Journal Archives - November 1-15, 2000
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November 1, 2K ... We've got DSL at home! Finally! The days of six people sharing one phone line for both calling AND Internet access are behind us.
The installation was completed shortly before I left for work yesterday morning. This involved a technician coming out to our house, fiddling with the phone lines, and plugging a little modem-shaped box into the wall. He tested it and took off. When I came home, about twelve hours later, the little box was still sitting, unused and unloved, on the shelf of the bookcase. Its ethernet cable trailed forlornly off to the floor.
I plugged it in to my computer, grabbed the printout I'd made of our IP and router information that Myles had forwarded to me at work, and verified that we were indeed good to go. Two minutes of typing information in, and one reboot, and my Mac was on the Net.
Next step: Could I get a network going? I fished around and found a hub, rearranged the plugs on the power strips (no small task), disconnected the cables, and reassembled the whole shebang, with the hub in the middle. After a little bit of trial and error, my Mac was again online -- and we had space for four more computers to do the same.
Walter's box, downstairs and around a corner, was too far away for even my longest available Ethernet cord. But Myles' and Misty's computers were in range. Which only served, I suppose, to get my hopes up.
I quickly discovered that Misty's computer had no network card. So much for that idea. Myles' computer did, so I plugged it in and booted it up. After navigating through some dense, technical screens and setting all of the IP information up, it asked for a system CD. What, having the drivers installed isn't enough?
I gave up the CD search half an hour later. Thank goodness I've got a spare Win98 CD at work that I can bring home tonight; we'll get at least one other computer online before long. (I hope.) In the meantime, at least my computer is online.
Which isn't as much of a consolation as it might sound. This morning, when I got up, Erin complained about the PCs' lack of connectivity. I mentioned that my Mac was online, which I know is small consolation to her, because she prefers the PCs. (And I'm cool with that. This is not a rant against Windows. Deal.) She didn't acknowledge that, or have anything else to say, and being late, I left for work.
Now I'm frustrated that it looks like I ran to set up my own machine on the net and left her (and my other roommates) in the lurch. Which is entirely not the case. Yes, I set up DSL on my own machine first, but I don't think that's selfish -- especially considering that I spent five minutes getting it to work, and then immediately threw over an hour away trying unsuccessfully to hook up the roommates' boxes. I even labeled the hub and wrote a note to stick on the main PC's monitor indicating that it was short a network card. And what did all that work get me?
It's not so much that my efforts are going unacknowledged -- after all, when's the last time I thanked Sarah for doing the dishes, or Erin for getting the mail, or Misty for cleaning the downstairs common area? But all of the time I spent trying to help the house is disappearing behind the perceived results. If I'm going to be complained at, I want to be complained at for something that I actually did wrong, not something that I had no control over.
November 2, 2K ... I talked to Erin last night. It turns out that the "complaint about our DSL" was a case of insufficient communication, and then some leaping to conclusions on my part. She wasn't actually mad at me -- just at the modem on Misty's computer, which booted her off the net before she could get any work done. Don't get me wrong, I'm still glad I cleared my frustration out of my system, instead of staying silently mad and probably snapping at her for unrevealed and mystical reasons ... but it would have done far more good to talk to her before posting. I'm sorry, readers, for getting you needlessly involved.
A major part of the problem was the assumptions I made. Which is an excellent segue into this gem from the filler file ...
It's a more-or-less proven fact that people find it easier to see what they expect to see than what is actually there. This is the basis of optical illusions. This is the basis of most "magic tricks" done by stage prestidigitators. This is, if one listens solely to the skeptics, the basis of any "paranormal" phenomenon. This is also talked about at length by Robert Anton Wilson in many of his books. He calls this tendency to live in a world of one's own construction a "reality tunnel." We put on blinders to keep us away from the facts which don't meet our theories.
I can personally attest to the idea of people living in reality tunnels. [Take yesterday's journal entry, whose last two paragraphs were based on the false premise that Erin was angry at me over our DSL. -ed.] I deal with it every day in small but aggravating ways. Chief among these is the fact that about half of the population of this planet can't seem to get my human name right.
The other day, I sent a letter to Scott McCloud about the "Choose Your Own Carl" section of his website. Now, it is not my intention to pick on Scott here. He's a cool guy. Moreover, he's a freakin' genius. (Have you read Reinventing Comics?) I'm just using an example here. Albeit an example that shows that reality tunnels still constrain the best of us.
