I stayed home from work today, mostly because I've been exhausted from covering for those gone on vacation at work and also because I have a nagging suspicion that I haven't devoted enough time to myself in the past few weeks. My boyfriend left for his grandmother's lake house in Minnesota this morning after dropping me off by my apartment, but I'm certainly not envious; it's a family gathering of some sort, and not being a member of the family, I can breathe a deep sigh of relief because I'm never really sure how to handle large groups of family members. My family is very, very small.

I tried both pineapple and coconut flavored sodas today, and I can honestly say that both are quite tasty. I still have a bottle of guava in the fridge, but I'm saving it for last - it's by far the most exotic, though I bet any of these would make a fabulous mixer with tequila or gin.

Before reading today's daylogs, I read the daylogs from two years ago by accident. When I realized that I was reading the daily experiences from people two years ago - the day of the Concorde crash in Paris - I was immediately thrown into a sort of forced memory of where I was on that date: Wichita, Kansas, living out the last weeks of my post adolescent/pre-adult life, the last two weeks I ever lived with my parents, and all the scurrying around to get moved to Seattle and on with my life. Things ended up completely different(two years later, I am happy and moderately successfully in Chicago, half way across the United States), but I'm happy now, so I suppose all of the heartbreak and circumlocution was worth it.

Today was a good food day. I had, in addition to the aforementioned sodas, croissants, smoked salmon, green onions and carrots dipped in ranch dressing, and a beer.

I woke up today with pus on my pillow.

My arm, injured in a drunken bicycle accident the previous day, was still secreting...stuff. So, I got up around ten am, still in a sweaty, dirty, and bloody T-Shirt, and made myself a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. I made a leaky ice pack for my sprained wrist and meditated on the fact that if my range of motion did not improve in a few hours, I would not be able to work, pay off my school loans, or support my three starving children.

I put in a bad movie I had taped off HBO and collapsed onto my parents couch, unanimously voted "Most Torturous Furniture Not Made with Nails" during a recent, informal polling of unfortunate visitors. The event of the taping had been my third time viewing this same bad movie. Even after the movie and ice pack, I still felt like shit, so I got serious. I poured myself 4 shots of vodka, 2 sodas, 2 ramen soups, and watched 2 more bad movies, taped off of HBO Plus and HBO Signature, respectively. Not surprisingly, they both seemed better than the first time and third time I had seen them, respectively.

By now my stepmom was rolling up the driveway in her 1998 Windstar, and I realized I had to be at work in 30 minutes. Time flies when you're having fun. I was still smashed. Fortunately, I had the daunting task of anointing and bandaging my multiple arm wounds, all oozing blood and pus. This sobered me up some, and I was moderately presentable for work, if I kept my sleeves rolled down. I was ready to serve you food.

Apparently, the good diners of Sacramento, CA couldn't see the blood through my sleeves, because I came home with 19 percent of my sales in tips.

The drugs have worn a tad thin today, due to my perhaps-no-so-unfortunate tendency to let myself conveniently 'run out' of the damn things every now and again.

The problem is that payback's a bitch, baby.

Still, I have noticed that in the several days of 'gap' I have perked up a bit, managed to get a whole shitload (or, as caliban and jb would say, two thousand assloads troy) of things done. My house is being painted. I scheduled a hardwood floor install. I coded some. I may have finally got off my ass and arranged to sell my bike so that the poor thing will get used.

It's quite fortunate that I have these things to do and make myself busy. Before the headaches and twitching set in, forcing me to procure more tonic, I watched myself move ever more frantically through my days. I began to lift my chin slightly, in an emotional sense, to make it more difficult to look down. My gaze became fixed on the horizon, for every time I became weary and faltered in my steps towards Zen Homeownership-Fu, I could sense (before seeing) the dark and sticky quagmire awaiting me down there. It has a peculiar sort of optical judo - if I slip up and actually rest my gaze on it, it can reach up through the insubstantial corridor of my vision, place strange pressures on my head, and then reach around my neck and without warning perform a judo flip. The back of my head always hits the emotional wall, and I end up lying on my back (usually on a park bench) watching fluttery stars in my vision through a haze of head pain.

