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July 1, 2001 ... I woke up this morning to a mild headache; a brilliantly blue sky speckled with clouds tinged yellow by the sun on the western horizon; and the world apparently drained of humanity.

I dealt with the first one by taking an ibuprofen, and it's starting to kick in. I dealt with the last one by wondering why nobody was at home, and then walked out to the alley behind our house, where I heard traffic noises in the distance and saw some random guy walking by a block away, thereby assuring me that I hadn't gone and missed the Rapture. I dealt with that middle one ... well, considering that I went to bed at approximately 10 AM, I dealt with it by being profoundly grateful that it's summer, and that I hadn't woken up in total darkness. (Go back and re-read it carefully. Sun in the west ...?)

I found out, over the course of the day, that it is completely impossible to make anyone in The Sims hold the same sleeping hours as I do without insane quantities of coffee.

I finished reading "The Practice Effect," got through the first chapter of "American Gods," watched the sun rise, and then -- on top of everything else -- stayed up for most of the day, because some workmen were outside sanding and painting the house, and they needed to borrow an electrical outlet from us, and I didn't want them going in and out of the house if everyone was asleep. (The rest of my roommates were nowhere to be found. Including Erin, who is by now probably safely in Humboldt County, where she will be staying for at least the remainder of the month.)

My feet stink. I guess I'm about to find out whether these slippers will survive a washing machine run.

Ssthisto had fish and peas for dinner tonight. Apparently, the peas were mushy. Very mushy. This is a condition that I have previously heard stereotyped onto British cooking, and it scares me to have it confirmed.

Doesn't scare me quite so much as the AOL Instant Messenger default smiley-face icons.

Kylee is back. She left on Friday for Bend, Oregon -- or perhaps more accurately, near Bend, Oregon; a fact which led to a really awful "going around the Bend" pun on my part during last week's sushi dinner. I have not yet heard how her weekend went ... but she did remind me that the Fourth of July is coming up this Wednesday. You'd think I'd pay better attention to that sort of thing.

For a week and a half now, I have had a vase containing a flower arrangement looming over my computer desk. (The desk has a bookshelf-type unit attached to one side; someone had glanced at the top of the shelf, occupied only by a few dragon scupltures, and said, "Oooo! Space!") It was actually fairly cheery. Until it started shedding. I've cleaned about three handfuls of blue petals from my keyboard now, and I'm probably going to have to lift the cover off to get it fully clean. This morning, I got disgruntled enough to relocate the vase to our living room table. In retaliation, the dying plants dropped about half a metric ton of flower corpses all over my desk.

Have you ever had sex so arousing that you had to masturbate after you were done just to work off the high? ... No? ... Uhm, just asking.

I just got off the phone with Erin. She's just made it to her parents' house in Humboldt, at 3:20 PM local time, July 2. You heard it here first. (And, yes, this journal entry is still dated July 1. Technically, I'm still operating on "yesterday," because it was July 1 when I got up, and I haven't gone to sleep yet. I chose this weekend to begin the fun-a-riffic process of recasting my sleep schedule so that I'm up during daylight hours. I am doing this by staying up way later than I should, because if I try to get up progressively earlier, it doesn't take.)

Random name-drop sighting of the day: In a discussion on Kaerou's Livejournal site, somedragon expressed (completely out of the blue, and vaguely tangentially) their conviction that I am one of the few people fit to bring the idea of draconity out into the public eye. Am I, I wonder? I mean, yes, there's the Draconity FAQ, but what have I done lately? Boy, you write one semi-definitive work in a little-studied field of personal identity, and nobody ever lets you forget it. (Not that I have any problem with this. I still receive 3-4 letters per month of effusive praise for helping someone out with their draconity, and they still justify my existence. But every time someone talks glowingly about me ... there's always a thought lurking in the back of my mind that I haven't written anything meaningful about draconity for my website since, uhm, 1998.)

Apropos draconity, I think I'm in that dangerous state of self-realization where I know just enough to realize that I know absolutely nothing. I'm dithering on the edge of the time commitment I would need to learn enough to consider myself an expert on the subject ... because it would take over my life completely.

I've been doing a lot of balking at fate lately. Any time one part of my brain leaps up out of its chair, and exclaims, pointing at something I am quite enjoying doing, "Aha! This is what we're destined for!" ... another part of my brain leaps up, and shouts, "My life is my own! And to prove it, I'm going to refuse to do anything where I might be playing an instrumental role." I'm getting pretty fucking annoyed at that second part of my brain, but it does raise one important point: There just isn't enough time to do all of the things I want to do with my life. I am going to have to choose, something, sometime. And I'm going to risk disappointment something fierce, because that's the nature of choice and sacrifice. So I'm balking for a reason. Not a good one, necessarily, but it's there.

Pointless Livejournal tribute follows.

Current music: Thanks To Gravity, "I Never Thought" (I need to shut this time inside a bottle / cast it toward a splitting sky / eloquence will find me)

Current mood: Reflective

( Comment on This )

July 3, 2001 ... A piece of advice to you aspiring writers out there: Keep your eyes open, kids. The world is a funny place, and all the humor's in the details.

Point in case: The Grand Illusion, a little alternative theater down on The Ave, has a schedule posted up on their door. Their listing for tomorrow reads: "Our cinemas are closed July 4. Go see a big, dumb movie. God bless America."

For what it's worth, if you want a big, dumb movie to see tomorrow, check out "Evolution." It certainly is big and dumb. Erin and I went to see it together last week; she enjoyed it wholeheartedly, and I found it entertaining but forgettable. (A piece of advice: Run out of the room and take a bathroom break the first time you hear the word "selenium." You'll enjoy the movie a great deal more for having missed that scene.)

Erin compared the movie favorably with "Men in Black" (which we both liked), and I know I'm not going to hear the end of it if I just pan "Evolution" without explaining myself, so here goes: It wasn't a bad movie. It might have been, if I had gone in with any expectations at all (which was one of the flaws that sunk "AD&D" for me). But I just didn't find it a very good movie. As a comedy, it relied largely on scatology -- but did shine in those few moments when the script found genuine humor, which were unfortunately few. They made it a point to not resort to slapstick -- much was made of the female lead's clumsiness, but amazingly, there were no jokes built up around it -- which was a mixed blessing at best, because I would have far preferred it to flatulence and enema one-liners.

What "Men in Black" had that "Evolution" didn't was faster-paced, more relentless, more highbrow humor. What "Evolution" had that MiB didn't was ... a really cool-looking dragon used to good effect. As such -- and because it did have its high points -- Evolution's worth seeing once. After that, it depends on whether your movie tastes range toward the big and dumb.

