The Seductive Power of Knowledge

Ah, knowledge. Is there a sweeter drug? I mean, besides pizza rolls and bath salts.

No. There is not. Such is the heady power of knowing, the addictive nature of learning.

I’m not perfect. And despite my reputation, I am not always right. There are times when I am actually wrong. I am perfectly willing to admit when I’m wrong. I don’t like it, but it has been known to happen on occasion.

Some of my closest friends and family might tell you the opposite. They may believe I am unwilling to accept my wrongness because I am pretty particular about what sources of information I see as “true.”

See, I’m not willing to accept anecdotal information. I’m generally not willing to accept Wikipedia entries, either. I like to have information from multiple, verifiable sources. I like data. I like hardline numbers. I like peer-review facts and I respect expert authorities.

Gut feelings and hearsay, not so much.

See, I really like to learn. I do truly love being right, and the only way to be right most of the time is to have knowledge. You get knowledge by learning. Used responsibly, the internet is an endless resource pool for learning. You can learn anything. You can gain skills and insights. It is a wonderful world of data.

I love being right, so I make sure I generally am.

It seems contrary to what might be said about me, but I don’t actually like to argue unless:

A) Everyone involved understand the argument exists purely for the entertainment value of those involved in the argument. I call this the “Troll vs. Troll” argument. There are no rules. Only pure rhetorical joy.


B) The topic at hand is factually accurate.

In neither of these situations is the winner the person with the loudest voice or more viscous emotional attacks. Now, in scenario A, we might get pretty loud and nasty, but we’re also friends with a mutual understanding of what we’re doing. In scenario B, the loud, angry person is usually the loser.

Look, I’m good at being loud. In a “who can be the loudest” contest, you’d do well to put your money on me. Being loud isn’t the same as being right.

I like to be loud. I love to be right.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to understand the difference between loud and right. My natural instinct is to be the loudest and even today I find myself needing to fight away that urge in order to be right.

Generally, the times when I’m at my most argumentatively dangerous is when I’m quiet.

If I get quiet and go away for awhile during an argument, you should be afraid–especially if you’re trying to win by being loud.

Because I’m using my superpower. I’m learning.

Thanks to the power of cyberspace, I can learn extremely quickly. I have mad Google Fu. I’m good at figuring out what I need to learn. The real power of knowledge comes from knowing what you need to know, and I’ve honed that skill that a fly fisher hones the perfect cast.

I challenge everyone to go forward and learn. Any time you see an argument arise, take 10 minutes and dive into the Internet’s hollow bastions. Find multiple sources of information from various backgrounds and viewpoints. Assimilate that information into a wall of powerful rightness and then sharpen your knowledge into a sword.

Use it to lay waste to the world of ignorance!



I might have gotten a little carried away there.

I know it isn’t easy. Trust me, I know. I have had a hard time letting go of my own opinions, beliefs, and anger. Sometimes, I spend too much time trying to find facts to support my preconceived notions instead of letting my opinions be composed by facts.

But, I keep trying to be better. I keep learning.

I hope you will, too.

32 Years

I turn 32 today.

Your thirty-second birthday isn’t really a milestone, but for me it is. Every birthday feels like a milestone. Another year older. Another notch on the cosmic bedpost. My human score goes up. I get closer to the epic levels.

I always get reflective and nostalgic this time of year. I go in search of accomplishments I can be proud of. I worry about all of my failures. I think about the past too much. I obsess. The manic-depressive roller coaster has a lot more hills this time of year. My emotions rise and fall faster than the dramatic tension in a bad teen drama. It isn’t a good time to be around me.


A brief look into the last four birthdays on this blog shows how much I waffle back-and-forth between loving and hating the day. I go soul searching or I hide.

I suppose you can guess which way I’ve slid this year.


Regardless of my emotional stability, birthdays are great times to look back on the year and reflect. I need to focus on my accomplishments and learn from my failures. I need to, otherwise, I’m never going to be able to let go.

So, what did I accomplish this year? What did I learn?

Let’s start with the lessons.

This week, I learned I definitely need to find a new editor. No surprise there.

I’ve learned “fake it until you make it” isn’t just a saying. It works.

I’ve learned–at least intellectually–to step back and think through my words before I toss them out into the world. Otherwise, I might come off as “intense and overbearing.”

