I think that the kitten is actually a very small goat.

He will eat practically anything, especially if he sees people eating it. Dairy and meats are a given; he even wants hot sausage. So far, he's also devoured spaghetti sauce, bread, popcorn, apple cinnamon oatmeal, and rice pudding. The only things he hasn't eaten are orange and banana.

Ironically, he won't eat the new brand of kitten food we got him. The other cats won't touch it, either. I should ask for a refund:

Dear Kitten Food Manufacturer: Our kitten savors a wide variety of flavors, from caramel pudding to ranch dressing to taco meat to the other cats' butts. However, he won't touch your kitten chow. We got ripped off. Please give us our money back.

I know that "people food", particularly cheese and milk-based products, are not good for cats. I've been trying very hard to limit his intake, but he makes an amazing pest of himself when we're eating. He tries to get into your lap, tries to climb your leg. He meows piteously, and claws the carpet and door frantically if you shut him out. He acts like he hasn't seen food in weeks and we're starving him. So we inevitably give him tidbits to keep the peace.

He's also an incredible catnip fiend. If he hears one of us opening the jar, he bounds over, meowing insistently. I don't think a cat can seriously OD on 'nip, but by god I think the little guy would try. At least he's tidier than our other 'nip-fiending cat, who will eat a little and them vigorously roll in the rest of it until she's completely covered in leaves, making her look like a dirty cotton ball.

But kittens are great. Who needs cable when you've got a kitten, a jar of catnip, and a feathered bob on a string?

 

In other news, I set myself on fire. Briefly. You know how candle manufacturers tell you to keep your candle's wick trimmed? There's a reason for that. I was burning an aromatherapy candle in the bathroom, and when I blew it out, the overlong tip broke off, flew up, and landed, still burning, on the sleeve of my bathrobe. I of course didn't realize it had happened until I felt pain and looked down to see that my sleeve was aflame.

Yes, it was a hot time in the bathroom tonight. A regular terrycloth inferno. Far too hot to handle. Smokin'.

But, given my location, plenty of water was nearby. I extinguished myself posthaste, and no serious damage resulted, other than my feeling tremendously foolish afterward.

It's 2010. Computers are built into shirts, the cars are all hybrids, Palestine is on the West Bank, Eminem is doing lounge in Vegas, and you're paying off student loans with a night job serving Bubble Tea to VR-addicted Irish tourists at Borders&Noble-Ikea-Starbucks Delicatessen-R-Us.

Iraq is a prosperous democracy. After a brief war stretching through a few months of 2003, American and British forces easily crushed its demoralized and ill-funded military (Saddam escaped to a Kenyan villa the night before his regime finally collapsed), and the transition government, after rebuilding what needed to be rebuilt, gave way to general elections two years later. Dubya scratched out the red crayon covering the country on his map, and rescribbled a nice big swath of green.

With its vast oil reserves and secular Muslim traditions, Iraq quickly became a beacon for political refugees throughout the region, and now that the U.S. had no obligation to Saudi Arabian oil, it could place greater pressure on the dictatorship to reform - indeed, the U.S.-Iraqi partnership had the effect of prodding regional religious governments in a direction they've never been prodded before: not toward Islamofascism or soulless consumption, but toward an utterly new, peculiarly Middle Eastern blend of liberal democracy. Now that there was a clear, tangible Third Way, it was only a matter of time before Iraq's neighbors followed suit.

Okay, back to reality.

Regardless of the eventual benefits, theoretical or not, there are a few quite certain costs war will bring:

First, people will die. Lots of people, far more than perished in the 9/11 attacks - jingoists and peaceful dissidents, loyal commanders and draftees with soiled pants, doctors, lawyers, scientists, merchants, farmers, parents, and children. And that's just on the Iraqi side - lots of Americans will die in protracted urban battles; in all likelihood, people you know will be killed. We tend to forget that war is hell, and this war will be particularly hellish because Iraq cannot fail to have learned the lesson of our 1991 invasion: stay out of the open spaces, do whatever is necessary to prevent the Americans from simply demolishing tanks from afar. Time and again, the talking heads have prophesied: this will be a war fought soldier-to-soldier in the streets of Karbala and Baghdad.

Second, it will be expensive as hell, and the U.S. will be footing the whole bill - as much as $200 billion, more than 25 times what the first Gulf War cost us and close to ten percent of the federal budget. That extra spending will come at a time when we're already deeply in deficit, and the money will be taken from taxes, from hospitals, and, of course, from schools. Expect greater tuition hikes than any we've seen in the past few years.

