Category Archives: Personal

Christmas Loot 2008

It’s become something of a tradition to enumerate my Christmas loot, so here we go:

  • More Information Than You Require by John HodgmanMore Information Than You Require by John Hodgman. I was fortunate enough to obtain the audio version of Hodgman’s previous book, The Areas of My Expertise, when it was offered as a free download from iTunes a while back. Now I’ve got the second volume of COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE and have already begun to educate myself on matters of United States Presidents who had hooks for hands, PROGNOSTICATION by means of pig spleen ((I believe the technical term is “splenology”.)) and the largely unsung PRECIPITATION WAR between Richmond, VA and Milwaukee, WI. This particular volume is not yet available in audio format (free or otherwise), and so I am forced to enjoy it in WRETCHED HARDCOVER, an inconvenience I suffer gladly, for Mr. Hodgman’s wit is dry and the knowledge he imparts nigh-indispensible. ((Imparting indispensible knowledge may seem at best highly improbable and at worst practically impossible, but I daresay John Hodgman manages it with nothing less than panache as smooth as goose liver paté.)) In the brief span of time since I tore away the festive holiday wrapping ((This is an exaggeration; it was actually festive white tissue paper.)) to reveal the earth-tones of the cover of More Information Than You Require, I have read approximately half of the book and already my brain threatens to burst.
  • In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee MartinezIn the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez. I have my sights set on reading The Automatic Detective, another novel by A. Lee Martinez, but I am determined to read all of the novels which preceded it first, and in the order in which they were published. This despite the fact that The Automatic Detective is not a sequel, but a standalone work. I have already completed Gil’s All Fright Diner, a tale that apparently received some accolade in the realm of Young Adult fiction, ((I am not at all certain that Gil’s All Fright Diner—fraught as it is with profanity, obscenity and no small amount of sexual content—ought to be marketed to the Young Adult audience, but it might go over well with the Young-at-Heart Adult audience.)) and am looking forward to both In the Company of Ogres and A Nameless Witch, followed inevitably by The Automatic Detective.
  • The Hood of the Ninja. There may be another name for this 4-in-1 convertible hood (which can assume the form of a scarf, muzzle, hood or balaclava), but I don’t believe to call it anything else would be appropriate. I briefly considered posting a photo of myself wearing the hood, but that plan was set aside when I realized that donning the garment renders me invisible.
  • Filthy lucre. There are those who find gifts of money impersonal and in poor taste, but I do not count myself among them, particularly when I am trying to accumulate the funds necessary to purchase an Xbox 360. ((Which I am.))

My young apprentice shall henceforth be known as “El Tigre”, for indeed he made out like a bandit. Here is but a sampling of the gifts he received:

  • Frosty the Snowman. This DVD includes the inferior 1992 sequel, Frosty Returns, featuring John Goodman as the old-silk-hatted snowman and Jonathan Winters as the narrator. ((I have nothing but respect for Mr. Winters, but he is no Jimmy Durante.)) Worse yet, there is a trailer for another sequel, this one produced in 2005 and titled Legend of Frosty the Snowman. I admit to a certain amount of curiosity with regard to Legend, if only because Burt Reynolds assumes the role of narrator.
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Game. “Elusive” is the word that most describes this game. We searched multiple Toys R Usses, ((Yes, “Usses”.)) Wals*Mart and Targéts without success before finding a single copy at Joseph Beth Booksellers. The game is adapted from a popular children’s rhyme which tells the tale of five foolish simians, a coil-spring mattress and a pediatrician whose advice goes unheeded. It is not for the faint of heart.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man Bop BagThe Amazing Spider-Man Bop Bag. I admit that after I inflated the bop bag to its full 48″, ((Height, not girth.)) I gave it a couple of whacks to express my displeasure with the wall-crawler for Spider-Man 3. ((Where is your spider-sense now, web-slinger? Where is your spider-sense now?)) I did this only because Santa Claus lacked the foresight to bring me an inflatable Sam Raimi bop bag.
  • Buzz Lightyear. A recent interest in the Toy Story movies revealed that, though we own a Sheriff Woody doll, the delusional Space Ranger with an “impressive wingspan” who becomes Woody’s boon companion was nowhere to be found in the International House of Johnson. This deficit has now been corrected.
  • Fisher Price Easy Link. This device, which connects to a computer via USB port, allows a toddler to gain access to certain web-based activites, while ostensibly preventing said toddler from accessing the Intertubes as a whole or the computer’s local hard drive. Though I was impressed with how quickly my young apprentice took to the mouse, I am less than thrilled to report that he has yet to circumvent the Easy Link’s security. Perhaps it is time for he and I to sit down for a movie marathon; Hackers, Sneakers and Swordfish, for starters, followed by TRON and that one scene from Jurassic Park. ((“It’s a UNIX system! I know this!”)) The boy needs some skillz.

