What I want to say to her:

All my friends are gone already. No. Just not where I can contact them; they're off with their other friends. No. I'm never included in the fun. I'm there for their convienance, and when they don't need me, they forget about me. They'll never know how much I actually need them. Why? Well. That's simple. They never ask. During the week they always talk to me. Assume my life is perfect. I always smile for them. They tell me their troubles and I gladly fix them to the best of my abilities. But then on the weekends they always disappear. They run off with who knows, doing who knows what. Asking if I can join them is rude, under any circumstances. They should know I want to go with them. They should know that even though I'm going to be there for them, they need to be there for me too. But how am I supposed to tell them?

I sympathize with the ears. They're two of the most important things on your body. But you never really care about them. I've explained all this to many of my friends. But they never seem to understand. They never hear my cries for help and they never ask. I've actually lowered my expectations of a good friend to some one who seems genuinely interested in how my day has been. Despite that, there are only four people I consider good friends. And I cherish them. When I am fortunate enough to talk to them, which isn't often, all my problems seem to vanish. I am happy. But they live, 200, 400, 800, and 12,000 miles away. But I consider them to be my best friends, despite the distance, and I try to get closer to them everyday.

...

You act sad. And don't hide it at all. Deep down, I know you want to be happy. I am just like you in a way. No real friends who seem to care entirely too much. The only ones that care for you torn apart by distance... Why hide when there is fun to be had? We live two miles from eachother. And we get along just fine. Come. Have fun with me. Even if you're afraid of what might happen next. I promise I won't hurt you like those other guys did.


What I say to her:

Dude. Midget pr0n rocks. I never expected some one that small could fit something that big through that oriface.

8:31pm, Saturday 19 May, 2003 - A pipelink odessey

It's party time at the dRiVeN household...

Mmmm...Beef patties are grilling away on the BBQ. Ministry of Sound is providing ambient background music...all is well.

Woohoo, 2 hours now and not a policeman in sight. We might just pull this off!

Well the Guests are begining to disperse after my suggestion of a change of venue. Unfortunately for Joe the small gathering is about to descend upon his humble abode. What a pleasant distraction, no Violence or Intolerance of any kind...Just good vibes



Mwaahaahaahaahaa!

The letter that follows is of a highly personal nature. I wrote it this evening only to find, to my complete dismay, that the email address is no longer in service. I hand it to all of you. Please, give me something that inspires.

Hello Mr. -----,

Well, I'm curious as to whether this email address is even still in service, but what the hell; I'll give it a try. I'm sitting at home for Easter break right now and I was flipping through my old desk. In my searches I managed to come across my folder of creative writing assignments from 1998. Ahhhhhh, was I ever that young?

Truth be told, I'm pretty amazed that some of those thoughts ever managed to creep their way onto paper from my meandering thoughts. I couldn't imagine a single ink drop of those stories flowing from my mind these days. Perhaps my intense cynicism has gotten the best of me, or maybe 5 years of technical cramming has eliminated my capacity for free-form thought. The bottom line is I feel like a fucking robot.

Well, in the interest of my personal sanity or perhaps insanity, I've decided to attend law school. I managed a pretty sweet deal at Duke by pulling a lucky LSAT score. I guess I always did pretty well on the tests; I liked the competition of that stuff. I'm hoping I can find something to be passionate about.

I'm actually writing write now for a number of different reasons. One of them is that I felt you were the best teacher I had in high school and I feel terribly guilty that I didn't stay in touch. Another is that reading those papers made me wish that I was capable of those ridiculous thoughts that I once wrote about. I'm basically feeling like a drone and I'm looking for something to snap me out of this. I was hoping you could recommend some provocative, worthwhile books that I could read. My reading has been limited to Stephen King and shitty texts ever since I graduated high school. My writing has been all technical and requires minimal original thought. Shit, it took me about 30 seconds to grasp the word "original."

Anyways, I'm hoping you still check your email. Perhaps you've retired to a cave somewhere to raise a small litter of pigs to live in your image. You may have sworn off technology too. I hope not, because it would be great to hear back.

