This blog will now be located at http://datapike.com. Also, check out my new portfolio site: http://jenndahlke.com/ and the site for my D&D Campaign: http://datapike.com/dnd.

This post could also be called: How A Book Saved My Life.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t just the cat. It was also ArtPunk, and through him, Chris Hardwick.

During my lowest times of depression, ArtPunk kept telling me to listen to an audiobook by Chris Hardwick, and I kept blowing him off with things like “I’ve never heard of him, so how can he help me?” (which was the STUPIDEST thought ever) and “I can’t listen to audiobooks and get anything out of them” (which was wrong).

Then I started my new job. And I needed something to listen to while working besides pandora. Music was beginning to bore me. That’s when I thought about the audiobook he mentioned and thought “Meh, what the heck? It’s worth a listen.” And the next few days were amazing.

As I listened to this book, called The Nerdist Way, it really sank into my head and hit me deep inside. It was probably one of  the best decisions I’ve ever made about a book. It literally changed my outlook on life. I was laughing along with it and really analyzing myself and my thoughts. It really made me think about the way I’ve handled things in my life. And the day I finished it was absolutely amazing.

I left work that day feeling like I could take on the world. And maybe win. I was so incredibly happy and felt like things were finally going my way. For the first time in a long time, I felt like everything was going to be ok and I was going to make it. I realized that things would eventually get better. I learned to enjoy the good things while they last, but without stressing about when they’re going to end. I learned to enjoy my burrito. I resolved to not take the easy way out. All because of this book.

The Nerdist Way is a phenomenal book that saved my life and all nerds and geeks should read it. Chris Hardwick and his humor really hit home for me and I think it will for many others who grew up awkward and socially inept, and even those who didn’t. He talks about making a character tome to keep track of your achievements and goals. It serves as a motivator and is kind of like D&D. ArtPunk and I are starting ours together.

Also, you should listen to his podcast, The Nerdist, free on iTunes. It’s full of humor and it’s “amaze-balls”. I listen to it at work and I’m on episode 50 already. He even does live versions of the podcast for audiences around the country, one of which I am attending THIS VERY NIGHT in DC. With ArtPunk. Cuz he’s awesome. I’m hoping to get our books signed by Hardwick tonight. Funny story about that too: I bought him the hardback copy of The Nerdist Way for Christmas and he bought me one too. Best present exchange ever. Then I gave him a graph paper moleskine notebook for his birthday for his character tome. I have a matching one that’s lined. The biggest geeks.

So yes the cat saved my life while I was deep in depression, but it was also ArtPunk and Chris Hardwick. I realize that I may have glossed over ArtPunk’s involvement in my recent life in my last post, but I was in a very bad place right then. Hating the holidays and all. But he really was there for me and tried to help me through all of it. I just wasn’t too receptive of his help. Which I regret. He’s been through a lot of crap with me ever since we met in freshman year of college, and I am unabashedly grateful for it. I just don’t know how to show him that all the time. Which makes me seem like a jerk occasionally. But he understands, because we’re both not the best socially and he knows I don’t say everything I should. And sometimes I say a lot of things I shouldn’t.

But anyway, I’m really excited to see Chris Hardwick in person tonight. I doubt I’ll get a hug like I did from Schaffer when I saw him in DC, but it’ll still be awesome. And I will enjoy that burrito. So much.

Chris Hardwick. ArtPunk. I heart you.

20111226-225639.jpg

It’s been awhile. I’ve failed at the PostAWeek thing. I’ve failed a lot this year. And others have failed me.

October 6 – lost my job. Brutally. They didn’t give me a good answer as to why. Just a lame “you don’t have the skills and experience we require”, a severance agreement to sign, and a failed attempt to transfer my work computer files over to my server. There was little to no sympathy from the person I needed it from the most. But that’s to be expected and will make sense in the next paragraph.

November 4/5 (late night/early morning) – Irish broke up with me. Another brutal blow. Spurred by AngryGinger, who had the best of intentions to see his friends happy. I get that, though it didn’t exactly help us be happy. And now I will always “remember, remember the 5th of November” as that day. The day I lost everything. Again. The day I had to find a way back into AngryGinger’s locked house to get my glasses so I could drive home at 7am after not sleeping at all, but just crying for 6 hours. The day I twisted my ankle horribly in those stupid 4 inch heel boots while trying to find the back porch to try the sliding door to get inside. The day I again got no sympathy from those closest to me.