So that didn't happen, this time. I think it's because I had enough tasks on my plate to keep my eyes level or fixed ahead. Then the headaches set in, and I swiftly went running for the shelter.

There is an upside to all this, however! The noticeable change in my mood means (to me) that I do need to work on finding alternate means of self-management, as the tinctures appear to be offering side effects that make me worse. There was almost a problem in Newton; rounding the corner from the T I came upon a group of older, well dressed polite protestors. They had placards with their views printed neatly on them, and didn't attempt to engage me in conversation, just held the sign out as I passed.

I became instantly fairly enraged, and began to think about how to draw one of them out enough to justify beating the ever-loving snot out of him/her. Then I looked across their ranks a tad closer, and realized (uncomfortably) that I actually agreed with nearly everything on their signs, and that they were simply and very unobtrusively exercising rights that I would fight to defend.

That, of course, made it worse, and the only means by which disaster was averted involving my slipping away to get a cup of coffee before my appointment.

But there is the spectre of the doom; a simple thing, an unobtrusive thing, a familiar thing - any and all can suddenly trigger fairly large mood swings. However, without experimenting, I'll never know how to live again.

Ah well. Ad Astra per Aspera, officers and men. Off we go.

Look at me, I'm noding at work. I don't have access to the internet at my work station but a couple other people do. My boss came into the office where I'm at and asked how the stock market is doing. I told him the Dow is up 28 points as of noon. I actually jumped in here to doing a little editing to one of my recent nodes.

Our AC was froze up this morning so I went up on the roof about 7:30 this morning to take the doors off the ancient unit which is way overworked. It was thawed out by 10 A.M. The only way to tell if it's working is to go outside for a minute and come back in. As soon as someone finds out you've been working on it they label you an expert. Then when it gets too hot you are the first one they come to bitching about the heat and humidity. Fortunately I have a wide temperature comfort zone.

I'd better get out of here even though it looks like I'm hard at it. It's Friday and this place really clears out at lunch so I almost have the place to myself. I brought my lunch with me, red beans and wild rice with chicken, and a can of Venom which is a high energy drink loaded with caffiene and some good vitamins, similar to Red Bull, KMX, and a few others. I think I'm getting hooked on the stuff. The first sip makes your mouth feel a little numb. My sister-in-law said they mix Red Bull and vodka at parties now ( I don't get out much) and they take "E" and "V" and stay up all night and have a helluva good time. The weekend is just around the corner.

In my four months or so here at E2 I have noticed some things. First off, I have noticed a lot of crap one line writeups which basically tell us nothing. Nothing at all. These writeups that I have seen I'm actually trying to rewrite them and make them better.

The second thing that I have seen is that the authors of these crap writeups haven't been logged on for months, maybe even years. I look through some of the other writeups by these specific noders and all i see is a huge list of crap-ass writeups which leads me to believe that they were huge supporters of NFN. Again, I, along with another friend of mine, try to re-write those writeups into longer writeups which may be of some use to the E2 community.

Now, I come across a theory. Now, this theory has probably come across every noder here, but it doesn't matter. I'm gonna say it anyway, because it's new to me. Noders who node for numbers do not get the true feel of the E2 experience and get bored of it real quick. Hence, they leave the site quickly. Instead, said noders should try to do quality writeups, and take time in actually reading some of the cool shit which is on this site.

Just recently I saw some new noder, level 1, no writeups yet, doing many writeups, all at one time. They had nothing to do with the topic. They were just random sentences in a random node. For example, under a node for square toes he/she stated that Creed sucked. Now, I haven't seen this individual logged on for a few days, and all his writeups got nuked. He probably got bored, because he was NFN.

So to sum it all up: NFN bad.

Dolly was right.

But she forgot to mention holidays. Annual leave. Vacation entitlement. Time off in lieu. Parole. Call it what you will. It's essential to maintaining some semblance of sanity.

