Category Archives: blog

worst. theme. ever.

I really hate this theme, but I broke Twenty Fourteen when I upgraded WordPress, and I don’t have time to fix it at the moment.

So, for now at least, enjoy the ugly.

there were loose threads…

Nearly ten years ago, when I was struggling to get any kind of meaningful on-camera work, and it looked like my once-promising acting career was going to be traded in for a writing career, I got a call to audition for a show called Wired Science. It was the kind of show that, today, would likely be online, but in 2006, it was going to air on PBS.

We went through several rounds of meetings and auditions, each one ending with the people in the room praising my preparation, passion, and on-camera presence.

I remember getting several calls from casting, and each time I expected to be told I’d been hired, I was told that I needed to read some new, different material, or come back in to meet someone new. This process went on for well over a month, until I finally got a call from my manager.

“They want you to write an essay about why they should hire you,” he said.

“What?” I said. Was I auditioning to host a show, or was I in middle school?

“I guess part of the job will be writing for WIRED, and they want to see a sample of that,” he said.

“Okay,” I sighed, already knowing that I wasn’t going to get this job, because that’s the way things went back then.

I opened up a text editor on my Linux machine, and I wrote the following essay, which I hadn’t thought about or seen in nearly ten years, until I came across it last night in an old documents backup folder on a hard drive that I’m cleaning up.

It’s simply not possible for me to cram 34 years of science enthusiasm into the one paragraph I was asked to write, but I will attempt to be as brief as I can.

I’ve been a technology and science geek my entire life, starting with National Geographic’s “Let’s Go to the Moon” when I was 7 years old. When I was 11, I programmed in Atari BASIC, and wrote my own games on my TI-99/4A. I was online when BBS systems could only handle one user at a time, 1200 baud was blazing fast, and 256 colors was magnificent. Today, I make my primary living in jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago, as a writer for online magazines.

Over the last decade, as I’ve watched what was once the province of serious nerds like myself become more common, it’s been a passion of mine to educate and enlighten anyone who will listen about the impact of science and technology on our culture, whether it’s climate change and network neutrality, or GPS devices and the Large Hadron Collider.

I was a Wired subscriber from issue one, until I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions in favor of online versions and RSS feeds a few years ago. I was interviewed for Wired in 2001.

When I was a cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I frequently met with astronauts and scientists, and spoke at several NASA functions. I’ve been attending the JPL open house since I was in elementary school, and I’ve been a backyard astronomer for nearly as long.

In 1992, I walked away from the entertainment industry to work for NewTek, and worked on the Video Toaster 4000. Long before iMovie and Final Cut Pro made editing as simple as word processing, we were bringing professional quality video production to anyone who wanted it, for just $5,000 (at a time when the average set up cost closer to $85,000.)

For many years, I was a frequent contributor to TechTV’s The Screen Savers, and filled in a few times on Call for Help. As a result of that work, I was hired to co-host a technology/gadget show on the Revision3 network called InDigital, where I review things as varied as routers and video game controllers. I frequently discuss public policy concerning technology, most recently the threats against Internet radio by the Copyright Royalty Board. I am one of the original Netscape Navigators (now called Scouts) at the new Netscape News, where I frequently submit science and technology stories. I have been an open source and free software advocate and Linux user since 1995 (when it was still really hard to use) and wrote all three of my books in I’ve built too many computers to count.

Before Chris Anderson articulated The Long Tail, I was espousing a similar theory to anyone who would listen to me. My blog at was very successful and had a large readership (about 30,000 RSS subscribers, and 500,000 average monthly visitors) so I knew I could take my books directly to the audience without using the traditional publishing channels. I believed and proved that the Internet gives creative people all the tools they need to realize their creations and share them — for free or for profit — online. Both of my books were massively successful, thanks entirely to my blog and the Long Tail effect. My next book, which I just finished last week, will be distributed and publicized in the same way.

This is much longer than the one paragraph I was asked to write, but context is everything, I believe, and as you can see, it would be impossible to give context and credentials in that small space.

