Friday, August 29, 2008

Corporate Monsters

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and fight off those corporate monsters to get ahead. (This has no relation to me, it's just an amusing one-panel comic.) From Strange Brew by John Deering

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is Wrong With the Kids Today?

So last night we went out to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner. We end up hauling Logan out there more than she comes to us, which I don’t think is how it should be, but that’s another matter for another post. Also, my mother-in-law is not the most fantastic cook, which is yet another matter for yet another post. She can bake like nobody’s business, but when it comes to the rest…eh.

Anywho, we got to the house around 4:30 and my brother-in-law, my wife’s oldest sibling (17), was actually home. Usually when we come by, he’s at work. I like hanging out with my brother-in-laws, the older one more so because there’s a huge difference in maturity level between the two, so it was nice that he was around. I went up to his room and (no surprise here) he was playing a video game. At the time, he was playing Assassin's Creed for the Xbox 360, which he had just recently bought. After running around on that game for a while, he switched over to Halo 3 so we both could play.

For those of you who are not familiar, Halo has been one of the most successful game franchises for Microsoft on the Xbox and Xbox 360. In the game you play as Master Chief, a really tough dude in some big tough sci-fi space armor. In normal game play you go around blasting the hell out of a variety of aliens. The first game was great. The second, in my humble opinion, didn’t really add much to the first, the third I haven’t really played enough of to make a conclusion about. Possibly the biggest draw of the game, though, is the ability to play against your friends. Eventually, the game moved to online play, and now millions of teenagers, nerds living in their mom’s basements and gaming addicts can play against opponents down the road or across the globe.

There was a time when I could kick the kids’ butts on this game seven ways from Sunday, but with increased responsibilities…well, you know how it goes. So I wasn’t doing that great on the game, which I expected, and I was just there to have fun. The other players are more serious and can get pretty intense about it.

At one point, my brother-in-law threw a grenade that accidentally killed one of the random players on our team. Almost instantly we hear, “Why the fuck did you betray me you fucking asshole!?!” from the TV’s speakers (the game has live chat for some wicked trash talking *rolls eyes*). My brother-in-law snatched up his headset and apologized to the random player. Then he apologized again when he didn’t get an immediate response. This is very sad.

The most funny/disturbing part was the “victory dance” that players would perform after they had killed someone, particularly someone that was pissing them off. Now, back when I played, we’d have maybe eight people in the same room and a “victory dance” would consist of some trash talking, and maybe giving the virtual corpse a good punch in its virtual head. Apparently, that’s not enough for today’s youth while they’re playing Halo. Today’s youth will teabag (T-bag?) their opponent’s corpse. That’s right, I said teabag. I was just as stunned as you.

You see, the left thumb stick, when pushed in, will make the character crouch. This is useful for sneaking around, or hiding behind something if you want to line up a shot or are being shot at. I guess this is also useful for slamming your virtual junk into the face of a virtual corpse. I don’t think I would have ever thought of that while playing the game. I doubt my brother-in-law thought of that all by himself either, but he did revel in doing it. What’s more, the younger brother-in-law (14) also practices teabagging while playing Halo. While commencing with the teabagging, he also said something like “How do you like that, huh?”

But wait, there’s more. Oh, yes, it doesn’t stop there. Teabagging is good for if the character dies and lands on his back, but what do you do if the character falls face down? Why, you can “rape” him with your gun or sword, that’s what. If the character falls face down in death, it’s not uncommon for the player that killed you to stick his gun up the corpse’s butt and fire off a couple rounds. My brother-in-law then explained that it’s best to do with the sniper rifle because of it’s length and obvious phallic resemblance. *shocked look*

What the heck is wrong with these kids? And it’s not just my in-laws, it’s kids everywhere playing this game. And I’m sure the guys in their 20s, 30s, etc. are doing it too. Honestly, what the fuck? What ever happened to a little trash talk and maybe taking an extra shot at the corpse to see the blood splatter? I don’t know, but it was both amusing and disturbing. Throughout the game, though I died many, many times, I don’t think I was ever teabagged. I know my brother-in-law never did it to me because we were always on the same team. However, here’s an exchange that occurred after the game was over:

Me: That’s totally gay
B-I-L: Too bad we didn’t play each other. I would have raped you.
Me: That’s just wrong.

