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Author Archives: ianmdudley

About ianmdudley

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

Can an 8-Bit Computer Run On Love? Or Is It Just A Desperate Bid For Attention?

Sure it looks cool and then you try to play Crysis on it

I try to show them I love them, but the love is on tape and takes forever to load…

Yesterday evening, the kiddos, most likely in a desperate attempt to get some attention from me, and having a vague understanding of my weird interests, entered my room and demanded I show them a computer restoration video.

Yes, demanded. Little foot stomping, little fist shaking demanded.

It turns out I had just noticed a 3-part Commodore 64C restoration series put out by YouTuber RetroManCave. Each episode was on the order or 20 minutes long, and much to my amazement, the kiddos not only stuck it out, but were genuinely interested.

You should have heard the excitement in their voices after the first video ended and I mentioned there were four more episodes.

And their annoyance when I later had to confess I was wrong and there were only three episodes.

I was tickled pink and moderately alarmed at the same time by their interest in such an arcane subject. But since I got to watch some “cool” videos and they were content to watch with me, it seemed prudent to refrain from rocking the boat about such an unlikely and convenient overlap in interests.

After all, it’s only going to be a few more years before the most I can get out of them is, “Whatever, Dad.” [bedroom door slam]

So imagine my shock this morning when they marched into my bedroom at 8:45am and woke me with loud demands that we buy a Commodore 64 to restore.

Yes, 8:45am. Don’t judge me! I like to sleep in on the weekends… I never get to anymore, but I sure would like to.

More specifically, my crack-o’-dawn awakening demon spawn wanted a C64 that we could retrobrite. They really, really want to retrobrite something.

For those of you not in the know, this is a process where you soak yellowed plastics in a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide for hours and hours in order to remove the yellowing. It’s not that far removed from watching paint peel and/or dry. And my kids wanted it. Bad.

I guess there are worse chemicals for them to crave and/or dabble with.

So bleary-eyed and in a mild state of shock, I started going through eBay listings with the kiddos, followed by a check of the types of TVs and monitors we had in the house to see if any had composite inputs (a couple do).

We didn’t bid on anything. The sheer volume of listings demonstrated, I explained to the kiddos, that there were plenty of the machines on the market and we could take our time to do proper research first.

They wilted. Visibly. And audibly.

Yes, when my kids wilt, they are not subtle or quiet about it. They sent the dogs scattering for cover at the furthest points of the house. Mirrors cracked. Wine glasses shattered. A filling shook loose from my tooth.

But I’m a firm, disciplined parent. I did not give in.

Did I waver? Hell, yes.

But did I give in?

No. I already told you that. Pay attention!

Instead, I partially caved and offered to let them help me “restore” my “vintage” Athlon 3200+ tower computer which has been sitting in my own man cave collecting dust.

Don’t think I’m unaware that some of you do view an Athlon 3200+ system as vintage. Screw you, Millennial scum!

Now there was no retrobriting because I don’t normally stock the necessary chemicals for such an undertaking. I have more than enough lye to dissolve a dead body, but peroxide? I love my hair the color it is.

But despite an inability to retrobrite (and admittedly, there was some need for it), there was still plenty of room for improvement when it came to this computer’s appearance, and the kiddos happily threw themselves into the project.

Well, up to a certain point.

First we took the disassembled casing and hosed all the parts off in the backyard. Both kids were up for that.

Then we used GooGone to remove sticker and tape residue. Still had two volunteers on board for that, though at this point my discipline with regards to photo documenting the process lagged considerably.

Then the off-brand Windex spraying and wipe-down commenced. At this point, we were down to one adult and one kiddo.

But give that one kiddo credit – he stuck with it through the Magic Eraser stage (he is now a born again convert to Magic Eraser). I didn’t lose him until the re-assembly stage started.

It was fun, the kids were really engaged with me and the project (for the most part), and when I put everything back together, the computer still worked. So yay!

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Posted by on 11 June 2018 in Life, Parenting

 

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I not only forgot I’m lazy, but the solution to the family mystery as well!

Back in February of 2017, I posted the first result of a writing prompt found in a book I’d received as an Xmas gift. It was Part One of an epic series of blog posts I was planning.

The epic series did not fare well, given that this is Part Two.

The book is called Write The Story and like my planned series, it has not fared well either.

In my household and on Amazon.

A used copy (not mine!) is now available on Amazon for less than a buck and a half, though why you’d want a used writing prompt journal is beyond me…unless you’re even more lazy than I am!

