Thought I'd drop you a line again today. There really isn't much to say that you haven't heard before. Just taking a break from the monotony of work to think of you. It always brings a smile to my face.

You don't know how much I rely on you sometimes to get through the day. You're something I look forward to, something I can think about to get my mind off the frustrations of work. Returning to you always brings a spring to my step and makes me a little less patient waiting in traffic.

The good times we share together, even doing stupid things like playing Halo for hours and hours, are things I will always treasure. I feel so lucky I found you that I sometimes wonder if I deserve so much happiness from one person.

Here's to many many more years of sharing our lives - something that I can continuously look forward to. May they be as fortunate as how I feel I've been with you in my life up to this moment.

~Lest We Forget~



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
.




It was on this day, 78 years ago, that the ANZACs landed at the Gallipoli peninsula.

It was on this day, 78 years ago, that the ANZACs walked into hell itself, thanks to a blunder by the navy.

It was on this day, 78 years ago, that the first of 10,000 of our brothers died for their country.

It is on this day, every year since then, that we remember those brave soldiers who fell.

Today, is ANZAC day. The first one since the last of the Gallipoli ANZACs passed away.



4am. I never wake up at 4am. I consider it to still be the middle of the night. Today however, is a special day. It is the day my country gets together to honour the ones we have lost. To honour the ones that were lucky to return. To remember the friendships made and lost. The day also holds even more meaning to me, as it was at midnight on this day 2 years ago, that my grandfather died.

4:28am. I stand on my front lawn, unable to be at the dawn service. My head is bowed, remembering them. The men. The boys. The brave. The heros. I raise my head and look in the direction of the city, to the tomb of remembrance. Somewhere off in the distance, someone starts to play the Last Post. I salute until the music has ended.

I know, as I stand there, tears are being shed. Frail old men wear their coats, adorned with their now heavy military medals and badges. Men who fought for our freedom. Then I smile, remembering the thousands of young people like me, who are helping to keep the ANZAC spirit alive, even while the men and women who created it leave this world.

I turn to walk in, then I stop and think. We idolise and almost worship our sports stars. We pay these people hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Ask any sports fan who their hero is, and it is bound to be the star of whatever team they go for. They are regarded as heros, yet what have they done? What have they given to the nation to be held in such high regard? These men aren't heros. The frail old men who march down the street every 25th of April are the heros. Hell, the men and women protecting our cities are the heros. The people who volunteer their time to help the less fortunate are the heros. They are the people who we should hold in such high regard, not out sports stars.

Next year I will be there. I will stand next to men 5 times my age and remember. I will be there cheering them as they march in the annual ANZAC day parade. I will listen to the stories they tell. I will lay a wreath for the fallen.

I walk inside from the cold and slide back in to my bed, content in the knowledge that I’m keeping the ANZAC spirit and memories alive.




They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We WILL remember them.





~Lest We Forget~

States in trouble

One hears a lot these days about how all the states in the US are so pressed for cash that they're having to cut back services. I think this is probably a good thing, the states have gotten completely out of hand in spending.

I got to thinking about this when I ran across the following:

http://www.tabcc.org/News/Current/news030417.html

Since 1978 the Texas budget has grown more than 600 percent, a clear indicator that spending and efficiency has not necessarily gone hand in hand.
I'll say! During the period of 1978 to 2003, spending went up a whopping six times, while inflation was about 280 percent. In other words state spending in constant dollars more than doubled in that 25 year period. "Wait," I hear you say, "the population probably doubled in that time!" Nope, it only increased by 57 percent. Constant spending per Texan, therefore, increased by about 35 percent over that time.

This during a period (especially the 1990's) when overall US efficiency was climbing drammatically. Somehow, government never manages to cash in on efficiency increases that bussinesses have to take advantage of or go out of business. You can buy a lot more car for your money now than in 1978 (in constant dollars), and a lot more food and so on. With government, though, the trend is in the other direction.

