Krae January 18th):

  First: the people who cared enough to give their opinion on the reviews page returned a unanimous thumbs-down, so it's been scrapped. Feels lighter in here already. On another note, sorry about some of the updates coming through slow. The auto-update was going a little slowly, I think, but I've started having time to get them done ahead of time, so they should be uploading on time again.

   So apparently a couple of gangs of kids decided to get into a scrap beneath my window earlier today. I heard it, but didn't care; apparently Kyle watched it all go down. Now there's coppers all over the complex, and the ghetto-bird keeps shining the search-light in my window. There's nothing quite like a small-scale riot response to kill one's attention span...
   That, however was not nearly as annoying as the kids across the street screaming for the car-wash at 8am. If they're at it again tomorrow, I am investing in a long-range, high-accuracy firearm. Seriously. Saturday morning at 8 in the morning is not the time to be screaming, directly across from an apartment complex. I think it may be a constitutionally protected right to murder stupid annoying people.
   At least I got in several hours of Morrowind before I would have normally been awake, though.

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

Krae (February 13th):

  Yes, kids, it's happened again; you've been shafted by KeenSpace. I guess their server coughed, sneezed, and keeled over on Tuesday, January 27th. All services were down for a couple of days, until approximately Thursday, when the comics came back up... however ftp and member services were still down. What's that mean? We couldn't get into our page, or upload comics - hence, three weeks of downtime.
   Well, shut up, they fixed it... ftp is back; while I haven't checked member services, that's not essential to you getting your comics. Service should continue uninterrupted, hopefully. Cross your fingers.
   Now, if you're one of those people who emailed me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, to inform me that the comic still wasn't up, or if you're one of those people who steams in silence, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and look for the little button that says "PayPal". It's probably easier than clicking the banners over and over in hopes of getting us upgraded to KeenSpot...

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

Krae (March 17th):

   You have no doubt noticed that there have been no comics for quite some time. The astute reader, by comparison, has not only noticed that there haven't been any updates, but has realized that I have control of FTP and updating, as I am putting up a new rant. The inquisitive reader, on the other hand, is wondering what the shit is going on.
   Well, dear readers (both of you), it's like this: at some point a few weeks back, there was a terrible storm with winds of up to three, perhaps even four miles per hour. This being too much for a power grid based mainly on chewing gum and paperclips, our power went out... repeatedly. Unfortunately, as I was about to discover, my decrepit (to the point of being nearly “geriatric”) surge protector did not protect my computer from things like, oh, surges.
   Computer comes on. Clicking sound in evidence. Not good. It booted fine, though, so I thought I was home free. Then, several hours later, it starts clicking again and turns itself off. Not good. Then it wouldn't boot my OS. Very not... well, you get the idea.
   So I have a new hard drive, and upgraded to XP which seems to be amazingly stable yet impossible to use. All of my files are still here (though most are, of course, incompatible with XP) except that the \windows folder on my original master drive was deleted... along with all subfolders. This includes, of course, such trifles as \windows\desktop\webpage backups\stfu - which is a long way of saying everything I need to make a comic was wiped out.
   Don't worry, though, as I should have new and improved comics returning shortly. This gives me a chance to do all that stuff I planned to do when I got this fancypants new scanner up and running and just never bothered to do (like updating the character models and suchlike). So, sit back, relax, take your shoes off, watch some of Sean's dubious anime, have a beer. If you like beer. We'll be back up before you can down a pint of the Cap'n and sucker the Purple-Haired girl into bed.
   And that's pretty damn fast.

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

PS: incidentally, all the saved e-mail and address book for the comic's main e-mail dump was purged in the hectic scramble for files. I've got a “thank you” sketch for you, J***L***, waiting to be scanned, but I can't send it because I no longer have your e-mail addy. If you want to drop me a note, good sir, I will send that along presently.

Sean (March 26th):

   To all faithful readers of STFU (And by that, I mean you, Krae), you should probably now that keenspace's adverts like to download spyware onto your computer. As a matter of fact, if you don't have something on your computer to warn you about spyware, you should know that "Avenue A, Inc." (a known threat) is now on your computer. Scared? Well, actually, this one's just a tracking cookie...
   The point is, unless you have something to warn you, you probably didn't realize that this was being put on your computer. So what else don't you know about? Hijackers, Dialers, Spybots, Trojans, Keyloggers, and other forms of Malware are all probably in residence on your computer. And most Anti-virus software doesn't check for these problems.
   Let me give you an example: Chances are, even if you have cable, you still have your computer plugged into the phone line in case the cable goes out. Well, that's what companies like Alyon Technologies are counting on. They run a number of internet pornography sites, through which they download a little piece of spyware called a dialer onto your computer. What the dialer does is simple -- It uses your modem and phoneline to dial out to a phone number (usually outside the U.S.) which is a toll number. The toll is billed back to your phone bill in massive amounts. It's not as if it's a random chance dialing -- The numbers are only dialed when certain sites are accessed, and you are billed a per-minute fee for access, as with the 1-900 phone sex lines of the late 80s and early 90s. Generally, however, the person accessing the site doesn't realize this is going on.
   While you may feel that the end user is getting what he or she deserves, these, in conjunction with a browser hijacker, could result in an unfortunate addition of hefty charges against your phone bill. Continue browsing websites unprotected at your own risk.

Error -- Divide by Zero (Div 0)

   Management note: download a free spyware detector here.

Krae (June 1st):

