Commissioned Art #4

Perhaps my favorite. Sent the wonderfully talented Shivana Sookdeo a character sketch for a young adult novel I've been intermittently not working on.

This was the result:


DC has gone ever-so-quietly mad.

At the corner of 17th and Willard an elegant young black woman in designer clothes and shocking red lipstick sat sucking her thumb, index finger along the side of her nose, the others curled into a fist. Two blocks down an old white lady in a long tan coat walked into the street without looking, arms outstretched like a traffic cop Moses, and nodded at me sternly. As I waited for my bus, a woman and a man chatted amicably as blood dripped steadily from her right ear.

This is not the beginning of a story.

This is DC on a Tuesday in November.


Who Was Donald Barr Chidsey?

"Swashbuckling Adventure and Fiery Romance"
 Six or seven years ago I stopped at a library book sale in Bay City, Michigan and found Captain Adam by Donald Barr Chidsey. The pulpy cover stood out amongst the decades-old zoning ordinance books and worn Good Housekeeping magazines. Bemused and intrigued, I flipped to the blurb (scan of it here):
Adam Long was an indentured servant, but before he was twenty-five he had won his way to the top of the heap over mutineers, pirates, the merchants of Newport and the noblemen of London. He was the son of the Earl
of Tillinghast, and so of noble blood-according to rumor. When he was twenty-two he won his "freedom suit” and was elected captain of the trim, wonderfully fast schooner Goodwill to Men which he had helped to build in the shipyards of Queen Anne’s bustling Rhode Island colony.

Captain Adam could have married Deborah Selden, but he had other things to do. He had to prove himself, he had to make his fortune, and he had to solve the mystery of his birth.

In those days the seas were catch-as-catch-can and rip-roaring with many other hazards besides the wind and the weather. Adam’s little vessel had to run the gauntlet of smugglers, coasters, pirates and men-o’-war in the dangerous waters of "Scaredy-Cat Sea,” off Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.

Real trouble started when Adam acquired a passenger--Lady Maisie Treadway of London, red-haired, beautiful, young and very feminine. Then things happened in turbulent succession. Adam’s quest led him through amazing adventures, eventually to London and to the greatest surprise of his life.

Pretty much exactly what I expected: stormy seas, sexy sirens, swashbuckling and swords. When I turned it over I found a much more interesting story (scan here):
There is a handsome, middle-aged gentleman who lives quietly with his wife in Lyme, Connecticut. He is a Justice of the Peace, and is active in the local P.T.A., Boy Scout movement, concert association, and Church.

It was not always thus.

Donald Barr Chidsey has covered a good part of the earth in tramp steamers or tramp schooners, pearl shell boats or copra boats, or private yachts. He owned a plantation in the Punaauia district of [Tahiti,] visited or lived in most of the South Sea Islands: the Society Islands, American and Western Samoa, the Australs, the Cooks, the Fiji Islands, the Gambiers, the Tuamotus, New Guinea, Papua, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and many others; Central and South America, China, Indo-China, Japan, Malaya, the Near East.

Mr. Chidsey has been a newspaperman, Broadway actor, farmer, road gang foreman, mountaineer, bartender, boxer, and fencer with foil, epee, saber, schlaeger and broadsword. He was an ambulance driver with the British 8th Army in North Africa, has served also with the 9th Army in Syria, the New Zealanders, the United States army, the Free French in Tunisia, and the 51st Highland Division. Throughout his own adventures, he has always been a writer. Many previous works include the bestselling novels Panama Passage and Stronghold.

These days, Mr. Chidsey hardly ever dreams of returning to the South Seas. He likes it in Connecticut. However, he has a new hobby, stunt flying...

Here was the book I wanted to read, not the Adventures of Adam, but the Chidsey Capers. A man who had served in the armed forces of four countries, a swordsman and boxer, a character bigger than fiction. The archetype of manliness.

I wanted to know more, so, like anyone else with an internet connection, I went to Wikipedia.


This has happened to me before, and I couldn't even really blame Wikipedia (wikigroaning aside); the list of requested author articles is interminable, even without Chidsey. And I don't even know how to add an entry; besides not wanting do maneuver through all the rules and politics of that site, the only information I have about the guy are his own dust jacket and an obituary published just after The New York Times "pay to access" archive cutoff:

March 26, 1981

Donald Barr Chidsey, Biographer And Historian of the Revolution

Donald Barr Chidsey, a biographer and author of many books dealing with the American Revolution, died March 17 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn. He was 78 years old and lived in Lyme, Conn.

