Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inauguration 2017


When I was in sixth grade, I noticed some kids were part of a secret conspiracy.  During reading groups, they'd sneak away and return an hour later without any explanation.  I made a list of what they might be doing:

  • Cow tipping
  • Tractor pull
  • Sowing corn

You know, the usual stuff kids do when they live in East Central Illinois.  I read the list over and scratched out "Cow tipping."  There weren't any cows nearby.

After a while, I realized they had treasure when they came back.  They had hard candy.  I scratched out my previous list and wrote a new one:

  • Pick-pocketing
  • Beating up kids for their lunch money
  • Reading to the blind elderly in nursing homes.

You know, the usual stuff kids do in East Central Illinois.

It occurred to me that I could just ask where they were going.  However, I sported a terrible haircut and coke-bottle glasses, and as I was into computers, science fiction, and Dungeons and Dragons. Asking was likely to get me beaten up during recess.  Kids like me weren't allowed to talk to kids like them.

You know them: the ones who were praised for picking on kids like you.  The bullies.

One day the teacher mentioned a special reading group, and it all clicked into place.  These kids who picked on me, ridiculed me, hit me were all smarter than I was.  They went off to do advanced reading while the rest of us toiled away in our ignorance.

I decided to get into that class.  Once, my teacher noticed I'd skipped ahead in the math book and done some beginning algebra exercises (variables, easy for anyone who'd programmed), and she'd put me in the advanced math group.  I'd try that again.

But nothing seemed to work.  Not reading out loud.  Not correcting other kids when they mispronounced a word.  Not reading extra books.  I got nothing out of it (although I did get approved for additional bullying at recess).

Finally, I approached my teacher.  "I think I should be in the special reading group."

She picked her words carefully.  "I don't think you qualify."

I didn't give up.  There was free candy at stake.  Free candy your parents couldn't stop you from eating.

I fell back on the last refuge of the overly-pampered: I nagged.  I wheedled.  I begged.

Eventually, my teacher agreed to let me try out.  I was taken to the band room and given an article to read aloud.  It was about wooly mammoths and, as a lover of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, I plowed through it.  They asked me a few questions about the material, which I answered easily.

"That was thirteenth reading level," they said.

I smiled, proud of myself.

"You don't need to be in this class."

The smile fell.  They noticed my disappointment.

"Why do you want to be in a remedial reading course?"

These kids weren't sneaking out for advanced reading.  They were sneaking out for regressed reading.  The unfairness overwhelmed me.  They were worse at something than me, but were rewarded for it.

And the world clicked into place.  We reward those who are below average.  It rankles to this day.  Actually, it rankles more this day in particular.

Why?  Because we just made Donald Trump president.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lily's Litter Litany: An Appraisal of Toilet Technologies




Lily is a white, ragdoll cat living in Northern California.  One of her owners calls her "Princess Lilykins," which causes her other owner to run into the bathroom and make noises like he's coughing up a hairball.  Lily's hobbies include sticking her wet nose in people's exposed skin and eating revolting things off the floor.





Hello cats of every breed!  I'm Lily!

It's time again for my annual review of the current toilet choices available to today's feline.  Let's get started, shall we?  First up is...

The Floor


Nothing beats the floor.  It's smooth, accessible, and annoys the fuck out of your owner when you go there.

Now, sometimes my owners try to make the floor inaccessible by taping aluminum foil down to make it feel wrong or stacking boxes along the walls so there isn't enough room.  If this happens, you may have to resort to...




Laundry Baskets









If I have to pee, I love the convenience of a laundry basket.  These are always lying invitingly around by the washer.  

I've used three varieties:
  • The Low Basket
    Old reliable.  Easy to get over the sides.  Plenty of white space to make into yellow space.
  • The Medium Basket
    I'd just gotten into a routine of taking a leak in the low basket, when they were replaced with these medium baskets.  Much higher sides.  Much narrower bottom.  It was quite a challenge to go in
  • The High Basket
    As you can see, this is the basket with the highest sides and the smallest space at the bottom.  I'm still trying to take a leak in it.  I'll let you know when I manage.  Really, my owner will let you know (there'll be a lot of shouting).

Let's go to the worst-case scenario: the floor is inaccessible and there's isn't any laundry being done?  You might have to actually use the litterbox.  Horrible, I know!  Even though my owner scoops it several times a day and dumps out the whole thing every week, I'd go just about anywhere else (and I have)!

Still, sometimes you have to do the disgusting.

Some other things I've had to use include...

Storage Box


Sometimes, after you've shat on the floor a million times, your owners try something new.  A different litter.  "De-stressing" hormone sprays.  Screaming really loud in your face.  One time, my owners bought the largest storage box they could find and filled it with litter.

I used it twice.

Then my owners got really desperate.  They bought...


The Automatic Litter Box


These are a great malfunction-prone, expensive alternative to the boring one made of plastic that works for every other cat in the known universe.

