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One Hell of a Day

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Well, 1pm might seem like a weird time to make a post about a ‘day’ since it’s obviously nowhere near over. However today has been so remarkably crazy already that I thought you all might enjoy hearing the story thus far.

Today I have:
1) Woken up at 5am to review for microbiology test
2) Bombed said micro test because I apparently completely misunderstood what we were supposed to know (and from the feeling in the room, I don’t think I’m alone on that)
3) Had a cell phone thrown and land about 2 feet from me and completely shatter. (And that is not the full story at all, but I’m not posting that here.)
4) Been diagnosed with salmonella (yes, no joke!)
5) Been given my last Gardasil injection, which is definitely not one of the low-pain vaccinations

And for those of you curious, I most likely got the salmonella from the Reata stand on Thursday during the Main St festival. I had the chicken tacos. So if you know anyone who ate the same thing on the same day and is having stomach troubles, tell them to go to the doctor or somehow get ahold of ciprofloxacin. (Ah, cipro! My guardian angel while in Ecuador! You have returned!)

Anyway, though I was pretty messed up earlier today, I’m doing absolutely fine now. Especially about the salmonella, since at least it’s easily treated. I was beginning to fear all my tests would come back negative and figuring out what was wrong with me would stretch far into the summer and mean going to a GI doctor and having who knows what kind of horrible tests done.

Also glad about Gardasil, since now I can go around sleeping with, like, everything that moves and be completely ok. Because that’s what the shot’s supposed to do, right? Reassure you that’s ok to be promiscuous? Oh wait, sorry, someone bumped on my ‘Conservative Christian’ button for a moment. Let’s try again: since now I can rest assured that whatever happens in life (including rape and a committed partner cheating), I am well-protected against cervical cancer.

I have more to write about Gardasil some other time – it’s a topic I’ve been stewing over for a few days now. But for now, I’m off to go pick up my micro lab test.

I hope the rest of you have significantly less eventful days than me – unless you too are hoping for a salmonella diagnosis, of course!

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Ad Songs & Me Rambling On

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Well, I really should be working on my nutrition brochure that I just got assigned (I knew today would end my wonderful break!), but I’m a little pissed off. See, we’re supposed to be writing it to be at an 8th grade reading level (Word apparently can show you this – I didn’t know that!). Unfortunately, using the words “protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals” pushes my brochure’s reading level from 7.3 to 8.6 – 1.3 grades! How I am supposed to write a nutritional brochure without using “protein,” “fiber,” “vitamins,” or “minerals” is beyond me. I’ve emailed Dr.Hill about it – we’ll see what she says.

Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I’d be completely unproductive and write about music. I was talking to a friend the other day and realised that many of the songs I’ve purchased recently over iTunes (using up a $30 gift certificate, yey!) are songs from ads. And, according to the ‘popularity rating’ of the songs when I find them on iTunes, I’m not the only one doing this. I wonder when this trend began? I’m absolutely positive it’s due to the advent of being able to purchase one song immediately – I’d have maybe one of these songs if I had to go drive to a store and buy the album. Whether the song’s popularity has affected the effectiveness of the ad, I don’t know. I can’t say that I’ve purchased any of the products featured on these song’s ads since the ad’s premiere, but I do, for the most part, remember the product attached to each song.

Anyway, here is my list of ‘ad-songs’:

‘Remind Me (Radio Edit)’ by Royksopp – Featured in the ‘airport caveman’ Geico commercial. When he’s on the sidewalk. I like this ad so much I recorded it on my camera. More on that later.
‘Le Disko’ by Shiny Toy Guns – Featured on the ‘knife-fight on the subway’ Razr ad. I like how the phone stuck in the wall when it was thrown.
’1234′ by Feist – You all know this one – featured on the new iPod Nano commercial by Apple.
‘Never the Same’ by Supreme Beings of Leisure – Featured in a Christmas-time Johnny Walker Black Label ad. I was fond of this ad, as the whole screen was black except the outline of the label and the whiskey itself. Very artsy.
‘New Soul’ by Yael Naim – Another one you all know. Featured in the MacBook Air commercials.
‘I Melt With You’ by Modern English – Featured in the Taco Bell ‘cheesy beefy melt’ commerical.
‘Can’t Get It Right Today’ by Joe Purdy – This is the one exact product I don’t remember (I remember the ad but not the brand)… *goes to look it up.* Ah, featured in the Kia Spectra ad – where everyone’s pulling into the gas station and doesn’t remember which side the gas tank is on.
‘Sweet Pea’ by Amos Lee – Featured in the AT&T; ‘business trip dad/pictures of the monkey everywhere’ ad. Fond of this ad too – touching! I liked this song enough that I did end up going out and buying the whole album, which I’m glad I did.

