damn. another year has passed. i guess, really, it isn't so bad getting older, but i must say, it would be so much less bad if there weren't so many remiinders. every year, the requisite birth-year for buying cigarettes gets further from mine. my baby cousins are eight. (!!!) my oldest brother turns 27 in two days. my youngest brother just graduated high school. and worst of all, i can say, "yeah, i read that once...fifteen years ago." and mean it.

on the bright side, i still get mistaken for sixteen with astonishing regularity. sometimes even twelve. i suppose it's flattering, but so was being taken for 35, this past Outlandish, but that was really, really different. that hadn't a thing to do with how i looked. but you know, there really is a price to pay for looking younger. people don't take you seriously, you get followed by mall security, i almost got thrown out of a porn store once (it was my little brother's 18th birthday, dammit.). not to mention, of course, that the only reason i look this good (or this frail, depending on the mirror) is that i haven't been exposed to direct sunlight for several years. sometimes i wish i could go sit in the sun and read a book, or that i could look out my window without putting my glasses on first. ::sigh:: i should quit my bitching. at least i'll never look my age.

I'm in a very Anna mood today, and not in a very work mood. People have been giving me the shits all day, for various reasons... partly because of my own paranoia, since I haven't been doing much work, and they seem to be picking up on it. But I really don't have much to do at this stage in the project, I'm only working part time so they don't involve me in many of the decisions, and I wouldn't really want to be involved anyway, because that's not what I'm good at. Once we start implementing stuff, I'll be much more in my element.

A large bit of annoyance when I submitted a new song to my Original Lyrics, which resulted in the new song, plus an older one, being nuked. The only explanation was that they, according to the nuker, weren't very good. Apparently. I thought otherwise, and others have told me otherwise, on E2 and in real life, so I don't know what the problem was. All my other lyrics nodes have had positive responses, even if they haven't had a lot of votes; I guess they're not the type of nodes people tend to waste votes on.

Anyway, I'll be hopefully using one of them in our new band line up, when we finally start rehearsing and writing in the next couple of weeks, which I'm looking forward to. We never really managed to put music and lyrics together in any reasonable way in our last incarnation, but it's looking a lot more promising this time. Hopefully I'll be able to get past any embarrasment or self-consciousness, and just try out different vocal techniques and melodies to try to get something to sound good.

Not sure if I'll go to work tomorrow, but it's extra money, and I can probably get away with doing the uni stuff I have to do whilst in the office, so that could be a good thing... I'd much rather be at home, but I know if I was, I'd just end up playing games for most of the day, and having a half-hearted attempt at what I'm actually meant to be doing. So yeh, more money is good.

I've been finding myself wishing I could go back to kickboxing, since my sisters have started at the same place I used to go to... my old instructor remembers me, which is cool... I think I was one of his best students for a while there, until I got occupied with other things... and after that I could never quite get back into it. Hopefully I'll be able to find time this semester though, since I'm only working part time. Anyway, I think I've rambled enough. Time to leave early and go see my gorgeous girl at her work, so we can sit together and watch TV all night. Yay! P.S. The song that was nuked can be found on my homenode, if you're interested, comments are welcome.

I finally had a decent job interview today, of sorts. I've been applying for jobs since I got laid off in early March, sending out the resume, filling out applications, and I'd gotten a whole lot of zip, nada, and nuttin' in the way of response. So, last Thursday, I flew down here to Texas for my yearly trip to visit friends and family.

Yesterday, I called my housemate to check on the kitty etc. and she told me that I'd gotten two, count them, two calls about a medical writing job at a hospital (I'd applied for the job in early July). Huzzah! I should leave town more often, I guess.

I finally got in touch with the caller this morning. She was a recruiter hired by the hospital to phone interview the first cut of candidates. I talked to her for about 20-30 minutes and felt unreasonably guilty for running up my mom's long distance bill afterward.

I have no idea how I did on the interview. I hope I did okay. I think I would really dig this job. I wanted to do science writing all along, but didn't want to move to Washington D.C. or New York City, which is where 90% of the science writing jobs in the country are.

I may have screwed up on that oh-so-tricky question, "Why did you leave your job with the State of Ohio?"

The realest answer is, "Well, working for the State on a day-to-day basis made me feel as if my soul was being sucked out through my nose with a soda straw. I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon on a weekly basis. I chose the pursuit of sanity and happiness and left."

But that of course won't fly as an answer to a recruiter. So I answered with the next-realest answer, which also happens to be absolutely true: "I sold a novel on proposal and realized I hadn't time to finish it by deadline and also give my job the time it deserved."