And this is if everything goes right (when was the last time that happened in a federal project?). The fact of that matter is that the very thing that could make invading Iraq so profitable (in economic and human terms) also makes it terribly risky: the entire middle east is entangled in a delicate balance, and war will upset that balance. What if Saddam Hussein, cornered, with no possible way of preserving his power (and therefore no diplomatic constraints on anything he does) unleashes weapons of mass destruction on American troops or Israeli civilians? What if the Iraqi civilian casualties are especially heavy? The suffering will be broadcast on satellite TV for the world to watch; what if anti-American sentiment, already virulent across the Muslim world (and upspiking sharply with each mildly unpopular international incident) crosses a threshold, what if angry mobs force U.S.-allied middle eastern governments to maintain their credibility the only way they know how: by retreating further into reactionary fundamentalism? Worse, what if the mobs overthrow a government, as they overthrew the Iranian Shah - specifically, what if they overthrow the newly appointed government of Pakistan, and that nation's nuclear arsenal falls into terrorist hands?

In Jurassic Park, the mathematician explains chaos theory to the female lead with two droplet of water that he lets fall onto the arched back of his hand. The first rolls down his fingers; the second slides backward, towards his wrist.

"But they started in the same place!" she exclaims.

"Exactly." Michael Chrichton writes some nice, glib dialogue, but this is reality. If the war in Iraq runs one way, the world will be a better place; if it runs the other, we're screwed. It is a gamble not lightly made.

I've fallen and I can't get up.

Fallen into darkness and light and chaos. Thoughts flow--wild untamed loving hating-- through my mind... wanting rest but craving challenge. Wanting peace but craving conflict craving the excitement that comes with taking on everything at once.

All control is lost to me now.

All my life I've prided myself on controlling my emotions, on not letting anything get to me. I just wanted to be untouchable so that no one would ever get to close. If I kept them all at a distance, then maybe they wouldn't hurt me. So I showed them my heart of stone, I wore my mask of ice...

Heartless Ice Queen Bitch

That's what they used to call me, back in high school. They were wrong, of course, and there were nights when I would flee to my room and cry for hours knowing how wrong they were. But they thought they were right and that was all that mattered.

I want that back.

When I go back to face my teammates tomorrow, I will see in their eyes the memory of my collapse, when every mask came down until there was nothing but me. They saw me at my lowest, and now that's all they'll see. Untill I can beg and hide and plead until they forgive the lapse...

"Please forgive me for all I have done wrong in your eyes, I mistakenly considered coming out from behind my mask. Don't worry, its all hidden again and I'm yet again striving to be who I should."

That last line was taken from a dear friend, Hors3s, from her away message...

I emailed all my friends about the conversation I had with Eun Jung on Saturday. For those who aren't going to bother to click that hardlink: basically, she let me know that she's looking to get married in the near future, and that I should keep that in mind if I'm going to be with her.

It was interesting to see the responses I got. Three people told me I was an idiot for even thinking about it, and that I should run away screaming (I got one such message on E2, too). Two people essentially said, "Good for you! She sounds great. Spend a year with her, and see how it works out. If you want to marry her after a year, great!" The rest, including my sister (I haven't let my parents know) seemed somewhat worried, but acknowledged that a year is a long time, that marriage isn't necessarily a bad thing if you know what you're doing, and essentially just told me not to do anything that I wasn't sure about.

Several people's comments raised an interesting point. My two most intellectual friends both asked about her intelligence, but had differing viewpoints in the matter. One still holds the opinion that I once held, several years ago, that intelligence is one of the most important factors in choosing a potential mate. Eun Jung is fairly smart, but I don't think she's brilliant. Based on this, he said, she'd probably bore me. The other friend holds the same viewpoint that I switched to, that being a nice, warm-hearted, caring person is an infinitely more important consideration than intelligence when choosing a potential life partner. Eun Jung definitely excels in that department. My philosophy, similar to that of the second friend, is that I already have some brilliant friends, and if I'm desperately in need of a good, intellectual debate, I can get it from them. As much as I like to argue about philosophy, marrying someone who always wants to do so would probably drive me crazy. I need a calm, loving, peaceful home life, not constant mental stimulation.

So, after my initial day of panic, I've calmed down considerably. I love Eun Jung. She loves me. She's a nice girl. I don't have to decide tomorrow whether or not to spend my life with her. She wants me to make a decision after about a year or so. That's reasonable. It's not so far off from the age at which I'd like to get married, anyway. It's entirely possible that I would make the decision to propose to her after a year anyway. So there's no harm in waiting and seeing how I feel in a year. Actually, I feel pretty good now. And if I do eventually decide to ask her to marry me, it'll be a hell of a lot easier to do, knowing that she's already essentially indicated to me what her answer will be.

Some days you wonder if you're ever going to win another poker hand ever again. Days like Sunday, in fact. Bad cards after bad cards, followed by bad beat after bad beat, followed by missed draw after missed draw, followed by...

Wait, I was going to tell you about Frankfurt...

Until a couple of weekends ago, I'd never really spent any time in Germany, apart from three hours outisde the toilets at Berlin Station, that is (Inter-railing), and I'd never given much thought to the idea of speaking the language, and I have to say I loved it all. I'd still sooner emigrate to Spain - Barcelona two weeks previously was considerably warmer than the sub-zero windchill of central Germany - but the language is a darned sight easier on the English tongue than, say, Spanish or Catalan, and the people were charming in a way we Brits were unfamiliar with until Jurgen Klinsmann joined Tottenham after the 1994 World Cup. Big thanks especially go to Stefan, our impromptu coffee house found guide, who may have led us to apple wine that tasted like a sample, and didn't think we could go up any big towers, but whose effortless charm and easy smile made us forget exactly how cold it was.