I like it.  It's fun to watch.  When you're done watching it go around and around, you can poop on the floor.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Thanks for reading!  See you next week, if my owner hasn't followed through on his threat on what he'd do if I pooped on the floor again!



Friday, January 6, 2017

Blogger's Block

There four major problems with being a blogger:

  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • "Blog" is a pretty awful word


In an attempt to track the first three problems, I looked into my search terms.  If you haven't paid attention to my  previous  search  terms  posts, then you're not my mother, and why are you reading my blog?

Seems Google, in their continuing struggle to protect me from easy material for my blog, stopped collecting the words people used to find my blog.  All I was left with a list of my most popular posts this week:
Wait, what?
Yeah, one of my most popular posts was from nearly five years ago.  If you're one of all both my readers, you know that, a few years back, I got desperate and started naming posts to grab attention. I never expected it would work.  

It certainly wouldn't have worked for five years.

No way.

Something must have happened recently to cause people to search for her.

I looked at my stats for my entire blogging "career."
Aaaand shit.

Number one has pictures of video game characters having sex.

Number two is a post claiming I have naked pictures of someone I don't have.

Number six is a post claiming I have naked pictures of someone I don't have.

Number seven is a post claiming I have...

Well, you get the idea.

Next week I'm posting naked photos of Alessandro Ambrosio.  I totally have nudes of her.

Thanks for summing this whole blog, Alessandro.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Tombstone My Wife Predicts


On the positive side, I don't have to drive for a while.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dungeons and Dragons and the Election, Part 2

Johnny's Half Shell restaurant back room.

Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders sit down at a table, stained with human blood.  Sanders sits at the head of the table and lays out his campaign material.  He looks around.

Sanders: Where's Don?

Clinton: Burning in Hell?

Stein: "Let's change Dungeon Masters!" we said.  "Let the dice decide!" we said.

Sanders: Come on.  He won the roll fair and square.

Clinton: No, I won fair and square.  I got more points.  He just got three natural twenties.

Stein: We should make sure he didn't use loaded dice.

Sanders: Rules are rules.  He's DM now.

Clinton: If he shows up.

Sanders: Well, I'll just continue with the campaign until he does.  So, we were at the battlements of Alcarno...

Everyone looks at Gary Johnson.

Johnson: I know where Alcarno is.

Sanders: Good.  So, if you'll all get out your character sheets...

Johnson: What's a character sheet?

Donald Trump enters with an entourage of four identical, rich, white men.  He walks over to where Sanders is sitting.  Sanders, after a moment, stands and steps away from his campaign.  Trump sits.

Trump: So, I'm DM now.  This is going to be the best game.  Let's get started.

Sanders: Let me just explain what I've been doing.

Trump: I'm a smart guy.  I don't need to hear it.

Trump's phone beeps.

Trump:  'Scuze me a second.  (Types)  Fuck, you Saturday Night Live.

Sanders: It's just that I wrote up this table here, see?  You roll a D8 to decide what magical plane is intersecting the city at--

Entrourage: (sweeps dice on the floor) Dice are stupid.

Trump's phone beeps.

Trump: (typing) Fuck you, China.

Stein: How do I know if I've hit anything?  I've got an 18 dex, but if I'm not-

Entourage: (ripping up the character sheets) No sheets.  No stats.  No values.

Clinton: That's Trump's campaign in a nutshell.

Trump's phone beeps.

Trump: (typing) Fuck you Vanity Fair.

Sanders: Okay.  Uh.  Okay.  We were standing over here, on this corner of the-

Entourage: (crumpling up map) No maps.  No more planning.

Clinton: Also Trump's campaign in a nutshell.

Trump's phone beeps.

Trump: (typing) Fuck you, Bill Clinton.

Clinton: Can we just move on with the campaign?

Entourage: (throwing out the rest of the gaming materials) Dungeons and Dragons is the work of 
Satan.

Trump: I guess we're done here.

Trump and his entourage leave.  Sanders, Stein, Johnson, and Clinton look at each other.

Clinton: Well, we can try again in four years.

Johnson: What happens in four years? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Letters to the Electoral College

I've recently started work on sending letters to members of the Electoral College to beg them to vote against Donald Trump.  It's a long shot (like "snowball's chance in Hell"), but I feel pretty guilty about not participating much in the campaign, so I have to do something.

I was following the information at directelection.org, but the sample letters were a little...  Impersonal.  I started writing my own.  Over time, however, they got a little extreme. Here's the first few I wrote.


Dear Elector.

I realize you must be getting a lot of these letters, lately.  I'd like to add my voice to those asking you to not vote for Donald Trump.

Until recently, I just assumed electors were invented to keep the needs of cities from overwhelming those of rural areas.  I just assumed your job was to rubber stamp your state's majority.

However, I'm now accepting that there was wisdom in the Founding Fathers' desire to give some choice to our representatives.  You are a check and balance on the electorate itself.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: you have hands, organs, senses, dimensions, affections, and passions.  You are not just a stamp, you're a person with judgment.

Please use it now.



