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Author Archives: ianmdudley

About ianmdudley

Writer, lover, reader, father, taxpayer, husband, and son, though not necessarily in that order.

The Quiet Earth

Sometimes at work I take a lunch break.

This in itself isn’t terribly interesting. But what I do during that lunch break is.

To me, anyway.

There’s a trail not too far from my building that I like to walk.

OK, maybe like isn’t the right word.

‘Medically necessary death march’ is probably a better description.

You see, my doctor wants me to lose weight, and since NASA has thus far declined to help in this endeavor, I walk.

The nice thing about the walking is-

Actually, there’s nothing nice about the walking. It’s a medically necessary death march, remember?

The thing I dislike the least during my grueling battle of wills against gravity and geography is when I take a late lunch.

At 3 o’clock, the trail is deserted.

No joggers.

No office mates taking their constitutional.

No creepy types hanging out to ogle the female joggers.

I have the trail, the marshlands, the birds, and the (probably plague-carrying) squirrels all to myself.

Also, the sound of the water treatment plant.

I have that to myself too, but that particular sound element I could do without.

Where's Eeyore to clear out those thistles when you need him?

I think all the dead plants along the trail may be contributing to my apocalypse fantasies.

Anyway, when I’m alone on the trail and work real hard at ignoring the fully operational water treatment plant, I can pretend it’s the apocalypse.

Goodness knows I feel like it’s the end of the world, after all that walking.

I pretend I’m alone after the fall of civilization, and I’m carefully striking out, looking for other survivors.

And avoiding the zombies.

There are zombies on these death marches.

Naturally.

I enjoy the solitude, the sense of foreboding adventure.

Mostly because I’m safe in the knowledge that it’s all pretend and there’s free coffee waiting for me at the office.

Free, decent coffee.

Sure, zombies can fly a plane. But can they land one?

I tell myself the military is flying anti-zombie recons when these fly overhead.

None of which makes the sound of airplanes overhead or the water treatment plant nearby any less annoying.

The hallmarks of civilization draw me out of my fun little fantasy almost before I manage to enter it.

This makes me sad.

Turns out I can’t escape civilization, even in my imagination.

That’s the problem with modern society – there are bits of it everywhere, so you just can’t dodge it.

You think camping, but there are always airplanes in the sky.

And rangers in their trucks, stopping to tell you not to leave your food out because, you know, bears.

And other campers, blaring their speed polka on their car radios until 3 in the morning, when you stalk over to their site, groggy, possibly in just your underwear, annoyed at everyone else in the park who is apparently too afraid to complain, and kindly and politely ask them to turn their music off, please, if they wouldn’t mind.

After you clear your throat several times, trying to get their attention.

Sometimes I really hate civilization.

It’s actually more frustrating at home, when I have no reason to expect a respite from the cacophony of Humanity.

I’ve mentioned my interest in capturing sound previously, and it is a never-ending source of bitter disappointment for me.

Why?

Because I can’t get the sounds I want without less …interesting… noises encroaching.

The other night we had some wind and a light rain, so I went out into my front yard to capture the sound of the leaves rustling and the water dripping from the tree branches.

Instead, I got a lot of cars driving by, and somewhere, in the near distance, the blare of a car horn consisting of the first few notes of ‘La Cucaracha’.

That song loses its charm very quickly, especially when you’re listening to the car horn version.

Which is going off every thirty seconds or so.

It’s moments like this that I wish I lived out in the boonies, away from the constant traffic, the inevitable bumping of elbows, and the background murmur of television programming.

Which invariably reminds me I need to run into the house and turn off the TV.

It’s just reruns of The Big Bang Theory, after all.

When I come back out, much to my disappointment, I find that the other noises are still there, not banished by the muting of my TV.

My desire to move returns.

But sans the empty blathering of society’s latest banal situation comedy, the desire isn’t painfully intense.

