prettyarbitrary: (Fuzzy Cthulhu)
Happy Halloween! The day when we dress up as ghosts and goblins so as to confuse and ward away the returning spirits of our ancestors, who may be dead but still remember that they loaned us that power tool the one time and never got it back.
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I'm spending a few days in New York City over spring break so I can visit my brother and, y'know, bum around NYC. This will happen March 12 - 15. If any of you will be there at that time, a meetup would be grand!
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Posting to claim that precious 1-1-11 date before it flips over, and to wish you all a Happy New Year, folks! I hope yours has been awesome and that it carries through for the year.

Best gift of this holiday season: next week my sister has an interview for a job that won't thoroughly depress and stress her. *thumbs up and fingers crossed*
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Happy New Year, boys and girls and assorted others! May your coming year be better than the last one.
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Fun fact: Santa Claus was indeed an actual real person. Saint Nicholas was a bishop of Myra back around 300 AD. Born to a wealthy Greek family in what's now Turkey, he was a filthy rich hellraiser who applied thuggish skills in the name of good to pull off stunts like sneaking down poor peoples' chimneys to leave them socks full of money (he did actually do that once, which is the source of the legend). He also stormed into the Council of Nicea during a meeting of the full assembly of bishops and punched out Bishop Arius in front of Emperor Constantine. Arius was presenting his case for the Arian heresy at the time (named after him), and this is probably why it's now a heresy instead of Church doctrine.

Fun guy, Saint Nicholas.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyful Yule, Giftmas or whatever other holiday you may be celebrating! If you don't celebrate any, may you have a time full of awesomesauce anyway. And a happy New Year. :)
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Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate! And to those of you who don't, may you have a just plain swell day!
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I bought CS4 Design Premium the other day because I get a heaping discount through the university (only cost me $300! Even though the license is non-commercial use only) and I'm in love with it. It's crazy how much smoother and more powerful it is than previous versions (even though the clone brush isn't as good as it used to be). After installing it, I screwed around in Photoshop for a few hours, and came out with this. Far from perfect, and it looks about as unplanned as it is, but I caught the feel I was going for, and as an experiment in limited color palette, I brand it a success. As an experiment in foreshortening and perspective, not so much, but we all have to start somewhere. :)

Since we're now in October, I don't think it's too early for a Halloween-themed piece.


Something Halloweeny
by *Bluesrat on deviantART
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Tomorrow's that great American poultry-slaying holiday, Thanksgiving. The roommates, as usual, are heading out to see their family, which just leaves my sister and me. We don't go home, because the university doesn't close until Thanksgiving itself. Instead, we're having our dad down again. He doesn't associate with our mom's side of the family much, so we don't get to see him as often--and he doesn't hang out with people much anyway--so we like to set aside Thanksgiving just for him.

We had him down last year and the three of us brined a turkey and made dinner together, and then Sister and I spent a couple of days taking him to some of our favorite haunts and watching amusingly bad movies. It was so much fun that we figured we'd do it again this year. So if I get behind on a few things I'm in the middle of, that's why.

In other news, I have registered and scheduled my first course for the IST certification I want to pursue. I'm so excited to be going back to school that I'd be making a fool of myself if you were here in person. I'm making good use of the 75% tuition discount university employees get, and buffing up my study habits and my transcript besides. I've got a hard date for moving now--August 2010--and by then I expect to have completed this and another related certificate and be heading to grad school. :) I was looking at web-based programs, but now I'm open to go pretty much anywhere. It's very exciting. :D

Ah! One other thing: any of you know anything about New Orleans? I'm thinking of heading there for my vacation this year. I've found some good inexpensive hotels and b&bs, but I'm interested in good restaurants (I'll take good food over popular tourist venue anytime, but price is not so much an issue), music venues (especially jazz--not missing Preservation Hall), ghost tours, and anything else that just seems like a good time. Somebody told me I could visit the aquarium and then take a riverboat down to the city zoo.

