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thausgt
Just for the record:
1. I'm not dead, just...
2. The "Starwalker" thing fell through. Not because of anything I did or didn't do, but because of some stupid shenanigans with the producers in charge of it all. Ah, well. "You can't take the sky from me."
3. I'm working on expanding Carnegie's cabal. That means I'm coming up with four other characters, representatives of the remaining Paths and Orders. I might consider it a cheap way out, but if nothing else, it's an excuse to have the broadest selection of viewpoints with the fewest characters.
4. I think that I've got a few more Legacies for Carnegie to show off, and I'm saving my pittance of an income to buy the rest of the Mage: the Awakening books in one form or another.
5. It really, really sucks that the Mage line got cancelled, but there are still Vampire and Werewolf books coming out. Then again, I guess that White Wolf just has a whole new spread of priorities, now that they've sold out... excuse me, "been bought out".

Current Mood: tired tired

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Normally, I don't have much interest in such things, but "Starwalker" finally caught and held my attention. The contest has at least two completely different 'tracks' (for lack of more appropriate terminology): one in Australia, the other in North America. The ultimate winners of those two areas will get to go into space. It really is the first reality t.v. show concept in which I would want to participate, let alone watch.

Call me crazy, but anything that lets me reduce the usual costs of such an adventure gets my attention. The traditional route of going to college, getting a Masters' in, say, materials engineering ("Transparent aluminum?") or industrial biochemistry (a waste-reclamation plant that fit into a single module for the ISS) would set me back hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is definitely out of my reach. The "space tourist" approach of forking over up to $35 million USD is even moreso. So: reality t.v. and a heavily-sponsored "shortcut".

The first two "challenges" have already been announced. The first is a half-marathon (21 km). I'm not in shape to run it at full speed, though I've definitely got my mind-game in place. I've ridden a bicycle from Mountain View to San Francisco, and walked from the Kabuki Theater in S.F. to the Daly City BART station, so my overall endurance is not in question. The real barrier is whether I can handle covering that distance before 50% of the other entrants in the contest... and recover in time to participate in the "Boat Challenge" two days later, AND perform better than 50% of the remaining contestants.

Basic math, for anyone who doesn't want to do it: Pretend that there are 100 entrants. 50 of those will be dropped from the show after the marathon. 25 of the remainder won't get past the "boat challenge". 25 contestants for the remainder of the show seems fairly reasonable, if between one and three contestants are dropped from the roster per episode. That would mean that there would be a minimum of 9 episodes and a maximum of 24. I'll have to do some research on how such things work, though the popularity of the genre has led to lots of books on the subject being written.

One portion of Starwalker's web presence indicates that there are 41,000 entries waiting to be processed into the contest, which complicates speculation somewhat. I have no idea what the selection criteria might be, so there's no way to know how many entrants will be on the starting line.

Still, I'm not in this to get a participation ribbon. It's a chance to go to space, and a chance to give the space program my personal assistance in its never-ending fight for survival. For that, I'll give everything I've got.

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Current Location: United States, California, Oakland
Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
Current Music: Hiten (Instrumental)

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Crap. I had a very long rant about phishing scams here, but somehow it got turned into spam.

In short: play it safe with e-mail! Avoid opening messages from sources you don't recognize. And for mercy's sake, DON'T CLICK ON LINKS IN SPAM MESSAGES!

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Current Mood: silly silly
Current Music: "This Pub That We Call Home" by Poxy Boggards

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Just to help me keep track of what Carnegie can and cannot do, here's the worksheet I used to produce his "character sheet" for Mage: The Awakening. I've included a couple of notes about game effects and whatnot, since mages have to worry a bit more about that sort of thing. As the main rulebook says, they are fully mortal in all ways except one: they can work magic. And that makes all the difference.

Step One: Concept: Busybody Realtor
Details: Derek James Mossberg was, in the words of more than one guidance counselor, born to be an accountant. He was precise in his schoolwork where precision was required, and resigned to the bottom rung of the social hierarchy among his peers in high school, college and the rest of his life. His Awakening was as great a shock to him as it is to anyone, opening up a completely new perspective: people were fascinating. Especially their secrets. He chose his shadow name to honor a famous man who encouraged people to equate “success” with having many, many friends… and using those friendships to best advantage.

