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Journal Archives - July, 2002

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July 5, 2002 ... I went to Gasworks Park yesterday with Zephyra (who is visiting me in Seattle) to watch the fireworks.

It was sponsored in part by some radio station; as such, they were blaring loud and surprisingly listenable music the entire time that things were exploding. I did have to comment on it, though, when the second song came on, U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name."

"Aren't they a British band?" I asked. "Doesn't anyone else see the irony inherent in this?" (I eventually let it slide, because, after all, it's a very good song. No sense in getting uptight about the symbolism.)

Oh, yes: And, like last year, they had happy-face fireworks. :)

July 9, 2002 ... Slight correction to my previous post: U2 is not, in fact, a British band. They are an Irish band. If one considers the adjective "British" to be functionally equivalent to "from the United Kingdom", this means that I am only 80 years behind the times.

Still, I find their inclusion in the musical program much more ironic -- and simultaneously much more appealing -- than that of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and Jerry Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire."

At any rate, I apologize for my recent silence; I've been enjoying Zephyra's visit to Seattle, and have been spending very little time at the computer. Other than that, life goes on: making progress on the medical bills (for the first time, every single company has been contacted and arrangements have been made -- although some of the arrangements aren't going as well or as quickly as I would have hoped), getting poised for another round of serious job searching, learning that evil glows in the dark, and discussing not only the subtleties of being a bitch-in-law but also how one franchises bitchdom. (McBitch? Bitch-In-The-Box? Bitch Queen?)

Also went to the beach on Saturday with the local dragon pack. Flew kites, threw Frisbees, engaged our collective pyromania, and in general had a wonderful time getting out of the house.

Talk to you all when I get another moment free; I'll probably be more silent than usual for the next week or so.

July 15, 2002 ... Stories to tell, stories to tell.

For some reason, I find things that could be far more interesting than the things that were. It's an infinite world, and there's always more to do; I continually have to balance my desire to chronicle my experiences against my desire to go out and experience (or create) more of it. The strangely fitting analogy of the dragons at the edge of ancient maps comes to mind; making the map itself is just a matter of plotting survey lines to paper, but when you get to the edge, there's work to be done, by gum. Someone needs to go out there and explore; in the meantime, someone needs to create, to decide what to put there rather than just running empty ocean off the edge of the paper.

I am stuck in the position of the cartographer when I write life events in this journal; certainly the maps are handy, and someone needs to plot the things out. (And since this is my life, I'm really the only one qualified.) And yet I always find myself with an abundance of dragons, a shortage of map edge, and a great blank space in the center with a few random coastline scribbles. As a map, the finished product is probably of very limited use. But it's a nifty thing to stare at. At least you'll have fun while you're sitting in the middle of the woods, lost.

Still ... the map. We'll draw in a few more landmarks, then.

First -- and this is going to be a surprise to most of you; and for that I apologize -- Erin and I are no longer partners. This is not, technically speaking, news. This state of affairs began in May, and was finalized in early June. I've been sitting on the announcement for a long time for a number of reasons, one of which is that I've been afraid that a formal, announced breakup would cause people to react to us differently -- handling us with kid gloves, offering sympathy whether we desired it or not, being afraid to interact with us both, or feeling the need to "take sides" and support the one to whom they're closest. (For the record, please don't.)

Another reason is that she broke up with me shortly after I came home from California with a broken arm and was still moping around the house with a cast on. In hindsight, this was like something out of a sitcom; after five solid months of unemployment and a severe bout of health problems, I had nothing else left to lose, so the universe went for the only remaining thing I valued. To be honest, I was drowning so deep in other worries at the time that when Erin and I had The Talk, it didn't even register emotionally. I told her as much. I stumbled through the next few days still not getting it, which naturally meant that everything fell together on the bus ride down to BayCon, and I spent the next week a traumatized wreck. Believe me, it is a good thing that I spared you the angst.

