Irish Proverb: Don't tell secrets to the children of your relatives.

I got hired at Best Buy based on the computer knowledge I already had. The store I applied to only had two computer tech positions, and both were filled. Instead I worked in the computer and software departments for several months until one of the two techs quit. I moved into the repair booth the next day.

My job in the tech booth was to do whatever customers asked me to do. We had a posted list of services we offered like hardware installation and virus removal, and for $50/hour, we would do just about anything they asked.

Today when we connect USB devices to our computers, “things just work.” Occasionally we may have to provide drivers, but more often than not, our computers just figure out what’s going on and take care of things for us. This was not the case in 1995. In 1995, people purchased modems and took them home and spent a day or two struggling with DMA and IRQ settings and jumpers and COM ports and an entire spaghetti mess of commands and drivers and installation files before throwing in the towel, throwing the whole mess in their car, and bringing it all back to Best Buy for people like me to fix.

Customers at the booth were split evenly between men and women. Men usually came in seeking help with hardware installation. Women usually needed help installing software. Almost daily, women would come up to the booth with their giant desktop PC inside a shopping cart and a game that they bought for their kid that they couldn’t get to run. After paying $50 for a new PC game, they would pay Best Buy $29.95 to install it for them. Think about that.

(For what it’s worth, women most frequently dropped off their computers and would then go shopping, while men would stand at the booth the entire time “picking our brains.”)

Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, computers back then running DOS had 640k of conventional memory to work with. Every driver you loaded into memory came out of that 640k chunk, so your CD-ROM driver might use 20k, a mouse driver might use another 10k, and so on. It wasn’t uncommon to end up with somewhere around 550k of free conventional memory after loading all your drivers. Most of the games provided the amount of free conventional RAM it required to install and run — a number that (a) almost no customer ever knew, and (b) few customers had the knowledge to change. Putting a sticker on the side of California Games informing customers that the game required 565kb of conventional RAM meant nothing to anyone, until they got it home and discovered it wouldn’t run.

There were a lot of different ways to free up space within that 640k block of memory. You had upper memory, extended memory, memory managers, and all kinds of tricks that sometimes worked together, but more often than not caused conflicts. Some games wouldn’t work without expanded memory and others wouldn’t work with it. In regards of “ease of use” for average customers, it was a pretty awful time. By loading drivers “high” you could move some of them into an additional 384k block of reserved memory, but that was all you had to work it.

And so, every day, people brought their computers into Best Buy with a defeated look on their face, asking me to install games for them. They would drop their computer off in the booth and go shopping while I worked on installing the game for them. (I would also typically make a copy of the game for myself, but that’s a story for another time.)

Modifying the configuration on people’s computers was very tedious and time consuming. Microsoft had a command called MEMMAKER that was supposed to automate the process, but more often than not it just made matters worse. Sometimes MEMMAKER would get one game to work and break others they already had installed. I spent a lot of time manually shuffling people’s drivers around in memory and performing all sorts of tricks in order to make their games work.

And then I discovered Multimedia Cloaking, from Helix.

Even if your old DOS computer had 4, 8, or a whopping 16 megs of RAM, by default, all of your drivers resided in that little 640k block of conventional memory (and 384k of upper memory), which wasn’t a lot of room. There was no way to load your drivers into extended memory (all that other RAM you paid for!), but that’s exactly what Helix’s Multimedia Cloaking did.

You can read the technical details on Wikipedia if you want, but here’s the takeaway. Instead of taking up 20k of that precious 640k for your CD-ROM drivers, Helix was able to load a 1k driver into conventional RAM and put another driver up into extended memory, where there was lots of free space. The small driver communicated with the larger driver, and DOS was none the wiser. Helix’s Multimedia Cloaking replaced three commonly used drivers that took up a lot of conventional memory (CD-ROM, mouse, and smart drive), which freed up a lot of conventional memory — enough to make most games run.

You didn’t have to understand any of this to use the product. All you had to do was buy the program (probably $50), install it, and Helix would replace all your default drivers with its own updated ones, reconfigure your autoexec.bat and config.sys files, and you would be good to go. Instantly you would free up another 30-40k of conventional memory. It was a miracle program.