This spending increase is true of states in general. From 1978 to 2002, spending by state governments increased from $263B to $1,279B, about 480 percent (Texas, obviously, was trying harder than average). Interestingly, federal spending during that period went from $456B to $1,973B, an increase of "only" 432 percent (all of these stats curtesy of http://www.fedstats.gov, your friend when you want to know what your government is up to).

Clearly, the states have been through an orgy of spending increases, even worse (if you can believe it) than the federal government, and faster than population growth and inflation. Texas now spends over $5,000 per person living in the state each year (the federal government is even worse, over $6,000 per person per year).

Personally, I don't think I'm getting my $5,000 worth

Even 2,000 miles away, she still never ceases to make me feel so needed, so loved. I could swear we have a link that stretches across the nation, keeping our hearts entwined, never breaking.

And yet, each day without her is so hard. Not feeling her embrace, not hearing her voice over more than the downsampled transmission telephone allows. Walking the halls of school, looking for her out of habit, and seeing only the goggle-eyed stares and blank faces of the other sheep in my high school.

Life without her here is dull. I miss her more and more each minute.

On the phone with her, however, I feel at peace. I've never met a person that can make me feel so wonderful, so needed, and yet so worried. She's become bulimic, and she sounds weaker each time I talk to her. She says that I make her happy, though. I talk to her and her spirits rise. I smile even when she has bad news, the sound of her voice can bring me out of the blue funk I live in anymore. I am happy overall, I can restrain the sliver of depression that taints my smile when I am with my best friends, but I can't seem to shake the feeling of aimlessness.

Ever sit at a computer, and open Internet Explorer (or "Intern Explorer", as it's labelled on my PC), and just scroll through the about:home page, close it, and open it again, only to do the very same thing? It's a habit I have when I'm on the phone with her, or just simply thinking about her.

I'm not obsessed. I'm just very very in love. And very lonely.

School will be hard. Graduation is attainable, but I have to really strain and do my best, because I've let my grades slip yet again, as I always do, and now I've got to resucitate them. It's not as hard as it sounds, but when I come home to my computer, my mind drifts. And, anyway, being a senior, the school year is truncated, and we take our exams early. I want to be sitting with my class when the fire department gets called and alerted to our fire code infringement. I want to be able to tell my grandparents and parents that I have finally earned my high school diploma. I want to be able to get my driver's license, and drive on my own, dammit.

All of this shit is my fault. It's like a pile of bricks I knocked on top of myself, and my shoulders have almost given out.

But, I soldier on. I will always do so. I have to remain strong.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.

BLAME WHEATON; IT'S HIS FAULT

A year ago today, I was browsing the forums at Fark.com, probably waiting for somebody to respond to a long-since forgotten pithy comment I had made. Bored to tears, I strayed over to wilwheaton.net to see what the ST:TNG veteran had to say. Nothing memorable, it seems, because it didn't take long for me to start perusing his links page. And that led me here.

In just under seven hours, I will celebrate my one-year noding anniversary. When I first got to E2, I was a bit overwhelmed. So I read through the FAQs, and decided to start by noding what I knew. And, contrary to the experience of many, my first writeup didn't get nuked. And neither did my second. I may have become a bit overconfident following my initial successes, however, as my third died a brutal (but well-deserved) death. Regardless of the fate of my Ralph Wiggum quotes, I'm still here.

I'm still here, unlike Joey Michaels, who activated his E2 account the same day as I registered mine. I didn't know Joey then, but we wound up competing against each other in survivorBLOG3, and now are co-conspirators at vutant.com. In the coming weeks, I will try to bring him back into the fold. (edit: He's since logged in to his account, meaning he finally remembered his password. Halfway there!)


My anniversary has been marred somewhat by recent struggles with software. A Microsoft "Critical Update" left Internet Explorer functioning erratically, and will not allow me to open Outlook Express at all. Tinkering with the applications has thusfar failed to fix the problem, so I've resorted to the next best thing: replacing them. So here I am using a new browser (Opera) and a new e-mail program (Microsoft Outlook) for the first time since late 1999, when I finally gave up on Netscape.

