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Lately I've been thinking that my parents perhaps raised me in the wrong way. Though, to be fair, I can hardly blame it on them. It's not their fault I've turned out the way I have. I could blame the culture or the media or the Man, but why bother? I prefer to call it a phenomenon of strange and wondrous proportions.

For example, normal students, when asked what they want to be, answer, "Oh, I want to go to college and study to become a lawyer/doctor/teacher/soldier/your-career-here."

My answer is something like this: "Oh, I think that after graduation I'll travel to New York, infiltrate the Mob, and become a get-away driver. After a few years of rising in the ranks, I'll take over and use my Mob to conquer the world."

I'll admit, I get a few blank stares.

But the real kicker came today, while I was innocently working on a history project.

DEAN OF STUDENTS: Ah, what's that you're working on?
ME: Oh, just a project for Mrs.-
DoS: Are you in fact forging signatures?
ME: Yes. I mean, only the Founding Fathers' signatures. And it's not as though they're going to care.
DoS: I see a long and profitable career ahead of you.
ME: Really? Because I was thinking, what with the economy the way it is, that I should maybe explore some non-traditional career choices.
DoS: Yes. And if you make it big, remember me and my wisdom.
ME: Ah. Yes.
DoS: And while you're forging Franklin's signature, see if you can't pick up a few of his patent checks.

Good News, Great News, and Hidden News

I don't like Thursdays, as a rule. They're better than Tuesdays, obviously, but still not as nice as Wednesdays or Fridays. But today was different. Today was good.

This morning I read a short story that was actually very, very good by a guy I know. It was well-written and interesting and, well, great. Nothing starts the day off better than a good story.

This afternoon I got to see my French professor and her baby for the first time. Matej (damn the accents!) is so cute; I wanted to steal him, but then my professor would probably stop teaching me French.

I went to the recital of one of my friends, where she sang in German and Russian and Italian and English. When she is an internationally famous soprano, I am going to call her up and remind her of the days we spent together as children, so that she'll give me free tickets. I shall use my connections where I have them, for I have no scruples.

And there is some other news that I'm not quite ready to share just yet... but if it all works out I'm going to have a very busy summer.

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Experiencing the Joy of Car Troubles

I'll be the first to admit- I'm not a car person. I can drive (fairly well, I might add) and I know where the gas goes and that strange noises + car= bad. Beyond that, well, not so much.

But I do know that high-pitched squealing, strange smells, and smoke from the engine are no good indicators.

...

Tuesdays are awful.

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Ode to John Green

O John Green, you are a marvelous man, so funny and clever and entertaining. Paper Towns was brilliant and a fantastic read. Your videos make me snort tea out of my nose. And John Green, if I didn't love you so much, I might hate you.

Because you, along with the nefarious darkiknowwell, have conspired to rob me of a good night's rest. I began Paper Towns with the best of intentions, John Green. I was going to read a chapter or two before retiring for the night. Three hours later, there were only 60 pages left in the book.

Why, John Green, why?

And then, John Green, you committed one of the cardinal sins of fiction-writing.

You switched tenses.

With no warning.

With two chapters left.

I should hate you for that. But I can't. Because you, John Green, are still brilliant, and still clever. And Paper Towns was still amazing.

So, in conclusions, John Green, I leave you with the acronym of the NerdFighters (of which you are a founder and I a member).

DFTBA!

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Never More Shall They See My Face

I love bookshops? Don't you? Who doesn't? And if you don't, why are you here? Moving on.

As I said, I love bookshops, but lately they seem to hate me. Books-A-Million (I know, I know. My personal library is more interesting and inclusive than their entire store. But I digress.) is the best bookshop in Nowhere, USA. It's a desperate relationship, what's between B-A-M and me. Twice in the past month I've been accosted by other customers, both of whom have asked for my help in locating a book before realizing that I do not, in fact, work there. I suppose I look bookish and in need of a pay raise?

The incidents of mistaken identity are amusing but harmless. B-A-M in general is harmless. Except for its queer habit of sticking its erotica right bloody next to its itty-bitty classics section. Very embarrassing to pass from a shelf containing Homer and Beowulf to one sporting Bed On Arrival. And then there was this incident at the Customer Service Counter.