I'll close with another detail about the world, a case of advertising synergy gone horribly awry. As I was eating lunch in The Spice Rack today, a bus passed by. Now, Seattle buses (just like most local buses in the country) carry advertising on their sides. This particular bus had, in the front right ad slot, an advertisement for a local theatre company's latest production, "Polish Joke." Pause for effect as the bus passes by the window, and then the punchline: The rear right ad slot had a public service announcement, reading in bold letters, "STOP DISCRIMINATION."

They couldn't have planned it any better.

July 4, 2001 ... Bus driver to policeman trying to keep a local street closed to through traffic, explaining why his full vehicle should be allowed by: "I live down here."

I went with Kylee and Wim to Kylee's workplace to watch Seattle's fireworks show tonight. I haven't seen a show that big that close for years. The last time I did, it was from inside an office building in Washington, D.C.; the fireworks were awe-inspiring, but it was purely a visual show.

Tonight's show reminded me of just how multi-sensory a true fireworks experience is. It was loud. So loud that I heard the fireworks with my whole body more than I did with my ears. There would be a loud bass thump; the windows would shiver; and I would feel the shockwave of the explosion -- because, as beautiful as fireworks are, they're basically big explosions -- from forehead to shins. The soles of my feet would buzz as the second-story deck underneath us rattled.

And then there was the smoke. Now, I like the scent of smoke. That's a good thing, because at times the wind would shift and we'd be right in the path of the towering clouds of smoke that served as the wispy corpses of the light show. It would be an undeniable cliche to call fireworks smoke "the scent of freedom," but it really did bring the holiday into focus.

I ultimately filled two rolls of film with fireworks pictures. We'll see if any of them develop.

At any rate, happy Independence Day ... more thoughts on what exactly that means tomorrow.

July 6, 2001 ... Well, July 4 has come and gone, and for once I'm feeling a sense of societal connection from a holiday. I should reiterate, for the record, that I hate holidays, so this is something honestly special for me. About the closest I've gotten to enjoying holidays for years has been observing solstices and equinoxes ... but I don't celebrate them, I recognize them, and reconnect in my own way, privately.

I actually celebrated along with tens of thousands of Seattleites -- and millions around the country -- two nights ago. I watched the same fireworks, ate the same barbecue, waved the same flags (or I would have, if I'd had any flags around to wave). I just wish that I was celebrating the same holiday as everyone else.

What were they celebrating? What were you celebrating? Was it the anniversary of the symbolic founding of the United States of America? Screw that noise: I was celebrating Independence Day.

Now, I happen to believe that America is a good place, but not good enough to deserve a thinly-veiled love-it-or-leave-it foaming-at-the-mouth patriotism ritual. (Even if that ritual does involve massive quantities of cool shit going boom.) To the extent that America is great, America is great because we're all about freedom. I am proud to be an American citizen because America thinks that its citizens are people, with rights, free will, and power. When that breaks, the state is broken, and not worth tolerating, much less celebrating. So I commemorated July 4 in the spirit of appreciating the abstract qualities that make this nation a good one. I celebrated Independence Day.

Are there things wrong with America today? Of course there are. Juries are routinely stacked with people who support unconstitutional laws, or ordered to convict against their conscience. The "War on Drugs" has brought heavily armed police storming Gestapo-like into innocent people's houses -- people who subsequently find their property seized under asset forfeiture laws, and lose their $250,000 house even though they're never charged of any crime. Nearly half of Americans think that the press "has too much freedom to do what it wants", and 39% say that the First Amendment "goes too far in the rights it guarantees." (Etcetera.) Independence Day is not a day to forgive these transgressions -- only a day to set them aside, in favor of celebrating what's right about the country, and the world.

People of all races and colors, all religions, and both sexes have equal rights under the law. (I know this isn't true in practice, but it's true in theory, and for this to be the theory is a great leap forward over nearly all of human history.) We can say what we want, believe what we want (as long as we don't follow those beliefs into any actions that break the law), and live where we want. We can cross the country in less than a day for the cost of far less than a week's wages. As long as the government gets its (huge) slice of the pie, we're free to accumulate as much money as we like, and spend it on a huge variety of products that would have been unthinkable without centuries of industrialization and free markets. In short, we are free -- not as free as we should be (hello? consensual same-sex relationships are still illegal in 16 states? since when is that anyone's business but the participants'?) ... but free nonetheless.

So, I celebrated our independence, and it felt good indeed.

July 7, 2001 ... Have you ever wondered what ninjas do in the off-season?

I mean, there's only so much killin' and hurtin' to go around. In these days of death-by-telefragging, l33t deathmatch 5k1llz outrank supernatural stealth and mad martial arts prowess, and evildoers are prone to hire hax0r kiddies for all their pain infliction needs. Ninja clans don't get the employment that they used to. To make things worse, there's a slight seasonal hitch in most ninja schedules: Evil overlords traditionally use the months of June and July to burn their sick days before the fiscal year rolls over, and go out fly-fishing; landscape painting; or plotting to take over the island of Maui so that they don't have to get those weird umbrella thingies in their drinks while on vacation.

So you'd figure that ninjas would occasionally be spotted working a second job to make ends meet.

And you'd be right.

Our landlord -- who isn't an evil overlord by any stretch of the imagination, but must have some great connections in the biz -- sent out an interesting team of painters to the house last week. To make a long story short ... at great risk to life and limb, I managed to capture photographic proof of these stealthy housepaint assassins:

[The ninja paints stealthily]

Housepainting ninjas? Boy, and I thought I had it bad with the employment search.

July 9, 2001 ... Last night, I dreamed I was in college. I lived in a large dormitory, the interior of which was a maze of twisty passages, all alike. (At one point I took a wrong(?) turn and eventually ended up inside the building's internal sewer tunnels. But then, I'd gone through one of those doors that if it were in a hotel would have been labeled "employees only," behind which there was a featureless white corridor, as opposed to the brightly carpeted dorm halls. I'd gone backstage, basically.)

Late in the dream, I went into a hallmate's room. He was an upperclassman, and was teaching me one-on-one in some subject I don't remember -- some sort of independent study program, I guess. What made this particular part of the dream notable is that he started to hit on me.

It's not often that I have dreams in which hot young men openly admire my body, find excuses to snuggle with me, and reach inside my pants to squeeze my butt. (It didn't end up going any farther than that, which I halfway regret, if only because being seduced is such an ego boost.) I have to say it was a fun dream ... and, given that, I wonder what it means. ... Let me explain myself.

