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Naruto is (c) Masashi Kishimoto, of course

Thanks for visiting Walk in Silence!

This is the official blog for my obsession with music: listening, collecting, creating, playing, and everything in between.

Walk in Silence is named after the first line in Joy Division’s lovely song “Atmosphere”, which got a hell of a lot of play on my Walkman during my senior year in high school. As you may have guessed, I have a certain affinity (read: rabid obsession) with the college rock of the late 80s.  Also known as post-punk, modern rock, alternative, indie, and all sorts of other labels.  I always have tunage going at any given time of day, whether it be from my collection, a stream, or a radio station.

I’m also an obsessive music collector.  I started collecting at seven years old in 1978 and I haven’t stopped since.  Currently my collection is almost all digital, and I own about [REDACTED*] mp3s, all ripped and/or downloaded over the last twenty or so years.

* – Let’s just say it’s a metric crapton of music and leave it at that.

I also have another blog called Welcome to Bridgetown, which is where I talk about my long-term career of writing.  I’m a self-published author writing primarily in the science fiction genre, but I have been known to write other kinds of fiction as well.  WtBt is where I also talk a lot about the writing craft and pass on any knowledge I learn, as I like to Pay It Forward.  You can find the blog here.

I wrote a few SF books I call The Bridgetown Trilogy, which are also under a larger umbrella called The Mendaihu Universe.  They can be found in e-book form at Smashwords!  They can also be found as trade paperbacks on Amazon!  Please check out the Buy Stuff tab above for links!

My blog schedule here at Walk in Silence is Tuesday and Thursday, with the occasional fly-by or extra post.  I try to post them first thing in the morning, but they may run a few hours later if there are scheduling issues.

Please enjoy!

Favorite Albums: Duncan Sheik

Just before i started my job at HMV in late 1996, a new record popped up that hit the airwaves of both alternative rock and pop stations; even though it was primarily filtered down to Adult Alternative for its easy and melodic sound, the songwriting was so unexpectedly tight and adventurous that it got picked up everywhere. It was not the bombast of Collective Soul’s self-titled record, or the earnestness of Live’s Throwing Copper; it was simply a lovely album to listen to.

But that lightness is betrayed by darker, gloomier lyrics. James Hunter of Rolling Stone likened Sheik’s music to Talk Talk and The Smiths, perhaps for that reason: the musicianship is top notch from start to finish, the melodies are wonderfully creative but not overly complex, and the songs definitely get stuck in your head.

If you’ve only heard “Barely Breathing”, I suggest you check out the rest of the album — it’s definitely worth it.

Bonus Track: A year and a half later he popped up on the Great Expectations soundtrack from early 1998 with another fabulous track, “Wishful Thinking”, which got a lot of airplay at the time.

His later albums unfortunately did not get the attention they should have — partly due to changing tastes and partly due to the late 90s industry shake-ups — but they too are well worth looking for. He’s also kept busy since the mid-00s by writing and scoring music for multiple stage plays and musicals, his best known being Spring Awakening.

Indie Rocks

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, courtesy KEXP.org

For the last seven or eight months, I’ve been listening almost exclusively to KEXP online while working from home. It’s an affiliate of the University of Washington and non-profit, and they play some damn fine indie rock that’s made my ears perk up repeatedly. A good portion of my downloads during this time have been informed or influenced by the station.

Okay, that may sound like a shameless plug, but let’s be honest, I’ll happily plug any station that broadcasts purely out of a love for music rather than for the ratings. If your station is dedicated to a creative playlist, bands both local and international, and is not afraid to shake it up now and again, you’ve got my ears and my loyalty.

Sometimes it’s hard to find these stations, especially when they seem to be a vanishing breed. Even though the Giant Conglomerates seem to be losing money hand over fist due to a severe bout of All The Stations Are Playing The Same Damn Songs, it’s often hard to find these stations on your car stereo or elsewhere. You often have to go online and further afield like I did. I might live in San Francisco, but when a good number of the local commercial stations are all owned by Cumulus or some other big name, I have to dig a bit.

