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Take a breath, two-five, and calm down. Over.

11 August 2014

Over the last couple of days on Facebook, I’ve seen the following articles come into my news feed:

  • These millenials are just lazy, not like us hyper-awesome Gen X’ers
  • Stop fat-shaming!
  • Stop skinny-shaming!
  • If you’re white, you have white privilege
  • Stop persecuting us for white privilege!
  • Stop shaming people for being Christian!
  • Stop shaming people for being atheist!

There were more, too, but I think you see the theme.

Here’s my radical idea for the day — how about we all just stop judging people? I’m not taking about Judge not, lest ye be judged, because at many points in our daily lives, we will all be judged by people we know and people we’ve never met. It’s more about why even bother to play that game?

I’m not saying we can’t think stuff sucks, or that we can’t have opinions… but just because we all have opinions on everything doesn’t mean we need to share them with the world, especially if it’s about putting someone else down.

Sure, someone might have said something about a group you belong to (fat people, skinny people, millenials, Gen X, white people, religious people), and it might have offended you. That’s all fine. You can feel as angry as you want when someone says shit about you.

But is the best, most productive response to immediately go say shit about that person or group who slighted you?

Or is the best response to not give a fuck?

Let people say whatever they want. You’re awesome, and slinging shit back is beneath you.

Also, I’m really turning into a cranky old man these days.

Right?

25 July 2014

I feel you, bro.

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Sick burn, brah.

8 July 2014

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.

Give us the freedom of dying, starving wolves.

20 June 2014

Unsurprisingly, when I get into something, I get way too into that thing. Thanks for the most recent time-suck, Netflix:

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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?

We like Roy! We like Roy!

5 June 2014

I’ve mentioned that we got two new dogs a couple of months ago. This is the Boston Terrier, Ziva:

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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.

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Somewhere, a connection is made

23 May 2014

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.

World’s Finest

5 May 2014

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.

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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?

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.

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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)

Description:

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.
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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.

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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.