Earth: A Study in Simulated Planet Behavior

This post is a response to June 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


DR. XZENEEBIA SARUTUNE: They really are peculiar creatures, the Homo sapiens. Despite the individualities each of them try to express, there’s so much that ties them together. Take for instance the behavior of defecation and compare it to a species they find themselves superior to — felis silvestris catus.

[Camera cuts to a COMMON HOUSE CAT in a litter pan]

DR. SARUTUNE: When domesticated, felis silvestris catus will commonly use a small container filled with clay pellets or sand as a disposal location for its waste. While the location of the act does differ depending on the animal’s environment, even the young of the common house cat will make the same motions. After completion of excretion, the front paws will kick back whatever substance fills the container, covering the fecal matter.

[Camera cuts back to DR. SARUTUNE in her office at The Grand University of Nebulon VI. DR. SARUTUNE is a large, blue, oval, blob-like creature with five eyes running down her right side. Her mouth runs perpendicular to the third and fourth eye, with purple-red lips.]

DR. SARUTUNE: We’ve theorized based on observation of non-domesticated cats that this behavior is retained from a time where the majority of cats lived in the wild and that covering the smell would deter the attraction of predators. Why this behavior has stayed into the modern day, particularly when so many cats are cared for by a creature such as the homo sapien which is not predator towards them is something that warrants further research.

[Camera cuts to B-roll video of Earth spinning in space before zooming in on the east coast of the United States, presumably near Boston, Massachusetts]

NARRATOR: Dr. Sarutune’s studies embedded her within a small tribe of humans on the North American continent of the planet Earth. Though the primitive technology of the planet did not allow her to make direct contact with any lifeforms on the planet, she was able to observe them in their most private moments.

[Camera cuts back to DR. SARUTUNE]

DR. SARUTUNE: In my studies, humans were not quantifiably different when it comes to waste excretion behaviors than cats in most situations. While the literal locations were varied purely due to the size of the creatures involved, most mammals, at least for our purposes of study, have similar rituals.

[Camera cuts to INTERIOR, HUMAN BATHROOM. Camera focuses on an empty toilet paper roll hanging from a dispenser on the wall]

DR. SARUTUNE: There is, of course, an exception to this phenomenon.

[Chryon along the bottom of the screen reads “DRAMATIZATION”]

DR. SARUTUNE: Many of the Homo sapiens choose to utilize a cleansing wipe once they have completed their defecation. Whether this wipe is wet or dry is largely up to personal preference, however the lack of access to that wipe creates a critical moment for Homo sapiens that choose to use it. If the human has planned well, it’s merely a matter of accessing a nearby stockpile of additional wipes and moving on about their sol.

[Camera cuts to a HUMAN MALE, white, in his mid to late 40s. We see him from the middle of his chest up. He is wearing a white t-shirt covered by a buttoned blue dress shirt with the top button undone. His hair is greying.]

DR. SARUTUNE: For the unfortunate individuals who did not plan ahead, a terror spreads over there face once the realization that they lack their toilet tissue hits. The exact methods from which the specific tribe of Homo sapiens I was embedded within leave their porcelain repository varied, however there was usually a slow, shuffling waddle to wherever the wipes were stored.

[Camera cuts back to HUMAN MALE, this time viewed from the back. We see his pants around his ankles, with the tail of the dress shirt covering his posterior]

DR. SARUTUNE: Once the tissue is retrieved, the more intelligent or diligent planning humans will procure extra tissues so that their serene moment isn’t interrupted in the future. Some Homo sapiens, however, never learn from their mistakes. Instead of identifying the stimulus of their situation, the cycle repeats in the future. Waddle after waddle, shuffle after shuffle, the impetus of cleaning fecal matter from their anus drives them to walk in foolish ways, hunched or clenching in uncomfortable ways. With a bit of planning this problem could be solved, though as is the case with any creature, the intelligent and strong adapt and survive. The weak are relegated accordingly.

[Camera cuts away to B-roll of humans milling in the streets of New York City. Show’s bumper music plays.]

NARRATOR: When we return to Earth: A Study in Simulated Planet Behavior, Dr. Ahweiey Jizsbalzsah discusses the sociological phenomena that are Terran restaurants. From food carts to high-end establishments, the homo sapien have taken the necessary delivery of nutrients and turned it into a cultural experience. Can we learn from them?

