Disney Does It Again

Moana’s theatrical debut was Thanksgiving weekend, so of course, like the faithful Disneyite I am, I went to see it that Wednesday.  And Disney hit another one out of the park – home run for all the points.  Moana follows the title character in her journey with Maui, demi-god and hero-of-men, and HeiHei, a dumb chicken, to restore the heart of Te Fiti.  And it is delightful.  If you haven’t yet, run out and go watch it.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!

Moana is an amazing character.  She’s the next chief of her people and actually takes her responsibility to heart.  She wants to go beyond the reef that protects her island but she turns away from her needs to be the daughter and leader her father and people expect her to be.  She still dances with the waves with her grandmother, but she still helps in the day-to-day administration of her people.  When needed though, she doesn’t shrink away from her destiny and follows the ocean to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti.  Moana is a refreshing Disney “Princess” (in a dress with an animal side-kick, thus princess) because she actually admits at one point in the film that she has no idea what she’s doing, she doesn’t know why the ocean choose her, and she really isn’t anything special.  She’s just a girl who loves her family and loves her island and loves the ocean.  Which makes her very special.

Maui isn’t quite your typical side-kick either.  In the movie version of the legend, Maui is a shape-shifting trickster who stole the heart of Te Fiti as a gift to humans.  As a result, he lost his magic hook and can no longer shape shift.  He definitely does not want to help Moana put the heart back and tries everything to get away from her, including stealing her boat, throwing her off her boat, and tricking her into going to realm of monsters.  In the end, though, he comes to recognize that Moana is just the girl to succeed on their mission and helps her out.

The third star of this movie is the music.  The songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote, among other things, Hamilton and In the Heights), Opetaia Foa’i (founder of the group Te Vaka, a contemporary Pacific music or “South Pacific Fusion” group), and Mark Mancina (worked in the music department for Disney movies from Lion King to Brother Bear and Tarzan).  This soundtrack is a force of nature by itself.  The original songs capture with their beautiful lyrics and the Pacific Island sounds.  It doesn’t hurt that new comer Auli’i Cravalho, voice of Moana, has a powerhouse of a voice.

In the end, Moana is a wonderful addition to the Disney collection that will inspire young girls to go after their dreams while keeping their family in their hearts.


That First Job

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original.  I needed to jot something down to maybe get some creative juices flowing once more.  So I sat down and started writing a character I’ve haven’t visited in a while.  Hopefully it’s okay.

This is part of what is becoming more of a series than I though it would be.  There is no real order because each story is contained, but this is the third story I’ve shared with this character.  Enjoy.


That First Job

My grandfather always warned me to be prepared.  He would place his tanned and scared hand on my shoulder, locked his eyes, one bright and brown the other hazy and milky and blind, with mine and say in his booming voice, “Be ready.”  I was small, awed by what he had seen and what he had to say and what he had to show me still.  So I said, “for what?”  And he would look over my head, his one good eye seeing things I couldn’t dream of.  “For anything.”

I’m pretty sure this is not what my grandfather had in mind when he said to be prepared for anything.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking of long-gone battles and mostly forgotten thoughts of rebellion and war with the Imps.  I’m pretty sure he wanted me to be prepared for the day when humanity threw off our alien overloads/protectors.  He, sadly, is still waiting for that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that I should be prepared to hang by my fingertips off the side of building I was trying to rob while the security team looked for me.  Or maybe he did.  Sometimes it was hard to know with Grandfather.

My fingertips ached.  I deeply regretted opting for the cheaper climber gloves.  The upgrade had gecko pads which would have allowed me to cling to the side of the building in a, slightly, more comfortable position.  Lesson learned: don’t be miser when you are trying to steal from a high-rise.  Next time.

If there was a next time.

They, the nebulous they, always tell you to never look down when in a high place.  Of course, once that thought entered your head, there was no getting rid of it.  They were always right.  Never look down.

The street was really far away.  The people looked like the tiny robotic bees the Imps released after most of the real bees died off some twenty years ago.  They buzzed to and fro in their sleek motopods.  It was one of the first things the Imps gifted us with, as an apology for utterly destroying Guangzhou, the heart of world trade and finance, to teach us a lesson about trying to fight back.  The motopods were pretty neat though, sleek metal teardrop shaped pods that could communicate with each other seamlessly.  Apparently it eliminated something called traffic.  My teacher in school once said that people died by the tens of thousands in the automobiles they used before the Imps arrived.  Most people thought it was a fair trade.