Friday was spent travelling, and finding a bar without the kind of ambience we had left behind in England. To our joy, we found ourselves in a confusingly small, mirrored bar, observing in amazemed bewilderment some men who were old enough to know better, play a drinking game that appeared to involve one player standing on one foot, on his stool, while raising the other to waist level, the act greeted by ever greater cheer, the longer the evening went.

On the Saturday of our two-night trip (the travelling party was 21-strong, a collection of colleagues from work) for a quick reminder of the cold (did I mention that it was cold?) some of our party opted to journey to the top of Frankfurt's 5th tallest, and only publicly open, tower - The Main Tower. The lift whisked us up at a smooth 18kph, 200 metres to the top, where it was, unsurprisingly, colder than cold. It was warmer one floor below, in the bar, although we had to avoid the clutches of the lift boy to sneak into an alternative lift to get there. Sadly the bar was closed, according to the attendant bar staff, but we lingered, feeling that only the manager had sufficient authority to throw us out.

After being thrown out by the manager, we returned to ground level, and set about finding somewhere to camp for the afternoon. Appropriately enough we found a gay bar in an old square, where we proceeded to spend the afternoon in pleasant chat and drink. At least I think it was pleasant - I may have turned into a poker and music bore at some point, and by the time we left the recommended restaurant just down the road several hours later, we'd found what at the time was surely the world's most amusing prop, in the form of these brilliant and hilarious masks, in the section of restaurants and bars normally reserved for crap postcards of things written in a foreign language you don't understand, for things you wouldn't want if you know what they meant. Outside, we amused the rest of our party, who were heading to the restaurant as we were leaving, before I scaled the mountain of comedy to its cloudy summit by staring at a taxi driver through his window, until he said something I didn't entirely comprehend but could guess at the gist of, and drove off through the late evening snow.

On the recommendation of a homeless man - surely the best way of locating night-life in any unfamiliar city... - we made our way to 'Helium', an unassuming club in a random street amidst some shops, where the beer was cheap and the vodka the price of the mortgage on the average two-bed home counties semi-detached house. Before I could order my 50th round to make up for the price of the drinks others had bought for me, though, I despatched myself to bring the others to the club, rather than attempt to direct them from the restaurant. It was hard to tell which way we had walked with the masks on, but as fortune would have it, the two were but a snowball's throw apart. I quaffed a cheeky, and very generous, JD at the restaurant on account of its relative cheapness, but having talked all day I found my conversation running dry. This may explain why I attempted to entertain four people with a distinctly unamusing story about how I'm no good at making cous cous.

So, on to the club again, where the DJ had apparently turned the amp up to 11. So, back out of the club again. For the first time in my life, someone said to me "hey, let's go back to the gay bar", and off we ambbled through the snow. Someone pointed out immediately that the barmaid was clearly a ladyboy; a fact that had eluded me throughout the entire afternoon's drinking. Only now did I notice that her hands were indeed on the large side. More drink was drunk. By now I had given up on coherent conversation. Then, a commotion at the door, and in from the white night walked two friends, who had recently visited a local hospital. One, because he had required stitches in an eye wound gained from a badly executed snow slide, the other because he was good enough to accompany him. I offered them both a well-earned smoke, since it didn't involve much skill at language. Although really, I should say skill at English, since my German had come on in leaps and bounds by this stage, as is often the case with alcohol.

However good I got though, I failed to convince most Germans I met that I was in fact German - one possible exception was a couple of young fillies who chose me from the crowd (sounds interesting...) to take their photo (not so interesting...). The situation gave me the opportunity to practice the fine art of international mumbling. A mumble, you see, sounds much the same in any language. Mumble with the correct delivery and intonation for your locale, and you can pass yourself off as a local with the minimum of effort. I found this to be most effective when pushing through the crowded club, too. Curiously, though, whereas in most European countries my stumbling attempts at speaking the local language - or in Budapest, my attempts to demonstrate to the ticket inspector on the bus an utter lack of comprehension of all known languages - usually lead to the assumption that I'm German, in Germany this was seldom the case.

And then, all too soon, we were out of the door, and on our way home. As is my wont, I insisted we were going the wrong way until it was too obvious to deny that I was wrong. I like to think that this tactic keeps the guide focussed on following the correct route. More likely, it keeps them focused on wanting to hit me.

And then sleep, and then travelling, and then back to the sprawl and metallic sleek of Bournemouth International Airport. How I hate the journey home. Especially when I'm tired, trying to rehydrate. Ah, but I have memories. Memories and badly framed photos of the days courtesy of my new I-almost-know-how-to-use-it digital camera.

The sun is out, the sky is blue
There's not a cloud to spoil the view
But it's raining, raining in my heart
--          Buddy Holly

Worse than raining. Continual panic, encroaching despair all the time. Please God, make it go away. Not only the pain I inflicted on someone else - empathy is not always a good thing - also the guilt, and i can't watch the effects anymore. Can't take it.

