House of Letters

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Welcome to the humble abode of me and my letters. There’s often not much room due the way they breed, but we’re always happy to accept guests. Please, have a seat and we can make you a warm cup of chamomyle.

Hm? What are you talkyng ab–oh, yes. That’s defynytely a problem. Please excuse me.

Y! You know that just because you’re a “sometymes vowel,” that doesn’t gyve you lycense to replace the others all wylly-nylly.. Don’t you dare start whynyng at me; you’re makyng us look lyke Chaucer yn front of company! Now what dyd you do wyth hym thys tyme?

The closet? Seryously?

I, really. You have a backbone; you need to stand up to Y more when she trIes to–why do you stIll have your cap on? What do you mean you lost your lower case dot? How can you even–OK, look. There It Is, up there In the thIrd paragra–no. That’s the perIod, I. Next to–there. Yes, that’s much better.

Sorry; I believe we’re all in order now. So, ow about tat cup of cam–o, oly ell…

Miss Again

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I’m perched on a higher table at a Starbucks inside a Barnes & Noble.

Wait. That makes it sound like I’m poised on top of the table, ready to strike out at the old lady checking out Moleskines in front of me. Forgive me; I haven’t done this in a while.

I’m sitting at a taller table in a Starbucks wrapped inside a Barnes & Noble, overlooking a couple women in Hawaiian shirts who are pacing up and down the main aisle looking for specific people to give name tags and adorn with leis. I have no idea what’s going on with that; only that–in intentional J. Alfred Prufrockian fashion–I do not think  they have a lei for me.

The strangest part of it all is that I’m currently outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. And that I now live here.

I’ve been looking for new freedoms for some time: to move out from under my parents’ roof, forge my own path and leave a job whose flexibilities were bending me over backward more often than I liked. The problem with trying to find a new job to move to, however, is that most places are understandably hesitant to extend a chance to someone “foreign” when they have capable people living right next to them. Almost 3 months ago, however, I finally received a chance from a company here in the Grand Rapids area. Admittedly, the only reason they bothered with me was likely because my cousin also works for the company, but that’s another life lesson: connections are everything.

Grand Rapids is a mixed, religious and overall quaint city, possessing the charm of its hometown president, Gerald Ford.

FACT: Gerald Ford may be the only U.S. President who has ever fallen out of Air Force One and survived.

It has its good sections and bad sections, of course, but luckily I’m in a good apartment complex with a fitness center and access to walking trails. Above all, I have a home in this complex that is mine. Sure, I’m responsible for cleaning it and ensuring it doesn’t catch on fire, but the newfound freedoms far outweigh these responsibilities.

Michigan has also decided that major intersections are not for left-hand turns. You need to drive past it to a designated U-turn area, go back and then turn right. It’s weird, but I can’t say it doesn’t work. I’m sure traffic looks more like a ballet from above Michigan than nearly anywhere else.

Anyway, the plan has been simple: use my new job as the stepping stone and foundation to build a new life, find new friends, love, success, etc. All those things that, when you’re old and looking back with the question of whether you lived life well, pat you reassuring on the back and say, “Yeah. Not bad, pal. Now hurry up: it’s bingo and mashed prunes night!”

Unfortunately, I didn’t expect that my stepping stone would be the first thing to grow unstable. I was hired on as a temp with several others in an apparent work force boom. We were to work for 3 months, then they would decide whether they would hire us on fully. It was generally implied that we were shoe-ins, and we did perform admirably–they even said as such when they told us yesterday they’re going to keep us on as temps. It seems somewhere within the 3 months between our hiring and the present, the company as a whole decided it should experiment with localizing our departments, meaning spreading people away from Grand Rapids. We were offered the chance for position openings in San Francisco and New York City, but even if I wanted to go to these places, the 1-year contract on my apartment tells me no.

So I’m still working, which I am definitely thankful for, but the added security of benefits, insurance, retirement plans, paid time off and bonuses that I was so earnestly working for I will now not be receiving. It’s be in a precarious position (a near panic, actually) that I may have placed all my eggs in one basket–and then set this basket on the Titanic.

I will continue working, and do my best, but all wisdom says to be looking for another job in the meantime; for while there’s a chance things will work out and they will fully hire me in the future, they also have the right to cut my strings at any time and send me out without so much as a farewell wave. Please note that I don’t really blame the company or anyone I work with for this. I’ve actually gotten along with my co-workers well, but falling complacent with your position as a temp can be very costly. Hey, that sounds like a pretty good metaphor for life itself, actually. I’ll see if I can register that.