  Installment the First:
   Left on Saturday, 10:37a PST, on a relatively short flight to the connecting airport in Atlanta. And by "relatively short", I mean three and a half hours, which is still like twice as long as the flights I've taken previously when going home. Nearly 3 hours of layover at the airport, which was lucky, as I had to run my ass all the way across the airport from terminal B to terminal E because I didn't realize there were little trains to take.
   Now, let me tell you a little bit about ATL (Atlanta Airport, GA). It's a pretty nice airport, relatively clean, modern-looking, not all broken-down and “under renovations” like our airport out here. They've even got little displays and art exhibits you can look at while you wander around. The art, however, as well as the exhibits, have one purpose in mind: to remind you that white people suck.
   No, I'm not kidding. There's a big "black history" mural, and an honest-to-god african exhibit, and little displays of Native American art and dolls and musical instruments and whatnot, nearly always accompanied by “and then whitey came along”... and then a picture of like a nuclear explosion or something, or piles of sad corpses. I mean, I'm not proud of being flour-colored, but the displays at Atlanta Airport certainly made it seem as if I ought to be actually ashamed. Celebrate diversity, as long as there aren't any caucasians in the picture!
   So anyway, moving along. 8 hour 20 minute flight to LGW (London, Gatwick Airport). This was the fanciest airplane I've ever been on. Three rows of seats, with two aisles, TV monitors, complimentary pillow and blanket... I was awed. It took forever, though. We watched a fairly decent in-flight movie called Paycheck, I think, but even after that, I listened to the classical station for so long it repeated like four times. Read the third Harry Potter book (now out in the cheap version). Gave Halifax, which we flew over, the double-deuce... one finger for Justin, one for Guy.
   Arrived at 9a BST on Sunday, and had to deal with Mr. Smarty at Immigrations/Passport Control (or whatever). Wanted to know who I knew in Britian, so I told him. Wanted to know what my relation with her was, so I told him. Wanted to know if I'd been here before. No. Then she's been there before? No. Then she's not really your girlfriend, is she mate? I considered my options, and decided against getting thrown out of Britain for kicking the passport guy. So I just said something like "I guess", and he let me pass.
   Then, I walked through customs. I mean, literally, there was no one in there. I kept waiting for someone to ask me politely to stop so they could check my bags or something, and then realized I'd passed Customs ages ago and was in the Gift Shop now. It was harder getting back into the US...
   Baz was due to arrive by bus shortly after I did, but I wasn't sure to where. So I waited by my arrival gate, and hoped she'd figure it out. Luckily, she guessed right, and after only a little while, I saw something short and cute in clompy boots disembark a bus and head toward the doors. It was really weird, at first, as we'd been together for nearly a year, but were still meeting in the flesh for the first time. Weird, but not bad. We looked at each other warily for a second, then we hugged, then everything was okay.
   We got on a bus from there to... Victoria Station, I believe, then took the tube to Marylebone Station, and then a train to her house. (The Train Station for her village is right around the corner from her house. Very convenient.) Met her mum and dad, and took a nap, I think, as I'd been up for a very long time. Then we lazed around for the rest of the day, which was not rainy at all, but rather pretty - quite unlike the Britain I'd been expecting (I brought a huge coat, and gloves, and a hat). Watched some TV, perhaps. Made some food. Set up the little nest in the bedroom using two midget-sized English mattresses, and a couple of toilet-paper-square sized duvets (okay, so I'm exaggerating a little). The first day was completed, and all was good..
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

Krae (June 3rd):

  Installment the Second:
   We pretty much had no plans for Monday except just hang out and adjust. I accepted somebody's suggestion to go around and see stuff nearby, but we didn't get around to that until the afternoon, so for most of the morning we just hung around. I think we cooked something, and watched some TV. Let Baz indoctrinate me into the intricate world of Buffy... I think I can almost keep straight who is whom, now. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Still probably wouldn't watch it of my own volition, though. Still, it was nice to try something she likes (and so much less painful than my second attempt, later on).
   So then we went out for a drive. Before I tell you about where we went, I'd like to mention how we went. First off, British cars are like bubbles with wheels. It's fairly rare to see one with a decent trunk area, or legroom, or a high ceiling, or a big massive engine. They look like... gumdrops. This is how they park in tiny spaces, and fly down minute country roads at 40 mph. Also, the roads there aren't like roads in the US. Here, roads are built on a grid. Intersections are roughly perpendicular, and nice and orderly. There, roads are barely big enough for two cars to squeak by each other (and then there's people parked on the side), twisty, and bordered by hedges so you can't see anything. It was like a rollercoaster. And don't get me started on intersections.
   So anyway, we went up to this nice place on top of the... I guess Chiltern Hills, where apparently they film movies or something. It was a really nice little place, with brick buildings that are probably older than the United States. Everything there is brick... brown, grey, beige, tan, the whole country is earth-toned. Big sloping roofs, irregular building placement, like every nook and cranny has a shop or something crammed into it sideways. They ran out of room a long time ago, and as a result, everything is very compact and tidy, unlike the sprawling nastiness of American city planning. I like looking at buildings, and even just from archetecture, it was very... alien seeming. Made me realize how inefficient we are, here.
   So from there, we drove around for a bit, and looked at cows (British cows look just like American cows). Eventually we wound up in Aldbury, where they have a nasty-looking green pond and Real Stocks™ for locking people up, from like the someteen hundreds. So we drove along Stocks road, past the Stocks pond, and stopped in a Pub that I can't remember the name of because I'm pretty sure it didn't mention the freaking stocks.
   Asked for a 7-Up, and the lady didn't seem to have any idea what I was talking about. Went for a lemonade, which turned out to be carbonated (to get regular lemonade, ask for it “old-fashioned”), with a lime slice in it, so it was kind of home-made 7-Up. Baz had a guinness. I was ashamed, and not for the last time (you'll see when I get to Tuesday). Then we walked up to the church I saw on our way in, spitefully ignoring the rickety-ass stocks.
   We checked out the graveyard, then went inside, which is apparently rare, as most churches there are used as... well, churches, not tourist attractions, and they won't let you in to just have a look around. It was cool, though, there was some sort of a shrine to some really old people, who were right out there on display in a big stone sarcophagus or something. It was really strange. It was like watching somebody sleep... especially since they had statues of the people laying on top. Outside again, I found some graves in a hedge, and we discussed the relative merits of having something growing out of you after you're deceased. I think the three of us (Baz, her mother, and I) concluded that it would kind of be nice... not that you'd really care anymore.
   On the way out of Aldbury, I made sure to smirk at the old ladies on holiday who were taking pictures of each other next to the stocks. Honestly... are stocks (and a real whipping-post, proclaims the sign!) that interesting? After that, her Mum dropped us off at the Wendover Woods, and we walked around for awhile, and looked at stuff. Sat on a couple of outlooks and marvelled at the view... okay, made out, until some kid with a stick told us the bench was for “sitting, not shagging”, then showed us in no uncertain terms what he'd do to us if we disobeyed, by battering a shrub with his branch.
   So we moved along... don't want to upset the mighty stick-boy. Found an elf-lodge, but nobody was at home. Didn't see any dragons, but we did see a couple of guys smoking the ganja... which is not really the same thing. And we found a little place on a deer-trail or something, where the sun came through the trees, that was just perfect. I remember thinking it reminded me of the church we were in earlier that day. Got back to the main area just before her mom arrived to pick us up (perfect timing, really), and then went home. And that was pretty much it for Monday. Settling in, talking, and exploring some of the nearby villages and things.
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

Krae (June 5th):

