The random news is changing
What happens when you take six months between newsletters.
Hello! Has it really been six months since Issue 4 of this newsletter went out? No! It’s actually been a bit longer than that.
I’d like to say that the long delay has been because I’ve been brokering world peace, fixing the climate, or helping kittens, but I have done none of these things.
What I have been doing is thinking about changing the newsletter from a collection of random links and junk (let’s face it, there are other newsletters that do this better because the people running them are way more plugged into the zeitgeist than I am. I have to stop and check to see if I’ve even spelled “zeitgeist” right) to something that is more unique to me.
I thought, “What do I like doing besides collect random trivia to share with others?” The answer is a lot of things—I am not a person of discriminating tastes. So I narrowed it down further to, “What do I like doing that can be easily shared in electronic form and won’t get me arrested?” And it came to me:
I like to draw
I like to write
I am not saying I am great at either of these things, but I do have a certain style that can be identified as, “Oh, that guy.” Some people will say this while nodding sagely, others will say it while pretending to hold their noses because something really stinks.
Issue 5 (the one you have in your virtual hands right now) will be a transition issue, with some random stuff in it, but will also feature some writing and drawing. In Issue 4 I started writing prompts from a book of prompts (or BOP as I like to call it) and that will be the writing part going forward—at least for now.
The drawing part will mostly consist of random comics and things, usually one-offs, but possibly series as well. I make no promises other than the work will be all mine and will probably not get me arrested.
I also want to change the name of the newsletter to better reflect its new direction, so please leave a comment if you have a non-X-rated suggestion!
And now, Issue 5!
Infinite Macintosh. Ever want to go back to the simpler days of 1997, when you could while away the hours on your Macintosh Quadra 605 playing SimCity 2000? Have I got news for you! And yes, this emulation actually includes a full working version of SimCity 2000 (among other titles) in it.
This Person Does Not Exist. AI image generation is the new vibe (as the kids say), but before DALL-E and Imagen there was This Person Does Not Exist. It creates completely fake people and it's pretty good...until it tries to render a second person in the same image, then it goes straight to nightmare fuel. Try it and find out! But maybe not right before you go to bed.
Google Blob Opera. This is an oldie, but it still amuses and delights me. Not everything Google does is evil, and this is proof.
(If this is still somehow evil, please don't tell me.)
(From an Amazon listing) It turns out that denial of death is 21 cm tall:
Random writing, Prompt 2 of 5,000
Every newsletter, I write a short story or other piece based on the prompts taken from the book 5,000 Writing Prompts. It's written by Bryn Donovan and you can find it listed on Goodreads here:
Prompt 2: The text of a letter, email, or diary.
I figured I would start keeping a diary again, though maybe I should call it a journal because that sounds more macho, heh. I'm not sure if I'll write in the morning or at night or through the day. I also don't know if I'll share super-secret private thoughts here, because there's always the risk that someone will read this, even though I'm locking it with Touch ID. What if some nefarious person forced me to place my finger on the Touch ID sensor to reveal all?
That's the first time I've used nefarious in about a hundred years. It feels good to write things down again, maybe? We'll see how it goes.
Later that night: Well, fell asleep on the couch and woke up with a sore neck. That was pretty smart. At least we live in a modern age where we don't have to rewind VHS tapes to watch what we missed while snoring away. More tomorrow.
Yesterday I was mega-busy and completely forgot about you. Sorry! Hopefully this won't lead to a cursed or otherwise defective diary experience.
And by later, I mean today!
So let's start with a list of what I had for breakfast:
- 2 donuts, a Boston Cream and dipped chocolate
- Large coffee, black
To be honest, I felt pretty gross after. I'm trying to cut down, I swear. I'll tell Joe at work to keep me accountable. I read about doing that on some website like whyareyousofat.com
Work is still busy, dev rolled out a new build and every day for the past week it's found new ways to blow up, but there's been no talk about rolling back or anything. Lots of OT on their side. For us in support it's mostly placating users with empty assurances. I should get into a less stressful line of work, like brain surgery.
