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Part One: Closing and The Home Depot Run

Read more... )

Part Two: The Squirrel Nest of Doom, and the Polyurethane

Read more... )

That's the saga so far. More posts this weekend, because that's when the big party happens where we plan to use most of the rest of this stuff.
shavastak: (Default) long, rough, winding, hilly, covered in tacks that blow your tires, and replete with sudden turns into brick walls. The destination still looks like it'll be worth it.

Twice in a row we crashed the car into brick walls and had to begin again from the start. Thankfully, we got out without paying for an inspection the second time; the seller's agent had an HVAC guy stop by and find out that all the copper piping had been removed from the system. We backed out and the seller ended up reducing the price of the house by 7k.

On the third try, we finally found a house that (still) might work. A 3-bedroom 1-bath with problems, but small problems, ones we can handle. The carpets were disgusting - but the bank owner pulled them up and refinished the hardwoods underneath. It has no appliances, but we can handle that, and the bank owner is putting in a stove of our choice for us. The ductwork is nasty, but they're getting it cleaned for us. That was all agreed upon ahead of time.

So we got an inspection and came up with a list of other minor problems that we need to take care of. The foundation is solid, but the floor is a little weak in two places and needs to be reinforced. We can do that. The roof is solid, but needs a new patch of shingles and some flashing in some places. We can't do that, but after a few months we can pay someone who can. There are some outlets that need to be recovered; we can do that. There's a gap in the floor of the attic and not enough insulation; we can fix that. We negotiated with the bank about getting them to do some of them before we moved in, on the assumption that the FHA inspector would flag them. (Things FHA flags MUST be fixed before closing, because otherwise FHA won't lend us the money to buy the house.)

Well, the FHA inspector came in, and he flagged a lot less than we thought he would, which is gad, but he also appraised the house at 10k less than we agreed to pay for it, which is bood.

What do I mean? Well, the fact that the FHA inspector flagged less than we thought he would means the responsibility for fixing the things he didn't flag falls on us and not the bank owner; on the other hand, that means that less work needs to be done before we move in, and it makes the deal more valuable from the owner's point of view. The fact that the FHA inspector appraised the house at 10k less than we agreed to means that FHA won't loan us more than the appraised value - so the owner either has to drop the price or we have to come up with 10k extra...but it might mean that we get the house for 10k less than we planned.

See what I mean about the road to home ownership being messed up?

So here's how things stand so far. The owner agreed to sell the house to us at the appraised value and pay $1000 (instead of $2000) in closing costs, and also the money they were going to give us for repairs goes out the window. The owner is also fixing the electrical outlets, which is like a $100 job if you hire an expensive electrician. There is some moldy junk that needs to be removed from the basement - mostly old boxes and shit like that, and something needs to be done to make the roof look better. These are the FHA-required fixes, so they need to be done before closing, which, if we stick to the current contract, is going to be July 15th.

Now the question is, how much of those fixes can we do and how much will the owner pay for? The issue is that under normal circumstances, because this is a foreclosure, we would not be allowed into the house to do any work on it - which is a bummer for all of us, because we can probably do all that ourselves. On the other hand, the owner obviously wants to minimize costs especially since they are now out about $6000 on the originally agreed purchase price of the house, and they still have to put in the stove and clean the ducts, which they agreed to a long time ago. We're on the borderline of the bank giving up and trying to sell it fix-free to an investor, and it's getting close to crunch time. We're running out of days to do this work on.

Wish us luck. If it works out, we'll be having a giant party near the end of July. If it doesn't, you'll hear my screams of frustration echoing through the ether for weeks to come.

Oh, I almost forgot to put in the part that makes it so worthwhile. The house we live in now costs us $950/month. This place is probably going to cost us about $325/month, including all the insurance and stuff.
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Oh love is never easy
It’s almost always out of your way
It’s not the path of least resistance
It’s not some words you get to say
It’s a stream running up a mountain
It’s a wave rolling out from the shore
Wish I could say I never felt that way before

I have a friend who’s lonely
She is chasing after her dreams
And she is the one and only
One who knows how hard it could be


There’s a treasure on her island
Buried in the city of news
Wish I could say we didn’t have that much to lose

Yeh one friend tried to end it
He could not see the good in his life
In his mirror or his pocket
And his hopes had come down like a knife

It’s a stream running up a mountain
It’s a wave rolling out from the shore
Wish I could say I never felt that way before
There’s a treasure on these islands

-Mary Black
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I've thought about this a lot, actually! The answer is Fresh Air, and I would totally talk about my comic book and all the relative weirdness in my life. It is my dream to be interviewed by Terry Gross. I hope to be famous enough, soon enough, to pull it off!
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Always an interesting question. I appreciate a good body as much as anyone else, especially a good female body, but what really turns me on is somebody's mind. One of my biggest celebrity crushes is Rachel Maddow, and while she's certainly not ugly, nobody would put her at the top of the physical attractiveness scale. But it doesn't matter. Her mind glitters, sharp-edged and flashing like a sword, and it gives her an inner glow that makes her smoking hot.

