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Just an update.

--I passed the Series 7 Exam. I answered 227 out of 250 questions correctly, for a score of 90.8%. The national average is 66%. I studied my ass off, particularly over the last two weeks. The amount of material I absorbed still makes me incredulous. How did I do that? When I started, my central though was, "you have simply GOT to be kidding me."

Now I'm studying for the Series 63, which covers about one-twentieth the amount of material the 7 did, although most of the 63 is composed of annoying legal terms and exceptions to regulations. It's hideously boring, where the 7 was actually interesting and useful in parts. After August 27th, I'll be free again...

--I'm all moved in to my new place in Keller. I like a lot of things about it. It's very clean, large, and quiet. The appliances work well. It's nicely designed. The biggest annoyance so far is the gate. It's hard to find any decent apartment these days that doesn't have a gate -- people demand the illusion of safety. An aluminum-engined, aluminum-framed motorcycle will NOT trip the mechanism on the way out.

Another drawback is the monopolization of the phone, cable, and internet access by a company called One Source Communications. I was paying $30 plus about $2 in taxes per month to Verizon for DSL. Here, the same speed DSL would cost me $80 plus probably $5 in taxes, plus $100 of installation, plus I'd have to sign a one-year contract. This is right in Keller, Verizon's chosen city, the test site for the rollout of consumer-level fiber optic-based internet access... and Verizon doesn't even service these apartments with basic phone service. I'm going without for the time being, since work is so close-by and I get a lot of browsing done during my shift. This is almost a deal-breaker though, and I'm considering moving again next year.

--Here is a list of the wildlife I've seen at Fidelity: raccoons, rabbits, opossum, egrets and herons, hummingbirds, geese, ducks, hawks, roadrunner, a large variety of turtles, fence lizards, corn snake, geckos, frogs, toads, bass, perch, minnows, a million cicadas, huge dragonflies, jumping spiders

No deer or wild cats or canines yet. I've been leaving late lately, often I'm the last or one of the last out of the compound, and I've seen that rascally raccoon several nights already, chowing down at the parking garage garbage receptacle. He's very skittish though -- unlike the turtles, who practically crawl up and bite my shoe until I start feeding them.

The lake looks so amazingly gorgeous at night with the compound's lights reflecting off it. So romantic.

--I'm actually looking forward to football this year. The Cowboys have a chance. Keyshawn, Eddie George, a halfway decent QB contingent, and the same solid defense as last year -- don't count them out this year. Can't say the same for the Mavs, though. It's going to be a rough November for them...

--Why did every Sunday-morning talk show today concentrate on Kerry's military record? Who cares?? It's not going to change my vote one way or the other! What is more important, and what needs to be discussed more frankly, is Kerry's voting record over the past twenty years. Vietnam is Vietnam, let's see what he's done more recently.

My thoughts are summed up in a poster which I unfortunately can't post a link to: "Whoever wins, we lose." Not only am I pretty fed up with both candidates, I'm also tired of both PARTIES. It seems the government has grown up to be viewed either as a "wet-nurse," catering to every cry and moan with myriad remedies (on the liberal side)... or as a preaching, overbearing father, telling you everything you can and can't do on moral grounds (on the conservative side)...

There was a time when the ideal government (that which governs least, ironically) was viewed as simply the "night watchman," taking care of a few things in the background, stepping in only when absolutely necessary, and generally leaving the people free to self-govern. Those days, when more than a small minority of the population felt that way, are long gone.

--I can't remember what I told you last, but I STILL haven't bought another car. Very very soon. My step-mother did finally buy a new one: a 2004 Nissan Maxima SE. Oh, it's nice. 270 HP engine with an autostick transmission (can be fully auto or can be sequentially manually shifted without a clutch). The brakes are lacking in some feel, but are OH SO POWERFUL. The steering is a little numb or overboosted, but fine for a sporty sedan and light years better than the previous car. The 18" wheels hold on very well. The sound system is simply elegant. I have issues with the sightlines, and the seat tends to encroach on my lower back a bit, but overall the car is unbelievably solid and fun to drive. Passing on the highway (after quickly bumping it down from 5th to 3rd and then pressing firmly on the pedal) is immediate and completely effortless, as is to be expected from that torquey AND revvey V6 gem.