Tag Archives: things nobody cares about

A long-overdue t-shirt post

Another t-shirt post after approximately one zillion years? The hell you say!

So I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about this one – it is, without question, my favorite nerdy t-shirt (and as has been demonstrated over the past several posts, it’s not like I have a shortage of them to choose from). Let’s take a look.



Wander Action

What it is: Those of a certain nerdy bent will note that this shirt is a Tolkien reference. Those of a somewhat nerdier bent will note that it’s actually not quite an exact quote, since the line in question is properly, “Not all those who wander are lost.” I actually quite like the rhythm of the words on the t-shirt, but being something of a Tolkien nerd I am contractually obligated to wish that the line was quoted correctly on the shirt.

In any case, this is part of a short poem from The Lord of the Rings. Here’s the poem in full:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Why it’s awesome: Let me just pause for a moment and note that the first line of this poem is actually one of my favorite parts of the whole book. It’s a rearrangement of that old saying, “Not all that glitters is gold,” and it has a similar meaning – that we would be well-served to look past the surface before deciding what we’re looking at. There’s something about the phrasing here that…I don’t know. There’s optimism, a sense of possibility that I find a little inspiring. I’m sure the context adds to it – the poem is about Aragorn, a Ranger of the North who happens to be the true heir to the empty throne of Gondor. Upon looking at him for the first time, one would likely be as dismissive as Sam, who argues that anyone so scruffy as Strider (as he is known then) can’t rightly be trusted. Strider doesn’t look like gold, but he is, if one has the wit and the faith to look beneath the surface. There’s something about that idea that I find rather beautiful.

But let’s move on to the second line. Not all those who wander are lost. This reminds me of Thoreau’s contention, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” As I think about it, though, I don’t see these messages as being quite the same. The quote from Thoreau suggests to me that the person not keeping pace is simply following a different plan – a different rhythm, as it were – that she or he hears. The implication (to me, at least) is that what appears to be aimless wandering probably isn’t, and that I should get over myself (the next line, indeed, is, “Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”). Slightly differently, Tolkien doesn’t seem to suggest that I’m misunderstanding the “wanderer”, but that truly wandering is no bad thing. This is a very small distinction, of course, but as a nerd I believe that making small distinctions is my birthright.

In other news…yes, I just spent a paragraph nattering about one of my t-shirts and how its six-word message is similar and dissimilar to line from Walden. There is, perhaps, something wrong with me.

Until recently, I’ve never seriously considered getting a tattoo. Or, rather, I’ve kind of wanted to get one in the abstract, but not until I had a clear idea of what I would get. About three months ago, I woke up from a dream where I had that Tolkien quote tattooed on the inside of my left forearm. I remember that it was there so I could see the words when I needed to be reminded of them, but also so it would take a token effort (turning my forearm over) to do so. Why that was particularly important, I don’t know, but in the dream it definitely was. And it was a vivid dream, too – when I woke up, I was really surprised not to see the ink there. I’m not sure when I’ll actually follow through with getting the tattoo, but I plan to do so in the next few months if it still feels like a good idea then.

What is “a week,” really?

Hey, gang! It’s time for Day 5 of T-Shirt Week!

Now, I know what you’re thinking when I continue to call this a “Week.” You’re thinking, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Well, that shows what you know. By “T-Shirt Week,” of course, I really mean, “A week’s worth of t-shirts, which may or may not be posted over the course of a single calendar week.” I mean, obviously that’s what I mean.

So, now that the definitions are cleared up, let’s get to it, shall we?


Swallows Action


This fine shirt came from http://shirt.woot.com, home to some of my favorite nerdy things. Like many of my favorite shirts, it offers exactly no context for the joke, thus requiring the observer to either get the joke on their own or to be confused by the strange man or woman wearing the shirt. It’s a reference to Monty Python and The Holy Grail, which features King Arthur “riding a horse” throughout all of Europe, seeking knights to join his quest for the Holy Grail. Of course, he’s not actually riding a horse. He’s simply pretending to ride a horse while his faithful servant, Patsy, jogs behind him banging two empty halves of coconuts together to approximate the sound of a horse’s hooves on the road.

Eventually, Arthur is engaged in conversation about this bizarreness, and enters into a conversation as to how he found the coconut in the first place. Among other things, this raises the question of just how a swallow might carry a coconut on its migratory path back to England. It is one of the funniest bits in the movie, and is well worth investing 3 minutes of your time to check it out here.

One of those great random connection moments occurred while I was wearing this shirt last year. I was coming home from a road trip and stopped in a very small town in Indiana for gas. This is no the sort of place where my particular brand of…er, where my particular brand of being generally plays well. As such, I was completely unprepared when the cashier at the gas station looked me over carefully and then said, “Is that a Woot shirt?”

