Autoblography Part 12: The Reboot

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 14, 2011

Filed under: Personal 142 comments

It’s 1982, and my life is in the process of being rebooted. Mom’s troublemaker friends are gone, the substance abuse has stopped, and the number of medications rolling around in my bloodstream is reduced to a very reasonable two. The world has come back into focus.

Mom remarries, filling in that persistent gap in my life where a father should have been. I don’t like Dave at first. He’s… Well, he’s not my dad. I’ve never had a dad before, but I still resent this stranger entering my life and taking the spot on the pedestal I’ve reserved for my idealized biological father. Like all grown men, Dave is big and scary and his voice is like a terrifying storm when he raises it. He’s never been a father before. A lifelong bachelor, he’s suddenly got an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old on his hands. He’s playing catch-up.

This was taken in 1984.  There are actually very, very few pictures of anyone during the Dark Year and the Reboot Year, 1981-1983.  At first there was nothing anyone wanted to remember, and then we were too busy forming a new family to take pictures.
This was taken in 1984. There are actually very, very few pictures of anyone during the Dark Year and the Reboot Year, 1981-1983. At first there was nothing anyone wanted to remember, and then we were too busy forming a new family to take pictures.

Despite our early friction, his presence in my life has a profound and transformative impact on how I see myself and the world around me. Without realizing it, I’ve been slowly becoming a man, and now I have a stable template to work from. I’ve adopted a few surrogate fathers over the years, but here is a model that I can observe on a daily basis, and who isn’t going to vanish as friends come and go. He’s dependable. Hard working. Honest. I don’t even know it yet, but Dave is shaping me just by living under the same roof.

My sister Ruth is born. The new family begins to solidify. Babies are a taxing burden in those early months, and the challenge brings us together. She’s something we all have in common: We love the baby. Mom, Patrick and I all had a certain degree of damage and mutually inflicted scars left over from The Dark Year, and Ruth gives us a way to set all those things aside and move on. She gives us a way to connect with Dave. She’s the glue that holds this new family together.

In less than a year we move out of the city, away from the bad kids and our industrial playground.

As we move into the new house, I see another boy standing at the end of the lane, watching the adults haul furniture and debate about what rooms things ought to go in. For no reason, I abandon my introverted ways and go over to meet him. This is David, and he will be my best friend from this point, until my wife steals the title of “best friend” away from him in a couple of decades. Quiet, introspective, and intelligent, David just happens to be my age and share a lot of the same interests. He’s even a Christian, and also like me he diverges from a lot of the doctrines and preferences of his parents. (Although for him it’s much more deliberate. A lot of my ideas are still simmering in my sub-conscious. It will be several years before I have the knowledge to begin articulating these views, and longer still before I have the audacity to do so.)

Yes, my best friend and my stepfather have the same name. For clarity, Dave is my stepdad, and David is my friend. (Oh, and the guy who visited my house and told me about Jesus? That guy was also named Dave.) If any more Daves show up, I’m naming them Bodkin Van Horn, Snimm, and Sunny Jim.

I don’t have any pictures of David, and I don’t know that it would be right to share them if I did, but as an adult David looks a bit like Paul Saunders from Loading Ready Run. He even has a similar low, mellow voice and speaking cadence.

David is an ideal friend for me. We operate on a very similar wavelength. We’re fellow nerds, and I’ve never had another nerd as a friend. He’s a music nerd (keyboards now, but someday he’ll add the trumpet and the guitar to his skill set) and an excellent student. He’s patient and completely accepting of my eccentricities and verbal tics. He’s validation that I am not some sort of mutant. His friendship proves that I am love-able to people outside my family.

Dad returns, for good. He rents a place in town, and Patrick and I begin visiting him every Sunday. After church, Mom drops us off at his dismal, run-down basement apartment and we spend the afternoon playing chess, watching TV, and joking around. We never really got to know him before, and these steady weekly visits allow us to remedy that. He seems somehow different than what I remember. More lucid, and stable.

Dad has a habit that I will emulate once I’m out on my own: His kitchen table is one giant inbox of eternally neglected items. Bits of writing, mail, magazines, shopping lists, open books, and newspapers cover the surface except for the one spot where he eats, which always has his utensils.

“What’s this?” I ask, holding up some sort of chip or marker I find floating around in the pile.

Dad explains that this was given to him as a memento after achieving six consecutive months of sobriety. I don’t get it. He doesn’t elaborate, and I don’t ask. I’ll eventually learn more about what he’s been doing for the last ten years, but not yet. Healing first, then understanding.

Dad makes us do his dishes when we visit. This bugs me. It looks like he lets them pile up all week, and then sets us to the task as soon as we arrive. It’s not a lot of dishes – he seems to re-use the same utensils and plates a great deal – but I do wonder why he lets them pile up like this. It doesn’t occur to me that he does this because it’s incredibly difficult to do dishes with one hand. I don’t really think about his disability. In fact, I sometimes wonder why he gives me these goofy one-armed half-hugs before I remember. Oh yeah! Right. The arm thing.