Dear Elector:

There are three million people out there whose votes were nullified by the Electoral College.  While I bow to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to create the College in the first place, it seems criminal to effectively say to those voters "Yeah, you might as well have stayed home."
Is it the will of the people to ignore the will of the people?

Please vote your conscience.



Dear Elector,

Our president-elect has made it to his position through lies and misdirection.
Fake news stories gave people false information.  Donald Trump lied more than any politician has in the modern era (see Politifact, if you don't believe me).

However, none of that is what troubles me.  What troubles me is that Russia manipulated this election to get a president they wanted.  They manipulated the election to reduce America's standing in the world.  They manipulated this election to break us.

And they're going to win, unless you act.



Dear Elector!

I don't know much about your state.
Do you have many poor?  They're going to do worse under a President Trump.
Do you have small businesses?  More of them are going to close under a President Trump.
Do you have an LGBTQ community?  They're going to be oppressed under a President Trump.
Do you have an environment?  It's going to be destroyed under President Trump.
Are you part of America?  It'll collapse under a President Trump.

Please stop him!



Dear Elector...

Didn't get tickets to Hamilton?  Of course not.  Nobody did.

But you can still be a Hamiltonian Elector!  Isn't that nearly as cool?  You can even dress up as Hamilton and play the soundtrack while you cast your vote against Donald Trump!

Think about it!



[Dear Elector]

Donald Trump is going to be president.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Yeah, I'm going back to the premade letters.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jaws vs. Trump

Back in October, Mike Huckabee went on Megyn Kelly's insisted Donald Trump was like Quint, a character from the movie Jaws.
Huckabee: He’s vulgar, he’s salty, he might even get drunk ... But he’s the guy who’s gonna save your butt and save your family. And so, when he kills the shark, you’re happy about it.  
Kelly: I hate to be the one to tell you this.  Captain Quint got eaten by the shark.  
Huckabee: Look, any analogy can fall apart.
Actually, the analogy doesn't fall apart at all.  Let us compare the two.

We first meet Quint when he scratches his fingernails across the chalkboard to get people's attention.
And he drew a picture to help them understand.
We first met Donald Trump when he came down an escalator and told us we were going to be killed and raped by Mexicans.

"And some, I assume, eat people."
When everyone realizes they need help, he smashes the radio so they can't call for help.

Destroying your own equipment is the sign of a seasoned fisherman.
Trump, also has problems with calls.



Quint ignores his colleagues and pushes his boat beyond what is safe, destroying it in the process.

Trump...

Well, we'll see what he does with the nation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Netflix Is the Best Medicine

No post last week because I was ill (surprisingly not from the Thanksgiving meal).  In my present, weakened state, I have little energy for working, cleaning, bathing, or...  Well, anything other than lying in bed and watching Netflix.

I just watched the first two seasons of The Flash.  My recommendation: stick to season 1 and skip through any scene with Iris.

Anyway, I felt bad leaving you humorically-challenged* for another week, so here's my quick contribution to the quality of your life.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages (I mean that) I give you a screen capture from my computer.  I call it "When Netflix Goes Bad."

Jaws: Just when you thought it was safe to watch a kids movie.
* Humorically-challenged is a registered trademark of ICanFunE Corporation.  Infringement of said trademark can result of a fine of no less than 1800 deutschmarks or having to listen to all of Iris's moving, emotional statements from The Flash, season 2.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Funniest Thing This Week

It's been a weird week, and I've been having trouble finding something funny.

I was going to post this:
Not really silly, but certainly a joke.
Then I thought I might talk about this quote about the electoral college I heard on the radio the day of the election:
Gore's popular vote margin came from earning 1.3 million more votes than Bush in California. Should Californians have been able to "overrule" the rest of country and install their overwhelming favorite in the presidency?
I'd been pro-electoral college until I heard it.  I've moved from state to state throughout my life, and its power has diminished each time.

(Here's a handy chart if you want to know how powerful your vote is.)

But everyone has been talking about the electoral college.  Then, while looking through YouTube to find something to amuse me, in the Politics Channel and saw this.


That's an 11-month old baby stuck in there among all the political commentators and reporters.  So, ladies and gentlemen, here is the funniest thing you'll see this week.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The One Thing That Matters

She was predicted to win in almost every single scientific poll.
Polls don't matter.

She was endorsed by dozens of newspapers, hundreds of celebrities, and even conservative groups that never endorsed a democrat before.
Endorsements don't matter.

She beat him in every debate.
Debates don't matter.

The democrats outspent the republicans.
Money doesn't matter.

He was opposed by nearly every important figure in his own party.
Alliances don't matter.

The Republican National Convention was a horrible mess of fear-mongering and C-list celebrities. The Democratic National Convention was polished and inspiring.
Conventions don't matter.

She spent her life in public service while he spent his making shady deals and breaking promises.
Experience doesn't matter.

He's suggested he'll disband NATO, cooperate with Putin, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and violate environmental agreements.  His economic plan has been excoriated as disastrous to the economy.
Policy doesn't matter.