I just sort of blinked at him and paused before saying, “Yeah, it’s one of my favorites.” He mentioned that he didn’t actually know the reference, so we chatted for a bit about Monty Python. The cashier told me about a couple of his favorites from the site. We determined that our brands of geekdom didn’t really overlap, then I paid for my Cheetos and got back on the road.

The total time of that exchange was maybe ninety seconds, but it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day – and obviously I remember it well close to a year later. A number of people have commented on this shirt upon seeing it for the first time, but that particular encounter stands out just because of the unexpectedness of it. I really enjoy getting a reminder to be open to pleasant surprises from time to time, if only because it helps me avoid the sheer tunnel vision of the known and the expected.

So thanks, random guy working at the gas station in Indiana. May you be approached by someone who appreciates your geeky t-shirt when you least expect it.

Catching up on very important matters

Well, crap. The exciting 4th day of t-shirt week came and went without a post. Literally tens of readers were, I’m sure, terribly disappointed by this fact. I’d like to say that I have a good reason for it, but…well, it was kind of pretty outside, and I had some work to do, and…yeah. I somehow just didn’t get to it.

But fear not! I’m back on the horse, as it were, and more silly shirts are coming your way, starting with this one:


Sometimes, I'm not really sure why I like this shirt so much.
Sometimes, I’m not really sure why I like this shirt so much.

I purchased this gem from Thinkgeek a couple of years ago, and have worn the heck out of it since then. It is, obviously, a reference to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and its place in quantum mechanics…and given that I have a BA in Philosophy and no formal education in anything approaching quantum theory, that’s about all I can say about it.

What I can say more about, though, is the idea of no-context references. This is the sort of thing that I probably take more pleasure in than I should – hardly my greatest failing, it should be noted, but a failing nonetheless. Really, this shirt (like several others I own) are essentially comprised of the punchline to a joke that you’re not going to ‘get’ without already having some context. By avoiding that context, of course, the potential audience that will enjoy the reference is decreased significantly, while the potential audience that will say, “What the hell is that weird man wearing?” is increased by a commensurate amount.

There are two possible motivations for doing this sort of thing, I think. The first is to say to the general public, “You and I are different.” That’s obvious enough, right? I’m making a reference that you not only probably won’t catch, but that you’re probably not intended to catch. This is entertaining enough, and something that I’m happy to engage in from time to time, but it is also (by its very nature) an exclusive act rather than an inclusive one.

The other possible motivation, though, is a little different. Rather than saying, “You and I are different,” it can be to suggest, “If you and I are enough alike that you catch this reference, you should say hi.” In a sense, it’s a passive offer to connect with the world – or at least the relatively small part of it that one is really looking to connect with. It’s not a bold effort, of course – a bold effort would require taking a risk and seeking out fellow nerds in a more active way. Being a relative introvert and relatively shy to boot, that’s fairly unlikely for me. Even so, I think the difference between the above motivation and this one is important. An intention to be more inclusive (even selectively inclusive) is a positive thing, I think.

Even if sometimes it takes me by surprise. I remember a visit to the Farmer’s Market last summer when an older gentleman was standing next to me, looked me in the eye and said quite seriously, “So am I,” and then walked on down the block. I just blinked at his retreating form for a minute or so, wondering what the hell he was talking about…and then I remembered what shirt I was wearing. I swear, I wanted to go catch the guy and give him a high-five. Or at least a significant nod and a smile.

T-shirt #3: Wherein Jason rambles a bit

Day 3 of T-shirt week has arrived, and the overriding thought on my mind is this: “Wow, I’ve actually posted 3 days in a row?” I am, it should be noted, more excited about this fact than about the job interview I had earlier today. That probably says something unfortunate about me, but given that I’m used to unfortunate things being true, I’m okay with that.

So, here’s today’s installment:

Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.
Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.
Look on my dorkiness, ye much cooler people, and laugh.
Look on my dorkiness, ye much cooler people, and laugh.


What it is: That, my friends, is one Belkar Bitterleaf, a halfling of some renown. He has just slain approximately 4,350 hobgoblins (all Level 1, of course) and he appears to be rather pleased with himself. Unfortunately, he is also about to discover that due to a rules revision, he collected essentially no experience for this great feat, and in the next panel some swearing will likely take place.

