Liebster Award

Recently, I received a nomination for the Liebster Award. If you’re not familiar with the Liebster Award, it’s the blogging equivalent of chain email, though with fewer ads for Viagra1Though it does depend on the questions., less politically driven fear-baiting, and (generally) better spelling. That said, it’s been several years since I’ve done one of these. On top of that, one of the writers/bloggers that I respect the most in the world happened to be the one who nominated me, so I’m going to take the time to answer the questions.

First, let’s take a look at the rules of this game.

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Tell 10 random facts or things about yourself.
  6. Let them know you have nominated them.

I won’t be following rules 3, 4, and 6, mostly because I don’t have 11 blogs I still follow at this point. With that said, if you are a blogger and wish to partake in this exercise, feel free to do so and link back here. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 11 questions from Esoterica.

What is you philosophy on life? Do you adhere to religious texts, philosophical teachings or a personal code of ethics?

My philosophy is loosely based on a combination of three ideas.

This philosophy is a relatively recent development (in the last 3 years or so), so it’s something I’m still working on actively living out. That said, I feel like adopting these ideas have helped me to be a better person.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I recognize that it’s absurd and odd, but I really love the combination of childhood imaginative games and Formula 1 style commentary that’s found in the sand marble rally races on Jelle’s Marble Runs. Their Marblympics are good too2Go Limers!, but the marble racing is much more entertaining to me.

If you were to combine two of your top interests to create a brand new career, what would that job be?

Wait. I get to be a professional video game fiction writer? Isn’t that just fan fiction for profit?

If you were one of the planets in our solar system, which one would you be and why?

Neptune. I feel like it’s an often forgotten planet, particularly since the two planets3I recognize Pluto isn’t a planet, but just finish reading the sentence. surrounding it are so notable, what with Pluto’s demotion from planet status and Uranus being Uranus. That said, Neptune is one of the few outer planets that we can observe semblances of weather on, which is really amazing considering how far away it is. It’s also a terribly cold place, and while I clearly wouldn’t be able to survive temperatures of 55K4Around -218 C or -361 F. like are present on Neptune, I do enjoy the colder places on Earth. Due to all that, I think I’d be Neptune.

What is the most bizarre or unusual food you’ve ever tried? What did you think of it?

I feel like this is a tie between two things. The first was the squid ink pasta I had while I was in the Philippines a few years back. It was fine tasting, though I got sick nearly immediately after, so I don’t exactly put it high on my list of foods I’d like to eat. The other thing that fits this bill was the time I had hamburger with peanut butter on it. I feel like most people wouldn’t find this all that bizarre, but the protein overload was surprisingly good.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

This video by John Green on personhood genuinely changed the way I view humanity on so many levels. Just watch it. Humans, no matter who they are, are complex individuals.

What is your favorite blog post that you’ve written?

Soma, one of the short stories that eventually made its way into my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, was originally a blog post and is probably the best single sitting post I’ve ever written. My favorite non-short story post I’ve written is my thoughts on Pokemon Go and how nerd culture is — and isn’t5Oddly enough, I had an interaction the other day where I was looked down upon because I play Pokemon Go. — being accepted as part of mainstream culture. That said, I think my favorite post I’ve ever written is a short story I wrote early last year called Awaiting Assessment. It was a story that got submitted to multiple different contests and wasn’t accepted. That said, I really like how it turned out in spite of that.

When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why?

Jen Glantz comes to mind. I remember when we traded guest posts on our blogs 5-6 years ago. She’s gone on to have A TON of success.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

“University education deserves to be a basic human right. Everywhere.”

I understand that college is not for everyone. I get that not everyone has a great experience with college. I’m fully aware that the United States has a massive student loan debt crisis that is crippling the country’s economy and is particularly harming the millennial generation and younger. With all that said, if it were not for my university education, I would not be the person I am today on so many levels. I would not have the same level of financial or career success that I currently do. I would not be as caring and open-minded toward others as I am. I routinely hear people say something to the effect of “why even bother going to college when you can learn so much online?”. And yes, learning is critical. But a university education provides so much more than just book smarts. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And the best way to provide that opportunity to everyone is to treat it like a basic human right.

What is your all-time favorite book?

For the longest time, this was “1984” by George Orwell. That said, over the past couple of years, I’ve watched Orwellian realities become more and more common, making this book hit a little too close to home. It’s still one of my favorite books, and I can objectively say that “1984” is objectively one of the best books ever written. I think that “Feed” by M.T. Anderson has supplanted it on the top of my list.

What is something everyone else seems to love, but you can’t stand?

Ranch dressing. I grew up with countless people who poured ranch on their pizza like it was milk on cereal. But it’s disgusting. Sour cream and mayonnaise provide a similarly visceral reaction on my part, however other people’s love for those two items was never quite as in my face6My mom has a huge love for sour cream and was quite vocal about it in my childhood. But she’s the only person I know like that. as ranch dressing was from middle school through college.

I Would Like Your Support, Please

If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed garbage cryptic images like this one going up over the last couple of weeks.