Just let it end. Somehow. All of it.

I get on the plane tomorrow, fly back to London from Cape Town, sit for twelve hours in Sardine class and bundle out at Heathrow, London city apparently still gripped by fear and ice. The whole Iraq War on Terror mess seems so far away and unimportant here.

It's been a good 3 weeks.

I am glad of the sunburn I have picked up, the African summer heat.

I am glad of my cousin B--'s wedding that I attended on Friday. She was radiant.

I am glad of the stag night on Wednesday. My first impressions of the groom, R-- are of him arguing with his mother - he didn’t arrive on time, he was overcomitted. Later that evening he was semi-naked and motherless drunk in a shopping trolley. In spite of this I think he’s a great guy (for an Englishman) and he and B-- will IMHO do well together. Are doing well together – they’ve been cohabiting for years now.

I am glad of spending time with my brother – we are getting on OK. We seem to be past the sibling rivalry, and the awkward distance. We can be supportive now.

I am glad of just a little taste of the Cape Town outdoor summer trance scene. I love the freaks, the nuttahs with dreads, tats and spaced-out behaviour, who will never be 9-5ers. I love the ones like me, who use that escape valve to allow them to function 9-5.

I am looking forward to London again – ADSL internet, bustle, movies on tap and E2ians

Those who have been following my past daylogs know of my ongoing dealings with Crohn's Disease. I've been dealing with a flare-up of the condition since January, and it's really slowed me down. I spend more time in bed than I do in class or at work (some will argue that, as a college student, this should be the norm). In the past week things have taken another downturn: nonstop nausea. My medication doesn't put a dent in it, so yesterday I saw my doctor again.

He's prescribed some new nausea medication (that will put me to sleep - looks like its back to bed for me) and then next week I must go into the hospital for some tests, and depending on the outcome of that there may be surgery in my future to slice and squeeze open the damaged and narrowed portions of intestine.

I'm not normally one to ask for prayers and such, but if you have a spare moment this week, think a happy thought for me. Or you can do some of the homework that's stacking up on my table. That'd be even better.

Today's Headlines

US News

21 Die In Stampede of 1,500 at Chicago Nightclub
Twenty one people are confirmed dead and fifty more injured in the aftermath of a stampede in a Chicago nightclub. The stampede started after security guards used Mace and pepper spray to subdue a fist fight between two women. The club, E2, has been ordered shut since July 1, 2002 because of 11 violations of fire and building codes; the owners are facing criminal contempt charges.

Blizzard Whites Out Northeast United States
The worst blizzard since 1996 shut down much of the Northeast United States on President's Day. The storm piled up snow as deep as four feet (1.2 m) and left more than 250,000 businesses and residences without electrical power. At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the storm so far.

Many Groups Offer Support to University of Michigan Affirmative Action Case
A month after the White House filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court opposing the affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, more than 350 organizations (including academic institutions, corporations, labor unions, and military officials) have announced that they will be filing briefs in support of the university. These endorsements amount to a broad endorsement of affirmative action practices and policies.

International News

Arson in South Korean Subway Kills At Least 50
Early this morning, a man in a subway in Daegu, South Korea ignited a carton filled with a flammable material, and the resulting fireball killed at least fifty people. A suspect has been captured by South Korean authorities, but there is still no clue as to the motivation for the attack.

European Union Leaders Discuss Iraq Compromise
Leaders of the European Union, lead most vocally by French President Jacques Chirac, agreed last week to present a united front on the Iraq issue by issuing a joint statement saying that war should be a "last resort" and that there is a "final opportunity" for Iraq to resolve the situation peacefully. However, some candidate members of the European Union, mostly former Soviet bloc states, are siding with the United States in that now is the time for military action.

North Korea Threatens To Pull Out of Korean War Armistice
In its latest move in the continuing escalation of tension between the United States and North Korea, North Korea is threatening to pull out of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Pulling out of this armistice would essentially resume the war between the two nations, causing a renewal of the military conflict between North Korea and the United States along with South Korea. This is just the latest step in conflicts relating to North Korea's recently renewed nuclear arms program.

Business

Wal-Mart Quarterly Profit Up
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), the world's biggest retailer, reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings. The company said it earned $2.53 billion in the fourth quarter (November 1, 2002 - January 31, 2003), or $0.57 per share, wihch is better than the $2.19 billion (or $0.49 a share) earned the previous fourth quarter. It also exceeded expectations, which estimated earnings of $0.56 per share.

Cisco Launches Massive Advertising Campaign
In a move geared toward targeting Cisco Systems into the network security, storage systems, voice networks, and wireless communication, the company is launching a global advertising campaign, spending between $100 million and $150 million on print and television ads. The goal is to change the perception of Cisco as a company that makes only routers and establish a presence in other new markets.

