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Today, I received a graduation present from my sister, and it was a present of a rather spectacular nature. She took me to the zoo.

That, by itself, is not particularly spectacular. The zoo of Kolmården, being the largest in the Norse countries and possibly in Scandinavia, is rather nifty, but I've been there before. I have not, however, before this day, been on the guided wolf tour.

The wolf tour is designed to teach people about wolves; how they are not, in fact, vicious and dangerous animals. To do this, they offer visitors close contact with the wolves. Really close contact. In fact, once my sister gets her digital camera and cable here, you will see pictures of a wolf licking my face. (In fact, all five of the wolves they had in that particular enclosure came up and licked everyone's faces. It is how they greet other individuals: By licking the corners of their mouths, according to the guide, though the wolves seemed to prefer licking the entire face.)

On the one hand, it was to a degree like being surrounded by a pack of playful, hundred-pound dogs. On the other, there is something about the bearing and demeanour of a wolf that makes it an entirely different, and entirely wonderful experience. They were their own creatures in a way that dogs are not. They were constantly bickering amongst themselves—wolves are always testing the boundaries of their hierarchy, and always defending their position. Every couple of minutes one of the wolves would bound after another with a growl and a snarl on his face—and a snarling wolf does look frightful. Take it from someone who has been within arm's length of one ... (Yet even if one wolf would have its head resting on a human when a fight broke out, no fight would ever touch a human save if a wolf accidentally bumped into one—we visitors were not part of the pack, and so were not included in fights for status within it. As for our guide, she was already the pack leader, and had only to snap at the wolves—or, on one memorable occasion, growl—to bring them to heel.)

These wolves were beautiful animals. Large, lean, sleek, strong, gentle, playful and noble animals. It was an experience unlike any other.

Pictures soon to follow.
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Saturday was Stacey's birthday; Sunday was Scott's. Saturday night, there was a party at Devin's place, with predictions of alcohol consumption in epic quantities, third-party vows that Scott should not return home conscious, and a vow from Scott that I would not walk home steadily. There were also allusions to going out to some establishment of an undetermined nature. As it turns out, none of the above actually happened, but I think it was a good night for everyone concerned. Scott, while quite conscious, was certainly rather merry by the end of the night ...

Of course, this being my blog I'm mainly focusing on my own part of the story (much as I was not a main character of the event). Being who I am, and being that it was a gathering of some size (about twenty people), I naturally ended up hanging at the outskirts of things—now hanging by the door, now standing in a corner. Stacey was kind enough to talk to me from time to time to ensure I wasn't completely isolated, but of course she didn't spend the night talking to me—for which I'm very glad; I didn't go there to monopolise her time at her birthday party ... All in all, this (entirely through my own fault, mind) made me a moderately miserable person for the first few hours. (Not as wretched as I would have been pre-Celexa, by any means, but let's face it, hanging around the edges of a party isn't fun for anyone, however neurochemically well-adjusted.)

Fortunately, that evening was saved by the fact of a nice girl by the name of Felicia coming up to talk to me. We ended up talking for several hours, and by virtue of there being two of us, we apparently comprised a group that other people could drift in and out of, so from then on it was pretty good. (I may be rude and relentless in a mocking way, but I like to think of myself as reasonably courteous in the ways that actually matter, so I did the gentlemanly thing and walked her home. Egads, the town was full of drunk people last night.) I shall have to meet up with her again, sometime.

Nick shot some video at the party, available at his blog, here. You can't really see me much, except for one shot where I'm standing by the door looking rather dour (and a couple of times in the background, where I doubt you'll pick me out), but there are some amusing shots of Scott ...

Tonight, I went to the more-or-less-weekly poker game at Scott's (Texas Hold'em, $10 buy-in); there were five of us playing, all guys this time. Last time was not so good—I lost a fair chunk of my money early on, overreacted in the customary fashion, lost the rest on purpose, and moped. I would like to think that I'm capable of dealing with that in a better and more mature fashion now, but tonight it was not necessary: I ended up cleaning everyone out, after a nerve-wracking round against Scott where he went all in, either bluffing or betting on a card that failed to show.

So afterwards we were sitting in Scott's living room, talking about this and that, the conversation taking some turns into areas ... less commonly publically discussed. The conversation turned to sex toys and stores selling them, with which I have no experience (either stores or articles), and—stodgy conservative that I am—don't really have any interest in. (The usual disclaimer: Nothing wrong with anyone who does, I'm not that dumb or judgmental; but personally, I fail to see any attraction; to each their own.) The other guys all have interesting things to say, though, prompting the following brief exchange (as closely as I can recall it):

Me: "I take it I'm the only person here who fails to see the excitement about sex toys."
Chutz: "Sex toys are cool!"

At this point, the conversation is interrupted by a loud, vibrating noise from Chutz's direction.

There's a shocked moment of silence before Chutz answers his vibrating cell phone. The four of us collapse in helpless laughter for the next five minutes, and I'm surprised that Chutz managed to get a proper sentence out. (I believe it was his father calling.)
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Last week I was prescribed the antidepressant Celexa, and I've been taking it since Saturday—not even a week. The first few days they made me nauseous and somewhat disoriented; the next few days I sensed nothing in particular ... today was different. (Scott claims he noticed a change earlier; I myself did not. I had a good week last week, so I was pretty much all right to begin with, or what passes—passed—for "all right" in my life.) Today was ... good.

