2011, a Year in Review…

December 31, 2011 11:16am
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Last year I started a trend that I think I want to continue – in taking a few moments to look back at what I accomplished this year before trying to lay down new goals for next. And besides, as you’ll see soon enough that for the most part the majority of my 2012 resolutions are pretty much the same as they were in 2011 anyways, so at least this way I get to write something fresh! 😉

Published a new book, and almost a second one
What I expected to be a simple archive collection from the comic strip I did with my sister a few years ago proved to be a bit more frustrating than I had anticipated by the end of the process, but ultimately it was worth it because I think the end result in full color really looks beautiful and does the project proud! Also, not to spoil anything, but I’ve almost got my next book completed – it just kind of fell behind the horse with the holidays and whatnot, so hopefully that’ll be out sometime early spring…

Got about 90% done with several other major projects
No excuses – I kinda took on a bit more than I could chew in 2011, and as a result I have several really cool things that are almost done, but not quite. I have a well-known bad habit of jumping from project to project when I get excited about new things, and as a result sometimes older ones get left behind … but it’s something that I’m going to be working on a little harder in the new year!

Did A LOT of blogging!!!
Over 120,000 words worth of blogging, to be exact! And even though I’m not generally in the habit of tracking word counts on everything that I write, it’s become sort of an interesting motivator for me because I look at this blog as more of a long-term journal just for rambling and brainstorming and keeping track of life and whatnot. So in this particular scenario, more is better. 🙂

Moved to a new house
We’re still renting, mind you, but earlier this spring we found an opportunity to move into a larger place that has more amenities that we’ve been looking for, so in the end it was definitely worth uprooting the family and enduring the 2 months of chaos that it took to get us out of the old and into the new!

Got a puppy!
Cleo … cute, little beagle-pointer mix … I’ve blogged about her once or twice … maybe you’ve heard of her?

Lost 25 pounds
And granted, I have a feeling that I very well might have gained part of it back with all of the snacks and cookies and other holiday indulgences that I’ve been enjoying the last couple of weeks, but it’s significant nonetheless because 25 is a big number and I’ve been trying really hard at losing weight this year…

Made the trip home for Christmas
And here we are today! What can I say? It’s sometimes tough living on the opposite end of the country away from family, especially during the holidays when my nostalgic tendencies are in high gear, so this trip has really been a nice way for me in particular to wrap up the year and try to recharge the old batteries after being absolutely buried in work for the last 12 months! Knowing that it doesn’t happen often has really pushed me to try to make the most of it while we’re here, and overall it’s really been a lot of fun. 😀

Now that that’s out of the way, though, I suppose next we have to come up with some of those dreaded New Years resolutions for next year, don’t we? 😯

Words from the Road, Part 3

December 31, 2011 12:27am
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Cleo & Friends
Needless to say, despite any preconceived notions upon our late night arrival, ultimately Cleo the Wonder Pup had a stupendous time the following morning once my sister arrived toting two particularly spry and playful dogs of her own!  Although Kirby eventually later in the week somewhat soured to playing, instead opting to assume the role of the old maid to ensure that nobody had any fun in her general vicinity (or maybe she just didn’t want Cleo, the smaller one who kinda looked like her, getting hurt???), Sunny on the other hand went absolutely freaking nuts and played with this dog with little concern whatsoever for health, sanity, or safety of the furniture and other breakables potentially around them! Seriously, after a while I think we all got used to it and learned to tune their rough housing out, but initially to hear all of their snarling and biting and tackling each other, you’d think that Michael Vick had decided to stick his head in and say hello for the holidays…

Still too soon on that one?

Meeting Baby Madelyn
Tell me – is this kid freaking adorable or what?! Being completely serious for just a moment, despite all of the anticipation that has been building since this little girl was born back in September, I was honestly a little taken aback by just how much I enjoyed seeing this kid face to face, and holding her, and watching her smile, and trying to make her smile when she wanted to be stubborn. I don’t really know a lot of babies, so I wasn’t really even sure if I knew how to hold her right and all that jazz, and yet much to my own amazement when Lori handed her over it all just sort of came naturally.