Step Two: Attributes (minimum 1 in each score)
Mental: 
     Intelligence: 3
     Wits: 2
      Resolve: 3 (Path Favored Resistance Attribute)
Social
     Presence: 2
     Manipulation: 3
     Composure: 3
Physical
     Strength: 2
     Dexterity: 2
     Stamina: 2

Step Three: Skills
Mental
     Academics: 1
     Computer: 1
     Investigation: 2
     Occult: 1
     Politics: 2
     Science: 1
Social
     Empathy: 2
     Expression: 1 (Writing, Order Rote Specialty, +1 die for spellcasting)
     Intimidation: 1
     Persuasion: 2 (Order Rote Specialty, +1 die for spellcasting)
     Socialize: 2
     Streetwise: 1
     Subterfuge: 1 (Order Rote Specialty, +1 die for spellcasting)
Physical
     Athletics: 1
     Brawl: 1
     Drive: 1
     Larceny: 1
     Stealth: 1

Step Four: Specialties
Persuasion: Selling
Socialize: Gossip
Investigation: Records

Step Five: Supernatural Features
Path: Mastigos (+1 to Favored Resistance Attribute: Resolve)
Order: Silver Ladder
Spheres:
Fate: 1
Mind: 1
Space: 1
Gnosis: 1
Mana: 7 points
Rotes: (Silver Ladder variants of canon rotes)
Winds of Chance (Wits + Persuasion + Fate) 6 dice
Sybil’s Sight (Wits + Expression + Fate) 4 dice
Thinking for Many (Wits + Investigation + Mind) 5 dice
Aura Perception (Wits + Empathy + Mind) 5 dice
Spatial Map (Intelligence + Subterfuge + Space) 6 dice
Omnivision (Wits + Subterfuge + Space) 5 dice


Step Six: Merits (total: 7)
High Speech (free)
Barfly: 1
Contacts: 1 (Mysterium, Free Council)
Resources: 1
Order Status: 1
+1 Brawl
+1 in Expression
+1 in Occult
Infamous Teacher (1 extra Merit point, spent on extra Contact): Member of the Bene Ashmedai Legacy, currently missing or otherwise incommunicado.

Step Seven: Advantages
Defense: 2
Health: 7
Size: 5 
Initiative: 5
Willpower: 6
Wisdom: 7 
Speed: 9 yards per turn

