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Jan 25, 2006

If Actions Speak More Than Words...

Then I am a glutton for stress. It is only Wednesday, yet my body and mind tell me that it should be Friday. This is going to be a worn and tired semester. Graduation's too far away at this point to serve as any kind of catalyst for motivation, especially now that I'm neck deep in the muck.

This is no way to live. My brain remains focused on some task from 9 in the morning till I go to bed. What happened to down time? I've found it extremely difficult to wind down at the day's end...probably because there is no day's end, other than sleep. After eight hours at work/school, there's an endless amount of homework waiting for me. It IS endless in the sense that I can't even afford to take a night off anymore, there are no breaks. I get home and try to play guitar; the chords sound right, and the songs themselves are mellow, but their feel when I play is one of frenzy and chaos. The therapy I used to get is gone.

Three semesters ago I had four writing intensive classes. This year I have three, with double the amount of work. All I day I walk around with this feeling that I can only liken to nicotein withdrawal, and I take frequent smokes breaks. I think they've killed the joy of writing.

Jan 24, 2006

A Consumer Gets Fucked Again

If you asked me yesterday what one of the best investments I made last year was, I would've told you straight up that it was my forty gigabyte Apple Ipod. This tiny device slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes stored my entire music collection. Every single CD I had, plus music I had accumulated from friends, was on there. So convenient. At all times of the day, whether at work, driving in my car, walking around campus, or lying in bed, I could listen to one of hundreds of different artists.

Then the Ipod had a bad day. I'm not sure what happened. But the LCD screen appeared cracked in one corner, and consequently part of the screen became obscured by what looked like a dark ink splotch. I paniced. Calm down, Guy. No big deal. It still plays. Sure, you can't see what time it is, or the track number, but it plays music.

And then I remembered something that erased that ink blot from my mind: the Warranty. Not just any warranty. Apple I know gives one year of service, or something like that. Radioshack offers an extended warranty for an extra fee, but I was assured by the gentleman who sold me the product (who very well may have been on commission) that it was worth the money. He knew of a guy who dropped his Ipod into a puddle. The screen cracked, and the inner workings got soggy, the damge became irreparable. They sent the man home that day with a brand new Ipod, cause his was covered under their warranty.

Whew, I thought. Then the Ipod had another bad day. On the ride back to my parents house--I had taken my step-sister Kayla to see Rent and had to drop her at home--I played the song "Gold Digger" by Kanye West because she wanted to hear it, and the thing stopped working. On the screen, it showed that the West song was playing, but no sound was coming out, I couldn't turn it off, and it wouldn't navigate through songs. I knew immediately that this was a bad thing.

I called Radioshack with low expectations, due to the fact that it was a week before Christmas. They probably wouldn't have an Ipod in stock. The gentleman on the phone confirmed this, and gifted me with a new piece of information: they'd probably have to send it into the repair shop, which would take a significant amount of time.

After parking my car, I strode up to Radioshack. I looked down at the Ipod. Gold Digger. Inside there were groups of people. I walked up to the register, indicating to the gentleman there that I was the guy who just called about the Ipod.

"Sir, can you wait while I help these other people?"

Of course I can. You're no longer on commission to help me. Take your time.

After fifteen minutes, the manager assists me.

"Ooh, we got a cracked screen," he said, scrutinizing the device. "That's no good. Physical damage isn't covered."

Ooh boy. He offered to send it to the repair shop, but didn't know what they would do with it. I exited the store, flushed, and feeling stung by the bad information I received. Play it cool, I thought. This may yet work out.

***

A month's time passes by. The nineteenth of January arrives. When in computer design class, I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize. After the period's end, I learn that it was Debbie calling from the Radioshack Repair Center about my "PDA". I was hesitant in calling her back, for it had taken quite a long time for them to get back to me.

I call her on the way back to the office.

"Radioshack Repair Center," answered a female voice, "this is Debbie."

"Yeah, this is (me) calling," I began. "I got a message from you about myPDA, order number *******."

"Let me see," she says. "Did I call you?"

"I got a message from you about a half hour ago."

"I left you a message?"

"Yes, my Ipod--"

"Oh yes..."

And she found the invoice, sitting in front of her on her desk. And then she dropped the bomb.

"It's going to cost you $180 to repair it," she says.

"One-hundred and eighty dollars?" I repeat.