I’ve successfully managed to write and publish three books and a short story. It isn’t as much as I would like to be able to say I have accomplished, but I’ve learned I need to relax and let my story come. I’m probably not an outliner, even if I really, really want to be.

I’ve learned the truth behind the trope of eating ice cream while crying. You can’t cry while eating ice cream. Ice cream will not allow it. The crying comes when your body painfully reminds you that ice cream does, in fact, contain lactose.

I’ve kept my sanity.

I’ve paid off roughly 1/3 of my debt. That’s an accomplishment.

I remember to love
the structure of poetry
written with strict rules

I have managed to write every day for 64 days, at least 750 words. It is a start to much more.

I’ve learned being the best isn’t always the best for me.


I’ve learned a lot this year. So many hard lessons, but just writing them out in this post has flipped my track back out of the emo-spiral. I’ll probably flip tracks a few more times before the week is over. A few more days of riding the epic highs and bottomless lows of my own psyche.


And then back to work. There are too many lessons left to learn.

Lessons from Public Speaking

I was recently given the opportunity to teach a class on web content management at work. The basic concept was to teach the business experts and government bureaucrats I work with how to use the software we use to run our website. I was thrust into the role by pure chance of knowing a thing or two about the web. I have no formal training and absolutely no experience teaching anything. I also had no way out of it. The only other person who could teach the course—our actual web designer—was more than happy to let me stand in front of a group of thirty people and make a fool out of myself.

I have to admit something.

Despite publishing my thoughts regularly on the Internet and producing a weekly podcast, I do not consider myself a public speaker. Don’t get me wrong, I loved acting in high school—standing below the burning lights, caked in ten layers of the thick clay we call theater makeup, reciting lines someone else wrote with someone else’s voice. Spouting off lines in ridiculously bad accents and being generally unaware of my unbelievable lack of talent carried through many of my formative years. I drew an incredible amount of pleasure from the entire experience of being a performer.

Then high school ended. I went out into the real world and somehow became convinced I was an introvert. I hid away inside my apartment, safe behind a wall of discarded pizza boxes and grocery store chicken containers. The only time I came close to performing was during Eldaraenth events or sitting around a grease covered table with a handful of other geeks and living vicariously through Erik Dondalin, the epic level ranger with a magic item consuming sword and the ability to travel through time and space on a whim.
I told myself I was terrified to speak to large groups and it became true.

I tried to avoid any obligation to address a crowd. The idea of standing before strangers and just talking caused the bear and wolverine in my stomach to renew their ancient war. If I actually tried to go through with it anyway, the world would spin around me until I was so discombobulated I lost all language skills. Word salad became my only recognizable skill.

But, the part of me with a raging hard-on for attention couldn’t be quelled.

At the same time I was turning more and more inward and spending more time laying on a couch shoving industrial-sized packages of pizza rolls down my throat by the fist-full, I was attending Eldaraenth events and thrusting myself into every possible group in an attempt to wow a crowd.

I choked my way through Shining Happy People during Karaoke one weekend, wolverine clawing away at my insides in a desperate attempt to avoid the bear’s best attempt at the people’s elbow, then, the next weekend, I would stand in a group of fifty and happily spout about the unparalleled importance of the new moon.

I would chain smoke a carton of cigarettes out behind the shed to avoid being forced to interact with more than one person at a time during a party, then goat dance around a bonfire to entertain the masses at the next event.

On and on it went, my mundane life growing increasingly isolated and depressed. My fantasy life growing more and more desperate for crowds to appease and sway, until, one day, the two clashed.

It was during my last large Eldaraenth event.

I had decided, for reasons only my twisted and garbled subconscious could understand, to give a speech for the players. There were some cultural elephants dancing in the corners of the room, and I wanted to address them and remind everyone about the shiny, happy fun times we can have. I wrote a speech. I practiced a speech. I kept a copy of my speech on my kindle so I could reference it if I got lost while speaking.

Then, I actually gave my speech.

The same people who had seen me tell dozens of stories, witnessed me make a mockery of myself, and had probably seen me naked at one point or another, watched as I stood at one end of a room and talked.

The wolverine sucker punched the bear in his bear parts, and I almost passed out.

I swore off speaking. I swore off performing.

I fled to Montana.

