives people lead, how their SO is coming along and what same-school-as-me-only-thirty-years-later learning institution any offspring of theirs is going to be attending in a while. Hell, I get paid to flirt too.

I'm evil.
I'm a whore.
Getting work is half my work.

So instead - if my sick little stomach are up to it - the waking hours of today will be spent writing documentation for another client. A little less exciting perhaps, but I charge by the hour and not by the endorphin level I happen to achieve by doing what I will eventually charge for. You should try me some time.

Node soundtrack:
Powermad - Slaughterhouse
Minus Maja - Desember

My girlfriend's wallet was stolen yesterday, from the backroom of the store she works at. The wallet was a beautiful Queen Bee, long and orange with blue trim and a Mexican lotteria card with a frog on it. They've already charged more than $200 on her bank card, which is the entirety of the money we have in all shapes and forms. She gets paid on friday, but its not like she can cash her check or use the money when she cashes it. Rent is due soon. I hope that stuff works out. Her credit cards were stolen--doesn't really matter though, all of them were maxxed out anyway. Her ID, which was for another state--making it very hard to get a replacement one with photo... Her social security card, and oodles of other fun, personal stuff.

Quite a pisser.

As for me, I'm poor as shit lately. But that's ok, its the hole I've dug for my self, may as well grow grass from stomach and call my body a playing field for the world's walk and catch. The distance from this point until where money will be accessible again will extend beyond the food supply located within our secret lair.

I've been making a lot of new music lately though. Real exciting stuff, to me, for making. Sound poems. Love it.

Good day to all.

I slept last night, some. But more than I have lately. I wish I could pin point the problem. But maybe that IS the problem. I refuse to admit to myself what it is that's bothering me.

In just over 2 short weeks I will turn 40. Now, you have to realize that for me, physical age has never been a factor in anything. I'm a true believer that the number of years we have spent physically upon this earth is only a measuring tool that society utilizes to determine our readiness and worthiness for a particular activity (and a poor measuring tool at that, IMHO).

So, for me to be "bothered" by a supposed landmark age really BOTHERS me. I find myself lately feeling compelled to answer all those questions I've never found the answers to. Things like "Does our awareness end when our physicality does?", and "What kind of old person will I be, if in fact I actually manage to become an old person?".

I'm not exactly the most physically fit person. And my genetic make up does not bode well for a long life. Not to mention that some of my life style choices will definitely have an impact in my longevity. One would think this all would lead me to suddenly become a healthier person. I should feel compelled to make better choices. And a part of me wishes I could say that.

And, yet, to do so would mean admitting that I'm scared! That my physical age DOES matter. How hypocritical of me! At the same time, though, I have to remind myself that an integral part of me has always been willing to admit I could be wrong about anything I hold an opinion on.

So, in addition to driving myself to insanity by actually being concerned about turning 40, I am now driving myself insane with feeling I've failed myself and what I've preached for years. Toss in the fact that I still have SO VERY MANY unanswered questions and that I'm terrified of death... well, even I'm not so blind as to not see why I haven't been sleeping. It's a wonder I can actually function and be nice to people!

Well, it's been about one full year since you've come to Toronto. And I wonder now how you're enjoying it? Do you even remember who brought you here, and what the plan was suppose to be?
It's funny how you make a commitment for six years, and then decide in the last minute that you want no part of it any longer, especially without mutual agreement. I guess some people just quit on people without any respect. If someone quits like that, the person will quit anything they do.

It's a pity that you won't be able to share in the experiences of success with me. You had your chance.

You realize that you've put all of this on yourself, right? When things could have been made easier, you chose intstead to go the more difficult route.

You will only know of your job and your fairweather friends. You will only know of how to pay the next bill. And in all that fear, you've already succumbed to the thinking of being trapped. Your thoughts haven't changed as I see your evidence. You play the victim well.

Try to escape from being a 95%er. I dare you. (I kind of hope you do since I would not even wish this kind of punishment even on my worst enemies.)

One day, you will realize the truth. I'll give you a hint:

Everything you know is WRONG.