Mr. Chidsey started his writing career when he was about 17 years old on The Elizabeth (N.J.) Daily Journal, his hometown paper. He eventually wrote 50 books including novels.

Among his books on the Revolution was ''Valley Forge,'' ''Victory at Yorktown,'' and ''The Loyalists: The Story of Those Americans Who Fought Against Independence.'' His biographies included ''Marlborough, The Portrait of a Conqueror,'' ''Bonnie Prince Charlie'' and ''John the Great,'' the life of John L. Sullivan, the American boxer.

He is survived by a brother, G. Alan Chidsey of Port Washington, L.I.

Googling and Binging(?) return few results, often tied to one of his nonfiction books as a recommended read for historical background on this or that topic (e.g. Islam after 9/11). I cannot find his name tied to Broadway in any aspect, although I doubt many records have been digitized for supporting actors for Broadway plays pre-WWII. For such a prolific historian and biographer, he seems to have not deigned to pen his own story.

My only other option is to go sail the South Seas myself, maybe interrogate an aged Maori warrior or look for a Chidsian profile amongst the impassive stone heads of Easter Island.

Adventure awaits.


Time Lapse of Most of the Drive Home

Rubber-banded my iPhone to the car visor, set up TimeLapse for 10 second increments, drove. The pictures start in the Lapeer, Michigan (Meijer parking lot) and don't quite make it to Waldorf (it quit sometime after Breezewood, not sure why, probably user error).

The song is Go Home Productions -- Don't Hold Back, Sweet Jane (Chemical Brothers vs. Velvet Underground vs. U2 vs. Sugababes vs. MARRS). It, and a bunch of other mashups are available free and legal at http://www.bootiemashup.com/bestof/.

I choose it because it is free, good, and happened to be the exact length of the video.


Let's get dangerous

In the vein of a previous post, the internet ruins something else for me forever.


Words I love that I never have the occasion to use

Many definitions unapologetically stolen from Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and elsewhere.

anthropophagy: Eating human flesh. Cannibals practice anthropophagy, but so do man-eating lions and mosquitos. Not species specific.

cruciverbalist: Crossword puzzle designer.

HeLa: A human (cancer) cell from an immortal cell line used in scientific research. Named after originator, patient Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951. Not just human immortality; has the nasty habit of corrupting other cultures in the lab, like a microbial zombie.

Grausamkeitsspäße: "funny cruelties", German, obviously.

Mary Sue: A character in a written work that serves as a ridiculously obvious proxy for the authors ego, magnifying all of the authors strengths and ignoring any of their flaws.

shibboleth: A motto or manner of speech typical to a certain group of people.

Archigram: Avant-garde architectural group formed in the 1960s -- futurist, anti-heroic and pro-consumerist, drawing inspiration from technology in order to create a new reality that was solely expressed through hypothetical projects.

paraprosdokian: A figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Raison d'être: A phrase borrowed from French where it means "reason for being"; in English use, it also comes to suggest an intense emotional attraction to a course of action, such as "Not money, but love of sport, is his raison d'être to be an athlete."

Chindōgu: The Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, chindōgu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. Thus, chindōgu are sometimes described as "unuseless" – that is, they cannot be regarded as 'useless' in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called "useful."

Bildungsroman: A novel of all-around self-development. Used generally, it encompasses a few similar genres: the Entwicklungsroman, a story of general growth rather than self-culture; the Erziehungsroman, which focuses on training and formal education; and the Kunstlerroman, about the development of an artist.

melisma: In song, giving one syllable many notes. "And Iiii-eee-iiii-eee-iiiii will always love you..."

cephalophore: A saint depicted in art carrying his own head.

bromide: A figure of speech referring to a phrase or person who uses such phrases that has been used and repeated so many times as to become either insincere in its meaning, or seem like an attempt at trying to explain the obvious. It can also mean the unnecessary insertion of an (often irrelevant) cliché into a conversation, designed to make the speaker sound more authoritative.

mondegreen: The mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony, in a way that yields a new meaning to the phrase.

Soramimi kashi: Lyrics of a song that sound like the original in one language, but produce a different meaning when interpreted in another language.

The Trachtenberg System: a system of rapid mental calculation, somewhat similar to Vedic mathematics. It was developed by the Ukrainian engineer Jakow Trachtenberg in order to keep his mind occupied while being held in a Nazi concentration camp.

