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Dysfunctional Cars

My gravestone will be emblazoned with “He made bad decisions surrounding cars.”

Over the years I’ve grown amazingly skilled at making the wrong decision when it comes to cars. I’ve consistently bought crappy cars, sold off great cars, spent money to keep cars going that only fail me later, and ignored cheap maintenance that turned into big problems down the figurative road.

In fact, I’m so good at doing the wrong thing, I kind of wondered if I should just…stop…using cars.

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VW is for Very Wrong

In 2009 Naomi’s Saturn SL2 took an almighty beating from baseball-sized hail for half an hour. Being that Saturn built inexpensive cars by using lots of inexpensive materials, the car was more-or-less demolished. We went hunting for a replacement.

We bought a VW GTI. These are seriously cool cars. They have lots of power, lots of storage, great styling, nice interiors, and we fell in love. In fact, we fell in love just like you do with a crazy ex-girlfriend. Over the years we became accustomed to her…misgivings. I mean, it was a sweet car. It just had some commitment issues.

Specifically, it had issues committing to being reliable. Or starting.

For a whole year, the car beeped constantly anywhere we drove. The same beep you get when you don’t buckle your seatbelt, but it never stopped. A random blown fuse was the completely-logical culprit on that one.

Years of seemingly-small abuse became sort-of the norm for our family. “Oh, the VW needs a new radiator fan” wouldn’t have been an odd dinner topic any given Tuesday.

In fact, I remember one time the check-engine-light turned off on its own. I called Naomi immediately, I was so excited.

It came back the next day.

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Step 1: Admit You Have a Problem

Years.

Years went by where the norm was driving a car with some random “personality” problem.

My wife was 9 months pregnant in 2013 and the timing belt snapped, basically toasting the engine. I rebuilt it myself over several very-stressful weeks. I started to think “is this car really worth all the trouble?”

Of course it was. If we rebuilt the engine, we’d have a car with a new engine. That’s like having a new car right? In 2014 the shop informed me the engine needed rebuilt because the cylinder head I’d bought used was trashed. It was going to cost around $3,000.

The car was barely worth more than that, but if we did it, we’d have a car with a new engine….RIGHT.

I started loathing the car. I’d see it in the driveway and shudder. I knew, somehow, that car was starting to get malicious. I knew it was trying to hurt me.

The transmission started acting up. $500 and a week in the shop, the next day the same problem returns. I swear I heard the VW say “whatever, it’s not like you have the guts to leave me.”

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Step 2: Run Away From the Problem

I knew I we had to cut off this relationship, but I had to plan it. If we let the VW know what was going on…well…there’s no shortage of imaginative scenarios that end in my fiery demise.

We called the VW dealership to ask if they were interested in buying the car, as those cars tend to be pretty desirable. That was a mistake. They wouldn’t. Stop. Calling. Me.

We contacted a friend who works at Subaru of Wichita, where we actually have a ton of connections, and he got us the name of a salesman we could chat with. I looked at their listings online to find several cars we would be interested in and I did a great deal of research on them. Mind you, I did all of this out of earshot from the VW.

I knew that awful, conniving, mean-spirited VerrucktWagen would self-immolate at even the hint of betrayal.

The following Saturday we drove the VW to the dealership, parked in the corner of the lot, and combat-rolled away from it to find a salesman before the car knew what was going on. I think it knew, though. That morning I had to jump-start it.

Anyway, four hours later, we drove off the lot with an awesome 4Runner.

We returned to the lot a few days later to drop off the keys and it felt like the equivalent of picking up your CDs from an ex. It was awkward and I avoided eye-contact as much as I could.

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The Best Car I’ve Ever Owned

We’ve had the 4Runner a month now and so far it’s completely failed to be stupid. In fact, I can’t stop telling Naomi how much I love it. Seriously. I think she’s getting really frustrated with me.

Sure, a good portion of my love for the new car is basically a pendulum-effect of cutting off the most dysfunctional relationship we’ve ever had, but beyond losing the bad-thing, the Toyota is a really good vehicle. It’s even the low-end SR5 model with almost no additional features. It’s not even 4WD. I don’t even care. It’s so awesome.

So that is the story of how we got out of an abusive car-relationship. I hope it can be an inspiration for someone else someday.

This is what I looked like when I would regularly post to Xanga.

I Miss Xanga

This is what I looked like when I would regularly post to Xanga.

This is what I looked like when I would regularly post to Xanga.

I’m dating myself. Shutup. But for real, Facebook has totally changed the definition of a social-network.

But Xanga Sucked

No it didn’t, it was actually really good at what it did, but you probably remember it during a super angsty time of your life where everything sucked. Sure people could write vague and angsty poetry about their ex-girlfriend, but they were writing.

Maybe I was lucky and only followed people who wrote at-length about what was going on in their lives, but I remember maybe only seeing a few new posts a week, but long-form posts about fears, excitement, bands, movies, whatever.

Facebook Helps Me Stay In Touch

Ok sure, it’s a convenient way to easily reach your extended family you don’t get to see outside of holidays. Assuming you enjoy reading political virulence or social-justice-internet-activism posts on the regular.

The real problem here is that the internet has lowered the bar for detached-presentation-of-self. That’s the idea that accounts for sexting, bullying, trolling and a whole host of awful parts of the internet. We can easily disassociate from our internet-selves. It’s way easier to post an article to passively-agree with a stance than it is to disagree with someone face-to-face.

So in that way, we’re becoming more detached.

You also need to realize that it’s like, really easy to just unfollow people who post things you don’t like, which is great for you, but it goes both ways. The end result is that you’re not going to change anybody’s mind with a Tweet or a Facebook post and you shouldn’t even bother trying.

The people you want to change probably already quit listening to you, and that probably includes that distant family you want to “stay in touch with.”

But People Want To Keep Up With Me

Great! Then why don’t you write about your life then? Write about you. Write about your good days and your bad days. If you strongly believe in a point-of-view, collect your thoughts and write about it.

The internet and its social platforms give us great tools that we can use to support and encourage each other, or even just get to know each other, but we generally fill them with justice-vomit and clickbait.

Think about it like this. I may follow someone on Facebook and find out that they would be Hermione, if they were a Harry Potter character, they checked in at McDonald’s with the comment “nuggets, yo” and they are a Bernie Sanders supporter. That doesn’t give me anything I care about. I could learn more about them in five minutes at Starbucks than an hour on Facebook gives me.

You know how that happens? It happens when we hide ourselves behind what we wish we were.

Sidenote: I just know someone is going to think “If they’re a Sanders supporter, that’s all I need to know to decide not to be friends with them.” If you feel that way, re-evaluate your decisions, friend. Don’t write off people because they disagree with you. Learn to build disparate relationships. Nobody ever got successful from being closed-off to outside opinions.

Moral of the story: if you’re not willing to go to coffee with someone to discuss politics, religion, social-justice, racism, whatever, then don’t do it online.

I Don’t Have Time For That

Then spend less time online.

Seth, I Don’t Spend All My Time Online

You read this whole post, didn’t you?

Now You’re Being Ridiculous

It’s 12am and I had three hours of sleep last night. Lay off.

Then Maybe You Go To Bed

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe go write your own blog.

I Don’t Have a Blog

I know.

What’s That Supposed to Mean?

You’re the one that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Whatever Mr “EVE Online/SpaceX/Tesla”

Hey EVE is awesome and Elon Musk is changing the world for good. Get off my back about it.

I’m Just Saying…

I know shutup. I’m going to try to post something meaningful soon, just…I just need you to give me some time, or some sleep, or some more coffee.

You’ve Had Enough Coffee Tonight

Look, I can stop whenever I want alright?

How Many Coffee-Shop Loyalty Cards Are In Your Pocket Right Now?

That’s not important.

Name Four Baristas

JT, Molly, Josh, Peyton, Sam, Kim, Grace, Meg…

Crap.

 

Short

A photo that represents my blog presence lately.

A photo that represents my blog presence lately.

Have you ever had one of those days where you’re like “man I should really do the thing I planned to do today” but then your brain goes “lol nope” and you’re like “what could it hurt to push this off for a day” then you realize that you’ve been doing the same thing, and your brain has been going “lol nope” somehow for a month and now you’ve gone and lost all your loyal blog readers?

Yeah I had that day today. Hi.

I sort of had this theory that blog posts were supposed to be un-short. Not long, per se, but definitely not short. Then things like Tumblr happened, and aside from all the capers that happen over at that hovel of lunacy, it proved that the short-blog could be a thing.

Several times a day I’ll think of a quip that’s too long for a tweet but doesn’t meet my goofy standards for minimum-blog-length. Maybe I need to get over that and just post. It’s not like you care, I’m sure.

In fact. This blog is a test of that theory, now. Thanks for reading.

A Decade of EVE Online

Ten years ago today I thought “hm…this EVE Online thing seems kind of interesting, I’ll give it a shot.”

Such a little decision. Such a huge impact.

I can feel my wife rolling her eyes right now.

What Is EVE?

It’s a spaceship game.

You play it online with other people. It’s “open world” so you don’t “beat” the game, you just figure out what you want to do, and do it.

You can mine asteroids, be a pirate and ransom miners for their cargo, haul goods across space, build an empire of thousands of players, be a spy and take down an empire, explore space just to see what you find, create a corporation that builds ships, or even just sit in station and scam people out of their hard-earned money.

I like open-world spaceship games.

Why Does It Matter To You?

Yeah I’m writing a whole blog post about a spaceship video game. Might seem like a waste of time to you but shelf your “I’m so funny so I’m gonna make a joke about how it’s just a stupid video game” tendencies for a second and let me tell you about it.

Here are the life events that have happened to me during my tenure as an EVE player.

  1. Marriage
  2. Kid #1
  3. Kid #2
  4. Parents divorced
  5. Grandpa died
  6. Joined band, toured, recorded, retired band
  7. Switched churches twice, helped start a new church

That’s a lot of life. When something, anything, lasts through that much life, it sort of becomes important to you. It’s like a backdrop. Whether it’s a car, a game, or some hobby, it’s something that’s been around through huge changes.

I have a friends, some I consider very close, who I met through this game.

I have a friend in England who makes cakes for a living. She has yet to deliver me the cupcake she promised me four years ago.

Another friend lives in New York and we talk more days than we don’t about life, whatever. We’ve sort of been there for each other through most of our major life events in the last decade. We finally managed to have lunch together a few years back and it was awesome.

And here’s the craziest way this game has affected me. I have legitimately changed the way I handle conflict since playing this game. I spent a few years as the CEO of a corporation in the game and “managed” something like 100 people. Totally stupid, right? Except I had to actually manage conflict. I had to mediate a lot. I had to be diplomatic. It was all for stupid in-game reasons, but those techniques have carried into my real life.

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Why Have You Kept Playing?

EVE is weird. Over the years I’ve taken a few long-term breaks, but I always get the bug and come back. I’ve thought a lot about why I keep logging back in, trying to identify what things intrigue me enough to return, and I have come up with a couple of things.

  1. Friends – Explained above, but seriously, I love some of these people.
  2. New Stuff – the company that develops EVE has my utmost respect. They constantly work on improving the game, but they actually created a panel of players that they fly to Iceland every year to talk about new features and bug fixes that the playerbase wants improved. I don’t care how you feel about games, but that mindset is incredible and more-or-less unique in the tech field for a thirteen year old product.
  3. Ambiance – I love the way the game world feels. The music, the artwork, the lore, the ships themselves, it’s all part of a whole story that I find terribly intriguing. Also, the players themselves contribute to this by being a rare blend of super-helpful and super-sinister. It feels risky.
  4. Permanent Loss – For whatever reason, EVE is one of the only games that has real consequences for failure. If your ship blows up, it’s gone. You lose gear. You’re not invincible. If you lose everything, you have to start over. It makes the game-world risky and that’s exciting.
  5. Complexity – The game is deep. I’ve been playing a decade and there are still areas and aspects of the game I haven’t explored. In some in-game professions you really need a calculator at a minimum, and Excel if you want to be serious about it. Not joking.

Told you.

You’re An Adult Now, Right?

Yes. Shut up.

When Will You Quit?

I dunno. Whenever they shut down the servers, I guess. Not before I have a chance to visit Iceland and the CCP headquarters and meet some of the developers and thank them for their time. Not before I join a few more huge fleet battles.

Certainly not before I can get my kids to play so they can help me mine asteroids faster.

Rocket League

Rockets and Whatever

Since November I’ve been playing a lot of Rocket League. It’s a game where you play soccer with cars. And the cars have rockets on them. You know, just like normal soccer.

Anyway, it’s actually a pretty challenging and competitive game and it sort of consumed me. Before I knew it I had 20 hours in the game. Then 50. Then 100. Last I looked I was nearing 200 hours.

Last weekend I played in a Rocket League tournament. I placed third, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had that feeling you get when you’ve been sick for a few days and you finally go outside and take in the warm, fresh air and then you look back at your house (in this analogy, the house is my life) and realize you forgot to mow, take out the trash, and wash the windows for weeks. Also the neighborhood cats have all moved in under your porch and your mailbox is hilarious.

So I took a long hard look at my life and thought to myself: “Seth, you done goofed.”

Then I thought “…now what?”

Music

Music

Man, it’s been a year since Shine Like Stars wrapped up and I miss writing and playing music. I still play most Sundays at church but the bug to play out and to write new stuff was not-so-subtly lurking around the shadows of my misguided rocket leaguing.