My current partners are not the height of physical attractiveness. They each have their physical bits that I enjoy, certainly - Chris's back (yes, I have a thing for a nice back), Sue's skin & hair - but what drew me to each of them was what was inside, not how they looked. I think, when people hear the old saw 'it's what inside that counts,' they take it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Everyone wants someone pretty or sexy or handsome or hot, and it's easy to assume everyone is shallow, since the general public appears so good at shallowness. But the old saw really is true, at least for me. It really is the inside that matters - the mind, the soul, the heart. The body becomes attractive when the spirit within it strikes the right sparks.
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On December 25th at about 5:45 am, I got up to do my petsitting jobs. Chris came with me. I wanted to take pictures of each pet and send them to their owners via phone, to say "Merry Christmas," so it took a little longer than I was hoping. We got back at 7-something, and had to spend a little time getting the GPS filled with podcasts and doing other little getting-ready things. Finally, just after 8, we all loaded into the car and headed east.

At 6 am, the sky was clear. At 8, as we left, it was just starting to snow lightly in Knoxville.

The drive to the mountains was uneventful, although the snow got thicker and wetter as we traveled east. I was driving, and going a speed I felt comfortable with. The roads are somewhat winding, and I wasn't having any trouble with the curves. Then, some 10 miles past the North Carolina line, I come up behind a mail truck going slower than I am. We're in the right lane, which is relatively clear, while the left lane is filled with fresh snow.

I take my foot off the gas, and find that we are not slowing down sufficiently, so I put on the brakes. Not hard, just as much as you would if you were trying to drop 10 miles an hour in the space of 150-200 feet.

Immediately I could tell that the brakes weren't doing anything. We were sliding forward and to the right, and not slowing at all. The mail truck was looming rather close and there was a ditch on the right side of the road I had no desire to fall into, so I took my foot off the brake and steered to the left, aiming for the fresh snow and figuring that would give us better traction. The steering I was doing did not seem to be sufficient so I turned the wheel more, and all of a sudden the car veered left. Then we were going too far to the left, so I tried to steer us back to center us in the left lane. No luck. I hit the brakes again. The back end of the car swung outward and the front left quarter of the car hit the concrete median divider and slid along it for about 40 feet.

When the car finally came to a stop, I hit the warning lights and turned to look at my traveling companions and make sure everyone was okay. Then I took stock of our surroundings. We were on a curve where the left side of the road was less visible than the right, so I trundled the car along slowly, trying to find a spot where we could get out and survey the damage safely. Having found such a spot, Chris got out and checked the car out. Saying that the damage seemed mainly to the front left panel, he got back in and I started us back forward, slowly.

But the car wasn't driving right. After another few hundred feet, I pulled onto the shoulder so we could take another look. I had a great deal of difficulty controlling the car and we ended up hitting the guard rail. I found that I could not open the driver's side door, and Chris found, upon further inspection, that the front wheels were not both facing the same direction. The 40-foot-slide along the median divider had broken our car's ankle - the wheel had pulled part of the suspension out. The car was no longer driveable.

A State Trooper pulled up a few minutes later as we were looking for the number for our insurance company. He gave me a ticket for driving too fast under the conditions and called a tow truck. I texted people who needed to know, and we sat there for two hours. When the tow finally arrived, getting the car onto the back was an interesting adventure. The tow truck had to back up to the car six or seven times, because it kept sliding out of line with the car. When the car finally got hooked up to the tow chain, I couldn't get the right wheel to turn at all, and rather than rolling up the tow bed, it had to be dragged. We huddled in the tow truck's cab while the driver helped another tow truck drag a silver sports car out of a ditch a little ways up, and finally we started driving towards Waynesville. On the way there, we passed a red crossover that had flipped completely over.

In Waynesville, the driver dropped us off at a Shoneys where we availed ourselves of the buffet and the bathrooms and figured out what to do next. Conversations with the insurance company and the moderately helpful locals brought us to the conclusion that in order to get back home, we would have to get a cab to drive us to the Asheville airport and rent a car from there to drive back home.

I will swear that the cab was sent from one of the upper levels of hell. It was a badly maintained hatchback with two ladders strapped to the top. It smelled like shit - literally, it smelled as if someone had taken a dump in the car. The heater was on but the windows were open. The check engine light and another somewhat important light (don't remember exactly what) remained on during the entire trip, and the driver went 70 miles an hour down roads that were at least three times as bad as the roads that had tripped me up at only 60 mph. We passed more cars on the side of the road, but somehow we made it to the Asheville airport intact.

With that minor horror show over with, we rented a new black Ford Fusion and, after admiring the spaceship-like interior, started driving carefully home. Chris was driving this time; I swore off driving for the rest of the day. We passed many more cars on the side of the road, including one that had managed to drive itself up onto a guard rail. It was a very bad day to be driving.

