September 2007 Archives

Nice, very nice

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Linden Lab - creator of Second Life - sent me a mail yesterday that they will now (the law has been into effect from July 1st, 2007) be complying with EU tax regulations and charge my account accordingly. My Second Life just got 20.5% more expensive.

More information at the Official Linden Blog (Questions about VAT?), on my Second Life blog (virtualSecond Blog) and I submitted the story to slashdot.

Knowing thyself

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Lol, I love it when I'm right. It confirms that I know what I'm doing, and that I either did my homework or that my intuition was spot on. For those of you thinking that this is just (another) egocentric blog entry, you are correct, grin.

I "predicted" that the curse of the blue window was caused by "an old and possibly no longer installed photo manipulation program. After launching ProcessExplorer and popping the Compact Flash card into the reader, a process "agent.exe" started and that lead me to Spector Photo/Imaging. After verifying with the computer owner, it turns out he had that installed long time ago - it hadn't been used since June 2006 according to the installed program list. One uninstall and cold boot later, the mysterious blue window is gone for good.

I'm good. I may not be modest, but I'm so damn good ;-)

Digging Deep into the Core

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Went to the movies with J. last night and after a good meal we ended up watching Disturbia. Not a bad movie, but not spectacular either. I'd label it as "mindless filler thriller" if I had to. Nevertheless, fun was had.

Today I'm returning to a client that had called in my help last week, and while it seemed all the issues were successfully tackled, he did mail me that one wasn't fixed. Allow me to quickly describe what happens, and what my plan of attack is for today :

As soon as the customer pops a CF card in his card reader, or connects his digital camera to the computer, a blue window pops up. Not a blue screen, phew, but a blue window. There is no text on this window, not even a title bar, no buttons to push, and no way to close it again. We can slide it to the side, but it remains an irritating bugger.

So, as I was unable to find out last week what program was causing the issue - I'm guessing an old and possible no longer installed photo manipulation program - today I've expanded my toolkit with ProcessExplorer V11.02, and if that doesn't tell me what program is launching that broken pop up window, then nothing will I guess. So, the plan of attack is quite simple, though potentially full of obstacles as well :

1. Install ProcessExplorer
2. Connect CF Card or camera
3. Wait for blue window to appear
4. Find process that changed or appeared
5. Find out what program is connected to the process
6. Look online to find updates or tech support for said program
7. Fix the issue and head back home

Ash to the rescue

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I should have known that Ash would come to the rescue and provide all of us with a detailed explanation on what exactly half a bathroom is. Ash rocks :-)

Nadia rocks too, for getting her system up to 90% safety. Not yet quite there, but probably outranking 99% of all the systems in use around the globe. And believe me when I say that even small efforts help a lot.

Later tonight I'll be off to the movies with J. after we had something to eat. Currently considering Disturbia and Ratatouille although the latter doesn't really spike my interest. Guess we'll decide when we are there. Up on the list to watch this week are The Simpsons Movie and 28 weeks later - maybe I should first watch the earlier movies?

On the release calendar, Sicko (a new Michael Moore movie) seems interesting, and I've placed a big red cross next to Planet Terror, the counterpart of Deathproof in the Grindhouse series.

Working towards a safer experience

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I was looking at some website statistics and it turns out that a whopping 68.8% of my visitors have an older (and insecure) version of the Adobe flash player installed in their browser. Let's all work together to get that percentage down, shall we?

Get Adobe Flashplayer. Latest release for windows is 9.0 r47, latest release for linux is 9.0 r48.

After installing, try removing files of the old install that may be scattered all over your harddisk. An easy way to find out where those are lurking is by using the secunia Personal Software Inspector, which can be downloaded here : Secunia PSI (0.1.0.2 beta).

That's it for now, I'm off to install and educate an end-user on using POPfile to help him deal with spam. It'll be a long day...

