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The bomb fell

I received a letter from my sister today. Nothing special about that. (well.. I got it yesterday, but I didn't see it was there before today) People get letters from sisters all the time. My sister works for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders). Until about two months ago, she was working on a project by Operation Day's Work. In Afghanistan. She's still there.

Changed names and comments are italicized. The letter is translated from a different language than English

I feel like I have to share the letter with my sister with someone. I have not been part of this community so long, but I thought you might want to read it in any case.

Take care.

poet


Dear Poet.

I'm sorry I haven't written to any of you in a long time. It's been rough here in Sarobi lately. The whole MsF OD project has dropped to its knees and been shot in the head. Not that it matters. I don't think the Afghan people will worry much about building schools anytime soon.

The MsF HQ offered us the possibility to leave Afghanistan quite a while ago. As a matter of fact, I was offered to leave from a city just after the WTC incident. I decided not to, thinking that the Afghan people would never need us more than now. I don't know if it is right of me to regret now. We don't actually have anything except from our knowledge to help them with. Even such a stupid, mundane thing as a scalpel can't be found anywhere - much less proper medicines etc. Luckily there is quite a large supply of morphine in Kabul city. On the other hand, nobody seems to want to volunteer to go there (Not that I blame them). The Taleban still controls the city, but every night we hear about air raids and other attacks.

I don't know how much you hear over there in my country about what happens here in Afganistan, but I'm telling you, it ain't pretty. My husband travelled to the city (Kabul) not too long ago, and some of the tales he came back with were.... well.... I think he'll just have to tell you face to face once, if we live through this.

I am sorry if I seem a bit down in this letter. I am just starting to wonder what I am doing here. Daily we hear of Mujahideens who are about to beat the Taleban once and for all. About as often, we hear how the Taleban have taken people and people from a specific occupational group from their homes and killed them off without mercy. The United Front (or Northern Combine, as you might know them) are as bad.

The Kabúl river has become a mass grave. Only last night I witnessed with considerable disgust how they fished out four boys in combat gear. I don't know if they were Taleban or United Front. Hell, they could have been German, for all I know. They can't have been much older than 15. The bullet wounds were horrible. The blood was washed out of them by the water. I will never forget those empty eyes staring up, straight trough me.

Can you imagine, poet, fishing up your 16-year old son from a river? Seing the boy you love reduced to nothing, swollen from being in the water a while? For fighting for or against something that most of the world couldn't give a flying fuck about?

Sorry. I didn't want to upset you or seem morbid. It is just that... Even though I have worked as a doctor in several horrible places, images like that never cease to shock. They never stop haunting me in my sleep.

Things were bad when the Taleban were in power here in Afghanistan, but then we could at least concentrate on improving the situation. Now? It will take years before this is out of people's minds. And even longer until it is distant enough to start rebuilding the country. Afghans as a whole hate the entire conflict. They don't hate USA, but they hate the bombs, the killing and the (the sentence stops here)

Damn! The whole basement just shook. I think a bomb has hit very close to us. If I were to guess, I would think that it hit within 100 meters from where I am. My husband wanted to go and have a look if he could help with something. Luckily, I managed to stop him. I really don't want him away from me at all just now.

Well...

the letter continues with the usual good-byes and "tell-mother-not-to-worry" and some small-talk

Take good care of yourself, my lovely brother. And take care of our mother. With some luck I will be out of here before newyears. Just promise me one thing: Do not buy any (firework-)rockets this year. I have seen enough missiles to last me a lifetime.

your sister.



update: I just wanted to tell you all that I am amazed by all the kind messages and well-wishings I have received the last few hours. It is very much appreciated. It might be selfish of me, but I really do hope that the whole godforsaken conflict will be over soon, one way or another.

The idea that the next so-called "smart" bomb might miss its intended target makes me sick.

The rear-right tire of my car blew out today on I-95. I was driving at a speed of 75 miles per hour. As my car spun to the right , I remembered what I was told about how not to lose control of a vehicle.

