447. Ask Me Anything… Again!

This blog hits four hundred and fifty posts next week. I could celebrate this milestone with something extra-special, or else I could be lazy and make my readers do half the work for me. At the moment, that second option sounds pretty good.

Yes, before TMTF bites the dust, I’m going to squeeze in one last AMA. (That stands for Ask Me Anything, in case you didn’t know.) I held one about a hundred posts ago, and to my everlasting surprise, a few people did actually ask me things. I’m not sure whether it’s worth trying again, but I don’t have any other ideas, so it’ll have to do.

From today, June 6, until Thursday, June 16, you may ask me anything! I will accept all kinds of questions by any means of communication: comments on this post, emails, notes via the Contact page, Twitter or Facebook messages, or fortune cookies. (That last one might be a bit tricky.)

On Friday, June 17, I will answer your questions, however many or few. Ask away!

445. How Much Should I Talk about My Book?

All right, guys. Serious question.

How much should I talk about my book project, the Lance Eliot saga, on this blog?

As TMTF staggers ponderously toward its imminent demise, I’m wondering how to fill its final fifty-something posts. I’m also thinking a lot about the changes I plan to make to Lance Eliot’s story. Should these musings intersect? Should I start sharing some of my plans for the Lance Eliot saga—no major spoilers, mind you, just basic stuff—on this blog?

I’m excited about my book project, and eager to share some of my early ideas. I would appreciate feedback, too. As Neil Gaiman observed, “writing is, like death, a lonely business.” Community is important for creativity. I could use the suggestions, ideas, and enthusiasm of my readers.

Writing is hard

A writer needs all the help he can get.

Another potential benefit of writing about the Lance Eliot saga is the possibility of raising interest in, and awareness for, the project. It would also give me a smoother segue from writing a blog about nothing in particular to writing a book.

However—and this is an important “However,” spoken in a deep voice and with a concerned expression—I don’t want to annoy or alienate any of my readers by talking too much about my writing plans. People read this blog, I assume, for… whatever it is that happens here. (Heck if I know.) Most readers don’t come here to read about unrelated projects.

I don’t want readers who enjoy TMTF for what it is to be disappointed by repeated discussions of a completely separate project. I don’t want anyone to feel that TMTF has become a blog “just for that book project,” especially since there is only a limited number of posts left.

If I wrote about my plans for the Lance Eliot saga, new posts might offer character profiles, an updated geopolitical situation for my imaginary world, stories from its lore, thematic elements, and maybe more.

I’m not sure what to do, so I’m leaving this one to you. What are your thoughts? What would you like to see from this blog? Should I share early ideas from the Lance Eliot saga? Should I stick to… um… whatever this blog is already? At this point, TMTF exists largely because of its readers. (I care about you, believe it or not.)

Should I write occasional posts about my book project, or stick to this blog’s usual topics? Let us know in the comments, or send me a note on social media!

442. On Break, but Not Broken

This blog is taking a two-week break, returning on Monday, May 23.

I wasn’t planning on taking another break until TMTF reached post four hundred fifty. However, as the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” Translated from the Scots language to contemporary English, this phrase reads something like, “Stuff happens, yo.”

In the past few weeks, I’ve had some dark days. Recent developments at my job have made it much more stressful—and it was stressful enough already! For an alarming number of days, I fought to keep functioning under the weight of depression and anxiety.

Depressed Adam

If you’ve ever caught a cold, you know how it feels to fight a temporary illness. You feel tired, achy, sore, or feverish. You have less energy. If you aren’t too sick, you continue going to work or school, but it’s harder to function than when you’re healthy. Even little chores—washing dishes, doing homework, or walking out the door to work—become huge obstacles. You are physically at a disadvantage.

My depression comes and goes, but at its worst it follows the same pattern as the common cold. However, its symptoms aren’t physical, but mental and emotional. The lack of energy still occurs, but instead of aches and fevers, I experience anxiety and hopelessness. I am mentally and emotionally at a disadvantage.

Then after a week or two, when I feel exhausted and ready to give up on everything, I simply get better. My energy, hope, and good humor return. After I recover, I doubt my memory and ask myself, “Was my depression really that bad?”