I don’t want to ruin a perfectly nice blog post by getting all mushy and stuff, but there were definitely more than a handful of occasions where I caught my wife “pleased” at my sense of ease through it all with a smile on her face…

Maybe next year, but in the meantime – look at that baby!!!

There’s No Business Like Snow Business
Now one thing that admittedly I’ve found extremely weird since I’ve gotten here is that for the most part, there really isn’t all that much snow on the ground at all. I mean, there’s maybe a couple of inches – enough to make your shoes crunch when you walk through it – but certainly nothing anywhere near what I recall growing up, when the yard would literally have at least 3 or 4 feet of standing snow in it at all times, thus pretty much rendering the fence around the backyard completely moot and also ensuring for a variety of playtime activities like sledding, snowball fights, and the building of forts and snowmen and whatnot.

And it probably sounds a little out of place coming from me, of all people, because I’ve always been very clear that the weather in Northern Michigan was one of the primary factors that drove me to Florida, but I actually kinda miss all of that snow … at least while we’re here on vacation, anyways! As long as I don’t have to drive in it and I’ve got enough clothes so as to not completely freeze to death during my encounters with it, I don’t necessarily mind the snow strictly as a wintertime backdrop and for playing around in it. I mean, the dogs have still managed to have a good time with it … well, once Cleo figured out what it was, anyways … but my wife had kinda been hoping to make a snowman while we’re here and unless we’re willing to shovel up half the backyard (…which I’m not…), it looks like we might be stuck just watching Frosty on tv… 🙁

Merry Nostalgia-Mas
But speaking of classic ’80s Christmas programming, I’ll end tonight on something that we’ve been doing a lot of since we’ve gotten here … frankly, it’s a big part of what I’ve been looking forward to in coming up here … and that’s just really embracing holidays past and reliving all of the fun things that we used to do during this time of year growing up. On more than one occasion, we just sat around watching Christmas specials – A Garfield Christmas, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, A Muppet Family Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas – the list goes on and on! My Mom ordered a Honeybaked Ham, and even though we actually have it a lot back home because there’s nearly one right across the street from us, it still all built to help bring back all of those great memories of sitting around snacking on crackers and Christmas cookies, watching Big Bird contemplate Santa Claus’ bigger than a dump truck fate, all the while with lights on the tree sparkling and snow falling gently outside.

Sure, overtime my wife and I work to develop our own holiday traditions and I’m sure that once we have a kid they’ll spring about all the more, but in the meantime reliving some of those old memories and really just relishing in the good times I enjoyed growing up serves my holiday cheer just fine… :mrgreen:

“Why is it every Christmas I get drug out of my warm bed just to see some stupid old relatives? And why do we always have to go to that stupid old farm? Why can’t they come here where my warm bed is? And why am I whispering?” 

A Q&A (or two!) with Robert Khoo…

December 30, 2011 8:30pm
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So on a bit of a slightly more positive note, I also stumbled upon this Ask Me Anything thread with Robert Khoo, the business guy behind Penny Arcade. I have a lot of respect for pretty much any of these webcomic guys who’ve been able to build a living off of their creative works, but it’s particularly interesting to listen to Robert talk because while the rest of us are constantly trying to find that friendly balance between business and creative, Robert’s all business – it’s other people’s jobs within Penny Arcade to create the content, and it’s his job (and others now) strictly to monetize that content and move the business forward. Just an insight into his mind is one of the many reasons why I love watching Penny Arcade: The Series, and of course their latest book sheds some interesting light on just exactly how he’s driven that business from literally two guys living together, playing video games, and occasionally making comics into a 15-employee company that not only still creates the most successful webcomic online, but has also spun off a convention that brings in 60,000 people twice a year and a charity that raises millions of dollars each year to help entertain sick kids while they’re in the hospital.