Prior to the arrival of Christmas, we received a gift basket of Wolferman‘s Very Tasty® Brand ((This is not the actual brand name, though the muffins are, in fact, Very Tasty.)) English Muffins and Red Tart Cherry fruit spread. As I write this, I am enjoying one of the Apple Orchard variety with cream cheese, and Kyle has stopped by to beg several bites. He is very lucky that I am infused with the Christmas spirit, as I would normally send him out into the streets to earn his supper by pickpocketing wealthy merchants.

Finally, I should mention that Laura received the HBO miniseries John Adams on DVD. ((She also received an iPod Nano, but for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend opted not to have me transfer the DVDs to the Nano rather than watch them on our television. I just don’t understand women.)) I should mention this because I believe she propped her eyes open a la Alex in A Clockwork Orange so that she could watch all 501 minutes before St. Nicholas parked his sizeable posterior in his La-Z-Boy to begin planning next year’s delivery route.

Merry Christmas to all.

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation…

Laura, Kyle and I spent the last two weeks of December in Michigan’s beautiful (and snowy) Upper Peninsula and, apart from several family members coming down with some sort of gastro-intestinal plague, we had what I will call a grand old time. Here’s just a sampling of the fun:

  • On the 19th of December, Brenda, the older of my sisters (Kyle calls her “Benta, Benta, Benta!”) had her tonsils and adenoids removed and her uvula reduced. This isn’t a big deal when you’re six years old, but is a significantly bigger deal when you’re approaching thirty. She’s recovering nicely, but spent several days with a very raspy voice eating only orange sherbet.
  • Carolers, honest-to-baby-Jesus carolers, came to my parents’ house. In all of my thirty-four years of yuletide celebration, never have I been caroled to in such a manner. My heart grew three sizes that day.
  • There were eighteen people living in my parents’ house over the course of the holidays, including my parents, their six children (plus three significant others) and seven grandchildren.
  • On Christmas day, the number of people in the house doubled.
  • My younger brother bought an eight-foot-tall inflatable Spongebob Squarepants, which he set up inside the house on Christmas morning.
  • Kyle made two snow angels (with my help), fell face-first into six inches of snow (all by his lonesome) and greatly enjoyed being pulled around the driveway in his new sled.
  • On the 26th, my brothers and I (along with the younger of my sisters’ significant other) went to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. It was a funny, ridiculously violent movie and I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed the hell out of it. Get to the chopper!
  • My parents now have DSL and a wifi router. On the 27th of December, there were eight devices (seven of them wireless, including an iPhone) with outstanding DHCP leases on the router. My mind was boggled.
  • My mother had a laptop for one day, after which it was returned to OfficeMax. The GPU was bad, causing blue screens of death before I even had a chance the screw up the laptop on my own terms.

There are photos, but I’ve not gotten around to retrieving them from the camera yet. Speaking of photos and cameras, Laura and I had a serious case of camera envy while we were in the U.P. There were a half-dozen digital cameras in the house, most of which were smaller than ours, all of which were faster than ours. I fully believe we’d take more photos if our tired old HP PhotoSmart was more compact and didn’t take 30 seconds to write each photo to the CompactFlash card.

The Great December Information Detoxification

All right, so this is how it works: as I write this, it is two hours to midnight on the first of December. In two hours, I’m unplugging from the Internet. I’m shutting down my Instant Messaging client and Skype, Firefox and Thunderbird and, with the exception of a weekly e-mail check (and anything necessary for work), I won’t be back on the Internet until 2008.

I’m leaving the forum running, but I won’t be checking it. To avoid having to slog through 5,000-plus spam comments when I get back, I’ll be disabling comments on the blog ((EDIT: WordPress doesn’t appear to have an option to instantly disable comments on all posts, so I’ve just turned off commenting for unregistered users and disabled the “anyone can register” option.)) at midnight tonight.

So, no blogging, no instant messaging, no Twitter or Facebook or Volcanicast or anything else for 30 days. I got the idea from Chris Miller, who went radio silent yesterday, so feel free to blame him or praise him or just shake your head in disbelief.

I hope everyone has a great December. Happy Holidays! See you in January!

