Thursday, August 12, 2010

Starcraft's Wasted Years

I was 22 years old and was graduating in 2 months from Michigan State. My grade point average was respectable. I needed to keep up with my work ethic through the next month and finals. I already had a job, but I'd like to secure a 3.25 graduating grade point.
April Fool's Day, the game Starcraft comes out.
I graduate with a 2.96 GPA overall, which I round to 3 for the rest of my life.
Starcraft accounts for at least a .5 drop in my grades across the board, doing that sort of damage in 2 months.
Starcraft is: you and another player start on opposite sides of a map with some workers and a building that makes more workers. Your workers can build other buildings that make offensive troops, and you build an army to destroy the other player's stuff.
You balance military, economy, and research all while fighting an opponent doing the same.
The catch is, everything happens in real time. So things spin out of control quickly and the question isn't what should you do next, but more "what should I stop from falling to pieces next" because
there's
not
enough
time


It's chess on crystal meth.

I played it like a second job - 5 PM - 11 PM every night and all day on weekends. Didn't meet anyone my first year in New York, eventually got sick of it and found myself alone and fat.

Fast forward 12 years to NOW - Starcraft 2 is out.
And this time I won't be alone - there's a friends list right in the game!

The excess of my early twenties can't be repeated, not because I'm opposed, but my spouse is. She leaves on a trip tomorrow, and I'm salivating at the thought of living off cereal, pizza, and beer all weekend, never leaving the house but to take the trash out or get more booze, and racking up the games of Starcraft 2.

I expect my rating to initially rise as I become stronger at the game, then plummet dramatically as I wreck game after game with my drunkenness.

That's the only downside to the new game: you only get one name online. Gone are the days of being KingCrimson (my main ego) and Yossarian (for when I was blitzed).
In fact, I didn't even know the name you picked WAS permanent when I picked mine, so now I'm stuck with Lichypoo.
At least it sounds french.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Layout, design critique welcome (and needed?)

Some of you people are web design types with a better eye for it than me.

I've used Google's new Designer function to get this far, but I'd like to know what can be improved.

Or, just say nifty and move on, that's cool too :)




Edit: I just realized I failed to give credit where credit's due.
Andrew Rollins Dewitt is responsible for the artwork!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons nerdery

I run a dungeons and dragons campaign in my spare time
I'm the dungeon master.
It's my world that their characters inhabit.
Which sounds cool at first. . . "yeah, I could really let my imagination go wild!"
It's almost like writing a story, if you decide all of your characters are retarded.
We've got one guy in the party who was enslaved by hobgoblins, so I drop a HUGE lead into an adventure with "there's some slavers in the north that need investigating. Oh and also something something mage's tower in the east."
Once-enslaved rogue: "Let's go lootin' a mage's tower!"
This is why God sends hurricanes.

something something mage's tower it is.
Fortunately, something something mage's tower was another adventure I'd planned to send them on afterwards. I wasn't scroogied, things were just happening in a non-linear order.
I'm ready for this.

The party arrives at the monastery outside the tower, and ask around. The tower's abandoned, the lich hasn't been seen in a while, yadda yadda.
Party sets off immediately to tower. Like, walk into monastery, "hey, which way's the tower?"
LOOTIN!

So as the party approaches the ABANDONED tower, 4 guards in the ABANDONED tower start pelting them with arrows.

Let's stop for a second and think about an appropriate reaction to this situation.
Take cover in rocks nearby?
Fall back, discussing tower's occupancy?
Run straight to front door and hope it's unlocked?


So yeah, run right at the front door.
It's locked.
Rogue: "I shall attempt to pick it with my million thievery skill"
LOOTIN!

They open the door to a roomful of death.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Musings and Meanderings (redux)

The birthday hangover was less about alcohol this year, and more about the flurry of activity on facebook that accompanies a birthday and the stark silence thereafter.
Fame reaches you for a brief second (all eyez on me) and dissipates almost immediately after. Which is good; roller coasters are fun because free-fall lasts about 6 seconds (and feels like forever) - actual free-fall would give me space sickness. (Not to be confused with Space Madness)
I'm not musing about fame, though; public facebook accounts, blogs, and comedic aspirations give the lie to any protestation. I've already written about the fact it's a chimera, pointing to Infinite Jest and DFW's words on the subject.
The day after 100 FB updates is. . . jarring. It's like "whoops, life goes on". And the crazy part (my crazy) is the first update I posted I expected 100 comments on it. But writing isn't like that. (even when it's silly bullshit like status updates) In fact, I love Robin Hobb's take on it a couple years ago - Vampires of the Internet and it is ultimately counterproductive.
As a fiction writer she's 100% correct. My fiction is abortive and jarring to me; I can't seem to get past the "produce a ton of shit that's awful to get to a gem". The awful part drains and dispirits me.  I suspect the instant gratification of comedy (write joke, perform joke, know instantly if it works) gave enough scraps to sustain me through the grueling process of crafting garbage.
Writing doesn't have that respite. It's digging the tunnel from Alcatraz. Don't tell anyone lest they alert the guards and the muse flees. Only if you plunge into the Bay waters, and somehow make it to shore gasping and vomiting sea water is there some sort of reward for the craft.
It goes without mentioning most of us drown prior to that.
Which is actually a hopeful thing; I always become concerned at the sheer amount of people who "write". How could I possibly make a living here? The space to carve is crammed with bodies to elbow from the trough. Programming's major benefit is the symbology is simply lost on most normal folk; even if they wished to program they are simply not wired for it. Perhaps writing is the same way, but I can't help but see crappy writers (Dan Brown, I'm looking at you) making it HUGE while excellent ones hang themselves in their bedroom.

Circling back around to birthday facebook updates -  I never paid attention to others' birthdays; my own wall posts to people are capricious at best. For example, two comedians had birthdays within two days of each other earlier in May. I status updated "Happy Birthday" to one of them, and didn't the other. It's not like I'm saving up the updates, or preserving my typing hands. I just didn't do it.
I didn't feel like an asshole about it until it hit my birthday, and I felt how good it is to get all those wishes.
Then it hit me. Yep, I'm kind of an asshole. Now, this comedian was not waiting for my update. I did not ruin his birthday. But I didn't pile on the good feelings.
And then, two days later, I'd reversed my curmudgeon attitude and piled on to another comedian.
That's when it became a little bit offensive, I'd imagine.

I remember when screwing up gifts was the hardest thing to deal with in interpersonal relationships. No wonder I feel disconnected from my fellow man almost always, sober or otherwise.

I can't even handle status updates.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Halfway to seventy!

Assuming I don't die tonight, I'm going to be "celebrating" my 35th birthday tomorrow.
Which is crazy since I'm pretty sure I'm ten. The highlight of my day yesterday was having to leave the GameStop store because the fart I squeezed out was too vile for words.
Today was spent resisting the siren's call of Red Dead Redemption, which I failed; I stopped at the same GameStop and picked up a copy as I biked home from work. Sadly, the fart had dissipated.

Time flies. I started performing standup at the end of 2001; I'm not where I'd like to be but I understand why. Breaks are horrible for standup; there's a ton of nuance that is lost when you stop performing regularly. Sometimes it requires the equivalent of an engine rebuild to get going again and regain instincts.

But I've rebuilt the engine, dusted off the old bits I'm willing to keep, and been writing new ones like crazy. The sensibility's a little different now. There's a worry that the room's too cool for me now. The hard (brittle) edge I once carried is a bit dull.
I'm married. I have Things To Lose like a house and wife. I have a good job. I have three cats that are pretty hilarious and awesome.
The whole nihilistic oblivion I once sought seems childish.