On an entirely personal note: I love science, and work tirelessly to counter the pseudo- and anti-science that infects popular culture (and much of the current US government policy) today. I’m thrilled to be considered for Wired Science, because the opportunity to share the wonder of science and the impact of technology in our world with as wide an audience as possible is a dream come true.

It’s okay, I guess, and the best I could do when I was 34, written while choking on my pride and trying not to feel humiliated by being expected to tell these people who had kept me on the line for weeks exactly why I was so great.

I, of course, was not picked to host the show. I was offered a very small, barely-paid job as an occasional contributor, but that’s not the job I worked for, and it wasn’t the job I wanted. I passed on what felt to me like a consolation prize.

Wired and PBS cast my friend Chris Hardwick, who went on to be really, really good, and was an excellent choice. I remember watching some of Chris’s early shows, and wondering how I’d even been considered at all, because he was such a natural fit.

My life is so different now than it was back then, and I’m proud of all my hard work and my stubborn refusal to give up that got me here from there. When I found this document last night, my first instinct was to delete a painful memory, but I’m glad I kept it, because it’s part of the tapestry of my life.

some random bullshit

I’m having a moderately better day than I was yesterday. I’m not entirely back to my normal self, but the crushing, suffocating, relentless pressure around my chest seems to have relaxed quite a bit, which is nice.

I have a few things to share today, so here we go:

  1. Congratulations to my dear friend and co-conspirator in so many things, Felicia Day, on the announcement of her upcoming book!
  2. I sat down with Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira for a Nerdist Podcast that was just released. #TorsoShorts
  3. By coincidence, I got to fill in for Larry King recently, and I chose Chris as my interview subject because I love him. I think you’ll enjoy it.
  4. I narrated Cory Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free. I’m very proud of it.
  5. I really like Non-Judgmental Ninja. I especially like that people are making their own comics.
  6. I was having a hell of a time getting a “watch my dogs be cute in the backyard” camera set up, but a mystical mixture of cursing, and turning it off and back on again seems to have somehow solved it, so that’s good. No, you can’t watch.

I think there were other things, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment.

I could call out when the going gets tough

Today is, by every objective measure, a good day. I was privileged to speak via the Internet with a group of college students across the country about leadership qualities, and even though I was mostly terrified (talking to young people makes me feel old faster than anything else), I thought I mostly did not suck.

After I finished that, I did some work around the house, enjoyed the company of my family, wrote a brief blog, drew a dumb cartoon, and then went to Geek & Sundry to give notes on some Tabletop edits.

Soon, I’m going to attend a special screening of Tabletop for a few very special people who helped fund this season of the show, and our upcoming RPG spinoff.

I have a great life, and this has been a great day … but without warning or reason, the gloom and sadness and despair of Depression wrapped its claws around my chest this afternoon, and has been squeezing me and attempting to pull me to the ground ever since.

Objectively and rationally, I know that this is due to a chemical condition in my brain, and I know that this feeling will pass. I also know that depression lies, and I have enough experience doing cognitive behavioral therapy to sort of ninja the worst of it away (something I’d never be able to do without my meds and doctors; it’s not possible to wish Depression away), but I still feel anxious and irritable and impatient and annoyed and frustrated and tired and sad and even a little hopeless.

I know why this is happening. I know how this is happening. I know that it will leave as suddenly and unexpectedly as it arrived.

Knowing all of these things doesn’t make the way it makes me feel any less real or intense.

Knowing that I have Depression, but Depression doesn’t have me helps me get through it, though.

ceci n’est pas une blog

This isn’t one of those posts about not posting, except that it kind of is.

A couple of nights ago, Anne and I were sitting on the couch, Seamus between us, watching Modern Family. A fire in our fireplace warmed our living room, and both of our cats, who were stretched out in front of it.

Modern Family is one of my favorite shows on television, because it brilliantly fills a hole left by the Simpsons, when it stopped being about characters and started being about guest stars and whacky shenanigans: it’s a terrifically funny look at a family trying to be a family while their life happens around them. More often than not, it cleverly weaves together seemingly unrelated stories into a satisfying ending, and the writing is consistently clever and unexpected.