We got home without incident, and I was able to take care of my petsitting jobs and our own pets and beat myself up a bit and then remind myself how lucky I really was. I mean, I only tore the suspension to pieces; I didn't end up in a ditch, or upside-down, or halfway up a guard rail. We were all a little rattled, but nobody was actually hurt. We got off pretty well, considering.

So this past week, the adjuster finally got a chance to get out and look at the car. The suspension would have just come under the totalled amount, but with the body work required, the adjuster decided to total the car. We talked about it, figured out what the insurance company was likely to give us for the car, and decided that we would take the check and Sue's '93 Chrysler New Yorker (fair-to-poor condition) and go get TWO new cars. We figured if we had about 6500 for the Vibe and Sue's trade-in, we could get two cars in the 3500-4000 range and haggle them down so that it would all be covered. I mean, what car dealer wouldn't want to sell two cars at once?

Yesterday, the insurance company called us back and offered us 6790-something for the Vibe, which we took, resulting in a check for 6290-something ($500 deductible) being retrieved shortly thereafter. We spent the entire afternoon - from 11 am to 6:30 pm - traveling to two used dealerships we'd seen online and trying out cars under $4k. One dealership had quite a nice '00 Altima, but nothing else we would have wanted, so we moved on to another one across town. This one had a much larger selection but the cars were mostly in somewhat iffy shape. We finally settled on a well-accessorized '96 Camry ($3450) and a basic '00 Kia Sephia ($3250 - manual windows!), and presented our offer to the dealers: the '93 New Yorker and $5500 from our check for both cars - with the resultant end price after taxes and so on eating up the entire check.

They couldn't quite make it work. They drove the New Yorker and were forced to assume there was something wrong with the transmission (it doesn't shift above 35 mph; we've been told it's an input-output sensor, not the transmission), so they could only really offer us $200 for it. Finally we decided to keep the New Yorker and only get the Kia - if they could fix the door handle, which seemed to be its only issue. We gave them a deposit to hold the Kia and order the part for the door, and climbed back in the New Yorker to head home.

By this time, we were tired, hungry, cold, disappointed, and cranky. I drove home, Sue being the most tired of us for having not gotten a full night's sleep. We debated, poorly and crankily, whether to get pizza or have dinner out or take it home or what. Finally we settled on going out for dinner at Applebees, the idea being that we would eat sooner if we sat down in the restaurant than if we had to drive it home.

We had forgotten, I think, that it was New Year's Eve. Even though it was only 6:30, the wait for Applebees was 45 minutes. I suggested take-out, which at this point I figured would be faster, and was greeted with only grumbles. I said fuck it, let's go home, we have plenty of food, we have animals that need to be taken care of, and it'll let us sleep. Sue had soup and Chris and I ordered pizza. I got some cash from Chris - did I mention I left my wallet in the car in North Carolina? - and headed out the door to take care of my one remaining pet sitting client, a rabbit, intending to pick up the pizza on the way home.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the cash I'd brought to buy the pizza, and on my way out of the house with the rabbit, just after I discovered the loss of the cash, my ring wedding ring slipped off my finger and I heard it 'ting' once on the pavement. I did find it again, after a few minutes search, but you can understand why, after I was already pissed off, hungry, tired, and cold, why this would top off my rotting-banana-split month with just the frustrating teeth-gritting turd-cherry it seemed to deserve.

Today, I determined, would start out right. I woke up naturally at just after 8, took a shower, took care of the rabbit, brought home bagels, found the lost money, sent out some much-needed emails, and decided to write it all down for the benefit of those who felt like hearing the full story. Tomorrow we go to UU services and out for a nice late lunch/early dinner. Monday we cash the check from the insurance company, pick up the Kia, drive to NC to empty the Vibe and say goodbye to it, and drop off the rental car. And the rest of the week will be spent doing all the things I should have done since the 10th of December and really should do before the 12th of January, when classes start again.
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A meeting was convened just after dusk to discuss the problem of the graveyard. Sue Cudac, a priestess of Agrela and proprietress of the only temple in Hiddendale, said that she had a ritual that should make the graveyard safe - no more undead would rise from it if she consecrated it to Agrela. Ralkyn, wizard extraordinaire, studied the layout and the magical residues thereon, and declared, "Well there's your problem. Someone has been consecrating this place to Krypta, the goddess of death and the undead, every day after you're done." Sue then revealed that she had tried consecrating the graveyard at midnight, but was interrupted about halfway through by undead, making completing it impossible. "Perhaps if you were there to help me," she said...

The heroes set about making the graveyard as safe as possible. Sue taught Ralkyn and Auric the ritual Gentle Repose, which they used to put some of the town's most powerful dead people into a sleep from which they could not be roused. Meanwhile, Fiona, Tama, and Gurdis gathered logs and stones to form a barricade which would keep Sue safe while she performed the ritual. They also spiked shut the doors of the mausolea, to slow emerging undead. Lastly, Fiona commandeered two of the local dogs to act as early warning systems for when the undead should begin to arise. Fiona, Auric, and Ralkyn positioned themselves on the roof of the church, and Tama and Gurdis found spots in the graveyard to await the coming of the undead.

