Category Archives: WWdN in Exile

Happy Don’t Be A Dick Day!

When I gave my 2007 PAX Prime Keynote, I said

Arcades were more than just magnificent geek Shangri-Las, filled with all sorts of video games and pinball machines. They were a vital part of my generation’s social development. If I beat another kid in a two player game and taunted him mercilessly, with explicit references to his mother's sex life and my role in it, the way some online gamers do today, he would have justifiably kicked the everliving shit out of me. So I learned – in arcades – the importance of good sportsmanship. Because arcades were real places, staffed by real people, we had to worry about much more than getting kicked off a server if we were complete idiots in a game. I guess this is a double-edged sword, and I’m feeling like a cranky old man by even mentioning it, but would you all do me a favor? When you’re playing online, have fun, and don’t be a dick, okay?

I hoped that it would catch on, and that people would spread it around, live it, and eventually make online gaming fun again. 

I got lucky, and it did catch on. Within a few days, people were using it as their forum signature. The Enforcers at PAX called it Wheaton's Law, and used it as a sort of Prime Directive. Maybe it's the blue car syndrome, but since 2007, I have seen and heard people referencing those four words all over the place, and I hope that they're taking it to heart. I sincerely hope that it will spread throughout our culture, and it will give our fellow geeks/nerds/gamers/humans/muggles a sort of mantra, so we'll all be kind to each other.

So, yesterday morning, CB on Twitter showed me a picture of their calendar, which had my birthday and NASA's birthday marked down for today. The calendar said, "In his honor, don't be a dick!"* 

I thought that was cute and awesome, but my brain positively lost its shit about it.

"DUDE!" My brain screamed, "LET'S MAKE YOUR BIRTHDAY TOMORROW THE OFFICAL 'DONT BE A DICK DAY!'"

"Okay, first of all, it's technically our birthday. Also, I don't think we can just pick a day and decide that it's a thing."

"Are you kidding us? It's fun and it's silly and what else are you going to do today anyway? Upvote more cat pictures on Reddit?"

"Well, I was… but now I think I'll be upvoting all the scumbag brain pictures in solidarity."

"You're adorable," my brain said, "let's see you do that… without control of your central nervous system!"

I shit myself, then. It wasn't my fault.

"Okay," I said, "You've made your point. I'll get to work on it."

I registered a domain, put my incredibly impressive* graphic design and HTML skills** to work, and about 45 minutes later, Don't Be A Dick Day was born. 

I'm not gonna lie, Marge: I really hope this becomes A Thing.

A few notes, and a story, about this whole idea:

First of all, epic thanks goes to Jemina, who made that beautiful artwork I ended up using as the centerpiece of the thing.  

A non-zero number of people have suggested that every day should be Don't Be A Dick Day. I agree, but we should start with baby steps, right?

Most of the Internet took this in the spirit it was intended. Sadly, some folks decided that I was being arrogant by suggesting a day I made up should be a thing, and some other folks decided that I was doing this because I want attention. I'm very sorry that those people missed the point. 

The FAQ for Don't Be A Dick Day is simple by design, but for those wondering how specifically to not be a dick, and why this is something I talk about, I offer the following story.

When I was in my early 30s, I had major sinus surgery to correct a severely deviated septum and to remove so many polyps I could hardly breathe through my nose. In the pre-operation phase of the surgery, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork, including something called an Advance Directive, which told the hospital what my wishes were in the event something went wrong.

As I filled out that form, instructing the hospital to pull the plug if I something happened that was going to leave me in a persistent vegetative state and give all of my organs to people who needed them, for the first time in my life, I had to really think very clearly and honestly about the possibility that I may go to sleep and never wake up, leaving Anne without a husband and our kids without a father.

