Wednesday, April 08, 2009

All about blogs

First, I'll still love you if you don't read this damned thing. In fact, if you're going to spend the time it takes to read this, I'd prefer you spent that time hanging out. Come on over. Seriously.

My friend, Bill, suggested I take a peek at this artical: How to Dissuade Yourself from Becoming a Blogger, which I found enlightening and, as a whole, faultless. Why not abandon the public blog and start a private LiveJournal, as suggested in the artical, or spend time updating Wikipedia or posting to blogs I follow?

Why indeed? First, I do minor edits of Wikipedia from time to time, and I post comments to one blog in particular... I can expand on that, sure. But why keep this? Because I like writing it, people I know occasionally find it, and it contains most of the things that I don't try to hide from people I might meet in the future. [Yes, I have things I hide, don't act all surprised, buster] Over the years, I have gained and lost a few readers, including my ex-father-in-law (who's still welcome to come hang out with me when he's in town), coworkers from previous jobs, and a sister-in-law... possibly an ex-sister-in-law, but I never asked her. This gives them a general idea of how my immediate family is doing (for example, I'll have plenty to say about Stacey next post when I talk about how the soccer season is going), and some of the things I'm currently geeking out about. So some of this is for them, and any future thems I pick up in life. Some of it is a trip down memory lane when I'm feeling melodramatic. Some of it is how I kill time. I don't play video games as often I used to, and I have lots more family in the house than I've had in years, so I like to do something I can stop immediately when one of my girls wants me to come hang with them.

Predictably, I didn't grow a large fanbase with my ramblings, and never intended to jump on the political-commentary-cum-capitalism-through-banner-ads bandwagon, but I did improve, over the years, my thought process, my writing syle, and my voice. I got over hangups I had about language. I focused more on communicating ideas and feelings than I did on using correct tenses, when to use semicolons, avoiding incomplete or run-on sentences, other grammar-nazisms. I think what I ended up with is readable, and doesn't break enough rules to detract from the reading experience.

So let's talk about blogs. If you're looking at this on, then on the right you'll see a list of the ones I tend to follow. Check them out. If you're looking at this through Google Reader or some other RSS application, I'll enumerate a few. Why do I follow the ones I do, and what is interesting about them?

I'll focus this entry on the easy ones: People I know.

Burleson Blog

Chris was my roommate for about a year in 1994/1995. He, like me, changed course in life in an unexpected way. He was heading down the road to being a chef, and when we had company over he would sometimes throw together a cool dish I had never had before. He encouraged me to get a good set of knives and some basic kitchen tools. He is, without a doubt, the reason I can cook food now.

He didn't become a chef, and, as is my nature, I never asked him why. We were both about 19 when I first met him, and he was struggling through the unhappy chore of being a pizza shop assistant manager. He was well on his way to quitting Donatos in frustration when I met him, while I was living in another friend's basment, deciding finally that I needed to get a job and move out, rather than while away my existence delivering coupons with my old buddy Steve Young (not the one you're thinking of, most likely), and mooching off of my family for $10 or $20 here and there. My levels of "tool" and "fail" were staggering back then.

At Donatos, I didn't make much of an impression on Chris as far as work ethic goes. He scoffed at me a couple times, and I correctly read the perform-or-get-fired mentality of the store, and quickly became useful and liked, and went on to become an assistant manager at a different store... but this isn't my story. Chris and I developed a close friendship along the way, and he left the company shortly after I moved to another store to be its bottom level manager. He went on to desk jobs that led him to CompuServe, where I followed him in 1995 after we had been roommates for a while. He was the push that led me to working in IT, which led me to my first wife, which led to Stacey. I wouldn't have Stacey if I didn't bump into Chris back when I was 19, a fool, and directionless. Thanks, man.

I left CompuServe a couple years later, and Chris and I lost touch shortly after that, bumping into each other online occasionally. Somewhere along the way, Chris and his wife, Tracy, decided to adopt a Chinese girl. So they learned the ropes of international adoption, and flew the hell out to China! They came back with Kennedy (when she was 3, I think), and it was then that Chris and I reconnected. I brought Stacey over to entertain Kennedy on one occasion, and they hit it off pretty well. At some point I brought over a gaggle of neighborhood kids, and we all went down to the Asian Festival together and had a good time, and then we all lost touch again for a few years.