Looking ahead, staring in the distance

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You may have picked up that I was looking at some new options over the past couple of weeks, but I remained rather hush about it. I had and still have my reasons to fly under the radar and not blog about all that relates to work as openly as I used to do. For the time being it may seem as "back to square one", though that is far from accurate. Nothing was lost and a lot was gained in the process of working one of the opportunities, so in the end I benefit, which is always a good thing I suppose. Hence the referral to Pink's 18 wheeler lyrics a couple of posts ago.

That what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger. The more you beat me down, the more powerful and agile I will rise and stand up against you. Each blow is reduced to a mere punch. I absorb the power, reverse and channel it into my own positive self. Negative emotions and feelings I shake off, and I see them fall down like water that runs off a feather.

Off to look at new horizons!

Mexico, Mexiiiiiicoooooooh!

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When I think of Mexico, I think sombreros, Tequila and definitely Corona - spice it all up a bit with desert and cacti and you've got the holiday vision of someone who's never been to Mexico.

But what is Mexico really like? Is it a rich country, is it a poor country, what problems does it have and what benefits or definite "must see" destinations are there? I decided to take a look at Real Estate in Mexico to get an idea about it.

Aha, the site has a nice map of Mexico, which always helps people that are new to the country and have no sense of orientation. And there wasn't a serious hurricane in the last 35 years it seems, something that is also rather assuring and those tend to... well, rip up real estate a bit :)

OK, so Mexico is my destination for today's post. Let's see what kind of housing we can find there and what it would cost me to actually live under the Mexican sun. Puerto Vallarta Real Estate shows me a collection of villas, condos and land to pick from. I'm not going to be cheap here, so I'm going straight for a nice villa referred to as Prototype A-3. Not the sexiest of names if you ask me, but hey... I'll name my property however I like later. Built on over 2,700 square feet, it comes with a two cars parking space, 4 bedrooms, a pool and terrace. Kitchen, 3 and a half bathroom - the concept of half a bathroom is not that clear to me, but I guess I'll see it when I step in - living room, dining room, service room and TV room are included as well of course. All of that goodness located in a complex (overview here) which was built for those with a busy life yet looking to relax in a refuge with beauty and security.

I have to admit that Real Estate Mexico has plenty of options - I'll have to add Mexico to my list of countries to escape to when life here gets on my nerves :)

Remember that Mexico also is host for La Carrera Panamericana, so all you race fans, pay notice!

I'm exhausted, more to come soon

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It's been a long, very long day and I'm exhausted. While work was not all that exciting or even challenging, for some reason I'm just beat today. I'll be heading off to bed any minute now, after given Tai a cuddle.

I'll release more info on a bunch of things tomorrow as I've got a full to do list cut out already. However, believe it or not : these lyrics perfectly describe my answer to whatever is thrown at me :

Can't keep me down
Can't keep me down, down
Can't keep me down
I said you can't keep me down
You know you can't keep me down
I said you can't keep me down
Hey, hey, man! What's your problem?
I see you tryin' to hurt me bad
Don't know what you're up against
Maybe you should reconsider
Come up with another plan
Cuz you know I'm not that kinda girl
That'll lay there and let you come first
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a fuck
You can hang me like a slave
I'll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down, down, down, down
Can't keep me down, down
Can't keep me down, down, down
Can't keep me down, down
Hey, hey, girl! Are you ready for today?
You got your shield and sword?
Cuz its time to play the games
You are beautiful
Even though your not for sure
Don't let him pull you by the skirt
You're gonna get your feelings hurt
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a fuck
You can hang me like a slave
I'll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down, down, down, down
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a fuck
You can hang me like a slave
I'll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down, down, down, down
Everywhere that I go
There's someone waitin' to chain me
Everything that I say
There's someone tryin' to short change me
I am only this way
Because of what you have made me
And I'm not gonna break!
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a fuck
You can hang me like a slave
I'll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a
I won't give a fuck!!
You can hang me like a slave
I'll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down, down, down, down, down, down, no, no
You can push me out the window
I'll just get back up (I'll just get back up)
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won't give a fuck (you can try - I won't give up)
You can hang me like a slave (hahaha)
I'll go underground (I'll go underground, ground, ground ground..)
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but
You can't keep me down, down, down, down (Can't keep me down!!!)