My earpiece crackled and I almost lost my grip.  “Not on this floor,” the metallic voice came through.  The secretary team sent up the androids.  That was a blessing in disguise.  It meant they were less likely to double back to the floor they already checked; the floor I was currently dangling from.

“Circle back down.  He can’t have gone far,” the human controller replied.  Sweat was pouring down my face, but I couldn’t help the smirk.  Did no body read the classics anymore?

Now the hard part.  I trained for this.  I trained hours every day for a year for this.  I canvased the building, got in with the deliver companies that ran to this floor, knew where ever sensor and camera and floor monitor was.  It would do me no good if I couldn’t get in through the fucking window.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I shifted my weight on my feet and to a single hand.  My shoes, more high quality than the gloves apparently, held me fast against the slick-looking glass on the side of the building.  What most people didn’t know is that it wasn’t glass, but a porous material that helped trap carbon dioxide from the air and siphoned it through capillaries in the building to an underground plant that converted it into sugars.  All the old buildings from just after the Imps took over was built from it.  Their second gift was the material.  The best thing about it, though, was the fact that climber shoes found all the tiny pores and could cling to them.

My fingers on my left hand were sore.  I flexed them a few times before extending my arm up to grasp the lip of the window sill.  It held firm.  A few moments later, I had my other hand on the lip of the sill.  Slowly, I moved one foot than the other.  It would do no good to rush now.  I’d waited too long for this.  Rushing would only mean mistakes and mistakes meant getting caught.  Deep breath.

The nice thing about high-rise condos is that nobody locks their windows.  Because why?  The window pivoted on a hinge, leaving just enough space for me to crawl through.  It was also the only window in the place without a camera on it.  Because, again, why?

I pulled myself up and eased through the space, careful where I placed my hands and feet as I crawled through.  There wasn’t a camera on the window, but there was a floor monitor about a foot away in front of the sliding balcony door.  Most people thought it was would be easier to scale the building and enter through the balcony, I guess.  Standing, I flexed my body, popping the creaks out and rolling the muscles.  All that training paid off.  I was sore, but I could still move to do what needed to be done next.

I carried a small hip pack.  I dug through it now, finding the remote device and pushing a button.  Hacking into the security system wasn’t easy, but I’d managed it.  The cameras, at least, would show the empty house.  The sensors and floor monitors were a different story.

I learned young that I was really good with patterns.  My grandfather and I would play this game for hours where I had to figure out the patterns in his code.  It was only after I saw my first Imp that I realized I could put my special skill to a different use.  Imps walk weird, but there is a pattern to their movements, and they like to put sensors on the floor that match those patterns.  If you can’t follow their walking styles, you trip the monitors.  The Imp who lived in the condo was no exception.  And I knew his pattern.

So I moved through the living room, through the kitchen, into the collection room.

There were several items that, by themselves, were worth a fortune.  I walked right past them.  There was only one thing that was priceless in that room.

The security system was a Z12-T34 LASER system.  It was one that studied and understood on a personal level.  I crouched at the base of the display and slide aside the panel.  The Z13-T34 LASER system.

Well, fuck.

Of course.

Deep breath.

Fuck.

The Z13-T34 was just different enough that I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at.  But time was running out and I’d come too far to back out now.  I blinked twice rapidly and my digital display opened in front of my eyes.  Rapid eye moments back and forth quickly typed in a search for the new specs.  Of course nothing that I needed popped up.

Except maybe…

One site compared the old system with the new system.  It was enough.

For once, time was on my side.  The owner of the condo was away at the main Imp archive in Paris and the bots had already scanned this level of the building.  They were unlikely to research the area.  I pulled out my tools from my hip bag and set to work, referencing the website models as needed.

I thought I would be nervous, with sweat dripping from my temples like in the old Hollywood spy movies Grandfather watched with me when I was a kid.  Instead, I felt cold and calm as my fingers and tools made quickish work of the wires and security protocols in place that protected my query.  The new system was not that different from the old, luckily, and the few major changes were easy to understand with the help of the website I’d found.  It took only a handful of minutes longer than I practiced for, but the system lights flickered and died with the last press of a button.