Now, I consider myself bisexual, in that I'm entirely open to having partners of both sexes (and have done so), but I've learned over the last decade that men just don't turn me on. To the extent that I've ever had overtly sexual dreams, all of the ones that I remember were with females. Heck, for me to even have an erotic dream is something of a rarity. And yet in this dream I was receiving openly sexual attention from a guy who I found terribly attractive as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is not, I must say, typical.

One thing that I've learned about dreams is that, for me at least, they tend to be woven from familiar things; what's assembled by my subconscious is a patchwork quilt made of bits of the ordinary. When the dream calls for a friend to appear, I will often meet someone who's a friend in waking life. When the dream calls for a source of anxiety, my subconscious will helpfully provide "being late for something" -- one of my big worries -- more often than not. Settings tend to be the stereotypical buildings or streets I expect them to be. So when I meet "Erotic Partner A" in a dream, and my subconscious helpfully reaches into the Erotic Partners bin to pull out ... a guy, I have to wonder.

Here's the kicker: I was channelling S. when I fell asleep last night. I can't say anything about S's "usual" dreams, as I'm not him. But I do know that he is quite definitely about as gay as I am straight.

Was someone else dreaming through me? It would still have been my brain -- my piece of skull meat, with its memories filling the dream assembly bins -- but the personality, the preferences, the associations would have been S's.

Channelled dreams. Now that would be quite an interesting change of pace ...

July 10, 2001 ... (I'm not going to name my bank in the following, because I don't think it's a fault specifically of theirs. The problem here, I suspect, runs deeper than that.)

Dear Mr. Ramspott,
Thank you for your recent interest in distributing some of this great nation's wealth to a friend outside of America's territorial borders. We apologize for the stress that this experience caused you. Here at GiantCo Financial, we want your every interaction with us to be profitable positive. For you to feel cheated means we're not doing well enough. As such, please let us explain the reason for our regrettably high fee schedule.
We understand your indignation that the cheapest alternative for money transfer is an international money order with a $10 service charge. But think of it this way. For that $10, you get the benefit not only of our enormous bureaucracy, but also the enormous bureaucracy of all of the foreign banks we're in contact with. That $10 buys you peace of mind that the money you earn is worth something more than the promises of our nation's government: it's also worth the promises of foreign governments. Consider that a domestic money order is $5, and that an international money order is valid in approximately 132 times as many countries. Why, if you look at it that way ... by charging you $10, we're not only maintaining our healthy profit margins, but also providing you a discount of $650!
Next, we hear your dissatisfaction that to have the money changed into the foreign country's currency at the time of transaction would cost you an extra $5. (sigh) Mr. Ramspott, when will you lose your foolish, outmoded idealism? To provide value-added service just isn't the way that capitalism works. We're not in the business of helping ensure a smoothly running economy, we're in the business of making money. Since the currency changer at the airport can expect to make $5 when handing you $100 worth of Markkas, why shouldn't we be able to do so too? Why should the $10 service fee be enough? We're doing more with your money, we should expect more of your money. 'Nuff said.
Finally, regarding your outrage at the fact that an international wire transfer costs $42.00 ...:
Yes, Mr. Ramspott, we willingly acknowledge that this may seem backward to the untrained eye. After all, a wire transfer requires the least amount of work on everyone's part: the paperwork for the withdrawal and the paperwork for the deposit are going to be done no matter how the money is moved, and the fuss of writing and cashing a money order take additional man-hours that the banks must ultimately pay for with higher service fees. With a wire transfer, all of the middle steps are bypassed, and the funds just get directly shifted from one account to the other.
But this is exactly why we charge four and a half times the fee for less than half the work: the convenience! You don't have to pay postage for the IMO, nor worry about it getting lost in the mail; your recipient doesn't have to cash the IMO or worry about exchange rates; etc. Don't you think we should take a huge premium for all of that saved time? What's your time worth to you, anyway? $20 per hour? If we save you an hour of waiting in line at the post office and your friend an hour of waiting in line at the bank, then you've come out ahead.
Besides which, the only people who use international wire transfers are godless Communists and drug dealers. I mean, sheesh. Who the hell is going to know the bank account number of a person living overseas, anyway? Nobody with good intentions.
Mr. Ramspott, thank you for sharing your concerns with GiantCo Financial. We hope that we have been able to enlighten you in a happy sunshiney friendly way.
J. Random
Customer Service Agent
P.S.: Sending money overseas? You're not a godless Communist or a drug dealer, are you, citizen? Please don't be alarmed when the police arrive at your residence for questioning. If you're innocent, you have nothing to fear.

July 14, 2001 ... Sorry for the last few days' silence -- I've been doing a lot of twitchy-fingered killing in the strangely therapeutic alternate reality known as "Unreal Tournament." There's nothing quite so satisfying as playing uber-sniper on one of the wide-open Capture the Flag levels, racking up over 200 kills in half an hour (with an efficiency rating so high you normally only see it on Farenheit thermometers; and a trigger finger so quick that the enemy team's average time between spawning and dying was close to 20 seconds) ... unless it's single-handedly conquering the train assault level in a mere 51 seconds, so quickly that when I subsequently defended the level against the other team's incursion (they get the same amount of time to accomplish their objectives that it took you to do yours), I didn't even see a single enemy.

All this at two difficulty levels above the default setting. But, at any rate:

Maybe I'm just easily amused, but I recently had a great deal of fun trying to (accidentally, I assure you) run a plain text file as a PERL script.

"Do you need to predeclare June?" the run-time interpreter plaintively asked me, hoping that a few temporal definitions could help it to parse this apparent abomination of coding style. "Missing operator before Bax?" it suggested. A wry commentary on the fact that our household connects to the Internet through ASDN instead of a modem over a telephone line? "Unquoted string "upgrade" may clash with future reserved word at new_news line 15," it warned, engaging in an unintentional bit of meta-humor.

And then it complained "No such class usual at new_news line 4". Okay, okay, I'll admit, my posts aren't as highbrow as you might like, Mr. Perl, but you don't have to rub it in that their quality is consistently low. Besides, it's not like your grammar is any better. Pot, kettle, black.

July 15, 2001 ... Science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once famously remarked, "Ninety percent of everything is crap," an observation known as Sturgeon's Law. (Well, actually, he used the word "crud" instead, and referred to the epigram as "Sturgeon's Revelation"; "Sturgeon's Law" originally was "Nothing is always absolutely so." The Internet is a great research source, innit?)

However, I feel obligated to point out one small detail that I believe he missed:

The remaining ten percent consists of the top nine and the bottom one.

