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The All-American Showcase
In brightest day and blackest night
my journal
July 2012

bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2012-07-17 21:36
Subject: ...
Security: Public
It's been one and a half years since I last posted here. I'd forgotten I had this thing, to be honest.

I feel the need to write again, but I'm unsure if I'll be doing it here. I think maybe it's time I moved on and tried doing it elsewhere.

The last year+ has been... boring. Nothing much to tell, no new adventures being had. I live by myself. I go to school full-time but I'm pretty bored with it, even though I'm so close to graduation I can almost taste it. Hanging out with friends is not a common thing. Going out with girls is rare. There are people I care about whose company I only get online now. I have very little money but that's true for a lot of us these days, so whatever.

My life is in a rut. So I'm gonna start writing again, just to see if that helps. Maybe I'll put a few things here just to warm up.

There was a time when I needed this journal. It was a weird kind of therapy for me, being able to talk to myself onscreen. When I think about some of the personal crap I posted here, I'm a little embarrassed - but I'm also relieved. I was the only one I felt comfortable sharing them with, so it was this or nothing. Just thinking them when you look at yourself in the mirror wasn't enough, however. There's something therapeutic to seeing the words in front of you. Watching them trying to organize your roiling emotions into a coherent train of thought is helpful somehow. It gives you an outside perspective on what's happening inside of you.

Now, I'm not that swirling mass of feelings I was. But I do feel some things lately that I'm having trouble figuring out. Livejournal helped with that once, maybe it can help again. If not, then hey - maybe it can be good practice, at least.

All I can really say now is this: Something is missing. I wanted more out of life, I expected more. I'm not getting it and I'm unsure what to do about it. I have some long-term life goals and plans but right now, with time scarce and money scarcer, they seem really hard to reach.

I'm worried about my future. That's a new thing for me. It always seemed so bright before but now, here in the rut, everything is uncertain and a little scary. I've had an interesting life but career-wise I haven't got much to show; In this job market, that's almost suicide. Plus I'm not young anyone -- it's harder and harder to find work when you're over 30. It seems like everyone wants somebody young they can work really hard for less money, then let them go before they have to promote them. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Too much dread and worry, not enough happiness. The last time I was totally happy was my last day in Spain. Some things make me happy for a while, but I haven't had a day where I just said, "Today ruled and so did I" since March of last year. How much of that is due to the hard times and how much is just me getting older? I'm not sure but I know I don't like feeling that my best times are behind me. I feel that way right now and, well, fuck that. That's gotta change but I'm unsure about how to make that happen. I suppose that's the first step to getting out of this rut, isn't it?

...Yeah. Here goes. Wish me luck.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2011-02-10 09:33
Subject: It is February 10th.
Security: Public
I feel the need to record my random thoughts today.

On December 28th, I moved into a small apartment by the sea on the Eastern coast of Spain. The idea was to A) have some time to unwind after the high-stress work I was doing; B) hang out in Europe to see if I could dig up another contract here (and therefore get to see more of the place); and C) Have a study retreat. I've been trying for a while now to get certain IT certs done but life kept interfering. I figure with two months in a quiet, relaxing place where I don't know anyone I'd get some actual studying done. And I have.

I like it there, but it's a town filled with mostly old expatriates. Fun fact: The Costa Blanca region of Spain is a popular retirement location for elderly English and German people. I like what I've seen of Spain (which admittedly isn't much) but it got boring pretty fast -- plus it actually gets surprisingly cold there in January. At night it would get below freezing sometimes; I actually had to go ask my landlady for a space heater. So I said "Screw it" and decided to seek out warmer weather.

I decided on South America, but nowhere I've been before. I've always wanted to go to Brazil, so I found the cheapest flight I could get and off I went! So far, I've seen Sao Paolo and Porto Alegre. Sao Paolo had much better nightlife, but there was a generally much cooler vibe in Porto Alegre. Sao Paolo is a fairly dangerous place, too; I went to a party and saw the girls were putting on their jewelry at the door. My ex-workmate told me that girls have to stash their jewelry to avoid getting robbed. Lots of street kids running around, too; I'm told that if you go anywhere near them they brandish a knife at you. I was also told that you shouldn't be non-Brazilian and walk down certain streets because you risk getting kidnapped. What they do is drive up next to you in a van, five guys drag you in, one guy puts a gun to your head & demands you withdraw $1000 from the nearest ATM machine. Then they grab it and drive off. Fucking crazy, right? My last day in the town, I walked down one of those streets. Got a few funny looks and a couple of dirty ones, but no one tried anything. Plus it rained for 2 of the 4 days I was there, which cut into my activities. I seem unable to escape bad weather.

