I woke up Saturday into Sunday morning absolutely freezing. I was so cold I actually considered just stealing Dana’s blanket. As it happens, I had a fever. A fever which would last until late Monday, and crop up again a bit on Tuesday. I had one terrible bout of chills during the whole thing, where, with 4 blankets, I was still freaking cold.

Most of the time was sweating though, feeling dizzy and crappy. I did end up going to urgent care, and got told bland food and Gatorade. Three quarts later I was sorta hydrated again. Stomach flu does a number to the backside too. (oi, does it.)

This photo captured exactly how I felt…

Andrew Miserable

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It coulda been me…

This is a response to the shootings at Virginia Tech. I was shocked to read his profile because it was a ringer for me during a good span in my life. I talked with a friend who felt much the same way. We explored for a moment the dangerous thoughts of knowing how he felt, knowing we were in a place where we thought of and considered similar actions. Knowing the pressure that can be on you when you feel 100% outside, and the cracks I fell through, I feel perhaps more sad for him, to have no way out of his misery except that which he chose. Anyway, its quick and rough, but I give you “It coulda been me” :

It coulda been me Going to school at V – T It coulda been me Alone, cold and angry

I mean, I never thought I’d live past 23 And if I’d lived, I would never be free Now I am thirty-five and shocked Because it could have been me

Every day life bearing down Sucking me under making me drown Laying awake, dreaming of escape Because it could have been me Going to school at V – T It coulda been me Alone, cold and angry

I am afraid of everything cruel or kind It takes a toll and bends the mind Mostly afraid of one day SNAP Because it could have been me

No one to listen, no to one care No one to love, no to one share Alone with this brutal legacy Because it could have been me

Violence is my first and last choice I hate you because I have no voice I write and joke and talk Because it could have been me Going to school at V – T It coulda been me Alone, cold and angry

For his despair, I take responsibility For this my part in the patriarchy And the sorrow I feel Because it coulda been me

(cross posted at GPI)

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Hidden Message

Sometimes in the morning, I like to get my coffee from a local shop rather than the office brew (which is tasty.) It gives me a chance to support a local business, and feel like I am treating myself.

Lately, there has been a new advertising gimmick being doled out with the Joe. You know those cardboard barrier sleeve kind of things to keep from burning your hand on the cup of pipin' hot? Well, they have taken to picturing some product, and sticking on a small sample. One such product is some gum to, it seems, work on counteracting the stain brought on by the very beverage that lead me to the gum.

Increasingly intrusive marketing and adverts are annoying. I am continually surprised to see what has not been colonized by corporate images when something like this happens. The fun of this one, however, is on the packaging. It seems the 70s did their job, with anti-litter campaigns. (Weeping Native American caricature anyone?) If you are lucky enough to spot it, there is a friendly reminder to "dispose of properly".

Witness, the wrapper:


The arrow points to the message icon – the dark spot. The wrapper itself is about 1.5" x 2.5". The icon, is maybe 1/4" tall.

The icon imploring us not to litter:

Dispose of Properly

So, there ya have it. Thanks Manufacturer, for be such a fine, upstanding "Citizen".

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Police In My Backyard

The neighborhood we live in is considered to be up and coming. Folks joke that it is more coming than up. Jokes aside, the easiest way to explain our neighborhood is as one just beginning gentrification. You have a some scared looking yuppie types meandering about trying not to look out of place, but its predominantly low-middle income folks. Gentrification is a topic we will no doubt come back to, but I am going to address a recent addition to our neighborhood: more cops.

Yeap. Cops. I guess, though I have been too lazy to look it up, we have a fair amount of crime and gasp loitering in our area. From what I understand, enough calls have been made to the police to make us a target area. When this was explained to me, I was ok with it. Really, I was! I understood it to mean a 40 day increased patrol in our neighborhood

It turns out its a little more than upping the patrols. At the end of the block, just across the street, is a parked police van. Did I say van? Excuse me… I meant MOVING VAN! The thing is huge. Just parked there. Is it a mobile lab? Is it for the riot squad? Is it there to create an oppressive enviroment that makes even the good neighbors nervous? Three guesses what I think. That and some random squad on the other side of the street. Even money if someone is in it, but lights going most of the time.

So, yeah. Big old police van keeping me safe from guys who haven't had hope in so long their only answer is alcohol, and litter. Yeap – safe from litter. I am sure am glad I walk past that thing every day. Reminds me how safe I am, and how good I have got it. Upped patrols I can understand, but the van deal is crazy. It showed up at the start of school so I thought the two might be related. I wish I could put it into words better. Makes me believe my comrades on the far left that we are on the verge of police state. Ick.