For those like myself forever hungry for more, he’s also done a couple of Q&As now over at webcomics.com, however you do have to be a member to access those. For what it’s worth, though, I’ve been a member for two years now and even though I don’t even create a comic anymore, the business insight and savvy that Brad and his cohorts make available over there still makes it one of the easiest business expenses for me to justify each year…

damage control gone wild!

December 30, 2011 7:49pm
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So anyone who follows Penny Arcade or gaming news on the Internet is probably aware of the digital shit storm that Marketing Bro Paul Christoforo stirred up after one of his N-Control Avenger customers finally got tired of his piss-poor customer service tactics and pointed him in Mike’s direction.  It’s rapidly become the example of the year of how not to manage PR for a company, but now the makers of the controller originally designed to make it easier for handicapped kids to play games are doing all they can to distance themselves from Christoforo’s venomous reputation with a new PR guy who, after 4 days of raining hell-fire, clearly has his work cut out for him to resurrect the brand from a salted ground!

I’ve been following the story curiously throughout the week, so I found this reddit Ask Me Anything thread by Moisés Chiullan, the new guy, kind of fascinating…
http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/nw1vm/ama_the_guy_who_replaced_paul_christoforo_and_is/

The guy seems to have the right attitude and sounds like he’s moving in the right direction – it’s really just a matter of whether fans will be willing to isolate the poor service to Christoforo and give the rest of the company another chance without him.

On a related note, this is really funny!

In summary, folks – don’t be a dick.

Words from the Road, Part 2

December 27, 2011 11:42pm
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So a couple of days ago we celebrated Christmas Day with my wife’s family – I enjoyed some adult hot chocolate, had a chance to try out the (relatively) new Xbox Kinect, and had fun watching the kids open up a veritable mountain of Legos and pink Barbie-thingys and all sorts of other presents! It was a bit chaotic just because there were so many people in one place (9 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs), but overall I think Cleo behaved just about as good as we could’ve expected her to, given the strange environment and all of the new faces, and it was nice to get to see people that we actually haven’t seen in over a year since our big road trip last summer…

Getting Colder Outside
Yesterday we finally arose, gathered ourselves and cleaned up around the hotel, and eventually loaded up the car in preparation for transit to our next destination – my own hometown of Gaylord, Michigan! Rumor had it that it was going to be very cold there during our stay, so I guess you could say the forcefield of frost that had developed over our car was simply to serve as a warning for even more frigid weather to come. 😉

Rear-View, Ahoy!
On the upside, having distributed a good number of the Christmas presents in our berth, at least we were given the treat of actually being able to see out the back window of our vehicle for this new leg of the trip!

Tunnels!
And if that wasn’t enough, we even got to drive through several tunnels during our quest from West Virginia to Michigan, something that I’ve never actually done before. Admittedly I did have to calm a slight fear of the entire mountain collapsing in around us as we zipped through these strange, darkened corridors made out of bathroom tiles, but I guess at least they weren’t as bad as the ones that actually go underwater

Cleo’s Car Update
What can I say? Get this dog in the car and she’s just like a people, kicked back and relaxing, and generally just sleeping and looking out the windows a lot to pass the time. This leg was a bit shorter than the first – only 14 hours instead of 16 – but I honestly couldn’t be happier with how she’s been handling our time in the car because no doubt she could really make our lives hell if she wanted to act up! Instead, she just snuggles into the backseat with whoever’s riding with her at the moment, looking forward to the occasional breaks to stretch her legs, and generally just trying to make the best of it just like we are. Very proud puppy papa, is I…

Coming Soon
We got to my Mom’s house at roughly 1:30am. Cleo might not have made the best first impression with my Mom’s dog (and my old dog), Brandi … but then again, she is thirteen years old and doesn’t really “play” much with anybody anymore! On the other hand, she did get along much better with my sister’s dogs, Kirby and Sunny – Sunny, in particular, who’s basically still a puppy herself, albeit a very, very big puppy, so look forward to that in a future post!

Also, snow!