At last, on the stroke of midnight, Sue began chanting the ritual. At first, things were quiet. Our heroes spent their time helping Sue by rearranging ritual components to ensure a more efficient ritual. After about three minutes, the howling of the two dogs heralded the emergence of a skeletal hand from one of the graves. It was easily dispatched by Fiona, but slowly, more and more undead began rising. First it was one undead every few seconds, and they were the kind that took a single shot to kill. Then it was three at a time, though they were still easy targets. Then it was three, but one of them was stronger than the others. Still our heroes prevailed, but some of them were taking more than just a few seconds to kill. Then it was six at a time, and two were of the stronger kind, and our heroes began to feel a little overwhelmed.

At last, Sue chanted the last phrases of the ritual. A magical pulse went out over the graveyard, but all was not as peaceful as it should have been. From the mist at the edge of their vision, the heroes heard a voice say "Enough of your meddling! It is time to end this." The voice came from a skeletal figure dressed in blackened chainmail and wielding a scythe that glowed ghostly white. He had three ghastly companions - a corpse crusted in ice, another surrounded by a greenish fog, and the third with wings like those of a decaying raven. The skeletal figure raised a hand, intoned "Krypta, protect us!" and he and his companions were surrounded by swirling fragments of bone that formed magical breastplates around them.

Gurdis, already surrounded by lesser undead, now became the prime target for the skeletal one's companions, and fell quickly to their combined blows. The lich, for so Ralkyn declared him to be, cast spell after spell, first dealing a meaty magical blow to Gurdis, and then attacking Ralkyn with a scythe of glowing magical force, the mirror of the one held in his own skeletal hands. The winged corpse flew towards Auric's perch on the church roof. Auric felled it with a magical blow that struck the air from beneath it, and fired again upon it while it struggled, immobilized at the base of the wall. Tama, too, was surrounded by lesser undead, and found himself bloodied and battered and calling for help. The priestess, at last freed from her chanting, emerged from behind the barricade to aid Tama and Gurdis with some well-timed healing, while Ralkyn, brave even in the face of magical scythes, sent a barrage of magic at the lich and his two companions, slowing all of them and immobilizing both the lich and his ice-encrusted soldier. Gurdis, waking up at the feet of the icy zombie, was saved, not by its immobilization, but by its inability to see through her bluff, until she stood up and slammed her warhammer into its face. One by one, the zombies fell to our heroes' onslaught. More blood was spilled, more magic fired, but Sue kept our heroes going until at last, a final blow upon the lich was struck, his robes and mail and scythe fell to the ground, and his glowing green spirit screamed into the sky to return from whence it came.
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Having fended off the wererats, and snuck a hunk or two of silver ore for themselves, our heroes continued down the road toward Hiddendale, the last safe place in Ardania. On the way, they met up with Fiona, their half-elven ranger friend, who, on hearing the story of Gurdis being the heir to the throne, happily joined the cause, if only because it would give her something interesting to do.

They rounded the last bend towards town, thinking longingly of soft beds, warm meals, and cold beer, but as the town came into view, it was clear all was not well. Smoke from several burning houses poured into air already filled with the screams of frightened people. The wind brought yells of 'the dead! the dead!' And as if all that were not enough, right in front of our heroes a family was being chased from their house by an enormous bear with eyes like lit lanterns.

Fiona immediately let loose an arrow that buried itself deep in the bear's shoulder, eliciting a roar of rage and, importantly, distracting the bear from its current helpless quarry. Gurdis and Tama moved in to flank it, and were greeted by a furious whirlwind of claws. Auric fired blast after blast at it, and Ralkyn surrounded its face with swirling blades, but both found its hide frustratingly impervious to their magic. They bruised and battered it, but it hung on and unleashed another whirlwind of death. Tama, finding himself nearly beaten, retreated to a safe distance to 'scout out the rest of the town,' while his friends finished the deed, but not before Gurdis too was nearly dead.

Luckily, the town priestess of Agrela, the goddess of growth and healing, happened by. With healing magic, she thanked the heroes for saving the family, and then begged them to clear out the undead that had risen in the graveyard while she searched the town for others needing her magical assistance.

To the graveyard, then, our heroes went, and found it swarming with zombies and skeletons. These they defeated handily; Ralkyn in particular found these far less resistant to his fire than the bear was to his blades. Once the graveyard was clear, it was time to tackle the burning houses.

These they doused with water from the town fountain, and quenched with icy magic. The fires were nearly out, when Fiona, who had climbed an as-yet-unburned building to check out the lay of the land, was seen firing arrows into the darkness. As the smoke cleared, the heroes found the culprits who had set the blaze: four more wererats, snarling and laughing in the dirt road behind the houses.