Porto Alegre is a lot nicer. As soon as I got into town, I smelled barbecue *everywhere* - now THAT'S how you welcome a weary traveller into your city! The climate's better and it has more of a New York vibe, that thing where people generally seem to believe, "We're all pretty cool and we're all in this together (more-or-less), so no petty drama is allowed." I didn't really party there, but I hung out, had a few laughs and saw some awesome beaches. I hate swimming at the beach, but I never get bored with walking along the shore. Yeah, I had some barbecue too. There are tons of neat little markets where they sell all sorts of things. Of course, I didn't buy anything because my Portuguese is awful and I couldn't have haggled BUT I got some nice pics. There was also a cool little pre-Carnaval festival there, but I didn't get its name or anything. I didn't go to Rio, but maybe on the next trip.

Right now, I'm in a hotel in La Paz, Bolivia. I'm crashing here overnight because of some issue with my connecting flight. Plus, hey, when will I get another shot at seeing Bolivia? I'm also trying not to panic, because I just checked my savings account online. This trip ended up costing WWAAAAAAAYYYY more than I budgeted for it. Between that and the other bills I've had to pay recently, plus rent on two places (my place back home & the apartment in Spain) I'm gonna be hurting pretty bad financially in a couple of weeks. That's got me frightened because job-wise I don't have anything lined up for when I get back, and since I was consulting in Europe I may not be eligible for unemployment in the US. I've got a couple of job leads in Europe but they're starting to feel the pinch of recession there too, so I expect to face some stiff competition.

Damn, damn, damn, damn! Nothing is ever easy, is it? I'm at a loss for what to do here, so if anyone's got some advice I will gladly listen. What will I do when I get back to Spain? My original plan was to rent the place through mid-March, visit my European relatives one last time, then fly home & figure out my next move. Now, though, I'm unsure. I guess I could fly to Egypt and join the protestors there or something. There's always the military, if I'm really desperate or hard-up -- though I'm not sure if they'd take me now since I'm over 30. Grad school? Maybe, but I'd rather not be MORE in debt from student loans than I am now.

About that protesting stuff: When I was in England, there were massive student protests there. The year before, all that Iran uprising stuff started with angry young people. Now you've got the riots in Tunisia and the protests in Egypt, plus less-reported stuff happening in Yemen and Sudan. I found an article that might provide a common link for all of that. It's from BusinessWeek, so they naturally try and sneak in the free-market bullshit that Business always likes to hear -- after all, low taxes + weak environmental regs + weak labor laws = BIG-ASS PROFITS, damn the social consequences. Still, the point they make is valid: these recent uprisings can be traced back to the sharp spike in youth unemployment that we've seen in the last decade. So, while I'm not in that target demographic anymore, at least I'll have some company if I do become an unemployed bum. Maybe we'll even start a few uprisings ourselves. We can only hope...
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2011-01-05 07:21
Subject: HELLO!
Security: Public
Happy New Year!

I'm living near a beach in Spain for the next two months. I'll post occasional pics here for that period.

That is all.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-12-20 10:01
Subject: remembering my grandad
Security: Public
My grandfather was a mixed-race Peruvian Indian who spent most of his childhood working in a field with his parents and brothers. There were some wealthy white families in the area, mostly German immigrants, who they'd do odd jobs for occasionally as well. Back then, it was forbidden for Indians to go to white schools. His parents were canny enough to know the whites were learning important stuff that they were keeping to themselves, so when they came over to work the odd jobs, they'd go through their garbage and pick out all the homework the kids did and threw away and any books they could find. Then they'd give them to my granddad to decipher as best he could, since he was considered "the smart one."

The education served him well, because as he got older he learned to save his money and bought up some other nearby plots. Soon he was the only non-white plantation owner in the region. Instead of working his fellow Indians to the bone, he taught them what they'd need to know to be managers, then hired indigent Chinese and Japanese immigrants to do the dirty work. (Yeah, that's pretty racist, but it's still huge step up from where he was, and it was the early 1900s -- so try to put it in context). The local whites were unthrilled by his uppity behavior, so they organized a mob to kill him & burn down his house. He got word they were coming and ran them off. Supposedly he smacked the leader in the face and shoved the business end of a shotgun down his pants, telling him never to come back or he'd do it again & pull the trigger.

