May 31, 2012

Milking It For All It's Worth

My infant daughter has discovered a "skill" that's so obscure, no one could have ever considered it even remotely possible, particularly not the manufacturers of baby bottles.

Basically, my daughter has figured out how to poke baby bottle nipples down into the bottle, and then douse herself in baby formula like she's auditioning for an infant remake of the movie "Flashdance."

My daughter's ridiculously early foray into wet tee-shirt contest practice would be distressing enough by itself, but that concern is overshadowed by the fact we are CONSTANTLY changing her out of formula-soaked outfits. NOTE: I should clarify that ANY foray into wet tee-shirt contest practice is distressing, whether ridiculously early or not.

I wouldn't be so exasperated by my daughter's actions if I didn't know she knows perfectly well she's doing something entirely annoying. She ENJOYS it. She likes the annoyed attention that's directed at her when I'm carrying her to the changing station for the 50th time each day.

She KNOWS we have no choice but to change her right away, because the time it takes for baby formula to go from mildly sour smelling to "a-zombie-belch-in-the-face-after-the-zombie-ate-a-skunk-dipped-in-pig-manure" is roughly 10 minutes. Honestly, I don't know what the decay-inducing ingredient is in baby formula, but the half-life of that stuff is more rapid than any known radioactive material.

Believe it or not, actually dealing with the aftermath of one of my daughter's impromptu milk baths isn't the worst part, although that is, as stated, monumentally annoying. No, the worst part is witnessing, in real time, a milk bath in progress and not being able to do anything about it. Walking into a room and seeing my daughter holding a full bottle of milk--with the nipple having been freshly poked down into the bottle--makes my heart rate spike like I just witnessed a Viet Cong pull the pin on a grenade and start running at me.

The moment I see my daughter wielding a bottle of milk, sans nipple, time basically slows down as I try to traverse the distance between myself and my daughter. After several slow motion spins and dodges around pieces of furniture, my hand will be about six inches away from grabbing the bottle from my daughter's grip, at which point she'll give me this slightly amused look, right before pours the entirety of the bottle's contents onto her face and down her entire front.

And then. . . THEN. . . she has the audacity to look SURPRISED! It's as if all the countless times she's pulled the exact same stunt just disappears from her memory, and she sits there with this look that says "What just happened? I was dry, but now I'm not?!! Why am I not dry like I was just a moment ago? Oh, goody, Daddy's annoyed! That makes me happy!"

And then we get to do it all again an hour later. Excuse me, I have to go sit in a corner and weep for a few minutes.

Posted by Ryan at 02:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2012

Alas, poor comments. I knew them, Horatio.

I'm a notorious creature of habit, which takes some doing when you think about it--people generally don't stand around thinking about who makes the list of the most notorious creatures of habit, so the fact I'm a notorious creature of habit means I've worked pretty hard at it.

Take this blog. . . sorry. . . THUNDERJOURNAL, for example. I started out on Blogger back in 2002, and then basically allowed someone to swoop in and cajole me into moving to Mu.Nu back in 2004, and I haven't so much as lifted a finger to update it since. The look, the feel, the interface. . . it's all straight out of 2004. Which is fine, if you're viewing my THUNDERJOURNAL on a standard Web page, from a PC or laptop. But, if you pull this THUNDERJOURNAL up on a tablet PC, or a smartphone or a Nook or Kindle, it's kind of like trying to read a Gutenberg Bible that's been inscribed on a fly's wing. My THUNDERJOURNAL doesn't transfer well between the technology of yore and the technology of today.

But, whatever, I don't really care about all that. The smartphone crowd really isn't my target audience. For that matter, I don't really have a target audience.

This was all a long winded segue into the scourge of comment engine spammers. I just generally thought that if I stayed on the same Mu.Nu platform long enough, technology would evolve to the point where comment spamming would be considered a useless pursuit.

The general theory behind comment spamming, as I understand it, is if a spammer can bomb a comment engine with gibberish comments that happen to contain hyperlinks to certain sites, then the search engine algorithms that nobody really understands, but everyone likes to think they do will assume, because those links appear so voluminously on other sites--albeit in comment threads--then those sites will appear higher in search engine query results. I know, I know, it doesn't make all that much sense. It seems as though sacrificing a goat and reading its entrails would be a more effective strategy, but if the Internet excels at one thing, it's giving birth to crazy ideas that enough people believe in to keep espousing them.