I don’t know if it helped him be happy, but it sure didn’t work for me. I was suddenly very much alone. And fragile. And there were at least 2 weeks with daily breakdowns, crying, yelling, anger, more crying, emptiness, and general misery. The breakdowns slowed to a few times per week, and have now abated to about twice per week.

This whole situation, including the job loss, the heartbreak, and the lack of a proper support system, succeeded in setting off my latent depression and suicidal tendencies. I was struggling everyday to even function. I wouldn’t get out of bed until after noon, would cry uncontrollably for hours, and started staying up until 4am, doing nothing at all. I constantly considered the possibilities before me. The easy solution became very appealing. With the only thought against it being, who would take care of Thomas? I’ve never had something depend on me for life. And I couldn’t do that to him. Somehow I could deal with upsetting the very few people who would really feel pain by it, but I couldn’t let Thomas become homeless again, or die in a shelter, or be raised by someone who isn’t good enough. That amuses me in a very morbid way. But still, it’s funny to think that the cat saved my life. He kept me from doing the unmentionable. So I thank him for that. Especially because things have slightly improved.

December 6 – started a new job. Not perfect, but it’s a good atmosphere, good people, great commute, and easy work.

December 9 – realized I love my job, causing my first positive manic state in a long, long time. It didn’t last long though.

December 15 – tried to reach out and open myself up to someone, and was instead torn apart, heartbroken, and then resolved not to do it again. And found that I’m definitely not ready for anything at all. Even if it seems safe.

December 16 – went to a doctor. Now I’m back on the medication. Hopefully this will help with the depression. We’ll see in a few weeks or so.

I haven’t had the energy to do anything over the last few months. Especially in the last several weeks. Hence the lack of posting. Hopefully this will be the renewal of my blogging and I’ll get back into it. One can only hope.

I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I knew what it would mean. It’d be admitting that this has all happened. Admitting that I am alone, now more than ever. That no matter what I do, and how good my life is going, something is going to come along and fuck it all up. That I can’t stop the inevitable and to try is futile, painful, and just makes it worse for everyone in the end. That enjoying the moment is all well and good, but it comes with the knowledge that there will be bad to outweigh that good, eventually. Basically that life sucks and I need to get used to having my heart broken and being disappointed and alone. But also that I need to see what I have, when I have it, and before it’s gone – but not to hold onto it too tightly, because it’ll just shrink from my affections and run away, leaving me more alone and confused than I can imagine.

Things need to change. Hopefully the new year will bring that for me.

Well, the east side of the beltway, compared to my current home. But still west of Baltimore.

In case someone has missed out on the news, I am moving to a new abode this week. I’ve already moved a few things in and Saturday will be a huge furniture moving day. My first night sleeping there will be tonight after my free viewing of the Killer Elite premiere. (So awesome.) Thomas will be coming with me so today is his last day of lonely freedom at Irish’s house. And last night was the final time that he will be jumping on the headboard and annoying us all night, since he’ll have to just curl up on the futon with me now.

I had been apartment hunting for a few months, then got really serious about it a month or so ago. I asked around on Facebook first and got a few hits, but only from people who don’t have jobs or the money to move out just yet. Which is totally understandable. Then I got on Roommates.com and did some searching. Most things were out of my price range, and unless I paid for a membership, I couldn’t receive messages from the people directly, so I had to send them a message with my email and hope they cared enough to get back to me. That didn’t work out too well. Then I hit Craigslist – a veritable gold mine of listings that I had somehow never used before. I replied to a bunch of people looking for roommates or renters, about 8 per day for a week or so.

The first day of my search, I came upon a gem of a post that was so specific about what the girl wanted in a roommate that I just couldn’t pass it up. She clearly knew what it was like to have a crappy roommate. And she knew how to be an adult and deal with household problems. And she’d accept another pet in the house, since she has a dog. And she was looking for someone right away. And the rent wasn’t too high. So I dropped her a line. Not 30 minutes later, I received a heartfelt and excited reply confirming my hopes – the room was still available and she loved my email, which included a detailed description of my habits, interests, etc. So we setup a date and time to meet and for me to checkout the house. Yes, HOUSE. It’s a small townhouse. Not a crummy little apartment thing.