Anyway, any ideas you lot have to throw at me, I'd be glad to hear. Happy late November to you all!
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My freaking art program just seized up and eradicated two and a half hours of work on a picture I've been fighting with for six months. Normally I can roll with these things, but right now, I hate it.

Yes, I know. "Save more often." Well, I would, only sometimes when you're trying to get the exposed ribs of an undead horse exactly right, you get sort of engrossed in your work.

No, you don't get to see it now. Because frigging Photoshop deleted the undead horse ribs. Now you hate it too, don't you, my perverse little zombie-obsessed f-listers?

Off with you now. Go and move on with your day. Nothing more to see here. Happy Independence Day to all the American bloggers out there! Join me in saluting freedom with charred meats and exploding chemical rockets!
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Well, it's the new year.  I'm 29 but I still feel like a kid.  I have lines on my face I didn't have last year.  I'm freaking out because omgGradSchool!  I'm behind on about two weeks of internet stuff, worried about my mom who has no money and no job prospects and a crappy retirement pension, worried about my grandmother who missed Christmas Eve service for the first time in my life, wondering where I'll be living in a year and a half, and in general feeling pretty optimistic about life, all things considered.

It's a good sign that nothing untoward happened yesterday.  My experience has been that so begun, so continued.  For me, New Year's day truly does set the tone for the rest of the year.  In this case, the implication is a year of Lego Star Wars, though given how much fun my sister was having with it, I'm thinking this is not a difficult prediction to make.

More to the point, and less based on what I concede is probably coincidence and superstition, this year is looking like it may bring the final slow decline of a last few treasured elements of my youth, and an opening up of new horizons.  What horizons exactly, I do not know, though hopefully they'll involve school and probably will include some long-lost relatives I'm finally getting back in touch with thanks to my genealogy research.  It freaks me out that I'm nearly 30 and feeling the deep cold waters of full adulthood closing in over my head--that state also known as Sole Responsibility.  It's weird because I would've expected it to happen sooner, possibly after college or something.  I mean, it's not like I've been living in my mother's basement; I've been taking care of myself for years now.  It's just that in the back of my mind, I always remained vaguely aware that if life rolled over and took a header straight into Suck, I had people willing and able to help bail me out. This is setting in now because at this point I'm forced to acknowledge that in a few years, they're going to need me to help take care of them.  Loss of safety net, you know?

Anyway, whatever's going to happen, I think I'm game.  I spent some time a while back being afraid of what the future might bring, but that accomplishes nothing useful except give you a lot of time to think, and it gets really boring pretty fast to do nothing but maintain a holding pattern in your life.  You know, really all it is is lack of confidence in yourself.  It's like, if you were standing at the top of a steep slope and somebody gave you a push, would you have faith in your dexterity and sense of balance to see you to the bottom in one piece?  Well, maybe some of us should legitimately be alarmed by the prospect, but I trust myself.  My friends may think I'm a ditz sometimes, but I know what I'm capable of.

This is the sort of thing that goes through my mind on days like this.  Happy New Year!
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Sometimes you come across things that you just have to blog about. We were...Alice, this might be traumatic for you, it involves dead betas and weirdness...we were celebrating our boss's 50th birthday this morning, when her assistant dives into our break room kitchen and hauls out a small lunch-pail-sized box. "Shall we go out and bury Bert?" she asks. Well, half of us had no idea what she was talking about, till my supervisor explained to the room in a desert-dry tone, "Bert is our department fish who died years ago and has been sitting in the freezer ever since." Apparently Bosslady has been having trouble letting go.

Man... I've eaten food out of that freezer!

She also insisted on hugging each and every one of us, shortly before announcing that she had acquired a flu while visiting Gettysburg over the weekend. Wow, thanks. Nothing says "I care" like germs.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was super-fine. My hermit-like father actually came out of his burrow to visit us at our humble abode, and the three of us--Dad, Sister, and I--had a lovely Thanksgiving all to ourselves. Making a holiday dinner for a family can be grueling and tedious. Making it with a family is fun.

