Just How Many Things Does PBR Stand For, Anyway?

Today’s post started out as something different.  I was Googling “PBR case” for a good image to steal, with my usual dedication to copyright and proper citation, that might help illustrate the concept of Wisconsin hospitality to readers from less fortunate states.

I found one, too.

But what I learned in the process was that “PBR” stands for an awful lot of damn things.  For example, it clearly has something to do with computers:

I have no idea what, but it pops up when you Google "PBR case."

It’s also apparently a thing you can get shot with.  Non-fatally, since it stands for “plastic baton round” (sounds much nicer than “riot bullets,” I guess), but you should still probably double-check what Officer McFriendly means when he offers to share some PBRs with you.

Although your head might actually hurt less, afterward.

And then apparently there’s this physics thing, where you’re comparing the “PBR case” to the “ZR case.”  Man do I want to be a part of that study.

The original caption tells us that "thick curves represent the PBR case," which is a pretty accurate description of Wisconsinites in general.

It’s also the Burkinabé Party for Refoundation in Burkina Faso, a nuclear “pebble bed reactor,” the “plant breeders’ rights” that the creator of a new plant breed enjoys, and the Professional Bull Riders organization.

Which is exactly what it sounds like.

All this from one little Google Images search.  Plus I found this awesome picture of what appears to be a Pabst Blue Ribbon coffin, bringing a new and wholly inaccurate meaning to the phrase “going out in style.”

So I’m not the only one that gets wholly distracted when looking for images, right?  I think the original post was going to be something about my brother’s unannounced visit, and how we always wind up tying one on, but I’ve lost track by now.  You tell me which would have been better!

Rewarding Your Writing, or, The Art of Treating Yourself to Some Ramen

Sometimes I over-analyze things.

Like in the grocery store:  I’ll be standing in the ramen noodle aisle (which is actually the “ethnic foods” aisle, and apparently includes British as an ethnicity, since the next thing over from the ramen is Spotted Dick-in-a-can).

Honestly, I just like using this graphic.

Anyway, there I am, buying up ramen because we always need it when someone gets sick.  And they’ve got these “Souper Packs” [sic] of like six ramen packets all at a time for even cheaper than the usual stuff.  So I grab three or four of those.

But then the second-guessing and uncertainty starts.  I don’t actually like the beef-flavored ramen, say, (available in Souper Packs) as much as the pork (not available in Souper Packs).  Chicken’s okay but boring, and “oriental flavor” is just weird.  Shrimp’s really the only good Souper Pack available and we’re already bored of it.

So I hesitate.  I turn to the other ramen flavors.  Desire wars with economy:  you’re holding the best bargain right there in your hand!  Put it in the cart and let’s go!  People are starting to stare.  And I stand, paralyzed, unable to decide whether I can bring myself to knowingly spend more than I have to.

This is a good point in the narrative to mention that the difference in cost is about one and a half cents per package.

But times a hundred packets that adds up to...okay, yeah, about $1.50

So there’s some irrationality going on here.  And there’s the lingering shame of being the guy that stood weighing his options in the ramen noodle aisle for like half an hour.  But I get more than over-salted soup out of it:  I get a treat.

When things go really sour — when I’m sick and behind on deadlines and cold and my cat has decided to come snuggle lovingly and then pee on the blankets — I can pick myself up, dust myself off, put the blanket in the laundry, and grab a packet of the extra-special chile-lime flavored ramen.  Forget that regular ol’ chicken or beef stuff; today’s a special treat day!

And that’s about the nicest feeling you can buy for a penny and a bit.

Do you have special treats that aren’t actually all that special for your bad days?  Has the wholly artificial construction paid off?  Or does that require being the sort of person who deliberates for hours in the ramen noodle section of the grocery store?