"$140 for the cracked screen," she says, "and $40 for labor."

I know immediately I can't afford that, and if I want to repair it, I may as well go out and buy a new one. Can't afford that if I can't afford to repair the old one. Dilemma.

***

Debbie called again this morning, my wake up call. So early I wasn't sure later in the whether or not it had taken place. She asked what I wanted to do about the useless Ipod, and consequently I told her I didn't want anything to do with it.

"Ok, we'll send it back," Debbie says.

!!!ATTENTION READERS!!!

My Ipod's been degraded to a fucking paperweight.

The point of all of this: Ipods that can cost up to half a grand and are meant to be carried around everywhere should either be built more durable, or have a better warranty. Here's a parallel:

I have a cell phone that without a monthly plan would've cost me $300. If that phone breaks, if it is dropped in a puddle, or if I one fine Tuesday morning decided to pelt the asphalt in front of my apartment with it, causing it to bust into one hundred and eighty pieces, that phone would cost me $300...that is, if I didn't pay $5 a month for accidental damage insurance. What an idea! Anything can happen to the phone, and I get a replacement for no more than $40. Basically, this is what I paid for the "special" warranty offered to me by Radioshack. How nice.

I'm going to swallow this one, and take the extra cash that I won't be spending on a refurbished Ipod, and get away, maybe one-hundred and eighty miles away from here for a good five days.

So, this is for all of y'all at Apple and Radioshack who have the executive power to do something about this matter, even though this won't be read by anything of them. Thanks, you cash-hoarding assholes.

Yesterday...

...the statistically shittiest day of the year, is not worth writing about. But whomever the analysts were, they were spot on...unfortunately.

Jan 13, 2006

Tiny Friday Exchange

Pretty much everything else sucked today, and I was talking to my dad last night about these little exchanges I have at work with co-workers, little conversations that I look forward to each day.

I went to see Maggie, the director of facilities here on campus to get a key for a dorm room.

"How's (Burns) doing?" she asked.

I remembered then that she recently returned to work after suffering a heart attack.

"Oh, doing well. I'm on my way out of here," I said.

"Oh, you're kidding!"

Yes, I have been here forever. Doesn't mean I'm not leaving someday.

"Nope. This May," I said.

"What will you graduate with?"

"I'll have a degree in liberal arts and a degree in writing," I said.

"Well that's great! So if I see a book with your name on it--"

"Please buy it," I pleaded.

Jan 11, 2006

One Hundred and Eighty Pages

"Lord only knows where I'm going,
can't remember the places I've been,
tell me if I'll ever make it home again."
- Ben Kaufmann from "Part One"


As I sat at the bar this evening with Steve, I realized how uncertain my future really is. Steve's been a good friend of mine for about three years now. We both come out of similar, troubled pasts. Come May it appears that he will be my roommate...and I can't wait. Cause he's just as weird as I am. He's currently taking classes at MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) and is also set to graduate in May. This semester he must also undertake his senior project. So we sat and stressed.

"Dude, I have to write probably one hundred and eighty pages," I said to him, then sipped from my Sierra Nevada. "Do you realize how much that is? I'm going to be writing every night."

"I need to get a model," he says.

"I'm sitting here having to pull stuff from my mind," I begin, "and you're over there looking for naked women so you can draw them!"

Naturally, his senior project sounded a lot better than mine.

"No," he protested, "not naked women. I need their face! You know, expressions and stuff..."

Sure, I'm thinking.

"It doesn't matter," he went on, "we'll both be rich."

So we both chose poor man's professions in order to become rich?

"Rich?!? People can sit there and look at a painting," I said. "People can sit there and listen to a song. But it's a fucking chore to read a story. It's an effort in itself."

Yep. That's where I'm at right now. I have this towering senior project with no clue as to how to direct it. I'm sure once it's over I won't even have the balls to publish it's contents. My family, even certain friends, would kill me. Believe me, with the things I've seen, it will be no concession to them that I might have learned something.

School in the morning...God help us all. Please
check this out to see where I was at last semester.

Jan 10, 2006

No Place Like Home

"...there is no place on this earth that I call home..."
- Ben Kaufmann from "Mother's Only Son"

It's beginning to feel a lot more January-like outside. This morn was the first in weeks where I had to scrape the ice from off my windows. A sign that things are once again returning to normal? Because normal lies side by side with tradition. Has it been that much of a tradition to return to school each cool new year that once this semester's over, and the next new years comes, that I will feel so out of place?