Ralkyn and Auric, both gifted with the ability to step briefly into the Ether and back out again somewhere else, sequestered themselves on the roofs of untouched houses and began raining magical blows upon their enemies. Gurdis and Tama moved to engage the wererats on foot, while Fiona fired arrows from above.

With Fiona and Ralkyn doing most of the damage from the roof of one building, one wererat decided that climbing is what he needed to do. Sadly, he was not particularly good at it, especially after Ralkyn put him to sleep with a spell. Tama got himself badly hurt by one wererat, but then had the presence of mind to remove from his pocket the hunk of silver ore he had sequestered earlier that evening, and strike the wererat with it. The wererat's constant regeneration ability seemed to wane briefly, and the heroes were able to bring the rest of the wererats down.

So the 'safe' town of Hiddendale was neither very safe nor very hidden. The heroes asked around, and learned that everything had been safe and happy until about two weeks ago. At that point the local bears, which normally just ate berries and fish and hardly ever bothered anybody, seemed to go crazy, greatly upsetting the local woodsman Jack Mungstem. The graveyard had been spawning undead every night at dusk, starting about a week ago, despite the efforts of Sue Cudac, the priestess. And rats from the sewers had always been a problem, but recently they had become far more aggressive, and two weeks ago wererats, which had not been seen in decades, joined them. The wererats liked to burn houses down and steal everything of value from them, and had been causing havoc with the local trades.

Pacos, the trader, promised the heroes that more useful items would be available if the wererats could be taken care of. The heroes spent some time trying to convince Jack to help them with the bears, but he was simply too distraught, and urged the heroes to go on without him, even agreeing to pass his magical bow on to Fiona if the heroes could end the bear problem. Sue promised the two magic users that she would teach them all the rituals she knew, if they could help her get rid of the undead once and for all.

Which task will the heroes take on first? Tune in next week to find out!
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Ardania is a kingdom with a long proud history. The portraits of a long line of monarchs hangs in the halls of the palace, each one associated with great deeds: the defeat of a great dragon, the routing of an aggressive family of ogres, the elimination and taming of a horde of wolves, the retrieval of a great artifact, and on and on. They made possible decades of peace and prosperity under the last king but one, King Richard.

When young James took the throne upon the death of his elderly father, he looked over a land without werewolves, dragons, ogres, or, in fact, major threats of any kind. He was assured by his knights and wizards that there were no monsters left anywhere in the land, and that the people were safe and at peace. The King looked forlornly at the portraits of the great kings, and realized that he would never be remembered for anything, unless some monster appeared, but no monsters had been seen for decades, and the situation seemed hopeless.

The King wisely called upon his wizards and told them, “Summon me a demon that will terrorize the citizenry, and then I shall smite it and be remembered as the demon-killer!” The wizards said, “What a brilliant plan, Your Majesty!” and began researching an appropriate summoning ritual.

The ritual worked; the wizards opened a portal to hell, and in walked a king among demons. He was well-suited to terrorizing the citizenry, and started by killing the young King, his wizards, his knights, all his guards, and all but one of his advisers, and setting himself up in the palace. For the last 2 years, the demon has been fulfilling King James’ wildest dreams, returning ogres to the hills, werewolves to the forest, and dragons to the mountains, opening up all kinds of opportunities for heroism.


In a cabin deep in the forest, four friends sit, drinking mead and bickering. Gurdis, a typical stout dwarf with scale mail and a luxurious red beard, complains that Auric, her gold-horned tiefling companion does not respect the need for a righteous life. He laughs, replying that a righteous life is a joke and a sham. Ralkyn, the eladrin, reads in a corner, shaking his head at the renewal of the age-old argument, while the human Tama slumps in a corner, spinning a dagger in his hands to fend off ennui.

Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. Tama opens it to reveal an elderly bearded human man, wearing a ragged cloak over travelworn clothes that once must have been very fine. "Greetings...uh..." says the man, his tired eyes passing over the party and settling on the dwarf, "are you Gurdis?" Gurdis responds affirmatively.

"Oh thank the gods! I have been searching for you for nearly two years! Let me introduce myself; my name is McGuffin – Theodore McGuffin. I was an advisor to the late King James. Yes, yes, the Demon-Caller, I know. Sadly, His Majesty did not listen to me when I told him that summoning a demon was a bad idea, and that if he really wanted to be known as great he’d be better off fighting actors in a dragon suit. Regardless, we must now set forth, for there is much to do! What? Well, before we go after the demon himself and reclaim the throne, of course! My goodness – did I not explain? You are the heir to the throne! You’re the King’s second cousin’s child by his second wife, his closest living relative. You are the only one who can bring peace back to the kingdom! You must come with me to Hiddendale; it is the last safe village on the continent, and will be our base of operations. Come, gather your things; glory awaits!"