Rumspringa: Amish kids around the age of 16 are sent out into the "modern" world with a crap load of money and given free reign to indulge in everything they were previously forbidden. At the end they can decide to rejoin their sect as adults, or stay out in the rest of the world, although they will be effectively excommunicated. Not all Amish people practice this.

flehmen response: A particular type of curling of the upper lip in ungulates, felids, and many other mammals, which facilitates the transfer of pheromones and other scents into the vomeronasal organ, also called the Jacobson's Organ.

not to be confused with

Duchenne smile: A laughing smile with teeth showing, mouth open, and crinkling around the eyes. A "real" smile that is difficult to fake, since most people cannot voluntarily contract the outer portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle.

sabrage: A technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions.

clerihew: A whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. Example:
Sir Christopher Wren
Went to dine with some men
He said, "If anyone calls,
Say I'm designing Saint Paul's."

Charles Bonnet syndrome: Disease causing otherwise sane people to have strong visual hallucinations, but without the delusions of believing what they are seeing is real. Often goes unreported because the subject is afraid they will be labeled insane.

ostranenie: The artistic technique of forcing the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.

ziggurat: A terraced pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.

moribund: Not growing or changing; without force or vitality.

Stendhal syndrome: A psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place.

And I cannot for the life of me keep the following two straight:

détournement: When an artist reuses elements of well-known media to create a new work with a different message, often one opposed to the original.

denouement: A final scene or character that explains mysteries and straightens out misunderstandings between characters and the author and reader.

antagonym: A single word that has meanings that contradict each other. Example: cleave: To adhere tightly vs. To cut apart.

propinquity: One of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people. Two people living on the same floor of a building, for example, have a higher propinquity than those living on different floors. Propinquity can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a similarity in nature between things.

protologism: A newly coined word or phrase defined in the hope that it will become accepted into the language; a recently created term possibly in narrow use.

hagiography: Biography of saints or venerated persons. Or: idealizing or idolizing biography.

Fitts' law: A model of human movement, predicting the time required to rapidly move from a starting position to a final target area, as a function of the distance to the target and the size of the target. Used in the ergonomics of computer input systems (mice, tablets, gestures, etc.).

oubliette: A form of dungeon which was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling.

Baader-Meinhof phenomenon: When a person, after having learned some (usually obscure) fact, word, phrase, or other item for the first time, encounters that item again, perhaps several times, shortly after having learned it.


Changing hosts

Changed from GoDaddy to Midphase, so there may be some broken bits while I get used to the nuances of the new service, but at least the main site is mostly up. Gonna be working on this a while, since some of my subdomains and other sites were cobbled together over time and I don't want to import broken or unnecessary bits.


Coming to a Theater Near You

A month ago Pete came to visit and, as twenty-something almost thirty-anything men are wont to do after a few beers, we started talking about dreams and regrets, about aspirations not yet realized, aspirations never to be realized and aspirations contentedly abandoned. Mortality came up in that somber period between the third and fourth drink when the tunnel vision is most easily mistaken for a more disheartening darkness closing in.

I told him what depressed me most were movie trailers for films I might never see, and he laughed, as you might, but let me explain to you the way I tried to explain to him.

Future anniversaries, future children or grandchildren, are all an undeniably more exquisite part of life, milestones no one could bear to miss. But regardless of how beautiful or tender, they still only exist as potentialities, sweet but tenuous daydreams of unrealized possibilities. You don't see a glimpse of your personal tomorrows beyond dates on a calendar or promises to a friend.

No matter how shallow or contrived next summer's blockbuster will be, sitting in a theater and watching clips from something that will be experienced by thousands, but not by you, is infinitely more depressing. A movie trailer is a window into a future that is already realized, a film that will be finished and released, barring apocalypse or earth-shattering financial collapse; and even then it will exist and might be witnessed with all of its clichés and stilted dialogue. Here is a concrete snippet of human experience you will never share.

It is made worse for me because trailers generally are released three to six months before the movie. For a man who, with very rare exception, has never planned farther than two Fridays from now, that may as well be centuries away. They remind me that these hours that seem like years waiting in office meetings are the barest flicker within the catalogue of humanity's history.

It seems that recently there has been more of these previews creeping across more media: teasers for TV shows and video games, sample pages for novels or comics, pre-release "leaked" singles for an album due out in the fall, tech conferences displaying the latest consumable gadget all the cool people will have next spring. More and more windows reveal a future I am less certain that I will be able to open the door onto, to step out into and experience.