The Sickness Scale

Yeah, so I’ve been a little sick lately.  But how sick?  I’m glad you asked.  Self-scheduling is part of the writing life!  You gotta be able to pace yourself.  Guesswork doesn’t cut it — when you’re deciding if you’re going to manage to crank an article out or not you need science.  So I have a very scientific scale:

Kinda Sick

  • Symptoms:  Upright but unwilling to do anything beyond ordering delivery pizza and watching too many episodes of children’s TV.
  • Writing Prospects:  Yeah, okay, I’ll finish off that outline I already have an outline for.  Grudgingly.

Pretty Sick

  • Symptoms:  Re-reading Dealing with Dragons for the twenty-somethingth time; eating ramen noodle soup with Tabasco.
  • Writing Prospects:  The blog will probably still get done.

Really Fucking Sick

  • Symptoms:  Lying completely prone and listening to the 1974 recording of The Hobbit voiced by Nicol Williamson, which my parents used to play for me on the like eight LPs that it took up when I was home sick as a child; drinking shots of NyQuil mixed with straight bourbon.
  • Writing Prospects:  Often ambitiously large, in an alcohol-and-NyQuil-colored haze of excitement.  Finished work usually looks something like “and then we snail with the burple fjjgm/////////////////////” as I fall asleep on my keyboard.

This is, obviously, a rather personalized scale.  But it gets the job done (for example, I’m happily downswinging from “pretty sick” to just “kinda sick” right now, and hope to be a real human being again by tomorrow).

I think these benchmarks are important for writers and the self-employed.  Or you could just get an O Best Beloved to say “yep, you’re sick” and make you soup.


I am, of course, kidding.  I make the soup even when I’m Really Fucking Sick.  But it’s still good to know.

Sick Day: Search Term Roundup

I don’t quite remember why I started the tradition of doing a search term roundup whenever I get sick.  It had, I suspect, something to do with NyQuil.  But it’s quick, easy, and entertaining, giving you the laugh you’ve no doubt come to expect here and getting me back to bed as quickly as possible!

So let’s take a look at what’s bringing people to MA101 for the first time lately, shall we?  These are all taken from WordPress’s own built in stats tool.  Theoretically it’s giving me a comprehensive list of what terms, entered into search engines, have resulted in people clicking on a MA101 page — I try to take that with a grain of salt.  But it’s good for the occasional laugh.  Lately, for example…

The Good…

Things that MA101 or at least a post on it are about, sort of.  I am happy I was able to help these people!  Good job finding what you wanted, if you are one of them.  I hope you enjoyed the blog.

  • “Misanthropology 101″ – is self-explanatory, and also spelled in many interesting and creative ways in people’s searches.
  • “Cute ponies,” “fuzzy ponies,” “pony pictures,” etc. – are not really what MA101 is about, but I can’t deny that I’ve brought that one on myself.  I expect these people went away satisfied.

…The Bad…

These are searches that clearly did not want anything I wrote.  A lot of them are just image-related.

  • “Taboo” or “Taboo game” – Apparently the classic party game is waaaaay more popular online than I thought.  I suppose the one post that mentions it is, in fact, about a game of Taboo, but I doubt it’s what the searchers are looking for.  Especially since it also talks about porn.  Maybe I better go back and clean that one up, actually…

…and The Ugly

Seriously people?  What the fuck.

  • “Pederasty porn” – Eight people?  Eight fucking people?!  Please note that this cannot actually be found on my blog anywhere…
  • “sexy larp girl” – Okay, I guess technically there is a picture of those on the blog, once.  But who sits around Googling that shit?
  • “giraffe cock” – I mean…yeah, there’s the thing about giraffe penises, but…that’s not so dirty.  It’s just about a translation error, for god’s sake!
  • “avtobus” – I’m sorry, I have no idea what you three were looking for.  I really can’t help you here.
  • “bassoon eileen reynolds” – I don’t think any of those terms has ever appeared on my blog.  Have they?
  • “hyperbole and a half no updates” – I share your frustration, friends, but alas I also have no idea what happened to Hyperbole and a Half.
  • “fat drag queens” – I got nothin’ here.
  • “google http://www.comanglo-saxon tied in the the cubbage,s” – I include this only because it directed people to my blog three separate times.
  • “always need to have a blanket wrapped around me” – I’m…sorry?
  • “little boy in fur suit” – Gah!
  • “[the full name of one of my exes]” – This never appears on the blog.  I went back and checked just to be sure.  None of her names appears anywhere in the complete text of MA101.  Google, you’re fucking creepy!
  • “תמונתו של דוריאן גריי” – Pretty sure that’s Hebrew.  Mine’s a little weak, sorry.
  • “автобус школьный” – And some Cyrillic too, sure.  Why not.
  • “huge black dildo shopping” – MA101 must have been very disappointing.
  • “i keep porn in public” – I…don’t?
  • “‘hit in the testicles'” – Double-quoted there because they Googled the exact phrase.

