Lighting a Signal Fire

Halfway through my vacation, Eric lent me the concluding two novels to the Sword of Truth series. I always enjoy epic fantasy fiction novels because I can escape to a world of adventure where good outwits evil and the shadow falls. I get caught up in these stories and find myself wishing for an epic of my own, to be a hero in a story.

At the same time, I curse my repetitive foolishness. Not many people are left who knew me when I was younger, or are familiar with the details of my youth, but “adventurous” is a good way to describe it. Adventures aren’t generally fun–they’re sleepless nights, constant threats, and always filled with uncertainty. And yet, my peaceful life for the last several years (since I came to college in 2003) leaves me wanting something more. I don’t know why–I know it’s stupid to want those adventures back–but part of me yearns to be part of something bigger than myself despite the consequences.

The worst part of this ambivalence is that God is clearly calling me to something other than what I’m doing right now. As I sat on the plane somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, I whispered mentally that I wished I had something to do, something to fight, and God replied, “You do, if you would just do it.”

For the last year or two now, I have been hearing God calling me back to a fight I left off when I became Christian. Prior to my salvation, I tried to do good things, though I was doing them the wrong way. I was relying on myself rather than God, and subsequently my best efforts turned to ash. They were twisted and tainted by Satan. When I accepted Jesus into my life, he told me quite clearly that I had to leave that life, and that fight, behind. I was to trust in him now, and he would take care of me.

The fight to which I keep referring obliquely, because I can’t find a simple, non-dramatic, and yet evocative and honest way to refer to it, is a fight against the devil, evil spirits, and demonic forces. In our society, even acknowledging the existence of demons causes many to question a person’s sanity. A claim that one is, or has been, involved with fighting them is cause for even greater concern. Such a claim stems from either madness or delusions of grandeur.

I don’t really like it any more than anyone else does, but before I was Christian it was one of the things I did. There were demons, and vampires, ((Vampires are absolutely nothing like what most people think–I’ll be writing about them at some point)) poltergeists and spirits, ((I’ve begun to think of these as kami to help explain them)) and I could see and interact with them. I could harness, fend off, or help them. There wasn’t a whole lot of soul-searching or thought involved with the matter, just as we don’t have to think much about walking or talking. It took a bit of cognizance, but became a part of who I was.

Things aren’t so simple when you’re Christian. Relying on God is a lot harder than relying on yourself, and my methods are useless now that I’m not a witch. A Christian has to go about everything completely differently. And at least in the US, it feels like there’s a lot of social stigma to even considering this matter, let alone actually engaging in spiritual warfare. It’s uncomfortable to write and talk about, so I found myself pulled between three different things.

  1. God is now calling me to engage in spiritual warfare and fight against the demons, devils, and other spiritual beings that struggle against the Kingdom of God.
  2. I’m not entirely sure how to do this, and I’m not entirely certain I even should be. This despite the fact that God has been pretty clear that I should be… so what is it within me that resists? In addition, I can’t help but feel that I’m not good enough for this task, or to be serving God in this way. I am not free of sin, and I’m not that strong. I don’t memorize the Bible, and I’m not picture-perfect. Who am I to do this?
  3. I worry about the social stigma. This isn’t something that can be done in secret–rather, we are called to practice our faith openly–if for no other reason than that I need guidance and support. But I have a regular job working with computers at a university and a decent amount of friends who don’t believe in any of this, both Christians and non-Christians alike. Despite everything, it’s hard to not worry about what others will think.

At the end of it all, though, I do know a fair amount. I fought a number of demons before I became Christian and I have encountered several more in the last couple of years since I started opening myself to the world again. For years I kept my spiritual ears and eyes closed to that world, fearing what God was calling me to, but my spiritual gifting is in discernment. Closing myself to the negative spiritual aspects in this world closes me off, at least somewhat, to the positive as well. God can only do so much in my life when I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I’m screaming la la la.