He bragged about assaulting women.
Sexism doesn't matter.

He threatened and denigrated minorities.
Racism doesn't matter.

He is egotistical, narcissistic, and vicious.
Character doesn't matter.

He wants to jail his political opponent and suggested she should be killed.
The law doesn't matter.

He praised foreign espionage against his own country's citizens.
Security doesn't matter.

His followers have been emboldened to attack religious and ethnic minorities.
Community doesn't matter.

Black lives don't matter.  Brown lives don't matter.  Transgender lives don't matter.  Gay lives don't matter.  Women's lives don't matter.  Muslim lives don't matter.  Children's lives don't matter.
Nothing matters.

Except one thing.
You matter.

What you do for the next four years matters.

You're going to watch this country fall like burning leaves around you.  Your communities will rip themselves apart in hatred.  You'll see children attacked, friends threatened, and strangers assaulted, murdered, expelled.  You're going to see species go extinct, the air fill with coal dust, wildlife refuges closed down.  You're going to see the economy, America's standing in the world, and years of progress collapse.

You're going to watch smug bigotry in full bloom.

You're going to consider running away to another country, but you're going to stay.

And you're going to fight it.

For the next four years you're going to fight harder than ever.  You won't just "stand with them" in spirit.  You won't just post your defiance on social media.  You won't just wait for the next vote.
You're going to do something.  You have to.

You have to stand between the vicious and the defenseless.  You have to run for office.  You have to campaign.  You have to spend.  You have to speak out.

Now get started.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Halloween Honor System

We've all come across those houses on Halloween night where the owners are too lame to answer the door.  They put out a box of candy with a sign that orders you to only take one, sometimes with the threat that they'll be watching you.

Of course, nobody stops at one.  In my misspent youth, I stayed out all night, waking elderly neighbors and disgruntled losers in my unending search for candy.  Once I came across such unguarded trove, I took the whole thing.

Ah, to be young and a jackass again.  Well, I'm only halfway gone.

Anyway, when I got old, I realized I didn't want to stay up all night to answer the door anymore.  I put candy out in a plastic cauldron with a note to share and be kind.  Some punk not only took all the candy, but stole the cauldron as well.

This year, I was more careful.  I put the remaining candy in a cardboard box.

The seeds are left behind from the three pumpkins devastated by rampaging squirrels


Then I attached a most terrifying note.
Can't believe I mis-wrote the K in thanks.
 It said:
 Please Take One
Okay, you won't, but at least try.  Candy is awesome, but it's only a couple of bucks at the store.  When you grow up, you'll see how meaningless it is.  That's when you'll understand your own mortality.
Thanks! 
This year, the note was successful.  The box wasn't stolen.  Some of the candy was even left behind (along with the tears of several children's broken souls).

Score one for the disgruntled losers!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

[Put Funny Title Here]

As always, I'm busy this time of year.  I've got Halloween on my doorstep, Thanksgiving around the corner, and Christmas sneaking up behind me with a stiletto.

So, instead of my usual, insightful but hysterical posts, I'm going to drop a bunch of pictures from my phone and tell you why I thought they were funny enough to capture for posterity.

First of all, the two best packaged condiment of all time:
They make a lot of sauces in dynamite containers.  Wonder what kind of packaging they have for their explosives.

I noticed this sign in a Subway bathroom.  It's one of those signs that comforts patrons who are worried about the cleanliness of their food.
Notice the location.

Guys, it's a Subway. You can get cleaner food if you eat off the ground.

If you look closer at the sign...
See the bumpy things?
It's in braille.  So, imagine how the blind locate this sign.  They go into the bathroom.  Reach above the paper towel dispenser, and then feel around the grimy wall until they find the sign.  Even then, your hands are probably cleaner than Subway food.

Saw this at Ikea:
Made me want to buy a bunch of cheap clocks.

 I found this in the basement of a retirement home.  Why was I in the basement of a retirement home?  Funny you should ask.  Funny, funny, funny.
And we've reached peak old person.
I'd make a joke about how the elderly still use payphones and telephone books, but look at how many books there are.  There's a dozen, perfectly arranged.  Nobody's touched them.

Takeaway: Even the elderly don't use phone books anymore.

Seen on a sidewalk in my neighborhood.
You could, you know, talk to the guy.
I wonder if it worked.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The World's Most Pathetic Arcade Machine

If you've ever gone to an amusement park or an arcade or almost anywhere kids hang out, you've seen arcade merchandizers.

The most basic kind is the "claw machine" that became famous in Toy Story.
Makes more sense than Calvinism.
The basic idea behind merchandizers: you pay money for a chance to win a prize.  They're designed to make you think it's a test of skill, but they're built with a secret counter; you automatically fail four out of five times.

They're usually stocked with fabulous prizes so awesome you think it's worth trying to win a first generation Nintendo DS in front of your date and, while you're losing all the money you saved to take her out to dinner, she realizes she shouldn't have let her mother set her up on a blind date and ditches you while you're still trying to win, leaving you alone with your shattered dreams of a game console.

