What Words Did You Mispronounce Because You Read More Than You Spoke?

All good readers will know the problem: You’re talking to your friends, and there is That Embarrassed Pause in the conversation.  And you realize you just used a word you’ve read often, but never heard spoken out loud.

“…is that the way it’s pronounced?” you ask.

“Nope,” they say.

Which, for us bookworms, is a constant peril.  We know how the words sound in our head.  But that’s stupidly not the way words should be.

My personal nightmare?  “Bouquet.”  That word is the sole reason I do not speak French to this day, because it is a stupid word that I still maintain should be pronounced “boo-kwet.”  I was in fifth grade, and they expected me to know foreign vowels?  Unfair.

But I had my friend Jim who staunchly pronounced it “annie-hill-ate” because, confoundingly, Star Trek had an episode with a cool title – “Operation: Annihilate!” – yet nobody in the episode actually spoke of annihilating anything.

So, beloved readers, share your embarrassment: What word did you stumble over?

Christmas Is Coming! What Gifts Should I Ask For?

So Christmas is coming up, and so is my Annual Greed List, where I make a list of everything that I currently want to find in my stocking.  Which started out as a way for my family to help understand their terminally-nerdy son, and actually has evolved into a interesting tracking of my habits over the years.

(For example, I can look back over past Greed Lists and chart the demise of physical music CDs, see how the roleplaying market crashed and was revived through Kickstarter, see the hobbies I started and got bored by.  It’s great.)

Which leads me to ask: What cool-yet-affordable things should be on my Greed List this year?  Which RPGs are cannot-miss, which videogames are so cool that I cannot live without them, which geeky trinkets are so stellar that I must have them beneath my tree this year?

What has escaped my nerdy eye?  Please!  Tell me, so I can compile The List properly.

The Pummeled Weasel

So life’s been a series of body blows lately, and I’m not doing particularly well.

Which is to say my wife’s been having medical issues for two months, a cascade of problems that started with serious pneumonia and now has her bouncing from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment as they collect more data to find out what’s wrong. And my Dad has been having some issues, and my sweeties have been suffering from profound depression and worsening chronic illnesses, and a friend of mine has been in and out of the hospital.

I’m starting to cringe when I pick up the phone.

And my resilience is slipping. I pride myself on being there for people when they need me, but even mildly bad news is putting me into a state of shock. I’m drinking more than I should be – which is not a lot, but I know myself well enough to know when I’m itching for the bottle – and the thought of being with people I like is sending me into spirals of self-loathing because I should want to be with friends and yet I can’t bear the company.

I’m trying to retreat. The problem is, there’s nowhere to retreat to. The only way to retreat right now is to abandon, and I can’t do that – well, I can’t do that and respect myself come the morning.

It’s foolish, because I shouldn’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. But even mild conflicts are making me panic, forcing me to fight past my own sluggish instincts, and getting anything done involves me staring at the computer screen for an hour before I finally, desperately, put my fingers on the keyboard.

I have a lot to say politically, too.

I feel like I’m letting people down by being silenced.

And what I don’t want to hear is how I should be easier on myself, because as much as I’d like it, that’s not happening and frankly I wouldn’t want it to happen. My ambition has always exceeded my grasp. I have big dreams and work long hours to make them happen. That’s a part of me that’s brought me to good places, and I don’t want that to be neutered. I *should* have broad goals.

Yet as I was driving to pick up food for dinner last night, I felt this burning urge to call my mother. I didn’t. Because I realized what I was going to beg my mother to promise me was that it was all going to be all right.

She can’t promise that.

Nobody can.

You don’t have to help. But if you do, well, just realize I’m being flaky right now to my real-life friends because everything since September has been a chaotic shitstorm and I am not coping well. Bearing with me as I get overwhelmed and shut down would help. I miss you but every time I think about reaching out another diagnosis drops through the door.

And if you’re not a real-life friend, gentle kindnesses are good. Sending pictures of smiling faces are good. Flirts are good, assuming you understand that sometimes I’m flirting and then Gini comes back from the doctor and I just forget everything.

