Alright, so it has been a tremendously long time since I've posted (over two months!), but trust me, it was not for a lack of content, only for a lack of time. In fact, there have been countless occurrences where something interesting (or what I felt to be interesting) happened to me and I wanted to run home and tell the world! (or the 1-2 people that actually read this...) So, I have been trying to remember the accounts of the last while, and for anyone that cares, or is truly so bored to read this thing, this post will truly be a binge post (thank you Sean for the title...) - a veritable blob of text that I honestly doubt anyone will wade through. But, also by the request of Sean, "Yeah, you just keep quiet on your blog and then one day, WHAM! There's a dissertation - I just scroll through to see if there are any pictures." So, this time there will actually be pictures abound - enough to just scroll through just to see the pictures! Anyhoo - I remember being in strange mindsets through most of these, so I'll try and put myself back into that mindset while recalling them here.

*** Yeah, so coming back to the top of this monstrosity, it’s friggin’ long, it's pretty much a book, it may actually be the longest post known to man, so I put some random links and such in between some of the paragraphs just for fun =P ***

Well, let's see - last we left off, I believe I was about to pass out from a lack of sleep, food, and severe mental activity due to the end of a semester with 4 CS classes and a History class, and countless other stresses on my mind, and all the while, was typing up my 25+ page History final due the next day that I had just started. Brilliant. Frickin' Brilliant.

Turned out that all the studying, all the stress, all the finals from hell, all the lack of sleep, near death driving home at six am after staying up in the CS lab, crazy psycho irresponsible teachers and psycho partners, all that was worth it (academically, at least - I think I lost a few years off my life through that semester) because I walked away with a 4.0 for the semester, literally scraping by an A in a few of those classes. But, an A is an A is an A. So if you spoke to me at all last semester, I think I don't have to tell you that I was damn relieved to be finished with those hellish classes.

"Art can be learned. I am living proof that this is true. I had a strong desire to express myself artistically but no artistic skills. I began to find good teachers, to study, and to practice, practice, practice. I know that I am improving day by day and year by year. Because I know this to be true of myself I know it is true of my students. I teach artistic technique and skills. The creative and conceptual decision making naturally develops with the skills. These become the building blocks of the students’ creative work. Over the years I have found that everyone can develop their artistic skills to a far higher level than they ever expected." – Gail Waterman

Backtrack a couple of days, because before school actually ended, I ran home for one of the first times in a really, really long time. It was for Retrospective, a big art show that is an annual tradition back at my high school, and Ms. Waterman – truly the person I can attest any and all art talent I might have to – was pursuing her dream, and teaching internationally in Myanmar after this year. So, needless to say, I wanted to go down to see her and see the artwork of the all the high schoolers. So, Kim and I made the drive back to Sugar Land the weekend in between finals, and went down for the show (and because I’d not seen my very good friend Shell in a really, really long time.) So, we went down, and got to see lots of artwork from the students, which, maybe I’m being a pompous ass by saying this, but I really do think that since Spring of ‘99 and Spring of ‘00, the quality of work in the pieces has really gone down. There just doesn’t seem to be nearly as much passion or desire in the pieces (save a few people and a few pieces). Maybe it’s also because the AP standards got so much lower – instead of finishing 36 pieces in a year, the requirement dropped to 20! No longer are the days of the high school AP students being forced to cram out a full quality piece once a week – it just seems like the extra time led to laziness instead of quality =\ Anyways, I digress. So we got to retrospective, and saw some wonderful pieces amognst the others, and we even walked away with a few postcard sets of the watercolored flowers we bought in a fundraiser they had. Some of my favorite pieces included a simple photograph of a rose with a hint of color, a detailed piece of glass done in conte, a prisma piece of a toppled decorative dish and an ebony piece portraying splashing water. And Kim fell in love with a Van Gogh-esque piece portraying a cityscape. Overall it was pretty surreal, especially since I knew I probably wouldn’t be coming back much anymore since Ms. Waterman was leaving (that and the Pac-Man theme was a little odd o_O. Also, the fact that I saw many younger siblings of my friends that were all grown up – scary O_o. Shell let me mooch off of the card and gift that she got Ms. Waterman – needless to say, it sucked to say goodbye =\ And it didn’t help that there was something causing Shell to be down =( So, the night came to a close and Kim and I went home – only to end the weekend the next day with Kim falling in love with Amul cheese (an Indian cheese made with goat milk) and my mother playing dress-up with Kim – I think my parents have actually adopted her.

And of course with all the chaos, we never actually got a chance to say goodbye to Ms. Waterman, so as would be expected, there was a surprise party for her – the day before my final the next morning. -_- So on Monday of the next week, I drove my butt back to Sugar Land, alone this time, and snapping pictures of the pictures that I saw in the clouds – what do you see in this picture, or this one? So I came back for Ms. Waterman’s surprise party and also to have my biannual meeting with Shell (we literally meet like, once every 6 months or so for a multi-hour cup of coffee and chat. But it turns out that she couldn’t make the drive out to Sugar Land for various reasons, all of which were timed poorly for her =( So, in the end, I was the only person who came to Ms. Waterman’s party, where her art students got her some gifts for her new house, such as a dragonfly door knocker. So, after a few hours of chatting it up with my old high school teachers and reminiscing in the art room I pretty much grew up in (amazing the friends you get in a place where you’re allowed to express creativity so freely), it was time to head back to Austin and study for my exam – whee. And on the way back, I again spotted some pictures in the sky, like this and this, (I must have been in a mood, because all these cloud images have a strong theme tying them), and finally a breathtaking sunset as I made the final stretch into Austin.