Bring out the duck tape!

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Just a quick entry pointing to Doomwatchers sound Windows and IE vuln alarm. "Vuln" of course is shorthand for vulnerability and for those of you not planning on actually reading the article, here's a quick rundown of important details :

1. vulnerabilities in windows API libraries MFC42 and MFC71. Scope : could be very broad as all sorts of third party applications could rely on these libraries to perform searches on windows OS based computers. Solution : none for now.

2. flaw in Apple QuickTime, allowing people to pass malicious code to Internet Explorer. Same bug and proof-of-concept exploit code exists for mozilla firefox. Scope : bad, as most systems have QT installed and users consider movie files to be harmless. Solution : Apple hasn't released a patch yet. Firefox released a patched version of their browser to prevent abuse on Tuesday. Update to firefox 2.0.0.7.

3. vulnerability in Windows Media Player 9 series. Scope : broad as WMP 9 is the default player for windows XP SP2 systems, and even with automatic windows updates on, one is never prompted to install an update. Solution : update to Windows Media Player 10 or 11.

Solving cases and defending solutions

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Today I was handed a case that outlined a specific situation that was occurring, and I had to come up with a solution, and present and defend the measures I took before a 4 headed jury. I had around 30 minutes to prepare and make notes.

Presenting and defending the case took less than ten minutes, as the jury interrupted me after I was done with point 2 out of 4. Apparently they were rather pleased with what they had heard so they didn't feel the need to continue discussing my solution.

Off to work now!

*GONE*

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Just a quick entry for now, I may come back later and expand it, or add a new post depending on available time and necessity to inform.

I've got at least two new paid for posts to write for this blog, it really seems people - and companies - related to satellite TV and divorces think I am the bomb. Well, I am of course and I'm very modest and humble as well, grin. So look or avoid them as I bring at least one of them online over the next couple of days. While you may or may not like them, they increasingly do pay the bill of hosting and keeping this blog self sustained.

I need some food, have a shave and *POOF*

Sharp knives cut well

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No doubt most of you people know that the title applies to pretty much anything in life, but mostly to cutting food. If you want to perform at your best, you better take care of your tools and make sure you got the appliances that are right for the job. If you think refrigerators or wine coolers, Danby Appliances are the brand to remember. Delivering truly the finest, you can simply not go wrong with their tools. It doesn't even matter if you're a chef or a single mum, a daily kitchen user or more of a microwave specialist. No matter how much you actually like spending time in the kitchen, that Danby Refrigerator keeps your cheese from sweating, the milk from going sour and your beer ice cold.

Hmmm... Ice cold beer. Yeah, there's also a specialized Danby Beer Dispenser that'll hold and cool half a keg of beer. You'll never have had that much buddies on that hot summer day :)

Ok, so you're more of a caterer then a home cook? You want to easily store and transport your delicious food creations to and from your working area to the fridges? Take a peek at the Avanti Appliances, will you? Maple Top kitchen carts, or do you dig the John Boos Cucina Avanti Outdoor Kitchen Cart in stainless steel more? Rest assured that it'll serve its purpose on those long summer barbecues that usually ends with Uncle Eddy tripping and falling in the pool.

Food

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It took me just over two hours to check the system - which was rather up to date to be honest - and come up with a solution to what was basically a user error (solution : explain and teach the user) and install some patches. My daily bills are paid for the week :)

RIght now while Tai is sitting outside sunbathing - he already walked the railing again, so I chased him down - I'm having a baguette and an extremely dry pork sausage. It's so dry I can't even peel off the skin, so I'm eating it. If I shit wrapped poo later this week, I'll know why, lol.

