Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas

I have now celebrated the Coming of Claus for six years (going on seven). I've had my macro lens1 for the past three.

I figure, most people focus on the big things at Christmas — the giant tree, huge gifts, a jumbo ham or turkey — but we shouldn't forget the little things that make the holiday what it is.

So, to get everyone primed for Santa's Glorious Gift-Giving Extravaganza™, here's a selection of ornaments and decorations I've photographed from mere inches away. The smallest of the bunch (i.e. the pink bunny slippers) are only ¼" high, and most only show 1-2" max.

You can click on an image to embiggen. Or if you're interested, you can view the entire Flickr set (44 photos).

1 A macro lens allows you to take pictures from reeeeeally close up. You can capture very fine detail on very small things. Unless those very small things are part of larger things that want to lick you, claw you, or push the camera button. Then it becomes significantly more difficult. (Also wet, bloody, or whiny).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

...He's Going to Ask for Some Sour Cream

Clearly, I've done such a good a job in my past three Jew & A sessions, all your Judaism questions have already been answered. I'm sure that's why, after 15 questions last year, I only got 2 this time around. Surely that's it. It can't have anything to do with my lack of posts this past year, which has caused my readers to go the way of the dodo.*

Anyway, because questions were in short order, I've cooked up a few of my own. Don't worry; they're Kosher.**

* They've all become animated sea captains.
** I wish. Apparently, tying up a rabbi and forcing him to oversee how the questions were made does not guarantee a Kosher label. All it guarantees is that G.I. Jews will break down your door and accuse you of rabbi-napping.

Alex J. Cavanaugh asks:
Have you ever visited Israel?

Oh, you want me to expand on that? Very well. When I was 14,* my family traveled to Israel to sight-see and visit relatives. Our van broke down in the middle of the desert, I got the worst sunburn of my life after swimming in the Mediterranean Sea for five hours, and my mother was finally unmasked as the charlatan we all knew her to be.

Oh, you want me to expand on that? Very well. We were in Old Jerusalem, and my mom took a couple photos of the Dome of the Rock. As soon as she did, a man ran over and chastised her for taking pictures of the Muslim women in front of the building. She said she was just taking pictures of the mosque, but he was not fooled so easily. "LIAR WOMAN!" he yelled, loudly and repeatedly. "You are a LIAR WOMAN!"

We'd assumed as much ever since she'd claimed she wasn't the Tooth Fairy, but finally we had proof.
*In other words, still a Jewvenile.

Li asks:
Why is it sometimes spelled Hanukkah, sometimes Chanukah? Which one is correct?
I already answered this question in my Hanukkah primer, but of course I was lying. (I am, after all, my mother's son.) Here's the real truth...

Each of the eight days has its own spelling. Let me break it down for you:
Day 1: Hanukkah
Day 2: Chanukah
Day 3: Hannuka
Day 4: Channukka Shmannukka
Day 5: Hanuqqah
Day 6: KHAAAAAANukkah
Day 7: Hanukkah II: Dreidel's Revenge
Day 8: Bob

The Guy Who Writes This Blog asks:
If you could bring any Jew from history back to life to talk to, whom would it be?
My uncle Morty.

Nah, I'm kidding. I may be Jew-ish, but I don't have an Uncle Morty.

Jesus. This is a tough one... but I'm still going with Jesus. I've always been curious how much of what we've heard really happened, and how much was just drunken ramblings by a bunch of monkeys on typewriters 400 years later.* Plus, that turning-water-to-wine trick would finally make my whinery a success.**

But really, after I bring him back to life (during a lightning storm, of course), I just want to teach Jesus to perform a wailing "Puttin' on the Ritz." It would be sacrilegiously hilarious.
* "Monkeys" is, of course, long for "monks." And "on typewriters" is merely the modern translation for "with quills on parchment."
** What? It is too called a whinery. We're Jews. We whine. For reference, our beverages are made from the fermented tears of grapes who are distraught over the thought of their daughters marrying outside their genus. ("What about that nice Welch boy from down the street? Oy, you make your mother worry.")