Three weeks ago at church, I felt a darkness begin to fill the sanctuary, pressing in on us. Closing my eyes, I opened myself to the Holy Spirit and commanded the darkness begone, stating that we would not be closed in, we would not be oppressed and smothered. The Spirit slammed into me and out through the sanctuary, through the area downtown where our church was, and throughout the entire city. On that day when I was in the Spirit of the Lord, I could see everything in Springfield, in regards to the spiritual realm.

When I was a witch, it was relatively easy to slip into the weave, the flow of magic that blankets, permeates, fills and is the entire world. These days, I don’t know whether to still call that magic or whether to rightly think of it as the Holy Spirit, but that was my understanding of it at the time. When I was joined with the magic in that way, I could sense and feel everything, travel the world over with ease, and impose my will with great power.

Joining with the Holy Spirit is a very similar experience, and yet infinitely more pure and… good. With God guiding and instructing, pouring into me and overflowing me with goodness, I was at peace. The darkness fled before his light. That’s how it is supposed to be.

It was like God was saying, “You can do this. You are the one ((Though not necessarily the only one, by any means–just one among many)) I want to do this. You must do this.”

Two weeks ago in church, a young man came in late and walked directly to the first row of chairs, sitting in the seat nearest the aisle. As he walked past me, I felt a disturbance. Not like the hairs raising on the back of my neck, but more just like a red flag going up, or a feeling of tightening in my gut. There was a demon influencing him, twisting him, and I immediately began looking for ways to tackle and subdue him if it became necessary. With my broken collarbone, I was nervous and worried, but I’d do what needed be done if the time came.

This young man soon raised his hand and interrupted the pastor. Speaking loudly, the man denounced the pastor’s teaching, having it completely backwards and confused, ((Joel had heard/understood the opposite of what the pastor was saying and shouted that the temple of God must be kept pure and holy and free from such sinful teachings.)) and refused to be placated when the pastor addressed him by name (Joel) and said they could talk about it later.

An elder from the church came and pleaded with Joel to step outside, eventually convincing him to leave. Worried for the elder’s safety (though what I’d be able to do, I’m still not sure), I followed them out and watched them from a distance. They had left the building, but Joel soon returned with the elder trailing him, not laying a hand on him but telling him firmly not to go back into the sanctuary.

Joel kept repeating that he couldn’t let the church be pulled down this way, couldn’t let it be fouled, and I asked Joel if he’d sit down and explain it all to me. What was it that was upsetting him? What did he perceive was incorrect with Tim’s sermon?

The demon itself had fled as soon as Joel raised his hand to interrupt the pastor earlier, but its influence was clearly the work of years worth of manipulation. Joel seemed to calm a bit, and eventually went into the sanctuary (interrupting the sermon again, from the back this time) to apologize for the interruption and bless everyone there before he left the building for good.

It turns out the elder was Joel’s father, and Joel’s brother was there as well. Joel’s father thanked me for my help and commented that I had a gift to calm him down as I had, and he was very impressed with me. I replied (awkwardly with a bit of stammering),

“I hope you won’t take offense at this, but that boy is being oppressed by a devil.”

“You’re right,” his father replied with a weary smile. “We’ve come close to it a few times, in fact. You’re very perceptive to have picked up on that.”

When everyone had returned to the sanctuary, I went to wash my hands and, at the same time, blessed some water and sprinkled the area. I then went to my knees in front of the door and prayed forcefully.

“I am your enemy now, demon. Know that I will be coming for you.”

It was time to light a signal fire. I knew what I had been called to–had known it for years–but surely I wasn’t the only one. When I was a young witch, manipulating the wind and the weather across an entire continent, I assumed I was the only one with such powers in the world. It was a delight to learn I was wrong, that there were others just like me and that I was not so alone as I thought. Surely, within Christianity, there must be others, so I want to find them. I want to meet them.