I told Pete half-jokingly that when I got old enough I would become a hermit, having slowly and carefully whittled down my consumption of media to only things I already knew existed, showing up late to the cinema to close my eyes against tomorrows while still taking in all of today. Eventually I'd move out into my shack with a bundle of things I'd always meant to get around to, but had set aside because that new thing I'd been looking forward to was out. I would be found mummified and unfashionably dressed, with the forensics team unable to estimate a time of death because of a vast, anachronistic array of miscellanea and pop-culture artifacts; My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse on my lap, It Takes a Nation of Millions by Public Enemy in and old Discman at my side, the DVD menu for The Human Centipede burned into a television screen before me...


Paldo Jja Jang Men

Product Name: Paldo Jja Jang Men
Prep-Time: 5 minutes
Requires: Hot water or microwave, something to strain noodles with

Review : Requires you to strain the noodles before adding the flavor paste, "leaving 2-3 tablespoons of water". The black soy paste is fairly tasty if uninteresting. Black chunks of unidentifiable vegetables in the paste made me immediately think "BP Special Noodle". Filling though.


23andMe: Turn your spit into pretty infographics

Back in April, Autumn and I paid $198 (regular $1,000!) to spit in a couple of tubes and mail them to scientists. I was initially leery of dropping that kind of money on a prequel to Gattaca as filtered through a web 2.0 lens, but 23andMe seemed to check out at a basic level. Benign overlord Google is a major investor, and co-founders of each company have married each other. I figured either it had a good shot of being reliable or I was helping them discover and suppress whatever gene it is that makes one care about online privacy.
Suspicions not alleviated by the fact the box
is approximately the same size as a PC game.
A few days later we got a couple of fairly nice looking kits in the mail, although I did think they looked like an elaborate viral marketing campaign or perhaps some new ARG.

The welcome letter was concise and non-threateningly colored. It informed us we had 12 months to send in our spit, which seemed rather patient of them, even considering the huge amounts of money the regular customer gives them.

Autumn and I each got our own kits, and both the boxes and the instructions repeatedly admonished us to register them before even opening the spit tubes. We went through the registration process and skimmed over the epic poem of a legal agreement (favorite part: "Don't get mad at us if you find out you were adopted, or that you're the milkman's son" (paraphrased)).

It was then time to slobber for science. Autumn and I laughed at the hyper-detailed (and multilingual) instructions for drooling into a cylinder*, before we got down to getting gross.

We mailed the kits, waited for processing, and eventually got our results. The data is interesting and useful, but I have to stress that the information is just two steps up from "for entertainment purposes only." While the science is sound, I-and most other consumers-are not doctors or geneticists, and while having a .7% higher risk for X disease does give you something to look out for, it's still just risk assessment. They have no idea what other environmental risk factors may be effecting you, nor do they have access to your medical history. Some of the reports about health issues with more potential for mind-numbing terror don't divulge the information until you agree that, no, a website is not a good replacement for a doctor.
I mocked Autumn for being a big wimpy baby.
She responded by hitting me until I cried.

That aside, what information they do give (each rated with a level of confidence) is exciting. A lot of it is just a confirmation of what would be obvious from a photograph, but is extraordinary when deducted from some saliva (eye color, freckles, etc.). Other facts are equally scientifically exciting, if ultimately useless (earwax type, ability to taste that bitter propylthiouracil chemical).

It was nice knowing that I will survive the zombie plague, even if Autumn will quickly succumb (That's what the norovirus is, right?), and being able to lord over members of your household with a layman's grasp of eugenics is nice.

Less icky for most and more exciting for amateur genealogists is the relative finder feature. Within a few hours of getting my results, a nice gentleman from County Kildare in Ireland sent me a message. We might just be third/fourth cousins, and share 0.43% and two segments of our DNA, which I assume is a lot for two people who just discovered the other existed. I may have a person to share a pint with if we ever take our trip to Ireland.

Guys have a leg up with this feature, since women don't get that fantastic Y chromosome to map their paternal line. I have twice as much information telling me I'm a white colonialist. And while the risk level was nil, it was nice confirming that Autumn and I are not in any way related.

If you have a scientific curiosity, and the spare cash, I definitely suggest taking advantage of the next sale, whenever it rolls around. It's worth it just for the "hey, keep an eye out for colon cancer" risk assessment, and the chance at finding out Warren Buffett is your first cousin is potentially worth millions.

My maternal line public page.

My paternal line public page.

*My arrogance backfired; a couple weeks later I got a sad email telling me:
Our laboratory has received your saliva sample, but unfortunately they were not able to analyze it as there was not enough DNA in the saliva sample. There's no need to worry; this problem is uncommon but it does happen occasionally. All you need to do is spit again, using a new kit that we are shipping to you at no charge. Please read the sample collection instructions included with the kit carefully to achieve a better sample.
I had to wait another month to get my results.