  Installment the Third (the long one):
   Tuesday: Had to be in London by noon to meet Rid, so we set the alarm for a change. I vaguely remember getting up and perhaps having some breakfast or something, then heading over to the train station to head down to London. It was a pretty nice trip, about 45 minutes to an hour, just chatting with Baz. Even including the sightseeing and stuff, and the walk in the woods, and all the rest, I still think the best part of England was just sitting on a train, half-dozing, one arm around Baz, watching old buildings go by, and talking about nothing in particular.
   So, on the way there, she gets a call on her mobile that Rid, through ignoring his ticket and train-hopping, has arrived a good sight early, and wants to know if he should meet us at our station instead of the other way around. We agree, and when we get off the train, begin looking around for somebody I've only seen in blurry pictures, and Baz hasn't seen for years.
   However, there was only one guy there with purple hair, a floor-length leather duster, and Billy Idol gloves.
   So first off, we went to a pub. I don't know anything about drinks, and these aren't like... our bars. I'm not even sure they do mixed drinks in pubs. So Rid buys me a pint of Guinness, and one for himself, and a Reef for Baz, which is some sort of fruity alcoholic... thing. I had a sip, and renewed my objection to beer, particularly beer that tastes like watery coffee. So Rid drank his and mine, pretty much without breathing, and without wincing, which earned my utmost respect in a kind of fleeting way.
   He gave me a book he'd bought for the train but didn't like, and some sort of black band thing that I was to wear on my wrist but almost couldn't get on, and one of the spiky-wristband dealies he was wearing. In exchange, I gave him the american candy he'd requested: some gummi O's, and a pack of bazooka gum (the most american chewing gum in the world). We had another round (but no Guinness for me, this time... I had one of those Reef things), then departed the pub in search of adventure.
   Which meant we wandered a bit, trying to decide what to do. We had planned to see Shaun of the Dead, but neither of my native guides could remember where the theater that was playing it was. So we decided to go to the Camden and look around. Just to give you an idea of what Camden is like, coming up from the tube station we took to get there, there are signs warning one to “Mind your belongings - Pickpockets may be operating in the area”.
   The whole place kind of reminded me of a Floating Market, from Neverwhere. All the stalls were kind of haphazard, crammed in between, amongst, or behind each other, and spilling out into the street. Most places sold big-ass boots, alternative clothing, bongs, piercings and tattoos, or some combination of the above. There are also very large crowds of interesting looking people who it's probably best not to stare too long at.
   Went by Baz's piercing shop (we will return there in a few days) and looked at things, and almost bought a shirt for a friend of Rid's, as a joke. Looked around at some other places, while aggressive shopkeepers threw wares at us. Eventually wound up in a food area, where I tried British Curry for the first time (courtesy of Rid).
    We started up a conversation about British money at that point, I believe (they're colored funny, and different sizes), and while we sat on a bit of storage-compartment or something across from a bong-stall, Rid sold me a pound for a dollar (go exchange rate, go... it was like 1.8 dollars to the pound, or so) and then tore the dollar bill in half and gave half back to me as like... I dunno, a statement or something. He had some explanation that I've now forgotten. I informed him that in my country, that would have been a felony, and he found that highly amusing.
   So, after lunch Rid purchased a pipe from the bong-shop across from us and made me promise to smuggle it through customs for The Att, which I astoundingly failed to remember to do by the following Sunday. Then we mosied back through Camden (it's only a couple of blocks long, really) to the Tube Station, and set off for the Namco Centre, our next destination. Somewhere in there, however, Rid awarded me his zippo lighter, etched with the words “Fuck Communism”, and taught me how to snap it open all fancy like, in a way which will, he swears, impress girls.
   Thence to Waterloo, I think, where the Namco Centre is located. We considered taking the London Eye... this gigantic slow-moving ferris-wheel type thing, but we decided that first off, we didn't want to sit in a cramped little cabin for an hour and look at scenery from the air, and secondly, I didn't want them to have to pay for me to take the London Eye (as I still had no English Money). I did, however, see Big Ben and an impresively old-looking building on the other side of the river (the Thames, if you're curious), which we resolved to go to after the Namco Centre.
   Inside, we played bumper cars, and a few arcade games, and Baz beat Rid (like a rented mule) at air-hockey. On the way out, we spotted the DDR machine, and Baz schooled me at doubles. Mind, I'd never played before, and think I missed every single step, but it was still fun. Rid has a video he took on his phone. Blackmail, he claims.
   So from there, we walked across the bridge, and walked around the Houses of Parliament, and saw coppers with machine-guns. It was quite a shock, let me tell you, as I'd always been told the only cops with guns were the British SWAT teams... but no, patrolling around the Houses of Parliament were pairs of them, one of them holding either a flashlight or a billy-club, and the other carrying a nasty-looking machine-gun (I think they were MP5's).
   We stopped in the park there to rest for a bit, and found that the gazebo wasn't actuall a gazebo at all, but had some sort of urinal-like fountain in it. Eventually found a bench, and after being forced to prank-call Rid's dodgy chum, we set off again. Passed some sort of street peddler who took one look at Baz, then exclaimed to me, “Cor, ain't yew a lucky basta'd?” I refused to pass him again on the way back.
   By then, we felt it was high time for our rap-battle-inspired “doodle-battle”, and stopped in at a post office to acquire materials. We started on the back steps of some sort of nice old building, but got kicked out when they went to lock the gates (after a momentary fright when Baz went off alone to find fluid for the Zippo and didn't return for some time). The idea of the doodle-battle was that one of us would draw something, then the other would draw something else to defeat or befuddle the former's work. Rid won, with Death, but I didn't concede defeat for a bit longer after it got metaphysical.
   Anyway, after we got kicked off the back steps of wherever-it-was, we wound up in a Pub just off Baker Street. After the doodle-battle, as we sat around drinking, a drunken old codger (I've always wanted to meet a codger) started bothering Rid about his clothes, purple-hair, black nail-varnish, and Billy Idol gloves.
   “Don't get me wrong,” says the old coot, “I like Billy Idol. Matterafact, my name's Billy. 'Course, I'm more an Idle Billy than a Billy Idol.” ...and he then broke into a rousing rendition of White Wedding. After a bit, he finished his beer, appologized if he'd offended, as he hadn't meant to (though how you can call someone a poof without meaning to offend is beyond me).
   We followed a short time later, walking Rid to the Tube Station, where we refused to say goodbye, and instead just buggered off. Before we left, I gave him my Big Book of Conspiracies, which he'd earlier managed to guess I was going to give to him (I hinted that his paranoia at our reluctance to tell him what his gift was would be shown to be only fitting when we gave it to him).
   On the way back to the Train Station (which was, allegedly “right around the corner”), I spotted some curious cards plastered in a phone box, and stepped back and snagged one of them. It turned out to be an advertisement for a call-girl, and was possibly the most bizzarre thing I saw on my trip. I resolved to find more, but as by that time we really were right around the corner from the station, didn't have a chance (yet).
   We were pretty tired by then, so the excited tittering didn't last very long, and we sort of faded back into a drowse, wrapped around each other, and watching trees fly by in the dark. Which, as that's roughly where I started, and as this is getting terribly long, is a good place to end Tuesday's report.
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