This is the only time his coffee mug is cleaned, and it shows. The inside of the white cup is brown. “There’s… there’s coffee matter inside of this cup,” I complain. (I guess the word “residue” hasn’t worked its way into my vocabulary yet.)

He throws his head back and – to my great annoyance – looses out one of his deep, slow laughs. “Coffee matter!” he says when he’s caught his breath.

For years he will rib me about this, and a decade from now we’ll still be joking about “coffee matter”, like I discovered some sort of new caffeinated, bean-based atom.

So this has been a pivotal eighteen months or so:

  1. We became Christians, causing Mom to leave behind (or be left by) her old circle of friends, who had done so much damage to us.
  2. Dave entered my life as a stable role-model.
  3. I reconnected with my biological father and began healing old wounds.
  4. We left behind the bad kids and worse playgrounds in town for the relative peace and safety of the suburbs.
  5. Patrick and I were deemed old enough to look after ourselves, and the entire miserable babysitter system is dropped.
  6. My sister was born.
  7. I made an important friend.
  8. I went off of most of the drugs I’d been taking.

I normally hate change, but all of this upheaval comes as a long-awaited sigh of relief. It felt like dropping an immense burden and simply walking away from it. For years I’d just accepted that scorn, fear, uncertainty, and isolation were just a normal part of life, and I took it for granted that things would be like that forever. I found myself suddenly relieved of pains so old that I didn’t even have names for them. I was released from problems that stretched back further than my own memories.

I start school in a month or so. I’ll be going into sixth grade. For the first time, I’ll be starting the school year with resignation instead of loathing and dread.


From The Archives:

142 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 12: The Reboot

  1. Harry says:

    Glad to see the Dark Year is well and truly over! Is it weird that I’m so invested in the well-being of your younger self, despite knowing beyond doubt that you turn out fine in the end? XD

    1. SteveDJ says:

      It feels like watching a prequel movie (a “well made” prequel…) — you know how things are going to turn out, as you’ve already seen the original later-timeline movie, yet you still sit there gripped by the telling of this new story.

      Well done, Shamus! Keep up the great work!

      1. James Pony says:

        That’s just good writing.

        It’s the reason most TV-shows, movies and video games are fucking stupid. Compare, for example, HL2 to many other games. You can see how HL2 has quiet moments while other games start pretty much by EXPLODING IN YOUR FACE and then keep ramping up the EXTREME EPIC EXPLOSIONS until you wonder why you are playing this shit and not HL2 (or other good games). TV-shows and movies are stupid because they don’t believe in good writing.
        Another example: How many times have you heard someone suggesting a movie/TV-show/game about WW1 and someone else immediately replying with how it would be boring because WW1 was nothing but sitting in trenches? But the thing is, there was a lot more going on than just “sitting in trenches” and good writing could really strike home what a senseless clusterfuck of a slaughterfest the whole damn thing was! Not to mention all the gigabillions of interesting things history is full of.
        But hey, audiences are stupid and good writers don’t write explosions for the ADHD-kids into every scene so let’s have another season of retarded reality-show #1140718524670174.3125-Triple-Gamma-Red!

        You can easily tell that Shamus is a good writer by just making a very simplified summary of what all these posts contain. Then imagine a bad writer trying to make equally long posts where that summary would apply. Yeah.

        1. Katen says:

          Blackadder Goes Forth (fourth season of Blackadder) is set during WWI. They do mostly sit in trenches. And it’s hilarious.

          1. James Pony says:

            Exactly my point. With good writing, you can make anything interesting. It’s just a bad excuse by bad writers (and ignorant audiences) to say (for example) a WW1 movie/show/game would be boring just because it’s not all super exciting fireballs and backflipping cars jumping through hoops that are on fire.

            1. Nick says:

              Whilst in principle I agree that you can make a good game from any decent source material with good writing, I think in the context of WW1 people inevitably think of shooter games, which mostly do live and die on action, even if it’s not in your face.

              Sitting in a trench for a long period of time might make for interesting stories but it’s hard to turn that into an interactive narrative.

              Now, a game set AROUND WW1 might be more interesting, like being a spy behind enemy lines or a spotter in an aircraft or even a general making tactical moves from a long distance away. You could even culminate that first one with an actual push out of the trenches, just to underscore how bloody and pointless it could be.

              Oh, and yes Blackadder is awesome

              1. Atarlost says:

                WWI really wants to be a turn based strategy game.