Also the commute is even longer now. The train ride is taking forever because of track work. And it's raining every day.
Later: Holy cats, what a bitchfest. I resolve to post more positive things, diary! I'll tell Joe that, too. He'll be my new confidante (sp?) for everything.
Something weird happened on the commute today. I'm on the train sitting in my usual seat (single seat because I am an anti-social mofo) and I look across and I'm looking at the reflections in the window on the other side and there's a guy sitting there next to the window and then when I go to look at him (the actual him, not the reflection) there's no one there. I look back at the reflection and he's still there, just sitting there and not really doing anything. Then I try finding the "real" him again and I can't see him and it doesn't seem possible, so I just end up shrugging. I get off the train before he does, so I don't see how it turns out. But so far it is WEIRD.
I'm not telling Joe this, he'll just look at me funny. And now that I think about it, I was obviously not looking at the reflection right, if that makes sense. I'm pretty sure that's happened before. I'm not good at spatial shit or something. Or finding things in the grocery store. "Where is the peanut butter?" "Right in front of you." "Oh, HA HA."
Anyway, still stupid busy at work. I kind of hate it here now. I need one of those "Find Your Secret Dream Job" books that make you answer a billion personality questions then tells you to join the clergy.
I ate no donuts today. TRIUMPH.
Holy shit. Sorry for the cussing, Diary, I swear (lol) that I'm trying to cut back. I blame my brother, who was the world's biggest potty mouth when I was growing up. He had an f-bomb for every occasion. And then some.
Anyway, I am holy-bleeping because the reflection thing happened again. And it was the same guy! <-- exclamation point for emphasis. I mean, he probably rides the same route as me, I see lots of regulars, but still, it just seems to add to the weirdness. It was a bit more packed than usual, otherwise I was going to get up and see if I could really find where the dude was sitting. I did not see him anywhere except in the window. Freaky. Or I'm losing my mind. Can stress cause hallucinations? Let me google that for me.
Crap, it looks like it sort of can. Am I that stressed out? And making people up on my morning commute as a result? Man, think how much worse it would be if it was winter and the commute was in the dark. Actually, scratch that, I don't need any freaky dreams tonight. I'll think about kittens for the rest of the evenig.
Hey ho, tested positive for everyone's favorite pandemic illness, so it's isolation time for me. I don't feel too bad, just a bit of a sore throat and some stuffiness. I offered to work remotely, but Reuben (which always makes me think of the sandwich because I am totally juvenile like that) said to just take it easy, so I'm going to do that. No morning commute, so no creepy reflections. Unless the guy shows up in my living room window.
Fuck, I just freaked myself out. Sorry, Diary, I will not write fuck again, except just right there to say I won't do it again.
I'm going to dig out that hundred year old box of tea I have somewhere in a cupboard and watch really bad TV to help speed my recovery. More later.
UPDATE: I fell asleep on the couch again while watching Moonfall. I think my brain slid out my ear and rolled under the couch, too. That movie was dumb dumb dumb. At least my neck isn't hurting this time. I skipped the tea because I don't want to get up to pee in the middle of the night. No other reason, not like I'm suddenly scared to walk around my own apartment at night, haha. HAHA. See? Laughing. We're cool.
Actually started feeling worse and missed a couple days of work, and this diary. Sorry, Diary, you're still my best secret journal friend thing. I may need to work on the phrasing for that later.
God I am tired. My body feels like it's been put into a bag and rolled down a hill made of rocks. But my fever is gone and last night I slept better. I dreamed about the stupid train, but can't remember anything except I dreamed about the train. Probably for the best.
I did find the tea and made some. I swear I had to pee five minutes later. But it was still nice.
I watched the original Toy Story. The "real" people in it look very strange and creepy. I'll probably dream about that next.
Should get to work by Monday. Weekend will be low-key and boring. But not as boring as Moonfall (zing! That's what you call a moon shot, amirite??)