Then, of course, I had to explain that no, the novel didn't ever get published, or even finished, because the parent company went down in flames during the .com meltdown a mere three months after everyone signed my contract (which I offered to send her if she cared to see it).

Sticky, sticky little answer. All true, but sticky. Makes me sound shifty, I'm afraid. Book lovers are sometimes impressed, in a horrified way. Nonreaders are just confused by the whole thing. How can you not get published if you had a signed contract? How indeed. So I take a deep breath and say These things happen.

The recruiter only asked what kind of novel it was. I told her it was a science fiction novel.

A lie! My first lie! It was science fiction erotica! I was paid to write smut! I am not fit company for decent folk!

But I might as well have said "erotica" for her wow, that's very, er, interesting reaction to "science fiction". It's amazing how confusion and distaste broadcast so well over the phone through the echo of a single sudden inhalation. Science Fiction? I could almost hear her thinking. Ew. My nerdy kid brother used to read that stuff. Ew.

Sigh. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. But I've been all jittery and nervous since I got off the phone, wondering if I shouldn't have told the very true almost-the-truth of my leaving the job.

In other news, one of my closest friends may have brain cancer, but he's back in Columbus and I haven't heard a thing. He was supposed to get his test results back yesterday, and he said he'd email me one way or the other. That I've gotten no word worries me. A lot. I'll call him tonight and find out.

Only a month of summer left now. Things have changed quite a bit over the past two months, I realize looking at my last daylog. But ... things always change.

First, a bit of soap opera that you would probably do best to skip. Near the end of May -- after constant-on for two and a half years -- my girlfriend and I decided to spend the summer apart, to get a better grip on ourselves and the relationship. Actually, this was more-or-less entirely my decision, made rather than simply breaking up, which was (seemed to be?) my other option at the time. This arrangement was satisfactory to her for about two weeks, after which she justifiably started getting angrier and angrier as the days passed. By roughly a week ago this had built up to a fever pitch, and she called to break up with me.

Funny thing is, I had been planning to do the same thing for some time delta before then, but hadn't had a chance to draw up the list of reasons for discussion. Oh yes, there would need to be reasons, and oh yes, I could never trust myself to come up with them in real time. The main reason I gave on the phone when we were fighting that night was a matter of world view: the more time we spent together, the more I realized that she felt better when in established comfort zones, and I felt better when forcing myself past from those zones. There should be a more concise way to put this, but there isn't. Contentment vs. Curiosity? Indulgence vs. Masochism? I don't fucking know. Besides that, she had always been clear that a relationship based on the fear of loneliness rather than mutual feeling was not acceptable, and this was heading that way fast.

It was over, that's the point. We arrived at that after thirty minutes of conversation. Not really conversation. More like cutting each other up. And then that was over too. "We still care about each other," we said, and "lets go get coffee some time," and some other things before we hung up. We've both seen other people during summer.

I am so confused. Still. It's not my right, because our problems were almost always my fault. But I still am. Fucking sue me.

Just as an aside, I've realized what I mistrust about capital-R Relationships. It's that only in this mode of interpersonal communication that one party or the other, or most likely both, are guaranteed to feel terrible at the end. That is, among friends, business partners, casual sex partners, or other (lower-case-r) relationships, the two people can often walk away without either of them feeling burned, if the situation demands. Only in romantic relationships are you promised pain.

Don't worry, I will outgrow this viewpoint. I have lots of time yet.

With that out of the way, academic matters are preceding roughly, but preceding none the less. I passed my statistics class by a much lower margin than I expected, or would've preferred. Something to do with getting two hours of sleep before the final, due to the above conversation with my ex-girlfriend, but I digress. That class puts me within twelve hours of my BS in Computer Science, which I should have no trouble covering in the two semesters I have left. All of my prerequisites are out of the way too now.

My totals so far are: CS and general studies, 123 hours; Mathematics, 15 hours; Psychology, 18 hours. Besides the degree already mentioned, there will be three hours of Mathematics added, which translates to a minor in that field. The psych department does not give minors to engineering students, but if they did the 18 hours (15 in upper-level courses) would be just right. Dunno how to list a pseudo-minor on, say, a job application, but having the knowledge is what counts.

Research over the summer has been disappointing. Instead of working with the professor at all, she asked me to work with another undergrad, on his damned honors thesis. This is frustrating, but hopefully I am at least making friends in the department and proving that I'm willing to deal with shitwork. Still, I really need to work with the professor, so she will have good anecdotes for my graduate school letters of recommendation, etc.