RIGHTEOUS EMPLOYEE: Can I help you?
ME: Ah, yes. Do you have Sexing the Cherry?
RIGHTEOUS EMPLOYEE: Sexing the where?
ME: Sexing the Cherry.
RIGHTEOUS EMPLOYEE: I do not think so.
ME realizing how it sounds: Oh, God, no! I mean, yes. But also no.
RIGHTEOUS EMPLOYEE: I think you might want to go now.
ME: I am not the one who shelves the erotica right next to the classics!

In less insane news, the muse is back to stay. Apparently it was raining on her beach. Also: have gotten Paper Towns from darkiknowwell for my birthday. Much love to her and to the hilarious John Green. Nerdfighters FTW!

Those Lies Your Father Told You

I have news! Much exciting news! (Though it unfortunately does not concern a certain vacationing muse.) Ahem. I've just been ice-skating for the first time in my life!

For shame, you may say, the first time? But I have an excuse; there are very few ice-skating rinks here in the Middle of Nowhere, Mid-America. We don't get much snow, though it can be cold. Very cold. But in any case, I have just conquered the ice for the first time. Though conquered is a little over the top.

It was much, much fun, and darkiknowwell saved me from hurting myself too much. Though I still have to kill my little sister for pulling or pushing me over several times. So here I am, still a bit chilled and sporting a few well-earned bruises and I ask myself, 'Why have I never done this before?'

I believe I know the reason behind it.

You see, when I was young and innocent, I once asked my father if he would take me ice-skating. "No," he said, frowning down at me. "If you fall and someone skates over your hand, all of your fingers will be cut off and it will be very painful and the hospital will have to sew your fingers back on."

I did not ask again.

This evening, happily wobbling about on the ice and trying not to fall over, I happily related the tale to Zach, laughing about how much of a liar my father was and how gullible the young, innocent me had been.

Zach, who used to play hockey and made me insanely jealous by performing crazy stunts like skating backwards (oh, the insanity!) and doing little circle-things, just shook his head sadly and proceeded to tell me that my fingers would get cut off.

I was shocked. And frightened. At any moment, I might fall and my fingers might disappear behind the razor-sharp blade of a vicious skate!

I did not fall, but am still amazed that those lies my father told me might, after all, not be lies. Frightening, that.

On Muses and their Inscrutable Ways

As anyone who's ever started a writing project of any kind will know, muses tend to disappear on vacation at the least opportune moments. My muse, who's been hanging around for a while, drinking my tea and eating my chocolate-covered pretzels (more on those later) and generally being kind and benevolent, has deserted me. Right in the middle of a few projects.

Let's be honest here. My muse? She hates me.

Most of the projects are completely unimportant. Except for the one that is totally, completely, irrevocably important. Yes, the one where I'm supposed to be writing a 6-8 minute speech (that's a lot of pages; I talk fast when I'm nervous) to give to a group of bratty little thirteen year-olds who don't give a damn. Not a damn.

I have two weeks to write this speech. I have an outline, presented to me by the class coordinator. I have instructions. I have no inspiration and no bloody muse.

My muse and I are in a vicious love-hate relationship. There are times when she'll stick around for months, bothering me at the least opportune times and making me write the most outlandish things. But at least she's there, and making herself somewhat useful.

And then there are the times (like the present) when she's gone (in Greece or Italy, I suspect) drinking fine wine and laughing at my misery.

She'd better get back soon. I'm about to resort to the ritual sacrifice routine.

