I am officially 49 years old today.

Today is my 49th birthday. Not nearly as big a milestone as next year’s birthday will be, but not entirely insignificant. I’m solidly into middle age now and can’t even pretend to be anything remotely close to young except in comparison to those who are significantly older than I am. The nice waitress at the restaurant we went to for dinner tried to claim I didn’t look a day over 35. Yeah, right. We gave her a good tip anyway.

What the hell happened to me?

What the hell happened to me? Click to embiggen.

This is me as of 3 minutes ago.I didn’t use to wear glasses. Then I started to wear them when I needed to read super-fine print. Next I started to wear them when I needed to read text on my computer monitor. Now if I take them off the letters on my keyboard are fuzzy as hell so I wear them most of the time now. These days if I need to read super-fine print I have to take a picture of it with my smartphone and zoom in on it.

There’s a shit load more grey in my beard than I remember there being last week. I have very fine, dirty dishwater blonde hair so it’s harder to notice it on my head when I let it grow out, but damn if it’s not easy to spot in my beard and mustache. I’ve got a good start on wrinkles too. Especially around the eyes. Probably why I can’t read fine print anymore.

Something I’ve noticed that’s a little more concerning has to do with my typing. I find that more and more I’m somehow substituting a word in a sentence with something other than the word I meant to type. Invariably I end up thinking something like “absolutely” and end up typing “abstinence” or some other word instead. I wasn’t even thinking of the word abstinence, but there it is. Sitting in the middle of my sentence causing it to make no goddamned sense.  Usually the wrong word will start with the same letter, but will have absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to say. I could blame it on autocorrect, but it’s not limited to my phone.

I’m still too fat and I still don’t get enough exercise, but I’m in decent health in spite of those facts. My right knee has been bothering me for the past half-year and I have a standing order from my doctor to get it x-rayed, but I’ve not gotten around to it yet. Think I might do it this Saturday.

Other than dinner out this evening, the day was pretty much like any other day. Went to work, dealt with a few minor irritations, had dinner, came home. Got lots of birthday wishes from friends, family, and coworkers which were all greatly appreciated. All in all, not a bad day to turn 49.

My other early birthday present.

Thanks to a joint gift from my mother and sister, I have two new Hawaiian shirts in my collection. A collection that is getting increasingly tattered as time goes on. There are several shirts that I no longer wear to work because they’ve started to develop holes.

The favorite shirt of fat men everywhere.

Isn’t it pretty? I got two of this same shirt so it’ll take twice as long to wear them out. I’ve added a number of Hawaiian shirts to my Amazon Wish List from different manufacturers so I could figure out which would be my favorite so I could add a bunch more. These shirts are made by Pacific Legend and are 100% cotton. They were a bit starchy when they arrived so I ran them through the wash once to soften them up. It’s still a little itchy, but I’m hoping additional washings will help to make them less so. That said, the material is thick enough that I’ll probably find myself wearing these year-round. Also, this company has some of the more beautiful prints I’ve seen.

I also have shirts on my wish list from La Leela, and Johari West (whose webpage appears to have been hijacked so I won’t link to it). La Leela’s shirts are available in both 100% cotton and something they call Likre material, which is some form of artificial silk. The patterns tend to be more of the cliched sort for Hawaiian shirts, but I’d like to try one made of Likre just to see how comfortable it is. Johari West’s shirts are 100% cotton and have some bold designs similar to Pacific Legend’s.

I’ve mentioned before that my chest and back are really picky about the feel of the shirts I put on to the extent that even the weave of the fabric can determine if I can stand to wear it or not. Buying 100% cotton is no assurance I’ll be able to tolerate wearing it. I’ve got three Hawaiian shirts that I generally only wear in cooler weather because I have to wear a t-shirt underneath them or I’ll itch all damned day. Right now I’m on the fence about this Pacific Legend shirt. I’m hoping to find a few more companies offering Hawaiian shirts on Amazon, but these are the three that come up most prevalently in a search.

Anyway, another early birthday present that is well appreciated.

My birthday has arrived a little early.

I’ve had my eye on a new gaming monitor for awhile now. If you had snuck a peek at my Amazon wish list in the last 6 months or so you might have even seen it. I listed it as a pipe dream because it was very expensive. It was the Acer XG270HU Gaming monitor and it was going for $429.99. It’s 27 inches of beauty with a 144Hz refresh rate, a 1 millisecond GTG response time, WQHD resolution (2560×1440), with AMD’s Adaptive-Sync technology. Not cheap, but oh so nice.

