But if you blog it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and it’s time to resume my traditional, weekly blog posting day after a brief hiatus last week due to a rather lackluster tropical storm.  I expect there will be another hiatus next Thursday, since it will be Thanksgiving here in the USA, and that’s probably a more universally observed holiday here than anything but New Year’s Day (the latter being mainly observed because many people tend to be much the worse for wear after New Year’s Eve).

I’m not going to pick up the discussion of Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s disease today, largely because I’m writing this post on my phone*.  Also, Thursday has traditionally been a day for blog posts about writing, especially fiction.  This makes it a good opportunity to address something raised by the same reader, StephenB, in a comment after yesterday’s blog, in which he asked what my thoughts or approaches were to writing good dialogue.

It’s an interesting topic, not least because I’ve never really thought about trying to write good, let alone great, dialogue.  I have, however, always (as long as I can remember, anyway) enjoyed reading both good/great dialogue and good/great narration.  But the greatness of such writing was always measured by how much I enjoyed it or the story in which it took place, and was from my point of view, never in deference to what anyone else said was good or great.

I’ve always tended to notice passages of writing that I find moving or eloquent, and I read and reread them, and often involuntarily memorize them.  In high school, almost every day, I would write some quote or other on the little-used blackboard of the orchestra room**.  I’ve also always loved characters who used words well‒they’re usually villains for some unclear reason‒in various books and movies and comic books and whatnot.  A big part of the reason Lord Foul is one of my favorite villains is because of his way with words (as well as the fact that, despite being a Sauron-style “big bad”, he actually speaks in the stories)***.

I’ve also always watched people around me and listened to them, mostly to try to discern how ordinary people talk and interact and communicate, which has often been far from intuitive for me.  If someone has peculiar habits of speech or sayings, especially funny ones, I’ll tend to remember them, and sometimes these will appear in my characters’ speech.

But when I’m writing dialogue, whether in a story or a play or whatever (it’s been a long time since I’ve written a play or a screenplay, but I did write them, once upon a time), I’m not really trying to make the dialogue good.  I’m not even really thinking about it as “dialogue”.  To me, the characters in my stories are just people‒real people in a sense.  I don’t do any formal process of, for instance, deciding someone’s background or motivations or nature, partly because, as far as I can see, no real people have such clearly defined backgrounds or motivations‒real people are messy and fuzzy‒and partly because it seems boring.

So, when my characters are speaking, they’re just talking to each other, as people talk to each other, and the subjects and words depend on the situations and the vague tendencies of the person talking.  I will have people try to be funny, when the character wants to try to be funny, but I can’t always tell if they’ve succeeded (and it’s often, ironically, funnier when they haven’t).  Sometimes characters get the right words out and make what they’re trying to say clear on the first attempt, and other times the other characters don’t quite get what they were saying, and they’ll have to clarify their point, sometimes with exasperation.

But real people, as far as I can see, don’t do “dialogue”.  They just talk to each other, and it’s very free-form and impromptu and usually quite messy, but sometimes fun.  And, as I said, the people in my stories aren’t anything but people to me, even the “bad guys”, and so they are prone to say whatever they say in any given situation, and succeed or fail at communicating depending on their luck, skill, or circumstances.

Of course, I do a lot of editing as I finalize stories, but I suspect that I edit dialogue far less than I do narration.  I certainly don’t bother trying to be grammatically correct when people are speaking, unless that character is someone who likes to try to do that, because most people‒even I‒don’t speak in grammatically correct sentences.  Occasionally I’ll tweak something if it’s said in an awkward way that’s not a natural kind of awkwardness, or I’ll add something if it occurs to me that this character really wants to say a bit more about a particular subject than was written originally.

And, of course, in The Chasm and the Collision, the characters sometimes deliberately choose not to swear when they definitely wanted to swear, and would have done so, if not for my decision, on my father’s recommendation, not to have any swearing in the book (since it was “kid” oriented).

So I fear I have little advice to give about writing “good dialogue”, but personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to do that.  I doubt Shakespeare ever tried to write good dialogue specifically; he probably just had his characters say what he thought they would say, both to have fun and to advance the plot (and often tweaked into iambic pentameter).  He ended up making some truly great dialogue, but I think his goal was just to write an enjoyable, moving play that people would be willing to pay to go and see.  The man had to make a living.

I’m no Shakespeare (clearly), but I basically just read what I enjoy and try to write what I enjoy, and my characters aren’t Characters, they’re just people.  They don’t do dialogue, they just talk, like people do, often saying stupid things, and interrupting each other, talking way too much, too loudly, and in singularly unflattering ways.  I don’t know if that counts as any kind of advice or insight; these are just my thoughts on the subject.

That’s my own “dialogue” for the day.  I hope you got some fun out of it, and that you have a good day, and a good week, and have whatever conversations you have with your friends/loved ones that seem to fit.  And, of course, please comment here with suggestions for subjects and topics or inquiries regarding matters about which you’d like me to write.


socrates dialogue bubble

*I didn’t bring my laptop when I left work early yesterday, exhausted beyond belief by Monday and Tuesday nights.  I wish I could say I’d gone on some kind of binge on those evenings, but alas, I can’t even usually finish a single glass of wine, and apart from caffeine, allergy medicine, and OTC analgesics, I don’t use any drugs.

**The orchestra teachers were pretty easy-going about this, presumably because I was a good student and the process was nominally educational and occasionally interesting or amusing.  They did give me the “dusty cello award” in my senior year, near graduation, for my idiosyncratic habit, and that very much caught me off guard.  I never really realized it was odd or funny.

***He’s the second person we “meet” from the Land, in the chapter “Invitation to a Betrayal”, and I doubt I will ever forget the final paragraph of his warning to Thomas Covenant:  “One more word.  A final caution.  Do not forget whom to fear at the last.  I have had to be content with killing and torment, but now my plans are laid, and I have begun.  I shall not rest until I have eradicated hope from the Earth.  Think on that, and be dismayed.”