I stood and just stared for a moment at the model in front of me.  It wasn’t very big, maybe the size of my hand.  For some reason, it was bigger in my mind.  Carefully, I lifted it from the display and cradled it.  It was lighter than I thought too.  I flipped it over.  There, on one of the landing feet were my Grandfather’s initials, just like he said.  Now that it was in my hands, I felt the nerves start to flare up.

Deep breath.  I still had to get out of here.  I pulled a small piece of cloth from my hip bag and wrapped the model as carefully as I could.  The Millennium Falcon was coming home.


Read the other adventures from our lovable burglar


5 years and beyond

A new study shows that 17% of teachers leave after 5 years in the profession.  That number might be a little low due to the recent recession too.  A previous study had shown that up to 50% of teachers left the field after just 5 years.

I completely understand why.  I’ve been a teacher for 5 years now and I get it.  I know there are a lot of people out there who understand that teaching is difficult.  There are a lot of people who really appreciate teachers for what they are doing and how hard they work.  I know that there are a lot of other professionals who work just as hard as teachers do.  But unless you are there, in the classroom, you really can’t understand what I do on a daily basis.  I don’t want to complain about it, because I do enjoy my work, but I just want to say that I understand why people choose to leave after 5 years.

I teach HS chemistry.  It wasn’t the subject I thought I would be teaching (I have a degree in zoology for crying out loud) but I’ve come to absolutely love it.  I’m even in the process of completing a MS in chemistry education to both further my education and to help my students earn college credits for taking my class.  I want my students to get everything they can out of my class.

But sometimes I really wonder what the heck I’m doing and if it means anything at all.  I was doing a lab on intermolecular forces and polarity the other day and my students where… just not getting it.  This is after we’ve gone over polar bonds, polar molecules, intermolecular forces.  They’ve had demos and reading and group work and computer simulations.  We’v had class discussion and they’ve written about it and answered bell work about it.  We’ve been doing this for a week and still… they are not making the connections that I want them to make.  I get that it’s only been a week and I know that it is difficult stuff.  That doesn’t make it any less frustrating to me.  Because it is frustrating when you pour your heart into making these lessons and making sure that it is fun and engaging and hits all the DOK levels and all the learning styles and all the Blooms levels and all the other stuff that your principal and mentor and college degree says should be in a lesson to make it a good lesson.

Your students are frustrated too.  Because they can see that you want them to understand and expect them to understand and they still don’t.  So they blame you.  You didn’t teach it.  You went too fast.  You didn’t help them.  Or maybe they blame themselves.  They are too stupid or just “not good at science (or whatever subject)”.  They give up because they think it doesn’t matter and no one cares.

Except I do care.  I care a lot.

So I understand why teachers leave after 5 years.  I want to remind those teachers of all the good times.

I have a wall in my classroom of all the notes that students have left me.  I read through those every time I’m having one of those “nothing I do matters” days.  They are notes saying that I’m a good teacher, that I made a difference in one student’s life.  They are notes saying I was fun and the student enjoyed my class (even though it was hard).  They are notes telling me that the student didn’t like science before my class but now they do.  They are notes reminding me that what I do does matter, even if a student still doesn’t understand polarity at the end of the day.

I met up with some former students at ASU the other day.  They were all taking chemistry at college and they said something about how their college class is basically my class, just a little deeper level.  But they get it this year and were really glad that they took my class their senior year.  Oh, and they still have all of my notes and they’ve been really helpful.  They are also dying inside and haven’t slept in a few days, but chemistry is easy this year.

Maybe I don’t connect with every student.  Maybe there are some students who don’t like me or hated my class.  But there are more students who liked my class, who enjoy me as a teacher, and who think that what I’m doing matters.  These are the students I want to stay for.

In January, 2017, I will officially have been a teacher for 5 years.  But I won’t be leaving this profession.  Even if it is only for those few students, I matter.