It's so sexy! Click to embiggen!

It’s so sexy! Click to embiggen!

On Friday I got an ad from Newegg in my email that had another 27″ monitor on sale. It was only 1080P and 60Hz, but it had AdaptiveSync and a 2ms GTG for $175, which is considerably more affordable. I figured it was worth a shot to ask the wife if I might be able to get it.

She looked at me and said, “But that’s not the one you really want.” No, I admitted, but it’s got most of what I want and the size is the same and it’s cheaper. “Why don’t you just get the one you want?” My heart skipped a beat.

Still, I felt a little guilty at spending that kind of money so I tried to come up with a couple of reasons why I probably shouldn’t. The Radeon R9 390 video card I bought awhile back is more than capable of driving the monitor, but I’m still rocking an AMD FX-4170 quad core processor at 4.2Ghz so I was worried that maybe my CPU wouldn’t keep up with it. She asked me how much a better CPU would cost. The AMD FX-8350, which is the maximum my motherboard would take, is $150 so she told me to add that in. Eventually, I did. First I double checked the price of the monitor on Newegg’s website and it turns out they had it for $379.99 — a good $50 cheaper — so that’s where I bought it and the FX-8350.

On Saturday I got to thinking about it and realized the new CPU was going to put out a lot of heat and my system already is a blast furnace when it’s going full-tilt. Perhaps a new case was in order. Then I remembered that I literally had to wedge the R9 390 into my current case because the cooling system for it abuts right up against the drive cage of the CM Storm Scout case I’ve been using the past few years. So I did some digging and decided on a Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 High Airflow case as a future purchase. I showed Anne on Sunday and she told me to go ahead and order it as well.

It's much more impressive than it looks.

It’s much more impressive than it looks.

So today it all arrived while I was at work and it was terribly difficult to not rush home to check it out. I’ve hooked the monitor up already and it’s stunning. I was telling someone at work about it and when I sent them the Newegg link I noticed that the price had shot back up to $469.99, $40 more than at Amazon at the moment. It was a stroke of luck that I got it at the price I did. I’ve booted up four of the games I’m playing the most right now (Call of Duty: Black Ops III, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and Overwatch) and they all look fabulous on this monitor. Even with my lower-end CPU I’m still managing 65 to 74 FPS in CoD so I expect that’ll only get better once I get the 8350 in this weekend.

The case has a dual chamber design with all the big heat generating components — motherboard, video cards, SATA hard drives — on one side and the power supply, SSDs, and optical disks on the other along with all the cables. Passthroughs spaced around the motherboard tray allow you to keep most of the cabling behind the motherboard allowing for unimpeded air flow. Two 140MM fans in the front and a third in back should push enough air to keep things cool, but there’s room for another five fans if needed. Plus there are mounts for radiators for water cooled setups on the front and top of the case.

A shot of the back with the secondary chamber revealed.

A shot of the back with the secondary chamber revealed.

It’s a bit on the big side and a little unwieldy, but I’ve not lugged my PC to a LAN party in a long time and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. This should help to ensure my system doesn’t fry itself once the new CPU is in place. Plus there’s more than enough room to accommodate my video card.

So, yeah, a bit of an upgrade to my system for my birthday. My wife’s only concern was that I’d be upset at not having anything to open on my actual birthday. Somehow I think I’m going to be OK with that.

 

A belated birthday to my momma.

I could’ve sworn I had written an entry on Monday wishing my mother a happy birthday, but all evidence points to the contrary so I must have dreamt about it or something. As a result, I am late in wishing her a very happy 81st birthday.

momma81

Happy Birthday, Mom! I wish I could think of something profound to say right about now, but I’m coming up with nothing other than I love you and here’s to another 81 years!

Happy 48th birthday to me.

Today I have somehow managed to reach my 48th year and, despite all my bad lifestyle choices, I’m still relatively healthy. I’m getting to the age where birthdays start to become days of reflection which is something I’ve never been all that good at, but there are certain truths about my life that are starting to become apparent.

samualjacksonnarrate

For example, I realize that I will probably never be a published author. At least, not of a book of any kind. Part of the reason I started my blog 14 years ago was to practice writing and, while I’ve definitely improved over the years, I’ll never be able to come up with an idea for more than a short story or two. I used to write short stories often when I was younger, but these days the inspiration comes very infrequently. I know a couple of people who are pretty big writers who seem to be able to pump out volumes of prose with little effort and who have a large fanbase, but I will never be one of those people. They are all remarkably well-read and are familiar with large numbers of other authors. I’m very picky about my fiction reading and as a result I’m not as familiar with the tropes and traditions of my favorite genre — science fiction — to really contribute anything to it. When I first had this realization it bothered me a little because it was something I long thought I would do, but these days I’ve come to accept it.