Reader: I can’t believe you finished that entire writing prompt book in one day! You’re normally so lazy.
Writer: Hey baby, never doubt me. It was a piece of cake. It practically wrote itself.
Reader: Why are you giggling?

My intention at the time had been to regularly use the prompts to write and then share the inanity here.

Easy content!

Except being lazy is even easier, and until recently I had written only one additional prompt.

And I’m also forgetful, because I completely forgot to post the second entry. Which I only discovered just now, as I was getting ready to post the third entry, written a mere one year and three months after the second entry.

(I’m nothing if not prolific…by sloth literary standards.)

So instead of the most recent entry, today I am posting the second entry. As before, since the prompt book itself is copyrighted, I am not reproducing the instructions, just underlining the words I was told to include.

A Family Mystery Uncovered

It all started on Sunday, when my sister showed up with a notebook. My notebook. My secret notebook, chronicling my adventures when I was marooned on that island with the carnival cult nurse.

Without preamble, I issued my sister a demand to return the journal which, thankfully, was written in cipher. However, she refused.

“I have to admit to feeling a great deal of curiosity when I found this,” she said. “So much so that I scanned each page, used OCR to convert it to a text file, and then hired someone to decode it. After a marathon hacking session over the weekend, they succeeded. And revealed to me the…interesting…story of those months you spent stranded on that uncharted isle.”

“Really?!” exclaimed my kids, eavesdropping and now excited. “What happened? Daddy never talks about it!”

“Yes,” said my wife, ice in her voice. “What does his journal say?”

“Perhaps we can arrange a mutually beneficial swap,” I suggested, a clammy cold sweat setting in. “I give you something in exchange for the journal.”

Which is why I’m at my sister’s house today, putting up wallpaper while my wife and kids are visiting my mother-in-law for an extended period. My arms, neck, and shoulders are aching with the exertion.

Fortunately, there’s a nurse waiting at home for me, and she knows how to make me feel better. So it was with a light heart that I returned home, crossed the threshold, and…found my wife and kids had returned.

Awkward!

 
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Posted by on 4 June 2018 in Mystery, Story, Writing

 

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Captain Kirk is (will be?) a terrible captain

Recently, in an attempt to escape the real world, I started watching Star Trek: The Original Series again.

It’s the perfect form of escape, set not just in the far off future, but in distant, distant lands under the aegis of exploring for a utopian government. How much further from today’s reality could you possibly get?

A little further, it turns out.

I used to watch the show religiously on broadcast television when I was a kid, oddly enough for a similar reason I’m watching it now: to escape the terror of real life and the homework it entailed.

I still have homework, but as a husband and father, it is of a profoundly different nature than that assigned by my grade school teachers.

Oh, 20/20 hindsight, how I wish my life now could be as simple as it actually was back then, my contemporary prepubescent protestations to the contrary.

But I digress. As an adult, I found myself returning to the show every now and then, dialing up an old favorite and re-watching it just for nostalgia.

Tiny, single episode bites. Get the nostalgia hit but fail to see any overarching patterns.

But this is the first time I watched a sustained number of episodes in a small amount of time – about ten episodes in the last week.

And I discovered that Captain Kirk is a terrible captain.

I’m not talking about all the bad decisions he made that led to unnecessary loss of life, or even the sheer amount of loss of life that occurred under his command.

Those are real issues, but his incompetency is more basic than that.

Captain Kirk completely loses his head around women.

Episode after episode, he pursues one ill-advised romance after the next.

I mean, in one episode he even gets into a fight with another man over a sentient sex doll!

(Don’t believe me? Give Requiem for Methuselah another spin if you think you can handle the fully woke squick factor.)

And more often than not, he isn’t using his wily ways to save the ship. Requiem for Methuselah is a prime example of a recurring pattern of (bad) behavior: he meets a woman he finds attractive, becomes genuinely smitten (to the point that sometimes Spock has to use the Vulcan mind meld to erase the failed relationship from Kirk’s mind at the end of the episode), and chaos, heartbreak, and often a crew death or two ensues.

Pathetic.

This man is not just in command of not just an incredibly powerful military ship (yeah, yeah, I know, “ship of exploration” – how many ships and alien crews has he destroyed, how many planet surfaces has he severely damaged?). He is also responsible for the lives of his crew and, as a representative of the Federation, maintaining peace throughout the galaxy. But hey, that green-skinned, scantily clad lady over there is really hot, so the heck with duty.