Oh, and here's a handy instructional video I just found. Note the voices of the narrators that are probably both 12 but are making their voices sound deeper, as if anyone would be tricked by that. Also note the awesome music to get you pumped up, and the fact that the narrators say they will show you how to defend yourself against getting teabagged and don't. As near as I can tell, there is no way to stop another player for doing it, once you're dead.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yay Trailers!

After seeing Eric's post yesterday with the movie trailers, this has led me to a whole world of reimagined movie trailers. Some good, some not so good. Here's one that I like. I've discussed this movie here before, and it makes me see things in a whole new light.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Writing Prompt

Here in the office there are other writerly types (which is not unusual since I work for a magazine) and I like to encourage them to write, especially when stuff comes up that we can compete over or encourage each other to complete. Recently, I've been sending little writing prompts, kind of like Steve Buchheit's Story Bones, to one of the other people who says she likes to write and wants to write, but can't think of a good place to start. So here's the latest, you can pick up from there in the comments, or on your blog, or wherever, or don't do anything with it at all. Whatever.

"I've got to go now, and I mean now," Johnny said, clutching at himself through his jeans to hold out for just a little longer.

“You can’t wait just a few more minutes until we get home,” asked his mother.

“No! You remember that video of Old Faithful we watched on PBS the other day, if you don’t stop now, it’s going to be like that.”

“Ok, ok, I’ll pull over somewhere.”

She glided over to the shoulder so slowly that Johnny thought he was going to drown. Finally, the car stopped. Johnny was out the door and had his zipper down in record time. A couple of cars passed by on the highway. A group of teenagers in a third honked and yelled as they passed. Johnny didn’t care, he just stared off into the woods edging the road as he let everything drain.

When he was through, and he had zipped up, he heard a tiny voice from somewhere in the grass at his feet call out. “What’s the big idea? What gives you the right to come out here and flood my home?”

Busy, Busy, Busy

Pretty busy at work, so little time to post during the day. I'll just continue lurking here and there, and maybe I'll have time for a more legitmate post this evening. I will say that I was just over by Eric's blog and he has two hilarious videos over there. If you haven't gone over there to see them yet, you should. They are not to be missed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One Draft Down, X to Go

Earlier in the summer we had a garage sale. The very weird people that came out for that, and trust me, we got all types of weirdos, inspired an idea for a new short story. What if Merlin had a garage sale, selling magical items at his house in the suburbs, in modern day?

It was one of the rare cases where I knew where the story would go from beginning to end with many of the details. So I charged right in and got about 2,000 words of the story. Then life happened to get in the way, as it usually does, and the story sat for a couple months. Finally, I kicked my ass enough that I picked it up again, and I finished up the first draft yesterday.

The story comes in at just under 3,500 words. There are parts that I'm definately considering cutting, others that need to be reworked and other things that need to be added. I want to keep it to a max of 4,000 words.

It's definately not as funny as it could be (although I do think parts are pretty funny), and the ending feels a little rushed. It's not perfect, but it's down on paper and awaiting the next draft. I have several red pens ready. I do prefer to draft on paper instead of on the screen. I also used to hand write out all my first drafts and make the typing of said draft into a second draft, changing as I entered it into the computer. I use MS Word for my writing, because it's already on the computer and I don't need to go spending money on another computer program.

I've also been thinking about NaNoWriMo lately. It's still a couple months away, but it's coming up. I tried it for the first time last year and hit the 50,000-word mark on the last day (I haven't done anything with it since). I had another idea about half way through last year that I liked better and ended up doing about 12,000 words of that after NaNo, but didn't like where it was heading. It's scope got much bigger than I wanted.

I'm thinking about starting that over for NaNo and see how that goes. I know some of the other UCFers have done NaNo in the past. Is anyone thinking of doing it this year?

Anyway, here's an excerpt of Merlin's Garage Sale (working title). Is it perfect? No. Is it funny? I think so. It's one of my favorite parts of the story as it stands now.

“That, is the twelfth of the Thirteen Gazing Globes of Glandrial. Look into the crystal and you shall see what your greatest enemies are doing,” said Merlin, looking into the sphere’s crystalline depths. He saw the Johnson boy from down the street stuffing a sling shot into his back pocket. Several stink bombs were clutched in his free hand. “Curses,” he muttered to himself.