So! The Royksopp song. I think it’s the song/ad combination that touches me so powerfully. The ad, if you don’t remember, is the caveman standing on a moving pavement in the airport and going past those lit-up wall-billboards, carrying bags, checking his ticket, obviously headed to the gate. The camera angle changes once at the end, where you can see that on the opposite wall there’s a window overlooking gangways and planes pulled up to gates. As simplistic as the scene is, it hits me with profound meaning. So much of my life is embodied right there – moving sidewalks in airports around the world, checking the ticket, looking for the gate. Heading to wherever it is I need to be, whatever family has it’s ‘turn’. I can’t really explain it, and don’t really expect anyone else to understand.

The song itself is meaningful as well. In the commercial, the only lyrics you hear are, ‘And everywhere I go, there’s always something to remind me, of another place and time’. I can relate to that, for sure. Maybe everyone can. Not a day go goes by, either here or in the UK, that I don’t think of something or someone in the other location and, even if for a fleeting second, wish I was there instead. That’s especially true when I think of Kenneth, Alice, and Heather. Or just climbing up to the top of the hill outside the cottage and standing in the cold, bracing wind until I forget whatever strains are on my mind. Obviously no matter which country I’m in I have that experience, so I don’t sit and pine (ok, well, maybe occasionally!), but it’s something I’ve dealt with for a long time.

In the radio edit of the song, the opening lyrics are:
“It’s only been a week,
The rush of being home in rapid fading.
Prevailing to recall
What I was missing, all that time in England

Has sent me aimlessly,
On foot or by the help of transportation,
To knock on windows where
A friend no longer lives, I had forgotten.”
Obviously, I often feel that’s fairly accurate. No matter where I am, I’m glaringly aware of what I’m missing out on wherever I’m not. And whenever I arrive, I have to catch up on whatever’s changed. I’ll have to interject at this point that I realise this is just the deal whenever you travel, or even if you’re doing something like going to college far from your home. It’s not like I sit around being miserable because I’m not in the US/UK, but I guess it might seem strange that it bothers me more than average Joe college student who rarely goes home. Perhaps just because I don’t know much else – from age 5 I’ve had that feeling. Or maybe that’s just part of Emma being Emma – who knows. I have more thoughts on that, but I’m probably starting to sound whiny and I’m running out of time before class. I’m just trying to share some lyrics that hit me, not depress you all – I swear! : )

So I’ll leave you with some last words from the Royksopp song:
“Brave men tell the truth,
A wise man’s tools are analogies and puzzles,
A woman holds her tongue,
Knowing silence will speak for her. “
; D

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Viva la Evolution!

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Thankfully, most of the people I know accept that microevolution* is present in the world all around us. (I’m not really sure how people who don’t believe in microevolution explain drug-resistant bacteria and etc – perhaps witchcraft? I’ve never had the pleasure of discussing evolution with such a person.)

However, they still are not convinced about macroevolution. It can be hard for someone versed in evolution/biology to understand why someone could accept one and not the other, as this quote reflects:

Saying you believe in microevolution, but not macroevolution, is like saying you believe atoms exist but that you don’t believe you’re made out of them simply because you don’t see how something so small can be a part of something so much larger.
- (Credit to Patrick Hunter, in an evolution group on Facebook)

While the quote is humorous, and pretty true in my opinion, I believe there are two main reasons for why people balk at macroevolution:

1. Understanding ‘Species’ – There is a huge amount of controversy in the defining of what makes a ‘species,’ and how to differentiate species. Most people tend to take the species rules commonly used that they know at face value, without really questioning how obviously incomplete they are. We have classified animals as different species based on tiny differences in colouration, shape, or size, even when they can produce viable and fertile offspring. Yet they’re on different sides of a mountain, and don’t meet, and so don’t breed in nature, so we call them different species. Well, hey, before the Portuguese discovered Australia, Europeans certainly looked different from aborigines, and certainly didn’t interbreed. Different species? Of course we can’t say that, since it’s not politically correct – but it’s a good example of where our species rules have gotten us. Not to say that they aren’t damn good rules – it’s just that it’s hard to draw a line where there almost isn’t one (hint hint). Species are in the eyes of humans ONLY.
So, forgetting this, people tend to think of macroevolution in the largest possible terms – amoeba to fish, or multi-celled creature to man. When, really, if you can accept that a few changes in size, colour, and shape can stop some specimens from back-breeding with those who don’t have the changes, you have the foundation of macroevolution. Now it’s not far to see the mutations that accumulated to differentiate a King penguin from a Galapagos penguin. And from there, it’s not hard to see how penguins differentiated from sea-going (swimming) birds, and sea-going birds from land-going birds. Follow that on up, and you’re well on your way.

2. People Don’t Understand Genetics – Many people tell me they can’t accept macroevolution because ‘it just doesn’t make sense to me.’ To really understand evolution, one must understand genes. And mutation. And alleles. And frequency of alleles. And ‘fitness.’ And ‘relative fitness.’ And change in frequency of alleles. And natural selection. And heritability. Obviously, that’s a lot to ask, and a lot to learn, especially if your biology understanding is basic. Once you can get a picture of all of this in your head, evolution clears up quite a bit – better understanding the behaviour of genes alone (never mind really understanding what ‘fitness’ means) can make a huge difference in someone’s comprehension level of evolution.
But part of me wants to say that this isn’t really an excuse. Can we/should we believe what we don’t fully understand? In an ideal world the answer is no. But hey, this is reality. We believe things we don’t understand all the time. I don’t fully understand why really big things attract other things (gravity), but I believe it’s true – and I doubt anyone’s going to call me gullible for doing so. On the other hand, I don’t want to tell people to just ‘trust’ what I say when I tell them that evolution is real because I’m a biologist and I understand it. But, back to the other side, can ignorance really be claimed as a reason not to believe something? ‘I don’t understand it thus it can’t be true?’ If I really questioned the validity of gravity, I’d go out and try and find out more. I don’t think it’s asking too much for those who don’t believe in evolution to go learn some basic information so that they can better understand what ‘doesn’t make sense to them.’

I guess I do like the quote at the top more than I admitted at first. It’s true – just because you yourself can’t see how something fits in to the big picture doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth anyway. Even if it’s incredibly hard to picture (can you truly wrap your mind around the fact you’re made of itty-bitty tiny atoms whose properties are nothing like you?), it far from means it’s impossible.

So go out there, guys, and Viva la Evolution!

*I know these terms (microevolution/macroevolution) have some controversy about what they *exactly* mean, especially in the argument’s context, but whatever.

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‘Protecting Innocence’ means ‘It Makes me Uncomfortable!’ I Play You a Tiny Violin

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I’m tired and I don’t have the time or energy to write a long post, but I wanted to write something before it slipped my mind.

It’s occurred to me that one of the main obstacles in this world is the unwillingness of grownups/parents to accept their child will, someday, be a sexual being, just like most of the rest of us end up being. The problem is, of course, all the more pronounced with little girls. Now before you get all ‘OMG PEDOPHILE’ on my ass, let me direct you to the article that re-sparked this thought: My Daughter Has a Hand Mirror. Basically it’s an article laughing at some conservative blogger freaking out because a book for young people on sexuality seems to endorse young girls looking at their genitals with a mirror.