Tried out Four Swords recently - it's amazing how similar it really is to this

And what do I find when I come home? A call on my answering machine regarding the 2 hr long interview / oral exam I had with Sony Online Entertainment about an internship… I, of course, can’t return the call, because it’s like 10 pm, so I have to wait until the next morning… (I was so curious I could barely sleep) And upon waking up – turns out I got it! Which was really frickin’ awesome – but… I had already accepted the job working at the Fishbowl for Orientation – so what’s my brilliant idea? I’ll do both! Brilliant.

Study. Study. Study. Final. Final. Final. Then, almost immediately after my final (less than two days), stuff started up again – I had my Dean’s Dozen ceremony where I got a plaque with my picture on in it presented by Theresa Grahm Brett and my wonderful supervisor, Cristi Biggs (although I’m still waiting for the pictures from a Mr. Cowsky, or something). Anyways, my parents came up for this and for my sister’s graduation a few days later, and proceed to embarrass the crap out of me – it was also the first time they had met any of the people I worked with during orientation – so it was an interesting experience. So they called up each person and their supervisor would come up, say a few words, and take a picture, and that would be the end of it, right? Nonononono, not with my family and my experience – the person before me finishes, and a frickin’ media crew pops out and spreads to every corner of the room – my dad with a video camera and my sister and Kim with digital cameras – it was my own paparazzi -_-, and Cristi starts up with "Vijay Thakkar – come on down!" And her speech was really good, and quite honestly almost brought me to tears. And she got me teared up again after the ceremony – since I won’t really be seeing her much anymore, especially after I graduate. Really does make me sad – especially since she’s kinda been like a supervisor through college, not just Orientation. I’m gonna miss the program, and working with her. Thanks for the kind words, Cristi. ^_^

And next came my sister – who is now a Doctor! – congratulations! So we all went to her graduation ceremony, and filmed her walking across the stage and getting her Doctorate robes – ohhh fancy =P And, of course, as she came out, there was a literal machine gun fire of photographs and flashes and posing and such. I suppose its just a part of the ceremony of any sort process – get barraged by photographs. So – after a fun weekend of seeing my parents (it had been a long time) and getting fed by my mother – yum! – it was time to just kick back and relax for a very short period.

Aww... you GOTTA be kidding me!

So yeah, you’re still reading? Damn, you must be seriously bored. Anyhow – I guess I’ll just keep writing, then. My next adventure took me to New York, to go see Nolan and Mel graduate from Westpoint – Congrats to both of you! I had planned to stay with Tony and Kate in their apartment right next to Columbia, but through some miscommunication, turned out that Tony was going to be in Houston over the weekend. Doh. So I got to adventure through the streets and subways of New York carrying my bags by myself – whee! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, except that my bags got heavy too damn quick. So after grabbing the key to Tony’s apartment from a friend of his, I wandered back through Columbia and into the streets of New York – I figured, "How often can I just wander around New York?" Yeah… it was nice and warm and pretty when I was walking to Tony’s apartment, but after I got a few blocks from his apartment, the friggin’ Atlantic Ocean fell on New York at once – I actually had to duck under an awning and each the sandwich I had bought and wait for like 30 minutes, after I was completely soaked. But through a break in the rain I decided to hop on the subway and make my way to Times Square anyways, in hopes that it would clear up – which it luckily did, to a mild drizzle. I really enjoyed just walking around, admiring the sights and atmosphere. I even stopped and grabbed a slice of Sbarro’s and people watched for a while. And after seeing the North East’s representation of Texas and the official Hershey’s store, I decided to call it a day and head somewhere else – of which I aimlessly wandered failing to find Central Park. So, evening came, when Nolan could actually pick me up from Westpoint (he had a banquet), so I hopped on the train for an hour to Westpoint, and overestimated my time, and ended up waiting at the bus station at night for around 45 minutes, so I took the opportunity to snap some pictures – of which I really liked (especially the color scheme) this one, of a girl on a cell phone waiting for pretty much as long as I did. And after Nolan came, I got to crash with his very kind parents in their hotel – after I helped Nolan move out of his room - it was definitely interesting to finally see where he had spent the last four years of his life. And the next morning, (far too early), we went off to the stadium to actually see Nolan and Mel graduate at the large ceremony – culminating with a hat toss in which all the young kids could run and claim a cadet’s hat. ^_^ Afterwards, Nolan got his bars pinned on by his parents in a ceremony with his shooting team – where his superiors both essentially said, "Sean’s truly crazy, but when you tell Nolan to do something, you know it’ll get done, no matter what." So now, this guy that I grew up with is actually a 2nd leiutenant (I really like how this pic turned out) – kinda scary – but I’m really proud of you, buddy – I knew you’d be the first to finish all this ‘college’ stuff. Finally, after all the graduations, we drove out to Poughkeepsie for a fellow cadet’s wedding – at an absolutely gorgeous vineyard that night. It was then that I really got to meet Mel and see how Sean (whom I have prior referred to as Nolan) and her are together. And not only does Mel amaze me as a person, but it amazes me how happy they are together – they’re so damn in love it’s disgusting (just kidding). I’m really happy for both of you – and I’m really glad that you not only found someone that makes you both happy, but that there really seems to be a connection there – I’ve known you for a while, and I’ve never really seen you like this. Cheers to you, and cheers to Mel, buddy – here’s to happiness.