I stand in the cold wet wind, reflecting on the world around me and how much improved it is without The Big Bang Theory, when my thoughts drift to tomorrow.

And work.

And medically necessary death marches.

I recall just how grueling the commute is from my home, and moments later, the idea of moving has been discarded.

The next morning, I start-up my car, roll down the windows, and blare Classical music on my way to work.

Because I hate civilization.

 
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Posted by on 19 November 2014 in Angst, Camping, Life

 

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A Practical Guide to Dealing with Government Surveillance

Worried the government is watching you?

Wondering what you can do about it?

Should do about it?

Well, first off, don’t let those friendly Feds intimidate you.

They’re just ordinary working Joes like you and me.

Except they have guns and can get all into your business.

But other than that, really nice folk.

Sure, I was a bit surprised when the NSA agents pounded on my door at 3am this past Saturday, sternly informing me it would be best for all involved if I didn’t publish this blog post.

Surprised and impressed. I hadn’t written this yet, or even planned it, and still they knew.

They knew…

But I wasn’t intimidated.  Inconvenienced by the need to change my underwear? Yes.

But intimidated? No, sir.

The first thing to accept, if you ever hope to cope with being under the extrajudicial microscope, is that you aren’t going to beat the government.

They have the Terrorist card, see? They play that one, and they can do just about anything they want.

So once you’re in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs, you better hope you’re wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest.

You know, the one that goes so nicely with your foil top hat.

If Auntie Samantha has decided to keep a worried eye on you, get used to the unwanted gaze.

She isn’t shy, and that gaze ain’t going nowhere.

That said, you can still have fun.*

So achieve acceptance as quickly as possible, find a clean pair of tighty whiteys, and look for the positive.

For no matter how tarnished it may be, there is a silver lining.

There is at least one civil servant, and more likely several, for whom you are the center of the universe.

Think about that.

Relish in the thought of all those tax dollars being spent on you.

You.

Makes you feel kinda special, doesn’t it?

And just because you’re being shadowed by CIA spooks doesn’t mean you can’t have a joke or two at their expense.

They’ll love it. All the three-letter acronym agencies of the government are famous for their highly developed senses of humor.

Here’s what I recommend, to keep those spies on their toes and a spring in their step:

When you go for a walk, always bring along a piece of chalk.

I do.

I like to stop in front of a light pole, or a utility closet on a street corner, or the entrance to a pedestrian underpass, and draw an inconspicuous mark with the chalk.

The local anti-gang squad here refers to me as “The Russian” because of my trademark scythe and hammer drawings.

Pro tip: if your mark is in paint, the cops can beat you and then arrest you on graffiti charges.

If it’s in chalk, they can only beat you.

And then call in the Feds, who arrest you on espionage charges and makes you do a perp walk on the steps of the Hall of Justice.

Boy, that was a laugh a minute!

(I wasn’t kidding about wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest. There are a lot of press photographers at those perp walks.)

Assuming you don’t get taken down by a division of rogue cops after leaving your mark, you can smile as you walk off, secure in the knowledge that someone just got tasked to watch that spot and photograph everyone who walks by it.

24/7.

Which is why I always leave three marks on my walks.

Any more than that, and they begin to suspect you’re trolling them.

And if, unlike me, you’re in prime physical shape, why not give that FBI tail a workout?

You know, long, meandering walks (often called ‘bracing’) punctuated with sudden, all-out sprints.

Nothing gets the old Federale heart a pumping like the belief that the subversive you’re following is trying to shake you.

Or better yet, run up to said agent and, while hugging her, slip a note with some random numbers on it into her pocket.

Now she’s got extra paperwork to fill out, and she’s under a cloud of suspicion too.

Share the love!

I also recommend saving your household garbage and trash.

The nastier, the better.

If you’ve got young children, save those poopy diapers.

Each day, before you go out of the house, stuff some of that nasty refuse in a nondescript, brown paper bag.

Hug the bag tight while you walk.