Naturally, I have a newfound respect for those closer to 40 than 20. We're wiser, duh.
I'm pretty sure that's a direct function of age, but there's some truth to it. My concept of time is different now. Planning is for the longer term.

The concept of "ten years gone" makes sense in a way that didn't at 25. The first time I ever read a "how to be a standup" article was when I was 25 years old. The gist was 5 years to get decent, 10 years to get good. I said "well fuck that, I don't have time for that shit."

I'd be at 10 years right now if I'd said "let's do this."

I'm happy with 8 that's really about 5. I'd be happier with more showcases and less open mics, but on the ten year timeline, that won't even matter.

One thing hasn't changed in ten years I guess; my navel gazing is still disgusting to behold.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Free Samples!



And then my Facebook Fan page is now up:
My Fan Page
Hopefully that will work for the 17 people who read my blog.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Facebook: The Case Against

I've been thinking a long time about Facebook and whether or not I want to be on the site in general.
It is, technically, a tool for promotion. Fan Page, twitter feed, link to the blog (which is going to show up on Facebook in about an hour) all sorts of nifty crap that can be done on it. That's the plus. A way to manage a fan base, in theory.

Except it sucks at keeping dates unless I let a third party app do it, which then has access to almost all my data. Admittedly, my data is not that valuable to anybody but Wizards of the Coast.
So I'm back to using a google calendar on a website.

So what sucks about Facebook?
Spam - every single asshole who thinks it's ok to steal part of my attention by inviting me to a shit gig, fuck you. Seriously, I hate every single one of you and your invites.
Spam - Hey, you know why I never responded to your event? Because I don't like you or your event. In fact, your event is probably why I don't like you anymore. Why did you send me something asking why I didn't respond? IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE A SPAMMING FUCK.
Status Updates from other comedians, talking about shows I can't get booked on. Ok, this is totally my problem, within my control to change how I feel about it. But I am a little sick and part of me digs the seething envy and resentment. Can't be good long term.
I've heard the argument that FB is a tool to find out where the shows are at and try getting booked that way; while I acknowledge this may be true, if you're showing up in rooms and performing regularly then you'll get word/booked anyhow. And if you're not showing up in rooms, well, I know how that goes because that's been my Master Plan for the last year and I'm doing almost nothing but open mics right now.

And the big nasty - privacy. Right now you can actually Get Out of Facebook, and have most of your data go away. The way they've been running, that's almost certainly not going to be forever. They surreptitiously change the Privacy Policy and their Terms of Use, never for the user's benefit.

And it only makes sense when you realize YOU are the product. Facebook isn't the product - We are. And we're letting Facebook get paid for our shit, for nothing.
And they're abusing it mightily.

Anything Facebook can do, I should be trying to do on my website.
Status updates? Twitter's mighty fine; I can have them appear at the top of my blog No Problem.

Blogs? I've got an RSS feed. Twitter also pushes them out.
Dates? Can't do that on FB.
Fans? They'd be mine only until Facebook decides they're not; I don't have control on whether or not they shut my fan page down, or decide I violate the terms of service, or someone reports my blog as offensive again.

Bottom line: I don't have control of my data at all. And that's beginning to wear thin. Google has the Data Liberation project, where they ensure you can extract your Gmail, your blogs, your calendars, your whateverthefuck to allow you to switch services.
Facebook's actively trying to prevent that.

Plus, it's such a time waster. It's a thief of time, and I'm already running thin on it. I can't imagine what it would be like with kids.

I think Diaspora* is in my future, or perhaps just Google Buzz and a web redesign in WordPress or something.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Blog

I finally figured out a decent blog topic that I'm passionate about, and can write with regularly. Since this is still the dumping ground for anything horrible, comedy, or kitty oriented, I'm not going to confuse the issue here with a new subsection of blogs.

Rather, I'll just make you visit another blog to waste your time.

Which is a pretty good strategy, in that it's a Dick Move, the kind of thing this new blog is about.

Notice there's no C in dick. This is not because I'm horrible at spelling, but because Google won't let me have a blog with dick in the URL. PenisMoves didn't have the same ring.

Moving forward it will probably end up as dickmoves.goingtharn.com but I'm not interested in doing tech stuff today.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I catch things with my face

Two years ago, I heard news that changed my life for the better. At the dentist, I was informed that I have a dead tooth, one of my front ones.
The nerve's retracted and discolored to a brownish-yellow. I did not know this; I know when it happened. I face planted while ice skating on a second date with a girl named Heather. I got up, and my tooth was on the ice in a pool of blood.
Punchline: I wasn't supposed to be out; my father was out of town.
So I'm strapped down in an ambulance with a whole bunch of neck stabilization stuff, and then dropped off at a dentist. Nobody ever looks at my neck. "Let's make sure you don't move your neck too much until we get you into a dentist's chair." They then charge my father $100 for said "service", in addition to the remainder of the ambulance bill.
The dentist shoved the tooth back in and wired me up, and tells me it's probably going to fall right out in 3 months. I was pretty sure it wouldn't because when I was eight, my brother and I were playing catch and I caught a ball with my mouth. It knocked the same tooth out for the first time. It had been an adult tooth for all of 2 years.
They stitched it up that time and bam, it regenerated like a troll.
So I figured 8 years later that guy probably wanted to jump out and look around for a couple of hours.
Frankly, I'm thrilled the tooth isn't BLACK.

But I wish it had turned gray; I knew teeth could turn gray. I didn't know they could turn a color approximating plaque. That's why the news is so freeing; I've thought I was horrible at brushing my teeth for YEARS.
It really fucks with you. Whenever you approach a task, this seed of doubt is in you saying, "man you don't even have tooth brushing down yet, how are you going to master Python?"
So when I found out that the yellow front tooth was Totally Not My Fault? Freedom! I am good at personal hygiene!
The dentist followed up with something about not flossing and gum disease but I assume it wasn't that important.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My favorite thing in job hunting

My favorite thing to look for in job hunting is the harried HR rep trying to figure out how to spin the downsides of the job. This company has absolutely zero benefits:
[company] recognizes the large contribution made by our employees. [company] rewards our employees by offering competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits package that provides financial security, as well as the opportunity for employees to support and improve their professional and personal lives.

Employees are offered a variety of health insurance choices depending on their needs and location. Our retirement plan, which includes a pre-tax 401(k) is designed to provide financial security in retirement.

We offer professional development through an excellent in-house training program and a tuition reimbursement program. In addition to paid holidays and vacation. We also offer many resources to help you manage your life outside of work, including an Employee Assistance Program and personal development programs.

Three paragraphs of benefits! This must be a great place to work! But let's break it down paragraph by paragraph:
[company] recognizes the large contribution made by our employees. [company] rewards our employees by offering competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits package that provides financial security, as well as the opportunity for employees to support and improve their professional and personal lives.
The one thing that strikes me: no mention of annual increases or anything like that. There's weasel words in here that make it sound like they give raises but they don't say it. Clue 1 you're in trouble: in describing the benefits, they cite their competitive benefits package.
The last sentence is nonsense. "opportunity for employees to support and improve their professional and personal lives." Huh? Why would they mention our personal life at all, do they expect to be involved in it? This is probably something about training, one of the next paragraphs must talk about how much training they offer.

Employees are offered a variety of health insurance choices depending on their needs and location. Our retirement plan, which includes a pre-tax 401(k) is designed to provide financial security in retirement.

Wow, a 401(k)! Oops, nothing about employer-matching. You'd think in this day and age with a ton of companies no longer matching they'd advertise it. Oh, they must be a company that no longer matches. I like the health insurance choices. There's a variety, depending on location!
Their health insurance is the only thing they don't label as competitive. Good sign.