My letter was sent from Tad 'Baxil' Ramspott, using my tad@ work address. My signature repeated this information. There were a total of four "Tad"s in my letter. No alternate spellings. No misspellings. And yet what does he say in his reply? "Thanks for the heads up, Ted."
Now, Tad's not a common name. Perhaps he's never seen it before. Having dealt with a name that everyone mangles for two decades, I can even tell you what was going on in his subconscious mind: "I see text on the screen which by context I recognize to be a name. Knowing that it is a name I will glance at it. It begins with a T, which is nearly impossible to mistake, and the last letter is fairly obvious, but in the middle is a cramped and twisty letter which could be any of a number of things. Darn this small font. Well, what names are three letters long, begin with T, and end with d? Ah. Ted."
At this point the information from his eyes reaches his brain. Depending on a billion things -- mood, sleepiness, outside distractions, speed of parsing, etc. -- either he will actually notice the A and experience cognitive dissonance, or he'll just read the "a" as an "e". This isn't too hard; in lowercase, they're kind of similar looking. But he'd have no reason to do it if it weren't for the expectation he'd built up in his head.
What blows my mind, though, is how people can consciously notice the A and then dismiss it. "Oh, he must have meant Ted. There are people named Ted. There aren't any people named Tad. He must just be getting his own name wrong." Despite handwriting it, in carefully printed upper-case letters, three or more times on a form? Despite four occurrences (two computer-generated and two hand-created) in a single e-mail? That's not the worst of it: Most amusing are the people who insert an H, despite the lack of any evidence thereof, because "his name must be Thad." That one has to be intentional.
I suppose, in the long run, it's important to keep perspective. How much does it affect me that people's reality tunnels don't include my name? Well, let's put it this way: I would have to say that between Scott McCloud's letter to me and his books, the latter had far more impact. This may be a mildly surprising conclusion, but those of you who know me will understand exactly what I'm saying here.
November 3, 2K ... I betcha you noticed the banner at the top of the main page. I betcha you're wondering what this "Survivorerer" thing is. I betcha you can smell a plug coming a mile away.
Yep, right on all three counts: Survivorerer! is a parody-of-a-rip-off-of-a-hugely popular TV show, and I'm "on the island." What this involves is me making a lot of posts on the Survivorerer site as well as on my own. And doing the whole vote-people-off-the-island thing -- 20 contestants are all vying for a $5.00 prize and the honor of being "last one standing". And ... uhm ... yeah.
It's going to have significantly more attitude than my site, a much broader fan base, and -- if I read the game right -- a lot of intensity. There are 19 other people posting opposite me, after all. There's going to be a whole lot more to read there, while the game goes on. And I'll liven it up until my fellow contestants decide I've outlived my usefulness.
"Survivorerer" proper started last night at midnight. I've already set the tone for my posts-to-come by ranting about Slashdot, pornography, and soup. If you've got the time to sift through the chaos, go check it out. If you want to suggest topics for me to post about, or help my cause by making cute little random Shockwave Flash animations, please let me know. I can be your voice -- be my brain. Wait, no, that just sounded wrong.
Standard disclaimer: This shouldn't affect my daily Tomorrowlands ramblings. As most of the other 19 contestants have already said in their own daily news updates, "My first commitment is to this site." And it's not like I'm short on material anyway. But it will cut down on my vast expanses of untapped free time. Like that's news. ;)
Oh ...: I will be at Conifur this weekend; don't expect any posts or website updates until Monday. Have a happy few days, y'all.
November 5, 2K ... I'm bax from the con! And it's late. I watched many bad movies while recovering from the weekend's activities. I'll wrap up the con in the BWND; "Cobra" ... well, I'd talk about it, but I'm still scarred. I will, however, go write an Amazon.com review later on.
Another interesting thing happened today, though, worthy of mention: I got a phone call from an old friend and fellow mage. We got to talking about our lives as of late. He admitted that he'd basically drifted away from magic into "real life." Which is cool. I might have made some comments that confused my stance on the matter, but I have no problem with people dealing with the physical world. (Especially if they stay open-minded about the fact that not all of my biggest issues are resolved there.) Earth is here, and it's real, and it's got a lot of interesting things going on. I understand the lure.