At work I've been learning perl, which I have come to consider a brilliantly conceived, intuitive language. Larry Wall and I need to have drinks some time, for sure. Also, I am now on the university's ACM team; it's a world-wide Computer Science problem solving competition run by the Association for Computing Machinery and sponsored by IBM. For being as disenchanted with CS as I am, this is still pretty fun -- I have rather missed structured problem solving since I left high school. Plus, since a professor is working as the coach, there is every chance that this may net an eventual letter of recommendation, which I couldn't be happier about.

Some of my friends just got back in Lawrence after a year spent in Texas. I guess that invalidates what I wrote about them in Leaving town forever, but I'll leave that writeup alone anyway. They're renting a house with some other friends up here, and it is pretty big and nice. The basement is dedicated to being an electronic music studio, with turntables, a couple samplers, a big analog modeling keyboard, and more. This means I'd have somewhere perfect to jam with my drum machine and records, if I had any, um, talent.

What else? Going back to school on August 22. Kinda bogus, but I'm looking forward to Cognitive Neuroscience and the Digital Image Processing class. Also looking forward to not having to wake up some mornings for either class or work.

psydereal and I are going to drink rum and tour the roofs of campus tonight. She knows how to get on to the student union, and I have roof access to a couple of buildings on the West side of campus. With any luck we can figure out how to get on a few in between as well; I have high hopes for the administration building, personally. Also, a venture down into the steam tunnels might also be warranted, we'll just have to see.

There is always a fear that a lapsed Catholic's life will inevitably lead to religion. Roman Catholicism and intellectualism, in tandem, provoke a set group of neuroses from which grew Joyce, and Augustine, and a million sad perverts and philosophies; I am not as wise as Augustine even if I hate him. I will walk into a house or a building in some other town and be confronted by Something wise and active and large to Whom I will be bidden, and to Whose expectations I can never, ever live up. I am afraid of capitalizing all those pronouns. Pronouns should stay down, and god is a pronoun. And this is god? I guess that's god. Well, god knows.

My eternal soul is in a locker with a vestment-green tag waiting for me to attain majority. The combination is lost. I am confident that if I rearrange enough words in the right order, the connotations will connect, like the sort of puzzle that falls together instantly once you learn the trick of it. Then I will have psyche. I will be a person, and will be able to say, "I am like this" and "I think my problem is" as though I was cleaning out a nice white square set of cupboards. Now I am a set of tangled islands in a culture sargasso. I am poor at deciding on salad dressings even at nice dinners, but I always go for the hard liquor when it's there. When I drink my soul it will take years and ice and gallons of chasers.

Who will settle me into my religion? The wild unknowing comes from a sedentary base. How long did my Irish fathers dance on Mother Church, she bearing patiently? I would like my gin to be for the saints and the dead. How can these Yankee delicates squat on the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching, and then sneak the shots and claim to be guilty and shirking their religion? You can't shirk the Vedas, white man. You are passing through. If Martin Luther still wasn't such an angry young lad, a stripling, you would settle on him and rub his belly and burn some candles, but he claimed no timelessness. You can't drink or dance on a Martin Luther. His face would turn red and blustering and ask you WHAT do you THINK you are DOING - these are Devil things and outside things. Or if he is a bloated pretend plastic Luther he would smile and blink slowly and say: such things will happen, here in America, which I never even claimed to foresee. Just stop by on weekends and bring some soup.

This is what I still want and yet have: the Church is old and her rules too many. So have a general idea and drink on Fridays and look to make the young pretty things blush and smile. You want to be a general Wiccan? Go ahead. A general Protestant? Be my guest. But a general Catholic? There you are, but you shouldn't be. You should be more Catholic, go to a few weekday masses and hum along with the wise tuneless old hymns and wise tuneless old people, but no one is sweating bullets, so have another shot. Read some Jung. Claim to write a novel. Make love again and again, and look, sunset! and it takes about ten years to figure out that you're looking for the Sistine Chapel and some nice primary-colored stained glass and a few nails. No Christ. Just nails. The Son of God took his nails and you'll get yours and boy then you'll feel special.

I know some drinking, smoking Mormons who are getting close, too. Much luck to them.

My friends will die. Painfully.

I was sitting at school eating my lunch trying to act all inconspicuous, when my friend tried to start a simple conversation.

'Yeah, I went with {insert name here} to get some stuff.'

'I see you returned with a Dasani. Why don't you just get water out of the drinking fountain like normal people?' asked I, ignorantly.

'Tap water is disgusting. Lake Tahoe water is disgusting,' said my other friend.

'No, Kansas water is disgusting.'

'What? Cactus water?'

And then, the girl I have a crush with walks by, Candace.

'Candace water is disgusting — I mean Kansas water!'