And sometimes the college stations don’t exactly work for me, either. Some like Berkeley’s KALX or Stanford’s KZSU are good but far too leftfield for my tastes. Others like Santa Clara’s KSCU run mostly on minimal programming and maximum library autoplay. Some have become shells of their former selves, broadcasting an NPR feed with very few live shows.

This is why I’m still a big fan of streaming radio stations online. Not streaming full-stop; I do have a Spotify account but I rarely use it, and for the most part I only stream albums on New Release Fridays. I crave the live deejay atmosphere. [And most definitely not the “morning crew” kind, which I find far too irritating. Howard Stern may have made it popular, but that format is way beyond its sell-by date now.]

I’ll usually find these stations in one of two ways: either by word of mouth/band announcement (KEXP is known for hosting quite a few live-in-studio performances) or by local listening. I’ve favorited stations that I happened upon while on vacation. I love to find new stations and check them out via their website.

I find KEXP to be a perfect blend of all the good parts of the above. Maybe a little leftfield, but never weird for weirdness’ sake. Silly deejay banter, but never meathead locker room humor. Each host has their own style and tastes. I might hear a song on heavy rotation, but I won’t hear it eight times a day. They’ll often surprise me with deep cuts from new albums. They’ve introduced me to a hell of a lot of indie bands I never would have heard of otherwise.

And I’m always curious to find even more stations. Who knows what I’ll be listening to six months from now?

Twenty Years On: Spring 1999

I’d have to say 1999 was kind of a weird time for me, as it had some smashing highs and some really frustrating lows for me. While I still loved my record store job at HMV, things had changed there, and not necessarily for the better. The new manager and I often butted heads, and I also found my shifts often being pushed to weird hours to cover someone else’s plans. I’d gotten frustrated with the fact that my sci-fi novel (The Phoenix Effect) was getting no bites from publishers and its sequel was soon to be aborted when I instead chose to completely rewrite the whole damn thing.

Radio was also getting more frustrating to listen to, the more melodic sounds of 90s alt-rock getting replaced by what I’d call ‘meathead alt-metal’, with the drop-tuning and growling (and sometimes unfortunate white-boy-rapping) of Korn, Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson. I started listening to less radio and more of my own collection, which of course had already grown considerably in the last couple of years. On the plus side there, I’d discover a lot more imports and obscurities that became some of my favorite records of the time.

The Supernaturals, A Tune a Day, released 8 February 1999. I was pretty heavy into the imports at this time. I would read the British music mags religiously, checking out the news and reviews and following up accordingly, ordering a copy or two for the store. A lot of it was hit or miss, and most of the time I’d be ordering a copy simply for my own collection. The Supernaturals are one band that got some minor reviews in Mojo and elsewhere but kind of vanished soon after. I really dug the alternapop of this record, though.

Annie Christian, Twilight, released 8 February 1999. The same goes with Annie Christian…they were part of a newer British wave of guitar groups that wrote some really nifty tunes that unfortunately got ignored by pretty much everyone.

Tin Star, The Thrill Kisser, released 9 February 1999. Now THIS record is groovy and quirky as hell and more people need to know about it. The “Head” single got some minor airplay on the alt-rock stations, and every now and again I’m pleasantly surprised when it resurfaces. This record got a hell of a lot of play during my writing sessions. Well worth searching for and checking out.

Lit, A Place in the Sun, released 23 February 1999. These guys could easily be filed away in that same meathead alt-metal gang, considering their biggest hit is about being an alcoholic loser…but they do it in style with catchy riffs and fun tunes. Bonus points for providing a nude cameo of Blink-182 (following up their “What’s My Age Again” streak) in their video for “Zip-Lock”, another radio favorite.

Jimmy Eat World, Clarity, released 23 February 1999. Before the enormous success of 2001’s Bleed American, this band was a favorite of the emo crowd, and “Lucky Denver Mint” was a minor hit on a lot of alt-rock stations. Their early records are definitely worth checking out as well.

Badly Drawn Boy, It Came from the Ground EP, released 1 March 1999. This one remains one of my favorite import finds from the HMV years, and it’s one of BDB’s best songs, and really should have gotten a hell of a lot more attention than it did. I always play this one loud because it’s just that awesome.