So I decided to ask people to annoy me. I almost immediately regretted that decision. Then, upon further though, un-regretted that decision and just used the excessive annoyance to power a motivation-engine and powered out two songs in four nights. Then I talked to a couple of other musicians about opportunities to collaborate and guest-play in bands here and there, and the ball was rolling.

Reading

I challenged myself to read 24 books this year. I’m on number four right now, trending slightly behind my curve. That said, it’s awesome to be back on that habit. I love reading and I’m trying to throw myself some curve balls and read stuff I maybe wouldn’t normally have read. I’m even reading some non-fiction stuff to better myself professionally and personally. You know, books like “How To Have a Type-A Toddler And Not Blow Up The World” or “Learn To Be On Time To Work You Moron,” you know, stuff like that.

I did just finish book two of the Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer and while it’s not the best writing I’ve ever come across, the storylines and conflicts are unique and often-hilarious.

Currently reading “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe.

Dadding

At the end of the day, regardless of how awesome of a song I wrote, or how great of a book I read, or how handsome of a face I have, I’m a dad to two little nerds with varying degrees of interpersonal (and sci-fi space-opera) needs.

There's a fish coming out my ear.

There’s a fish coming out my ear.

Last night I took Thing 1 to get ice cream. She picked out Lime Sherbet for herself and Orange Sherbet for me. I love Orange Sherbet, but I really wanted the Butterfinger Sundae, but when a Type-A Toddler tells you to eat Orange Sherbet, may all heaven and Earth mourn you if you decline.

Thing 2, in the mean time, has become quite the little ham and has developed a habit of smiling at people so big that they instantly melt. If he scales that skill up any harder, we may have some legal stuff we have to figure out because that level of charm is lethal.

My wife does an exquisite job of parenting these kiddos while remaining supportive of me, even though she’s clearly the adult and I’ve basically used my children as an excuse to act like I’m still a child myself.

“Sure kiddo, that Millenium Falcon is totally for you.”

*puts Millenium Falcon on work desk*

Minimalism and De-Cluttering

Long time fans of my family may know that we have stuff. Lots of stuff. Recently we’ve taken a few steps down a road towards de-cluttering. One of the things I’ve focused on was cleanliness of my workspace and getting rid of stuff I don’t use regularly, or ever.

One of the things we’ve really tried to do is trade out more things for fewer but more-useful things.

My big achievement for February was selling my Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, associated games and accessories, a set of golf clubs, a few firearms, a guitar amp, and a guitar. All of that money turned around and went into Tesla stock and a Playstation 4.

We are slowly, but intentionally improving our living space by freeing up actual square-footage and removing all that extra unused clutter that we keep around “just in case.” Feels good, man.

A Walk

It’s winter and a lot of things suck about this season, particularly in Kansas. It’s cold. Bitterly cold, actually. Even when it’s not actually bitterly cold, Kansas gets windy and totally-adaptable temperatures become shiver-spreading snot-freezers.

The problem is that I have a toddler, and toddlers can only be kept in a house for about a week before the rage in their eyes becomes your eternal regret. Yesterday we decided to go for a walk.

Adventures

When I was a kid my grandpa would take me on “adventures.” Generally it was just a long walk, and generally there would be something memorable about it. One time we found an arrow. Another time he found something vulgar scrawled in the dirt on the trail and used his shoe to cover it up. He never told me what it said. I have very fond memories of those walks so I intend to pass that on to my kids.

Our Adventure

Thing 1 and I walked down to the park and she got up on the outdoor stage. She’s been singing a lot lately and any chance she has to get on the stage is a thrill for her. God help me.

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So we played on the stage for a bit then walked down near the river. The water is pretty low, so a normally-submerged bank is visible, complete with mud, trash, and a lot of sticks.

She had picked up a smallish stick earlier in the walk, but we found a neat new stick with a 90 degree bend in it. She grabbed it and dubbed it her new walking stick. I found a good stick for myself and we made our way home.

We cleaned our sticks but she was a bit upset that hers had little knots in it that hurt her hands when she grabbed it. We grabbed dinner and went to mom’s house. She has tools. Lots of tools.

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We scraped, sanded, cut and measured, probably not in that order, and ended up with a pretty sweet little walking-stick for Thing 1. She’s pretty proud of it.

And we did it using all of Grandpa’s old tools, so that was nice.

I’ll probably try to find some way to seal it and maybe color it a bit, but it’s smooth and kinda neat now. I’m kind of proud of it. Thing 1 sure loves it.

The end-result.

The end-result.

 

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