I don't rightly remember whether he said he'd kind of "stopped believing" in magic or not, but somehow the topic got around to it. I said simply, "I think everyone runs into crises of faith sooner or later. Heaven knows, I've had mine. I just never found it in me to not believe."
That's all there is to it, isn't it? I haven't always believed fully in the magical forces which shape my life. A little doubt is a healthy thing. And at times being able to doubt my assumptions has saved me a hell of a lot of potential pain. But ... I've never not believed. I just can't even imagine myself as not a dragon; I just can't imagine justifying a decade of close spiritual friendships, odd and distant worlds, and miscellaneous revelations about self and universe as "all inside my head."
And I don't pity the people who don't believe (unless it seems obvious that they're deliberately closing themselves off to the truth, an image which none of my friends present to me, because I pick good friends). Everyone's gotta find their own path. And who am I to say that my worldview is any more "right" for anyone except myself than any other philosophy out there? Who am I to deny someone the magic and liberation of choosing what to believe; who am I to judge someone based on their opinions rather than their person?
And ... well, call me sappy ... but I do believe, in some form or fashion, in destiny. Or karma. Or "harmony with the universe's plan." (Or whatever.) I'm a mage because, at some level, I need to be. If I was getting nothing out of it, I'd drift away, too. Perhaps my friend just reached the point where he had nothing left to learn from it.
I suppose that explains the turnover in the dragon community, too ...
November 6, 2K ... The Baxil Weekly Name-Drop: Well, I'm back from Conifur. I'm not really sure how to wrap it up. If I had to condense it into a single word, it would probably be "letdown," but that would be completely unfair for a number of reasons -- the most important of which is that I had fun. Chalk it up to post-Con depression. It passed far too quickly, as usual.
What can I say to explain a convention to those of you who haven't been to one? Conifur was 500 furry fans packed into a single hotel for the span of an entire weekend. There were panels, events, a dance, lots of stuff to buy, and lots of art to admire, but conventions are mostly about camaraderie. Throw 500 furries together and you're pretty much guaranteed plenty of that. I only recognized a handful of attendees: most of the Seattle Dragons list (you know who you are); WalksFar; Auryanne; Gwynn and Turbine; SnowWolf (who taught me how to play "Fluxx"); and some guy in a squirrel suit whose costume I recognied from the year before.
I also got to talk to Lazar about magic for a while, which meant a lot to me. It's been a while since I've compared notes with other mages. So much of what I do is so personally meaningful that I find it hard to open up about it. Especially when most of my contacts are of the "Hey Baxil, could you teach me magic?" variety. I'd love to, I really would, but I've burned out on it. Talking with someone whose skill I recognize is very refreshing.
At any rate, I spent a large part of the weekend playing Gyruss in the con's game room, buying Mike Kazaleh graphic novels, eating fish, attending the Seattle Dragons party, and wondering where the time went. Each of those was special to me in its own shining way. I nearly finished Gyruss again (a coveted achievement, since the game has no continues). I read Kazaleh's "The Suit", which strongly impressed me: It's a very moving and powerful examination of such themes as one's place in a human world and how one can tear themself apart in an effort to conform. I think that book should be required reading for furries.
As for the fish: On Friday night, Bree, Purrzah, Digi, WalksFar, Jia and I shared many platters of sushi. Saturday, the six of us and some guests went to the hotel's all-you-can-eat buffet, where I filled up on sea insects like shrimp and crab. Jia suggested that I round off a fishy weekend by going to our local Safeway and buying fish sticks for Sunday dinner. I walked through the rain to do so. It felt kind of ironic.
I had a thought regarding the saga of the Sobe Power on your desk, specifically the strange dark sediment that has appeared in it. If you've watched enough Star Trek, you should know that whenever you encounter a mysterious anomalous nebulous entity blob thing, there is always the possibility that it could be God. There is a strong case for this in light of your conclusion that God drinks Sobe, and especially of your plea for It to come down and drink the bottle on your desk. If you haven't bothered God with many other prayers in the past, It may have decided It may as well grant you this one thing. So it seems God has manifested Itself in your bottle of Sobe, where It can enjoy the drink in whatever unfathomable way a Supreme Being does.