I am finally heading back into the office. I feel OK but not great, but at least I'm not showing any symptoms. I'll wear a mask because I just love masks. -sarcasm tag here-
I'm curious to see if Mr. Reflection™ will be on the train. I need to come up with a better name. I think I'll stand instead of taking my usual seat. Will have a better chance to suss him out. Suss is my word of the day.
UPDATE: Too tired to stand so I sat down in my usual seat. Then I fell asleep, which is literally the first time I've ever done that on my commute. Missed my stop and had to transfer trains and go back. Grr. So frazzled I forget to check for Reflecto-Man™ (still need a better name).
Well, he was there again. The window dude. Just sitting there, looking straight ahead. Wearing a Seattle Mariners baseball cap, what looked like a white t-shirt, and I think tan shorts. Hard to judge exact color from the reflection. I got up and my head swam. I've always read that expression: 'head swam' and never felt I'd experienced it, but I mother-f-bombing did this morning. I think I even went down on one knee, like I was going to propose to the dude. A woman asked me if I was OK and I said something witty, but forget what it was now. When I looked back at the window, the guy was gone.
Now I'm wondering if I imagined the whole thing from the start. More likely he just got off at a stop or changed seats and I'm not all cray-cray.
Holy shit. I'm not apologizing this time. :P
So, the window guy was back, wearing the same everything, sitting there same as every other time (I feel like I've been seeing him for years now). I *carefully* get up from my seat and walked across to where he should be sitting. I make it sound like a big journey but it's like two steps. There was a tiny woman sitting in the aisle seat, texting on a phone that was half as big as she was. Next to her, the window seat...was empty. I looked very carefully from that empty window seat to the window and confirmed, window man was there. I could see the tiny woman with huge phone sitting next to him, oblivious to his alleged presence. I looked from the window to the seats, back and forth. I know what I was seeing and it's simply not possible.
So I guess I am going crazy. I'm going to tell Joe, see what he says.
UPDATE: Joe says and I quote, "It's probably stress." And I wanted to say that's bullshit, I know what I saw, but I already googled it and know that stress can cause hallucinations. I don't like this shit. It's not fun or funny, it's just freaky and wrong. Maybe I'll take some time off work. Or start taking the bus (haha).
In support of the "Going crazy" thesis, today when I saw The Man in the Window™ and saw the aisle seat next to him was empty, I quickly moved over and sat in it. I turned to "look" at him and dearest Diary, I felt like I was going to piss my pants, which would have made for a very awkward entrance at work. There was no one there, of course, the seat by the window was empty, but now that I was sitting next to it, I could definitely see that the reflection was of some guy who was right beside me, but not showing up. Sort of a reverse vampire, I guess. Shows in reflections, but nowhere else.
I said, "Hey" in the way guys say "hey," like I was talking to him, but kept it kind of low because I didn't want everyone in the car to smell the CRAZY coming off me. I looked at the reflection and I swear (without actually swearing this time) that I saw some kind of reaction, like he heard me. For some reason I suddenly thought this was some alternate dimension thing and he was "stuck between worlds" or something, but that's pretty stupid. I watch too many bad movies. The reaction actually made me feel a little more at ease.
I still think I peed a little.
I got up and didn't say anything else for the rest of the trip. Didn't look back to check on him, either. Don't know what I'll do tomorrow.
So it occurs to me I haven't really been writing anything except Weird Guy in the Window stuff, so let me update on other things:
- Still donut-free
- They did a rollback of the upgrade. Users are happy, dev is not.
- I applied to a place hiring a junior dev. Pay is actually a little worse to start, but would be nice to get out of support.
- Applying to junior dev position has nothing to do with it also meaning I'd have a different commute. NO SIR, totally unrelated.
- Did not watch any bad TV
- Listened to music on the bed like I was 17 again. Fell asleep that way. I'm getting very good at falling asleep anywhere now.
- Had pizza for dinner. It remains the perfect food.
