I had really bad luck today.

I don't know what it is. First it rains. I work outside. Then I'm just bad all day, tripping, backing over stuff, breaking stuff, almost killing myself...

Now, I work in a lumber yard. We ship packages out to housing developments and the like. We've normally got 5 people building these packages, and I usually just clean up after them. But, since Rodger's on vacation, I build one once in a while.

I walk into the break room at 7 in the morning, and am told that another two of these guys didn't make it in. In other words, fuck I'm gonna be busy today.

So I get out there and I'm wet and I'm miserable and I'm pulling freaking rebar around and I'm tripping over stuff, and I'm breaking boards, and I'm forgetting to throw stuff on orders, I'm having stuff falling off my forklift as I'm driving around, and I'm having the banding that we use to secure the boards of lumber together breaking on me.

It keeps on going like this. Soon after lunch, I go to throw out some stuff, but the garbage is full. So, I go grab this big concrete block with some chains attached that we use to crush the garbage down.

I go, crush it, and lift it back out. Now, the spot where we keep the block was just on the other side of the aisle from where I am, so I just go and back up. Of course, I'm backing up a slight incline.

I start to lower the load, and the incline seems to be getting a bit steeper. At first I think maybe I hit a block of wood or something, but it soon gets a lot steeper than that.

So, as soon as I figure out that, oh shit, this thing's tipping over, I grab onto the steering wheel and hold on tight.

Fortunately the damned thing only tipped forward, otherwise I likely woulda had a nice meeting with the pavement a second after the forklift hit the pavement and I kept on going. Assuming of course that I didn't let instincts take over and do something stupid like try and jump out and get caught between the cage and the ground. That would have hurt.

So yeah, I just hopped down from there, and got the hell out of the way so the other guys could upright my forklift with theirs. Nice of them.

And the kicker is that my luck didn't get any better until about 2 hours after that.

Was still a weird day. Although technically crappy, I was actually having fun. I guess it's because A) I didn't get hurt. And B) While I was breaking a minor amount of stuff, none of it was mine! Alright!

... stupid work, I can't wait till school starts again.

I'd like to start out by stating that I like teaching. No, really, I do. I'm a TA at the University of Iowa in the CS department, which is filled (for the most part, at least) with interesting students who enjoy the material and are as studious as one could hope for at a Big Ten school known for its business college.

Of course, basic statistics state that in a school as big as mine with as many students pass through those classes, not all of them are going to pass. Whether this is because they can't seem to knuckle down and study, drink too much, or are just in the wrong field, they just don't pass. Some don't come to class more than once a week, or don't finish their homework, or don't debug their programs, or just don't get done with their tests. In the end, I don't have much say over a student's grade. I'm given a key, a point breakdown, and I grade the stuff. The prof assigns the grades.

Why, then, am I the one who gets the email saying (and this is a direct quote), "Thanks for the F, you souless bastard."?

Now, if it was me, I would have spelled it "soulless," though that's neither here nor there. I think he was the only student to fail - the other two near the bottom came to see all throughout the last couple weeks of class, and really pulled themselves out. This guy saw me once, asking where he was in the class, and wrote some emails along the same lines. On his exam, he wrote me a nice little story on the back of his exam sheet, saying, "I don't think I could stand to see an F on my transcript," along with a family-emergency style reason for why he couldn't study. Regardless, I graded the test fairly, wrote the score he earned on the front, and the prof assigned the grade.

Of course, what my id really wants me to do is write this kid an email of the form, "F$ck you, you f$cking f$ck." My superego wants me to write him a nice polite letter explaining that I'm not the one who assigned the grade, and that he'd most likely been given the grade he deserved though I did all I could for him. Somewhere in the middle is a little voice (ego, perhaps) that wants me to send this to the head of the department, looking for a little assurance that I won't be seeing this student again.

Ah well. I didn't need that soul anyway.

Addendum - liveforever has suggested that in calling me "souless," the student did not make a spelling error, but was saying "sou-less," referring to my economic plight in life. Couple this with knowledge that my birth was indeed illegitimate, then perhaps the email can be seen as a heartfelt thanks to a fatherless, struggling grad student.
I over stayed my welcome. I have to stop doing that. My welcome extended into the night until it was 3 in the morning. I was yawning, he was going to bed when I left. I put on my walkman and take a deep breath of the draught-- dust and dead fish in the creek. I will walk along, and I will not think about the fact that I could smell him there in the room, I will not try to describe the smell, I will not think about the way he talked, I will not dwell on watching him type with his guitar on his lap. I will not do these things, because they are stupid. Really.

Instead, I turn my thoughts to the last night I got really fucked up. I was in an apartment full of fucked up people.

