SYS 64738

This morning, I was playing videogames with Sam and my phone buzzed with a Facebook notification. It was from my friend Eric. Our friend of nearly a quarter century, Greg Scott, had died the night before.

Let me tell you about Greg.

When I first met him, I had just graduated from high school, and had started calling local BBS’s in Pekin. I was playing a multiplayer BBS door game called The Pit, and there was always a guy going by the handle The Mad Hempster in the top 3 somewhere. Not very long after, my friend Trent started up his BBS, Gridpoint, and I started seeing The Mad Hempster posting there as well. I’d never met anyone like Greg before. He had a particular way of putting things combined with an absolute zero-tolerance for bullshit. A few of the more colorful phrases I still find myself saying today originated from him. The guy was fantastic at telling stories and giving his opinions in an interesting way. It’s what got me to hang out with him. It wasn’t long before a few of us had hung out on the message boards, become friends, and formed an unruly group of young people that annoyed the crap out of the mostly-over-35 BBS scene.

Around this time, if somebody said they were going to Greg’s, it meant they were going there to get stoned. I didn’t visit until later, as I was deathly afraid of the recreational use of all drugs and/or alcohol. (Not much has changed, but I have a drink now and then.) I’d never even really been around anyone who did such things with any regularity. Even so, I’d chat with Greg quite a bit and he seemed pretty cool. There was one night in particular I’ll never forget. He called me up asking for help setting up his C*Base BBS, and told me about half an hour in that he’d done two hits of LSD right before he called, and that I might need to hang on for a minute because the letters on the screen kept moving around. Especially the green ones.

I’m not exactly sure when he got his DUI, or when he got arrested for possession of some marijuana seeds and stems. I know that the first time I ever visited his house, he had to wear a cuff around his ankle that would call the cops if he wasn’t in by 9pm, and that he was sober now and he wasn’t very happy about it. A big group of us used to descend upon his place every Saturday night, shooting the shit and watching movies while we waited hours for a 1x CD burner to copy the coolest new games of the week. It was the high point of my week in those days. Greg had the fastest home computer I’d ever seen at the time: a Pentium 90mhz he dubbed the “Tower of Power”. I will never forget the day he screwed up installing a 2.88mb floppy in it, releasing the Magic Smoke from his motherboard. “It smelled like oranges.”

For the record, I have never seen anyone do with a Commodore 64 the things Greg could do. Like hooking up Zip drives and browsing the Internets and God knows what else. It was like watching an extremely specialized high level wizard.

I used to ride to school with Greg at ICC every day for a whole year. We only had a couple classes together. One of them was Human Sexuality, which I can safely say we were not acting particularly mature about (especially the day we found out that female porcupines masturbate with sticks). Greg introduced me a lot of music I never would have listened to otherwise, including Bad Religion, and Living Colour, Corrosion of Conformity, and Rage Against The Machine, and even GWAR. We used to talk about everything on that commute, and it pains me that I can’t remember much anymore, just that I enjoyed his company.

I used to drive Greg to jail on the weekend, as part of his punishment for his drug offense. I remember when his parole hearing came up, and he was scared he was going to prison and he talked me into messing with my BBS clock to let him take about 100 turns on TradeWars 2002 because he thought he wouldn’t get to play it or anything else again for years. Everything went his way, and he stayed out of prison, and we were all relieved. I remember at one point he’d asked me to move into an apartment with him, and I thought he was crazy and that I could never afford that and turned him down. He kept pressing me, but I didn’t do it. It wasn’t until years later he told me he knew I was going to be sober and help him stay that way. Even so, he did it. I used to play poker at his place on Sunday nights, and a lot of his AA friends would come by. I’d watch the number on his coin increase month by month, year by year.

He used to tell the story of his DUI a lot, and how he’d drunk enough to make his heart stop and be clinically dead until the paramedics revived him, and how he felt like he’d cheated Death. I’d never seen anyone hit rock bottom before, much less successfully turn himself around. That alone made look up to him. Greg had a rough edge or two, but he was a pretty damn stand-up guy and if you were his friend he was there for you. From many accounts, he touched a lot of lives in a big way through AA over the years. I was shocked when he told me he was going to be the father of twins and doubly shocked when it turned out he was a really great dad to them. It breaks my heart that they won’t have him anymore.