Later,
---------(in case you forgot)
23 year old burn out
I was asked to review the NCLB legislation and identify possible funding opportunities for the schools managed by the company where I work. Preliminary research revealed that there is a great deal of money being put into education, but there are many obstacles for charter schools to overcome should they attempt to pursue these funds. I told senior management that it didn’t look too good for our schools. I was told to go look again and to come up with a list of a few possibilities. I found three: One program had already been funded, so we would have to wait until the following school year to apply. The second program had poverty level requirements; we missed the mark by just a hair – poor, but not poor enough. The third program had potential, but the application process was complex and the deadline was in 13 working days. The only thing that made sense was to spend this year planning the program and submit a proposal next year. I typed up a document with my findings in a table (we love tables, we love charts, we love bullet points in this company). I made a second document listing the pros and cons of pursuing the third opportunity; there were many more reasons not to do it, and the reasons to do it weren’t all that good. My recommendation was to not apply, to wait. I told my boss and he understood implicitly; he had expected such results. Before the meeting with senior management, I made sure everyone on our team was in agreement: we don’t think we should do this. No grant. Grant application bad. None of us thought anyone would listen to us.

So there’s a meeting, there’s the CEO, there’s the VP of whatever he’s in charge of today. They have expectant looks on their smug faces. I hand out my materials, I talk about the situation, I make my recommendation. Of course, well, you know.

I was looking at 12 working days to review the RFP, design a program, describe all the logistics in 20 double-spaced pages of 12 point Times New Roman, and come up with a budget. "Cut and paste!" senior management encouraged. I would have, had I had any older material that I could work from. But this was totally new. We had no language for this. I would have to drive 90 miles twice to interview the appropriate individuals. I would have to schedule meetings and conference calls. I would have to do research on the Internet. I would have to clear my plate and do nothing but work on this proposal.

Accumulating information was actually fun and interesting. Making up program activities, setting goals and objectives that sounded okay to me, writing the compelling description of need for this funding – while it was work, it wasn’t that bad. I even got to stay home to write. The worst part was coordinating the acquisition of the letters of recommendation. But then came the budget, and everything changed.

Shortly after I finished reading the final version of the narrative, the finance guy asked me to clarify some of the figures. We went to his desk. My boss wandered over, looked at the spreadsheet, and mentioned a few line items that were missing. The finance guy and my boss hovered over some papers and made calculations. I got bored and went back to my desk. I worked on preparing the package we’d be taking to the School Board on Monday. When I went back to the finance guy’s desk, they showed me what the budget was looking like. The bottom line was about three times more than I expected. The problem was that in the third, fourth, and fifth years of this 5-year program, the required matching of funds was 20%, 40%, 60%. In total, it was a lot of money. More money than senior management wanted to be responsible for finding. So much money that we thought it would be really bad to be awarded the grant.

So we had some choices, we did, at 6 p.m. on a Friday. We could completely reconfigure the program, but I wasn’t about to rewrite anything. Not after spending 30 minutes trying to get that last paragraph off of page 21. But no one wanted me to do that; reconfiguring the program would destroy the entire basis of the proposal. The next choice was to not submit the proposal. I really wanted that choice; I became less sluggish, more animated when I heard that choice. That was the right choice. It was what we recommended in the first place, before I wrote that damned fine proposal. But there’s a third choice, and when I heard it at 7 p.m., I drew a heavy sigh and finally left the office. There are voicemail messages, several, from many different people on three different lines, all asking the guy from the other partnership organization to give us a call. It’s urgent. It’s about the grant. We’re going to ask him to get his organization to vouch for the astronomical matching funds. And if he says yes, I will have to scramble all day on Monday, pulling the last-minute pieces together and driving the proposal to the School Board in the next county over. And if he says no, if it’s no, then we won’t submit the proposal and everything will go on as if none of this ever happened.

