#43 in a list of signs that you're not having a swell day (or maybe you are, but it's the entirely wrong kind of swelling)

You wake up with an itchy ear. Itchy, very very itchy, down deep in the canal.

It's allergies, you think, or perhaps some soap got in yesterday from your shower. Maybe it's wax.

You get a cotton swab, slip it in your ear to twirl it around and clean out the wax or at least get that crazymaking itch scratched.

Instead, you hear a crunch and feel something in your ear pop.

You pull out the cotton swab.

On the end of the swab are the crushed remains of a tiny little spider.

 

After suffering repeated frissons of horror, you wonder the following:

  • When and how did you get a spider in your ear?
  • Was it female? Did it lay eggs?
  • If God turns out to be an arachnid, are you going to Hell?

- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -

I got my first 'bid snipe' win off eBay today using the esnipe service. I see that Andara's already explained it to you all. I collect some specific English china pattern pieces, and I know the prices pretty good, so it's a good way to do it, I know what's a fair deal.

But what I'm really excited about and kinda sticking around online for is a pair of lead crystal goblets in an unusual pattern. They're pentagonal if that's a word (and I guess it is since it's got a node) and in each of the 5 sides is set a crystal sphere like it's embedded in the side wall of the glass. The stems are formed a bit roughly like a pair of intertwined vines.

If I get these two I'll have 5, one more completes set of 6 that I could use for a dinner party. I also have a matching decanter, which you can't really use nowadays because storing liquids in lead crystal serving ware is a health hazard, from the lead of course.

I know the decanter goes with the set even tho the design is a bit different--it's 5-sided and the glassware is clearly the same though its not set with the glass spheres and high up on the side is what might be a coat of arms or something akin to it.

My first of these goblets is a family heirloom on my dad's side which we had for generations. My grandma (mom's mom) brought the second somewhere in Eastern Europe (some country that doesn't exist anymore) and one day we realized that we had two of the same thing, and I got it after she died. Since then I got one more in Ireland at a specialty shop, funny, and then now these two from South Africa of all places.

Anyway back to watching the bidding on these like I said I don't know the value of them (maybe I should go to the Antiques Roadshow when it comes our way to see what they're worth) but I really want to get them, maybe when they come I can find someplace for them all in my china hutch for them, right now the others are put away in tissue paper with the decanter.

I used to be bored by the Sims. I assumed that it was a computer game like any other, and unconsciously treated it like one. I looked for a goal, an end boss, or something of the sort. There is nothing of the sort in the Sims. There is no endscreen, no roll of the credits. Even if you manage to kill every single one of your Sims, they do not show you your score and play the music.

No, the Sims is not an adventure. It is not a simulation. It is not even a game. The Sims is a doll house. And in order to enjoy yourself, you must first admit that you are playing with what amounts to advanced Barbies, Skippers, American Girls and GI Joes. But you’re doing it the easy way. No more cranking stiff plastic limbs, no more fumbling to overcome the scale barriers between your favorite characters, no more chopping off six inches of unpleasantly frizzy blonde hair to regret it instantly. No more clumsily stapling together new clothes that will never look right. The computer does it all for you, and does it better that you could do yourself, with a few exceptions.

The biggest hole in the Sims is the lack of mesh-editing. In the Sims 1, we could change the 3d characteristics right out of the gate, albeit with a lot of fumbling on our part as modders. Maxis brilliantly released the Sims Body Shop before the release of TS2, which is an excellent import/export utility for skinning. Unfortunately, skinning is all you can do. Eye color, skin color, hair color, makeup, clothes and shoes are all up for messing around, but they have not given us a way to change the actual shape of these things. For example, I’m SOL if I want to make an EGL costume for the Adult Female Sim, because there is no full-skirted mesh to paint and I can’t make one myself. The skin forums are full of comments to the effect that we are “waiting for Maxis to release the new meshes.” I don’t think I have to tell you how much this sucks the Big Bowonga.

That, and there are conspicuously no pets, magic, or any of the options released in the TS1 expansions (none of which I played), with the exception of being able to throw parties and go out shopping and etc. This was a problem for me when I made the obligatory replica of my own living conditions, including my roommates and their Sphynx cat Poppy. Poppy had to be represented by a bald and extraordinarily ugly baby, who quickly grew up into a blonde and extraordinarily ugly little girl which I intentionally starved until CPS came and took her away (only because when I put her in a shed with no door and waited for her to die, she cried so much that I couldn’t take it any more and let her out. This says something either about me as a person, or about the programming itself). This is not an acceptable solution. Pets should have been a no-brainer, but of course they’re holding out for the expansion market. Bastards.

