Category Archives: Meta

About the site and site happenings.

The Muse

By now I ought to be used to surprise. So few of my experiences have matched my expectations. The fascinating dichotomy between my assumptions and reality that has been on my mind the most of late is what I figured would happen with this site upon becoming a parent. Over the years of maintaining ironSoap, my slice-of-life rambling had been, I suppose, my bread and butter. Well, that and digression about pop culture.

I naturally assumed that having a child would provide me with a bounty of anecdotes to “humorously” relate in my overly-verbose way. And, in fact, becoming a father did give me loads of material to work with. But the archives don’t lie. I didn’t do with that material what I expected I would. Sure, I’ve written a few posts here and there, maybe a half dozen in total. In that same time frame I wrote probably an equal amount about non-family topics. I really thought that having a child would provide my muse, give me the inspiration to return to regular updates and ensure they attained and (perhaps more significantly) retained a high level of quality. We even named our daughter after a muse, for pete’s sake.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t actually wrong in the strictest sense, I was just way off base. Despite the drastic reduction of output over the last few years, I’ve been writing more than ever. What I didn’t expect was that having a child would inspire me not to do what I had been doing only more and/or better, but it would inspire me at last to do what I really wanted. Turns out, writing one-draft blog posts wasn’t it. Writing fiction—telling stories—is what I’ve wanted to do, all along. I guess in a manner of speaking I’ve always been telling stories on ironSoap. But there are stories I can tell with ease and there are stories I must tell with sweat and tears.

The muse my daughter actually represents is the one that says, “If you want me to chase my dreams, first you have to chase your own.” What she really did was free me from my fear of the work inherent in getting to the stories that aren’t lived but dreamed. The transmutation of dream to word is a prickly process, one with a short fuse and long teeth. But it seems I have the best guide, one who pulls me along with a tiny, insistent hand in mine.

Time Machine: Birthday Bash, Home Office Feng Shui

Originally posted March 10, 2002.

Birthdays for the Clinically Insane

Try to follow along: My wife’s stepmother’s stepfather had his 62nd birthday party today, which we attended. It was a pretty interesting event, mostly because Nikki’s dad has a pretty small house and there were a lot of people there. I’m not even going to try to go over the roll call. Trust me, there were more people there than most of us felt comfortable with. The catch phrase of the afternoon was “Oops. Can I get by you?

The truth is, I feel out of place at most family gatherings… including those for my own family. I am convinced this is a problem with me, and not gatherings or anyone’s family. But I felt a little more out of place because I knew that even Nikki wasn’t terribly familiar with this side of the family. Of course, they were all perfectly nice, but there’s just something odd about spending an afternoon with people whom you could easily go your whole life never even being aware that you had a distant familial connection with and be no better or worse off for.

A good example is Denny (Nikki’s stepmother’s stepfather, the one with the birthday, remember?) has a couple of sons who were there. Both of them were extremely nice, and the oldest had his wife with him. This is a woman that if I met under different circumstances (which isn’t actually completely unlikely, she’s a database architect in The City, which means I could bump in to her later in my career) I would have no idea whatsoever had any kind of distant relation to, through step-families and several layers of marriage. It’s people like this who are precisely strangers to me and yet I spend time with while people only slightly more closely related to me offer helpful “ice-breaker” commentary like “Paul’s a big computer guy, too!”

I know people have good intentions and in fact I appreciate the effort. It’s just a part of married life I haven’t gotten used to… It’s a feeling I can best describe as if everyone were trying to force me into their families with a giant human-sized shoehorn. It’s not that I don’t want to fit in, I just feel like saying, “Look, I’m an outsider, and everyone here knows it. I’m okay with that, and you should be too. Can’t we all just start shoving food in our faces to break the uncomfortable silences like real families do?” But somehow I feel like I might get kicked by my wife under the table for saying that right out loud. Instead I just hope everyone follows my lead.

Re-Arranging Furniture at 11:00 PM

The Computer Room, as my wife and I call it, was a disaster zone. This is where I spend the majority of my time and it was completely uncomfortable.

I have a nice computer desk with an overhead bookshelf, sliding file drawer, built-in tower hutch and CD rack. But I also have four computers, not counting Nikki’s. When it was just the Linux box and the Windows box plus the laptop and webserver, it wasn’t so bad. The laptop fits away nicely in a corner and the webserver wasn’t ever really suitable for everyday use anyway. Plus I didn’t need a monitor to work with it, I just ssh to it and administer it remotely. Finally I moved the webserver to ColoQ and was down to three, which was fine. Then I got the Mac, and for the first night I had it on a very low shelf that used to be our entertainment unit, but has since been used as a fax machine stand.

The fax machine got the floor but there was absolutely no comfortable way to use the Mac while sitting in a chair designed for adult human beings. But, I wasn’t going to complain. I had, after all, brought this on myself by accepting the offer to take the G3 and I didn’t want to suffer my wife with tales of woe about the computer room when it was 90% devoted to my junk anyway. Then she made the mistake of complaining about the set up.

She sat directly to my left, with her computer, a printer and scanner set up on a monstrous cast-iron desk I inherited from my parents when they moved. The desk is so old that it’s been dropped down a flight of stairs without any discernible damage, and it actually weighs more with the drawers removed. It is a huge pain to move, but it holds a load of equipment comfortably so I keep it around. But Nikki isn’t a fan of it because it’s too high for her 5’3″ frame to sit and type at comfortably and she got tired of me reading over her shoulder, which was easy since I could just turn my head and see what she was doing.

So a trip to Wal-Mart later we had a new some-assembly-required desk for her and a vague plan to rearrange the whole room. Unfortunately we started the project at about 9:00 PM so it was well into the night while I was banging with hammers and snapping measuring tape. Plus the grunting and dropping of computer equipment, yelling and slamming after getting shocked from the power outlet trying to plug in the 20 or 30 cords in the room and of course, the near-constant exasperated shouts at the cat, who was intent on exploring the insides of the cardboard box the desk came in.

I would have worried about our neighbors, but these are the people who I swear have built a Jai-Alai court directly above my side of the bed. At any rate we ended up with it so that the Mac is now on the cast-iron behemoth, along with the fax machine and the laptop. Nikki is now behind me when I’m working on the regular computer desk, so I can’t peer over her shoulder anymore without significant effort, which if history is any indication means I won’t be peering over her shoulder at all. She seems much happier.