Andrew Corp. Acquires Allen Telecom
Wireless infrastructure systems supplier Andrew Corp. is acquiring Allen Telecom in an all-stock deal worth approximately $500 million. The combined company will be the number one global supplier of coaxial cables, RF power amplifiers, ground-based microwave antennas, and repeaters.

Science & Technology

Workers Admit To Cutting Corners in Columbia Accident
In order to cut costs, workers repeatedly cut corners during the preparation of the space shuttle Columbia for flight. Mark Hernandez, a former employee for Lockheed Martin who was employed from 1981 to 1999 to apply insulating foam to the outside of the fuel containers, reports that he was encouraged to not report minor defects in the foam and instead simply cover these defects with another thin layer of foam. Hernandez claims that he did not report "hundreds" of flaws during his years at Lockheed Martin.

K-Bot the Social Cyborg Unveiled
K-Bot, a robot that its developers at the University of Texas describe as the "social cyborg," was unveiled yesterday. The face features twenty four artificial muscles and twenty eight distinct facial expressions, and its eyes are capable of following objects around the room. The software running the device mostly functioned to demonstrate the potential movements, but the demonstrated technology is another major step forward in the development of humanlike robotics.

Google Acquires Pyra
In something of a surprise move, Google has acquired Pyra Labs, the makers of the popular software tool Blogger, which aids in the development of web logs. The move is the latest in a series of such moves for Google, as they attempt to extend their company into new realms, building upon their earlier acquisition of Usenet archiver Deja.

Health

Thiamine May Help In Preventing Many Diseases in Diabetics
Diabetes can result in a significant buildup of sugar in humans, which can lead to eye diseases, heart diseases, and other ailments. An article in the latest issue of Nature Medicine, however, argues that thyamine (a derivative of Vitamin B1) halts much of that sugar buildup, which can lead to a much better state of life for many diabetics.

FSA Repeats Fish Warning
The UK Food Standards Agency encourages pregnant women and women who plan to become pregnant to change their diet to avoid mercury. The agency urges that consumption of tuna be limited to no more than two medium size cans or one fresh tuna steak per week, and that shark, swordfish and marlin be avoided altogether. These fish tend to build up a large amount of mercury in their systems, which can be harmful to the female reproductive process.

Sports

Baltimore Orioles Pitcher Steve Bechler Dead
Pitching prospect Steve Bechler, who made his major league debut for the Orioles late last season, died yesterday of multiple organ failure caused by a stroke. He was 23. Bechler arrived at camp somewhat over his prescribed playing weight of 239 lbs., but passed the team's physical before training camp began.

University of Arizona Remains on Top in College Basketball
After soundly defeating UCLA and the University of Southern California by an average of more than thirty points this week, the University of Arizona Wildcats retained the number one slot on the AP men's college basketball poll. The rest of the top five included Kentucky, Texas, Louisville, and Oklahoma.

Entertainment

Fox's Joe Millionaire Creates Happy Ending For All
Evan Marriott, the star of Fox's dubious reality series Joe Millionaire, selected fan favorite Zora Andrich as the winner in the much-maligned but hugely successful television series. The show's producers gave both Marriott and Andrich one million dollars to split between them, contributing to the happy ending. Fox expected to dominate the ratings after 24 million viewers tuned in to the next-to-last episode last week.

Paul McCartney To Play Live Shows in UK
For the first time since 1993's New World tour, Paul McCartney is scheduling a tour of his homeland. The show is a continuation of his recent Driving Rain tour of the United States, where he played mostly old songs from The Beatles and Wings. The tour has seven dates scheduled, kicking off in Sheffield and ending in London on April 19, 2003.


And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

I decided to start adding the above headlines on a regular basis because I was browsing through the daylogs recently and I realized that there was no real context in terms of the noteworthy events happening in the world at that moment. On occasion, individuals would post a few headlines, but there was no real expansion on these items. I don't know that I'll be able to post these daily (the above took a while), but I hope to post them as often as reasonably possible.

Anyway...

My general feeling on this wonderful sunny morning is that the government of the United States is actively trying to flush the country down the figurative toilet. When virtually every other country in the world is in disagreement with your foreign policy, as well as a strong minority (it may even be more, but I don't want to overstate my point) of people in your own country, perhaps it's time to re-think what you're doing.

Let's sit down and consider this, W.

Your supposed primary threat is Saddam Hussein. You have a strong suspicion that he may be making "weapons of mass destruction," but you have no real hard evidence of this. I watched Colin Powell's speech; you're not convincing me that there is any true concrete evidence. Nonwithstanding, your father drug us into a war with Saddam Hussein in 1991 that was basically fought over oil; we were afraid of losing the lucrative oil business from Kuwait, even though the struggle was an internal struggle in the region that they should have been left alone to figure out. In the twelve years since, we have ordered the Iraqis not to fly in 60% of the airspace in their own country; we fly our own patrols over this no-fly zone and shoot down anything we see. We have also repeatedly brought in "inspectors" to see what he is doing; in other words, spies that are out in the open. Saddam has made no external moves at all except for occasionally getting tired of the inspectors and tossing them out.