The hurricane had knocked out her power, so when I came over it was light outside, but getting dark by the minute. We hung out for 3 hours in the dark and just chatted and got to know each other. It was pretty awesome. Her dog was friendly and fun. We talked about so many things I can’t even remember it all, but it ranged from our favorite shows to video games to boyfriends to dinner/cooking arrangements (she’s vegetarian and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be offending her by eating meat).

Finally, we said our goodbyes and I went home to Irish. I practically exploded with information when I sat down on the couch next to him. Babbling on and on about the things we talked about and the pros/cons of the house and potential situation. He just smiled and nodded as he continued watching TV or playing a game or whatever he was doing.

I let it simmer for a few days, widening my search and continuing to reply to Craigslist people, even getting onto the Facebook Marketplace thing for housing – Roomster or something – but that didn’t last long. I couldn’t find anything cheaper that I liked better or that would accept Thomas, so I emailed the girl again and we kept talking about prospective details and becoming more and more friendly.

Now, about a month later, we’ve exchanged several emails (90% of them longer than 400 words apiece, some about 800, like this post), had a lasagna dinner together at the house with our boyfriends, watched a movie together (As Good As It Gets), and had a pet visit so the dog, Biloxi could meet Thomas and they could get over the initial shock of “What the hell is that furry thing looking at me?!”

I’ve already moved in a few boxes and small furniture, there’s a futon for a bed from the previous roommate (yes, I washed the cover), and I’m moving the rest of the big furniture on Saturday with Irish, Grapple, and my parents. Thomas and I will start sleeping there tonight, as I mentioned, so that’ll be the true test of the futon’s sleepability.

And I realize that between house hunting and looking for a second job, I haven’t really bothered blogging. Shame on me. I’m 10 posts behind for PostAWeek2011. Must… catch… up… but that won’t be happening anytime soon. Maybe another post will pop up on here today about the job. Who knows?

Friday was the Welcome Home party for ArmyHusband, BoobsMcGee’s hubby, who has been in the Stanistan for a very long time. Friday was also LaserProm. We all dressed up in formal attire and played lasertag after partying with ArmyHusband at his house. It was awesome. I actually got rank 5 on the second game which was Virus (aka Zombie) which dwarfed my rank 24(ish) of the previous game.

Then we went back to AH’s place for some midnight swimming. Irish left me there to play and swim as he was tired and not a swimmer. So I had some fun with Demon and Bedlam and the others. Then ArtPunk showed up and we did some cartching up. That was awesome, since we hadn’t seen each other in over a year. We hung out til about 3am then went home.

Saturday started around noon with some Mimi’s cafe breakfast and errands. Then 7 hours of making shirts for that night’s Team DrunkScience meeting with Guardian, AngryGinger, Irish, and crew. After hours of stress and backfiring on the shirts, it was time to call it and get to the party.

Well no one really showed up because of the hurricane. But they missed out. There was plenty of drinking before and after we lost power at AngryGinger’s house. We skipped the science part and went straight to the drunk. General fun, games, and debauchery were had. It was pretty great. Then we all went to sleep around 4 or 5am. Yay for getting back onto a college schedule for the weekend.

Power was still out when we woke up Sunday morning. Luckily we had running water and such or we would’ve been very unhappy campers.We grabbed some Wendy’s for lunch and sat around to chat some more before heading home to check on the house and Thomas and then we both passed out for several hours.

The weekend went really fast but we had a lot of fun and a lot of booze. I also discovered a boxed wine I enjoy (which is an odd sentence for me). Fun times. I believe it was Franzia and it’s a white wine (of course).

No matter how much the hurricane tried to cancel our fun this weekend, it didn’t really succeed. By the time it got to us, it was out at sea and downgraded to tropical storm conditions for our area. We got lucky. I know many others weren’t so lucky and I hope very much for their fast recovery be it from physical injury or power outage or house damage. This could have been so much worse, but I’m glad it turned out the way I thought it would here – just some wind and some rain.

Just realized that it’s been over a week since I said I’d post a review of American Gods and of the movie Cowboys and Aliens. Well I’ve finally stopped failing and have decided that it’s about time I post this.

American Gods

This is, shockingly, my first real exposure to Neil Gaiman’s work. And what a good choice it was. I originally picked the book up on a whim shopping spree at my local used bookstore, Second Edition, where the clerk recommended it as my “4th book is free” or something like that. I am now forever grateful to that man. He has officially rekindled my love for sci-fi reading. Thank you, random guy! I think his name was Josh or something… I don’t know, but anyway, bakc to the actual book.

The book starts out a tad oddly and at the end of the first chapter you’re taken into a scene where a man is swallowed by a vagina. It scared me a bit, and I definitely said “What the FUCK?!” but it didn’t put me off from reading the book. In fact, it made me want to figure out how the hell that scene makes ANY sense based on the things I had read so far, which was not too much, as it was the first chapter. So Mr. Gaiman, I have this to say to you: “What the FUCK? And also, good job sir. That was amazing and ridiculous and kept me reading.”

There are random bits toward the end of almost every chapter where the time perspective switches to show a bit of history and backstory of events leading up to modern times. These little bits progress through time as the book goes along, eventually catching up to the present. It was an interesting technique and at first it confused me, but hey I’m easily confused. Har. Some of them weren’t nearly as interesting and some were rushed, like the story of a pair of twins that depicts their entire lives. But still, an interesting technique.

I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a really great read for Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans. It is engaging, it is clearly written for adults, and it almost mocks religion, but doesn’t cross the line. Overall, it was about 500 pages of “what happens now?” and then a few “I KNEW IT” occurrences. But also a few great “abuh?” and “WTF?!” spots. Action, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, love, betrayal, sex, murder, war, drama, and comedy and probably more that I just can’t think of right now. Mr. Gaiman, I would tell you to pick a genre, but you seem to handle 17 at once just fine. Wow. Applause.

Five stars.

Cowboys and Aliens

This movie was a fun little summer blockbuster from which I expected nothing. I had zero expectations walking into this film. All I knew was that it had New James Bond (Daniel Craig), Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde). I went in there wanting to enjoy it and just have some fun.

Upon my exit, I was very much satisfied. The trailers I had seen didn’t give away any of the resolution, which was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes I knew just what would happen next. Sometimes I was blown away and completely surprised.

The characters were simple, but deep enough to make a bit of a connection to them before too long. The plot was very 1-2-3 and straightforward. The glimpses of Jake’s past were interestingly portrayed and well-placed, though his history with the wife wasn’t full of all the information I’d wanted, but it was all that was necessary.

A simple tale of bad to good mixed with an old west environment makes for a shoot-em-up time and an entertaining result. Simple and satisfying.

Four stars. Maybe four and a half.


So I just experienced my first earthquake. Wow. That was pretty huge for me. Plates were rattling in the cabinets, shelves were shaking, stuff was falling over, and Thomas bolted to hide under the couch. We’re both still a bit shaken.

Turns out it originated in Virginia as a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, with the effects reaching all the way along the east coast. There were reported tremors from the Carolinas to NYC and I’m sure even farther than that. The above map shows the reported effects. I just logged my experience. Did you feel it too? Go here and tell them about it.

Thomas was hiding in terror under the couch for a few minutes, but now he’s just napping on the couch next  to me, like nothing happened. Glad I was working from home today though. Just to be here with him.

I love that there is more coverage and news about the east coast earthquake on Twitter and Facebook than any news sites yet. Win. Social networks are the future of news coverage.

I SURVIVED EASTQUAKE 2011.

(UPDATE: I had to swap out the auto-updating map to one from their archives, since it kept changing to reflect each aftershock and such, and then wasn’t showing a cumulative representation of responses from the 2pm earthquake.)

Last week I received this in my mailbox at work:

I started squeeing and there may have been some odd jumping without bending my knees. Sometimes, I have the best coworkers. And the weirdest jumps.