That being said, the character creation tree is really excellent. Despite the lack of fun clothing meshes, and the inclusion of shoes in the pants category (IE, shoes cannot be chosen separately from pants or skirts {and most of them are sandals, for chrissake}), the rewards of having a completely 3d, customizable face almost make up for it. Those of you who payed EVE Online (yawn) will some idea of what I’m talking about with all those facial sliders and whatnot they let you play with for portrait creation, except that in the Sims the faces are completely animated as well as just being good to look at. Gone are the days of painting doll-faces onto your sims. You now sculpt them entirely, or you can pick from dozens of pre-made faces in tons of different shapes and ethnicities, including a very fetching Asian base face-sculpt, and what is either a Vulcan or an Elf, depending on what kind of nerd you are.

Generally, one will choose a basic head shape and then adjust it accordingly. This system has some strangely obvious flaws, such as the ability to adjust everything about a nose except the amount of arch in the bridge. This is a huge DUH for anyone who knows anything about making faces in any medium, so why they left it out is beyond me. One must choose a suitably pre-arched nose from the nose bank and adjust it.

Sims now have distinct facial expressions, which translate to pretty much any face you can put on them with few problems. One must be careful not to suck the lips in so far that the teeth clip through them, for example, and generally the user has to be careful with customization so as not to make a monster (like baby Poppy, although that was intentional).

There are still some pretty inane glitches in the general intelligence of the dolls. For example, if a Sim is attempting to sleep in a room where the stereo is on, he will generally leave the room to find another bed instead of turning off the noise. On the other hand, Sims will make a large effort to sleep in their own beds unless there is a problem, such as them being so tired they faint, or the stereo thing. This is an example of the vast improvement on the stupid AI of the first game.

With all that in mind, I present to you the nearly-sole reason I have been making and playing The Sims 2 beyond my initial curiosity: http://www.elizagauger.com/kissyboys.jpg

Gentle readers, may I introduce you to my current favorite dolls, Cream (of the Filler household) and Zach (of the d’Eath household). Zach is wearing a fetching all-black outfit consisting of BDUs, a black trenchcoat, combat boots, a Zorg haircut, purple lipstick and a curlique thing on one eye. Cream is sporting a fire-dyed mohawk, red wire-rimmed glasses, red lipstick, smoky black eyeliner, a skull choker, black button-down shirt and black jeans. Zach is wearing a custome goth-pale skincolor and has grey eyes and largely European features, while Cream is a brown-eyed Asian with custom pale golden skin and vaguely androgynous features. They are in Zach’s room, which is on the second floor of the d’Eath mansion; there is techno music playing on Zach’s boombox and they have just got done with Dancing a duet. In Sim terms, they are Teen Males, and they are enjoying a Tender kiss before proceeding to Making Out. Later that night, Cream asked Zach to Go Steady and Zach agreed. Then Cream got accepted into private school and I turned the anti-aging cheat off because, by God, my work was done. Also, teenage Sims don’t have sex (in Sim terms, “Woohoo”), and I need them to become adults so I can move them into their own place with a really fantastic bed, make them have wild monkey sex all the time, and take photos of it and post them here.

In closing, I would like to state that I wouldn’t have to do this if my friends would dress like that and make out for me, which I why I think I’ll probably stop playing this as soon as May rolls around next year and I can go to goth clubs instead.

This Sunday one of my internal organs decided that it was fed up with my eating habits and took a vacation.

I was in masochists' heaven for the whole evening.

I took an analgesic, thinking that as soon as it started working I could drive to the hospital, but my stomach made it quite clear that the best place for that pill was down the toilet.

Probably it was a conspiracy of my whole gastro-intestinal tract. The bastards.

Anyway, at midnight I folded and called the hospital. I have a couple of good friends that won't mind if I wake them up asking for a ride, but what I was actually hoping for was that the paramedics could give me a shot as soon as they arrived. I admit that I wasn't thinking too rationally at the time.

The ambulance arrived in five minutes flat, faster than the pizza guy. I've never tried calling the police, so I cannot make comparisons.

As some of you know from reading my writeups, I like understatements, so I described the pain in my side as "rather severe". The sane part of my brain screamed "Rather?!?" I hope that the nurse judged my condition more from my look (pale, sweating, trembling, panting) than from my words.