I can see it so clearly now, years later: I'm sitting in my office. The ceiling fan is on low. My dog, Riley, is sleeping near my feet. I'm listening to New Order on iTunes. It's late afternoon, so the blinds are closed to keep the hot sun out of the room, and they glow brightly around the edges like there's a spotlight on the other side of them. From the living room, I can hear Nolan playing Call of Duty on the Xbox. My chair creaks as I lean back in it and before I know what I'm doing, I'm on my feet, walking into the living room.

"I need to talk to you for a second," I tell him.

"Hold on," he says, without looking away from the screen.

I wait. I really hate this game, and I don't understand the culture of dickishness that seems integral to its multiplayer experience. Through the headphones he's wearing, I can hear barely-pubescent voices curse each other in a myriad of colorful ways.

I wish Nolan enjoyed the RPGs I enjoy, so we had something more in common. He's either 15 or 16, and everything I like, everything I do, every breath I take is so lame. I've pretty much lost him to the Teenage Years. I don't know that I'll get him back when he's 20, and though I know not to take it personally, I still do.

The screen changes. Based on the squawking in his headphones, one team was victorious because the losing team was too busy fucking the winners' mothers.

He puts the controller down and sets the headphones on the couch next to him. He looks at me. I sit on the coffee table and face him.

"I'm having major surgery tomorrow morning," I say, gently.

He barely nods.

At least he didn't roll his eyes, I think.

"And it's very unlikely that anything will go wrong… but just in case, I have something I have to tell you."

I look at him, really look at him, and hope that my words are getting through. I realize that I'm dangerously close to tearing up, which I know will make him tune me out. I take a slow, deep breath to steady myself.

"If something happens to me and I'm not here to continue raising you, I want you to remember these things: I want you to live your life honestly, honorably, with kindness, compassion and generosity."

A cloud passes across his face and briefly disturbs the mask of indifference he's been wearing for a year or more.

"So please, please, if you don't remember anything else I've said to you, please: be honest, be honorable, be kind, be compassionate, and work hard."

His expression doesn't change at all. "Okay," he says.

He has the headphones back on and the controller in his hands before I've stood up.

"Okay. I love you."

"I love you too." He says it by rote, like a kid reciting the pledge of allegiance. Just words he know's he's expected to recite. My heart aches a little bit.

I hope I got through to him, I think, regardless of what happens to me tomorrow.

I've been closing my talks at conventions with a version of that story, and leaving a similar wish with the people who are there. I don't mean to be preachy or anything, but I figure that if people are going to listen to me talk, I should at least have something meaningful to say.

So if you're still reading, I hope you'll join me in the celebration of Don't Be A Dick Day, I hope that you'll take it in the spirit that it's intended, and I hope that you'll:

  • Be honest.
  • Be kind.
  • Be honorable.
  • Work hard.
  • And always be awesome.

 

 

*Actually not impressive at all, even by 1999 standards.

*** Well, I guess it's slightly impressive that my code validates.

in which I am an indirect contributor to Highlights for Children

In february, I wrote about the time that Anne and I discussed Highlights for Children at great length:

"You know what I always hated about Highlights?" Anne said, "some idiot kid had always circled the hidden pictures."

"Seriously!" I said, "fuck that kid, man. That kid's a dick."

"And what kind of parent gives their kid a pen to draw all over a magazine that's obviously intended for more than one kid to read?"

"Asshole parents," I said, "it's called Highlights for Children, you jerk, not Highlights for your Children. Highlights should have done a Goofus and Gallant about that, man."

Well, look what arrived from the fine people at Highlights for Children a couple of weeks ago:

WilsGoofusandGallant
DUDE! That is totally me sitting next to Goofus, expressing my non-profane displeasure! DUDE! DUUUUDE! 

… I know, right?!

After all these years, I am an indirect contributor to Highlights for Children. 

My life is weird.

Hotter than July

I've spent most of today working on my setlist for w00tstock on Thursday, and reviewing all of my notes from Falling Skies, so I am prepared to moderate that panel on Friday.