The time is out of joint : O cursed spite, that ever I was blogg’d to set it right!

Hello and good morning, everyone reading this.  It’s Thursday again, and time for my more traditional, weekly blog post, that I’ve maintained for some years, unlike the daily one I’ve been doing in recent months.  I’m not sure how long I’ve been doing the daily one, now, to be honest.  It feels both like a short time—in that I can sort of remember the sense of when I started doing it and stopped writing fiction and stopped playing guitar—but also a long time in the sense that it’s difficult to feel the memory of it ever having been otherwise than it is right now.

All things can feel eternal sometimes.

Speaking of writing fiction, last Saturday I wrote a post in which I reminded people of the YouTube “videos” of me reading the first nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision, as well as three, I think, of my short stories.  I don’t know if anyone has listened at all, but if you have, I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might have to offer, and if you’re interested in having me read any more.

Anyway, because I posted about it, I decided to reread that book, and I’m not quite halfway through the reread—I’ve been interspersing it with reading the latest Richard Dawkins book, Flights of Fancy, and then I’m reading Emmy Noether’s Wonderful Theorem, which I got after mentioning her earlier this week.  I think CatC has stood the test of time, at least for me.  I don’t feel too uncomfortable recommending it as a family-friendly book, a “fantasy” adventure for the young and the not-so-young alike.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite of my books or not, but I like it.

I like most of my stories, really, which is good, because it’s hard to tell if many other people even read them.  If anyone has read any of my books, having bought them from Amazon, I’d really appreciate if you’d rate them.  I’m not asking you to write a review—I know that can be a pain—but you can give it a star rating with only the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.

I try to remember at least to rate every book that I read, but only once I’ve finished them.  That probably biases my ratings toward the higher end of the scale, since if I dislike a book enough, I’m not going to finish it.  But, really, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that I’d give one star, not even Swan Song, which I did not finish.  Somebody worked for a long time writing each and every one of those books, and the mental effort is not small.

Also, if there was a book so bad (to me) that it would be likely to give it one star, I think I’d recognize ahead of time that it wasn’t something I was going to like, and just wouldn’t buy it.  But, if you have read any of my books and think they only are worth one star, then by crikey, rate them one star.

I kind of wish I felt like writing, because both Outlaw’s Mind and The Dark Fairy and the Desperado are well begun, and I like both stories.  I’m a bit more attached to the former, partly because I’ve been working on it longer (though DFandD as a story idea is quite a bit older).  If anyone would be interested, I could post at least the beginning bits of the latter story here, like I did with Outlaw’s Mind, so you can see how it is, but I haven’t edited it at all (except the quick reread of the previous day’s work before writing on any given day), so it may be quite raw.

Seriously, though, I doubt there’s anyone interested in any of it.  I don’t know why I’m wasting my time.

Not that there’s anything else to do with my time but waste it.  I certainly have nothing useful to do.  Every day I feel like I want to slice my own skin off, or beat myself around all my major joints with a hammer, or maybe just break and burn everything I own.  Yesterday, at a frustrating moment, I honestly came perilously close to smashing the guitar I have at work, but instead I was able to take some of my stress out by just snapping a pen in my hands.  It was a good snap; it broke into four apparent pieces, one of which I haven’t found.  I guess it went flying.

Sometimes several times a day, on web searches and on my phone browser and in my contacts, I keep looking at the site and the numbers of the suicide prevention hotline.  But I can’t bring myself to use it, not after what happened to me last time I did.  I really don’t want to be handcuffed or locked up again, not ever.  I tried very hard all my life to do and be good and to do “right”, or at least not to do “wrong”, to live a life where I wouldn’t have such things happen to me, and yet they did anyway, and I lost everything I had that I hadn’t already lost.  I don’t want a repeat of that.  It’s not fun.

Also, honestly, I feel like I don’t have any right to ask for anyone’s help or to use any public resources (or private resources) to help me, though I need it desperately.  I don’t have anything to offer in return.  I don’t really think I’m worth saving, and I don’t think anyone else really thinks I am either.  It’s certainly unlikely that anyone will pine for me when I’m gone.

Well, that’s enough of that.  At least, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s going to go on for much longer.  I’m barely getting through each day, frankly.  But the days do seem to last for such a long time.  That’s that subjectively confusing sense of duration I mentioned earlier.

I do hope that all of you are doing okay, and that you’re in the company of friends and loved ones, and that you enjoy doing things with them, even boring, everyday things.  Hold onto that shit.  Seriously.  Nothing else is as important.  Probably.  Though, what would I know?


[Apologies, but there is no picture today.]

A brief reminder of my “audio stories”

Well, I’m working today—as I will also be doing Monday—so, obviously, I’m writing a blog post.  Aren’t you excited?

When I arrived at the train station this morning, I thought the whole system was shut down somehow, because the “garage-door” style barriers were closed, blocking the stairs, the elevators, and the payment machines, like they do when there’s a hurricane coming (there isn’t…I check frequently).  However, it turns out that the guy who opens them just hadn’t arrived yet.  He only arrived after I had gone all the way down to the end of the station to the road to cross the tracks and had come all the way back up on the side on which I need to be.

Ah, well, it’s a little bit of extra exercise, and that can’t be too bad, can it?

I planned yesterday to mention the subject of some of my reading-aloud “videos” of my fiction, but the post got to be too long, and it would have been a very abrupt change of topic, considering I was writing about my difficulties seeking and finding and begging for help when one is circling the drain, as I am.  I haven’t gotten any useful answers, other than a commiserating one to the effect, “Whataya gonna do?  You just gotta keep on moving.”  I can respect that attitude.  It’s far better than someone pretending to have answers when they don’t.  But it doesn’t help me figure out why one should bother to keep moving.  I can’t see any reason, honestly, and the effort has long outweighed the reward for me.  I’m frankly skeptical that there is any reward at all, or that there has been one for some time.