“But you don’t have the set,” said the man in the Old Navy hoodie.

“What? Of course I don’t have the whole set. Three were destroyed when Morgan and her army of undead barbarians laid siege on Avalon. Two were lost in the Desert of Despair. Four were spent in weaving the enchantments that continue to protect Excalibur from false kings that seek its power. One is used to seal the great and terrible Nomolos in his ethereal prison. The other two were misplaced in the move to the suburbs.”

“Well…if you don’t have the set…thanks anyway.”

Merlin scowled as the man walked away. Looking into Glandrial’s globe made him scowl further. The Johnson boy was in his garage, mounting his bike. The boy had an uncanny ability to sense when he was being watched, and he stuck out his tongue and sneered at the old wizard.

“Oh no, not this weekend,” he sighed.

Ah, what the heck, here's another little bit that I really like too:

“Good morning,” Merlin called to an elderly couple walking hand and hand up his driveway. The man was wearing a faded Navy sweatshirt, while the woman wore a blouse that was so loud that for a moment the centuries-old wizard couldn’t hear the voices of the old ones.

“Morning,” the man called back. “Nice day for a garage sale, huh?”

“You couldn’t have asked for a better day,” the woman added.

“I know,” Merlin said matter-of-factly, “I conjured it that way. It was a simple spell really.”

The man grunted and ushered his wife away from the old wizard.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Laughter as Medicine

I won't go into all the details, because then it wouldn't be funny at all, but sometimes, laughter is a better medicine when you're making someone else laugh, and I mean genuinely laugh, not just a chuckle. I managed to do that this morning for a former coworker and it's made me feel good today, which I haven't really felt in a week or so, for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's For Dinner?: A Rant

Seems like ranting has been the flavor (ha!) of the day around a few of my regular haunts out on the intertubes, and damn it, I have a rant too. But first, lets answer the question above. What was for dinner tonight? Grilled cheese and shitty French onion soup. And why, Matt, would you be having grilled cheese and shitty French onion soup for dinner? Because I'm a little tired of making dinner, that's why.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind cooking for my family. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy experimenting with food, but every once in a while, it would be nice for someone else to make dinner. In Brandi's defense, she doesn't enjoy cooking and she has to take care of Logan all day, so she's not exactly keen on jumping into the kitchen at the end of the day. She does make dinner, but only on the nights where I'm working, which means she's making dinner two nights out of seven. Then there's Vern, my father-in-law, who made baked chicken, rice and some kind of canned vegitables just about every night of the week, unless he had dinner with someone else.

Part of the problem with making dinner when I come home is that after being at work all day, Logan wants to spend time with his daddy. This makes making dinner much more difficult when there's a screaming toddler getting in the way for every step you take in the kitchen. If I manage to get him distracted in the living room with something, then he has some kind of internal clock that tells him he needs to scream every two minutes and run into the kitchen to make sure I didn't sneak away somewhere.

Most recently, though, I've just become a little tired of cooking. When I ask for volunteers, no one ever wants to step forward. A typical exchange might go like this.

Logan: screams (translates into OMG Where'd daddy go!?!) *runs into kitchen*
Me: Do you think you could distract him for a while so I can make dinner?
Brandi: I've been dealing with him all day and he just wants his daddy.
Me: *picks up Logan and tries to cook single handed*
Logan: Want's to play, not be carried around the kitchen.
Me: This isn't working. Could you please watch him for just a little longer?
Brandi: He doesn't want me.
Me: Ugh, well does anyone else want to make dinner then?
*cue crickets*

Another thing that bothers me is that when dinner's ready, I let everyone know, and usually have to let them know again before they rouse themselves to come eat. Then, everyone gets their plates ready first and I get at it last by which time it's not really hot any more.

So that's why tonight was grilled cheese and this god awful soup mix that I had some left over from another recipe. It was simple and quick and I didn't really think about it. Even so, I ended up getting at least half of everyone's sandwhich darker than they prefer.

Ugh, I feel like I have more to say, but I'm out of rant juice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Headline Game

Fellow blogger Jeri has started a headline game for people out in the intertubes to make up some fun/funny headlines about one another (based on a funny post over on Eric's blog about some nutjob). I've only contributed one headline, but so far, it's been picked up by Nathan, Janiece, John the Scientist, and I'm sure there are or will be others. Bounce around and check them out. From the one's that I've seen it's a very Oniony exercise. So check it out, leave a headline, whatever. I'm relatively new to the UCF, so there might not be as much fodder for me, but go nuts anyway. I could use a laugh. Here's a headline to start.