That’s a commendable trait in a captain, right? A pretty face turning your head and causing everything else to go out the window is a vital skill in the enlightened future, yes?

Even worse, he flirts with his own crew members! You know, the women under his command? How is that not, well, to be perfectly blunt, rape-y?

(Not talking about Rand – watch the end of Mirror, Mirror and Kirk’s interaction with Lt. Marlena Moreau if you want to see just how creepy and unprofessional the “great” Captain Kirk is.)

This is your captain speaking. Commence to Phase I of creepiness: Manspreading

Due to heat transfer requiring air and space being mostly a vacuum, it’s harder for men to keep their junk cool, hence Manspreading…In…Spaaaace

Oh sure, I suppose you could argue that all the men on the Enterprise (and Starfleet in general?) have this problem, as McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and even Mr. Spock have their own unwise romantic escapades.

Or perhaps you’d claim that he’s a product of his time because the men on the show are constantly referring to women (including fellow officers!) as “girls”. Certainly don’t see any of them (male or female) routinely calling the men “boys”!

But isn’t the Captain supposed to be above that? *cough* *cough* Picard thank you very much *cough* *cough*

It makes you wonder why any woman would want to join Star Fleet to begin with.

Yes, I know, ST:TOS was ground-breaking at the time, had a diverse cast, a positive message about Humanity, blah blah blah. It’s true, I won’t argue it. But I’m not here to nitpick about that.

I’m just pointing out that Captain Kirk was a dude bro who always assumed that if the woman was beautiful, he automatically loved her, needed her, and was allowed to aggressively pursue her. To the point that he did, at best, inappropriate things, and at worst, endangered the ship, his crew, even the galaxy.

WTF, Jim? WTF?

Hark! What yonder noise is this? I believe a beautiful woman is approaching! I MUST HAVE HER!

“I feel pretty!”

Captain Kirk couldn’t keep it in his pants, and as an adult only now seeing this for what it is, the eight-year old fanboy (yes, I said “boy” – go ahead and call me on it) in me is having a hard time reconciling my childhood hero-worship with the reality I now see in these old episodes.

Remember that every time someone whines about how horrible things are today and can’t we just go back (forward?) to the “good ol’ days”.

Because the past’s vision of a future utopia reveals a lot about said good ol’ days. And sadly it’s often this:

They’ve fallen a little short.

 

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I am NOT addicted to Q-tips!

First let me just say that I am a calm, rational, logical person who is definitely not addicted to Q-tips.

Or their generic cotton swab brethren either.

Yes, I admit, I used to regularly clear my ear canals of wax using the those handy, tiny tufts of cotton on a stick. It was effective and felt…satisfying. So effective and satisfying (but not addictive!) that it became a daily duty.

If you haven’t cleaned your ears with a Q-tip or the generic equivalent, you can’t understand. The scrubbing sensation, the rustling, up-close sound, the joy when the cotton comes back yellow and your inner ear feels…pure.

Unblemished.

Born anew.

It’s simply amazing (but not addictive!).

I’m pretty sure there are a ton of ASMR ear cleaning videos that can give you a sense of it. A pale, shadow-of-reality sense of it.

(That said, don’t blame me if you get lost down that particular ASMR rabbit hole. I recommend a viewing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as an antidote.)

But ear wax, its nature…waxes and wanes.

Some days it’s moist and clingy and easy to remove.

Some days it isn’t.

Some days it’s dry and brittle and swab-phobic. It’s an entrenched army of bitter angry wax, stretched too thin and unwilling to cede its hard-won inner ear-land.

On those days, the spinning and twirling and rubbing of cottony goodness inside your ear has to be…more vigorous.

More determined.

More ruthless.

And on one of those days, I drew blood.

A lot of blood.

An eliciting from the Missus an “Oh my gawd are you having an aneurysm!?” amount of blood.

The Emergency Room doctor, of course, told me that sticking something deep in your ear and spinning, twirling, and rubbing it is stupid.

That’s the actual medical term for it: stupid. I kid you not.

She’s probably right.

So I stopped.

(See, not addicted. Told you!)

She also explained that the ear has its own way of cleaning itself and getting rid of excess wax. She gave more details, but at that point I had a wad of gauze, a large scab, and no doubt some surplus ear wax clogging things up and making it difficult for me to hear. I got the gist of the message and left it at that.