So it was a long trip, and I finally made my way back to Austin – and if I remember right, passed out on my bed for an indeterminate amount of time, only to go and do what I should have been doing for months, study for the giant physics exam that I had in a day that would decide whether I was going to graduate on time in December or not – so what do I do? I cram like a madman, only to realize at 4 am that I was most definitely not ready to take it and would most probably fail. So I postponed it again to the end of summer – and if I don’t pass it then, I. am. Screwed.

"Honestly? We’re obsessed with these games because they’re a safe way to demonstrate our superiority over other men," says Dallas Dickinson at Sony Online Entertainment. "But look at it this way: The longer our fingers spend on that controller rescuing princesses or crashing into cop cars, the happier we can make you at night. Ever notice how much precision and manual dexterity is required to control those things?"

And it was about this point that it all began – I started to work at SOE and had been working at Orientation for about a week. It all began… working mornings in NSS at 7:30 am and working until midnight in the Fishbowl, and sandwiched in there was 6 or 7 hours of Sony every day. I think I actually forgot the meaning of sleep. I’m still doing it right now – working both, so in a sense, I’m looking forward for Orientation to end, but I also know I’m really gonna miss it, because it’s actually the end. No finale, no encore, no epilogue – gotta deal with it eventually, I suppose. On the plus side, I’m getting much more responsibility at SOE, and the they’re starting to give me more critical tasks, which is pretty cool. I even have my own windows and linux box and can compile and run a local Galaxies client and server! (hey, I find it exciting).

Then comes A-kon! A completely random adventure and outing that was a lot of fun – Joe, Patrick, Mike, Weber and I crammed into Mike’s car late on the Friday before (since Joe and I have become working men we couldn’t leave until later) So, we all jam into this itty bitty Saturn and make our way to Dallas to meet up with Matt who apparently got a room that could fit like 10 people. It was a nice long drive (thanks for driving, Mike) and we ended up getting there pretty late, like 10 or 10:30ish, so we all just chilled out in the room and a few of us almost killed each over a game of Axis and Allies (Pat and I ended up both taking this shot, I never saw how his turned out) until Weber quit and Joe and I passed out, Woot – we are so exciting. But the next day… oh the next day was a blast! We, of course, slept in later than anticipated and I think we all got down to the main floor by around 11 ish and bought our day passes – whee =P. I ended up buying an autographed Neil Gaiman book very soon after from a group that donated money to budding comic book artists *shrugs* it was a good cause, and I love Neil Gaiman – shame I haven’t got a chance to read it yet… Anyways – we wandered around the Kon for pretty much the whole day, admiring the costumes and booths and anime from the various crazy people there. There’s a friggin ton of costumes, and I’ve got a bunch of the pictures here - *bonus points for who can name the most characters in the pics!* This one made me laugh out loud, and was one of the first – we went up to the game area and ran into these folks and passed by this girl. And around the floor we found this one, these people, her, him, and him, and even a pair of these. It really was a great time – we ended up only going to part of one seminar and Joe and I wandered around for most of the Con, whereas the others were… somewhere else – in one of the viewing rooms, I think. Although we did see the first episode of the new Ghost in the Shell series, perused the art gallery, and saw lots and lots of awesome stuff in the dealer’s room. But for the most part, the costumes were the most fun part – I wanna go and win something next year ^_^. There was even Pyramid Head and Jack Sparrow! Anyways – here’s a ton more of the fun costumes - lookie at all the fun pictures I got! So yeah, and then there were all the people who were actually in the cosplay contest itself. It was really a fun time, and Pat and I were going crazy taking lots of really awesome pictures (I didn’t take that one, it was actually on a website from the Kon. So, yeah – the night started to dwindle down after the cosplay contest, and Pat, me and Joe were walking around – and as we were walking – Joe stopped dead in his tracks and asked me and Pat, "Holy crap! Did you see that?"…. "See what?"…. "You didn’t see them?? The two girls from Fatal Frame? With the long hair and white robes and I just walked right in between them and I can’t see them anymore, Holy shit!" Yeah. So Fatal Frame is a FRIGGIN TERRIFYING game for the PS2, and Joe swears he saw these characters from it walking around, but no one else seems to have seen them. Anywhere. It genuinely freaked him out for a while that night, and even the day after, I think. What other game actually has "Scariest game EVER" written as a review on the back? It was pretty damn freaky. So, we retired back to the room for a good game of Munchkin, that lasted WAY too long, so Joe and I left early because we really wanted to go and find a few of the people in costumes we had seen earlier (Joe really wanted to find those two girls from Fatal Frame, because I think he was starting to believe he was the only one who saw them =P) We found a few downstairs and even got into the pit of a Japanese rock band – go figure – although it really turned out to be pretty good – even if just to laugh at them trying to communicate with the crowd with loud, rockstar-like broken english. And we came back far too late and stayed up watching terrible anime music videos, and then made our way back the next day – it really was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I got to just hang out with all the people I hadn’t really seen in a loong time.