I enjoy the days that I get here at work before anyone else. It gives me time to get my day started and organized and gives me at least 20 minutes of time when I can get a project started and hopefully finished before my phone starts to ring off the hook.

As I mentioned in yesterday's daylog I was trying to prove to my boss that backups were important. One key word that helped me achieve victory is auditors. I mentioned how it was something in our IT audit that was recommended and this was how I was going to answer the point. So the president decided to do the backups once a month.

Another point of contention is the fact we at the bank have several key upgrades this summer and the president wanted these updates done off hours, as in the middle of the night. Well there's a slight problem, our support level at IBM doesn't allow for middle of the night support, especially in the install of an OS upgrade. So there a whole Saturday down the drain, involed in an upgrade. All I can hope for is that it is easy and simple. I pray that it goes off without a hitch.

Fear and SARS in Shanghai.

I was on my way to Beijing the other day and a strange thing happened...

Two days ago the masks were at about 1 in 100 on the street. People with masks were getting frank stares, and pitying glances. Everyone knew that Shanghai had escaped the worst of the Severe Actute Respiratory Syndrome, and that we'd all be laughing about this in a few days. But then the news that Beijing had just upped the number of cases started to really filter down.

Two days ago I got a phone call that all the classes I was returning to Beijing to teach were cancelled, and several other friends who are now stuck in what is essentially a closed city phoned me to plead that I stay away.

Yesterday when I walked past the gates of the local army barracks, the soldiers on guard duty were wearing masks. Hello, I thought, something has changed. For Chinese soldiers to do that, heck for any soldiers to do that someone in charge somewhere, someone with facts at their disposal, has given that order.

Yesterday I sat at dinner with three friends in a restaurant. Somewhere, a couple of tables down and across, someone started coughing. All conversation stopped, and everyone in the restaurant stared. Several people covered their mouths. The cougher experienced the collective apprehension and felt moved to say "La! La!" meaning "The spices! The spices!" We all laughed, nervously.

Today I didn't want to go out at all. My flight back to Australia (Beijing is no longer an option, no matter how much I want to go "home") is on Sunday, and I just realised (ok so I'm stupid) what kind of nightmare I'm placing myself into should I evince so much as a sniffle after I arrive in Sydney.

Today I forced myself to go out and get something to eat (no use lowering my immune response) and saw that today masks are about 1 in 20.

Tomorrow they'll be 1 in 10 and suddenly I'm glad I've got a plane ticket. I'm sorry, maybe I've let the fear win, maybe I will look back on this and squirm at my own cowardice, but goddamn this is suddenly a scary place to be.

Tomorrow I know I'll be hoping that the planes will still be flying. I don't know about SARS, but the fear is here, and it's spreading.

I don't know how many basketball fans reside in this little corner of cyberspace, but it's playoffs time. I've been a Minnesota Timberwolves fan since we were lucky enough to be blessed with a franchise, and last night saw the biggest victory the team had ever achieved.

This victory came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers, and provided many Minnesota basketball fans with a glimpse of possibility. Minnesota sports teams are somewhat of an anomaly in todays sports world because of the fact that the market is fairly small in comparison to LA and New York. The teams here need to be built, because we can't afford to buy them. I believe any true sports fan can look at all Minnesota sports, minus the Vikings who are nothing but a thorn in my sports loving side, and be impressed with the way the teams are able to develop competitive squads. The Twins and Timberwolves are great evidence of that.

Going back to the original intent of this commentary, I would like to provide summation of what is being called the biggest victory in franchise history. The first three quarters saw the Wolves leading with margins between 6 and 15 points, never seriously being threatened. They were making shots when it counted and playing stifling defense. But the fourth quarter turned into a different story.

Apparently, the professional NBA officials were kidnapped and gagged between the third and fourth quarters, because whoever was making the calls in the closing minutes of the quarter was definitely not of sound mind. Here's a list of the grievances, all of which I expect a personal apology for from the NBA. As a consumer of their product, I expect and deserve much higher quality.