As of Monday, I will once again be a contributing member of society (for 3-6 months, anyhow - I think we can safely blame that on the NALC). I'm a Casual Letter Carrier (fancy name for a temp) for the United States Postal Service. The station I've been assigned to is about 17 miles from my house (and 13 miles from ASU), but it could be a lot worse; Mesa's city limits are all the way at the border with Pinal County; I could've been casing mail out by my old neighborhood. Anywho, the Tempe Postmaster is trying to get me transferred to an office there, which would make things easier when the next semester starts. We'll see, though.

Also, Herc's 24 Hours of ZZT starts tomorrow at 1PM (8PM GMT). BE THERE OR BE AN EQUILATERAL RECTANGLE

HAPPY EASTER!
(for those who celebrate it)

:::: Warning Spoiler Ahead ::::



For those of you who don't know yet... I thought I'd share the truth about the Easter Bunny.

"Stephanie IS the Easter bunny!!"

My son figured this out, at 4 years old, all on his very own. Are you impressed or what??

His best friend, the son of MY best friend (yes, Stephanie) whispered in his ear -- as they waited for THE Easter Bunny to hide the eggs -- that "HIS MOM" hid the eggs.

So my son - while all the other children were out looking for the eggs came up to tell me a secret. A big, big secret. He didn't want ANYONE else to know! This was BIG! So I told him nobody was listening (I didn't think they were.... ) Anyhow my son.. whispered in his loud 4 yr old voice "Guess What!! Stephanie IS the Easter Bunny!!!"

The giggles started out low, but I heard them, and tried to resist them...my son was serious! The giggles grew and grew and ended up with a life of their own... and they caught me and my poor rugrat, giggles are so contagious... blame his whole warped future on that moment if you will, but we all could not stop the giggles. MY SON had the answer to the Easter Bunny Mystery. His best friends mom was the Easter Bunny and went around the world hiding everyones Easter eggs.

He looked around puzzled as all the adults in the area were breaking out laughing... we were all so impressed with this little 4 yr old for figuring out who THE Easter Bunny really was!

Stephanie is my best friend ever and I found her again after having lost contact 10 years ago. I will spare you the 50,000 word detail of that incredible search and the irony of the final find. But she'll be coming over from Montana on Easter.... will she remember that? She will, I have no doubt, who could forget that priceless moment.

I do hope sharing this hasn't ruined anyones Easter now that you know the Easter Bunny isn't pink and furry.

One of the Ironies of all of this is that I will see her again, after not knowing if I"d ever see her again -- on Easter!

Noung's world affairs journal

Ok, here's a new idea I'm trying. Every week I write a journal of some of the things that happened the week before that maybe the mainstream media wasn't too hot on picking up on, and some opinion pieces about whatever the main talking points of the week were. If you want to see a list of my sources see the bottom, I'll try to combine views and opinions from as many different countries and angles as possible. This posting covers the week 12th - 19th April, and sometimes I delve back further. I hope it's interesting.

Africa
The Congolese war against peace

Four and a half years ago, civil war began in Congo. Since then it has cost between two and three million lives (mainly from hunger and disease), and another 1000 were killed only a few weeks ago while the rest of the world was focused on the Middle East. At one time six foreign armies operated in Congo. The war began when Rwanda and Uganda sent troops to oust Laurent Kabila, who was president of Congo back then. Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola then sent troops to back the government. Most of the foreign troops have now left (Rwanda withdrew last October and Uganda are supposed to be pulling out at the end of this month), but proxy fighting continues. For its part, Rwanda fears that its national interests are at stake because of Hutu rebels operating in East Congo, but there is another factor at stake: the region's natural resources, which include gold, diamonds and coltan. A U.N. report says that the value of the minerals Rwanda ilegally extracts from East Congo exceeds the value of all its exports. The involvement of South Africa and the United Nations doesn't seem to be helping anything (there are 5,000 U.N. observers), and many sides in the conflict are clamouring for the involvement of the United States.