                1. Alexander The 1st says:

                  And that explains why WWII and WWIII desperately wants to be an FPS. [/X-Com] :p

              2. Usually_Insane says:

                Red Baron was a wonderful flight sim set in the First world war, and blue byte software made History Line: 1914-1918 in 1992.
                There are a lot of games out there about this period, which, much like games set in the korean war, don’t get their due amount of attention :(

  2. Jarenth says:

    I like the term ‘Reboot Year’. And while we obviously knew that the earlier period of misery would end at some point, I’m still glad we’re now at the part of the story where that happens.

    I’m symphathizing with Past Shamus, apparently. I know you’ve made some jests about ‘living a more interesting life’, but I for one am gripped. I didn’t experience nearly half of the life-changing things you did, for better or for worse.

    EDIT: What Harry up there said, basically.

  3. kaljtgg says:

    Very good read, Shamus, very good read.

    1. Raynooo says:

      No need to write the same thing so : +1

    2. asterismW says:

      Yes. This.

    3. RichVR says:

      Yep. Same here.

    4. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:


    5. Dragomok says:

      I can feel the feeling of relief radiating from this blog-post.

  4. Aanok says:

    Well, I can’t say it’s not a relief to read such things, I agree with Jarenth.

    You might want to review your enumeration at the end of the post, though. I think a number slipped by.

  5. Cody says:

    These entries are some of the most interesting I’ve read on your blog, you are a really great writer man. I can’t wait to read that book you’ve been cooking up.

  6. James says:

    I see that you haven’t changed your hair-style since 1984, if the picture at the top of the page is anything to go by.

    Also, knowing that alcoholism and addictive personalities can run in the family, are you teetotal, or have made an effort to be?

    1. Sydney says:

      This comment belongs in a museum of some kind. Exactly what kind is left as an exercise to the reader.

  7. Stormkitten says:

    It says something, when resignation toward school is an improvement. I’m appreciating these posts too. (I would say enjoying, but that doesn’t feel like quite the right word.)

  8. ccesarano says:

    Off topic: Seeing as the last post got 700+ comments by time of the writing of this comment, you think it’s time to have an official forum now mayhaps?

    On topic: I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a cliffhanger. We got to see your interest in computers just a little early on, but in the years since haven’t seen so much as an Atari or Colecovision. I’m a bit curious where all that stuff suddenly hammers in and drives your professional interests (as well as love of gaming…and on that note, wondering about your love of D&D, and then your like of anime (that seems to have dwindled as this blog has grown)).

    Man, I am just too curious about your life now. I think there’s a market for “The Life of a Geek” book, though. Seeing how someone find themselves starting in the 70’s, seeing the evolution of technology, I think there are people that would find some sort of kindred spirit in it, as well as nostalgia and introspection.

    1. KremlinLaptop says:

      Seeing as the last post got 700+ comments by time of the writing of this comment, you think it's time to have an official forum now mayhaps?

      Please, please, please. It’d be the BEST FORUM EVER. Seriously.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      I’ve no objection, but I have to ask: What material improvement would a forum give?

      1. Raygereio says:

        None; other then making the different discussion lines in the comments more clearer and easier to follow when we get into the 100+ comments.

        1. Heather says:

          Yeah, not likely– I run several “groups” on Facebook (don’t ask– they were NOT my plan) and spend most of my day moderating them meanwhile Shamus spends most of HIS day moderating here. Between the two of us, his writing, my painting, and our kids there is literally no time left for a “forum”. (Have run forums in the past– they ar ea full time job.)

          1. ccesarano says:

            My solution to that would be to find several regular commentators you trust with good rational behavior and appoint them. I moderated a forum a long time ago, and it mostly worked because there were enough moderators that were on at different times of the day, and thus could address issues at any time required.

            Even so, consider a forum a sort of “wish list”. This is the most civil and intelligent community I’ve found online aside from, and I feel like the individual page comments don’t do it justice. Plus, it’s easy to miss good points due to how sprawling these comments get, easy to see responses, and easy for similar topics to be repeated due to skimming longer comment threads.

            I understand choices not to implement a forum, though. I like forums, especially ones with intelligent and benevolent communities (and especially when my job is boring and I can’t stand it). It seems one would be convenient for the community, but if you feel the personal responsibility to moderate one that heavily I can understand it not being worthwhile in the end.

            1. ccesarano says:

              Blargh! I thought this was lost to the ether of the Internet, hence my post below. BLARGH!

          2. Moridin says:

            Many forums have moderators picked from the people posting there. Considering how many intelligent commenters this blog gets, I don’t see why that wouldn’t work here as well. Add the fact that a lot of discussion would move from the comments here to the forum and Shamus might even end up having to do less moderating stuff himself. The initial investment of time would still be pretty big, though.

            1. tjtheman5 says:

              I nominate Daemeon Lucifer (did I spell that right?), X2-Elijah, and Jarenth.

