“Romance, indie rock, little robots, and the problems people have.” – Jeph Jacques

Since I paid so much attention to The Oatmeal, I wanted to start highlighting some other webcomics that I am a fan of. One of my favorites is called Questionable Content and is written and drawn by Jeph Jacques, who was probably surprised to find himself a miniature internet phenomenon.

The comic itself is a daily, slice-of-life, East Coast parody, though generally Jeph goes for the “so-accurate-it-hurts” approach to making fun of people. The comic has some great characters, who deal with some very real-world life issues. The cast is very inclusive, and contains most every race, gender identity, and sexuality. The best part is Jeph doesn’t seem to actively try to hit all the bases. QC is also set in an alternate universe where Artificial Intelligence is commonplace and the general population has access to AnthroPC’s, which are little companion Robots who generally aren’t very helpful with anything. The AI is strangely not all that important to the comic’s plot lines.

Jeph’s writing and artistic skills improve drastically throughout the comic, though his characters continue to make obscure references to music, science, and history. Overall it is very enjoyable, and I highly encourage that you check it out.

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An open letter to my peers.

Dear well, everyone,

I am very concerned about this new trend I have been seeing, mostly through Facebook posts, where all of you seem to be doing things. When I say things, I mean major life accomplishment things. You may be pretending to have your life in order, or maybe you stole someone else’s life that was already put together, but either way I need you to stop.

Since when is it okay to have real jobs, serious relationships, or even (the faint of heart should skip this next part) marriages and children? Have you no shame?

For those of you who are protesting, “No, it’s real,” or “I’m building a life,” or “Who are you, again?” You seem to have forgotten the real victims here: people you used to know, who just generally aren’t winning as hard as you are. These are people who you probably haven’t heard from in years, and who are tired of your bullshit.

Why should their Facebook feeds be full of your adorable spouse/child/pet? They yearn for the days when all they could find were drunken photos and the occasional Study Abroad picture. When your status would read “Man, calc 2 is sooooo much crap lol,” and they could respond, “yeah, bruh.” Now, they have nothing to say when you post that you’ve just landed your dream job, or proposed. It’s just awkward for everyone.

Please, think of your friends, or at least the people who used to be your friends a few years ago. You know who they are.

Sincerely,

A concerned peer.

“It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I don’t mean to brag, but I have been fortunate enough to see some amazing things. I’ve swam with sharks and stingrays and manatees, in the unbelievably clear waters of the Carribean. I’ve seen great cathedrals like the Notre Dame and the Sagrada Familia. I’ve seen smaller, yet no less intricate pieces of architecture, like the Roslin Chapel and Gaudi’s Parc Guell. Just this past winter I got to visit the British National Library and see some Tolkien’s  original copy of The Hobbit, Da Vinci’s notebooks, the Magna Carta, and the only surviving original copy of Beowulf (1000 years old! That’s three zeroes!)

Each experience was unique, but I think my favorites were the things that were not only bigger than me, but more naturally-occurring. One of these is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which has the most surreal landscape I have ever seen. The distance between where you are standing and the other side is indescribable. It’s no wonder that so many people step off the edge and fall to their deaths.

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My other favorite was the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. I went with two of my best friends during Semana Santa (a.k.a. the week of Easter).  The experience was ridiculously windy and rainy (well, I mean, it’s Ireland), and totally worth it.

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There’s something about seeing something that is so incredible and beautiful and so huge. It makes you feel so insignificantly small and yet so lucky just to have seen it, to have been there to bear witness. So here’s a short, not-all-inclusive list of some of the things I still want to see:

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• This is the Door to Hell, in Turkmenistan. It’s a natural gas field in Durweze that Soviet scientists found and started harvesting in 1971. When the amount of gas posed a danger, they thought they could just burn it out. And yes, it’s still burning today.

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• This is the Way to Paradise, in São Miguel, Azores, Portugal. I don’t really know much about it, but this picture has gone viral simply because it’s so beautiful. Also, yes, it sounds like a 70s rock song.

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• This is a view of the night sky from the Atacama Desert in Chile. This desert is one of the places in the world with the lowest amount of light pollution, which makes the view incredible. I’m sure having a nice camera helps, but if I could see a view that was anything close to this picture, it would be worth the entire trip.

These are the things I am always trying to remember to seek out. It’s the reason I want to travel and learn languages; to get to see as much of our planet as possible. Because now that I’ve started I can’t imagine stopping.

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” -Henry Ward Beecher

If you haven’t heard that Fred Phelps, the founder and pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, died recently, then it’s probably because you don’t get the US news down there in Bikini Bottom (though that talking fish-head news anchor is usually pretty good). I don’t intend on turning this blog too political with any frequency, but I couldn’t help but find it hilarious when the Daily Currant published an “article” from the perspective of Westboro, asking that Phelp’s funeral time and location not be publicized.