What I discovered was while I was spending all of my time in the tech booth struggling to manually edit people’s configuration files, the other computer tech was simply installing Helix software on customer’s computers. He had found the software over in our software department and had brought it to the booth and begun installing it on customer’s computers. It worked, and so he did it again, and again, and again.

If you brought your computer to our Best Buy location in the mid-90s needing help with getting a game to run, chances are you left with a working game and a pirated copy of Helix’s Multimedia Cloaking software.

I always remember this story when I read news articles or hear about companies doing “something” unethical. Often it is the actions of one single employee that get applied to the entire company. Had the two of us been caught or if someone had complained, I’m sure the story would have been “Best Buy installing pirated software on customer computers,” when in reality Best Buy had no knowledge of what we were up to.

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I got my first record player when I was five or six years old, a little white unit that looked like it came from the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. While I owned a few records of my own (we’re talking the Star Wars picture disc and Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Christmas album), most of what I listened to was pilfered from my parents’ record collection: Blondie, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix albums. For my 8th birthday I got a boombox with a cassette deck and spent a few years acquiring music in both formats. The last vinyl albums I recall buying were the soundtracks to Beat Street and Breakin’, both released in 1984. By seventh grade (1985), I was exclusively buying cassettes. That’s the same year I got my first “all-in-one” integrated stereo system, complete with a record player, two cassette decks, and a radio tuner.

My dad purchased a Sony Discman in 1989 and my buddy Jeff got a CD-playing boombox for Christmas in 1990. Before I had my own CD player I would buy CDs and listen to them on their players. The first CDs I purchased were Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me by The Cure, Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut album, and a radio promo CD full of anti-littering/pro-recycling blurbs from celebrities, which made my list of the five worst CDs I own. Sometime in 1991 I got my own dual CD/cassette boombox. Even then, I continued buying cassettes. I definitely recall owning both Pearl Jam’s 10 and Nirvana’s Nevermind (both released in 1991) on cassette.

I’ve told this story before, but at some point I acquired a big padded cassette carrier that held a whopping 60 cassettes (30 on each side). That thing was filled with 60 of my favorite albums, with one side filled with heavy metal albums and the other side full of rap and alternative tapes. I kept that carrier in my car at all times, and in 1992, someone busted out my window and stole it. Instead of replacing old cassettes with new cassettes, that’s when I started buying CDs.

With a vengeance.

In 1993 Jeff built me a slipshod set of shelves for my CDs. The makeshift box had three sets of shelves, each one holding approximately 50 CDs. My goal at that time was to own 150 CDs, mostly because the shelves wobbled less when each one was full.

By 1998, I had close to a thousand.

Regular readers know that I have attachment issues to “things,” and CDs are things. Not all, but I can recall where and when I purchased many of the CDs I own. I waited in line in Weatherford to buy Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power the day it came out. I bought Cypress Hill’s first album from the used pile at Rainbow Records. I picked up the first Presidents of the United States disc the day before I went on my first work trip for the FAA, and listened to it the entire time.

I don’t have a single memory attached to any of the mp3s I’ve downloaded.

In 2007 I began ripping every one of my CDs to MP3. I’ve talked about this project before. It took me several years. After ripping them all, the goal was to sell them. I couldn’t do it. They made it as far as the garage, where they sit today in large 30-gallon tubs. Four of them.

When I originally began converting my CDs I did them in 128k, considered today to be a relatively low bitrate. Halfway through the project I switched to 192k. If I were starting today I would either use 320k or simply rip them to FLAC (no pun intended), a lossless format that maintains the complete audio integrity of the original. When I downloaded my first mp3s, space was a premium; today, one-terabyte drives are the norm, if not small. Then again, isn’t that always the way?

My kids have no concept of “an album” — their world revolves around radio hits and single mp3s. My kids have never owned a real CD, but know how to find (and I can only assume, download) songs from YouTube.