There was this girl there. She had long dark hair and interesting eyes. Her face was round. Her smile was real and radiant. She looked like she was hispanic, or maybe Hawaiian, or maybe... is it racist to say I think people of mixed race are hot? That's probably one of those questions everyone answers differently, but what I liked about the way she looked was that she was impossible to place anywhere specific because she was totally unique.

That's hot.

At the apartment full of fucked up people, I mentioned I'd been to Germany. That caught her interest.

"You speak German?"

"Er... yeah"

"Nee, echt?"

"Doch. Dass kann ich..."

"Oh my God, dass ist so geil, wo warst du in Deutschland?"

"In der nahe von Bremen habe ich gewohnt..."

The other fucked up people in the apartment started complaining because they couldn't handle the German while being on stuff. We didn't care, we talked about all sorts of shit in German. She was interesting. Enthusiastic. She was speaking German to me. She asked me if people in the area of Germany I'd lived in were racist, and I had to explain in english, partly because it was complicated and partly because I was picturing her naked. She listened respectfully to my German and my english on the subject of racist Germans, but I knew I couldn't be impressing her. When I was over there, they told me 'oh your accent is so good' and 'oh you picked up the language so fast,' and true or not, I've been in the States for 2 or 3 years now and my mouth can't get around the boxy vowels anymore, I sound like shit. Maybe it was my failure to impress her that did it, although probably not, but shortly after we stopped speaking German, she leaned over and kissed her boyfriend.


And that boy I won't think about as I walk to my bed, his girlfriend will call him first thing in the morning. She's amazing, and further more she doesn't need him to explain guitar tabs to her and she can tell the Ramones appart.

No one needs me much and no one is waiting up, and for that reason the night, in it's clammy quiet, is all mine.

Jessica Turns Thirty

edited to note: I turn thirty on September 25th. But my husband claims that he never knows what to do or what to get...so this is a list submitted in preparation.

By now I should really have everything I’ve ever wanted. At least, that’s how I pictured it when I was seventeen. I said, actually, "When I’m thirty, life will be great. I’ll be a movie star and I’ll be married to Mark Grace, living in Chicago on Lake Shore Drive, and we’ll have babies and a pool and I’ll be able to go to every Depeche Mode concert I want to."

So here I am! On the brink of thirty. I DO live in Chicago, but I wouldn’t freaking DREAM of living on Lake Shore Drive. Haven’t seen Depeche Mode since 1990. I’ve replaced them with seeing Rammstein six times. It’s almost the same. I do have a dog, and she’s sort of like a baby, as far as demanding help with her toileting and food prep. And I married an actor/english teacher who likes baseball…so that’s sort of like Mark Grace. And thank GOD I didn’t marry Mark Grace. He’s so OLD.

But there are still things I want. Rammstein Live in Berlin on DVD for instance…is a gift I would enjoy. And why can’t anyone find me the Mutter video on VHS or even MPEG for God’s sake? Speaking of that, I’d like to take a trip to the Mutter Museum in Pennsylvania…so I can finally see a REAL jarbaby.

I’d like a t-shirt from the Chicago Fire Department across the street from my office building, engine 98. They’re so…



I’d like Brett Favre to fail.

I’d like Jim Miller to succeed.

I'd like a big white cake with lemony filling and thick, sugary white icing and big yellow and pink flowers. I want to blow out candles and make a wish.

I’d like to have another spa day…massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, haircut, luxuriant bath, a shampoo and scalp massage from a well muscled, German cabana boy, champagne and then dinner at Wildfire.

I’d like to go to Brookfield Zoo. I’d like a coat like the one in xXx. I’d like Pitch Black on DVD. I want to sit down with Vin Diesel and give him lessons in how to kiss a girl. I’d like to have the energy and time to start up my own business so I can work at home.

I’d like just a little PEACE AND QUIET, is that too much to ask? I’d like someone to tell me how to get rid of the stupid Launcher on my iMac…and some good tickets to see the Blackhawks play the Blues, right down on the ice.

I really want to go back to Vegas and stay at the Bellagio. I want to be a ‘high roller’, a ‘whale’, but not in the actual, weight-of-a-whale sense. Which brings me to my desire to lose 35 pounds, fix the shape of the back of my head, and get a tattoo.

I want an old copy of A Tale of Two Cities with an old inscription on the front cover from one lover to another, dated sometime in the 1880’s or some such crap.

I'd like to know what it's like to be beautiful...devastatingly beautiful, and have a flat rock hard stomach. I want to live in Gwen Stefani's body...if only for a day.

I want a book of Jan Saudek photography. I'd like the book of photography called Men Before 10 a.m....for...uh...no particular reason. I’d like to add to my tiny but growing collection of "Naked Trees". I would like a bottomless basket of bathtub supplies…mud packs and bubbles and scrubbies and oil and salt and fizzies and mitts and all that stuff.