Or so someone told me.  The point is: don't use them.

On Wednesday, my kids were home from school for teacher rip-off in-service day.  They had too much energy (six hours in front of a TV with a Costco-sized bag of candy and a two-liter of Red Bull will do that).  So, I decided to take them to Sky High Sports, a giant, trampoline death trap billed as a combination amusement park/fitness studio.

There, between the "Foam in Your Eye" diving pit and the "Leg Breaker" bouncing room was this merchandizer.

"Wow!  I loved Flappy Bird!" -Nobody

Basic idea: you navigate the bird between a series of pipes.  If you can make it through to pipe twenty, you get one of four fabulous prizes.  What prizes?
"Gronk!" means "Han totally shot first."
That's right, they were giving away a figure from Disney Infinity 3.  If you're not familiar with Disney Infinity, I'm not surprised.  It was one of those games you had to buy the toys to play.  The only problem was: nobody wanted them.  They discontinued the game.

The merchandizer also had...
I find your clearance-rate prizes disturbing.
Darth Vader.  Have you noticed the little red sticker in the upper right, yet?  Those are Target price tags.  Someone went to the clearance racks and picked these up for half price.
War Machine and Han!
They also have Han Solo and War Machine.  If you don't know who War Machine is: he's the best friend of Iron Man.  If you don't know who Iron Man is, he's the best friend of Spider Man.  If you don't know who Spider...  Never mind.  You know who Spider Man is.  Everyone knows that.

But notice, it's not a War Machine Disney Infinity Toy.  It's a War Machine Hot Wheels.

Who would want a toy car based off a character who doesn't need a car (because he can fly)?
Nobody.  Nobody wants a War Machine Hot Wheels.  That's why it's in the most pathetic merchandizer in the world.

 I can't imagine anyone who would be desperate enough to put money into it, even if he was sitting around waiting for his kids to finish jumping around so he could go home.

Nope.  Can't imagine.





Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stupid Candy Bar Names

I was at Cost Plus a couple weeks ago and perusing the "nearly expired" rack.  Yes, sometimes I buy nearly-expired food.  My therapist tells me the medication will kick in, soon.

Anyway, I came across a candy bar at an FDA-cringing price.  For a candy bar that was nearly half petri-dish, it was good.  I couldn't help wondering why it had been sitting out for so many years.  Then I looked at the label.

Drifter, for the hobo in us all.
Yes, they named the candy Drifter, after people who were repeatedly forced to leave town for unsavory reasons.

I laughed (and took a picture, because weekly humor blog) and forgot about it.  A week later, I was in Trader Joe's and came across these.
Adding further proof that Trader Joe's is too cool for focus groups. Or common sense.
Boffo Bar and Quasar Bar.  Named after well-reviewed plays and the swirling masses at the centers of distant galaxies.

I then remembered one I came across during a long airplane flight many years ago.

With a name like Taxi, it has to be wholesome.
The airline was trying to come up with an "aviation-y" candy name, but it reminded me of the gum you get stuck on your shoe when taking a cab across Manhattan.

Coming across all these terribly named candy bars made me realize I could name candy bars as a new career (when I got tired of nude modelling).

Here's my ideas.

The Douche Bar
For those "not so fresh days."
The Passing the State Bar
So delicious, there should be a law.
The Zapf DingBar
When Wingdings don't satisfy you.

The Trump Bar
Grab life by the pussy.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dungeons and Dragons and the 2016 Presidential Election

To all gamers,
After everything he's said and done, would you invite Donald Trump to your gaming table?
Imagine him in your living room. Imagine his behavior. Imagine how he'd act. Imagine him groping your girlfriend or sister or mom. Imagine him acting out when he lost fair and square to someone with superior skills. Imagine him disrupting the game, talking over others, so he could brag about himself. Imagine all the other shit he'd pull.
Would you invite Donald Trump to your gaming table?
If the answer is "No," why are you inviting him to run the country?
-John Wick
(game designer, author, luminary)

Johnny's Half Shell restaurant, fundraising room

Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders sit down at a table, brushing aside campaign leaflets and half-drained glasses of wine.  Sanders sits at the head of the table and unfolds a Dungeon Master's screen he's made from an old shoe box and duct tape.

Sanders: So, last week you successfully defended Alcarno from the armies of the Demon Emperor.

Johnson: What's Alcarno?

Clinton: It's our campaign setting.

Johnson: Is that a city?

Sanders: It's the citadel of the Democratically-Elected Bright Ruler.  It's a utopia where everyone is educated for free by the wealthiest citizens.

Trump: We almost got creamed.  I told you, instead of fighting man to man, we should have built a defensive rampart around the city.

Sanders: You didn't have the time or the manpower.

Trump: I would have cast the Control Creatures spell on the armies.  Made them build it themselves.

Sanders: You're not a spellcaster.

Trump: Yes I am.  I'm multiclassed.  I'm a fighter-magic user.   I have 18 intelligence.  I have 18/00 strength.  I have the best strength.