After that, a large natural well was discovered under one of his plots, which meant he could now export water to farms high up in the Andes. So now he was making more money -- enough that he was the first man in his town to own a car (a BRAND-NEW Model T Ford). The Germans wanted his land badly at this point, so they began paying local cops and soldiers to harass him & his employees. They even mass-murdered a bunch of the Asian workers, to try & terrorize them into leaving. At some point he got fed up, armed up all his fellow Indians and they rode over to the home of the main German instigator. He called him out, and when the oldest boy came forward he challenged him to a fight. He proposed a wager to the father: The winner gets 50 acres of the loser's land and promises NEVER to harass the other again. The German accepted, and though my grandpa was older and much smaller, a lifetime of hard work had made him far stronger. He bested the young man, who was sent back to Germany in shame. To the Germans' credit, they upheld their bargain. My grandad was now one the biggest landowners in the region.

About 20 years later, he married my grandma. She was 17, he was 46. That's how they roll in farm country, I guess. Together, they had 11 kids -- my mom was the second youngest. He died when she was young, so I obviously never met him, but I've grown up with a lot of stories about what a hard-assed dude he was and how kind and caring he was to his wife & children in private.

Here's to you, Sylvestre Soto -- I hope I live up to your legacy of standing up for yourself and trying to learn what others don't want you to know.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-12-17 14:37
Subject: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
Security: Public
Hey everyone,

I'm sending out this e-mail to say farewell to you all. This will be my last day on the contract for *******.

I'd like you all to know that these have been 8 of the most interesting months of my life. I came in not knowing what to expect - and just when I thought I did know, everything changed. That set the standard for my time here: Things were changing all around us and we had to keep up. I'm sure we were all in that same position, regardless of which ******* we were supporting – to our credit, we did keep up. Even when it got incredibly busy, we got through it and helped each other out. I'm proud to have been with such a good group; We worked hard, we worked together and we all learned from each other. I can't ask for more than that - and I couldn’t have asked for better people when the job seemed insane. When things got hectic and stressful for us, I did what I could to give you a laugh here and there, because it's good to keep a sense of humor when things get crazy. I hope it helped.

Thank you all for everything you've shown me -- not just the troubleshooting assistance and the various little tips and tricks I picked up, but the advice on things like getting around in England and where to shop. I'm grateful for my time as Lead - you were a great bunch to work with and I hope my guidance helped you when you needed it. A few of you came to me with work problems that went beyond the norm and we got through it and resolved them together; it was incredibly educational and I'll take those experiences with me to the next job. I know it'll make us better prepared for whatever unusual troubles come our way. I'm honored to have shared that experience with you.

It has been a blast and I will not forget this place, or any of you, as I move on to the next project. For the time being, I look forward to a few weeks of peace and quiet while I vacation in Europe. I just hope I don't get bored when I no longer have to deal with constant phone calls, e-mails and tickets. I can be reached at ************ if you want to let me know how you're doing. Take care of yourselves, have a great holiday and a wonderful New Year.


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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-11-15 17:32
Subject: 3.5 days in London
Security: Public
Ah, what a fine city! London is the closest thing to home that I've found overseas. I was there a few weeks back for business, but this was a pleasure trip. I made the mistake of thinking I could go there on the cheap -- nope, London is expensive. The money I saved by getting a hotel way out by the airport was later wasted on train, tube and taxi rides. London got me by the wallet, dammit.

I arrived Thursday evening. On Friday I had dinner at a Jamaican place with an ex-girlfriend and her new husband (No, it wasn't *THAT* ex-girlfriend), then tagged along to a house party where bad karaoke was happening. Verily, joyously bad singing did fill the room that evening! Cab ride back to the hotel, where I slept until 11am. Do you have any idea how awesome that is? I get up at 5am every day and I finally, blessedly, got a chance to sleep in. After that, I did a bit of sightseeing and met with a friend for some Indian food, then it was off for drinking with some Internet people. I think I pissed off a friend by not hanging out with her, though. If you read this, you know who are -- sorry, I just got caught up with stuff. I'll make it up to you.

After the drink-up, I ended up tagging along with a bunch of the Internet people to a dinner party where we discussed physics, immigration and progressive rock until about midnight, then it was... wait a second, was that Friday or Saturday? The weekend went by in a drunken blur, so I'm not exactly sure. All I know was that I took another cab home at some point. Then I slept 'til 11 again (aaaaah), checked out and began the long road home to little Lakenheath Village. Bus from the hotel to Heathrow, tube to King's Cross, train from King's Cross to Ely, cab from Ely to Lakenheath. I arrive feeling good about the whole thing, until I realized that I lost my camera at some point. That camera had ALL my London pics and most of my Belgium/Holland pics. *sigh*

I really arrived with no plans other than to get some cool pics and see some shows; of course I did neither & what few new pics I got are now gone. But hey, that's how it goes when you have no firm plans. I REALLY wanted to see LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip, and was into going to the Selecter and/or Ash concerts, but oh well. I kind of wanted to see Skyline too, but no time for that either.