Adventures at the US Post Office

I have a confession: I hate the Post Office. Not just one, mind you. All of them. Every. Single. One. Which makes the fact that I ship things books regularly extremely... painful. Every time I walk into one of those horrid, official-smelling buildings, I start to clench my teeth. By the time I actually get to the point where I have to talk to a clerk, I'm so on edge that I'm very near to insanity. Take today, for instance:

CLERK: Can I help you?
ME: I need to send these books. You know, through the mail. If you please.
CLERK sounding very bored and official: Would that be media or first class?
ME: What is the difference, please?
CLERK: *sighs*
ME: Send them cheaply. Because I have no job and all the money I have comes from the pockets of those who are foolish enough to stand near me in line.
CLERK: Of course it does.
ME: Send then all cheaply except for this one. This one is special.
CLERK: Of course it is.
ME conspiratorially: If you can get this to the addressee by Christmas, I shall give you my soul. Or my firstborn child. Whichever you prefer.
CLERK: Read the sign! *points to sign*

SIGN: The US Post Office will no longer except souls or firstborn children in exchange for services rendered.

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'Tis the Season for Guilt Complexes

The secular part of the holidays always brings me interesting challenges. You see, I love getting new things. Books in particular. And when I have money to burn, I go to a bookstore and emerge two or three hours later, leaving a trail of destruction and empty bookshelves in my wake, cackling in glee as I croon over my new loves. Never mind that I have ten or so other people to buy for, never mind that I have no time to pleasure shop, never mind that I have a monumental stack of unread books threatening to engulf my room. Such a day was today.

So when I slammed through the bookstore's tinted glass doors, my arms full of books and my wallet considerably emptier, I took a moment to think to myself, Wasn't I Christmas shopping for my sister and my father? Where did all these Neil Gaiman books come from?

I was then faced by an interesting conundrum. I could either live with my horrid deed or give the Gaiman books to my dearest father, who has fine taste in literature. But I would have to read the books myself first, just to make myself feel better. You see the difficulty. So I have remedied the problem thusly.

As I seem to be facing something like a academic/intelligent block, the two packages of candles are to soothe my tormented inner muse. Likewise the Gaiman anthologies. I need Gaiman to awaken my dormant muse! I must have it! I nearly bought a sock hat, but even creative death couldn't convince me to walk into Old Navy on my own.

In other news, last night was ShantyTown, a night when innocent, foolish young people raise homelessness awareness by sleeping outside in cardboard boxes and begging in the streets. Which isn't very realistic, because begging is mostly illegal in my town. Now, before you question my sanity, I have done this in previous years, and this year was far from the worst.

The impressively frightening peak came two years ago. Imagine the scene, if you will. It's dark, cold, and two o'clock in the morning. A youth minister and two teenage girls are seated around a fire, huddled together for warmth.

LESLEY: It's so cold. I can't feel my toes.
YOUTH MINISTER: That's the way, Lesley! Raise homelessness awareness by pretending to have frostbite!
LESLEY: My toes are in fact too stiff to move.
LIV: Is my nose still on my face? I can't tell.

At this point, a frightening looking man in shirtsleeves approaches the fire. He stands a distance away and casually toys with the 6-inch Bowie knife in his pocket before informing us that his name is Paco and he has, in fact, just been released from jail.

YOUTH MINISTER: Ah. Please go away.
PACO: I'm going to my mother's house. To sleep there.
YOUTH MINISTER: Please go away now.
PACO: Don't get thrown in jail, girls. The people there aren't very nice.
LESLEY: Yes, I can see that.
YOUTH MINISTER: stands up and attempts to make himself look larger Please to be going away, right now!
PACO: Your fire looks warm.
LESLEY to self: It is warm, scary man, as warm as you are frightening.
YOUTH MINISTER: GO AWAY, SCARY MAN, BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE AND YOU GO BACK TO JAIL.

And thus ended the saga of Paco.

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Let's Talk About Perspective

No, really. I've been sort of slow with my reading lately, what with the major upswing in school work and all, and I'm making my slow, analytical way through Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the moment, so how about a break for a little look at something cool?

Perspective is what makes the world go 'round, and it's what makes stories interesting. And conflict. And it's what makes grey black and white. Or vice versa. And when one brings in nature, nurture, and society, things get a little crazy. It's not a question of morality (or at least, I don't think so) but a question of perspective. And when looking at a problem, one really needs to see and understand both sides. In books, that's achieved beautifully by offsetting Beowulf (one of my personal favorites) with John Gardner's Grendel.

So what happens when black and white become grey?