I could go on for a while with these, but you get the point.  It bears mentioning that none of these were single, isolated incidents — every example above sent people to this blog at least twice.  I’m not sure if it’s time for me to start reexamining my life, or time for a whole lot of other people to do the same.

Fellow bloggers, any recent search term hilarity from your own stats pages?  Feel free to leave a comment (or to just steal the idea and turn it into a post of your own, I suppose).  Me, I’m going back to bed.

I Don’t Understand Runners

I try to avoid irrational dislikes for large groups of people, but boy do runners make it hard.

Part of that’s probably geographic.  I feel like you can either be the trendy city that closes its streets for some marathon or triathalon or whatever on a bi-monthly basis or you can be the quaint kind of city with lots of one-way streets and unexpected dead ends on a defiantly ungridded system; Madison does both, and gleefully.  So I do begrudge the running craze some of my time wasted in traffic.

But mostly I live and let live.  As long as you’re not trying to shoulder me off the one tiny shovel-width path Madison gets down to by around the middle of winter or actively blowing snot on me we can probably overlook the runner thing.

Triathletes, now?  They are a source of perpetual fascination for me.  You’ve got three events (run, bike and swim), two of which are torture in the heat, one of which is brutal in the cold, and all of which suck in the rain.  So no matter what the weather’s like you’re guaranteed to have a bad time at least some of the way.

Good job, guys.

I thought about making a writing metaphor out of it (or a drinking one, always a reliable fallback), but I suppose everyone finds some pastime or other incomprehensible.  The moral of it escapes me, just now.  “We all suffer for something or other so pick what you think is worthwhile”?  Something like that.  I’ll take my writer’s-chair-butt and hangovers over being a runner any day, at any rate.

‘Course, this one might be a little poorly-written because I’m sick and can’t sleep, so who’s to say there isn’t something to an aggressively healthy lifestyle?  I’d save on ramen and Tabasco, at least.

…what?  What else would you do for a sore throat?  I’m poor.

What To Do When an Editor Makes Your Writing Worse

Writing about editors is always a touchy business.  DISCLAIMER:  Guys, this isn’t about any of you.  My last few contracts have been fantastic.  I enjoy a degree of both freedom and stability that staff journalists are jealous of.  (They get health care, of course, but whatever.  I’m healthy.)  Please don’t fire me.

That said!  One of the realities of the freelancing life is the capital “E” Editor. Keeping him/her/them happy is pretty much the goal, since they’re the people that sign your paychecks.  Your own perspective of what the intended audience might want to read is relevant but less so; artistic goals do not even bear thinking on.  Usually this works out fine because the editor, just like you (theoretically), wants the piece to be as good as possible.

But every once in a while you’re going to get feedback that makes you wince.  Helpful suggestions in red that don’t help at all.  Fixes that break the writing altogether.  Feces flung all over your beloved icon.  I might talk about poop too much on this blog.

So what do you do when you receive corrections that flat-out make the writing worse?  A few things, usually:

1.  Decide How Much You Care

Seriously.  If it’s a 2000-word toss-off on a subject that you don’t write about much, it may not matter if the finished product isn’t your best work, even under your own name (and if it’s not a credited piece then there’s really not much reason to care). 

