February 18, 2005

For those playing along at home... blood pressure is back into the normal range, and we're thinking maybe things have settled back down. And I get to eat bread again.

But no biscuits.

I spent a good amount of the evening doing some beta work in prep for the Websnark move. It's going well, but there's a lot of t crossing and i dotting. Fortunately, my current hosting isn't going anywhere as we do it. And there was an idiosyncrasy in Mac OS X server that meant I had to change groups on all our students, followed by shifting their primary group to the new one. Only there's... well, no way to batch process it.

So, several hundred students, and I had to open each record, drag the group to the primary group blank, then save the record. One at a time.

Did I mention that because my diet's been highly restricted, my blood sugar is below 'low.' So I've been kind of... surly today.

Anyway, I'm going to sleep. Tomorrow, I will snark. About many things.

Like Flint.

Sigh... Flint....

February 15, 2005

Man, I'm fixated.

So, the checkup didn't go as well as one might hope. We're taking some steps to change that.

It's a sign that I'm completely obsessed, however, that I actually thought "damn... now I can't have biscuits any more."

I'm off to see the wizard!

Well, I have a checkup up at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital this afternoon, which is a couple of hours away, so I'm leaving in about 5-10 minutes and won't be doing much on here until this evening. For those who haven't seen Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital (which... well, I assume is all of you), it's astounding. It's huge and mostly made of green glass. It looks like the Emerald City had a baby the Carousel Center Mall in Syracuse, New York.

To give you some idea... this is a hospital with a food court. Not a cafeteria. A food court. Last time I was there, they had Sbarro's, Au Bon Pan, a bank, a branch of the Dartmouth Bookstore, a convenience store, a florist's, a gift shop and a clothing store.

In the hospital.

Walking into the hospital, there's a person playing light piano jazz in the lobby. Mostly standards.

In the hospital.

These are the people who did aftermarket modifications to my abdomen last March. And now they're going to take me out for a test drive and check my antifreeze.

I'll see you tonight.

February 11, 2005

Power is not our friend, today

As with so many other people, I was at ground zero in the blizzard yesterday. The power went out in the evening and stayed out through the night. Right now it's coming on and off sporadically, but nothing's very happy right now.

I'm hopeful that it'll come back and stay back, but for the moment, you probably shouldn't expect to see all that much from me, today. I'll only disappoint you, I'm afraid.

January 22, 2005

Fast Con Notes from Saturday

Today's panel was fantastic. An excellent group of people, engaged with the panel, who themselves rocked. Alexander Danner picks a good group, and is himself superior. Way to go, J.

Midway through the panel, my phone rang. It would have been embarrassing, but dumb luck let me spin it to my advantage. "Hey guys," I said to the audience. "Randy Milholland says hi."

"Hi, Randy!" they chanted back. I then handed my cell phone to Randy's roommate, who was in the second row, and she made sure Randy fed her cats.

Later, we had a Superguyish get together, though three of the invitees (Greg from yesterday, and Frobozz and Van, to use psuperguydonyms) couldn't make it due to A) other committments, and B) a giant freaking blizzard. But we did have myself (Sabre, to use the Superguyism), Gina (aka Crash), Jon (aka... um... Jon), and Randy (aka Nee). I had a glass of wine, which with my ultraefficient metabolism meant they got to see me get drunk.

Oh, and Betsy? Your sister Susan says hi, and says "hah hah -- I got to meet Eric Burns and you didn't." And she and I then talked about John Troutman and Meaghan Quinn.

I think it was Susan. I know it was Betsy. I hope it was Susan, because... well, she was a pretty girl, and I'd hate to think I've managed to forget the name of a pretty girl so quickly. On the other hand, I mentioned the drunk part.

Oh, and when we got back to the room, later, it was raining inside. Seems a pipe burst. We were moved to an absolutely gorgeous room. A large, gorgeous room. Life is good.

Except I'm like totally broke at this point. But hey, that's okay!

More notes from later, and expect the return of Journalist Snarky at some point.

Also, Drunk Snarky. Randy's made me a promise about Drunk Snarky. I'm holding him to it.

Got to go! Party with an editor to go to. This is your on the scene buzzed reporter signing off!

January 20, 2005

Is this Journalist Snarky or Public Speaker Snarky? Either way -- Arisia lives!

Arisia is almost upon us! I'm going to be at a panel called Don't Forget the Comics tomorrow at 9:00 PM in Franklin, moderated by the always superior Kelly J. Cooper. Her description:

Don't Forget the Comics: Comic books in all their forms, including graphic novels and trade paperback collections, cover many genres, including science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, espionage, etc. Comics can be beautifully strange works of art, superhero-packed adventures, scathing political screeds, gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans stories, works of base horror or great humor. Join our comics experts to discuss the medium and listen to their recommendations.

Then, on Saturday, I have a 1:00 panel moderated by Graphic Novel Review editor Alexander J. Danner on Webcomics. That information:

Certainly everyone's heard of Sluggy Freelance, PvP, Penny Arcade, Something Positive, and other staples of the webcomic world, some of which have already made a successful movement to print media (PvP for one). But webcomics today are more than cubicle humor for server administrators and bored college students. How have webcomics made titles possible which might not have succeeded in print? How has the webcomic transformed the graphic novel marketplace? Has it, in fact? Answers to all these questions and more from writers and artists behind Teaching Baby Paranoia, Picture Story Theatre, Streets of Northampton, and the critic Steven Withrow, author of the book _Toon Art: The Graphic Art of Digital Cartooning_.