Their final paragraph concludes not with a bang, but a whimper:
We offer professional development through an excellent in-house training program and a tuition reimbursement program. In addition to paid holidays and vacation. We also offer many resources to help you manage your life outside of work, including an Employee Assistance Program and personal development programs.
Ah, here's the training. In-house training and tuition reimbursement. In-house training? Uh-oh. Why were they so specific? I think that's only a good sign if this is a job at a learning center or a market leader in something hard. Unfortunately, this is an IT support position in a company that doesn't have a core competency in IT. In-house training opportunities are probably scarce. (I'm a skeptic here though - I think you should be offered training opportunities in whatever you're hired to do, from outside sources. Nothing frees up myopia like hearing a different way to do things)

There's bright sides though: they offer paid holidays and vacation! Also, here's that threat of interfering with your personal life again - "We also offer many resources to help you manage your life outside of work". I don't even think I'd take that sort of guff from my wife!
The thing that I love most is the next line. What kind of assistance could we offer?
Depressed? Addicted to drugs? Approaching financial ruin? We have an Employee Assistance Program for that!


I like looking at job postings these days because I'm wrapped in the warm blanket of an awesome job a few minutes home. I am not actually seeking other employment.
Also, if you're looking for a job, my condolences. The horseshit you have to put up with these days is disgusting. Best of luck. (don't apply at above position)

Monday, April 12, 2010

taxes, schmaxes

That time of year again. . . taxtime.
Everyone's crying about it on the facebooks. "The democrats are spending us into oblivion!"
NO, YOU JERK. IT IS NOT DEMOCRATS. IT IS ALL OF THEM.
Get it the FUCK right or I'll spit in your coffee.
In fact, the deficit grows the most under Republican presidents!

Tired as hell of Republicans "getting religion" when the dems come into power. The Republicans are now deciding all spending must end.
Except, you know, all the wars we got us involved in almost 8 years ago. Make sure you fund that.

But if you're really tired of taxes and wish they were lower, get in line.
But we're not going to get there by cutting entitlements. There's an easy, meaty way for us to get there - ending corporate welfare. Most of the Fortune 500 doesn't pay US taxes. Sometimes through domestic shelters, other times through offshore shell games, companies hide or deduct their way to zero tax liability to Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, they want 30% of ours.

So next time you piss and moan about either side's retarded spending/debt management policies, remember this: billions of dollars go uncaptured through tricky tax law. The people who write these loopholes are Democrats and Republicans.

The bottom line is this: your 20 grand or whatever you owe, while it hurts you, is nothing compared to what an Exxon or a GE gets away with. Capturing those tax monies should be the real priority to balance the budget. Ours is a pittance.
(and think of how much lower ALL of our taxes would be if GE and Exxon had to pony up their fair share)

At least cry about the right things on April 15th. Thanks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

shaved mah beard off

I hadn't shaved since November. Did last night.
Awkward day at work, but I needed to trim it off for work tomorrow. Can't be a raggedy mess when I'm repping us to outside peoples. Gotta look SHARP.
I may be drunk but I'm totally serious about that: I'd prefer a solid impression while I represent our company.
We're good, and I'm proud of that . . . for reals.
We fucking play magic on lunch breaks. WE'RE SMART NERDS!

Drunk right now.
I am featuring in comedy tomorrow. I find it magical to say "I am featuring."
It's not what you want; one-nighter* where I'm pretty certain there's no emcee.
It's anybody's guess on whether or not the people in this bar KNOW they're getting a comedy show tomorrow night.
Hopefully they do.
When they don't, I like to call it combat comedy. You're running an insurgency at that point; take no prisoners and see if you can't win the hearts and minds of the people. BUT be prepared to blow yourself up for massive casualties and news coverage. You might not have to, but hey, any publicity is good publicity right?

I drove a bunch of people home in my tiny car tonight. I cracked them up the entire time, and they asked why wasn't that in my act.
Christ wept.
If I could be the person I was with them, onstage, I'd never have to do anything but manage my drug intake. Life plans? Taken care of: being funny.

But I'm a pale shadow of that guy because that guy for some reason doesn't give a fuck. The problem is when you're onstage, you do give a fuck. Put a camera on you, or indicate that this gig is more important than previous gigs . . . you're not the Fun Guy.
You're the fight-or-flight ibex running up a cliff-face, chased by a fox. You're not going to beat the fox - the best you can hope for is finding part of the cliff that a fox can't go.
That's me when I think it matters.
The worst and( and most inaccurate ) part is I somehow think performing in front of comedians I like matters. I deserve a beating.

Tonight's set went well. I pulled together a few NPR asides and built an honest to goodness bit. The "I don't know spanish" bombed but I thought it would. It's a true story that is fundamentally funny, I just haven't figured out how to do it in few enough words.

I'm happy with where I am in a sense - I like performing but don't work to do it enough. It's more of a sweet taste than a meal.
It's the cost that hurts; comedy muses desire a pound of flesh.

Comedy aches in me, though. I don't know if I should be doing comedy, but I love doing it. I do it for free, because.
That's the sort of thing you want to get paid for.

I almost hate I'm awesome at computers.
Not really, I have a job and most comics don't! Ha ha! Comedy pay for features hasn't changed significantly with inflation since the late 80s! haha!
I've never had to call a bingo game! ha to the ha!

In other news, I fucking HATE all sorts of grapes, operating on the premise that they're all sour.


* a one nighter in comedy parlance is a non-comedy club gig. These can be awesome, shitty, somewhere in between. It's a crap-shoot where shitty tends to clock in better than awesome, but you get about a hundred bucks for twenty minutes worth of work. As a rule, you earn every penny of it. When you would have done the show for free if it was that good, well, that's why we have such trouble stopping this silly ride.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

well I probably pissed off a neighbor

Driving home, 2 blocks from my house.
I'm approaching the stop sign, and a woman is crossing the street blabbing on her cell phone.
No big deal, she's going to be long gone by the time I get there. NOPE.
She stops (STOPS) in the middle of the street, just standing there slack jawed on the phone.

Because I abide by the rules of society, I honk rather than run her over.
It's a healthy, "hey look, vehicle" honk.
She gives me the finger.
This wasn't finger-worthy. Standing in the middle of a cross-walk is finger worthy.

So I yelled "Fuck you!" and drove past.
Which, is a brilliant comeback.
Just, de facto moronhood in two words. Said in a weird voice, to boot.