              1. X2-Eliah says:

                Thanks, but I wouldn’t go near such a responsibility with a big stick… Just plain don’t have the time to burn on such an effort (and I don’t think a forum would contribute to this in any meaningful way – this is, after all, a blog by Shamus about Stuff Shamus Wants to Tell Us, and not a Place Hosted by Shamus Where People Tell Stuff and He Has To Moderate Constantly)…

              2. MrWhales says:

                Can I nominate myself? I would love to give to this Twenty Sided community.

            2. ccesarano says:

              I thought of this as well, but ultimately it is up to Shamus. I moderated a rather active and frequently trolled forum in the past, and we had moderators who were present at different times of day, but there was never a time the forum was never covered. I’m also thinking the community here would likely be like that of GamersWithJobs, where trolls and bickerments(?) rarely, super rarely, occur.

              I know some of my reasons for wanting a forum are purely selfish, though. I hate my job right now. It’s boring and dull and crappy. I could use anything to make the time pass faster. I also feel like I miss some of the interesting discussion by not fully reading comment threads (which, often enough, end up repeating things as other people skim through). It seems a forum would be able to present and organize discussions in a much better fashion.

              But, the decision is, ultimately, that of Shamus. I’m just putting a vote forward for yes (also, who said Mumbles, Rutskarn and Josh can’t moderate?)

            3. Chris says:

              That is a bad idea in the end because I always end up telling someone to stick it where the sun does not shine.

          3. silver Harloe says:

            Except moderating a “forum of here” wouldn’t have to be different than moderating here. The difference between a forum and a blog is almost entirely a matter of who is empowered to create new threads – minus some organizational things (which forums generally get better).

        2. JPH says:

          “more clearer”


          1. Raygereio says:

            Yeah I know; if I was a native English speaker I would have been very embarrassed right now (Though to be honest, directly translated that would have been wrong in Dutch as well).
            I never pick up mistakes like that in any language I use immediatly after writing something. It’s always a couple of hours afterwards when I start seeing the obvious errors and go Doh!.

            1. theLameBrain says:

              As it is: PFFFFT!

              1. Raygereio says:

                My use of the English language is so appalling you’ve sprung a leak? o_O

                1. Ramsus says:

                  Hahaha, I think I may have to use that line sometime.

      2. krellen says:

        It would allow us to run forum-based RPGs.

        1. Mari says:

          No. If Shamus ever starts running online RPGs it will be via a G+ hangout and I *will* be in it.

          1. krellen says:

            Who said Shamus had to run them all?

    3. klasbo says:

      Since this is Shamus’ personal website and blog, having a forum with user-generated content seems contrary (for the lack of a better word) to the intentions of the site.

      Though I could see potential for creating more forum-esque features for the comments section, such as a better quoting system and image & video embedding (though the latter might get messy, both visually and in code).

  9. Rick Tacular says:

    Totally off topic, but here we go:

    I would love the idea of a Twenty Sided Forum, if we could all agree to let things like religion, politics, and all the other divisive topics be kept for other forums that have already been ruined by them. I remember being on a forum where there were great geek discussions about comics and movies and TV and gaming and so many other things, but I was driven away by the majority’s rabid and unflinching dogma to their political and religious beliefs. Have them, embrace them, it’s good, but let’s just *enjoy* ourselves and leave the heavy stuff behind, huh?

    Back on topic: Shamus, I’ve been reading your essays about growing up and am so impressed by your introspection. I read them and think to myself, “Well, at least you’re smart and have the medications to blame; me, I did and had the same things happen to me and it was just because I was a spastic kid.” Ah, well, back to this being about you. ;-)

    1. swenson says:

      Agreed on leaving out politics and religion. On a writing/nerdly things forum I’m on, it’s a semi-official rule that we just Do Not talk about religion or politics. People occasionally do mention their beliefs if it’s topical, but discussion on the topic is, while not outright banned, avoided. We just feel that we’re all friends and we’d all like to stay that way, so we’d better not talk about things like that!

    2. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:

      We only really pull that stuff out here when Shamus does first. (Not that I’m accusing him or anything.) I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but most posts don’t have anything like the amount or content of the discussion yesterday’s post created. Usually, this site is in fact very geeky. Look up the physics of Portal post if you don’t believe me.

  10. Mom says:

    A forum on Shamus’ life? Are you guys serious? Where do I go to hide? ;-/

    1. Rick Tacular says:

      Ah hah. Ah hah-hah.


    2. Mari says:

      And the coffee spew moment of the day goes to Shamus’ mom! So now I know where he gets the ability leave my monitor a soggy, dripping mess of coffee matter.

    3. MichaelG says:

      Never should have taught him to talk…

  11. kmc says:

    I may be reading into this because I want to, but you look so happy in that photo, Shamus. I’m so glad.

  12. X2-Eliah says:

    Hmmm. I.. I kinda hope that you & your brother weren’t overly mean to Dave. It’s pretty hard coming into an already-established family, and it’s quite natural that kids will be going up against the ‘replacement-of-dad’ in their view, but.. From what you described, he seemed like a decent enough guy.

