When I was a younger man, I didn’t burn.
I could be out in the sun all day without turning red. I’d just get darker and darker, to the point I looked Puerto Rican rather than Irish-German. It was pretty great, actually. The downside of never really burning, though, is that I never learned, as most people do, to use sunscreen.
That changed in the early 2000s, when I spent 7 hours or so outside at Madiera Beach and came down with the first wicked sunburn of my life. My face, back, arms, neck, and chest were all bright red. I looked like a cartoon character who had gotten really angry, and when I took a shower, I thought I was about to die. I was visiting my folks at the time, and my mom doped me up with fistfuls of Benadryl.
I suspect this doping wasn’t an attempt to treat the sunburn in any way, but to knock me out so I’d stop bitching about my sunburn.
A few days later, when I started peeling, I could have easily done a walk-on as a zombie on The Walking Dead, if only it existed back then. You’d think that would have taught me to use sunscreen, but no. I’m of stubborn Irish-German ancestry, no matter how tan I might look. Learning lessons like that takes repetition, because I apparently refuse to believe my skin is weaker than some ball of hydrogen and nuclear explosions 93 million miles away.
Besides, when I lived in North Carolina, I’d gone to the beach a couple of times and just tanned nicely. Surely the sun had just gotten lucky at Madiera Beach, and I was still tougher than some punk-ass G-type main-sequence star.
Cut to Sunday, when some excellent friends of mine invited me over to hang out, have lunch, and swim in their pool with them. Again, I was supremely confident. Three and a half hours in the water would surely only give me a healthy, this-guy-could-be-from-the-islands golden-brown glow.
And now shirts feel too heavy for my bright red shoulders. I only burned on my shoulders and upper back, and probably not even that badly… but I did burn. You win this round, sun.
The point? Sometimes, even though we’ve made the same mistakes in the past, we keep making them over and over until we learn. It’s rather like writing, in a way that I probably don’t need to point out. If you’ve been called out on something more than once in your writing…
Well, you might do well to look into purchasing a bit of sunscreen.
Unsurprisingly, when I get into something, I get way too into that thing. Thanks for the most recent time-suck, Netflix:
If you haven’t seen Attack on Titan, well… that’s fine. You don’t have to watch shit. But I’ve gotten into it, and I think there’s a very specific reason.
It’s not because it’s gotten popular over here (which is how I heard about it), or because it was massively popular in Japan. Either of these could have brought it to my attention, but if there wasn’t something to it, I would’ve tapped out after a couple of episodes.
The thing I like about it: it’s something I’ve never seen before. In case you’re unaware of the premise: in a couple of thousand years from now, humanity encounters the Titans, which are essentially giant, genderless Gary Buseys that eat humans (though not for food… apparently, just to kill us). The series focuses on humanity’s second war with the Titans, 100 years after the first encounter, when pretty much the entire human race lives behind a series of three huge walls.
It’s got a lot of things going for it, but the main thing I dig, as I said above, is the originality. As it’s getting popular, I totally expect Hollywood to try to make an Americanized, live-action version of it eventually. (Note: I would almost go watch that movie, if they cast Gary Busey as all of the Titans.) For now, though, it’s completely its own thing, and I dig that.
Sure, the show has its problems, but all stories do. It’s impressed me, though, despite being anime (I usually have a pretty hard time getting into anime for some reason). One thing it proves: good stories find an audience, regardless of format.
So what’s something you’ve discovered lately that’s impressed you?
I’ve mentioned that we got two new dogs a couple of months ago. This is the Boston Terrier, Ziva:
Ziva is a weird dog.
She will stack toys under her mouth and rock side to side for no reason we’ve been able to figure out.
She snores when she’s awake.
She eats everything that isn’t bolted down, so we have to give her timed, measured feedings. When it’s time for breakfast or dinner, she will dance around in circles and bang her metal dish on the floor.
She farts a lot, and the smell can clear several rooms.
Her breath smells like a circus.
She often stares off at nothing for 15-20 minutes at a time.
Sometimes, she will roll around on her back and start freaking out because she can’t figure out how to get her legs under her again.
Other times, she will press her chest to your foot and stare at you. When you offer to pet her, she shrugs it off and seems to say nah, dude — I’m all set with the foot, here.
She is, easily, the strangest dog I’ve ever had. And she’s also fucking awesome. Every time I look at her weird, goofy little face, I can’t help but smile. She loves to cuddle and sit in laps.
Being weird, being different from the norm, isn’t a bad thing. Sure, other people might not “get” you… but if you’re happy, fuck it. Go with it.
Be like Ziva.
So, sometimes I’ll go 18 days between blog entries. Like recently.
This will be a shorter blog, of course, because I really haven’t had much of interest to talk about lately. Part of it is the fact that I’m using different channels to put thoughts out into the world (most notably the weekly podcast), but part of it is… well, I’ve been that kind of busy that doesn’t feel like you’re getting everything done.
Having a day job takes up time. Sure, it’s the same 40 hours a week it usually is, but the busier I am at the day job, the more I feel like I want to relax when I’m done.
Having a house takes up more time. Something is always broken, needs cleaning, or needs some sort of maintenance.
Having four dogs takes up even more time, especially when one of them has diseases Dr. House couldn’t even figure out. I spend at least an extra hour a day with the feeding, medicating, walking cycle I have to accomplish to keep the peace in the house.
All of that doesn’t leave time for much else… but I’ve been doing something else. And you’ll see it pretty soon.
And you won’t have to pay a thing for it.
Mysterious? Maybe. Probably not.
Anywho, back at it.
I was reading about the Alcubierre Drive (because of course I was) and about the NASA scientists who think they can make it work without a power plant the size of Jupiter (like, the actual size of the planet; I’m not just using it as a euphemism for “really big”). And while I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder: why aren’t we putting ALL of the resources we have into faster-than-light travel?!
It all comes down to the main complaint the Vulcans had in the first seasons of Enterprise: we’re not ready.
Sure, we might very soon be technologically able to travel to other stars in a matter of weeks. From a resources standpoint, that’s something we definitely should do — find more natural resources, find habitable planets to put colonies on before our population gets out of control… I support all of these things.
But what if we should run into other intelligent life out there? That’s the thing I don’t think we’re not ready for.
We, as humans, are pretty great, and only getting better. But we’re not there yet. We still have petty governments and greed-fueled corporations running everything. We still have racism. We still tell our citizens who they can and can’t marry in a lot of the world. We still treat half the population (that’d be the ladies I’m talking about) as, at-best, second-class citizens in a disturbingly large number of countries. We still go to war.
I’d absolutely love it if we encountered intelligent alien life in my lifetime. But right now, I’d feel like someone was meeting my family for the first time, and several drunk cousins were shouting racial slurs and throwing beer cans at the new arrival’s head. I’m by no means a shining example of humanity myself, but at least I’m not going to get hammered and try to pants any aliens who we meet.
The good news is, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see things changing, and I’ve seen humanity grow closer together, become more tolerant, and embrace our other human brothers and sisters at a fantastic rate just in the short time I’ve been alive.
We’re not ready. But I think we’re well on the way.
When do you think we’ll be ready to present humanity to the larger universe? What steps do you think we need to take?
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.