Beyond a certain minimum threshold, you just can't call something crap. You can call it gawdawful; you can call it campy; you can call it a crime against humanity -- but it isn't crap. It's far more entertaining than mere crap. Just being able to bask in its awfulness is enough to justify its existence. I refer to stories the quality of The Eye of Argon or The Young Visiters; movies of the quality of Ed Wood's; Museum of Bad Art-worthy paintings; or those weird little end-table curios you pick up for 25 cents in thrift stores. I'm talking about science like the "Time Cube", philosophy like the Breatharians, web pages like this one. Every single one of those, in my humble opinion, transcends crap, and ... uhm ... floats to the top -- much like crap does, but better at it than crap will ever get.

Speaking of crap, I did something a few days ago that I simply have not done within recent memory: Picked up a book, intending to read it -- and then put it down before finishing the first chapter. For me to not finish a book for any reason other than laziness is a pretty momentous statement; once I settle in to a project, I get quite single-minded about it. So please understand how serious I'm being when I say that Hal Stryker's "NYPD 2025" is a piece of utter crap. Such crap that Amazon.com doesn't even sell it, else I would have provided you a link. A book that's 15 years out of print, best forgotten, and somehow or another sitting on a bookshelf here in our house instead of in an incinerator where it belongs.

NYPD 2025 isn't even bad enough to fall under the one-percent rule. It's simply bad. What was my first clue? I'd like to think it was the cumulative effect of everything coming out in expository dialogue. But, no, the first big warning sign -- the one that made me sit up in my chair and say, "Oh my gods, this book sucks" -- was the line:

A communication screen lit up on the wall, and a balding man with a face said in a clipped upper-class British voice, "We usually do with his type."

A balding man with a face?! Is there any other kind?

The book seems to be based on the premise that, at some unspecified point in the future, America will somehow elect a hippie to office, who will spend all of his time meditating instead of governing, and doing incredibly radical things like opening the nation's borders to all comers; and yet he will be popular enough to get the 41st Amendment -- making him President-For-Life and giving him dictatorial control over the country -- written into the Constitution. At which point our meditative friend will extend Affirmative Action programs to cover criminals, and dismantle the criminal justice system, while leaving civil suits intact, so that criminals' lawyers can sue their victims, but not vice versa. (Gotta watch out for those hippies, man. There's nothing they would like better than to protect mass murderers from the law that constrains the rest of us.) The only hope for the future is a bunch of old-fashioned, ultrapatriotic, square-jawed cops willing to Break A Few Heads For Justice. Yep.

Now, what gets me is the sheer carelessness of the book's construction. The only explanation I've found is that the author ("Hal Stryker" is a pseudonym, and I don't remember the name on the copyright page) simply grabbed at the first explanations to come to mind when he was setting up the scenario: "Okay, I want to write about a world where law and order has utterly broken down. Hmm. Well, hippies hate law and order, and spend all of their time meditating, so if a hippie was President, people would be free to murder and stuff. So I'll just say that a hippie was elected President, and made President-for-Life so the reader knows that things won't get better without help." (... And how would a president like this get elected, again?) As convenient plot points go, this is right up there on par with "Evolution"s little hoo-hah about selenium.

I'll tolerate a number of bad things in a book (or a movie), but careless construction isn't one of those things -- it's the keystone of the Archway of Bad, and a thoughtlessly assembled fiction is basically guaranteed to be bad in many other ways. That's why I put the book down -- men with faces, and ludicrous politics, promised much worse to come.

And it wasn't gracefully bad enough for Sturgeon's Law to save it.

July 16, 2001 ... One more addition to yesterday's list of fiction that Transcends Crap (tm): "ARTIFACT." The link is to the MST3Ked version, with commentary by Cerulean and Craig Clark. (Thanks for the link, Cerulean. I laughed so hard I nearly snorted my drink.)

Once again, I'm doing weird things to my sleep schedule in an attempt to become diurnal. I woke up at about 11 PM; I'm going to be awake straight through to at least 4 or 5 PM tomorrow, because I'm attending an Internet job fair. If I'm going to find a technical job, it's going to be now, and it's going to be there; everything else I've tried has panned out. (Dumb economy.) Otherwise, I'll turn to temp work, or editing, or ... I dunno. Burger flipping, if it pays the bills. I've given up at this point on the idea of finding a job that I like.

Incidentally, I looked up the definitions of "sapient" and "sentient" today, because it occurred to me that they are in fact two separate words, even though I've always heard them to mean the same thing. Well, dictionary.com doesn't agree with the latter: while "sentient" means merely "conscious; experiencing sensation or feeling", as one would expect it to ... "sapient" means, literally, "exceptionally wise."

Beam me up, Scotty. There are no sapient species on this planet.

July 17, 2001 ... It's days like this that make me miss being a dragon in body.

I've got a four-foot corn snake coiling itself around my arm as I type this. It's just neat. The cool, slick smoothness of scales ... the rhythmic contractions of muscle as it explores along the length of my appendage ... Oh, for heaven's sake. Get your mind out of the gutter. :-P

Okay, yes, it's erotic -- in a weird sort of abstract way, perhaps as a metaphor. But mostly it's just neat. And making me wistful. Damn, I wish I had scales.

So ... I didn't actually go to the Internet job fair today. It's a two-day event, and I found out last night (after I wrote the journal entry, natch) that it's in Bellevue, not Seattle as I expected. This produced transportation issues, and I decided to go on Day 2 (which is always more sparsely attended, anyway) so that I could negotiate for the house car. Damn, I wish I had wings.

I also discovered that I appear to be missing a CD from my collection. I haven't listened to Senator Flux's "Storyknife" for a year or more, and yet when I decided on a whim to listen to one of the songs on it today, I knew all of the places in my CD collection where it could be, and it wasn't in any of them. (I keep stopping my typing to admire the snake. He's so cool!) I have an uncanny memory for the things that I possess. Damn, I wish I had a hoard ... oh ... wait ... never mind.

July 18, 2001 ... I left for the job fair this morning in quite a sour mood. It was out in Bellevue, and the Metro Transit site was down, so that meant I had no choice but to drive; I groused at Dave about the salt-in-the-unemployment-wound of $10 in parking fees for two hours of job searching. "Have fun," he told me anyway. "I won't," I responded, "but thanks."

I definitely wasn't expecting much. March's job fair (put on by the same firm) had practically nothing for people of my experience level; my big obstacle to getting employed is that I have quite an admirable collection of skills, and no formal experience to showcase them with. On top of that, I read in the fine print somewhere on the BrassRing website, "Job seekers must have two years of technical experience to register for technical job fairs." Despite my great hireability, I don't. Strictly speaking, my only "technical experience" is the nine months I spent at Wildtangent; the rest of it's been newspaper editing, temp work, or retail. I was apparently grandfathered in because I'd attended BrassRing events in the past, but the "two-year cap" didn't give me any comfort about the opportunities I'd find.