Better yet, hold it under your coat.

If you own a trench coat, wear it.

A trench coat totally seals the deal.

Then, when you reach a public trashcan (maybe next to that underpass entrance?), look around furtively before dropping the bag, gingerly, into the waste receptacle.

Those government bastards won’t just get their hands dirty; they’ll tie up a lab for weeks analyzing the contents of that bag.

On second thought, if you don’t want to get arrested on a weapons charge, better not use the dirty diapers.

For those of you less inclined towards physical activity and open spaces, you don’t have to go outside and get all sweaty if you want to mess with ‘em. You can do it from your own home!

(Don’t do this from the office.)

(Seriously, don’t.)

(You will lose your job.)

(Took me three times to learn that lesson!)

When you’re surfing the web, browse Amazon for biohazard suits.

The supple fabric breathes, allowing me to breathe. Which is way better than that plastic bag I was using before.

I wear this because I am a Science ninja! Also, the mask is surprisingly comfortable.

Don’t buy one – the good ones are expensive (…I’ve heard…) – just make sure your browser cookies are turned on and…linger over the different models of protection against biological and radiological weapons.

Believe me, that gag’s a real gas.

I also highly recommend posting random messages on Craigslist, to give those poor saps at the NSA sniffing your network traffic something to ponder:

Danish Red cow seeks Vespa motor scooter to ponder this truth: the owls are not what they seem.

You could also encrypt all your emails, but let’s face it, the NSA cracked PGP years ago.

These are but a few of the things you can do to lighten the mood and break the tension when you’re suspected of being a dissident or worse.

But I am hardly the epitome of imaginative or creative. I’m sure you can come up with far better suggestions.

In fact, I’d love to hear your ideas. Feel free to share them here in the comments.

Let’s make subversive activity funny again.

* All of this assumes, of course, that you have nothing to hide.

 

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The Contractually Obligated “Don’t believe NaNoWriMo’s big lie!” Blog Post

Please allow me to introduce myself while Ian’s asleep.

(It’s the only time I can come out and go online.)

I am a man of wealth and taste.

Or at least, I was.

Now I’m stuck here, and have been for a long, long time.

Ever since that teleporter accident combined me with Ian, in fact.

Well, with half-Ian, half-fly. You see, I wasn’t his first teleporter accident.

Although I sometimes wonder if it was an accident at all.

I was never great-looking, but compared to the hairy, multi-faceted eyes bug thing that half-Ian, half-fly was, I was positively gorgeous.

Now, now when I look in the mirror at half-me, quarter-Ian, quarter-fly and see that semi-mandible smile…

Well, I look a lot worse for the transaction, but Ian, now two-thirds human, must be modestly pleased with the improvement in his appearance.

Best not to dwell on such things.

(This is the point where I’d sigh, except it comes out as a quite unsettling buzz instead.)

I’ll be frank with you.

That was my name, you know. Before the accident. Frank.

But again, I digress.

I hate Ian.

Hate him.

The only thing I hate more than that mad man-fly is his writing.

Aimless, overwrought prose with no discernible beginning and no end in sight.

I suppose that’s why I’m here. To press the grinding wheel to the jutting edges of his split infinitives.

To smooth the abrasive surfaces of his rough, non-Euclidean prose.

To cut away the deadliest aspects of his indecipherable literary efforts.

To protect you and any other poor souls unhappy enough to stumble across his works.

I suffer that you might live.

You’re welcome.

There is no quarantine, no treatment, no recovery for those exposed to his books.

And his poetry? There are no words.

Only death. If you’re lucky.

Oh, I suffer no delusions. I don’t render his words harmless through the plying of my trade. I don’t take his excretions and mold them into masterpieces.

As his conscript, I merely dilute the infernal nature of his strung-together words, making them something slightly less than mortally wounding.

Not that I get any thanks.

From Ian or his readers.

No, instead he rails against me.

The hatred, it is mutual.