Step Eight: Coming to Life
Physical appearance: Carnegie keeps his reddish-blond hair cropped short. His eyes are a curiously warm shade of green. He smiles easily, especially when other people are opening up to him. His clothes are tailored, but usually understatedly so.
Supernatural appearance: Carnegie’s Nimbus highlights the opportunities for connections and interactions between people in his vicinity. A football fan will suddenly notice the team colors or mascot somewhere on another person, while a "Noo Yawkuh" will pick up on verbal clues in someone else's speech that they grew up in or near the Big Apple. While it will not reveal two lovers’ secret affections, it will draw observers’ attentions to instances of people interacting. It may even encourage people in the vicinity to interact, although there is no guarantee that the interaction will be simple conversation; a crowd of people on a sidewalk may break up into dozens of smaller conversations, or one person may start giving a speech to several people he happens to know.
Name details: Carnegie chose his shadow name based on the most famous social researcher in recent history. “It’s a reminder that people are what it’s all about. I mean, yeah, I could have come up with some weird technological thingummy to try and make piles of money, but I would still have to figure out how to sell it, to market it, and all that. It’s just more fun to deal with people.”
Other notes:
• How old are you?
I was born in 1976 and Awakened in 2006 at age 30. Some say that's kind of late, but given how many of the Awakened can adjust their appearance as easily as they change their clothes, it's not quite so much of a hindrance as it might be among the Sleepers.
• What was unique about your childhood?
For about the last two hundred years, no one in my family has lived in the city where they were born. My grandparents were all born either in Europe or somewhere far from the city, my parents were born on opposite sides of the country, and all my aunts and uncles live in different states. We spent our summers visiting them all, when my dad could take time off from work.
• What kind of person were you before Awakening?
I was a quiet kid, kept to myself mostly because people confused me. I wasn’t a nerd, just found math and accounting comfortable. Got a degree in Accounting from the state university and a solid job with a tax firm in town. Kinda boring, now that I think about it.
• What experiences of the supernatural have you had?
Before Awakening, I thought I saw a U.F.O. once. It was right around 2000, with all the Millennial stuff going on. And I saw a guy struck by lightning without so much as a singe on his hair, back when I was around 8.
• What was your Awakening like?
I had been working my way through the returns for one of my firm’s clients, a pretty brass-tacks kind of company with clients all over the region. The salespeople did a lot of travelling, and this particular client had submitted a few deductions that smelled slightly funny, but the higher-ups had a way of working them all out. Well, I started seeing entry after entry that just didn’t make any kind of sense. I gathered up the whole thing in a folder and took the elevator up to the my boss’s office a few floors up, but the doors opened on Pandemonium. Literally. All I knew was that I had to get this stuff to my boss, and nothing the demons could do could be worse than what would happen if I didn’t manage that. I worked my way through a series of puzzles put together by demons. Every one of them was built on some guilt or failure or other personal weakness. I got every kind of violent injury you can imagine, but I managed to struggle through. After about the sixth or seventh one, I started talking to the demons, asking about their lives, commiserating about having a lousy boss, and so on. The last one was… Well, I didn’t jump into it right away, I took a few minutes to just admire it. I mean, it was the work of a demon, obviously, but I could tell that the demon had really put some effort into it. The creature actually asked me what the hold up was, and when I complimented him on the quality of his workmanship, he actually just led me through it. He pointed out a few things that I probably would have missed and died because of, but truth to tell, I forgot to blame him for that until after we’d gotten through. I wound up at the top of this tremendous tower, with people’s names written everywhere except for one clear spot at my eye level. I pulled out a pen from my shirt pocket, but it didn’t have any ink. So I jammed my pen into my other hand, and signed it with my blood. I woke up on the roof of my building, the service elevator door dinging as it opened up.
• Who was your first mentor?
She went by Nheeczoovo, which she said was the name of a ruler in some part of the Astral Realms she had visited on her way to the Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet. She found me in the aisle of the local drug store where I had gone after my Awakening; my hand was still bleeding from where I’d stuck my pen, you see, and the office had run out of bandages. She arranged for my old firm to take her on as a client; at the time, I think she was working as a publicist or something. Anyway, after that, she insisted on regular meetings with me, which was a cover for the first few months of my education. Her teaching style involved dragging some poor Sleeper or two into a conversation between the two of us, then demanding that I not only recall the Sleeper’s words exactly, but divine hidden meaning within their responses.
I’m not completely sure, but… well, it’s possible that she was my first post-Awakening girlfriend. I mean, Nheczoovo made it a point of setting up different mortal identities about once a year or so, changing day-jobs at the same time, but she always stayed in touch with the Silver Ladder. There were rumors about her, of course, since she was in the Bene Ashmedai… but I haven’t actually joined the Legacy. Or any Legacy, for that matter. I’m collecting information about them, kind of like doing my research on grad school…
• How was your cabal formed?
The higher-ups are still working on it. Not a lot of other greenhorns Awakening right now, so I try to stay busy and in touch with the rest of the Concilium as best I can
• Do you maintain a sanctum?
I’m working on it. For the time being, I’m still collecting information on how and where to do it properly. And, of course, I’m maneuvering to get myself a Hallow in the deal. I’m building my personal Library, and the Ladder lets me use a room in the local safehouse to let me practice about once a week or so.
• Do you retain any connections to your Sleeper life? Of course! My family’s still alive, which gives me a great excuse to get out of town for a few days whenever I need it. They’re still getting over the change after my Awakening; I tell them that I had my mid-life crisis a couple of decades ahead of schedule, and that seems to work. They do like how much more sociable I’ve become, so I guess that helps.
• What motivates you?
People! I mean, we all have drives and goals that we want to achieve, but so few of us actually manage to pull it off. There are times when I feel like putting on a pair of Groucho glasses and spending a few weeks with those ballsy guys in the Metaphysical Research Society, listening to the sound of the Guardians’ panties bunching at a hundred paces. And there are times when all I have to do is help a young newlywed couple find the perfect apartment. It’s really the whole point of why I joined the Silver Ladder: they’re here to help people throw off the Lie.