Krae (June 7th):

  Installment the Fourth:
   Wednesday we'd meant to get up and go out to Bletchley Park, which was pretty much the one touristy thing I wanted to make sure I saw while I had the chance, but we were quite tired after our London trip, and didn't manage to make it out of bed again (we'd gotten up for breakfast, then went back to sleep) until like 4 in the afternoon. So tourism was rather out at that point.
   So we decided to have a look around her village, instead. She took me to see the shop she works at, and show me off to her co-workers, who, being gossipy things, and having heard about me for nearly a year, were notably excited to meet... okay, most of them didn't even look up. But it is a nice little shop.
   Went thence around the little square, popped into some sort of hippie-shop my gypsy mother would have loved, all crystals and incense and CD's of music by people with strange names with lots of vowels. It was pretty neat, but we didn't stay long as it was a very small shop and you could pretty much see everything by just turning 'round. Wandered back out and had a look in the book store, where Baz bought a couple of Darwin-y books (a biography, and something based on his theories, I think... I didn't read 'em) and I poked about in the stack of weird old crap they had in the corner in falling-apart, fading bindings. There was one from like... the 1600's or something, called the Courtier's Companion or some such nonsense. It was cool; old books make me giddy.
    So since I was in an antique mood then, I asked if she had a church in the vicinity and as she did, we set off to go find it. Walked down a little footpath deal past parks and lawns and a nice little brook thing running down from the duck-pond. Let me tell you, they have more parks there than I've ever seen. It's all around parks. For a country that's basically run out of room to build things (hence the colonization), who turn every sliver of land between two roads into a cow pasture, who cram shops into attics and toilets into that bit of space under the stairs, they certainly do leave a lot of space for a wide lawn with a bench, occasionally with an old man on it, wearing a tweed jacket and a cap. And sometimes a decrepit old terrier rolling at his feet.
   Anyway, it was fantastically nice, that walk. Very nice buildings along there, if you're tall enough to peek over the hedges (which I am), and some little mini-waterfalls, and lots of trees and grass and flowers and suchlike. At the end, we passed the duck-pond, and I saw a moor-hen, which is possibly the strangest bird ever. All weird legs going the wrong way, and giant feet. There were signs up at the pond saying that, for the health of the wildlife and small children, we should not feed the waterfowl. After midnight, I presumed.
   The church was nice. Very old, like a bajillion years (or 900, whatever). We didn't try going in, but I looked all 'round the outside. It had these weird like... sigils on it, in places, with no explanation or anything. It was like, when they put the place up, some of the bricks had been marked with some sort of obscure print (maybe like the bricklayers' signatures or something?) but they were really arcane looking. It was neat.
   Looked at the graves, which were interesting, but depressing. There were lots of little kids there, and most everybody died very young. Plus, you'd find ones where they had an angel or something, only the extremities had fallen off in the weather, and been piled at the base of the monument. Or seeing the strange things people put on children's graves... “Returned to God while at play”... gah.
   Yeah, so that was morbid. On the way out, I brushed some foliage from the front of a particularly obscured old gravestone, and was promptly stung by nettles. Managed to not swear too badly, and Baz (clever girl) suggested I rub a dock leaf on it - an old folk remedy, apparently. Neither of us had the faintest idea what dock leaves look like, though. She found something she felt looked promising on the walk home, and picked me a leaf. Rubbed it on, and like magic, I was no longer stinging, but instead extremely sticky. Washed my hands in the little brook, and then I was good as new. So now we know what a dock plant looks like.
   Went home after that, and lazed about some more, 'till her friend Richard texted her mobile to ask if we wanted to go out to drink that night, instead of the next. We agreed, and after much frenzied messaging back and forth, we set off to the pub. Richard is a nice fellow, spent quite a bit of time talking about clothes, though. We had a few rounds (Baz paid for mine, because I still had no money - I owe her a mess of drinks when she gets here) and made sculptures out of the empty bottles and glasses.
   Just after we got there, it started drizzling, and as the night progressed it had started pouring down rain. Neither Baz nor I had brought coats or umbrellas (though Richard had, the clever bastard), so we were dreading being thrown out at the end, but luckily it wasn't as bad as all that, and were barely damp by the time we got back to her house. I think that was the only spot of rain I saw in my entire week there... hardly British at all!
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

Press [esc] to exit POS: _

PS: Happy one year anniversary to Baz and I, today!

Krae (June 9th):