Ah, social awkwardness. I spent a lot of my least socially awkward times—and I’m referring to times when I didn’t personally feel awkward, mind you—in high school. The distinction between then and now is that I was awkward and spent a lot of that time saying and doing incredibly stupid things, things which my brain loves to recall now every time I encounter some new person or some new collection of people, but at the time I was oblivious. With the mixed blessing of enlightenment at how dumb I can sound and act, I now paralyze myself into a minimal interaction mode which is, in itself, stupid and awkward. I often come across as aloof, sour, boring or irritable. I actually am all of those things, but I’m so afraid that people will judge me as being over-earnest, saccharine, insufferable or annoying (which I am as well, only I inflict those particular traits on the select few I’ve decided to be comfortable with), I go too far.

About a year ago I wrote this entry in response to a series of encounters at a funeral. What I was trying to say then was that, remembering a man who was outgoing and friendly, who took the time to care about other people, I realized that my issues in social situations were products of my own devise (way to make it about you, man!—I know, I know). I don’t think I care what people judge me to be, except that I judge myself first which is the same, at least in essence. I don’t want to be an annoying guy, telling myself, “I hate annoying guys who don’t have any interesting stories to tell!” Then I realize I don’t have any interesting stories to tell so I decide I won’t even tell an un-interesting one and in fact I won’t say anything at all. I’ve lost friends because I second-guess myself into knots like this and let distances grow where, perhaps, they didn’t need to. I wanted to say last year that I decided to just get over myself, to stop worrying about it so much. Turns out, it’s not as easy as all that. But I’m trying.With patience and help from Nik, who is everything in social situations that I wish I could be, I’m making an effort.

What I get from the entry back in 2002 is that I spend too much time over-thinking the nature of interactions. Does it matter in the least that I’m in a room with a perfect stranger under the auspice of a family gathering? Of course not. When people try to assist in breaking the ice with comments about shared professional work, that’s a gift they’re trying to give me. “Here,” they’re saying, “you really suck at this, so let me get the ball rolling for you. Maybe you’ll actually make a friend.” Instead of being grateful I go on a tirade about how weird it is to be talking to the person in the first place. And, of course, not making a friend.

Oh, and for the record, we don’t have any of those three desks I talked about anymore. In fact, the notion of a desktop computer for anything other than gaming or specific professional applications seems a little quaint to me now. Ah, progress.

Time Machine: Lost Cats

Originally posted January 3, 2002.

Last weekend our cat got out.

To most people, this probably sounds about as unfortunate as the fact that there is oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Cats go outside, they come back.

Most people are not my wife. While I hesitate to say that she was “freaking out,” she did develop a permanent crease between her eyebrows. For Nikki, that’s even worse than if she had been screaming hysterically… the fact that she didn’t was more worrisome. This was bad news.

The problem is that our cat (“Dixie”) was a stray at our old apartment complex. She was very friendly (after a dozen or so free meals courtesy of Nik) and liked to come around our place when it was cold outside. Eventually Nikki was so taken with her that she just adopted the cat, took it in for testing and kept it inside. Of course, Dixie was an outdoor cat for a minimum of six months before we got her, so she still had some reason to want to go outdoors. Nikki read that allowing house cats out (even fixed ones) was cruel because of all the possible dangers that could befall a cat in the wide world (car tires and bored boys with sticks spring to mind). So Dixie became a sort of willing captive.

Then we moved. Since we had found the cat at the old apartments, we assumed she had either come from there or been a previous tenant’s cat (we suspect she had lived in the very same apartment as we were in, under the previous occupants). We weren’t sure what would happen if she ever found her way out into these new apartments. When she accidentally got out (a door that was usually closed was left open after a party) the concern my wife had was that she wouldn’t be able to find her way home.

So I grabbed my Mag-Lite and headed out to track her down. Husband as hero… it could work. We found her in pretty short order, but she didn’t want to come to us when we called. Food didn’t lure her (she’d just eaten less than an hour before) and she was too fast and agile to be caught easily.

Suffice to say that it was a long, wet night rummaging through bushes and mud in the furthest corners of the complex, chasing a stupid cat who didn’t want to come home. She found another cat to help her run from us, and after the 20th time I’d passed some poor sleeping person’s window, cursing and making odd cat-calling noises, I figured she’d probably just come home when she was hungry.

Nikki basically stayed up all night, alternating between doing patrols and watching the back door for her. I tried to sleep, but I had hurt my foot running around and in the end, I took the door guard and let Nikki catch an hour or so of sleep. In the morning, Nik was so convinced the cat was long gone or dead or something that she made up signs and asked anyone who’d listen if they’d seen the creature. Seconds before she was about to be written off as a missing pet, she wandered back home, muddy, wet, and acting as if it was all part of her normal routine.

Of course Nikki was both ecstatic and furious with Dixie, and weary from missing a night’s sleep. In the end, I’m glad the dumb animal is back. I like having her around, but I was more worried about Nikki. With it all over, I was able to relax a bit and laugh about it. But not too hard… there was something profoundly difficult about trying to comfort a worried and frightened Nikki about the loss of a cat.

Our collective relationship with the cat has grown far less significant in the years since this was originally posted. It’s pretty clear now that Nik was looking to fill a void for nurturing in her life and since we were still a few years off of our original time frame for children she contented herself with caring for Dixie. You can see that come through even here in this post.

We both have our fondness for her, simply as a matter of familiarity, but it was rapidly obvious that once Callie became a part of the picture Dixie’s place in our family would take a sharp turn toward the back seat. This has resulted in no shortage of guilt on my part and I think also on Nikki’s because we did accept the responsibility of having the cat as our pet but our priorities lie in providing the best environment for our daughter and that has clashed with our duties as pet providers. Early on in Callie’s life when Nik and I were frazzled, frightened newbie parents we talked quite seriously about trying to get rid of Dixie because she was having difficulty adjusting to the sudden lack of attention and acting out because of it. However, we’ve been pretty adamant about not simply surrendering her as that feels incredibly irresponsible and selfish. Not surprisingly, finding a good home for an 11 year-old indoor-only cat has proven next to impossible.