When the next cloud of depression settles over me, and light seems to fade from the universe, I give my own question this bitter reply: “Yes. Yes, it was.”

Fading light

Depression is a tricky subject for me to discuss. Its symptoms are deceptively difficult to distinguish from the ups and downs of everyday life. Nobody seems to understand it, and I can’t blame them—I’m not sure that understand it. Depression is a sickness whose symptoms are invisible. It’s like a shadow: elusive, intangible, and never far away.

Over the years, I’ve picked up tips and tricks for coping with depression, but I’ve also realized that it’s a problem with no easy fix. Even so, I’m still fighting.

Last week, I discovered that my employer offers seven free sessions of professional counseling through a local hospital, so I’m trying to set up an appointment. (The counselors’ schedule is full, but I’ll keep trying.) At some point, I may be able to get proper counseling instead of talking to plush toys. That’ll be nice.

The doctor is in

My honest opinion is that antidepressants would help me more than counseling, but chatting with a counselor is a good place to start—and my employer will pay for it. Free stuff is good stuff, yo.

In the meantime, I need a break from deadlines. The last eight or nine posts on this blog have really been down to the wire. I could use a couple of weeks to adjust to my job’s latest developments, work ahead on blog posts, and get some rest. Besides, I have a wedding to attend next week, so I’ll be spending some time on the road. With TMTF’s end finally in sight, I hate to slow its sprint to the finish line, but I think it’s for the best.

I usually republish old posts during breaks, but I’m letting the blog go dark this time; there shall be no posts published until the blog’s return on Monday, May 23.

There are tons of creative people on the Internet whose work you can check out during TMTF’s two-week break. My recommendations this time are The GaMERCaT, a webcomic about cute cats and video games; The Monday Heretic, which continues to share thoughtful thoughts about Christian living; my friend JK’s blog, which offers tips on creativity; and the hilarious YouTube series CinemaSins, which points out everything wrong with movies. (None of these suggestions are sponsored, I promise.)

All of my recommendations are guaranteed one hundred percent velociraptor-free. You will not be eaten by velociraptors if you click any of the links above, so feel free to check them out while TMTF is on break!

We’ll be back, guys. Thanks for your patience, and for being awesome.

438. What Do You Want to See from TMTF?

An old proverb declares, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but I think it’s more like an aunt or cousin. The mother of invention is desperation.

As I’ve worked on this blog over the past few months, I’ve sometimes felt on the verge of running out of ideas. I improvised some posts mere days, or in a few cases mere hours, before they were due. What can I say? Panic is a powerful motivator.

Desperation is the mother of invention

As I struggled once again, at the eleventh hour, to come up with an idea, any idea, for a quick and easy blog post, I had an epiphany.

“Eureka!” I cried, flinging up my hands in unrestrained ecstasy. The “Solved a puzzle!” sound from the Legend of Zelda series rang triumphantly in my ears. My cat, startled awake, tried to flee, but I swept her up and hugged her to my bosom, weeping tears of relief and joy. (I may be exaggerating the scene slightly.)

I’ve been a bit hard-pressed lately to come up with ideas for new posts, so I’m thinking of taking some requests from readers. What do you want me to write for this blog? Are there any specific subjects you would like TMTF to cover before it ends later this year? After all, the blog is taking its final laps, so if there are any topics you want to see discussed here, time is running out!

TMTF wants your ideas for blog posts!

If you have any requests or suggestions for new posts, feel free to share them in the comments below, through this blog’s Contact page, or via social media! I won’t necessarily accept all of them, but I’ll consider every one.

What do you want to see from TMTF before it bites the dust later this year? Let us know!

421. The Beginning of the End

Well, dear reader, this is it. This is the beginning of the end. After four and a half years of caffeinated rants and geeky ramblings, Typewriter Monkey Task Force is starting its final laps.

Final lap! (Watch out for banana peels.)

Final lap! (Watch out for banana peels.)

I’m ending this blog, but not quite yet. TMTF shall conclude with its five hundredth numbered post, which will probably be published toward the end of this year. I don’t yet have an exact date for that post; it depends on how many more breaks I take from blogging.

(You know, this bittersweet blog post could use an appropriately bittersweet soundtrack, such as “The Best Is Yet to Come” from Metal Gear SolidHere you go. No need to thank me.)