Paldo Bibim Men

Product Name: Paldo Bibim Men
Prep-Time: 4 minutes
Requires: Hot water or microwave, something to strain noodles with

Review : Great balance of sweet and spicy. It's a good change of pace to have a cold Ramen (boil noodles, rinse in cold water, drain, add soup paste). Nice portion size.


Commissioned Art #2 and Errata

Velvet? Check. Droste Effect? Check. Smarmy? Check. Creepy? Check. By Jeremy Kraemer.
This is a low quality cellphone photo, which will have to do until Autumn lets me frame and hang it (a year and counting). It has everything I want in a portrait, and nothing Autumn wants.

Since it took me so long to post this, I'm including some other commissions from over the years, although I didn't pay for all of them.
High School Graduation All-Night Party,
circa 2000 by guy they hired.

We used to make a game of coming up with ridiculous
methods of killing yourself. Circa 2001, by Pete Deyo

I told Autumn how disturbing I found the phrase
in the caption to be. Circa 2005 by Autumn Britt.

I asked for a "Realistic TMNT" fight and specced it
out. This is pretty close. Circa 2009, by Zack Finfrock


Project: Personal "On Air" Signs

I've long believed that creative processes shouldn't be interrupted, but that it's hard to enforce this idea effectively and politely. This is my solution.
Not pictured: dowel and black acrylic paint
The cost break down was this:

Balsa wood pencil box, Christmas candle light, dowel: $1 each
Plexiglas: about 30¢ a section
Dowel: 80¢ for one to make about 12 boxes
Black acrylic paint: ~$2 for a huge bottle
Custom made vinyl stickers: $4 each with shipping

The process was fairly simple: throw away lid of pencil box, make hole for wire, paint it. Destroy Christmas candle light to get just the cord and the bulb. Put sticker on Plexiglas. Cut dowel to size, paint it, glue to Plexiglas. I also bought some of those circular light switches you can just put on the cord, common on lamps, but haven't installed them yet.

Lighter for size and fire hazard comparison
I learned a few things in the process.

I had ordered two-color vinyl stickers that were reversed so that they could be on the back of the glass and wouldn't get marred or peeled off by the dowel glued to the front. However, the process of having two colors requires them to overlap on the back, which created some unavoidable air bubbles around the outline of every character. If I decide to make more after these supplies are used up, I'll just get the black cutouts and put the money saved towards custom cut red-tinted Plexiglas.

I'll also probably splurge on actual $5 lamp kits so that the bulbs do a better job of illuminating the signs and the whole assembly doesn't have that cheap, dollar-store look. Longer cords would be nice too.

But, for prototypes, they look okay. Cost of each one right now is about $8 plus labor, so I don't think I'd be able to make them with the above better materials and still sell them at a reasonable price to make a profit, but I may do it anyway. Have you seen some of the prices on Etsy?

I'm giving the "PAINTING" one to Autumn and keeping the "RECORDING" one for myself (in case I ever get voice-over work again), but the three on the left are free to good homes. I'll install the little switch things if you'd like as well ("'BATIN'" already has one).

I have two more stickers of each type and can probably scrounge some more lights, so if anyone else wants one of them, tell me (doubtful). If anyone has ideas for other variations ("Gaming", "Brewing", "Working Out", "Just Go Away" ???), if and when I get more stuff I might add those to the list.

NOTE TO SELF: If you do make them to sell, call them "Porlock Repellents/Preventers".


Why I Support Gay Marriage

1. No law or government regulation should limit rights based on gender

This is the crux of my position: one side wants two people, regardless of gender, to be able to share rights and responsibilities under a legal contract, and the other wants to make sure that rights are only afforded when specific gender conditions are met.

2. There is no good argument not to

a. Tradition

Our government is founded on the principal that our principals can be amended to fit ever-developing morals and social structures. Anyone who claims that a moral code should stagnate instead of evolve with the people it serves is, at heart, a bigot. Woman's suffrage, civil rights, etc. all were, at one time, against tradition. Adjusting law to better serve and protect its citizens has not morally bankrupted this country.

b. Harms the "institution" of marriage

Until divorce is illegal, until marriage licenses require at least as much education and testing as drivers licenses, then the "institution" of marriage has worse threats to address. And divorce will always need to be legal, to protect the rights of the individuals within the marriage.

c. Government will force churches to gay marry

Equal rights for women has yet to force the catholic church to allow female priests. The relatively recent hubbub for altar girls was a decision made within the church from pressures of its parishioners, not any government. Similarly have various denominations chosen to allow female pastors following internal pressures and schisms.