I’d like the fitted sheet and mattress cover to STAY ON THE MATTRESS.

I’d like to spend an entire day in bed with a big pile of magazines and people serving my food and drink needs.

But these are just suggestions people…You've got about a month to plan it. I mean really…what I’ve always wanted…is for you to SURPRISE me.

Today is the day I make my irregular pilgrimage to the comic shop. It's been so long since I've last been that I'm expecting the usual scolding from the shop staff. "Where have you been ... your box is full ... we were thinking about canceling your sub ..."

It's funny to think that I'm 27 and have been reading comics since I was 11. That's 16 years of 4-color and black and white worlds -- Marvel, DC, Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, tons more. I remember my father telling me I was "too old" for comics when I was 11. If he was still alive, I wonder what he'd say to know that his adult son still reads stories about buff guys in tights who beat each other up. He'd probably not think too highly of it.

I don't know what compels me to read comics -- it's probably the confluence of serialized storytelling and collectibility. I'm a sucker for a cliffhanger and series of things. And since most comic series never end, collecting the entire series is a necessity.

As I don't have a car and live many miles from the nearest full service shop -- a great store in College Park, MD called "The Closet of Comics" -- going to the comic shop really is a pilgrimage. It entails hopping on the Metro for 30 minutes and then walking on foot for about another mile to the store. There's another store much closer to me in Georgetown, but it's not the same -- it concentrates on selling action figures, t-shirts, and statues. I've been going to the Closet since I was a freshman at the University of Maryland 10 years ago, and many of the people that worked there then still work there now. It would just be wrong not to go. It's worth the extra effort and lying to my boss that I have a Doctor's appointment to go there. I feel like I owe them my money.

1:58 ET -- only two minutes to go before I leave for my "appointment." Even at 27, I can't help but be a little excited about the prospect of a stack of fresh comics ready to be read. It's a strange feeling to describe to the uninitiated, but one I hope to enjoy for many more years to come.

Yet Another Reason Why ADD Sucks

If you have read my writeup Behind Brown Eyes - Life of an ADD-er you know I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Here is another example of how it can smack your life around.

I live with my girlfriend. She is finishing off her undergraduate degree. Oftentiems I will take her to class in the morning, sometimes I will even hang out on campus since she has a permit to park there. Normally said permit is in her car but it wasn't this morning because we had her car serviced yesterday and forgot to put it back in.

So we drove up to campus and realized we didn't have the permit, so I just dropped her off. She told me to go home, have some breakfast, grab the permit, and come back. I thought that was a good idea. So I went home and had a bowl of cereal.

After eating I jumped in the car to head up to campus. I got halfway there and realized that I didn't have the permit--I had forgotten it. So I turned around and went back home. When I got there I got out of the car, unlocked the other car's door and grabbed the permit (we were using them in my car). I then got back in her car and drove up to campus.

I was just about there when I looked for the permit--it wasn't hanging where I thought I had put it. I looked all over the place (as much as you can while driving) and they were nowhere to be found. So I turned around and headed back home.

I pulled into the driveway and could see the permit through my car's rear window, hanging from the rear-view mirror. I hadn't taken the permit, I had just slid it down so that it would show (you know, for all those parking cops who come into my driveway looking for a campus permit).

I got the permit and went up to campus. I thought I would be parking but instead saw my girlfriend walking down the road on campus, so I picked her up and we went home. I had wasted a whole hour--so much so that I didn't even need the permit anymore.

Maybe I need to change my medication.

I'm home alone, third floor apartment, and hear the buzzer. "Hello?" A woman's voice says, "Can you buzz me in?" The buzzer doesn't work, so I run down the stairs. As I run down the stairs, I hear her buzzing all the other apartments. Hmmm, not a good sign.

There's a dowdy girl who starts rapidly explaining that she is working on a project related to careers and she is talking to people about what they do. As she talks, she puts some sort of card into my hand that purports to explain the business. There are phrases scribbled on it, such as "Ask me how I get points!"

All in all it looks like it will wind up in a request for money. The girl does not look like a high schooler, not really, and when she pauses to ask, "Can you help me?" I say, "No, I'm pretty busy right now," and try to hand the card back.

She seems astonished. "You're not going to help me?"



"No. Sorry." I shut the door.

I hear her outside muttering, "No. No. No," in imitation of me.