As such, when the event turned out to be merely ambivalent, I was pleased. It was heartening to have some good mixed in with the bad.

Mostly, I just found booths advertising technical writing positions open, stopped by, chatted with the attendants in that awkward "you're-tired-and-have-been-looking-at-resumes-all-day, I'm-looking-for-a-job-just-like-all-eight-hundred-people-here" way, and dropped off one of my three resumes. (The general one or the tech writing one or the tech editing one.) Then I picked up a business card, we both scribbled some notes on our respective paper trails, and I melted back into the obscurity of the crowd. I find myself more and more grateful that I put some time into designing a resume that stands out visually; heaven knows that the recruiters aren't going to remember me in any other way.

Well, not entirely true; I stopped by the Aviant booth when I noticed that they were trying to hire -- get this -- a "mathematician." I commented on this, and the recruiter and I got into an engaging conversation about math, and when I finally handed her my resume we'd been talking for several minutes. (I've only got a bachelor's degree, and doubt I qualify, but the concept amused me. I've never seen any companies simply wanting to hire "mathematicians" before.) Note to self: Finding an excuse to start up random conversation is a great interviewing tactic. Awkward silence is bad. Unfortunately, Aviant hadn't been looking for technical writers right then, but she assured me she'd give me a call if anything came up.

I also found out, when I went to the S&T OnSite booth, that the person I've been trying to reach for a month and a half, who last I'd heard was ready to send me off to a technical writing interview, had left the company to pursue a Ph.D. ... Joy. That explains a lot. At least I was able to get the office's general number; previously I'd only had his direct line, which is now worthless.

I canvassed the hall for an hour, and ran through my stock of both tech writer resumes and tech editor resumes. I've got quite a few companies to follow up with later this week. So, in that respect, it was a good job fair. On the other hand, there were a few downers.

My last stop of the day was the Comforce booth. As I was waiting in line, I felt a ugly premonition creep through me; there were two women and a man staffing the booth, and the woman in the center -- something about her tone of voice, or posture, was setting off some inner alarms. You're going to talk to her, and you will utterly fail to impress her, said the inner voice. Be that as it may, I responded silently, I'm here to find jobs, and I won't let that fear stop me. I have nothing to lose by trying and failing ... and you might be wrong.

The line melted away, and I smiled slightly as the two women became free at the same time, and the nearer of the two -- the woman who hadn't fazed me -- waved me over. We exchanged pleasantries, I handed over my resume, and ... "Oh, I don't handle tech writers," she said. "Beth? Want to talk to this young man here? I'll trade you."

Demonstrating once again why I trust my instincts, Beth glanced through my resume, looked me in the eye, and refused to take it. "I'll be blunt," said she, "this doesn't look like a technical writer's resume." (Great, she thinks my page layout is crap, I thought. "You mean, in terms of job skills?" I asked, my instincts having determined that logic was in the right on this one.) She pointed at each item in turn. "We look at the employers, look at your job titles here -- copy editor. Copy editor. Programmer. Webmaster, writing articles and features. I see a resume like this, and what this tells me is that you're all over the place. That's not the sort of resume that impresses people. You should write different resumes for the different jobs you're applying for," which was a completely unhelpful piece of advice, because she was looking specifically at my technical writing resume. "I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I think it's better for both you and me that you know where I'm coming from."

"So, do you have any openings that my skills might be a good fit for?"

"Not really. You want to leave this here anyway -- we'll keep it on file if anything comes up?"

"No, thanks," I said, thanked her halfheartedly, and walked away. Thank goodness that had been my last stop for the day; it would have thrown my mood off for the next one. Or several.

I got a chance to chew over what she'd said as I walked out of the building. The thing is ... I'm sure that, for her particular company, for that particular opening, that was quite good advice, and quite valid criticism. On the other hand, I've been looking for a technical writing job for months now, and that's not the way the whole market works. As Mary over at Aviant said, "Back when I was a recruiter for Microsoft, you were the sort of person that we went out of our way to find a job for." Breadth is an asset, if you know where to look. I guess it's simply not always appreciated. (And it's no guarantee, unfortunately. Microsoft wasn't at this job fair ... and I have had no luck whatsoever getting my foot in the door there in the past.)

I capped off the afternoon by wandering back to the Bellevue City Center and eating lunch at a hole-in-the-wall named "Simon Says Sushi." Oddly enough, they didn't actually have any sushi on the menu ... and I'll lay you odds that the loud, enthusiastic woman behind the counter wasn't named Simon. She took my order for chicken teriyaki at a good 20 decibels above normal speaking volume, and no sooner had I turned around to grab a pair of chopsticks than it was ready to serve. "Salad dressing?" she boomed, a parrot crossbred with an artillery cannon, and "Sesame seeds?" (On the teriyaki.) A little bit of both later, and I sat down.

She must have noticed me eating my greens, as I usually do first when I sit down to teriyaki. "Would you like some more salad?" she shouted across the restaurant at me, and it shocked me to learn that she could, indeed, raise her voice. "If that's not enough, just come on back up." Apparently so few people in pampered Seattle appreciate their vegetables that my salad-eating was worthy of recognition. I gently demurred, but did go back up to the counter to validate my parking permit. An hour free with my purchase. Not too bad a deal.

The teriyaki, incidentally, was excellent. The sauce was nothing to write home about -- the same standard Americanized over-sweet sugar-soy that you get in every Japanese joint in the States -- but the chicken. Oh! The chicken. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender. And this particular eatery didn't feel the need to add "flavor" by charring the meat into crunchiness over an open flame; instead, they just let the chicken speak for itself. It wasn't sushi, granted, but it ended up being a good spirit-lifter.

Parking was only four bucks.

And then I came home, played Unreal Tournament for a while, and won 13-0 in a Capture the Flag match -- myself, alone, versus three "Skilled" computer players. On top of which, I scored 46 kills to their none. Nothing like a little display of l33t skillz to cap off a day. ]B=8D

(Incidentally, Friday is my 24th birthday. Here's to hoping that I get some good job news as a present.)

July 19, 2001 ... Let's sift through the ol' mailbox today.

First of all, tomorrowlands.org reader and Art Bell listener Dalphinium gave me a heads-up on an interesting opportunity for publicity:

Baxil, I heard on www.artbell.com that Art might be doing a show on Dragons. I think you should be the Guest on the show and be the one to support all Dragons and us all. Talk about what you know or have other dragons get on as well. He said he might do it [Tuesday] night when someone mentioned about Magick. So, if you could, please e-mail Art Bell, and tell everyone else to support and message Art Bell supporting doing the show and having you as the guest.