Remember that the people making the corrections have their own vision for how the piece fits into a larger publication.  They may have much more important reasons than yours for wanting the piece a particular way.  Think carefully before deciding that it’s worth arguing about the suggestions.

2.  Request “Clarification”

Your editor is never wrong.  They can’t be; they’re genetically incapable of it.  So don’t tell him/her that he/she is.

Instead, fire off an e-mail saying “Working on the piece now — just wanted a clarification on a couple of these edits.”  Then pick out the ones that frustrate you most, and say something like “Are we looking to do [exactly what the edit says] on this one?  Won’t be a problem, but I think it might [the problem you have with the edit].”

You may have seen something your editor didn’t and get a correction to the correction back.  You may also just get an impatient reply saying that yes, you should go ahead and do what they told you to the first time, damn it.  But at least you tried.

3.  Make the Damn Changes Anyway

You are the labor.  They are the management.  Welcome to the bottom of the heap.

4.  Do As Writers Before You Have Done, and Writers After You Shall Do

EDIT:  I never would have noticed without WordPress’s built-in notification, but apparently this is the 300th post on MA101.  That’s a lot of words.

Chocolate Covered Olives

Did I ever tell you the story of the chocolate covered olives?

It all starts at a wedding in Georgia. Outside Georgia, technically speaking — strip mall land, where every street is named “Peachtree Something.”  Somewhere in the hills behind this maze of interlinked parking lots there’s a lovely little manor house from before the Civil War.

The economy it was built on collapsed in about 1865, so the manor house is now a rental hall.  All the nice rugs and furniture are still there, museum-like, though some of them are behind elegant velvet ropes to keep you from accidentally using an antebellum chair as, say, an actual chair.

O Best Beloved and I wandered the buffet feeling like the out-of-place Yankees that we were.  The crowd was mostly white Southern relatives and friends of the bride, the extremely-deferential and all-black serving staff made us feel a little odd, and you couldn’t get anything but soda at the bar, which certainly put me in a bind.  Having a black eye from a fight with one of the groom’s party the night before didn’t help any either.

No, seriously. There it is.

Adrift and awkward, I eventually found my way to the chocolate fountain to drown my sorrows.  A pack of strangers wandered up.  I nodded cordially, they warily; their children not at all as they ignored all the grown-ups and rushed for the chocolate.  Feeling daring and more than a little perverse, I picked up a nearby olive — also skewered helpfully on a toothpick, just like the strawberries and little pastries by the chocolate fountain — and dipped it casually into the molten flow.

“It’s a big fad right now,” I said, conversationally.  “Sort of like caramel corn and cheese corn all in the same bag, you know?  Salty and sweet all at once.”

I twirled the toothpick, eying my olive, the very picture of a man making sure his gourmet treat is properly executed.

Some of the children doubted.  “That’s gross!” one pointed out.

“But you don’t like olives,” her mother noted.  She watched me curiously.

“It’s really a hot new thing,” I assured them.  “I think the New York Times had a thing about it.  Maybe it was the Wall Street Journal.

The blow found a chink in the armor.  “Oh, yeah,” her husband agreed, nodding in the casually disinterested way of one intellectual to another.  “Now that you say it, I think I read that too.”

And he picked up an olive and dipped it.

We chatted for a bit and I wished them well after they’d all had their chocolate-covered olives and commented that they weren’t too bad (except for the older boy, the only child to try one, who rightfully pronounced them “disgusting”).  They went their way and I went mine, leaving a chocolate-dipped olive discreetly tucked away with some other food detritus on one of the little standing tables.  I always wondered, later, if any of them ever looked up “chocolate covered olives” and realized there was no such fad.

That said, you can order them from at least one specialty retailer online (or so Google tells me), so maybe I wasn’t being as perverse as all that.  But peer pressure is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Have you ever given in to the desire to be very bad at a big wedding where you don’t know anyone?  Or am I the only one that can’t go out in public?  Oh, and if either the bride or groom from that wedding are reading this, sorry about feeding your relatives chocolate-covered olives…


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