To Dixie’s great credit, she hasn’t ever seemed to blame Callie for her reduced station in the household and in fact as Callie’s gotten a little bigger she’s come to be exceptionally fond of the cat. Mostly Dixie has been patient and gentle with what can sometimes be a Lenny-like affection, though a couple of recent unprovoked attacks have us wondering again what is most appropriate for our future as cat co-inhabitants. Aside from the couple of outbursts the biggest challenge we face now is the sense that we’re not really doing Dixie any favors by essentially caging her into our confined apartment space and offering her sustenance. Neither Nik nor I feel like we have moments to spare offering the cat affection when we could be offering it to Callie instead, and thus far Callie is too little to really be providing the kind of attention Dixie is looking for. Plus we’re worried that the guilt that drives us to continue to provide food and shelter for her will eventually result in awkward decisions regarding the cat’s health as she inevitably ages. We operate on a tight budget as it is, with plenty of human health issues to be concerned about. It may not have been a worry when we adopted her back in 2000 as we both worked and had disposable income, nor even in 2002 when we didn’t have much income but had a young and healthy cat. As circumstances have changed, it can feel like a tightening noose.

In retrospect, I may have been better off encouraging her to escape off into the wild yonder when this post was originally written. But then, of course, I’d have missed the opportunity to crawl around in the mud for hours, risking arrest for stalking too closely to our neighbor’s windows in the dead of night.

Time Machine: Sickness, Work and Christmas Shopping

Originally posted December 21, 2001.

I spent the last several days battling a wicked flu that has more stages than an Apollo space shuttle. Initially it was just a bad sore throat and some temperature control issues (too hot, then too cold). Eventually a nice bit of fatigue was added to the mix, followed by severe body aches and head congestion. By the third day the temperature issues had been replaced by a cough, and this morning the fatigue and part of the sore throat had given way to an incessantly running nose and fits of sneezing, usually when my hands are full.

I’ve felt like a walking germ all day and I’ve had to interact with far too many people. I’d feel badly for them, but I did have to get out of bed today, so it serves them right for not petitioning harder to make today null and void like I requested.

I was working on the Splendid Products web page until 4 am last night (not recommended for flu sufferers… sleep deprivation and sickness do not make a happy marriage) and dragged myself out of bed to finish the badly neglected pool route this afternoon. I still didn’t get in the pool truck until around 1:30, which meant that I wasn’t on the road back home until around 4:00.

Nikki was meanwhile waiting at home (cleaning and decorating with Christmas stuff… hey, shut up, we’ve both been sick and busy okay?) for me to return so we could get some shopping done. I had done some of hers Tuesday, but she hadn’t started on mine and the rest of our list was in danger of receiving IOUs. In the end we were out and about for almost six hours and managed to get some household products we needed and three gifts. When we got home Nikki hit the web and in about 45 minutes managed to basically finish the rest of the shopping. Odd that we didn’t do that from the beginning.

Meanwhile I have gone through two entire Pocket Pak® Kleenex© Brand pouches, about 40 cardboard-textured Burger King napkins, half a full box of pink Kleenex© Brand Facial Tissues and various assorted shirtsleeves, paper towels and old gas receipts in a vain effort to keep myself somewhat mucous-free. My nose is now the color and texture of road rash, and feels about as good.

I love winter. Merry Christmas.

I think this is the first post I made that had a couple of jokes I still like, which meant it was one of the first “funny” posts. I guess early on I talked about my work projects as if the people reading the site were supposed to know what I was referring to, which strikes me as pretty annoying now, like people who talk about friends you’ve never met as if they were mutual acquaintances. I think the mindset was that the original intended audience was simply me, the way any private journal or diary would be. The fact that it was publicly accessible seems to have been incidental and the presumption was that whenever I was going back and reading it, I’d remember what “the Splendid Products web page” referred to. It turns out I do remember that particular example, but others will turn out to be much more hazy.

It took a little while for the pattern to begin in earnest but this is the first example of the blog post titles being mini-lists which highlight my writer’s Attention Deficit Disorder as I jump from topic to topic. For whatever reason I tended to use groups of three. I’m not sure why three felt like a magic number, but this is where it began.

Time Machine: Odd Jobs

Originally posted December 15, 2001.

So it’s been almost four months since I was laid off my cushy Graphic Artist position at a Coin-Operated arcade game manufacturing company turned Internet New Economy latecomer turned back manufacturing company. Or whatever. The point is, it’s been a while since I had a real office job.

I looked for a replacement office job, but that 18 month degree I got in Graphic Arts that made me a very much in demand web designer a year ago has made me a very much under-needed entry-level skill-deprived tech worker in a recessing economy. To help pay the bills I sort of stumbled into doing odd jobs for pretty much whomever asks me for some help in exchange for money. I’m helping one set of in-laws get their pool service business off the ground by cleaning swimming pools, lawns and rain gutters. I’m helping another set of in-laws with some actual web design work; I’m putting in more time as webmaster of a high-profile fan site for an actor and I’m holding open houses for a real estate agent on the weekends.

It’s very strange to go from getting nice consistent paychecks every two weeks to getting small personal checks in varying degrees of frequency. Really, I’m not complaining. I could be unable to find anything that brought in money. The weird thing is, I’m doing at least partially what I really wanted to be doing all the while I worked for the game company. That is, I’m designing web pages and working with computers on my own time, at home. I still have to do the pool cleaning, but it’s good for a guy who would sit in front of a monitor 24/7 if he could to be required to get up at least once in a while and move around, remind myself what the outdoors looks like.

It’s also strange how life throws you curve balls and most of the time you just close your eyes and take a wild swing. But you know, I’m starting to find that a good percentage of the time those blind swats connect at least a little, and sometimes that’s quite enough to at least keep you from striking out.

I mentioned to Dr. Mac a few weeks ago that I actually missed the dotcom boom/bubble. A lot of the nostalgia for that time comes from my being an undeserving beneficiary of the insane demand for people who could rub two HTML tags together rather than one of the fleeced investors who were hoping to get rich off of ethereal potential rather than, you know, business models and revenue and all that.