So what exactly happened to end our nearly three-year relationship? As I understand it, it was just a slow, quiet disintegration. There have been some communication issues from the beginning -- issues that we have addressed together and through counseling, and on which progress has been made, but apparently not enough progress, because Erin still finds that interacting with me leaves her frustrated. I'd known this was occurring, but I really hadn't realized the severity of the problem. She has also complained that since I've moved to Seattle, I haven't been myself -- or, at least, the self-confident, independent me that she fell in love with. This is also, to a large degree, true; when I moved to Seattle, everything in my life got uprooted at once, and I clung to her for a long time while getting things back under control. We never really recovered from the relationship ruts that this dug -- and, when my life started falling apart again in March 2001 and the household simultaneously went through a long spell of critical financial difficulty, we dealt with some relapses that I'm still shaking off. In many ways, I think that we have been sabotaged by timing at every step. We've been through a lot together, and dealt with it together, and every time we've gotten past it, something new has immediately come up; it was almost inevitable that something would finally push one of us to the breaking point.

And where are we now? Well, after dealing with the emotional bits, sitting down for a while and deciding what we both wanted, and pursuing some post-relationship counseling (although those were all more or less simultaneous, rather than in order), we agreed that -- most importantly -- we are still friends and want to stay in touch in some capacity. We are putting our relationship on "indefinite hiatus", which is a fancy way of saying that we are separating but that we reserve the right to restart something if we can turn things around and end up clicking again. Also, I have decided for several reasons (mostly to get a little bit of space so that I can work on building a completely independent life and my own circle of local friends -- not just because Erin would like me better that way but because that's the way I want to be) to move out of Squeeky Hollow. I'll be leaving our house of seven at the end of August, or thereabouts, and taking off for destinations unknown -- which, for various and numerous reasons, I hope will still be in Seattle, but it's still (six weeks away) too early to tell. (Still looking for a job, which is one of the primary reasons this is all still so unsettled.)

I would like to make the comment, though, that I am very glad we sat on the break-up announcement at least until mid-June. When Erin and Sarah "got married" (i.e., had a commitment ceremony of sisterhood; the state frowns upon formalizing unions of their nature) on the Saturday before Sarah and Walter tied the knot, the house filled up with guests, well-wishers, and family friends. Had I been attending as a "recent ex," the entire situation would have been exceedingly awkward for me (and I was having enough doubts about attending as it was). But I was able to be there for her without sticking out like a sore thumb, and I'm glad I was able to attend and convey my sincere good wishes for their future.

So, at any rate, that's (finally) the big news from my recent life. This post, I'm certain, has been angst-inducing enough, so let me end it on a more positive note: I finally finished up the TTU story that I've been working on since I came home with a broken arm. I typed most of it out one-handed, so it's good to see it finished -- it shows me that all of the things pressing in on my soul at the time didn't throttle my creativity. The story is called "Scatterlings," and really has nothing to do with love or relationships.

Not much to do with maps, either -- but it's got a dragon or two, and plenty of could-bes. Stories to tell, stories to tell ...

July 16, 2002 ... I was going back through my archives earlier today, and happened to read my Oct. 12, 2000 post. The one in which I asked "What are our bogeymen today?" and promptly answered my own question.

I can't say that it seems impressive in hindsight, but I appear to have called that one spot-on. In between protecting us from the evil secular humanists who'd rather protect the First Amendment than force kids to recite two words in a pledge, and setting up a Big Brother-esque surveillance network in which millions of Americans will ensure that their neighbors don't do anything "suspicious," the government is, in fact, jumping up and down and waving its arms and saying, "Look! Look! We have to protect you from THE TERRORISTS!" And we, again, have our enemy lurking at the edge of the firelight.