3 Colours Red, Revolt, released 2 March 1999. Yet another fantastic alt-rock album criminally obscured by alt-metal radio and record distributor shenanigans of the day. “Beautiful Day” is a gorgeous tune that has the epic quality of Bends-era Radiohead. Had this come out a few years earlier or later, it may have been a much bigger hit.

Blur, 13, released 15 March 1999. Blur, on the other hand, was the Britpop band that survived the late 90s fallout of their scene by way of changing up their sound considerably. Their 1997 self-titled record introduced a much heavier and more experimental sound, while this record exposed their more emotional (and emotionally fraught) side.

Various Artists, The Matrix OST, released 30 March 1999. Say what you will about the trilogy, the first movie definitely changed the entire game of American science fiction movies by being fiercely original, relentlessly creative, refusing to rely on tired tropes, and introducing some of the best jaw-dropping special effects ever made up to that point. And it had one hell of a great soundtrack that just had to be played as loud as possible.

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The last year and a half of my HMV tenure may have been fraught with irritations and stress, but it also provided me with a ton of excellent music that would keep me busy and entertained. This was the peak era of my weekend road trips to comic stores, book stores and Boston, and it was also an extremely creative time for me as well, even if my current project was about to be completely restarted from scratch. My social life was nil, but that was the least of my worries, as I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, and I was actually getting paid enough to be able to afford it to some extent. I’d dug myself out of an extremely deep depressive funk, and despite managerial frustration, I refused to fall back into that trap again.

Writing Session Music: A Recent Playlist

At the moment, I’m focusing almost completely on the revision of Diwa and Kaffi (yes, that’s the Apartment Complex book title now), which means that my writing session playlist has shifted accordingly. Right now it’s focusing mostly on lighter fare, to fit the mood of the novel. In particular, I find myself listening to a lot of synthpop and light alt-rock. Here’s a few albums that have been spinning lately here in Spare Oom…

White Lies, Five. This album kind of reminds me of the modern pop sound of the late 80s/early 90s that I used to listen to back in the day. It’s light but has just enough heft and emotion to it that it’s not throwaway.

The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe. Great mood music I can get lost in. It’s quiet and lovely and just kind of floats everywhere, and I love it. This is the kind of stuff I listen to when I just need background but not exactly a specific mood.

UNKLE, The Road Part 2: Lost Highway. I can never go wrong with James Lavelle’s brilliant work. It’s dark and brooding, but it’s also quite expansive. (Having Tom Smith from Editors singing a few tunes is also really cool.) I usually reserve UNKLE for my Epic Novel sessions, but I’m such a huge fan of the band that they fit in quite nicely for any book I’m writing.

American Football, American Football (LP3). This is an AMAZING album, and it’s absolutely gorgeous and dreamy. This one’s been getting some heavy replays, almost on a daily basis, since it came out a little over a week ago. It’s just enough for me to get lost in the mood of the record without it interfering with the book proper.

The Sound of Arrows, Stay Free. This one’s a few years old but it’s been a huge influence on the book since I started writing it last year. (So much so that the title track plays during the ending credit sequence for the anime version in my head. Heh.) It’s a lovely and quite positive album to listen to, and it fits the mood of D&K perfectly.

I’m still on the first couple of chapters of this novel right now, and I’ve purposely not given myself a deadline; I’m already damn proud of this book and think it’s one of the best I’ve written (even better than the trilogy!), so I want to give this one as much TLC as I can before I decide whether I want to self-publish it or submit it to a professional house. I’m not even focusing on that right now, to be honest — I just want to give this one my all. Establishing a writing soundtrack, then, becomes an important part of my process; writing with music helps me focus on the work at hand, and it also mutes out any background noise that might distract. Creating this kind of playlist is one of my favorite parts of the process, as the music helps me achieve the mood of the story.

Thirty Years On: Spring 1989

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been thinking of whether or not to follow up on this series. It’s hard to follow up on what I personally consider one of the best years for alternative rock in the 80s in terms of musicianship, quality, consistency and creativity. On a more personal note, it’s also hard to follow up having a positive and stellar year when nearly your entire circle of friends has left for greener college pastures. Regardless, I did my damnedest to remain as positive as I could; I still had the other friends in my year and younger.