I made my first-ever completely solo turkey, which was beyond awesome. We brined it, which essentially means we soaked it in a bucket of salt water overnight. Holy crap. It took two hours to cook, and we didn't have to baste it once, and when I carved that sucker, it nearly exploded with juiciness. So freaking easy. I will never cook a turkey a different way again. Here. Do it. I swear it will convert you. You don't actually need any of the herbs, spices, or aromatics on that list if you don't want them. They're a matter of preference, though I do recommend using the vegetable stock and the sugar in the brine. And when you brine the turkey, there's enough salt in that water that you don't have to be concerned about bacteria in the food. I've talked to people who've brined their turkey for up to three days, though doing it even for a couple of hours makes a definite difference. It doesn't come out super-salty at all; just perfectly juicy and seasoned with every bite.

I think Dad'll come back to visit just for the shopping. He's a huge bargain hound (the thrill of the hunt!), and we nearly had to drag him from the stock surplus store we have here because every time he turned a corner, he said he kept finding more things that he suddenly found he needed desperately. :D I admit, it was pretty tempting. I bought a full-length cashmere/wool blend coat there for $20 (Albert Nipon, holy cow! Probably why it was so cheap; do they do anything besides perfume these days?). Almost got a leather duster for $30, but the wool coat was too perfect a fit to pass up.

Anyway, done babbling. How about some art? )
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By this time tomorrow, I'll be in a hotel room in Ohio, attending Origins. I will not have to look work in the face until next week! It'll be sweet. Funny thing: I'm actually more looking forward to just hanging out in a different place than I am anticipating the convention. I want to take my friends to that Japanese steakhouse, try the ice cream place Jess Hartley told me about, and go see Transformers with my discounted movie ticket that, for some reason, the Origins people have arranged for attendees. I don't know why, and I don't care. I finally got to see Pirates 3 on Sunday (oh hell YES! I don't care about questions of quality; I just loved the huge amounts of PIRATES and SHIPS and BATTLES!  And the whole mysticism of the sea angle, because there's always been something mysterious about ships and sailors that made me feel like they must know something we don't), and tomorrow I will get a long frigging road trip (I love road trips), a heaping helping of giant robot action, and then four days of ubergeekery and tourism.

For those of you who're keeping track, I have the plan for my picture sorted out! A far cry from any of my original ideas, isn't it?  I have some fiddling to do with the linework; the door needs to be taller, for example, and I'd like a bit more space on the right side (which is fine, since it means I'll be able to keep it all in proportion).  But this is a good place to leave it for now.  After a week-long break, I'll be able to come back to it with fresh eyes and get the details where they ought to go.

It's just...strangely exciting to do a picture this way.  Usually I just draw stuff when it happens to come to me; I don't work at it, I don't fight with it, any art I do exists for no other reason than because I wanted to do it.  And except for two or three pictures, I've never really futzed with background at all.  So just the process of this so far has expanded my horizons.  It's a good feeling to challenge yourself and find you can rise to the task.







Calendar project working draft


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This weekend, it being Father's Day and all, I went up to visit my dad for a grand day of fishing. It was quite the adventure!

First we had to actually get to the river, which was easier said than done, let me tell you. We hiked about a mile each way along the railroad tracks, looking for a way over the bank, but everything was either pitched too steep to climb down, or else clogged by brush and scrap. Finally, we followed a powerline cut that led us true, except that we had to wade through a whole flood plain's worth of grass as tall as I am. Kept an eye out for copperheads, but generally snakes aren't a problem if they can tell you're coming. It's not like we were hard to miss.

Anyway, we got down to the river where a creek empties out into it, hopping along the rocks, slogged through the water, fished with lures...it was wonderful, actually. I don't get to tromp through the wood and stuff enough anymore. I've missed it deeply. We saw herons and a family of ducks, and our one chance to catch any respectable fish was thwarted by some guys charging through in a power boat. But the point was not so much to catch anything as it was to have fun and get familiar with the area again.

So, I'm fishing with a lure, which I don't usually do (I prefer live bait). This thing's an orange critter with about ten thousand hooks on it, so I spend more time unraveling the damn thing than I do casting. It gets caught on everything--the line, rocks, river weed, itself. After untangling it yet again, I flick back to cast...and it gets caught on the pole, sproings off and stabs a hook straight through my ear. Right about halfway up, just where the cartiledge begins.