I am 100% certain I have not done the man justice with this, and for that I am sorry. I’ve made the mistake of trying to make sense of any of this. I’m just numb. It’s like somebody popped a brick out of my foundation. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re going to hear him tell the story about all this a week from now, ending with “welp, not fuckin’ doing THAT again”. I wish more than anything that was the case. I am glad for the times I had with him, and don’t really want to think about the times I’ll never get again. I honestly believed that an old, grizzled Greg would be there after all of us were gone, screaming at the TV about his Blackhawks. I felt like he’d earned it. I wish I could have stayed up all night yesterday to give him a hundred more TW2002 turns, if only to buy a little more time.

Rest in peace, man. I hope whatever’s out there is as awesome as you. We’ll miss you.

The Moffatts Take Manhattan

Last month, my wife was really sick and quarantined in our bedroom. My natural response was to sleep on the couch and try to watch on all Doctor Who episodes aired since its revival in 2005. I was not successful in this endeavor. The Series 7 premiere was looming, and I skipped over about half of the Tennant years so I could watch all the Smith stuff.

If you don’t watch Doctor Who, you might as well quit reading now. If you do and haven’t watched it all, you definitely want to quit reading now!


OK, I’ve loved this show since I was a kid and will continue to watch it as long as they make more, but I’ve got some Doctor Who rage I need to get off my chest. I may well have overlooked or misunderstood some stuff. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments, but leave my eyebrows. I need them.

A couple nights ago, I watched “The Angels Take Manhattan“, in which the Ponds leave the show. They hyped the crap out of this episode. There was so much about how it was so brilliant and touching and how tears would be in our eyes.

I’m gonna be that guy now. The one who did not experience any of the things in the promotional hype packet. I hated that episode.

Why? Because I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I hate the way Steven Moffatt resolves big plotlines.

In both the series 5 and 6 finales, our protagonists find themselves in a strange and impossible scenario. In both, Moffatt pulls some arbitrary time-travel rule out of his ass and everybody treats it like it’s gospel.

In 5, I can buy the Pandorica’s universe-blueprinty light getting transmitted everywhere and deus ex machinaing everything back into being. I don’t understand how everybody was running around and existing and time travelling when the universe and time itself had effectively ended, but it was cool enough that I can handwave it and make it OK. That and having people erased from time, but if you’re a time traveler they’re not really erased makes me wish they’d pick a model for time travel and stick with it. Is there one timeline that can be changed? Are there multiple timelines and a new one can just fork from an existing one if you change one?

In 6, there was all sorts of weird hubbub about fixed points in time, and really bad things happen if you don’t let them happen. Like, for instance, having all of history happening simultaneously. Which makes for some neat visuals, but then having linear time happening (despite all the timepieces refusing to budge past 5:02pm) means we have yet another model for time travel, except this one just plain doesn’t make any sense. And then, people remember stuff that happened there despite some people being different people and it not ever really existing or maybe it existed at all points in time or maybe that existence never existed or I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL. Also, not resolving him going back to see the Ponds until the Christmas episode: not cool. Glad I didn’t wait months for that.

And now, we’ve got the weird Moffatty arbitrary rules-wagon rolling in a pivotal episode where we ditch a couple beloved characters. Apparently, if you find out what’s going to happen in the future, you can’t change it. Except, like, every other damned episode where you totally do that because you travel in time. I don’t get why Rory’s tombstone was still there if the timeline was altered, and I don’t get why his seeing it only changed the timeline back for him alone if it was a fixed point. And I didn’t really get why the Doctor could never go save Rory. Yeah, he can’t land the Tardis in 1938 because the Angels have taken a big time-dump what with warping everybody back there repeatedly. Could he go there in 1937, hang out a year and save him in 1938, and then TARDIS the hell out in 1939? Could he just drive to New Jersey and have that work OK? For a show that had a dude hang out for 1894 years to guard over his girlfriend (who was in literally the safest damn place in the universe), they gave up awful easy on poor Rory. And Amy’s message at the end, talking about how they “lived well”. Last I checked, they spent 60 years in a prison surrounded by monsters.