And this one's a doozy. For all the chest-beating that our leaders did over the drug war, drugs never made things go boom, and never had quite this ability to polarize Joe Average into cowering submission to the folks who tell us they're the good guys. Our civil liberties are going to continue taking a thorough beating over the next few years; this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

How do I know that? Well, I received a letter a day or two ago from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They were imploring me to send a generous donation and vote Democratic so that "we" could "break the grip that ... Right-Wing Republicans have over the U.S. House of Representatives." Fantastic, right? If only we had an opposition party controlling the legislative branch, we could rein in Dubya and Ashcroft, and start restoring some sense to national policy, right? The letter went on to give me an exhaustive list of reasons why Democratic control would be a Good Thing:

  • It would help middle-class families pay for health care and education;
  • it would protect the environment;
  • it would give a safety net to factory workers afraid of layoffs;
  • it would help the poor;
  • it would shore up Social Security and Medicare;
  • it would keep Bush from eroding environmental laws (uh-oh, they're starting to repeat themselves);
  • it would increase funding to public schools;
  • it would stop Social Security from being privatized;
  • and ... and ... um. The letter ended.
Okay, what about religious freedom?! What about civil liberties? What about the social tolerance and the enlightened populism that the Dems are supposed to support? No dice. A strange, uneasy silence.

Let me spell that message out for you: Taking away our freedoms is not a Republican initiative. It's a bipartisan effort. It's a grand unified attempt to hoodwink Americans into believing we can still be a shining beacon of democracy while limping along under byzantine laws, unchecked central authority, and a Constitution that declares we have unalienable rights except whenever we need to eradicate the bogeyman du jour.

And, so far, it seems to be working.

Gods help us all.

July 18, 2002 ... Wow. What an early birthday present.

It is now 5:20 AM. The sky is getting ever lighter as the sun creeps toward the horizon. Tim and I have just returned home.

Our Rifts group has been roleplaying for 12 hours straight.

Considering that this may be my last Rifts game for a long while -- there's a very real chance I'll be leaving Seattle sometime next week, which I'll talk about when I don't need to immediately get to bed -- it was quite a spectacular send-off.

July 19, 2002 ... Another 5:30 AM post. This means that it's after sunrise on Saturday. This means that, by pretty much any measure (even Baxil Standard Time), it's the morning of my 25th birthday.

Nine years ago to the day (and by which I mean the date of this journal entry, not the subsequent morning on which I'm typing), I opened my first quotebook with the words, "Take time out to celebrate your birthday; nobody will care if you don't, and we all need to feel special at least once a year." I've come a long way since then. I'm currently on quotebook #3 (not even counting the electronic quotebox I maintain of quotes gathered online). I have graduated from high school and college. I have undergone a rite of passage, determined my identity, moved out on my own. I have lived in eight homes in five cities with six sets of rommates. I've survived two surgeries; an assault on a crowded street in broad daylight that sent me to the hospital with a skull fracture; and getting between a mother bear and her cub. I've gotten laid off. I've gotten laid. (More than once, even.) I've been in debt and out of debt and in debt again, and I can definitely state that I like being out of debt better.

All told, I've spent a quarter century on this planet, and it's certainly been a rewarding experience.

I had hoped to write the big retrospective tomorrow, so I'll get to bed so that I can wake up in time to go out and celebrate. Until then: Happy birthday to me!

July 21, 2002 ... Yesterday was a rewarding birthday on a great many levels.

First of all, I hit the big quarter-century milestone. I know it's just an artifact of our base-ten system, and that realistically 25 years is no more or less of an achievement than 24 or 26 or 28.31233, but it still feels significant, and that's the important thing.

All broad, syrupy sentiments aside, the highlight of the day was definitely the moment when I first wandered upstairs to the living room (having slept in until an appropriately late time of the afternoon) and opened a package that my parents sent me. I had previously entreated them to not send me "stuff" for my birthday, as I've got a move looming in my near future and I didn't want to have to keep track of anything more than what I've already got. They complied; the package contained two bags of snacks, some heat-and-serve Indian curries, and ... a Tomorrowlands logo T-shirt. I would just like to state for posterity that my parents kick ass.

