Memories I Can’t Refuse

Surprisingly, Sam was not a fan of S.T.U.N. Runner.

Yesterday, we had Godfather’s Pizza for dinner in Pekin. That particular restaurant holds a lot of memories for me. We’ve been going there as long as I can remember, and the pizza has always been delicious. It comprises about 85% of all birthday dinners in my family.

It also happens to be the site of the very first time I played Ms. Pac Man, and countless other arcade adventures.

It pleases me to no end that the place is still very much as it was some 30 years ago, except for the part where it’s almost never busy and a lot of the arcade games are old and broken. I worry that the place doesn’t have much time left. All the other Godfather’s restaurants in the area have closed, and the company itself isn’t doing so well. We don’t go very often, and I never really understand why. I think I just take it for granted.

I’d had a craving for pizza all day yesterday, and we’ve had Papa Johns and Mickie’s about four thousand times in the last month. Sarah suggested Godfather’s, and it sounded really good. Sam, being Sam, wasn’t particularly interested in eating anything, so I mentioned they’d have arcade games. He squealed and yelled “OKAY!” and ran to get his shoes on.

On the way there, we talked about what kind of pizza we were going to get. Then Sam said something I’ll never forget.

“And then we’re gonna go to the arcade and I’m gonna play with you, daddy, because I love you.”

If you heard a pop about 6pm yesterday, that was my heart exploding. I could not craft a sentence that more perfectly fulfilled my every need as a father. I was stunned. My lower lip quivered.

When we got there, he ran around in circles until we ordered, and then he ran to the machines and did some more circles while I got quarters from the change machine and told him how the sound of the coins coming out used to be my favorite noise in the world. Since he’s so young, he usually doesn’t stick around to finish whatever game he’s playing — unless it’s a driving game. For some reason, those keep him. His experiences with gaming are so different from mine at that age. He’s used to my Xbox packed full of games he can switch between whenever he wants, and he looks at me like I’m crazy when I tell him we’re out of quarters. But he loves bright colors and weird synthesized noises, and that means he loves the old stuff from when I was a kid — even if it’s just for awhile.

He’s been bugging me to play games on the MAME cabinet in our dining room lately. I’ve had a couple parts loose and some stuff that needs configured on it for a few months, so it hasn’t seen much use. He heard Froggy’s Lament from Buckner & Garcia’s Pac Man Fever album on the way back from Grandma’s last week, and he’s been wanting to see that froggy. I think it’s time to fix that.

Definitely loving the whole “dad” gig right now.

It’s Like Sleeping In A Webhosting Motel

Yesterday evening, I was having trouble getting my blog to autopost to Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t know if I’d misconfigured the plugins or if it was a problem with my webhost. Turns out it was the latter. Dreamhost has an absurdly low threshold for memory usage on shared accounts — and apparently, I had enough WordPress plugins installed to cause their autokill script to start autokilling, which basically brought the whole thing to a crawl and/or didn’t load pages. I really didn’t have that many plugins loaded. Just Akismet (anti-spam), a Google Analytics plugin, a cacher, and the autoposters. In another hosting environment, it probably would have been just fine. I eventually wound up getting a account, which will scan my blog’s RSS feeds periodically and post to various social networks. Doing the work to get them up and running was a good exercise, but I’m at a point in my life where I’m just happy to see it run. I have no desire to blow all my free time fixing something the hard way unless the payoff is really super rad.

I’ve had such a weird love/hate relationship with Dreamhost. On one hand, I got in during an insanely good deal and got to lock in a $10/mo price on unlimited space and bandwidth forever, and there’s lots of cool features. On the other, if I want to do anything even remotely out of a narrow scope of stuff they think is OK, it’s not gonna happen. I realize this is just a feature of shared hosting, but it just seems asinine.