After five hours of travel through the woods, the heroes come across a narrow dirt path through the thick woods. "According to my map, this should lead us to Hiddendale if we follow it THAT way." The heroes thusly followed the road THAT way for about another hour, when they come upon a slow donkey-drawn wagon, going their way, heavily laden with grey rocks. The driver is an overweight brown-haired human man with a broad-brimmed hat. After asking the man to make sure that the road they are on does indeed lead to Hiddendale, they push past him, eager to get to town quickly.

Hardly have the heroes gotten out of sight of the wagon but they hear the driver screaming and the donkey braying. Auric makes the halfhearted suggestion that they move on and leave the driver to his fate, but Gurdis is off before Auric can finish his first sentence.

Rounding the corner of the road, the heroes find the wagon beset by rats. Some are enormous, as big as a human, and walking on two feet and wielding short swords. Others are merely large, about the size of small dogs, but their eyes glow like torches. Our heroes charge to the rescue! The smaller rats seem to die quickly enough - when our heroes can get a hit in - but the taller things, the were-rats, seem to have incredible healing powers and their wounds heal right before the heroes' eyes!

The wagon-driver leaps from his seat and flees into the woods as soon as he can, yelling behind him "Save my donkey!" and "Some of the ore is silver!" Meanwhile, the scrum becomes intense; the were-rats manage to separate the wagon from the donkey and cause our heroes no end of trouble. The donkey flees after his master. At last, by dint of concerted effort and a few thrown pieces of silver ore, the were-rats are defeated and the driver, the donkey, and the cart are reunited.


May. 21st, 2010 10:02 am
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Partially for my own life, and partially for the epic fantasy I am writing, I have developed a philosophy of the four parts to the self: the mind, the body, the heart, and the spirit. Among other things, each of these parts has (for me) a kind of drug that induces similar pleasant experiences. The body likes sex and exercise. The mind is intoxicated by reading and learning, especially about the harder sciences like physics and cosmology. The spirit is excited and soothed by philosophy, and secondarily by politics. The heart's drug is music, which I get as CRI whenever possible. (CRI = Constant Rate Infusion. Usually applied to analgesics given in an intravenous drip.)

As a biologist I realize that all of these things have similar physical mechanisms - endorphins and other endogenous 'feel-good' chemicals affecting various aspects of the nervous system. The difference is first in the triggers, and secondarily in the flavor of the effect.

I really need to look into research into the human rhythm centers. One of the most provoking things I have heard in the last year is the idea that animals respond far less to rhythmic music than humans do, and that this may have something to do with the speech centers of the brain being so much more developed in humans than in animals. Anything that fundamentally separates humans from animals is of distinct interest to me. My personal philosophy has a lot to do with the assumption that humans and animals are fundamentally indistinguishable, and I want to hear more about any evidence that might challenge that assumption.

Harken, all ye who would shy from evidence that challenges your basic assumptions about the universe. Do not fight this kind of evidence. SEEK it. If the evidence you find strengthens your assumptions, fine; if it breaks them, then you have achieved some real and lasting knowledge.
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Okay so I was calmer this morning when I woke up than I was last night, to begin with. Getting ready to go went all smooth, blah blah. Walked outside to grab my water bottle for refill, and it was raining. Not heavily, but raining. Now, normally, Chris is supposed to wake me up and tell me 'hey, it's raining, do you need me to take you in?' He didn't. Also, the only raincoat he left me was the one with the fleece inside. I took it, but as I suspected it was WAY too hot to wear to bike to school on a morning that was already like 70+ degrees.

So I got to the Clinch/Henley crossing and stopped to take the raincoat off. The light changed to green and back while I was taking it off, y'know, blah, whatever, no big deal. Crossing the street seemed difficult and on the second half of the crossing I looked down - my front tire was flat.

This is ridiculous. I mean seriously. Some vengeful or simply mischievous god really doesn't like me biking to school every day. Or something. I don't know if I need to change my route again to avoid the construction, or get a puncture-resistant tire for the front, or just get a new bike because this one is cursed. I walked the rest of the way to school; it took 30 minutes. And then, to add injury to insult, while I was putting my backpack away at the gym, I knocked a chunk of skin off my right little finger at the proximal interphalangeal joint.

What is the rest of the day going to be like? For that matter, what's the rest of the SUMMER going to be like? Things are NOT going smoothly right now.
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I choose C.

My idea of the perfect vacation is going to exotic countrysides and seeing the wildlife, followed by talking with local wildlife researchers about their current projects. A little nerdy, perhaps, but that's what I love. My fiance and I plan to take a trip like that to Tanzania and Kenya for our honeymoon.
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This has been a frustrating morning. First I was woken from a nice dream by having to pee. Then at first I couldn't find my bike saddlebags, then I could only find one of them. I missed taking my vitamins with my morning shake. The saddlebag kept coming off the bike's rack throughout my morning ride - I still haven't figured out how to secure it so that won't happen. It nearly knocked me off twice, so I definitely need to figure out what I'm doing wrong. Then I did something to my left shoulder that prevented me from doing all my weight-lifting this morning. My shorts turn out to be very loose, to the point where I have to sort of hold them up while I'm walking. And of course I didn't do as well as I should have on my microanatomy final. I'll get a C+ in the class but I'd really rather have gotten that B. And now I'm worried about physiology. If I get a 93 on the final - which I should be able to do - I'll get an A in the class - but I'm worried that there's a huge chunk of stuff I haven't quite gotten down yet, and won't have time to get down solidly before the exam tomorrow. And of course, I have to work this weekend, which cuts majorly into my study time for the last two exams.