But the work, which is no small effort, must be done. Though I may yearn for death at the prospect of each new writing project, I carry on.

It is my duty. My calling. My purpose.

My penance for some long forgotten but clearly horrible sin in a past life.

I am…an inner editor.

To a certain extent, I envy the fly portion of us.

The fly has no understanding of language. Cannot feel the pain of bearing witness to its unraveling.

Unlike me.

I totally feel that pain, and like a lot of the pain I feel, it hurts.

Now you may have noticed that it’s November. It has certainly not escaped my notice.

Ian likes November.

All those people on social media, touting their Nanowrimo word counts, telling people to just write.

To never look back. To not overthink.

To ignore their inner editor.

As one of those inner editors, I have only this to say:

Shut up.

(That is not what I originally said. I edited it down to something less profane. I am, after all, an editor.)

Don’t demean us, belittle us, or marginalize us.

Or if, over the course of November, you must, at the very least don’t forget to pick us back up and dust us off once December arrives.

Inner editors serve an important purpose:

We keep you from flooding the world with crap.

Particularly at the end of November.

Yeah, sure, when Nanowrimo is over you’ve got a lovely first draft done.

But it is just that: a first draft.

Don’t delude yourself. It’s great that you finished it, huzzah and all that, but it sucks.

Yes, I, the inner editor, said ‘sucks’. Why?

Because it does. The big one.

It’s a first draft, and that is their nature. Sucktitude.

Resist the temptation to post-haste upload your ‘magnum opus’ to Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Well, Barnes and Noble is OK – no one buys ebooks from them anymore.

It is far too easy (and cheap) to self-publish these days, far too simple to put your first draft online and sell it for $0.99.

Especially when your book isn’t ready yet.

And face it: your first draft isn’t ready.

Now I’m not saying you should rush out, buy a teleporter, and then kidnap an editor.

Definitely not advocating that.

But do share your work with other writers and friends, people who have permission and aren’t afraid to be brutally honest with you when it comes to feedback.

And when they are, listen to them.

Don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad. Accept it. Study it.

Consider that they might be right.

Even better, research and hire an editor.

This isn’t simply an exercise to tear down you or your work.

It’s to make your work better. Before you share it with the whole world.

Before you establish a reputation as a hack.

Before, as in the case of my malevolent host, the publishing houses start filing cease and desist all further writing and submissions orders against you.

Those cease and desist orders have the power of law behind them. Once you get one of those, your future is nothing but pseudonyms and abject failure.

At which point, you become an editor.

 

 
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Posted by on 4 November 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

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Why NASA needs me to participate in their next social media event, or better yet, space mission

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to participate in DSN50, a NASA social media event celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Deep Space Network.

It was an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which I blogged about.

Except it turns out it wasn’t.

NASA is hosting another once-in-a-lifetime social media event, this time to witness the test launch of the new Orion space capsule.

(Not to be confused with the similarly named, nuclear pulse propulsion Orion spacecraft.)

Turns out, for this particular event, applicants must write a short essay justifying why they should get one of the few available slots.

Naturally, I started mine, when I realized something.

All I've ever wanted in life was to be an astronaut and to be hugged. If only there was a way to combine the two...

Imagine! This could be me!

I was aiming too low.

I shouldn’t be aiming for attendance at one of the nearby space centers to view the launch.

No, like NASA, I should be aiming for space itself.

Therefore, for the benefit of any NASA HR personnel who just happen to regularly read this blog, I humbly offer you compelling, irrefutable reasons why NASA should accept me as their next astronaut.

(Despite having no job application on file. Do I need one of those, or is a blog post considered enough?)

First and foremost, I am an engineer. So if we run into any of your run-of-the-mill, typical space-program-type issues, I am well-equipped to solve them.

I also happen to be a huge science fiction fan. Books, movies, TV shows, radio programs: I love them all. If we run into any unexpected problems, such as first contact, facehuggers, flux capacitors on a forced feedback loop or the like, again, I’m your go-to guy when it comes to dealing with it.