Excluding devices integrated into our computers, we own two CD boomboxes — both are tiny, covered in dust, and sitting out in the garage. We own at least three or four Blu-tooth speakers that can play music when connected to an iAnything. I own the only cassette deck in the house, a dual Kenwood component deck connected to my computer for converting cassette tapes to mp3s. All three of our cars have CD players in them. I’ve never checked to see if either of the ones in my truck or my car even work.

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Professor Chester, the instructor of my novel writing class this semester, suggested we keep a journal documenting our experience. I decided to set up another WordPress site over for this purpose.

If you’re interested in keeping tabs on how my first novel is going, you’ll find updates there. I also set up a mailing list for the site, so that you will be notified via email each time I post a new entry. Whoever is on either of my mailing lists (that one or the one here) will receive a free electronic copy of my novel at the end of the semester.


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I set up my first website back in 1995, using a local hosting company ( When I moved to Spokane in 1996, I moved to and set up home there. (My URL was mentioned in this interview with the Spokesman Review back in 1997.) In 2001 I set up a web server at my house and registered the free URL forwarder, which was the genesis of this site. In 2004 I registered, and the rest was history.

Back then, it didn’t make sense to pay someone else to host my websites when I could do it at home for free. Today, it doesn’t make sense not to. My buddy Sean turned me on to HostGator last year, and for $10/month I can host an unlimited number of websites with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage. Last fall I moved,, and over to HostGator, and based on how things have been going, I have now moved there too. That also includes (the home of You Don’t Know Flack and, my new writing journal.

One thing I forgot is that while Windows isn’t case sensitive, Linux is. Because of that, lots and lots of links to pictures and pages on are currently broken. If you find broken links, please send me a message and let me know where you were and what the link was to. I’m fixing them as quickly as I find them but I fear it could be literally years before I find and fix them all.

It has been a long time (over a decade and a half) since I trusted someone else with hosting my website. Over the years I have created backup jobs, rotated out hard drives, installed a battery backup, and put lots of time and effort into keeping this website online. It feels a little strange to relinquish that control, but I think I’m in good hands. Plus, giving up the technical side of things will allow me to spend more time writing.

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Depending on your level of Star Wars knowledge, you may be baffled by today’s choice. The Draconian Marauder, of course, is not from Star Wars at all. It’s from Buck Rogers.

While Kenner’s line of Star Wars action figures didn’t invent the 3 3/4″ scale, it quickly and definitively solidified it as a standard. Within just a few years of the original Star Wars line, figures for The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Dungeons and Dragons, CHiPs, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings, M*A*S*H, G.I. Joe, and a whole slew of others, including Buck Rogers (and of course the original Fisher Price Adventure People, which pre-date Kenner’s figures). Many of these toy lines also had play sets and vehicles (including spaceships), and since they were all the same size, they were all interchangeable. This allowed wounded Wookies to visit the M*A*S*H unit, Han and Leia to take a vacation in my Adventure People van, and occasionally, bad guys to fly around in the Draconian Marauder.

I remember that the Draconians were the bad guys in Buck Rogers, but that’s about it. I don’t remember who flew this ship, or anything else about it, really. It looks like a bad guy’s version of an X-Wing fighter, and that’s what I used it for. When Luke would hop in his X-Wing and take off across the galaxy, I’d cram a bad guy inside this thing and send it off after him.

Like Star Wars toys, this ship had a cockpit that opened so that a figure could sit inside. Unlike Kenner’s line of toys, this ship (and many other non-Kenner playsets) seemed to be more fragile. I’m lucky that my ship still has all the major pieces (including the landing gear and rockets) attached. Most of the ones you see these days do not.

I’ve owned this ship since I was a kid, but I don’t remember who bought it for me — probably a well-meaning friend or relative who thought “he probably has everything related to Star Wars, so let’s get him something else.” I didn’t mind at all, and a few of these non-canon ships made their way into my pretend Star Wars playtime.

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Yesterday I mentioned the concept of “pretend profits vs. true profits.” These are terms I made up to describe the discrepancy between how much money I thought I was making selling books vs. how little money I ended up making. (In reality, what we’re talking about is “net. vs. gross” income, but I like these terms better.)