The odd job thing was incredibly stressful at the time and certainly wouldn’t fly for our family now, but in retrospect it was kind of an exciting time and the whole year that was to come would really serve to solidify the relationship between Nik and I since we didn’t have traditional careers to pull on our time and we didn’t have much money to engage in a lot of diversions so we had to learn to work together and lean on each other heavily for support (especially since at times it wasn’t clear what would be in store for me work-wise down the road and it definitely wasn’t obvious how we were going to keep the lights on and food on the table week to week). We sure made some mistakes as we stumbled through it (the pool cleaning service was a poor fit and an awkward transitional moment between the in-laws and myself, for example) but it turns out a lot of those blind swings don’t just keep the count steady at 3-2 but unexpectedly end up being the sacrifice bloop that scores the winning run.

The trick is to open your eyes when you’re done taking the rip.

Never Look Back

Occasionally I have to remind myself why I don’t make promises on my blog. You know, things like “I plan to update at least three times a week from now on!” Or, “I’m going to read a bunch of books I’ve been meaning to finish before I read anything else!


At the time I usually think, “Well, it’s going to be out there. Public. I’ll be more likely to stick with it because people will be counting on me.” However, if I’ve learned one thing from maintaining this website it is that no one in my mythical audience cares what I intend to do, or what I say I’m going to do. Very rarely a straggler will stop by—clearly lost on the information superhighway—and show some mild interest in something I am doing or have already done. But promises and statements of intent interest no one and inevitably end in shamefaced apologies from me because “Ball Dropper” is my middle name. Paul Ball Dropper Hamilton. Actually, that doesn’t sound good at all. Forget I said that. The point is, I’m not so much with the follow-through.

Well, there is one exception. That exception is To a degree, I mean. It’s not like there haven’t been lengthy lapses in updates and I haven’t been what anyone would call a consistent blogger in probably several years but, in fits and starts and with any number of format and direction changes, I’ve been manning the wheel on this ship for going on ten years now.

The very first entry on came in December of 2001, which means that on 12/03 of this year ironSoap will turn 10 years old. That’s so old style guides permit me to use numerals for the year rather than spelling it out. That’s so old that in Internet years I’m officially a cane-waving codger imploring these smart phone-waving, social media driven, html5 toting kids to get off my virtual lawn. My first blog entry was done by hand-editing the HTML in vi right there on the server, uphill both ways in the cyber-snow. And I liked it.

Here’s what a much younger and far less mature me had to say back then:

You know, I think if I counted the number of journals I’ve started and vowed to keep current and multiplied that by the number of projects I’ve started and never finished and added to that the number of great ideas I’ve had but never done anything about and later forgotten and then had 0.01 cents times the sum of all that I’d be rich enough to hire some schlep to write my journals for me. I could even pay him to write some fascinating yet realistic sounding activities for the day to attract hordes of fans to my site to read about my daily exploits.

All that would be covering the truth, of course, which is that, being rich, I’d most likely spend most of the day playing video games on my obscenely over-priced home entertainment system.

And yet here I am again, promising myself that I’ll do better this time. I’d ponder about the significance of a consistent journal being a strong priority in (some) people’s lives and the desire to chronicle their existence. Perhaps I’d wonder if the difficulty many have in doing so is related to the fact that when enough time is available to write, there isn’t really that much going on and when we can’t find time to write is when we would find doing so most cathartic and others would find it most interesting.

I’d ponder that, but I have to go play some video games.

Well, things certainly have changed! I mean, ahem. Right. Anyway.

All the early blog posts from those first few days have been lost on the site as it currently exists, victims of some WordPress upgrade or another. A period of them have been lost forever, double victims of a corrupted database backup file. But I do have quite a few of the first couple of years lying around. My brother (you did know he was back in the blahgosphere, right?) has attempted to convince me to format them together into something like a book on a number of occasions, and I made some progress on that front before I dropped the ball (sensing a trend here?). Actually the problem was that I wanted to include some commentary that would fill in the blanks between those archived entries but I realized soon enough that those commentaries would be restricted to a particular time and place as well, possibly opening the door for future revisions to include comments on the commentary and before I knew it I was envisioning an endless loop of meta-discussion that would never be finished like some sort of punishment from a digital age Greek Myth and I had to go lie down.

But here’s my thought. And I want to make clear this is not a statement of intent nor should it be construed in any way as a promise, a commitment or anything that could lead to any type of expectation. I’m just thinking out loud here. As part of a celebration leading up to’s tenth birthday I was thinking that I might occasionally post some of those old entries as sort of a “Best Of…” series. I’ve zero intention (note that there is a value only slightly greater than zero of doing any of this at all) of posting every one of the old entries. I mean honestly, most of them are along these lines:

So it was no more than five minutes after I posted the last journal entry that I figured out what was up with PostNuke. Apparently it requires cookies to be turned on to authenticate users (okay, I knew that) and I had cookies blocked from my localhost.localdomain (now I didn’t know that, and don’t remember doing that, either). Fixing the filter made the problem go away. I’m not sure if it’s going to work for me or not, though.

Riveting, right? I can’t possibly apologize enough if you suffered through all those updates the first time around, I certainly don’t want to subject you to them again. But there may be a few interesting nuggets that would provide some interesting decade-spanning dissection. Also, I could pretend to actually be updating the site without actually having to write anything new! On paper, it sounds like a fantastic idea.

But, probably I’m just going to go play some video games instead.

Keeping House

While I work on the next epic post, I have made a few minor changes here and there around the site. One is that if you look at the bottom of the sidebar you’ll now see some entries from my Tumblr blog. So yeah, that means it’s pretty much a blog within a blog. I use Tumblr for most of the things that ironSoap used to do before it became my essay writing venue. Not sure why, but Tumblr feels better suited for quick, disposable blog posts about movies or links or sports and now they’re all included here as well so you don’t have to go hunting for anything.

I’ve also updated a few of the static pages since the content on those goes out of date from time to time. None of it is all that thrilling but there are a couple of additions to the 10 Random… page and I’ve modified some of my Contact information to better reflect current truth.

Additionally I’ve included a little gizmo that shows the search queries people are using to find the site. I used to post these as something kind of strange and funny and cool as individual blog posts but I don’t see any harm in having them just generated for all to see. Enjoy. Or not, I’m not the boss of you.