In the meantime, they went BACK to China and adopted ANOTHER kid, Bai Hua. We've since reconnected yet again, and Chris and the whole gang have come over for dinner and chit-chat, and the wife and I are going to head back next week sometime to their place... possibly. With two busy families, coordinating even a simple dinner at home can be difficult.

So, yeah, there's my buddy Chris, a fellow pizza flipper turned awesome guy, and this is his blog. He (mainly his wife, I think) writes about the goings-on with Kennedy and Bai Hua, infrequently and with brevity, as fits their overloaded schedule. Check it out, and learn about the local organization for people who've adopted Chinese children. Good stuff.

The Principle of Moments

This is from the aforementioned friend whose basement I lived in briefly, Chris Barrett. He and I were best friends between roughly the 8th and 10th grades. Without going into any detail, let me just say that "Columbine" would be known as "Worthingway" instead, were it not for Chris's strength of character. That was a damned violent environment, with a student body hell-bent on forcing academic mediocrity and social lowest common denominators, and staffed with adults skilled at looking the other way. And coaching their sports teams. I recently revisited the school when Stacey's basketball team had a game there, and it felt better. Maybe I grew up and got stronger, maybe I didn't know what to look for, but it didn't seem like the place it was.

Chris introduced me to the GBBS program for the Apple //. Customizing that program and running my own BBS was what made me cross the threshold separating hobbyist/tinkerer and programmer. He also introduced me to such things as Buddhism, Tolkien, Chicken Fried Rice, Highlander, Bard's Tale, and the Linworth Alternative Program. He was the one peer I had bold enough to say "You're a senior man, don't you feel dirty dating a Freshman?" (I didn't sleep with her, I swear!). Conversely, when I was fresh off the boat from North Carolina in the 8th grade, he was the sole person who saw intelligence in me through the remnants of hillbilly that I brought with me. Not one crack about the accent or clothes... many cracks about other things, but not one implication that I was stupid.

That type of support, and having a friend interested in science, philosophy, computers, and other things cool, kept me in the game when I had all but given up on school, and learning in general. Chris helped me have confidence in myself, and exposed me to the geek subculture when I was still stupidly struggling to be a low-ranking hanger-on in the local conforming kids' aristocracy. Thanks, man.

Chris, coincidentally, also worked at CompuServe for a short time while I did. He left for bigger things, later finishing his PHD and starting a professorship at OSU teaching anthropology. Righteous!

This is his blog, updated infrequently, and packed with yummy vitriol on the things in life that need a good smack upside the head. It's also possible he has a low opinion of some of his students... but if half of what he writes is true regarding their work ethic and writing quality, they deserve much worse than the disappointed comments of their teacher.

Eric Gotta Teach!!!

Eric Hauter will be my brother-in-law this May 30th. I've known him for just a couple years now, and we haven't done anything yet that's just the two of us, so our attention is always split when we're around each other, and consequently we haven't managed to form a deep friendship. On the surface we don't seem to have much in common, but he's me. Me with good personal skills and an easy smile, and lots of memorized rap lyrics. And a modest command of Russian. He has a wide circle of friends that all speak highly of him, and I'm jealous of all the women who comment flirtingly on his Facebook entries.

His blog is fairly new, and he updates it frequently. It's mainly comedy, listing things that "suck" and "don't suck" with colorful commentary, and it also has twisted stories from his youth mixed in. Some are cute, some are horrifying, all of them have depth, and honesty.

To be frank, I didn't care for the first couple entries, but I kept reading anyway, in support of my friend and future brother. Once he got his sea legs, his entries got really, really good. Now I anxiously check Google Reader once or twice a day to see if there is anything new from him.

I hope he and I get to the point where I can, off the cuff, say how much some small acts by him affected my life and changed who I was, and how I'd be a different, worse person without him. He seems to be a hell of a guy, and I'd like to be able to say that. I can only say this for right now: He managed the clothing store my wife works at when I was first dating her. I came in once to surprise her with flowers and see if she wanted to do anything that night. Eric smiled when he saw me, and gave Liberty and I some time alone to talk, making it much easier to calm myself down to the point where I could talk without sounding like Erkel. That helped... thanks, man.

I might talk up the other blogs, maybe not. But check them all out, there are nuggests of coolness in each of them.

Until next time.

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