I have no idea if they'll actually mention Websnark in the revised description or not. My bio, sans all the humor, is in the program guide.

I believe I'm on a third panel as well, but I can't tell you what it is at this point. More as I know more. Oh, and Saturday Afternoon/Evening, I'm going to hook up with fellow Superguy Alumni at an undisclosed location, but that's not a public event. So hah hah!

January 19, 2005

Biscuits. Tasty, savory biscuits.

So I'm back in Maine tonight. Why? Because I forgot my winter coat over Christmas, and the Cold Miser decided to have a blowout sale, so I had to come and grab it. And along with it was a delayed care package from a noted British (well, Canadian, but currently British) Snarkoleptic of intellect and style. Which one? Well, if said Snarkoleptic wants to be identified, I'm sure there'll be a comment. However -- superior person in all ways. But I digress.

It had been frozen against my picking it up. And now I have.

And inside it?

Well first off, Crunchie Bars. They're honeycomb foam in chocolate. It's like eating styrofoam, only it's awesome. I loves me the Crunchie Bars.

But more to the point, it's stuffed to the gills with British Baked Mini Chedders. Baked, not fried! And as they say on the back, you the customer are "spoilt for choice!" They have Smokey BBQ and Cheesy Beans flavor available!

That's right.

I got sent tasty, tasty biscuits.

I love my life.

January 16, 2005

Meet the Snarker!

It's now official. I'm going to be one of the guests at Arisia 2005 January 21-23 in Boston, Mass of the Chusetts. Other Webcomics luminaries will be on hand as well, including Alexander Danner of Picture Story Theater and Graphic Novel Review, Kelly Cooper, who's an editor and extremely cool person over at Comixpedia (and also, as it turns out, an author from Dragon's Inn, so I'll have to ask if she knows some folks I know who used to be involved with it), and many others.

There will be much fun, many good times, lots of shopping opportunities, and sooner or later, I will find Skunk Porn.

I always find Skunk Porn at conventions. I don't go looking for it. It finds me. It scares me.

So, if you're anywhere in or around Boston, come on down and have some fun.

January 14, 2005

Ira Glass: Lifesaver

The event took place, was quite good, and I made it home alive, despite evil fog, one moment of adrenalin, and some serious thought of pulling over and going to sleep.

The reason I didn't was because I was actively enjoying the This American Life episodes I was listening to, so I didn't want to stop until the given story/essay I was on was over. And when it ended, I glazed over the interstitial and found myself in the next story.

Oh, and they're breeding biblical cows, and those cows are going to cause the end of the world. And the thing is, it's perfectly plausible. So now I'm going to have nightmares about cows.

Oh, also? Webcartoonists have the ability to cause beautiful women to come out to see them in the rain.

Full writeup tomorrow. Action Stalker Journalist Burns going to sleep.

January 13, 2005

Fun Northampton Notes

So, here's some quick notes for you the person at home. On the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts I've listened to in my mother's house, these would be the things that Peter Allen would say while waiting for James Levine to get off his fat ass and start the fucking Opera, already. In this case, you can just pretend they're being said by Bob Costas and Deborah Norville, and therefore they're vapid.

The Northampton City Hall seems to be a fake castle. Up to and including turrets.


Several of them. Not one turret. One turret would look silly, after all. If you're going with turrets, you have to go for the full monty. They look like they should be flying pennants while bit actors in helmets ready boiling oil to be poured down onto protesting and invading hipsters.

As for said hipsters... the ratio of young, attractive men and women to old, broken down people seems to be seventy-four to one in favor of youth, out on the rain slicked streets of Northampton. It's skewed in here because there aren't seventy four people in this room and by definition, I am.

As near as I can tell, the Virgin Mary is considered an ironic and somewhat hip interior decorating choice.

Also? Santa Rita of Cascia.

Santa Rita's story can be found here. She seems to have been an interesting and forgiving woman, and a nice choice for a saint. I'm not an expert, but still -- I'm behind this particular canonization one hundred percent.

For the record, seems to be a Chilean winery. From woman granted stigmata of the forehead from Christ's Thorny Crown for the last fifteen years of a woman who suffered untold tribulations with grace and forgiveness to Cabernet Sauvignon in one easy step.

Of course, that might be in reference to a different Santa Rita. Check the comments for Catholics up on their female saints.

I seem to have strayed from my original topic of discussion. In conclusion, cute girls with tattoos still fucking rock. Thank you, and try the lattes.

Your man on the scene

So, here I am in rainy Northampton, a significant period of time before the festivities are scheduled to begin, on the twin theories of A) not knowing if this would be difficult to find, and therefore not knowing if it would take long to get here and B) having fuck-all to do in New Hampshire anyhow. It's slightly over an hour before our heroes are due to arrive here at the Haymarket, and no one around me is wearing a large sign reading "Webcartoonist," so I'm going to assume no one's here yet -- and after all, why would they be? They have an hour to go.

So, as a reporter, I should give my impressions, realtime, of venue. The Haymarket cafe is cozy and pleasant and largely occupied by attractive indy girls writing in journals. I ordered a light dinner of gorgonzola and spinach salad. The spinach is good enoughm the gorgonzola all gorgonzoly, though they drowned it in way too much oil.

The coffee, on the other hand, is exceptional. And obviously, the wifi works as expected. If this place were local to me, I suspect I would never sleep again.