[Camera cuts to B-roll of Napoleon Bonaparte prior to the battle of Waterloo]

NARRATOR: And later, what the fuck was this guy thinking? All to come on Earth: A Study in Simulated Planet Behavior.

Pokefusions Are Hilariously Dumb

As you can likely tell from the high volume of Pokemon posts I’ve done over time on this blog, I love the Pokemon series of games. One of my favorite ways to kill boredom while sitting at an airport is to play around on Pokemon fusion sites and see what inane monstrosities I can create to amuse myself.

Pokemon fusion sites take two or more Pokemon and mix their features together in order to create a whole new Pokemon. There’s quite a few sites devoted to this out there, such as Alex Osanger’s site, which is believed to be one of the original sites for this practice. My current favorite site1Read: The one my wife reminded me of the existence of. to play around with is Japeal’s fusion generator, which features Pokemon through Gen IV.

With the help of this generator, I’ve come up with ten of the funniest Pokefusions I could and decided to share them with all of you. These are obviously my personal opinion, so if you find one that you find hilarious, create it and share it in the comments of this post. I’d love to see what all of you come up with.

Honorable Mentions

Before I get into my actual list, I wanted to call out a few honorable mentions that came up when I was making these lists. When Japeal’s generator creates a fusion, the new Pokemon is named by making a portmanteau of the names of the two Pokemon in the fusions. For example, a fusion of Scyther and Crocnaw because Scynaw. In doing so, some great names occur. While the Pokemon designs for most of these fusions weren’t great, honorable mentions going to naming for:

  • Monster (Monferno/Cloyster)
  • Mario (Mareep/Lucario)
  • Hoooone (Hoothoot/Linoone)
  • Fartle (Farfetch’d/Grotle) [Pictured Above]
  • Mr. Cash (Mr. Mime/Whiscash)

10. Mr. Krow (Mr. Mime/Honchkrow)

Let’s lead off with the Psychic/Dark dual type Mr. Krow. This bubblegum bird caught my attention not just because of the opportunity to give a beard to Mr. Mime2And make him less creepy., but also because of how the tail feathers are essentially a lightened inversion of Honchkrow’s color scheme. It was between this and Fartle for the 10th spot on the list, but Mr. Krow gets the edge thanks to its pepto-colored cowboy hat.

9. Celekoal (Celebi/Torkoal)

Have you ever wondered where matcha tea comes from? The internet and science might tell you it’s from ground up green tea leaves, but in reality, it’s from the smoke rolling out of the body of a Celekoal. When the natural tea in Celekoal’s body is heated to a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit3The metric system is for lazy people and people who use base 10. This is America. We don’t us….wait. We do use base 10? What the fuck? Next you’re going to tell me we use Arabic numerals. Oh….that too, eh?, the tea changes into a powdery smoke useful for making tasty Kit Kats.

8. Aeropix (Aerodactyl/Vulpix)

I have a confession to make. I hated all of the Jurassic Park movies. All of them. Ever. Even the original with the awesome music. Dinosaurs just aren’t my thing. That said, if there’s a way you could make a dinosaur cute4Spoiler: there isn’t., it would be to put a dinosaur head on the body of something cute. So I took the cutest Gen I Pokemon in existence and slapped the head of a heartless monster on top. And it’s…passable? If only Alolan Ninetales had a shiny form with purple tails.

7. Ledytortle (Ledyba/Wartortle)

At the bottom of Japeal’s fusion page, just below where my screenshots cut off, there’s a random button that allows you to randomize the Pokemon you’re fusing together. Ledytortle was the result of clicking that button a lot. There’s two things you need to know about Ledytortle.

  1. It’s objectively horrifying.
  2. I can’t take my eyes off of it.

Those two things, particularly when combined, mean that this bug turtle gets a spot on this list. If I had to deal with it, so do all of you.

6. Swadabra (Swalot/Kadabra)

We now go to a conversation at Game Freak’s headquarters.

Developer 1: We need a new Pokemon. What can we do?

Developer 2: Okay. Hear me out on this. What if we had Kadabra…

Developer 1: Okay…

Developer 2: …then dyed it purple…

Developer 1: …go on…

Developer 2: …and made its majestic mustache look like something out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon?