Quite a while ago, I did some recordings of me reading some of my stories, and I turned them into videos, though the “video” portion is nothing but the cover of the story in question.  I think they came out reasonably well; I’ve always been decent at reading stories out loud.  But they didn’t and don’t get much play, even though they are a free way to listen to my (already cheap) short stories, which is why I stopped doing them.

I also recorded and uploaded onto YouTube the first nine chapters of my book The Chasm and the Collision.  This is my most family friendly story, since I wrote it with my kids—who were in fifth and fourth grades when I started it, I think—in mind.  It a story about three middle-school students who become caught up in a trans-universal “fantasy”* adventure.

Thanks to the very wise advice of my father, there’s not even a single curse word in the whole book, though there are scary bits, since there is real danger in the story.  Real danger to the characters, I mean.  I don’t mean to say that reading the story is dangerous.  It’s not.  My sister has read the book several times, now, and she says it’s her favorite of my stories.  As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with the fact that she fell and hit her head earlier this week.

I recorded the first nine chapters, but I finally stopped doing it, because, as I said, no one seemed to be listening.  I thought it was a shame, but it was a lot of work to do the reading and then the editing of the audio (though it helped me learn Audacity, which was definitely worthwhile).  Since then, at various times, I’ve thought that maybe I would like to pick up on reading the chapters and uploading them, and then maybe even start to record and upload my other books, a bit at a time**.  I’ve also got a few more short stories and novellas that I haven’t recorded and uploaded, and they could be stand-alone “videos”.  But, again, it’s a lot of work, and it would be doubly frustrating if no one ever listens.

I’m embedding here, below, the YouTube video of the first chapter of The Chasm and the Collision, so that people can get a sample of it.  I’m also going to see if it’s possible to embed the YouTube playlist that is all the “videos” that I’ve done so far from that book, and maybe even the playlist that has the “short” stories that I’ve read aloud and posted.  Again, it’s a good way for people to get exposed to the stories*** for free.

If you listen and like them, I obviously would be delighted if you’d decide to buy them.  All my stories are available for Kindle, and my novels and collections are available in paperback as well.  My last collection, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is even available in hardback.  Here’s a link to my Amazon author’s page, so you can peruse them:  The Link.

If there’s more than one person out there who would be interested in hearing more of me reading my stories, please let me know in the comments below.  You can also leave story-related comments on YouTube.

Nowadays one can self-publish for Audible, which is kind of neat, but I think I’m going to stick with the YouTube format, because it’s more informal, and it’s free for listeners so they can introduce themselves to the stories, as read by the author.  I’m very self-hating in general, and that hasn’t changed, but I think my stories are pretty good, and I’m especially proud of The Chasm and the Collision, because I wrote it with my kids in mind—though I don’t think either of them has ever read it, and they probably never will.

That’s about all I have for today.  Nothing has really changed since yesterday, so there’s no other real news to give.  Have a good holiday weekend, for those of you in the United States.  And everyone else, I hope you just have a good weekend.

Here’s the embedding of those videos and playlists, if I can successfully do the latter:

*I put that in “scare quotes” because if you pay attention when you read it, you’ll notice it’s actually a science fiction story.  But the character of the tale is definitely more like fantasy than sci-fi.

**Boy howdy, wouldn’t Unanimity end up taking up a looooooong time?

***That makes them sound radioactive, somehow.  As far as I know, they are not.

What else should I be?

Thank Cat it’s Friday, or words to that effect.

To be honest, I work tomorrow, so it’s not as though it’s really the end of my work week, but I’ll still try to enter somewhat into the spirit of things.  I might as well do that from time to time, right?

I hope not too many people were put off too much by my blog post yesterday.  I was not feeling well at all—physically, yes, but mainly mentally—and I didn’t feel like pretending that I was.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to try to court popularity, or whatever, with this blog, at least no more than is purely instinctual, but will just try to convey the honest thoughts and feelings that spring into my mind.  Unfortunately—perhaps—for those of you who read this, my mind works somewhat a-neuro-typically, and always has, and I also have my irritating chronic pain and a longstanding mood disorder, so sometimes my thoughts and feelings will be unpleasant.

Actually, it’s entirely possible that, at some point, you may witness a full-scale and complete mental breakdown on this blog.  Heck, you may already have witnessed part of it.  In the spirit of Descartes, I can’t be sure that I haven’t already had a full-scale and complete mental breakdown before I’ve even started writing this.

There certainly seem to be weird numbers of people and vehicles about this morning, doing things they don’t normally do, but no one is doing anything that isn’t allowed by the laws of physics (as I understand them), there just is an unusual number of them.  For instance, there are at least three people sleeping or near-sleeping on benches in the train station, and one person lying in the crosswalk bridge, but they don’t seem to be homeless people.  At least two of them are actively using cell phones.  It makes me wonder if there was an Amtrak train that was cancelled late last night or something, and all these people are waiting for one to come in the morning.

Of course, that doesn’t explain the weird number of cars out and about and seeming activity in a place that’s usually only operative on Friday nights and into the weekend.  I haven’t lost track of the days, have I?  This is Friday, isn’t it?  I was wrong about the date of one of the posts I saved earlier this week, though I did fix it the next day, and the error didn’t show up in the post.  My computer says it’s Friday, but I could, in principle, be imagining my computer.  I don’t think so—none of this feels like a dream—but who knows?

I suppose that’s always the question, and it’s a notion that has been raised all the way from Plato, through Descartes, and up to and including The Matrix.  I doubt that I’ll add any particular insights to the exploration.  I just get stressed out when new things happen that interfere with my routines, but none of what I’ve described above has actually done so; it’s all just curious.  If I were still writing fiction, I might even imagine a supernatural story that might involve these curious things happening, explaining them in a way that at first seems just banal—like the actual reality of the events that I am encountering—but turns out to be the first hint of something “unnatural” and possibly terrifying.