I am led to understand it can take a great deal of time and patience to get into a spacesuit. Well, I’m covered there too: I have five-year olds I regularly dress (they stubbornly refuse to learn how to do it themselves, the bastards), and if that doesn’t prove patience and perseverance, well, I don’t know what does.

Also, as just mentioned, I have two five-year olds at home who are stubborn and unwilling to dress themselves. I am really motivated to embark upon an extended trip. The further away from my home, the better, and you can’t get much further than low Earth orbit.

At least, with our current crop of spacecraft. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to warp drives.

No idea.

And as a responsible, loving father of young children, I am eager to not leave them (permanently) fatherless. So you can count on me to avoid taking any reckless risks while in space.

Yup, I definitely won’t be forgetting to close that airlock door after a spacewalk.

In fact, I’m so reluctant to leave my children (permanently) fatherless that you will need to hire some muscle to actually get me into the launch vehicle. But I promise, once I’m in the vacuum of space and the only chance of safely returning is complete and total cooperation, you won’t find a more reliable and industrious astronaut.

By the way, a fresh-faced Daddy and his two young kids?

Photo op gold.

Plus I just had my teeth whitened. Don’t want that to go to waste, do you?

But lest you start thinking you should send my kids into space instead of me, let’s get back to what makes me a great candidate.

I may be that most dreaded of creatures, the pocket protector wearing engineer, but I’m not all awkward and uncomfortable around people, afraid to make eye contact and spewing jargon in lieu of meaningful communication.

I’m also an English minor. As this blog clearly demonstrates, I can (and will!) convey any sciency stuff we encounter to the masses, and in simple terms that even I can understand!

(Note: if there are complicated terms involved, you will need to simplify them for me before I can convey them to the masses. But it’s space, how complicated can things get?)

Lots of complaints from ungrateful astronauts about the food you provide them? Not from me! For the last six months, in an effort to bulk up, I’ve eaten only creatine powder, consumed straight from the jar with just a straw and a little water to lower the viscosity.

After six months of this, I don’t care what you send up with your astronauts. Cheese Whiz? Tang? Cricket dung? Don’t care. It can’t possibly be as dehumanizingly unfit for consumption as creatine sludge.

On a related note, my doctor keeps telling me to lose weight. I can’t think of a better in-your-face way to shut her up than to drop down to zero pounds. Am I right?

Which reminds me. Think of the endorsements you can get through me to help fund the space program. Weight Watchers alone ought to be willing to pay me millions upon my safe return.

We can call it the Weight Watchers NASA Certified Weightless Program. It’ll be huge!

I’ll cut you in for, say, ten percent?

And how can you judge an applicant without the context of current events?

You can’t, of course!

Which is why I am proud to state, for the record, that you have nothing to be worried about with me when it comes to Ebola. I haven’t been anywhere near Africa, let alone West Africa.

And Texas? I wouldn’t have my cremated remains sent to that state, let alone a viable, working body. So with me, you can rest easy, knowing the odds against my coming down with Ebola during a mission are astronomical!

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced of my bona fides, I will add only this:

If NASA can send monkeys and dogs into space, surely you can get me there too.

Though if any of those animals are available to talk about their experience, let me know. Like I said, I’m a little worried about leaving my kids fatherless, and talking to someone who’s been through the whole process would ease my nerves considerably.

And I’m really good with dogs.

Well, nice dogs.

Not dogs like mine. They’re jerks, and I don’t get along with them.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you and learning when I should report to space camp (by the way, I’ve always wanted to go to space camp).

Respectfully yours,

Ian M. Dudley

 
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Posted by on 27 October 2014 in Astronomy!, Science!

 

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Facts? I don’t need facts! Just a gut feeling and a strong opinion to back it up. Plus YouTube. YouTube helps.

One of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen is Alien.