Woodworking Journalist Sits Down for Heart-to-Heart with Trees

(which I kind of did here)

Sad News

I've been away for a while and this email that Brandi sent out to our families really sums it up

"As some of you may or may not know by now, we lost our baby last week. I was 9 weeks and 5 days pregnant. It was a very stressful pregnancy from the beginning and we knew because of the low fluid problem that this was a possibility, yet we are very sad to have to say goodbye to our baby. Our baby will be buried here in Des Plaines by the hospital at All Saints Cemetery in the kids section with other early loss babies. We are very grateful that the hospital offers this service for families. Matt and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Thanks everyone for their support. Things are getting a little better, slowly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From the 'Oh Cool' File

A little while back, I wrote about Joe Harmon for work. Joe is a grad student at North Carolina State University who is building a wooden supercar , The Splinter, for his grad project. His site is pretty well done, with webcams, photos (like the computer render above of the final product), videos, etc. He even blogs about the process of building the car here.

The car looks frickin' sweet, and it will debut at IWF, which is North America's largest woodworking trade show, and I think the second largest woodworking trade show in the world. The car will be ready for show at the show, but it won't be road-ready yet, there'll still be some work that needs to go into it.

I was all psyched to see the car, as usually the company I work for sends all the editors in my division down to the show, but alas, this year they're only sending the more senior editors due to budgetary reasons. The publishing industry, as with much of the rest of the country, as been hit pretty hard by this economic crunch thingie I keep hearing rumors about. :(

According to Joe, the car will weigh less than a traditional car made from steel, and the wood has a better strength to weight ratio than steel or aluminum. And it just looks so cool. He's found some innovative ways of using the different woods and getting the wood to do what he wants. For instance, instead of traditional metal leaf springs in the suspension, he used osage orange, which is used in bow making. The panels of the car are made from cherry wood veneers that are cut into strips and woven together into big mats that can be properly shaped. Did I mention that the car looks really cool? (and I'm not a car guy) One of the things that he had to think about while building and designing the car, that he told me about during the interview, was figuring out a way to house the engine without having the car start on fire.

The show is just 8 days away, and I can only imagine the amount of nearly around the clock work that must be going into the car to get it ready. Joe is probably getting very little sleep about now. My fellow editors have promised to take pictures for me. I'd like to meet Joe in person, maybe he'll be around at some other show in the future with some equally impressive and massive project.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Slow Day

We just finished up deadlines on Friday, so today is pretty slow. To add to that, half of my department is gone today for one reason or another, so it’s pretty quiet. Sure, I’ve got stuff to work on, but it’s hard to get up and get motivated to get a lot done on a day like today.

The weekend was one that was too short and too long at the same time. Too short in that it felt like I didn’t have a whole lot of time to relax. Too long in that there was a lot going on and it left me feeling even more wiped out.

Saturday I had to work. Saturdays and Sundays, Logan is up before I leave for work, so he knows when I put my shoes on and tell him to be good for mommy that means I’m leaving. I could hear his little wails as I rearranged the cars so Brandi could have mine and I drove away. Poor little guy. Work was busy, but not too busy. It was steady. There was also plenty of food in the break room for various reasons. After work I finished making dinner. We tried a new recipe, Butter Beef, which I found on Yahoo! It was good, if not a little salty, but I didn’t quite have everything in the right proportion since I didn’t have the recipe on me when we went shopping. After dinner I took Logan to two of the three parks in our immediate area then gave him a bath and sent him to bed. I should have done laundry after that, but I didn’t.

Sunday we went to Brookfield Zoo. If you’re ever spending time in the Chicago area and you’re looking for something to do, I would highly recommend it. It’s big, it’s educational, it’s fun. Particularly if you’re around in the winter, they do a spectacular winter zoo thing with hundreds of Christmas trees decorated by local groups. We got their early, about a half hour after the zoo opened and it wasn’t too crowded. We stopped by the standard places that are pretty much a must for every visit, including Tropic World, The Living Coast, and the Pachyderm (can’t believe I spelled that right on the first try) House. We had lunch by one of the playgrounds and Logan ran around until he and another boy collided and both fell down crying. He was more tired than hurt. We left about 1:30 and by that time the parking lot was so full they were waving people on to the second lot on the other side. Then it was a nap for Logan (and a cat nap for Brandi), a trip to the park, dinner, play time, night-night for Logan, taking out the garbage, and finally, the laundry (which I’ve been neglecting while Brandi was on bed rest).