This was all running through my brain as I stood at one end of a large room, PowerPoint presentation plastered on the wall behind me. I kept thinking, “I’m not a teacher. I’m not an expert on this. They’re going to know. They’re going to flay me alive and chase me into the street with burning pitchforks and plastic jug vodka!”

Thirty pairs of eyes watched in anticipation. I reached down and clicked on the first slide.

There are a few moments in your life when you know everything is going to go horribly wrong, and when everything went “Kaploof” on my laptop, I was in one of those moments. The funny thing is, as my prepared slides and awesome examples melted into a metaphorical pile of slag, so did my worry.

“Well, I guess that’s not going to work.” It was the first sentence that came to my mind, and the last one I had to think of on my own. Questions flooded in and my answers came out before I was thinking. I made jokes. I explained some simple things. I promised everyone we’d do it again. I rushed, trying to fit everything into the hour we had planned and skipped over important information, but, I didn’t care. The conversation went where the conversation went.

As people got up to leave, several stopped to tell me I’d done a great job. I figured my nervous flop-sweat had pressed all the way through my shirt and they could tell by smell alone I needed some positive reinforcement. I watched them leave as I disconnected my laptop and considered the trembling in my hands, the napalm on my cheeks, and the pulse hammering hard enough to make a rampaging herd of buffalo sound quiet.

It wasn’t terror I was feeling, but a strange mix of anxiety and excitement.

It made me realize something very important. I don’t have to worry about performing, speaking, or teaching. I just have to get out of my own way and let me be me. I’ll get plenty of attention. I’m that loud, anyway.

Cook Along with a Professional Adult: Tuna & Noodles

Good Evening, Internet,

As you may know, I am trying my best to take on the roles and responsibilities of a real adult. Since that means having the ability to be responsible for myself and others, I thought I would share an important stage in my personal adulthood development–learning to cook.

Tonight, I’m going to be cooking a Brotherton Family staple, Tuna & Noodles. (We call it tuna casserole around here, but my Mom pointed out it isn’t actually a casserole and I shouldn’t confuse the internet.)

We ate this quite a bit growing up, and as you can see, it is pretty simple, cheap, and can feed the small army my parents lovingly raised.


Cook Along: Tuna & Noodles

(Our regularly scheduled blog posts will be back on Thursday)

For this project you will need:

Not pictured: Peas. I like peas, but since I’m making my tuna stuff for my mom, and she hates peas, no peas. :( Poor peas….

  • Noodles
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Tuna
  • Fake Cheese
  • Peas (Optional)

You will also need a knife, a pot, a stove, and water.

Step One: Put Water in a Pot

Seriously, this is basic. So easy even a yeti can do it.

If you do not have a stove, water, or pot, this recipe is going to be very crunchy.

Step Two: Add Heat to the Water Until It Boils

If you’re falling behind at this point, there is no help for you. Order pizza.

Step Three: Pour in the Noodles

One question you might be asking is, “How do I know when I have enough noodle?”


Pro Tip: If you buy a bag of noodles, you can just use the whole bag! How nice is that. Alternative noodle types include Bowtie, Elbow, Shells, and of course, Tubes!

Step Four: Cut the Cheese


While your noodles are boiling, it is a good time to cut the cheese. Stop laughing and get to work! I used a cheese knife, but since I’m using Velveeta, I could have just as easily cut it with my bare hands. The smaller the chunks, the faster they will melt later.


At this point, you are waiting for the noodles to finish boiling. I like my noodles a little chewy, but I’m making dinner for my mom. This means I will be cooking my noodles for three times longer than noodles should be properly cooked–about thirty minutes total.

PRO TIP: Add a wooden spoon to keep the noodles from boiling over


Step Six: Drain the Noodles

When the noodles are finally done cooking, it is time to drain them. I like to use a strainer for this, but you can get adventurous and come up with your own solutions. I do not suggest removing the water with a teaspoon. It is too time consuming and your noodles will get cold and gummy.

PRO TIP: Wash dishes as you go to avoid being yelled at by other people who use the kitchen!

Step Seven: Pour all the stuff into the pan

Open all the cans and pour them all into the pan. For best results, drain the tuna. Don’t forget to shake up the evaporated milk before opening. Otherwise, you will make a mess.