So, anyway, as with everything in the world of technology, comment spamming has become fully automated. Banks and banks of computers the world over are dedicated to posting automated comment spam in an outdated and fruitless attempt to boost search engine queries for shitty Web sites no one cares about. I say "fruitless," because I deactivated the capability to post live hyperlinks in comment threads YEARS ago, so all this THUNDERJOURNAL comment spamming is particularly pointless on my site.


There was a time, back in the years of, say 2005 - 2006, when I would almost get excited to see a new comment on one of my posts. A COMMENT! A CONVERSATION! SOMEONE HAS SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME! Oh, the glorious Internet!!

Then, around late 2006 or thereabouts, I started seeing "comments" by people named "UGG BOOTS" or "WORLD OF WARCRAFT GOLD" or "IMARAHURU," and I realized comments were entering a sad new era.

That's not to say all comment spammers are that obvious. Occasionally, I'll see a comment from someone with an actual name, like "Joel" or "Amanda" or "Generica," and the comment will entail such positive feedback as:

Great post!! I didn't find the information I was looking for, but I love your writing and will be back soon! Thanx!

Such comment spammers typically put their hyperlink in the URL: field which, admittedly, isn't a futile tactic, because those hyperlinks still appear as active on my THUNDERJOURNAL, so kudus on that, I suppose.

Anyway, it's all generally deflating to sign into my THUNDERJOURNAL GUI and see wall of obvious comment spam awaiting deletion.

If this post seemed to ramble aimlessly, it's because I've been reading too much comment spam lately.

Posted by Ryan at 03:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 22, 2012

Blogger. Interrupted.

I'll admit it: my blogging hasn't been all that prolific as of late. No, really, it's true! I haven't been writing up to my potential, whatever the hell my potential is. Okay, I don't know what my writing potential is, but whatever it is, I think it's safe to say I haven't been attaining it. Throw that on to the towering stack of bodies that is my unattained potentials.

I could honestly write volumes about the fascinating world that is opening and trying to run a business, but to do so would potentially, unintentionally, expose some of our trade secrets, such as they are. . . whatever they are. So, I err on the side of guarded blogging, which is to say not blogging much at all.

I can say this whole store operating thing has been a complete 180 degree shift from the world of freelance writing and editing--which I still do, but it's on the back burner, because the store takes precedence.

We also have two kids, which is kind of a big deal, and not just because it's our responsibility to keep them alive. Until the store, hopefully, meets with financial success, we can't afford daycare--and even if we could, Zoey requires an increased level of care and attention we don't trust many others to provide--so each day is an exercise in improvisational logistics between running the store and caring for the kids.

Yes. There is stress. Stress is involved. I feel I should stress the stress. It's stressful.

The point is, with all of this taken together--with emphasis on the stress--penning blog entries, shall we say, isn't high on my priority list. I still want to keep my blog going, of course, because I've been writing for over ten years now, and it would be a shame to not keep it up. Besides, an argument can be made that this blog kept me somewhat sane back during our seemingly endless NICU ordeal.

So, I'm still here. Things have changed is all. Don't they always?

Posted by Ryan at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2012

Climate of Haze

I'm a journalist, sort of, which means I have to keep a rigorous eye on the big issues confronting the world today, as well as the big issues that confronted the world going back millions of years. Basically, journalists like me know everything about everything, so you should sit back and believe anything I write.

Deal? Deal.

Of course, one of the biggest issues that has the collective world's undies in a bunch is global warming, or global climate change, or unpredictable weather, or scientific malfeasance, or whatever it's being called on any given week. Whatever it's called, it's generally believed to be a pretty big deal.

How big of a deal is it? It's such a big deal, even dinosaurs had to deal with it. In fact, they may have caused it.

According to a May 7, Reuters news item out of Washington, "in a major new climate finding, researchers have calculated that dinosaur flatulence could have put enough methane into the atmosphere to warm the planet during the hot, wet Mesozoic era."