If none of that makes a damn bit of sense to you, then you should not be reading Order of the Stick, a wonderful webcomic by Rich Burlew. Order of the Stick (which can be found here) seeks to answer the important question, “What if a Dungeons & Dragons game was literally true, in that the tropes of the game actually happened to the characters, and said characters actually lived by those rules? Oh, and what if they were stick figures?” Or at least, that’s how it started, back in 2003. By 2012, it’s moved on to rather larger questions…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Why it’s awesome: I picked this shirt up at least 4 or 5 years ago, and it’s one of those that doesn’t really get worn that often. It does, however, come with me to Gencon each year that I’m able to go, and it makes me inordinately happy when I have a chance to wear it. Also, it’s black. I mentioned the other day that black t-shirts are always a good thing.

All right…look. It’s a great t-shirt and all, but here’s the real thing. Rich Burlew recently did something amazing (or, more accurately, Rich Burlew and a community of people did something amazing), and I was legitimately excited that this shirt came up in the random draw so I could talk about that awesome thing.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s essentially a platform that allows individuals and groups to solicit donations, primarily for creative project. Creators can and often do offer rewards for various donation levels, and one really critical thing (to me, at least) is that if the project isn’t successfully funded, nobody is charged for their donation. This challenges the creator to set realistic goals – not to ask for less than what they need, but to ask for what they actually need. And for backers, there’s a greater sense that the individual or group really intends to follow through. I know I’m more likely to donate money to a group that says, “Here’s what we’re going to use your money for, and here’s how much we need,” rather than one that says, “Give us money so we can publish our new book!” without any sense of what is actually needed or what they’ve gotten so far. One other neat outcome is that backers are often motivated to talk up the project, particularly as it gets close to its funding deadline. For instance, I recently pledged $20 to a local theater company for a production they have coming up. When I saw that they were still a few hundred bucks short and only had a day or two left to get the project funded, I emailed several of my friends to see if they would pitch in. I know that I probably wouldn’t have taken that extra step if I didn’t know how close they were and that the deadline was fast approaching. Anyway. Kickstarter is awesome, and if you haven’t checked it out before, you should do so.

In January, Rich Burlew set up a Kickstarter project with a pretty aggressive goal. He wanted to raise $57,750 so he could reprint some of his books that were out of stock. Let’s look at Burlew’s words from the initial Kickstarter post:

Problem is, we ran out of copies sometime in 2010. That means that many readers (especially those who only discovered the comic in the last two years) have had no opportunity to get it. Because it’s such a long book (288 full color pages, the longest OOTS book yet), the cost of a second print run has been too high for me to raise on my own. Readers ask me every week when it will be available again, and thanks to Kickstarter, I now have an answer: Now (or never).

The goal…represents the amount of money we need to raise to print the minimum number of copies of War and XPs to place it back in stock on our website and in local gaming shops around the world (plus enough extra to cover domestic shipping for the pledge rewards and such). If we reach that goal, then I’ll call the printer up at the end of this pledge drive and begin printing almost immediately. If we don’t reach that goal within 30 days, though, no one will be charged anything; you only pay if the project is successful. (Obviously, if the drive is not successful, the book will also stay out of print for the foreseeable future.)

Simple enough, right? I’m sure that almost 60 grand seemed like a rather crazy goal to him when he started the project, but hey – better to be bold than not, right? Apparently Burlew’s fans agree with this theory, because they responded rather…impressively. At the end of the first day, he had raised more than $47,000, or 83% of his goal. And then things got a little crazy.

You can read the whole story here, but let’s just skip ahead to the end. Burlew’s community of fans helped him meet his goal of $57,750, and then they kept giving. And giving. And giving. By the end of the month, he had received pledges totaling $1,254,120.

You read that right. One point two five million dollars, pledged by just less than 15,000 backers. They changed Rich Burlew’s life because they believed in what he did and because they enjoyed his creative work, and because they wanted to be a part of it.

My housemate Phillip referred to Kickstarter as “micro-patronage” recently, and I think that’s a really good way of describing it. A project like this allows people to contribute to individuals and groups they want to support, and more specifically to support projects that put a premium on transparency. This is one unbelievable success story from Kickstarter, but there are many others. What I love about this story isn’t so much that a guy who makes a webcomic that I like got a bunch of money to continue to do that (and, incidentally, to reprint those pesky books he originally set out to reprint). Rather, it’s the fact that 15,000 people came together to do this thing. More than a million dollars was raised here, and the average pledge was just over 80 bucks.

People can do kind of amazing things, can’t they?

Another day, another t-shirt

It’s Day 2 of T-shirt week. Thus far I’ve celebrated by discovering that after 2 ½ months and five interviews, I didn’t get a job that seemed rather promising. Awesome. Ah well, let’s get to it, shall we?


I might wear this shirt when Rock Band is on the agenda.
I might make a point of wearing this shirt when Rock Band is on the agenda.