Why am I ending this blog? Well, that’s a good question. (I’m glad I asked.) Ending TMTF is a big decision, and I’m not the only one it affects—if you follow this blog, it probably affects you, too.

You may be a little saddened by TMTF’s impending demise. If you’ve enjoyed something over a long time, it can be hard to see it end. (Gravity Falls ended just a few days ago, so believe me, I know the feeling.)

Then again, you may just be wondering why I didn’t put this blog out of its misery ages ago.

There are a few reasons for my decision to end TMTF.

It’s getting harder for me to come up ideas for new posts.

As I think of posts to write for this blog, I feel like I’m beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel. I would much rather give TMTF a respectable finish than drag it out endlessly: as Tolkien put it, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”

TMTF has lost its purpose.

I began this blog years ago with a strong sense of purpose. TMTF originally had three clear objectives.

  1. I wanted to build up an audience for the novel I was finishing at the time.
  2. I wanted to make some sort of positive difference with my God-given talents for writing, humor, and creativity.
  3. I wanted to try something new and exciting.

At this point, TMTF has either completed or failed these objectives; either way, they hardly matter anymore.

  1. My novel failed, and it won’t be getting sequels anytime soon, so there is no longer any point in finding an audience.
  2. At this point, I think TMTF has made pretty much all the difference it can. I’ve said most of the things I really wanted to say… except for the word pulchritude, of course, and now I’ve said it.
  3. After four and a half years, TMTF is neither new nor exciting. Writing this blog has been a great experience, but I’ve lost my passion for it.

When I started TMTF, I was motivated to write blog posts by a sense of purpose. Now I write them because I have to keep the blog’s publishing schedule. I’m trying to live more purposefully; it’s one of my resolutions for this year. My writing should be driven by a sense of purpose, not feelings of obligation. I owe that much to my readers, and to myself, and to God.

I want to work on a new project.

I could say more, but that’s another post for another day.*

I’m thankful for this blog, and I don’t regret the time and effort I’ve put into it. Working on TMTF over the years has brought me satisfaction, laughter, gleams of insight, and moments of catharsis… not to mention quite a lot of harmless fun.

I’ve met a number of amazing people through this blog whom I would never have met otherwise: JK Riki, the animator and creativity expert; Tom Zuniga, the wandering blogger; Rev Kev Niebuhr, the manliest Methodist of our generation; and more. I’ve also had the privilege of collaborating with awesome folks like Paul McCusker, a veteran writer for Adventures in Odyssey; Kevin McCreary, a YouTube and podcast creator; and colorful YouTube personalities like DRWolf and Crowne Prince, among many others.

This blog motivated me to write a fantasy novella and some short stories, not to mention hundreds of pointless rants thoughtful reflections upon faith, writing, video games, literature, TV, movies, life, the universe, and everything. With the help and support of its fabulous readers, TMTF raised hundreds and hundreds of dollars for charity. I even invented a holiday on this blog: Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day—which is coming up on March 4, by the way!

I’m thankful for Typewriter Monkey Task Force—and it ain’t over yet, folks! It shall continue yet for months and months, and there’s one thing I want to make very clear about its end. I’m not abandoning this blog. I’m finishing it.

Finally: Thank you, my dear readers. Thanks for the past four and a half years. I welcome you to stick around for whatever is left, and for whatever comes after!

*And that day shall be Friday.

420. The Year of the (Typewriter) Monkey

TMTF will be taking a two-week break, during which it will republish old posts on its usual schedule. The blog shall return with new content on February 22!

This Monday begins the Year of the Monkey: the ninth of the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac.

I was only vaguely aware of this event, but my typewriter monkeys—my dozen or so assistants who keep this blog up and running—brought it to my attention by going on strike. (After setting things on fire, going on strike is my monkeys’ favorite hobby.) This time, for the Year of the Monkey, they wanted to spend the entire year on vacation.

That ain’t happening.

TMTF clean (paper)

My typewriter monkeys are the worst.

I mean, it’s not like I overwork my monkeys. If anything, need a vacation while they run the blog. (Of course, that ain’t happening either, since giving them free rein on the Internet would probably break it.) At last, after several hours of heated* argument, we reached an agreement.