Clinton: The best strength is 21.

Johnson: Why does your character sheet say: +3 backstab?

Trump: I can't show you my character sheet at this time.

Sanders: You've been summoned to see the democratically-elected Bright Ruler.  Do you go?

Johnson: I don't know.  I'm in pretty bad shape.  I only have ten hit points left.

Clinton: Forty-three.

Trump: I'm fine. Don't worry about me.  I had a lot of lucky rolls.

Clinton: That's because you get your dice from Putin.

Sanders: A cleric, who is paid by the government to heal everyone free of charge, sees you and runs over.  "I am honored to help you," she says, "If you will just let me heal-"

Stein: NO!  NO HEALERS!  THEY'RE GOING TO POISON OUR CHILDREN!!!!!!

Sanders: Uh.  Well.  Terrified by your outburst, the cleric runs away.

Clinton: Now what do we do?  Limp in to see the king-

Sanders: Democratically-elected Bright Ruler.

Clinton: -covered in blood and barely able to walk?

Stein: We naturally heal one hit point a day.  We'll be back to full health in-

Trump: Three years.

Sanders: Fine, the king-  Uh!  I mean, Democratically-Elected Bright Ruler comes to you.  He's surveying the troops with his wife.

Johnson: Who's the Bright Ruler?

Stein: What class is he?  If he's a healer, I keep my distance.

Trump: What's the wife like?  I move on her heavily.

Sanders: She's not interested.  She's married.

Trump: I can't stop myself.  I grab her by the-

Clinton: I kneel with my left hand out as is the custom in these lands.

Sanders: He doesn't look happy with you, Hillary.  "My spies sent me troubling intelligence about you.  It seems you've been giving speeches to the Emperor's generals."

Clinton: What? I- Uh...

Sanders: "And they also intercepted messages between you and your servant.  You were planning a coup to take over Alcarno."

Johnson: What's Alcarno?

Clinton: I had nothing to do with that!  I got rid of that servant the moment I found out about the coup.

Sanders: He points at your squire.  "That's her, right there!"

Johnny's Half Shell Owner: We have our third fundraiser of the day coming in.  You'll have to go.

Sanders: Well, that wraps it up for this time.  When are we meeting again?  Mid-November?

Clinton: I'll be busy then.

Trump: Me too.

Clinton: No you won't.

Stein: I'll have nothing to do.

Johnson: What happens in November?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Laptop, My... Wait. What?

Look different?
This is my laptop.  As you can tell from the missing duct tape and the still-worn keyboard, I had it fixed.  This is where things get weird.

A little history....

As I told you last week (You were reading, weren't you?  No?!  Yeah.  I know.  *SIGH*), I was having problems with it.  My laptop has been causing me trouble for years.  Maybe the problem is that I've used it 3x longer than its planned obsolescence date.  Maybe the problem is my children use it as a Frisbee.  Maybe the problem is...

Yeah, it's the Frisbee thing, isn't it?

Anyway, I went to pick it up at the repair place yesterday and was confused when they didn't bring my laptop out.  They then showed me this one.
Circle the differences in these two pictures.  Use a wax pencil; ballpoints will damage your screen.
"I put on a new cover because the old one had tape all over it," he said.

"Where did you get the new cover?" I asked.

"I bought a laptop for parts.  That way I don't have to order them the next time you come in."

He started it and I noticed a couple of new applications on my taskbar.  I asked why he'd installed them.

"I didn't.  Everything's the same.  I know it because of the desktop background."
"I like the logo," he said.
We talked about Maid Max, the game I'm (still) working on.  We talked about children, and the internet, and the impossibility of buying a 2-in-1 with a DVD drive.

"Always a pleasure when you drop by," he said as I left.  I almost said No offense, but I hope I never see you again.  I always think that.  Never works out.

When I got to Peet's to begin work, I noticed some strange things:

  • A missing piece of the fan's vent cover had reappeared.
  • My applications suddenly asked me to register.
  • The power cord didn't slip out at the slightest jiggle.
  • The fan was quiet.
  • There was a nick on the screen
  • Displays now pop up to show me the current brightness and volume levels.
  • A suspicious-looking extra moon.
I slowly came to realize that, other than the hard disk and the keyboard, there was nothing original about my computer.  They hadn't just replaced the motherboard and added a cable.  They had replaced the whole computer.

In a panic, I checked my Flash files.  They still ran.  Whew.

I'm  wonder what else was secretly replaced when I wasn't looking.  I'm going to have to watch my children very carefully from now on.

BTW, here's the two Flash games I made and, as I said last week, will have to redo in HTML 5.
  • Flux Warden
    $20 to the first one who wins.  A homemade pie to anyone who gets a full score.  A new pony if you can understand the story.
  • Default Adventure
    This one is easier, so...  A hug?  A nicely-worded letter?