It was the United Nations that first heard of this latest massacre, in the North East of the country. The spokesman of the U.N. mission to Congo (MONUC) put it this way -

"The investigating team heard that 966 people were massacred. They identified 20 mass graves and visited 49 seriously injured people in hospitals,"

The victim was the town of Drodro in the Ituri District (which is rich in gold), which has seen thousands of people die in ethnic clashes since the start of the war. U.N. inspectors confirmed the existence of mass graves in the town and the Ugandan government has sent troops to investigate.

Recently, various rebel leaders and the government signed an accord to create a transitional government and have elections in 2 1/2 years. This massacre is what followed. Troop movements continue as late as April 17th. So it seems that the people of Congo still have a while to wait. The withdrawl of Ugandese forces, which have been accused of playing off various factions in the region against each other, could eventually be a very positive move - but then, maybe not. A security vacuum would be left in Eastern Congo which rebel factions could move to meet. Uganda is calling for a neutral international force to move in, but I can't find any suggestion that the U.N. might move in. According to analysts a security presence of three brigades, plus air monitoring capabilities, is needed to bring peace to Ituri. Once peace was established, humanitarian aid could flow in more freely. Kofi Annan once said that "no-one can escape responsibility for the persistence of {Africa's} conflicts." Let's hope that eventually this will translate into real, armed action.

Asia
Multilateral talks and defections

Two things everyone's talking about this week are SARS and North Korea. For months North Korea has being posturing towards and cajoling the United States (which has moved long-range bombers to Guam, in range of the country), but no major discussion has been held since October. America has been calling for multilateral talks involving powers in the region, whereas North Korea wanted bilateral talks between itself and America. On the 17th, North Korea suddenly agreed to multilateral talks involving China, itself, and America. This offer, which was not ideal to the Americans but a good start, is rumoured to be the result of Chinese pressure on the North. This is quite a coup for China, which was able to show that it could help handle the North Korean problem, and help achieve a solution which didn't involve the use of force. China recently "accidently" cut off its supply of oil to North Korea for three days, a sharp reminder who's boss that maybe influenced Kim Jong-Il's thinking.

Everyone was happy that the North had finally come to its senses. Perhaps, Washington thought, the action in Iraq had sent them a clear message. Then, today, North Korea released a statement about the reprocessing of spent fuel rods (which could, if they so wished, lead to them developing a nuclear bomb in a few months). And the statements differed in the Korean and English language versions. In English, they said they were "successfully reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods". This was something they were specifically warned not to do by Washington, which had warned of grave consequences if they did. But the Korean language version said "We are successfully completing the final phase to the point of the reprocessing operation for some 8,000 spent fuel rods," which would imply they haven't started yet. No-one's quite sure what to think, but the general wisdom now seems to be that North Korea is just warning America to be realistic at the negotiating table in Beijing. We're just going to wait and see what happens as the talks progress, but the involvement of China is encouraging for everyone. Sino-American relations are likely to have a large impact on the region in the future, and a postive relationship between the two nations is bound to be beneficial for it.

The Times of London reported today that "up to 20" North Korean nuclear scientists had defected to the U.S., including Kyong Won-ha, the "father" of the North Korean nuclear program. The defections were reportedly aided by South Korean private citizens and non-government organizations in U.S. allies. Debriefing these officials is reportedly providing great insight into the Korean nuclear program, especially with regard to the reactor at Yongbyon.

The Middle East
Iraq, Syria, the United Nations

Now the war is effectively won (Syria notwithstanding, see below), the coalition needs to set about winning the peace. Whilst many lefty publications have been taking glee in American setbacks throughout the conflict, conservative ones have been aware that this would be the hardest part of the whole deal since the start. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be popular among neighbouring nations. Note the protests by Shia Muslims that took place in Iraq yesterday were mirrored by those taking place in Tehran at the time - there are factions inside Iraq with links to the outside, and they're after their slice of power. Tehran has 10,000 troops stationed on Iraq's border, presumably waiting to move in if America leaves before Iraq is capable of defending itself. Turkey is making noises about a "right of observation" in Northern Iraq and issuing instructions on which ethnic group in Iraq is allowed to settle in which city. Young Syrians shoot at Marines.