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Howdy! Ready to see the next place?

This one's a top-floor flat in a six-story walkup, so you'll get plenty of exercise. Ready for the climb? Let's go!

Wasn't so bad, was it? Only four units on the floor, though, so you'll have that going for you. Here's the one: north corner, furthest from the stairs. Nice kitchen, lots of light in the living room, two full bathrooms, three bedrooms. Or, if you prefer, one master bedroom, one guest room and one office. The owners recently renovated everything, from the inside out, to use their own phrase. All-new plumbing and electrical stuff, soundproofing and insulation, triple-paned windows, sprinkler systems, the works. Their logic was that a renter who doesn't waste a lot of money on climate control is more likely to have money for rent, yeah? I understand that they're debating a couple of more extensive changes, like adding another floor or two in exchange for removing a whole column of units to make room for a full elevator and secondary fire stairs. Expensive, but hey, gentrification is a high-yield, long-term investment game, right?
Anyway, your most significant neighbor in this building is a Threnodist. She lives down in the basement; about a third more floorspace than this unit, but it gets no sunlight except for a couple of interesting sunilght-tubes she installed herself. No idea how she managed to finess that out of the owners, but I'll save that for later. The "Wailers", as some folks call them, are primarily researchers. They like to play in the weird grey area between the Lie and the Supernal World... that is to say, figuring out how magic and science can work together. The whole legacy is Mastigos and plays primarily with Space, but even a minor bit of Mind magic keeps the "absent-minded professor" schtick to a minimum. The Free Council loves them, the Guardians of the Veil hate them, the Mysterium will drop any of their members from the rolls like hot rocks if they join, the Arrows tend to leave them alone, and the Ladder... Well, we like to let them play, as long as they don't get up to anything particularly dangerous. For my part, I smell a very unusual set of back-room deals and favors traded in this situation, because the Wailers aren't what you'd call "politically astute". The majority of the "old-school" Threnodists uphold their image as stereotypical nerds of the Awakened, in that they tend to focus on their technical research to the detriment of their social life. Not as big a problem as it might be for their Sleeper brethren, since it's a bit easier for them to arrange funding of one sort or another, but it still leaves them way out on a limb when politics intrudes on their beloved research.

Fortunately for them, more recent members have come from far more diverse backgrounds than the ivory halls of academia. I'm aware of at least two rock bands... one in Los Angeles and one in Atlanta... whose members are all Threnodists. One of them has a pretty strong following in various graduate schools, mostly because that's just about the only demographic that can understand their imagery. The other is actually building up a broader fan base with 'mnemonic rock', as they call it: songs that help the listeners remember things like the categories of subatomic particles or something to do with celestial mechanics for the rocket-science crowd.

Anyway, your neighbor isn't involved in any of that. She says that she's involved with wireless electronic communication. I only understood about half of what she described... the half relating to Arcana, truth to tell... but she's managed to parlay her work into a pretty comfortable research job with one of the Wi-Fi companies. As a rule, the Threnodists make for decent neighbors, as long as your soundproofing holds up. They can be fascinating conversation partners, as long as your technical background and general I.Q. is sufficiently advanced for you to follow along with what they're discussing. If you get the chance to join in with some of the more socially-adept younger generations, you'll be in for quite a treat. One of your neighbor's colleagues managed to drag her out to a show at a club where I happened to be drinking one night, and during said colleague's first song set whipped out a nifty song about "Travelling Waves"... that's a Quantum Physics 101 thing... that has done wonders for my own scrying work.

The downside of having a Threnodist for a neighbor is that you may get asked to look after some portion of their "lab notes" or even a prototype gadget from time to time. They're not entirely without justification in their paranoia, if they acquire any. There's a common joke in which a Guardian will accuse some Threnodist of having brains infested with demons, to which the accused responds: "Yes, as have yours, by definition as a result of being Awakened. So?" The fact that no known Wailer has fallen to Abyssal control doesn't put the Guardians off any; they say that it's just a matter of time, under the circumstances. But if you can think on your feet and overlook a lot of social clumsiness, you may find you enjoy their company.