At least one of the reports said this was taking place at the "Haymarket Bookstore Cafe," but I have seen no books here, which makes me wonder if I'm in the wrong "Haymarket Cafe." I guess come nine of the clock I'll find out, won't I? I have to assume there wouldn't be two cafes named "Haymarket" so close to each other, but then I've been wrong before. Often. If I'm wrong this time....

Actually, if I'm wrong this time, I'll have days worth of amusing anecdotes for Websnark and for talks. And that's all I can ask for, isn't it?

More news as events warrant. This is your man on the scene, Eric Burns, wishing all ladies and gentlemen and all the ships at sea safe voyages.

Oh, and the fucking fog bank that was southwestern New Hampshire can disperse any time between now and my drive back. I'm just saying.

Journalism, or Road Trip

So, I mentioned to a friend that I was swinging down to the Northampton meeting tonight.

"Isn't Northampton like three hours from here?" he asked.


"So, you're driving three hours there, watching this thing, maybe saying hello to some people and buying them drinks or something, then driving three hours back... this evening?"

"Well... yeah."

"You realize this is the most 'journalist' thing you've ever done in your life."

"What do you mean? I'm not a journalist. I'm a guy with a blog."

"You're a guy writing an op/ed column who's traveling by car for six hours to cover a webcomics event. You're going to be dead to the world tomorrow, barely able to communicate verbally, and yet I'm almost positive you'll snark about the trip by lunch. You're a journalist. Own it."

I allowed as they might have a point. Now, I just need to get press credentials and use this as justification for entry into E3.

Because this is going be six hours worth of driving for a 1-2 hour event, obviously I need to make certain I'll be as awake and alert as humanly possible for the trip. To that end, I've downloaded four -- count them four -- new episodes of This American Life and the audiobook version of America: The Book into my iPod. I have things rigged up so I can plug the headphone jack directly into my car stereo, so Ira Glass and Jon Stewart will see me through to where I will sit and drink coffee and feel desperately dorky in the back of the Dumbrella presentation.

Why dorky? Well, I'll tell you. If you can look at this trip as an exercise in journalism, you can far more easily look at it as an exercise in unmitigated fanboyism. And the last thing I want to do is throw up submissively on Jeffrey Rowland's shoes.

January 11, 2005

Too much to write, damn it.


I seem to have caught a short story. It's fairly demanding to be written. But there is also Shortbreads to finally finish plus the daily snarking. My brain is full to overflowing.

Oh, and I actually have a job, too. So, you know, I may not have time for any of this before 10 pm.

There is too much to be written in this world. There are too many interesting things. There is too much to say, and too many opinions to be said about it.

Or, I might need to start Ritalin. Never rule that out.

January 06, 2005

The Triumphal and the Surreal

I'm sitting at home, with no inclination to snark whatsoever. My cat is sleeping on my stomach, content as can be, and I'm watching an old (50's or 60's era) game show that Tivo snagged for me. It's called The Name is the Same, and the celebrity guest of the night just came out.

It's Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali. On a game show. That's shilling Swanson Chicken. Weirdass mustache and all. The game show's premise is they have nobodies with famous names come on, and a panel of guests have to guess what that famous name is. If the panel fails, they have to make out personal checks in the amount of $25 apiece to the contestant.

But this is the real Dali, on as their celebrity guest, and playing their game where he's thinking of a famous name he "wishes" to be... only this is Dali, so before that he's being... well, Dali, describing his new painting, "One Soft Watch Exploding in Eight Hundred Eighty-Eight Pieces." Which might be Soft Watch Exploding, though that was the early fifties so I think not. Or it might be something entirely different. I'm not up on Dali.

And yet, years after his death, Dali's managed to make my life momentarily surreal.

Anyhow, because there's no impetus to do any real cultural commentary, I'm going to cut and paste a post from my Livejournal. I'm doing this because... well, because hours later, I'm still just plain proud. And besides, it's something to do.

Hopefully, tomorrow there will be snarking aplenty (or even the finishing of the Story Shortbread list). In the meantime, if it's as snowy where you are as it is here, be careful.

So, for those who didn't follow this journal last year -- because, well, most of you had never heard of me -- I had a gastric bypass last March. I was... large. What the jokes would call "Oh my god, he's coming right at us." And I was dying -- sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but the end was near.

I've lost a lot of weight since then, and I'm still losing. I now climb flights of stairs for daily exercise, when before I had to take an elevator to go one floor, for example. But there was one area I was still terrified in.

Frankly, ice scares the hell out of me.

When I was at my top weight, slipping and falling on the ice was horrible. First, there was the fall itself -- a jarring impact that caused every joint to hurt and scared me on the way down that I'd break many, many bones. But that was just the start. You see, after that, I had to get back up.

And, if I fell where there was nothing to brace on, I couldn't.

I literally couldn't go from lying on the ground to standing up. I could get my legs under me, but they then couldn't dead-lift me back into standing position. So I'd have to either get help, or crawl to a tree or staircase or something.

It was humiliating. I remember once, last winter... I fell in the middle of the quad, on a snowy day. There was hidden ice, you see. It was the beginning of winter break, so there was no one on campus right then. And I couldn't stand. Finally, I started the long crawl across the quad back to the academic building so I could get up.

A teacher -- a nice guy -- saw me, realized something was wrong, and ran out to help me. And that was great of him, and excruciatingly embarrassing. I was helpless. I felt worthless. I felt like Darwin was standing over me, waiting with his chainsaw and smirking. I didn't deserve to live.

Well. That was then. I've lost over a hundred and twenty pounds since then. I now climb stairs willingly.

But I'm still scared to death of the ice.