I also realize that I’ve already hit the peak of my career and will never hit that high again. In part because I will always be a break-fix IT guy. Moving up to just about anything else would require a college degree and I’m not going to get one of those anytime soon. Or it would require I go into management and I’ve never wanted that either. Despite working in a position that is perpetually considered entry-level, I’m good at it and I enjoy it. I get paid alright for what I do — just a little under the industry mean which means there’s room for raises — but it’s never going to reach a six figure level. It took 20+ years as a contractor before a company hired me directly and it’ll probably be the last one to ever do so. I wouldn’t recommend my method of career decision making to anyone and, honestly, I’ve been damned lucky in spite of myself. At this point I probably won’t be retiring unless I manage to hit a lotto jackpot.

Lastly, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never own my own home. We came closest to realizing that goal last year and it didn’t happen and I don’t suspect I’ll be in a position financially to try again for quite some time. This is one of the few things that make me feel like a bit of a failure because so many of my friends and family have somehow managed to accomplish this, but I can’t seem to figure it out. I ended up deciding not to worry about it anymore. I have a roof over my head, there’s food on the table, and a wonderful woman that I spend each day with. Not to mention two of the best cats this world has ever seen. We seem to be able to make wherever we end up into a happy home and that’s all I really need.

My apologies if this seems like a bit of a downer, but I’m up very early today because of nightmares I had last night and I probably should’ve waited until the coffee kicks in a bit more before trying to write about my latest birthday. All of that said, I’m still breathing and there are a lot of people who seem to appreciate having me around and, in my own small way, I’m contributing something to the world. I’m fortunate to know a lot of people who have had stunning success in their career and lives and I’m often amazed at the people who stop to see what I have to say. I’ll never be a big fish in this pond we call life, but at least I’m still swimming.

Who knows? Maybe that sudden flash of inspiration will finally happen and I’ll become a huge success. Until then I’ll keep plugging along pretending I know what I’m doing.

So I turned 47 on Monday…

awkward-moment-breathing-stairs… and I had every intention of blogging about it then, but I didn’t ever actually get around to it. That seems to happen a lot lately. Not that I have anything profound to say about turning 47 other than it’s weird being so close to 50. Forty wasn’t that big a deal for me, but fifty is freaking me out a little bit. Probably because I’ll be due for my first prostrate exam which I’m not looking forward to. For years I hoped they’d have developed an alternative to the traditional method by the time I reached that age, but three years out and no proper alternative is in sight. I’m also a little disturbed by how much my doctor is looking forward to that day.

I got some nice gifts for my birthday. My wife, ever enabling of my video game habits, bought me a Corsair Vengeance K70 mechanical gaming keyboard, a copy of The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4, and another volume of Red Dwarf on DVD (I’m slowly, but surely finishing that collection). Dave Hill of ***Dave Does the Blog sent me the Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy on Blu-ray and I’ve got a few gifts from my in-laws that I’ll receive when I see them this coming weekend.

I’m still struggling with getting into the habit of walking. I’ve not managed to do a full week in some time now and it’s been over a week since I last got out and do it. I intend to do so tomorrow, but then I intended to blog on my birthday so we’ll see how it goes. My weight is fluctuating around the 290 to 293 range right now, but my physical last month was an improvement over the previous one. Being this close to fifty I feel like I should really have my shit together by now, but I’m just as disorganized as ever.

One annoying new development I’ve been experiencing is biting the inside of my own mouth. This is something that I almost never did in my youth, but now hardly a week goes by that I don’t manage to draw blood from the inside of my cheek or the area just under my nose while eating a meal. Just this evening I managed to bite the inside of my own mouth four fucking times. What the hell is up with that? Is this an age thing that no one ever talks about? It like I’ve forgotten how to chew properly. It’s damned annoying.

So, 47. Not sure I feel about it yet. I’ll keep you updated.

On Sunday I will turn 46 years old…

… and, for the first time in my life, I finally feel like an adult. At least partially.

