“Primitive” Phones vs. Smartphones

Back in February, after months of deliberation about what kind of phone I should upgrade to, I bought an iPhone on Verizon. Shortly thereafter, I began receiving many, many inquiries from friends and family members asking whether this was a good move, whether they should upgrade, whether it’s worth it, and so on. I told them all the same thing: “It’s still too early for me to say.”

Well, it’s been some months, I’m less busy with work, and I’m looking for an excuse to blog, so it’s no longer too early to say. Here are some thoughts for those of you who were once like me: Not trying to choose between different smartphone brands (which is another question altogether), but those who have been using a flip phone without a data plan for years, and are wondering whether those shiny iPhones your friends seem to love finally give you a reason to get a smartphone.

The short answer: probably not. But it’s still pretty cool.

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The Year in Numbers

Or, a random assortment of things that I can quantify, though perhaps not 100% accurately.

12 Number of flights taken
411 Number of bylined Macworld articles I wrote
32 Number of [books I read](http://writeology.tumblr.com/tagged/book/)
3 Number of books I read that were graphic novels
45 Number of movies I watched
37 Number of *new* movies I watched
2 Number of Dungeons & Dragons adventures completed as DM
5 Number of Xbox 360 games purchased
4 Number of above games completed (for reasonable definitions of completed)
50,574 Number of words written [for NaNoWriMo](http://doombot.com/2009/12/03/five-writes-dont-make-a-wrong/)
84,508 Number of words written in non-NaNoWriMo novel
1,089 Number of [photos taken](http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmoren/) (not including iPhone)
1 Number of [spoof movies](http://fireball-the-movie.com/) produced
10 Number of [Doomcast](http://doombot.com/category/doomcast/) episodes released
2:55:17 Length of total Doomcast episodes

Five writes don’t make a wrong

nano_09_winner_100x100.pngWell. That’s over with then.

It’s December 2nd, and if you’ve ever met me, you know what that means: I’m in the throes of the post-National Novel Writing Month hangover, trying to find something to fill the now gaping void previously occupied by furiously concocting new ways to torture my characters.

In the preceding thirty days of November, I produced a 50,000 word piece of fiction which, I’m going to be honest, nobody will ever likely see. That’s by choice though; like a dented can of soup past its expiration date, I would not wish it on my next-to-worst enemy. Worst enemy? Totally.

I also think this will be my last year of NaNoWriMo.*

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And a merry Day of the Tesla to you, too

If you opened up Google today, you may have noticed the header background, indicating that it’s the birthday of noted Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla.

As we here at Doombot have long celebrated Day of the Tesla, we thought you, the readers, might enjoy partaking in some of the more time-honored festivities of this highest of holidays. As always, we perform the ceremony of failing to electrocute an elephant with alternating current (we use symbolic plush toy elephants, of course—this is no diabolical, hedonistic Edisonstravaganza), followed by the traditional viewing of Tesla biopic The Prestige.

Finally, the evening is concluded with a live reading of our award-winning* children’s book, Tesla and His Pigeon: A Children’s Story of Love and Loss in the Electric Age, based on Tesla’s relationship with his favorite creature.


Afterwords, the kids are sent to bed with the reminder that the spirit of Tesla won’t appear to deposit Serbian dinars bearing his likeness unless they are fast asleep.

If this is your first time celebrating Day of the Tesla, you might also wish to partake of these classic episodes of our podcast adventures, The Scrimshaw Meme and TMYK, in which we pay homage to Tesla through the deepest respect of humor.

Finally, the most devoted of Tesla followers undertake—at least once in their lifetime—a trip to the laboratory of the man himself, Wardenclyffe Tower, where the prescient inventor intended to pioneer the field of wireless communication, were he not dastardly foiled by the dark lord Edison.

And so we wish you a happy Day of the Tesla, and to you and your kin, we say: may the eternal peace ray shine down upon you.

* Tesla and His Pigeon was the recipient of the 2006 award for Most Promising New Children’s Book Involving a Historical Inventor of Serbian Descent, by the National Association of Serbian Inventors Whose Initials are “N. T.”. It was also on the short-list for the Newberry Award in the same year, though it was narrowly beat out by Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow

A Winner Is Not Me

Continuing my fine tradition of only posting when I’ve created an embarrassing video for a video game-related contest (in this case, for a trip to E3 sponsored by 1up.com), I submit to you the following:

This entry did not win. This entry won. To be fair, Mr. McWinnerson had a precocious child, a mushroom costume, and public shenanigans. But then I’m pretty sure that I missed the finalists selection either because I violated the rules of the contest by using images that I didn’t have rights to, or because my video was in a page linked to from an otherwise sparse and unpersuasive blog post that was probably supposed to be the heart of the entry. Or because the video itself wasn’t available until the day after the contest ended. Psh, details.

Regardless, we all win when I make a fool of myself on the internet. Except for me. I remain a big, stinky loser who isn’t going to E3, and even worse, who just ate soap because he didn’t rinse his lunch bowl out well enough.

Personal Achievements while Xbox was Away on Repair

Misted a citrus tree for the first time.

Completed reading a book first started 15 years ago.

Visited a cafe that’s out of the way from normal walking routes.

First victory in an Ebay auction.

Ate a chicken heart at a Brazilian barbecue restaurant.

Chatted on the phone with parents multiple times in one week.

Purchased a blazer and a bag on sale.

Checked Microsoft Repair and Shipping Status online 300 times or more.

MIT Mystery Hunt 2009

This past weekend the east coast division of Doombot once again participated in the MIT Mystery Hunt. For those not familiar with the MIT mystery hunt, it is a weekend marathon of puzzle solving adventure where teams compete to solve puzzles in all manner of shapes and sizes. The prize of winning is the “reward” of running the event the following year. In addition to the geek factor of solving puzzles in general, many puzzles rely on knowledge of esoteric topics, decoding skills, and hour-after-hour of internet research. The 2009 hunt found me pouring over Battle Star Galactica quotations, corporate logos, Xbox live achievements, Airplane tail branding, and lists of fictional robots. Jason has referred to it as the Geek Olympics, an event that he says could only be made more geeky by changing the name to “MIT Mystery Hunt: Now with Dragons.” I think of it as kind of a “Burning Man for Nerds.”

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My Secret Christmas List, 2008

Back in 2006, I made a list of stuff I wanted but didn’t expect I could get for Christmas, for various reasons. Then I got my top choice on the list, to my surprise. A year ago, I figured I’d one-up that, and make an even more unlikely list for the sake of tradition—and, somehow, I got three things off that one over the course of the year, including the ridiculously expensive one. This year, I don’t want to break the magic by listing things with the intent of actually getting them, so I’ve decided to continue the tradition with an extra dose of absurdity, unlikeliness, and downright contradiction. So, here we go.

Item: Set of special edition sci-fi books with cool covers

Reason I won’t get it: £5.99 a book may not sound like much, but there are eight books in that set, and they ship from the UK. Just seems like a lot to pay for paperbacks. Also, Amazon.co.uk has replaced packing peanuts with poison-tipped barbs.

Item: A PS3

Reason I won’t get it: I have pledged not to acquire this until after I get my degree. I won’t get the degree before Christmas. So there! (And anyway, I’m kind of waiting for Heavy Rain and the next game by the Ico people to come out.)

Item: Zener cards

Reason I won’t get it: I suppose I could print out my own set of black and white cards to test for ESP, but it would be nice to have a set that feels all nice and professionally made. Still, I suspect that potential givers would be concerned that this feels like a silly, cheapass gift, seeing as how it kind of is. I’m not even sure where you’d buy a set if you don’t feel like paying 18 bucks to also get a stupid book and a crystal ball. Most of all, though, I don’t think I’ll get these because I don’t even want to test for ESP; I thought I might use them for a game or something, and my loved ones are kind of sick of hearing me talk about recycling silly cards for gaming.

Item: Another game as good as Coachride to Devil’s Castle

Reason I won’t get it: I don’t know if any such game exists. Tony gave away a bunch of copies of this game (which was on last year’s Secret Christmas List), but has yet to refer to any other game as being comparably awesome.

Item: World peace

Reason I won’t get it: Ha ha! Let’s see you beat this year’s list, jerks.

The difference between write and wrong

nano_08_winner_100x100.gifAnother year, another 50,000 words. This is my fourth year finishing National Novel Writing Month and, by definition, the fourth year of performing a post-mortem on the experience (you can read the [first](http://doombot.com/2005/12/01/breaking-the-embargo/) [three](http://doombot.com/2006/11/30/victory-is-mineand-a-whole-bunch-of-other-peoples-as-well/) [years’](http://doombot.com/2007/11/29/write-on/) entries if you’re feeling courageous).

I’ve started to look at the NaNoWriMo process as an exercise, a chance to try out things that I wouldn’t otherwise. By this point, I’m pretty confident in my ability to write, regardless of what month it is, so it’s an opportunity for experimentation.

Last year, I tried to write a young adult science-fiction novel about a girl who discovers that her older brother is part of a secret organization that fights aliens and deals with the powers of the occult. If that sounds a lot like [*The Middleman*](http://doombot.com/2008/07/22/short-television-review-the-middleman/)…well, it is, but I hadn’t heard about it prior to coming up with the idea. *The Middleman* had roughly the same concept as my story, but with one major difference: vastly superior execution. That’s okay; I don’t regret the experience of writing that story—but I don’t think I’m likely to finish it either.

So, what have I learned this year that I didn’t know last year? Well, I’ve learned that even though I *can* write mainstream fiction, I seem to keep coming up with better genre fiction ideas at the same time (I thought of at least two premises for good stories that I’d like to write). I’ve learned that having an *entire* plot in mind—which I didn’t this time around—really helps not only the day-to-day act of writing, but also the emotional investment in the novel and characters, and I learned that I can produce 50,000 words without breaking too much of a sweat.
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I promise, we’re almost done with the whole manga face thing. And I’m totally going to bed after I write this. But I couldn’t resist posting—now that Jason [has completed the sequence](http://doombot.com/2008/08/18/face-your-destiny/)—this Now-and-Then picture.


And, seven years later, Kai still looks the most like his cartoon if you ask me. Crazy. Some day, if the four of us are ever in the same physical location again, we shall have to take a picture so we can actually see if either of these actually looks like us. And then we will burn all the evidence.