Good news is good. If you’re happy about something, telling me that is good. I’m tired of cynicism, I’m tired of despair, I’m drained to redline by so many things going wrong that honestly, every time someone tells me of progress in their life it reminds me that progress can be made.

Progress has not been made around here in a few months. Or so it feels. There are good moments, and I cling to them, but they feel swallowed up in a sea of turbulent news that’s all terror and no firm way to fight.

Hearing your untrammeled happiness helps me fight. So I hope you’re doing well.

I Love Westworld, But I Don’t Think You Will. Here’s Why.

So I am absolutely enamored with Westworld, the new HBO show.  I’ve been watching it since the second episode, and with each week the mysteries have been revealed – the show obscures events but doesn’t hide the clues, and it’s been playing fair.  Some of the fan theories that people gave in Episode Two have panned out to be true, and last night’s episode confirmed not one but several popular theories.

That said, I don’t know if you’d like it.

It’s sort of like reading the Harry Potter books when they came out – there was something delicious about waiting years for the next book, for watching kids grow up with Harry Potter, their emotional age deepening as the books handled increasingly complex concepts.

You could read them all in a summer now, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be as satisfying for any as for, say, my daughter, who started reading Harry Potter at age 6 and finished the last book when she was 14.  She grew up with Harry, as Harry grew up with her.

Likewise, I’d say only about 40% of my enjoyment of Westworld comes from the show.  The rest comes from that week between the shows when my wife and I are listening to podcast, finding crazy fan theories on Reddit, talking with my friends about ZOMG DID YOU HEAR.

And the reason this show is so intensely satisfying is that we’re paying close attention to every detail on the screen – and sure enough, all of them mattered.  There was a moment that could have been clumsy blocking, with a character appearing out of nowhere, but nope – that was a clue.  There was a weird composition to a photograph, but nope – that too was a clue.

At this point, the show is turning into a reward for all the hard work the fans have put into it.  They gave the clues to the mystery, and by and large we’ve solved it.  (Though predictably, some of the fans are complaining that the show is predictable now that they’ve spent all this time analyzing it.  THAT’S ON YOU BUDDY.)

And I was talking to my Dad, and I told him I loved the show but I don’t know if I could get him to love the show.  Because when he watched it, I’d give him a DVD for his birthday and he’d spend a week or two watching it all, and if he went to look at fan theories he’d see everything summarized and encapsulated.

Whereas we’ve been scrutinizing every scrap of information they gave us.  We’ve been dealing with incompletes.  And we’re pretty sure how it’s going to end at this point, but that’s because we’re active participants, not just inhaling the narrative but digesting, dissecting, unraveling.

The first season ends this Sunday.  And though over time, millions of other people will watch that finale, they’ll never watch it in the same way that Gini and I will – as a climax not just to the story, but of our analysis of the story.

I can’t wait.

While Y’All Are Buying Christmas Presents, May I Remind You My Book FLEX Is On Sale?

It’s Black Friday, which is pretty much Cyber Friday at this point, and lots of y’all will be logging on to Amazon/Barnes and Nobles/iTunes/et cetera to purchase gifts for all your loved ones.

This will be my final reminder that my book FLEX is currently on a big ol’ sale, and can be purchased for a third of the price you’d normally get it at.  Maybe you’ve read FLEX, and you’re going, “My Gosh, I know Uncle Festus would love a tale featuring sexy plump videogamemancers and noble bureaucrat-magicians who work to make the world better!”  Maybe you’re splurging for yourself, and you’ve said, “My, that Ferrett fellow is fascinating, I’ve been meaning to put his fiction on my e-book and leave it there for literally months until I get around to it!”

Well, FLEX is $1.99 in America and 99 pence in the UK, and by gosh it’s not only less than a Starbucks coffee but it also has a lot more discussion of magical drugs.

So anyway!  Here’s the list of places it is, at least for now, on sale:

And if you purchase it, well, you’ll have also gotten me a Christmas gift as well, so you’ve struck two ferrets with one stone.  What could be better than hitting me with a rock?