All posts by Stephen Toulouse

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: Sometimes the Words Hide

This is a guest post by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. Stepto has worked for HBO, is the former banhammer at Xbox, and knows a thing or two about online communities and computer safety. He is an author, comedian, and leader of The Steptos.

He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at

Sometimes the words hide.

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. In my lower field of vision was dark blue, in the upper third a soft taupe. In the middle, in my near field, a round spot of black surrounded by tan, with a beautiful ring of light brown inside of it. Something pink, and I could hear breathing? Wait. I had just been in a shuttle hadn’t I? Atmo was out along with gravity and I was struggling to orient myself in freefall to get to a control panel. Was that the breathing?What was I looking at?

Those wisps of sleep-thought dissipated instantly, wiped into my brain’s incinerator with one swipe of a dog’s tongue across my face. My dog, Basil Hayden. It was morning, he was at the side of the bed expectantly looking at me. Important dog things needed doing with my supervision, and I dared be slow to wake, and ponderous.

The dream clung at me somewhat, staying with me even as with each waking moment it became more ephemeral and shifty. I was in trouble? Was it in space or an airplane? I could remember feelings even as the details left. I went through my morning routine twisting over it.

There were words there, I kept thinking, there was a story there. Just the thing I needed to break through some fog I had been having around tying up a variety of writing.

We all get writer’s block in some form. Sometimes nothing comes. Sometimes writer’s block can take the form of lots of things get put on paper but none good or satisfying.

Sometimes the words hide.

Every writer has their way of dealing with it. You can play their game and go looking for those words. You can sit on the couch, watch a film and refuse to give into their demands to be found so that they  come crawling back to you. You can bribe them, be stern with them, even attempt a “no strings attached” hang out with them. But they will, in the end, do as they please.

Our terror is that they are gone forever. Like an insomniac who fears they will never sleep again we push that fear back, knowing that adrenaline will only make the problem worse.

My words had been hiding lately, that morning when I got up. I’m more of a “I refuse to play your game” type of writer and am content to wait in panicked patience for them to shuffle back. When they came back I dutifully stopped what I was doing and gathered them around me.

“Don’t hide again!” I said. “I need you!”

“We won’t.” they replied, “until next time.”

Guest Post by Stepto: I’m tryin’ to get down, to the heart of the matter.

This is a guest post by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. Stepto currently works at HBO and is the former banhammer at Xbox. He is an author, comedian, and leader of The Steptos.

He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among the members of my tribe who are my age. We really know how to hold a grudge. Especially if it’s borne out of the Internet or Internet culture. I’m seeing more and more people refusing to forgive even in situations where they should and I wonder if we’re setting a bad example.

I should pause here and let you know up front, I’m going to have to be a little vague in providing good examples for my opening sentence. This is Wil’s blog and thus (through no fault of his own) functions as a sort of orbiting Ion cannon for focusing opinion. I don’t want to name any names or provide concrete descriptions. So please bear with me as I navigate this topic with a tad less specificity than I might my own blog.

Here’s how the situation usually goes:

Person says or does something either on the Internet or at a con or industry event that’s objectionable to about 99% of normal people. In the grand scheme of crimes, “objectionable” isn’t high on the list. However the Internet allows us to elevate and publicize. For many topics that’s good! Because those topics are often ignored or normalized and thus need the shock value of a large mass of people saying “That’s not OK!”

Occasionally this out-sized reaction results in the person who committed the original offense saying they are sorry. Not “sorry you were offended” but “wow. I had no idea I was being that bad. I’m sorry.” Maybe they got fired from their job. Maybe they got hounded or received death threats. Maybe they lost sponsors for their YouTube channel. Whatever the reason, justice was served (sometimes way past the original crime) and they realized what they did was wrong.

Then the geek tribe welcomes the person back, pats them on the back, says ‘that’s OK glad you learned your lesson, maybe you should hold a panel or something on what you learned?” and everyone just gets on with their lives.

Oops that last part doesn’t happen.

Instead many of us assume a bizarre mantle, that of “Well they apologized but I simply can’t accept a person who would do or say such things to begin with!” I know a person who actually keeps a list of all the Internet people who have done something that offended them. They simply refuse to interact with those people ever ever ever. The list is at last count three dozen people, at least four of which I know personally who are not bad people at all just made a mistake and atoned for it.

I’ve carried a lot of hate or grudges in my life and let me tell you something true and strong: they are heavy. You don’t realize it when you pick them up, because the initial umbrage or anger gives you a kind of emotional +15 to STR. But forgiveness is like being morbidly obese then dropping 100 pounds at a go. Not to mention one crucial fact: there can be no salvation without forgiveness.

I want to be clear I’m not saying you have to forgive everyone, I’m not even telling you who to forgive. My fear is that people my age, those of us that grew up before nerd and geek culture resulted in number #1 rated prime time TV comedies, back when we were getting punched in the throat for drawing a dungeon on graph paper by Joey McJockBully or teased for being a girl who liked Super Mario by Susie McEasyBake, we formed an early skill at seething hatred. Sometimes we create a bad example for the younger set who are perhaps no less tormented but far more ingrained in the general culture.