Running her over would have been less embarrassing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Volcano Pacaya

It's breakfast in Antigua. My wife and I are eating in the hotel, the "gringo breakfast" consisting of eggs, a once-frozen, now nuked hash brown patty, and some "ham" that resembles baloney. At least the coffee is delicious. The older British couple we've shared breakfast with the last two days are finishing up. We ask about their activities the day prior; they mention climbing the active volcano Pacaya.
"That's great, we're going to do that today!" my wife says.
"It's grueling," they reply. The woman looks at me and says, "You have to be fit. Are you fit?" Her eyes indicate she has an answer picked out for me already, but expects me to lie. Pride dictates my answer.
"Yeah, we hike all the time at home." This is a horrendous lie, matched only by my repeated rep(lie) that I speak "pocito espanol" even though I've been wishing everyone good afternoon for two days by saying "Buenos Aires!"
Not only do I not hike at home, I own no hiking boots. The closest I've got are some wonderful Rockports, phenomenally good walking shoes with almost no upper ankle support.
We talk with the Brits for a short while, discussing the hike. Apparently horses are available for a reasonable price. She wishes she'd taken one because she was very worn out when they arrived at the lava fields and she would have appreciated it more had she not been so exhausted. This is a relief; I can avoid humiliation and failure simply by paying a little more money. This is a transaction I can handle.
As we prepare for the trip, we purchase flashlights and bottles of water. We load sweatshirts into our backpack as it's cold after night falls.
A ninety minute bus ride takes us from Antigua to the base of the volcano. We stop once to load an extra tire on board the bus, another for the locals to fleece us: selling walking sticks, marshmallows, and roasting sticks. Many people cook on the lava at the top, because who doesn't want a toasted marshmallow that reeks of rotten eggs? We politely refuse everyone, as I'm over cooking marshmallows on anything.
When we arrive at the base of the volcano we're one mile above sea level already; the air feels thin in my lungs. The guide, Lionel, tells us the gory details: we're hiking about 3.5 km from the base to the volcano peak. We're going to walk from 1800m above sea level to 2600m above sea level. This distance is not included in the 3.5 km. I was in cross country (thinner, younger, and more physically conditioned) in high school, so 3.5 km sounds like a walk in the park. "That's only a couple of miles. I'm ready!"
We disembark from the bus, climbing over the ominous spare, over the front seat, and out the front passenger door. The main passenger door has failed on the trip up. We're surrounded by urchins immediately, all with walking sticks. I buy two, giving the kid double what he asks. (it's still just a little over a buck) I buy it from one of the runty kids because my giant bleeding heart dictates I do so. The larger boys glare at him with a fury; he'll probably be beaten for his good fortune.
It's late afternoon, and the guide yells for us to get started. "The first 200 meters or so is cement, and is very hard. You can get horses if you want." There's a half dozen young men with horses, sizing up our group. They point at me and say something. A couple of them laugh. I'm on the fast track to horsemanship.
As we approach the base of the path, walking by the horsemen on either side, they call out to us.
"Taxi!"
"You need horse?"
"Taxi!"
"Only 100 Quezatols!"
Masters of the soft-sell, these.
"If we make it halfway up, they cut the price to 50" murmurs one of the women in our group. "I read that in the guidebook."
I can certainly make it halfway up. We set out stick in hand, fresh, and optimistic.
The last time I exercised at this altitude was a few years ago in Denver. My thirty minute elliptical session ended 15 minutes with my lung collapsing. I'm in worse shape now. The first words out of my mouth, naturally, are an obscenity. "Holy shit, this is steep!"
The response comes from right behind me, in stereo.
"Taxi!"
"You ride horse?"
Shadowing me on either side are the two young men who had pointed me out earlier, grinning. Eye contact is established. "Only 100, you ride?"
We're a grand total of 15 meters of a 3.5 kilometer trip. I am not failing this soon. I shake my head, saving my breath for blasphemes and obscenities directed at the volcano.
Another 15 meters, and it's still steeper than anything I've climbed in a decade. "You're fucking kidding me," I mutter.
"Taxi!"
"You ride horse!"
I shake my head again. These relentless bastards are not going to see me fail for at least another 20 meters.
This continues until the cement gives way to dirt and horse-shit and the path's grade lowers to something more humane. I can't catch my breath at this point. I gulp water down, spilling over my beard. I flashback to the Brit. "Are you fit?" Well, at least I know the answer to that.
One of the horsemen says, "75?" and I'm sold. Who can say no to 25% off? My wife and I both hop onto horses, and leave our groups in the dust. (embarassing side note: our friend with asthma doesn't get a horse until the next checkpoint. That's right, someone with a physical handicap held out longer than I did)
I should probably feel shame when we trot by our group, but I don't. Not until my horse starts straining. I know she's used to hauling people, but I'm a Big Gringo. 260+ lbs, I hate feeling the horse struggling under me. I offer to walk a bit. The guide shakes his head. "Is strong horse!" and tugs at her reins again.
That's when my horse begins farting. The clop-clop of the horse hooves is matched with the plop-plop of horse poo, sullying the trail and complicating things for the group on foot. This makes me happy, because farts and poo are ten times funnier when it's a horse. They're monsters!
We come to a stop about 30 minutes after we've begun; I am as grateful as the horse when the trip ends and I can remove my offending carriage from her back. I scratch her nose a bit. She gives me a look that says "you could have used the exercise, asshole." Which is weird, I'd think the horse would think in Spanish.
We're near the top of the trail. I silently congratulate myself for beating the system. You only have to be fit if you have no access to pack animals!

Our group shows up twenty minutes later.
Our guide leads us through the barbed wire fence and up the meadow to some lava rocks. "This was from an eruption in 2006."
Our group makes appreciative noises. I'm not too impressed; we're near the top, right?
We hike through the meadow about a half kilometer, passing signs warning us of the dangers ahead. Poisonous gases, lava, falling rocks from the sky. We arrive at the base of the lava mountain we're climbing. It's lava rock that was thrown from the peak and raced down the mountain, cooling into razor sharp, brittle formations at the base of the meadow. Chalk arrows point our way.
In the distance, peaks rise into the clouds, obscuring their tops. I'm short of breath again; the meadow's slope was gentle but it was still there, and after hauling my body up another 200 meters I'm tired and have lost most patience I had for this trip.
It's hard going climbing the lava. We use our walking sticks to prod ahead, ensuring that rock that looks stable actually is. Often a sharp prod of the stick reveals treachery from the very ground. The rocks are sharp; falling would certainly open gashes across legs and arms if not outright breaking an arm or ankle.
The wind is much higher here, but brings no more oxygen to my lungs than the still air. It forces me to give up one of my hands for balance, watching to ensure my hat isn't blown off. I'm very tired now, and demand rest more than once. My legs hurt now, my breath comes in short gasps, and clouds are coming in. Great, fog.
Not quite.
The first cloud that swirls across the path reveals its nature; not water vapor, but sulfur dioxide. The rotten egg smell hangs in the air. My overworked lungs gulp it down, find no respite and double me over in a coughing fit. I can taste the gas. It's chemical, almost metallic.
We push on. My exhaustion gets the best of me, and I'm too slow to secure my hat when the wind gusts. It rips the hat from my head, and the hat rips my glasses from my face. Both fly into a crevasse.
"FUCK!" I shout, anger hiding terror. I haven't been able to function in my house without glasses for more than a decade; climbing down a treacherous volcanic slope blind is a death sentence. My wife scrambles back to me, and reaches down into the crevasse. My glasses and hat are intact. She hands them to me with concern on her face. "Are you ok?"
This is far from my proudest moment. Pain, exhaustion and terror mull together. I stare at her with fury. "You did this to me!"
I'm ready to start a fight on this volcano, as if it would magically transport me either to the top or bottom. I'm not sure which I want to see more.
She looks at me, nonplused. "Do you want to turn around?"
I frown. Pride stings again. "No. Let's go." I lean forward and begin trudging up the rocks again, prodding ahead to ensure safety. My legs scream at every step, but I'm not giving up because my wife thinks I should.
Most of the trip up now is spent in a collapsed world; I glimpse up to pick out a sane-seeming path through the lava, but mostly concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. I'm tired, and my body no longer wants to maintain balance with my pack. Every few minutes another gust of wind blows sulfur dioxide across the path, obscuring the trail ahead and causing me to double over in a coughing fit, spittle hanging from my beard.
Naturally, this is my wife's fault. "I hate you," I mutter at her. She ignores it, and we trudge on.
The guide yells from above, "Look up!"
The smoke has parted, and in the distance looms the peak, twin ribbons of glowing lava creeping down the surface. It is a menacing beauty; the source of all the pain and fear in my life right now congealing into this moment.
The wind picks up again, more clouds obscure the peak, and wreath our group in their poison. I double over coughing again, and reach for somewhere to sit.
My wife, patient as Job, asks again, "Do you want to turn around honey?"
We're about 200 meters from the summit at this point. The air is hot, and the only wind brings no respite. Light-headed and tired, I nod. "Let's turn around." Another cloud washes over us, and I bend over and vomit repeatedly.