I ate one of the curries, and wandered outside into the clear, warm, bright day to tune up my bicycle. (I actually have a bike. In Seattle. Yes, I know, I'm either optimistic or stupid.) Forty-five minutes of tinkering later, it was ready to hit the road; another half-hour later, I had washed my hands, packed, and set out for Magnuson Park, site of the locally infamous Lake Adventure. This time, though, I actually brought a swimsuit. Magnuson Park does actually have a proper swim beach, and I couldn't figure any better way to indulge myself on my birthday than by taking a swim -- something I've done only rarely since moving to Seattle three years ago.

The bike ride there was uneventful -- and a strenuous workout that got me quite ready for the cool embrace of the lake's waters. I arrived shortly after 6 PM and quickly changed into my suit (the lifeguards at the park's beach pack up at 7 in the summers). After a minute or two of cringing as I tried to wade out into the lake along the rocky bottom, and finally getting out far enough that I could start swimming instead of hurting my bare feet on what would have been sand in any city that actually knew the meaning of the word "beach," I relaxed and enjoyed the water.

It being a Saturday, the water was fairly crowded. Two middle-school-aged girls noticed my arrival and asked if I was going to go out to the swim platform about 100 feet offshore. When I expressed some interest in the idea, they pleaded with me to accompany them there. Apparently their parents weren't in the water, and they needed an escort in order to go into the deep-water swimming area.

So the three of us -- Carla, Z. [I didn't quite catch the second girl's full name], and myself -- made the trip. They were both visibly scared (first time out that far in the water, apparently), but weren't panicking or swimming beyond their capabilities, so I merely swam alongside them and played protector. I reassured them along the way that, no, Lake Washington didn't have jellyfish or sharks, and that at any rate underwater predators would probably go after me first. We rode out the huge waves that passing boats sent our way, I kept up a steady stream of pep-talk, and I high-fived them both when they reached the platform and scrambled up the ladder. I actually found myself trembling when I got there, probably from a combination of fatigue (definitely a product of the 45-minute bike ride, not the 3-minute swim) and the cold water (which, while soothing and comfortable, still didn't go well with my wiry body's lack of insulation).

Another fifteen minutes of high-spirited jumping and swimming and conversation ensued. The two of them screwed up the courage to jump off the platform several times, and Carla even dove once; for my part, I executed a dive or two, rested, sunbathed, and even summoned the strength to do a somersault off the platform. (It was about three feet above the water; it's simple enough to do a flip off of a diving board at that height, but going on leg power alone -- especially when you're trembling and feeling vaguely weak -- felt like an accomplishment. I didn't make a terribly clean entry into the water; I went in on my thighs, still half-curled up, instead of feet-first. But I didn't feel like trying again without some rest.)

Ultimately, the lifeguards issued the lakeside equivalent of a bar's "last call," and the three of us (as well as everyone else in the water) headed shoreward. I sunbathed for a while to dry out, and later had to change back to my clothes behind some bushes because they'd locked the bathrooms. But it was a terribly satisfying swim nevertheless.

Plus I got ice cream! An ice cream truck was going through the park, and I walked barefoot out to the road and bought the guy's last ice cream sandwich. Between said sandwich, some rice crackers, and a handful of almonds (the latter two of which were from the snack package my parents had sent), I recharged enough to feel ready for the trip back home. The sun was inching toward the horizon, so ultimately I packed up and started riding.

On the way home, I passed a man and a woman stopped at the side of the bike path, examining the woman's bicycle. "Two people," I thought. "My impulse to help people in need can be ignored. They've got it taken care of." My instinct wouldn't quite let go, though, so I reconsidered a few seconds later, and pulled over to offer my help anyway.

As it turned out, Beth's chain had gotten stuck between her gears and her frame -- the derailleur had kicked it out of gear as she was pedaling uphill, and there had been enough tension on the chain to wedge it through a narrow gap that should have been physically impossible to penetrate. On closer examination, the frame's paint had been entirely sheared off where the chain went through -- it was obvious that there had been so much force that it was a lucky thing the chain hadn't simply snapped. Beth and Jeff had, by the grease on their fingers, been trying for a few minutes to coax the chain back out, with no success; both seemed grateful for my assistance. I ultimately stayed there for ten minutes or so -- and with some elbow grease, one of Beth's tools, and a little ingenuity, popped the chain back out for them.