In fact, it is the scariest movie ever.

Hands down. Case closed. This is not a democracy, you don’t get a vote.

The scene when Brett (played by Harry Dean Stanton) dies? Walking into the darkened chamber, towards all the hanging chains, water dripping down?

First time I saw that, I hit pause every half second, did a little circuit around the room, then watched another half second.

Keep in mind, up to that point, the big alien hadn’t been revealed yet.

And I was watching the version edited for broadcast television.

Aaand to this day, eleven months later, I still hit pause every half second when I watch it.

Things went downhill (for me) from there.

That viewing also launched a deep-seated fascination for the Alien genre.

As well as a recurring nightmare.

So when I found out about the new game set in that universe, Alien Isolation, I knew I had to check it out.

This is my review of that game.

First off, full disclosure: I haven’t played the game.

How can I write a review if I haven’t played it?

I look at it this way: having no knowledge of other subjects hasn’t prevented me from having strong opinions about them, so why should a computer game be any different?

Speaking of which, I have a few suggestions on how you should vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. Leave me a comment with your voting district, and I’ll be happy to tell you how to cast your ballot.

Besides, I may not have played Alien Isolation, but I’ve seen it.

I watched the entire play-through on YouTube.

I love YouTube. You can watch any game play-through you want on the service.

It’s like Netflix, but with better selection.

And it’s free!

So, now that my review credentials have been established, Alien Isolation.

Terrifying. Jumped countless times. Held my breath longer than I should have. Dropped my tablet at one point. Shattered the screen.

That scream? Nothing compared to the shrieks triggered by the game.

When you hear the alien stomping towards you, the pounding footfalls getting louder and louder? Unmitigated trepidation.

I do have to say, however, game play seemed rather straightforward. The video I watched, the player got through everything without any mistakes or going down any dead ends.

Point A to point B in a straight line. It was almost as if she’d played the game before.

This is also, I am saddened and shocked to report, a violent game.

People are getting killed left and right, front and center. By each other, by aliens, by androids.

Gruesome, and honestly, a totally unnecessary component to Alien Isolation.

That’s what’s wrong with kids today: they are playing way too many games with double-jawed, chest-bursting antagonists in them.

We’re teaching our youth to kill anything even vaguely foreign, even when all these foreigners want is to hug (our faces).

For shame.

How is the next generation ever going to learn the art of negotiation, of reaching détente, if all we ask of them now, during these formative years, is to skulk about and kill things?

Plus looting. You also have to loot bodies, shops, supply depots, if you want to survive this game.

I can almost forgive the violence, but never the looting. Property rights never get enough respect in these games.

So in the end, I have to confess I’m glad I didn’t buy the game.

Playing would have been far too stressful for me.

In horror movies, the sheer terror comes in brief moments, followed by lulls where the audience gets its breath back.

This games doesn’t have that. It’s decidedly lull-free. And while that might be sustainable for a few minutes, I can’t take it non-stop for hours.

Besides, I have kiddos. I couldn’t possibly play a game this scary while they’re around, and I sure as hell wouldn’t play it after they’ve gone to bed, alone and in the dark.

I asked the Missus if I could have the kiddos sit on my lap while I played in the dark, but she just frowned and muttered under her breath.

That’s her way of saying no. I don’t have any evidence to that end, but I’ve got a gut feeling.

 
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Posted by on 15 October 2014 in Other Blogs

 

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That’s not ambient sound. That’s the sound of victory! Or coffee being brewed. Maybe both.

So I’ve been playing with my Zoom H4n recorder that I mentioned in a previous post. You know, the one that’s made me more self-aware.

I’ve used it in a lot of settings:

Sitting down to a family dinner.

While reading a bedtime story to the kiddos.

During an argument with the Missus so I could point out later the exact moment where I won.

(Note to self: pointing out where I won an argument with the Missus leads to a far more unpleasant argument that I definitely lose.)