* I mean this literally; my monkeys set fire to my desk during negotiations.

As the Year of the Monkey begins, this blog will take a two-week break, returning with new content on February 22. As usual, TMTF will rerun old posts during the break, because that is how we roll. When the blog returns, I will have one or two big announcements to make about its future. Things shall change this year, but I’ll explain further after the break.

In the meantime, may I suggest a more immediate change? The Year of the Monkey has greatly exaggerated my typewriter monkeys’ sense of self-importance. Can we please make this the Year of Some Other Animal?

Can we replace the Year of the Monkey with, say, the Year of the Llama? Please?

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back!

411. Operation Yuletide Reached Its Goal!

You did it again, you beautiful people, you.

Operation Yuletide reached its goal!

Operation Yuletide

Operation Yuletide, this blog’s 2015 Christmas charity fundraiser, reached its goal of $700 USD. Thanks to donations from a few generous donors, Living Water International can help provide clean water to more impoverished people this year. Once again, you did it, guys. You made this happen. You made the world a better, wetter place.

Thank you. On behalf of every single person whom your donations will help this year, thank you so much.

For Operation Yuletide, I promised rewards to donors. I wanted to use my creative gifts (such as they are) to encourage donations, and especially to thank donors. A few awesome people supported Operation Yuletide, but only one person admitted to it. The other donors remained anonymous.

To you mysterious donors, I say this: Thank you so much, whoever you are. I would love to thank you personally, but I will respect your anonymity if you prefer to remain anonymous. If any of you would like any of the donor rewards for Operation Yuletide, please let me know via social media or TMTF’s Contact page. I owe you those rewards, and if you’re interested, I’m more than happy to provide them!

To the one person who donated openly, the ever kind and supportive JK Riki, I say this: Thank you so much for being generous, supportive, and generally awesome. (To everyone who isn’t JK Riki, I say this: You should check out his his blog on creativity.)

Now that Christmas is over and Operation Yuletide has reached its goal, I suppose I should retire the fundraiser’s mascot, Oswald Grimm the disgraced Christmas elf.

Oswald Grimm

Grimm spent the fundraiser sitting in a corner of my kitchen, muttering to himself and occasionally swigging from a little black bottle in his pocket. He gives me the creeps. As long as I’m on the subject of Grimm, is anyone, um, interested in adopting a Christmas elf? He may not be any good for the Christmas season, but I bet he would be great for Halloween. At any rate, I need to do something to get him out of my kitchen.

Operation Yuletide could have succeeded without Oswald Grimm, but it could never have reached its goal without you wonderful readers. You guys… you did a really good thing. You did something awesomeThank you for your generosity and compassion! God bless you!

407. Christmas Poem

’Twas the night before Christmas, and there in a heap

Lay my typewriter monkeys, unkempt and asleep.

At long last, thank the Lord, they had started to snooze.

They lay chattering faintly and smelling of booze.

And so I, much relieved, at my desk sat to write

On that bright, peaceful, glorious, holy, cold night.

When the silence was broken—a sharp, noisy tap!

On the door some odd stranger had started to rap.

I expected that raven, but there stood a man

With a snappy red sport coat, a neat beard, a tan,

And a trim, slim physique! His thin figure was slick,

But was this dapper fellow the ancient Saint Nick?

“Santa Claus? But you can’t be,” I wondered aloud.

“I am trying to fit with today’s younger crowd,”

Said the man. “Would you tell me now, if you will, please,

If it’s you who look after twelve naughty monkeys.”

“I’m the one,” I admitted. “I’m sorry,” said he.

“They have earned tons of coal. I won’t bring it, you see,

For they start many fires, and black coal is a fuel!

Such a flammable gift would be foolish and cruel.”

“Then what did you bring them?” I inquired, quite depressed.

“I brought twelve fire extinguishers—seemed like the best

Of replacements for something as risky as coal.”

And with that, he set twelve presents down. “Bless my soul!”

He exclaimed. “And I almost forgot! Here for you,

A small box! My dear boy, there’s a gift for you, too.”

And with that, old Saint Nick snapped his fingers and rose.

No more reindeer for him, but a jet. “There he goes,”

I declared as the jet roared away in the night.

To my desk I went, then, and flipped on a soft light.

What nice gift in my box had the kindly elf hid?

A brand-new coffee cup, and a note: “Good luck, kid.”

Do you know what gift would be even better than a fire extinguisher? A donation to Operation Yuletide, of course! We’re raising money to help people this Christmas. There are even rewards and stuff! (As an added perk, Santa Claus* will put donors on his Nice list.) Check it out here!

*Santa Claus does not exist. Any and all claims involving Santa Claus are intended jokes, and thus legally nonbinding. Please do not sue me, my family, or my cat.

406. TMTF Reviews No More

I won’t be reviewing stuff anymore on this blog.

(That’s the short version of this post, so you may stop reading here if you like.)

Since the dawn of time—well, since late 2011—I have reviewed media for this blog. Yes, I know I have a problem. I have the spiritual gift of nitpicking. I can’t help it. Since I already reviewed things in the privacy of my muddled mind, it seemed logical to write expanded versions of those reviews for TMTF.

I wound up tearing through books (and later video games) faster than I could review them, so I eventually decided to review things in groups instead of individually. A single Review Roundup could replace five or six individual blog posts. Perfect!

A problem arose, however: Reviews become really tedious to write. In a small way, they also made reading books, playing video games, and watching movies kind of a chore. I found myself frequently making mental notes: I have to remember to mention this in the review. I can’t forget to talk about that. Oh, I’ve got to bring up this point. With so many notes and observations rattling about in my head, I found it harder to enjoy whatever I was doing.

In other words, reviews took the fun out of fun.

I’m always reluctant to remove features from this blog. I like consistency, and I don’t like giving up on things. All the same, like other abandoned features before it, Review Roundups shall cease. TMTF shall blunder on without them, with heavy heart and lighter step.

I don’t regret reviewing stuff. Reviews were good mental exercises. Besides, I’ll continue making mental reviews; I just won’t write ’em down anymore. Ending this blog’s formal reviews leaves more room for… um… whatever it is we do around here. Heck if I know.

There is at least one good thing we’re doing around here—we’re raising money to provide clean water to impoverished people for Christmas! Please take a moment to check out Operation Yuletide. There are even rewards and stuff! Check it out here!

404. Page Not Found

As I click through the wilderness of the Internet, I occasionally stumble upon the sinister number 404. Just look at it. It has two fours, and the number four is considered unlucky in some parts of the world. If 404 isn’t bad news, I don’t know what is.

404Error 404 occurs when a web address leads to a website, but fails to find a specific page. For example, if you search for a nonexistent page on this blog, you get a generic Page Not Found message. I tried to rewrite it, but TMTF won’t let me. (I blame my typewriter monkeys.) Hey, at least we don’t shout “404’d!” and insult you, unlike some websites. We may not have the page you want, but at least we try to be  nice about it.

The 404 error is a minor nuisance, but its philosophical implications are thoroughly depressing. Why is the page not found? Did the web link mislead me? I feel betrayed. Why would the link misdirect me to a dead end? It has made a fool of me. Am I so naive? What does this say about me as a person? Maybe the link isn’t to blame—perhaps I typed in the wrong web address. Am I blaming someone else for my own mistakes? What the heck is wrong with me?!

What if 404 Page Not Found is an Internet microcosm of real-life problems? Doesn’t every bad decision yield a 404 of its own? 404 Happiness Not Found. 404 Progress Not Made. 404 Life Not Lived. Never mind the Internet. Error 404 haunts us all. It is the voice that speaks in the stillness of our hearts: “You have made a wrong turn, and now you are in the wrong place. You have failed.”

As long as we’re on the cheerful subject of failure: How did Error 404 receive its number? What are the 403 preceding Internet errors? I don’t know, but I’m guessing they include losing money to scams, releasing sensitive personal information online, and buying the e-book edition of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Internet Error 266

I don’t know how many Internet errors you’ve committed, but at least you avoided a 404 by finding this blog post. That counts for something, right?

Do you want to do something awesome? Please take a moment to check out Operation Yuletide—it’s not an Internet error, I swear! We’re raising money to help people this Christmas. There are even rewards and stuff! Check it out here!