Sequel to Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children

I started dreaming again. I don’t really know why, or what sparked it, but I definitely started dreaming again – and not even just like once, I’ve had dreams almost every night. Ever since I was a kid, I could never remember my dreams – the second I woke up, the entire thing was clear, but even in the few seconds it took me to wake up, it would fade away. It’s strange, because I haven’t dreamed in a long time – really can’t remember how long its been, minus a night here or there with a vague dream. But these dreams were so vivid, so different in topics, an immersion I haven’t felt in a long time. On Thursday (after A-Kon), I had an epic of a dream so clear and vivid that it literally took the entire day, all through work at Sony and through Fishbowl to convince myself that the world I was walking around in was real and what happened at night was purely a creation of my imagination. And the strange thing is that I still didn’t remember much of it during the day, a while after waking up, everything but a few vague images were completely gone, but I still felt that the world I was in was false. Truly an amazing feeling to be able to travel to wherever my mind might take me. However… I also experienced something that I haven’t in years that I suppose comes with dreams – nightmares – not often at all, but still vivid – and never anything like the stereotypical ones, they are all very real, in the sense that it’s not science fiction, or fantasy, it’s all just the regular world, but bizarre. Truly strange and amazing what the mind can do.

The days went by and on to the next weekend – where Nolan ended up coming up (or maybe down) to Austin, since his folks got a Lakehouse in the area, and we all went out to a good dinner at P.F.Changs with John, Pat, Kim, Mike, and Megan. I had almost forgotten Nolan’s sense of humor =P It was again, a good time, to just get away from all the stresses and kick back. And afterwards… we all went over and crashed at Joe’s for many hours, only to have many mixed drinks and play video games until wayy too late into the morning, considering all of us had to get up in the mornings. It really was a good time, though – really reminded me of the times when my friends and I just sat back and hung out and had fun without a care in the world. Good times.

You have so been owned

And of course, there’s the family – I didn’t go home for father’s day (yes, yes, I’m a terrible person) because I was dead tired from that week, and probably would have crashed my car on the long drive on 71 had I left that weekend. So I promised I’d come home the next week and bring Kim and Jennings to just relax at home for a weekend. Boyyy, was I off on that one O_O. As soon as we got into Sugar Land, we got swept up and were told we only had a little while to sit because the gurba (a giant Indian dance thing) started soon (of which I had just heard about earlier that day) so we had to change and get ready to go – no time to relax. But, we got lots of good Indian food, and it really made my parents happy that we came, plus I think my mom really enjoys having Kim around – she treats her like a daughter and is having fun showing her all kindsa Indian clothes =P. So it was a night of crazy dancing and madness. I got to see my family, though, so that was really cool – (like my uncle – the crazy guy with the orange sash in the previous picture. And after some (a lot) of coaxing and prodding, I FINALLY got Kim to try Dandia Raas, AND admit that she liked it - ^_~ So there. We even got a family picture while we were there – (my dad’s side) after we were all gross and sweaty from jumping around for a while. So it turned out to be fun – and it was really good to see my parents enjoying themselves – I haven’t really seen them much at all in a really long time. And here’s a great picture of Kim in her sari, and my little cousin Sahil. Oh yeah, and then there’s the cat with whom my entire family fell in love with – even my dad, who hasn’t had pets since he was a young kid when he had lots of little rabbits =P Jennings has already convinced my sister that she wants to get a cat, and has almost convinced my parents of the same thing. Fortunately, Saturday was much more relaxing, and the only real thing we did during the day was go to get some food from the Indian store – along with four – count them FOUR – cans of the Amul cheese (an Indian cheese made from goat milk) that Kim absolutely FELL IN LOVE with – she can’t stop eating the stuff – it’s crazy. =P Yeah, that and Kim got Jennings a new toy – a small purple penguin filled with catnip… That poor thing didn’t know what it was in for. So the cat threw this thing around in the air and flung it around like he was out for blood – it was genuinely scary at times. And then, he tired himself out. And then later that night, it was off to another family friend’s – where were barraged by family friends who all mentioned the Dean’s Dozen for me and the doctorate for my sister – why you ask? Because my parent’s wrote an article about it in the local paper! Yes, I’m serious – just look for yourself. Oy – my parents are nuts -_- So we sat outside and had some more good indian food for a while. The depressing part was when my sister pointed out the fact that my dad was inside, sitting by himself. My father used to be the most social person in the world, always a smile on his face, talking to anyone and making new friends – but recently his health has started to go – it turns out that he was inside because of his ear – the noise outside was too much, it was just a lot of garbled mess to him. My father had heart surgery a year and a half ago, and before that, he was having some problems with his hearing in one of his ears. Again, he used to love his indian music, dancing around the house and blasting his music. She continued to mention the fact that he was losing his memory as well, couldn’t remember things as well, his mind wasn’t as keen as it used to be. He’s taken care of us for so long, and I don’t think he could stop if he wanted to, I just hate to see him so sad – I can’t find anything else that makes him happy recently. Turns out he’ll never get the hearing back in one of his ears because of some damage to the nerves in the area, and its probably contributing to his lack of memory. I’ve neglected him, my sister and my mother for so long, and now I feel like I’m already losing him, he repeats things he’s told me before like I’ve never heard them, and he’s just not as happy as he used to be, and I’m not ready to let go - I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I barely slept that night. I just couldn’t stop crying.