I’ve written many times about the various ways in which I don’t feel like a real adult. Be it because of my lack of artsy home decor or finding myself in various situations I have no knowledge of how to handle because life doesn’t come with a How-To manual, there’s plenty of times that I’ve been left wondering when the adult switch in my head would flip and everything would change. I’m slowly realizing it doesn’t work like that.

imagespeople-personOddly enough, the one thing that has made me feel like an adult for the first time in my life is tied to the ongoing rift in the atheist/skeptic community over feminism and sexual harassment. I stopped paying much attention to the atheist/skeptic community quite some time ago in part because I felt that people on both sides of the ‘debate’ were acting like assholes, but there are still a few people that I follow on Google+/Twitter and as a result I occasionally allow myself to get sucked back in when the next big drama flares up like a virtual hemorrhoid. The latest controversy has arisen from a blog post by PZ Myers in which he accuses prominent professional skeptic Michael Shermer of raping a woman at a conference at some unspecified point in the past based on an email he got from the alleged victim who neither wants to be named nor to press charges (supposedly because it was long enough ago that it’s no longer possible).

That’s a pretty major accusation to be tossing around and Shermer has already threatened to sue PZ for defamation if he doesn’t take the blog post down and apologize. PZ (obviously) has not complied and has added in further statements from other anonymous women that seem to bolster the claims made by the first anonymous woman. That’s about as far as I’m going to bother describing the situation because it’s really not the point of this entry, but rather the catalyst that led me to realize that I’m an adult in at least one fundamental way. As for my opinion on it: Fuck if I know if Michael Shermer is guilty of rape. I don’t know the man personally and have only read a couple of his books on skepticism and how the brain works. His books are pretty good reading. He may very well be a sexual harasser for all I know, but until someone has the gumption to come forward with some evidence beyond anonymous emails sent to a prominent blogger, I’ll continue to give him the benefit of doubt as I don’t know him, or the other people involved in this mess, to make any value judgements about their character or honesty.

That said, what there is no doubt in my mind is that there is a huge problem with men — in a number of communities I care about — that can’t seem to grow the fuck up and treat women with a modicum of respect. While I’m unwilling to commit to the idea that specifically Michael Shermer is a rapist (or even a harasser) without more to go on, I don’t doubt that women at skepticism/atheism/video game/anime/business/underwater basket weaving conferences are routinely sexually assaulted/harassed. It’s been years since I last attended a con of any kind, but even back when I did it wasn’t uncommon to see women being harassed by idiots who somehow thought that being in the presence of a breathing woman was an open invitation to cop a feel. So I know this shit does happen because I’ve seen it. It seems to become more prevalent with alcohol consumption, but I’ve seen plenty of sober dickheads who couldn’t keep their hands off of someone else too.

Still, I always thought (believed?) that these guys were the exception to the rule and were limited in number. These days with the Internet giving all of them a means of voicing their ‘opinions’ worldwide it’s become clear to me that they are not the small minority I thought they were. In perusing the various blog posts about Myer’s bombshell I eventually stumbled across one that linked to a YouTube video by Ashley Paramore wherein she describes a recent sexual assault she was victim to at a conference. It’s lengthy, but worth a watch:

Some guys seem stuck in this line of thinking.

Some guys seem stuck in this line of thinking.

As I listened to Ashley describe how someone she considered a good friend repeatedly assaulted her in an attempt to get her to sleep with him all I could think to myself was how the fuck does anyone think that’s an appropriate approach to take. It’s like Jim-Bob, her friend, was somehow stuck in the first grade where the height of romantic thinking was that pulling a girl’s hair somehow indicated that you liked her. Except instead of pulling her hair he was grabbing her ass and reaching for other personal areas.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m your typical white, middle-aged, heterosexual male who occasionally looks at attractive, naked women on the Internet because, hey, it’s attractive, naked women. And there have been plenty of women over the years as I grew up — that I’ve known personally and that I’ve never met — whom I have fantasised about and whom I would have given my left arm to bump uglies with. That right there probably rules me out of being considered a feminist,  but not once did I think the right way to try and make my dreams come true involved just assuming she wanted me and going for it. Maybe I’m exceptional in that way.

I can clearly remember an event in Junior High when most of the boys had noticed that most of the girls were suddenly developing new and interesting shapes on their figures and there was a rash of uninvited gropings that prompted the principal to haul all of us guys down to the gym one afternoon to tell us not to touch the girls without permission. A few days later he had to haul us all down to the gym again to revise his statement to just don’t touch the girls because apparently all of the idiots who had been groping them were now endlessly pestering them for permission to grope them. I remember being amazed that anyone had that much chutzpah to begin with, despite desperately wanting to touch a boob myself.

Not that I was a paragon of virtue. In high school I’d often remark to my male friends about a passing female that I would love to “bend over a table” because I thought it was a funny thing to say and I was a stupid teenager, but there was always the unsaid coda of “but only with her enthusiastic permission.” There were many times I tried my hardest to convince someone that fooling around with me was something they’d regret missing out on… and I got really good at handling rejection. All without deciding that I should just go ahead and show them what they’d be missing.