The sulfur dioxide is poisoning me. Whenever a cloud hits us I double over to first vomit, and then dry heave. Long ropes of saliva snatched up by the wind, flaying from my beard like a mucosoidal jellyfish.

The steps down are worse than going up; when moving up the volcano you're certain of the footing you're on. A shifting rock above forces you to move your foot a bit, but doesn't pose a threat.
Down - you're jumping onto rocks that may or may not hold you, and if they give way you're taking a bad spill. The sticks help; prodding rocks and watching them tumble down the path of your descent is better than becoming one of the things rolling downhill.
We watch a young woman do just that about 20 meters ahead, falling onto the rocks after a bad mis-step. We leave her; we've seen Survivor.
We finally arrive at the base of the lava, and trudge onto the meadow, exhausted. Only two more kilometers to go.
My lungs are raw and burnt. My nose is running into my moustache, unheeded. Vomit and spittle are dried in my beard, but I'm not going to open my femoral artery on the rocks above, so it's a win. We walk back to the meadow to wait for our group to arrive.
A pregnant horse walks up to us, wheedling for carrots or sugar. We have none, but scratch her nose for a while.
Groups pass us that aren't ours, and our shadows lengthen with the setting sun.
"Mind your step, but be fleet. . . there's no need to panic, but we're losing the light . . . "
We decide to head down without the group, as the light is fading. We head down with a Canadian from another group. His near-constant chatter keeps me distracted from my pain and humiliation. Walking through the barbed wire fence, two horses and guides await. "Taxi!"
No. I'm going to at least reverse conquer this slope, and make it to the bottom on my own power. All of us move past the horses, and trudge down the trail. Mostly sand and some pebbles, it's treacherous. Roots reach up from the sand to trip us up or turn our ankles, and the clearest paths are covered mostly in horse shit. After about a half kilometer, we're met with the first fork in the trail; we split off from the Canadian, both taking different paths and shouting out to each other. We meet up again about 20 meters down. It isn't long into the trip before we're shrouded in darkness. We stop and pull out flashlights, and continue our descent.
About halfway down I stop caring about the horseshit and just try to get down fast without hurting myself. Near the bottom I take a step onto some sand, a rock shifts beneath my left ankle, and my whole body crushes down on it, twisting it badly. I fall and roll a couple of feet. My wife and the Canadian urge me to rest. I sit for a few seconds, but recall what I did in baseball as a kid: "Walk it off". Besides, if it's broken or sprained the swelling's going to stop me from getting down in a couple minutes anyway, may as well try and finish what we started.
(side note: I've sprained an ankle in the last 2 of 3 trips my wife and I have taken; I'm just going to pack crutches from now on as a time-saver)
A few minutes later we hit the cement. Every step by now is an agony; my lungs are still burning from the gas and now my ankle protests at every step. The kids run up to meet us. They want their sticks back before we're even done!
I say "No."
He points to the flashlight. "Flashlight"
I say "No."
He points to the stick. "Stick!"
I say "No."
He points to the flashlight again. "Flashlight!?"
I say "No" again, and wish ill upon a child.
He hounds me the whole way down. I'm too tired to keep saying no so I just ignore him. Finally at the base, the Canadian shouts for joy and says "let's get some beer!"
Finally, a physical act I'm qualified for: drinking heavily.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yay HCR!

I'm happy.
0 R votes makes me doubly happy.
It saddens me, of course. No bill is either DEATH TO AMERICA or THE ANSWER TO ALL TEH COUNTRY'S PROBLEMS but every single bill is hyped like that. Most of the good stuff in the bill was watered down or taken out.
The scraps that are left are steps towards health care reform.

So, the bill that the progressives wanted but only got scraps of is going to fundamentally crumble the values that America was founded on. This shit is all f(x)=1/x.

But still, zero votes from the (R).
Damn. Mighty fine whipping, there. Almost like you've got a knack for it.

If health care reform works out, as incremental as it is, that's 30 million people who just received health care.
And not one R wanted to give it to them.

Lots of potential votes. We'll see.
It feels pretty fundamental, and the worst part is where it paints the Republicans. They're stuck hoping for the plan to fail to be able to yell "I told you so!" at the polls.

Haha you thought this was going to be about Guatemala didn't you!
Soon. I'm writing here, sometimes it's hard.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who watches the watchers??

This guy!
via BoingBoing

I love it. This IS why we need watch groups. (also, war on drugs is a failed endeavor)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

nerdery

Here is the campaign I am running for 4th Edition.
We'll see where it goes. Obsidian Portal looks mighty interesting, I hope my players use it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Every Vow You Break

I didn't really get how creepy the Police's HIT SINGLE "Every Breath You Take" was until I read Orson Scott Card's Lost Boys.
I understand why it's a hit single; it's sexy if Sting stalks you. Even if Sting's stalking you NOW, it's sort of sexy, in a Sean Connery sort of way.
It's super creepy though.
What if I'm stalking you?

Because I am. Due to Google Analytics, I'm watching all the clicks through my site. If people click on the links, I know where they're going from and to.

Normally it's useful for aggregate data and trendlines. Does topic A attract more readers than topic B? What are my ad impressions doing, od people actually click on that shit?

Due to my low number of readers, the aggregates don't make much sense.
But I do know where both of you live.

an underrated album

Clutch's Elephant Riders - released in 1998, it's still one of my favorite metal albums to throw in and rock out to.
The title track's howl -  "elllll aahhhhhhh phaannnnttt riders to the noooorth" is unmistakably Clutch, both as a band and concept.

The whole album reflects a groove sensibility blanketed in heavy guitar riffs and a driving bassline. It's a straight through, skip-no-songs sort of album, but if you're unfamiliar with Clutch and want a sampler, I'd steer you to the three following songs:
(1) Elephant Riders - otherwise you don't know what all the fuss is about. You can listen to this last, though; the Salty Dog is always open.
(2) Muchas Veces - I love the lyrics of this one. And it breaks down into this groove. . . "I went down to the riverside . . . "
Muchas Veces I don't know if I'm comin' or I'm goin' . . .
(3) Wishbone - burn it, rip it, or torrent it whole, no two ways about it get the song Wishbone (on the losing end)

Clutch's best album. Fun as hell.
And one of the songs is about a yeti.
I do have the time, albino wookie. Time to listen to some more Clutch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Setting the stage

Today's the first Dungeons and Dragons campaign I've ran since I was a kid. I'm very excited, and pregnant with ideas.
The PCs are:
An elf ranger
A dragonborn warlord
A tiefling wizard
A rogue, I can't recall race (I think tiefling? elf? human?)
A paladin, maybe dwarf?

The intro they're getting is this:
They're all in the town of Feynburg in the northern end of a peninsula. The northern lands used to be civilized before the rise of the orcs two centuries ago; most of humanity is pushed back to a large peninsula to the south.
Feynburg is cradled in the foothills, and is a mining town near the mountain passes that keep the orcs at bay. Dwarven designed, the passes are impregnable as long as they're manned.
The whole province Feynburg belongs to, Mares, is known for its military tradition. Most of its GDP is spent on maintaining a military, and boasts some of the finest battle mages in humanity.
Its major trading port Valyra is 100 miles to the south, situated at the mouth of a river and the sea.