In retrospect this makes me sound rather shallow, and I suppose it does in a way. My connection to the just-graduated gang had been a deep and close one that I hadn’t had previously, and I suppose their moving on affected me more than I’d expected. I suddenly found myself going from ‘part of the gang’ to flying solo (or almost solo), and it took me a long time to get used to that.

Regardless, I still had college radio and 120 Minutes to fall back on. Plus, I was on the final circuit towards the end of my high school career, and it was time for me to find myself and shine somehow.

The Darling Buds, Pop Said…, released January 1989. If there’s anything I noticed about 1989, is that it seemed to have a more pop sheen to it. Not in the ridiculous plastic way that permeated the mid-80s pop scene, but in a fun, free-for-all way. This was thanks to multiple scenes in the UK kicking off the party culture that soon became known as Britpop. The Buds, coming from South Wales, brought in a sparkly indie-pop sound that caught the ears of many a fan.

Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”/”I Feel Speed” single, released 3 January 1989. Meanwhile, the trio once known for its dreamy psychedelic indie rock over the last four years suddenly changed pace and delivered a growling punch of raucous surf rock about singer Daniel Ash’s love of motorcycles. The b-side “I Feel Speed” is a gorgeous dreamlike interpretation of the song done almost entirely on David J’s bass.

Throwing Muses, Hunkpapa, released 23 January 1989. The last album featuring bassist Leslie Langston, this outing was much more pop-oriented than their previous records, providing a college radio favorite with “Dizzy”.

New Order, Technique, released 30 January 1989. While not as brilliant as Low Life or Brotherhood, it’s nonetheless a solid album featuring some of their best hybrid sound of synth and guitar. It’s also quite melodic compared to some of their earlier records.

Morrissey, “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” single, released 31 January 1989. An absurd yet catchy ode to the Reggie and Ronnie Kray, London’s most famous (and infamous) mobsters of current history. It was the first of numerous non-album songs Morrissey would drop over the course of the next decade. Also a song and video that surprised many: it features three other ex-Smiths (Andy Rourke on bass, Mike Joyce on drums, and tour guitarist Craig Gannon), briefly firing up rumors of a sort-of Smiths reunion.

The Replacements, Don’t Tell a Soul, released 7 February 1989. Paul Westerberg and Co followed up 1987’s fantastic Pleased to Meet Me with an album that sounds like maybe they sobered up a titch and started writing more solidly and melodically. They’re older and perhaps a bit wiser at this point.

Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw and the Cooked, released 20 February 1989. The trio’s second (and so far final) album was a big hit across the board, both on pop and modern rock charts, thanks to its lead-off single “She Drives Me Crazy”. It also had quite a memorable video (choreographed and directed by Phillippe Decouflé, whose only other music video was the equally memorable “True Faith” for New Order).

XTC, Oranges and Lemons, released 27 February 1989. Perhaps partly inspired by their side project The Dukes of Stratosphear, whose records were a straight-up 60s psychedelic rock pastiche, this record blended those psych tendencies with lovely pastoral sounds and catchy pop tunes.

Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls, released 28 February 1989. Their second album (and first for a major label) was a stellar folk-rock record that gained them a huge following, and major airplay on both college and commercial stations with their hit “Closer to Fine.” It’s an amazing album from start to finish and a must for anyone’s collection.

Robyn Hitchcock, Queen Elvis, released March 1989. His follow-up to the fan favorite Globe of Frogs — and named after one of his songs that would appear on 1990’s solo record Eye — is full of beautiful and introspective songs, yet still peppered with his trademark eclectic wit. It’s my personal favorite of his 80s output.

De La Soul, Three Feet High and Rising, released 3 March 1989. Goofy, fun, and relentlessly creative, it’s a blast to listen to with its positivity and humor. Thirty years later and they’re still going strong with new records and high-profile appearances, including Gorillaz’s ace track “Feel Good Inc.”