Separation of church and state, remember? Historically, and presently, the government has been more detrimentally affected by religion than the other way around.

d. Gay parents aren't as good for children as straight parents

Many problems faced by the children of gay parents are likely due them living in and struggling against an intolerant society. I imagine children of mixed-race couples had a harder time than their peers as well.

Another thing is that sexual preference has nothing to do with ones ability as a parent; straight parents can have children they don't want by accident. Never happens with gay parents.

e. Why not civil union?

Separate but equal is never just. Either the government stops issuing marriage licenses at all (marriage being the responsibility of the various churches) and only issues civil unions to everyone, or they issue marriage licenses to everyone.

f. Slippery slope towards polygamy

And if we don't allow gay marriage, it's a slippery slope towards letting no one marry! Slippery slope arguments are useless cliche trash, this generation's domino theory (and look at all the countries that fell to communism!).

3.  I want to be able to look at the progress made during my generation with pride, not shame

Anyone who refuses to see parallels with the civil rights movement is being willfully blind. No, it is not the same, but it is most certainly analogous.

And if we don't allow gay people to marry, they will just get dangerous, back-alley marriages.


Post-Apocalyptic Go Bag

I've been thinking of some "It's the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Like Living, Dammit" survival gear. This list leans more towards the universal tools, eschewing any mention of shelter or attire, which would be highly dependent on the environment of a post-cataclysm earth. (Nuclear winter or baked earth from an unstable sun? Decrepit urban environment, or planet reclaimed by nature?) The attire you'll definitely need that I didn't include is footwear: police tactical or combat boots will fit the bill, but these are best pried off the mummified corpse found in a forgotten bunker, at least according to the movies.

Hunting/scavenging implements for food are dependent on personal skill sets and what kind of extinction event happened.

Suggested additions are welcome.

The first item is why I made this list.

Item: Halligan Bar
Price: ~$200
Where to get?: Firefighter suppliers
Alternative: Stanley FatMax Xtreme 55-120 FuBar III ($80)
Already own: No
Usefulness: Very
Able to survive harsh environments: Yes (solid, unibody steel/titanium)
Awesomeness: Off the charts

The Halligan Bar/Halligan Tool is the official forced entry tool of the NYC Fire Department. As long as it isn't a safe or welded shut, this Hulked-out crowbar will open it, enabling the post-apocalyptic scavenger access to all but the most secured food stores and shelters. As a weapon, The curved metal spike at the end of 12 lbs of steel is as terrifying as a table leg dipped in tar and broken glass, and much more reliable. Requires no ammo or formal training, just swing it at what you want gone. I imagine that after the nuclear ash settles a lot of basement ninjas will be found dead, having accidentally severed their own femoral artery or blinded themselves with shrapnel from a shattered discount katana.

And now, the rest:

Item: Inova X5 Flashlight
Price: ~$40
Where to get?: Everywhere
Already own: Yes
Usefulness: Very
Able to survive harsh environments: Yes (aircraft-grade aluminum, crush-proof up to 2,000 lbs., -20°F to 140°F, waterproof, batteries have a 10-year shelf life, 20 continuous hours of use)
Awesomeness: Pretty awesome

Item: Leatherman Wave
Price: ~$50
Where to get?: Anywhere
Alternative: Gerber 2Black Diesel ($50)
Already own: Yes
Usefulness: Very
Able to survive harsh environments: Yes (May wear out with abuse)
Awesomeness: Meh

Item: Water Purification Tablets
Price: ~$5
Where to get?: Camp Stores/Military Surplus
Already own: No
Usefulness: Necessity when not able to boil the water
Able to survive harsh environments: Within the bottle, sure.
Awesomeness: Zero

Item: Tabasco
Price: ~$3
Where to get?: Anywhere
Alternative: Hot sauce of your choice
Already own: Yes
Usefulness: Unless you like the taste of mutant dump rat or feral cat, extremely
Able to survive harsh environments: Within the bottle, sure.
Awesomeness: Actually, pretty cool.

Item: Nalgene Bottle
Price: ~$15
Where to get?: Everywhere
Alternative: Any durable waterbottle/canteen
Already own: Yes (the BPA-flavored version)
Usefulness: Necessity
Able to survive harsh environments: Yes.
Awesomeness: Zero

Item: High-quality beach towel
Price: ~$20
Where to get?: Anywhere
Already own: Yes
Usefulness: Necessity
Able to survive harsh environments: Weak against tearing, but pretty durable
Awesomeness: All the way.