Today it's snowing, and it was freezing rain before. And I was walking -- you guessed it -- across the quad. There were students everywhere, though. Which would actually be worse, if you think about it.

Naturally, I fell.

The first thing I thought as I hit the ground was oh Shit!

The second thing I thought, about a second later, was wait... that didn't hurt.

It didn't. At all. So, I shifted position, got my legs under me, thought "well, I guess we find out now, don't we?"

And stood.

I didn't strain. I didn't fight. I just popped right up, picked up the bag I'd been carrying, and kept on my way.

As I got close to the school, a student fell in front of me. I helped him up, asking if he was all right.

"I'm fine," he said, grinning and shaking his head. "Just embarrassed."

"Don't worry about it," I said. "I did the same thing a couple of minutes ago."

Take that, Darwin.

And if that's too feel good happy/overly personal bloggish for you... bear in mind that on the show, Dali just answered "no" when asked if Robert Q. Lewis, the host, was a person. "He is an Object!" he asserted. And then mumbled in French.

Either way, that's pretty cool. And he just drove Gene Rayburn off the stage with incoherence. Now that's entertainment.

January 05, 2005

Dude. It has the little pump action thing to extrude cresent shaped 'doh.' How cool is that?

So, in addition to the money I collected and donated in full from the Websnark Auction, I donated money of my own to Child's Play. In my own case, I went in and bought stuff off one of the hospital's gift lists (the auction money I donated straight to them).

Well, I must have screwed one of the donations up, because I just got a Big Barrel O' Play-doh from

Well, I'm going back onto to order another Big Barrel O' Play-doh for the hospital. But in the meantime, I'm sitting in my office with a barrel full of little barrels of Play-doh. And it makes no sense at all to send it back to Amazon. Not for the small amount of money this cost.

Which means I now own Play-doh. Pink, green, blue, red, white, and yellow Play-doh. Plus a huge number of molds, collanders, extruders and rollers to work with my Play-doh.

Dude. I own Play-doh.

Sadly, I have to wait until the end of work to head home and play with it. But its going to rock! Dude! Play-doh!

December 25, 2004

A note from Christmas in 2004

Obviously, this hasn't been a day I've been overly concerned about Websnark. I have been concerned with a little Scrabble (I'm somewhat good at that), and being decimated in Risk by my sister, who I dub "the Mongol" from this point forward, having seen her sweep down from Asia to decimate the rest of the world.

There were three presents of significant note to you, the Websnark audience. First off, there was America: The Book, which is hysterical and a good basic primer in high quality literate snarking. I have much to learn. The other two are Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers and Brian Walker's gorgeous The Comics Before 1945, a rich treasure trove of Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Little Orphan Batshit Insane Annie, Mutt and Jeff, Boob McNutt, the Bungle Family, Gasoline Alley....

Tomorrow, my nieces return home, and we do some more Christmas with them. Monday, of course, we start shortin' some bread. Tonight, I'm sitting next to a tree, surrounded by my family.

Oh, and we had Jiggers. Jiggers comes from my grandmother originally (to our knowledge, she invented them), and is essentially pie crust, cut into cookies, with cinnamon and sugar and baked. Mom had a spare crust from making the Quiche we have every Christmas morning, so we had Jiggers through the day as well. They echo down through the ages in my mind.

I hope you're all as happy on a night like this.

December 24, 2004

Two fast notes from Christmas Eve in the rainy rainy land of Maine

Two fast notes, from my family to you and yours, this rainy Christmas Eve.

First off, we've been listening to music and singing carols all evening. However, without a doubt our favorite music of the evening, bar none, has been Crazy Utahraptor,, by joey comeau and gilyan merry, made as fan art for one of my long time favorite comics, Daily Dinosaur Comics. My sister's been dancing to the phat rhythm, and calling people "Crazy Utahraptors" all day now. Which is joy.

Secondly, we've had our traditional Christmas Eve nosh -- meats and cheeses and fruits and crackers and the like -- and are now about to sit down to hot cocoa and lemon, orange and ginger wafers. Or, as the British would call them... biscuits.

That's right. We're having tasty, tasty biscuits.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

December 23, 2004

Christmas in Maine: 51ƒ and pouring rain.

Hi all from Maine, where I -- still sick, but on vacation at least -- have settled in with my family. They all say hello, and wonder why exactly you guys read this thing.

We were discussing Websnark, and I mentioned the Sestina that I did for Narbonic. This made my father, the Professor, quite happy. My mother blinked, and said "oh, you wrote a Sestina? So did I!"

I blinked in answer -- we're a blinking kind of family, and said "really? Was it about Gerbils?"

"No," she said. "But Isadora Duncan was in it." And she and Dad disappeared into the basement. They returned after a few moments with a tan magazine, The Maze, from 1974. And she showed me her Sestina.

My own Sestina I thought was higher level because I didn't just do the end-line things -- I also made it Iambic Pentameter. My mother didn't just do a Sestina, and do it in Iambic Pentameter... she made it rhyme.

With her permission... here is my mother's Sestina:


to decadence

Here! Stop a bit and watch our play;
And wait now for the perfect chance
To join the game. this is the day
We've planned to start our ritual dance.
So don't hang back, Ducks; What pleasure
To move within this tidy measure.

No doubt you could stand a measure
Of bubbly, or some such, to play
Your part with wild abandon: Pleasure
Often needs some help lest the chance
For spontaneity be lost. Dance
And draft, then, will create the day.