I'm not sure how to describe it. It feels as though some weight—not great, but constantly pressing—has lifted off my shoulders. It seems as though some pale grey pall has lifted from the world. I feel good in a way that I haven't felt in so long that I'm honestly frightened.

Don't get me wrong; I haven't had a terrible life, and I've had good times—lots of them. Being with friends, a tremendous amount of time with Lori, the time with Stacey, and of course thousands of other things great and small ... but this is very different. Before, I was occasionally happy about things, and sure, when I was happy about something I could go on for a bit and be happy in general. But eventually, whether shortly or after a relatively long period of happiness, I would sink down into the bleak state that was usual for me—Stacey explained something about this to me at some point, and I believe the term she used was "baseline happiness". My "baseline" was pretty damn low.

Today is not like that. I'm not happy about some particular thing that's happened—nothing concrete—I'm just happy for no reason (well, obviously there is a reason, and it's fairly concrete and comes in 20 mg capsules, but there's no particularly exciting thing for me to be happy about—pills don't strike me as that cheerful). It's an entirely different feeling, and right now it feels strange and wonderful. At odd moments during the day I have felt at the verge of laughing, perhaps simply from the novelty of this feeling.

So the pills are good. Why the hell, do you ask, didn't I get on them sooner? Certainly people have advised me to. And if I was in such a bleak state of mild-to-moderate-to-pretty-bad depression for so long (how long?), why didn't I do something about it earlier? Am I completely stupid?

I didn't realise I could feel like this. I have gone so long without this general, non-specific happiness that I had all but forgotten what it feels like. I didn't know, and couldn't believe, that I could go for a day feeling this good without having some very good reason to. Looking back, I can't recall the last time I felt like this. How old must I have been? Twelve years old, perhaps? Slightly younger? Stating it like that, it sounds like I have been in some degree of depression since puberty hit, and that's a damn long time. That's about half my life. Now I understand why people were frustrated with me, why they urged me to do something about it—because really, it doesn't have to be like that, even for me. But I feel no shame about my reluctance, foolish as I now know it to have been, because it's been ten years, and it's no wonder, I think, if I couldn't easily recall what I may have felt like back then, especially in light of the fact that my psyche has undergone a fair few other changes since then ...

I realise I should take one step at a time—this is how I feel today and I may not feel like this tomorrow. But today I do, and I will remember it. Today I feel as though laughter is on the very verge of bursting out just because of the novelty of being happy without beeing happy about something—intransitive happiness, if you will. And even if I don't feel this good tomorrow, I will remember that it is possible, and the next time someone tells me to fight for it, I will know that there is something to fight for.

Finally—thank you, Scott, Sheepy, and Stacey—listed here deliberately in alphabetical order—because you pushed and you kicked and you dragged me to the counselling office and finally to the doctor, and you made me take this, and so you have shown me what life can be like.

Thank you. I cannot express how grateful I feel to you right now—others as well, all of you who have supported me through some bad times, but primarily (just now) the tribunal above who pushed me to this decision.

I still have a ton of issues to work on, I have a long way to go, and I need to find a way to be self-sustaining after I eventually stop taking the Celexa. But ... I'll get there.
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I'm not generally a huge fan of fanfilms—every single one that I've seen that's tried to be serious has ended up cheesy and dumb; the acting is generally very sub-par, and props, effects ... well, they're fanfilms. Of course they suck. They work with extremely limited resources (and actors) ... This is not to say that the people who make them don't achieve stunning feats with the limited resources they have available, but I'm not able to set aside my critical side long enough to enjoy them.

However, there are some amazingly funny spoofs.

Troops is just awesome and provides wonderful backdrop for Episode IV.

How the Sith Stole Christmas spoofs both Star Wars and How the Grinch Stole Christmas wonderfully and with awesome animation.

And The Empire Strikes Backyard ... OH MY GOD. Just ... watch it. Watch it NOW. (And don't skip the outtakes at the end.)

I'm happy.

Jun. 20th, 2002 05:45 pm
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"Dear Petter Haggholm,

"On behalf of the Awards and Prizes Committee, we have the pleasure of advising you that you have won the Albert Kwong Memorial Prize in Computer Science. This will be noted on your official university transcript."


"Dear Petter Haggholm,

"On behalf of the Awards and Prizes Committee, we have the pleasure of advising you that you have won the U-1 Alumni Prize. This will be noted on your official university transcript.

"This prize is awarded to the male student with the highest academic standing in the first year."

haggholm: (Default)
"Dear Mr. Haggholm,

"Congratulations on your outstanding academic performance in the 2001-2 academic year.

"In view of that academic record, I am pleased to be able to inform you that the University's Scholarship Committee has awarded you the Stephen St Clair Memorial Scholarship, with a value of $4000.00 per annum

It may not be vast and the dollars may be Canadian, but it's going to take a huge chunk out of my tuition expenses and I'm happy.


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