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Life and Death, Fact and Fiction

June 12, 2017

Happy? Sad? Both.

June 12 is a bittersweet day to me.

In a room of 23 people there is a 50% chance that two of them will have the same birthday. In a room of 75 people that chance increases to 99.9%.

I won’t go through the math. (I barely followed it, but you can find it here.)

With 365 days per year, there are bound to be significant events happening on the same day. There are bound to be births and deaths on the same day. And that’s what this post is about, fictional births and real deaths. The birth first.

June 12, 2000 – The birth of Schlock

In this case, Schlock refers to the popular web comic Schlock Mercenary. Howard Tayler posted the very first Schlock strip on this date 17 years ago. And in an amazing feat of consistency, he has posted a comic every day since then. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly two decades, 6,209 days in a row.

Many years ago, there was a contest that a group of web comics put together. Everyone threw $100 into the pot and the last person standing got the money. Each comic had a published update schedule. Some posted weekly. Some twice or three times per week. Others, like Schlock Mercenary posted daily. You got to stay in the pool until you missed a scheduled update. Last one to miss an update, got $600.

I remember that Howard declined to play. At that point he had an impressive streak of nearly a decade under his belt. He declined for two reasons. First, he didn’t want to bet on failure. He didn’t want to root for other cartoonists to miss an update. More importantly, he wasn’t playing a game. He was building a brand and a business. He didn’t hope he’d never miss a day, he expected to never miss a day. He assumed that he would be successful and didn’t want to play around with the expectation of failure.

The most impressive “non” miss that I remember was that one day the data center that housed his server literally blew up. An entire wall was destroyed in the explosion. Howard quickly switched to a backup system and was only a few minutes later than his normal updates.

Howard is a large part of the reason I write every day. He and my brother Richard, were my first two readers. Howard has inspired numerous people to keep plugging away, constantly trying to improve, and constantly trying to deliver more than your readers expect and eventually success will find you.

It speaks to Howard’s professionalism that if you go to the Schlock Mercenary site today, you won’t find any announcement commemorating 17 years. It’s just another day with a funny comic. Seven years ago, a couple of us planned a surprise party for Schlock’s 10th birthday.

Howard wouldn’t have thought to make make a big deal about it himself.

June 12, 2009 – A Death

He died eight years ago. It could have been forever, it could have been yesterday. Like many sons, my relationship with my father was complicated for many reasons. Not the least of which that he wasn’t my dad for the first 11 years of my life…or 14 if you count differently.

Lloyd V Bliss had a hard life. He left home when he was 15. He nearly died in a car crash. He had multiple marriages. He was a fur trader, a circus employee, assistant to a governor, a professional gambler and had numerous other jobs. It’s difficult to count the number of children he had. There were kids from each marriage and step kids and then adopted kids. Not sure which ones count. He didn’t much care. I was one of those step-kids that became an adopted kid.

He taught me to fish. He helped me earn my eagle scout award. He gave me an understanding of how to love your spouse. I gave my first born son his name.

There’s even a stronger tie between my friend Howard and my father Lloyd. The LDS Church has a ceremony that honors our ancestors and symbolically binds them to us as eternal families. My father passed away before we could perform this sealing. Howard acted as a proxy for my father in the Salt Lake temple.

I was asked to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral eight years ago this weekend. It was the first time I’d been asked to fill such a task. How do you squeeze a lifetime into a few short minutes? Especially about someone who had their share of secrets? (What do you mean he ran away and joined the circus? How come I never heard that story before?) I did the best I could and I think he would have been embarrassed by all the hubbub.

I miss him every day.

June 12 kind of sneaks up on me every year. The summer starts and then one morning I wake up and I think, “Oh yeah, that’s today.” It’s not surprising that important and memorable events will pile up on the same day. The calendar only gives us 365 days to have these events on. Today I’m happy for my friend, whose comic is more popular than ever. And I’m sad for the loss of my dad. I’d split them off onto separate days if I could. I guess we do have February 29th as an extra day every four years. . .But, then again, it’s Howard Tayler’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Schlock. RIP, Dad.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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