Christianity is not a faith of hermitude and solitariness. We are called to join in a community of believers, and that’s what I want. At the end of the church service I went up to the front to pray, as everyone is invited to do. To the two gentlemen who came up to pray with me, I said,

“I don’t know what God wants us to pray, but this is what’s going on.”

I told them about how God had been calling me for years, and about my gifting in discernment. I shared the increased pressure and certainty of the previous few weeks, and how I felt like the time had come to step out and do something. I expressed my concern in regards to stigmatization in addition to my worry for my wife, April. When you set yourself against evil as I intended to do, evil fights back, and there’s not really any way to keep her out of the fight.

We prayed then, for strength and humility, for wisdom and patience, and out of thanks for the opportunities God gives us. I am blessed that Vineyard is a church accepting of the Gifts.

Suffice it to say that I’m pretty nervous about lighting this signal fire. While it may call allies, it will certainly also mark your position to enemies, and I’m not all that excited about putting myself out there again. At the same time, God has called me, and I feel an obligation to do something. I can see things others can’t, and I know how to fight. How can I keep hiding when people need help?

At least this time I won’t be so alone. I have Jesus fighting with me, and whatever else happens, nothing can take me from him.

Romans 8:37-39

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This post is a first step. I want to let people know my intentions and invite them to talk with me, ask questions, or join in on this work. It’s not for everyone–we are all called to different things and God has gifted us for different purposes–so if spiritual warfare isn’t your gig, that’s fine. The body is diverse for a reason.

A big focus of this blog in the future, and of my life and time, is going to be dealing with spiritual warfare. Most of what there is on the ‘Net on the topic is ambiguous at best and oftentimes completely misinformed or founded upon ignorance. I don’t have much to contribute, but I want to write what I can to help others who are working towards the same goals as I am.

Please be praying for April and me, and for our church. Blessed be ((These two words always amuse me because a common exclamation or means of saying goodbye for Wiccans is to say, “Blessed Be.” I always wonder if it’s just coincedence.)) the name of the Lord.

Design As A Weapon

This post is part of an ongoing series of collaborative conversations. All rights are reserved by the original author, Ryan Burrell.

In my first post in this collaborative series, I worked to develop a broader definition of what Design is – something more than what we tend to think about.  I touched on the idea of Design being a multi-edged sword, a force that can be used for many causes.  Commonly, we think of it as a tool for branding, presentation of ideas, and aesthetic pleasantness.  But can design be used for destruction?  A weapon for good or evil – against the mind or body?

A Branding of War & Nations

German Swastika
US Air Force emblem
Hammer & Sickle

For most of recorded history, nations and tribes have had some form of designating visual symbol.  Empires have had crests, banners, and flags.  Rulers have had signets, sigils, and emblems.  The adornments of soldiers and royalty, the style of weapons, and even the architecture of a culture were all visual decisions designed (consciously or subconsciously) to set a society apart.  The idea is twofold: instill national pride, and make sure your enemies know who you are.  The crest of a warlord or the flag of a nation could strike fear into the hearts of an enemy, or herald the return of hope to a beleaguered country.

In more recent times, we’ve seen the transition from cultural art to dedicated design when it comes to the presentation of power and force.  Ancient symbols have now become sanitized and placed on our flags, with thought put in to their alignment and presentation.  Think of the Nazi swastika, a foreboding cross in a white sphere on a field of red – a brutal herald of an extremist movement.  Or the American military badge that was its contemporary, a shining white star on an expansive blue background, backed by a crimson bar.  The former stereotypical Russian hammer and sickle imparted a sense of pride in strength and power, of struggle and dominance.  To this day, all military units possess some sort of badge that serves to identify their unit affiliation, as well as a herald of sorts that proclaims their past deeds and exploits.  These icons were not casually or idly created, but were designed to install certain thoughts in the viewer’s perception.  Colors, images, shape, line, form, and placement have all been employed to create signs of status – the logos of the world’s societies and military powers.