  Installment the Fifth:
   Thursday, being determined to get to Bletchley Park, we got up early (relatively). Baz's mum drove us up there in the bubble-car, as it isn't too far from her house, maybe 45 minutes to an hour. We were going to bring something to munch on, but I think we ate it the night before, so when we found out it was a guided tour and we were going to have to wait an hour and a half for it to start, we were kind of at a loss. We eventually wound up down at the duck-pond, sitting and watching the baby moor-hens scoot around.
    For those of you who don't know what Bletchley Park is, it was the primary British codebreaking facility in WWII. The top-secret intelligence site, that decrypted German messages and provided basically all of their secret communications to the British Military. Their job was to collect information from the Germans, without ever letting them know their codes had been broken. If you're into crypto at all, or computers... this place is seriously cool. And it was still classified as of like, the mid-70's or something, until the Amaricans, with their Freedom of Information Act, had to divulge that it existed. Now it's a tourist-attraction.
   So we went up to Hut 12 where the tour started, and looked at this semi-interesting display about human invention and ingenuity, all sorts of weird little contraptions like backscratchers and soap-squeezers, and cigerette rollers and stuff, from like the victorian times. They had a big display on one of their Enigma Machines, too (the big German encryption devices of WWII); apparently somebody had stolen one, but they got it back. Kinda weird, almost spy-stuff.
   Anyway, we listened to this ancient guy go on and on for awhile about the history of the site, how it used to be a farm, and how the British Military came to own it. Then we went on the tour, while this old guy cracked jokes and things. We was a re-built Colossus (early proto-computer, I think... I missed his presentation), some Enigma Machines, the Bombe Machine (invented by Turing to crack codes), the Station X listening post in an attic - all sorts of neat stuff.
   It was really sad how run-down everything was. I wanted to see what it looked like in WWII, but the buildings were all tumbledown and decrepit. Only the farm-house looked to be in any sort of good repair, and even then, our guide said the roof leaks terribly. They've got tons of space (the bits that haven't been sold off to developing companies), but we couldn't go around to hardly any of it, presumably because it was a health risk due to the danger of a building toppling on us.
   Bletchley Park arguably won the war for the Allies. Ultra/Indigo codebreaking is what made D-Day possible, and kept shipping open. It won the Battle of Britain, and put the U-Boats out of commission. Codebreaking at Bletchley Park was second only to D-Day in terms of British and American cooperation for the war-effort. It's history. And now they can't even keep the buildings standing.
   Most of the exhibits are in a building that looks like it was built in the 60's or 70's, and seem almost like classrooms. Definitely cold-war era, for when Bletchley was breaking Commie Codes (interestingly enough, occasionally using looted Enigma Machines, the fools). I really wanted to go into some of the wooden WWII era buildings, but we weren't allowed.
   So all-told, the tour was amazing, but really sad, for me. I felt like the place was falling apart around my ears, and it kind of depressed me. I guess the only people who really care about it on more than a day-trip basis would probably be too old to repair it anyway. After the tour, we did sneak off for a bit and look at some of the old buildings, and it was very interesting.
   Anyway, when we were finished poking around the grounds after the tour, we walked down to the train station, but were saved from having to find a bus by Baz's mobile ringing; her dad offered to come up and pick us up. On the way home, we chatted about Baz's grandmother or somebody, who had worked there as a typist.
   At home, we had dinner, then curled up on her couch and watched Return of the King. I think we were both asleep by the end of it, but the last bit of fighting woke us up, so we turned it off and went back upstairs. And that was Bletchley Park, my one tourism request. High point of the tour: an old man at the Post Office telling us about how we were too young to remember ration-books, but it wasn't like now when there's five or six different exotic fruits in every grocery store. He said once, back in the 50's or something, someone had given him a banana, and he “didn't know whether to peel it, eat it with the skin on, or squeeze it like a water pistol.”
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

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Krae (June 11th):

  Installment the Sixth:
   Friday all we had to do was pack up and head back down to London. We were staying the last couple of days in London, as I was borrowing her brother's bed, and he was back from college for vacation. Besides that, it gave us some time to ourselves, and more chances to wander around London.
   So I packed my things, and we had some lunch, and I watched her brother play video games for awhile, then I think we may have watched a movie, though I can't recall what. After that, her mum gave us a lift up to the train station and we said goodbye (her dad had wished me well the day before, and given me the standard father-speech about taking care of his daughter while she was in America-land - it was about ten seconds long, and seemed to embarass him greatly).
   A couple hours, and several trains/tubes/things later, and we arrived at the East India train station (in actual East India, I'm told). We could see a really ugly lump in the water, and when I inquired as to what it was, I was informed we were looking at the Millenium Dome, which cost a bajillion pounds and looks like a failed architectural project. Anyway, short walk to the hotel, got checked in, dropped the luggage off, and all was good.
    As we were kind of hungry, we asked the receptionist where was good to eat around us, and she pointed us toward Canary Wharf. So we went back to the train, got over to Canary Wharf, and were promptly lost. Our first task was to get out of the damn station, and we be-bopped (with dancing, even) up toward a likely looking set of elevators. There was this long corridor with nobody in it, and then a room at the end with elevators and an amused-looking man, watching us dance. Turns out, it was a bank headquarters or something, and we were sent politely on our way.
   Back up at ground level, we wandered about a bit until we found an area map, then strolled through a nice-looking park (of which, I may have mentioned, there are several in Britain). There was some sort of improbably entwined sculpture of a couple there, with a pair nice bums, on of which I squeezed for emphasis when remarking on them. Also, the man had a big hole out of the middle of him.
   From there, we finally found a restaurant, kind of an open-air italian place in a little plaza surrounded by like.. office buildings. It was right next door to a semi-open-air nightclub... thing... or something. Anyway, we got to listen to dance music the whole meal. Which was very superfantastic. And the chocolate dessert thing at the end was stunning. Really. It was so romantic, even if we couldn't figure out how to get our bill at the end. I'd kind of forgotten what it was like to go out to dinner with a girl.
   Headed back up toward the station, but had to stop at the sculpture of the lovers and snog a bit (which is like making out, only British). The marble (or something) seat was really damn cold, so I wound up sitting in her lap for a minute or two. British asses must be impervious to cold. She'd just better watch out when she comes here and tries to sit on a stone bench, that's all...
   Eventually wound up back at the hotel in East India, past the sign proclaiming that several people died in 1996 because they didn't read the damn signs and swam in the river (whilst drunk, we presume, as you'd almost have to be to brave the greenish, leaf-strewn, duck-sludge water). She wanted to call her friend in the lobby, which was fine, until she hustled me back to the room.
   It hadn't occurred to me she might want to be rid of me for a minute, and it certainly was fine, but... It was kind of a shock to me to realize I'd been living with her for almost a week, and being with her constantly. She hadn't had a moment to herself, really, and I felt sort of bad. Okay, sort of really bad. So I went back to the room and read Harry Potter until she came up. And that was it for Friday, pretty much; kind of a lazy day, with a nice romantic interlude.
   Adventure continues in the next installment...

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Krae (June 13th):