The Man Behind The Wheel asks:
What Jew talkin' 'bout, Wilson?
Jew talkin' 'bout how amazing Thanksgivukkah was: We thought there would only be enough turkey for one meal, but the leftovers lasted eight whole days! Based on that success, we're figuring out which holiday hybrid to create next year. In the running so far are Arborukkah (planting trees for 8 days), St. Patrikkah (everyone gets sloshed for a week), and Lentukkah (you give up something for 40 days, but get a gift each day as a reward).

Of course, that last one would require one hell of a menorah.

And finally, Uncle Nate (Wholly Unsubstantiated) asks:
What's your favorite part of the Torah?
You know, I've always liked that part at the end.

Well, that'll do it for this session of Jew & A. I hope you all had a wonderful Bob, and we'll see you again next year!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If You Give a Jew a Latke

This year, Hanukkah starts the night before Thanksgiving.1 Why is it so early? I'm glad you have an inquisitive mind, dear goyim and girlem, since it's time for my 4th annual Jew & A! And you know what that means...

I will answer any question you have about Judaism.

It's that simple. Just post any questions you might have about Jews or Judaism in the comments section before the end of Hanukkah (sundown on 12/5), and I will answer them for you.

Perhaps you've always wondered why so many Jews' names end in "berg" or "stein." Maybe you want to know Moses' thoughts on gay marriage. Or maybe you're simply hoping to find a good local deli. Whatever your query, send it my way. Even if it's been asked before, don't let that stop you — like the Jewish calendar, the answers to such questions are in constant flux.

So, what do you want to know?

Past Jew & A's:

1 That's the American Thanksgiving. Canadians celebrated theirs last month, because they're always one step ahead of us on things like holidays and healthcare.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don't Do the Rhyme If You Can't Do the Meter

National Novel Rhyming Month (NaNoRhyMo) is back for the fifth straight year! And by "fifth straight" I mean I skipped last year so it only happened in my head but that still counts.

Just like every year, I'll be handling this one a little differently. Instead of manipulating existing rhymes to describe novels (my favorites are probably still It (Fresh Prince) and Hunger Games (Take Me Out to the Ball Game)) or creating new rhymes for novels' titles, this year I'm going even more basic.

This year, I'm rhyming NaNoRhyMo itself:

If you're a writer who is at all rational,
Of course you'll fashion all words and your passion will
Help you to catch and haul phrases, then cash in all
Of them to gain some great fame international.
That is the hope as you live in your hovel
And craft divine sentences while you still grovel
To agents and editors, hoping they'll gobble
Up every last word, since success would be novel.
You're tired of all of this nickel-and-diming;
Your writing's superb, what you need now is timing.
Just one little nibble and then you'll be climbing
Up out of the slush. (Okay, now I'm done rhyming.
No, really. I mean it. I'm finished. I'm dunth.
I know that pretending to be Seuss is funth,
But whether your first try or your trilli-onth,
There is no good word or phrase that rhymes with month.)

Happy NaNoRhyMo, everyone!

Past NaNos:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What You're Saying When You Talk Like a Pirate

It's that time again: International Talk Like a Pirate Day! In past years, I've helped you with the how. How to talk like a Jewish pirate, like numerous international pirates, and like assorted other pirates. There's not much more to cover on that front, so this year I'm skipping the how and giving you the what.

When you say the stereotypical pirate phrases, what are you actually saying? The phrases are old, and language gets muddied over time. Meanings get muddled, pronunciation mottled, and things stray a bit from their original intention.

I've done extensive research into pirate historic linguistic patterns (all without leaving my brain) and here's what I've found.

Avast, me hearties!
This is pirates being deep. In essence, it means "the world is a vast place, my friends." And of course, "hearties" comes from the fact that all pirates had those MOM heart tattoos.

Shiver me timbers!
The "er" in shiver is actually a corruption of "arrgh," which pirates were always interjecting into everything. Thus, that leaves us with "shiv" (a makeshift knife) and "me timbers" (my peg leg). It is akin to a challenge to other pirates. As in, "Go ahead, just try to stab my wooden leg."