Thankfully this change is one that I have time to anticipate. In four months I will graduate. I must also find a new place to live, as my current arrangement will be breaking up then. I will go on another search for the place called home. I may find it, and I may not. It's quite possibly the most intense crossroad I'll ever reach in my life. Maybe that's an overstatement, but it's surely the most intense crossroad I will reach up to this point.

...the anticipation fuels my excitement, more gas on the fire...

Jan 6, 2006

Plea for Prayers

It's finally here...the one remaining weekend before my peers at the college return. The green pills I popped this morning for the cold that crept upon me during the night have left me a bit woozy. And my heart goes out to the girlfriend this morning, who two days ago lost a friend of hers to an automobile accident.

The woman drove down I-23 with her 22-month old daughter, who was strapped in the back seat, and collided head-on with a semi-truck. The woman died at the scene, and her daughter was hospitalized and subsequently released with minor injuries.

And the newsies were on the incident just as flies flock to shit. Next of kin, friends, acquaintances and co-workers had the news broken to them by reporters. Someone dropped the ball here big time. Nothing at this point is very clear about the crash. A witness who was on the phone with the sheriff's department at the time of the crash had called them because the woman's car was weaving back and forth for about a mile before the crash took place, something that the police cannot confirm at this point, those weather conditions and alcohol were ruled out as factors.

She left behind a daughter and a husband. The New Year has been cut short, and the lives of many individuals have changed forever. For those who pray, this family needs you.

Jan 3, 2006

On the New Year....

...with a parrot story tucked neatly inside

Sam, the best friend, came down for the weekend from Point. Haven't seen him in almost six months, so I was very nice to catch up with him. Saturday night we hit up a small pub in town and shot some pool, his idea, not mine. I'm not much of a billiards player, and it was evident in how much I weighed our team town.

It's been a rough year for the both of us. We each saw the end to long relationships. I moved outside of the town line. So did he, though he went further. We're both equally poor. Economically and emotionally, it's been a trial road of rises and falls.

After two beers at the pub, we headed over to Brian's place where a semi-large party was taking place. They'd tapped the keg well before we arrive, and I didn't drink much of the flat suds. At one point in the evening, I was in a room with five or six friends, and we vaguely reminisced about the past year.

"Man, that was a bad year," Sam said.

"No shit," said Mais. "What a fucked up year."

I put my hand to the back of my neck and shook my head.

"Yeah, it really has been," I said.

For some reason, we brought Diver, Brian's parrot, into the room with us. For a good while it sat on Sam's shoulder and laughed, but at one point, Paul walked up behind it and the parrot, now frightened, clamped down onto Sam's neck. Sam winced and took it like a man, fortunately enough for the bird. Not even the most ravenous woman could've left such a mark.

At that point I believe Brian walked into the room.

"Hey guys!" he said. "Oh man, what a great year. Seriously though, hasn't it been just an awesome year!"

I knew then I needed more of what he was drinking in order to come to an agreement, which makes me think that perspective is borne of the mind.


Hope

Tragedy struck in the middle of a Christian-mission camp in Africa last night. Up to that point, the conversion of the natives seemed to be taking place smoothly. The Americans had successfully integrated themselves into the indigenous village, maybe by bringing with them goods that wouldn't normally be attainable by these people.

Around one in the morning, the missionaries were awaken by a radio call stating there was something wrong within one of the native families. Upon responding to the call, they found one of the children vomiting with diarrhea. After hydrating the child for a while, the missionaries returned to their tents.

After a couple of hours, they received a call stating that the child had died, and the mother was passing quick. The husband accused the wife of practicing witchcraft, which in turn caused the child's death. In his rage he took an axe to his wife's head, and the missionaries found her sprawled out and lifeless in front of the entrance to the tent.

This incident was horrifying to the missionaries. It all reminds me of Achebe's Things Fall Apart, a response, if you would, to another book entitled Heart of Darkness. They couldn't understand what barbaric traditions would cause this man to do such a horrific deed to his own wife. If only these uneducated, sick, tired and poor people would succumb to the truth so eagerly dished out by the Christians. If only...

Listening to: the usual stuff

Reading: After the Fire by Paul Zimmer