    1. Shamus says:

      Mean? Gah. We were TERRIFIED of him. :)

      1. Ruthie says:

        He got mad one day and shot the dog. It’s a long story. But the event only made Shamus even more afraid of Dave. Shamus was certainly never mean to Dad.

        1. Heather says:

          Ruth, now I have to get the rest of this story. All Shamus will say is “it happened”. And this is hilarious either way– can just imagine Dave.

          1. Ruthie says:

            We had a dog named bear that lived in a dog house at the bottom of the hill in the back of the house. He barked all the time, and I suppose got on everyone’s nerves… especially our extremely grumpy neighbor who worked with dad at Armco. Grumpy neighbor and Dad were both on night shift, and were trying to sleep. Neighbor called and said “Dave, take care of that dog, or I’ll do it for you”… or something along those lines. Dad was mad at neighbor, mad at dog, went out and shot dog.
            Shamus was home sick, didn’t really know what happened… just that Dad got angry and shot the dog. Dad got angry a lot, but had never done anything this extreme… and it was pretty scary I imagine.
            *The dog was not loved by our family. I remember it’s existence, but I wasn’t allowed to pet him, he was too rough.

            1. fernando says:

              Spoilers :-P

  13. RCTrucker7 says:

    “Autoblography Part 12: The Reboot”

    Awesome sub-title.

  14. SougoXIII says:

    You know, somehow I can’t stop reading this without a smile on my face. :)

  15. SolkaTruesilver says:

    All right. I am afraid to ask, but I think I missed an important point somewhere. You keep referring that your mother’s old circle of friends did so much bad things to you.

    I might have missed that from your other posts, can somebody points me out to where this is elaborated?

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Part 8 has some mentions.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        Ah! Got it.

        Thanks Eliah; everybody else, just move along…

  16. Ruthie says:

    I love that you met David on the first day of moving to the house! How absolutely perfect, and movie-like. Knowing both of you, I’m surprised he came over and just watched, and I’m surprised you engaged him. It was meant to be!
    And I love being the “glue”…
    Babies are such an amazing gift. The power of new life heals so many wounds and hurts. It makes me think of the book of Ruth in the Bible. The main character Ruth is a widow, and chooses to live and take care of her widowed mother in-law Naomi. Ruth remarries, and has a baby. Naomi becomes one of the main caregivers for this baby. His little life brings her so much joy and healing, and restores their entire family. [that son becomes the grandfather of David, (wait, another David!) as in David and Goliath, and David]
    Not that I was that profound… but God sure is awesome. I thought of my birth as an “oops”… but maybe God knew just what our family needed.

    1. Mari says:

      My favorite book of the Bible is Ruth because I love that story. And I think it’s kind of awesome that you’re another Ruth.

      1. Mom says:

        Another sign in our minds that God had his hand on us was that after Dave and I dated a bit, I discovered his Grandmother was a close friend of my mother’s through their church. (My childhood church) I had a Bible signed by her as she was the Sunday School Superintendent of my childhood and I remembered her well. Her name was Ruth

        1. Mari says:

          Wow. That really is a God thing, isn’t it? Amazing!

          1. Nick says:

            Could we keep the God talk to the previous blog entry? Seriously, I get what you are saying and my own beliefs are basically anethema to this, and if I had less respect for Shamus and his blog this post would probably have ended up being something scathing.

            Shamus, feel free to delete this if this overstepping the bounds in your eyes, I just had to say this or it was going to eat at me

            1. Chris says:

              You are trying to moderate Shamus’s mom? You are out of your mind.

            2. Ruthie says:

              Isn’t the point of commenting on Shamus’ writing, to say how it impacted you? That’s how I see most of the responses… Things like: “I had a similar teacher” or “One time I *fill in the blank* too!” or how about all the open debate on the value/disaster of the public education system?
              So I responded in a way that showed just how it impacted me.
              Also, it should be noted that blog#11 tells the story of Shamus deciding that Jesus was who he said he was, and is just the thing he’s been looking for. However, “God talk”, “religion” or any other term you wish to label Christianity and it’s ideals, has been apart of Shamus is life from that point on. It’s present in #12, and will be present in #19, and is present today.

          2. asterismW says:

            I, however, find this tangent thread insightful and beautiful and appreciate it very much. I do not find it out of place, insulting, or rude. I’m glad you women shared something with the rest of us that makes you happy, because it in turn made me happy.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      I’m waiting for the part where Shamus starts describing you as the “spoiled princess” of the family – you haven’t aged that much yet in this blog, I’m presuming. It’s only a matter of time. :p


      On another unrelated note, taking a look at the picture up in the blog, if you told me that Shamus’ and yours mom was an older brother of Shamus, I would’ve believed it. That picture just…maybe it’s the size comparision to Dave in the end, but man you (Referring to Shamus, Mom Pat, and Grandma) and all look the same size. I can’t not see her as your brothers anymore. It’s creepy-ish.