Ya scurvy dogs!
This one just shows how mumbling and poor grammar can lead to misinterpretation. It's not "ya scurvy" but "you's curvy." And "You's curvy dogs" is roughly comparable to "You're sexy bitches." Just one of the many things a pirate captain would say to try to keep the crew's confidence up on those dreary long voyages at sea.

Walk the plank!
Um... yeah. This one's pretty much what you think.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
An easy one. It's a call to the ship's first mate — on most vessels, the first mate was affectionately referred to as Yolanda, or Yo for short — to bring the captain another delicious Ho Ho and the aforementioned bottle of rum.

And there you have it. Now instead of going around today spouting these sayings in stereotypical fashion, you can sound like you really know what you're talking about.

Yarrrr welcome.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm Back! And Older Than Ever!

I was anti-social this summer. In a manner of speaking, that is. You may have noticed no one was at The Wheel for two months, but I also hardly visited others' blogs. On Facebook, I did little more than Like pictures of babies.1 I all but left Twitter for dead, and completely forgot there was ever anything out there called Google+.2

So, you might be asking, Why did I abandon the sweet nectar that is the internets?

Or... perhaps you're actually asking Where did I put my glasses?, Do I have something in my teeth?, What is the square root of x?, or Who wrote the book of love?

First off, that last question is just wrong. The correct wording is Whomba-doo who, who wrote the book of love? Nevertheless, I'll try to answer all of those and then get back to the one about me.

Check the cupboard. Yes, you do; it's called dentin. Nice try, but do your own homework. And Kathleen McGowan.

Okay, back to me. Why did I go off the grid? Because grids are for tabulating data3 and I had better things to do with my summer. I traveled (20 days out of 28 at one point). I read. I did improv. I spent more time with The Professor.4

So yeah, I might have been a bit selfish. I left you all to your own devices by leaving all of my devices. 'Twas a wonderful summer.

I hope yours was, too.

1 I mostly ignored pictures of food... though I did hit Like for pictures of baby corn and baby spinach.
2 I'm still not entirely sure it exists.
3 Or possibly ironing football players. Yeah, I still don't get that one.
4 He's now 2. At this age, some boys are obsessed with trains or tractors or dinosaurs. He loves animals. Knows dozens and dozens of them. Thus, we took him to both the Buffalo Zoo (his favorite part: riding the carousel) and Elmwood Park Zoo (favorite part: crawling through a tunnel). He enjoys hitting baseballs off a tee, so we brought him to his first baseball game (favorite part: hiding in a cabinet in the skybox). Nope, never a dull moment. I can't get enough of this kid.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This May Just Be the Blood Loss Talking, But...

I'm still alive. We all are. It's been over a week since our home was beset by these horrible creatures, but so far we've been able to hold them at bay. Barely.

They can't come inside unless we allow them in, yet every night we hear them tap-tap-tapping ever so softly at our windows, trying to get to us. And contrary to popular belief, they're not confined to the night. They stalk us during the day when it's overcast, and swarm if we get too close to the shadows. We rarely go out anymore.

When we do venture outside, I've had to fend off hordes of them multiple times to protect my family and my home. I've taken my fair share of lumps in the process, but no matter how many I vanquish their numbers do not dwindle.

As much as they'd love to feast upon my flesh, I'm but an appetizer. Their true prize is my young son, whom they view as a succulent delicacy and wish nothing more than to drain him of his life's blood. This became abundantly clear when I dropped my guard for one moment on the way to our car, and nearly reacted too late to save him. The two raised welts on his neck are a constant reminder of how close they came.

I don't know how much longer we'll be able to hold them off. Garlic has no effect, nor do crosses or holy water. We need someone more experienced in these matters to swoop in and slay the foul beasts. Otherwise, I feel we'll soon be overrun.

Damn mosquitoes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

So You Think You Can Blog

Forgive me, Father,1 for I have sinned. It has been five weeks since my last post.

I can cite various reasons for this lapse — laziness, extra quality time with The Professor, blogs are soooo 2011 — but the main one is this: I haven't come up with anything worth sharing.

