So I decided to give James Russo's Empire Falls another shot, and I'm glad I did.
The first time I started it, my reaction was something along the lines of, "This book won a Pulitzer?" The prologue is a bit meandering, forty pages of gratuituous exposition and background of the little town's history, and it's a bit tough to chew through. I put the book aside ten pages out of that prologue, and didn't pick it up again for a few months.
The second time around, I was drawn into the story far more quickly, having trudged up the hill at the beginning already, so to speak. It's well-written, the characters are engaging, and while nobody gets killed with an Uzi, it's a good read all around if you don't mind reading about everyday small-town folk wrestling with their personal demons.
On the computer front, I seem to have exorcised the gremlins that had taken up residence. I formatted my hard drive and reinstalled XP, updated the system BIOS, and reset all BIOS values to conservative settings. Then I transplanted all the components into a new CoolerMaster case with much improved airflow, and now the whole rig runs fifty degrees cooler than before. So far, so good...three consecutive days without crashes or wonkiness. If it runs without burping until Friday, I'll pronounce it healed. (I may have sacrificed a chicken under the full moon to further that goal, but if anyone finds the black candles and the carcass in the trash outside, I'll disavow all knowledge and blame the dachshunds.)
We're currently getting the pad ready for munchkin #2, which is due to arrive any day now. Induction is scheduled for May 10th, but Robin thinks that #2 will beat her due date just like Quinn did. Bags are packed, at any rate..all that's left is a run to the liquor store for some anaesthetic and liquid stress reliever. (For daddy, of course.)