Now, it's very interesting that the idea would come up there ... and, honestly, Art is pretty well known for being a fair-minded audience to claims of that nature. On the other hand ... I don't know the full context that draconity came up in; there's a certain benefit to draconity's relative anonymity; and (most importantly) I really don't want to be pushy about the concept. It's not my style, and I think that's a large part of the reason that people see me as such a legitimate spokesbeing.

I'm feeling ambivalent about approaching Art with the idea of talking about draconity (not that I would be uncomfortable if the subject came up on its own, just in doing anything to hasten the process), and very uncomfortable about approaching him and saying, "Hey, you need to talk about draconity, and, oh, hey, I just happen to be the world's premiere expert on the subject." So I'd appreciate it if I could get some second opinions sounding off in the forum, especially if anyone happened to listen to this week's show, and can talk more about what's already been said.

Lastly, I got an employment-related letter that made my day:

Hello from BrassRing, Inc. BrassRing is a leading on-line recruiter that specializes in the high-tech market. We provide companies who are looking to hire experienced high-tech professionals with the elite talent they need.
We found your resume on the web during one of our talent searches at http://www.tomorrowlands.org/baxil/resume.html and presented it for review by our Technical Selection Committee. The committee was impressed with your qualifications and approved your resume. We would like to present you to our clients, who are industry leading companies interested in high-tech professionals like yourself.
(information about responding to the offer)
We believe your qualifications perfectly match many positions listed with BrassRing and look forward to working with you in the future.  
Best Regards,
Your friends at BrassRing

Missed the punchline? Look at the resume.

Good gods, am I ever amused. You'd better believe that I'm going to respond -- and take this as far as it'll go before they realize what they've done.

July 20, 2001 ... Happy birthday to me!

I started off the morning by chatting with Ssthisto for several hours; shared a heartfelt phone call with Erin; talked at length with my parents (although I unfortunately missed my sister's calls, and I'll catch up with her tomorrow); and ate dinner at a local Thai restaurant with Kylee. I logged in tonight to discover some birthday wishes on the Tomorrowlands forums.

That was it, really. It was a very laid-back day. I don't mean to imply, by saying "that was it," that I'm sour on the experience; the reconnection was valuable, and I'm going to sleep with a sense of inner satisfaction. But I certainly haven't had a birthday this quiet in a while.

Well, OK, not all quiet. Sarah (the roommate, not the sister) gave me a jingly wind chime pin for a present, which I promptly pinned to my hat, next to my ear; for the first five minutes it was annoying, but I've found myself bobbing my head all evening to keep the music going. It's almost as addictive as Tetris, and probably burns more calories. She also provided amusement in the form of a glow-in-the-dark alien thingy with a Slinky body; I promptly strung up a noose around its neck and hung it next to my computer desk, where its elongated form hangs in a satirically macabre way. My parents sent me a card made of handmade paper; a little dragon statue for my computer; and a bottle of vitamins, which I'm going to appreciate for months on end. Kylee gave me a pocket-sized box of Altoids -- my current one is red, so she gave me a green one so that I don't have to be misleading about the fact that I prefer the wintergreen mints. My insurance representatives at State Farm sent me a cheesy little card with a free ten-minute phone card inside. I got an automated e-mail from LiveJournal expressing their birthday wishes, as I had entered my birthday when I registered there earlier this month.

My parents forwarded on this horoscope, at which I am vastly amused, mostly because my horoscopes usually sound like they were written at random, and this one was rather interestingly relevant:

CANCER (June 21-July 22)
The new moon in your sign heralds a new beginning. You no longer can back away from the inevitable. Sometimes, you are so busy nurturing others that you don't take care of yourself. Make a list of what you need, and get going. Tonight: splurge a little.

... Not much to do from here that doesn't involve hitting a new beginning. I'm at a financial dead-end; standing at the cusp of two new relationships; and am creating projects and stories left and right (as always). The "nurturing others" bit is so true. I can't say I splurged tonight, really, but Kylee did take me out to dinner, and I ordered something I normally wouldn't.

Although Cancer normally expresses creativity, this year you are an endless source of ideas and spontaneity. You also have unusual magnetism and charisma, drawing others to you. Your assets allow you to gain both personally and professionally this year. Others have difficulty saying no to you. If you are single, you will have more than your share of admirers. Later this year, you will start a very important relationship. If you are attached, be sensitive to your significant other, who might not be the powerhouse you are this year. LEO helps you make money.

Unusual magnetism and charisma? Me? I want to scoff, but my readers nearly have me convinced. On the other hand, "endless source of ideas" is certainly a good thing to be.

I'm incredibly amused by the statement, "Later this year, you will start a very important relationship." What? Above and beyond the three I'm balancing now? ]B=8) Well, I'm not going to rule out the possibility ... but neither am I going to go out looking. Maybe Margaret will call me back. Or maybe one of the silent readers of my website will decide that, darn it, they're just so impressed by my posting quality that they'll e-mail me suggestions of wild passion. (*shrug*) Stranger things have happened in my life. Like joining a poly quad because of being attacked on the street ... or the aptly-named Ambulance Incident, which I may tell you about someday if y'all sufficiently persuade me.

Incidentally, I've also decided that July 2001 is now going to be known as my Month of Large Blocks of Randomly Colored Text (tm).

Tomorrow: Many interesting URLs and bloggish tripe.

July 21, 2001 ... As promised, a post filled with sound and fury (except that it's actually pretty calm, and I loathe web pages that try to be clever by playing music, so it really has neither), but signifying nothing.

At Least I'm Not Alone Dept.: CNN reported on a techies.com study with some depressing statistics -- article here -- for information technology professionals hit by the dot-com downturn:

     Here's the most disturbing result: Of the laid-off [IT professionals] we surveyed, 76 percent of those who've been laid off in the last six months remain unemployed.
     "And 65 percent of those laid off six months to a year ago are still looking for work."


Come Monday, I will be investigating my career options as an editor; at least there I have three years of work experience under my belt. Failing that, ... uhm, data entry usually pays $10 an hour.

Good Advice From The Dead Dept.: What more is there to be said, except that Douglas Adams knows how stupid sloths are?

KISS, And Not The Band, Dept.: Today Baxil found the sort of diary that gives online diaries a good name. Today Baxil was impressed. ... And then there's the interestingly-named Exploding Dog. Not since Triangle and Robert has line art made me want to comb through the archives so much.

Life Is Uncertain, But Cliches Are Inevitable Dept.: Anyone who's ever played any computer role-playing games -- especially console games like the Final Fantasy series -- will squirm uncomfortably at how close to home this list hits.