All I can say is that this rang true with me. How could I have been so blind? I've had God on my desk for weeks and never even realized it! Hoping to rectify my horrendous oversight with an O.D. of prayer, I rushed to my desk at work, only to find ...
The bottle is gone.
Upon reflection, I remembered another fact pertinent to the matter. Most celebrities jealously guard their personal privacy -- they're so often recognized wherever they go, that most prefer anonymity when they go out in public. Now, God is: (A) The ultimate celebrity; and (B) omniscient. Therefore, doesn't it stand to reason that He would know exactly when I would discover his identity, and would have arranged to have disappeared by then?
I can't fault Him for that. And He did respond to my request to finish off the bottle. So, thank you for thinking me worthy, God, for the brief time You were with me.
Also, old college roommate Graham writes:
I was poking through http://www.tomorrowlands.org/misc/sobetest.html, and noticed your high ranking of water throughout the study. It occurred to me that you have probably forgotten the cyanide that Santa Barbara called water. I haven't, but that's mostly because I still remember cleaning the mineral deposits off the bottom of my glass. *yuck* Even through a filter it was still revolting.
You forget one thing, Graham: I like tap water. Of course, I also hate jeans, dislike chocolate, hate TV, and vote Libertarian. (I suppose a case could be made to pin the latter on the former. But I don't think that my childhood home had lead pipes ...)
And, yes, So. Cal water sucks. What else do you expect from water piped
down an aqueduct from No. Cal, an aqueduct which is basically a
500-mile-long stewpot for fish poop and agricultural runoff? That's what
Southern Californians get for settling in a desert.
... Well, OK, what So-Cal-ites get for settling in a desert is Los Angeles, which is punishment enough. The water is just adding insult to injury.
LIFE is a search for IDENTITY the paradox between nothings we choose our MASKS & sometimes we choose to break them. - either way - our choices MAKE us, for they DEFINE us. MYTHS draw us into the WORLD ... ... they are MORE REAL than we think.Those of you who have visited my mate Erin's Elfwood art archive may recognize the words. I'd like to say they're mine; they were in fact written by a pen held in my hands. But it was one of those moments of inspiration that you're just not really sure you can credit yourself with in good faith. One of those pieces that you read a week later and think to yourself, "that's mine?"
That probably didn't explain it too well. I'll let my brother's words carry the moment.
What? You expected something about politics today? Fnord.
November 9, 2K ... Okay. You want politics? I'll give you politics. I'll hold off on Bore vs. Gush; I'm having too much fun watching them bicker over 2,000 votes in Florida. (Update: As of about two hours ago, the gap is now two hundred. This could take weeks.) But I would like to reprint the following for you. I originally wrote it in a discussion on the bulletin board at Antwon.com, but it's quite relevant journal material.
* * * * *
For me, the biggest crushing disappointment of the election was one that most people consider a complete and utter non-issue: The scramble for fourth place.
As of the time of this post, Orvetti.com* lists Buchanan at 438,655 votes nationwide, and Browne at 376,258. Buchanan, of course, is the "protest vote" of fundamentalist wackos everywhere. Browne, as the Libertarian candidate, is the "protest vote" of, well, Libertarians -- the "if it doesn't hurt anyone, don't make it illegal" crowd.
What this means is that, at the fringe of American politics, the Anti-Porn Guys of the world outnumber the me's of the world by about 1.2 to 1. This is personally very frightening. Why? I'll tell you.
I am currently in a polyamorous relationship. For every person who actively supports my ability to make that choice, there are 1.2 who flat-out call it "adultery" and would like to see me thrown in prison.
I am a pagan. For every person who unequivocally calls this a valid religious choice, there are 1.2 who interpret this to mean that I'm possessed by Satan.
I run a website, which privileges me to publish my opinions. Any of my opinions. Whichever ones I want, even if they happen to be "The military draft sucks" or "End the War on Drugs." For every person who reads my page and agrees, there are 1.2 who would like nothing better than to confiscate the server and charge me with treason.
In short, if the American public ever drifts out of the political center and migrates to the ends of the spectrum (a process called "polarization," often caused by bitter division over unresolvable issues), the democracy will elect, 55-45, a candidate who will transform America into a Christian version of the Shah's Iran.
