Skip to content

Too much of a (debatable) good thing

22 April 2014

Wondering why my blogging has fallen off in the last year or so? Probably not, but I was this weekend. So I had a think.

It hurt my brain, which I see as a disused Soviet-era PC clone that runs on diesel fuel and the tears of the proletariat, but I powered through.


Here’s the conclusion I came up with: it’s not that I don’t have interesting thoughts, or ideas I might like to explore and scream into the limitless void of the Internets. It’s not even that I have less of those thoughts or ideas of late.

It’s that I’m already putting them out there, in long form, once a week.

In case I somehow haven’t flogged it relentlessly yet, for the past year and change, I’ve been doing a podcast with my good buddy Christopher Gronlund. As there are two of us on the show, and it generally runs an hour, that means you’re getting a solid 30 minutes of me talking about whatever I might have blogged about otherwise.

Apparently, my brain strives for balance. There’s only a certain amount of me the average person should have to deal with, and I’ve now increased the amount of Shawn Ramblings going out in the world, so whatever self-leveling mechanism works in the Soviet computer I call my brain has decreased the blogging accordingly.

Who knew? Apparently, there’s a tolerance level for my shit, and I know about it subconsciously.

That said, I am going to try to blog a little more, because I do enjoy it. So, if you listen to the podcast, don’t be surprised if Christopher’s questions are sometimes met with stony silence.

Craigslist after the rise of the machines

11 April 2014

So, yesterday afternoon, I was poking around Craigslist, as I am highly amused at the strange shit people will try to sell. Shortly after that, I was checking in on Facebook, and one of my old co-workers posted an article about “how to sell yourself efficiently” (obviously in the context of job interviews). Because my brain works in strange and fun ways, I immediately connected the two, and started thinking about how one could sell oneself on Craigslist after the machines take over. Below is my ad.


For sale:

Human, one (male). ($50,000, trade, obo)

Manufactured with pride in the USA, this classic model can be configured for home or business use. Comes with most original parts (see description below), all maintenance records, and several expansion packs (also listed below).

Product specifications:
Make: Kupfer
Model: Shawn
Model Year: 1978
Manufactured in: Rapid City, SD, USA
Curb weight: 166 pounds, unloaded (we’ve had it as high as 215 pounds, but performance was impacted)
Length (in.): 66.5
Fuel type: coffee (adapted to use Rockstar and Mexican Coke, as well; other caffeinated fuels may work with varying degrees of success)


It seems like a bargain, right? Well, there have been maintenance issues in the past. We’ve fixed the following: spine, knees, fingers, ankles, shoulder, nose, toes, ribs, skull (collision damage on separate occasions; some aftermarket parts used in shoulder and spine). All of them seem to be working fine (and all repairs are detailed in the documentation that comes with the unit). Overall, held up pretty well for its age; there is a fair amount of discoloration of the hair, but that’s easily repainted (we haven’t done it yet, but will if it means a successful sale). We’ve made some calls, and the unit is still easily insurable. In the interests of full disclosure: the unit takes a while to start up on cold mornings (we have investigated this issue, but still have not determined a cause).

The unit comes with the following expansion packs:

  • Technical Writer Advanced 3.15
  • Fiction Writer Intermediate 18
  • Publisher 2.0 (fiction version; upgradable)
  • Mechanical Repair Intermediate v9
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Super Pack (OEM; cannot be uninstalled)
  • Martial Arts Multi-Style 98 (note that we haven’t used this expansion in more than a decade and make no guarantee that it still works)

This unit has given us many years of faithful service, and is currently configured for business use (though it does work in the home, as noted above). Willing to sell for ~$50,000 a year (including maintenance plan); will also trade for a newer model (minus expansions). Also will consider any serious trade/cash offer or combination thereof.

Can provide pictures on request, but unit doesn’t photograph well. It’s one of those things you really have to see in action to appreciate.

Yeah, that’s where my brain goes if I don’t keep an eye on it.

What would your ad look like after the machines have taken over? Feel free to share in the comments!

This means something. This is important.

31 March 2014

I don’t remember when the last time was I saw something on TV that I felt was important. Something that I thought was so culturally relevant that it made me happy to be alive.

Oh, wait. I do. It was four weeks ago.


Sure, there have been good shows — great shows, even — over the last couple of years. But with few exceptions, I don’t think they were anything America actually needs. That is, until Cosmos.

Math and science are important. Understanding our place in the Universe is important. And it helps that, in addition to all of those things, Cosmos is damn entertaining and well put-together.

If you haven’t been watching this show, start. You’ll be glad you did.

Not filmed in Dallas.

24 March 2014

So, I finally got around to watching Dallas Buyers Club this weekend. It’s a pretty great film, and it deserves all the Oscars and Oscar nods it got. But don’t worry — if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m not going to get all spoilery.

What I am going to talk about is the story behind the story, because that’s fascinating to me.