All One Could Ask

I’ve been hard on the Sharks. I still think the answer to their frustrating playoff performances lies mostly behind the bench, but I feel I need to soften my typical post-postseason angst in the wake of last night’s herculean effort. For as much as I wish they’d managed to squeak one past Turco—a man who deserves a massive amount of respect—you can’t say they didn’t try. And try. And try. But when a guy is prepared to make 61 saves in a game…

There is one thing though. I think the Sharks actually won. That reviewed goal that was eventually called off? Someone please answer me this: Why didn’t they let the tape run? Wouldn’t the location of the puck after Turco peeled himself out of his own net have been a clear indication of whether or not it crossed the line? Perhaps the rules stipulate that you have to actually see the puck cross the line and go into the net but if that’s the case I have to ask, “why?” Why can’t someone apply simple logic and say that if the puck disappears from view beneath a goalie whose body ends up in the net and when they move after the play the puck is found beyond the line, that stands to reason that a goal was scored? Otherwise what’s to prevent goalies from backing into their own nets on in-front scrambles to obscure the overhead camera while the defense collapses in front to obfuscate any alternate angle shots?

It even leads me to another question that has bugged me forever: Why haven’t we applied better technology to sports? There has to be a way to accurately determine relative position between a puck and a goal line or a ball over the plate or the pigskin on the first down marker? If accuracy is really a priority, why are we still relying on humans to make these critical determinations?

Anyway, it’s all academic at this point but while my disappointment is still there at least I can’t say I didn’t get to see some phenomenal hockey. I mean seriously, seeing those guys gut it out after 120 minutes of hockey (with the Sharks down a man from their initial line-up, too) was amazing, and something I won’t soon forget.

I just feel bad for my dad and brother out in the Central time zone. The game wasn’t over until 1:45 am their time.

Minor Meta Memorandum

I’m still unclear how it happened but the WordPress upgrade from a couple of weeks ago resulted in the loss of all user account information in the database. I even tried restoring the old database to pull the information from and it, too, is missing the data. There is no logical explanation for this and it frustrates me greatly to have to say this but if you had an account with which to post comments here, it is gone and must be re-created.

I apologize profusely.

Upgrade Fallout

So, WordPress apparently has a nasty vulnerability that is being exploited all over the place. To avoid hassles I don’t want to deal with I performed a long overdue upgrade on ironSoap’s WP installation. For the most part it went smoothly (thanks DreamHost!) but a couple of things didn’t make the transition without incident. One is the poll plugin, which I can re-install but don’t have any more time to attend to today and isn’t a big deal. Another is the comment-spam prevention plugin that disables comments on older posts. That doesn’t affect anyone but me so no harm there either.

Unfortunately the biggest oops of the whole procedure is that, to the best of my ability to discern, all user accounts were deleted. If by some miracle you can still log in, awesome. But I suspect that all four of you may have to re-initiate your login accounts if you want to post new comments. I apologize for that and when I get the time to repair the plugins I’ll first make every effort to restore user accounts from my backups but my cursory examination suggests that may not be possible without re-setting all the passwords, something I’m very hesitant to do.

Sorry for the trouble.

I’d Say It’s Better

I don’t know if there is a gland that secretes some sort of hormone that facilitates writing. My grades in high school Anatomy were barely passing, partially because a huge chunk of our score was based on—I’m not making this up—coloring. It was presented under the guise of education and we were instructed to use colored pencils instead of crayons as a nod to our maturity, but you can slice it however you like, it was still coloring.

Anyway, I don’t ever remember coloring in a “writer’s gland,” but then I didn’t really color in a lot of those stupid sheets. I could have missed a few.

Assuming there is a gland, mine is running fairly dry these days. Whatever that hormone is, literasium or something, I’m kinda tapped out at the moment. Here’s why: I responded to a Craigslist posting that was asking for video game writers. Anyone who has read ironSoap can attest that I write, at length, about a lot of things but very high on that list of subjects is video games. I’ve recently dedicated an entire site to that pursuit in an effort to spare you all the dissections of my game sessions.

By the way, you are welcome.

So I saw the listing and thought, “Yeah, okay.” They gave me a chance to do a two-week trial run based on, I’m only speculating here, the fact that I was the only response they received. I went ahead and worked on the site through the next couple of weeks and it seemed to go pretty well. As promised, they invited me to come on board full time and become a regular contributor.

I don’t have all the details just yet, but the long and short of it is that I contribute 15 articles per week (mostly video game-related news, but I’ve also posted a couple features). They have said they do pay, just not much; the loose wording of the original email was “about enough to cover a broadband internet connection” which I guess means anywhere from $25 to $50 a month.

This really isn’t about making stacks of cash, though. Instead it is a matter of presenting my writing in a more public forum and following the ancient adage of “write what you know.” It turns out I know video games pretty well. I can wait while you recover from the shock. I can’t say at this point what, if anything, will come of this. I do know that having a schedule of how much I need to write each day has been an adjustment. It’s not difficult necessarily; I have written far more than I’m required to often enough for my own various projects. But those are writings born from desire to express, not mandated by responsibility. I’m curious if this transition of writing from pastime to necessity will affect my view of it. So far it hasn’t become a chore, only tapped my reserves a bit, which is why my personal writing locations have fallen relatively silent.

I am picking back up some of the pace, but I have to be cautious and preserve my literasium supplies.

tail -n 4 /brain/var/log/messages

  • Nik and I were discussing our summer movie experiences the other day. We saw some pretty good ones including Stardust which has a very strong Princess Bride vibe (read that as a major compliment) and Ratatouille which Nik said was her favorite Pixar movie to date. We also just caught Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix in IMAX 3D. I hadn’t seen an IMAX or a 3D movie since some weird thing they were showing at the local amusement park (Great America, for those keeping track) back when I was probably 12, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very good and did an admirable job with what must have been a beast of a scriptwriting task. The 3D stuff was pretty impressive for the most part, but I actually thought the sound system in the IMAX theater was the star of the show.
  • My co-worker kicked the power cord for my workstation the other day. It occurred to me as my laptop stayed on and was the only thing that wasn’t at risk of losing any unsaved work that there is no reason PC manufacturers can’t include a small 10-minute battery in every power supply. I know there are products that do this but for the most part they are aimed at server administrators, not consumers. I ask, why?
  • It’s wickedly hot here in California, which is normally not so bad since most places I frequent are air-conditioned, as my pale, nearly translucent skin will attest. The exception, naturally, is the room in I work within which contains too little space and far too many heat-generating electronic components. Many of my co-workers wear shorts to work to combat the problem, but as ragtag as I typically appear, I can’t bring myself to eschew actual pants when I arrive somewhere expecting compensation.
  • Perhaps I’ve discussed my Zuma addition previously, I can’t recall. The days when that game consumed my soul are dark and grim and my mind does not revisit them readily. As a defense mechanism this localized amnesia is then somewhat flawed because it allowed me to download the version on Xbox Live Arcade which is half price this weekend only via a special promotion. My thoughts weren’t even filled with pathetic delusional justifications like, “What could one time hurt?” or “I can quit anytime I like.” I simply did it, fool that I am, casting the shreds of my dignity back into that nameless void. The sale went into effect at midnight last night and the dark circles under my eyes today are a shameful testament to just how strong my will can be against this foe.