But Nate, you might say (because you're prone to talking out loud to blogs), you still haven't come up with anything worth sharing, yet here you are screaming into the void for all the denizens of the interwebs to hear. To which I say: I'm not screaming. You can tell I'm not because I have yet to use one exclamation point or put any words in all caps.2 Also, this is written, so if net denizens are hearing it, they should probably start taking their meds again.

So why, you may ask (because you're still under the delusion you're talking to me), am I blogging now if I have nothing to say? You'd just as well ask why the sky is blue or why babies are cute. Because no matter what your question is, I'm not going to answer it. If I did, it'd mean I actually had something to say, which would mean I'd be contradicting myself. And I may be a lot of things — overburdened web designer, light-hearted rogue, the hero that Gotham needs right now — but I am no hypocrite.

You may be asking yourself (because you've given up on me, but haven't yet shed the habit of talking out loud), what does this mean for my blog? Will all my new posts be this void of substance? Well, if you look at my archives, you can see that, yeah, they will be. That's pretty much how I roll.3

Welcome to the Wheel: All flash, no substance.

Oh, and I lied about the flash.

1 ...of the Internet, Al Gore.
2 Okay, technically the word "I" is in all caps, and I've used it repeatedly, but that's being rather literal, isn't it? Who do you think you are, me? I hope not. If everyone starts thinking they're me, I'll be beside myself. (Belated bad pun alert.)
3 Okay, technically I roll by tucking my knees into my chest and going ass over teakettle, but that's being rather literal, isn't it? (Except for the part about the teakettle. That's metaphor, or some such nonsense.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Space Haiku Contest Winners!

Before we get to the winners, I'd like to share a few details about the entries. I'm not sure if my friends lean this way or if the haiku format merely lends itself to such things, but five haiku referenced Star Trek (final score: Kirk 2, Picard 1), yet no other show or film garnered more than one mention before the deadline. (The others: Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Firefly, Hitchhiker's Guide, and Invader Zim.)

On the other hand, space apparently makes you people think of flatulence. And mooning. And Uranus. That's six haiku claimed by the entirely wrong type of black hole.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who entered haiku in this year's contest (or shared it on Facebook, like Matthew of the QQQE). You made my work as judge tougher than ever. As usual, my decisions are completely biased and made without the slightest hint of logic. In other words, I am the anti-Spock.

If none of your haiku appear below, know that your best one just barely missed the cut. (Unless you're my dad. Then, just be happy you didn't get a dishonorable mention this time around.) And if you haven't already done so, make sure to check out all the entries. There's even a trio of anonymous entries near the end whose puns put my own to shame...

Honorable Mentions

Susan Kaye Quinn tried to win on a technicality. But Susan, you should know: the Wookiee only wins if I let him win.
Sweet like gorimn wine
My soaring space prose triumphs!
Wookie always wins
Scott nets two. The first because it offers up a double whammy, running out of space while talking about it. The second because... well, it's just so shiny.
Space, The Final Fron-
Dammit! Space, The Final Fron-
You know what I mean!

Hero of Canton
Unintentional patron
Orange woolen hat
Joshua's captures the futility of space travel. At least, the futility of space travel without having brought enough oxygen. Or fuel. Or...
A solo journey.
Much too far from planetfall.
Almost out of air.
I feel I had to reward one of the entries from the dark (and/or smelly) side. This one is from Joelle:
I dreamt of space flight
But studied proctology;
Uranus beckoned.
A woman called Mittens shares the gospel truth about kittens:
Cats in king sized beds
Plenty of space, so why must
you bogart my side
And then there's this one, which only works if you know Naomi's son is named Solomon. And is only accurate for another two months, at which time another son will rise and throw everything out of alignment:
My whole universe
(Not just one puny system)
Revolves around Sol.

First Place — Traditional

I don't have anything clever to say to introduce this entry. Which is good, because traditional haiku are serious stuff. The first winner is Andrea Gilbey:
Beyond this green world
Past the deep blue and farther
All is midnight black.