I'm letting the PCs choose their own backstories, of course, but I'd expect most are there for the war.
Rogues being rogues, profitability might be his motivation, who knows. I'll let them surprise me.

It should be fun; there's stuff going on in the world that will move outside of their involvement that will eventually pull them into a maelstrom.

May you live in interesting times.
These PCs are going to find out what that means, if they survive.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

iPad, schmiPad

While unimpressed by the iPad, I have been curious about the new netbooks. Moreso since I've been casting about lately for a new excuse on why I'm not writing.

Obviously, I haven't been writing enough because I need a new computer. There is a reality here that my office has no doors, so it's essentially off a hallway. I am adjacent to the kitchen and can hear the television in the living room.
Lots of external distractions.

But that's not the worst of it -
Instant Messenging, Facebook, Team Fortress, Plants vs Zombies, Dragon Age: Origins, Trine. . . these are bigger problems.

So there are two vectors of distraction: external and internetal.
Any solution needs to be two-pronged.
An office in the house with a door, and moving my computer up to it.

HEY WHAT IF I GOT A NEW COMPUTER I thought to myself in all capital letters. While helping my wife look for a new computer I saw the little eee PCs for under $400. $200 less than an iPad, with a camera.

Initially I thought I'd use Windows 7, but once I started puttering around on it - why bother? It's the Starter Edition, for fuck's sake. Crippled out of the box, and sluggish feeling on a low-powered machine like this one.

Instead, I blew it away for Ubuntu's Net Remix. I haven't had much of a chance to play with it yet, but it's a sleek little machine that has an important thing: no wireless. No fucking around on the internet right now. The machine is for writing strictly.

You're thinking I'm an idiot or a sucker for buying a netbook with no wireless. That's understandable; it kind of sounds like I'm justifying a swindling.

It had wireless before I installed Ubuntu. It could have wireless again. I'd have to open some terminal windows up, type some arcane stuff that I read in some forums, and maybe sacrifice a penguin. But it could have wireless.

I'm a computer geek. Puzzles fascinate me. Wireless not working on this netbook is a puzzle to solve. But solving it:


The cenobites are never far behind.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Get Off My Lawn, Indeed

Minesweeper IRL!
Money quote:
The 73-year-old had apparently been concerned about the frequent theft of potatoes from his farm.


Off to play board games at the Mystic Celt.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

buzz buzz buzz

I don't know what to think about Buzz yet. It has a ton of potential. Combining Yelp, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and (considered negative to many) email? That sort of convergence is welcome.

Its current functionality is too bare boned for my liking, and currently the signal-to-noise ratio sucks. I'm scanning stuff multiple times - reader, buzz, facebook, twitter on buzz and twitter linked to buzz. Hopefully Google's going to iterate and tone down the streams, or converge some of the functionality.

The default opt-in contacts visibility is a big mistake. Hopefully the big G's going to Not Be Evil and fix the default to opt-out.

The most common argument against Buzz is "privacy issues!"
The funniest vector for this is Facebook.
It's a Scientologist warning you against cults of personality.
It's a white supremacist complaining about reverse discrimination.

Facebook is the pits for privacy. With Facebook, you should assume any/all information you put up there is not only visible to FACEBOOK, but to any advertiser/person paying Facebook money.
The reason Facebook is free is because we're the product.
Facebook's major privacy problem is that you don't have control over who accesses your data. Anyone on your friends list authorizes a malicious app, and it scrapes YOUR info.
TANSTAAFL.

I rate Google as preferable to Facebook in terms of privacy. (I'd rather the bear eat me than the tiger) I've mentioned it before - the internet isn't private.

I think the real problem people are having with Google Buzz is it breaches the demarcation of social network and real life.
Email's more connected to real life, while Facebook is bullshit. Most of the friends we have on FB aren't real friends, they're acquaintances. Our Facebook inbox isn't a real inbox, otherwise nitwits wouldn't spam it so much.

Google's just thrown back the curtain; the life you live on the internet may be hidden by an alias or three - I'm GoingTharn or Dances With Winnebagos or el-ahrairah depending on where you find me in cyberspace. But really, I'm John Barry. That's why I'll never talk about hitting my wife here, or doing heroin at lunch on Fridays, or all the racist rallies* I've been organizing in my free time. That shit's private!

If you don't want it known about you, don't share it. The internet's horrible at keeping secrets.



EDIT: Of course, google's on top of it making this post obsolete as fast as the one I wrote about switching costs.
Also, see? Iteration! This is a very good software design pattern.

* it's not what it sounds like - it's whites-only rally races in the desert.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fish and Guests

"I think I owe you an apology. I think I forgot to flush yesterday. I'm sorry, I was just getting a ton of phone calls."
This was an actual sentence I heard from my houseguest this morning. I just stared at him. I didn't know where to begin; his sentence implied cause and effect.
Namely, due to his phone calls, he failed to flush a toilet.

Three weeks ago: we get a call from said guest. I'll call him William to protect the innocent. William called us because he needed a place to stay for a couple of days. He was moving back to the city and needed a temporary base of operations to find a place.
William is a good guy, but he's weird.
Trustworthy to a fault, and a great guy to have on your side.
But weird.
The police have mistaken him for homeless on more than one occasion, in more than one state. This is a reasonable assumption. William is a pack rat; he accumulates bicycles, owning three in Chicago pieced together from five found discarded in the trash. He is the man from Cormac McCarthy's The Road, living in a post-apocalyptic ruin where one must scavenge to survive. He creeps through alleys, picking through dumpsters for things of worth.
Let me stress again, he's weird. Not homeless.
Weird.
My wife is going to be out of town the time he would need to stay with us. She tells him I'd be ok with it.
I love my wife.
Poor Richard said, "Fish and visitors smell in three days." Three days would have been perfect. Day 6 is a little strained.
Here's the adventures in weirdness thus far.
First night's pretty normal; he gets in late but not too late, I tell him he's welcome to the guest room. He says great, and falls asleep on the couch without sheets. This is funny more than horrifying to me, as it will horrify my wife when I tell her. Andrea's got a thing about people sleeping on the couch, regardless of who it is. So weird episode 1 is sort of a wash for me - it was entertaining.

Episode 2: he leaves for work the second day after taking a shower. I go into the bathroom, and toilet paper is caked to the bottom of the shower stall. Lots of it. I can only speculate. Did he dry off with the toilet paper? Did one of the cats unroll part of it and drag it into the shower? Did, God help me, he wash it off of his body and if so where was it on his body?! WHY WAS THERE SO MUCH OF IT IN THERE???? I'm too afraid to ever ask because it would be like reading the Book of the Dead: the knowledge would drive me mad. This is the second day he is at my house, and I chalk it up as a fluke.

Episode 3: the same evening he's home early, and offers to buy dinner. Sure thing! We order some Thai food. He falls asleep sitting up while eating dinner. In any other one of my friends this would be remarkable. After episode #2, this is minor league shit.

Episode 4: his phone rings at 6 AM. It's not the Macarena, but that's the song that gets stuck in my head. It rings again, ten minutes later. I should have put it together that he was using it for an alarm and it wasn't someone calling him at that hour, but it was 6 o'clock in the fucking morning and I wasn't thinking clearly. This one isn't so much weird, as just a visitor smell.