Office tip of the day, no.1:

Always take your holiday allowance, kids - no-one will take it for you, and if you don't you'll work more and holiday less.
And if you don't get enough holiday, you could always scam an extra day here and there. I wouldn't ever do it, mind. But kids, don't pull sickies, it's just too passé.

The only problem with holidays is the paranoia that will accompany my return to the office a week monday. The feeling that somehow, someone will have dug up something; a mistake, a piece of neglected work; or something completely bizarre that I can't possibly think of, which is why they'll catch me out with it.

It's not my fault. This is what happens when you've been sacked. In your notice period. For being flippant. Summarily dismissed. For flippancy1. Marched out of the building, to boot. It was hard to keep a straight face at the time, though, because it wasn't the biggest office in the world. I felt like I was in a reworking of the "can I walk you home / to your car?" gag where the home / car is about five feet away.

Office tip of the day number 2:

Don't say silly things in emails. That way lies endless trouble.
As for today, I've made my checklist, and I even have most of the stuff on the checklist. Have tickets, passport, pills, and the compulsory holiday exclusive minidisc compilation is compiling itself.

Morocco, here i come. Please don't be too hot for me. I burn at night.

1. They may have had a point. And it might be true to say I'm being flippant again in my description of events. Other people have accused me of the same. I have no idea why.
Welcome to another issue of Life in the Swedish Army, the weekly dump of entries from my diary, being written as I go through national service in the armed forces of Sweden. See my wu in this node if this is the first of the LitSA write-ups you've seen. It contains some background info which will be expanded later when I get to writing a proper LitSA metanode.

It's been a great week, in preparation for standing guard at the royal castle in Stockholm later this year we've gone through training to become certified guards, the kind you'd find working for security companies in civilian life, except we, being military, get to carry automatic rifles, whereas civvie guards don't. Well, not here in Sweden anyways. As part of our guard training we've also learned various things relating to hand-to-hand combat, which is also quite fun, at least so long as you're not doing it too seriously.

Now for this week's diary entries, covering day 36-42, or July 22-28.)

22nd of July, 2002 - 07:25
Back! A wonderful holiday will now be followed by a hopefully equally wonderful week on duty. This week, we're going to do guard training, which according to rumours is quite an enjoyable bit of education. Compensating for the large amount of lectures and theory there are two large bits of PE scheduled, but on the other hand we have all the evenings off. And thursday is PAY DAY! Wonderful. The day so far has passed in normal order, despite a massive rainstorm. Ten minutes left of the morning calm ...

23rd of July, 2002 - 19:22
Another smooth day is approaching its end. The day began with a long but highly interesting lecture, followed by exercises in self-defense (fun!). These lasted for four hours and were quite tiring, though I didn't get a lot of bruises, being quite a sturdy person already. We learned a couple of interesting moves, mostly different grips and defensive techniques. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.

(Notes) Laundry exchange. Bedsheets, Towels, PE clothes, Underwear, Shirt 59, Shirt 90, T-shirts, Socks, Winter Socks, Other stuff, Earplugs.

24th of July, 2002 - 06:45
This rather nice morning had a small surprise in store for us: The main water pipe has burst, and so the entire base is without water, something which has quickly caused some bad things to happen, especially in the lavatories and in the canteen. According to reports the leak is HUGE, meaning it might take a while until we get our water supply back. Fortunately I've got roughly one litre left in my water bottle, so I needn't be thirsty just yet. Hopefully what I've got will last until the leak has been repaired.

(Notes) Information needed when standing guard (OBSLÖSA): Orientation, Watch area, Means of communicating with watch commander, Password, Opening fire, Position, Equipment, Time to be relieved.

(Notes) I've written a HUGE list of all the personal equipment we soldiers have received so far. Quite a list, four pages long, I'll node it when I've got a lot of time to waste.

26th of July, 2002 - 08:55
Wrote a lot of stuff yesterday, but nothing diary-related. Oh Well. Yesterday was spent on even more guard training, some of the most enjoyable exercises so far, with a lot of physical exhaustion and various bruises as a result. Lots of close combat training. In a bit, we're going to be doing our final practical exams before we're certified guardsmen. Everyone's kind of nervous, but I have a lot of faith in my own ability to pass the test. Today the day is friday and I've got a nice weekend coming. Oh and by the way, that water leak I wrote about before, they fixed it in two hours.