      Further un-related and directed at Shamus, it’s good to know we’re back on the up-swing for the blog. Is there a specific number of parts you have in mind, or is going to be 40 posts to celebrate your birthday? You’re already a quarter of the way there… :p

      1. Shamus says:

        Not sure about the end point. I’m writing ninth grade now, which ought to end up around entry #19 in the series. Do I stop at graduation? At getting married? At launching this blog?

        Hard to say. We’ll see.

        1. Ramsus says:

          Clearly you should stop one day after the last entry of the series. Somehow.

          Really though, it would be nice to not miss out on what’s happened to you post blog too (I’m sure a lot of the more long time members know stuff but I don’t think I’m ever going to stroll through every comment ever to find out).

        2. uberfail says:

          And then I wrote and Autoblogography.

          The End.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            Awwww, I was hoping he’d write an Autoblogography entry or 2 or more about the process of autoblogography at that point – that’s an awful cliffhanger to give us!


            More seriously though, I do hope when you do end it that at least you’re satisfied with where you stop.

            Personally, if I were you, I’d stop at graduation, namely because that’s where most of your “About Me” page kicks in – though IIRC, you had some posts earlier on in the blog about some of your high school stuff (Can’t remember where it is, but the one where you went to that contest thing with that hotel at that place and causing all that hotel phone dialing?), so you could probably just start a round-up before that, just turning into a Autolinkography for an entry.

            I don’t know – it’s up to you, yeah?

              1. Alexander The 1st says:

                Yeap. How did you find it?

        3. Mephane says:

          Actually, I think your wedding would be a fantastic ending to the series.

          And then Heather could also write her autoblogography in a similar style, and then you put them together in a book. I want to buy that book.

        4. Jarenth says:

          I think’s it’s pretty obvious where this should end.

          1. MichaelG says:

            Did you ever read that interview in Slashdot with Neal Stephenson, where he’s asked “in a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?” Both were big cyberpunk writers at the time. The answer is probably too long for a blog post, but hey, Shamus can always delete it.


            In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?


            You don’t have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

            The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson’s Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson’s arms.

            Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled.

            Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle.

            The second time was a few years later when Gibson came through Seattle on his IDORU tour. Between doing some drive-by signings at local bookstores, he came and devastated my quarter of the city. I had been in a trance for seven days and seven nights and was unaware of these goings-on, but he came to me in a vision and taunted me, and left a message on my cellphone.

            That evening he was doing a reading at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. Swathed in black, I climbed to the top of the hall, mesmerized his snipers, sliced a hole in the roof using a plasma cutter, let myself into the catwalks above the stage, and then leapt down upon him from forty feet above.

            But I had forgotten that he had once studied in the same monastery as I, and knew all of my techniques. He rolled away at the last moment. I struck only the lectern, smashing it to kindling. Snatching up one jagged shard of oak I adopted the Mountain Tiger position just as you would expect. He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head. From there, the fight proceeded along predictable lines.

            As a stalemate developed we began to resort more and more to the use of pure energy, modulated by Red Lotus incantations of the third Sung group, which eventually to the collapse of the building’s roof and the loss of eight hundred lives. But as they were only peasants, we did not care.

            Our third fight occurred at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver. Gibson wished to retire from that sort of lifestyle that required ceaseless training in the martial arts and sleeping outdoors under the rain. He only wished to sit in his garden brushing out novels on rice paper. But honor dictated that he must fight me for a third time first.

            Of course the Peace Arch did not remain standing for long. Before long my sword arm hung useless at my side. One of my psi blasts kicked up a large divot of earth and rubble, uncovering a silver metallic object, hitherto buried, that seemed to have been crafted by an industrial designer. It was a nitro-veridian device that had been buried there by Sterling. We were able to fly clear before it detonated. The blast caused a seismic rupture that split off a sizable part of Canada and created what we now know as Vancouver Island.

            This was the last fight between me and Gibson. For both of us, by studying certain ancient prophecies, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Sterling’s professed interest in industrial design was a mere cover for work in superweapons. Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers’ conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

      2. Ruthie says:

        Bahahahaha! I’m almost certain that Shamus would never describe me in that light. Someone else might though. But I won’t be a spoiler

  17. Hitch says:

    I can’t help but be curious about the decision to reduce your medication? How was that reached and by who? Or was it one of those thing that you were left out of? Were you just given fewer pills without any consultation or explanation?

    Also, I’m guessing that we haven’t got to that point yet. But please, even if it isn’t interesting, let us know at what point computers and roleplaying games enter your life. After all, it’s your interest in those that drew almost all of us to this site in the first place.