Developer 1: BRILLIANT!

5. Hippotic (Hippopotas/Milotic)

Basically the same conversation in #6 happened here, only Pendelton Ward is doing the designing. That said, we’ve reached the point in this list where I start actually liking the random designs that were thrown out by the generator. This isn’t awful. I mean, the brown coloring isn’t ideal, but it’s not the worst thing either. Hippotic looks the part of a Pokemon. It gets bonus points for that.

4. Wurmdoom (Wurmple/Houndoom)

In a stunning turn of events, Wurmple made making this list really hard. It’s a testament to how well Wurmple is designed when nearly everything I fused Wurmple with that had an animal body looked good. Of all the Wurmple fusions I did, Wurmdoom was the most ridiculous looking, but it also grew on me like no other fusion on this list did. And considering there’s never been a dual type Bug/Dark Pokemon, this might be the result from this list I’m the happiest with how it turned out.

3. Waillee (Wailmer/Hitmonlee)

This is the sequel to Wall-E. It’s a whale that can kick your ass. I would watch it on Netflix5Which is like most people saying they’d see something in theaters. I don’t like going to movies..

2. Weepinckle (Weepinbell/Shuckle)

So let’s say you’re new to Pokefusions or you’re trying to show one to someone who has never seen them before. Where do you start? My suggestion is to put Weepinbell’s face on literally anything and you’ve got gold. Don’t believe me? Do you think Weepinckle is an isolated case? Here’s Weepinbell with Dratini. And Beedrill. And Togekiss. And Tyranitar. The constantly shocked look on Weepinbell’s face is wonderful. That said, the design and angle of Weepinbell’s face can look weird on certain Pokemon. And the number one fusion on this list manages to hit everything on the nose.

1. Shellcor (Shellder/Gliscor)

How is this so perfect? I mean, I get that it’s partly because Shellder and Gliscor are similar colors. And I know it’s partly that Shellder’s head isn’t terribly different in terms of size and shape from Gliscor’s. But come on. This is perfect.

 

What are the best Pokefusions you can come up with? Which of the fusions I shared do you like the best? Sound off in the comments.

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.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #11

We’re semi-permanently in double digits for these prompts. That’s exciting. If you’re into numbers and that sort of thing. Not that I would ever have a thing for numbers.

I actually wrote this prompt before prompt #9 came out, but I rearranged some of the prompts for various reasons, meaning this one fell out of the first ten. That said, it’s a prompt I’m excited about. This will become clear for reasons you’ll (hopefully) see below.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on July 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000-2000 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Waddle, impetus, serene, porcelain, terror, young, positions
  • Genre: Documentary/research paper style. Exactly how you achieve this is up to you.
  • Rating/Content/Perspective Limitation: No limitations
  • Topic: Mundane first-world problems explained to an alien

It’s Over Meow

This post is about the worst — and best — job I’ve ever had.

Two thousand, three hundred and twenty-two days is a long time for anything. According to snarky non-millennials on Twitter, that’s an eternity for a millennial to keep a job for. Apparently we’re a generation prone to job hopping, despite the data proving out otherwise. Yet the perception still remains.

For me, however, those 2,322 days is a long time. It’s six years, four months, and ten days, which is…

  • Longer than every relationship I’ve had save for one
  • Nearly double the amount of time I spent on my undergrad and graduate degrees combined
  • Almost three years longer than the next longest job tenure I’ve had…and…
  • Just under four years longer than the next longest full-time job tenure I’ve had

To me, it was an eternity. I don’t mean that as a bad thing either. It was just a really long time to be in the same place.

In October 2011, I was in the first group of people let go in the few months before my then-employer closed its doors. I applied to tens of jobs daily. I didn’t care what kind of job I got. I just wanted to pay my rent and my student loans. In what was a short, but frustrating, job search, I went on somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty interviews before landing a job as a temp1I was on a 90-day contract. This period is one of the most frustrating parts of my employment ever, as my now-former employer refused to count it toward my job tenure, despite the fact that I was doing work for them (not to mention being promoted nearly as soon as the temp period ended). doing front-line customer service and data entry for a technology company. It was a long, though not unmanageable, drive for low, though not terribly low2This statement is mostly reflective of my temp period, however it did three promotions to get back to the pay I was making at my previous employer., pay. But it was a job, which was exactly what I needed.