Normally, I take extended breaks on a workday and go for a walk in my neighborhood, sit with an iced tea on the patio and read a book, and do other things that I wouldn't be able to do if I didn't work on my own schedule in my own house*. Today, however, it is 96 degrees in the shade.** In the sun, it's literally 681 degrees.***

So I've gotten much more work done in much less time than usual (there's a lesson here, if I'm willing to pay attention t– hey! Fallout New Vegas is almost done installing on Steam!) because it's just too goddamn hot to do anything that takes me out into the Sun****.

My dogs, who usually accompany me on my walks and sojourns onto the back patio, have been handling the ungodly heat the way all good dogs do: sleeping on the couch.

Seamus and Riley sleeping on the couches
Sleepy Seamus Face
Seamus renders sheets useless
MAKE IT NOT SO HOT OUTSIDE PLEASE OKAY.
No, really, I'm comfortable like this.
These couches are in our front room, and we don't really use them that often, because our TV is in the other room*****. Still, when we have people over for fancy grown-up things like playing games and drinking homebrew, we want them to be nice and free of dog fur, so we put those sheets on them. As you can see, the dogs have done a spectacular job of rendering them useless.******

Some of you who are particularly observant may notice that the colour scheme and interior decoration is very similar to Evil Wil Wheaton's house on the Big Bang Theory. This is not by accident; I've had friends from Big Bang over for dinners and things, so when they wrote Evil Wil Wheaton's house into the script, Bill Prady and Steve Molaro described the colours and interior decorating to the art department. It's pretty amazing how close they got it, without ever seeing it for themselves.

* Gotta take advantage of all the perks while I can, you know.

** Too hot, too hot, in the shaa-hay-ayayayay-ade.

*** Literally.

**** The Sun is the Nerd's natural enemy and greatest predator.

***** Where our beds and TV… is.

****** There are a lot of footnotes in this post.

This isn't a footnote, really, but I couldn't call this post Hotter Than July and not link to this, right?

Also: Sir Duke. You're welcome, Joel.

When am I?

On Saturday, I texted my friend Molly: If you're here tomorrow, come over to my house for games and beer.

She texted back: What time? Can Chris come?

I replied: 6pm. Chris is always welcome at the Wheaton Secret Headquarters!

Yesterday, while we were at my friend's house for his birthday dinner, Molly texted Anne to find out where we were.

"Did you tell Molly and Chris to come over today?" She asked.

"No, I said Monday, when Robert is coming over."

"She thinks it's today."

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and looked back through my text messages.

"…um." I said.

"You'd better call her," Anne said.

I called Molly and explained to her that my stupid brain thought Saturday was Sunday and that tomorrow was not, in fact today, but was actually tomorrow (which is now today).

"I'm so sorry. Can you come back tomorrow?" I asked.

"Yeah, I can do that. I'll see you tomorrow at six."

And that is why, when I got home from my friend's house last night, I found this drawing on my front porch:

When Am I?

In which Anne and I make beer

I got into bed around 2300 last night. Anne followed a few minutes later, and was asleep a few minutes after that. I stayed awake reading until about 130, which is something I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I can’t fall asleep before 130, no matter how hard I try, so rather than fight it, I just read until then, turn off the light, and drift off to the Dreamlands for 8 or 9 hours. Last night, I finished Mike Doughty’s Book of Drugs, which gets 5 of 5 stars from me.

But that’s not what this post is about. 

This post is about beer. Specifically, the making of beer with my wife this weekend.

Last summer, my son Ryan spent a couple months with Anne and me between graduating college and starting his job. One day, he said to me, “We need a father/son hobby that we can do together while I’m here.”

“Yeah, that would be awesome,” I said, “what did you have in mind?”

“Let’s make beer together!”

And we did. And it was awesome.

Almost one year later, I’ve made 23 batches of homebrew. I’d say 17 of them have been good, 3 of them have been great, and 3 of them were… learning experiences. 