And I will be one of the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
November 10, 2K ... I feel an obligation to balance out the flagrant pessimism of yesterday's piece. After all, while there is good reason to be cynical about politics (and while I am, at times, cynical myself about humanity), I don't think that cynicism alone can reflect the human condition. So I'll relay the tale of Wednesday's commute home from work.
It was shortly after 2 AM. It was dark -- yes, the moon's been out lately, but this being Seattle, clouds were heavy. It was, in fact, drizzling lightly at the time. And I was driving home across one of Lake Washington's famous "floating bridges," known to locals as State Route 520.
I had just gotten onto the bridge when I noticed a red light up ahead of me, and a line of stopped cars. I slowed, stopped, and craned my neck to see around the truck in front of me: a small section in the middle of the bridge was closed off, blocking all through traffic.
I quickly came to three conclusions: (1) They close the bridge entirely for construction, and the bridge hadn't been blocked off. So this wasn't going to be a several-hour delay. (2) There weren't any large boats about -- they weren't just raising the drawbridge to let someone through. So this wasn't going to be a five-minute delay. (3) I was only about fifth in line behind the blockade, so however long the wait was, I was in for the whole thing.
I killed the engine and got out of the car to stretch my legs (and to get a better look at what was going on in the blocked section of bridge). Gradually, as it became more apparent that the delay was going to be substantial, others followed suit. Real, substantial people emerged into the rain from the abstract and safe boxes of their vehicles.
The woman behind me, driving a small SUV, was concerned that she wouldn't get to work on time. I couldn't give her any information about the delay. But then I noticed three men trudging toward us from further back in the line. They passed us, and headed toward the blockade; I brushed some rain from my forehead and fell in line behind them.
A clean-cut young sheriff, as it turns out, was idling at the front of the line. He explained that he hadn't been informed of the delay, either. Up ahead, some workers were examining a section of upraised bridge. The sheriff's best guess? "Ten minutes to an hour," he said. Along with "Interrupting them isn't going to make it any faster" -- directed at one of the other men, who had walked forward to ask the workers for an estimate. So we thanked him and walked back toward our cars. Along the way, the real magic occurred.
Those who hadn't wanted to brave the elements now cranked down their windows to hear the news from the front. We repeated the non-news to everyone who would listen. One of the men was in need of a cigarette; he finally managed to bum one from the woman in the passenger seat of the big rig in front of my car. Someone else asked from inside their car what radio station it was that had local traffic information. There was some discussion over whether it was 560 or 530 AM; he tried both, and reported that there was nothing about our current predicament. I offered the information that one of the marquees over 520 some miles back had said something about "2:30," which was still ten minutes away, although I hadn't caught the gist of the message. (Most of the others had merged onto 520 from I-405, and thus missed the sign.)
The four of us who left our cars had stayed clustered together, answering questions as a group, trading speculation amongst ourselves. The truck's driver got out of his rig, and joined our wet discussion; his passenger offered him a raincoat, but he waved it off, comfortable in just his sweater. Someone asked if any of us had heard updates of the presidential election. One of the men replied that Florida was expected to take several days to straighten out. I concurred, and left to walk down the line of cars and let people know we'd be waiting a while so that they could turn off their engines.
What was so heartening about the experience? That a bunch of random
people, with nothing in common save a problem to confront, all decided to
join forces to do so. That there wasn't any authority figure, just a few
people trying to help out others. That we talked about the election and
didn't break down into a bitter dispute over who voted for what. That we
connected to each other, as people, as fellow humans (and a
Humans are social animals. This has caused some of the species' worst problems ... but it's also one of their (our) greatest strengths. And it's very touching to see that properly applied.
November 12, 2K ... This afternoon, I got a little bit nostalgic, and went out on the Net to find a copy of "The Guardian Legend." It's an old NES game that I used to play for hours on end. I would definitely class it as one of the top ten NES games ever created.
It was as fun as I remember it. A tight little adventure game. But it's looking pretty damn dated, and it's only about ten years old. Within a generation, people will be saying, "Wow, our parents had fun with that?" Kind of like Parcheesi to today's youth.
Now, I program games for a paycheck. Talk about an industry of planned obsolescence! It's not like I'm in this for the fame ... but still, every once in a while this just curiously depresses me -- the essential guarantee that everything I do will be forgotten in ten years.