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Here Is My Title

Anyone have a snapshot of what my blog used to look like? lol. It'd make some of my life easier!

Okay. I have been here for some time, and havent done so much. Some of you might have seen my (old) blog at, and know about all that. Basically, I kinda lost my old blog, and am just getting around to getting the new one working/rolling. I should be starting to update the journal, but am looking to write my own blog software, and move it all to the front here, as kind of my gateway to, well, me. Also in the mental works is a better photo album, that my chums can post to as well. =-) We'll see.

So, that all said, feel free to pop in now and then, and see how its going. You can email me at journal [at] if you want to get updates on the whole mess.

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What’s that smell?

One of the things you notice in any new place is the smell. The subtle differences that your nose can differentiate from the experience you are used to, but not quite identify the source. This is the quandary I found myself in last night as I was getting my ass repeatedly kicked by faux people on Chessmaster, and watching my faux rating plummet.

It’s gotten pretty nice here, and I had the windows in the flat open to let the light breeze in. Ahh. Wait. What is that smell? Fortunately, there wasn’t much concentration on the game at hand to lose. I could smell it coming from the kitchen. I looked down at my pan of teriyaki rice, and puzzled. I had already thrown out the last rice leftovers, and that only occurred when the refrigerator was opened. (How plain rice can get stinky, I don’t know. But that’d be a brief essay on microbiology, not chess and smells like you are participating in now.)

It slowly seeped into my head and nose that it was a burning plastic kind of smell. Very faint, and almost elusive, I could pick up the plastic-ness of it up at the fringe of my Spring battered senses. With concern, I drifted into the kitchen. Ok, maybe not so much as a drift as a hop-step-step. My brow furrowed at what I might find. The little stove that could is an electric one, and I thought maybe I didn’t turn the burner off. I hated to see what in the kitchen could heat enough to smell like plastic. I expected melted rayon-ish curtains!

But no, no that was not it. Not at all. Hmm. I stuck my head in the bathroom. All clear there. ::thinkthinkthink:: It was plastic-y but different, and I know I smelled it before. A few slow breathes later (to let the scent linger, you see), I had it. Someone was burning trash. They do that here, as many other places. The trash burning includes plastics.

You can see it being done as you drive through the hills and mountains. Little wreathes of white or black smoke coming from fields near villages quietly nestled in the rolling hills. (Picturesque, eh?) It is troubling to see, to be honest. I suppose years of Smokey the Bear have taken their toll, but there is something not quite right in my head about watching people rake their yard waste into neat piles that look remarkably like fresh graves and set them on fire.

With all this burning, you get the smells to go with. The damp vegetation burn, the plastic burn, the what in gods name was that burn! I don’t think it would trouble me as much if it didn’t drift into the flat when the neighbors did it. I am coming to grips with Spring here, which is no kinder than Spring “there”. This just adds to the malice of it all for me.

Other smells I have found, besides the delightful new soap in the OSCE restroom, are less notable. There is a diesel motor smell, especially in the morning, when the air is thick, and you are waiting on the side of a busy transit road for the shuttle bus to come. That one is interesting, because you descend into from the flat. Curious indeed. We are high enough up, and far enough from traffic, you don’t smell it even near the flat. I can’t describe the food smells. Food is food, and usually delightful. Occasionally, I meet someone who kind of makes my eyes water. I offer no conjecture.

Also, in this nose assault is the smell of Matchball. Matchball is a bar and tennis club. The bar part is poured concrete with Astroturf sort of flooring. Maybe it is a carpet of some sort. The part you should focus on is the musty basement smell that has increased through out winter and into Spring. I understand this is the cycle; it will dry up with summer, and begin again like the decay Phoenix in winter again.

Yes, more bad or queer smells than good ones. I think I have two reasons for this. Something has to smell REALLY damned good for you to take note, like the new OSCE restroom soap. It doesn’t take much foulness to get you talking though! Also, it is kind of like moods. Everyone sees happiness as a shared thing, easy to understand. Sadness and pain are always seen as personal. After all, how many happy poems have you read? Foul smells are personal. You don’t believe anyone could know them like you. Fun, huh?

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Simple Joys

Life anywhere is loaded with tiny little things that brighten your day. The little moments of pleasure of circumstance that ease things along. I am going to share a few of mine with you…

In the OSCE washroom, they have changed soaps. This one smells just like the faint cologne of an old school barbershop. It’s great.

Looking at a sign, and being startled that I understand a word.

Getting the right amount of instant coffee and water and milk for a tasty cup. I should really keep measurements, and create a taste index.

A recent one is the rush from squeezing something out of a PC application that isn’t any more obvious than “We oughtta be able to.”