Now I'll Have Something To Declare In Customs Dept.: Admit it. You've always wanted to be able to tell the world "I can eat glass; it does not hurt me" in over 100 languages. Yes, including Klingon.

Sneaking One Through Customs Dept.: So, y'all have noticed that there's a new TTU story up on the site, right? Y'all do keep an eye on that little box in the very upper right corner of the Tomorrowlands main page, right? Y'all have read Kaijima's "The Fringe", and have gone and commented on it in the forums, right? I knew you did. You're good readers, you are. Have a cookie. Then go write me a TTU story of your own.

And Your Little Dog Too Dept.: I've decided to also post Tomorrowlands site updates -- not for my journal entries, for the "feature" type stuff -- at my LiveJournal site. I also spent four hours cruising through LJ, looking for friends and catching up on the lives of people I haven't seen in years. And now it's daylight. Dammit. I'm going to bed.

July 24, 2001 ... Just in case anyone wanted to give it a shot: How To Be Baxil For A Day.

  • Sleep through both of your alarm clocks. Have some really interesting lucid dreams for four hours; finally manage to stagger to consciousness; immediately forget even the smallest details of said dreams.
  • Wake up; walk upstairs to computer; get fatalistic about the job search but skim the Web anyway; turn up three interesting prospects which involve making a phone call; glance at the clock and realize that it's past business hours. File phone numbers and website addresses for reference for tomorrow.
  • Sit down, deciding to spend the day catching up on e-mail. Sit in front of the computer for twelve hours. Get involved in someone's coming out as a dragon; read a well-written but terribly fatalistic story about the end of the world; join a discussion on the merits of cannibalism.
  • In the middle of all of this, walk into the kitchen after being told that dinner is ready. Watch roommate stirring pot; be told that dinner is not ready. Ask why; get no response except that "it's already been talked about." Ask roommates in living room why; get yelled at for being angry at them; get confused and defensive and insist that you just want to know what's going on and that you're sorry if that's coming across as anger; don't get anything resolved. Have dinner. Don't enjoy it, because you're still feeling guilty over the perception that everyone else thinks you're upset.
  • Finish the leftovers after everyone else has gone to bed.
  • Write a journal entry, glance at the clock, and prepare for bed. Realize that, despite 12 hours of ostensibly "catching up on e-mail", you've answered two letters. Wonder just how many online forums you're going to have to desert in order to stop being such a mail flake.
Actually, I take that back. If you're going to be me for a day, find a job and answer lots of e-mail. Nobody will believe that you're me, but boy, will my life improve.

July 26, 2001 ... Damn you, SirCam. You go to hell. You go to hell and you die.

No, I wasn't infected by this latest e-mail virus to be making the rounds. No, I wasn't even particularly inconvenienced. (I use a Macintosh, and read my e-mail through Pine on a remote server. As such, I get a chance to detect viruses before even being able to download any attachments, and even when I do download an attachment to my computer, it won't infect me. Yay security through obscurity!) What the virus did do was, just now, give me a hell of a scare.

As you probably know by now, this virus operates by taking a random file from your (Windows-based) PC's "My Documents" folder, e-mailing it as an attachment to somebody, and generating the subject line of the e-mail based on that document.

So I just received a SirCam e-mail -- my first at this site (although I've gotten another seven at my old address) -- with the subject line of ...:

Termination Letter

Thought process:

"... Wait, I'm not employed.
"... Wait, it's from Jason somebody-or-another. Am I being fired from my volunteer position at Lostware? What the heck? This is the first I've heard. What did I do wrong?
"Great gods of earth and sky, I am such a monumental fuck-up. I think I'm going to go crawl into a corner and let myself starve to death. But first, I might as well see just what I did ..."
(opens letter)
"!#@$%!#@$^!#%&!#^!@#$%^!@$^% !!!!!11!!1!!1!!! IT'S THAT DAMN VIRUS THING!!! URGE ... TO KILL ... RISING!!!"

For the record: No, the virus was not from Lostware's Jason, just some random guy named Jason out somewhere on the Internet. (The virus searches for e-mail addresses in your browser cache as well as your addressbooks.)

Also for the record: Just to add insult to injury ... the e-mail was sent to 'luv' at tomorrowlands.org.

July 27, 2001 ... As much as Americans like to think of ourselves as the "land of the free," that's basically the country's biggest in-joke. I gave some examples in my Independence Day entry; here's more:

First and most importantly, I don't have the space to detail America's hypocrisy on human rights. Just read this. Need I add that the U.S.' current per capita rate of incarceration is the highest in recorded human history? Or that only 1 in 7 people in jail today have been convicted of a violent crime? (Source)

The vast majority of the American bureaucracy (pretty much every TLA agency) is now appointed instead of elected. The use of the president's power of one-man decree (the executive order) is creating a tradition of de facto dictatorship; Clinton issued 364 executive orders in his two terms in office (source), one of which would have effectively demolished the 10th Amendment if public opinion hadn't forced him to back down (source). It was, in fact, an executive order (#9066) that sent 110,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps during WWII. Speaking of which, no American use of force since then has been authorized by Congress. And yet our military budget is $310 billion per year, over one-third of the entire world's military expenditures. (Source)

America, despite its image, is a quite conversative country. Homosexual acts between consenting adults (actually, usually that's "sodomy," which also covers most non-penis-in-vagina male-female acts) are flat-out illegal in 16 states. You can see "South Park" on the TV or movie screen, but they have to fight to keep "Huckleberry Finn" and "Of Mice And Men" stocked in school libraries. "Zero tolerance" policies routinely suspend children who do such intolerable things as bring gun-shaped keychain charms to school, or share cough drops with a fellow student.

America is also an overwhelmingly conservatively Christian country. In many parts of the country, the Ten Commandments hang in courtrooms. School prayer is an ongoing national debate. "In God We Trust" was added to the currency in the 1950s. (First Amendment? What First Amendment?)

Saying that all of this is outrageous isn't a crime.


But burning the flag almost is -- they've tried that three times, now. (Our country, right or ... right.) And a third of Americans think the First Amendment, covering such inconsequential things as "freedom of speech," "freedom of the press" and "freedom of religion", goes too far in the rights it protects.

But don't worry. You're safe as long as you don't do anything wrong.

Like look after several neighbors' children during the day without a proper business license ... or have a neighbor who is suspected of growing marijuana ... or go out in public as a black male.

July 28, 2001 ... It's been a long day. I need sleep. It was suitably fun, and I'll report on it tomorrow, but right now I need to finish a letter to Erin before I drop from exhaustion (I got up at 9:45 AM and did a great deal of walking/running/dancing over the course of the day; it's now past 1 in the morning).