I picked up some fresh raw tuna and I'll make myself sushi rolls tonight - I'm already drooling just thinking about it! Note : yes I'm aware that blue fin tuna is going extinct. I watched a very interesting documentary about it a couple of weeks ago, but I can't recall the name of it. All the more reason to eat some while I still can. (Totally irresponsible, but I can't save the wold every second of every day, now can I?)

Oh, look... an update!

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Very quick update. Off to shower and shave, then I gotta be somewhere to do a general checkup on a computer. I've been spending very much time in Second Life and on building a website related to my activities there. Feel free to go take a peek at virtualSecond. More work needs and will be done, I for once didn't get round to uploading a ton of photographs of the new sim and land for sale, but I expect that to happen today.

Joco, I didn't notice your call till past twelve PM last night so I'm gonna be calling you today.

Dishing out some Action with ActionDish

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You see them in the streets; you see them on the side of apartment buildings, high rises and even on the roof of news vans: Satellite Dishes. Sure enough hundreds and thousands of subscribers can't be wrong, now can they? I took a look at the Dish Network website and could hardly believe my eyes. They've got tons of Dish Network Deals, where you pick the offer that suits you best and they throw in a ton of extras. Take for example the Digital Home Advantage Offer : free installation, satellite TV in up to four rooms - no more work to do yourself - and a free DVR, HD or HD DVR upgrade (for first time residential customers).

If you realize that their Dish Network Offers come with 3 free months of HBO and Cinemax, you'd have to be blind not to sign up. HBO, that's the station that brought us The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex and The City and Deadwood, remember?! Hour after hour access to the best stations, premium movies packages and every sport and sports channel you can dream of. Free installations in the US and all the international content you want, whether it is Chinese (Great Wall Package), Italian, French or German.

You won't believe your eyes...

Think, Verify, Send

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As comments get less attention than regular entries, I've taken the liberty to turn Shava Nerad's comment into a full post, as he or she points out some very important points in regards to security on the internet, and not just when using tor. Thanks for the feedback and time, Shava!

Thanks for your defense of Tor! I need to point out that, although the Tor network was used in this case, probably millions of usernames and passwords are exposed on unencrypted wireless, daily, all over the world.

It is important, I think, to understand that you should never give a username and password to a web site that has an "http" address, only to "https" addresses. A connection through Tor can be encrypted end-to-end -- but only if one is communicating with a secure protocol -- https: or encrypted chat both would be examples of this.

We are very careful, usually, to only put a credit card into a web page that has a "lock" symbol in the corner of the browser window. Everyone should be equally careful never to give a username and password to a page that is not "locked" -- not secure.

You should at the least use different passwords for insecure accounts, like those at theregister.co.uk and wired.com (which ran the embassy story today), which ask you to give a username/password on an unencrypted link. But even this can open you up to people posting things you wouldn't wish to have said in your name.

It is only through understanding our security online -- through understanding tools such as Tor, and what https: means, and what a phishing attack is, and so on, that we can manage our risks online.

The last node through which traffic passes in the Tor network does not in fact need to pass data to the destination unencrypted -- if the origin and destination are using a protocol that supports encryption.

You wouldn't say that the people who make your backup software are at fault if they don't force you to back up your files regularly. We, like the backup software creator, warn people in our documentation that the protection of Tor is not foolproof without educated and disciplined use. And like backup software, if you don't use it right, it can do nothing to change what has already occurred.

We have advised, and continue to advise users of the Tor network to use encryption end-to-end whenever it is prudent and/or possible. But those end-to-end encrypted products (https, encrypted versions of email and chat) are available to the users in many forms -- it would not be proper for us to dictate what people should use, but only encourage them to take precautions.

Shava Nerad
Development Director
The Tor Project

Don't look away, read and learn!

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While this may seem a bit of a technical entry again, I urge everyone even slightly interested in the internet, computers and communications to read on. In the long run, you will be affected whether you like it or not.

