August 31, 2011

The Flying Gonad!

My wife bought me a genuine Moleskine for my birthday a few years ago, and I thought at the time "Huh, a fancy-looking notebook." I had no idea that "Moleskine" is something of a hallmark of the SERIOUS WRITERS of the world. Had I known, I maybe wouldn't have filled the first few pages with doodles of a super hero punching an old man in the groin, with Batman-esque words like "WANG!" and "SMASHED DEFERENS!" and "EPIDY-MASH!" and "URETHR'OWN'D."

I clearly have unresolved issues.

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August 30, 2011

Blogger, interrupted

Obviously, my blogging--sorry. . . THUNDERJOURNALING--hasn't been particularly prolific as of late. There's a multitude of reasons for this, but the primary culprits have been child raising difficulties and a rather bountiful freelance writing burden.

Child raising "difficulties" suggests something ominous, but that's misleading. Zoey simply continues to be a ridiculously uninterested eater, which strains our patience and stress tolerances to the breaking point. I never thought a baby could be so indifferent to the survival necessity that is eating. When I try to feed her, she'd much rather just look up at me and smile, which is cute and all, but doesn't do much for her weight; if anything, it probably burns calories. She's better about eating when my wife wields the bottle, but only barely.

As for freelance work, I has it. I have two primary clients right now, and they both are asking for articles galore. One client happens to pay considerably more than the other, so I've been favoring the hand that feeds me more, for obvious reasons. I do so at the peril of losing the other client, so it's a tricky balancing act, but it's been fun. He says, knowing two months down the road the freelance could dry up yet again.

It's weird to think I jumped without a net over a year ago. Obviously, a whole hell of a lot has transpired since that time, but generally speaking I've remained on my feet--currently, I'm actually making more money than when I was employed, although sans benefits, which is perpetually concerning.

I still regularly dip a toe into and LinkedIn, to some extent--but none of the job descriptions really appeal to me, and most of them require an hour or more commute one way, which is something I'd consider only under dire financial circumstances. As it is, freelance work is pouring in, and I'm working from home, with a little boy who toddles into my office once a day and peeps "Oh, hi!" as if he doesn't expect to encounter me in here, although he totally does. In other words, I'm kind of living a work-at-home dream. That's not to say there aren't stresses involved, but they're more than manageable.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I would have juggled an actual 9 - 5 office job during the first four months of this year, considering our hospital vigil with Zoey. Just writing one or two freelance articles a month back then was a Herculean task when combined with the grueling hospital schedule and the omnipresent haze of depression that hung over everything we did like an oppressive cloud. Working in an office environment during that time would likely have driven me entirely insane, versus the moderate insanity I emerged with as it is.

My wife has picked up an affinity for online auction bidding, which is a good mental distraction for her so she's not thinking about only the kids all day, every day. Her auction wins so far have been mixed, but she's getting better at sniffing out the potential good deals. We got into a bidding war for a car yesterday, and we very nearly emerged with a former police cruiser Ford Crown Victoria, which would have been fun to drive around in, but we eventually were outbid and we couldn't bring ourselves to go a tad higher. For two people who love to gamble in Vegas, this was no small feat. Pressing the Bid button is equivalent to saying "hit me" at the blackjack table.

We're gradually emerging from the mental funk of our NICU days and finding our footing as a family of four, to use way too many "Fs" in a sentence. My sense of humor is starting to return, although I can imagine a fair amount of people would disagree with that assessment.

Overall, I can't say I'm going to miss 2011 when when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, but I suppose it could have been worse. Then again, we still have four months to go, so who knows what could yet be lurking in the "bad luck" bushes. Hopefully there's an entire hedgerow of good luck awaiting us yet. That I'm even entertaining such a thought speaks volumes of my returning optimism.

As part of that returning optimism, I'm going to try to re-invigorate this blog with more frequent updates, and not just YouTube videos, which is the lazy person's approach to blogging, in my opinion. This Rambling Rhodes blog provided a serious therapeutic outlet back when I desperately needed it most. The least I can do is keep it going a bit longer to say "thank you."

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August 26, 2011

Mt. Daddy

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Lay off my blue Swede shoes

Caroline: There's nothing worse than an incredulous Swede.