So, what do you think of the place?

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Where do I get my laundry done?

Pretty much depends on the situation. I can give you the name of a really good dry-cleaner over on Pine Street, but I usually save that for higher-end stuff. She cleaned this jacket, for example, and the pants. Wool is too much of a challenge for a washer-dryer combo, you know?

By and large, I'll usually do my own, at my place. It cost me a good chunk of change and a favor or two to get all the hookups installed in my condo, but it was worth it, right up there with getting a fireplace installed.

Why? I wanted someplace to burn my nail clippings without stinking up the place too much; likewise my hair cuttings and beard trimmings. Mages have to be kind of careful about physical traces, since enemies can use them to cast some nasty spells at us through them. 

I don't have any of those that I know of. But then, enemies are rarely so courteous as to announce their intentions in writing these days.

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Howdy! Ready to see the next place?

The neighborhood is kind of upscale bohemian. About a century ago, it was a fairly posh area, then in the 1920s it fell apart along with most of the residents' credit. Unusually, the artists started creeping in less than ten years later. I don't have all the details, and I suspect that at least two different groups were influencing the mortal residents, but the practical upshot is that the area has managed to avoid the usual decade or three in 'combat zone' status on its way to 'gentrified'. The area has a kind of cultural management collective, so that everyone gets a chance to contribute their opinions about public art, parades, stuff like that. The local Free Council loves it, of course, but the weird part is that the local Guardians also approve of it. Their official line is that healthy distractions from "sensitive topics" can only be a good thing.

Anyway, the available place is part of an experiment. About fifteen years ago, some dot-com decided that they were going to build the tallest office building in the state, and they managed to excavate down about three floors' worth for parking and whatnot. Right after they managed to get the main hookups in place, the dot com went belly up. Some of my friends who follow that sort of thing more closely make cryptic remarks about "Finland" and "hostile takeovers", but the practical upshot is that the next owners were able to buy the property for pennies on the dollar, which they then turned into a series of semi-modular apartments built out of recycled shipping containers. The available unit is up on the fifth floor, northwest corner. Interesting ambience, eh? I'm told that the sunsets can be particularly striking in early spring. Anyway, it's a one-bedroom, but all utilities are included in the rent. The climate-control system for every unit in the building was just upgraded, and the owners also encourage the management company to hire local college kids and smaller companies to keep the units clean.

Now, your most significant neighbor ... This is kind of personal, as she was my first mentor after I Awakened. Last I heard, she was living out of one of these units, though she's been off the grid for a few weeks now. Anyway, she's a member of the Bene Ashmedai Legacy, which means that it's really difficult to predict what she'll do next. Mastigos, obviously, as they do a great deal of research into their inner demons and whatnot. Silver Ladder, almost exclusively, as they say that they do what they do for the betterment of all.  She could be the most wonderful woman in the world, then in between eyeblinks the cruelest witch ever to screw up a younger mage's life... Sorry. The Diabolists, as some call them, are really into exploring the nastier depths of the human experience. Some of them do the whips and chains thing, but from what my mentor mentioned, those are supposed to be training tools for beginners; the Legacy really focus on gaining dominion over spirits and negative psychic energies, and helping Sleepers deal with their personal demons.

As neighbors, they'll definitely make you feel like the life of the party. Think about that for a moment. They will slowly figure out your buttons while you're having the time of your life, then... not jam them, but just... touch them. It's really hard to explain. You'll probably meet the local representative a couple of times before you really get to know them... but they'll already know more than a bit about you.

The upside to having one as a neighbor is that you will either spend a lot less money at your therapist's office, or you will spend a great deal more. The downside is that you may do both on an irregular schedule. Either way, you will have a ride you will never forget.

So, what do you think of the place?

(Out Of Character: The inspiration for this particular apartment comes from this 3-D object available through Renderosity:
http://www.renderosity.com/mod/bcs/index.php?ViewProduct=56549&TopID=62736.70438.&MostWanted=Y
... buy a copy and support the artist, eh?)