And you expect me to support a war against him?

W, you fed me some sort of story about how he's in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden. Yet, Bin Laden is repeatedly on record calling Saddam Hussein a Zionist Crusader, no different than the United States. You also accuse him of harboring terrorists, but it has always been easy to cross borders in that region of the world; it's impossible to control when you're landlocked. The United States has a pretty free border with its two land neighbors; imagine how easy it would be for a Canadian terrorist to get into the United States and thus be "harbored." And what of the "atrocities" against his own people? It was a civil war, period. The United States had one, too, and there were some awful atrocities committed in that one. War is not pretty in any regard.

Bush, rather than trying to win a fight that your father could not, how about you focus on some real problems in our world? Let's focus on the North Koreans, who are actually doing some things we should be taking notice of. Let's focus on actually breaking the backbone of Al Qaeda rather than just tossing that mission off to the wayside because it won't help you get re-elected.

How about you enact some foreign policy that protects American interests while at the same time doesn't cause most of the world to hate the United States? That would be a novel idea, wouldn't it?

07:42 18 Feb 2003

Ah...what a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the children are laughing and playing, and a pair of scrawny magpies are fighting over a half-rotten piece of hedgehog in my backyard. An earthly slice of paradise. I clamber out of bed to my feet, naked as the day I was born, kick over a few empty beer and wine bottles on my way to the clothes rack, and toss my beloved terrycloth robe around my shoulders.

<

Rest of the mundane routine goes off as planned (at least, the way God wanted it to go down): the toilet paper is rough, the tea scalding, the toast burnt, the milk full of curds, and the shower water a lukewarm, low-pressure soup. All those nice little annoyances that help to convince you that perfection does not really belong in the natural order.

I stand there before the mirror, unclothed again, beaming proudly at my hirsute, flipped-image doppelgänger. Just one more thing to take care of, I think to myself as I run my hand along my bristly jawline. I don't plan to take it all off, just clear-cut the timber from each sideburn to the point of my chin, and create a nice little manicured face-garden from the depths of the black forest. For you plain-speaking philistines out there, I want me one o' them goatee whisker-styles.

First come the nail scissors: annoying, but painless. Now it's time for the lather...but wait! Where is my shaving cream? Oh, that's right...I don't shave. At least, I haven't since the Christmas holidays. No matter, I'll just use hot water and some liquid hand soap. Surely that won't make a difference.

Surely.

I get about three or four strokes with the safety razor before I notice the right side of my face is sticky with the old "red red krovvy" like I've been emulating my old Vampire LARPing days. "Shit!" I mutter under my breath as I pause to rinse the blood from my face before it clots, and look around the room for anything handy to cap the crimson geyser.

There's nothing --- nobody has bothered to buy hand tissues this week for our suite bathroom. Somewhat resigned by this discovery, I make a move for my towel but slip on the wet tiles and crack my nose a good one against the edge of the sink. My descending weight takes the towel down along with its accompanying wall peg (right on the nape of my neck).

I lie there, stunned for several seconds (ears ringing!), then stand up, bracing myself against the sink. Okay, no biggie, I think. No chipped teeth, nose doesn't feel broken, just a bit br -- ! My internal monologue comes to a screeching halt as I look back in the mirror. I have a pencil-thick rivulet of blood streaming down my lip to join the other erupting volcano a half-inch above my jaw.

This morning is not turning out very well at all.

I undauntedly finish the hack job as best as I can, wiping blood with the left hand and shearing the rest of my naked bare flesh with the plastic-shielded blade in my right. Okay...I might actually survive this. Now for the throat. Hmm, seems I'm getting the hang --

"*FUCK*"

-- I whine as steel meets dermal sublayer yet again. This time, right on my Adam's apple, which doesn't seem to be clotting up very well. I am starting to look like a dinner party for bulimic mosquitoes.

Well, I finish, so to speak, in that I've taken off as much hair as I've wanted (and enough skin in the process) The wounds finally seal up and dry, but not before my undersized bath-towel turns a nice shade of smoked salmon from all the sanguine matter pouring out of my pores and sinuses. I pull on my clothes and accessories, then notice I have about all of three minutes to rush outside and climb on the bus, unless I feel like coming in an hour later today. Which, given the prevalence of Murphy's Law in my dormitory, seems not at all a good idea.

My other roommates, not to mention our cleaning lady, are going to have a fit once they see the animal sacrifice I left on the walls. But at least it's a hell of a lot cooler (and marginally less disgusting) than leaving pubic hair in the shower drain.

Part I
“I want to give you my seat, but there isn’t enough room to get up.”

We’re really packed in on the Q31 bus. People don’t want to drive in the snow – can’t drive, really. In my neighborhood, there are cars buried so deep that only the flash of a side view mirror differentiates a car from the empty piles. There are also throngs of people walking in the streets because the plows have pushed the snow from the roads onto the sidewalks.

“I said I want to give you my seat.”