Within all the uncertainty, however, there’s this seed of a thrill. For once I’ve placed myself in a position where I have to make things work no matter what. If I’m cut from my current job, I do at least have a temp agency to fall back on, and I’m still living somewhere with so much more opportunity than where I previously lived. Even if it’s not the biggest, it’s a city, and I may finally find The Right Things here.

And even if that all fails, through the tiniest graces I have never had a better opportunity to play this clip:

If you have any advice, I would certainly love to hear it. And you know what? Updating this blog after so long has felt good. Doing it here in B&N on a Saturday with a Green Tea Latte also feels good. I think I’ll start doing this weekly. Just, you know, probably with fewer humongous life updates.

Friends don’t let friends text other friends while driving with friends

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I don’t watch early afternoon TV often, so the following PSA may have already been around for a while:

This was the winning entry in a contest hosted by Bridgestone where teens could submit their own driving-related PSAs. I appreciate the values behind it and the overlying message certainly rings true, but the message at the end seemed a bit odd:

“use a designated texter”

I understand the desire to relate texting while driving to drinking while driving, but is texting really such a necessity that we should establish someone as our extra set of fingers?

“Mavis, please dictext the following to Bruce: ‘dawg want 2 meet up 2nite 4 buds n wwe?’ Please read that back to me. Mhm… still feels a little too… formal. Please add a semicolon and closing parenthesis at the end. Thank you.”

I know I might be aging myself to the early 2000s here, but what’s wrong with just calling someone on a hands-free set if you can’t wait until you stop driving to send a message? Not only is it safer, but you can still talk while keeping both hands on your Big Mac (elbows at 10 and 2).

So a good message overall, but perhaps a little superfluous at the end. It also drowns out the real secondary message in the video: If you’re walking across the street and see a car slowly creeping up on you, don’t just stand and hold out your hand like Superman–run out of the stinkin’ way.

The Gallop Poll

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Every year, editors who are part of the Associated Press network of newsrooms decide upon the stories and people of the year. Among these picks is the “Female Athlete of the Year,” of which U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn was recently chosen.

In case you forgot why she was a candidate.

However, not only does Vonn have the distinction of being the AP’s top female athlete, she can also boast that she’s the only woman to have beaten out a horse.

Yeah, a horse. You don’t see the word “human” in the award name, do you? Finishing second in the poll of AP editors was Zenyatta, a racehorse who received 32 first-place votes to Vonn’s 77. College basketball player Maya Moore and tennis star Serena Williams finished third and fourth, respectively.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Zenyatta. She only lost one race in her career, which is definitely remarkable. It takes a great amount of willpower and dedication, balancing one’s other horsely duties in their busy world while finding the time to train, and saying less would be nothing less than an insult to her. If she could understand you. BECAUSE SHE’S A HORSE.

Horses are born to run and racehorses are bred to run faster. It’s not really something they have a choice in doing, as evidenced in the fact that Vonn doesn’t need a short man in a funny jersey sitting on her shoulders to make her go down a hill. Is Zenyatta a fine, conditioned specimen? Absolutely. Is she an athlete? I argue no. She seems more of a piece of equipment to me, tuned and operated. Could we nominate Jimmie Johnson’s stock car for “Male Athlete of the Year” if we hung one of those hideous rubber “nutsacks” off its back end?

Finally, a symbol of jackassery for those who can't afford a BMW.

There is a swell of support for the horse, with a significant number of web commenters stating strong points such as her excellent behavior and “personality.” No drugs, no tirades, no scandals, right? That should be befitting of an awarded athlete–especially a woman! But who have recent male awardees been? Tiger Woods. Lance Armstrong. Michael Phelps. Not the best records, but no one seems to complain–and as far as I’ve found, an animal has never cracked the male top five.

Should Zenyatta (who, by the way, finished second in 2009 as well) be considered a sound and creative choice, or is it an insult to female athletes to have her on the list at all? And can you believe I got through all of this without making a Sarah Jessica Parker joke?

Blurting News 4

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WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI says DC subway-bomb sting defendant tried to buy firearms in 2008, 2009 for fighting jihad.

“For what purpose do you wish to use these guns, sir?”

“Fighting jiha–ah, I mean hunting!

Infidels…”

‘What has this yutz been up to?’

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Hey there! It’s been a while.