She looks at me, my friends look at me, the entire world looks at me.

'Leave me alone! Freudian slip!'

My friends will die. Painfully.

If anyone has noticed, for the past week or two I have been on sort of a noding rage. I've been noding like crazy, and finally it all pays off. With this writeup, I am now at level 4. Not only do I get more votes (which is always good), but I also get the power to C!! Oh, level 4, how I've been waiting for this moment since my first arrival at E2.

Well, not really. I never expected to be at level four. I wanted to just get to level two, and get the voting power, and that's it. Just chill from then on. But oh no, somehow, I started noding until I got to level 3. More votes. Then I'm like, What the fuck? Why not just go all the way for level 4? Well, that's exactly what I did.

Now here I am. Standing here as a level four noder. The power of C! at my side. Oh, I can't wait to start searching the new writeups to see what I should C! first. This is so cool!

Well, anyway, some other news. College begins in about a month. Oh, I can't wait for that either. Now that is gonna be cool. According to a few of my friends, college is just going to be "High School: Part Two." This is probably because we all (well, most of us) decided to go to the same school, which is like five to ten minutes away from our high school. A few of my friends have went to prestigious schools (such as Columbia, UC Berkley, Georgetown). But hey, what's wrong with FIU?

Well, anyway, I'll be leaving now, I'm too excited, and can't wait to begin my first day at level four...

last step before the fall

weill in japan: day 29

The class is unhappy, the midterm is about to happen, and the future of the course is up in the air.

Yesterday, our third period began with a discussion of our concerns with the course's content and methods. Several students have expressed their displeasure with the repetitive nature of the class, and the midterm will be no exception to this rule. The "interview" section of the exam simply consists of answering prewritten questions by reciting a section of the textbook verbatim. No independent thought whatsoever is part of the test.

Although we've already started the next unit, the future of the course is being left up to us -- at least on paper. Today at the opening of the third period, we were given two large-format sheets of paper. One contained the syllabus of everything we've done to date, with blank spaces in the fifth and sixth weeks. The other sheet contained several blanks for us to write things that we would like to learn. Of course, these suggestions are optional and will be accepted at the discretion of the course staff. Somehow I'm doubtful that things will change. Although we're being given the option, it's very hard for students to effectively rewrite the lesson plan on a few days' notice. Somehow I would think that the professors should be in charge of planning worthwhile lesson plans.

I have seen few courses crash and burn like this one has so far. It's getting to the point where if someone were to ask me for advice about going to ICU, I'd say "don't come for the classes." Other classes' students are complaining of high homework volume, although boredom doesn't seem to be as much of a problem outside of our class. The focus for many students has shifted to recreational activities, especially as just 2 1/2 weeks remain in the summer program.

Project work also seems to be a question mark as the course continues into the second half. We have had one group presentation assignment, but it was centered around the same data as all other groups. Outside another classroom, several oak tag posters display brightly colored posters illustrating the surrounding area. Although it seems to be even more unproductive busy work than the poster we made on Friday, the other class's project smacks of creativity. We were told in the first week that a PowerPoint presentation was in the schedule, but I don't know how that will pan out.


It's unusually expensive to call a mobile phone from a pay phone. When calling today, it cost 30 yen (25 cents) to leave a 30-second message on a voice mail system. I didn't even have enough time to give my phone number on the message as the coins dwindled down. At least the remaining 120 yen ($1.00) that I put in the machine was returned to me.

It's a good thing that I checked my bank balances on-line today. Postal Services ATMs, which accept my ATM card, withdraw only from checking. Net result: my checking balance for the past few days has been less than negative $100. Fortunately, I can straighten everything out on-line.

Some students in the dorms are having a competition to see who has the most outrageous outfit. One woman wore a common shirt that says "Financial disclos (sic) is like a bikini / What it reveals is interesting / What it conceals is essential." She was one-upped by a male student wearing a blue bodysuit reading "Ganbare Nippon" ("Let's Go Japan") that he picked up from the World Cup merchandise clearance racks at a department store. Something tells me he won the grand prize: drinks from everyone else participating.

Milestone: I have used a word in real life that I learned from a video game, without any awkward moments. One elder in Final Fantasy IV (Japanese) uses the term gosenzo to refer to his ancestors; I used the same word with my professor on the bus when discussing my family. Word understood, mission accomplished.

Used book and CD stores are a Good Thing. They sell used discs for ¥1000 ($8.30), substantially less than the ¥3000 ($25) that a new CD typically costs in Japan. If I cared about manga, I could get it for half price at these stores too.

Time to wrap up studying, get a solid night's sleep, and be ready for the exam tomorrow.

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