1. Don't panic.

2. Don't over-compensate.

As I thought of these two rules, I was vaguely aware of the fact that I was screaming "Oh Shit", in a voice that I didn't recognize as my own. I turned my wheel to the left at approximately 30 degrees from a normal, straight position.

I'd like to emphasize how important it is that you do not overcompensate.

I heard the noise of screeching rubber (what was left of my tire) slowly shifting higher and lower as I spun around. As I remembered the big rig and the bus that were trailing me, I hoped that I was maintaining a decent speed. I remember them hanging ominously in my rearview mirror. After I had spun 180 degrees, the image of the rig and the bus encompassed my windshield. For a moment, I marveled at the sudden switch between the view of my rear view mirror and the view through my windshield. As I spun away, I imagined what one of those trucks would do to my car, I imagined what it would do to me. One veered around me as I completed the 320 degree spin.

I'd like to stop to emphasize another point. It is very important that you maintain an appropriate speed during a blowout. Don't tap your brakes, you will either flip or be struck from behind.

I used what remaining momentum I had to hobble my car into the grassy median. A commercial was playing over my radio, which suprised me, because I always assumed that I would crash while listening to something that was either eerily appropriate, or ludicrously happy. I realized then that I hadn't actually crashed, but spun around in the middle of an interstate on a day which was probably considered to be the busiest of the year. I looked at my right hand, and realized that it would not stop shaking. I was supprised that I was alive.

I got out of my car and was given a ride to a nearby rest stop by two strangers in a pickup truck (I didn't have a spare tire.) They introduced themselves, and I feel like an ass for forgetting their names, but I am grateful to them. They remarked that they were suprised that the car did not flip. I approached a phone booth, and realized that I had just driven outside of my area code when my tire blew out. It would have cost $2.50 to call my parents, so I used a collect service. My right hand was still shaking. I realized at that point that I would have to make a daylog about this. Looking back , it wasn't so frightening, in fact a little comical. I could only imagine how my facial expression contorted as my tire blew, or the string of profanity that I had released, which, in my roommate's words, "...would have made a sailor cry."

A woman approached me as I was leaning on the phone booth, waiting for my parents to call back. She introduced herself as a child of god, and asked if I need any help. I declined, but thanked her. She walked away with a cheerful "God Bless". I replied with a bewildered "You too." It was the most pleasant conversation that I had had which broached the subject of religion. She made me wonder, though. I came to the conclusion that if I had stopped to pray, or even consider god for an instant in that moment after my tire had blown out, I would have ended up in a tree, or pinned under a bus. As they say, nothing fails like prayer.

The tires on my car are being replaced again, so I will remain a pedestrian for the next two weeks. I like being a pedestrian, you get rid of the baggage, you can move freely so long as you have a bus pass. I feel competent to drive, but there are too many other factors that I cannot control. I don't feel as though I've walked away from this with much more knowledge than I had to begin with. That which does not kill me does not make me stronger or smarter, it only makes my hands shake like speed freaks on an active fault line. It only fucks up my car a bit, It only reminds me that the spare was under the carpeting the whole time, it only confirms what I already suspect: When it comes to averting accidents and certain, horrible death, I am a badass. When it comes to planning ahead and packing a spare tire, I am an idiot.

Anxiety

Anxiety rules the day. I have a few decisions still to make:

1. Shall I go ahead with the small claims court suit or should I not? This is a big dilemma, because although I would love nothing better than to get my money back, I am weary about having to go to court for it. Anything about the law makes me uncomfortable. On top of that, I'd have to see her in these unfavourable terms - something I'll have to bear.

2. What shall I do with my traffic ticket? This was issued to me a while back in Quebec. Apparently the officer had thought I passed a car on the right. What actually happened was that I was passing a car on the left when the car on the left had slowed. UGH..it's complicated. I received a court notice for that a couple of weeks ago. I have a few choices:

a) State that the court date is too long from the offence date. Thus, it would be difficult to prepare my case because of the loss of some memory to the events.

b) Use the local POINTTS. These guys are either ex-cops or have connections that can get people off cases. They usually make deals with the Crown Attorney.

c) Pay it off and altogether avoid having to go to court, but risk having my insurance premiums go up. And since I'm going to be getting an SVT Focus in March of next year, I'll probably do it after then. I might be able to avoid it.