The Usual Hybernation

Following the Sharks’ annual ouster from the playoffs I usually get kind of quiet around here. I’m sure part of it has to do with all the Sharks talk that precedes their inevitable failure leaving little more to say once they finally succumb to their own mediocrity. Plus, I tend to make it a point to do other stuff besides think about sports once I’ve been let down once again and coming back to the site is a harsh reminder of the hope and promise I held a few short weeks ago.

But life goes on and I haven’t been entirely silent since I’ve been filling up my video game journal these last few weeks. I suppose it makes no sense to have a separate place to talk about video games and not sports since I’d guess there are just as many people who couldn’t care less about the Sharks as there are people who couldn’t care less about XBox or whatever. Let’s face it, most of what I’m interested in writing about is of no interest to anyone, anywhere, ever. Perhaps I should just accept that and recognize the futility of trying to cater to a readership which, frankly, doesn’t exist.

At least in this case I’ve already started keeping ’em separated so there’s no sense stopping now. I’m just saying.

While I wouldn’t call my general lack of postiness a problem exactly, it does bely a general apathy toward the kind of daily updates that are in theory the point of Even then, apathy isn’t exactly the right word. I don’t want to get all meta the way I used to with existential angst over the deeper meaning of the blog or whatever. All I’m saying is that I have things I want to relate and stories I might be interested in telling but there is a curious clash between three distinct desires: One is the desire to chronicle myself as has been the historical focus of this site. Two is the intention of writing in some sort of functional capacity, be it creating a novel or writing for other outlets (paid or unpaid). Three is the basic inclination to save thoughts and ideas for use in actual conversation with other humans.

Here’s what I mean: If I write down the little thoughts and theories that occur to me regularly and post them here, I find that I feel discussing them in person with people is somewhat redundant. Are they simply being polite and letting me carry on when they’ve already read the Cliff’s Notes version online? Meanwhile, if I spend the time I have writing these blog entries is that actively preventing me from using my “writing time” for projects that might better benefit me or, ultimately, be more satisfying from a creative standpoint? In either case, my desire to have a repository where I can keep some of the random ideas I come up with is steadfast and maybe useful to others? It’s difficult to separate oneself from it enough to come up with any useful conclusions.

The exacerbating factor is that I’m not really digging on my “day” job with the kind of enthusiasm I’d hoped for. Whenever this is the case I tend to romanticize the act of creating (especially writing) to an unhealthy degree and feel that if I just had that one break I could be ridiculously happy tapping away my thoughts and ideas for a living. Logically I know this is a zillion to one chance and rife with pitfalls and hardships along the way which, compared to my generally comfortable existence, isn’t nearly as attractive as it seems. Not to mention the fact that while I enjoy it immensely, I’m aware of my considerable shortcomings regarding the skill of writing. And no, I’m not fishing for compliments so don’t bother.

In fact—and I’m going to be more honest about my intentions here than I usually am—I confess that part of my melancholy regarding the site is that it isn’t likely to merit compliments were I to fish for them anyway. Nor does it merit debate when I wax controversial. Nor does it seem to merit much at all. I guess I was told often enough as a youngster that I was a talented writer that I started to feel that if I just put writing out there, whatever it was, people would recognize said talent and come flocking for more. I had daydreams of phantom phone calls from publishing houses and news journals asking—no, begging for my services. That my “audience” consists entirely of a handful of old friends and my family and has remained so for five years of pretty consistent updating has been an unmistakable indication that my “talent” either does not exist or exists at a level indiscernible from the millions of others who probably had the exact same fantasy.

On any given day I’m fine with this: Complaints from someone as blessed as I must sound like the pestering whine of a mosquito in the ear. Please, swat me away. However the examination of this phenomena (or lack of any phenomena I suppose) reveals that the issue lies in the fundamental assumptions: Namely, I’m not a remarkable writer and I probably don’t really have anything all that interesting to say.

Which leads back to the earlier issue which is that maybe the problem is the blog gets in my way. Maybe I need to work harder on more formal writings, maybe I need to sever the ties with the loose-format, disposable post dashed off in a few minutes of downtime. Perhaps I just need to stop using writing time to get introspective about sports teams or video games. Or, maybe it’s just a silly pipe dream anyway and what I should be doing is paying more attention to my work instead of feeding wild flights of fancy about jobs I’m woefully unqualified for.

Anyway, it’s unlikely to matter as I’ll forget all about my current sour mood in time and go back to cheerful obscurity as I intensely debate the merits of the new Transformers movie or something to my audience of three. Whatever the case, thanks for sticking with me. I don’t say it enough, but I’m honored you care enough to let me bother you now and then. Sorry I can’t make it more worth your while.

Some… uh, Stuff

Briefly I have a few things to touch upon.

Tee to the Vee

I’ve caught a few of the new shows for this season and so far the best is (by far) Heroes. I admit that Ali Larter’s Niki Sanders character is either really lame or she’s just a terrible actress (maybe both); Adrian Pasdar plays the same exact character he always does (good guy/bad guy… who can tell?) and the cliff hanger commercial breaks were rarely ever thrilling. But still, this is a show that has something a lot of shows never have: Promise. Consider another show I caught the premiere for: Smith. A show about the other side of the law. I’m thinking Goodfellas. I’m thinking Heat. I’m thinking high-tech Sopranos. But instead it’s more like Desperate Housethieves than anything cool. Too many personal stories. Why does he have to have a respectable alter-ego? I don’t understand why someone would go through the hassle of trying to maintain a dual identity (complete with respecable sales job) if they were either that good at being a burglar or if doing their theiving would compromise their family. I mean, either you can support yourself without breaking the law or you can’t, right? It doesn’t make sense that someone would even try to do both.