Because I'm me, I'm going to sit here for a minute and adequately absorb the awesomeness of a "news" lede that includes "flatulence," "hot" and "wet."

“'A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate,' researcher Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University said in a statement."

I have it on good authority, mine--and remember, I'm a journalist, so you have to believe me--dinosaurs were keenly aware of their emissions, much like humans today, and the Mesozoic political climate very strongly reflected that.

It's a little known fact that Mesozoic carnivores were extremely environmentally conscious, and they recognized their herbivore counterparts were far more egregious methane contributors due to their high vegetation diets. One carnivore in particular, Algoreasaurus, are known to have been staunch spokesreptiles for the global warming phenomenon, going so far as saying herbivores were emitting an inconvenient fume.

Mezozoic herbivores, understandably, objected to being singled out simply because they chose to live a more sustainable vegetarian lifestyle. Thus, the battle lines were drawn, much as they are today. Carnivores accused herbivores of being in the bag for Big Methane, while herbivores responded by pointing out increased temperatures had helped Mezozoic dinosaurs flourish. Further, herbivores insisted the carnivores were misrepresenting the available data, while the carnivores simply took big, exaggerated breaths through their noses and roared "PHEW!! How can we misrepresent THAT?!!"

The Mezozoic political landscape was made all the more partisan due to the carnivores' propensity for killing and eating herbivores, which the herbivores insisted was obvious evidence of extreme prejudice on the part of the carnivores. The carnivores responded by saying the herbivores were blatantly advocating carnivore extermination through starvation.

Now, I'm not going to draw too many parallels or conclusions about the dinosaur's Mezozoic climate debate and the human climate debate of today, because this post is running long.

I will say this: dinosaurs went extinct.

Think about it.

Or don't.

Posted by Ryan at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2012

Moving Floors

One aspect of operating a furniture store with my wife that's particularly exhausting and exasperating is a phenomenon known as a "floor move."

Now, if a floor move actually entailed, you know, moving a floor, I probably wouldn't mind it so much, because that sounds pretty straightforward. Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but at least it would just involve moving a floor from Point A to Point B.

However, a "floor move" as it exists in my wife's mind, is this recurring monumental undertaking that requires massive amounts of patience, and spinal fortitude capable of enduring moving multiple pieces of heavy furniture as much as 20 times per floor move.

Basically, a floor move starts with my wife standing in the middle of the store for about ten minutes, unmoving and unblinking, until her eyes start to glaze over and then tear up. I know then, at that exact moment, the seeds of a floor move have been solidly implanted.

"We need to completely change things around," she'll say, although the wording changes slightly from floor move to floor move. For example, she may say, instead, "I hate that chair there" or "that couch needs to be moved a few inches to the right." Whatever the wording, the eventual result is a complete and total floor move, because as soon as we do something as simple as move a couch a few inches to the right, ten other pieces of furniture instantly become totally out of place. And, once we move those pieces, all the art on the walls doesn't look right, and suddenly I find myself with a tape measure and hammer, tacking pictures in place a mere 20 inches away from where they existed previously, all according to my wife's exacting instructions.

As I said, the necessity for a floor move exists entirely in my wife's mind. If it were up to me, everything would stay exactly where it all is into perpetuity. I lack the necessary mental switch that says "that dresser would look better over there." My mental dialogue simply says "that dresser would ideally hold my boxer shorts and tee shirts and is perfect right where it is and will always be perfect there."

Once a floor move is in full swing, the store basically looks like a particularly severe episode of "Hoarders." It's pure chaos every time. My wife will assure me she has no intention of moving anything on a certain wall, but within minutes that wall will be completely deconstructed and I'll be standing there, sweat pouring off my head because I will have moved the same couch 18 times, at least, and there's every expectation on my part that I'll be moving that couch 18 more times, at least, before it's all over.

To my wife's credit, gradually, glacially, incrementally, a floor move starts to show hints of progress and then, almost magically, we find ourselves standing in a store that looks completely different than it did a mere five hours earlier.

I would almost feel a deep sense of accomplishment if I didn't know, in the back of my mind, we'll be doing the same exact thing in a few short, recuperative weeks.

Posted by Ryan at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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