Meanwhile, my own mental deterioration, which is real*, is much more banal, and unfortunately, it doesn’t feel frightening.  Not to me.  I suppose the breakdown of a person with paranoid schizophrenia is probably a truly terrifying thing, from within and even sometimes on the outside.  Mine is subjectively underscored by a diminishment of any feeling of engagement or connection, except sometimes in the form of revulsion and irritation.  The irony is that I probably am in much greater physical danger—from myself—than a schizophrenic might imagine himself or herself to be in, but I don’t feel like screaming or trying to escape.  And I know already that my cries for help are ineffectual.

I’m just skimming along in a passenger jet that’s running out of fuel (and which has no apparent other passengers, which is a good thing) over the contours of a wilderness, losing altitude slowly, unable to shift the controls no matter how I try, with a radio that apparently doesn’t work.  If anyone is hearing my calls, they must be getting a lot of it mired in static, because no one seems actually to grasp what I’m trying to say.

Eventually, some bit of the landscape is going to jut up enough that the plane is going to crash—though I suppose it’s physically possible for there to be a happy accident and the aircraft will skid to a halt on a long flat stretch of prairie or something.  It’s an awful lot to expect.  All I can do, or so it seems, is buckle up and see if I survive when the crash happens.

Honestly, I’m not entirely inclined to buckle up.  I’ve been on this plane for a long time, and it’s not got much to recommend it.  The scenery outside isn’t interesting, possibly because it’s dark out.  I can’t even seem to nudge the yoke downward to speed up the crash, though I have tried, and it seems like there might be just a bit of give in that direction.  But habit, biology, and all the people who always tell you not to give up, make me think I’m supposed to wait and see if, just maybe, something will change, or a voice will come on the radio giving me new, useful instructions about how to get out of this situation and even, just maybe, get back to the place I was before, or someplace like it.

I’m not optimistic, though, either by nature or by anyone’s description.  I figure that sooner or later, as I said, this vessel is going to crash.  I don’t know for sure what shape that crash will take in the outer world.  But if, one day, I suddenly just stop writing these blog posts, that’s probably what happened.  I don’t think it’ll be tomorrow, but I can’t be certain.  Yesterday was a very bad day.

The terrain I’m flying over is not perfectly level; there are hills and trees and even the ruins of old buildings, possibly not built by any human, scattered along it.  There may be mountains jutting up at any point in my path.  It’s hard to tell how high above the ground I am—I guess the altimeter is broken—but I’m not as high as I was a week ago, or a month ago, or a year ago.  I’m losing altitude, and there is going to be a point where the air stops and a hard surface begins.

All right, sorry, I’ve pushed that metaphor more than far enough.  It would be a shame to crash it into the ground, though perhaps I’ve done so already.

I expect I’ll write another blog post tomorrow, and if you’re interested, you can read it.  I’m trying to take my masks off as much as I can, and my true face is not pleasant to look at, so I can’t guarantee it’ll be fun or funny or whatever.

But it will be me.  How could it be anything else?  I’ve never wished to be anyone else, though I’ve often wished I could be a better version of me, to quote Fiona Apple.  I can’t even comprehend what it could possibly mean to want literally to be someone else.  If I were to become someone else, then that wouldn’t be me being someone else, it would just be someone else.  And there are already plenty of other people about who aren’t me.

Anyway, I guess that’s it for now, at least.  I sincerely hope you’re all doing as well as you possibly can, which I should have said yesterday.  Do your best to enjoy the absurdity and to surf on the chaos.  I’m sure it can actually be great fun if you have the skill.

*Though today I am in a better mood than I was yesterday, I do not feel at all that I am in a normal state of mind.  It’s just relatively better.  All things are measurable relative to their local environment.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought blog and bids it break.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my long-term, usual, weekly Thursday blog post, as contrasted with my newer string of nearly daily blog posts*.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the reason for the daily blog posts has not changed—I haven’t yet again found any interest in writing fiction, whether on the two stories I have partly completed or on any other stories.  I don’t know if I’m ever going to write any more fiction again.

Similarly, and also unfortunately (or, again, perhaps fortunately), I haven’t had any desire to play (or write) music.  I haven’t even listened to much music, though that’s partly because of the change in my commute; I used to listen to a lot of music on my way to and from work.  But I think I may just give most of my musical stuff to my former housemate.

It seems fair, since he made two of the guitars, and he’s certainly a much better guitar player than I am.  I might give the one I keep at the office** to the son of one of my coworkers, who has ASD, and is probably a bit too young now, but who likes music, and on the few occasions he came into the office with her for a few minutes, he enjoyed strumming it.

I’m probably being silly and sentimental in thinking about doing that.  Probably if I gave him that guitar it would just sit around and gather dust, or it would end up getting sold—which is what I honestly almost hope will happen with the others if they go to my housemate.  He’s on disability (missing left leg below knee and other chronic injuries born from the same accident), so he can usually use a bit of extra money.

None of it is doing much good with me, at least.  Even the thought of picking up and playing, yes even sometimes simply looking at the instruments, makes me feel queasy and dysphoric.  That happened just now, for instance.  It’s a shame, I guess, since I used to find minor respite from such unpleasant feelings in music or writing, but that doesn’t seem to work any longer.

On the good news front, a New Balance walking shoe that has always been a good fit for me, but which had briefly become unavailable, has become available again, and I have a pair on the way.  It wasn’t even expensive, despite the name and the fact that some New Balance shoes have become as absurdly overpriced as Nikes and the like.  So now I’ll have a total of four pairs of decent shoes (with inserts) in which I can walk long distances with minimal trouble.  They’re also all lightweight, which means carrying them with me wouldn’t be an issue.

I haven’t even read any books this week, which is unusual.  Kindle isn’t going to know what to do with itself!  I don’t think I’ve read anything since Saturday, other than online stuff, of course—news and a few blogs I follow.  I did listen to a bit of the audio-book version of Pawn of Prophecy while walking the other day, but the guy reading it has a bit of a thickish accent, and though his reading is in general good and enjoyable, it feels confusing; it’s a book I’ve read many times, and therefore I tend to hear it in my own voice in my head, and my accent is quite different from the narrator’s.