At least on the Sopranos they made that part of the story.

I also caught the Shark series premiere which I enjoyed quite a bit despite it being only a shade more intriguing than would be if Sam Watterson were given the whole show (Law & Order), primarily because James Woods is fun to watch pretty much no matter what he’s doing. Although, I got the impression from the premiere that Woods was going out of his way to be all Emmy worthy. Like he was trying too hard or something. Still interesting but it did break the spell a few times.

I also caught the premiere of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which was basically not very funny and not very dramatic and therefore not very good. It seems very much like a show that the writers really wanted to do, but it turns out that watching the creative process behind the shows we watch each week? Not very interesting after all.

The only thing I’m still waiting for is The Nine and I missed the first episode of Kidnapped (but it looks like they’re re-airing it on Saturday). Other than that the few shows I’m holding onto from last year is all I’m anticipating so I have a feeling that since they usually cancel the shows I like, I’ll probably have nothing to watch in a few months.

Sporting Bads

  • The 49ers are a better team than last year, but they still managed to showcase their patented “Sieve Defense” on Sunday versus the Eagles. Here’s something I was wondering for some of you older-school Niners fans: I recall Joe Montana only as being the dominant, clutch-thriving QB that earned him a bunch of championships in the eighties. But it occurs to me that he must have had some sort of career prior to that time. Was he always good? Did he dominate in college? Was he a solid NFL QB right out of the draft? What I’m (probably obviously) driving at is, can we even hope that Alex Smith was the right guy to draft or is his so-so performance thus far indicative of a long term trend of not living up to his hype?
  • I guess the Giants are officially out of the playoff race this year. Big surprise when your starting rotation starts serving up whiffle balls on the most pivotal road trip of the whole year. So now people are starting to talk about next year. I guess nearly the whole team is up for contract renegotiation. I don’t know if you remember but back a couple years ago when the Giants choked in the World Series an East Coast radio personality and lifelong Giants fan had a screaming rant after they bowed to the Angels about how difficult it was to be a Giants fan.

    I’ve talked about this before because while the Indians and the Cubs have longer streaks without championships, it has to be easier for fans of those clubs because they have had a lot more crummy teams that can’t win the World Series (like, big surprise). The Giants reserve a special brand of torture for their fans by actually fielding good teams… who can’t win the World Series. Anyway, the guy from the East Coast (Chris Russo) got on the horn this morning with one of the local SF sports talk stations and had some pretty spot-on opinions.

    Basically he thinks that the management of the Giants has made a bunch of bonehead moves in the last few years and I agree. I mean, let’s compare the two Bay Area teams. On one hand we have the revolving door of the Oakland A’s where each year is a new crop of random youngsters and league no-names. But they’re built to be a team and somehow they keep having legitimate chances at winning stuff. Oh, and they do it with no money but having a rich farm system and focusing on things like winning games versus breaking pointless records and having recognizeable names. The Giants have a decent payroll which they squander on has-beens. San Francisco has become like the pre-retirement community for the Major Leagues. I don’t want to go to the park and watch a bunch of washed up geriatrics struggle to make basic plays, I’d rather watch a bunch of kids who have something to prove run their butts off and make stupid mistakes. For every A’s game I watch where I see some rookie get caught in a stupid rundown or something because he tried to stretch a long double into a weak triple I see two games where Bonds can’t score from second on a stinking double or Morris forgets his bifocals and walks six batters in a row. Forget these old codgers. Let’s set up a farm system, let’s get a real game plan that is more in depth than “let’s get people on base and then bring Bonds to the plate!”

    Come on. Bonds has been on the team for over ten years (since 1993) and (as Russo points out) they haven’t won with him. This year he’ll play maybe 132 games and he’ll have the lowest HR total in a season since he was a Pittsburgh Pirate which includes 1999 where he barely got in 100 games. I don’t care about the steroids thing. I don’t care about Babe Ruth’s home run record. You know what I care about? The Giants doing something that makes me glad I’m a Giants fan.

  • I was glad the Saints won last night, even if the second half of the game was pretty much snooze-fest. I wanted New Orleans to win for the same reason I’m guessing most non-Atlanteans did, although ESPN’s incessant badgering on the Katrina angle got really old after about oh, the first quarter, But I had ulterior motives as well: My opponent in fantasy football had both Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn going last night and needed them to help him make up about 30 points. Not insurmountable for a running back and a QB, but both of them sucked last night which was just fine with me. Thanks, Saints!

And the Rest of It

  • I know we just came up big time on a new-to-us 36″ TV, but the lure of HD is strong and my will save vs. techno-geekery is like -8. Thus it was with rapt attention that I followed the announcement and ensuing hullabaloo regarding the release of the TiVo Series 3 HD DVR. Of course to take advantage of such a device I would need:
    1. A HD-capable TV.
    2. HD content, probably in the form of cable television we cannot receive or an XBox 360 I can’t afford.
    3. Some place to put it and/or our existing equipment.
    4. $800 for the TiVo3.

    I have been looking at HD TVs for some time now. Remember that the Trinitron acquisition was more of a kind blessing from HB and Gin than something we sought. I keep seeing a very nice one at places like Best Buy for what I consider to be pretty reasonable (roughly $1,700 for a 42″ Sony Plasma) but then I recall that we don’t have any way of really getting HD content and we can’t afford it and we don’t need it. But like I said, I can’t resist. Stuff like this usually helps some and reminds me why, though I may be a covetous geek-tard, my patience for technological foulery is far, far too thin to be a true early adopter.