So now I have to figure out what happens next. Do I go home, or do I go to the Middle East? I'm still waiting to hear what my next orders are. I don't like being in this in-between state, but since no one's decided what to do with me, I have to wait and see. I better get a ton of money if they ship me off to the war zones, that's all I know.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-11-05 19:27
Subject: nov. 4th
Security: Public
My mother would have been 60 years old today.

She would have gotten a call from me while I sit in an overstuffed leather chair, in a reading room in a quaint English cottage. I would have told her about my job and what it's like out here, and she would have laughed and asked to hear more. Maybe she'd have come out here to visit me. She probably never would have left, if she had. I'd have e-mailed her pictures and she would have been unable to open them because she was terrible with computers -- and we both would have had a good laugh over it.

The current state of my life is exactly what she wanted me to have. It's what she wanted for herself, too. It came 13 years too late, but I like to believe she's seeing this right now and smiling anyway. She deserved it more than I did, I think.

She would have loved Bavaria and Switzerland. When I was small, she'd make me watch "The Sound Of Music" with her over and over. Her dream was to visit the land where the movie took place. When she was ill and my Swiss aunt flew over to visit, she'd see pictures and tell my mom stories about visiting the Alps. Ma would say she couldn't wait to get better so she could see them. I saw them 13 years later; I'm thinking I should go back and get a picture, then leave it on her grave when I get back. It's a poor substitute for the real thing but it's the best that I can do. Yep, that's the best I can do for the woman who worked her ass off for half her life, to feed & clothe my ungrateful ass: A picture on her grave. I try not to let that get to me.

My mom deserved better and I've never forgotten that. I can't do right by her because she's gone, but I remind myself that I can do better by other people. It's a small tribute at best, sometimes it doesn't feel like enough, but it's all I can offer. Maybe someday I'll find out if it was enough.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-10-31 14:23
Subject: enjoy the silence
Security: Public
I'm gonna try and update this thing once a week. Life's taken me away from writing, and a funny thing about me is that when I write, I keep writing, and writing... When I had nothing to write about that would earn me some cash, I'd write whatever crazy shit popped into my head. It's funny because I've never seen myself as a guy with a lot to say. I have a feeling lots of us have more to say than we'd ever susppect.

So, where have I been? In case you care, I've been all over Europe. Without going into details, a certain company bit off WAY more than it could chew when it took a military contract, so they brought in subcontractors and paid us tons of cash to try and clean up their mess. Things have improved but there's plenty more mess to clean up and Uncle Sam has said they're tired of paying us to do it. So, in a cost-saving measure, we're being shipped off. Funny thing is, there's plenty of government contracts floating around, and they tend to like hiring people over from other departments due to how much effort it saves them (less paperwork, no interviews, etc.) The ones that pay really well, though, are the ones in the danger zones - Iraq and Afghainstan. I havenb't been extended an offer yet, but they've been hinting around. I'm on the fence about it.

As awesome and crazy as these past 7 months have been, I haven't written anything besides e-mails and memos since April. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Whats worse is that I don't have much desire to write anymore -- I'm not sure how I feel about that either. The money's been worth it, or at least I thought so until recently. If I've lost the writing bug because of this job, will the money make me feel better? I don't know.

So, where to now? Don't know. What happens next? Don't know. Do I go home or do I get another overseas contract? Don't know. If I go home, what do I do then? Don't know.

I have no idea what I'm going to do next. The last time that was true I was 18 and it was awesome. Will it still be awesome at 31? I guess I'll find out soon.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-10-25 17:15
Subject: so, hey
Security: Public
So far, I've spent the last 6 months in Europe. I've seen Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, England and Ireland. I have future plans to visit Switzerland again & spend some time in Italy. I have not gone to Amsterdam yet. I'm unsure how much longer I'll be here, but if they sent me home next week, I wouldn't be sore. To be honest, I'm beginning to miss New York. Ah well, it'll (probably) still be there when I get back.

Nothing else to say, beyond that this has been a whirlwind and while the work has been difficult I wouldn't have traded this experience for the world.

I'll try to post some pics here. Let me know what's up in your life.
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bejeweled madman from the east
Date: 2010-08-24 14:28
Security: Public
It has been a whirlwind 5 months -- so much of a whirlwind that I forgot I had this thing. So... does anyone still read them? Should I bother updating it still?
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