Yep, there it is, the Eye of Sauron. Max's Xbox 360 finally quit, as it seems they all inevitably do. So it's at a Microsoft repair center, being fixed, and we're without Assassin's Creed for at least a month.

Other things are broken, too - Max's computer (probably the power supply), my car (battery and the Ghost in the Transmission) - I guess when it rains, it pours.

And then I found out yesterday about a broken LIFE, or perhaps it qualifies at this point as a whole broken family. My cousin, Amber Martin, died Sunday night of a drug overdose. She was a year or two older than me.

I haven't seen Amber since I was about 10, but I remember her being smart, pretty, and very cool (you know, she was older!). Amber and her younger sister Andrea had a rough go of things, though. Their father was my dad's brother, my Uncle Clyde.

Clyde struggled with heroin and was in and out of prison and rehab for most of his adult life. His relationship with Amber and Andrea's mother Darlene was rocky, as far as I could tell. He contracted Hepatitis and died earlier this year.

What I don't understand is this: After years of observing first-hand the devastating effects of drug and alcohol addiction, how could she have gotten involved with all that? We can't say she didn't know better. I could see Uncle Clyde's downward spiral from half a continent away - it's not like it was subtle. Watching my dad ride that roller-coaster of having a loved one with a serious addiction problem was heart-wrenching. People say drugs are a victimless crime, but they're dead wrong. Drug abuse puts the friends and family through hell.

Knowing that - and she must have known it - how could she have ended up with a drug problem? You'd think she'd be the LAST person to mess with that kind of thing. I keep chewing it over in my head, looking for some sort of answer, but really there isn't one.

A few months back, after my uncle died, I thought about writing to Amber and Andrea. I talked myself out of it because I figured they had their own support networks of people they know. My dad is far and away the most successful of the 6 siblings, and myself and my sisters were kind of resented as the "privileged cousins". I decided that sending my thoughts and sympathy to Amber and Andrea might offend, so I just let it drop. Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe it wasn't, but I can't let myself fall into the trap of wondering if things would've turned out differently if I'd just sent that letter. Amber's problems didn't start with her dad's death. And they haven't ended with hers.