May I say, ow.

Actually, I've had my ears pierced, and this was a very similar sensation. Except that the hook had a barb on it, which turned the whole scenario suddenly more complicated. After pondering it briefly, Dad cut the spine off with his wire cutters (which, OW) and then I pulled the damn thing out. After that, I just sat and sulked/enjoyed the sunshine for a while.

Eventually, Dad decided he'd like to hike up along the creek and see if there was any better fishing to be done. I get stuck in sucking mud (after which I warned him that if he led me into sucking mud again, I would create a scene--this is humor), and then nearly fall in where the stream bank rose and turned into mud. This is a good thing. If you fish or enjoy generally wandering across the landscape, then you know that it would've been a letdown to come back without being covered in mud to the hips.

We had a crisis when we hit the railroad bridge, though. Dad wanted to follow the bank up beyond it, except there wasn't really way way to get past the bridge, what with the way it'd been laid. But we'd sort of backed ourselves into a corner by clambering over the rocks to get there. Turning back was a risky proposition. I ended up having to ninja/mountain goat my way around and over the bridge to find a way back up to the railroad tracks. It all felt very daring and death-defying, though if it'd been anyone else, the risk of pitching oneself off would've been minimal. As it was, I had to help Dad haul himself up (he's not as spry as I am) and then, rather than climb up the dangerous gravel bank with the 20-foot precipice at the bottom or clamber over a series of fallen branches like a circus acrobat, it turned out that the side of the concrete abutment had been conveniently built like a little staircase that we could trot up and over easy as you please.

So we hiked the mile or so back to Dad's house, triumphant, fishless, and covered in mud, and I've scheduled a tetanus shot for this afternoon because, um, I haven't had one since I went off to college. I am, shockingly, allergy-free after parading around in more weeds and grass than I can shake a stick at.

Dad emailed my sister when we got back, telling her only that I "got a fishhook in the ear and he had to cut it out." It would primer for the story, he said. I knew she'd freak out. And indeed, when I got home, she was spastic with thoughts of my gruesomely maimed ear. When I waved it off, she decided I meant that Dad had been making it all up (he occasionally does things like that), so I had to show her the puncture wound and explain that, no, I really had got a fishhook in the ear but it wasn't the crisis she'd been envisioning.

Once it heals up, I am tempted to mark the site of my Wound of Honor(TM) with an earring (done by a legitimate piercing shop, not a, uh, fishhook). Or possibly it'll scar in nifty fashion and I can point it out to future generations with dire warnings about fishing lures. Seriously, though, probably not. You can barely even see the wound from the front.

So, danger, blood, and feats of derring-do. All told, the best weekend I've had in ages. I feel like I had a whole week off! Hopefully we can do it again next month.
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Today, I am back at work. The week and a half-long break was splendid. I didn't do much, but really, who cares? Christmas rocked. We all ended up cooking Christmas dinner together, and cooking together is fun. The Christmas haul wasn't all that great, but it included some things I needed and, more importantly, lots of baking equipment for my sister (I count that as a present to me, partly because I use it, but mostly because she does).

I almost got the best present, which would've been my brother coming down to visit his family, but they ended up putting that off. They'll be down in February. Yee! Nephew-sign!

We spent the day after Christmas with my dad. It's funny how the little things seem to pop out at you, isn't it? I helped him out with a couple of problems he's been having on a musical piece he's composing. Now, I love Dad, but he's hard to socialize with. Tends to keep his distance because he's not good at interacting with people. So being able to spend time with him at one of his favorite hobbies means a lot to me...especially because I think it means a great deal to him, too. I've always suspected that he's constantly afraid he's secretly boring us and that we're just humoring him.
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Well, I'm off to visit the family for a week and enjoy the season...and also to be drafted to kitchen-duty for the big feast. :)

Have a merry Christmas, folks, or a happy Hanukkah, Yule, Festivus, or whatever you might celebrate in your neck of the woods! My wishes go out to you for a safe and wonderful holiday, and may you all have a happier Next Year than this last one.