Ryan: Incredulous Swede is going to be the villain in the 7th book we'll never write.

Caroline: I.S. Skulks

Ryan: Skulking Swede is a mixed drink we have to invent.

Caroline: Best served on the rocks.

Ryan: In a Skulking Swede, ice cubes are referred to as Fjords.

Caroline: I wonder if Jim Henson imagined that one day, two Geodes would be discussing a fictional mixed drink called the Skulking Swede and the first image one of the Geodes got in her head was a drunk Swedish Chef from The Muppets

Ryan: The Swedish Chef mixing a Skulking Swede would make an excellent Sesame Street skit.

Caroline: is he drunk? Or just Swedish?

Ryan: Game show!!!!!!! It's time to play. . . "Drunk or Swedish!"

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August 23, 2011

Alien Ideas

Aliens have been in the news again recently. And, no, not the kind of aliens that pour across the Mexican border like tequila during spring break. I'm referring to the outer space kind of aliens--the kind of aliens that show up every four years on the cover of "Weekly World News" to endorse a presidential candidate. You know, THOSE aliens.

In one recent notable instance, a NASA scientist contributed his thoughts to a Penn State study entitled "Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit of Harm Humanity." In the study, a scenario was posited that aliens could preemptively destroy humanity to prevent us from exporting our global warming proclivities to other civilizations across the universe.

As if that hypothetical wasn't ludicrous enough, no less than the New York Times' economist-in-name-only Paul Krugman opined on CNN that the salve for our ongoing economic woes could be a "Twilight Zone"-inspired alien invasion threat to jump-start spending and energize American industry. As ridiculous as THAT sounds, it still makes more sense than the last round of stimulus spending.

Yes, both scenarios are fanciful and basically stupid, but both were also, unfortunately, broadcast into outer space, which means space aliens actually overheard this nonsense and had a pretty good laugh over it all.

How do I know this? Well, I'm a journalist, which means--in addition to keeping a list of earthly contacts--I also maintain a complex listening array in my basement that's capable of eavesdropping on alien conversations as far out as 1,869.24 light years. By chance, I happened to overhear the following dialogue taking place on an alien space cruiser orbiting a gas giant planet in the Orion Nebula.

TIX-INBLUM-MAXTIN (TIM): HAHAHAHA! You guys won't believe what's coming from that insignificant orb on the edge of the galaxy!

ARGL-N-DAX-YAM (ANDY): Oh, man, you're not still listening to what those self-important ants roaming that tiny rock are saying, are you?

RAGNL-ORGO-BOXOM (ROB): Seriously, give it a rest, already. We're supposed to be monitoring star formation in this sector, for crying out loud.

TIM: I can't help it! They're just so amusing! Listen to this: some NASA guy thinks aliens will attack their planet because of. . . get this. . . carbon dioxide emissions.

ANDY: Wait. . . didn't NASA just discontinue their shuttle program? They can't even launch people into space any more, and they think we care about carbon dioxide?

TIM: I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!! You wouldn't think it could get much more hilarious than that, but there's also some guy who thinks the threat of an alien invasion could save their economy!!!!

ROB: Seriously? They do realize we can create black holes capable of destroying even gas giants in .24 seconds, right?

TIM: Apparently not, which makes it all that much funnier!!

ANDY: Are they still allowing comment threads on their "YouTube" videos?

TIM: Ugh! Yes. They also allow comments on news articles. Forget carbon dioxide emissions; I'd advocate destroying their planet just to erase the stupidity of those comment threads.

ROB: Hey, that reminds me of a joke. How many humans does it take to change a light bulb?

TIM and ANDY: How many?!!

ROB: No one knows, because they can't decide between incandescent bulbs or CFLs!!


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The Ongoing

Zoey has her big preemie check-up today--four hours of exams and tests and God knows what else. I'm almost certain she'll emerge with a full clean bill of health and awesomeness, but that does nothing for the butterflies in my stomach.

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August 20, 2011

Chippie Monster

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August 18, 2011

The Geodes Are Still Alive

Caroline: What's shakin

Ryan: Trying to get a first draft to the reviewers and production before the end of the day. Typin' up a storm.

Caroline: Ah. Stormy rhodes

Ryan: Detective name. Or a porn star.