Still shy? Hesitate and the day
Is lost. Now's the time to measure
Your worth, the time to prove through dance
The stuff you're made of. If you play
The innocent here, Lady Chance
Must think you need no pleasure.

And now, my friend, it is my pleasure
To present the cast: Lil Here (Day-
Light is her bane) devours the chance
For youthful pranks by dark. Full measure
For our Dennis, there; he'll play
If the cup o'erflows throughout the dance.

This is Dora; her ; her frenzied dance
Has cast its spell on pleasure
Seekers of every sphere. Her play-
Mate here, Dear Aubrey, spends his day
In elfin merriment. Measure
Well his effects. Leave none to chance.

The rest you see did merely chance
To pass this way, saw how the dance
Progressed, and fell within the measure
As though entranced. Life's sweet pleasureņ
Principle we claim; and no day
Of reckoning shall menace our play.

So, will you play? Hey grab the chance
This judgment day; for in our dance
Macabre, pleasure eludes measure.

--Dian Burns, 1974

Dora refers to Isadora Duncan, Lil to Lilith of Hebrew myth (she wrote a Sestina and included Lilith -- we're bonding on so many levels tonight. And no, my mother's not a Goth), and Aubrey is Aubrey Beardsley. She doesn't remember who "Dennis" is, though he sounds like a musician who drinks. Anyone who has a theory as to Dennis's identity (Wednesday -- I'm looking at you) feel free to chime in. It would likely be someone from the turn of the 20th century. It could possibly be John Dennis, but he doesn't fit the time period) feel free to chime in.

I just think I have the coolest mother on Earth.

December 22, 2004

For those wondering

For those wondering (I've gotten several nice emails), I've been asleep all day. I'm going back there now.


November 19, 2004

November 19's a weird day for me

A while back, I had an online journal. It was more personal than Websnark, as longtime readers already know. Well, I covered November 19 and why it's weird in my life in One Day in the Life - 11/19/99.

19 years after the events detailed in that entry... things still tend to be weird on the 19th of November. So, if something strange happens to me later today... remember that I warned you right at the start.

Still remembering, Rich.

November 15, 2004

The transformative power of bristol board

So, it had all the makings of a bad day.

First off, I had a headache -- the remaining dregs of the medicine shock from the weekend. (What a wonderful phrase -- "medicine shock." It's precisely descriptive, of course.) There was a little bit of caffeine withdrawal thrown in, though I took care of that soon enough today (of course, hand in hand with dealing with caffeine withdrawal is also dealing with the jitters from too much caffeine taken in, because it's hard to be rational about how much to drink when you have a headache and feel crappy, and the coffee is warm and the demon is whispering your name and looking fine in her coffee wrapper bikini. But I digress.)

Add to that a number of crappy things at work. Work as a whole was fine, but there were a quarter-ton of annoyances. And they all led up to lunch, when I went to the dining hall twenty minutes before they were supposed to close, and discovered they were, in fact, closed. No food for me. So muttering, I went to the nearby mailroom to grab my mail.

I should mention I'm terrible about mail. I receive it at the school (because I live on campus), which means I'm usually going to actually get my mail maybe twice a week in a good week. Add to that my allergy to the phone -- I am the world's worst phone correspondent. I don't like talking at length on the phone, and I'm terrible about returning phone calls. Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that. I've reached the point where, having been forced by circumstance (not financial) to change my phone numbers recently, I'm just not giving them out to people. I'm going to see about retaining an official voice mail box for businesses, I'll have my home number which I'll give to my parents and my boss and that's about it, and my cell phone number.

As a point of order, if you call me on my cell phone number and you're not either my mother or currently on fire, you're going to get a pretty pissed off Eric who won't want to play your reindeer games. Hell, if you are my mother, you should be at least smoldering.

Anyway, my point is, I'm a total hermit. It's how I am. Despite my being plugged in for 10-16 hours a day into the most extensive and powerful innovation in telecommunications since Gutenberg first said "well, what if we made woodcuts," I'm pretty much Henry David Thoreau if Thoreau had spent less time ruminating about philosophy and nature and more time watching X-Play on his Tivo. And so I had a big pile of bills, credit card offers, and catalogs waiting for me at the mailroom.

And... I had a slip for a package.

Well, I usually do. I buy stuff. Pretty much all the time. So I went back and redeemed it, and they brought out a cardstock envelope, about 9x12.

"Oh cool," I thought. "One of the prints I've ordered has come in." Because as you know, I love illustration and cartoons and art. I'm addicted to bristol board. I love sketches. I love all this stuff. And I'm... well, not comfortable with asking for it. If I make it to some place on the Con circuit this coming year -- a con where webcartoonists go, as opposed to a con where SF dweebs like me go, mind. I don't expect to meet many cartoonists at Baycon or Arisia unless I bribe them to drop by with promises of beer and sushi -- I'll bring a sketchbook, wander the artist's alley... and probably never say more than twelve words to people. If I do manage to ask for sketches, even if they're doing "free sketches," which a lot will be, I'll force money on them, because I'm terrible about just asking someone to do art for me. It doesn't seem right. I'll be incredibly self-conscious about my name and Websnark, unless it's someone I've established a friendship with. And if it's someone I've established a friendship with, I won't ask them for a sketch in the first place, because I won't want them to think I just want to be their friend for the sketches.

Yeah, I have issues. I own them.