    1. Heather says:

      His mom didn’t like him on all the meds and they didn’t seem like they were making much cifference (and if I recall she was really upset at all the facial and verbal tiks he developed while on them– dropped down to just his asthma medicine. I am sure there is more to the story but that is the gist of it.

      1. BeamSplashX says:

        I know it’s a typo, but “cifference” should be a word.

    2. Mari says:

      Shamus already mentioned that early fascination with computers when he was in the “special” classroom and got to take the neat computer test. I’m sure the rest is coming soon.

  18. Meredith says:

    It feels odd to comment on this as if it’s a story currently in progress and not your history, but I’m glad to see things looking up for all of you.

  19. swenson says:

    This was a relief to read after the Dark Year posts. I smiled the whole way through! Glad to know that life does get better eventually.

    And I have to agree, the subtitle is a great one.

  20. Sean says:

    I’ve had a similar experience, though mine was moving from 7th grade in a very small private school to a public high school (yes, there was no 8th grade for me). It was like a completely new start, and all these fears and pains just… disappeared.

    This series is amazing, and probably more than a little hard to write at times. I applaud you, and I am thoroughly enjoying the intimate, matter-of-fact review of your life.

  21. JimminyJoJo says:

    Wow, Shamus. I was apprehensive to read this autoblography series at first, thinking ‘How interesting could the life of a middle-aged programming geek be?’

    Apparently interesting enough to keep me on the edge of my seat each day waiting for the next part! It’s your powerful introspection and the talent you have for putting that into writing in a way that (I hate this phrase with the force of a thousand suns, but here it is relevant.) “connects with your audience”.

    This is great stuff! I would actually pay money for this if I had any!

    1. BeamSplashX says:

      I dunno, the reason I was drawn to Shamus’ blog was that he was a middle-aged programming geek that was also great at explaining high-level concepts (he could be John Carmack’s English translator, even) and really damn funny.

      I was curious as to why more people don’t end up like him.

      1. Mari says:

        I’m thinking there are probably a LOT of geeks that could use Shamus as an English translator.

      2. Michael says:

        Yeah, when Carmack talks I hear one of two things:

        “There’s this thing, and it does stuff.”


        “Oh, you know, Quake!”

        A translator would be extremely useful.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      It’s not so much about having an incredibly super-event-filled life as it is about being able to write about what you got in a coherent, engaging and enticing manner.
      Frankly, Shamus’s post could be also written as “And then things got better ‘cos we moved out and Mom got new friends and I met a cool guy who’s my best buddy and we had a new dad-figure, he was scary but also actually a good role-model for me, lol, and things were getting better” – see, absolutely horrendous.

      If you look back at your life, you’re simply bound to find all kinds of occurrences, what would make them interesting to read, as in this series’ case, is the writer’s ability to, well, write about it properly. The fact is, Shamus is just a really really good writer and knows how to set a scene, how much detail to divulge, and how to structure personal memories so they become interesting to other people on the Intertubez. So.. it’s not so much about ‘How interesting a life could be’ as it is about “How interestingly can he write about his life”.

  22. RariowunIrskand says:

    I never thought reading about somebody else’s life could be so interesting. I guess I always thought of a good story as containing elements that couldn’t really exist in real life, but it turns out real life can be just as interesting. Heh, learn something new every day, I guess.

  23. Joe Cool says:

    I shed a tear at the end. Seriously.

  24. JPH says:

    “He's even a Christian”

    This isn’t a surprise, is it? I mean, maybe it’s because I live in the Bible Belt, but about 95% or more of the people I’ve met in my years have been Christian.

    1. Ben says:

      Considering where he was coming from, yes, this probably was a surprise.

    2. Shamus says:

      David is one of the very small number of Christians I’ll know in my teens. This is excluding all those kids who go to church with their parents but have no thought or regard for the teachings.

      1. theLameBrain says:

        Ah. So he is a CHRISTian. Got it!

      2. JPH says:

        I guess it is a regional thing, then.

        Where I live there are countless Bible studies and Jesus-related groups and stuff. Especially in my teens I heard an inordinate amount of preaching from classmates about how awesome Christianity is.

        It’s partly why I’ve always kind of been weirded out by people who put “I’m a Christian” right up front on their About Me pages. Where I live, being a Christian is about as unusual as having hair on your head.

        1. Ramsus says:

          So older men are less likely to be Christian where you live? Interesting.

          1. JPH says:

            No, it’s just that I’m not exposed to it as often as I used to be.

        2. Cuthalion says:

          I think it is a regional thing. I was raised in (western) Washington State, and my teens were in Thurston County. Iirc, that is the least-churched county in the least-churched state in the country. My experience was that people aside form the ones who were part of my church or went to the same Christian school I did (when I was younger) were either not Christian or merely “Yeah, I believe in God and stuff,” with no meaning to any affiliation they might have beyond that.