So, here I am. Nearly a week after my MPhil differentiation, and feeling hollow and a bit worn out. I passed incidentally, but in the grander scheme of things, while I made progress, I don't think it was enough to win the war. An MPhil differentiation, for those of you who don't know is like a mini interview, where they look over your work and ask you difficult questions about it, basically to see if you're actually as good in real life as you make yourself out to be on paper. The paper in this case is a 15 page report written a few weeks before the interview outlining your work to date, and your possible future plans. The format is quite simple, the Head of Department ( a guy called Prof. Danny Crookes ) and the head of Postgraduate Admissions (Dr. Peter Kilpatrick) sit together to run the meeting, and with them, but silent, is your supervisor, who is there simply as an observer, to ensure the forms are met. They are to ask you questions on your work, for up to 30 minutes, and then you leave the room while they chat with the supervisor for another 15 before deciding to let you continue the course, or not as the case may be.

My differentiation meeting lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes, not including the supervisor discussion. That's over *twice* the time allocated and far more than any other person who went through the process this year. Most of them were fully fledged Phd students, and from what I can gather, they had a less intense time of it in the meeting than I. There's something going on here, and it looks to me very much like they were trying to see if I would crack, and when I didn't they kept pushing a bit harder, and a bit longer, to see if I would crack. I didn't. They had to let me pass. This is all the more surprising since the guy ahead of me who was a bit of a rising star in his Phd work was asked to re-submit.

The problems here stem not so much from the meeting, which was pretty darned bad in itself but rather the fact that the department had been sitting on my Phd application for next year on the basis that they had no further information on paper that would indicate progress from when I had graduated last year. The progress meeting (differentiation) was supposed be just such proof. Now I've been told that while they were impressed and would allow me to continue the MPhil, they also weren't going to offer me a Phd until I'd completed the course. This is all well and good until you realize that the time at which they will offer me it is going to be an empty spot for funding applications, and so I will have to pay for the first year myself. In other words, if I choose to go ahead with the idea of a Phd they're effectively going to fine me £3000 for my insolence. The whole thing is implicit, but targeted specifically at me. It's been a cat and mouse game between us for the last 6 months, and I've meticulously broken down each and every barrier, until it's just the head honcho, Danny Crookes's decision.

And tomorrow is the last day for changing his mind before the Phd funding boat sails for good, on the 1st of August.

So what ever I do, has to be done then. I've arranged an appointment at 2.00pm, but there's a coffee morning earlier on in the day as well so I'll probably meet him there in a social environment. Wish me luck. I'll need it.

Quite possibly one of the more boring days of my life. I sat here at work and played Angband. Now, I'm not saying that Angband is boring, but you know... it's not that exciting either. Especially since my favorite class is mage and they always die before they hit level five.

Now I'm off home to get high and watch The Simpsons. So another bad day turns for the better.

Vanguard Airlines suspended operations July 30, 2002 at 1:00 a.m. They intend to file for federal protection under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy code.

Their web page, which now only contains letters to employees and customers, states the “necessity” of their actions.

“Your management team and I continue to believe that Vanguard held an excellent industry position and had demonstrated the viability of the business strategy. However, the general skepticism of investors towards airlines since September 11, coupled with Vanguard's history of losses, prevented us from obtaining significant new capital. In short, we were doing the right things but past history and timing vis-à-vis September 11th were against us.”

Vanguard stated on that the pay owed to the employees are now “prepetition wages.” These wages are not expected to be paid for a few months if not longer. Also, “Any Vanguard stock you hold (including stock purchased in the Employee Stock Purchase Plan) is almost certainly worthless and it is likely you will be entitled to claim a capital loss on such stock this year.”

According to the United States Treasury Department, Vanguard Airlines was turned down by the Air Transport Stabilization Board (ATSB) for a guarantee of $15 million financing on May 28, 2002. This may or may not have been enough aid for the airline to recover, stating “The Board determined that Vanguard’s proposal did not provide a reasonable assurance that Vanguard will be able to repay the loan, one of the factors that the Board is required to consider under the OMB regulations.”