  Installment the Seventh:
   The sad bit of the trip began on Saturday. Even though we had a whole day to spend together, it was hard not to think “how much more can we cram into our last N hours”. I think I kept a running tally in my head of how much time we had left, which probably made me a little anxious and weird. I just wanted to keep it going for as long as I could, though.
    We couldn't think of anything really urgent to do, as we'd pretty well covered everything on Tuesday - a little sightseeing, a little goofing around, and plenty of random wandering. We had called Rid to see if he wanted to come down again, but couldn't get ahold of him. So, we settled on checking out some museums and things.
   I have no idea where we went first (South Kensington, according to Baz), but it seemed a little more built-up, and a bit more touristy than anywhere I'd been before. Lots of little trinket-shops and such. We stopped in at a food-place, as we were both kind of famished, and I was again surprised at the space-efficient way the British cram things into tiny areas. The restaurant was maybe big enough to have been a very small apartment. They had the counter and a few tables downstairs, with a mini kitchen in the back. Then a microscopic staircase leading to an indoor balcony above the kitchen, were we sat. The upstairs dining area could have fit comfortably in my living-room.
   From there, we wandered over to the Natural History Museum, which was a feat of architecture in itself. I stood outside for a bit, on the sidewalk, just admiring the building. Eventually, I got dragged inside, and we looked around at some of the displays in the front, then delved into the innards of the museum. I have a feeling we barely scratched the surface, but we didn't spring for a map of the place, so our tour pretty much consisted of wandering from place to place.
   We went to the dinosaurs, which was interesting if unenlightening. I learned too much about dinosaurs as a nerdy little kid. Seeing all the displays and stuff was pretty neat, though. Then, on to the human body exhibit, which was pretty obviously geared towards kids... in the 70's. They had a very uh... graphic demonstration of how reproduction works, though.
   Then, we wandered over to the mammals, and looked at all the bad-assery. We saw a giraffe for Baz, and an elephant for me, though the gift shop astoundingly failed to provide a stuffed giraffe. I also showed her what whales we have by my home-town, and all the crazy animals we've got in america-land. On the way out, we met Darwin in the restaurant thing, which impressed Baz to no end.
   Then, we went to the Imperial War Museum (in Lambeth North, according to Baz), for which we had seen ads in lots of Tube stations. The D-Day exhibit was kind of neat, and we popped through the “all military conflicts since WWI” area. Obviously, the WWII area was massive, as the British are kind of hung up on that, but there were plenty of other ones. I learned, for instance, how Argentina bombed the crap out of a bunch of British ships until they were finally overwhelmed by a pack of starving Britons with sharp sticks (or something). Anyway, I could tell Baz wasn't digging the War Museum, and I had about had it with being touristy, so we decided to go do something else.
   First stop: Back to Camden, where I got stabbed. I'd been thinking about it since we stopped in at Baz's second-favorite piercing shop there (I didn't get to go to the first-favorite, in Aylesbury), and had decided that we were going to return so I could be pierced. I filled out some paperwork, and was shuffled into the back room, where Baz was (luckily) allowed to squeeze in to hold my hand. I got a cartilage piercing on my upper left ear.
   Anyway, it didn't hurt much (a little uncomfortable when she was shoving it through, but no real like... pain), and apparently hardly bled at all, yet when the piercer instructed me to sit up, all the blood rushed out of my head. My blood, needless to say, does not like me. So the piercer asked if I was okay, in her freaky British/Spanish accent, and I said I was a little dizzy...
   ...and the next thing I know, I'm leaning way forward, the piercer's arms are around my shoulders, and she's got the side of my cheek pressed against her breast. Which is a very not-suave thing to realize, when your brain gets some blood in it and starts working again. So she made me lay back down, and have some water, and then I was fine. She ran off, though... I think she was mad I sucked at being pierced (or that I touched her boob). Apparently, I was listing all over, with my eyes rolled up, and scared the crap out of Baz. Sounds pretty cool to me, but I can see why she was nervous.
   We popped over to a little health-food shop for some sea-salt (apparently, the baddest of ass for cleaning piercings), and then wandered around Camden for awhile. We eventually settled in a little restaurant thingy, and had... I dunno, burgers I think. Something non-exotic, at any rate. While we were there, they moved all the tables out and papered up the windows, preparing the place for either a dance party, or an illegal monkey-fighting ring, depending on whether you ask me or Baz.
   Then, as it was getting dark, and we couldn't think of anything else to do, we went on a quest to find more phone-box call-girl ads. Baz suggested Soho, where they have all sorts of porn-shops, as a good target, so we Tubed over there. We did net a mighty haul (a scary percentage, however, were pre-op transsexuals - doesn't anybody hire normal hookers anymore?) on the way there, but all the phone boxes in Soho had been plundered far before we got there for... probably other reasons. We popped into the sex shops, and were very disappointed. Mostly they sold videos - even the places that claimed to have “movies lingerie sex-toys”, upon investigation, netted no more than a lot of videos, a couple of sad-looking rubber penises, and a couple bras. Seriously. There was maybe one decent sex-shop there, and it still couldn't compare to the awesomeness of an american sex-emporium. They just seemed kind of... sleazy.
   When we got back to the hotel, we sat in bed and read for awhile. I tried to get Baz to try FLCL, so she could explain it to me, but she didn't get it either. I don't think either of us wanted to go to sleep, but eventually I figured if I didn't get some sleep, I was going to be a wreck tomorrow when I tried to leave, and nobody wants a weepy geek blubbering through the metal detector. I woke up a lot that night, and occasionally snuck to the bathroom and washed my face, or checked the piercing, or whatever. I didn't think I woke Baz, but apparently she woke later, too, and wandered about downstairs a bit. A terrible night for sleep, that.
   Adventure concludes in the next installment...

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Krae (June 15th):