So, fun fact. I’m absolutely terrible at marketing. And graphic design. And social media. And really any of the logical things that a blogger, writer, or author needs to succeed within the modern landscape. And even though I’ve been fortunate enough to make a little money1And I do mean a little. Even when taking into account the money the book has made that has gone to charity, I believe I’m under $100 gross profits still. off of my book, I’d like to be able to do more with my creative work than I’m currently doing.

It’s not like I’m doing nothing creatively either. I have this blog. I have my book. I have a second book I’m working on2Said second book still has a ways to go. I’m hoping to have the first draft done by Q4 of this year in an effort for beta readers to look at it in early 2019. We’ll see though.. I have a sports podcast3And am still trying to work out an idea I have for a second podcast (non-sports).. I even have an editing service that is, at least recently, getting a lot more traction than I would have expected.

That said, I do all of this aside from the editing service for free. Doing all of that work, creative or otherwise, for free, only leads to that work being looked at as a hobby and nothing more. That’s not what I want. I want to be successful in the creative work I do, whatever that may be. I love the creative work I’ve been able to put together over time. The act of putting that work together is far more enjoyable than any job I’ve ever had. That said, because it doesn’t make me much money, it’s hard for me to eschew my normal, adult responsibilities in favor of doing something I love.

I would like you, dear reader, to help me to start the process of changing that.

On July 2, 2018, I will be launching a personal Patreon to help fund my writing and other projects. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, Patreon allows individuals to give money to support artists and creators they love. Like me. I’m lovable. Like a kitten with tiny, sharp kitten claws. You can pledge money each month to support those creators and then, if the creator so chooses, you can get rewards from them. The video below from Patron explains how what they do works a little more.

I’ll have a more formal announcement about rewards and specifics around those tiers when the July 2nd launch happens. That said, here’s some of the rewards I’m planning on.

  • A quarterly Q&A where patrons can submit questions
  • Another special Q&A once I hit a certain number of patrons
  • Signed digital pictures of not me4I swear I’ll explain this more once the page launches.
  • A monthly Patreon-exclusive blog post
  • A monthly Patreon-exclusive podcast5This will likely be a short podcast.

While I’ll reveal the tiers and what not at the time of launch, know that all of the launch rewards will be for pledges of $10 a month or less. That’s right. For less than the cost of a Chipotle burrito, chips and salsa, and a non-water drink, you can help me to be able to put more time, energy, and creativity into the work I love to do. I’m not making the pledge amounts very high each month because I don’t think it’s fair to ask a lot of people. That said, I promise every little bit will help.

There’ll be a post going up on July 2nd where I’ll recap all the specifics of the rewards and be all like “Hey! You! Support me!”. That said, until then, if you’d be so kind as to spread the word and (hopefully) get people interested in supporting me, that would be lovely. Also, if you have ideas for future rewards, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

When You Can’t Write What You Want

I find it equal parts simple and difficult to come up with blog post ideas. On one hand, I’ve been blogging off and on for nearly 15 years now, with most of the past nine years featuring at least semi-regular blogging. I’ve had a ton of things I’ve written about in that time that I could easily rehash for content when I need it. But that’s not what I really want to do. I could likely turn this blog into a listicle filled site, and though I’ve parodied listcles from time to time, that’s also not route I’d prefer to go. What I try to do instead is to talk about new things with each post I write — or at the very least address different facets of a topic if I’ve talked about it before.

Another important thing to note about my blog is that I tend to write most posts, save for the Mid-Month Short Story Challenge responses, well in advance. If I have something I want to talk about that’s time sensitive, I’ll write about it and post it relatively quickly, but more often I’ve written a post weeks before it sees the light of day. When those timely posts get written, they push my scheduled posts back, which is how a post written in mid-October doesn’t end up going up on the blog until nearly Christmas time.

When I come up with post ideas, I tend to send them to myself via email so that I don’t forget about them. Some of those post ideas end up just getting deleted, but more often than not, I’ll eventually write about most things I send myself, if for no other reason than to clean out my inbox. I’d love to clean out my inbox right now1This goes both for my personal inbox and my work one..

The most frustrating thing for me as a blogger is when I have ideas to write about, but I can’t write about them yet for whatever reason. More often than not, this is because it’s something that’s on a timeline that’s out of my control2As is the case with all of the pending post ideas at this point., though occasionally it’s something that I have some level of control over. And that’s terribly frustrating. I don’t like having a lack of control over my writing, even though it’s something I have experience with just from having written a book.

At times like this, it’s hard to keep content somewhat regular on my blog. I tend to write more about non-personal things, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve written about Pokemon and pie in the past 30ish days3To be fair, the pie post is fantastic.. I feel like these are the driest times to be a reader of my blog, which certainly won’t help me reach my blog goals for the year. The best situation would be that things change to where I can write about the things I (badly) wish to write about. In the interim, however, I’ll just write about whatever comes to mind, even if I’m not able to hit the same post length or traffic goals I have with most posts.

How do you handle it when there’s something you want to write or talk about, but can’t for whatever reason? Let me know in the comments.

What the Florida?