A Weapon of the Mind

WW2 Propaganda Poster

Whatever the perceived powers of Design may be, the true strength of it remains within the realm of the human psyche.  Design’s results affect those who view them, and the viewer may be irrevocably changed because of it.  A poster cannot will you to fire a rifle, but it may impart a deep emotional response that fires your sense of nationalism – which is perhaps more dangerous.  A billboard sign can’t make you suspicious of your neighbor for treason, but it can instill a sense of the extreme importance of national security and doing your part to keep it.

The term I’m dancing around here is “propaganda”, the famous posters and advertisements of the World War II era perhaps being the most exemplary.  Propaganda is little more than defined rumor, but rumors have so much more weight when a visual element is applied.

A Weapon for Weapons

The industrial design and architecture involved in creating the physical weapons of war cannot be ignored either.  In ancient times, weapons were not only functional but highly stylized.  A great warrior’s heavily embellished sword and scabbard would set him apart from other combatants, bringing fear and respect.  I’m reminded of the fantastic Arms & Armor book I read as a child which contained hundreds of examples of deadly, beautiful, and intriguingly functional weapons.  The brilliance of their designs was not simply in their stylized appearance, but in the fact that they were highly effective as well.

The design behind combat and an arsenal is part utility, part engineering, and part emotional impact.  A weapon must work, it must do its job with a minimum of extra effort and expense, and it must be intimidating.  Think of the sight of Apache helicopters hovering over a battlefield, or the iconic bulky, brooding Russian tanks of the Cold War era.  Imagine the sleek appearance of the first Messerschmitt combat jet in World War II, and the reaction of the enemy pilots in their clunky piston engine flyers trundling through the sky.  In war, the design behind combat can be just as important as the force.

A New Face for Modern Warfare

US Air Force & Army logos

In the modern day, the American armed forces perhaps more than any other military organization before or present have focused on defining themselves to the public via visual presentations and marketing.  The Army and Air Force specifically have developed logos for themselves that obviously attempt to modernize their images.  They have created slogans, and these have been given over to any number of print ads, websites, music videos, and commercials to tout becoming a part of “An army of one” or setting off “Into the blue”.  And driving home the meaning behind these ideas is a huge design force, making sure that the branding has consistency, the presentation is visually engaging, the information is shown clearly, and (above all) that everything that goes out makes the expected impact.

This is the darker side of Design – a creative force for destruction, and a huge contributing factor in the politics, propaganda, execution, and mentality of warfare.  I invite you to take a closer look at the symbolism of the nations of the world, and to research the motives behind those symbols.  Design reaches much further than the idealized notion of printed graphic tees and magazine ads we think of; the tip of the blade can be turned many ways.

Can’t Burn My Bridges

Bridge

I had two dreams the other night with recurring themes. In the first, we were having a World Affairs Council reunion at our house. Except it wasn’t just WAC members, it was everyone who had impacted my life in the last seven years, crowded into and around our front yard, grilling burgers under the night sky and drinking punch beside a giant bonfire. It was a tense affair because the new WAC members felt threatened and intimidated by the old WACcers, afraid we’d come back and take over or something, while the alumni just reminisced about the good old days and how much fun we had.

The second dream was long and involved, but included a trip to my high school auditorium. While wandering up and down the rows of wooden seats, the backs of the chairs suddenly started to catch fire as if someone had smeared oil along the tops of them and tossed a match. I calmly bent down, blowing on the chairs to put the fire out, working my way along the aisles to make sure all the flames were put to rest.

If you ever do a Google search for the meaning of fire in dreams, you’ll probably find yourself as frustrated as I was because dream analysis is all a bunch of bologne. Apparently, fire can mean pretty much anything in a dream (surprised?), but there was a theme picked up by all the different articles. Though the writers observed that fire can be positive or negative, destructive or life-bringing, comforting or threatening, it was also often linked with destroying or cutting ties to one’s past. That, or an inability to do so.