No Flash Photography Please

This needs to stop.  We’ve all been there: you’re on your favorite dark ride, enjoying the scary tunes of the Haunted Mansion when suddenly *FLASH* everything lights up for a few brief moments.  You look around because you know this ride and there are no sudden bright flashes of light.  Then it happens again and you spot them: two doombugies down is a mom happily snapping pictures of her darling bundle of joy on its first Disneyland ride.  Snap, flash, snap, flash, snap, flash.  “No flash pictures!” You want to yell.  Or do yell in my case, because, NO FLASH PICTURES.

I get it.  You want to capture every second of precious little prince’s or princess’s Disneyland experience.  Maybe you are going sans kids and want to capture all the magical memories of being at the happiest place on Earth.  But you are literally RUINING DISNEYLAND.

I’m not sure you understand the concept of a “dark ride”, so let me quote Wikipedia: “A dark ride or ghost train is an indoor amusement ride on which passengers aboard guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects” (italics added).The key part of a dark ride is that it is specially lit to make it seem more real, to create the correct atmosphere, and to give the rider a reason to suspend disbelief.  I know Indian Jones is not really hanging from a rope above my motor-vehical as a giant boulder comes rolling down a hill.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun pretending that it’s really him.  And when you click that little button or tap your little screen to get a *FLASH* you are ruining that moment for other people in the ride vehicle or in ride vehicles before and behind you.

Let’s say for a moment that you don’t care that you are literally ruining the experience for

img_6441

Picture I took using flash in the Haunted Mansion queue-line (not on the actual ride yet).  I also immediately apologized to all around me for taking the picture.

at least 10 other people who also paid $295 for their 3-day park hopper ticket.  Let’s say that you are an entitled jerk who just has to have that picture on Pirates.  Your pictures will be crap when using a flash.  Case in point is the picture on the right.  I took that while in line of Haunted Mansion.  I was still in the queue, not on the actual ride yet, and I apologized to everyone around me once I finished.  If you know the Haunted Mansion, this staircase is at the very end of queue right before you board your doombugy.  Notice anything about that picture?  Cause I think it’s garbage.  It’s a crappy picture.  You can barely see the stair case, the cobwebs look dirty and there is some weird bug smear flying through it (I’m also sure this picture will later be used to “prove” there are real ghosts in the Haunted Mansion.  There are not.  That is a bug flying through the frame.)  Turns out that flash doesn’t work that well when the objects you are trying to take a picture of are farther away.  So not only are ruining other people’s experiences, you are getting crappy pictures too.

img_1874

Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare picture taken without flash on my iPhone

I understand that you want to take pictures though.  And the good news is that you can!  JUST TURN OFF YOUR !@#$%^& FLASH!!!  I’m serious.  There are entire blogs about how to get great pictures on a dark ride without using your flash.  Here for example or here.  I’ve gotten some really fun pictures of dark rides with just my iPhone.  There are ways to use the lighting in the ride to your advantage and get that perfect picture that you can then upload to Facebook and make all your friends jealous.  Or, you can take a bunch of pictures outside the ride (I’ll even often to take one for you so you can be in it too) and just enjoy the ride experience.

But for the love of the mouse, stop ruining Disney with your flash photography.  It is against the rules for a reason.  You are destroying the magic for everyone else and the end result is a bad picture that doesn’t capture the moment anyway.


Everything to say, nothing to write

I haven’t really written anything since the end of the summer.  This happens a lot to me.  I think I have these great things to say and then life catches up to me and suddenly I have no time for anything but work and school.

There are so many times I’ve wanted to sit down and write something: a story, a blog post, an opinion piece, whatever.  But I find myself thinking “who will even read this”?  Ok, I know people will read it (and big thanks to all of you who do!), but I feel this imposter syndrome when I have things to say.  There’s this idea that I’m just this nobody with nothing important to say.  Or nothing original to say in any case.  I’m never sure who to get past it.

I feel like this is the reason I haven’t tried to publish many things yet.  The one time I’ve tried, my story was on the short list but cut for the final draft.  We build these protective walls around us to keep that kind of thing from being painful.  I told myself that it doesn’t matter anyway because I’m not a written, I’m a teacher.  I don’t have any ambitions to get my work published.  So I don’t write, I don’t submit, and I let the creativity bottle up until I feel like I’m going to explode.  Probably not a healthy outlet, to be sure.