I read online that this wasn’t the first time they’d tried to make this movie — Dennis Hopper wanted to direct it in the mid-90s, but couldn’t get funding. Funding was still a problem this time around, and if Matthew McConaughey hadn’t come in with a huge chunk of his own money, it probably wouldn’t have gotten made. Still, the budget was fantastically low — about $5.5 million, which is essentially like building a brand-new car for $350. You can do it, you’re just not very likely to succeed.

To give you an estimate of just how low that number is, the makeup department on that film had $250 to work with. That’s it. And they did it.

And even with no resources, no money, and shooting a film about Dallas in New Orleans, they managed to come up with one hell of a great film.

Lesson here — for me, anyway — is not to worry about what you don’t have. Just start with what you do have, and make the best art you can from there. There will be plenty of people around telling you that you need this software, or this degree, or that many hours of writing time…

But you don’t. You have what you need inside your brain. Now go do it.

Kaiser Wilhelm’s Revenge

18 March 2014

So, I’ll paint a picture for you of this last Sunday. We were having out neighbors over for dinner, because we live in Texas, and that’s the sort of thing we do here. They were scheduled to arrive at 7:30; dinner was to be served at 8:00.

We were also having a bit of a drainage issue in our main bathroom, which will become the focal point of this story.

Anyway, I started the sauce at about 11 a.m. I’m Irish-German, so all of my family recipes are inexplicably Italian. My plan was to spend the rest of the day cleaning the house.

By about 2:30, I was ready to tackle the drainage in the main bathroom. First step: regular old drain cleaner (the gel type). I waited the requisite 15 minutes, then flushed the drain with hot water. It seemed to drain OK. About a half hour later, I ran the water again; still not draining as fast as I’d like, but water was flowing.

I proceeded to step 2: an industrial-strength drain cleaner (the sulfuric acid type), on the assumption that the first cleaner had cleared out already.



It hadn’t. And I’d just inadvertently recreated the same basic formula that the Germans used on the British in World War I. Chlorine + Acid = chlorine gas. And I got a nice dose of it while I closed off the area, started all the fans running, and opened the house to air it out.

I was very lucky, in that I was the only one significantly exposed. My wife and dogs didn’t suffer any ill effects. My exposure could have been a lot worse — it started out as a burning feeling in my nose and throat and some rather upset lungs.

But the show must go on, and we had people coming over for dinner in three hours. I ran to the drug store, got some epinephrine, and powered through.

Until our guests left at 10:45 or so and I weakly asked my wife to take me to the emergency room.

Long story short — after oxygen, chest x-rays, a breathing treatment, steroids, and yo-yo-ing blood-oxygen numbers, the ER doc confirmed that I had a moderate case of chlorine gas toxicity. Moderate is better than severe — while moderate means chemical burns on my lungs and throat, severe would mean pulmonary embolism and probably death.

So, I’m on inhalants and steroids for the next week and a half or so until the crispy insides of my lungs start to heal up. I’m getting winded walking across the room right now, but I’ll heal.

Sometimes, I use this blog to talk about creative things, or cool stuff that I’ve seen, or even stupid stuff I just want to opine about.

Other times, I make mistakes so you don’t have to. This is one of those times — let my life serve as a cautionary tale to others.

I’m going to go cough a bunch now.


5 March 2014

My wife and I are crazy dog people. It’s like being a crazy cat lady or crazy cat man, but with two important differences:

  • Dogs, not cats
  • We’re married, not living alone with tons of animals

That second point actually makes us scarier than your average crazy cat lady/man, because there’s an element of shared insanity.

So, this weekend, we added two new dogs to our household, doubling the canine numbers and officially outnumbering the humans in the household:


Met Ziva and Rocky, or, as I call them, Ham-with-Legs and Peter Lorre. Peter Lorre sits on his pillow and glares at everyone most of the day: Ham-with-Legs stares off at nothing and farts. They’re super-talented.

So, if I’m quiet on the internet for a while, I’m chasing these guys around, or chasing my O.G. dogs Sadie and Edie around.

Pseudo-philosophical ramblings and dissections of pop-culture will resume soonish.


28 February 2014

Things that always surprise me when people say them:

“I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket.”

“I’ve never broken a bone.”

“I’ve never been to jail.” (Please note: jail, not prison.)

Why does any of this surprise me? Because earlier in my life, I assumed that everyone thought (and lived) the way I did. I thought all of the above we’re normal parts of life, especially for young men. I assumed just because all of those things had happened to me, they’d happened to everyone my age.

The truth is, of course, that everyone’s experiences are unique. What’s normal to one person’s life is completely abnormal to another’s. Things that I see as a normal part of growing up (those examples above) actually might show a shocking lack of responsibility and intelligence on my part.

Point being: we all see the idea of “normal” through the lens of our own lives. That means there are about 7 billion permutations of “normal,” one for every human. There are averages, of course — things like median income (I suppose that’s considered a “normal” income), but even those vary wildly.

What’s normal to you? Does the concept even exist?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers