Recently in My Life and Welcome To It Category

Dental round #4 is completed. I keep thinking that at the end of the sequence, I should get a story arc completion bonus and some kind of souvenir. Though I suppose I'll have my teeth to remember this by.

We are at Panera now, having coffee and waiting for my mouth to thaw so we can get dinner (I can drink things, but eating is dangerous because, see, I couldn't tell if I were chewing the hell out of my cheek right now. So the doctor says, and he has a shock of hair, looks like a mad scientist, and drives a motorcycle, so I'm not about to disregard him.) Right now, it's geeks on parade as Weds and I have our matching17" MacBooks Pro with their matching red Speck hardshell cases out and we're cheerfully tap tap tapping away.

(The difference between computers? Weds owns hers. Mine comes from my employer. There are days I have much the envy for her.)

It is a downright beautiful day -- warm and sunny without being hot or muggy. I admit, I'm a cold weather man at heart -- give me autumn 11 months out of the year and I'd be a happy camper. The 12th month can have some light snow for Christmas. Barring that, I mostly just ask not to be too hot. Cold I can deal with. I have clothing and blankets galore. But absent stripping naked -- which will get you kicked out of Panera -- there's little you can do to mitigate hot and humid barring an air conditioner or a friend with a walk in freezer. We cherish days like today.

I look across the booth, and I see her, that slight smile, that glint in her eyes. I keep being amazed -- my brain still hasn't quite processed the fact that she doesn't have to leave. That she can stay. Though the various continuing bureaucratic steps we have to endure should hammer the point home.

So what's the difference between now and before, when we would grab moments over weekends?

Now, we can relax. We don't need to fill every moment with frantic each otherness. We can just hang out. We can spend an hour at Panera typing into our computers, at once in our own worlds and yet together. I can reach out and touch her at any moment, without having to frantically cling to her hand.

Hang on...

There. I just held her hand. She grinned. We said "dude" to each other. And now back to it.

There's very little better in life than knowing the woman you love will be there tomorrow the same as today. And if you don't understand the simple luxury of not having to get into a car after forty-eight hours and drive halfway across a continent in the opposite direction from the person you most want to hang out with... well, good. I hope you never do.

I'll try not to get overly schmaltzy on here, if this revival takes, but let me just say this for the record: my life is pretty damn good these days.

It's nice to feel that way when your face is half-numb because a mad scientist put his hands and wire tools into your mouth not that long ago.

On August 20, 2004, in the midst of a contentious political season, I got it in the back of my head that I should take another run at online journaling, which was now called blogging, which is a word that seems very strange given how entirely normal it sounds now.

The idea was simple. I would continue to use my Livejournal to stay in contact with the twenty or thirty people who had an interest, but I'd cut out the quarter-ton of dross I found on the internet. Instead, I'd do up a silly little Movable Type blog where I'd throw quizzes and funny pictures of dogs and webcomics that I found funny and other silly water cooler type shit.

My thought had been to call it stripping-the-web.com, because all the good comics names were taken, and I used to like Bloom County. (I've been rereading it for quite some time now, in various places, and to be honest it doesn't age as well as I'd expect. Not that there aren't still gems in amongst the not... so... gems. Um... I lost my metaphor. Sue me.) As a pure lark, however, I thought to check if 'Websnark.com' had been taken. It had struck me while I was in the process of filling out the registration form, and seemed like a good idea.

I was a little stunned to learn it hadn't been taken. It seemed purely obvious to me, after all. So, with a bit of a mental shrug (and recognizing 'Stripping-the-Web' would have been a terrible name) I went with that instead.

Now it's four years later. There is another contentious political season going on. There have been literally millions of words written on this blog, by myself, Wednesday and well over a thousand discrete commenters. I have had a moderate amount of Internet fame. For a while, we had sixty thousand readers a day. At least one of the posts on this blog incurred one point two million pageviews, all by itself. I have made friends, had arguments, caused and fueled drama, hopefully helped settle some, been called a dick, been called a genius, started a couple of webcomics of my own, worked with talented people, had people I deeply respect say they liked my shit, received the occasional death threat, and gotten myself the best damn wife on the planet.

And, you know, I also managed to lose most of that reader base thanks to a combination of my own burnout and the natural life cycle of internet attraction, but that I have no qualms about. That's how these things work, most of the time.

I can't tell you what the future will hold. I go through waves. Someone (Morgan Wick, really) made mention in my last post that the structure of it "took him back to 2004 or 2005," and that's about right, really. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing six minute "Jesus, look at the cool Achewood strip" posts, and right now I can't say why. Probably I lost sight of who I came to the dance with in the first place and decided that everything I wrote had to be meaningful. It's a damnable trap, it is.

On the other side of the equation, I think I've written some damn good things on this site... but part of the problem is repetition. How many times can I say Shaenon Garrity is fucking brilliant and not sound like a broken record? How many times can I throw out terms like Cerebus Syndrome or Bringing the Funny and not just sound like self-satire. You reach a point where you're writing what you think people want you to write and you're aping yourself. And honestly, who the fuck wants that? Not me, and I'm sure not any of you.

So things slowed down, but they never really stopped. And God, I hope they never do.

There's still something like a thousand plus pageviews a day, even at the end of the six and a half weeks I didn't write on here. And yeah, that's not sixty thousand, but it's also not six. I've said before that it didn't matter if you had three readers, thirty readers or thirty thousand readers -- you have readers, and for a writer there's no better thing in the world.

I'm four years older now. I'm a married man. I am, to be blunt, middle aged now. And while there are ways I feel like I've just started Websnark and I'm exactly the same person now as I was then, the truth is I'm not. In so many ways I'm not. The big ways, like the beautiful woman who's in the kitchen as I type this (I'm writing it well ahead of its post time) making bread from scratch. The small ways, like the strands of grey in my beard. My attitudes on a lot of things have changed along with all of that. And the attitudes of the world have shifted a bit too -- there's damn little "gorsh, there's comics on the web now! Bang zap boom!" going on these days. Fewer and fewer of the people just starting out in comics even intend to try to get in the newspaper -- there's just so little reason. More and more webcartoonists make their living off their cartoons, and there's reproducible models for success now. You don't have to be Scott Kurtz or the Penny Arcade folks to quit your day job.

And Jesus. Look at what some folks have done in the past four years. Penny Arcade's got a multi-million dollar charity that gets yearly national television coverage. They also have two yearly gaming conventions, and more and more game companies are treating their Expo as the must-attend con of the year. E3-Shmee3. Phil and Kaja Foglio dropped out of pamphlet style comics, focusing instead on graphic novels and the web, and from all appearances are prospering. Rich Stevens inked a sweetheart deal where he got to do Diesel Sweeties on the web and have it appear in newspapers, while retaining his merchandising rights and his ownership of the strip... and decided after a while that it was too much work, so he dropped the newspaper strip in lieu of devoting more time to the real moneymaker. The Revolution is over, kids. We won. Everything else is sour grapes (on either side and sometimes both).

When I started Websnark, I was lucky as shit. I got some high profile links early on, and while I wasn't the first person online talking about webcomics, it was still a novel concept. That helped me get traction and establish a voice at a time where you didn't need a megaphone to be heard over the din. Today, there are... [does some quick calculations] ...a fuck-ton of blogs about webcomics. Blogs that make fun of them. Blogs that tear into them. Blogs that kiss webcartoonist ass. Blogs that report webcomics news as straight as they can. Dude, there are at least two blogs entirely devoted to Superosity right now.

Oh, which reminds me. Not only has the Keenspot Gang of Four become a full on family run business, with Gav Bleuel completely separated from the online syndicate... but Chris and Bobby Crosby have done hit the jackpot, with one of their joint webcomics projects being adapted for a full length live action movie -- from all accounts, really being adapted instead. Across the border into Canada, where the winters are could and french fries are covered in gravy and cheese curds, Ryan Sohmer's apparently got a full Teletoon-sponsored version of his comic heading to Canadian television. Webcomics are rapidly becoming just another breeding ground for the ravenous beast that is the Entertainment Industry.

So what does that mean?

Well, for one thing, it means we can all stop taking things so fucking seriously all the time. I gave up drama a while back, and I've mostly stuck to that, and I've found I enjoy things a lot more than I used to. It means that the chances that Websnark -- or any largely webcomics related blog -- can claw up to almost six figures of readership again are pretty damn low. There's too much out there, which means there's too little need to congregate at one writer's doorstep. It means that there's no need to do this kind of thing... except of course if you enjoy doing this kind of thing.