3. After trying to rotate my own tires yesterday by buying a hydraulic floor-jack and then ruining a small part of the underbody of my body kit, I gave up. Okay, so it didn't go smoothly like I wanted. And with further investigation of the front two tires, I finally decided I needed to change them. This sucks! Now I have to spend $300.00 on tires I'll be giving back in February. Well, the least I can do is to run them nicely in the snow. I can't wait.


I finally got some smiles from some more eligible women last night on the personal website. I'm dearly interested in this woman who's 35 years old - that's 7 years older than me. Her eyes are the most beautiful I've seen since perusing over all the profiles. I must admit, some of her attractiveness is due partly because she looks a little bit like Tori Amos. But in all seriousness, it was the sense of humour she displayed in her written profile that drew me more to her. I wrote her an e-mail last night. I am waiting for a response.

Unfortunately, she's all the way in Montreal. I'd have to do the LDR thing again if she is also interested in me. Just my luck. It always happens that the best things are the most difficult to obtain, isn't it? But I guess, despite this particular downside, there are other girls interested in me. Amazing what a better picture can do for a person's self-esteem!

Having not heard from Martin, our builder, since Friday, we didn't really expect to see him today. However, at 6pm the doorbell rang and there he was!

"Can I unload my tools into the loft? I'll not be doing any work, just unloading," he explained. Given that we had nothing against this - he didn't need to come in through the front door - he proceeded up the scaffolding and began unloading. Quite why he's so many days behind we're not sure - but his assistant has changed, which could have something to do with it.

Given that he usually knocks off at 7pm, we're not expecting him to be here long. And there it is, 6.50pm and the doorbell rings. He says he'll be back tomorrow morning to continue work on our loft conversion. We shall see!

(Lunchtime. I'm sitting here eating yogurt that expired November 18. Mmmm. What's the worst that could happen, right? Anyway...)

I broke from tradition this year and did not go to New York, instead opting to spend the holiday down at my place in historic Leesburg, VA with my boyfriend, his family, and my Mom. We had a traditional turkey dinner complete with stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and corn and cranberry sauce, and we all ate until we couldn't move.

Friday, my boyfriend's family went to visit relatives in the area, so we were on our own. It was a nice cool day, so Mom and I headed out to Snicker's Gap, VA to do some bird watching. Bird watching isn't really my thing, but according to Mom it's the fastest growing hobby out there these days. Besides, it gave me a chance to go hiking, which I don't get to do too often.

So Mom and I went hiking up a trail, spotting turkey vultures and woodpeckers occasionally, and talking. Eventually, we stopped at Bear's Den Rock, an outcropping overlooking West Virginia. We talked some more, and I decided we had enough daylight left to show Mom around Harper's Ferry, WV, so back down the mountain we went.

Harper's Ferry was neat. There's a little gift shop called The Herb Lady on Potomac Street where Mom bought some hand lotion and a necklace and a silver bracelet with amethysts. We browsed a few more shops, stopped off at the Mountain House Cafe on High Street for a cup of soup and some hot apple cider, and talked some more.

All in all, it was a fine day, even if Mom did get a little depressed her other two sons don't ever spend that much time with her.

The aftermath of suicide

I returned from a small Bristol nodermeet with A, B, C and D yesterday evening to the news that my housemate was dead.

Today has been a day of sorrowful discovery and trauma. He has been depressed for some time, and took his own life in the early hours of Saturday morning. I spoke to the Police earlier, and they gave me the sad tidings. He ran a length of hose from his exhaust into the car and slipped into the sleep from which there is no awakening. His father rang me twice, to arrange collection of his belongings. His ex-partner's friend called to talk with me. The parting hug of mutual support made me cry.

My girfriend has been worrying about me, in between arranging doctor appointments and signing for unemployment benefit. I am still waiting to get back to work, even part-time, and to conquer my own depression. The police came to take a statement, and I had to relive my relationship with him, to try to make sense of this senseless loss.