If you’re confused as to why that is timely or relevant, I would be referring to how the Westboro Baptist Church congregation protests the crap out of everything.

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Pictured above: Some of what are pretty much the worst people ever.

Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t realize this article was satire (a trend which is sadly becoming increasingly common among internet-goers), who then proceeded to lose their minds over it. And thus protest plans were made, despite the fact that Westboro has announced there will be no funeral.

I was torn, however, because as fitting as it would be to see the tables turned, we all know it would be better if everyone would one-up all of the WBC, including Fred Phelps, by not doing so. No matter how much they deserve it, we shouldn’t try to give them a taste of their own medicine. So part of me wanted to find out they were protested, and part of me wanted to see them miraculously left alone.

And then this happened:

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Dickenblogs Pro-Hint: Click the picture to read the news story!

I don’t know how else to describe it; this is amazing. There’s a whole trend where people are counter-protesting Westboro members with positive messages.  It’s a perfect response. I was blown away because I got to see both of the things.

Honestly, I haven’t been so happy to read something about the Westboro Baptist Church since this popped up across the street:

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“I hate cars.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Last week I wrote about driving, and I decided to write another, slightly different post, because I like to take both sides of the argument I decided to write another. Or it could be that I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to remember.

While I don’t enjoy the logistics of owning a car and driving every day, it’s mostly because I live and work on opposite sides of town. I actually enjoy the driving bit, for the most part (when people aren’t being idiots, that is.)

One of my favorite bits is what I call “Proactive” driving. No, this is not driving aggressively, though I understand your confusion. Aggressive driving is dangerous, and gets you traffic tickets. “Proactive” driving is actually more of a combination of defensive driving, a few good judgment calls, and a bit of luck.

If you’ve never actively noticed this phenomenon, the best description I can give is when you just do everything right. You are never openly speeding or breaking traffic laws, aren’t trying to take shortcuts, and yet you still somehow shave fifteen minutes off of your expected driving time.

Even that description is not exactly right, because you may have done it by accident. When I say proactive, I mean that you are recognizing the opportunity, wholly concentrated on finding the right moment to take action.

For me, though, this isn’t a stressful thing. When I drive this way it’s nearly effortless, and I end up feeling like a boss. It’s pretty fun, really, and after being stuck in traffic a while some proactive driving is almost as relieving as a runner’s high*. Also, if you’re reading this and you’re my mother, please ignore the last paragraph. As far as you know I drive like a grandma.

There are a few things that you have to be aware of, however. Proactive driving requires an alert mind, good reflexes, and the ability to tell when you’re going to put yourself or anyone else in danger. It also seems to be done best in a nondescript mid-size to small sedan. If you have a large or flashy car, not only are you more dangerous but also more prone to getting ticketed. What I’m saying is you have to recognize all the factors to keep “proactive” from accidentally becoming “aggressive.”

My last bit of advice is that proactive driving is not always possible, will not always help. It does if people are playing their favorite rush hour games, like “Slow down to look at the wreck,” or “Slow down because there’s a cop nearby.” Also it’s not much use if there’s simply a lot of traffic**.

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*= Or as close as I can figure, since I don’t run.

**= And then everyone plays their other favorite game, which is “Slow down if Sam gets into your lane.”

 

“Look! A trickle of water running through some dirt! I’d say our afternoon just got booked solid!” ― Bill Watterson

You may have noticed that I have an intense love of webcomics, a form of nerditry that works very well with both my obsessive personality and desire for quick, cheap laughs (see my post on puns). This is also a sustainable form of entertainment for me because a good, daily webcomic not only gives me something new to read constantly, but also usually comes with years of archived comics to catch up on. So yeah, I have read a lot of webcomics. And when I say “a lot,” I mean I have read thousands of pages of webcomics over the past few years.

Why on Earth would I do that? Largely, I blame these:

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Bill Watterson is an amazing cartoonist and if you don’t intimately recognize these revered tomes of unadulterated wisdom, all I can say is that I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I was fortunate enough to discover them growing up, because my parents own every Calvin and Hobbes compilation. And so I have read every single one. Multiple times.

And so while I can’t say my taste in comics has matured over the years (because seriously, Watterson is the master), I was overjoyed to find the new medium of the Internet. And so to wrap up my brief (but very enjoyable) love affair with The Oatmeal, I have a third comic for you to read.

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Plus I get to do a group of three and I like groups of threes.

This comic is a five-part monstrosity of sincerity and humor, so I don’t expect you to read it all the way through (though I think you should anyway.) If you need encouragement, I offer this: I have not run in years, was literally told not to run by my physician, and this comic made me want to go take a run. It’s incredibly well done, and stays true to The Oatmeal’s pattern of good writing and humorous visuals, which is really all you need.