It’s rather befuddling. Why would anyone be opposed to this? Honestly? I guess people believe that discovery of sexual organs leads to interest in sex? People seems to be so obsessed with this ‘violation of innocence’. Well, here’s a newsflash – your daughter figuring out where her clitoris is isn’t going to be violating any innocence. Most likely she’s going to think nothing of it and go about her little life just like normal. Why this belief that she’s suddenly (apparently) going to become some different person? Why this idea that knowing about sex puts this huge burden on someone? I mean, come on, when you found out about sex, how deeply did you fall into depression? How did you mourn the passing of your childhood? I don’t remember a time I didn’t know what sex was, and I never remember it being distressing, and certainly it didn’t make me grow up any faster. Hell, I lived in my own imaginary world for probably way too long. (I might even stretch to add here that if learning about sex is overwhelmingly distressing, whatever they’ve just been taught is probably an overall distressing version of what sex is that would even cause me distress.)

Of course sex is the realm of adults, and of course we don’t want children involved in sexual acts with other people. But unless your kid has other issues, your daughter at age 8 isn’t interested in sex, at all! Except for maybe that shy curiosity, like I had, but hey, if it was in my mom’s home medical guide, I wanted to understand it inside-out. Telling them about sex, letting them learn about their own sexual organs, even them learning how to pleasure themselves sexually (as long as it doesn’t get out of hand/become a dependency/not in public, etc) – none of this is going to ruin their innocence, or change who they are. In fact, my best bet is that it will teach them to be more comfortable with their bodies, better love the person they are, and be better prepared for sexual experiences later in life (with a strong foundation of knowing themselves as sexual being before some man-boy comes and makes them one before their own self-realization).

Bottom line is this: The only reason you are afraid of spoiling your child’s ‘innocence’ is because you yourself are uncomfortable with the idea, and it makes you all squirmy. Well, get over yourself. Your kid is a person, and will someday be a sexual person, whether you like it or not, so don’t try and hide (‘shield’) it from them – let them learn to love their whole selves.

However, if you have some proof that 9-year-olds looking at their vaginas causes them to become street-walking whores or depressed suicidal maniacs, please let me know.

Ok, well, I hope that made some sense. I’m off to go sit in my internet-less apartment now.

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Those Old Questionnaires

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

While Google-ing myself (oh, come-on, you all do it too!) I came across one of those old question things everyone used to post on blogs. You know the ones, where they had like 80 questions and you had to answer pointless weird questions about yourself.

Well anyway, I started reading through it, and began thinking it was a really interesting way of seeing how life had changed. It was from July 2004, which was when I was fresh out of high school and before I’d officially started at Southwestern. Oh, life since then!

So I re-posted the questions with my ‘modern day’ answers below the originals, in blue font. Take a look if you want, but maybe it was just mostly for me. Maybe in another 4 years I’ll go back and do it again : )

See it HERE

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Cats and God

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

I found this article online weeks ago, when I was looking for a home for Leo, the orange tabby stray I took in. It’s a story about a minister who takes in a stray cat (Katie), and I really, really like one of the points it makes. Perhaps it won’t make so much sense to ‘dog people,’ because dogs are in general more obedient/trainable, but for cat people, or even people who know cats, it makes perfect sense. I know it’s long, but I promise it’s worth reading:

“Katie never seeks self-improvement. She never petitions us to help her become a better cat. It probably never enters her cat-mind that she needs improvement.

And that is not because she is a perfectly obedient cat. She does not always do our will. She gives us our dawn-licking even though we command her to stop. She often refuses to come when called. She sometimes jumps on the dinner table even though we have clearly instructed her not to. She disobeys our commandments and ignores our will.

She even has a Pharisaic streak in her. She over-obeys one of our commandments. She obeys so well our dictum, “Thou shalt urinate and defecate only in the cat-box” that, if she is outside and needs to relieve herself, she scratches at the screen-door to come indoors to use her facilities!

She is not, by religious standards, a righteous cat. Yet, despite her breaking of our rules, we love her.

No, more than that: because she breaks our rules we love her. Her very disobedience is a part of the perfection of her felinity. She is perfectly cat-like and being cat-like includes indifference to our desires. We find her independence delightful (most of the time).

Might not God feel the same way about me? I have been told that the Lord accepts me the way I am. Might there not be more than mere acceptance? What if God enjoys me the way I am? Maybe the Holy One takes a certain wry pleasure in my indifference to the divine will, a certain amusement in my attempts to get away with something….”