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Laptop, My Novel, and Flash


This is my laptop.  As you can tell from the duct tape holding it together and the worn-out keyboard, it's not doing well.  If I hold it the wrong way, the graphics chip fails and crashes the machine.  The backlight flickers and I have to slap the screen to get it to work.

By now you're asking the obvious question:  This man is so frugal, why isn't he president?
Or you could be asking the other, obvious question:  Why doesn't he get rid of the f-ing thing?

Well...

In the late 70s, I tried to get into programming.  I was very enthusiastic about this new thing called video games and desperately wanted to make some.

I borrowed some of my brother's BASIC books (Hi Jon!) and got in front of our Osbourne 1.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a programming class in middle school.  I got in front of a TRS-80.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a Pascal programming class in college.  I got in front of a Mac.  I couldn't figure it out.

I got a copy of Visual BASIC.  I got a copy of Java.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I got a copy of Flash (Actionscript 2).  I sat in front of a PC.

I got it.

It clicked.  Everything suddenly worked.  It made sense.  I programmed like crazy.

I bought a new laptop.  Swelling with pride in my new skills, I got a shiny, red case.

Adobe switched to Actionscript 3.  I couldn't figure it out.

Still, I worked at it and worked at it and (eventually) got close to understanding it.  AS 3 didn't come as easily to me as before, but I was stuck with it.  No other language made sense.

My laptop decayed.  The backlight became unstable.  The repair guys said they couldn't permanently fix the problem; I needed a new computer.  I paid to keep it going for a few more months.  I just needed to finish my projects.

I began work on a real game, a game that could make money.  I decided to do it in Flash.  If anything went wrong, I could look into the code myself and help out.

My laptop decayed.  The DVD drive started making grunting noises instead of playing anything.  The battery wore out.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.  I just needed to finish the game.

The problem with Flash is you can't transfer files easily; they become corrupted.  I'd have to upgrade my copy to fix the problem, but I had a limited budget.  It could wait.

I got a programmer.  I got an artist.  I got a sound guy.

I got taken by the programmer.  I got a new programmer.

The artist stopped working.  I got a new artist.  That artist quit.  The programmer got bored and quit.  The other programmer got a job and quit.  I got a new artist.

I hit my budget limit.

I put the game aside.  Someday, I'd do it myself, but I decided to finish my novel first.  I wrote for 3 years.

My laptop decayed.  The hard drive failed.  All my Flash assets were on there.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

I promised myself I'd finish the novel and then get back to Flash.  I'd get the new version and transfer files and start over.  I'd learn the code myself. I'd paid for the art and programming and I would figure them out.  Then I'd export to web and Android and iOS and even Windows Phone (dammit) and I'd be awesome.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  Microsoft tried to force me to switch to Windows 10.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

My novel became two novels.  My son started nagging me: he wanted to teach me how to program.  I told him to wait until I finished writing.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  The CPU came loose and had to be "refloated" several times.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

Flash died.

I'm not sure when it happened, but I just noticed Flash doesn't run on Android.  Remember how people ridiculed Steve Jobs for keeping it off the iPhone?  Remember the jokes about Android being better then iOS?

Meanwhile, my laptop is still decaying.  The graphics chip and motherboard are failing.  I have to turn it off and shake it every few hours to keep it from crashing and losing my work.

The novels are nearly done.  My expensive game art and code are stuck on my fragile computer.  And Flash is dead.  I have to figure out a way of moving them to HTML 5 (or Unity or Clickteam Fusion or...).  Oh, and my old games.  I have to save them, too.

With the amount of money I've spent on my laptop, I could have bought a couple new computers, but I paid to have it fixed again.

I just need it to last a few more months.

Honest.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cracks


This is a true story.

It happened in the 70s when I was a boy.  I'm not sure when, exactly.  Time is fuzzy when you're a child; it's squishy like a dream.  Instead of years, we measure our childhoods with pivotal events: graduations, the births of those we care for, the deaths of those who cared for us, first crushes, last enemies.

One of my pivotal events was Star Wars.  It's hard to explain what Star Wars meant before it was a franchise, back when there was going to be only one movie, back when your dad had to make your Darth Vader Halloween costume out of a plastic bowler hat, a dust mask, a Giant Tinker Toy, and a flashlight.

Star Wars lit the universe; it made me hunger for other films, other places, other futures.  I waited with trembling enthusiasm for Jodorowsky's Dune, Zelazny's Lord of Light theme park, and the space shuttle.  But Dune shattered into a million pieces, someone embezzled Lord of Light's funding, and the shuttle came and went with the same disappointing finality as my dalliance with my high school crush.

Another pivotal event was moving to a new home.  We left my world, away from friends I thought I'd never replace, away from a school I could walk to, and a window that looked down on the street.  In their place, I got a wilderness of uncertainty I blamed it for every adolescent stumble.  My bullies spit on me, attacked me, tagged me with cruel nicknames.  To this day, I have nightmares about moving from one ghost town to another.