/me misses gbear, but I will survive. Thanks for all the messages of support. from my family

Hmm -- I was gonna gripe about how I just finished writing up a node on George Boole, which didn't exist last time I checked (okay, it was weeks ago), and went to post it, and found that someone had already created the node and said pretty much everything I was going to say, so I guess what I wrote is useless. I was gonna go on to say "oh well" and something about striking while the iron is hot, and comment about how I have this head full of stuff and never the time to write it well enough that it doesn't get eaten by Klaproth.

But poet's sister's letter certainly puts my little gripes into perspective.

too bad the world is such sad and interesting place today. too bad i'm going to write about ice cream.

the boy who likes me works in a big warehouse that is like a big freezer. this is all very boring except that he gets to wear a toque to work and he gets 'damaged goods'. like ice cream. the boy has ice cream connections.

now he knows that i consider ice cream to be the meaning of life. so yesterday, after fucking up royally on my birthday, he invites himself over and asks to borrow a spoon. then he opens his backpack and reveals not one, but two cases of ben and jerry's buckets, and two extra buckets.

so, to be clear, we now have 18 half-litre buckets of ice cream. and the very best kind, too.

my roommate came home from work "look in the freezer" "why?" "do it" "gasp! i love you!!!" all and all a great day. i'm sorry for death and destruction, but i like ice cream.

My brain is feeling numb, due to the typical routine of getting up, getting the bus, and sitting in lessons pretending to be interested. I expect it's a hell of a lot better than engaging in the well known "working for a living" routine, however that doesn't console me much. It's not that i'm idle (seriously!), it just seems that theres nothing to look forward to in the future. I have a choice of either:

a) Spending another 4 or 5 years in full education, get a degree, and then finally wander into the big wide world.

or...

b) Drop out now, with barely an excuse for a qualification - resulting in a shitty dead end job with as many prospects as Osama Bin Laden's hairdresser!

What a compelling choice. It goes without saying that I am "expected" to follow route a), but don't you just hate living upto expectations?

I suppose my dream is to reach freedom by losing everything (cliched I know). Maybe it's just me, but I really see nothing worthwhile in following the footsteps of just about every other "respectable" person I know. Don't get me wrong, I am not afraid to work, only of working because I have to (in that its the only reason). Ultimately I don't think modern civilization allows anyone to lead even a remotely unselfish life. The main reason is because peoples lives have become so much more complicated. This eventually leads to a point where everyone seems to think they are "special" (in an arrogant kind of way). If life was simpler, I think much of the conflict and selfishness that we see today would be reversed. I'm not claiming a utopian society, just a better one than we have currently.

I suppose the irony is, we are all slowly digging our own graves, but it takes so long that must of us die before we finish digging.

hey i'm sceptical, shoot me!

Today, I had so much planned for myself: wake up, do Italian homework, start photography readings, go to class, finish photo readings, start readings for history and so on and so on.

Today, I did nothing: I woke up at 7 am and drank some water, fell asleep, woke at 8 and felt really sick, tried to sleep it off, woke up at 9 and threw up vegan chocolate cake, beer and sunflower seeds, rinsed out my mouth and returned to bed, slept till 12:30 and drug myself to lunch, ate some frozen yougart, thought I would be sick again, drank some tea, came back to my room and climbed in bed. I stayed in bed until just now. I didn't even go to class. I got up just now because I was daydreaming about dinner and thought I ought to shower and get dressed before I go.

Perhaps my meagar drinking hit me harder than usual. I only had 4 beers, but I also hadn't eaten anything but sunflower seeds and the cake in 10 hours previous.

Also, all my insecurities seem to come out. I just don't see why he'd love me. I just hate me too much to understand. I suppose, this is also something I need to get over quickly. I just want to be able to see his face everday and hear his voice and hold his hand.

Sick day! Wee!


You know, it's really nice to be sick sometimes, it gives us a chance to relax and review the past week.