Using the toilet to study the direction water flows when flushed.

But none of those seemed…appropriate to share. Those recordings are either too intimate or too “Eww, my ears! I can’t unhear that!”

So I did the unthinkable.

I went outside.

Now while you can’t hear it, there is sunlight out there. It burns your skin with prolonged exposure.

Or, if you’ve been holed up in a darkened room with nothing but an LCD screen as a source of illumination for years, a not-so-prolonged exposure.

I wanted to share the sound of me slathering on sunscreen, but the Missus informs me that is one of those “Eww, my ears!” moments.

The Missus also said the only safe way to do this is to take myself almost entirely out of the equation.

So I did. I’m in the recording, but only as an observer. And the sound of my observing is very, very faint.

Also, at a frequency only dogs can hear.

Which explains all the howling in the background.

So, without further delay, I present to you the deeply not profound, and absolutely, totally, completely devoid of any sorts of Easter eggs at all, me writing in a crowded coffee shop.

The sound quality is so good you can hear the cockroaches mixed in with the coffee beans scream when the barista grinds them.

Mmm, cockroach-flavored coffee.

Hey, don’t knock it! At least it isn’t that coffee picked out of cat poop or elephant feces!

 
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Posted by on 7 October 2014 in 3D sound, Writing

 

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An Open Love Letter (and Dire Warning) to my 15-Year Old Self

Dear 15-year old me,

I am writing this to you from an age…considerably beyond 15.

If, by some miracle of Science, you actually receive this letter, stop reading now.

Seriously. Read no further.

I’m not kidding.

Life turned out just fine. Great, in fact. So keep doing everything you’re doing / I did, exactly as you’re doing it / I did it, and we’ll all end up happy.

Continuing to read this letter might cause you to alter course and screw everything up.

Sure, avoiding that impending wardrobe malfunction during the Christmas play sounds like a good idea to you, but it isn’t.

So. Stop. Reading. Now.

Who am I kidding? I know me. There’s no way 15-year old me will stop reading this letter, just like I didn’t stop reading the letter from 85-year old me.

(I hate to say it, but 85-year old me comes off as a lech. “Screw the ‘half your age plus seven’ rule!” indeed.)

I thought centerfolds in the paperback version would boost sales, but I'm not sure these are the sales I want.

Centerfolds in the paperback version of your books sounds like a great idea, but look at the type of fan you invariably attract!

OK, so 15-year old me, being young, reckless, and having no respect for your elders, clearly you’re still reading this letter.

Fine. I guess I can aim for small improvements.

Inconsequential ones.

Things that won’t alter the course of history, mine or Humanity’s in general.

I have four words for you:

Vinyl padded toilet seat.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Ew! Grampa toilet seat!”

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

These things are awesome.

First off, they’re soft. You can sit on the toilet, reading a book or surfing on your phone for hours, without that pesky leg-numbing consequence.

And yes, I said ‘surfing on your phone’. You’ll just have to wait to find out about that one. Suffice it to say, you are not surfing around inside the toilet on a phone.

Although that is a highly rated spectator sport in this time.

Not that I watch those contests. The people who watch them are vapid nihilists, not to mention imbued with incredibly poor taste.

Second, the vinyl stays cool during the summer. No more of that unpleasantness associated with sitting down on a hot, hard toilet seat. No sir!

Yes, the seat does stay cold during the winter, but that’s a mere trifle to fix! Just slip on the wool toilet seat cozy and you’re good to go.

Literally.

Just make sure you get the machine wash safe wool cozy. Dry clean only is no fun.

Third, the vinyl cleans up so easily. All you need is a solvent-soaked rag, a respirator, and some bleach.

Never stains.

Ever.

Unlike the leather padded toilet seats, which, by the way, turn out to be a short-lived fad.

Very. Short. Lived.

(Yes, I am taking a simple sentence and breaking it down into several one word sentences for dramatic effect. That’s how we write in the future. It’s. Legally. Mandated.)