Moving showed me that life was no more secure than the faded construction paper teachers tacked to classroom walls to make displays about the alphabet, numbers, ants' tunnels. Once, a teacher put up a paper solar system, but put Saturn closer to the sun than Jupiter.  To this day, the universe feels wrong.

This happened between those events, after the flush of Star Wars and before the pang of moving away.  It is (as I said) a true story, but the details have faded to the weak colors of 8mm home movies transferred from medium to medium to save them.  Sometimes it's best to lose clarity.

Back then, I kept to my street and the one where my school and best friend lived.  Those two streets were safe.  There were enemies, of course, but I knew them; I knew the limits of what they'd do.  As I got older, my world shrank; I lived on a cramped island off the coast of a dark continent rumbling with mystery.  I yearned for something more.

I wanted to find The Store: my El Dorado, my Lost Dutchman.  Somewhere in the unexplored wilderness was a convenience store where I could exchange my dearly collected dimes and quarters for candy.  They sold Laffy Taffy (banana was the best kind) and Nik-L-Nips (sweet liquids encased in squishy, flavorless wax).

I only had a vague idea which direction it was in, but I was determined to find it.  I would leave my street and wander until I found it.

Half a block off my street was where safety ended.  The boundary of my safe zone was the door to a neighbor's chain link fence.  The ground must have shifted under the sidewalk; the pavement was cracked.  It's been 40 years, but I still remember those cracks.

I still hesitate when I walk over cracked pavement.  Step on a crack, break your mother's back.


I reached the corner and stopped, losing my nerve.  The houses were different.  I already felt uncertainty's vertigo, but didn't want to just turn back.  I turned and headed towards more familiar territory; at the next corner was my school.  One block of exploration would be a fine first excursion.


That's where I met the boys.  Again, my memory is fuzzy.  I remember there were two of them; I remember one was older, bigger than me; I remember they were both white.  I don't remember their faces, their clothes, their names, their ages, or their voices.  I remember what they did; I don't remember why.

If there was a reason.

They grabbed me.  I fought.  They held me down.  I cried.

Nobody came to help me.  Any adults watching would have shrugged and smiled.  A little wrestling never hurt anyone.  Boys have to learn to take care of themselves.

They laughed and held me face down.  They pulled my shirt up and told me they were cutting me with knives while they drew on my back with shards of plastic.

Then they let me go with a parting threat, a last gesture of dominance: I had to walk away slowly, not looking at them.  I couldn't do it.  They chased me down and grabbed me.  They pushed me to the ground, and it started over. This time I walked slowly.  This time I didn't look.

I walked back around the corner.  I walked back over the cracked sidewalk.  I walked back to my street.  I walked back into my house.  That's when I was finally safe enough run.

I never said anything.  I never explored again.  I never saw the candy store.

I still don't go far from home.  Cities merely twenty miles away are dark unknowns.  I never travel on my own.  My teeth clench when I'm anywhere new.

Whenever I see someone in a film head into danger with a curt "I can take care of myself," I give an involuntary snort of derision.  No you can't, I think.  But he always can.  He's the hero, after all.  It's just a movie; it's not real.

Thirty years later, travelling from one safe city to another, I drove near my old home.  My father was with me, or I wouldn't have stopped.


He followed me as I walked to our old house.

I remembered the new front door I broke after being told to be careful with it -- the glass shattered, and I ran to hide behind a tree, then trudged back at the angry call of my mother.  That was when I learned you can't hide from the inevitable repercussions of your actions.

I remembered the garage behind our back yard.  We had a car with a retractable roof that barely retracted, and white paint that formed bubbles you could crush to reveal rust.  That was where I learned there was a quiet joy in a musty room with old license plates nailed to the wall.

He followed me as I walked to my old school.

I remembered the time in P.E. the teacher told us to run to a distant tree and back.  I was last, gasping to a walk while she waited, shouting encouragement dripping with scorn.  That was when I learned I had deficiencies others didn't.


I remembered the time I rescued the red-haired girl (whom I'd pined for since kindergarten) from a boy who wouldn't let her go; she later told me she "liked" me, and I blew milk at her through a straw at her.  I didn't know what else to do.  That was when I learned my emotions could bubble up out of control and ruin things I desperately desired.

I remembered sitting on a playground structure shaped like a shoe and listening to the older boys talking (conspicuously loudly) about reaching their hands into the cage in a zoo to pet a tiger.  I remember how sweet they said Bengal tigers were.  That was when I learned there were people who knew me who thought the world would be better if I wasn't in it.


My father asked if there was anything else I wanted to see.  He'd been incredibly patient of my self-indulgent nostalgia.  As have you.

I told him there was one more thing I wanted to see.  I wanted to find that store.  I wanted to buy the banana Laffy Taffy and Nik-L-Nips I'd promised myself.  Old quests never die; you just have to complete them.

I turned off my street and walked in that same vague direction, not even knowing if the store would still be there.  About a quarter of the way down the block, I stopped and looked down.  The pavement was still cracked in the same place.

"I thought they'd have fixed that by now," I said.


We turned back and drove away.