When I was writing the @dndnext bot, I wanted to run a Perl module on a timed schedule to post updates. Their version of the Net::Twitter module was older than time, and they wouldn’t update it “because it might break other people’s code”. And I get that principle. I really do. Except Twitter had since switched to OAuth authentication over a year ago, and the version they had installed would never ever work in a million years. They had me trying to use CPAN to install some modules locally for myself, but some permissions issues came up, and eventually they told me I was on my own. So, anytime you saw an update, it was me running Strawberry Perl on my local machine. Laaaaaame.

But, as I said before, they are cheap and I do find their service useful. I just get what I pay for.

Oh well. It’s my morning to sleep in tomorrow, so I’m going to listen to some old Protracker modules and do something incredibly nonproductive now. Hell yeah.


If You Can Read This, I Will Already Be Doing Something Other Than Copypasting

I’ve been blogging since about 2003, but I’ve never had to set one up before. My old LiveJournal just asked me to pick a theme and pic and off I went. Stupid Ranger was on Blogger for awhile, and then switched to WordPress (which Josh set up, not me). Critical Hits existed for quite awhile before I came around, so I never had to worry about that either. Setting WordPress up on my own (and by that, I mean with a one-click install) hasn’t been very hard, but it’s had its quirks. Mostly, I’ve just been researching to make sure I had the right plugins to make sure I wasn’t comment-spammed off the face of the earth. I haven’t ever reskinned WordPress or written plugins for it before, which is something I’d like to know how to do if the need ever arises. Well, actually that’s not 100% true. I did write the code for the Gamma World Junkulator, which is a plugin in the sense that it’s PHP code that really doesn’t have anything to do with WordPress and just sort of doesn’t blow up when you run it. So that counts.

I spent a little time today setting up this blog to auto-post to Facebook and Twitter. I’d been debating whether I should only repost certain things from here. I’m not exactly sure what my rationale behind that fear was. It was if my feeds would get clogged up with my once-a-day blog posts and everyone would get annoyed and try to kill me. Thinking that through (and the laziness factor of not having to manually cut and paste a link twice every time I post here) pushed me over the edge. I still have to do that if I want to post to Google+, though. I really want Google+ to succeed. I like it better than Facebook, except for that part where only about 10% of the people I want to talk to on it even know it exists (much less want to use it).

Setting up the Facebook and Twitter plugins was a little weird, but it wasn’t too hard. The strangest part was that I had to “create an app” on both services, which wasn’t so much what (being a developer) I’d consider “creating an app”. It was more like defining a circumstance under which it was cool for WordPress to post on my behalf, and then handing WordPress the keys to do so.

In fact, once I realized what it was I was doing, I felt pretty silly. I’d just gone through a much more detailed process just a few months back, in which I actually did create an app to post to Twitter — the perl script that populated the @dndnext bot. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what happened to that, it wasn’t really anything spectacular. No legal notices or bad blood or anyone getting disappeared in the middle of the night. It just really didn’t do what we were looking for so we shelved it for awhile until we figure out a better use. Anyway, I had to set up that twitterbot using the same authentication procedures I had to follow for the WordPress plugins.

If you came here from Facebook or Twitter, that either means I did my job properly or I got sick of messing with it and posted it the old-fashioned way. That’s how we used to do things before the robots.

Well, I haven’t gotten it to work yet, and I’m not sure if it’s Dreamhost’s fault or not. The entire domain’s been running like crap all night (long response times varying from 30 seconds to timing out completely). Instead of bashing my head against it for another hour, I just filed a support ticket and will be going to bed. Nerd life, yo.




Reliving the Dark Ages

Tonight, we played Dominion (the Dark Ages expansion). I like that game, but I always get wrecked. It’s not like I’m the best in the universe at CCG’s like Magic and WoWTCG, but I haven’t wrapped my head around the continuous deck building and cycling like some of my friends can. Maybe if I played it more often, I’d have some strategies. As it is, I find myself only knowing what about half the cards do on the table, and then forgetting to read the rest until it’s too late halfway through the game. Still fun, though.

The Dark Ages expansion has some interesting mechanics in it. Lots of weird ways to trash cards and gain crappy cards to make deals for better cards. I bought a ton of Cultists and forgot to buy victory points before it was too late. (It was a nice change from buying too many golds and forgetting to buy victory points until it’s too late.)