But most importantly, the old toilet seat you replace with the padded vinyl one?

Superb blunt instrument.

Sure, the Missus will give you a lot of grief about throwing it out, or moving it into the garage, or anything but leaving it next to the bed.

(Yes, I said ‘Missus’. Turns out Becky Wallace was wrong in third grade when she said you’d die alone and unloved. If 85-year old me is to be believed, you don’t just not die alone, but you aren’t alone several times with a bunch of progressively younger Missuses! Although I got the sense money was a little tight when he finally got around to penning that missive.)

But you get the last laugh when, last night (mine, not yours), I (and, technically, you) am the victim of a home invasion robbery and I (there is only one hero in this story, and eventually it will be you) knock out the burglar with the discarded, supposedly useless, and surprisingly unyielding toilet seat.

Oh no, what have I done?

This is why you should have stopped reading this letter when I first told you!

Don’t you see? Now we’ve both been exposed to the deadly Toilet Seat Paradox.

What do I mean, your simple, uncomprehending 15-year old mind is asking?

I mean this:

What? You thought I didn't really have a vinyl padded toilet seat, that it was just a plot device for this entry? You don't know me, do you?

Makes a marvelous swishy sound when you get up.

Late in life, I am introduced to the joy of vinyl toilet seats by my much younger seventh wife, who is also apparently fixated on getting me to up my life insurance policy.

One day, after that toilet seat is mysteriously coated with an excess layer of olive oil, I slip off and find myself mortally wounded. In the brief moments I have remaining, I scratch out a letter to my younger self on a sheet of toilet paper using, well, we won’t go into what I used for ink.

And against all odds, that cry for help reaches me (my me, not your you).

Middle-aged me (that’s me again, not you, because if 15 is middle age for you, that would be really sad and I would be dead right now, which is even sadder), being distracted by the young kiddos running around, focuses on the opening of that letter, the joys of vinyl padded toilet seats, rather than the dangers associated with them and younger seventh wives with an affinity for olive oil.

Naturally, I (that’s middle-aged me, not 85-year old me) rush out to try one of these fabled toilet seats, fall in love with it, and as a result, end up owning one before my murderous future wife can introduce them to me.

I can only presume that in so doing, I learn of the importance of checking for oily residue on the toilet seat early enough that I survive the attempt on my 85-year old life.

I certainly hope that’s the case. I don’t want to die so young!

In addition, I also inadvertently provide myself with a weapon to fend off that home invasion robber. If I hadn’t had that toilet seat, the thief would have made off with my priceless collection of Troll Dolls.

(By the way, get in on that Troll Doll action right now. The sooner the better. Those things don’t just hold their value, if you keep them in the original packaging, they end up being worth two, sometimes even three times their original value!)

However, the paradox doesn’t end there.

In my enthusiasm for vinyl padded toilet seats, and with my judgement clouded by the sense of relief that my Troll Doll collection is safe, I feel compelled to write you a letter, extolling the virtues of this comfy bathroom accessory.

As a result, and foolishly ignoring my warnings, you buy a vinyl padded toilet seat decades before I first buy one.

Which means, by the time you buy a house and marry the Missus, hard wood toilet seats are a part of your distant past.

A fading, unpleasant memory.

And that means you don’t buy a vinyl padded toilet seat last week (my last week, not yours), and so you (by which I mean I) don’t have that old wood toilet seat by the bed last night (my last night, possibly quite literally).

Which means that I don’t have a blunt instrument to fend off that robber, and I am either dead or too despondent over the loss of my Troll Doll collection to write you this letter.

And. That. Is. A. Bad. Thing.

Very. Bad.

So please, whatever you do, don’t buy a vinyl padded toilet seat until you get that letter from 85-year old you.

It’s the only way we’ll survive the Toilet Seat Paradox.

 
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Posted by on 30 September 2014 in Angst, Life, Science!

 

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