Over time, my role evolved from being a customer service professional into a trainer, manager, and instructional designer (depending on when we’re talking about). I helped bring on numerous folks into our local office, watched many people — both locally and remote — grow and develop thanks to training programs I designed, and proudly saw numerous folks I helped mentor move up into positions within the company with more responsibility and visibility. For the first four years or so I was there, I genuinely enjoyed my job. I could comfortably say it was the best job I’ve ever had.

There were three main reasons the best job I ever had became the worst job I ever had. The two reasons that I felt the most regularly weren’t even the most major reason to occur3We’ll get to that one in a minute.. It started with being overworked. While there was never anything formal said about this, it felt at times like there was an unwritten expectation that if you were a salaried employee, you should work from home throughout the week in addition to your time on the clock. Though I’m sure the thought process behind this was “in case of emergency only”, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that if there’s still work to be done, you keep working on it. As a result, most of my six years with the company featured my forty hour weeks looking much more like fifty, sixty, or (in rare cases) eighty hour weeks. Though this did improve slightly in my last two years with the company, by the start of year four, I was getting burnt out.

In addition to getting burnt out, I often felt like I wasn’t getting the recognition I deserved for doing my job well. And I was doing my job very well, as I always graded out in the highest grade for my position. But I didn’t want more money. Don’t get me wrong, getting a raise, a bonus, or some kind of additional stipend is wonderful and exceptionally helpful. But when you’re a one person department for four years, the best way to show that department that they’re doing a great job is to help them grow. It was a promise I heard year after year. It’s also a promise that never came. Couple that with the fact that I had to watch someone else get honored for projects I created, designed, and (in many cases) ran, and I felt like my work didn’t matter.

All of those things were bad enough by themselves. Then, a year after the company I worked for was bought, we got told our office was shutting down.

While the employees in our office were (mostly) given a good bit of time to search for a new job while keeping their current one4This was incredibly kind of our new parent company. The fact that they kept telling us how generous it was of them that they were doing this felt like a mocking statement, however., it still felt like the end of something special. Our main office closed down in October of last year, causing most of the remaining employees to move to a temporary office space. I was one of the last people in the building at the main office, allowing me to sneak upstairs to where I had started my career as a temp in early 2012.

Though my off-centered picture was necessitated by boxes that had been moved upstairs late that afternoon, it was a surreal moment to see the place I’d been to every day for (then) almost six years so empty. My very first desk was the one directly across from the empty desk on the left5Not the one with the chair. The one further back as if you’re moving away from the camera.. My last one (in this building) was a closet-like office where I could hear every toilet flush in the building thanks to the pipes running through the wall in front of me. It felt somewhat like leaving a home I actually liked, even if I no longer enjoyed the job itself.

Between October of last year and April of this year, the vast majority of people left the office. Some left because they found a new job. Others were there until their company-designated last day. But by the second week of April, I was able to take a similar picture of our new space, though with much crappier sight-lines due to five-foot-tall cubicle walls.

I had to stand on top of a desk to take that picture. It was a lot more work by the end…both to take that second picture and to come to work each day.

In six years, between a few moves my wife and I made as well as the temporary office move, my commute length had more than doubled. I had lost the boss who I truly feel was the best boss I ever had. The team that I had developed, nurtured, and watched grow, was mostly gone from the company6A small number of them were fortunate enough to be able to relocate to Chicago for new jobs there.. Meanwhile, I found myself sitting in my car crying against my steering wheel at 7 in the morning most days because I didn’t want to go in. It was, by that point, the worst job I’d ever had.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that the job was either the best or worst I’ve had. At times, it was both. There were even days where it felt like both of those things at various points in the same day. But it was time for a change. My mind needed it more than anything else (as evidenced from my post a couple of weeks ago).

I would love to say I left when there was no more work left to do, in keeping with my own mantra. That definitely wasn’t the case. There’s more work to do than ever. But I left when I reached the point where there was nothing left I could do while also remaining sane.

Despite that feeling, I can also recognize that I grew so much while I was there. I kept up with a job that felt like constant pressure for more than six years. I made some friends and got to watch some people grow into exceptional employees and people. It was just time to turn off the lights and leave.