When I first began selling copies of Commodork, (the company that printed my copies) ran a sale. By ordering 30 copies, I could get the price of each one down to $5. I sell paperback copies of my books for $15. That price gave me a profit of $10 per book.

A pretend profit, that is.

The very first place I sold paperback copies of Commodork was at 2006’s Oklahoma Video Game Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I took all thirty copies of Commodork with me to Tulsa, and between friends and family, I sold about ten of them. Wahoo! At ten dollars profit per copy, that was a hundred bucks profit!

Of course, what I hadn’t figured in was any of my expenses. For starters, I drove my Chevy Avalance to and from the show. That’s approximately 220 miles, round trip. According to my notes gas was $2.75 a gallon that summer, so the drive itself cost me $40 in gas — plus I rented a hotel room, which cost me $80. That $100 sure went quick! In addition to those expenses I had a banner printed, bought a bunch of candy, a purchased a few items for a drawing. So sure, in pretend profits, I made $100. In true profits, I didn’t even break even.

The following month, I drove to Chicago and attended the Emergency Chicago Commodore Convention (ECCC) and sold books there, too. I sold another ten books! Another $100 in pretend profits! Let’s not count the $300 in gas, among other expenses.

My hardest lesson in this came when I began selling my eBooks through Amazon. At that time, Amazon kept 35% of the profits on any book that sold for $2.99 or more, and a whopping 70% for any book that sold for less than that. I originally priced my eBooks at $0.99 each. For each one I sold, Amazon kept 70 cents before sending the remaining 30 cents to PayPal. Unfortunately for me, PayPal had a 35 cent handling fee plus 3.5%. That meant they were going to charge me a total of 36 cents to transfer me my 30 cents in profit, which meant for each book sold I was going to lose six cents. Fortunately Amazon has a safeguard in place to prevent this from happening; instead, they only sent me my money after I sold two books. Each time I sold two books for a total of $2 (combined), Amazon kept $1.40, PayPal got $0.38, and I got $0.37. For the record, this is why I raised the price of my books to $2.99 — to specifically escape from this issue.

If you’re selling books (or anything for that matter) as a fun hobby, then “pretend profits” are fine. If you’re looking to make a living doing something, you may need to take a closer look at the “true profits.”

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A customer of mine recently informed me that he found pirated copies of my books illegally available for download on a major torrent website. I’ve run across those same links before myself, usually while searching Google for reviews of my books.

Today’s reality is, people will pirate anything and everything available digitally. And if it’s not available digitally — say, an older book available only in print or an album that was released only on vinyl — they will convert it to a digital format so that they can pirate it. That’s reality. Whether you apply no DRM (digital copy protection) at all to your product, allow whoever distributes your product (Amazon, iTunes) to apply a modicum of DRM to your product, or you implement a level of copy protection so thick and convoluted that it affects even your paying customers (Ubisoft, Sony), people will pirate your stuff.

I was heartbroken the first time I found a link to a pirated copy of my book, mostly because at the time I had just started selling electronic copies of my book for 99 cents on Amazon. I estimate that I spent 200 hours writing, editing, and producing Commodork. After ten years of sales, my “pretend” profits are approaching minimum wage, while my “true” profits are closer to breaking even… almost. (Tomorrow morning I’ll talk about pretend profits vs. true profits.)

Instead of worrying that somebody might possibly pirate your work and simply accepting the fact that they certainly will (because they certainly will), you can start to move forward. To make this simpler for me to deal with, I created a grid containing four possible scenarios. Let’s start with my two favorite groups:

PEOPLE WHO BUY MY BOOKS: Yay! You guys are the best! You are the ones that persuade me to keep writing! Whether you head about my book on one of my podcasts, someone recommended it to you, or you simply found it through Google, you took a chance on me and risked three dollars on me. Often times, these people email me and tell me that they liked the book, and sometimes these people email me and share their own similar experiences with computers. Sometimes it takes me a day or two, but I email every one of these people back. Some of these people, I’ve been emailing for years. I really try to give people their three bucks worth.