Spoiler: it’s very cold…

2011 Holiday Advent Blog – Merry Christmas!!!

December 25, 2011 12:19pm
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And so this is Christmas…

I actually ended up having a whole lot of fun with this little blogging series, and looking back, it’s kind of a little hard to believe that I ended up with so many different holiday-related topics to write about over the last 24 days! 🙂

In fact, I’m even finding myself walking away with a few more that I didn’t even get around to using, so I guess that just means I’ll have to strongly consider doing a 2012 Holiday Advent Blog next year, too. In the meantime, though, here’s a look back at everything I wrote this year, day-by-day…

  1. The Spirit of Giving
  2. Scott’s Christmas Mix Tape, volume 1
  3. Things I’m Looking Forward To…
  4. LEGO Advent Calendar
  5. Merry Christmas from Disneyland, 1958
  6. A Muppet Family Christmas
  7. Christmas Eve on Hollywood Blvd
  8. Angry Birds Seasons!
  9. Animal’s Holiday Guide
  10. Child’s Play Charity
  11. Scott’s Awesome Holiday Gift Guide
  12. Candlelight Processional
  13. Christmas Cards
  14. Memories: Gaming at Grandma & Grandpa’s
  15. Cinematic Favorites
  16. Dick in a Box
  17. A Quaint, Little LEGO Holiday Village…
  18. COOKIES!!!
  19. It’s Time to Light the Lights…
  20. Memories: The Magic of Christmas Morning
  21. How About Some Hanukkah?
  22. Chex Mix
  23. A Bit of Holiday Humor
  24. NORAD Tracks Santa

Until next year, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!!! 🙂

This is really cool!

I guess there are also a few iPhone apps that do this same sort of thing, but the NORAD tracker has always been the classic one for me and I just love the Google Earth overlays along with the animations and the running total to keep us all up to date on Santa’s progress. Such a simple project, and yet such a great way to mix Christmas with technology – if the Internet had been around when I was a kid, there’s little doubt that I would’ve been up into the wee hours of the nigh watching the big guy right up until I could see his sled approaching our town!

Technology is fun. Christmas is fun. Put the two together…

Words from the Road, Part 1

December 24, 2011 1:12am
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So if you haven’t been following along via Twitter or my recent blatherings, I’m currently on vacation to spend some time with family for the holidays. Not quite sure how much I’ll be posting while I’m away, but I’m hoping to have the occasional goofy, little post here and there along the way!

This, on the other hand, is one of those big, goofy summary posts to cover how I even managed to get here in the first place – enjoy…

Packed Beyond the Brim
Looking back, I’m honestly still not entirely sure how in the world we managed to make it all fit!

The problems here were threefold – my wife drives a small car (a Honda Insight); we’re traveling with our puppy, which from an extra baggage-perspective is pretty much the same as having an extra person along (maybe more if they don’t bring their own cage!); and third, we also had to bring gifts. Lots of gifts. Three people’s worth, in fact, because we also brought my sister-in-law’s with us (who lives with us, but flew up separately).

It honestly gave me flashbacks of when I first loaded up my own car and moved across the country to Florida way back in 2003, complete with an inability to see out the back window, stuff occasionally falling into my lap from the passenger seat, and the whole nine yards! Luckily, we never came across any cops who wanted to make a fuss about our ability to see the road…

The Weather Outside Was AWESOME
Seriously, we actually really lucked out in this area because I’m a little nervous for this entire trip in general about having to drive on snow-covered roads, but all the way from Florida to West Virginia, we never even saw the temperature dip into freezing once.

That said, I don’t want to say too much and jinx it because with temperature forecasts in the twenties for when we continue on north to Michigan next week, I’d honestly be really surprised if we didn’t encounter a single lick of snow during this entire trip.

Good Time
Despite leaving roughly six hours later than scheduled, the drive actually wasn’t too bad and we were able to drive all the way through with a relatively minimal amount of grogginess! I honestly don’t normally like to do that sort of thing – between my wife and I, we drove for just over sixteen hours straight and were certainly beat by the time that we got here, but I suppose either way it would’ve taken the same amount of time – drive for 1 day and then sleep the next, or drive spaced out over 2 days.