Side Note: Has anyone ever eaten cream of mushroom soup as soup? Is that a thing people do?

Step Nine: Add 1/2 of the Cheese

You need to use exactly half! No cheating! Count those cubes! I’m just kidding. Don’t bother.


Oh, and put the rest of the cheese in there. I am missing a picture…

Step Eleven: Stir it up until the Cheese is Melted

Stirring takes somewhere around forever, too.

Step Twelve: Enjoy

I like mine with crunched up crackers… and peas… Sad, lonely peas.


Fake cheese can be especially gross if you don’t get it cleaned up right away!

I’ve Always Been A Dog Person

I think most children have an imaginary friend. My parents probably knew there was something wrong with me when I didn’t–I had an imaginary Scottish Terrier.

I’ve Always Been a Dog Person

If cats are the ninjas of the animal world, dogs are the samurai. Fierce, loyal, honorable protectors of home and family. Sometimes silent. Sometimes boisterous. Always faithful.

There is no greater companion in the world than a dog. They are sweet balls of warmth and love, and unlike their feline counterparts, don’t require mind control parasites to earn their spot on the foot of the bed.

It’s been almost three years since I lost the Abmonster, a horrible dark day in my life. I still miss her. Actually, I just returned home from one of her favorite pastimes, driving around aimlessly with no purpose other than to be in the car. It made me realize how much I miss having the Abkins to snuggle.

Yes, there is a new dog in my life. There are times when I feel bad for her because Gretchen has an enormous burden to live up to, but she’s a good dog. Her only foible is her absolute and utter fear of getting into a car.

You can imagine how this puts a damper on our canine/human relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. In many, many ways, Gretchen is very much like Abbey, and really, all dogs when given the chance. She is terrified of thunderstorms, sheds seven-hundred times her body weight in fur each day, and has an excitement induced doggy heart attack each time someone picks up her leash.



She is definitely doing her doggy best to fill a hole in my ruined, cantankerous heart.

And, I have to admit. I needed her.

Ostensibly, Gretchen is my mom’s dog.

Yes, I am a 31-year-old man living with my parents. But, that’s a different story.

This story is about my love of canines.

Not like that, you freakin’ perv.

I’ve always loved dogs. Something only fueled by not really having one most of my life. I was in third grade by the time my family got a dog, a black lab named Golmer with about 5% of the brainpower of his namesake. Even though Golmer was an awesome dog, he was my older brother’s dog. He got to do all the awesome adventures that teenagers do while I was still stuck at home watching the tail end of the Disney Afternoon, which at the time was Darkwing Duck and appropriately, TaleSpin.


We had a couple of other dogs over the years, too. A Brittany Spaniel who was the canine equivalent of an octogenarian when we adopted her and a mutt that can only be called a mutt. I loved all of those dogs, but I never really connected with them. I’m not sure if that was my self-centered teenager-ness or if they just simply weren’t my dog.

I think it takes a true dog person to understand what I mean by that.

A dog isn’t every truly a pet. As much as I absolutely abhor people who refer to their dog as a child, it is closer to the truth. A dog is a member of the family, but they’re not diminutive. They’re not children. That puts them lower on the order than they are.

For me, Abbey was more akin to a piece of myself. She was, of course, a completely real, not made-up entity, but she was more than just a pet or even a close friend. I hesitate to use the term “soulmate” because of that pervy thing you were thinking before, but it isn’t an inaccurate description.

If you aren’t a dog person, you’re probably having a hard time understanding what I mean. If you are a dog person, you’re just nodding along going, “Well, obviously.”

And, I have a hard time imagining that same bond with other animals. Most cats are murderous jerks. Birds are pretty stupid. Squirrels are creepy. You might be able to get that level of friendship from a pet rock, but they’re not very emotive.

There’s a reason dogs are so heavily represented in literature as man’s companion. Let’s face it, modern dogs have descended from thousands of years of bonding with humans. It borders on symbiosis now.

As I am typing this, Gretchen has retreated inside for the night and is passive-aggressively clicking her claws up and down the hardwood floor of the hall just beyond my chamber door, so I will have to go and open let her in.

As far as she is concerned this is her room and she lets me stay in it. I suppose giving up a few square feet of personal real estate is a worthwhile price to pay for the companion and loyalty she shows, and a nice way to honor the dogs that came before her.