It seems that the U.S.-led coalition is the only force that can keep all this in check. All legitimate groups in Iraq must have a say in its future. But no other country should be allowed to dominate its future. Rival factions should not be allowed to start a civil war. The small remaining Ba'athist faction, sponsored by Damascus, cannot be allowed to establish a new regime of terror. Jacques Chirac wants the U.N. to be in "sole charge of the future of Iraq". Dream on, brother. The U.N. could not be trusted to rid Iraq of WMD, it could not be trusted to stop Hussein's support of terrorism, it could not be trusted to liberate the Iraqi people. Iraq's future must not be mortgaged to satisfy a dying organization's power-plays. The U.N. has a role in providing humanitarian assisstance and doing some routine tasks. It can be used as a forum for discussion. But Putin and Chirac can no longer hope for the role in events that they once dreamed of - they sacrificed that when they tried to be a "counterweight" to the unshakeable will of the United States of America.

The usual empty rhetoric coming out of Damascus about American "colonialism" (a particularly good one was "US officials define terrorism as targeting civilians for political purposes, which is exactly what they are doing in Iraq." I must have missed that,) are to be expected, but Ansar (whom the media seems to be referring to as "naive" - he only took power a few years ago) might just be pushing it a bit too far. On March 27th, Ansar announced that Iraq is

"a large Arab country with scientific, material and human resources . . . able to accomplish, at the least, what Lebanon accomplished, and more."

He's referring, of course, to the Syrian campaign to drive America and Israel out of Lebanon. The so-called "Lebonization of Iraq" - where outside groups move in and create anarchy - is much feared by anyone who wants a democratic future for Iraq. Syria is, in a way, acting in self-defence - it's scared by having a democratic neighbor next door, it's scared for what this means for its regime of terror and its precious chemical weapons. But America is standing up to it, chin to chin. No-one wants to see American troops in Damascus as well as Baghdad, and America has a lot of scope for economic and diplomatic pressure on Syria. Osama bin Laden once called America a "weak horse" but now it's a strong, kicking mule. Ansar could do to wise up and realize this. But if the days of him and those like him are numbered, as we can only hope they are, then maybe he'll realize it himself. The wind of democracy is blowing strong across the Arabian desert, and it may not be the Marines who liberate Damascus.

On April 17th, Syria refused to allow U.N. arms inspections. The United States maintains that Syria possesses chemical weapons, which it developed as a counter-measure against Israel.


Sources

http://allafrica.com/

The Asia Times

The Jerusalem Post

The London Times

The Moscow Times

The Washington Post

The Washington Times

The Weekly Standard

Some people, they just can’t leave well enough alone. My brother, for instance, seems to have this certain view of the world where he is a sort of gold standard of morality: all acts are judged by how much they help him. He’ll go out of his way to be antagonistic, yet spends much of his day complaining how everyone mistreats him.

But I know I annoy people sometimes too. I know I’m just being true to myself – this is who I am – and when living in society one can’t help stepping on a few toes. Yet I wonder sometimes if I’m too self-centered, and perhaps I should consider the effects of my actions on other people. At the same time, there’s something heroic about being one’s self in spite of tremendous opposition. Perhaps there’s some sort of balance that can be struck between pleasing other people and pleasing one’s self; there’s nothing heroic about being a jerk. And perhaps I’ll know when I reach that balance.

I think I'm too focused on myself; perhaps I need to find someone I can love to such an extent that I can forget about myself. Obsession of any kind would be a godsend for me.

Today, a good friend stood me up. This was aggravating enough; however she then had the nerve to complain that I had not turned up. She swears blind she was there; then admits that "She might have popped to over to Waitrose"; she acts suspicious when I tell her that my phone died (Despite the fact that it has a history of sucking hard.

I am not pleased. The question is: do I need friends like this?


This has been a funky rant log. The management appreciate your patience and loyalty. Please call again.

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