First Place — Humorous/Creative

Joelle snagged the top humor prize (and a gift card) with this inventive entry:

First Place — Mostly Harmless

And as you can see, I did decide to award a third top prize after all. It goes to Naomi, for proffering this sage advice:
Vast and uncharted
You cannot prepare for it.
Just bring your towel

And that'll do it for this year's haiku contest. Andrea, Joelle, and Naomi, please email me (or comment below) to let me know if you'd prefer your digital monies from Amazon or iTunes.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again to everyone who entered and/or stopped by. I'm already looking forward to next year's contest...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Haiku Contest: Space!

** The contest is now closed. Check out the winners!**

Announcing the launch of The Wheel’s 4th Annual Haiku Contest!

We've done ninja. We've done pirates. We've done robots. But this year we boldly go where no few haiku have gone before: Space!

It's pretty simple.
Step 1: You write a haiku.
(There is no step 2.)

Just follow the standard haiku structure (5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 again) and make it something to do with space. Whether you opt for proven science or aliens or pop culture or another meaning of space entirely is up to you.

To enter, write your own space-themed haiku in the comments section below. Two or three lucky winners will receive spacebucks $25 gift cards.

I will be selecting the best haiku in each of two categories:
  • Humorous/Creative
  • Traditional (i.e. eloquent, evocative, etc.)
In addition, I may also reward a third entry, depending on my mood. And the mood of my wallet.

The deadline to submit a haiku is this Tuesday, May 7 at 5:00pm (Eastern Time). Official "rules" are below.

Official "Rules":
  1. To enter, post space-themed haiku in the comments section below. Multiple submissions are allowed, but if you submit more than five (5) entries, there won't be enough room in the contest for all of them and they'll burn up on re-entry.
  2. Standard haiku rules apply. To qualify, each entry must be a three-line poem, the first line containing exactly 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line 5 syllables. If you miscount, the launch of your entry will be scrubbed and you'll have to start over from scratch.
  3. The contest is open until Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 5:00pm, Eastern Time. If you try to sneak an entry in after the deadline, it will be treated as a stowaway and sent hurling off into the black via the airlock. It will not survive.
  4. Entries must be in English. (i.e. Using Japanese kanji will not help you win for best traditional haiku.) If I can't understand your entry, I'll assume it's a message from an alien world and be too busy trying to decipher it to award you any money.
  5. Anonymous entries will not win. If you don't tell me who you are, clearly you are a conspiracy nut who only wants to get your hands on the alien message from rule #4. I will never let you see anything of mine, and that includes gift cards.
  6. Prizes will be awarded in each of two (2) categories: Humorous/Creative and Traditional. A third prize may be awarded if the mood (or a light saber) strikes me.
    • First place winners will each receive a $25 gift card from either Amazon or iTunes (their choices).
    • An indeterminate number of Honorable Mentions will receive bragging rights over everyone who doesn’t win. Also, honor (mentioned).
    • If my father submits an entry, there's a good chance there will also be a Dishonorable Mention.
  7. I will act as sole judge, and select the winning haiku based on the aforementioned criteria, as well as other criteria I make up as I go along. All decisions are final, and will not be changed under any circumstances. Unless I'm threatened by a Wookiee. Then I'll let the Wookiee win.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm Not Here

Sure, it may look like I'm posting inane drivel to my blog, but I'm actually working on my novel right now.

No, really.

Don't believe me? Feast your eyes on these killer lines I just wrote:
And there, in the middle of it all, Lou. Doing not a goddamn thing.
That's some fine prose right there, isn't it? No, of course not. It's utter rubbish.1 But this is still the first draft, so I'm allowed to churn out line after line of horrendously horrific garbage. I'm the only one reading it, after all.

I won't get away with it for long, however.2 I'm inching — or rather, millimetering — toward the novel's stunning conclusion3 as we speak.4

That's right, the end is near(...ish). Sometime this year, I'll put the finishing touches on Chapter 40, sit back, give a little smile and say, "Shit. I have a lot of editing to do." But then I'll begin the edits, and the second draft will go faster, because I've always found editing easier. I'll remove all the trash from this draft, or at least polish it up so it's another man's treasure, and then finally start to let people read it.