The next day we woke up early in the morning and got all dressed up to attend an Indian wedding (the same couple that held the gurba on that past Friday). So we drove out to memorial park for the ceremony – it really was a pretty ceremony, and its always interesting to see how people make those occasions their own. The basic portions are the same, and we had my father’s sister translating from Gujrati to Hindi and my mother translating from Hindi to English, telling Kim, me and my sister what was going on, to some extent. It had been a long time since I had put on a Kurta pajama (that Indian thing I was wearing in the It was nice to see, and everyone was going photo crazy – so there were people everywhere. Anyhow, at the end we had to leave right after eating a traditional Gujrati lunch, to rush home, hop in the shower, and catch Michelle and her family at Macaroni Grill (since I really hadn’t talked to her for quite a while – minus one late night multi-hour conversation a week or so back – but that’s what all of our conversations seems to be, and that’s what friends are for ^_^). So I finally got to see her parents again (whom I haven’t seen in a good four years or so) which was a lot of fun, and afterwards, Shell and I exchanged at good pile of presents each to each other, since we had been backed up for over a year each of Christmases and birthdays – so I got a gorgeous framed picture of the Eiffel tower (from when I was in Paris), a book on Picasso, a few trinkets from places that we had shopped at last time we hung out, including a cool tabletop photo collage thing that I need to fill with pictures, and a really nice, thick sketchbook with a few things written and pasted inside the cover – honestly, the power and meaning behind some words can be much nicer than any gift you could buy in a store. Thanks Shell – I love the gifts. ^_^

Crazy music and web animation, whee!

So Kim and I drove back that day, and ended up getting in kinda late on Sunday and Kim wanted to go to get some a book on Indian culture, so we ended up heading to Barnes and Noble only to realize it closes early on Sunday. So on the advice of my sister, we decided to go to Bookpeople. Now for those of you that don’t know what Bookpeople is, it’s a giant Bookstore that is known as one of Austin’s "things" – like a "Keep Austin weird" thing. Never really been there, so I didn’t know what all the hype was about – but when I went there… Holy Crap O_O that place was huge, and had every type of book and random stuff you could ever imagine – it was truly awesome. I think we ended up spending like an hour and a half there. While flipping through the newsletter, I stumbled across something that looked interesting – "Found" – a collection from a magazine by the name – all collections of random snippets of people’s life that the authors (and other people that sent stuff in) stumbled across. From scribbled break up notes, to do lists to old receipts and essays – it’s a really random but interesting book. It kinda allows you to just sit down for a minute and live out a few moments of someone’s life – someone you’ve probably never met – pretty interesting feeling. So I searched around for it, and ended up picking it up without so much as flipping through it simply because the idea was so interesting. I also ended up getting a paperback of the compilation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Kim bought a really cool Celtic necklace as well as a few books, All in all, Kim and I spent over a hundred dollars on a whim there O_O. It was a lot of fun, and I ended up reading "Found" cover to cover within about three days. Yeah – desperately need to stay away from Bookpeople, for my wallets’ sake at least.

Then comes the weekend of July 4th – yay! So July 2nd was Kim and I’s 2 year anniversary – long time, neh? Happy Anniversary, Baby! ^_^ We didn’t really have much planned at all except to spend some time together and relax, so we did just that – just kinda hung out and passed out on Friday, our actual anniversary (quite boring that day, honestly, because we were both so tired) and the next day we just slept in, and then decided to go spend money – so we went to the mall (she wanted a new bathing suit, since we were going to Sean’s parent’s Lakehouse on the 4th) and looked around, and bought some stuff – it was fun to finally not have any strict plans to adhere by. And to end the night, we went to Shoreline Café at the Four Seasons – a very nice restaurant with some very good seafood – plus we ordered far too many drinks and desserts – it was a good time, and very relaxing ^_^.She got me some fun stuff for our anniversary, but I’m a horrible person and haven’t finished her gift yet. I’m working on it though! It’ll be worth the wait ^_^