I’ve had a reversal of fortunes in the last six years of college in regards to my memory. When I began college, I had very poor short-term memory, to the extent that I would often forget conversations while having them, couldn’t keep appointments, and had to write everything down to remember anything. I got lost because I couldn’t recall directions, and I had trouble with just about everything. But sometime during my freshman year, my memory drastically improved (which is a story for another time). Since then, it has continued improving, and now I remember pretty much everything. I haven’t gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum (just like my memory was never completely non-existant), but I do remember more than most people I think.

I remember specific feelings, able to almost relive them, and I remember entire conversations, their twists and turns. I still can’t quote movies all that well, but that’s because I never try to remember movies. In general, I can now look back over the last decade and put just about everything together in my mind.

This means that I can’t let anything go, though, and while I’m much better at keeping myself from dwelling on sorrow and loss (having let it go emotionally, at least), I can’t forget any of those experiences.

But really, I don’t want to. I treasure the memories with fondness, and I am glad that I can look back and remember exactly what it was like to be somewhere or do something. It helps keep me from yearning for the past, or from putting it on a pedestal. My memory keeps me firmly grounded in reality.

No, I don’t want to burn those memories, or forget where I came from. But just because that bridge is there, that doesn’t mean I want to cross back over it either. I’m happy just to know it exists.

Seeking Closure

I wrote a pretty bad poem by this title around four years ago, when Abbey was ending her friendship with me. Amongst all the different failed relationships I had, I wanted to know why they had ended so poorly, what the final straw was, and how to make things better or, at the least, not make the same mistakes again in the future.

A few months, or maybe a year, later I read the poem again, then wrote another poem in reply mocking it. The original was sappy, and Granting Closure was what I needed; a kick in the rump telling me to get over it and move on.

Ever since Margaret got back in touch with me (around a year ago or more now, I think), however, I’ve been craving that closure once again. I don’t need to know what failed now, though. I have a pretty good idea that it was me: I failed.

The blame isn’t all on my side of the table; I’ve learned to not blame myself for everything under the sun. But I still feel, or felt rather, the need to apologize. To try and make amends. At the least, to let them know that I’m sorry for my part in the negativity and failure of the friendship.

So I’ve been contacting these people, apologizing and tying up loose ends. As of last week, I sent the final missive, and there are no ends left to tie.

There are probably two others I could contact, but am not, either because communication has been tried in the past and failed, or because it doesn’t seem worthwhile. When trust has been so badly damaged, an apology becomes worthless; how do you know they mean it, and aren’t just trying to manipulate you yet again? I have nothing left to apologize for in those instances, and their words could never mean anything to me. I’ve elected rather to let it lie in the past, where it belongs, and move on towards a brighter future.

There is an important part of me that has found peace through this process, and what’s more, I’ve discovered the wonder that is forgiveness. Its healing power is truly remarkable, and I never understood it before this last year.

Being forgiven by God is one thing, and difficult to grasp and understand. Being forgiven by Margaret, or Katie, or Jennifer, or all the others is another entirely, and helps me understand my Lord all the better. Jesus has forgiven me for far greater things than these few forgave me, yet how wonderful their forgiveness is.

The question has been posed many times elsewhere, “What would our lives look like if we were to act truly forgiven?” I suspect it would be happier, and far more free. It is something I need to work on, accepting and understanding God’s forgiveness. On a mental level, I have, but now that I have felt mortal forgiveness, I can recognize that a part of me is struggling to accept God’s forgiveness.

It will be the last great closure I will ever need to seek.

Fitness Goals

When I graduated high school, I weighed 165 pounds. I was working at the hospital in food service, carrying heavy pans around. I’d been doing debate for years, carrying heavy debate tubs around. I was in decent shape.

After my freshman year of college, I weighed 195 pounds. I had gained 30 pounds, but I was OK with that. I was pretty sure I’d been underweight and a little malnourished in high school, and the gain in weight was largely due to eating a regular number of meals a day. I stayed at this weight through most of college.