And then we have:

PEOPLE WHO ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD MY BOOKS, READ THEM, AND THEN PAY ME FOR THEM: Also, yay! You guys are just as good as the first group as far as I am concerned! You guys downloaded the book, read it, said to yourself “Hey, I enjoyed that, that was worth a few bucks!” and then PayPaled me some money. We all know there are a lot of horrible self-published (and for that matter, published) books out there. I don’t blame you for adopting the “try before you buy” model. But you guys did the right thing! You tried, and then you buyed (er, bought) the book. Thank you!

Occasionally people in the above group will say to me, “I know three dollars isn’t much,” and they’re right. Three dollars will get you 60% of a large coffee at Starbucks or half of a Taco Bell combo. It’s not about the amount, per se — it’s about the fact that you read the book, you liked the book, and you bought the book. Again, you guys keep me going.

Next up are:

PEOPLE WHO ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD MY BOOKS BUT DON’T READ THEM: Who cares? If they’re not reading books then chances are these people never will be my customers anyway. If you’ve read Commodork, you know that I spent way too many years of my youth uploading and downloading pirated Commodore 64 games. The fact is, I never would have bought 99% of those games. In the past I’ve downloaded music and movies that I’ve never watched or listened to. It’s all a waste of time, but I get it — pirated media is the currency used by torrent websites. There are people uploading and downloading my book all the time who will never read a page of it. You can’t worry about these people. If anything, I think of these people as advertisers for my products. Hopefully someone in the “try before you buy” group will download one of these torrents, actually read my book, and become a fan!

And finally:

PEOPLE WHO ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD MY BOOKS, READ THEM, AND DON’T PAY: While you can’t let things like this keep you from sleeping, I’ll admit, this was the group of people that gave me the most heartburn in the beginning. I’ve had a few people, two or three maybe over the past decade, send me emails bragging about how they downloaded pirated copies of my books and then expect me to engage them in conversation. You know how actions speak louder than words? These people are saying to me, “I stole your book and read it. I didn’t think it was worth three bucks, but I would like to talk to about how much I enjoyed it and also tell you a bunch of stories about my past and continue to converse with you.” If you’re going to steal someone’s hard work then do it, but don’t rub it in a guy’s face.

The takeaway here is that some people buy my books and then read them and some people read my books and then buy them. I love both of those groups. Thank you guys for continuing to support me. When I am writing, you are the people I am writing for. We’re all in this together!

Then we have the people who download my books but don’t read them. Eh.

Finally, we have the people who download my books, read them, don’t pay for them, and occasionally, feel the need to tell me about it. Poop on those people.

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After having articles included in Chris Kohler’s book Retro Gaming Hacks (O’Reilly, 2005) and self-publishing Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie in 2006, my writing became somewhat “in demand” — and by “in demand,” I mean “lots of people began to contact me and ask me if I would be interested in writing articles and reviews for them for free.” I did, and do, contribute free articles to lots of publications, including websites, eZines, print magazines, and newspapers. I was (and continue to be) flattered each time someone asked if I would be interested in submitting an article to their publication. If you are willing to write for free, you will soon find a long list of publications requesting your services (and no money in your pocket). That stands to reason. If a talented chef were to open a restaurant that served great food for free, you can bet the line to get in would stretch around the block every day. The reality is, if you are willing to produce quality work for free, there are a lot of places that will be willing to accept it (and occasionally, expect it).

I don’t mean to imply that writing for free is bad. I do it all the time. I regularly contribute articles to The Log Book eZine by Earl Green and have been submitting articles and reviews to the Digital Press eZine off and on over the past fifteen years. But again, the reality is, lots and lots places will accept your writing for free. Shortly after publishing Commodork I began receiving tons of requests to write for different websites and magazines. Typically when I asked “What does it pay?” I never heard from them again.

One of the exceptions was Video Game Collector (VGC) magazine. I met Shawn Jones (the editor of VGC) at a video game convention while selling autographed copies of Commodork. Right up front, Shawn offered to pay me $25 per review. I spent a couple of years writing reviews for the magazine, until the magazine folded in 1999. Keeping a print magazine afloat in a world full of free game-related websites is tough to do.