I was left waiting for exactly one hour with no pain relief. It makes sense: I would look very stupid if the doctor asked "Does it hurt here?" after pumping me full of painkillers.

I also don't mind about the long wait: when I'll be 95 years old, rushing through the ER with chest pain, I really won't like to be second-in-line after some youngster with non-life-threatening conditions.

Anyway, I was diagnosed with a right kidney colic and finally they started an IV line with Buscopan, Valium and God knows what else.

(Later my doctor suggested a gallbladder colic, considering my medical history. They are triggered by eating fatty foods. This gives me a great idea for a new diet: "the Gallbladder DietTM". Forget Atkins, low-calories and Weight Watchers. With the Gallbladder DietTM, whenever you eat too much fat, you'll curl up in pain for three hours. Trust me, you'll lose weight.)

Anyway, at 1:30 I was moved to a ward that was supposed to be quiet; actually there was another patient who was hooked to a monitor that would beep once for every heartbeat, and beep loudly every time he took too long a pause while breathing. It was like waking up at 4:00 AM, setting the alarm clock to 4:05, falling asleep again, lather, rinse, repeat. The guy who was being monitored was getting as annoyed as me, so he called his doctor.

Now, the rest of the ER team was a crew of angels, but this doctor was plain stupid. She stood there saying "All the alarms (beep) of this device (beep) have been silenced (BEEP). Quit complaining (beep) and go to sleep (beep-bloody-beep)".

I was released at 7:00 AM. The whole trip costed me exactly zero euro.

I had thought forever about what I might do when Yoshiki walked into my bookstore.

I'd imagined every possible scenario, I thought. Would I cry? Shit my pants? Start sweating? Scream? Yoshiki, after all, is essentially my reason for writing - my muse, inhabitor of my dreamscape, soundtrack to my stories. He stands in the background against the skyscrapers, blowing smoke from a cigarette. He's the one I look for at Starbucks, the figure I see when I picture beauty.

Finally, I figured something out. I'd ask him out for coffee, which is a wonderfully innocent beginning. I hate coffee, but I started drinking it just for this reason. You're allowed to laugh.

I work in Encino, which is where he lives. I always knew.

But I didn't. Not really.

Today he walked up to the counter and I said hi without even thinking before looking up and realizing that in front of me was the person who had shaped my soul and given me so much hope and I almost shook as I rang up his books while my brain said do it do it do it ASK HIM OUT FOR COFFEE DO IT.

So I did, and we had a little conversation, in which he seemed sheepish at being recognized and sweetly willing to listen to everything. He asked what days and hours I worked so he could come in and see me again and we could maybe skip next door for a drink and a smoke on the stone patio.

I had to curb my brain, which was saying things like A blind man could see how much I love you.

But I settled for 'Sign here, please,' and a number of smiles.

As a young man hopping around in proto goth industrial clubs I was often told that "James Brown is Dead". Only later to find out that this was in fact not true.

The reason I found out that James Brown was in fact alive was due to a news report that he was arrested for beating his wife. In my universe wife beating is very frowned upon. So it would seem that James Brown was in fact not dead but instead an asshole.

Soon after this revelation it was reported that the wife of James Brown had died. Very sad. Yet possibly a sweet escape for her.

Adrienne Brown, the 44 year old wife of soul singer James Brown, died from complications related to cosmetic surgery. Does this sound fishy to anyone else? He later married a woman even younger who also in January of 2004 reported him to the cops for domestic violence.

It is just a mater of time till he kills again. Mark my words.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle..."
- Philo of Alexandria




Breathe.


Imagine a world where everyone suspended judgment for ten minutes. Ten seconds. An eye blink.

On September 21, 2004, Zeinab Ali Isa Abu-Salem was one of the hosts of a television show called, "The Children’s Club".

She was called quite attractive on September 22, 2004 as two Israeli soldiers stopped her from getting onto a crowded bus. A beautiful Palestinian woman everyone felt, as the soldiers wrestled with her while she threw her head back, and then staring at the sky, killed herself and the two men who prevented her from taking out the bus full of passengers with the bomb, passingers who wondered how a beautiful woman could do such a thing.

*



The message of the children's TV show was to endeavor to die for Allah. Shahada.

There were songs and puppets. Games. Join the shahids. Don't be afraid to die. A child killed in the crossfire sings: "I am waving to you not in parting, but to say, 'follow me.'"

Yassir Arafat proclaims on screen that the dead Palestinian children are the greatest message to the world.