It's mostly minor stuff, but it builds up, y'know?

Alright, enough wasting time. 2 hours before the review, time to see if I can't get some kind of handle on these pathways.
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Interesting question. I have had several defining moments.

I'd say the first one was the first time I realized I was in love. I remember it very clearly. It isn't that that love defines me now or defined me then, but that the moment when I realized I was in love was symbolic for a massive change that was going on in my life. I was turning from an arrogant, self-isolated child who believed that other humans were not worth my time, into a slightly-less-arrogant, involved, compassionate, and loving person.

The second defining moment was the day in the spring of my first year of college. I was sitting on the hill in front of the dining hall staring out at the landscape of the Shenandoah Valley, and I felt as if Nature walked up beside me, put a hand on my shoulder, and said 'you work for me now.' Again, it was a symbolic moment - the moment in which my life-path was chosen. That was the day I decided to be a biology major, and that biology was my calling.

The third was the week I heard about the death of Steve Irwin. Chris told me, and I didn't believe him at first. I admired Steve Irwin, and had always said that my dream job was to be the female Steve Irwin, but I didn't expect his death to hit me so hard. I was working as a kennel tech at the time, and while I enjoyed the job, it didn't really have any potential for advancement, but I hadn't really thought about what I was going to do after it. Steve Irwin's death made me rethink what I was doing with my life, and that's what made me decide to go into veterinary medicine.

The most recent one was the moment in February when I decided to propose to Chris. As it turned out, he proposed first, but my decision to do it was important in a lot of ways. And I did get to propose to him afterwards, the day our torcs arrived, although maybe it doesn't count if your partner has already asked you.

Defining moments are kind of fun. I look forward to more of them.
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My dog, my cat, my computer backup, my phone and its car charger, my laptop, my wallet, and my car keys. Chris can take himself out.

1) My dog and my cat depend on me.
2) My computer backup is my life. Most of you know that I have a story I've been working on for a long time. You may not know that I started writing this story when I was 9 years old. That means that with the exception of my family, this story has been with me longer than anything else in my entire life. My computer backup has everything I've written on it so far. Losing it would SUCK.
3) If you must leave your house forever, you should bring your phone so you can contact people.
4) My laptop, I'd grab, because it's portable and valuable.
5) If you have your wallet, you should have everything you REALLY need to start again - picture I.D. and access to your bank account.
6) Obviously, it helps to have your car.

If I had extra time (unlikely) I'd grab a handful of portable food, which I usually have in abundance - a couple of protein bars, a bottle of water, something like that, so that if it were not possible to get to a food store for a day or two, I would have something to eat.

The absolute minimums are dog, cat, wallet, and phone.
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Okay, the next opportunity that comes along for me to devote time to something long-term? I have to turn it down.

I am VP of two clubs. I'm co-running the Fit Challenge next year. I'm on an intramural softball team with games on Mondays, I play pickup soccer on Tuesdays, and I'm training for a 5k at the end of the month. This weekend is Chris's birthday and I'm helping with an acupressure wet lab on Saturday. The following weekend I'm helping out at a fundraiser at a barn, and running the 5k. The weekend after that I'm hosting a board & card game party, and I'm on-call for the large animal emergency team. The weekend after that I may be going to alumni weekend at MBC. The weekend after THAT is the 'halfway to clinics' party. The weekend after THAT is a gaming convention in Chattanooga. The weekend after that is a run/walk for MS. And during the two weeks after that are finals. Somewhere in there I have to finalize plans for what I'm doing this summer, and actually do the work involved in being VP of two clubs. I'm certainly not going to be bored.

My summer is also looking full. One way or the other I'll be working this summer, either at school doing alternative medicine research, or for the local horse acupuncturist. I'm also hoping to run a short-term RPG campaign this summer. And there's a convention in June I would commit a minor crime to go to. And I should probably plan my marriage over the summer, although we're not doing the big ceremony/party until later, so there's not a huge amount of planning to do.

Lots of exciting stuff to look forward to!
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So I was possibly going to adopt a new dog this weekend. His name is Mountain, he's an 85-lb great dane lab mix, black with yellow eyes and really handsome. Unfortunately, he got into a tussle with both my cat and my dog over the weekend. The cat's fine, just spent a few days completely freaked out, but Shenzi...Shenzi has two small puncture wounds on her left foreleg and is limping. I feel certain she's being melodramatic about the limp, but it's impossible to tell how much is real and how much is faking for sympathy. The wounds weren't deep enough to worry terribly much about, as far as I can tell at least. I'm going to take another look tonight and consider taking her in tomorrow.