Again, this is merely a concern of mine. I see it, and hey maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion. But what I have learned to do when I see the latest Twitter outrage is I might join the conversation or I might not. But I will watch like a hawk to see how the perpetrator reacts. I watch for actual contrition and regret. And I’m starting to see a lot more “An Open Response to X’s ‘Apology’” then responses to those responses then responses to those responses etc. etc. when maybe, just maybe, we pat X on the back and, if we truly believe it, say “try not to do it again, and share what you learned.”

Everyone says and does something stupid or hurtful at some point. The Internet allows us to do it in front of the Earth. If we’re going to set the bar for forgiveness as high as “some words on a forum or a hurtful comment on a panel are unforgivable crimes even in the face of true contrition*” then I fear for the future of our tribe.

Wil says don’t be a dick, my corollary is to steal from Bill and Ted and that we also should be excellent to each other. Some things really are unforgivable, it’s true. And it’s up to each of us to decide the baggage we want to invest in carrying. But I’m old enough to have inadvertently perfected the art of being a jerk, forgotten it, then reinvented it only to regret it all over again. For that, I am sorry. I have to forgive myself, because that’s what comes with age.

So there but for the grace of the flying spaghetti monster go I.

*While we’re at it let’s define contrition by intent not execution. I watched a guy apologize for his apology because his apology wasn’t apologetic enough (even though it was accepted by the original aggrieved party) and he still ran into the Internet umbrage buzz saw.

Guest Post by Stepto: The View from the Back of the Ambulance

This is a guest post by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. Stepto currently works at HBO and is the former banhammer at XBox. He is an author, comedian, and leader of The Steptos.

He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at


Try to imagine this conversation:

Brain: Man. I am getting kinda worried about the fact I’ve had this incredible cold and have not slept but 10 hours over the past 5 days.

Heart: Roger that Brain, engaging the engine at 110%

Brain: No wait I…

Chest: Heart? This is the Chest we’re gonna need to tigthen up a bit here to handle the new load.

Brain: No guys that’s going to make it worse because…

Heart: Make it worse? Roger that! Upping to 120%

Chest: Chest copies! cranking up pressure.

Lungs: Engaging gasping.

Brain: no guys this is going to make this bad because he’s going to think he’s having a heart attack–

Skin: Hey guys, we have the go ahead to go flush and get all clammy just FYI that’s what we’re seeing across the board here.

Lungs: Uh Heart, we’re pushing up respiration to 130% to help move this racing oxygen around. This triggers shortness of breath mode just FYI.

Heart: Brain we can’t keep this pace up how long were you needing this?

Brain: I never asked for–

Eyes: Guy’s I’m seeing some crazy stuff on Webmd regarding heart attacks and I know we have a family history so…

Brain: All right I’m getting angry here, let’s calm down immediately and–

Heart: Angry? Got it, crank it up another 30%.

Chest: Roger that cranking up the tightness.

And this is how I ended up calling 911 with racing heart, intermittent chest pressure, rapid breathing, anxiety etc. All of which had lasted off and on for a couple of hours.

My father’s side has had heart issues, most of my paternal grandfather’s siblings as well as himself died from heart related issues. So when, late Friday night, I began to feel what I thought were ever increasing and clear symptoms of a mild heart attack, I called 911. 911 sent a dispatch team out to the house while I laid down and Rochelle penned up the dogs and got me ready to travel if needs be. My anxiety level began to skyrocket when I realized I had just called an ambulance, sirens and lights blazing, into my “so quiet you can hear someone drop a coke can in another house” neighborhood at 4am on a Saturday morning.

Brain: Jeez I hope they don’t use the siren…

Heart: Aye sir cranking up to—


They arrived (sans siren) and hooked me up to all manner of bitchin’ equipment to scan my heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and a field EKG. while they shouted scary numbers to each other (“210 over 120” “96!” “6.0221413e+23”) I got to become increasing agitated while I answered a ton of questions about where did it start, how did I feel etc. All while wearing enough leads and wires that I felt like one of the trees in Avatar.

After a scary few minutes the tech calmed me down. Started asking the “have you been getting sleep? Under stress lately etc.” They reassured me I was in no immediate danger looking over all my vitals and my EKG’s were normal. My heart rate was through the roof so they wanted to go to the ER.

The view through an ambulance was surreal and I guess an experience I have the good fortune to scratch off my bucket list without kicking the bucket. The techs told me all about the various gadgetry and we all geeked out over my iPad mini retina which they allowed me bring. In the interests of their privacy I didn’t want to tweet photos from there since it would be hard in the cramped quarters to remove any distinguishing characteristics but they did a great job in calming me down.

Once at the ER, a crack team of people informed me they would not need to crack open my chest. They ran a blood panel, took X-rays, and ran several EKG’s. About the only disappointment was the X-ray, where the technician put a lead cloth down to “shield my privates from being irradiated” and I complained it was OK, I wanted Hulk privates.