Then I was at Ross on Sunday doing some thrifty shopping when I found this shelf:

So many chickens! I busted out laughing in the middle of the store. People were staring. So much staring… with their beady little judging eyes…

When I finally scooped myself up off the floor from rolling in laughter, I snapped a few pictures before attracting any more unneeded attention to myself. I was still chuckling quietly while shuffling off to another aisle. And while they aren’t 6 foot tall, they still amuse the shit outta me.

If you don’t know why this is so funny, go here to check out The Bloggess and her found chicken that she named Beyonce. I love it. I want her life. So much.

They eat anything. As I have now observed through Thomas.

There's Nothing Funnier Or Sadder Looking Than A Wet Cat

Sometimes I wonder when he’s going to murder me in my sleep for bathing him…

Anyway, Sunday night we came home to a house covered in kitten vomit of varying colors and consistencies. I immediately started freaking out and panicking that he was going to die and it would be my fault. There may have also been a lot of flailing and general moans of worry. And lots of kitten holding. I didn’t know what was wrong, and everything online talks about “if the vomit is this color, it’s this problem” which is USELESS when his had been clear, white, reddish (only once), and also brown piles. But in what order, I’m not sure. I just cleaned it up.

I took away his food, put him in the bathroom for the night, and hoped for the best. He got sick a few more times, so I left him in the bathroom all day Monday, with water but no food.

Then he got sick twice yesterday while we were at work, but I could tell it was early in the day since the spots were dry. Last night he got sick a bit cuz he ate his food too fast. I guess he was just really hungry from not having food all day. I had given him 3 little wet meals over the course of 5 hours, instead of one big dinner. So he only puked up the last of the three. But he did it in the bathroom, so I’m proud of him for that. And today, he has been free to roam the house as usual.

So after freaking out for almost 2 days, the kitten should be okay. We’re gonna do smaller meals for awhile now. And more of it will be wet food.

I still don’t know what caused it. I think he ate a stinkbug on Sunday, but he’s done that before. We had ants attack again recently, so even though I wiped up the spray, he may have found some and licked it or something. I think he started puking from his window seat, so he could’ve eaten a bug or something from there.

But it seems like he’s going to be fine, and the next expense will be getting him neutered. I’ve been shopping around, but it seems like I’m going to have to shell out the $150 at the vet. Falls Road does it for $19, but that doesn’t include pain meds($35), an IV($63), or anything. So I’m leery of it. I’m gonna try the Animal Welfare Society, but their hours are very limited. So we’ll see.

Otakon is next weekend and this will be my first time attending. Luckily, it’s not my first time making costumes. You can see some of my previous costumes if you’re my friend on Facebook or if you’re in my Google+ circles. I’ve done others costumes and never got pictures of them, but the most recent are:

Irish and I are doing Joker/Harley for Otakon on Saturday and then our group is doing Archer on Sunday. I’ll be Rona Thorne, the Russian sniper double agent. And Irish is going to be Cyril Figgus. He’d be a perfect Krieger, but he’s shaving his face for Joker, so that’s out. Over the next week, I need to fix up our costumes and find the last bits for my Rona costume.

Over the past several weeks, however, I’ve been working on Demon’s outfit – Cloud from Final Fantasy 7, the game. He’s commissioning me, so I was actually happy to do it. I had to make him some black pants, a pauldron, and a belt. I will also be bleaching/dying his hair to blonde. The pants took the most trouble, honestly. I had never made pants before. But they turned out pretty great. And although they’re not all that tight on his waist, they don’t fall down. They’re comfortable.

The pauldron took a lot of creative ingenuity. I ended up using a kneepad from Lowes as the base for it. Then added part of the second kneepad for the neck guard. To make it look like 2 layers of metal, I got crafty with some paper and thin cardboard. Then I coated the whole thing in duct tape, added film canisters as the spikes, and primed it. It wasn’t until after priming that I realized I hadn’t taken any progress shots. So here it is primed:

And then painted black, which is hard to see:

And then I painted it with a light, partially dry brushed coat of silver metallic:


And finally, with the straps all sewn together and on Demon, himself:



I even got him the wolf emblem to clip onto the strap. I was going to put it on the front of the pauldron, but he liked it better this way, so that works for me.

I’ll post the process and pics of the belt next.

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