(Read the whole article here.)

It’s true. I don’t love Svara because she does everything I say, or because she never jumps on the counter (she does) or never throws up on the floor (she does) or never sneaks into an ‘off limits’ room (she does). I love her because she’s her. She does her own thing – she might be ‘mine’ but I certainly don’t control her. And I have no desire to control her. In her independence I find pleasure. Is it so hard to believe that God feels the same way about us? Perhaps we don’t always follow the rules, perhaps we don’t always do the right thing. I didn’t get my cat just so I could indefinitely keep her off tables, stop her throwing up on the carpet, and barricade my off-limits rooms. And I really doubt God created us just to follow his rules.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m not a religious person. I created my own religion, with one member (me) (you can find details of it in previous blog-posts). I’ve always had a very peaceful, abstract idea of God and life, and it works really well for me. However, I do feel the need to talk about it from time to time just because it bugs me how vengeful, angry, controlling, selfish, and petty everyone else’s God seems to be. My God is to me as I am to Svara: no matter how many times I throw up on his carpet, there will always be a place for me in his heart and his arms.

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Madonna* and the Slut

Monday, February 11th, 2008

So I was waiting for microbiology class to start this morning when some girl behind me decided to share a story that went something like this:

So my dad’s friend’s girlfriend was a TA for a micro[biology] lab in college and they were doing the thing where you swab your mouth and look at the swab under the slide to see the cheek cells and bacteria and all that. And this one girl got all excited and said, ‘Oh I think I got something, it’s swimming around!’ And the professor came over and was like, ‘That’s not a bacteria, that’s a sperm.’

Forgetting that the story in itself is doubtfully true (sperm are quickly flushed out of the mouth by saliva and broken down by our salivary enzymes (they wouldn’t live more than minutes) – and do you know my professors who would publicly announce such a thing to the class?), the reaction of the class pissed me off.

Of course the story is funny-ha-ha, and the usual ‘Oh my God!’s and ‘Eww!’ and ‘Hahaha, that’s hilarious’ went up. Nothing wrong with that. But then five or six guys started harking on and on about how they would totally tease and name-call anyone that happened to. One of the girls said, ‘But not if you didn’t know them, right? I mean, it’s one thing to tease your friends, but if it was a stranger, you don’t want to, like, make them go commit suicide.’ ‘No way!’ was the general consensus from the guys, ‘If it was someone I didn’t know, I’d tease them more!’

This really irks me, and here’s why: I am sure that these guys have had or currently have girlfriends, and I am sure that they expected, or even demanded, oral sex from their girlfriends (remember, the ‘Christian’ in TCU doesn’t really count). But when a girl actually has some evidence of having given oral sex exposed in a very unfortunate way? Oh man! What a slut! That’s so nasty! Talk about your Madonna* and the Slut dichotomy.

So remember girls, put out like there’s no tomorrow, but make sure there’s never any evidence that you’re anything but the perfect angel. The men-folks, they don’t like that.

* And when I say ‘Madonna’ I, quite obviously, do not mean the pop singer. I mean the virgin mother.

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Yes means Yes, No means No…

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I read this article, which pretty much tries to defend the idea of ‘grey rape,’ when I came across this quote in the comments, that I thought was pretty clever, and thus would share with you all:

Yes means yes,
No means no,
Whatever we wear,
Wherever we go

In a nutshell, there is no such thing as ‘grey rape’. There’s a clear line between rape and non-rape – consent. If consent was not given, it’s rape. If consent was revoked, it’s rape. If consent was given while the person wasn’t legally able to consent (ex: inebriated), it’s rape.

In the article above the author outlines a scenario where a girl dresses provocatively, gets drunk, acts like she wants sex, and then changes her mind at the last minute. The guy “he disregards this as momentary insanity on her part and enters her anyway”. The author claims this is ‘grey rape’ because she “vehemently sen[t] the message that sex was what she wanted” and “even showed up to the party looking like pure sex”. She asks who’s really at fault.

There are a hundred things in this article I could sink my teeth into and tear to pieces, but I feel like it’s been well accomplished by most of the commenters. (Please go read these if you are unconvinced that this is, in fact, rape.)