If you don’t know or remember the story about the time a customer at Vintage Stock thought I was famous after seeing my face in Video Game Collector magazine, you should read it.

Around the time Video Game Collector was winding down, another magazine, Video Game Trader was just starting up. Video Game Trader started as a new and used (vintage) video game store in Buford, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. While in Atlanta for work I met the original owner, Jay Fennimore, for dinner. Jay’s an awesome guy, and soon I found myself again getting paid to write video game reviews and articles. Jay eventually teamed up with Tom Samsone, and I worked with both of them on several issues. I got to visit with both of them the last time I was in Atlanta, and I have referred several people to their store. (If you are in Atlanta and like retro video games, you should go there.)

Not only did the guys at Video Game Trader pay me for my work, but on occasion they also sent me hardware to review! Early on they sent me a Retron to review, and a few years ago they mailed me a RetroN 5 console to also play with and review. It was a nice side perk, for sure.

Either last year or the year before, Video Game Trader moved away from print issues and changed to digital downloads and print on demand issues. Around that same time I changed positions at work and, especially after going back to school, I simply didn’t have the time to write for them anymore. I certainly enjoyed the magazine and the guys who ran it, but there are only so many hours in a day, and even if it’s difficult, at the end of the day you have to decide how you’re going to spend those minutes.

One day after class last week I turned my phone on and found flood of emails announcing the closure of Video Game Trader Magazine. Even though so many people (including myself) enjoy the physical experience of flipping through the paper pages of a real magazine, not enough people are left to financially support the traditional model. Printing and shipping costs are up and circulation is down. Each time another magazine folds, I’m a little bummed for the magazine and more bummed that in my lifetime we’ve watched a form of entertainment I enjoy disappear.

As part of my college application I had to create an online portfolio containing examples of my work. Here is a link to my portfolio, which contains a few scans of my work from both magazines.

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I returned to school this week for another round of graduate classes. I’ve doubled my workload this semester. Last semester I only took one class, and this semester, I’m taking two.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I’m taking Writing the Novel. The class is being taught by Professor Chester, the same woman who taught my Writing the Short Story class last semester. There are nine students in the class, seven of which were in my short story class from last semester, so I feel pretty comfortable in there. In short story class we wrote three 5,000 word (maximum) short stories. In novel class, we’ll be writing one 50,000 novel. Technically, I suppose, that’s a novelette. In short story class we had a lot of minor assignments as we learned about description and plot and scenes and stimulus/response and story structure, but all that hand-holding is over. In novel class, once our synopsis is approved, we’ll get two grades: one for the first 25,000 words, and one for the final product. We’ve already been warned not to try and write the whole thing a week or two before it’s due. This class will definitely force me to work on my time management.

My second class is Readings in Mass Communications, which takes place on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Although the Professional Writing department has mostly split away from the Journalism / Mass Communications / Public Relations department, requiring hopeful writers to take one class from this block reveals the program’s early roots. In this class we will be reading topical news articles each week and discussing them in class. Students will take turns leading the discussions with a 60-90 minute presentation one a topic that relates to mass communication. From the provided list I chose “Social Media,” so I should be good there. We’re also required to turn in three book reports, write an APA-style paper, and contribute to each week’s discussion. Although I don’t see any insurmountable goals in this class, it will definitely be a steady stream of work throughout the semester. Jeff and Sean, two classmates who were in my short story writing class and are also in novel writing class with me are also in this class. This class has a lot of diversity, with students from Bangladesh and Venezuela and a few with roots in Germany, so I am looking forward to hearing about issues from students with other viewpoints.

Both of these classes will require not only an increase of output but also an increase in reading. I’m trying to work on that. Each time I find myself sitting in front of the television flipping between two stupid reality programs I need to turn the television off and pick up a book. It’s a hard habit to get back into, but I’m working on it.