Price: ~$15
Where to get?: Camp Stores/Military Surplus
Already own: No
Usefulness: Necessity
Able to survive harsh environments: Yes, unlike matches/lighters. Lasts 12,000 strikes, or probably like 1,000 fires.
Awesomeness: Pretty awesome

Fiskars Pro Chopping Axe
Price: ~$30
Where to get?: Camp Stores/Building Supply Stores
Alternative: Hatchet of your choice
Already own: No
Usefulness: Useful for creating fires/shelter. Should get a sharpener too, especially if you forgo the Halligan bar and use this as a weapon.
Able to survive harsh environments: Fiberglass-reinforced toughness
Awesomeness: Pretty Awesome.

Awkward admission: Fear of a sudden apocalypse is partially why I got laser eye surgery. I saw that Twilight Zone and it scared the shit out of me.


Man Crushes.

1. Jason Statham
2. Jon Stewart
3. James Roday/Dulé Hill
4. Paul Rudd
5. Stephen Fry


Cuberat Canary

My wife is fond of the USB Robot Owl, an adorable, but completely useless way of filling one of your USB ports.

I suggest an equally adorable and much more useful avian cyborg peripheral: The Cuberat Canary.

Early warning system that toxic levels of BS are present.

In much the same way that a miner's canary served as a rudimentary carbon monoxide detector (Alive = Safe, Dead = Ohshitrun), the Cuberat Canary constantly monitors your email client for smilies, unnecessary forwards, pointless meeting requests and personal messages sent via Reply to All.

When productivity and morale are within a custom safe zone, the canary cutely blinks, twitches its wings, or sings your iTunes playlist via a speaker in its chest (free Rammstein tracks included). If annoyance levels reach critical mass, it promptly mutes itself and flips over "dead".  After the employee has taken a mental-health smoke/shit break, it can be easily reset with the push of a button, automatically deleting all potentially offensive emails in the process.

I just need to pitch my idea to Brando.



Let's Fail

Fixed up old website that was on a domain that expired. Should mostly work.
Circa 2007 it was actually popular for a very niche crowd; got ~1 million page views one month (South Korea loved it?). I let it die because as it got more popular I couldn't keep it accessible enough for anyone to contribute easily and keep out bots/spammers who wanted to fuck my shit up.

http://www.productsofanidlemind.com/letsfail/ DEAD

From the about page:
...members play classic games for the first time, with no previous knowledge of the controls, storyline, etc. Comedy and frustration would ensue and be captured in all its audio-visual glory, in a kind of gamer-nerd-rage MST3K.

This was the most work I ever put into customizing a wordpress theme's art. There are sprites from over a dozen games on the header and footer. And it still looks like ass. This is why I am not a Graphic Designer.


Softmod Your Wii

Here's why:

I apologize for my poor delivery--don't work well without a script.

Just make sure one of the first things you do, once you have BootMii installed, before you try CIOSs, is to back up your NAND. On the boot menu (boot it with the SD card in) hit the power button to go to the gears (options) and then hit reset to select it. Select the RAM chip --> SD card icon. Save it.

Oh, and don't have any GameCube controllers plugged in at any point until you are done messing with things.

Source tutorial that will get you to where I am: http://gwht.wikidot.com/

Additional coolness to get rid of some annoyances and prevent updates: http://wiibrew.org/wiki/StartPatch


Recommended Podcasts

You Look Nice Today
A combination of Gen-X nostalgia and purposefully nonsensical get-rich-quick schemes (such as a year-round Christmas tree store), YLNT is an intelligently unintelligible humor podcast.
Genre: Humor
Good: lonelysandwich, scottsimpson, and hotdogsladies have great timing and chemistry.
Bad: Irregular and infrequent update schedule, my wife has a crush on Merlin Mann (real name).
Rating: PG-13. Not a lot of swears, but they do talk about sexual awkwardness.
Updates: About every 1-2 months.
Length:20 min. - 1 hour. Normally ~45 min.
iTunes Link:

The New Yorker Fiction
A current New Yorker fiction contributor reads their favorite piece from the archives, following by a discussion of the work and how it has influenced them.
Genre: Literature
Good: Listen to T. Coraghessan Boyle read Tobias Wolff's short story "Bullet in the Brain" from February 11, 2008 and try not to get hooked.
Bad: Sometimes the arrogant intellectualism particular to TNY distracts me from what would otherwise be a great critique.
Rating: PG-13. Great literature often discusses base humanity.
Updates: Once a month.
Length: 10 min. - 40 min. Normally ~30 min.
iTunes Link:

This American Life
Podcast version of the NPR favorite. Each week there's a loose theme and about three "mostly true stories of everyday people".
Genre: Culture/Slice-of-Life
Good: The editing is great. I know it's a weird thing to notice, but they weave the parts together excellently. The stories are told first-person, and the result is intimate and interesting
Bad: The self-satisfied, tries-to-be-deeper-than-it-is presentation is extremely easy to parody. Episodes only available for free for one week.
Rating: PG. Whenever questionable material is discussed, the listener is forewarned.
Updates: Once a week.
Length: ~1 hour
iTunes Link:

Savage Love
Dan Savage is a sex/relationship advice columnist who has been featured in The Onion AV Club (the non-satirical lifestyle portion).
Genre: Self-Help/Advice
Good: Tries to un-taboo sex and promotes freedom of safe, consensual sexual and emotional expression with (almost) no judgments. Often funny.
Bad: I will never be able to call in, because my family and friends would immediately recognize my voice.
Rating: R. He deals with questions ranging from vanilla to BDSM, and doesn't try to P.C. his language.
Updates: Once a week.
Length: ~30 min.
iTunes Link:

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
Qualified (the host is an academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine), interesting and funny (in a very nerdy way), the SGU "panel of skeptics" helps break down and debunk pseudoscience from astrology to vaccine paranoia.
Genre: Science
Good: Learning to recognize logical fallacies and counter some of the nuttier arguments of Bigfoot/UFO/homeopathy lunatics. The "Science or Fiction" quiz portion is surprisingly hard.
Bad: The interviews (the bulk of the show) are often of little interest to me so I skip them. Sometimes they fall completely flat.
Rating: G. They don't even swear.
Updates: Once a week.
Length: ~ 1 and a half hours
iTunes Link:

Sick and Wrong
Two friends read three news stories, trying to find out which of them is the sickest and worst, all while drinking and insulting each other.
Genre: Humor/News of the Weird
Good: They are surprisingly funny. The stories are from major news sources, so they don't reach the level found in the darker recesses of the internet.
Bad: Can be extremely offensive. They discuss sexual perversion and skirt the line of bigotry by either being a minority (one is Jewish), being related to one (one has a gay brother) or dating one (one is dating a black lady). Not for everyone, but damn is it funny to me. Some of the calls they play are stupid/annoying.
Rating: NC-17. Their sole advertiser is an online sex-toy store.
Updates: Once a week.
~ 1 and a half hours
iTunes Link:

The Moth
The favorites from the regular open-mic nights of personal stories. Participants are chosen at random and must perform without notes while adhering to that show's theme.
Genre: Culture/Slice-of-Life
Good: Maybe it's the ghost of the journalist in me, but hearing these moving, funny and melancholy stories remind me of some of the better interviews I took part in.
Bad: Not all of them will appeal to everyone. Like most of the podcasts, listening to this will make you an insufferable hipster.
Rating: PG. Could be R, but this level of honesty should never be censored.
Updates: Once a week.
Length: ~15 min.
iTunes Link:

Common Sense
The only pundit I've come across who claims to be an independent and actually is. He criticizes and praises both sides of the aisle and has remarkably brilliant (if sometimes unrealistic) ideas.
Genre: Politics
Good: He has revealed to me, and helped me overcome, an unrecognized prejudice within myself, where I'd ignore or dismiss an idea that didn't have the right party label behind it, despite its actual value.
Bad: He has the typical radio pundit/preacher intonation, whispers that build to spittle flying diatribes and fast, persuasive speech. It can take getting used to, but it grows on you. He actually addressed this in show 167 - "The Big Clip Show"  (12/20/09).
Rating: PG. Younger generations may frankly not give a damn.
Updates: Once a week.
Length: ~ 1 hour
iTunes Link:

Hardcore History
First-hand accounts, well-cited sources and an undeniable passion for history allows Dan Carlin to convey the drama and intrigue of pivotal moments of the distant past.
Good: The same bluster that may turn some off of his politics podcast brings his history discussions to life. It's like listening to an obsessed, slightly crazed professor tell you all the tawdry details about history's heroes, and of the bittersweet humanity of its villains.
Bad: Episodes don't come out often enough, and, in an unassailable need to monetize his work, older episodes must be purchased.
Rating: PG-13. The past is dirty, violent and brutish.
Updates: Once every two months.
Length:40 min. - 1 and a half hours. Normally ~1 hour.
iTunes Link:

*Please note that the "Bad" shouldn't dissuade you from taking a listen. They are minor quibbles for a podcast I wholeheartedly recommend.