We played a few games of that and sat around swapping old D&D war stories. Well, I should say two of us regaled the other two with old D&D war stories, because only half of us had played the game at all previous to this campaign. I hope they weren’t too bored. (I’d had just enough hard cider to not to care at the time.)

I find it endlessly strange and awesome that ten years down the road, it’ll be old war stories about our campaign they’ll be tossing around. Hopefully, I’ll still be there and then we can all bore the crap out of yet another person. It’s the circle of life.

[Review] Bachelorette

There were a couple reasons why Sarah and I decided to watch BacheloretteWe liked Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher. Lizzy Caplan was in it. We’d seen her in True Blood and in Party Down, and she was always funny. Secondly, we had had a stressful weekend and we needed some bawdy humor. This looked like it would provide that.

What we got was a bunch of people being terrible to themselves and each other.  The movie centers around three women being assholes to another girl who is simultaneously heavier than them and getting married before they are, so they have a stripper call her a cruel nickname from high school at her bachelorette party and then ruin her wedding dress by trying to fit two of them in it to show how fat the other girl is. Then they spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to get it fixed and cleaned, which involves all of them doing drugs and further soiling the dress with all sorts of situations that are supposed to be shocking and funny (but aren’t).

I’m at least moderately certain the movie was supposed to be a comedy, but it wasn’t even what I’d call cringe humor. It was, instead, stress humor. The kind where you get stressed and don’t laugh. Ever. If I were to lay that aside and think of the movie instead as a drama, now I am faced with trying to empathize with four caricatures of some of what the creators considered the worst sides of being a single woman. They try to have each of the horrible people have a little epiphany and become less horrible, except that is not what happens at all. For instance: at one point, the promiscuous one with the drug problem says “I just sleep and do drugs with people who are nice to me because I don’t know how to do anything else”. Then right before the wedding, she gets her stomach pumped because she tried to kill herself with a bottle of xanax because a computer programmer wouldn’t sleep with her. Then she gets drunk at the wedding like two hours later. REDEMPTION ACHIEVED!

Only thing I enjoyed in the movie had very little to do with the actual plot: Lizzy Caplan’s character got back together with her ex-boyfriend played by Adam Scott (they were the love interests on Party Down, and it was nostalgic).

I cannot express to you how much I recommend you don’t see this movie. It will not make you feel anything but awful. It will undo any good feelings for Kirsten Dunst you ever had, and you will feel sorry for Sacha Baren Cohen for having to live with anyone associated with this movie. It made me sad for single people, for men, for women, for the institution of marriage, Luxembourg, and eventually for humanity itself.

If I could go back in time and prevent this movie, and it would cost me my life to do so, I’d still do it.

Flail-O-Meter: 1/10

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.

The Great Dream Layoff Of 2010

One of my favorite parts about my old blog was posting lots of weird dreams. Sadly, I have since discovered that a sizeable portion of their majesty and splendor was due to me having a moderately severe case of sleep apnea. Since wearing a mask and allowing myself to go deeper than REM sleep ever, my visits to dreamland are much less frequent and less vivid – but they’re still weird.

Last night, unfortunately, wasn’t so much weird as it was awful. I was once again employed by MultiAd. I find myself dreaming about that every now and then, but this dream in particular found me in an unusual circumstance – getting laid off again. My co-worker James and I were walking to a meeting and then a new, evil HR manager called us into an office and made us start talking about the giant project a bunch of us worked a ton of overtime during the summer of 2010. Actually, it was more like demanding we justify our every action in the feeble hope of saving our jobs.

Evil HR guy was being really snide and condescending, and making frequent references to how he’s not surprised a first year employee would be this bad, and I countered that I had worked there five years and that was pretty effective for some reason. I had him on the ropes. OK not really he was still going to fire us both. The most interesting part of the whole dream for me was listening to dream-James tell of his version of the events of that summer.

I woke up before I lost my dream-job. Still a hell of a way to start the morning.