First, I'd like to point you to an article talking about the recent Storm Worm, a malicious piece of software that is believed to have created a gigantic bot net consisting of up to 10,000,000 machines. This puts a whole lot of processing power into the hands of people with less then honest intentions. In fact, the Storm botnet can easily withstand performance comparisons with super computers used for research purposes. Are you a part of it?

Then we get to the question : who has to clean up the mess? Are ISP's to allowed to intervene and cut the connection of infected machines on their network? Or are the users responsible to keep their machines clean and uninfected? What if they don't? My answer would be quick and decisive : infected machine on the network? Cut the connection and stop the spreading and attempts to infect others. That solves the short term problem, and forces the user to take action. Yes, they may pack up their bags and sign up with another ISP, but really... do you want infected machines on your network? I'd say no. Full article can be found here : ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster.

You may also have heard about a recent breach in security that spilled the login ID's and passwords of the email accounts of embassy personnel all over the world. Today he published details and admitted that he used the distributed anonymity service tor to accomplish his goals. Tor is nothing but a tool, it's not a virus, it's not spyware and it's not malicious. Don't blame the tool for being used maliciously. Think of it as a hammer. You can use it to drive nails into wood and build yourself a home, but you can also use it to break the glass of a car, to attack a bank runner or to kill someone. We don't go around yelling hammers should be illegal, do we?

With the recent mentioning of tor in the embassy e-mail heist and it being abused by the Storm Worm bot net as well (this time not as a tool, but rather by spreading an infected file posing to be the official tor software) I can see people getting concerned about tor, yet they know little about it. Let me assure you again : tor is not malicious! If you want to know and read more, go to the only official tor site at http://tor.eff.org.

Congratulations if you worked your way through all this, even if you skipped the articles I referred to. I'm glad that even if you don't agree with me, or only understood 10% of everything that I talked about, you are interested in privacy and security. With the ever growing interconnectedness of services, institutions and computers, the requirement to be aware of privacy concerns will only rise.

I came across an interesting service yesterday, and I think it will come in handy some day : Coral Content Distribution Network. It can help you access sites that are overloaded or over their bandwidth limits by going through a series of worldwide servers that retrieve information using peer-to-peer techniques, and thus only have to request the information from the originating server once. Mind you, it's only geared towards static sites (such as this one for instance) and won't help you to log in to your web mail account.

Want to try it?
www.friedkitten.com (original site)
www.friedkitten.com.nyud.net (through Coral CDN)

Indeed, it's as easy as typing ".nyud.net" behind the site you're trying to reach. Probably not all that useful for the average surfer, but I can definitely see the value of having this knowledge flowing through my synapses and storing it in my neurons for eternity.

Up, Out, Away

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I'm only popping in for a very short post right now seeing that it's seven thirty on a Monday morning and I'm on a holiday (not away from home though). I'm up at this early hour because I'll be taking in the car for maintenance at nine and then I have nothing else planned till Friday, woot!

The maintenance session will take two to two and a half hours, so I'll be grabbing a book - I'm still hoping to some day finish "On Killing" by Dave Grossman - and my laptop. I'm pretty sure it will run out of juice in under an hour, but I hope to be able to plug it in somewhere, and unless I'm mistaken I should be able to find some wireless network as well. As long as I stick to some light surfing and don't need access to any secured sites or data, I don't mind borrowing a connection :)

Setting up a framework

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I just finished printing out 15 pages of covenants for Second Life land ownership on various private sims. I'll be reading through these over the next couple of hours and take notes on how others tackle the various problems that arise when dealing with "virtual" assets backed and purchased with hard cash. I've seen virtual worlds becoming much less virtual as the amount of money (game tokens, virtual currency, whatever) increases and as it becomes exchangeable for real world currency.

If I do this, I want to do it right and be prepared for most cases that (can) occur in world, by drafting a set of legal documents - call it contracts if you wish - that I and my customers can fall back upon if things are unclear. As this is an ever evolving world, I know it to be virtually impossible to foresee everything right now, but with a good set of basic rules and guide of conduct, much can be covered from the start. The rest of it will be drafted as we run into things.