  • Kevin Garnett fouling out. Let's be realistic here, Kevin Garnett is an MVP candidate who has probably fouled out in less than 1 percent of his career games. When a player of his caliber has two fouls in the first three quarters, then racks up three more in three minutes, something stinks and it isn't the jock straps. The sixth foul, where Robert Horry took a flop, happened to be the best acting I've seen come out of LA in years.
  • The playground bullying of Wally Sczerbiack. There are three distinct plays that show complete lack of high quality officiating. The first was when wally was pushed out of bounds on a crucial inbounds play. The next two were no contact, I repeat, NO CONTACT shooting fouls. The first turned into a four point play by Kobe Bryant that was the single largest factor in this game going to overtime. Replays confirmed that Kobe was untouched, unless of course the brushing of Wally's jersey against Bryant's hip is considered contact. The other foul was ridiculous. A fast break layup that failed to touch rim was whistled even though replays once again showed no contact. This time there wasn't even the brushing of a jersey. You could have fit Shaq in the gap between the two players.
  • Jack Nicholson being courtside. Who's this guy kidding.

A perusal of the sports page led me to the conclusion that most knowledgeable basketball fans would consider this game to quite possibly be the worst officiating they have ever seen. Blown call after blown call could have cost the Wolves this series, but congratulations to them for overcoming the adversity and giving a foot up the ass to all those who thought the Lakers would blow them away.

Day 18 - Looking For A New Apartment


If you haven't read Day 2 - "The Day of Realisation", please read it first otherwise some of this won't make sense.

I've calmed down now
Ok, I admit it, I was ranting. Big time. I apologise to those e2 users who can't stand the mundane ranting in the daylogs. I like to think that my rant wasn't that mundane and provided some entertainment for at least one person. However, I've had just over 2 weeks to calm down, think about it a bit more, and put some perspective on things. Don't misunderstand the situation though, my flatmate still pops up behind me with a cheery hello (making me jump usually) - an improvement on the "dog meeting master" scenario from before. I've turned into a mindless drone at home - walking around the house expressionless, listening to the chatter but not listening and somehow not losing my rag. Indeed I have mastered the true meaning of "expressionless", a disciple of "passive" and jedi of "uncaring". Yes, my heart has officially turned to stone. If that means I don't have to listen to someone else's problems - all, 3,642 of them (that day), then that's the way I've gotta be. I'm even prepared to be called selfish. And why the hell not? We're all a little selfish at some time in our life. Well, this is mine.

Sounds like you're trying to justify yourself
Well, maybe I am! I'm not normally so callous. But this is a time when everything is about me - where I want to live, and who I want to live with. Where I want to work, and what I want to do. This is about being myself. Something some people find very hard to do. I'm fed up trying to be what everyone thinks I should be, it's time to be me.

On the offensive? What now..?
Sorry...we've deviated a little. I've come to terms with living on my own now. At first I was convinced I'd be lonely but now I just think I'd enjoy my own space having not had it for so long. The balance has been tipped by talking to a couple of my friends who have their own place and having seen how they live, I've gotta admit it looks pretty fun. Although I did have a small relapse of faith when my girlfriend told me she'd never live on her own. At first I was thinking "is this freaky?" but no, it's called getting old and needing your space. That's cool. And as I type this, smiling, I think about how great it's going to be...

I picked up a local paper this morning and thumbed through it over lunch. Nothing much today, guess I'll have to keep looking - and sign up with one of the property websites. Fun fun fun...looking for a new place (note my sarcastic tones). Last time I did this I looked at some pretty ropey places. There was the one where someone had died in the closet and it stank of dead people. There was the one the size of a fridge. There was the massively overpriced gorgeous one and there was the last minute find that proved to be perfect. Almost the stereotypical set of apartments. And while we're talking stereotypical, jesus, why did God create property agents? Those guys are pure evil.

More to follow...


If you've got any comments or suggestions feel free to /msg me.

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