Which amusingly enough means that Websnark's best case for moving forward... is exactly the same as when it was started. There's always a place for a writer to write about shit he finds interesting or amusing on the web. No pressure, no expectations, just "look at the funny picture of a dog! It's funny." At the time, I was hopeful thirty people would read it. Right now, on a good day there's still a few thousand who do. Either way, it's heartening, and I hope people still have fun.

How long will this phase go? I dunno. Maybe two days, maybe another full year. And then what will the next look like? I still don't know.

I just know this -- I still like to write, and I still like to find amusing things, and I still have a lot of opinions about shit, and I'm still not shy about combining all of those things into a delicious paste.

Here's to four years. Here's hoping there's four more.

Visit #3, Drilling #2

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It was, in the end, a cheerful appointment.

"This is looking great," the dentist had said. "Your teeth are in great shape. There's a little bit of softness in a couple places, but you should feel good. You're going to have these teeth all your life, and not in your hand, either."

"Well, that's good," I had said. "Right?"

"That's very good," he had answered. "Very, very good. Okay -- wait here, and the office manager will pick you up in a couple and do followup planning with you."

"Good enough."

And she did indeed come and get me. And she did indeed do followup planning.

"Wait... I need five followup appointments?"

"Yup! Three sets of fillings and a two-stage cleaning."

"But... the dentist had said my teeth were in great shape."

"I'm sure they are," she said. "That doesn't mean we don't get to drill them."

That was two weeks ago. Last week I'd had the first set of drilling done, and stage one of the cleaning was yesterday.

Today was the second set of filling stuff. It's all 'soft spots.' Places between teeth, especially out back where flossing ain't so easy. I sat in the chair that put me upside down, they put vacuums in my mouth, gave me a cherry based swabbing that started numbing me and filled my face with Novocain.

In the end, it's the sound that's unpleasant. The sound, and your tongue dries out because you're holding your mouth open for so long. Every one of the dental chairs also has Dish Network, and while they worked, they discussed the episode of Oprah that was on.

I am sitting at the nearby Starbucks, where Weds was waiting while they worked on me. My face is mostly numb. I have seen Oprah. There is a bad taste in the part of my mouth I can actually feel. And there is crap on my teeth waiting for me to get home so ironically I can brush it off. It seems like it must be part of their plan.

We endure. We endure drilling and cleaning and Oprah, and get things dealt with before they hurt and before they're a problem or an emergency. We endure, because we are grown up, and grown up people get their oil changed, buy food for its fiber content, know our insurance agent on a first name basis, and get their teeth taken care of before it's a problem.

And yet, when we get home, we're going to watch Power Rangers: Jungle Fury on the TiVo. We may be grown up, but we're also Generation X. And adulthood is best done in small doses. Besides, R.J. rocks.

Home again!

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Snarky!

Back from Vegas, feeling somewhat ill -- hardly surprising, after a whirlwind desert week filled with educational conferences, evenings out, occasional liquor, and, y'know, getting married. The wedding was lovely, with evaporative cooling surrounding us with a light mist as we said vows under a rather nice outdoor gazebo. Weds was beautiful. I didn't trip at any point.

It's done.

I'll have more to say on it and many other things later this week, but as I said I'm feeling ill and besides, I want to show off Snarky, the Snarkasaurus, as created in the free demo of the Spore Creature Creator. This is an amazingly cool thing to play with -- I've created something like a dozen creatures so far, and I'm really chomping at the bit to get the full game (or even the full version of the creature creator -- but the game isn't until September and it'll be a few weeks before a ten dollar cool thing is a prudent investment). I think he came out pretty well given the limited tools, and he looks so happy.

Which is how I'm feeling too. Sick? Sure. Still jetlagged? You bet.

But happy.

More later. In the meantime, Eric Burns-White is signing off to lie down and feel a bit ill.

(Yes, Eric Burns-White. I'll explain my choice in detail later, though one friend has mentioned I've managed to up my pretentiousness another eight points, and another friend has said "wow -- your lifelong ambition to be E. B. White has finally seen fruition!" I have literate friends.)

So, I'm at EduComm. This is why I'm actually here, beyond, you know, my wedding.

I am in a conference called "top 10 web 2.0 applications."

The presenter is now telling us about a new concept on the web -- something that might really change things.

It's called 'blogging.'

So, you know. You guys might want to watch out for that.

Logo: Sleeping Snarky

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