That's right, you might actually get to read my novel sometime soon(...ish).5 Now, aren't you glad I'm not here? Instead of entertaining you for a couple minutes now, I'm working on something that you'll never read could keep you entertained for hours.

That is all. Now just carry on, and pretend like I was never here.

(Because I wasn't.)

1 Yep, two straight sentence fragments. Coupled with casual profanity. My writing's classy as all fuck.
2 Some shaggy fellow has started snooping around with his dog.
3 What's stunning is it may actually have a conclusion.
4 Note: We are not actually speaking. These are words on a page. Er, screen. Unless you printed this out. You didn't, did you? If you wasted paper printing out my blog, we are going to have words.
5 Assuming you're a person. As I said, I'm only letting people read it. If you're an animal, you'll have to wait for my next book, Thank You Furry Much. If you're a robot, in 2014 I'll be doing Life Sentience.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Give Her the Ol' Freudian Slip

I have nothing substantial enough to warrant a full post, but here are some various odds and ends (mostly odds).


Fact #1: The Professor (age: 21 mos.) is a quick study. Repeat something a couple times and he's got it.
Fact #2: I got bored with animal sounds.

Translation: He has no idea what a pirate is, but whenever he hears the word he enthusiastically responds with "Arrrrrrr!" (Also, when Denise warned his daycare teacher of another one he'd learned, this was her reaction: "Ah, that explains nap time yesterday. Everyone else had fallen asleep, but I hear this little voice, and he's there saying 'nombie brains nombie brains nombie brains.'")


In my new office, not far from my desk, there are signs directing people to the "Imagination Conference Room" and the "Possibilities Room." I'd make a wisecrack about having such things in an insurance company, but I'm too busy daydreaming of Epcot.*

* Okay, so I may have also printed out signs to post beside them, pointing to the Conference Room of Tomorrow. I only have so much willpower, people.


Times The Professor has said the following phrases without being prompted:
"I love Mommy" — 0
"I love Daddy" — 0
"I love TRASH!" — 123 (and counting)


Here's a bumper sticker for the psychology major in your life. You're welcome.*

* Note: not an actual bumper sticker. Technically, it's just a jpeg. To make it a bumper sticker you'll need to glue your smartphone to your bumper.


One of my fellow web designers recently received this feedback on a mockup:
Use more color. (Add more "white space," but not white space.)*

* Yeah, I have no idea what it means, either. All I know is she could have avoided the whole situation if she'd only asked for feedback, but not "feedback."


Also, I'm not sure if you'd call this a meme, a parody of a meme, a tasteless pie chart, or just a waste of twelve seconds of your life, but here's another image I created recently:


So, that's what I've been up to. How about you?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So Long, Anal Place

For the past 8 years or so, every time I've left my office this sign has greeted me from across the street:

It's a pretty clear example of why you shouldn't choose "canal" as the first word of something, then make all the letters the same case, and plant shrubbery where it will obscure the first letter.1

Anyway, today's the last day I'll see this sign for a while, since I'm being moved downtown. And sadly, there's no anal place across the street from the downtown office.2

Not even if you use the rear entrance.3

1 Or, depending on your sense of humor, it's a pretty clear example of why you should.
2 Or, if there is, it's marked much more discreetly.
3 Yeah, I went there. To the rear entrance, that is. There isn't any sign.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No More Rhymes Now, I Mean It
(or, Averse to Tuesday Mornings)

I thought I would give you a poem today
On this lackluster Tuesday morn,
In hopes I might make your whole outlook less gray,
Or even feel like you're reborn.
Unfortunately, my descriptions are weak,
As is my grasp of metaphor.
Oh, you'll be left wanting if fine verse you seek;
My skills in this realm are quite poor.

But if all you care for is rhythm and rhyme,
Perhaps things will turn out alright.
For instance, it's easy to rhyme "rhyme" with "time."
Oh, who am I kidding? That's trite.
It's boring! It's horrible! Are we agreed?
This venture was doomed from the start.
I've nothing to say; you've no reason to read.
This isn't a poem. It's art.