This semester I am still parking at the nearby Lloyd Noble center and taking the free bus from there to class. Last semester, the buses I rode were largely empty. I figured once that the capacity of the buses was roughly 60 people (that’s with a few people standing). Last semester, my 7 a.m. bus rarely had more than half a dozen students on it and my 11 a.m. ride back to the parking lot had someone between a dozen-and-a-half and two dozen. This semester has been a bit different. Both of the bus rides to the school (one at roughly 3 p.m., the other at 6 p.m.) are mostly empty. The rides back, however, are quite different. On the Tuesday and Thursday rides at 5:30 p.m., those buses are packed. On Tuesday, I ended up standing on the ride back. On Wednesdays, because class lets out so late (9:30 p.m.), the bus no longer goes from point A to point B and back; instead, it drives all over campus, picking up and dropping off people. The normally 5-7 minute ride took about 15 minutes. I’m not in an hurry to get back to my car, but it’s a new experience. Jeff, one of my classmates, has a parking pass that allows him to park right outside our building. Jeff offered me a ride back to my car Thursday after class and it was wonderful! I hope I can continue to bum rides from him at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays to avoid the crowded bus situation. Jeff mentioned that he drinks Diet Cokes and believe me, I am never above a carbonated bribe!

Last night while in novel class it hit me that I am happiest when I am sitting in a classroom, learning about something I love. I loved short story class and I already love this novel class. I know that I will learn many things throughout the duration of this program and this degree, but I already feel like between those two classes, I am closer to my goal of becoming a professional author.

(This is not my writing area, but doesn’t it look cozy?)

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While walking through the kitchen the other day I noticed this package of Star Wars tissues sitting on the counter.

My wife, the eternal Girl Scout, is prepared. For anything. If we suddenly had to rappel off of something, build a sailboat, or perform a tracheotomy, I’m pretty sure my wife has the necessary components in her purse to do any of those things. If you were to be stranded on a desert island with only one person, she’s the person you should hope for. I’m sure my wife knows how to open a coconut on an island and get the milk out of it and all those other things you need to know to survive on an island. I, on the other hand, would be the guy that made a coconut bra and did a funny dance to keep everyone entertained.

My point here is that my wife probably needed some tissues for her purse and happened to pick some up that had Star Wars characters on them, whereas I would be the person who would buy these because they had Star Wars characters on them, even if I didn’t need any tissues at the time.

My Star Wars collection didn’t start out as a collection — it started out as a bunch of toys that I played with when I was a kid. As I previously said, anything in my collection that I have actual memories attached to, those are the things that are worth the most to me. I don’t know what percentage of my collection those things make up, but it’s not as much as you would think. 25%, maybe. The rest consists of newer toys I’ve bought just to fill shelves, or items like these tissues. I never got into collecting food with Star Wars characters on the labels, but I do have a box of cereal, a box of fruit roll-ups, and a box of Pop-Tarts in my collection. I have some Star Wars candy and some Star Wars Pogs and some Star Wars markers and, of course, a pile of those Star Wars Pez dispensers that came out several years ago.

As I find myself running low on display space (again) for my collection, I am becoming more discerning as to what I add to it. During a recent trip to Target I was met at the front door by a large display of Star Wars branded food. There were at least half a dozen different brands of cereal with Star Wars characters displayed on them, not to mention the cans of soup, the bottles of water… you name it. I’ve even seen pictures of fruit in Star Wars bags! I enjoy seeing these things, but I’m not as tempted as I once was to buy them.

There was a time when I would buy anything related to Star Wars. In my defense, there were some pretty dark and sparse years for a while for Star Wars fans. There were times — years at a time, in fact — where one might not see anything related to Star Wars on store shelves. Walking into Target or Walmart now and seeing an entire aisle dedicated to the new film is great! I love it! I just don’t need to own it all, anymore.

I’m glad my wife bought these tissues, but they probably won’t go up on a shelf to be treated like some kind of rare find. Instead we’ll open them and blow our noses into them and, depending on which side is facing up when I use one, I’ll probably do either a Yoda or a C-3P0 impersonation afterwards. (“Blow, or blow not. There is no try.”)

God help me if these things become rare and worth a million dollars in twenty years. I guess saving one package of them couldn’t hurt…

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