Perhaps it’s because I was bullied so much as a kid. I am well aware of the helplessness that comes from someone forcing their will upon you. Though in my case it was an ass kicking instead of a groping. Still, a lot of the power dynamics behind it seem similar to me and that’s enough to keep me from doing it to someone else.

I’ve grown up and I don’t worry about being bullied anymore, but lots of women — too many women — still wake up every day wondering where the next sexual assault will be coming from. Too many men haven’t grown the fuck up. They’re still acting like the selfish, entitled, spoiled brats they were as kids thinking they have the right to do what they want with the opposite sex. I just don’t understand it. I also don’t understand what it is they hope to accomplish when they respond to a woman speaking up about feminism or rape and sexual assault by threatening to rape and/or kill her.

wtfcat

How the fuck is that supposed to change her mind? I know, I know. It’s not supposed to change her mind. It’s supposed to intimidate her into shutting the fuck up. I guess I just answered my own question.

I’m far from being an example of the perfect male, but I’ve always tried to keep my baser instincts in check. I’ve also spoken out when I witnessed someone being harassed. I can recall one example from my early 20’s late at night at a Denny’s where my best friend and I had stopped for a late supper. A couple of drunk rednecks wandered in and took a seat at the table next to a pair of women and started to “flirt” with them. The women clearly weren’t interested and said as much to the men in no uncertain terms. The men didn’t take the rejection well and redoubled their efforts by physically touching the women on their hair and clothes and asking how much for a lap dance. My friend and I looked at each other and then spoke up. The dunks told us to mind our fucking business and we suggested they take their own advice. The sized us up as they threatened to kick our asses and then opted to leave deciding that us being sober probably gave us the advantage. We weren’t trying to be white knights, we just thought it was the right thing to do.

So, yeah, watching that video and trying to understand how anyone above the age of 10 could think it was the proper approach to wooing a woman made me feel like an adult for one of the first times in my life. I may not have completely grown up in many other ways, but as I approach my birthday I feel that I’ve grown up in one of the more important ones. Now if only more of us could do the same.

My mother turns 78 years old today.

Momma-1-31-13I need to take a moment to wish my mother a very Happy 78th Birthday. If there is one person in this world who deserves much of the blame credit for the wonderful person I turned out to be, it’s her.

She’s been an endless source of both inspiration and wisdom not only my myself and my siblings, but for friends and extended family. If you have a spare moment, drop by her blog and say hi.

Love you so very much, Mom. Happy Birthday.

Happy 49th birthday Doctor Who!

On this day back in 1963 The Doctor first graced television screens. It would be years before I’d first see him, but fortunately he hung around for quite awhile. He disappeared for a bit in 1989, but he’s back now and better than ever.

What’s really amazing is that he doesn’t look a day over 30*:

*Current actor Matt Smith is 30.

I, literally, grew up with video games.

I can remember Pong and the early days of the arcade where you indicated you were next in line by lining up a quarter on the machine. I remember the Magnavox Odyssey and Odyssey II. I remember PacMan and Donkey Kong and Missile Command. The very first console I ever owned was the Atari 2600 and I played the living hell out of it. I remember the great video game market crash in ’83 and the resurgence in ’85 (via Nintendo’s NES). I remember the following rise in dominance of the Japanese consoles and how in the arcade the future was thought to be Vector Graphics games. Then I remember when the future of arcades was going to be LaserDisc based games. I remember the first CD-ROM titles, the first 3D First Person Shooter, the first 3D graphics cards, and so on.

I was only five years old when the first video games were born. I’ve had a life-long passion for them and my interest led me into computers which has given me a halfway decent career. I’m part of the generation that made the video game industry of today possible. And, boy, has it ever developed in ways we never saw coming. If I could go back and show my ten-year-old self the sort of games that I’m enjoying today he’d flip his lid. Can’t wait to see what the decades to come will bring. #seb #videogames #Birthdays

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How the Video Game Was Born [Design]
This year, the video game turns 40. Let’s call it an occasion to spend a few more hours in front of our TVs, the place where it all started.
In 1951, some 12 million television sets were in existence and Ralph Baer, a television engineer at Loral Electronics, wondered what extracurricular tricks TV sets could do. The company was pushing television tech forward, and Baer mentioned to his bosses that wouldn’t it be fun to incorporate an interactive game element into the experience? Dude was ont…

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