November 13, 2K ... Screw the BWND. All I did this week was work; all I did this weekend was play video games. Well, OK, I did get into a spiritual tussle this morning, so the weekend wasn't a total haze -- but I don't have a name to drop there, so I'll babble on about random stuff instead.
Have you ever had a song run through your head, one which you just can't shake? I've known a solution to this problem for many years. It's as simple as choosing a song you like, one you've memorized, and then any time you realize there's a song stuck in your head, dislodge it with the one you've previously chosen.
The trick here is to find a song that you like enough, one which you don't mind if it's on repeat play in your brain. This varies with personal taste, obviously. I've been using Old Soul's "Brightness" ever since I can remember. It's simple, has an extremely memorable intro riff (an added bonus, since that means I don't have to rack my brains for it while being distracted by whatever other song has got me), and has lyrics just profound enough to kick out whatever inane song is trespassing in my brainspace.
Curiously enough, after four years of using "Brightness" as my mental Liquid Plumber, I still love it. It takes a special song to stand up to that kind of stress.
You say there will come a time when everyone's free /
Just watch for the reconnection in me.
November 14, 2K ... About a year ago, I moved up to Seattle from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Now, I'm told that many Californians do this, especially the technical types, to the point where they make Californian jokes up here.
I'm not bitter about that, really. Mostly because I've acclimated. You can only be a "transplanted Californian" for so long before either: (A) starting to fit in as a Seattleite; (B) getting so sick of the place that you pack up and move home.
So, as a public service to ex-Californians, I'd like to share with you this original list:
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A SEATTLEITE INSTEAD OF AN EX-CALIFORNIAN WHEN ...
12-13-2K update: Today's weather reminded me of a few additions to the list:
November 15, 2K ... This morning, I staggered into the bathroom to shave. I grabbed my electric shaver, plugged it in, and performed my occasional ritual of tapping the shaver against the side of the sink to clean out some of the gunk from inside the head assembly:
tap tap tap CLATTERCLATTERCLATTER
... and the head assembly dislodged itself from the shaver and tumbled into the sink. The little spring that keeps the blades pressed flush against the foil bounced once, then rolled into the drain.
Now, this has happened to me once before. Only about three weeks ago, actually. And when I lost the spring that time, I went unshaven for nearly a week before I found the time to go to a local drugstore and buy a replacement. It cost me over $20 because they don't sell the springs separately: I had to buy a whole new head assembly. I justified the purchase by reminding myself that I hadn't done so in nearly a year, and the blades were getting pretty worn.
But this time I wasn't about to put out $20 and wait a week, not when my current assembly was less than a month old. I pronounced a declaration of war on the sink and stormed righteously upstairs to arm myself.
I was fully prepared to disassemble the piping under the sink to retrieve the spring from the catch, but that would have taken an hour and required getting fairly dirty, and I had to go to work fairly shortly. So, on a hunch, I headed for the refrigerator.
We've got a small army of refrigerator magnets; I pored through them, looking for volunteers. Ah! There on the side -- a small, plain magnet (just a magnet -- no decorations or anything) about the size of a dime. Perfect. As I was appropriating the magnet, Myles walked by. "Have you got some superglue?" I asked. "And some string?"
"Superglue I can help you with," he said, leading me into the rec room, where all of his Warhammer miniatures are stored. "String, I'm not so sure." But we poked around for a little while, and he handed me a long, pencil-thin faux-leather strap from an old, broken camera he'd been saving to use as Warhammer terrain.
The strap had a loop at the end, almost barely big enough to fit the magnet into. Even more perfect! "Thanks!" I said, and ran downstairs to confront the bourgeoisie sink oppressor.
I wedged the magnet into the loop, then crossed my fingers and ran a few pre-tests. Touched the magnet to the pipe -- no reaction. Touched the magnet to the metal rim of the drain -- no reaction. Touched the magnet to the shaver blade -- click. Now if that spring would only be made of the same material ...
I gingerly lowered the magnet into the drain. It got briefly stuck on the cross-rod that's there to support the drain cover; I wiggled it a bit, and it fell past. The strap went slack as the magnet hit bottom. I started gingerly reeling it up.
And there was a spring stuck to the end.
Excuse me while I work off the heady flush of victory.
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