I’ve learned a lot about brewing in a year. I’ve learned about the history of beer, the science behind brewing, and why certain styles of beer are the way they are. I’ve shared my passion with anyone who cares to listen, and I’ve found something that will be a life-long hobby. 

Oh, also? About every five weeks, I have some new beer to drink and share with my friends and neighbors, that I made myself.

When I started brewing, I used extracts and very simple kits to make some tasty beers. I was happy with that for several batches, but eventually, I wanted to try my hand at brewing with grains instead of grain extract, so I could make my own version of Stone’s Pale Ale. I studied my homebrewing books, read hundreds of posts on forums, and eventually felt like I could give it a try. It wasn’t difficult at all, was actually a lot of fun, and ended up giving me one of those 3 great batches I mentioned.

Since then, I’ve done a mixture of extract and all grain brews, always following someone else’s recipe, or using a recipe kit I bought from Austin Homebrew Supply. I’ve spent a lot of time playing with software like Brewtarget 1.2.4 and Beersmith, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to design and brew my own recipe. That all changed when I was talking with Anne about beer, and she mentioned that she was very fond of IPAs that had a citrusy, piney hop character. I thought to myself, “You know what? I bet I could make my wife a beer that she’d like. I think I need to do that.”

But could I really do it? Could I really come up with a combination of grains and hops that would make good beer? What if it sucked? What if it was a waste of time and money?

As Charlie Papazian said, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” So what if it didn’t work? I’d keep good notes, make changes if necessary, and try again another time. I know it sounds silly, but it took me a few months to come to this conclusion, to have the courage to just go ahead and do it.

About two weeks ago, I sat down with some of my favorite books, opened Brewtarget, and got to work. It was easy and fun, and I came up with something that I thought was pretty decent I shared it with the Homebrewing Subreddit* and on my G+ thing for feedback from other homebrewers. I listened to everyone’s feedback and ideas, and tweaked and modified my original recipe until I was happy with it. On Wednesday last week, I went to my homebrew supply and bought 15.25 pounds of grains, a whole bunch of hops, and some yeast. 

“I made your IPA recipe,” I told Anne. “I’m calling it #VandalEyesPA.”

“When are you making it?”

“Saturday. Want to help?”

“Yeah, that’ll be fun.”

So Anne and I spent Saturday afternoon making beer together. I explained to her what each step did — doing so helped me stay focused on what I was doing, and seemed to deepen my understanding of the process — and we took tons of pictures of the whole thing. There was even some live-Twitter-blogging (isn’t all Twittering “Live Twittering”?) of the afternoon, using the hashtag #VandalEyesPA”**

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm but not hot, with just a tiny breeze to keep us comfortable. Our dogs played on the patio while we sat out there, our cats chased bugs and birds and each other around the yard. All the while, we stirred the boiling wort, made sure we weren’t boiling off too much, and documented the entire experience for each other and anyone in the world who wanted to follow along.

The entire process took about 6 hours from the time I heated water for the mash until we pitched the yeast, and they were 6 of the happiest hours of the year for me. Anne and I spend a lot of time together, (we are absolutely the best of friends in addition to being married) but we’ve both been so busy this year, we haven’t had a lot of time to actually do something together like this, just for the sheer joy of it.

When we were finally finished and I was putting the fermentation bucket into the guest bathroom (where it stays cooler than any other room in the house), I said to Anne, “I’m so glad that we did this together.”

“I had a good time,” she said.

“And now this is our beer, which makes me feel a lot happier than I thought it would.”

“When will it be ready?”

“It should be done fermenting in about 7 days, so I can rack it to clear when I get back from Toronto.”

I started to explain what that meant, but she cut me off. “I know what that means,” she said. I guess I talk about this stuff a lot; I'm nerdy that way.

“Anyway, the important thing is that it should be ready to drink about 6 weeks from today.”