What it is: Well, that’s a bearded dwarf (as if there’s any other kind) playing an electric guitar. Obviously. Just as obviously (to a certain sort of person), the dwarf in question is Gimli. It must be Gimli, son of Gloin, because “And my axe!” is a line from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. As some relatively small percentage of the population at large (but a much larger percentage of my friends) knows, when Frodo Baggins declares that he will take the One Ring to Mount Doom and will destroy it by throwing it into the fires of Mount Doom, he is met at first with some disbelief. But then several of the story’s other heroes step up, and we have the following exchange:

Aragorn: If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword:

Legolas: And you have my bow.

Gimli: And my axe!

So, um…there you have it. It’s a reference to a three word line from the first fifth of an epic fantasy story. It’s also one of my favorite shirts, as implied by the (thankfully small) stain from what I assure you was some kind of very healthy food. Some kale, or something, I suspect. It definitely was not potato chip grease.


Why it’s awesome: Okay, so we have a number of things going on here. Let’s see…

  1. Well, it’s a great Rock Band t-shirt. I have played a somewhat ridiculous amount of Rock Band over the last few years, and while I don’t exactly dress up for the occasion, Rocking while rocking the Gimli shirt makes me giggle.
  2. Gimli is one of my favorite characters in Lord of the Rings (particularly in the book – in the movie, he was turned into more of a comic-relief character than I liked. I can see why Jackson made those decisions and I don’t begrudge them, but I didn’t like how it took away from his character. I have, it should be noted, spent too much time thinking about this.), so a random Gimli sighting is always enjoyable. This is actually pretty consistent for me – my favorite characters from stories are usually not the main heroes of the tale. In Lord of the Rings, my favorites are Gimli, Boromir and Eomir. In the Fionavar Tapestry, Diarmuid and Paul are hands down my favorites. In Butcher’s Codex Alera series, I really love Tavi, but Max and Ehren are even more my speed. Why is this relevant to the t-shirt? No reason whatsoever.
  3. This is a shirt that you either get, or you don’t. While I generally surround myself with people who are inclined to get it (I have a type, after all), when I wear it in public it provides one of those wonderful opportunities to make eye contact with My People. I really love that moment where someone sees the shirt and either giggles or gives me an approving nod, even if (maybe even particularly if) we don’t actually talk about it. There’s something very cool about those random moments.

Anyway. Tune in tomorrow for another thrilling installment. Since these are running a day behind, I can give you a little hint…tomorrow’s t-shirt is black. You certainly won’t want to miss that amazing development.

I’m the one with the black t-shirt. You can’t miss me.

An acquaintance asked me recently what the best thing about my continued unemployment is. There isn’t much to recommend it, obviously, and I believe that said acquaintance was mostly asking this out of self-preservation, to see if I might shut up about my job hunt for a while (an understandable choice, I think). After thinking it over for a couple of minutes, I said, “Well, I can wear one of my nerdy t-shirts pretty much every day. I kind of like that.”

In unrelated news, I decided today that I wanted to post to the blog every day for a week, just to try and get in the habit of posting more often. Some people would take that desire as a challenge to create actual, you know, content, while others would look for an opportunity to be much lazier than that. You can probably determine which option I chose.

For no particular reason, then…today begins an exciting week of looking inside Jason’s t-shirt drawer. Some dorky wonders await, my friends. This “series” will be running a day behind, in large part because I quite like yesterday’s t-shirt. So today’s installment is actually from Monday tomorrow’s will be from today, and so on. If you find this confusing, I recommend watching this instructional video for guidance.

So, without further ado…here we go:

This shirt is so metal.
This shirt is so metal.


Jason, conversely, is decidedly not metal.
Jason, conversely, is decidedly not metal.


What it is: This Heavy Metal(s) shirt is, I believe, the newest addition to my collection of oddities. This one was a birthday gift from Via last year, and came from (big shock) ThinkGeek.

Why it’s awesome: Four reasons come to mind.

  1. It was a gift from a friend. Being known by my people is always a good and excellent thing.
  2. My favorite thing about it is also the most disturbing thing – even knowing what the shirt says, I occasionally do a double-take when I see my reflection while wearing it. Apparently several heavy metal bands have branded their very fonts into my brain. It’s kind of like seeing the McDonald’s arches, or the Nike symbol – I don’t really want to recognize them out of context, but I can’t help but draw the connection.
  3. It’s important to note that I am approximately the least metal person on the planet, so wearing this shirt requires a certain degree of self-mockery that I quite like.
  4. Finally, it’s black. I believe firmly that most t-shirts should be black.

This one hasn’t gotten as much play as some of my older shirts, not because I don’t like it (I really do) but because I tend to put my t-shirts away for the winter.  As we get closer to spring, though, I expect to get more quizzical looks around town as people try to process the exceptionally pasty person wearing this shirt.