I am speechless right now I will never let go of you, and I know that what we shared was brief and possibly meaningless, but, I can't help but feel the way I do now. I want you to know that, even though this all sounds like dramatic bullshit, I want you to know that you will always be hiding in my dreams. You will always be on a pedestal in my eyes. Spending time with you and being with you was a dream come true, and I will never forget you, ever. I wish I could have said yes the other night because I wanted to..... But, it would have hurt me in the long run, and I would have left for home feeling even more incomplete than I already know I am going to......... "If things were different....." "But they ARE different...." So, we go our seperate ways for now my friend....perhaps to later meet at a different crossroad someday... Me, wishing that day could be tommorow, me wishing that I too could be a dream of yours come true.

I want to give you, whatever you need.

What is it you need? Is it what I need?

I want to give you whatever you need. What is it you need?

Is it within me?

Dashboard Confessional

Sorry everyone, sometimes these things just need to be said and done.

What am I? (A short explanation of human existence.)

I am a human. I am one form of the idea human among billions. I am not moral, but ethical; I follow my own conscience and not any external moral code. I am a notheist. Which is to say, I am neither atheist nor theist, nor am I agnostic; I simply choose to ignore the God question entirely. I want to become who I am. I want people to say nothing when I am old and gray; I wish only that they shall remember me fondly. The most important thing to me is probably myself. Maybe that's shallow, but what else do I have to live for? I have a penchant for the ridiculous; when life gets too mundane or ordinary, I arbitrarily change something, despite the consequences. I view success not as a worldly persuit but as a question of happiness; I don't believe money is necessary for happiness, and therefore for success either. I have a sense of aesthetics that prevented me from buying most cars within my price range, and I ended up with a Mazda MX-6. It's impractical and falling apart, and I'm broke, but it looks really good! When I'm not sleeping or thinking (or both), I'm playing computer/video games or writing software. I validate my own existence through other people. Sometimes I wonder whether I would even use a computer at all if not for the internet and its unbelievable capacity as a communications medium. I'm considering studying computer science in college, but I don't know if that's what I want to devote my life to... it just happens to be what I'm good at.

bittersweet thursday

weill in japan: day 44

Two days remain in my trip. Today was a sad day in class, but got better at home.

Today, August 15, is the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II according to our professor. Today is a day of remembrance for veterans who served in Japan's armed forces during the war.

The day started just fine, as an unexpected ten people showed up to class. Two of the five people who missed presentations yesterday returned. After some brief discussions that didn't go anywhere, we watched some highlights from the popular high school baseball tournament now going on. Similar to the NCAA basketball finals] in the U.S., the high school finals consist of teams from every prefecture competing in a single-elimination tournament.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes, and also features skits being presented by the various classes. While most classes' skits have been in the works for weeks, we were only invited to discuss ours today. We plan to do five minutes' worth of sketches illustrating various annoyances and curiosities about daily life in Japan, but I'm praying that we can all get out of it somehow.

Today was the last day when we watched "Beautiful Life," a TV drama with pretty good production values. I watched the first part of today's episode on Monday afternoon, and explained it to my classmates before we watched the remainder. It turns out that this episode was actually the series finale, and features an ending which is anything but happy. Some people in the class broke down in tears, and the mood was very somber in the closing hour of class.

After helping a classmate compile some of the professor's digital photos into a booklet for the class, I left campus, got some lunch, and headed home. With no homework due tomorrow, I only have to wash my clothes and pack on Friday night before departing on Saturday. It's nice not to have anything to do.

In Japan, there is a tradition of reciprocal gifts. Any gift received must be repaid with a gift in return of about half the perceived value. I gave my host family a gift from Long Island's famous Big Duck shortly after I arrived. Today, my host mother gave me a couple of gifts to take back to the States: a set of traditional toys including a top and a paper balloon, and a traditional-looking hand towel. They're small enough to pack in my luggage, and they were a nice gesture from my host mother. That nice surprise made up for a saddening day in class.


Money is holding up just well. On Friday and Saturday, I can spend the last few thousand yen in my wallet before heading home.

Today's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" episode was particularly profitable for a contestant who knows English. One contestant got a ¥2,500,000 question asking for the chemical abbreviation for gold, another was asked to identify the abbreviation for a company's top executive, and a third was asked for the English name for the stick a conductor uses. My host family, the contestant, and the studio audience were all convinced it was takuta, the loanword used to refer to that stick, but I insisted it was baton. "Baton" was, of course, the correct answer to the shock of everyone in attendance.

I blew ¥200 in the tin badge vending machine again, getting two new badges for my Famicom collection. They both come from the game "Ice Climber," which came back into the spotlight last year after its title characters were added to the game "Super Smash Bros. Melee" for GameCube. I now have seven of the 15 badges in the collection.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes, and I've cleared my camera's memory out to take plenty of pictures. One of the staffers took a group photo today with a total of nine cameras for 12 people, and I expect that sort of thing to happen regularly tomorrow after the shortened class session. Packing everything will be no small task, but it will be doable.

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