After my first year at my current job, I weighed 215 pounds. I had gained 20 pounds in a year because my job now consisted of sitting at a computer, all day, every day. Throughout college, I had been a student worker, which meant running all over campus to fix stuff. Now, though, I did research and writing and other such things, all in my comfy office chair.

I started going to a gym, at which point I weighed around 225 pounds. I lost 18, down to 207 pounds, and felt really proud of that. Then I stopped going. That was ten months ago.

I have now rejoined the gym. I weigh 233 pounds. My goal is to lose 53 pounds by the end of next May. I’d also like to strengthen my arms (I used to carry 120 pounds around regularly, now 30-65 pounds give me trouble over anything other than short distances) and improve my flexibility (I studied martial arts when I was young, and have lost a significant amount of flexibility since I stopped down that in junior high).

I’m meeting with a trainer on Thursday to discuss these goals and plan out how I can best reach them. In addition to attending the gym 5-6 days a week, we bike most days to work. Not sure how that’ll fare during the winter, but at least I’ll continue to have the gym when it gets bitterly cold.

What one man can do, another man can do.

Unique Influences

One Sunday afternoon, April and I were talking about a young married couple we know. Their relationship has been a little rocky and strained, and invariably we couldn’t help but compare our experiences to theirs.

As the conversation continued, however, it occurred to me how impossible, or at least unfruitful, such comparisons were. We were talking about working on this book, and trying to figure out how we would write about certain situations and what advice we would give. In a lot of situations, what worked for us simply won’t work for other people, and it would be ridiculous for us to give advice based solely on our experiences, because such advice would probably ruin other people’s relationships. April and I are just very different.

Part of that comes from my childhood, which was relatively unhappy. My parents fought a lot, my dad kidnapped me once when they were separated, our family when we moved to Missouri (my dad’s side) was less than awesome, I was bullied at school, my parents were divorced when I was 11 or 12… as you can imagine, these experiences left me with quite a bundle of neuroses and issues, but they also inspired me with certain desires and the drive to be a better person. I wanted to give my kids more than I was given.

I first remember thinking deeply about this subject when I was nine years old. At that time, I decided I wanted to be married, to provide a good life for my family, and to take care of them and be a good husband and father. Since the age of nine, that has been my primary motivation and goal, and everything in my life has been focused towards that end. Decisions I make, lessons I learn, and where I spend my time is often all filtered through the lens of how it will help me reach these goals.

But that’s not something you can teach. My experiences led me to that committment, and it works well for me in strengthening my relationship, but I can’t just tell someone to make the same committment to help their own relationship. It is simply unrealistic. A nice ideal for someone to pursue, but to focus your life so completely on something requires something more than a mental decision that it might be a good idea.

A strong blade is forged in a hot fire. Being somewhat unhappy with your relationship and wanting it to be better just isn’t hot enough, so the advice of “commit everything in your life to being a good husband/wife and father/mother,” it’s just not helpful. We have to meet people where they are and give them advice that is applicable and useful to them. Something they can implement.

So, how do we translate our unique influences, our specific experiences, into something that will be helpful to our brothers and sisters? Well, I suppose we start with prayer.

Computer Setup – Then and Now

This article is a reply to Lorelle’s Blog Challenge: Describe Your Computer Setup – Then and Now

It is difficult to think back to our first computer, because my first experience with them was when I was three years old. These days, that’s nothing uncommon–my boss’s kids use Edubuntu exclusively and were typing at two and hacking at three–but in 1988, our household was rather uncommon. I grew up “playing” with DOS, and we had just upgraded to a 486/33 (which was upgraded to a 486/66 when I was 4).