The three of us got back on our bikes and rode off together; I talked with them all the way back to the University District (after which they continued on to Ballard). Beth commented on my shirt -- I had changed into the Tomorrowlands T-shirt before setting out for the day -- and, after a great deal of talk about the 'net, I ended up handing them one of the vanity business cards I got printed up for my site a year or two back. They may even be reading this journal entry. If so, hi, guys; I'm glad that I was able to help you out, and I hope that all of the novel facets of my life chronicled here aren't scaring you too badly. ;-)

After I got home, I kicked back for a while, waiting for Danny and Wiebke to arrive. They're fellow players in the Rifts campaign, and had heard at Thursday's game not only that my birthday was imminent but also that I was going to be leaving Seattle soon. So they arranged to kidnap me and drag me out to a local bar for a birthday celebration. I grabbed Tim -- because he's a friend, roommate, and fellow gamer; and because he was home at the time -- and the four of us wound our way to the Irish Emigrant. It ended up being a combination dinner/bar jaunt; said establishment cooks a quite decent cheeseburger and tosses a mean Caesar salad. I ended up going through a pint of Guinness, half a pint of Harp's, and a Buttery Nipple despite my general distaste for alcohol. Partially it was that drinking helped cushion the shock of hearing country music for most of the evening out of the jukebox of the blatantly Irish pub. (Fortunately, the company more than made up for it.)

I happened to bring a deck of cards along with me; halfway through the evening, we started playing, and after a few hands of poker with sips-of-drinks as bids, Danny and Wiebke suggested Skat. I think I surprised them by (more or less) knowing the rules, for which I have my old college friend Nate to thank -- he tried to teach our bridge group the game years back as something else we could play (especially since Skat is three-handed; if one member of a Bridge fourth was absent, it would still make for a fun game). Tim, like most Americans, had never heard of the game before, and despite the game's head-exploding scoring complexity and our general state of intoxication, we managed to teach him the fundamentals.

Ultimately, they kicked us out at Last Call, and we all wandered home, where I bid everyone goodnight and wandered off to sleep. I woke up this morning a year older and strangely hangover-free (must have been all that food I chased the alcohol down with). And now I get to prepare for a move to California -- which I will report on in greater depth in my next entry.

July 24, 2002 ... For those of you that haven't already heard -- in two more days, I'm outta here.

I've been dropping hints for a week or two about an upcoming move, or at least an upcoming leave-Squeeky-Hollow-ness. As it turns out, an opportunity came up that I couldn't refuse. Kaijima, Krasnayath, and Loxorion have offered me space in their new house down in California. Expenses are cheap, the job market is tolerable (at least, it shouldn't be much worse than here, and I've been having no luck in Seattle anyway), and Lox wants to make good on an old, unsettled debt -- making expenses even cheaper. Right now, seeing as how I'm still struggling with $9,000 worth of broken arm bills and another $5,000 worth of credit card debt, I could use me a little financial stability. Of course, the fact that I'd be living with old friends and fellow dragons doesn't hurt.

As moves go, this has all been thrown together on the fly. I apologize for the short notice, but those of you to whom it makes a difference (i.e., people who interact with me offline) should already have received word.

In some ways, I'll miss Seattle. The weather will not be one of them. But the city's a beautiful one, both in its lush vegetation and in its culture and people. My roommates in particular -- even if I've been distant during my three-year-long stay, we've all gotten along, and I have greatly appreciated your maturity and reliability. Thank you all.

I don't think I'm done here. I don't know when I will be back; simple common sense tells me that I should wait to return until at least next spring, so that I can skip the hellish six months of cold and perpetual darkness that passes for winter around here. More likely, I'll be away for a year or two while I give myself some well-placed kicks in the pants, pay off all those damn bills and rebuild the nest egg that long ago became an omelet.