Foreign accent, possibly South American. I look down at myself and my big, black coat (the one that I hate, but it’s so warm) and I see a roundness that could easily be mistaken for pregnancy. So I stick out my tummy and curve my back because in a bus full of smelly strangers with wet feet, I’m certainly not above that sort of thing. I try to look pregnant. I’ve seen it enough times to guess at a drawn expression and haggard stance. I venture a few cautious glances at my belly.

But then I’m pushed away by the natural shifting hierarchy of us bus ridin’ fools. Down the aisle into the vacuum that has formed by the back door, I’m pulled farther in and when I finally stop, I see his hand grab the pole right above mine. Great, I think, just great. We’re only at the beginning of the trip and I am three and a half hours into my commute. I do not have the patience for this right now.

“You know, I love my girlfriend, but I’d leave her in a second for a chance at something with you.”

I cringe, then stand up tall, erasing the belly I was carrying around. A slight turn of the head and I see tall, thin, dark and further up, teeth that point in every conceivable direction. Maybe forty or thirty-five. I move my hand down the pole, away from his.

“That’s bad,” I say, meaning it.

“It is. But in life, you take your chances. That’s why I had to give up my seat when you moved away.”

“Hmm,” I say, buying myself those precious few seconds that every girl purchases occasionally when confronted by madmen and perverts and dirty old men. Hmm, indeed. Vio, the Casual Bar, rolls by on my left, flanked by all you can eat Korean barbecue and a wedding boutique. Bingo.

Hate to disappoint you…”

In the next few moments, I get married and give birth to two wonderful boys, ages three and one. I do some light office work in the mornings at a real estate agency, but then I go home to my little men. I’m of Scottish decent.

“I hate to leave them; I really do. It’s hard to go to work in the mornings,” I say, covering the ring finger on my left hand and hoping he doesn’t ask to see pictures.

“When I saw you I knew that you had to have something. Girls like you aren’t just walking around without anything going on.”

Nod. Look out the window. When a seat opens and I sit down, he follows and takes up residence to my left with his crotch almost level with my eyes. I avoid looking at him or his area for fear that he’ll get ideas. But I take up as much room as I can on my seat, legs spread and arms out, and back straight in defiance of the position of dominance that this fellow has assumed. Or so it seems, since he blocks my only escape route with his body.

“I think that’s the most honorable thing. You see women, beautiful women, walking around with one child and then women you couldn’t care less about with five or six! You should have more.”

“We,” I say, “are thinking of trying for a girl.”

“All those boys,” he nods.

My little men.”

“Your husband must be a very good man. I hope he stays that way, but most men don’t. I think you should have six or seven more. It should be your profession. The world needs more of you. You need to make that your job: having little ones.”

“Uh huh,” I say because this is funny stuff and goading him on is almost worth the hours on the subway (though the oddness value is not nearly as high as yesterday’s guy who kept screaming 'suck on my dick’).

“You know when I offered to give you my seat, what I really meant was to offer to give you my paycheck. Give you the whole thing.

“Your girlfriend probably wouldn’t like that so much.”

I suddenly wish that I could tell her that her fellow likes to hit on married young mothers in buses but then again, she probably knows. She already knows that his preference runs towards the lighter side: northern European blondes. He gives her his paycheck every week because, he says (my bus ride is long), if he wants to be the only man the she’s seeing, he has to prove to her that everything he has is hers. Happy couple of something-or-others, I’m sure. They might have met on a bus.

Part II
After my four hour commute, I make it into work only two hours late, but I’m not the only one and I called ahead. No worries there. Mild worry concentrated itself, instead, on my desk in the form of a pink envelop addressed to me, c/o the Queens Courier. Addressed to me care of my job that no one, and I mean no one, has been given the address to. Not that it would be hard to find out – it’s a newspaper after all and so they tend to like when people write to them.

A quick gander at the return address nets me Joe, with a last name obscured by a pen smear. I wrote an article about a fellow named Joe and his wife Sala, but they didn’t live at 308 Canal Street and didn’t seem the type to use a big, bright envelop stiff enough to contain a greeting card. I get a clue, tear it open and am greeted with a card For A Special Granddaughter.

I am a very special granddaughter? Joe?

Pearl. Turning the card around (there were stickers inside), I read the post-script: I loved your Valentine story in the Courier. The post-mark was from the 13th and thus before I went back to Pearl to pick up my last two checks. Which means people actually read my newspaper. Which means somebody likes me and I know who. There was contact information, and now I’m at a loss because calling or emailing would indicate an interest that isn’t there. I hope my lack of response doesn’t discourage him from continuing to be the sort of person who makes that sort of gesture.

I’m bad at this sort of thing.

Part III
And as per yesterday and the attached trials:

Nine hours on the NYC subway: $1.50

Two teas as bathroom passes: $2.00

One pack of cigarettes, chained: $7.50

Fifteen minutes with my man, before he hightailed it back home: Priceless.

Two today!


A little over two years ago, a bad bad man sent me an email with the subject line 'How to stich up your academic career completely already, already', it being, of course, already stitched up. I can't describe this site's impact on me since then in any meaningful way. It's pointless, of course, to try to, but I will because I always do.