Episode 5: I get ready for bed, and lift the toilet lid to void my bladder. The smell punches me in the face, and the sight is like all of the shock-sites on the web combined. Tub-girl meets goat.cx meets lemonparty meets meatspin. The stew that is floating in my toilet bowl immediately conjures an image of the asshole that poured it out (that's the only way this came into being - pouring) and it's one sick asshole. I can only assume he was eating beets and asparagus the day prior. The smell escapes like demons from Pandora's box and permeates the entire second floor. I'm surprised the carbon monoxide detector doesn't go off. I fall asleep/lose consciousness in a melange of Oust! and William Stew, neither quite overpowering the other. Anti-aromatherapy. This was day 4. Poor Richard giggled in my head.

Episode 5: as I lay unconcious from the fumes, William calls at 11 PM to let me know he's coming home, in case I was worried. He leaves a voicemail message where he suddenly realizes calling this late might be waking me up, and apologizes. This causes my phone to ring its voicemail chime, but I'm as good as chloroformed.

Episode 6: Day 5, 6 AM. His phone starts playing the not-Macarena that gets the Macarena stuck in my head (heyyy, macarena!), Ace of Bass just ruining any chance of having a tolerable day. It shuts off, and plays again ten minutes later. The youngest cat, Vlad, decides it's play-time and people are getting up, and begins playing with his noisiest toy. I'm consoled that this was five feet from William's head. I realize today his phone is his alarm, and later in the morning ask him to turn it off.

This brings us back to the beginning.
"I think I owe you an apology. I think I forgot to flush yesterday. I'm sorry, I was just getting a ton of phone calls."

I gibbered, and fled my house before the workers arrived.

Friday, January 29, 2010

They always come in threes

First off, here's the best JD Salinger obit out there, period.
I had a joke in my act when I first started out, it was a closer.
"Do you like impressions?" (crowd typically yells yeah, I pretend they do regardless)
"Here's my impression of JD Salinger"
Then I'd walk off the stage.

It was OK. Its biggest weakness was the only way it works is a closer, and if you don't get it, I walk off leaving the audience that doesn't get it sort of stunned and awkward.
Which isn't the feeling you want them to leave with. You want to close on a high. Pete Holmes appeared on John Oliver's new Comedy Central show recently, and at the end of his set he says, "you know what? I'm gonna audible" and says good night. He'd just gotten an applause break, and said "fuck it, I have a closer but look how much they love me RIGHT NOW."*
It's the 100% right move and the crux of why the JD Salinger bit stunk; it limited your options and didn't leave the crowd feeling good. Maybe some of them feel clever but it's a world of difference.

Sign of a comedian: somebody dies and he figures out a way to talk about his self-centered ass**.

Anyhow. Salinger was effectively dead to me for the last three decades; he touched my heart but he didn't want to meet me or the people who loved his writing. For him, he just had to get it on paper. It's really beautiful, in a way; my antithesis. I hope my creative output is beautiful, but I think deep down I want the recognition more than creating the art.
He was the opposite.
We could use more like him.

We also lost Howard Zinn. Initially I thought I'd write a piece comparing him to Salinger, but it eventually felt ghoulish and forced. Zinn was/is inspiring in his perspective.
It's all said better by people who knew more, so I'll tip my hat to his insight and let you read obits that have something to say.

Finally, the little midget lady from Poltergeist died. Zelda Rubinstein died this week. I'm not sure which of the three creeped me out the most; I think I'd go with Zinn.

Valhalla awaits!



* all speculation but I do practice the craft that is comedy.
** or just some sort of egotist. I could have just as easily gone into acting

Monday, January 25, 2010

Four legs Good. Some Two Legs Good.

My conservative friends like to make the argument that property rights are paramount to a stable society, and that one of the major downfalls of socialism is the lack of respect to property rights*.

What amuses me is the same adamant defenders of the property rights, and typically the ever-expanding powers of law-enforcement to battle ideologies (War on Drugs/Terrorism)are also accomplices to the grossest violation of due process in America today (if you don't look Arabic):
Asset Forfeiture.
One Great Article.

Your car, house, cashola - all potentially forfeit. Not yours. The State's. The illusion that you own it is to ensure you remain a productive member of society, but don't ever forget this: The State Will Take Your Shit.

The case above was actually found via another article on BoingBoing on another asset forfeiture law.

Due Process: It's just for the rich now. (although be really careful if you're rich, maybe Your Shit could run a police department!)

I'd like to point out that in neither of these two cases were there any sort of actual drugs.

Of course, who gives a shit, right? Habeas Corpus, around as a fundamental right since the fucking magna carta(signed in 1215) was suspended when the terrorists defeated us in 2001.

/rant.

Also, I realize 2 weeks ago I said everything is going to be ok. I'm complicated and poorly thought out.

*I know I've simplified it a bit and lack of incentive is cited as often as property rights but I'm not interested in that at the moment. Let's agree that the argument pro vs con socialism is complicated.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The best part about this blog

There's very little I horribly regret writing from when I started it.
This is because it's under a year old I'd imagine.

The one consistent thing in my life since my twenties is near-crippling shame of the me from two years ago. "I'm better now, honest!"

Life is a learning process and most of the time I feel like I'm working really hard to catch up at basic stuff. Why do pit stains disqualify a shirt from service? It's not like I was shitting out of my armpits, it's just sweat that's crystallized and turned into something More Than Sweat. Sure, if it kills again you throw the shirt away. But the first one should be considered a mistake.

I sort of wonder where I was a year ago when I was writing here. I felt like I'd channeled this "Voice" for a while. It was interesting and I thought as a writer I was going somewhere that now feels like a dead end.
Not genuine I guess. It wasn't bad, I think... it was just unsustainable.
Most of my writing seems to derive from who I was reading when I wrote it.
You can find Cormac, Michael Ian Black, Klosterman, Palianhukczckh, and Sedaris streaked through my writing.
It's embarrassing, actually; often I feel I am style-less myself and merely aping that which I find fashionable.

I think the best part about kids is untarnished idealism.
"It's not fair!" seems like a completely viable argument to a kid.
That's how I feel about work tomorrow.
"It's not fair!"

That is the most depressing thing about my current job. It's basically the dream job - I'm paid well, 10 minutes from home, can work remote, am in a position as an expert. . . it should be great.
But there is still an obligation. I need to be at work tomorrow morning.
Not because I want to, because I have to.
And I've found even when you want to a lot, it's cold comfort when you don't.
But that's what being a grown-up is all about right? We get obligated into shit we don't want to do.
Now excuse me while I go make a baby.

I'M KIDDING

(Babies do terrify me)
It is frustrating, though. A job I should love and yet I'm dissatisfied because it's on Their Terms.
An obligatory link outlining my deficiency.




I'm not sure what would make me happier - the despair dissipates when the weather changes, or it remains.
Technically, I guess if the despair dissipates I am, by definition, happier.
Curses, logic.

I just blamed it on the rain.
Good night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Because I'm an asshole

I actually am very tickled about the Massachusetts race.
Part of it is the impotent outrage of the internet youth; their wails reverberate through the 'sphere and fill my schadenfreude quotient to the brim.

Part of me likes it because it's the perfect fodder for conspiracy theories. While I'm an atheist, I still want an orgiastic faith journey every once in a while. Conspiracy theories feed that need.

A big part of me is just excited for what happens.Will dems get ballsy and start using parliamentary trickery to slip stuff through?
Or will we go on the offensive and attack the de facto "No" vote as political chicanery?
Spinelessness?
Don't know.

The whole year though, I've just thought one thing.
If Barack Obama's favorite movie is not Blazing Saddles, then he needs to watch it again and lie some more.
Because fuck all if he ain't living it!


Quick edited post-script - recorded tonight. Set felt like it went decent. Will watch and probably hate it but I will be able to note what I hate.
Unfortunately the answer is probably, myself.