Some serious mind games

So on the 4th, we all met up, niiiice and late, compared to when we wanted to actually leave, and me, Mike, Kim, Robert, and Pat all got together to pick up snacks and stuff to get over to Sean’s, and after a few hours of scouring HEB (multiple times), visiting liquor stores, only to find out that it’s illegal to sell hard liquor on Sundays, multiple calls to Sean and Mel’s voicemails, and a stop at Jack in the Box, we finally ended up at the Lakehouse around 1:30 or 2 ish, I think. Again, it was nice to see Sean’s parents and family since it had been a really long time since I had done so, and they’re all very nice people who I grew up knowing. So soon, we all changed and were out on the lake – woo hoo! We, of course, had to try the jetskis, and Sean took me out for a ride, and after about 10 minutes of driving around, flying over the wake of boats, flung me off on a sharp turn. But, he got it back, cuz when we switched places, I think I launched him far enough to do a full somersault in the air before hitting the water… oops =P But it really is a blast to be flying over the water at like 50 miles an hour, smashing into waves. And then I got Kim to actually ride with me, and it took a good 10 minutes to even convince her that it was safe to go full speed, and there was a constant "AAAAAAGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!" coming from behind me. These are literally the conversations we had on the jetski – Kim: "AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!", Me: (slowing down) "Are you ok?", Kim: "Yeah, I’m just screaming." … yeah. So, it took another like 10 minutes to convince her to let me actually go over some waves, but I think she had fun =P. Time passed by quickly, and after sitting outside and talking (and just about everyone falling asleep), Sean felt it necessary to drag Mel into the water, since everyone had just dried off. Yup, that’s Sean, alright. Then, we ascended the thousand stairs back up to the lakehouse, and got a few drinks, had some good barbecue, and just sat outside and talked, admiring the view – it really was an awesome, relaxing time. And as it got dark, Spencer (Sean’s younger brother) and his dad went and set off some fireworks - it was really cool, because from up at his lakehouse, you could see everyone who was setting off fireworks all around the lake – the entire horizon was filled with tiny little firework bursts in the distance. And Pat and I, were, of course, snapping pictures left and right as we all talked when the sun had said its goodbyes, and his camera found the ground outside, and the lens cap was jammed on – I pried off the cap with my knife, but the filter was most definitely sacrificed for the better good of the camera. Finally, the night came to a close with Kim and I not going home that night as we had originally planned (she had to be at work the next morning at 7:45), and instead stayed up watching Canadian Bacon until everyone got tired and passed out. All in all, a lot of fun – except for the waking up a 5 am the next morning and forgetting my new flip-flops there. Doh. -_-

So the next day, after passing out for a few hours, I went to Orientation to see opening session – good job Student Sessions! – and worked in the fishbowl –here’s the view from here about 80% of the time. Exciting, no? Yeah, turns out to be a little more exciting than originally anticipated – it all started at about 8:30 ish, when I got a call from one of our OAs – Javier – "Uhm… Vijay? Yeah, I’m stuck in the Jester elevator with about 22 other guys… can you call someone to get us out of here?" Yeah, it was really funny at the time, but got a little less funny a but later. So, we called Jester West, and they assured us that they’d have someone there soon… so we waited for a bit… and some guy came about 5 minutes later, and knocked on the door, asked how they were doing, etc. So, they called back again after about 20 minutes had passed, and I told them that we just had to wait until the elevator guy would come, and it could be up to 40 minutes or so, and they said they might have a medical emergency, because it was really hot, and there was not much ventilation in there, and they were sweating bullets. Give it another 10 minutes, and UTPD came – twice, so there were four police officers, standing around, doing nothing (they had to be called on scene, but they couldn’t do anything) So we waited, and waited – eventually went and bought 25 waters or so on my meal card for when they got out. We talked to them a few times, but unless it was a true medical emergency, they just had to wait. So more time passes… and more… and after they had been in this elevator for a little over an hour, the elevator guy finally shows up – turns out, that for some reason, the University hires their elevator repair employees from San Antonio, so if anything every happens, someone has to drive from there to here (about an hour) to do anything. So he came, and slid the equivalent of a bent coat hanger into the top of the elevator, and got the door opened – meanwhile, I went down to the basement (all this was happening on the third floor) Turns out that what had happened was that the weight caused the brakes to not slow the elevator fast enough, and the elevator was half on the first floor and half on the basement, so the guy came down to the basement and opened the door, only to see about two feet of the bottom of the elevator, and lots of feet – so I shoved the box of water bottles in there, and they picked them up and started chugging, because they were all dehydrated. And at this point, the Jester West guy and the FOUR police officers were literally just standing around staring as me and the elevator repair guy were discussing what to do – because it was a safety hazard to bring them out now, since the elevator shaft was exposed under them, and they could fall backwards into it. After a little while, I assured him it would be ok, and showed him how we could prevent it if we stood on both sides, and we both braced behind each of them and slowly got them down by supporting their legs. So, me and the elevator repair person get all 23 people out of the elevator one by one, and the police officers just stand and watch. Literally, every one of them was soaked head to toe in sweat – I was honestly surprised no one passed out. It was definitely an experience, and I’m glad that everyone was ok – definitely not what I expected to be doing on the first day back to work…