I always set these goals for myself – two blog posts a month, 1000 words a week, submit to at least one publication a month, run every other day.  I’m horrible at keeping goals.  I don’t know how people do it, honestly.  I find that I just shrug it off and put it in the back of my mind.  Out of site, out of mind, no stress kind of thing.  I’ve tried to change this, but I’m not really sure how.  I don’t have a lot of motivators and the things that do motivate me, video games, tasty baked treats, pumpkin spice coffee, are things that I will do or eat anyway.  I don’t feel the need to limit myself because I didn’t do x, y or z.

So my blog sits for months at a time old posts and barely any traffic.  So my stories sit for months at a time with blank pages and lost ideas.  So the world never sees my words or my imagination.  So I just let the ideas rot in my mind and never put them to page.

What does it matter anyway?  The earth is going to be swallowed by the sun in 10 billion years.


Cross Country Travels

Recently, I drove across part of the country.  This summer, I traveled to South Dakota State in Brookings, SD to continue working on my M.S. in Chemistry Education.  Since I would be living on campus for two weeks, I decided to pack up my car with dorm essentials and make the 1,524 mile trip, passing through 5 states, over three days.  It was pretty exciting stuff.

New Mexico

IMG_5721New Mexico is actually kind of pretty territory.  There are rocky mesas and vistas filled with desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see.  Red rock and sage colored plants everywhere.  I passed through Albuquerque with its adobe homes and chili pepper lights and drove to the tiny town of Santa Rosa.  Located on Route 66, Santa Rosa is a tourist town with shops and diners located up and down the historic route.  There were also a number of boarded-up gas stations and old hotels, making the town look older than it was.  But I enjoyed my stay for the night.  In the morning, I packed it up and headed back out on the highway.

Texas

I only passed through the northern tip of Texas on my drive up north, but it was pretty country.  Farms and cows and flat as far as the eye could see.  It was fun to watch the desert scrub of New Mexico turn into the prairie of Texas.

Oklahoma

Like Texas, I only passed through a small portion of Oklahoma: the panhandle.  Also like Texas, it was pretty flat and full of farms and cows.

Kansas

TIMG_5737his part of my trip involved a lot of county roads and two-lane highways all will driving through some pretty farm country.  First off, Kansas is not as flat as I would have thought.  There are rolling hills and river valleys.  Second, Kansas is not all grassland like I pictured.  There are groves of deciduous trees that line farms and riverbeds.  There were blue skies and road-side cafes and diners.  There were also very tiny towns dotted amid the farmland and forests.  I even drove through a completely abandoned town where all of the windows were boarded up and the buildings were being taken back by nature.  It was a little creepy and a little sad all at the same time.  Mostly, though, it was farms and cows and quiet towns.  It amazes me that so much of the state seems to be devoted to growing food.  Growing up in a desert, I sometimes forget that the rest of the country is green and farmable.

Nebraska

IMG_5741See above.  No seriously.  I stayed the night in the town of Kearny, NE.  It was small and cute and had a lot of hotels and RV parks.  It seemed like the type of place one would stop the night as one travels around the country.  But it looked much like all of the towns I’d driven through in Kansas, only a little bigger.  Nebraska is very much like Kansas.  There are farms and grasslands and small forests as I drove across the state on county lanes and two-lane highways.  There were rivers and ponds dotting the landscape and the sprinkling of black and brown cow bodies.  But the landscape wasn’t that different from that of Kansas.  Maybe this is true for most of the country, but I grew up in a state where most of the terrestrial biomes are represented.  Arizona has desert, of course, but we also have grasslands and chaparral and deciduous forest and pine forest and tundra.  Really, the only thing we are missing is rainforest, but we do have something called a “wet desert” which is kind of in-between a rainforest and a desert.  I can drive two hours from my desert home and be at a ski resort on top of a 14,000 ft. mountain.  Or I can be in an aspen forest. Or I can be in the grasslands.  So to travel across two states and basically not see the landscape change is a little on the weird side for me.