Either way, 970 miles is a long way … so thankfully our next leg from West Virginia up to Michigan clocks in nearly a third less at only 684 miles.

Good Dog
As I mentioned, we ended up bringing our puppy, Cleo, with us, and I’m very thankful to report that she did marvelously well throughout the entire car ride!  Not exactly having the best record for local trips, it wasn’t uncommon for her to throw up a lot when we would even take her 15 miles away to the beach, so we were a little worried about how a trip nearly 40x that was going to treat her. We did get some anti-nausea meds from the vet before we left, but we never actually got a chance to really test them before leaving home for this trip.

Nonetheless throughout the entire ordeal, she really acted like a champ – no throwing up, no barking, and only the slightest bit of antsy-ness at the very end…at the point where the both of us were pretty much feeling the same thing! We made her a bed in the back seat that slowly expanded to overtake nearly the entire thing, one of us always sat in the back with her (passenger seat was filled with presents anyways!), and it was actually a very enjoyable drive from that perspective.

The Pet-Friendly Wingate
And so that brings us to where I’m currently writing you from today – the pet-friendly hotel that we found only a short drive from where we’ll be meeting family for Christmas. We’ve never had the need to stay at a hotel that actually allows pets before, but overall aside from the lousy internet access, the rest of the hotel has still been above average. My wife pointed out shortly after Cleo’s third accident (long car ride!) that the carpet is conveniently very dark, thus doing a better job of concealing stains related to pet pee and whatnot. We also found, a little more surprisingly, that the bed actually has a plastic liner on it, much like you’d give a child who had problems with wetting the bed!

Whatever – by the time we got here, we were just thrilled that they let us check-in 7 hours early and pretty much passed out the moment our heads hit the pillows! Granted, we were woken back up shortly after that because Cleo still needed some getting used to the various people walking outside our door in the hallway, but we’re here for 3 nights, it’s got a fridge and a separate “couch area,” and it didn’t break the bank, so at the end of a long and exhausting drive, I suppose that’s more than enough for me. 😉

Next On Deck
Basically Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be spent celebrating with Sara’s family, followed on Monday by piling back into a hopefully less burdened car for another drive up to see my own family in Northern Michigan. Here in West Virginia, though, my plans are fairly simple – try to keep Cleo out of trouble, play some Lego Star Wars with my nephew, indulge in whatever other fun Christmas-y stuff we can talk the crowd into, and I’m told that at some point I’ll be experiencing my very first chocolate martini because from what I understand, one of my sisters-in-law has found quite the knack in making them!

Just between you and me, I haven’t the foggiest idea what to expect, but I like chocolate and I like booze, so I’m trying to keep an open mind at this point… :mrgreen:

I’ve written a lot of humor columns about Christmas over the years.  I love this time of year and all of the various facets that there are to get caught up in, and since The Humor Column is more or less an autobiographical commentary about the things that happen in my life, it just kind of makes sense that the columns to be posted during the month of December would more often than not be centric around Christmas and the holidays and all of the fun to be had during this most wonderful time of the year!

Eventually some day maybe I’ll put together a book that’s nothing but all of my holiday-related humor, but in the meantime, for your advent calendar-ing perusal with the big day literally right around the corner, here are a handful of my own personal favorites from over the years:

Wingate’s wi-fi kinda sucks…

December 23, 2011 5:31pm
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I can already tell that it’s going to be a long night! This is pretty much the only night while I’m on vacation that I’m doing actual work, and not ten minutes into connecting to our hotel’s wi-fi, I notice that the video that I was watching had nearly stalled to a complete stop.

Then I found this message occupying one of my several open browser windows:

So apparently “questionable traffic” when you’re staying at a Wingate hotel can be quantified as pretty much any time you’re actually “trying to use the Internet.” Good to know for future reference so that we can stay somewhere else… 😡

Also, 56K – what is this, the stone age?!?!?!

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