Love!
Me :)
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A great deal of eventfulness this weekend, which added up to little--my car is back in the shop, and my sister has the flu. On the other hand, there was a lovely turkey dinner and the exchange of presents among friends.

I'm still taking notes on that story idea, but when it's begun coalescing into anything involving actual sentences, I'll get that filter set up for those of you who want to be on it.

But most importantly, I've been working on this sucker for six months, on and off, and it's done! I've finished it! It is...a picture with an actual background! Iron Kingdoms: the Rigs
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They can't find anything wrong with my car. You'd expect this to be good news, except that it means there's something wrong with my car and no one knows what, which means it might well do whatever-it-is again...possibly on, say, a long trip home for Christmas. Blarg.

I forgot to submit my time card last week, and didn't notice till last night, which means I'm missing a pay period. I'll be reimbursed...in January. *sigh* My own stupid fault. It's all right, this is why we have savings accounts. But it's annoying, and stupid, and I have embarrassed myself in front of the entire Human Resources department. Not my benchmark week.

Well, well. Not all is despair and bleakness. Office party yesterday; it was great fun and the pizza was top-notch. Also, I have an honest-to-god idea for a story. A novel! It's got a plot and everything! (Plots are my weak point, I've found.) I've learned not to promise such things, but if I can get it together enough to produce coherent samples, I could share some with you lovely folks. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get feedback on it anyway, just in case it starts shaping up to be embarrassingly cliched. They do have a way of sneaking up on you unnoticed, do cliches, and having extra eyes to spot them is no bad thing.

In the meantime, for those of you who enjoy such things, I'm putting together another gaming blog, for my sister's Iron Kingdoms game. Shhhh, it's a secret. I'll share the link when there's more to look at than a background. Iron Kingdoms is an amazing setting (it's d20, but one of those customized d20 games where it's been jiggered to fit specifically with the needs of the--extremely coherent, atmospheric, and balanced--setting), and my sister is a thoroughly spectacular GM. I hope great and probably overweening things for this blog, involving edgy piratical writing styles you should probably hope I don't get around to trying. Sometimes, fading attention spans are a good thing.

The Star Wars gaming blog, again for those of you who enjoy such things, is now prominently displayed in my Links list. *points upward* (http://sarthedroid.blogspot.com) It's up-to-date. I caught up on a couple of entries I'd fallen behind on, and the new sessions are posted.

My Twerp* has a revolting flu that deserves to be kicked in the face like a space-hobo, from which my other roommates are only now on the mend. Poor things, all of 'em. Not a one of them has a lick of sense when it comes to taking a day off work, but I love the poor sods nonetheless. Foolish creatures that they are.

* That's my sister, remember?
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It's been that sort of year. The wheel spins, and all you can do is wait to see where it lands you.

I figure that a couple of days after Halloween is an appropriate time for this. Wiccans, and maybe the oh-so-mysterious Celts before them, believe that Samhain is the day the year turns. Death and rebirth; that's why the veil between us and the afterlife is supposed to be so thin. They say that on Halloween, you're supposed to look back, and look ahead. Lay the past to rest, and begin your life anew. Because if you don't do it for yourself then, then one day, you'll wake up to find life doing it for you, and that's not likely to be fun.

Well, damn me if they don't have a point. They put it in mystical terms, but even the most pragmatic person can probably see the lesson behind the words. So often, we define ourselves by who we have been, looking to the past and our memories to know who we are. In truth, who we are is only what we've taken from those experiences. I am, if you can't tell, going through one of those periods that leads to epiphany.

I'm watching my childhood die. I'm 28, hardly a kid anymore, but not so old that I don't still look back with a bit of wistfulness. The sheltered little world I grew up in has been in its seniority for a while now, but until recently it was still there, like a safety net. I still had the people I'd grown up around, whom I could hide behind when life got too rough. I had the places that I identify as being 'childhood' and 'safe.' If I looked closely, I could see they'd gotten old while I was away. If I thought about it, they didn't have the strength they'd once had. But it was nice to know they were all still there.