I doubt I'll be the person you know when I finally return.

For better or for worse, my original move to Seattle left me a bit shell-shocked (no egg pun intended). I arrived off-balance, having left a household that split up due to terminal financial strain. I arrived in a city I'd never visited to crash on the couch of the girlfriend I'd met online, her husband, her husband's new girlfriend, and two other strangers she'd been living with as roommates. I was socially out of my depth and oversensitive to my perceived intrusion into everyone's life. It took me the better part of six months to start interacting with everyone there as a person, and three years later I'm still working on interacting with everyone as a friend. I arrived jobless and in debt, briefly rallied to fix both, and am leaving jobless and in debt. Along the way, I've been mostly unemployed, and it seems like I've been running on inertia even when times have been good. What can I say? In some ways, I never recovered from that bad start.

Not that I'm making excuses. I'd like to think that I've done right by everyone here. I've pitched in financially where I couldn't help socially. I've cleaned up after myself. I've made little efforts to interact and join in. I've been, if not a good friend, then at least a good guy. But, at the same time, I haven't been everything that I could be -- everything that I know I'm capable of.

When I come back, it will be on my own, not as Erin's new guy. When I come back, I will reconnect with everyone I'm leaving behind because I want to, not because you happened to be there. In the meantime, I'm going to go be with my people for a while. Maybe it will help remind me of the things that are really important to me, the things I want to accomplish with my life.

Raven (the therapist, not Keh'tel's other half) reminded me last night that change is best perceived from a distance. It's hard to tell where you've gone when you're just taking one step at a time. He pointed out that my move to California, to live with friends I haven't seen in three years, would be good for my perspective; the people I'll be living with will be comparing today's Baxil with the Baxil of three years ago, not the Baxil of yesterday, and it will bring into better contrast just how my experiences here have changed me. In the same way, I hope to be challenging myself while down south, and when I next see you all (not counting three weeks from now, when I come back to get all my crap out of the house), I hope it will be more obvious how I've grown.

For the rest of you -- those who I merely touch bases with online, if "merely" can suffice in this context -- we'll see if there aren't some changes in the works there, too. (Remember my resolutions? I have some site updates to chase.)

One way or another, y'all dream well. I'll be out of touch until I get settled in, down south, this weekend.

July 26, 2002 ... Moving day. About six hours to go before I need to walk out of this house to catch the Greyhound that will escort me to the next stage of my life. I can't resist the temptation of one last, quick post before shutting the computer down and yanking out all the cords. (Ouroboros is coming with me. I need access to my resume files, after all, and that gives me an excuse to keep my baby close at hand.)

A little more packing, a three-hour nap, and a drawn-out bus ride are all that stand between me and Destiny. (Well, okay, it's not nearly that interesting. But you have to admit it sounds good that way.)

Let me leave you with a fact to ponder while I hit the road. If the local phone book I got the information from is accurate -- and it is an up-to-date guide; we only got it a month or two ago -- then the state of California currently has more telephone area codes than the entire nation of Canada. Our neighbors to the north are outnumbered 25 to 23, by my count.

Once I reach Lostweyr, I will have lived in six of those 25 area codes. That's an average of almost one per four years of my life.

July 27, 2002 ...

(While Baxil is sitting on a Greyhound bus to California -- alternately napping, feverishly writing out ideas for The Tomorrowlands Universe, and being used as a preying mantis jungle gym -- we here at Tomorrowlands have decided to entertain you by running the following observation from his Filler File. Enjoy!)

... It feels almost as weird to me to take a shower on a rainy day as it does to wash a car.

July 29, 2002 ... Monday night. It's been three days since my move to California, and already I've settled in enough to not only help with the housework, but also help Krasnayath reshingle the porch roof.