Anyway, this means I commission stuff and I buy prints and I bid in auctions. I bid in the Two Lumps auction and lost out, for example. But there is always tomorrow. And I'm usually waiting on a print or two to come in. Today, seeing the cardstock envelope, I assumed it was a copy of a print I ordered not long ago from Aeire of Queen of Wands, for example. No big deal -- just kind of neat, and I needed "kind of neat" on a day when I was in a bad mood.

So I get the envelope... and the return address is the right state for Aeire, but not the right city. And also, last I knew, Aeire's name wasn't spelled "S. Garrity."

"Well, cool," I thought. "I don't remember what I ordered from Narbonic, but that's nothing new." And then I got excited, because as I've snarked before, Shaenon Garrity has a habit of sketching on packaging. Which means hey, original art I didn't have to sheepishly ask for, from someone whose art I love. So I flip the envelope over....

And Garrity's sketched all right. A Snarky, sleeping peacefully away in his recliner with his comic strips. It's adorable and I'll have to ask Garrity for permission to post it, because I absolutely love it.

Right there... right there... I've gone from "bad mood" to "good mood." This thrilled me, and I haven't even opened the envelope yet. This is the power of cool people who draw.

So, I head out to the car, to drive elsewhere, to get some food because I really am pretty hungry. And I take a few moments to have a look inside the envelope... it is indeed bristol board....

But I know the second I look at it I hadn't commissioned it or ordered it and just forgotten.

You guys know, if you've been reading for a while or if you've read through my "My Comics Page" trawl in the corner, that I love Lynn Johnston and For Better or For Worse. I mean, love it. I've been reading it for years and years and years. I've been watching this family grow and mature and deepen and develop in all the ways Bil Keane's Family Circus doesn't for pretty much my whole cognizant life. FBoFW is one of those strips I point at when I'm told by a cartoonist who's loudly declaiming that there's no quality on the newspaper comics page, that there's just bland retellings and Garfield and Nancy. I point to it and say "you do one thousandth of the quality, the depth, the storytelling and the artistic values of this strip, and then come talk to me about the Newspapers." I don't care if it's merchandized or collected or published or printed or syndicated or anything else: this is a good strip. It's funny when it tries to be funny, and it brings the story better than 99% of any strips I've ever read. The woman does payoffs ten years after the plotline introductions, and yet you never feel it's being dragging. (If you want a trip, trawl through the archives and find the strips where Mike's wife was introduced. Here's a hint -- it was back when Mike thought girls were ooky. And remember these characters age in real time.)

Well, Lynn Johnston did an event at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco not too long ago. And Shaenon Garrity's husband works there, and Garrity herself puts in a lot of volunteer time, or so I'm given to understand. I'm a member of this museum (and if you love cartoons and comic strips, you should be a member too), which Garrity knows.

And so, unsolicited, she decided that since Johnston was there, and she knew I liked Johnston, and she further knew I liked original art... she got Lynn Johnston to do a signature and a sketch for me, and then sent it along.

It's a gorgeous piece. I'd scan it and put it up, but I'm never comfortable doing that with an artist's work. It's in blue ink, and features April and Farley's faces (okay, it's actually April and Edgar, I'm sure, but the dog I grew up with in the strip was Farley, so it's going to be Farley to me.) and an elaborate, beautiful signature and date. Maybe it only took Johnston eight seconds to draw. I don't know. It clearly didn't require any pencil work.

But it's the only one of this kind in the world, and she did it for me. (Well, she did it for Garrity, but hey -- it counts.) This is like getting a sketch from Berke Breathed, or Gary Larson, or Garry Trudeau to me. This is one of the strips that kept me coming back year after year after year to comic strips. I'm writing Websnark now, in no small part, because of a love of the form that Lynn Johnston was a significant contributor to forming in me.

For the record? I'm as happy and pleased, artistically speaking, by the Snarky Garrity sketched for me. But the gesture, the thoughtfulness, and the piece itself just blow me away.

I had been having a bad day. I'm now having a good week.

Thank you, Shaenon. I owe you even more beer now.

November 10, 2004

Live, from Waltham, Massachusetts, it's a dull series of vendor demonstrations!

In my secret identity, I'm a systems administrator (a fact that causes my technically inclined friends to snicker uncontrollably) for a school in New England. On occasion, this means my boss (who I shall call Secret Manager-1, or just "M," for short) and I have to go and listen to people without charisma drone on in front of powerpoint presentations their secretaries worked up, and try really hard to pretend they're not saying what the previous vendor said. Right at the moment, a very tired man is telling us that there is an exciting new technology called "wireless," that people can use to get connectivity without wires! Honestly!

For the record, the fact that while he says that, I'm able to write this missive to you... and the fact that everyone else in the room, literally, is doing the same (well, they're not writing to you, but they're surfing the web) should tell the presenter that the word is out, but he's got to go through the motions because he has nothing else to talk about. I also get to hear IT managers and systems administrators ask the most absurdly esoteric questions in the world (we just heard -- I swear to Christ -- someone in the audience ask "what frequency range will 802.11n use?" The answer, if there's any possibility you care even slightly, is 2.4 Ghz, and there is no humanly possible reason why he'd possibly need to know that yet. That's just slightly like asking if the new hydrogen cell cars are going to have an alloy wheel option. There is an answer, but why would possibly care at this stage of the game.

There is an off chance that there'll be something interesting sometime during the day. And it's business travel, which is always fun in its own way, and M is fun to do these things with because she's just as cynical as I am, and when we finish here I'm going to go have drinks with an acquaintance which is always cool, so that's pretty nice. I'm not likely to get much writing done, but it's not wholly impossible. We are sitting in the back row, which is where the wired geeks are hanging out (we have cell phones, pagers and e-mail pings going off every thirty seconds or so, M and I apparently being the only two who know how to mute our powerbooks.