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 30

And there it is, the result of thirty days of not shaving. Impressive, it ain’t, but I wasn’t expecting it to be and that’s why the name of the event is “How Not To Grow a Beard Month”. Whether I make this an annual event or not really depends on whether I’m able to get the damn thing off tomorrow.

To recap:

HoNoToGroABeMo: Success!
NaBloPoMo: Success!
NaNoWriMo: Dismal failure!

I’ll gloat about those first two and let Rob handle the gloating on the third.

Tomorrow there will be one final blog post from me and then the pixels go dark until 2008. As Chris Miller has already hinted, you can expect a new podcast from us sometime in January.

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 29

I think I’m about ready for November to be over. The closer December gets, the more I’m looking forward to thirty days of shaving every morning, not blogging every day, and not being reminded that my word count never broke 10,000.

This month got off to a very promising start and was quickly consumed by a giant, steaming pile of suck. I don’t relish the idea of turning into my personal bitch-and-moanfest (ranting, however, is perfectly acceptable and even expected) but apart from the occasional bright spot here and there (Con on the Cob, Thanksgiving, Game Night) November sucked some very unpleasant balls.

There is absolutely no rational reason that I should expect things to magically improve because a new month begins, but that’s exactly what is going to happen. The first of December will arrive, the clouds will roll back, the sun will shine, and there will be a whole bunch of other happy metaphoric stuff going on, too. Just you wait and see.

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 28

Only a few more days of silly beard pictures and it’ll all be over…or will it? The beard is definitely coming off in December, but I think I’m going to have some fun with it first. Stay tuned for ever-increasing levels of foolishness.

In non-beard-related news, I’ve started packing up my stuff at work. Swarthy men wearing swarthy shoes will transport boxes of my stuff from the building in which I currently work to the building in which I’ll be working starting on Monday. The new place is closer to home, but I’ve heard there are random alligator attacks in the parking lot and that bands of gnomes steal the toilet paper out of the third floor men’s room. Since I’m going to be working on the first floor, the gnomes don’t really concern me. On the other hand, I’m horribly allergic to alligators. One bite and I start bleeding all over the place; it isn’t pretty.

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 26

This series of photos, when arranged in the proper order, will undoubtedly chronicle my descent into madness as the beard—malevolent, sentient and hungry for power—grows not outward but inward, the roots of each follicle making their way inexorably toward strategic areas of my brain, intent on wresting control of my cognitive and motor functions from the hippocampus, the seat of my personality.

Even now, I can feel the vile tendrils burrowing through flesh and bone; at the edge of my conscious the susurrant song of the beard is constant and nerve-wracking. When all is quiet around me, it whispers to me, describing the foul crimes it will commit with my body.

In just a few more days, I’ll be able to shave. I hope it isn’t too late.

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 25

I’m about to head out the door to record my final Volcanicast of 2007. The show will continue through the end of the year, but I’ll be sitting out due to contract negotiations my Month of Radio Silence, or what Chris Miller calls the Great Information Detox. Just because I won’t be co-hosting the show doesn’t mean I won’t be listening; I listen to every episode, whether I’m on it or not. ((If I’m on an episode, I listen to it twice. That’s right, I love the sound of my own voice that much.))

Today’s HoNoToGroABeMo photo is me pretty much straight out of the shower. As the end of November approaches, I’m realizing that my beard is, indeed, great…provided I’m going for that scraggly, uneven Unabomber-meets-Charles-Manson look. Yeah, I’ll be shaving it off come December unless something miraculous happens, like a blood transfusion from Sam Elliott granting me mutant beard-growing powers or perhaps being bitten by a radioactive member of ZZ Top.

Things You Did Not Need To Know (Part 01)

It would appear that NBC is bringing back American Gladiator. I know a surprising number of people who will be glad to hear this news. Will I watch it? That depends on my New Year’s resolutions.

SciFi is showing BloodRayne right now. I’ll probably watch it, but I’m not at all taken with the idea of watching the watered-down television edit. Hoo boy. “Special Appearance by Billy Zane” makes Billy Zane seem all special, doesn’t it? Then again, he did play The Phantom. That’s pretty special.

I fought the leaves in the back yard and I’m starting to think the leaves—though the bulk of them have been moved to the curb and are destined to be sucked into a truck—won. I think I’m getting sick.

Michael Madsen is in BloodRayne. Burt Reynolds is in Dungeon Siege: In The Name of the King. Uwe Boll seems to have a penchant for bizarre casting.

That’s all for now.