The computer's been online for a while, but I'm trying to get settled into the new routine. The pace of life is different here. Everything seems different. I moved from a very urban area, in the university district of Seattle, to a town of less than 10,000 that, to all appearances, was carved out of the forest of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The household known as Lostweyr is in a little circle of homes on the side of a hill; to one side is a horse ranch, to the other is a huge lot choked with brush. There's a trail going up the hill. Loxorion and I tried to explore it on Sunday morning, and almost ran afoul of the circle's property manager -- until he realized who we were, and his tone changed as though someone had flipped a switch. (As Kaijima later explained it, Joe -- the property manager -- is "the household's fanboy"; when the three of them bought the place, for some paltry sum around $10,000, it was falling apart at the seams, and the owner was letting the lot deteriorate similarly. The three of them have been working tirelessly to rebuild the place almost from the ground up, and Joe is enthusiastic about the expected effect on property values.)

I'm used to communal living situations -- that's about the only thing that hasn't changed, although I have dropped from a seven-person household to four. It's a much more closely knit house, though. Everyone eats dinner together (unlike in Seattle, where it was pretty much a nightly forage). Everyone pitches in on chores, and on the house repairs. And, boy, there's a lot of repairing to be done. Some pictures of the house might get across the magnitude of the work involved. However, one thing they can't adequately communicate is the house's charm. It may not have any wallpaper (or proper interior walls), there may be holes in the bare plywood floor, the front stairs may be held together on spit and shoe polish, and half the house's electrical outlets might not function (requiring a whole bunch of extension cords running from the other half), but everything works, and the house itself is downright friendly. For example, despite the incredible disrepair of the floor and roof, both of which have literal holes in them (and which are obviously a top repair priority), the house interior is free of insects. I haven't seen so much as a single fly or ant. The place has excellent temperature regulation, too; running on two fans and a swamp cooler, the house is consistently room temperature in central California's 90-degree days, even with something like nine computers (including an actual rack of actual servers) scattered throughout and always on. The two critical systems of the house -- plumbing and electricity -- both do the job they're supposed to do; the kitchen sink has to be turned off very precisely or it leaks, but otherwise I haven't noticed any problems.

All in all, it's a strange fusion between third-world aesthetic and first-world technology. You wouldn't think to look at the house that we're running an internal wi-fi network (!) with a continuous Internet connection; you'd probably assume that a kind neighbor had loaned us an eight-inch black-and-white TV. And yet I've been spending a fair amount of time playing video games and surfing the Web. If I were to close my eyes (and take my bare feet off of the slabs of plywood that mostly serve as a floor), I could imagine from the hum of electronics and the sounds of digital music that I was right in the middle of one of western civilization's busiest cities. If I were to walk outside and wander 200 feet in any direction, I would think I was lost in the backcountry. And yet when I look around, I get the strange feeling that I'm a character in a game of The Sims played by someone with multiple personality disorder. (Personality #1 built the basic house, but before he could put in any carpet or wallpaper or counters or furniture, Personality #2 took over and blew the rest of the budget on computer equipment, leaving about $50 for #1 to add a futon, some card tables, and a wall calendar.)

I do like it here. There are some adjustments to make -- and, notably, it remains to be seen how the complete lack of personal space will affect me over the long term (although when I bring down my stuff from Seattle, instead of just three bags of clothes and essentials, I can stake out some territory). But everything is in place for the essentials of life to be fulfilled and the connections I need to be made. It's different enough here that, despite the essential similarities of my daily routine (eat, sleep, play video games, work on the computer), I might just pull off the turnaround I came here to achieve.

Now I just need to spend the week combing the local area -- i.e., most of the towns within a half-hour drive -- to see what sort of employment I can find. After a day and a half of diligent work, I think we've finally got the house network set up to the extent that I can actually get my resume printed out. (The Mac printer here is USB, which Kai only got an upgrade card for today, and is still trying to figure out how to share -- and the PC printer doesn't like the PostScript files I'm sending it, so we're currently running a workaround involving exporting the files from my Mac to a PC version of Word, and having Kras' laptop process them and send them to the printer as a proxy. It's nice living in a household of geeks.)