One of my random thoughts over the course of the day:

Are extroverted people better evolved than introverts?

I ask this (as an introvert, mind) because it seems like introversion is a more fundamental, instinctive reaction to the world. Humans are pack animals (herd animals, if you prefer), and biologically speaking we are designed to live in tribes, where you have a circle of people -- a dozen up to a few hundred -- that you know very well and have lived with your whole life, and not much else out there besides the lions and the zebras. From the first human to the dawn of agricultural civilization, if you met "strangers" at all, they were rival tribes (key word, rival), and there wasn't really a need to be able to interact with them well.

(Incidentally, I say "biologically speaking" because, frankly, if Homo sapiens lived as hunter-gatherers for 94,000 years before developing farming and writing some 6,000 years ago, I think that's some pretty weighty evidence that the hunt and gather bit is what we were designed to do.)

As civilization grew, it got to the point where you wouldn't necessarily already know everyone who you interacted with. Large towns grew to thousands, tens of thousands of people. Trade flourished, and you could walk down to the marketplace and be forced to interact with people you might never see again -- but weren't allowed to bash their head in with a rock. The need for social graces grew.

Today, of course, you can't walk out of your door without stumbling over somebody you've never met and will never meet again. A random trip to the supermarket will bring you face to face with dozens or hundreds of people who you don't know in the slightest. It is necessary to develop be-friendly-with-new-people skills that humans are not biologically wired for. Extroverts, for some reason, get it right better.

So ... are their genes better?

Or is the global village just too big?

July 31, 2001 ... Today, I did a bad, bad thing: I walked into a CD store.

Normally this isn't exactly a capital crime. Unfortunately, I don't have any money to spend on luxuries like CDs, and I spent it anyway. Further incentive to get a job as soon as possible, I suppose.

True to form, I spent an hour browsing the discount used racks, and walked away from the store having spent $50 on 31 CDs. You read that right: $50 on 31 CDs. (I am the 99-cent-rack king.) You'd be surprised what you can pick up for three bucks or less, if you look hard enough; I got Toad The Wet Sprocket's "Fear"; Genesis' "We Can't Dance"; INXS' "X" (which has "The Stairs," which will be a definite help if Erin ever re-dubs "Art of Life" onto CD); NIN's "Broken"; the Benedictine Monks Chant thingy; and a misfiled CD-ROM titled "Seduction: An Erotic Multimedia Experience," which I hope to install on one of the roommate's PCs so I can get my 66 cents' worth of entertainment (I'm guessing "incredulous laughter") from it.

Browsing through the 99-cent music bin -- three for $2, if you're a shrewd bargain hunter -- always feels weird. Not wrong, or else I wouldn't do it; simply weird. I am, in a very immediate way, sifting through the wastebin of history. There's a full aisle of CDs stacked two deep on the shelves -- the detritus of groups with more talent than luck; shiny round bones the only records of their passing, each one with a story that I'll be one of the few people ever to wonder about.

Joules. Uthanda. Flight 16. Rein Sanction. Fallen From Grace. Six Day Affair. Who are these bands? Where are they now? Have their members moved on to other, more famous groups? Gotten stuck in the local circuits and faded into meaningless regional prominence? Settled down into a vaguely fulfilling living as the anonymous live acts roaming around Disneyland? Given up their dreams?

Thousands of bands with enough perseverance to release at least one album before fading out -- and this, just in a corner of one music shop in a slightly seedy corner of Seattle. I've picked up CDs in Denver, Portland, Berkeley, from bands that I'll never in my life be able to find another mention of, presumably because they're local to those places and I'm not. There are so many dead bands out there I'm surprised I can walk down the street without tripping over one.

It's even worse when I move up a price notch and discover the classic albums from once-famous, now-forgotten artists. I picked up Paula Abdul's "Spellbound" for $3. Paula Abdul. Man, I grew up addicted to Paula. She disappeared after two albums, got married to Emilio Estevez for a while, and ... well, heaven knows what she's doing now. (Infomercials, maybe? Day trading? Occasional gigs as the live act roaming around Disneyland?) Here's an album of hers that nobody cares about enough to even put in the standard "Used" section; I bought it for less than the price of a teriyaki bowl. One of the hottest acts of the eighties, and in ten years you'll only see her name mentioned occasionally on those cheesy "best-of-the-19XXs" compilations; in thirty she'll be nothing but trivia for "Name That Tune" buffs.

Browsing through the 99-cent bin is bad enough, staring at the bones of deceased bands, but to find a fossil so large is really disturbing.

I also have to wonder about the CDs' previous owners. Obviously, someone once picked up, say, a "Flight 16" CD -- from a store, or one of the band's live gigs, or perhaps as a radio DJ being flooded with freebies. Obviously, this person decided that some quick cash was more valuable than continuing to own the album. Did they sell the CD regretfully, perhaps needing the space on their shelves, or finding themselves short on rent money? Did they unload the thing after a single play, bitter at having wasted $15 on such crap? Did they simply forget about the album as life went on, and not even notice that it got stuck on top of the pile that their roommate was hauling down to the store? Would they even know who "Flight 16" was if I asked them today, or would they give me a funny stare and ask, "Wasn't that, like, the plane that got exploded by terrorists when it left Boston?"

I feel like an archaeologist. All of this information, this beauty, has fallen into my hands ... and there's a complete lack of context around it. I know only what lies within the little case that I dug up. I can appreciate it for what it is, but I'll never really understand what it means.

Sometimes these artifacts interact in surprising ways. For instance, I once picked up a CD ("Last Days of Pompeii") from yet another anonymous, long-dead band called "Nova Mob". (One of the songs on it was "Admiral of the Sea," which I ended up putting on my first Soup mix tape.) And then, when I first opened up the Senator Flux CD "Storyknife" (which I did find, by the way; it was merely misfiled), one of the photos of the band members ... had a poster advertising "Last Days of Pompeii" in the background! I'll probably never know what to make of this, save for the fact that Nova Mob was probably more popular than I give them credit for.

And then there's "Sunburn" ... see, I once bought a tape (from a 50-cent bin, actually; some store was trying to get rid of their overstocks) by a band named "Fuel." It was good, hard, thrashy punk, and I greatly enjoyed it. I was pawing through a discount CD rack somewhat later, and saw the Fuel album "Sunburn." Thinking that this was the same band, I bought it. Turns out I was wrong, but that was OK, because the CD had some really good songs, including the title track. ... Which you may have actually heard, because I caught some familiar music in the background during one scene in "Scream 3" on a night when my roommates had nothing better to do than watch bad horror flicks.

It all fits together. I'll just never know how, except in tiny pieces.

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