A separate domain name has been registered for this endeavor and a licensing request for use of Linden Lab logo's and trademarks was sent out a while ago as well. I expect to have the sim transfer completed this weekend (cross fingers, it's been delayed a lot) and aim to complete the website by the end of the month.

Incredible!

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I can hardly believe it myself, but I've got a full week off of work, and I'm gonna enjoy it too. Of course I managed to book a couple of long over due tasks into this week off - I just can't seem to "do nothing" - but generally speaking I'll only be doing what I feel like, which could be everything, or nothing at all. It's even more incredible that I'll be doing it again at the end of September. Rinse, repeat!

Yesterday was a looong day. I got up at 4AM, went to work till 12h30 when a colleague took over - thanks once again O. - and left there around 12h45. The next hour and ten minutes was spent in the car in a traffic jam which lead to me arriving at my next appointment with under 5 minutes to spare, but I made it in time. Once I was out of that meeting, I left for B. and H. where I arrived around five thirty (more traffic jams) and then we headed off with the complete group to celebrate my grandma's birthday. When I finally turned onto the driveway leading towards my home, the clock in the car was displaying a time well past eleven PM. I headed straight to bed, and slept like a baby till noon today.

Which leads me to the stunt that Tai pulled off during my long and busy day, followed by a night spent sleeping. When I left home yesterday, I had filled his bowl of water to the brim. I know he likes to drink and play with water, so I fill it up well enough so there's definitely water left to drink when he's done playing. No matter what, I can't get it into his head that water is to drink from, and not to play in. So far all attempts have proved to be water under the couch.

Back to the look on my face when I stepped into my living room half an hour ago : With eyes still slightly closed I greeted him, opened the door to the terrace so he could get a fresh nose and greet the outside world when something struck me. "What the hell was laying into his waterbowl?" I took a few steps back, opened my eyes and burst out into laughter. He had managed to steal a napkin from the kitchen counter - where he knows he is not allowed - and to drag it into his water bowl. Mind you, it wasn't torn apart, but still neatly folded as it had been on the kitchen counter, and draped over the edge of his bowl in such a way that it had sucked out most of the water in the bowl and released it on the outside of it, also known as... my floor.

I've got a scientific cat, who'd have guessed?

Character Profiling

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I just called the HR people of my current employer in order to get feedback on the tests I did for them about two months ago. According to her notes and the test results, I'm a rather individualistic person who's assertive and believes in his own strengths and knowledge, while looking for a compromise between emotional stability and facts. This makes me a direct leader who is not only interested in performance, but also in the wellbeing of the team.

When it comes to negotiations, I base those on my own capabilities and don't rely on others to get things accomplished. I'm not an emotional person and combined with my no nonsense attitude this can lead to others perceiving me as dominant, harsh and a brute.

When she asked me if that profile fits me, I agreed with her, it's rather accurate. It's who I am and how I work...

What I do when I'm not at work*

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I love the Drum n' Bass!

* Just kidding...

Shit, double shit crap fuck

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I think I just blew a friendship with someone I've only met online, yet whom I like a lot and appreciated as a friend. Distrusting friends is not smart and I should have just given her all the info as it arrived instead of taking out parts. It made her think I don't trust her and to be honest, I've got no clue really why I did what I did. At the time I did it, it seemed right, but looking back at it... Ouch, so wrong :(

I'm sorry, Mizzy. I realize I've offended you and I don't know if I'll ever be able to make it up to you, but I do hope you'll someday accept my apologies and then smack me around a zillion times to make me pay for my stupid behaviour.

Just to refresh my mind

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- arrange checkup for car next week (completed)
- create 468x60 banner for a medieval village in Second Life (completed, off for approval)
- file bank statements and get the most recent ones
- shop for food
- verify meeting
- enjoy myself (in progress)
- entertain Tai

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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