During a commercial, I thought about my kids, and my family. Ryan’s 25 and Nolan’s 23. We see them at least once a week for family dinner, but usually more than that. We’re a close family, we love each other very much, and every moment we spend together makes me so proud of all of us, because we struggled and suffered a lot for years at the petty and vindictive hands of their biological father. That we have anything at all is pretty remarkable, considering how relentlessly he tried to destroy our ability to be a family, and that we have something so special and rare makes all the suffering and struggling worth enduring, because here we are today, Team Wheaton.

I said this wasn’t one of those posts about not posting, except that it kind of is. During that commercial, as I thought about Ryan and Nolan and our lives together, I noticed that I don’t write about us as much as I used to, which means that I don’t write in my blog as much as I used to. More often than not, when one or both of them is over, I can take a picture and post it to Twitter, and it tells an entire story that would have once been saved for a blog post. Yes, I could still do that, and add the picture to the post, but that’s not the way we do things these days, and it feels like most people don’t read or comment on blogs, anyway.

So this isn’t a post about not posting, except that it is. It’s a post that reiterates, for me as much as anyone, that I need to write, because it’s doing the right thing, even when I feel like I don’t have anything to write about.

Runners run, even if they’re not in a race, and they run every day, so they’re ready for the race when they find themselves at the starting line.

Sometimes a nice jog, for the sake of jogging, can be a worthwhile thing. In fact, it’s worthwhile more often than not.

the adventures of non-judgmental ninja

Last night, I was texting with a friend, and my phone’s autocorrect tried to change “non-judgmental” into “ninja”. I told Twitter that I felt pretty bad about not letting it make the change.

Then I got a stupid idea to create a character called the non-judgmental ninja, and this happened:


Yes, I spelled “non-judgmental” wrong on this comic that I drew in about five minutes (it’s one of those words that always gives me trouble, even though I should know by now), and I ran out of space on the panel and changed the lettering, but as you can see, non-judgmental ninja is there to tell me that it’s ok.

it’s little me, in a pair of commercials from the 80s!

Wil Wheaton Star Wars Figure Commercial
That kid in the middle is little me!

r/ObscureMedia is one of my very favorite subreddits, and while I was looking at it today (as a tiny puppy we’re fostering slept on my lap), I saw this Star Wars figure commercial that Redditor RidleyScottTowels posted. I commented that I’d done a Star Wars figure commercial when I was a kid, and holy shit Redditor VonAether found it (I’m at 6:10 of this video):

But wait, there’s more! I thought I’d done a single commercial with different toys in it, but it turns out that I’d done two different commercials; the one VonAether found, and this other one that TheBoredGuy found:

If you couldn’t tell who I was, I was Boushh in the first one, and C3P0 in the second one.

I don’t have a lot of clear memories of the commercials I did when I was a kid, and I’d forgotten that I’d done two Star Wars figure commercials (something that was incredibly cool for a kid like me who lived and breathed Star Wars figures, even though we were forbidden from playing with them on the set), but I clearly recall that, on one of these two shoots, one of the ad agency people was a woman from New York, who wanted me to read one of my lines in a very specific way. She wasn’t a director, and wasn’t very good at communicating to 9 or 10 year-old me what she wanted, so she just started giving me line readings, and telling me to mimic her. I was very good at following directions, so I did as she asked … perfectly recreating her very thick, very nasal, very New York accent. I remember feeling nervous, and  thinking she thought I was making fun of her, but  wasn’t, I was genuinely confused about whether I should do her voice exactly the way she sounded, or if I was supposed to do my voice with the inflections she was using.

It’s amazing to me that I can clearly remember sitting in the backyard of this house in the valley where we were filming, this woman standing above me, holding the script, reading these lines for me. I can hear her telling me, “That’s better, but don’t sound so nasal,” and  realizing that not only did I know what nasal meant, but that she meant I was not supposed to mimic her voice, but just the line reading she gave me.

That was a lot of stuff for little kid me to process, but somehow I got the job done, and thanks to the weirdness of this world we’ve made for ourselves, I can see the resulting commercial over 30 years later.