South Dakota

IMG_5761I was in the south eastern part of South Dakota, which looks pretty much like what I describe above.  There were also rolling clouds and brief thunderstorms, which was kind of fun.  And living in the dorm was a new experience for me as I live off-campus during my undergrad.  I got the walk through campus on my way to class, watching fluffy-tailed squirrels and cottontails eat grass and scamper away.  I also saw a prairie dog, which was cool as we don’t usually see those just running around in Phoenix.

All told, my cross-country trip was a fun experience.  I saw part of the country I wouldn’t have otherwise traveled through.  I realized just how much of the country is used to make food.  I saw just how small some places can be.  I will definitely be taking more road trips in the future.


Bite Somebody: A Review

“Do you want to be perfect?”

That’s what Danny asked Celia the night he turned her into a vampire. Three months have passed since, and immortality didn’t transform her into the glamorous, sexy vamp she was expecting, but left her awkward, lonely, and working at a Florida gas station. On top of that, she’s a giant screw-up of an immortal, because the only blood she consumes is from illegally obtained hospital blood bags. 

What she needs to do—according to her moody vampire friend Imogene—is just … bite somebody. But Celia wants her first bite to be special, and she has yet to meet Mr. Right Bite. Then, Ian moves in next door. His scent creeps through her kitchen wall and makes her nose tingle, but insecure Celia can’t bring herself to meet the guy face-to-face.

When she finally gets a look at Ian’s cyclist physique, curly black hair, and sun-kissed skin, other parts of Celia tingle, as well. Could he be the first bite she’s been waiting for to complete her vampire transformation? His kisses certainly have a way of making her fangs throb.

Just when Celia starts to believe Ian may be the fairy tale ending she always wanted, her jerk of a creator returns to town, which spells nothing but trouble for everyone involved.

Bite Somebody by Sara Dobie Bauer isn’t your typical vampire book.  First off, you have Celia, the main protagonist of this tale.  Celia is pretty average Joe when it comes to looks and has some major insecurities when it comes to her appearances.  What person can’t relate to that.  When she was bit by Danny, she hoped that all of her woes would be carried away.  Alas, that’s only the beginning.  But Celia is getting by, with the help of her therapist Dr. Savage.  She’s a great main character not only because she is funny and weird (like me) but also because she isn’t perfect.  Celia messes up and makes mistakes, but she is living her life as she can and putting the bad things behind her.  It not only makes her a relatable character, but also a believable character.  Celia literally could be me, and there were more than a few times I laughed out loud at her antics because I’ve been there.

Second you have Imogene, a punk rock vampire that is a throwback to the 80s, complete with cassette tape player (that’s right, cassettes kids), plastic red sunglasses, and side ponytails.  Imogene befriends Celia initially for her blood supply, but the two become something like the odd couple.  Plus, you can’t not love Imogene’s feisty attitude and “fuck it” nature.  Imogene is the best friend that anyone can ask for because she just comes in, uses her stuff, and isn’t afraid to tell you how your fucking things up.  She’s also there in a jam and will back you up forever.  Literally, she’s a vampire and won’t die.

Of course we can’t forget Ian, the laid back former surfer next door who has the Best. Smell. Ever.  Ian is the most laid back, go-with-theflow character ever, yet his charm and innocence makes any gal, including Celia, fall in love with him.  Ian just kind of roles with the punches.  Even when he finds out the truth about Celia, he’s okay with it because he likes her for her.  And being a vampire is part of being her.  He’s far from mister Perfect, and the flaws in him keep him grounded in the story.

Bite Somebody starts out being a pretty typical rom-com, but quickly take the reader for an exciting ride into areas of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.  There are some fun, unexpected turns when Celia’s creator shows back up, but I won’t spoil that for you here.  I would recommend picking up a copy and finding out for yourself.

Sara Dobie Bauer manages to navigate those twists and turn beautifully.  She paints a wonderful picture of the town of Admiral Key and it’s unusual inhabitants.  Her writing is funny, witty, and easy to follow as she guides you through her world.  This book is for anyone who likes making fun of Twilight and enjoying some new twists on vampire shenanigans.

Bite Somebody comes out today (June 21st, 2016).  You can find it on Amazon and Goodreads or can buy it directly from the publisher.

You can find more awesomeness from Sara Dobie Bauer at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.


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Sara Dobie Bauer

Author of BITE SOMEBODY and other ridiculous things