I just spent two weeks in Tampa for work. And…listen Florida…we need to talk about your wildlife and your food.

I’m not much of a nature person. Nature doesn’t have WiFi1Unless you’re in Minneapolis, apparently.. Why would you go outside where there’s not internet when you can be inside where there is internet? But sometimes, you go outside and you see neat things like this.

There was a motherfucking armadillo just chilling outside a building. Why? Apparently they’re native to the area. But…why is there just an armadillo that near people? It was a calm armadillo — it walked around this flower bed for a few minutes then went into hiding under one of the ferns. It’s pretty cool to see. That said, less than a mile away, there was a swamp, which meant lots of birds and possible alligator danger. And when I say swamp…

…I mean a swamp. Complete with birds pecking into the water to catch bugs. Fortunately, long necked birds and a handful of hyperactive squirrels were all I saw in the area. And, despite signs being posted in numerous places (including at work), there weren’t any alligators that I actually needed to beware of. In fact, the most alarming thing I encountered the entire time I was in Tampa was the food.

I love trying local food when I travel. I’ve found some fantastic places to eat when I’ve traveled, be it for work or otherwise. Want good barbecue? Go to Austin, Texas. Need a good Afghani restaurant in San Diego? I’ve got a place for you. Mouth-watering shaved ice on your mind for desert? The best place is in Sacramento. And of course the best pizza you’ll find is in Chicago.

If you want food in Tampa, I’m going to strongly recommend IHOP.

If you’re from the US2I know IHOP is in countries outside of the US, but the vast majority of its stores are here, so I am going to guess that is where most of you would have encountered it. , I know what you’re thinking right about now. IHOP is fine. It’s decent diner breakfast. They have great hash browns3Seriously though. IHOP is the only place I get hash browns from.. But to say IHOP is the best place to eat in an area either indicates that you’re really in the mood for pancakes or that the food in that area is terrible. In Tampa’s case, it’s the latter.

I try to order food for delivery most of the time when I’m travelling for work. Although I recognize it costs a bit more to have food delivered, it saves me having to rent a car or get a Lyft to somewhere just to have dinner. I’m glad I rented a car in Tampa, as every place I ordered delivery from took over 90 minutes to bring food to my hotel — even if the place was under two miles away. I get it on Friday and Saturday nights, but a random Wednesday night generally doesn’t have exceptionally long pizza delivery times4As a former pizza delivery driver, I can vouch for this..

As for going out to places, it was rare that I was able to find food that didn’t leave me feeling sick to my stomach afterward. I really wish I had an explanation for why Tampa’s food was so unpleasant to me, even when ignoring wait times. Yet everything I hate aside from IHOP tasted strange. Not strange as in uncommon to me, but strange as in just not good.

I realize this is very much a first world problem. I’m quite fortunate that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have, be it for work or otherwise. I guess my word of advice here is that if you have to go to Tampa for any reason, take a few minutes and pick up some groceries. Your dinner will be much better for it.

What are some of the worst food cities you’ve ever been to? What about the best ones?  Where’s the best place to eat in your hometown? Sound off in the comments.

Precarious

For the second week in a row, you guys get a picture with my post. I feel like I’m turning into Laidig, only with less artistic talent1And no Scottish accent.. I’ve been doing far more travel than I’m used to over the last year, which means I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in airports. Sometimes, that travel leads me to see awesome things, much like the sky pothole in last week’s post. Other times, I run into things that are less well put together.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the worst time to be without power while travelling during the time immediately before your flight. The time leading up to a flight isn’t particularly boarding. After all, even if you get to the airport far earlier than you need to, there are generally televisions everywhere, with at least half of them not tuned to a news station. It’s not difficult to amuse yourself in an airport.

That said, the time leading up to a flight is a significant battery drain on your electronics, should you choose to use them. Considering the fact that many people choose to take advantage of mobile boarding passes, use their cell phones for ride sharing services, or spend their time in airports playing Pokemon Go2I’ve learned that some airports are better than others for Pokemon Go. O’Hare and Newark? Awesome. Cleveland and Las Vegas? Good, but not great. Atlanta? Hit or miss, depending on what terminal you end up in. Sacramento and San Diego? Eh…, good luck keeping that mobile device charged though being at the airport…and the plane ride…and getting through your destination airport…and in the car you’re taking to get to your hotel3Or wherever you’re staying. I’d also like to point out I’ve spent too much time in hotels in the past year..

And so we must rely on airport power outlets to charge up. In a best case scenario, the outlets are open, they function correctly, and they let you charge while taking advantage of airport wifi4Boingo wifi is a joke. Thank you to airports like Cleveland and Sacramento that give free wifi.. Sometimes, that leaves you in a situation where you have to use a not-so-stellar outlet like the one I had to use before my last trip.

I’m sure there’s some sort of deep life lesson in the balancing act my laptop’s power cord is performing. It’s probably something about how no matter how close to the edge life seems, just keep hanging on and doing your job. Eventually, you’ll find a place where you fit in better, no matter how precarious your position seems. That’s probably the lesson. I prefer a different lesson though.

Always bring enough spare batteries to power a small city.