I'm not sure she'll appreciate me surfing webcomics sites, so we'll see how quickly snarks happen today. I might be able to get some writing don--

The wireless guy just told us not to install access points inside of metal encasements or behind metal pipes. This is the perdition I am sitting in for the next five hours. Pray for me. Pray for Bobo.

November 09, 2004

A fast note from a busy day.

I'm buried neck-deep in work, because tonight I'm overnighting in the Boston area for a 7:00 conference with my boss, and I need to have a clean slate here at the school until I return. So I haven't had much time to snark or anything else. I also had to duck out and grab cat food at my lunch hour, killing my lunchtime snark time. And yet, I'm ducking in for a moment.

You see, they just got a shipment of British foods at the market, because... well, I don't know why. Maybe it's a Christmas thing. And I glanced at them quickly... and then saw they had relatively inexpensive packets of Kedem tea digestives.

What does that mean?

It means that right now, on my desk, I have a packet of biscuits.

Tasty, tasty biscuits.

Life doesn't suck.

October 21, 2004

Maybe we'll just chalk this week up to exhaustion and burnout.

Yesterday was a day of recovery from food poisoning, followed by four hours on the road -- and a great evening with my sister. And listening to the Red Sox win on the radio.

Today was a day of unmitigated exhaustion. It wasn't that I couldn't wake up -- I did. I went to work and everything.

But I couldn't think. I stared at computer screens that didn't resolve into words. I sat in meetings and barely could focus. I came home, ate something basic, and went to sleep for six hours. I'm about to go back to sleep.

I have notes for two snarks sitting in a folder on my computer's desktop. One involves the word "Mandible," and the other has a picture of a monkey. I have about twenty-seven unread Websnark e-mails sitting in the Websnark account.

I am typing this, instead, and then I'm going to bed. Tomorrow's Parents Weekend at the school, which means that barring a catastrophic failure of the database the faculty use to grade our kids, I'm not going to have to do a damn thing. You'll get them then, right after I put an overdue paid assignment to bed.

Chicken Salad is a deadly killer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

October 20, 2004

A rather focused correction

I've had a few people wish me well, offer me prayers, and be just darn good folks today, after my accident. Which means I wasn't nearly clear enough in last night's post. But then, I was fevered. So let me make something abundantly clear.

I did not have a car accident yesterday. I had food poisoning, the onset of which happened while I was driving. Had I not been driving on a deserted New Hampshire road at dusk, I would have plowed into oncoming traffic. However, there was no oncoming traffic to plow into. Other than a continuing desire to cut what's left of my already truncated digestive system out with a spoon rather than continue to enjoy this feeling, I am perfectly fine.

At the same time? You people rock. You really do. So I appreciate it, very much. But please don't consider me the boy who cried car accident.

(I was in a car accident a few years ago, if the thought of me being in a car hit by the hammer of Thor makes you smile. My old journal has the details if you're interested, and honestly, why would you be?)

October 19, 2004

On top of it all, my eyes hurt. From behind. I don't know what that means.

So I was pretty ill this evening. Food poisoning's the most likely culprit, though flu can't be ruled out. But it hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere, and that's more a food poisoning kind of thing. Sadly, I was driving at dusk when the ton of bricks hit. Let's just say we're all fortunate there was no oncoming traffic right that moment. Well, I'm more fortunate than you are, though I think it'd be hard for me to write this with all my bones broken and my chest one big subdural hematoma from hitting the airbag. As it was, there was just some cleanup and a limp back to my apartment, putting off a trip to my sister's until tomorrow, health willing.

I slept most of the evening, with unpleasant bits. And yet, unlike other times I've had this light a day, I didn't stress about Websnark. I figure you guys will cut me some slack, especially when chicken salad is trying to kill me. It was also a day when not a lot leapt out and said "snark me," which happens sometimes. Once again, you guys seem pretty cool about such things.

It's weird. When I first started this, it was entirely because I wanted to, and I had no rules for how often I posted. As it turned out, I posted a lot, but hey -- this thing was new and shiny. These days, if I don't write four snarks, I generally feel like I've let you guys down.

That's nuts, by the way. It's totally insane. And I'll never force out a snark I don't feel just to give you something to read. If I write about it, it's because I honestly have an opinion I want to talk about it.

No, if I have to force out a snark to assuage my work ethic, it'll be a meaningless ramble about my health.


October 18, 2004

It's always nice to fill the vita out a little....

I seem to have an article in Pyramid Magazine this week. It's on In Nomine, covering one way to perhaps make Impudites work a bit better. This makes the first time my professional writings cross the path of Dead Inside writer Chad Underkoffler, whose regular column Campaign in a Box also happens to appear. And his column covers one of my favorite subjects -- second string super heroes -- so it's a double pleasure..

Anyhow, while I was taken slightly by surprise by the article appearing (I submitted it a couple of years back, and a couple of queries went unanswered), it's always nice to discover you're scheduled to get paid for writing. And I've always liked Pyramid. So, if you get a chance and happen to be a subscriber, have a look.

October 14, 2004

A fast update.

The woman and the baby at the next booth? I mentioned them in the last snark?

Well, as they were getting up and getting ready to leave, the baby started to bitch. Probably because it had no chance to sleep during the meal.

"Oh you," the woman said. "Don't be a fussbudget."


There's ways to get back in my good graces almost instantly. Invoking old school Peanuts is one of them.