Tomorrow, we go to her doctor for a check up. This was originally supposed to be the first ultrasound, but because of the other circumstances, this will now be the third. Brandi’s progesterone levels are up to where she should be after going on a hormone supplement. Now, we just have to see what’s going on with the baby. The last two ultrasounds showed that there should be more amniotic fluid around the baby. We went to see a substitute doctor the last two times, since Brandi’s doctor is out of town, and she was able to tell us that 1) they don’t know what the problem is 2) they might never know 3) there’s nothing they can do about it, which is always fun to hear. We’ve been waiting for see what’s going on for what feels like forever, and I’m trying to stay positive. Brandi’s taking harder than I am, but she’s the more pessimistic of our duo.

So on that happy note, I should be going. Hope everyone’s havin’ a good day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gorgeous Day, Stuck Inside

Just got back in from my lunch, and I don't know about where you are, but in the greater Chicagoland area, it is the most perfect day outside. The temperature is 76 and sunny with a smattering of clouds to the west and blue sky to the east. A breeze carries the scents of summer warmth and green grass. Insects buzz in the trees. Everything is good and calm and right with the world outside.

Makes me wish I was at home in the hammock right now. Too bad I'm stuck in the office for another hour and a half at least. How's the day by you?

Yay, more video!

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines

Mega deadlines today and I'm dealing with people who are still trying to get me some information and the pages are due in, oh, 6 hours. (The pages in question still need to be laid out, proofed, edited, and posted.) So here's a video for y'all. It's keeping in with the current food theme that has taken over the UCF. Enjoy!

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Practical Science

All I can say is thank god for The Onion. Their news keeps the world informed with an unbiased opinion and top notch journalism. I'm just going to have to try that diet. And I can't wait for that inspirational story. This certainly brightened my Thursday morning. For your viewing pleasure:

'Cosmopolitan' Institute Completes Decades-Long Study On How To Please Your Man

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Tape on My Desk

really sucks. It's so unsticky that it doesn't even stick to itself, and I'm talking about glue side to glue side. Currently, it isn't even strong enough to hold a fortune cookie fortune up to my monitor without flopping over. I hate to toss what little I have left, but this is unacceptable. That's all, just thought I'd share.

What came in the mail yesterday




not for me...


Oh, postcard! From Random Michelle! It has cows! Neat! Thanks Michelle!!!



Oh, package for me! From Janice! It has the super secret UCF project! Neat! Thanks Janice!!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oh Sick!

I haven't quite finished reading the article yet, but I saw this on boingboing this morning about elderly twins in a good neighborhood in L.A. feeding a growing rat population for years. Estimates reached as high as 500,000 rats in their residence. More disturbing is the local government's knowledge of the problem and failure to act. Gross and fascinating.

Quick recap

Not too much new to report. Brandi's getting tired of bed rest, and I don't blame her. No other issues within the last few days and she's still taking the hormone pills.

Saturday at the library was back to super busy mode.

We went to the annual family reunion on her dad's side of the family yesterday. Attendance has been slackening for years, but this year there was a steep drop, maybe half of what it was last year. I spent the bulk of my time there with Logan by the side of the lake watching the ducks and sun fish and making sure he didn't try to get in. At one point he was eating an apple which he dropped and it rolled into the water. He then turned me toward the water and started pushing at the backs of my legs so I'd go get it.

Got to work at 6 today so I could get out a little earlier and take Brandi to the doctor for another blood draw. That's about it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Asshats Ahead!

If you haven't already seen it, I encourage anyone who stumbles by here to head over to Jim's blog for some learnin' about a particularly asshatted bank out in California and the way they treated the grieving parents of a Navy Hospital Corpsman from Hemet, California who was killed in the line of duty on June 18th. If you read the comments, it includes some particularly nasty responses from a couple of commenters that Jim has traced back to the bank. I can't do his post justice, just go check it out. Seriously, check it out.