This land is my land

And speaking of work – the conclusion of Orientation came faster than ever this year, probably because I didn’t spend much time at all down here. So that Thursday was the OA banquet, a big, semi-formal extravaganza where awards are given out and a good time is had by all. And this year, it was at Dave and Buster’s ^_^ (although I really did like the feel of the Old Pecan Street Café). It was definitely a fun time – and was very strange going and not really being a part of the full time staff. It was much more laid back this year in comparison to my previous years, and then ended up giving out nine awards!!! (Normally there are only 3 – 4!) With 4 to the third years, 3 to returners, and 2 to new orientation advisors, that is a whole hell of a lot of awards. And one of those returners and another who won an award last year are going to be third years next year – I’m really happy for them, and a little jealous, because I think I still have a lot to give orientation and a lot to take (on a personal level), but my time in the sun has past, and I just have to accept that. And honestly, made me sad that I didn’t get one my second year, because I worked a whole hell of a lot, almost non-stop that year. Anyways, that’s irrelevant. It was a fun time, and was the last real time that I would see most of these people in a large group setting, especially sad because of my wonderful supervisors. Cristi (the one with the knife) has been my supervisor for the last 4 years, the entire time I’ve been at college, and she is a spectacular person – I don’t know how I’m going to make it through next summer without her kind heart, sense of humor, and laughter. Kristen (the one biting Cristi’s neck), Kyle, and Mary Beth are the other supervisors, and Jenn (whom I shared an office with last year) and Jess are the Graduate Assistants – all people I will miss tremendously – so much so that in the last year or so I have seriously considered going to graduate school here at UT in Higher Education to continue working with them, or at least to eventually grow into that position. Anyways – too many dreams, only one life. Anyways, moving on – banquet went well, food and all, and we all ended up at Dave and Buster’s playing games, and watching Kristen cram a giant gumball into her mouth. It was a really fun time – I played a few games and Kim showed off what could potentially be a chronic gambling problem with that coin game where you try and push coins off the ledge to get tickets – she used all of her card, half of mine, and another twenty dollars worth packed on one of the cards. She ended up with over 4200 tickets in all! So we walked out of Dave and Buster’s at 11:30 (well after everyone else) with 2 shot glasses, 2 martini glasses, 2 beer glasses, a pen, 4 leopard candles, and some random accessories for some friends around us. It was a good time – and then we all went back to our respective places (after going to Walmart to buy a gameboy game for the bus trip the next day) to get some sleep before coming back to Jester far too early in the morning to get on the bus to New Orleans!

So I decided to go with the OAs this year to their annual trip to New Orleans – I figured I needed a break from everything this summer and it should be a fun time – besides, I wanted to meet some of the people that I didn’t get to spend time with over the summer. It was a fun trip, as Jay put in movies through the whole bus trip, and Kim and I sat next to Zach and Ciri, so between the random naps from all of us, I got to chat up the video games some =P And then there’s the psycho bus driver… this guy MUST have been insane – speeding down the roads, honking at every car along the way, tailgating within inches. Oy. He even cut off (in traffic) about 100 cars in a freeway split and then proceeded to honk like crazy, and then he made a U-turn on Canal street and blocked 4 lanes of traffic, and then sped down Bourbon street and parked in a fire lane in front of the hotel – it was absolutely terrifying. It was a good time full of drunken debauchery and lots and lots of food – all of the 21+ people went over to Pat O’ Brien’s the first night, and then to Café du Monde, and to crash from the long day. Then, we wandered to the French Market – full of lots of random trinkets, lots of food (and hot sauce) and all kinds of people making and trying to sell things. I snapped what I thought was an interesting shot of one of the craftsmen carving out an image in a block of wood. I really liked how it turned out – I especially like the hands. So then we were off to go see more of the sights of New Orleans, mostly in little gift-type shops every step along the way with some really funny stuff. And we, of course, took pictures along the way. And after the long walk around New Orleans, we needed more food, and proceeded to find a place, Petunia’s (recommended by the concierge) that had the largest frickin’ crepes you’ve ever seen. And it was good. We even took a tour of the Garden District, the area of New Orleans with all the huge, fancy houses that you hear about. We even saw a gated mansion community. Yeah. It looked as ridiculous as it sounds. Then, it was back to the hotel to kick back – and then – MORE FOOD! Here we have Jimmy, who ordered the fried seafood platter and Mike Anderson’s – a veritable mountain of fried-from-the-sea goodness. O_O And then it was off to possibly my favorite place in New Orleans – Preservation Hall – a very small, live Jazz venue – we’ve gone there every year, and the shows never cease to amaze me – we ended up staying for two full sets of about an hour a piece, and it turns out the last set was all requests – as sparked by one of the OAs – Javier who put in 5 of the 10 bucks to request the Saints. It was awesome – and I finally got a shirt from there, and one for my old co-chair Aurlie, who’s in Japan. And after that, we wandered around Bourbon again, and Kim and I wanted to get the "official drink of Bourbon" – or at least that drink everyone had – the Hand Grenade - the thing’s got like 7 shots in it, and I bet Kim she wouldn’t finish it, and sure enough, she ended up finishing it … about three hours later… Needless to say, those drinks are strong! O_O So, I had been craving a good Irish Car Bomb the whole time I was there (very photographic drink, isn’t it?) And I even got two other guys, Dan and Jeff to have one with me (and admit that it’s damn good) Just kinda sucks that the guy at the bar charged a ton for them, and only filled the glasses half full… bastard… And after sitting at the outdoor section of a nice Irish pub, we headed over to Café du Monde again for some of their awesome beignets. And then we wandered back to the hotel and passed out until the next morning only to bid Bourbon adieu and prepare for the long bus ride home. (That last picture is actually my favorite picture from the whole trip – I love how the light plays on all the cloth and other surfaces, and how Ciri’s form makes a crescent on the side of the picture – I just really like how it turned out, and it’s one of those pictures taken by blindly pointing the camera in a direction and clicking – go figure).