So Mountain is not going to work out. And it isn't just his attitude toward my pets. The people who were caring for him said he occasionally gets a little bit of a limp on his back right, but one of them took him on long runs (3-4 miles) and he wouldn't have any trouble. However, Shenzi plays rough and Mountain hasn't put full weight on that leg all weekend. All in all, I think it's better for both Mountain and us for him to find a different home.

Oh well. They can't all be winners. I'm sure more dogs will come along needing homes.
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Yeah, no lunch this week, and Sarah hasn't written me back about lunch next week, and I'm not going to make the same mistake twice in a row. Time to give up. (Petulant grumbling.)

Spring Break plans are better, I'll work on those. Gotta figure out which day to go to the zoo with the people who are still in town, and which night to have dinner with Brooke and her boyfriend. I should also try to get together with Anna and Tom, if they're in town, or Rachel and Monica. Other than that my plans are to sleep in, run with Shenzi, and study a little. I do have that physio test to study for. Oh, and I need to plan for a board game party I want to host in April. And plan for the con I want to attend at the end of April. And file my taxes and my FAFSA. Wow I actually have a LOT to do. And now it looks like I might be taking care of a friend's dog, and there's a potential new dog in the works.

He's a black great dane mix named Mountain. He's gorgeous, but he's not on heartworm prevention and hasn't had a recent heartworm test, as far as we know. I'm worried about that. I think, if I decide to take him, I'll try to get an appointment over Spring Break at the community practice for him and Shenzi and Kizi, all of whom need something, and hope that it won't turn out to be too expensive. If he turns out to have heartworms I will get an estimate from school and one from work and try to solicit donations or, if I'm lucky, pay with it from our tax refunds. Primarily I'm going to cross my fingers and hope he's not positive.

So tired. Gotta make it through the rest of the day and then I can go home and nap.

Dream Home

Feb. 19th, 2010 03:17 pm
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Well, Pyat and I got talking about dream houses, so I decided I'd go ahead and write up my ideas somewhere so I can come back and reference them, add to them as needed, etc.

For starters, it's 3 stories, with two 'first' floors. Here's how that works. It's built into the side of a hill, such that the top story has a ground-floor entrance, and the second story down has a ground floor entrance down the hill on a different side of the house. The third story down is entirely underground.

The top floor is the lightest, airiest, and has the best windows. That's where the kitchen is - the big, well-organized, well-maintained kitchen, with huge windows and a little balcony that faces the yard. The dining room is on the same floor, and doubles as a dancefloor when the table is moved out of the way. There's a small sitting room up here, nothing big, but good for chats with casual acquaintances. (Close friends get entertained in the basement; you'll see why later.)

The middle floor is where the master bedroom is (small bedroom, BIG bathroom), and the study/library/studio, where Chris does his drawing and most of the books are stored. The middle floor also contains the cat room, which is the only room in the house with carpet. This room has carpet covering all six walls (except for the litterbox area), and is also bedecked with climbing platforms and cat toys. The door is always closed, and has a cat flap in it.

The basement is where the fun happens. There's an entertainment room, set up for tabletop gaming, but that can also be converted into a movie room, video-game room, or a bunkhouse for overnight guests. It includes several computers hooked up to a LAN, a fridge, popcorn maker, microwave, and a big enough bookshelf to contain the needs of two or three weekly RPGs. The basement also contains the utility room with a dumbwaiter (good for emergency sandwiches from the kitchen as well as shipping the laundry up and down), and the terrarium. The terrarium is where the rats and snakes live. The snakes each have their own lush tank, but the rats get the really fun stuff: three cages connected with Habitrail that runs all over the room. And of course, the basement also contains The Server.

There is also, of course, a garage, but the cars don't live in it. Rather, that's where the forge and workshop are.

The yard is big enough to maintain a horse and several goats, and includes a stream with a little pond in the middle, full of ducks. It abuts against woods which are pleasant to explore. Out in its furthest corner, away from the woods, is a big concrete block like a stage. There's a basketball hoop at one end, but it's main purpose is evidenced by its numerous scorch marks. It's used as a firepit and as a platform for setting off fireworks.

The house is excellently insulated and uses all the best environmentally-friendly technology to keep it energy-efficient and running smoothly. Its construction used as much recycled material as possible without endangering its durability, and includes several back-up methods for producing electricity, including solar, wind, and human power.

That's all I can think of for now, but I'm sure I'll change it later.

Edit 2/21/10: There will also be a tower, at the top of which will be an observatory and small herb garden. It will be positioned over the kitchen in such a way that the dumbwaiter system goes all the way up to the top. This makes it easy to send herbs down, or sandwiches and hot chocolate up.

Oh, and the whole house is set up with a sound system that a) allows the playing of music or podcasts in any room, and b) connects the entire house with itself, so that you can page anyone anywhere.
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