- Opened a dating app, threw up in my mouth a little, closed the app. I'm good with being single for another 20 years, really.
NOTE: I did not go into work today, they asked me to cover chat support, so I just logged in from home, hence no creepy guy on train update. Sorry if you were expecting one. Kind of nice to not have to deal with it.
I'm not sure how to describe this. I'm not even sure it happened. I guess it did.
First, I'm OK. Physically, I mean. Mentally, my brain has gone through a cheese grater.
So, you're probably thinking Window Dude. Correct.
But first, let's start with the train. Going along at its usual speed, starts to approach the next station, still moving pretty good and WHAM. That WHAM is the emergency brake coming on. You would be surprised at how quickly the train comes to a complete stop. I was not paying attention and whipped forward from the jolt and bonked my head on one of the poles. I got a bit of a bruise on the forehead now. I guess I am not 100% physically OK when I think about it.
So judging from where we stopped, there has probably been a track intrusion alarm. The PA stays quiet, though. I begin thinking that horrible thought, that it might have been a jumper. It didn't feel like the train hit anything, though. But would it? I have no idea.
And I'm not googling that shit. I will enjoy my ignorance on the matter, thanks.
The PA is still quiet and people on the train are starting to get restless, craning their necks and looking around. Someone picks up one of the emergency phones and I can hear her asking what is going on, why is there no announcement?
Finally, the PA crackles to life. The voice coming through is calm. To my recollection, this is what he said: "Attention passengers. Due to a medical emergency your train is being held at the station. Medical personnel will be on the scene shortly to attend to the emergency. We ask that you remain on the train at this time and thank you for your patience. You will be instructed to exit the train when the medical emergency has been cleared."
The train consists of four cars. I'm always on the fourth car, because it's closest to the station exit for my stop. I can walk into the third car, but the first and second are separate. I can't see what's going on at all, but there is a definite sense of unease in the air. It feels way too quiet.
As minutes go by, I finally remember about Window dude and look over. Yep, reflection in place and accounted for. But there's more. He's there. He's actually there in the window seat. I'm not sure how to describe what I felt just then, but it was like when you get a cup for your soda at Wendy's and go to the machine that lets you add whatever flavor you want and you motherfucking add all of them. Wait, that is a terrible analogy. Let me just explain what happened next.
I mostly felt some kind of relief, like seeing the actual guy sitting there meant that normalcy had been restored. But that feeling only lasted a moment and was replaced by something else, something sour and off. Without thinking, I got up and took the empty seat next to the guy. I said hey again.
He turned his head to me immediately. Still wearing the Mariners baseball cap. But something was off. His face looked...wrong. It was smashed in, the nose was just a bloody nub. One eye was sagging out of its socket. His lower lip was torn off. Blood was everywhere. His white t-shirt was soaked through. An arm was bent in a way that arms don't bend. He was facing me, looking at me, and raised a hand toward me, a few of the fingers clipped off and showing exposed bone. He opened what was left of his mouth, as if to speak, and I rocketed out of the seat so fast I knocked over some asshole standing nearby, clean knocked him right over, like a bowling pin. I apologized by saying, "Sorry, sorry, sorry" over and over, like a mantra. He swore at me and moved into the other car. I crawled into my original seat and scrunched up, taking only a moment to look over.
The dude was gone. The physical one, I mean. The reflection version was still there, sitting as calm as ever, facing forward. I closed my eyes and tried to shut my brain off.
About ten minutes later another announcement informed us that we would be escorted off the train by transit personnel. We were all moved to the third car, which had stopped just as it entered the station. By going to the door farthest up, we could exit onto the platform. This was one of the stations where you could only go in one direction off the platform, so we dutifully marched off and out.
I had to look, of course. As we walked down, I could see a group of people gathered on the platform at the front of the train. We would be walking right past them as we headed to the exit. They weren't making any particular effort to conceal what was happening. Maybe they assumed everyone already knew. By this time I became aware of someone crying, somewhere near. I never saw who, though.