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Howdy! Ready to see the next place?

Okay, this place might be kind of lively. The building's in good shape, but it's on the corner of four completely different neighborhoods in town. The building itself is technically in the shopping neighborhood, with a pretty good independent bookstore in most of the ground floor and the inevitable coffeeshop in the rest. Across the street that way, you'll notice the mildly seedy residential sector. Across the other street is the business district, where all the really tall buildings start. And across the intersection in the corner is the official edge of the local Chinatown, but that should be obvious, regardless.

You're very fortunate that we keep this particular apartment unit in reserve for situations like this. It's four floors up, right on the corner, but we just installed some top-quality soundproofing on all the exterior walls and windows, as well as the floors and ceilings. Two bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, professional-grade kitchen, washer and dryer hookups in here... and check this out, we've just replaced the water heater. Heavy insulation, of course, and get this: the hot water supply pipes have a heat exchange with the drain pipes, so that the water stays hot longer.

Now, your most significant neighbor is a member of the Awakening Gambit. They're almost exclusively Adamantine Arrows and Acanthus, but they've got solid connections with most of the other Orders and respect the other Paths. Rule of thumb: if they're talking about chess or ethics, be polite. If they're not running their own errands, they're putting together some kind of stunt to force some poor schlub to Awaken. Usually, they'll just spend their days in what you'd probably call harmless people-watching, or catching up on the local gossip, or stuff like that. I've noticed, or hear rumors about, all three of the local members passing time at virtually every lunch-spot, coffe shop and hangout bar in town.

Their "mission statement", for lack of a better phrase, is that, unlike most supernatural threats out there, willworkers can't just whistle up baby mages when our numbers get thinned. The vampires go bite a few club-kids or whoever and they get shock troops. The werewolves... I'm not too sure about them, but they do seem to have a fairly reliable supply of pups coming from somewhere. But new mages seem to come into their powers with as little warning as possible. The Awakening Gambit, also known as the Kingmakers, step in well before then, to try and fudge the odds a little. If you were somehow able to sneak into their place (and if you survived their very high level of security) you'd probably find cabinets filled with borderline-illegal files on various folk around town: irregular surveillance, background checks, maybe a few phone records or bank statements, general breaches of personal privacy. You know, the kind of thing that only the government has on hand, and then only after getting warrants and probable cause? Anyway, those would be peanuts next to the psychological work-ups the Kingmakers have assembled. They're looking for the psychological tipping point, or whatever you want to call it, that will force the one in their sights to Awaken or die. Now, they do their level best to avoid actually killing anyone, but it can look like a very near thing if you're not paying close enough attention... or if you don't have some magic.

Now, willworker or not, they just can't play their games with each and every person in town. And besides, you probably know as well as I do that there are some folks out there who just aren't ready to handle Awakening. So they might just never get around to meeting you, which I submit might not be such a bad thing. As neighbors (and as Acanthus), they'll probably figure out pretty quickly how and why you managed to get into this condo; assuming you take it, of course. You might get a welcome-to-the-building party, or maybe just a coffee and danish over chess and conversation while they get to know you a little. They might try to rope you into one of their shenanigans, though, especially if they take a shine to anyone who meets you.

In the end, it's hard to say much about 'em. They're Adamantine Arrows, which means that they'll do what they can to keep the neighborhood in better shape than it might be otherwise, and they'll move heaven and earth to keep you from getting hurt if you aren't in their sights. They aren't as completely childlike as the usual run of Acanthus, but they can get a bit whimsical from time to time. 

What do you think about the place?

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 Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. When I was younger, I wanted to be a "Scientist!" Not any particular discipline, mind you; just a "Scientist!". If "Buckaroo Banzai" had come out a few years earlier, I would have wanted to live "in many directions at once", too. Nowadays, I'd be happy with a regular income, though I'd appreciate it if I needed six figures to express that income...

2. My number one comfort food is any kind of deluxe packaged macaroni & cheese. However, a close second is Spaghetti Factory's Spaghetti a la Homer (browned butter and mizithra cheese).