True, it kind of sucks for the guy – here he was all raring to go, and he gets denied at the last minute. But there’s a really, really easy way to avoid this situation – don’t hook up with girls who are drunk or who seem unsure. Because it doesn’t matter how ready you are or how disappointed you feel – you still need consent all the way through. If you don’t want to be in a situation where you might ignore someone revoking consent – avoid the situation entirely! You have no one to blame but yourself if you get charged with rape because you put yourself in a situation where you knew it might be difficult for you to back down.

It’s hard to listen to ‘no’ when you’re horny as hell – I think lots of people can relate to that. But that’s no excuse. If you think you might not have full control when you’re hot and heavy, avoid getting into that situation with someone who’s unsure or drunk. If you’re really worried, avoid that situation completely except with those you are involved in a relationship with.

Anyway, it gets me all worked up to hear about stuff like that. Be careful out there, everyone.

And let me know if you see a bumper sticker with the above quote on it : )

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Leos and Svaras and Books, Oh My!

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Well, I thought I should post and assure everyone I made it back from UK-land alive. I also wanted to apologise for not being very available this week to the people who’ve tried to get in touch or who have commented I’m not as in touch as usual.

First, let me say I will be making a couple posts about my time in the UK, specifically, my adventures getting there and a new years post, mostly to go along with the fabulous pictures and videos I’ve uploaded to Facebook (if you’ve not seen them, please go visit!).

The reason I’ve not be around so much is simply: school. Yea, we’re only a week in, but for some reason even I don’t fully understand, I’m really feeling driven this semester. This first became evident when I returned from the UK and spent an ungodly amount of time completely cleaning out my room and bathroom – this included finally unpacking from Ecuador (*ashamed face*). Now my room is not only spic-and-span, but also a haven of order and prettiness (I manged to finally hang some pictures and put up some lamps that glow wonderfully in the evenings).

So, five days in, and I’m ahead in all my classes. Well, except programming, because the teacher is kind of nuts and I’m not even sure what we’re doing right now. And he hasn’t given any clue on what we’ll be reading or what we should be doing. But, programming is my ‘just for funsies’ class anyway, and really is the least of my worries, since its a ‘nothing’ class, and doesn’t count towards my degree.

I guess for many out there being ahead in classes is probably no biggie, but for one thing, this mostly means I’ve read ahead, and for me, reading textbooks is my biggest procrastination – I hate it! Last semester I didn’t read any of my genetics book – too long-winded, too boring. Probably suffered for that though : (. So this week, I’ve read 2 chapters of microbiology, 4 chapters of prenatal/infant/child nutrition, and read five chapters of neuroscience – which, trust me here, is no easy task. Neuroscience is going to be my hard class this semester. Also, I’ve gone ahead and started some physics HW, though we’re actually behind schedule and haven’t finished the chapter yet.

So most of my spare time, even in the mornings before class, is being spent reading – either in the new bookstore, in that hidden little corner with the stuffed chairs that catches the morning and afternoon sun, in Einstein’s at lunch, or at home on the couch. When I’m not reading and highlighting, I’m usually trying to keep peace between Svara and the cat I found (whom I’ve temporarily christened Leo). They hate each other, so I keep Leo in the office for most of the day, but he’s lonely and isolated, and hates it, so then I have to put Svara in my room, and let him roam (and make sure he doesn’t destroy anything – he’s the clumsiest cat I’ve ever seen (he’s a teenager)), and then do the daily ‘acclimation’ where I let them interact, much to Svara’s deep dissatisfaction. Any time when Leo isn’t in the office, I pretty much have to be following him around, to break up fights and pick up objects, and if I do sit down, he promptly climbs all over me, making it impossible to do much.

So – that’s why I’m not around much! I’m also already sleep-deprived, which bodes really well for the rest of the semester…

But, overall, I’m doing good. I feel good about school, and I’m hoping to find a home for the cat (IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO COULD TAKE IN AN ADORABLE ORANGE CAT LET ME KNOW!!!!).

Well, I feel this post is quite an adequate length, and though I’d love to write more, I’ll stop here, for the sake of your aching scroll bars and short attention spans : )

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