Depeche Mode, 101, released 11 March 1989. Their first live album is a two-record sprawl of their biggest recorded at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (the 101st and last show on a their Music for the Masses Tour with Erasure and Wire). While the songs may not be all that different from their studio versions, they deliver a great show nonetheless.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses, released 13 March 1989. Meanwhile, the long-simmering sound of Manchester — brought to the fore previously by The Smiths and New Order, among numerous others — finally exploded internationally with a guitar-heavy rock dance beat that blew everyone away and inspired and influenced so many others for years to come and laid the ground for the classic 90s Britpop sound.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Dress for Excess, released 31 March 1989 (US). Okay, so perhaps this record didn’t inspire or influence anyone at all, but it’s still a fun album. It’s not as blissfully chaotic as 1986’s Flaunt It, but in the process they sound so much more professional, perhaps a bit more serious as a band. Lead single “Success” was a deliberate plan in that direction, hiring hit UK producers Stock Aitken Waterman to make their sound as slick as possible. Bonus points for writing and recording an absolutely gorgeous album closer in the form of the dystopian ballad “Is This the Future?”, still one of my all-time favorite tracks of theirs.

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More to come soon!

Walk in Silence Returns…

…finally! My hiatus is over and I’ve decided to return to the fold with my continued obsession with all things music. In the end it wasn’t all that hard a decision, as I’d come to miss blogging about my latest listening habits. I like sharing the new (and old!) things I find on the intertubes and elsewhere. The one thing I’d wanted to ease back on, however, was the amount of content I was forcing myself to come up with on a weekly basis. Two entries a week isn’t all that bad for me, but two entries a week for each blog was definitely exhausting, especially near the end there!

So what did I do during the hiatus? I mean, aside from checking out new releases and revisiting older catalogs? I had a good long think about what I wanted to do with my blogs here. I eventually decided that I really did want to return to what I’d been posting for the last few years, though I felt it was time for me to scale it back a bit to give myself more time for other projects I wanted to work on. SO! What does this mean, anyway? Well, this means that I am back from here on in, but I’ll only be posting once a week on Mondays. Why Monday? Basically because that’ll give me time to give Friday’s new releases a good repeated listen over the weekend, when I have more time to write them out.

That said…let me catch you up on some of the tunage I’ve been listening to since January!

Toro Y Moi, Outer Peace, released 18 January. “Freelance” is one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head for DAYS, which isn’t really all that bad a thing, considering that it’s funky as hell and reminds me of all the best Daft Punk songs. The rest of the album is just as fun.

Weezer, Weezer (the teal album), released 24 January. Okay, so this was essentially a silly throwaway album of 80s covers, but they managed to pull it off! Taken at face value, these are solid interpretations that are faithful to the originals without a hint of irony. These are songs they (and I) grew up with, so why the hell not, right?

Skunk Anansie, 25Live@25, released 25 January. One of my favorite 90s bands that never got their due here in the States, they released a 2-cd collection of a recent 25th anniversary tour and it’s a solid selection of their entire catalog and well worth checking out. And Skin is a freaking amazing vocalist.

Boy Harsher, Careful, released 1 February. One of numerous songs and bands I’ve discovered through KEXP online in the last six months, I fell in love with this album purely because it reminds me of that late-80s darkwave sound I loved so much. Specifically, they reminded me so much of Clan of Xymox (especially the Twist of Shadows album) that I went and downloaded it on the strength of one song.

The Specials, Encore, released 1 February. The Specials have been here and there over the years, but this particular album sees the return of singer Terry Hall, who hadn’t been with them for ages. The new record returns to their classic Two-Tone sound as well. Well worth checking out.

White Lies, Five, released 1 February. I’d almost forgotten about this band (I have an album of theirs from quite a few years back) but thanks to AllMusic’s suggestion, I’m glad I checked out the record because it’s fantastic. Similar to Boy Harsher it’s got that late 80s darkwave sound, though with a more melodic sound similar to Camouflage.

Mercury Rev, Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited, released 8 February. I did not expect to love this album as much as I do, as I don’t know too many Bobbie Gentry songs other than ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. This is definitely an album recorded for a serious music fan, by same; it’s the band handing you Bobbie Gentry’s music and saying ‘you HAVE to listen to this, it’s amazing.’

Beck’s cover of “Tarantula” from Music Inspired by the film Roma, released 8 February. It’s really a cover of a cover; he’s doing the This Mortal Coil interpretation of the Colourbox track. It’s extremely close to that version, but he makes it his own by brightening the reverb and using a choir. This could easily fit on his Morning Phase album.