September 27, 2004

Drink deep of the Snark, now in more than one place!

Over on Comixpedia, you'll find the first of what I hope will be many monthly columns by me. Feeding Snarky features... well, more of my stuff. Only it also has an astoundingly cool 'icon art,' done by the equally astoundingly cool Ursula Vernon of Digger fame. And right there, that makes it much cooler!

Anyway, check it out. Or don't. I mean, I don't see the hitcounts for Comixpedia, so I'll never know. On the other hand, there's also a new Wednesday White article and one by Meaghan Quinn and they interview Steven L. Cloud, who draws the brilliant Boy on a Stick and Slither. So there's better reasons than my sorry ass to check it out.

In other news, Venture Brothers was good this week. That is all. All the news.

September 20, 2004

One last light day

Hey all! I'm about to climb in my car and drive for New Hampshire. I'll try to get stuff done tonight, but I should be back on a normal life-schedule regardless tomorrow.

Also? Talk Like A Pirate Day failed to have significant Webcomics impact this year, as far as I saw. That's sad. Sad and wrong.

September 19, 2004

Darrrr! I want the white pony!

So, we spent the night with friends. And then we talked like pirates while riding a carousel. I met a kickass 8 year old girl who, the second time she spoke to me, said "THAR SHE BLOWS!"

My life is a webcomic.

September 18, 2004

Updates on travels in the (moderately small) city

Ithaca is beautiful today -- the sun is shining and the air is crisp without being cold. I'm wandering the Ithaca Commons looking at things, sipping caffeinated beverages, and stopping off in various places where I can legally connect through the magic of wireless internet access, to tappa tappa tappa on the keys.

At the moment, I'm in the new public library. Its building used to be a Woolworth's, though that went out of business a long time ago. They've essentially rebuilt the building from scratch. It's gorgeous, well stocked and well laid out. This library is fantastic. And of course, wireless internet access and a place to plug my nearly-drained-powerbook in. This is a sizable bonus.

Around four, I'm going to crawl back into my car and drive back out to Frank's house, meeting up with his wife. We'll then drive (in her car -- I'm way exhausted when it comes to driving, right now) to pick Frank up at Cornell where he is working today, and then we'll drive up to see other friends up in Syracuse. We plan on celebrating Talk Like A Pirate Weekend by going to the Carousel Center Mall by riding on the aforementioned carousel. While, naturally, talking like pirates.

Tomorrow is the wedding I'm here to attend, and our second attempt to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (I was too tired to go to see it on Friday, as we'd originally planned). And tomorrow should be a restful day for me, as I'm not doing any of that driving. And then Monday I head back to New Hampshire.

This is all going by too fast. I'm remembering how much I love Ithaca with every passing second. I'm taking lots of pictures, too -- including at least one pertinent to Websnark.

In the meantime, please enjoy the hors d'oeuvres.

February 26, 2004

Six Days

ItĖs six days before the surgery. Six days.

I have a GPS system. I played with it last night. It was fun. It led me to my destinations and came up with new ones. ThatĖs what GPS does.

Six days.

I drink only liquids right now, just like I will after the surgery. It helps clear the system, helps prepare me for what happens next. Instant breakfasts, Cream of Wheat, soy milk, powdered milk.

Six days.

There is a current of excitement as I push to get everything done and tied up at work. Things are tense here anyhow, but this adds a rush.

Six days.

I am elated.

Six days.

I am terrified.

Six days.

Seriously. Terrified. I alternate between excitement and terror. This is insanity. That it turns out it is the best possible thing I can do doesnĖt change the mind-numbing weirdness of the prospect. They are going in, and they are disabling healthy tissues and altering healthy organs, to make me healthy. Astounding.

Six days.

I drink a lot of water right now too. 48-64 ounces a day, accomplished by drinking a couple of quart jugs of water, plus a good amount of crystal light and sugar free kool aid. I feel odd, like maybe IĖll drain away. Well, that is the idea, isnĖt it?

Six days.

I have waited for this for so long.

Six days.

One out of two hundred. That doesnĖt sound as comforting as half of one percent, does it? One out of two hundred. There were three hundred people in the information meetings I attended. One and a half of the people there, by the odds, wouldnĖt make it. One out of two hundred. I play the lottery on a regular basis, with absolute certainty that IĖll win. Those odds of winning Powerball, statistically, are 1 in 120,526,770. One out of two hundred.

Six days.

I met a woman when I went for my preadmission physical. I also learned that Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital uses a pneumatic tube delivery system. IsnĖt that the coolest thing? ItĖs like IĖm getting my surgery performed in 1930Ės New York. The womanĖs last name was Burns, just like mine, so she struck up a conversation with me. She was an attractive woman, with a nice figure. She was having some skin removed -- sheĖd had the gastric bypass in 2001, and was doing some followup. She lost 260 lbs. She looked fantastic and was cheerful.

Six days.

260 pounds would put me very close to goal weight. Very close. Astounding to consider. In the meantime, my legs and knees hurt a great deal. I canĖt take ibuprofin for a week before and six weeks after the surgery. ItĖs a blood thinner. Very dangerous. And tylenol... look, Tylenol means well, and always offers to participate and helps clean up after class, but itĖs just not knuckling down and performing, yĖknow?

Six days.

This is going to change my life. No matter what happens next, no one can ever claim I didnĖt try. I am making my leap of faith. I am stepping through today into tomorrow. I will walk. I will run. I will climb. I will learn to dance.

Six days.

I will learn to dance.