And, OK, last thing I swear: as interesting an idea as the Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel is, and as cool and shocking as that visual was…. REALLY? NOBODY IN MANHATTAN IS GOING TO SEE HER WALKING AROUND? DID YOU NOT SEE GHOSTBUSTERS 2? OK, I feel better now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually really do love this show. I just feel like Moffatt is just making shit up as he goes along sometimes, and doesn’t really care about continuity or consistency. Usually, I’m OK with leaving those behind for an episode, but not when you’re going to say goodbye to some characters you’ve come to love over several years. I dug the Ponds. I was a little weirded out by Amy being all “I have both of you” and then having a married couple on the Tardis, but it totally worked. They deserved better than what they got.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Heard Said To A Child

I saw something profoundly ugly today.

Today was my nephew Aiden’s 9th birthday, held at a secret underground bowling alley (I am not exaggerating in the slightest). It was a great party, and the kids all had a ton of fun there. Sam tried bowling for the first time, which was cool. I was pretty stressed out by the end of it, something to do with a herd of toddlers and preschoolers grabbing heavy bowling balls and rolling and throwing them wherever they wanted and running with reckless abandon directly in front of people about to hurl the aforementioned heavy bowling balls.

On the way back to the car, I was enjoying the relative quiet and fresh air. As we crossed the street, I saw a pack of about half a dozen kids on bicycles approaching, followed close behind by a woman who was in charge of them. She was white, and some of the kids weren’t. I don’t know if some of them were her kids, but I guessed so.

As we loaded Sam into the car, some of the kids pulled about a block ahead of the woman, and she started yelling at them. Some of them didn’t listen, but one little black boy did, and he came sheepishly back to ride beside her in that way 6-year-olds do when they get in trouble. I’ll never forget what she said next, scowling, pointing right at him.

“Fuckin’ nigger.”

It took me almost a full second to realize what she just said, and I looked at Sarah and said something expressing my angry astonishment, I don’t remember what, as I felt the blood rush to my ears and face. I thought about what, if anything, I should do next.

This is none of my business. Right? I immediately thought of my little nephew Scotty, who’s of mixed race. I can’t even imagine somebody saying this shit to him. I wanted nothing more than to run over there and start screaming my head off at that waste of humanity. I thought this to be a bad idea, as I was already pretty stressed and I didn’t want to lose my temper and do something stupid. She’s not going to stop being a racist asshole terrible parent or guardian just because I chew her out. She’s going to yell back at me. And what then? If I successfully intimidate her into apologizing to this kid, she’ll take it out on him when they get home. And if she decides to respond to me with violence, I don’t want a half dozen kids (including mine) to see me beating up some racist jerk in the middle of a Walgreen’s parking lot. Or worse, seeing me getting knifed by some crazy racist jerk because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I honestly don’t think I’d want Sam to see me just yelling and otherwise completely losing my shit at somebody, whether I’m right or not.

I don’t remember where I heard it or exactly how it goes, but someone once told me that when you speak to your child, you are writing their internal dialogue for the rest of their lives. That’s been on my mind for awhile, especially since Sam’s been old enough to have a conversation with. There are some times when he’s cranky or doesn’t want to do what I tell him no matter what, that I can feel my composure start to unravel. I know he can tell when it does. Either he gets wide-eyed and listens to me, or he goes running for his mom.

Ever since Sarah and I got married, we’ve had a standing “no name-calling” rule. I can count on one hand the times either of us has broken it, even during fights. This goes double for Sam. I know I have to discipline him, but the look in his eyes when I tell him he’s not acting like a good boy and he understands that he’s messed up breaks my heart. I can’t even imagine what that little kid on the bike felt. When she said it, he looked like it was no big deal, like he hears it every day. I don’t doubt that he hears it every day. I hope he thinks of himself when he grows up doesn’t come from the hurtful shit spewing out of the mouth of a person that’s supposed to love and support him.

In the end, I reasoned I couldn’t do anything in that moment that is going to have any lasting positive impact on that poor kid’s life, and we drove off without any of them ever knowing we existed. It was part calculation and part cowardice. I cannot decide if I made the right choice or not, I don’t even know if a right choice exists, but I feel ashamed of doing nothing.