If you were actually hoping for poetry, my sincere apologies.1

1 There once was a footnote named Shorty
Whose syllables numbered near forty.
It didn't make sense,
And without recompense,
It ended. Would you like some more tea?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Baked Beans, Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam

Yep, that's pretty much what I've been getting for blog comments lately. Only without the baked beans.

I last posted three weeks ago, though if you've been anywhere near as busy lazy as I have, you may not have noticed my absence. The anonymous spambot peppering my comment section sure hasn't. In the past week, I've deleted 24 spamments, including 8 today.

This spamming is getting out of spamtrol, and I tell you I won't stand for it.1

When the spam first started spamming in, I replied to the spammers, which was kind of fun. Then I tried spamming the spammers on their own blogs, which was even more fun.2

But as I've stated many times in recent months, I no longer have time to do things such as... things. So instead, I'm stuck despamming random spamlinks to U-haul and some Tulsa Dog Training Academy and information about Dred Scott.

I'd turn off anonymous comments, except I do have a few friends who still make them on occasion, and I'd rather inconvenience me than them. I'm just too spamming nice. And that's how the spamming spammers win.

Wait, did I say that's how they win? Because I meant that's how they incur my wrath. Because I'm not about to take this sitting down.3

Let this be a warning to all you spammers out there in spamville. This is not a spamocracy. You won't find your spamtopia here. The next spammer who spams my spamming site will spamming live to regret it. I will hunt you down. And I will do... something.

Possibly involving baked beans.

1 That's why I'm sitting.
2 As an added bonus, it looks like that same spammer spammed its own blog post from a year ago. When did that happen? Today. It's not a coincidence, people. This is fate.
3 Now I'm on the floor.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Stepping Out

Each of the past two years, I spent the month of April doing a little thing called the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. (For those interested, sign-ups opened yesterday.) This basically entailed writing 26 letter-themed posts and visiting scads of other like-minded bloggers, all whilst doing my best to ignore the pleas of my family, my stomach, and my tired eyes. But this year I'm going to handle things a little differently.

This year, I'm also ignoring the Challenge.

And, I say, it's about time. Literally. They say time is on your side, but it's not.1 I never have enough time to do everything I want to do. And I'd rather spend April with The Professor, working on my novel, taking photos, and doing improv. So that's what I'm going to do. Don't worry, I'll still be visiting your blogs; I just won't be visiting a metric ton of them like the rest of the AtoZers. And I may only write a handful of posts myself.

"But Nate," you might say, "how will we survive without a daily dose of your trademark wit™ and patented footnote-heavy style (patent-pending)?" Easy. For one thing, I'll have you know every single one of my jokes is recycled. In fact, I already used the trademark thing here and the patent thing here. You see, dear readers, it's all a sham.2 So if you find yourself overcome by Natelessness in April, simply peruse the archives.3

Until then, I wish any Alphabeteers out there the best of luck. Better you than me.

1 They also say you don't always get what you want. Which, considering what I want is more time, is very true. They are very wise (and of course, by wise I mean wizened).
2 I used the sham thing here.
3 I was going to call them the Natechives, but that looks too much like I've created my own brand of seasonings. And no one's supposed to know about those until they launch in the fall.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Land of Abandoned Books

I've been feeling rather listless of late, so I thought I'd make a list.

Prior to my 20s, only once had I chosen to read a book and cast it aside before finishing it. But the older I get, the more I realize how little free time I have and how many things I still want to read. If the book doesn't grab me, I stop grabbing it.