3. I deliberately make obscure intellectual references for no reason other than I find greater humor in encouraging people to work for the joke. For example, I would like to raise a very particular toast to Kim Stanley Robinson: a Mountain Dew Code Red, followed by a regular Mountain Dew (green), in turn followed by a Mountain Dew Voltage (blue).

4. In the highly unlikely event that I acquire a fan-following, I mostly wish that my fans would show their respect for me simply by doing whatever they can to make the world a better place. Failing that, I would hope that the "fan-gift" of choice would be hand-painted *G-RATED* Trumps. Which is to say, these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Amber#The_Trumps

5. My greatest fear was of doing the absolute best I could to raise a child (or, worse, more than one), to end with a beautiful genius possessed of enough ambition to take over the world, the drive to actually pull it off... and the morals of a rabid shark. In a word, I was terrified of producing Gulliver (or Galye) Foyle:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stars_My_Destination
Now that I've had a vasectomy, this has passed... somewhat.

6. I think I've played to my intellectual strengths to the detriment of my social weaknesses for so many years that they have switched places, then balanced each other out somewhat. It might have been nice if this had happened earlier; say, in junior high. So it goes...

7. I am functionally unable to attend any sort of concerts except classical music or comedic monologues. I don't care if they're the blandest corporate rock act since whomever, or if they're the best blues player since Robert Johnson. Amplification above the minimum necessary for people in the nosebleed section to hear clearly... *hurts*.

8. I wish I could visit an alternate world where "Firefly" and "The Dresden Files" were renewed (deservedly) for several seasons, while "King of Queens" and "Seinfeld" died quick, quiet network deaths.

9. I would like to ride the "Weightless Wonder" a.k.a. the "Vomit Comet" to experience free-fall. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomit_Comet
Okay, I'd *really* like to afford an orbital flight on Virgin Galactic...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Galactic
... but the "Vomit Comet" dream is at least within spitting distance of financially possible for me.

10. I wish that, upon meeting any or all celebrities for whom I have any respect, they remember me only as "that guy who was the most courteous and unobtrusive fan I've ever met. Wonder what his name was... Oh, well." I have taken to heart the implicit warning in the Chinese curse: "May you gain the attention of those in power" and fervently hope to remain someone distant and happy and small.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_curse

11. Aside from concerns about genetic disease or genetic predispositions toward medical problems, I am mostly unconcerned about my distant heritage. Probably because I have so *many*. I have English, Irish, Scots, Norwegian, German and French in my genetic background... that I know of... and going much further back seems likely to produce even more tangles. 

13. I want to get past my personal foibles and get paid for writing a short story. Step one: finish writing one...

14. The first thing I notice about people is their 'regional dialect', which I refer to as the 'birth certificate they carry in their mouth'. Kind of like how Professor Higgins can narrow down where a person was born and raised to within a couple of blocks in "My Fair Lady", though I'm not nearly as good.

15. If I were ever forced to attend a big-time "Social Event" (like some award show or, worse, some bigwig ball), I would make every possible effort to procure a reasonable (read: comfortable and in my size) facsimile of the collarless "spaceman's business suit" worn by Bruce Boxleitner on Babylon 5. Bonus points if the color scheme could be 75% black, 20% emerald green and 5% white; Green Lantern uniform proportions (give or take). 

16. I would very much like to contribute to the death of the necktie as a required component of businesswear for men. Like a ruff, it is a pointless way for the wearer to show off his aspiriations of status or wealth. Also like the ruff, it can be hazardous.

17. My music library tends to be as eclectic as I can stand. For example, I own several Sting CDs, the soundtrack AND score for "The Matrix", the Poxy Boggards "Anchor Management" CD, the soundtrack to "Titan A.E." and four CDs by a now-defunct band called "Brother" who dared to include a didjiridoo and a bagpipe... at the same time... in a rock band. And they did it really well, dammit!

18. My Evil Plan To Destroy Hollywood involves loaning each and every role-playing game publishing company in the United States $10 Million USD, with the proviso that they use the money to produce a two-hour pilot for a television series based on their best-selling game license within two years. While the probable level of production value would vary *widely*, it would be an extremely safe bet that the results would be far and away more interesting than 90% of anything Hollywood has produced for the past twenty years.