I was also listening to the newer, Andy Serkis narrated Lord of the Rings a month or two ago, but though of course he does a wonderful job—being who he is—he’s quite dramatic, and so the progress of the story takes longer than it does in other audio versions, so I’m caught between loving his reading and yet wanting him to hurry it up a bit so we can get to the next good part.  Anyway, I have since been a bit derailed from that, but it is a good book to hear while walking.

It’s quite nice that, thanks to Kindle and Audible, I can carry a library of dozens of audio books and hundreds of print books in my pocket wherever I go.  I still love the feel and presence of a real, physical book, of course, but even I couldn’t imagine wheeling along a rolling library of nearly five hundred volumes.  And one can always, or nearly always***, buy a book one wants and take delivery of it almost instantly, without killing trees****, and yet the royalties go to the author just as much as if one bought a paper copy, and it even counts toward their sales figures, if that matters to them.

That’s pretty much it for today, I think.  I may shift out from doing near-daily posts to doing a couple or three times a week, but I don’t know, maybe I won’t.  Anyone who has any preferences or suggestions one way or another should please feel free to leave a comment below (NOT on Facebook or Twitter…not if you want me to see it any time soon).

Be good to each other and to yourselves.


desperado oilified

*I almost wrote “podcasts” there, which is very peculiar, though I suppose they aren’t entirely dissimilar things.

**That’s the black Strat I played in my most recent videos.

***It used to be even easier until Google blocked the Kindle app from allowing in-app purchases.  I suppose this is justified as protecting people from themselves, especially from unscrupulous app writers, and it allows them to Google as if they are a morally upright company, but though I admire their products in general very much, and they do better than many big companies, they do not stand on any very impressive moral high ground.  Just ask Tristan Harris.

****Though, to be fair, the trees used for making paper are, I believe, from tree farms, and so more trees are planted as others are harvested.  And once paper is put in a book, it can remain there, on shelves or in hands or various other situations for decades and even—in principle—for centuries.  So, in a way, books may be a highly localized net carbon sink.  It’s something to think about.

Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou blog with a goose-pen, no matter.

Hello and good morning.

It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my usual, normal, typical weekly blog post.  For those of you who dip in only occasionally to read this weekly post, you should know that I’ve been writing “daily”* blog posts for about the last two and a half weeks, since I have no will or desire or urge to write fiction, or to play guitar, or to do anything else more creative than writing whatever comes into my stream of consciousness for these blogs.

This week, my Monday and Tuesday blog posts were probably a bit gloomy.  I’m never sure how they come across to other people, though—I seem unable to express my feelings in ways that other people even notice, let alone understand**, so I can’t make unqualified assessments.  But yesterday’s was, I think, more lighthearted, since it was the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I like things like that.

Since I write a lot, I’m often slightly irritated by Word’s grammar checker function.  It frequently makes recommendations or highlights things that, apparently, its algorithm considers cases of incorrect grammar or punctuation.  Maybe half the time, maybe slightly more than that, it’s correct, because I’ve made a typo or was writing too fast on my first draft (or I just was incorrect, which does happen), but the rest of the time it’s simply wrong about its detected “error”.

There’s nothing wrong with that (ha ha); I don’t expect such algorithms to be perfect.  The problem is, when I address the suggestions, Word only gives me the options of changing what I wrote, not checking for that issue at all anymore (which I think would be counterproductive) or ignoring it “once”.  If I choose the latter, which I usually do, but then go back and edit that sentence or paragraph in any way—even if I put the cursor there—it highlights that “error” again, and I then have to choose either to re-right-click on it and tell it to ignore it once, yet again, or just to ignore the little blue double-underline that has clearly been designed to be difficult to ignore.  It’s irritating.

If there are people from Microsoft reading this, especially people who work on programming Word, please note:  I love your work, it’s a brilliant word processor; in many ways it’s The word processor, the standard by which all others are judged, and rightly so.  But can you please give us some other options such as, “ignore this from now on in this document”, and possibly even, “this would-be correction is itself erroneous”, the latter choice perhaps triggering a report to be sent back to Microsoft so the algorithm can be updated when it’s discovered that it’s making erroneous suggestions in certain circumstances.  I wouldn’t expect Word just to take my word for it, so to speak, but if many writers send back such reports on a particular issue, the program can be steadily improved, which would be of benefit to many.

I worry about this not merely because of the minor inconvenience to me which repeats itself several times daily, but also because there are many people out there who don’t seem to have studied grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., since, perhaps, third grade—and I doubt they got a very good grounding in the matters even then—so they learn what they think are rules of spelling and grammar and punctuation and usage from the corrections they are given when they use texting functions and word processors.  Which means they’re learning something incorrect in many cases, assuming they’re trying to learn in the first place, which I’m pretty sure at least some of them are doing.

I know, of course, that language is an evolving structure, and some “rules” are arbitrary and even silly…but not all of them.  Grammar exists because there is a logic to it that allows language consistently and accurately to convey thoughts and ideas in useful ways from one person to another.  Some conventions are no more “natural” than driving on the right side of the road versus the left.  But even in such cases, people need to pick a side of the road for everyone to stick to, even if it’s just arbitrary, or there will be many accidents, and no one will get anywhere.

Some things are real and fundamental—I think Chomsky showed, or at least posited, that there is an inherent grammar or syntax structure built into all human brains—and some things are semi-arbitrary, such as whether “prepositions” come before or after the words they modify, whether it’s even possible to split infinitives***, what symbol one should use to indicate that one is writing what some other person is or was saying, and so on.  These things can be, and are, done differently in different languages, but within a language, communication is better when the conventions are followed, for the most part, by those who actually want to communicate in that language.