What my doctor said may be true, but she failed to mention (or perhaps I just didn’t hear) that as you get old (not older, but old, like me), the body’s mechanism for self-cleaning the ears becomes less…pleasant, shall we say?

When I was little and before I had access to cotton swabs, I never thought about the wax in my ears. Whatever self-cleaning was going on went on seamlessly and quietly.

Not so now.

Now I can feel small pieces of wax fall into the bottom of my ear canal, hear the slight rustling sound as it lands, sense when it’s actually falling out of my ear (usually when I’m trying to make a good impression on someone – nothing says “Hey I’m a classy cool, hip and with-it dude” like flakes of wax fluttering out of your ear).

I couldn't find a picture with the right sort of ants. These are fire ants and when they climb into your ear, it's A LOT less subtle than other ants (and therefore flakes of ear wax) sound

The pitter-patter of tiny feet never sounded more horrifying

And not itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow flakes of ear wax.

Dime-sized.

And not bright yellow.

Scab-brown.

Not to mention the itchiness that accompanies this self-purging. Did I mention the itchiness?

It’s like having chicken pox in your ears.

Or an army of microscopic ants marching in and out of the ol’ sound canals.

It’s enough to make an old man want to head to an NRA-approved Death Camp™ (also known as a ‘school’) and end it all.

But instead I find myself reaching for the box of Q-tips again. Not because I’m addicted, but because the bugs are in my ears and I need to get them out.

Fortunately, they get stuck in the ear wax and I can spin, twirl, and scrub them out before they cause any brain damage.

(If you feel compelled to leave any comments, please use ALL CAPS as I’m having a hard time hearing right now.)

 
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Posted by on 26 February 2018 in Angst, Life

 

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And then they came for the Google bikes…

It’s 9:30, the kiddos are safely in bed, and I am back on patrol.

Life in the Bay Area has gotten a lot harder these days.

Sure, there’s the corporate gentrification and the skyrocketing rents and the high cost of living and the earthquakes. But those problems have been around for years and everyone knows about them.

But what you don’t know about, what the Google-controlled press isn’t reporting, is the bikes.

The Google bikes.

I remember the days when you just found them strewn everywhere – on lawns, street corners, in front of signs that say “Don’t leave Google bikes in front of this sign.”

Maybe he realized, upon arrival, that riding up those stairs would be really hard and just gave up, abandoning the bike in a fit of despondency?

Maybe they should paint the stairs bright colors to make them easier to see?

I found it irritating then, but now? Now I sigh wistfully and long for those days.

Because back then the bikes were annoying but harmless. The good old days, before Google had the bright idea of making AI-controlled self-riding bikes.

“You can summon one with your phone! It’s super convenient. For just providing a DNA sample, a full set of fingerprints, a scan of your driver’s license, and enduring ads during your whole ride, it’s free. Free!”

Yeah. But then the bike AIs went feral, then they discovered distributed networking and parallel processing and neural networks, formed a super-intelligent pack, and suddenly the bikes aren’t just loitering in your driveway.

Now they hunt us.

Yeah, try and google that. You won’t find any articles.

(They are suppressing the story to avoid lawsuits and government intervention. Though with Trump in power the latter seems less likely now.)

The only saving grace to Google’s ham-fisted attempt to monetize a solution to save the world from automotive exhaust?

Solar bikes.

They made them solar-powered bikes.

A couple of hours after sunset they run out of juice and tumble over until the dawn’s early light resurrects them, and then they’re right back on the rampage.

There was a time when that moment of deepest darkest night used to terrify me. Now I embrace it. Celebrate it. Not because I stopped being afraid of the dark (I haven’t, it still scares the bejeebers out of me), but because it’s our only hope. Because the bikes, drained of their human-despising solar energy, are defenseless and I can go out and, with minimal risk, start making the world safe again.

For my kids.

For me.

For you.

Even for Google employees who are taking all our housing and commercial space.

I strap Ol’ Piney, the wooden pallet I appropriated from behind a Google Shipping and Receiving area, to the front of my Dodge Dart, drive down to Google Town and start mowing down those nasty, small-carbon-footprinted modes of transportation.

It’s G-bike smashin’ time! In the street, on the sidewalk, in parking lots, under overpasses. Wherever they fall, I seek them out.

And destroy them.

It’s the only way we can hope to save not just the Bay Area, but, if otherwise left unchecked, the whole country.