I was actually a bit surprised to come back and see my last post was Aug. 9. It had felt even longer than that, but a recent e-mail showed me it was time to get back into gear and push some text:

Just a short note to say that I have appreciated your writing (you are bookmarked in my favourites), but I am getting a bit tired of seeing a bear’s behind every time I check your page.  I do realise that you also write elsewhere (and have checked out your gaming articles as my family is big on gaming), but was wondering if you could maybe do a short ‘I’m really busy living my life’ kind of blog to just get the bear off the top.

How could I deny such a simple request? And in case you haven’t noticed, the “bear bottom” commercials are all but non-existent anymore and I don’t want to be the last one foisting that image upon innocent people.

So, why have I not written here for a few months? It’s really not an airtight excuse, but the truth is I’ve been concentrating more on my video games writing, and for an astounding reason.

In August, I decided I should try testing the waters more for a potential career in games journalism. I began to submit work not only to the awesome LeftStickRight, but also a unique open community called Bitmob. I was thrilled to see some of my pieces get feature on Bitmob’s front page, and toward the end of August I saddled up to meet the LeftStickRight boss and other writer to cover FanExpo Canada.

On the way up, at a rest stop, I grabbed a burger and checked my e-mail. There I found a new message from Susan Arendt, senior editor at an online magazine called The Escapist. She had seen my Bitmob submissions, enjoyed them, and thought I should write some stuff for their publication. At that point my brain was carpet bombed my various reasons for elation:

1. Prominent members of the gaming/technology community were actually reading my stuff.

2. They want me to try writing more stuff for more people to read.

3. Apparently, they’d even consider paying me to do it.

Freelance writing has always been one of those ideas wisping through the back of my mind, but I never considered myself a viable candidate. I just never thought I was the sort of “type” editors would be looking for. But now I had someone literally suggesting I try it for them and the feeling that I could somehow make it into this industry became too tangible not to attempt.

So after an incredibly fun time at FanExpo where I took a number of photos  depicting the deaths of Ian Yuan at the hands of cosplayers, I came home and tried my hand. I learned there were no instant assignments; you had to submit short pitches based around various topics and if one caught their eye, they’d order a full-blown article. Luckily, one of the three initial pitches I’ve made was chosen–on silly weaponry in video games–and I went straight to work.

After submitting my draft, I quickly learned The Escapist edits more thoroughly than my newspaper ever has. I received it back with multiple requests and suggestions. What worried me most was Arendt telling me I was trying to be “too cute” at several points. I went back to work, mustering up the confidence that I could produce something better, and she was much happier the second time around. That’s when I realized that she had been right: I was trying to be too cute. In my earnestness in such a new situation, I was trying to fall back on my oldest style of writing, trying to be Dave Barry instead of letting the voice I’ve developed over time be at the forefront. And then I realized that I actually had my writing edited by a prominent member of the gaming/technology community and I gave a little squee. Writers can be weird like that.

The whole process for the piece took around a couple weeks, but it’s been a blast. It will appear in The Escapist this Tuesday, and I’ve been counting the days with much anticipation. Ideally, I’ll gain more exposure and maybe even the attention of people who’d like to give me a full-time gig. At the worst, I’ll be shipped out of the publication’s forums on a rail, but I’ll still make more writing that one piece than I would for a full week of work at the newspaper.

Whatever happens, I really, really hope I get the chance to do it again. But that’s my main reason for not writing: my head has mostly been occupied by this opportunity. I’m hoping that after this all comes to its climax, I’ll be a little more balanced because I don’t want to give this blog up entirely.

Think I managed to bury that bear? If not, then hopefully this picture of a red panda licking a grape can provide some much-needed balance:



Do bears hock TP in the woods?

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Cha-cha-cha! Charmin!

Just when you thought highly-paid people no longer cared about the little man, there is a group of ad executives stalwartly defending truth by counting the number of toilet paper pieces on cartoon bear’s asses. 

According to the Associated Press, the nation’s self-regulatory advertising council is laying down the 2-ply hammer on Charmin toilet paper’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, for misleading imagery following a complaint by corporate rival and bathroom aisle squealer Kimberly-Clark.

While the commercials with the dancing bears are disturbing in their own right, the council has found it particularly unsettling that, while Charmin’s claims are apparently true that their product leaves fewer pieces on the bottoms of humans and cartoon bears, the commercials show not fewer pieces remaining, but NONE. Dun Dun DUNNNN!

Procter & Gamble has agreed to alter its commercials accordingly. This marks the largest incident of its kind since the great Gummi Bears/Nair advertising fiasco of 1988.

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