I had been introduced to the Internet in seventh grade by my friend Justin, who helped me pick my first screenname and shared his ORION (Ozarks Regional Internet Online Network) account with me so I could connect from home. With a brand new 28.8 baud modem, we would chat via telnet and, on a few exciting occasions, connect Doom over TCP/IP for some multiplayer gaming. My father shelled out the cash for a Prodigy account, and suddenly we had a graphical web browser… but the Internet seemed small back then. It was all Yahoo!, Angelfire, and Geocities. Businesses ruled the web, and there wasn’t much I was interested in beyond interacting with my friends. These were my father’s computers, though, and I didn’t get my first until high school.

My freshman year of high school, my mother purchased me an HP mini-tower and CRT monitor for Christmas of 1999. Back then, Napster and ScourExchange ruled my time, and downloading music was just an everyday thing. I mixed CDs for myself and my friends, discovering a wide range of music I hadn’t known existed outside my little country-radio-station world. The world hadn’t turned dark and scary yet, and TOR was just an interesting idea rather than a potential necessity.

My little HP box ran Windows 98, and ran quite fast for at least a few months at a time. I don’t even recall the specs on it, but it was pretty generic, and I didn’t really care back then anyways. Our operating systems didn’t demand much, and I spent most of my time on telnet. We were still on dial-up (though some of my friends who lived either in town or in subdivisions had cable), so my access was limited, and so was our budget. Buying software wasn’t really an option, so I pirated a copy of Norton AntiVirus, ran ZoneAlarm, and used IE without thinking about it. I was grossly ignorant about computer security, but it didn’t seem to matter as much just yet. The great virus outbreaks of the early 2000s were still to come.

My mom got me a separate phone line sometime around my sophomore year of high school, and I spent the vast majority of my time at home on the Internet. Eventually, my time went from downloading music to movies, from ScourExchange and telnet to IRC, and from browsing for MUDs to researching evidence for my speech & debate team. The RIAA began making more noise about music downloads and announced that they were targeting anyone with more than 1000-3000 songs. I deleted everything I had pirated, but I still had my Norton AV and my copy of Windows XP that I had acquired from someone. When it came time for college, it was time for a new machine.

I purchased a Compaq laptop, which died so often in my first year of college that Best Buy gave me a new HP to compensate for the lemon they had originally sold me. I used the laptop to take notes in class, but it also doubled as a gaming laptop (freshman year was Star Wars Galaxies, a far cry from the Ultima Online I had begun playing in high school), and its 64mb video card blew away everything I had seen until then. The Compaq had 1gb of RAM and a 40gb hard drive, so I was pretty stoked; when I upgraded to the HP, I suddenly had 80gb of HD space, filled rapidly with games from LAN parties. I still have that HP, but last year I built a new desktop.

From spending my evenings on telnet and IRC growing up, I have now transitioned to being connected to the Internet almost 24/7, both for work and play. I wear a smartphone that picks up all my email, almost all of the games I play are either MMORPGS or multiplayer over XBox Live, and I do almost all of my writing online. I don’t download music, which means my collection (all legal now) is many years out of date, but I’m OK with that. I do still download software all the time, but that’s also all legit. When I got my current job (Centralized User Support Specialist for Computer Services at Missouri State University), I decided to take the plunge and switch entirely to Open Source.

My home computer has a 400gb SATA drive with a DVD-burner, a far cry from the few hundred meg of storage space I once had. A 19″ LCD has replaced the 15″ CRT, and 2gb of 1000mhz RAM is certainly a change from the 128mb in my first machine. I ditched Windows, both at work and at home, and run Linux everywhere. OpenSUSE 10 at work for a long time, recently replaced by Linux Mint, and either Ubuntu or Linux Mint at home, depending on the release cycles. I have a video card and a sound card now, neither of which I had on that old HP (instead using the onboard devices) and, of course, a DSL modem rather than a 28.8 dial-up device.

I still live on the Internet, but most of that time is spent at work. At home, rather than MUDding, I sometimes play World of Warcraft with my wife. Just over a year since I built my most recent box, I built her a new computer that was half the price of mine and already superior. And yes, it runs Linux.