Over the last week that I've had off from school some really really fun stuff has happened. To sum it up in one sentence "I GOT A GIRLFRIEND!" -Anyway, This is a good thing, I haven't had a girlfriend for a year now ever since my deadly incident with a girl on anti-depressants.
My new girlfriend's name is Katie, she's short (5"5, I'm 5"11) long blond hair, and the number one thing I ADORE about this girl? She thinks Just Like I Do - Oh, and yes, this is very very scary. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm quite random, weird, and... Horny. And Katie is just as bad as I am. We think the same thoughts, laugh at the same jokes, and fall over at innuendos.

We’re immature and we love It.


And now I’m sick, lying in bed, dreaming of her, and I don’t think I’ve been this happy since I was two years old.

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It's my turn to submit the obligatory birthday daylog. As of now, I've been roaming the Earth for 41 years.

I got a nice birthday present at work today: Edward moved into my office!

The official festivities began after work, when Nolan came by to see what we were going to do. I had given him even odds of totally forgetting about it, after agreeing a week ago that we could hang out when this day came around. We took a walk to a nearby pool hall, where after a few games (playing by his rules, where a scratch does not carry with it the penalty of replacing a ball on the table in addition to loss of turn), his girlfriend joined us. A few more games, during which she sent Nolan off on an errand because she couldn't abide my not having any cake today -- he came back with a package of Hostess cupcakes :) -- and we then decided to go get a bite to eat. I had to return to the office to retrieve my id, because the extremely vigilant doorman at Sharkeez doesn't accept a head 10% covered with gray hair as proof of majority.

After a time at Sharkeez, Nolan got paged because a webserver at work was down, so we returned to the office. While there, Nolan's bustier half scrounged up some candles, and put four of them (in the shape of the digit 4) on one cupcake and one on the other; then she bade me make a wish and blow them out. She squealed "Oooh, your wish will come true!" -- quite unlikely, actually, but I'm holding out hope for my second wish.

After reducing the timeout value of the Apache server, we then adjourned to the parking lot and exercised Nolan's new (and old) skateboards for a time. Then we went our separate ways, with me being too chicken to ask Nolan for a hug.

At 9 o'clock, I found myself on my way to WolfDaddy's house, and most of the way there on the freeway was behind Nolan's car.

Golly, their shopping didn't last long. ... Hey, they didn't take their exit ... Could he be...? Nah, don't get your hopes up.
But, yes!, arriving at WolfDaddy's I found them there already, and we all hung out for another couple of hours.

B5 watch
Ten episodes into season 4.
The year is 2261.

Today was a great day, to say the least, as I've actually had fun (like childish, innocent fun) for the first time in a while. Mind you, while I find hanging out with buddies fun, today was definitely different to say the least. Last night was full of intoxication through alcohol, with my poison of choice being 4 bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade and a bit of Vodka from MrFurious. Questions at the end of last night didn't really make things easier and I decided to avoid the subject by drinking even faster. Lovely to say the least, but its my way of dealing with my problems.

I woke up at 830 in the morning, and tried to get back to sleep. I slept on the small sofa, which seats two. Being burly, I was sleeping on an inverted sitting position with the remaining alcohol drifting towards my stomach. I had a feeling of motion sickness without moving so I decided to go inside and sleep properly on a bed. I slept until 2 PM when I found out that MrFurious and Mike went home. Nuts. I thought I was gonna go grab some food.

After loafing around for a few hours, I picked up my sister at IKEA. Jenn was there again, and of course, I wanted to say hi. Still reeling from the disappointment of not being able to go to the Christmas party, I wanted to impress her as much as possible. While they say women love men in uniform, I didn't think that the IKEA uniform counted in that sense. I was in casual clothes but definitely better than I would at work so I tried to chat it up but to no avail. I didn't really mind as much as my VCR was taping the revival of the Reboot TV serires.

After a quick workout with MrFurious, I paced my remaining time, eating dinner and sprucing myself up. A lot has been on my mind lately, and going out with someone I used to like isn't really the best thing but I suppose if I can get through this, it may show some sort of strength that I thought I had lost long ago. Besides, I thought it would be a good time to grow up.