Bis, Slight Disconnects, released 15 February. YAY! New Bis album!! Poppy, bouncy and punky, and a hell of a lot of fun. They still sound like a cartoon after all these years, and that’s exactly what makes them so great.

Big Wreck “Locomotive” single, released 22 February. I’ve loved this band since “The Oaf” way back in 1997, and they’re still a great hard rock band with hints of blues, country and maybe even a bit of that jam-prog sound as well. Glad to hear them still going strong.

Chasms, The Mirage, released 22 February. Oh, this one is TOTALLY my wheelhouse. It’s full of shoegazey echo and slides easily between 80s darkwave (there we go again), Love and Rockets’ early psychedelic sound, and the gorgeousness of Slowdive. A lovely album to listen to, especially during my writing sessions.

Hozier, Wasteland, Baby!, released 1 March. I was never the biggest fan, but his new album has totally sold me on him. I didn’t expect it to be so dark and haunting yet so beautiful and moving.

Foals, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1, released 8 March. Yet another band taking the route of releasing multiple shorter albums or EPs over the course of an extended time, but I do so love those because they’re often more cohesive and stronger. This is a darker album for them (which is saying something) but it’s also a stronger and more melodic one for them as well.

The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe, released 15 March. My favorite find from last Friday, this is a fascinating record that kind of reminds me of my favorite Unkle albums; dark and brooding yet beautiful in their own way. Definitely on my writing session playlist already.

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…so yeah, it’s good to be back here on the internets. See you next Monday!

Returning to the Blogosphere…sort of

[Posted originally at Dreamwidth, my personal blog. Reposting it here (with slight editing) as an update.]

Yes, folks! I’m still here among the living. I’ve been spending all this time focusing on finishing off In My Blue World (which I’m FINALLY going to drop in March! Wooohoo!) and preparing myself for the revision work for Diwa & Kaffi (yes, I’ve decided that’s going to be the title until further notice). I’ve also been enjoying the extended semi-hiatus from the internets, focusing more on offline projects and personal things. It’s been long delayed and much needed.

I’ve been tempted more than a few times to return to the blogging schedule that I’ve held over the last couple of years, but I’m holding off. As much as I truly enjoyed it, it would often drain me. I ended up repeating myself on more than a few occasions, often without realizing. Some days I’d have all kinds of things to talk about, but other days (especially near the end there) I was really straining to come up with semi-original content. 

But I also wanted to move on. I’ve been blogging about writing and music for years now, some years more consistently than others, and after a great personal banner year of music collecting and novel writing, I felt it was time for me to shift my focus. It’s like when I talk about the Yankee Candle/Belfry years: I absolutely loved the schedule that afforded me the time to relax as well as improve my writing, but that could only last for so long. I may be a creature of habit and want to stick with that sort of thing for years at a time, I’m also a creature of wanting to shake things up. I also happen to love the idea of starting a completely new lifestyle, whatever it may be. I get to a point where I realize I’ve gone as far as I can with what I’m doing, and I need to move on. There’s varying reasons for that — I’ve exhausted my interest, I’ve moved on, my tastes have changed/shifted, and so on. Sometimes it’s a deeply personal thing that will change my life, sometimes it’s just an ephemeral thing.

(Speaking of which, I could go on about how hard it is to shift to that new lifestyle while attempting to shed old habits, ideas and so on, but I’ll save that for another entry.)

I’m still a music-collecting geek and a writer, and I highly doubt those two things will be changing any time soon. But what I’ve realized over the past month and a half is that I still have a long way to go if I want to make the changes I do want to make. Sliding back into old habits and schedules will not help me, as again — I can be quite the creature of habit.  I’m going out of my way NOT to return to things like that, as it’s the only way I’ll be able to get to where I DO need to be.

That said, Walk in Silence is going to remain on hiatus for just a little while longer, while I get my writing and personal priorities taken care of, and while I decide what I’m going to do with it. In the meantime, I’ll be making more steady (and more personal) appearances at my Dreamwidth account. Thanks again for hanging around for so long!