Dawn of the Couch-Blogger Nexus

One of the reasons I stopped updating my old LiveJournal was that, especially since Sam came along, I have trouble carving out enough time in my day to sit at a computer and write. I keep telling myself I need to make use of my lunch hour but usually 11am rolls around and my brain threatens to explode if I don’t leave the office for at least a few minutes.

Usually there’s some chilling in front of the TV going on after Sam goes to bed. I’ve tried before to blog on the couch, but it was always with a big gaming laptop or a tiny netbook that makes my hands cramp even by thinking about it and it never really panned out. Setup was always kind of a pain and it wasn’t comfortable and [excuses #48-52].

I also tried blogging from my phone, and that got old pretty quick, too. I love my Galaxy Nexus. It’s a great phone – but I don’t wanna write 500 words in a single session with it. I went through a couple cheapish Android tablets (an uncomfortable to hold but very fast ViewSonic Gtablet with a crappy screen and a very nice but underpowered rooted Nook Color) hoping to find some means of successful couch computing. I wasn’t satisfied with them, and sadly they both gathered dust.

When Google announced the Nexus 7 earlier this year, I didn’t pay it much heed. The more I heard about it, though, the more I wanted one. It was cheaper than either of the tablets I’d owned before, but it had great specs and greater reviews. I eventually succumbed to my gadget-lust and got myself an early birthday present.

My Nexus 7 finally fits the sweet spot for me between big enough, not uncomfortable to hold, and powerful enough to not be annoying. To be honest, I’ve heard the hardware in it is pretty good but I haven’t really had a reason to use it for much yet. I haven’t gotten the bug yet to really game on my Android devices aside from the occasional quick “I have five minutes to burn” game of Angry Birds. (Whether or not those five minutes have anything to do with bathrooms is up to your own imagination. I will say no more on the topic.)

Turns out blogging is actually pretty painless on this thing. In fact, everything I’ve posted on this blog thus far has been written entirely on my 7. I will say the Android WordPress app has a few bugs in it where it doesn’t do line breaks or insert mode properly sometimes, but it’s easy enough to correct by hitting the back button and touching the text entry field again. I do need to figure out how to make it use the various CSS headers found in the web version of the editor. I find they make my longer posts considerably now readable and less likely to be interpreted as a wall of TL;DR text.

The other major factor in making this a much more comfortable experience is Swype, a gesture-based keyboard that helps you type really fast. Using it you find hunt and peck like on a normal mobile keyboard. Instead, you drag your finger in a continuous path along each letter in the word you want to use. Then, it makes an educated guess as to what you meant to type, and it’s usually pretty close. If it’s not sure, it gives you choices that it might be. This gets me about 95% of the way through just about anything I want to write, and the rest I can hunt and peck like before. It took a little getting used to, but I like it. I used to run it back on my old Droid. I don’t remember why I stopped, really. I probably flashed a new ROM and forgot to reinstall it. Either way, it’s made quite a few improvements since then, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you are of clan Droid.

The interesting thing to me is that I thought I needed solitude and silence to write. Turns out I can handle some TV background distraction and Sarah breathing, existing, talking to me, and otherwise doing things a living human being does while I write. Granted, I’m just sort of babbling about whatever I feel like here, so I’m curious to see if I can get a Dire Flailings out from the comfort of the couch. I suspect I can. Guess we’ll see come Monday night…..

Missing the Good Witch

Two years ago today, my grandma Gayle passed away. I wrote this a few days after it happened.

It’s still weird not to have her around. I still find myself thinking of her and wanting to tell her something to see what she has to say about it, only to remember I can’t.

I have such good memories of her and staying at her house when I was a kid. If I can give Sam even a little taste of that, I’ll be happy. I wish she could see him and talk to him now that he’s older. 4-year-old me says he’d think she was pretty awesome.

When I got to be a teenager, things got more strained with her. I still feel bad about taking her for granted during those years and for all the stupid teenage things I said. She still loved me the whole time, and I will keep the knowledge that you can still love your family even when they are being jerks close to my heart for when my kid gets to be that age.

I miss that old lady. As she used to put it, I loved her a million worlds full.