I looked down because I had to know. The view was only a tiny bit obscured. A young man was on the track and it was very clear he was not alive. I saw the baseball cap and the strangest thought hit me: How did he put it back on? Because it was laying a few feet away from him. A bloody Mariners cap. Maybe he wanted to make it unmistakably clear that he was the Window dude. There in the reflection, there in the seat, here on the track.
I called in sick today. I'm going in to interview for the junior dev position. Getting there by bus. I don't know what I saw, why I saw it or what any of it means. I feel like I've been given something I never wanted and won't be able to get rid of.
At some point I'll have to take the train again. Maybe the other company will make me an offer on the spot and I won't have to. Ha, fat chance. That happens in movies maybe. I could take the bus. It would add about 20 minutes to the commute, but that's a small fucking price to pay, I'd say.
But he might not be there now. Maybe it's over.
—no more diary entries made after September 22—
Random comic: Super Spud vs. Promo-Woman
This requires some explanation, because it contains pop culture references from 1992 and in-jokes that you would only understand if you were going to college with me in 1992.
Or you can just go and read it and try to puzzle it out yourself!
In 1992, I started a two-year program called Mass Communication and Journalism. During the first year, everyone was lumped together. In Year 2, you had to choose between two paths:
The Path of Good: Journalism
The Path of Evil: Public Relations
I may be showing some bias here. In Year 1 I became pals with a fellow student who is probably way smarter than I’ll ever be. She was going into PR, I was going into Journalism, and we spent that first year passing notes in the classes that did not command 100% of our attention. Some of these notes took the form of comics, one of which can be seen below in two forms: the scanned original from 1992, and a remade version using fancy modern technology.
The comic itself features two characters:
Super Spud: A potato superhero. I forget his exact origins, but I like drawing cartoon vegetables for some reason. He sort of represents me in this comic. I was a little potato-shaped at the time.
Promo-Woman: A villainous type who constantly uses her cheap hucksterism to push unwanted products onto people. She represents my horrible stereotype of all PR people being soulless automatons constantly trying to sell or push things no one wants (though she doesn’t actually do that in this particular comic. In another, she tries getting people to buy a machine that makes turkey jerky).
I have preserved the dialog and the art/panel layout as best I could in the remade version. I made a header image which the original never had, because why not?
A few random explanations:
Why is Promo-Woman smashing CDs? This is probably based on an incident where my college friend pushed me over onto my back while I was crouched down in a hallway and tying my shoe. I was wearing my backpack at the time, so pushing me over had this cute turtle-on-back look to it. But unbeknownst to my friend, I had some CDs in the backpack, and I rolled back onto them (as I recall, they survived). This morphed into Promo-Woman smashing CDs.
Promo-Woman looks very different in the remade version. Why? A few reasons here. First, I was no longer scrambling to draw panels before class ended, so I could do more than dress her in what appears to be a black unitard, and I never cared for the original look, even considering the time constraints. For the updated Promo-Woman, I started with the hair and it seemed natural to make it huge and swoopy. The black mock turtleneck and jeans are emulating the clothing style of Steve Jobs, because she would have admired the power he commanded (although maybe not so much in 1992 when he was still in exile from Apple).
Why does Promo-Woman’s hair seem so much bigger in the last few panels? Yes, her hair is indeed monstrous in the last couple of panels. That was me experimenting and then forgetting to go back and tidy things up, so basically a continuity error. But I like to think that when she gets frustrated, her hair reacts by growing in volume, sort of like a weird super power.
Morrissey is [unfavorable views of the singer here], yet Super Spud seems to be defending him. Why, Super Spud, why? It was a different world in 1992.
Super Spud vs. Promo-Woman, circa 1992:
Super Spud vs. Promo-Woman, 2022 remake (this is a PDF you’ll have to download, it’s about 1.1 MB in size)
The new name
Does Stan’s Random Newsletter still work as a name with the revised format? Do you have a clever and witty suggestion for a new name? Leave a comment and let me know!
The author at age 2
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