When I write fiction, there are times when I will deliberately write ungrammatically, most often when writing dialogue.  But this is not the same as not knowing or caring about grammar and punctuation and related matters.  Language evolves when there are causes for changes, good or bad, but hopefully not just because of laziness and slipshod reliance on automatic spell-checkers and grammar checkers, especially if those are going to give bad recommendations.

Sometimes I despair.  Other times, I’m asleep.

I’m exaggerating a bit how much it bothers me, of course, and I don’t feel any moral outrage toward people who make such mistakes, or toward Word’s programmers for not having produced a program that’s perfect in all its parts.  That would be silly, and not in the way that I’m usually silly.  I just think it would be nice to try to improve the situation a bit to help people who really want to learn the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling and so on properly****.  And it would be good if Word could be told when its grammatical suggestions are wrong.  Still, when I think about how much I write, even though this happens to me at least once a day, that’s still an awful lot more Word gets correct than it gets wrong, so kudos to those involved!

And to all the rest of you, who’ve now read an unplanned quasi-rant, since I don’t have any fiction writing to discuss, well—please have a good day and a good week and a good month and a good year, l’dor v’dor, ad infinitum.  Try to stay healthy from within and from without, which is a bigger challenge right now in much of the world than it usually seems to be.  Be good to those you love, and be good to those who love you, and if there is significant overlap in those two groups and you get to spend time with the groups’ members—that’s wonderful.  Cherish that fact.  Try to keep things that way if you can.



*In scare quotes because technically I have only been writing on the days that I go to work, so not on Sundays, and not on every Saturday.

**I’ve quoted often the line from Pink Floyd’s song Brain Damage, “And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear/ you shout, and no one seems to hear” as representing my experience a lot of the time.

***Boldly or otherwise.

****So that, when they do break those rules—as they will, if they write enough—they can do so deliberately, choosing when and where and how they do it, achieving much more reliable results and effects than if they didn’t know what they were doing.  As Picasso is reputed to have said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”  He might not have been the most admirable of people, but he knew his stuff when it came to art.

Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your blogs? your flashes of merriment…

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday (July 14th, 2022), and so it’s time for my normal, usual, regular weekly blog post—as opposed to the semi-daily posts I wrote last Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and this week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so far, in case anyone reading here today didn’t know I was doing them.  If you read my weekly blog posts, and if you find my writing either entertaining or morbidly fascinating or some other adjective that makes you want to read more, do feel free to check those out.

Heck, while you’re at it, if you like my writing, why not consider buying and reading some of my actual novels or short stories or collections?  You can find all of them on Amazon, and a few of them are also available through Wal-Mart’s website and Books-A-Million as well, I think.  If you do happen to read something of mine, please at least rate it afterwards (if through Amazon, anyway), even if you don’t feel like leaving a review.  Be brutal, be frank, that’s fine, but please rate if you can.

Okay, that’s got that bit of self-promotion out of the way.  Trust me, it’s not an easy thing for me to do.  As I think I’ve said before, I’m not very keen on myself as a person—I don’t like to spend time in my own company, but I don’t have much choice about doing so, though there are choices of sorts—and so I feel rather awkward trying to promote my works.  But I think I’m a decent author.  At least, I like my stories for the most part, and believe me, I’m not prone to be kind to myself.

I like some of my works more than others, but that’s almost inevitable.  If I liked them all equally and unconditionally, it would be hard for me to think I could recommend any of them.  Unconditional love, as I’m fond of saying, is worth what you have to do to earn it.  Or, to paraphrase Dash from The Incredibles, reflexively saying “Everyone’s special” is just another way of saying that no one is.

Of course, it’s possible for everyone to be special but in different ways and to differing degrees among the many ways it’s possible to be special, and this is almost certainly the case in reality.  By genes alone there are many more ways to be human (or whatever species I am) than there have been people who have ever lived, and then there are all the other variables raised by environment and the astonishingly plastic and adaptable and versatile nervous system humans have*, meaning there are many more orders of magnitude of ways for a mind to form even beyond genetic variability.  Frankly, I’m amazed it doesn’t go worse than it does more often.

Despite my own endorsement of my stories, I’m not able to rouse myself to write any fiction for now, so I’ll continue to write daily blog posts for the nonce**.  For all I know, I may never write any more fiction again.  In fact, based on my self-assessment, I would give fairly high odds that I won’t, just as I don’t think these daily blog posts will go on that much longer.  There seems little point in continuing to try to do much of anything in the long run, at least for me.

But who knows?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Prediction is a tricky business, especially about the future***.

I am thinking (very vaguely, to be fair) about reading aloud some more of the chapters of The Chasm and the Collision and sharing them here and on YouTube as “videos” as I’ve done for the first (I think) nine chapters so far, and as I’ve done for some of my short stories.  It always feels a little weird putting up a “video” that’s really just an audio recording accompanied by a single graphic image, but it would feel even weirder to make an actual video of me just reading my story.  Looking at my face while trying to listen to a novel isn’t going to help anyone’s enjoyment.

With that, I think I’ll begin drawing to a close for the day on this, my usual weekly blog post.  There’s nothing much going on other than these blog posts.  I haven’t played guitar in weeks, nor written any fiction, and I don’t see that turning around.  Similarly, I don’t really do anything for fun in the evenings after work, nor on weekends…nor during work hours for that matter.  I have a hard time even finding books that I want to read—when even The Lord of the Rings gets boring to me, I know I’m reaching the end of my resources.  I certainly don’t hang out with anyone; I’m not so cruel a sadist as to inflict my company on other people more than is absolutely necessary.  I’m basically just spending most of my time dilly-dallying near the edge of a bottomless precipice and doing a lot of glancing over and thinking that it doesn’t really look too bad down there.  It’s certainly less dull and dreary than it is up here.


skull drawing

*Yes, I know, sometimes it doesn’t seem that the human nervous system is very adaptable and versatile, to say nothing of being very bright, but on this planet, at least, it’s definitely an outlier with respect to high complexity.  It’s not its fault that most humans make poor use of it.