          It was really refreshing for me to go into a public school where it was easy to tell which people were dedicated Christians and which weren’t. For me, there were maybe 1 in 10 of the other students I met that were Christians in a meaningful sense.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            I wonder how I missed this first time around…

            I live in Oklahoma, commonly known as the “buckle” of the bible belt. Several of my high school class mates are attending Oral Roberts University, which is apparently the largest “charismatic” christian university in the world, and is famous for its praying hands. So yeah, I know Christians, and I even know christian kids. (There’s this one kid who, invariably, WILL ask if “you believe in Jesus” when you first meet him. It actually turned into a civil discussion”. Most of them aren’t nearly that obnoxious (and yes I know there’s much much worse)

  25. ngthagg says:

    This was a great post to read, very heartwarming, nice to see things turn out well, etc, but I’m just excited that no one else has posted this yet:

    1. tjtheman5 says:


    2. Dave (Fat Tony) says:

      +1 (Dave, insert coin for an extra dave)

      1. Jarenth says:

        That could be useful. I remember Dangerous Dave being pretty hard.

  26. drlemaster says:

    Great Dr. Seuss reference with the too many Daves thing.

  27. GU1LD3NST3RN says:

    While this is enough to give me the warm fuzzies and otherwise improve my mood for the day, I’d also like to point out that Shamus looks kind of like a young Tim Roth in the above picture. And that’s just awesome.

  28. DGM says:

    >> “If any more Daves show up, I'm naming them Bodkin Van Horn, Snimm, and Sunny Jim.”

    You should have gone for the Monty Python solution. Just start calling everyone Dave, to keep things simple.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Just start calling everyone Dave, to keep things simple.

      I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Dave.

      1. Halceon says:

        And with that you have been elevated to the lofty position of my favourite commenter on this site. Even above Shamus and myself. Congratulations!!

      2. Mom says:

        I second Halceon’s nomination. Took me a minute to place it, which made it all the sweeter.

      3. uberfail says:

        Only problem is that all your comments will now be red In HAL
        s voice. Though…

      4. Alexander The 1st says:

        I can’t let you not let him do that, Star Fox!

    2. Mari says:

      Yeah, I had to do that once because like 50% of my friends are named some derivative of “Chris.” My children have even been known to say things like, “Not cousin Chris or Lisa’s Kris; I mean Chris on the couch…” Even though Chris isn’t on the couch anymore, he remains “Chris on the couch” to my children because there are just too many of the darned things.

      1. uberfail says:

        On my street almost all the Dads are called Jeff or Geoff so it’s generally, (Child)’s Jeff.

    3. Alexander The 1st says:

      “My name is Dave, but Shamus calls me…Tim?”

      1. Mephane says:

        You made my day.

        By the way, I didn’t recognize the similarity until you mentioned it.

  29. Conlaen says:

    I’m enjoying reading these. They are inspiring me to write one of these myself sometime. Would probably be good to get some of it out of my system.

  30. Stranger says:

    Damn, thats heavy. But hey, good to see stuff started working out for you eventually. I know what its like to have an absentee dad, though unlike yours, mine never came back.

  31. Rayen says:

    i know it’s still a ways off, but are you going to repost your silver springs posts when the times comes? i dunno why those posts from way back popped into my head but i remember lmao at those.

  32. Ninjariffic says:

    I can’t wait for the opportunity to use “coffee matter” in conversation.

  33. Ravens Cry says:

    In many ways, reading this is more interesting than fiction. It’s heartbreaking at times, yes, but it’s real.
    We all have a story to tell and I am honoured you are brave enough to tell it to us.
    Shamus, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  34. Eärlindor says:

    Heheheh… “coffee matter”…

  35. qwksndmonster says:

    Is “We never really got to know him before, and these steady weekly visits allow us remedy that.” supposed to read: “We never really got to know him before, and these steady weekly visits allow US to remedy that.”?

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah. I don’t know why it took 132 comments to catch that, but it’s fixed now.


  36. Mrsnuggleworth says:





    1. krellen says:

      OMG, you’re Shamus!

  37. Neil Roy says:

    *eats popcorn*I wonder how this all ends… ;)

  38. Aaron says:

    Apologies if this has been asked and answered already, but I find myself curious as to why / how your medication load was suddenly decreased … or would you even have been aware of the reasons behind something like that?

    It seems to have affected you, since you mention it several times. I was just wondering if there was something behind that.

    I’m enjoying reading your autobiography on a day where I’m struggling with myself; thanks so much for sharing. You’re a light to the world.

    — aaron in ABQ

  39. We think it’s good to take care of yourself. We take care of ourselves by making sure we have our clothes on in the morning, and eating breakfast. Sometimes we like to make quesadillas.

  40. I think this video is appropriate for this chapter ;-)

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