In the meantime, I'm grateful I'm getting to help build the house; I spent four hours up on the roof today, pulling up the old covering, taking out nails, and hammering down shingles. As I remarked to Kras, the benefit of building your own is not only that you get to make it exactly the way that you want it, but also that you know you can fix it if anything goes wrong. Also, it makes the house feel viscerally yours, instead of being some abstract and mysterious pre-built box that you "own" simply because you paid for it. Being up on that roof, along with some other little things like the communal dinners and chores, has already made me feel included -- a part of the house. I'm still trying to figure out just where I fit here, but I definitely do.

One last comment for the day: While I was up on the roof this afternoon, I actually got hot. Damn, but I've missed that sensation. I actually had to go back inside and change into shorts -- and hop in the shower when we came back inside, simply to cool off and wash away the layer of sweat. I haven't had to do anything that drastic for a whole three years.

Gosh, I've missed California.

July 30, 2002 ... I'd just like to take a moment to warn everyone about a scam that's making the rounds. It may have been circulating for a while, but now, I can confirm it.

You know about those online "flirting" sites, right? The ones that let you enter the e-mail address of someone you've got a crush on, and then they e-mail that person and invite them to drop by and take some guesses? And the target enters a bunch of his friends' e-mail addresses that he likes, and they all get letters inviting them to guess who's got a crush on them, and if he happens to identify the person who entered him in the first place, the site hooks the two of them up?

And you know about spam, right? Of course you do.

I got the following letter in my inbox yesterday:

From: invite@datebynet.com
To: ddragon@ecis.ecis.com
Subject: Someone Has Flirted w/ You!

Someone you know...a co-worker, friend, secret admirer, or maybe even your 
significant other has flirted with you!  At DateByNet.com, our users have 
the ability to enter in someone's email address and 'flirt' with them by
sending them this email.  If you choose, you are welcome to guess the 
sender of this email by clicking or following the link below.

(URL deleted)

Lastly, everyone who has been 'flirted' with by a user of DateByNet.com
is offered a special deal on DatebyNet.com. Simply enter the PROMO code 
below when registering and you'll receive a FREE unlimited, unrestricted 
15 day Gold Membership.  Remember, the person who sent you this email
is listed within our site!

(etc., etc.)

Sounds pretty typical for one of those flirting thingies, right? The same, standard form letter they send out to everyone that some random stranger has a crush on, right? Right, except this particular "notification" is spam.

How do I know? I received two copies. Long ago and far away, back when I still posted to Usenet, I bounced back and forth between two different clients, and posted under two addresses which are synonyms for each other: ddragon@ecis.com and ddragon@ecis.ecis.com. Both addresses, naturally, got harvested a long time ago, and the account to which both addresses resolve is at this point basically a spamtrap. I do still get e-mail there from old, old friends and from visitors to my ECIS website, but I've long ago learned that any e-mail sent to both @ecis and @ecis.ecis is spam.

It's barely conceivable that if I'd set up a specific address as a spamtrap (like spamspam@tomorrowlands.org), someone might have entered that address of mine into the site as the only one they could find -- but no legitimate person entering a friend's name on a dating site would enter two different addresses pointing to the same long-unused account. And even if someone out there is dumb or desperate enough to actually do so, nobody out there is fast enough to load two different webpages, fill out two forms, click "submit" twice, and wait for the server to process them both in the span of nine seconds. No, this is spam.

I've never bothered to respond to these type of notices before, because I don't like the way the system is set up. But now I'm never going to do so. The fact that at least one of these sites will send you e-mail claiming you're a target, when in reality you haven't been flirted with -- and the fact that such sites never reveal your "secret admirer" unless you guess them correctly -- means that any notification coming from any dating site is suspect. The ability to fake letters is inherent in the system; now we know that it's being used, it raises legitimate questions about how widespread the practice is.

Do not use these services. Don't respond to them if you get a notice someone else likes you. Chances are good it's a fake. They are preying on your feelings of loneliness to suck you in. And, frankly, if these businesses have to drum up business by scamming their customers, they should fail and be removed from the marketplace as quickly as possible.

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