**Why doesn’t the nonce write its own blog posts, you ask?  Well, the nonce is notoriously lazy but nevertheless noisily demanding.  It’s easier just to write its blog posts so it’ll shut up.

***That’s a quote—or at least a paraphrase.

As you from blogs would pardon’d be, let your indulgence set me free.

Hello and good morning and welcome to Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  Also, of course, welcome to Summer (in the northern hemisphere, anyway…in the southern one, welcome to Winter).  Tuesday was the Solstice, aka the longest day of the year (in the north), if by “day” you mean the time during which the sun is above the horizon.  Now, as always happens during Summer, the “days” are getting shorter.  That may seem counter-intuitive to some, but when you take a moment to think about it, it’s pretty clearly the case, just as during Winter the “days” are growing longer.  The solstice is the peak (or the nadir) of the sine curve of day length, from which there is nowhere to go but down (or up).

I haven’t written much this week.  Last Friday and then this Tuesday and Wednesday, I only wrote about 700 words each, and on Monday I didn’t write anything at all*.  Nor did I play any guitar.  I just didn’t have the energy for much of anything.  I still don’t have much energy, frankly, but it seems this blog is the place in which I’ll delay longest before slacking off.  It’s the Tom Bombadil of my resistance to the figurative assault by Sauron on my middle-earth…to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point.

I have written a few thousand words on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado this week (go ahead, do the math), but my writing has been so slow that even since last week, the protagonists haven’t formally met with Lucy, the extradimensional demi-god who adores the Beatles.  They’ve traveled through her world a bit more, at least, and I’ve thrown in lots of little references that only Beatles fans will get.  It might be amusing for eventual readers; it also might be irritating.  I suppose it could be both.

As those of you who are paying attention to such things will already know, on Tuesday I uploaded the rest of Outlaw’s Mind that I have written so far.  It stops abruptly during the middle of a scene, because that’s where I was when I took my hiatus from writing it; apologies for that.  As for why I posted the rest—well, I just wanted to get it “over with” up to the current point, in case anything prevents further uploads.  If circumstances permit (and if anyone so much as expresses even the tiniest interest) I may continue with it at some future date.  I doubt anyone will much care, however, one way or the other.

As I said in Tuesday’s pre-story comment, I may soon post what I’ve written so far of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, though any potential readers should bear in mind that it’s even more of a first draft than Outlaw’s Mind was.  If I do it, I’ll probably just post it all at once, though it’s over 60,000 words so far.  I don’t think there should be any upper limit to the length of a written blog post, though.  After all, even at so many words long, the file is only about 633 K in size, making it much shorter than the average video, even videos that are only a few minutes long.  So, data size at least shouldn’t get in the way.

Speaking of video files, I posted a silly little video last night on YouTube, which I’ll embed here, below.  It was, as I say in the video, a test of the function of using my phone to record and then upload videos to YouTube, and I think it went pretty well…though I suspect that the last few seconds of the video got cut off, just as I was about to stop “filming”.  I didn’t lose any content to speak of, and I wonder if YouTube just does that to such videos, or if the upload process did it (via WiFi, of course), or what exactly happened.  I uploaded it directly to YouTube, rather than, for instance, saving it to Google Drive and then uploading it from a laptop.  It was a trial in case I end up in situations where I want to upload videos but I’m not in good circumstances for using a laptop.

I can’t directly live-stream to YouTube** from my phone currently, because I don’t have enough subscribers to my YouTube channel.  That’s an interesting criterion for people to be able to live-stream from a phone.  I’m sure there was some quasi-logical decision-making process involved in setting the requirement, but I haven’t come up with any good hypotheses for what it might be (I also haven’t tried very hard to do so).  Of course, I could live-stream from a desktop or laptop if I wanted, because anyone can if they have a channel (or so I understand), but that wasn’t the point of my latest video.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to say about the video for now.  I did a few other test videos on two different computers earlier, and I uploaded them, but I haven’t made them public yet, and I may not ever do so.  I’m not sure.  I suppose we shall see.  Here’s the video in question above, though.

Don’t mind the sunglasses and the mask.  I was just playing around with the look, and frankly, I think it’s a lot better than my naked face.  Honestly, I could almost think I looked cool that way, which is a weird thought.  I’ll try not to get used to it.

With that, I don’t have much more to write in this week’s blog post.  Life is boring and unrewarding, and I don’t readily foresee any change to that, though I have something in mind that might do the trick.  Further bulletins on that as events warrant.  In the meantime, though, I hope you all are doing reasonably well—indeed, I would wish for you to be doing as well as it’s possible for you to be doing.  In fact, I will wish for it.  Why not?

There, I did it.

In a certain sense, of course, you already are doing as well as it’s possible for you to be doing right now, because once “now” has happened, it’s not as though you can do a mid-game reset and go back to try to do better.  I don’t know if that’s a comforting thought or a distressing one, though it could be both or either or neither, depending on the person.  But anyway, please try to make your present and your future as good as they can possibly be for you and for those you love.  You might as well—it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do with your time.


summer dawn

*And, of course, I wrote nothing on the “weekend”.  I pretty much did nothing on the weekend.

**From my phone, anyway.

Outlaw’s Mind – the rest so far

[Okay, what follows is the remainder of Outlaw’s Mind as I’ve written it so far.  It’s quite a bit longer than just one section, but I’m tired of posting it weekly, as I am of most things, so here is the rest of what I’ve written so far.  It may well be the rest of all that ever exists of it.  I don’t know that I’ll ever write more of it.  I may also post the entirety of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado as I’ve written it so far, a bit later this week–perhaps tomorrow–with a similar disclaimer.  That will be even longer than this is.  I hope you enjoy it, for what it’s worth.  Sorry if I don’t finish it.]