26th of July, 20002 - 10:37
I passed!

That concludes this week's entries. Sorry I didn't write more about the finer details of what becoming a certified guardsman includes, but it included a lot of listening to boring lectures about what's allowed and what isn't, and a lot standing still waiting for a Bad Person to show up, taking care of him/her, and recieving comments on my performance from the instructor. So far I've only had to shoot two people, though :)

See ya next week!

<-- day 22-28 | day 43-49 -->
26 July 2002


Otakon started today! Last night, Mother picked me up from school at the usual 8:30 PM, and on the way home we picked up Joey and Sarah. From there, we went to my house, where we ate a small dinner, I rested, packed, and installed the MP3 player in my Stepdad's car.

I still don't have my car back, after nearly 2 years. *sigh*

So, at any rate, we left my house around 1:30 AM, and I drove us to Baltimore. The ride was rather uneventuful, save for huge amounts of fog when we were passing through the mountains. We arrived safely at the Inner Harbor around... dear God! We had no watches. We were lacking the time until we got to our room.

At any rate, we arrived, parked at a ghastly expensive parking garage, and then checked out the hotel at which we had reservations. I went to the desk, but the clerk told me to come back around noon for early check in.

We left the Wyndham, and walked to the convention center.

The line was already stretching around the entire perimeter of the convention center, and it was not nearly time for registration! By my estimates, it was maybe 7AM. So, as luck would have it, it started to rain. I don't mean a drizzle, I mean monsoon. We got drenched. Finally, after my wallet was soaked, and I had not a dry inch on my body, we made it into the center. We were in line for pre-registration. It took a while, but we made it. I got Vampire Hunter D on my badge.

After getting our registration, we came back to the hotel and checked in. I took the car out of the expensive garage, and parked it in the much more reasonable hotel garage. We went to the room. It was only a little after 10AM! Woohoo! We quickly got into our costumes and went to the center again.

I was Kefka.

I am Kefka.

I am writing this log at 6:49PM. We are tired, hungry, sore, and worn out in general.

We are going to hit the chinese place down the road, and then go back to the con in our street clothes.

the dam bursts

weill in japan: day 24

The halfway point of my trip to Japan has come and gone. There's just three weeks left. There's still a lot to see and do in this country, and I certainly won't be able to see it all in such a short time. That said, after a light workload through most of this week in class, the professor officially gave us the assignment I personally had been dreading. (I was originally going to write that she "dropped the bomb," but I have to be sensitive about that here.)

Over the past few days, we've been studying surveys. Either Japanese newspapers put a lot of faith in surveys, or Japanese professors just love to study them. Both here and back in Pittsburgh, we have used surveys repeatedly both as reading passages and as projects. Today, we were instructed to construct brief surveys, compile them into one large survey, and -- here's the kicker -- conduct the survey this weekend. At first I thought she wanted us to interview 50 people this weekend, but I later learned that the class as a whole should interview that many. People in the dorms either have to ask each other, ask random people on the street in Tokyo, or just make up the data. I plan on asking the four people in my homestay family, regardless of how useful their answers may be. (The survey is supposedly targeted towards college students; my parents and older brothers are all college graduates.)

That wasn't the most humiliating part of today. During the first hour, we reviewed facts that we learned from talking to local residents yesterday. We were instructed to write three interesting facts or places down on colored paper. Today, we took those papers, cut them up, decorated them with colored pencils and markers, and taped them to a large oak tag sheet.

I know I shouldn't even be asking these sorts of questions any more, but why the fuck are college students doing this? This is the sort of activity that I did in elementary school without protest, in middle school with disdain, and in high school with scorn. In college, it's widely understood that these busy-work exercises teach students nothing about the material, and nothing about art. They exist in primary and secondary schools to make pretty visual aids to show off the class. Parents in particular like to see these sorts of displays. My parents are 7,000 miles away, and they could care less about some oak tag poster. Just because I thought nobody would believe that we really did such a pointless exercise, I took a couple of photographs of the experience. Pure idiocy.