“Eat all the sugars, little yeasties,” I said as I double-checked the blowoff tube and settled the fermentation bucket into a tub filled with cool water. I looked at Anne. “I talk to my yeast. You know, because I’m not crazy.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.” 

I dried my hands and we walked out, closing the bathroom door behind us.

“You want to watch Game of Thrones?” Anne asked me.

“Yes. Yes I do.”

A perfect end to a perfect day.

 

*I love Reddit for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason I spend more time there than any other site is the small communities of awesome people in the smaller subreddits. If there’s a thing you love, there’s probably a subreddit for it, and the odds are very good that the signal to noise ratio doesn’t suck.

**Anne puts googly eyes on everything, and calls it “#VandalEyes.” 

 

The Eternal Struggle

So this happened last night. I told the tale in pictures and captions on Twitter, and I'm putting it here for the ages. For science. You monster.

Seamus Wheaton

Hey, Seamus, you're in my spot.

Seamus Wheaton

Me: Seamus, move! Seamus: But I'm watching Colbert Report!

Riley Wheaton

Me: Seamus won't move. Riley: Well, duh. He's watching Colbert Report.

Watson Wheaton

Me: Sea- Watson: Can't talk. Sleeping. Me: You sleep all day! Watson: And I'm sleeping now. Correction. TRYING to sleep

Luna Wheaton

Luna: I may appear to be sleeping, but rest assured that I will still murder your face if you disturb me. Me: oooookay.

Seamus and Wil "compromise" on sharing the couch.

So this is how Seamus and I decided to compromise on the whole couch situation.

At times like this, I am grateful that I am so easily amused.

Video Q&A Post for Denver Comicon

I was not happy that I had to cancel my appearance at the Denver Comicon this weekend, mostly because I knew that there were a significant number of people who bought tickets specifically because I was going to be there.

Aaron Douglas did a magnificent job (because he is awesome) replacing me, and I understand that Paul and Storm rocked several faces right off.

I thought it would not suck if I had the con organizers send me some questions from con attendees, which I could answer on videotape from the back of a limousine with Rollergirl.

They liked most of that idea, so I took their notes to heart and recorded this in my backyard Friday, with some help from Anne:

I had more fun than I thought possible doing this, and I understand that it went over fairly well at the con, so all was not lost. If you want to hear me talk about stuff for about 26 minutes in glorious high definition, I've got you covered.

This is a real thing that you can own

About a year ago, I dared my friend Joel to imagine what it would be like if he designed a little plushie Wil Wheaton, and this happened:

image from hijinksensue.com

After we stopped laughing about it, and enjoying how oh-so-clever we were, we started thinking about actually making it a real thing that someone could own, mostly because the idea of letting my dog murderize one was really funny to me. Then Joel pointed out that if we made it, we could give little Wil some minature dice, and someone would probably make a little clown sweater for him to wear… 

I know, right? This was long before we even thought about dressing him up as Sparks McGee!

It took a long time and a lot of work, but it's finally happening. Little Plushie Wil Wheaton looks like this:

Wil-wheaton-plushie-detail-700-2

Which came first? The Internet or Wil Wheaton? No one knows for sure, but rest assured top men are working on the answer. TOP. MEN. Since the actual Wil Wheaton lives inside the Internet, you can't actually possess him. OR CAN YOU!? You can't, but you can own your very own soft, diminutive effigy of Wil that may or may not be a horcrux containing a tiny piece of his soul. I'm just saying, give your Li'l Wil a hug and I bet somewhere in California the real one lets out an audible sigh of contentment. Set it on fire and… well, you paid your money. Do what you want.

You can pre-order one of these little guys right now. Seriously, get together twenty of your internet space bucks, and go to the Hijinks Ensue store, for great justice.

Because Pinchy would have wanted it that way.

Wheaton Prime with Plushie Wheaton

Seriously. How cute is this?