When Timothy introduced the notion of going to the group meeting the following Saturday to his mother, he wasn’t surprised to see her show relief and amusement.  She told him that she had indeed, as he’d suspected, been wondering what kind of surreptitious thing they could have been discussing that they wouldn’t want Rhonda to overhear.  After laughing a bit, she said that she was fine with the idea if that was what he wanted, but she asked him to be honest in telling her how he really felt about it.

Timothy didn’t have to search his feelings long to be able to honestly reply that, though mildly nervous, he was also excited about the idea.  He told her that he found meditation quite interesting, and enjoyed the process and the experience, and the learning about the landscape of his mind that came with it, and that he thought it might be even more interesting to do it for a longer period of time with the whole group around him.  He didn’t mention Rhonda, not wanting to worry either his mother or himself, but he at least thought that she could hardly be a bother during a group meditation session when everyone was sitting in silence.

Timothy’s mother said that, if he was fine with it, then she thought it was at least a potentially useful thing to do, and if it turned out not to be his cup of tea, well, they could just revert to the current lesson plan as long as Mr. Maclean was willing.  She smiled as she said this, clearly recognizing, as did Timothy, that Mr. Maclean was likely to go along with any reasonable course they desired. Continue reading

For many miles about there’s scarce a blog.

Hi.  Morning.  Thursday.  Blog post.

You get the general idea.

It’s been a relatively unremarkable week, so far, though I did a few mildly atypical things.  On Monday, I posted a selection of recordings of me “practicing” several songs that I like to do (just rhythm guitar and voice, nothing fancy).  I’d recorded them for my own benefit, but I thought I would share to see if anyone thought any of them were worth working into a video.  If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, by all means, feel free to check it out here.

I uploaded a few videos to YouTube that relate to the “black hole” topic below, but then I decided to keep them private for the moment; I don’t know whether or when I’ll ever make them public.  But I also did post a brief, smartphone video of a colony of tadpoles that had hatched in a slow-flowing storm drain behind where I work.  It’s dried up now, sadly, or at least the stuff above the drain has.  I don’t know the fate of the tadpoles, but it was probably dire, which is sad.  Still, they were cute, and it was funny that, for a time, there was an actual ecosystem in the alley there, just because the drain works so poorly.

On Tuesday, I posted the latest section of Outlaw’s Mind.  In it, Timothy is considering joining the Saturday class at the Vipassana Center; he feels that he’s getting a lot out of his early experience of meditation and would like to go further.  We can try to be optimistic on his behalf, but things will not go as he might wish.  If you’re interested in keeping up with that story so far, please check it out at the above link.  If you want to go back to the first section, the “cold opening”, you can find that here.  And if you just want to go to the collection of all the sections of Outlaw’s Mind so far, you can go here, but I think they will show up in reverse order.

I’ve written steadily on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, though not quite as fast as last week—only about 4200 words since last Friday.  Still, it’s plugging along, for whatever that’s worth.  Our titular characters are now traveling through the realm of the extra-dimensional being named Lucy.  Though they have no context by which to recognize the significance of words being said and characters and settings they encounter there, the author, and hopefully many of the eventual readers, will find many amusing or charming or bizarre references to a certain legendary band, whose music is so amazing that it’s known throughout the Omniverse.

As for other matters…well, I’m currently stuck in a decaying orbit around a rather good-sized black hole.  It must be good sized, possibly even supermassive, because the tidal forces haven’t spaghettified me yet, though I’m steadily drawing closer, and apparently distant observers—all observers are distant from me—haven’t noted any significant tidal or relativistic effects.  Or maybe they have, but I just can’t tell.  I’m definitely feeling the tidal effects, those painful forces that pull me in opposite directions, and that may one day rip me apart, but so far, I haven’t catastrophically come asunder.  That will probably only happen after I’m below the event horizon, but that will depend on the mass of the black hole.

There doesn’t appear to be a significant accretion disk, which is probably why the black hole is invisible to distant observers, and why my orbit is decaying relatively slowly.  But decaying it is, and I suspect it’s by some process beyond simply the radiation of gravitational waves, since that seems too slow to explain the rate at which I’m approaching the horizon.  Maybe not; I’m not sure.

Anyway, whatever the case, I don’t seem to have the necessary propulsion power to pull myself out of my inward/downward spiral toward the horizon and thence to the singularity on my own, so unless someone out there is paying attention and flings out a big, interstellar length (and quite sturdy) rope of some kind, I don’t see myself doing anything but eventually—probably rather soon—passing the event horizon.  Supposedly, that’s something that’s not actually noticeable to the person so passing, at least according to General Relativity, but it would be noticeable from outside if anyone happened to be looking.  I guess I might have crossed the horizon already, now that I think about it.  Maybe that’s why none of the signals I send seem to reach anyone.

Huh.  That’s an interesting thought.

It’s a good question whether any quantum information regarding my state will survive to reach the outside universe, even in principle.  I know there are speculations about wormholes and the like solving the quantum information paradox, but I’m fairly sure that’s not a resolved issue, and it may not be until a full theory of quantum gravity is developed.  In any case, odds are that, even if in principle some traces of me remain in the outside universe, they will amount—in practice—to nothing more than random Hawking radiation, unnoticed by anyone, ever.

The foregoing is all metaphor, of course, though I’ve tried to keep the physics consistent and accurate.  What’s the point of using a weird, esoteric metaphor that only a science geek would use if you’re going to be reckless with your General Relativity?  Being reckless with metaphors is perfectly acceptable, however, and I’ve certainly done that.  That’s my way, I suppose, of effectively sabotaging myself so that no one can really quite grasp what I’m trying to say—or at least they can’t be sure—and so even if there were someone inclined to act, they’ll have reasons and/or excuses not to do so.  Can you blame them?  I can’t.

Anyway, that’s getting closer and closer to all I’ve got to say.  I hope all of you “distant observers” are doing well, and that only planetary and solar scale gravitational effects are impinging on you.  Please take care of yourselves and each other.

TTFNBlack hole