But this year, I've been losing family members. I've been losing those places. It's hard to see them go, to finally know--to be unable to fool myself, if I want to be completely honest--that I can't go back. And yet, much as I'll miss them, the love and the happy memories, in a way I can feel that it's been good for me. It's like a final gift that they've given me in their passing. I can feel myself growing and changing. And from the ashes of the old rise the seeds of the new. The kids I grew up with, who've been like brothers and sisters to me, are sprouting families of their own. "Home" shifts, but it's still there. And suddenly, from all the chaos and uncertainty, I have things to aim for, places to go--a plan for the future, that I can act on whenever it feels right to. I have a way to take care of my mom, whom I've silently worried about for years. She's stoic and strong, but secretly there's always been a touch of emotional fragility and loneliness to her, and I don't like leaving her alone. But now I won't have to. :)

Truthfully, until now I haven't mourned the people I've lost. Honestly, I don't do much of that. Some people think me cold for it, but I was told once--and I realized the truth of it even then--that grief is really the process of feeling sorry for what we've lost. I have the sort of faith (I know some of you consider it foolish, while others agree with me) that permits me to feel that I haven't really lost them forever, that they have indeed gone to a better place and that someday I'll see them again. And logic tells me that if that's not the case, then my lost loved ones are hardly in a position to care. So mostly, no mourning.

But now, I also understand that grief serves a purpose besides selfishness. It hurts because we're sloughing off the past like an old skin, and when we're done, what we're left with is (hopefully) a clean and healthy new self. In a way, this is honoring those we mourn. It's accepting, finally, the lessons they had to teach us, the memories and strength they gave us, and incorporating those final gifts as a part of us that we'll never lose. So right now, as I type this, I'm crying like a little baby, and I share in hopes that it'll help those of you (hell, that's almost all of you--it has been a hard year, hasn't it?) who've lost someone or something precious this year. I'll mourn your loved ones too, because they gave something to me--stronger, wiser friends.

So. It's been that sort of year. Here's hoping that we're running on the Celtic calendar! But in any case, when you ask me how I am, now you know what I'm saying when I reply, "I'm okay." I am okay. I hope you are too. My love to all of you, and a happy Halloween.
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This be the great international holiday, me hearties! So if ya don't want ter be keelhauled, ya'd better talk like a pirate!
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Happy Hannukah, Yule, Solstice, Kwanzaa, atheistic family-oriented gift-giving day...

Oh, screw it. Happy Holidays!

I've had a spectacular Christmas already, and it hasn't even started yet! Today, I got to spend the afternoon with the family of my best friend, whom I've somehow managed not to see in four years, what with her busy schedule and our widely divergent placements on the earth's surface. I spent the evening at Christmas Eve dinner with my family, where I got to pick on my favorite uncle while explaining to his ten-year-old daughther the merits of moderation in soda-drinking (the fizz bubbles up in your brain, you see; that's what happened to your dad, and you wouldn't want to end up like him, would you? >:D).

I love embarrassing her...in a totally different way than any of the other adults. They get the 'I'm 10 and obviously this means I know more about the world than you do' treatment. I invoke the 'oh my god, my adult cousin is behaving like she's younger than I am!' response, which is way cooler, let me tell you.

It's probably a good thing that I don't have kids.

Tomorrow I see my dad (estranged from Mom lo these many years), and he and my sister and I will go out for our...how did he put it..."our revered Tradition of Ancient Custom" at the local Chinese restaurant, after which it's over to my uncles' for turkey and more familial torment--which will also be leveled on his two pet dogs, except that they think I'm funny as well as embarrassing. He has very smart dogs.

My only regret is the weight I'm bound to put on by the end of next week. I'm going to have to do a lot of DDR to work that off... (I have a hard time losing weight in the winter. In the summer, it just melts off, but only so much, and I prefer not to have to buy larger pants. I think it's part of that seasonal affective disorder thing.)

This has been a damn good year. I hope yours has been at least as good.

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