Everything came up Milhouse. I was given an IV of Lorazopram and that niftily settled my brain down. They explained my blood panel was fine, my heart was ok, the EKG’s were fine and that I did not, in fact have a heart attack. Instead I had a very sustained panic attack brought on by a variety of factors, not the least of which was an extreme case of sleep deprivation.

Now, I told you all that to tell you this.

My family on my father’s side as I mentioned has a huge history of sudden heart related death experience, an experience you only get to have once. I quibbled for a few minutes over bothering to call 911 until I remembered that. On the heels of Wil’s post about getting healthy, I wanted to throw out that assuming the presence of insurance (or even not), DO NOT SCREW AROUND with symptoms like the ones I had. It’s always better to know it’s not a heart event than it is to drop dead being so very thankful you didn’t wake your neighbors with the ambulance siren.

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: Goodbye, Farewell, and Thank You for Your Attention

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at

I was in Vancouver with Rochelle. It’s one of our favorite cities.  We were up to visit Remy  (the puppy I mentioned in the previous post) before we could take him home, and Wil suggested we all have lunch together since we were all in the area with him filming Eureka episodes.  Adia, our “middle” Golden, was the aunt of Remy (likewise Eowyn) so we brought her along on the trip.  Our plan was to visit a dog friendly restaurant since we would have her with us.

We’re all partial to Granville island, both the beer from the brewery, the locale, and the food. Wil, like me, hates cabs but that was the only way for us to get together. We arrived to find the hotel spot that was pet friendly was closed for construction.  We wandered around with Adia.  We ended up finding a place, but they wanted us to tie up Adia outside the patio eating area due to regulations.  We tried to keep her close but she was insistent on being with us so we gave her a long leash lead about 20 feet from where we were in the neighboring park.  Before long she was entangled in her lead with the stimulation of so many nice people around her and seeing us just a few feet away.

I was trying to concentrate on what Wil was saying, while at the same time he was concentrating on Adia trying to tie her long lead in knots to try and just be with us.

Wil was inviting me to perform at w00tstock. I was trying to understand why anyone would ask me to do that. After a bit, none of us could really deal with Adia being so uncomfortable so I took Adia to the car and put her on her travel pillow. She curled up immediately and slept. I returned to the table in the sunny, crisp late-March Vancouver weather.

“I’m going to let my brain reboot for a minute before I answer” I told Wil, about w00tstock.

“Of course.” he said and talked to Rochelle while I processed being invited to perform at  something I had already bought tickets for because I wanted to see it. Before I took care of Adia, who by the way is a healthy and energetic 8 years old today, Wil had asked me “Have Paul and Storm talked to you about w00tstock?” and I thought he meant there was something wrong with my tickets or something. It was his simply seeing if I had been asked to perform.

Several years later a mail arrives in my inbox, “Would you like to guest blog for me while I am gone?” My brain went through the same reboot because I know how big and essentially awesome his blog audience (you guys) is.

We had flatbread pizza that day on Granville island, and the last of the brewery’s Winter ale (outstanding). It was a bright sunny day, and Wil got to meet Adia and I got an invitation to perform on a stage for the first time in my life.

This week Will and Shane and I have had the privilege of you guys reading our stuff.  We chatted in email and tried to time our entries to not be too overwhelming or overlap.  But above it all we wanted to achieve the quality of Wil’s blog.  I read what Will and Shane wrote and I think we hit it, And above all your comments and interaction made us feel welcome.

In just a few hours Wil and Anne will get off a boat, early in the morning and probably slightly hung over.  I can tell you from experience they will walk with shaky legs down a ramp, and stand and sway slightly while customs processes them.  They will probably get on a plane immediately (a fate I wish no enemy, much less a friend in their condition because sea legs are hard to overcome) and they will fly home.

And at the door will be Seamus, and Marlowe, and Riley, Watson, and Luna.

Welcome home brother!  Here’s your blog back! I hope we did it justice!

And to you dear reader, thanks. 

Guest post by Stephen Toulouse: Life is a Series of Dogs

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at

This is Eowyn, our youngest Golden retriever:


She’s sort of a rescue, we owned her brother Remington and he died at 18 months of a blood disorder. Just a week after that happened our breeder had to take Eowyn away from the family she’d been placed with. My wife Rochelle and I try to alternate between rescues and breeder pups (our oldest Golden, Buddy, is a rescue and going strong at 12 and a half!) and because she was related to Remy we took her in.  Best decision ever.

Point being, though we have a cat, we’re mostly dog people. And here’s why.

Last night Eowyn farted, startled herself, and barked at her own ass for a full minute. I was laughing too hard to get video. I feel like I let you all down, because that shit was hilarious.

(Yes that’s a ribbon in her hair, and yes that’s a skull and crossbones on her collar.  Eowyn is Hard.  Core.)

(Except when she barks at her own ass.  It’s difficult to be hard core when your own orifices surprise you)