If nothing else, read the first one.  I really like this first installment because I identify with the battle with “The Blerch,” in more than just physical activity, and it is good to know that I am not alone in my battle for productivity and healthy living.

“Puns are the highest form of literature.” ― Alfred Hitchcock

I’ve written a few posts about language, to which I am obviously very attracted. Between discussing why I love language, why foreign language drives me crazy, and why English is even worse, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about wordplay. There are many ways to be clever with words and some are more sophisticated than others, but in the voice of an old, wise, fictional man, “If ye don’t know where ta start, go back to ta beginnin’.” (Uncle Alphonse, Escanaba in da Moonlight).

So we’re gonna start with puns.

Yes, I’m serious, this post is about puns.

Okay, I’m pretty sure most of you just clicked back over to read your Facebook news feeds, because that might seem less painful. So if you’re still here, you’re probably one of my friends. If you are one of those sad, sad people, then you already know how much I love puns, so I won’t spend too much time writing clever things, and instead share as many awesome ones as possible. Okay, okay, I’m going already!

Some are more classic:

697219Some are more visual:

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Some are groaners:

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Some are fairly sophisticated (for a pun):

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Almost classy, even:

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And some just aren’t:

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Some of them come in floods (I like to call this the pun-train):

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But usually, when it comes to puns, you find yourself thinking:

“I can’t
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these are so bad.

I mean seriously,
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Okay, okay, that was awful, I know. I’ll stop, just one last thing. It isn’t a pun, just something funny:

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Yeah, you’re glad you stuck around, aren’t you? Well you’re welcome.

“There is a spiritual hunger in the world today – and it cannot be satisfied by better cars on longer credit terms.” -Adlai E. Stevenson

[Caution: This article was written with a grumpy face]

I don’t like cars.

Well, that’s not entirely true, I think cars are pretty incredible and I love that I have one to drive every day. I’m not really a “car guy” but I do have an appreciation for the aesthetic and the technological workings.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are things I don’t like about cars, or more specifically I don’t like two things about cars: driving them*, and how much money is required to continue to do so.

You see, nearly three weeks ago I was in an automobile accident. It was relatively minor and all, but it still did enough damage to my car that I will need to pay my insurance company’s full deposit, which is money that I really didn’t plan on throwing away, but here we are.

And so I can’t help but wonder why we, as a car-focused society, choose to pay thousands of dollars in order to possess machines that are not only dangerous to us, but also to the environment, and that obligate us to spend more money just to keep them running.

Out of this frustration I am mostly just finding I wish I had a convenient, reliable public transportation option, which to me seems like a no brainer, but is a thing my city has not apparently been able to produce. I am aware we have a bus system, but as I was growing up I knew it to be unreliable and difficult to find, and I have no indication that this state of affairs has changed.

I don’t mean to beat the idea into the ground, but I think we would all be better off if so much of the world, especially America, didn’t require us to drive individually. Whenever I move, a public transportation system will be high on my list of considerations, which may mean I am moving out of the country.

However, to be fair it’s not like every other country has better ideas: I am planning on traveling to China in a few months, and while I certainly won’t be driving while I am there, it will be mostly out of fear**.

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*= I actually like driving just fine, I would just prefer to do it without the rest of you on the road, doing stupid things. Also inconveniently-timed stoplights, those can go as well.

**= China lacks what they would call “good driving manners,” and what we would call “rules we follow so that we don’t run each other over.”

“I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.” -Jacques Yves Cousteau

I mentioned before that I like to track scientific and technological advancements and generally be a geek about them, even though I couldn’t begin to tell you how they work. I think part of it is because I really like the idea that we keep advancing as a species, and even though I know there’s some really cool stuff that has happened in my lifetime (like how the Internet and I are pretty much the same age), it’s still a lot of fun to see stuff that I can hardly believe, and be all:

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And so what I’m here to tell you is that between Blood Tests for Alzheimer’s* and Autonomous Cars**, there’s a lot of up-and-coming things to be excited about.

You’ve probably already heard about one of my favorite recent-ish inventions: the 3D printer. If you don’t know about this technological marvel, here’s a link about it, or you can just take my word when I say that this device is as amazing as it sounds.

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This is a thing that can print real objects, in 3D, and is awesome.

Here’s X instances where 3D printers did awesome things:

-When a man printed his son an artificial hand:

-When a doctor practiced surgery on a model heart and saved a child’s life:

Also,

-Every time in the future that 3D printing will be awesome! There’s more videos on www.3ders.org

So, once again, science is mind-boggling and I’m just:

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*= Which is still kinda iffy, but very cool despite the setbacks.

**= Which better be called “Auto-autos.” You know, like Autonomous Automobiles? No? Ugh, you’re no fun.