Personally I'd be hoppin' mad to wake up to a phone call at 1:00 am and be told that I am out of a job and won't be paid for quite some time.

I feel sorry for all those people who put all that hard work into their jobs and got railed like this.

Sources: http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/po3133.htm www.flyvanguard.com

over the first hurdle

weill in japan: day 28

The first big challenge of this week is over, leaving only the midterm exam on Thursday. After that, I can look forward to a great weekend.

The major challenge today was presenting the compiled results of a survey conducted over the weekend, which generated 55 responses. (We'll never know how many of those responses came from real Japanese people.) After each group compiled their data, the data were then shared, compiled, and used to generate graphs. It should be noted that in keeping with the general theme of uselessness in the class, every group had the same data. The only major differences were the styles with which people created graphs, and the conclusions that each of us reached. We got through it just fine, although something tells me that we'll be expected to review the videotape of the presentations for self-improvement purposes.

The first two periods were comprised entirely of presentation-related tasks, including about 10 minutes when I ran to the computer lab and library to make some last-minute corrections to the graphs. After we had all finished our properly homogenized presentations, and after our 20-minute break (which lasted 15 minutes, as usual) we were to begin new material.

Instead, we had a town hall meeting of sorts to get the class's impression of the class so far. The comments were universally negative, although it's never expected for people to stand up and say that they have no complaints. Nevertheless, several students voiced their displeasure with the course's rote memorization methods and impractical materials. One of the complaints was that the pace of the class was too slow. That's a dodgy statement: while we repeat materials ad nauseam, I find that keeping pace with the class takes substantial time out of class. Rather than increasing the amount of homework, I'm hoping that the professors shift the focus to more practical Japanese rather than reading twenty-year-old essays about home remedies and surveys which take the blatantly obvious and insert percentages to boost credibility.

Optimism is not the way to describe the class's mood, especially with the midterm exam so close. One student told me that he's considering asking the program staff for a refund if the course quality doesn't improve appreciably after our suggestions. Something tells me that the course won't improve and he won't get his refund. The bitter bus can cross the Pacific Ocean.

one wild weekend

Fortunately, plans are shaping up pretty nicely for this coming weekend. As the weather in Tokyo continues to heat up, my class heads to Harajuku this Friday. I'm making plans for that evening. The next day marks the ICU trip to Asakusa, followed that evening by a fireworks festival elsewhere in Tokyo. On Sunday, many ICU students will be gathering in Shibuya for a pilgrimage to the Godzilla statue downtown. I expect homework to be light this weekend, but I plan to get out a lot no matter what. With my return flight getting closer every minute, I can't afford to waste my weekends buried in textbooks.


The 7:00 PM hour on television is quickly becoming my favorite. After watching a Japanese celebrity edition of "Weakest Link" yesterday, my host family and I watched "Pokémon" tonight. In English. The American voice track has been retroactively added to all the episodes that have been aired in the U.S. A segment entitled "Pokémon de English" uses both voice tracks to teach useful phrases like "Don't let go!" Three videotapes in the "Pokémon de English" series are now available for general sale. Each costs ¥1980 ($16.50).

I now have two e-mail addresses that go directly to peoples' phones. No responses yet, but I wonder how big messages can be. The SMS limit of 160 characters, which would limit Japanese messages to just 80 characters, is obviously not in effect from the e-mail I've seen on phones so far.

I regret not buying a Virtua Fighter 4 player card. For ¥500 ($4.20) you can save a custom name and all sorts of character data on it, then transport it from machine to machine. The new version of the arcade game, "Evolution," will be out soon and includes two new characters.

Nutella, the delicious Belgian chocolate hazelnut spread, is available in Japan. Oddly enough, so is Vegemite. My older brother here actually likes Vegemite, and spreads it on toast for breakfast on weekends. I'm too scared to try it, and even a New Zealander student in my class admits to trying it exactly once before swearing off it forever.

Yet more studying and more planning lies ahead tomorrow.

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