I could say that I've been here for over 10% of my life, but that doesn't mean anything. I could say that I'm really very much looking forward to asking for a mentee when I can, but that doesn't mean a lot. I could say that I feel increasingly part of a community, I guess, but that doesn't mean much to someone not already part of it.

Perhaps what I can say is that e2 has been everything to me, whenever I have wanted it. It has influenced me beyond measure, actually. More than knowledge, Everything has shown me new ways to think, and to act, for which I cannot thank its users enough.

Thank you.

There is a box at the top of the closet in our spare room and it contains the remains of one of my dearest friends. Occasionally, when the mood strikes, I will pull out the box and dig through it, until I find his tiny body. He is small now, much smaller than I remember him, and is missing one eye. There are tears near the joints of his body and his body is covered with pills, like an old sweater that hasn't been shaved.

Every time, I do this, I am taken back to a time when I was small and the world was large and sometimes scary. He was my constant companion, the one who kept me company when there was no one to play with. He and I would carry on conversations, though he often times didn't hold up his end very well. He and I would hide under the covers at night when the vacuum cleaner would roar down the hall, sounding like a monster coming to rip the covers off and devour us both.

I don't miss him all that much on most days. I think I more miss the time in my life when I didn't have to worry about pending projects, sick friends, bills, war, madmen with bombs, how old my parents are starting to look, how quickly the pages of my calendar turn, and whether I am doing the most with my life. This little guy doesn't know much about those things, but he has always been known for having very little brains.

I think about the fact that he has had so much impact on my life that one of the few things I have insisted on over the years is that he goes to all of the newborns of our friends. We go to the store and I look at the 20 or 30 versions of him, trying to find the one that has the right look about him for this new child. Because I know that this new kid is going to need a friend because it is a big world out there and I can't think of a better friend to have around.

If no one is around, I usually try and hug him bye before I put him back in the box. I do my best, but time and nature have made us incompatible now. I am too big with too many worries and responsibilites and such a small friend can't help me very well to carry the burdens that I have to bear now. But, I hug him none the less, because let's face it, everyone can use a hug now and then.

I return the box to the shelf and without fail as I leave the closet a single phrase echoes in my head:

Silly, old bear.

*sigh*

That being the only suitable expression I could come up with to begin.
It seems, to me, that the most annoying clichés are the truest. That, of course, would be the reason that they are clichés.

Old habits die hard.

Depression was once always with me, everywhere that I went, everything that I did. Few things penetrated my constant darkness, few people could shine a light through.
In those times, I became so used to it that I began to carry it with me, not because things were happening that were depressing, but because it was something I could rely on. Something that always stayed the same, no matter what. Daily I would tally off in my head things that were going badly, or might go badly. It was almost an addiction, my depression. Those who tried to help me became frustrated; one very close friend in particular. I couldn't shake it because I wouldn't shake it: I believed that it had become a part of me, and I was afraid of what might happen if I let it go.

But last August, I stopped myself.
In that month, I was hit hard by several events and came rapidly to the realization that the way I had been sitting around and moaning about my life was definitely the WRONG WAY to go about things.

Some people will laugh and say, "Well, duh!" But when one is in the situation, it becomes difficult to look at it objectively. Don't laugh at the misfortunes of others unless they laugh first.

I finally sat down and said, "Okay, that's enough of this shit."
I tore my mental self apart, throwing away things that were dragging me down, dusting off things I had ignored in my wallowing self-induced misery. Then I rebuilt myself from the inside out, and I made a vow. No longer would I fall back on that old internal darkness. No more would I ignore my problems in the daytime, only to cry softly about them in the despairing darkness of night. The past is the past, will always be the past, and can never again be recovered without a time machine. In light of recent happenings, I believe the past should not be tampered with. It should be laid reverently away, like a photo album. It's there to look at, but don't carry it around everywhere or it will drag you down.

I've let myself get pulled off course again.

For the first time since that rebuilding, I am starting to feel the pull of the depths. So far I have been able to push it aside, but I have not yet invoked the strength to banish it entirely. I believe that the Pill is partially responsible: reading that little booklet I received when I started taking them only a week and a half ago, I noticed that depression was sometimes a side effect. When I begin to feel low, I remember that and tell myself crossly, It's the Pill, it's not you, so stop whining and let's get on with life.

In reality, I have very little to be depressed about, if anything. I'm a little anxious about whether or not I'll be accepted at college, if I will get my volunteer hours done in time, and various other little things.
It's not enough to add up to depression.

But it's still odd that I feel it. Perhaps that was the one side effect I felt because it was still hanging around, waiting for the right time to slip in unnoticed and govern my life again.

No more.
Depression got me nothing but a weak will and a constant temptation to lash out at different people during the day. I am still recovering from these, still rebuilding myself, and I wish myself luck on my journey to be who I want to be.

Everyone should have a chance to become what they wish to be. That chance lies within us all; all we have to do is pick it up and use it.

I have to stop ending these with "wise" words. I feel like someone's grandmother.

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