Mea Culpa

Since the cold light of the morning gives me some lucidity, I'd like to clarify my thoughts.
First off, if I sucked it wasn't the emcee's fault.
What I did wrong last night was:
  1. Didn't record it. No record shows me nothing of why I couldn't win the audience. Even if it TOTALLY WAS the emcee's fault (it wasn't) I'd have that on tape.
  2. Didn't feel connected at the get-go. Not sure how to correct this; maybe acknowledging the disconnect or something. . . maybe just powering through it and not worrying so much. Fake it till you make it sort of thing.
  3. Complained on stage the whole fucking time, and not "bit" complaining. Whining sarcastically about how much fun I was having - mature. Gee, why didn't anybody love me?
So yeah. My things I need to improve upon from last night.
The step towards improving isn't blogging about emcees or building thought palaces in my head where everybody hates me unjustly. Well, those are the easiest steps. The effective step:
Start taping this. If it fills me with shame to watch, maybe I need to see that.

And maybe, just maybe, this will all turn out to be the emcee's fault.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Because I like Burning Bridges

Hey Mister MC, I don't know you and you probably don't know me.
We're stuck here at an open mic together and, hey, I know I'm not a feature or headliner that is your ticket to easy street so I understand if you don't want to socialize.

And hey, we're at an open mic so really who gives a shit who bombs, right?

But work on your fucking intros, please. "Hey this guy's hilarious" is always always always better than "I've never seen this guy, let's hope he doesn't suck!" (paraphrased)
If you're really interested in comedy, chances are you'll work with a lot of people you've never seen before. Your job, as host, is to pump the crowd up to see them, not be an arbiter of truth.
You're fucking sales, not legal.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conan the Destroyer

Conan vs Jay. Lots of people watch one of these shows or the other it seems; they're all commenting and that's bullshit because every single one of you is biased.
Since I watch neither, I am not biased.
Therefore my opinion is more qualified as it is neutral.
Both Jay and Conan are right. Jay's tanking at 10 PM, he doesn't want to quit, but NBC's not going to leave him at 10 PM as some sort of pillow smothering grandma murderer via television. They need to lively that slot up.
Jay does not want to quit, therefore he talks to network. Zucker has to choose: screw Jay or screw Conan? He chooses to screw Conan.
However you feel about his choice, there really was no compromise. One of them was going down.
Conan pulls the shortest straw. His reaction is perfectly reasonable and smart: resign immediately. This salvages what pride he can, he leaves on his terms, and Zucker looks like the fucking asshole he was doomed to look like.

I feel for Conan mostly; he moved across country for this. Starting over sucks, and I can't imagine having millions of dollars doesn't complicate trying to build real relationships to rival the 20 years of ties severed less than a year ago.

I've started over multiple times; it's something you survive. Sometimes it's wonderful, but a lot of times it sucks. Mostly, it reminds me of LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends.

Wetworks

This morning I woke up, took a shower, then pulled on the jeans I wore yesterday.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We Live In A Police State!

I've been following the news about the blogger who leaked TSA security documents and was subsequently visited by TSA Agents posing as Federalis.
There's the follow-up tweet that was probably one of the Feds, and Frischling's inability/fear/complicity to own up to what happened there . . . it's gross.

My gut reaction is "OMG! Police State!" My fear and anger increases, and I almost click a link to Prison Planet. That'll get you lost in the weeds, but it's all faith based. Alex will run you around in circles with really fancy circular logic and "well that's what They're stopping us from knowing!" and he's basically a believer in Intelligent Design but God's an enormous prick.

Back to the headline - are we living in a police state? I don't think so.
What I think/hope this case is is just an ineffectual organization clumsily wielding power to protect/hide its own ineptitude. Which is exactly what we need protecting from, frankly, and I hope TSA people are fired for this.

The bottom line of this case is the same tired argument - security through obscurity. The TSA's methods NEED to be secret, because otherwise the terrorists will find ways to thwart them!
This is a flawed argument. The only time this is true is if the security system is flawed in the first place, and exposing the system exposes that flaw. The correct response isn't to cover the fact that there's a flaw in the system, you need to fix the system!

NPR recently aired a piece about "locksport" - lock picking contests that kids have. In it they interview a sheriff who is naturally appalled at such a social activity. May as well be mugging old ladies to him; lionizing an ability that can be used for evil is itself evil in his value system.

He may be right. Maybe locksport is a gateway drug to safe-cracking, which leads to home invasions, which leads to bank robbery, which leads to the Nakatomi Plaza heist.
Maybe that's how Hans got his start.

But I doubt it. It's just a hobby, like painting miniatures or sniffing glue.

I think the TSA and the locksport haters don't get is the same thing: if knowledge is all it takes to beat your system, then your system is flawed in the first place.
And it leads to bullies wielding power inappropriately, which is where laws come in to protect the private citizen.

This has begun to break down since the War on Drugs, and accelerated with the War on Terror.
Fortunately, Obama is backing off on calling it the War on Terror, and has stated that fighting a war on an ideology is unsound. (this is true)
This is why I doubt the police state is in our future. While examples abound of police corruption and over-reaches of power at every level from attorneys-general to beat officers, this is because people are flawed, not because our system has been overtaken.

I think there's still hope.

And hey, at least we're not North Korea. They were eating fucking bark.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve show

Last night's show reinvigorated me for comedy in a manner that I didn't expect.

It was a great show, put on by a bunch of Illini alums (I think). First of, kudos to them - they organized a helluva party. Mike Trainor and I were treated like talent, paid timely, and given mad amounts of alcohol for us and our significant others.
Sound was right, lighting was right, pizza was good, and everyone had a great time.

Show highlights (for me):
The Imp of the Perverse took over. I'd said to myself the day before "Just don't mention you went to Michigan State and you'll do fine."
So rather than mention I went to MSU, I lied and told a crowd full of Illini alum that I went to Indiana.
Which got seriously booed. I mean, hatred.
It was great.
Of course, I don't WANT them to hate me, so I then backpedal with "no no, I'm kidding, I went to Michigan State."
Booed again.
Next 30-45 seconds felt incredibly long as I floundered about trying to find a saving line to win them back. I did, but I lost some of them forever.
(My wife said I did two sets: Pre MSU and Post MSU)

The other fun moment was when I was wrapping up. Here's a nightmare: try plugging a website with a made-up word from a book about rabbits. I'd better find a way to make that shit funny and maybe spell the fucking word. I'm a marketing zilch.
So I'm muddling through this to a disinterested audience (hard fast bits they liked, anything more story-form they rapidly started table talking) and the noisemaker blows out when I'm saying something, really loud.
I smile and say, "I get it. Fuck you too."
Huge laugh, and I make that the end and bring up Mike.

Afterwards it was a pretty crazy party. Lots of people shaking my hand, some saying "hey you were really funny" and others saying "I really appreciated some of that stuff, but I don't think the crowd got it. I did though!"
Which is cool - my act is at times like a very annoying quiz show, "Do You Get The Reference?" I can't help myself, sometimes a joke is awesome for four people. I'm not dumbing it down if it's perfect as a Hamlet reference. Sorry, should have read more books.

I only had one person get their picture with me; she was maybe 25 with a great body. She draped herself over me and said "Pretend that you like me."
No pretending necessary; I'll just remind myself over and over that I'm happily married.

I honestly forgot how awesome a good show is; that's why in 2002/2003 I went up 5 times a week if I could.
2010 will have me fully committed to comedy in a way I haven't been in a while; it will be nice to see what comes of it.