Along with the increasing number of eBooks and book sale purchases I'm now putting aside as I really embrace this philosophy, here are my most notable abandonments, in chronological order. Some might surprise you.
  1. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkein
    I was 14 or 15. I'd just finished The Hobbit. And then, calling my geekdom completely into question, I gave up on this tome about 40 pages in.
  2. Crime & Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    'Twas May of my senior year of high school, and I didn't have to write a paper on it. Nevertheless, I stuck it out for 4/5 of the book, more than most of the class.
  3. Star Maker, Olaf Stephenson
    The first assigned reading in my freshman-year sci-fi class. Again, no paper was required. Found it so dull I forgot the title. This might not even be the right book.
  4. Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson
    I loved his three previous works. Cryptonomicon was just as dense, and longer, yet fantastic. But I couldn't get into this. Made it 30 pages in 6 weeks. And done.
  5. Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life, Allen Shawn
    I had high hopes. Written by the brother of Wallace Shawn, and son of NY Times editor William Shawn. Surely he'd share some amazing stories, right? Wrong.
  6. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster & Jules Feiffer
    Loved it as a kid. Tried re-reading as an adult and the magic was gone. Just like with M.C. Hammer and The Neverending Story (the film). You can't go back.
  7. The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King
    Book two of the Dark Tower series. Barely made it through book one. Yet I've truly enjoyed the other half-dozen King works I've read. Go figure.
  8. Watchman, Ian Rankin
    Not to be confused with the Alan Moore graphic novel. All of Rankin's other mysteries have hooked me, but this was his first, re-issued. Just not the same.
  9. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
    Furthest I've ever read before giving up (350 pages). Really liked some scenes, but had no interest in anything going on. Another 600 pages to go? Screw that.
  10. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
    Yep, the Pulitzer prize winner. At times very witty and interesting. More often, Dominican slang and phrases hurled without context. Latter overrules former.

Of course, it goes the other way as well. I've finished some books I really shouldn't have. The Chronicles of Narnia sucked the life out of me, and I should have quit after two. I stuck through all seven out of sheer stubbornness.

I nearly lost it reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (my scathing review), strained to get through The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan (scathing review #2), and was blind as to why Jose Saramago's Blindness won the Nobel Prize. Yet I finished each one. And let me tell you, I was lucky to survive. Because whenever I came across something done poorly — and oh, there was plenty — I mentioned it to my wife. Each time, after two or three such remarks, Denise was ready to kill me. I must say she showed phenomenal restraint.

So if you ever find me bludgeoned to death with a book of dubious quality lying nearby, you know what happened. I didn't shut the book, and I didn't shut my mouth.

How about you? What's the most surprising (or acclaimed) book you've ever cast aside?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Professor's Alphabet

The Professor turned 18 months old last week, and somehow he just keeps getting cuter.1

One of his favorite things2 is animal sounds. He knows all the standards, and then some.3 What I find interesting, however, is he identifies some animals by either name or sound (e.g. puppy, kitty, piggy, ducky, bear, owl, frog) but others only by their sound (e.g. moo, baa, neigh). He'll roar when asked about lions, tigers, and bears, but he makes a different sound for dinosaur every time I ask.4

Likewise, he's not consistent with his numbers. When he first started repeating them after us, he would say "two" after 1 and 3, but repeat the rest of the numbers as expected. He's since consolidated to solely "two" (for 1-3), "bive" (4-5), and "nine" (6-9). Unless he's subtly trying to get me to invest for his future in a 529 plan, I'm not sure what this means.

And then there's the alphabet. For this, I shall use a chart:

ABAr! Ar!5DF(silence)6Gnine7IJMeow!

After K/itty, he's completely unoriginal, although he sometimes points at himself for U and gives up entirely at W.

But enough talk. You came here for pictures. And I shall not disappoint.

1 I might be biased, but I know it's true because I've gotten independent verification from multiple external sources. For I am a scientist. By which I mean I once watched Nova.
2 Apart from shrieking so the cats flee, and eating fruit and cheese and crackers and tomatoes (which are technically fruit but you shut up) and bread and peas and holy hell we're out of food again. Son of a—
3 Including crow, donkey, monkey, and moose ("Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!")
4 Which, I suppose, isn't wrong, since I never specify which dinosaur, and we're rather short on eye witnesses from the Triassic period.
5 This is what I get for branching off to non-standard animals. Even though he's fully aware C is for Cookie — that the only song he's wanted to hear the past two weeks — for him the alphabet starts A-B-Seal.
6 He's already said F, so why should he say it again? F that.
7 He sometimes does say H, but H times out of 9 he doesn't.