Most random quote up from the last two months:
"Can I just come to your wedding and like be with you forever?" – Ciri
I think that’s what I get for stepping outside the fishbowl…

So, anyone that’s actually spoken on heard from me at all in the last seven months has heard all about my Paypal fiasco. If not, refer to this, this, and this. There – all caught up? Well, picking up from that last post, it was almost two weeks ago when I got the email from Paypal – "We have decided that it was the best decision to return the money to the seller." … As you can imagine, at this point, I am frickin’ furious – After all this mess, all the frustrations with the guy in the first place, and then he claims that the funds he sent me for the refund were fraudulent, and now, after I sent TONS of evidence that proves he’s lying, after two months of investigation, Paypal decided to give him the money, and all this happens as I am casually coming home to check my mail before I go over to Kim’s on our anniversary – I am frickin’ pissed. So I call up their customer service line, and thankfully got a very nice woman who helped me, (cuz I know I was an angry caller for the first 5 minutes or so) – after hearing my story, I asked if I could appeal the decision, and she also told me that they won’t remove the funds from my bank account – they’ll send a collection agency after 120 days. Then she told me to email them at pending_reversal@paypal.com … wait… that looked kinda familiar, so I told her to hang on as I looked something up – yup, I had been emailing pending-reversal@paypal.com – which is the email address they sent me in the original email – frickin’ wonderful – Paypal never got any of my thousand emails and other information I sent them. So I email them, and get no response, so I try the webform on their customer service site, and the first response is nice, basically says, "Sorry to hear that, send more information." And after that it only gets worse – they email me back saying "You’re not eligible for seller protection, so you can’t appeal." I tell them I am appealing based on the fact that they never got my information, and they say – get this – "Sorry we never got your information, but it really wouldn’t have changed our decision." What. The. Fuck. I email again, going off, this is getting ridiculous – they ignore the fact that they didn’t get my side of the story, telling my about the fact that I’m not eligible for seller protection (DUH, I wasn’t a seller!). That, and these emails take them like a good two days or so to respond to each, so this is spread over like a week or so – and when I came back from New Orleans (see previous paragraph) I got an email from them – "Oh. I didn’t realize you were not the seller, I cancelled the original payment to him and removed your negative balance." … … … *angelic music in the background* HALLELUJAH! So, this fiasco has finally (god-willing) met its conclusion. I don’t think there is anything else the crazy bastard could do to try to get that money back – thank god. Needless to say, at this point, I was excited, I was really convinced I had already lost the money, and had spent the last week convincing myself that it really wasn’t a big deal – it’s only money – there could be worse things to lose. But the next day, the sun was brighter, the day was nicer, and everything just seemed much… better. I really was amazed at how much this Paypal thing had brought me down, it was constantly looming over my head, and honestly put me in a bad mood for, no joke, seven months. It really is sad how much stock I held in some money, that I actually let it destroy my mood that much and for that long. It’s just money – it can be replaced. I think it was because I had done nothing wrong, all I tried to do was buy this tablet on eBay, and all this crap went down. Anyways, it’s done, and I’m sorry for the crummy mood I was in (especially to Kim), because I know she got brought down every time I brought it up, cuz it really, really brought me down and I know it frustrated her that I couldn’t stop talking about it. But it’s DONE and I got my money back! ^_^

And now Orientation comes to a close – it’s actually the last day as I type this, and it just feels like another phase. It gets more and more sad each time, just because I know from my past experiences, that as each of these years end, so do the friendships from the years – over the past four years of doing this, I still have a tiny handful of people that I still keep in touch with – and that’s what makes me sad – is that each of those friendships and bonds with people that I made probably won’t last – because everyone gets busy, and it’s easy to forget about Orientation. I hope I do better about it this year, but I honestly don’t know. So if any OAs read this, or know OAs, post a comment, email me, IM me – I’d love to hear from any of you guys and hear how you’re doing.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2004 6:32 PM
To: Vijay
Subject: FW: Praise for Vijay

I praised you among the leads, and through you should know about it. j

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2004 6:30 PM
To: SWOLeads
Subject: Praise for Vijay

FYI, this is the bootleg I put together super quick for the designers still using old systems. Vijay took the initiative on himself to download it, test it, and bless it for the designers. He totally kicks ass. j

(Jeff - j - is my boss at Sony ^_^)

So yeah, that’s what’s been going on in my life for the last two months – it’s been quite a ride, and as Orientation ends for the last time for me, and I bump up into full-time with SOE, and I have to move and get ready for school, things are changin’ yet again. We’ll see where this takes me, I suppose…

Damn – if you actually got all the way down here you probably read this whole damn thing – if you actually DID, you deserve something to show for it, cuz DAMN, that’s a lot of reading just cuz you were curious about me or bored – so if you read this whole post, post a comment up on it, and I’ll take you out to a free dinner at some point – cuz I always like to spend time with friends, and I miss you guys. ^_^

Thanks for reading about me! ^_^