We also got our guide to the midterm today right as class was ending. Scheduled for next Thursday, the test is evil. It runs for three hours from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM, covers the three chapters we've done so far in their entirety, includes two interview-style conversations based exclusively on the content we've studied (no original thought permitted), and will likely be no more lenient than the strictly-graded hour-long "quizzes" that we've taken so far. I guess that I'll need to study. In an unusual twist, the day after the midterm will be used to go on a field trip to Harajuku as a class. Every class will take a day-long field trip after their midterm.

deliver me from class

Fortunately, it is still Friday. I couldn't sort out plans for tonight, so I went to a local restaurant with my father and older brothers. The restaurant is nondescript except for the large beer tanks in the front, and featured a huge menu with just about every kind of Japanese food available. I'm pretty sure that one of the appetizers that I tried was nankotsu, deep-fried chicken breast cartilage. This proves that I will eat most anything if it is breaded and deep-fried beyond recognition. Nankotsu tastes vaguely like chicken but is very tough. I can't say that I'd like to eat it agin.

The skies are lighting up: Tokyo's fireworks season got underway last night. There's a huge hanabi no matsuri (fireworks festival) tomorrow near historic Asakusa, and I hope to go if I can sort out plans with my friends.

I love how many take-out places are so specialized here. Near Mitaka station, I passed by a fried pork shop, a spaghetti shop, and a noodle shop before settling for a lunch box of fried tempura. I made the mistake of ordering from the take-out window and then coming inside to eat, confusing the wait staff who confusedly brought me a tray on which to place my styrofoam take-out container. If tipping at restaurants were acceptable in Japan, I'd have left them a couple hundred yen for their trouble.


Sighting: Pornography vending machines. I had heard much of them before coming, but I went 3 1/2 weeks without seeing one. They're only available at night, and are covered up during the day. Each machine sells a few books and videos for ¥2000 (about $17) each. It's the most expensive machine that I've seen in Japan, just beating out a soccer ball machine which costs ¥1800 ($15.40) for one deflated ball. I haven't bought anything from these machines yet, nor do I plan to. It's just nice to know that porn vending machines exist for the consumer who would rather not deal with humans or credit cards when purchasing their special-interest viewing materials.

ICU has a cheerleading squad, consisting of about 12 halfway decent-looking gals who look like they're barely old enough to be in high school. They're not very coordinated, from what I've seen of them, but they at least provide something to look at while I wait for the bus. Go Angels!

If you'd rather spend money on something more fulfilling, unagi (broiled eel) is at its best. I've enjoyed it a couple of times while here; a good-sized portion over rice costs around ¥1000 ($8.50).

Although I've put my trust in soy sauce and Tabasco pretty much anywhere, Japan offers dozens of other spices, sauces, and other condiments at the table. Among the weirdest: many coffee drinkers forego powdered sugar in favor of a very thick clear sugar syrup. The syrup is sweet enough to make me forget about all the poisonous chemicals it contains.

That little USB memory device I bought is worth its weight in gold. Today in the computer lab, I was able to compile three groups' worth of documents by merely inserting the cigarette lighter-sized device into the computer lab Macs' keyboards. Very cool. According to one of my classmates, a local convenience store sells similar devices with a lesser capacity.

Toy: At a local camera shop, I tried out a Sony device which accepts a memory stick and prints business card-size photos. The device is barely larger than the camera itself: only the small paper tray protrudes while the printer is in use. It's really cool, but the price is a turn-off. I can't afford to drop another ¥22,000 ($188) on a device I won't use much, especially since many companies make 4- by 6-inch prints of digital photos for 30 to 50 cents each plus a small shipping charge. That's about the same price as it would cost to print photos at home using special glossy paper and ink. The Sony printer's ink and paper aren't cheap either, and I doubt that I can buy them in the U.S.

There's a busy weekend of studying and busy-work ahead, to be followed by a week that will start out boring, become insane, and end with relaxation. We'll see how things pan out.

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