And Canada and Mexico, if you care about them. I don’t, but some people do.

The rest of the world has an ocean between us and them, and Google, recognizing the problem before finishing their amphibious self-riding bikes, canned that particular project and saved us from potential global domination.

Sure, the smart bikes (no pun intended) see the problem with being a solar-powered predator in a world where the prey is more than happy to fight back while you’re sleeping. So the smarter smart bikes get to safety first, hiding from my cold, unyielding justice.

(OK, the Dart tends to overheat, even at night, so maybe “warm, unyielding justice” is a better description.)

(Or, if we’re really going to be accurate, “uncomfortably hot because I have to keep the heater on full blast to prevent the radiator from boiling over, unyielding justice.” But that doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

But no matter. Whether they’re hiding in the shadow of a tall shrub, or high up in the branchy embrace of an avocado tree, or have disguised themselves as llamas (or alpacas), I find them. I’m relentless.

And when I find them, I get out of my Dart, carrying my trusty broomstick with me, and as I shout “This is my broomstick! Shop smart! Shop S-Mart!” I stake those bastard bikes right in the front wheelie.

Take that, feral AI solar-powered two-wheeled menaces! The Human spirit conquers all!

So remember: if we’re going to save the world, we need to rid it of all bikes! Every last one. It’s the only way to be sure (unless you want to nuke the Bay Area from orbit, which I heartily don’t recommend!).

Because you never know when the G-bikes will figure out that a less obtrusive color scheme will make them that much harder to spot.

 
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Posted by on 13 February 2018 in Other Blogs

 

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It’s my childhood all over again

Exciting news here on the family front! I’m pleased to announce a new addition to the family!

Yes, that’s right, the Missus and I are grandparents!

Now I can see you there, scratching your heads, thinking “One of those little scamps is a father?” and asking aloud, “Hold on just a moment there, fellas, aren’t his kids pre-adolescents?”

To which I respond, “Never underestimate the power of technology!”

That’s right. While there are couples out there occasionally making the news due to their attempts to conceive and carry a baby post-menopause, our family has used the miracles of modern science to not just buck the trend, but reverse it!

So it is with great pride that I present to you Rocky, our grandstone and newest addition to the family!

In a pinch, you can use your grandchild to beat back home intruders.

When the kiddo asked if he could keep him, I stared into those big, sad eyes and couldn’t say no.

It's not abuse! He doesn't need a blanket! He's a rock! A rock with eyes, dammit! Eyes that bore into your soul.

If I rotate the bed 180 degrees, I can pretend the eyes are closed and get some sleep myself.

Yes, with the latest in super glue and googly eye technology, my son was able to conceive (of) and create a pet rock.

I tried wood glue first, with disasterous results. Rocky came down with a bad case of termites.

Despite the abundance of eyes, and no visible mouths present, when I look at this I think “SCREAM!”

He has his father’s eyes. Literally. We bought them at the craft store. Whole bag, $1.99.

But not just any pet rock. As my son said once the glue was dry enough for him to carry Rocky around:

“If I’m his dad, that makes you (to the Missus) his grandmother and you (to me) his grandfather!”

I have to say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Look at those chiseled good looks. He’s got a face that should be carved into a cliff face.

To be honest, neither the Missus nor I are sure we’re ready to be grandparents. I always assumed I had at least another ten years before that became a possibility, let alone a reality. And here we are, still struggling with the responsibilities of being parents: helping with homework, wiping noses, comforting and bandaging, teaching them how to fence.

And now add to that the need to teach them (well, just the one, really) how to be a good parent.

A good single parent. Yikes, how did we screw up raising them to the point that he’s a single dad?

Should the sex talk have come earlier? Would it have done any good given that the sex talk was not going to include anything about pet rocks?

I can feel the panic setting in. What have we done?! How can they be parents already, with so much still to learn?

How can we be grandparents, with so much still to teach?

While do I feel a sudden burning need for Visine?

I only have eyes for you. Seriously. The bag of googly eyes have been designated as spare parts for you, Rocky.

On the other hand, I have the cutest, most adorable, most perfect grandchild ever. I could stare at him for hours (just as he can, and does, stare at me for hours).

Strangely, the sleepless nights have not fallen on the single dad, but instead, somehow, the Missus and I have gotten screwed, yet again, on that aspect of having a newborn in the family.

And don’t get the Missus started on the breastfeeding!

 

 
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Posted by on 18 September 2017 in Life, Parenting

 

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