*



Imagine for a moment a world in which you could learn of this and not judge. To receive the information without feeling a surge of the need to become angered, patriotic, or active.

What if you tried? What would you lose? Would you stop the sun from rising, or crash the moon into the ocean?

*



The soldiers and the bomber, were all barely into their 20's. The soldiers, knowing the dangers to themselves, kept the bomb away from the men, women, and children on the bus.

The bomber felt killing others through her own violent death was the only way she could contribute to the well-being of her people.

Two thousand years from now, none of this will be remembered.

A few million years from now, the sun will consume the earth. And these three people will have been gone all that time, along with the rest of us, who upon learning of their deaths, take another breath.

The moon still circles the earth. The sun will rise.

*



What if we didn't care which God our neighbors worshipped? What if we didn't care how they had sex? What if we didn't care what our neighbors watched on television, or who they voted for in the elections? What if we simply presumed they loved each other and their own children?

What if we honestly believed each human brought to life on the Earth was capable of deep and abiding love. What if we understood?

What if we never said to anyone, "If that was me I would..." or "If that was me I would never..." and instead said, "If she was me." "If he was me."

If one of those soldiers was me, he might not have been brave enough to wrestle a suicide bomber to the ground. If the bomber was me she might never have felt the need to take such drastic steps. If those people were me, they would have known a different life.

If those three young middle-eastern people were me, they might be sitting in Starbucks together, laughing about movies and telling stories about their friends. They might get married and have children of their own. They might live to be grandparents.

Instead, they're dead. Never to return.

And few of us in my country have experienced anything similar to the events that brought them to that terrible explosion on September 22, 2004.

What if we believed our not knowing invalidated our right to have an opinion on what they did that day?

*



There are people in this world who have obsessive compulsive disorder. They might repeatedly say or do things. It's having to switch a light on and off five times before leaving it on. Having to walk through every door six times before completely entering a room. Having to repeat someone's name three times every time the word passes their lips.

People with this disorder feel that if they don't do these seemingly senseless, ineffective things, that something unnamed and terrible will happen to them. They simply must repeat your name three times every time they address you, because if they don't, they'll die in a car accident on the way home. Or they'll burst into flames. They feel the horrible pressure they bear like the weight of a terrible impending test, like a death sentence scheduled to be carried out that they postpone hundreds of times per day by spinning in their seats, or scratching their ears every time they sit.

It may seem silly to us. How does scratching your ear five times every time you sit, or jumping up and down in place ten times before getting into bed keep the sun rising and the moon circling the earth?

We think it's silly, but we're not them. They know they keep us safe.

*



On September 11, 2001 people in New York City with obsessive compulsive disorder were convinced they forgot to scratch their head the fifth time, or missed the twelfth twirl before sitting, or misaligned the forks and knives in the drawer of silverware.

And some people were sure they'd forgotten to pray correctly. Or that God had been angered, and it was someone's fault.

And thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, imagined to themselves what it would be like to have the ceiling fall in, crushing them to dust and rubble. They played the scene inside their minds over and over. Compulsively. Obsessively.

What were their last thoughts? What were their last feelings?

Why wasn't it me, instead?

*



Three days ago a U.S. pilot flying a mission over Fallujah dropped a bomb into a crowd of thirty unarmed people running down the center of a street where a fight was raging. He was following orders. The official military commentary was that the people were combatants rushing to reinforce a group attacking U.S. forces. But the ground troops knew that insurgents wouldn't run down the middle of a street. That they were probably just people, which is why nobody was shooting at them.

When it was over, the pilot said, "Aww, dude."

If they were me, those people would be walking their dogs in the park. They'd be picking up Chinese food for dinner. They'd be renting DVDs for the weekend.

Millions of years from now, none of this will matter.

*



I don't know what it's like to have my office collapse on me and kill me. I don't know what it's like to have an F15 drop a bomb onto me, or to have to pull the trigger to drop the bomb, or to love something so much I'm willing to strap a bomb onto myself and walk into a crowded bus, or to love something so much I'm willing to dive onto someone wrapped in bombs. I don't know what it's like to have my heart so filled with pride or grief or hate or love that I would hijack a plane and fly it into an office building.

I don't know how any of these people feel.

And I don't know how to stop it.

But I know that no additional anger, no additional blame finding, no additional name calling or shouting or fighting or killing is going to make it better any more than spinning three times before walking through a doorway.

It's time to stop spinning, and try something else. The moon will stay in the sky. God will still love us. Maybe even more.

Breathe.

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