  • We’ve played a couple of sessions of a pretty fun large-party game called Werewolves of Miner’s Hollow. It’s kind of like the old elementary school rainy-day recess game “Heads Up Seven Up” where players close their eyes and someone is randomly chosen and they have to guess who picked them. This slightly more sophisticated version uses a series of phases that last through the “night” (the time when players have their eyes closed) during which various different people get to open their eyes and perform tasks. Primarily, the werewolves (determined by randomly distributed cards) look around and choose a townsperson to kill or remove from the game. The remaining players try to figure out which of those left in the morning (when all players open their eyes) is the werewolf in their midst through debate and discussion. Eventually they all must choose someone to “lynch” or remove from the game through democratic voting. Sometimes they pick correctly, other times they kill an innocent. There are a lot of other special townspeople like the Mystic who can examine one player’s card during the night and the hunter who can take someone down with him if he’s killed during the night. It’s a good game for parties because it doesn’t require a lot of set up and it encourages people to interact. We played it for Whimsy‘s “surprise” 30th birthday party last weekend and I think everyone really enjoyed it. It’s also fun because the individual rounds don’t last that long (maybe fifteen minutes) so players don’t get stuck doing the same thing and you can play through several dozen rounds in an evening. There is a very comparable game that uses similar mechanics but with a few variations that Nik and I purchased called Lupus in Tabula. The main difference between the games (from reading the Lupus instructions) is that in Lupus you don’t reveal the dead players’ identities until after the game is completely over which would probably work well to increase the general tension and paranoia since you don’t necessarily know (if you’re a regular townsperson) how many allies you have left at any given point in the game.
  • There is a new poll up. In case you were interested.

Hum a Little Tune

Today is weird. I’m not sure why but everything feels surreal, like I’m having a very vivid dream about a regular day only everything is just a little bit off. For example, I ordered a meal from Arby’s this morning—a meal I’ve ordered dozens of times from this exact same restaurant—and the price was about a dollar higher than usual. When I actually collected the food I noted that they had given me the extra large drink and a huge box of fries, without me ordering any differently than I usually do.

Also, I was sitting at a stoplight this morning on the way to work with a dozen or so other cars on a fairly busy cross street. I was about three cars back from the line. It changed from red to green to yellow to red again in the time it took me to get about eight feet. The car in front of me didn’t even make it through. The second car in line practically had to run a red light. I looked around after the strangeness at the other drivers and we were all exchanging glances like, “Uh, what?”

Finally, I was sitting at my desk when I realized I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Really bad. So I got up, walked (quickly) to the bathroom and stepped up to the urinal. Suddenly, I didn’t have to go at all. Not even a little bit. I kind of stood there, confused, for several moments before eventually shrugging and sauntering back to my desk. The feeling never really returned, not even after drinking that huge soda I didn’t order.

Since today is sort of random, I figured some random links were in order.

  • Top Ten Grossest Candies. I’m not sure what’s weirder, the gross candy or the fact that there is a website called
  • My RSS primer didn’t exactly inspire a deluge of grateful email for opening people’s eyes to the wonder of Syndication. Still, I think it’s cool so I thought I’d pass along this link that Ryan sent me for converting any RSS feed into an email newsletter. I guess it’s kinda like the FeedBlitz feature I have only it just requires an RSS feed and not some involvement on the site maintainer’s part.
  • I know a lot of people bash on high profile blogs and I don’t mean to be one of those bitter little webwriters who are so envious of others’ success that I can only sleep at night after thoroughly convincing myself that I’m only obscure because I’m elite and the mainstream is lowest-common-denominator drivel worthy of nothing but scorn. Still, as much as I usually like and respect big gaming blogs like Kotaku, posts like this really annoy me. Sure the guy has a right to his opinion and he should certainly be able to post it but c’mon. Griping that New Super Mario Bros. is lame because it doesn’t surpass what some people consider to be the best side-scrolling platformer of all time? Incommensurate expectations much?
  • Just in case you were wondering and couldn’t figure it out from the links, the Current Coolness is Seattle-style Hot Dogs which are hot dogs with a generous helping of cream cheese and maybe some grilled onions. It sounds strange at first but trust me, it’s 100% fantastic. They make them at little street vendors all over the place in Seattle but they work just as well made at home. I recommend the Grillmaster Ballpark Franks and a substantial bun, toasted if possible. Grilling the dogs is always better as well. And don’t let the picture I have fool you, mustard is definitely not needed or desired in this case (it was just the only picture of a Seattle-style I could rustle up). Take that to heart too, dear reader, since you are in the presence of a mighty mustard fan here. As for the cream cheese, usually a fairly generous spread on one half of the bun is sufficient although you might want to either heat it up some or use the “soft” or whipped variety if you aren’t going to go with the toasted buns since it has a tendency to tear up regular buns in it’s usual cold, dense state. Plus it tastes a little better when it’s warm in this case.
  • Best summer TV show: Psych. It’s clever. Clever is good.

I Do What I Do Best, I Take Scores

If it seems like my updates are coming in rapid-fire bursts instead of nice, evenly spaced distribution that has something to do with the fact that my schedule is kind of wacky at the moment and as such I get about 80% done with most of my posts a day or two before I finally get around to finishing them so I end up spending short amounts of time on several entries at once since I’m catching up before I get new stuff written/started. Maybe I’ll figure out a decent schedule one of these days.

Disclaimer taken care of, time for some bullet points:

  • I came up in the silent auction that Lister held for some salvaged game stuff a co-worker was going to toss out: I bid $40 on a box of assorted Chaos Marines 40K figures and I picked them up this weekend to happily discover that had I purchased these models outright I’d be looking at over $250. Nothing like saving over two bills to make a Hamilton man happy.
  • I also scored a complete and basically mint condition Battlefleet Gothic box set which looks like it will be a lot of fun (and mercifully easy to paint the models since they’re just ships—I have enough difficult painting projects in the queue already, thanks!) plus Lister has an alternate set of rules that we could use to play some crazy battles like Starfleet ships versus 40K Chaos ships versus Imperial Navy ships. Just ’cause it’s fun to be a geek like that.
  • Speaking of Lister, we got a chance to meet his and Whimsy‘s new daughter, Delia. She’s an adorable and very sweet little girl and her parents look like they couldn’t be happier, which makes me happy in turn. It’s satisfying to see good things happen to good people.
  • Apropos of nothing, there is a new poll up.

A Gamer Darkly

As it happens I’ve been keeping a separate weblog specifically about my video gaming over on GameSpot since I’m already using the site and I figure most people around these parts barely tolerate me babbling about video games in a disconnected observer kind of way and really would flee in droves if I started yammering about how last night’s gaming session went.

However, if you’re one of the precious few individuals who actually would be interested in something like that or perhaps you’re just masochistic enough to read pretty much anything I happen to belch into a text editor, I’ve included a link to the blog and a link to the RSS feed over in the Meta section yonder left column.

Now let us speak no more of these alternate writing outlets.