With some difficulty, I picked her up at UBC only to start wandering and driving everywhere. Small talk was bypassed with conversations regarding changes since the last meeting and the direction of the car was instinctively pointed towards the places within Vancouver that held the best city scenescapes. We wound up in downtown where we looked around for something to do or a place to grab a drink. We found ourselves in Moose Magnets and after 40 minutes of walking around in there surrounded by plush dolls, I decided to try to find a momento. As I tried to practice being a gentleman, I asked her to pick anything there, and we'll get one a piece as a momento. Sammy the Beanie Baby was picked. We walked around some more, passing a Bread Garden and Blenz and wound up in this little Japanese store in Downtown Vancouver. As a random thought, I bought a 24 exposure disposable camera, and hand-in-hand, we walked around for about an hour and a half taking random pictures. We asked strangers to take pictures of us, we took pictures of each other, and even took a picture with a dog. While we were hounded by a homeless man, I didn't think that one bad point should ruin a night destined for simple pleasures. We headed over to her dormitory and put up Christmas lights. We chatted it up for another hour or so, and I wound up home at 3 AM. It was a great night, though the pictures didn't turn out well, it was still etched in my mind. I needed it, to take away from my lonely mind and from news I received from the night before. I just wonder when the next good day will come....
I thought I'd node this, because this has now happened to me twice now, and wanted to know if others have seen this as well. If you're one of the two, hi! Don't think they're noders, but you never know. (I have never mentioned this to either of them, so they may/may not know) If the words you want to tell me about this aren't saying that you'd like to see more of me (the sense of that should be obvious), then just don't tell me. Head is screwed enough as it is.

Ok, enough waffle, so on to the content. Here's the problem. Twice, I have met beautiful, intelligent CS girls. The first one (just by the act of meeting her) was the first really CS person (aside from myself) I'd ever met. I knew a lot of other geeky-types from home, but mostly hardware people, not software people. They never understood CS theory the way I did. This girl was the first other person I could talk to that understood that feeling, plus we had a freaky number of other things in common. A random band that I liked, that was import-only she liked also (most everyone else would never have even heard of this band, let alone like them). This was great. For 6 hours, I was on some sort of cloud 9 experience. The time with her was great. However, at some point in the conversation her fiance was mentioned. Part of me thought "shit". Part of me figured that the chances of someone like that being sans-boyfriend was low, and I was grateful for the time I spent with her. We exchanged email addresses at the end of the day, and we still talk from time to time. This was 3 years ago, and I can still remember vast chunks of that day like it was yesterday.

Fast forward a bit, to about a year or so ago. I start Uni, and as a result of this meet another CS girl. There was a few girls in our year in CS, but not many. There was another, a classic beauty type that many of my peers were joking about, but she did nothing for me. Just not someone I'd be interested in talking to. This CS girl was a different matter. I hadn't spoken to her in the first few weeks, just hadn't run into each other (there were many people in our year, this is entirely possible). I can't remember exactly how this started, but I think maybe she'd heard me saying things in lecture or something, she wanted to ask me a few questions later, drop me a few emails when she was at her home box. She was given my mail address (well, actually my surname so she could grab my mail addy later from the year list, it was simpler, for some reason... said I didn't remember everything). Over the course of the next 2 days (like the following 48 hours since I'd met her for the first time), I recieved a total of ~40 emails, 2 SMS messages, and she tracked me down on ICQ. Admittedly, she was having major shit with a bit of c/w that I was able to do easily, but still. What is a guy meant to think about that sort of level of concentration in a girl? I was at some point made aware that she had a fiance also (chances of me making a move before I've been persuing someone for a number of months is a low thing, need to work on the self-esteem), which I again thought was a bit annoying - some other bugger had got there first.

Now, have I just been unlucky, or are most of the really nice (as in nice ppl, but also CS ppl) CS girls already engaged? What the hell age do CS guys have to find these girls in order to get there before they are permenantly set in with someone else? Time to keep looking out there methinks.....

This node brought to you by Palfrey's sense of irony and rage

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