Is this heaven? No, it’s Gotcha

(I gotcha02ran across a Halloween essay I wrote in 2009 – seemed like a good day to dust it off and re-post).
My favorite part of Halloween in Columbia, Missouri, is trick-or-treating downtown. And the highlight of the evening is always a visit to Gotcha.
Gotcha is a costume shop in downtown Columbia, owned and operated by a gentleman I’ve only known as “Arrow,” along with his family. As one might imagine, the shop is extremely busy on October 31, as college students and others are completing their outfits for upcoming parties. Here’s the scene:
We walk into Gotcha, fighting the crowd a little to get in the door.
Arrow yells, “Make way for the important people!” in reference to Blake and Madilyn as he makes the 30 paying customers in line scoot back two steps to make room.
“Hey, it’s Bumblebee and Hermione!” (note: the kids were mis-identified as a Power Ranger and Harry Potter in most of the other stores) “Come get some candy! Happy Halloween!”
At this point it is important to define “candy” the way Gotcha defines “candy.” We are not talking about Tootsie Rolls or Smarties or half-bite-snack-size Snickers. The kids’ eyes opened wide as they giggled at a basket full of KING SIZE CANDY BARS. Blake grabbed M&Ms. Madilyn beamed at her choice: a 4-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
In a world where kids (particularly once they grow past the cute baby and toddler stages) are typically vilified, ignored, or – at best – tolerated, my children were celebrated as the IMPORTANT PEOPLE by a store owner who surely had much more important things to do on his most profitable day of the year. For 2 minutes they were the stars of the show.
This “let the children come to me” selflessness surprised and overwhelmed me. But why? Had I previously thought (and been taught) that love and acceptance were reserved for more “Christian” environments like home or church? Am I surprised that my kids are cared for in a downtown costume shop? Is the lavish generosity of chocolate somehow different than from God’s gift of grace?
I’m not sure about answers to any of those questions, but I do know this: My children were adored this Halloween, not at a church-sponsored, anti-ghoul Fall Festival, but among the plastic vomit, fake blood, and half-drunk-half-naked college students at Gotcha. It was unconditional love at its finest, and I’m grateful for it.

Google Trends Fun

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

I recently discovered a fun thing: make your own searches in Google Trends.

Google Trends provides a 10+ year graph of how often a word or phrase has been searched on One of my first attempts was my favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, who – for many years – were mediocre before their recent resurgence and World Series championship.


But wait, there’s more! You can also compare multiple search terms to see which is more popular over time. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy my very first “social commentary via Google Trends.”


Elbow room is much more popular than elbow grease (lazy punk kids – what’s wrong with the world?). However, elbow room is trending downward (maybe as millennials and boomers move to the cities?), and elbow grease is gaining momentum (as they build DIY compost bins and make gluten-free bread from tree bark).

I’ve compared colors, celebrity couples, sports teams, modes of travel, hair styles, dog breeds, body parts, etc.  It’s fun. Go play with it.

Taco Dice

On a recent drive by Taco Bell I learned about their latest invention – the Quesalupa.  It got me thinking about what their marketing meetings  might be like.

  • Ok, there are 6 ingredients we use for every single menu item . We’re not adding more, so instead how do we rename what we have?
  • How can we randomly combine new food-sounding words for a new name?
  • How many prefixes, suffixes, letters, layers, and invented words can we add?  How about Stuft?  XXL?
  • Can we just throw these ideas on the wall and choose at random?

Assuming this is true, I figured I could so the same with a Mexican fast food dice-roll game. I bring you TACO DICE.  Here is one of my early throws:


Beefy Chipotle 5-layer Chicken Quesarito Supreme Party Pack

For math nerds, you can roll 4,665,600 different meal options (many fictional, of course).

I had so much fun rolling multiple menu items, that I put together a printable version to share. Print the file linked at the end of this article, cut the dice to build your game, and roll!

Enjoy, and if you play, post your meals in the comments!


Marshall Flinkman ID – finally available!


In preparation for Emerald City Comicon earlier this month, I made a late (ok, night-before) decision to dress as Marshall Flinkman, the amazingly-talented-and-awkward-and-brilliant tech guy on the TV show Alias. Because EVERYTHING is online, I was sure a quick search would yield an easy-to-print name tag / ID card for my costume.

I was wrong.

(Aside – Season 1 of Alias is one of the best stories in any medium. Go binge watch it now.)

Frustrated with this failure of the internet on which I so often rely, I dusted off my Microsoft Paint skills and cobbled together a few bits and pieces to create this important accessory. The information is accurate to the best of my knowledge, including the institution, the address of said institution in real-life Los Angeles, and a bar code that – if scanned – reads “Marshall J Flinkman.” I guessed at his title.

My purpose of posting this image is in the hopes that some day, someone will have a similar need, search “Marshall Flinkman ID card,” and be greeted with this blog post and the solution they desire.  If that person is you, we have been connected across space and time for this moment. I hope it serves you well, and that you’ll create something – even a little silly something – for the next person in need.

What Great Science Looks Like


“The scientific method is the radio edit of great science.

Great science doesn’t look much like the story you’ve been told about people diligently trying to falsify things and all sorts of statistical significance.

Great science looks like breaking into graveyards and digging up bodies when you know you shouldn’t, or trusting your aesthetic sense when the data tells you otherwise.

You may want to tame this thing, but it won’t be tamed. It will always be the case that the leaders of the field are the misfits in the back throwing spitballs rather than the good kids who are always there on time raising their hands.”

-Eric Weinstein

About the Author

I’ve been writing bits and pieces of things for most of my nearly 40 years.  Sketches and essays in random notebooks, notes files on computers and phones, and abandoned blogs (see here and here… oh, and here).

But now it’s official. Amazon has deemed me an author.

And so has a real-life book publisher, as they “proudly present” my latest writing project.flyer

I’m hopeful that the book – written primarily for a semi-technical yet non-expert audience of students and practitioners – will serve as an introduction to traffic safety as we continue to grow and evolve the craft. Technology and psychology continuously change how and why people travel from here to there and back again.  I hope to do my small part to help all road users stay safe.