19. What I really want to be when I grow up is Writer-In-Residence on the International Moonbase. Yes, there are a few more intermediate steps between my present state and achieving this job than most such.

20. I heartily enjoy foods and beverages in colors, shapes, flavors and textures not found in nature. Can't handle anything even mildly spicy, though.

21. I want to live long enough for the James Randi Educational Foundation to cut a check to someone who can demonstrate genuine psychic/magic abilities on command. My imagination is taxed to the limit imagining myself as that person.

22. If I were a crayon I would be Cobalt Blue, because of what cobalt represents. Briefly, it symbolizes how a supposed 'flaw' can become something wonderful.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt

23. My favorite smells are well-chlorinated pool and the inside of a game store. No, really. Something about all those hard-bound books mixed with the miniatures, paints, plastic packaging and the dice... Oh, the *dice*... produces a curiously unmistakeable scent. NOT including the scent of unwashed gamers, mind you...

24. My cell phone wallpaper is a picture of Lee Ann's late, lamented Godzilla: a half-Springer/half-Dalmatian who looks like a black Labrador with long, wavy fur.

25. I hope I live long enough to get onto a BART train and travel in a loop around the Bay Area. If current conditions persist, I would have to live for at least another century or two...

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Howdy! Ready to see the next place?

This one's a converted warehouse space. The property missed out on the first wave or two of live-work loft conversions over the past decade or so, since at the time it was actually being used to house wares. Someone made an economic zig when they should have zagged... though I hear rumors that someone being caught drawing to an inside straight is part of it... and the place got snapped up. Shells within shells, of course, but it works out nicely for you, doesn't it?
 
Your most significant neighbor is the local representative of the House of Ariadne, drawn primarily from the Acanthus. Most of the Orders don't mind them, by and large, but the Guardians have a serious problem with them when "the City" sends them into places or after things that the Guardians would rather leave safely in the dark. Oh, right, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. The "Metropolitans" have a strange allegiance with what they call the spirit of the City. They know the geography better than any map, but they also have a scary grasp of practically every relationship on those streets. If, for example, some of the vampires are cooking up a plot to ingratiate themselves with a few of the werewolves, the Metropolitans will pick up on it. Maybe they won't be the first to know about it, but they will never be the last. I keep hearing conflicting stories from students of the Arcanum of Spirit. All I know is that they have an habit of turning up tidbits about the city's history or current events relating to shifts in the local halls of power, be those halls occupied by mortals or any of the other beings. Some rumors hint that some of the Metropolitans are archiving everything that happens in town. Not just who got elected mayor and when, but the really juicy details like exactly whose votes were cast from beyond the grave or by wholly fictional characters.

As far as being a neighbor goes, the Metropolitans can't be pigeonholed. Four different people have lived in the place since the building started renting, and all of them have been part of the House. One was a producer with the local film scene, one was a reporter with a smaller newspaper, one seemed to work part-time at every bar in town, and the current one is some kind of mobile Internet guru. My sources say that the particular apartment is kept in Metropolitan hands because it's got not one, but two sub-basements, each of which grants access to different sections of the underground. The only consistent part is they all have some kind of party about once every two weeks. I've been to a couple, and let me tell you, I have never seen such a wide cross-section of people. Willworkers, yeah, but this was absolutely insane; one time, I got a sandwich and a local microbrew for a guy who works at a community college who was playing cards with a plainclothes detective and a really high-end broker with legs that wouldn't quit, but they were all laughing about some bone-headed stunty by a new vampire gang to carve out a larger piece of territory.  Turns out that the bone-headed stunt was happening while they were talking about it.

All I can say is that the House of Ariadne does not include folks who stay in their apartments. They're often out and about, and if you give them half a chance, they'll take you on an eye-opening tour that may or may not end up with you holding a few new secrets. Otherwise, you might never see them at all, but you can rest assured that they know what's going on. The downside is that you may not be the one choosing whether or not to give them the chance; if they think that it's the right... ahem, Time for you... then you might as well just clear out your calendar. And you absolutely should not count on being able to hide something from them if the City thinks they should know about it, or at least, not for long.

What do you think of the place?

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