Caroline: Either way

Ryan: Or a porn star detective.

Ryan: Public dick by day, private dick at night.

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Nefarious Intentions

Based off last night's experience, I'm convinced it's Zoey's intention to wipe me off the planet through a combination of sleep deprivation and ridiculous cuteness. She cries every ten minutes because she's hungry, and then she just smiles at me when I try to feed her. This was our routine throughout the night. I defy anyone to come up with a solution to this problem, such as it is.

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August 16, 2011

Cat Lover

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August 09, 2011

Drinking from the Digital Fire Hose

In a previous post, I lamented the en-dumbening of the written phrase to accommodate the short attention span of the average Internet surfer. There's a term you don't see much any more: "surfing the Web." Nobody really surfs the Web any more. The Web is now more about the destination than the journey. In the Web's infancy, you had to go down strange digital alleys and click through a tangled, well. . . Web. . . on your way to finding what it was you sought. Getting there was half the fun, to borrow a phrase about traveling and "surfing" was an integral part of the Internet experience.

Now you call up Google, enter what you're looking for, and you're basically done. It's sad, in a way, but such is the whiplash speed of progress online.

I don't mean to bash on Google, or any search engines for that matter--they serve a necessary purpose, I'll admit. But search engines are pretty much singularly responsible for the retooling of the written phrase that I routinely lament. Search engine optimization (SEO) has turned writing from an art into a science, and not one of the fun sciences either, where you use dry ice to make plastic bottles explode. No, the science of SEO writing is one of those boring sciences where no one is really exactly certain what it is, or how it works, but there's money to be made doing it, so there are a lot of SEO experts out there with competing theories. You know, SEO is kinda like climate change science in a lot of ways, now that I think about it.

Anyway, SEO writing sucks, and reading SEO writing sucks even worse. There are all sorts of SEO formulas and strategies out there, but they all basically boil down to: "repeat the same damned word or phrase multiple times within a Web page so the page will hopefully appear prominently in search engine results." It makes sense, but it also makes for seriously painful writing and reading, and it basically flies in the face of all the established rules for non-Web writing. If I had been assigned to write a paper back in college about, say, "butt cancer" and I turned in something that had "butt cancer" repeated three times for every 50 words, I'd have received an "F-" and been instructed to pursue a different field other than writing professionally.

Even worse than SEO is the trend towards rampant sensationalism. Everyone's competing to get the next big story/headline that goes viral, so you end up with ridiculously insipid crap all over the place about "WINNING!" or something about a cat saying "I love you" or whatever "crazy" thing some politician said or did. So you end up with Web pages like posting headlines like: "Justin Bieber scent inspires $32 ice cream sundae," and "It's a bird... no, it's a bat! On a plane!" and "Dad protests shutdown of blog about 'psycho' ex" and "Michele Bachmann’s Newsweek cover: Appropriate?"

And, no, I didn't make any of those headline up. They were ALL on at the same time this afternoon. I shit you not.

Even more basic, the very make-up and design of today's Web pages contain a ridiculous amount of completely unnecessary content. I mean, compare the visual scream-fest of today's home page:


Now, remember, that's only about 1/8 of the total home page, and that's AFTER zooming out about five times. Contrast that with early 2001:


That's the WHOLE page, with only two zoom outs. It was still a bit visually jarring even back then, but at least it didn't drown you with links and ads and video options. Just think, if you wanted more headlines, you had to actually click on the section heads over on the left navigation panel. Or on the bottom. Your choice. Can you IMAGINE? And, notice, with some exceptions, the 2001 headlines, for the most part, weren't overly sensational twaddle? Generally, the headlines were about stuff that kinda, sorta mattered.

And it's not limited to It's EVERY news site on the Internet. It's like they're all competing to annoy and overwhelm me.

And you know what? They're all tied.

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August 08, 2011

Just So You Know

Yes, I am still alive, and I do intend to continue blogging. However, you'd be surprised how much I have to focus on writing/editing work that actually pays money. I'd happily blog all day long if it paid the bills, but it does not.

Also, having kids apparently impacts blogging as well, which shouldn't surprise me, but it does.

Anyway, keep checking back. I'm sure to post something groundbreaking. . . eventually.

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