Walking past a copier and realizing no one has asked me to un-jam it, or for assistance in making 2 sided copies. –Not in the entire time I have been here.

When I am talking with someone here, usually newer, and realizing I DO have a handle on things.

When I order something in local language and the waiter doesn’t turn to someone else at my table for clarification.

When Anja forgets herself and starts to sing a little or dance in her chair.

Email from people. I love getting mail, snail or e. Ask Dana.

There are no doubt more. I am actually really pleased with the soap, but thought I really, really ought to put it in another context. ;-)

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Eternal Naivety

Well, spring is here. It is rainy, and the dry days are becoming simply stunning. Green runs amuck, and several people have told me this is the most beautiful time of year. Banja Luka itself is fortunate enough to still be fraught with trees. I can twist in my chair, and look out the window behind me to a “Simpson’s sky”, and a cheerful array of growing things beyond our building and the truck yard next door. Turning my head less, the new, clean windows show me buildings all about a hilltop, conjuring opening movie scenes in my head.

I smile at this. The sun feels good when I am out; not too warm, but warm enough for no jacket. Then the soft palette of my mouth starts to itch. Thirty seconds later, I am sneezing in rapid fire and wondering if I really did take my allergy medicine only 2 hours ago. My eyes water, and I sniff a bit, and let the oxygen pour back into my bloodstream. Sometimes, a good bout of sneezing can give me spots and light headedness.

This is my annual dilemma, and the source of my eternal naivety. I have had wicked allergies through my life, though after 13 years of medications and shots, they did seem to toddle off for 4 or 5 years. I know what green does to me. I speak about it. I have long had a general, knowing aversion to the outdoors. Everyone who knows me knows about it. I can offer informed critiques of most ever allergy medication available.

Why, oh why then does it only take one winter to convince me that I am probably cured of them? Oh, sure. I know I am allergic. But, how can the severity fade from my dread and misery to an academic subject that I don’t wholly believe. How is it,most every spring I am stunned at how worn out they make me feel?

Thankfully, I still make sure I have meds available. I have enough here to get me to the States again. I even thought about rationing during the first part of my visit, in preparation of spring! And now, with my head clogged, my body feeling a bit tired, and my palette itching faintly, I wonder how I didn’t anticipate this. It’s the worst kind of mental bureaucracy. I have a tidy little report on the severity of my allergies, and when they will hit. I have an office set up to ensure the proper medications are on hand. The trouble is, the clerk in charge rarely gets out of the office, and is shocked each year by the human element of my situation.

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No. I am serious. I want to learn.

Normally my language class is held at the “Cambridge Center.” The center usually focuses on English, so my instructor is more of a free lance teacher. During the week, it is pretty easy for me to get to during the day. Since it is local, I just have to give a driver a heads up in the morning. When I want to be picked up, I call and they come get me when they can, which is usually right away.

I say normally, because I was to have my first weekend class on Saturday, which would take place at my instructor’s flat. We set each new class at the current class to keep it all nice and flexible. I estimated it would be about an hour walk from my flat to hers, which poses no real issue as we are into spring now. She gave me directions to her place, and I consulted a map and folks at work.

I had to head past town centre, and make a quick turn or 2 to get past Kastel, a small castle on the river that served as a Turkish dungeon. (good food) I navigated that without issue and soon arrived at the bridge I was supposed to cross. Note that. Supposed to. The directions were very easy. Cross the Green Bridge, turn left at the first light, 8 floor yellow building. Sounds easy, right? (keep readin’…)

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No really, I wanna learn…

I am hoping to take language lessons while I am here. I am looking to get just the basics so I can get a little more comfortable independence, and generally interact more.

After settling in, I started asking around a bit. With the help of the office, I found a place in town that offers classes. I would forget about going to see them, or just be feeling listless, or actually not have the time. When I finally got in, I was a little crushed that the price was more than was quoted on the phone, and it would not be a class.

The idea of private lessons makes me nervous. It makes me pretty anxious because of past experiences trying to learn languages, and because I tend to be a pretty tense guy. I found out that an employee in OSCE had the same tutor who was recommended to me, so I hankered down and made the call. She initially called me, but I wound up in Sarajevo an extra day, so missed it. In the mean time, I worked through all the anxiety stuff.

Once I made the call, it wound up being a fair amount of calling. The mobile phones here don’t come with voice mail, so it took a couple weeks for us to finally get each other. Earlier in the week, I met Sandriela and worked out what sort of lessons I would get.

We were supposed to meet from 11a to 1p today. I even wrote it down. She saw me write it down. So, as you can imagine, it is well beyond me why I was so confident we were meeting 1p-3p, that I didn’t check my notes. I feel like an ass and am horribly embarrassed.

We try again Friday! 11a-1p.


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