  Installment the Eighth (the miserable one):
   Woke up Sunday before the alarm (as I recall), and bumped around the hotel room trying to pretend it wasn't almost over. I packed my bags for the last time, double-checked that we hadn't left anything behind, thought about stealing a huge hotel towel (didn't), and didn't really speak a lot. I'd have liked to stay in bed a bit longer, as it was our last morning waking up together for quite a while, but I was really nervous about making it there in time.
    I manhandled my gigantic bag down the boat-cabin-like corridors, past check-out, down the street, over the bridge, and up to the station. We had to buy passes from a machine, and were like 12p short in change, so I had to spend the quid Rid sold me on Tuesday for half a dollar. The weather was bleak and greyish, and I was sneezing some. Baz was doing her best not to sniffle, too, which was pretty valiant.
    Took the driverless tube again, which was kind of neat, but we weren't paying attention. Walked from there over to the train station, which was quite a hike with a hundred-pound bag slung over your shoulder (okay, like 50, but still). Bought our tickets, but as the next bus was full up, they said, we'd have to wait for the one after, and get to the airport a little later than I'd planned.
   Or so they said, because the bus before us hung around for quite a while, waiting to fill. The guy even started pulling passengers from the next one (ours) to fill his bus... but when we got out there, he said he wasn't taking any more passengers. Still, he hung around for another ten minutes (preventing our bus from pulling in) before leaving, still half-full. Anyway, it gave us time for our scalding hot chocolate to cool off enough to drink.
   Got on the bus okay eventually, and rode back through the rural areas of London, which is really strange to think about but nice to look at. We sat in the back where we could chat and make out, and the old people in the front wouldn't look scandalized. I don't even remember what we talked about, I think it was just desperate babbling to be using all the little time we had left. A very good bus trip, though - again, some of the best memories of my trip are just cruising around on a bus/train with Baz.
   When we got there, we hoofed it up to the terminal, only to find out I'd picked wrong, and we weren't supposed to be in the north terminal, but the south. So onto the neat little monorail dealy we went, and zipped on over to the right side. My airline was not too hard to find, once we got to the right terminal, so we meandered over there and I got in line. They put a little security sticker on the back of my passport, then whisked me over to a second line.
   While I was waiting (there was no queue), a pleasant-looking guy suggested, I could have my bags searched and would I please step over to this table over here thanks so much. So I did, and he went through my non-carry-on luggage and messed up all my clothes. Well, whatever, fine. So he cleared me, and I went back up to the desk.
   The baggage-lady explained to me I'd have to grab my bag and re-check it in US Customs for the second half of the flight, and then whisked it away on the conveyor belt. She pointed me in the right direction for my flight, which I still had a little over an hour to get to. So I ducked out through the people-herding dividery things and wandered over there with Baz.
   She cried. I almost did, but I think I was too nervous about my flight or something. The wet spot on my t-shirt looked kind of like a butterfly. I had to wait in a long queue before they'd let me go through the metal detectors, just checking to make sure we actually had tickets, I presume. I looked back for Baz when I got through the checkpoint thing, but I didn't see her. So I went through the metal detectors (which, for me, involves removing even the metal they tell you is okay, including glasses, as well as my wallet, shoes, and so forth), and then got my shoes swabbed by a nice man that was probably checking for explosives residue.
   From there, I wandered down to my terminal and got searched again, this time for contraband in my pockets and carry-on. You'll note they didn't search anybody else, just the tall guy with long hair and a wet smudge on his shirt. The search-monkey was very amused by my new “Fuck Communism” lighter, and said I was lucky his supervisor wasn't around, or he'd probably confiscate it. Then, I finished the Harry Potter I'd been reading, and moped around a little until we boarded. Flight was to leave at 1:05pm Britain-Time.
   The plane was another one of those fancy trans-atlantic dealies that completely spoiled me for domestic flights. Two aisles, three rows of seats, four bathrooms, and movies to keep you from thinking about how stiff your legs are, or whether your ass is actually still attached to your body. Unfortunately, the movies only made me think of Baz.
   I made it most of the way through “Big Fish” (an excellent film) before I started crying. Luckily, the fat german sitting next to me was asleep, so I just pressed my forehead against the window and cried quietly. By then, we were out over the Atlantic, so I just watched the water roll past. Luckily, the movie hadn't started until we left land, so I'd been able to tell on the screen when we were flying near Manchester, so I could wave to SallyRei. We'd passed Nottingham, too, but I couldn't wave to Monty as I was on the wrong side of the plane. (Just for reference, so I don't have to mention it on the other side of the Atlantic, I did give Montreal the bird for everyone.)
   Where was I? Oh, right, crying. So after Big Fish ended, and I stopped blubbering long enough to have some juice or something (and the German woke up long enough to order some hard liquor), they played the killer. “Love Actually”. A love movie. A British love movie. Featuring several airport scenes. I'm pretty sure it was a good movie, but I was crying too hard to actually enjoy it. I very badly wanted to make them take me back to Britain but we were probably halfway through the trip by then, and hijacking a plane is rather frowned upon, I hear, regardless of your intentions.
    Anyway, we made it back to Atlanta without me flooding the plane and drowning everyone, though I did make a whole-hearted attempt. Filled out my customs card on the plane while trying to explain to the German he wouldn't get far by copying mine. Dashed to the bag-check, ran through customs, re-checked my bag, danced through more metal detectors, and zipped on over to Terminal B. I only had an hour and a half layover, so I had to be pretty quick.
   Luckily, I arrived in time. Just enough, in fact, to get hungry, but not enough to have time to go back to the food-court and eat. The other passengers were loud, discourteous, and sharp with the airline employees. It made me realize how nice everyone is in Britain. We even had the piggish mother and the hellacious kids... I swear to you, if and when I spawn, my children will have some manners. Of course, thinking so at the time only made me think of Baz again, and it may have only been the uncomfortable Atlanta swelter that kept me from starting bawling again.
   Couple hours later, I was home (a little after 8pm Pacific, or about 15 hours after I left London), though you can't really tell time in a plane, so for all I knew, it had only taken the 7 hours that it looked like had elapsed. Checked my messages, and there wasn't one from work, but I figured what the hell, I'll call and let them know I'm back and see what my schedule's like... lucky thing, too, as I'd been scheduled for the next morning. Of course.
   I didn't really sleep that night at all. It's funny how you can spend months getting used to sleeping alone again, and then screw it up in a single week. Writing this now, more than two weeks after my return, I'm still not sleeping properly at night, because she's not here. It's funny the things your body gets used to.
   Anyway, now I'm getting philosophical... That was my trip to Britain. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. ~

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Krae (June 20th):

   Happy Father's Day to all you dads reading (especially mine).

   Nothing much going on around here. We watched 28 Days Later, finally, and it's a pretty good film. Worth buying, probably, but definitely worth a rental if you haven't seen it. It plays just like a zombie movie, only the zombies aren't really zombies. Well, just watch it, you'll see what I mean. Shaun of the Dead is an excellent film as well, if you happen to be British and can go see it. I'm dreading the rumored “US Version” though.

   I just went through every archived rant, every e-mail button, and every backwards, hidden, remote page on this site and replaced all the @-symbols with “AT”, because 250 spam e-mails a day was making me insane. Hopefully they should decrease a little now, over time. I've got like a hundred keyword spamfilters running, and I still have 50 to 100 messages to sort through when I wake up in the morning, just from while I was sleeping. Anyway, if you're trying to use an e-mail link to contact us, just change it back to an @ in your e-mail client. And you're right as rain.
   Sorry for any confusion this might cause, but we really don't get that much legitimate e-mail anyway (though our readership is astoundingly high! thanks guys!) except people informing me when the auto-update screws up and the new comic isn't up, so I don't anticipate too many problems. Certainly not any complaints if people can't figure it out, heh. As always, e-mail addresses are available on the characters page and by clicking the name before a rant, the button at the bottom of the rant, or the e-mail link at the beginning of our individual menus in the rant archives.

   Still haven't heard back on the promotion thing. I've been trying to get ahold of the future store manager at one of the stores I might be going to (I've talked to the other), as it was suggested we two have a talk before I'm potentially moved up there, but he's hard as hell to pin down. I'm thinking I may just sneak up on him and pop by the store while he's working. Drag him in the back room, tie him down with packing tape, and chat for a bit.
   That oughta get me the job for sure.

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Krae (Aug 27th):

  I know you're all anxiously awaiting a new comic, but it's just going to have to wait until I'm finished drawing. New art is on its way, and though I've got a bulk of the main characters done, I still have much to do. I figured I probably ought to say a few words to keep you entertained while you wait for my pen to finish.
   I've transferred up to a new store, but didn't get the promotion. I'm apparently next in line (or at least close to the top), when the new store opens and yet more shifting occurs. It sucks I got passed up for management, but at least I'm someone vindicated by my store kicking the crap out of the others - in terms of percentages to goals, we're murderlizing, and we're even running better numbers than stores that have been open two or three times longer than we have (about a month and a half).
   Now, at our old store we have Muzak via satellite radio. It was god-awful (unless you're Baz, in which case you can sing along to every song on the hitline), and packed full of J-Lo, Brittney, Christina, Cher, Madonna, and the occasional Usher or something. At the new store we have a two-hour (or so) DVD we play of a faux-TV show presented by a manic psychotic and his well-endowed female co-host.
   So coming around finally, to my point... advertising. I am sick of hearing marketing buzzwords bandied about until they have no meaning. “Take it to the next level” means something, you asshole, and it's not that they update the game every year. That's not the next level, that's a franchise cash-cow.
   The ad I particularly disagree with runs something like this. “Sudeki pushes the limits of what a Roleplaying Game can be, with bigger words, more powerful heroes, and sexier heroines...” Now hold on there, turbo, let's discuss...
   That doesn't push anything. It certainly doesn't push the limits of what an RPG can be. At best, it pushes the limit of what they already are. Tomb Raider, with a female protagonist, pushed a limit, at the time, when action/adventure games were dominated by Solid Snakes and his ilk. Final Fantasy VII pushed the limit of what an RPG can be. Taking the stereotypes of an RPG - more intellectual (though that's becoming questionable), strong sturdy male protagonist, eye-candy female protagonist - and making them bigger, isn't “pushing the limit”.
   But of course, now I can't use perfectly acceptable phrases like this, or it comes out sounding like bullshit. Because marketing likes to grab on to certain words or phrases, and mis-use them, until the real meaning is lost, and they become like mine-detectors' flags for a lurking sales-pitch. I can't say Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is a whole new level of stealth action gameplay, even though it is, because it sounds like I'm repeating their marketing buy-line.
   Personally, I think advertisements should be subjected to some sort of screening process. I'll run it. For free. I just need a cattle-prod, and a little authority. The world will thank me. I'm kickin' it up a notch, to a whole new level of synergy. I'm pushing the limits of what pissed-off can be.

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Krae (Sep 16th):

   Shaun of the Dead, in theaters stateside 24 September. You will watch this movie. Don't make me slap you.

   Now then, on to news. I've got Fable sitting here in front of me, but I'm afraid to open it. Let me explain...
   I've been waiting for over a year for this game - this was the first decent RPG announced on the XBox. Since then, we've gotten Morrowind, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Sudeki. These days, good RPGs for the XBox aren't common, but at least they exist. Now the only redeeming quality to the game is the novelty of being able to affect your character's appearance and growth depending on whether he takes the path of good or evil.
   I have, however, been reading reviews. And the guide. First off, the reviews are good, but not stellar, which, considering we (XBox owners with at least two brain-cells to rub together) have been pining for this game for eons, fills me with dread. Furthermore, I don't see a lot of adventure and derring-do, just some run-of-the-mill escort missions, deep courtship and marriage subroutines, and flatulence. Flatulence for the love of fuck. Furthermore, I don't see any deep moral dilemmas - the good/evil keystones they give you are things like “help the innocent traveler get away or help the highwayman rob him”.
   So here I sit with a brand new copy of Fable in front of me, and I'm afraid to open it. Because once I do, I'll play it, and if it's not not mind-blowingly fantastic, as I was lead a year ago to believe, I'm going to do something terrible. Or at least flatulate on someone.

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Krae (Nov 13th):

   So, Halo 2. I'm not going to waste a lot of time telling you about this game, because if you own an XBox and you didn't hate the first one you've probably already bought it, or are searching your couch for enough money to buy it. But it screwed up my schedule royally for about 5 days, so I haven't had a lot of time to work on the new art.
   Speaking of which, it's almost done. As you can see from the Characters page, I've finished all the main characters (including some new faces) and just have to finish off some of the chorus. I'd estimate new comics by the beginning of December, barring more mayhem at work. I'm also going to be reducing the volume to one a week to make it a little easier to stay current; the new style gives me more customization ability, but it takes longer to do each strip.

   Hm... what else. Oh, my friend Richard is expecting. Well, not him personally but his new wife. He claims it doesn't have hooves, but they can't even tell if it's a boy or a girl yet from the ultrasound, so I think it's probably too early to be claiming to see toes. Anyway, I'm sure Richard will love it whether it's a boy or girl, as long as it's got red eyes and horns. Congratulations there, buddy.

   In other news, I've been officially informed that I'm not getting this nor any other Assistant Manager position in my company, as I don't have a degree or two years retail management experience. In other words, as long as I stay with the company, I won't have the qualifications I need to advance (unless I manage to get a degree in my spare time). Coupled with the fact that I make less than starting wage for my position (new hires for third-key make more than I do) and I've gotten 90 cents in raises in the last three years, I'm beginning to think I'm being shafted.
   So. I have a couple of friends in town, but I hate the locale, and my “great” job is no longer worth staying for (and barely covers my expenses). I'm mulling over the idea of applying to Essex, the university Baz is going to. Yes, the Essex in England. As in leaving the country.
   The main problem is that I probably can't afford it. Every time I apply for student aid, I get denied, and I have to prove I can afford school before I get a student visa. Which means I'd have to get loans and/or scholarships to cover my school, books, and housing, and then prove I could get a job to feed myself. Or something. I don't even know where to start on that. You know, not to mention being accepted to the school.
   But one of us was going to have to move anyway. If she stays in Britain, she graduates college in a few years, gets a guaranteed job with the Health Service, and they pay her to continue getting certifications until she's a Pathologist, which is what she really wants to do. Bonus. If I stay in America-land, I keep working a low-paying part-time job with as many hours as they can get me. I make significantly less than British minimum wage here, by the way.
   Besides, I really want to go to school.
   If anybody's got any advice on this, let me know. I think I have to apply to the school, then get student aid, then get my visa (which, incidentally, would let me work 20 hours a week - about what I'm guaranteed right now at my job), then move there (I'd probably have to move back in with my mum for summers...). I'm just not quite sure how to start, or if that's even the right thing to do. I mean... I'd get to spend as much time with Baz as I wanted, go to school, and move away from this freaking desert. And all at the cost of expatriation, and leaving everybody I know on the other side of an ocean...

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