You great benefactors, sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own blogs, make yourselves praised.

Hello and good morning.  Once again, it’s not Thursday but Friday, this time the 26th of November in 2021.  I intended to write a blog post yesterday, though it was Thanksgiving here in the US.  However, I’ve come down with a moderate cold this week—nothing horrific, not Covid-19 or the flu, but an irritating and enervating process that includes sneezing, coughing, runny nose, some laryngitis, a bit of achiness, and just generally feeling blah.  So, I decided that I’d take the whole day off yesterday and sleep in, then sleep quite a bit off and on throughout the day.  I have done so, and now here I am, in the office on so-called Black Friday*, writing this week’s blog post.

I did try to make the fact of being sick productive—I recorded a roughly twenty or so minute video reviewing the differences between viruses and bacteria, the different types of illnesses they cause, and the differences in treatment for which they call.  It’s the sort of thing that I would have thought was common knowledge that most people learned and pretty well mastered by the time they were in middle school, at least on a broad level, but this is plainly not the case.  I haven’t edited and posted that video yet, but I will, probably this weekend, unless I’m too under the weather still.

Being sick and so on has seriously diverted me from my work on Outlaw’s Mind.  Between Monday and Tuesday, I only wrote 2450 words, and I wrote nothing at all on Wednesday (nor yesterday).  Part of this is due to the respiratory infection, but another portion is due to the ennui I continue to feel regarding writing any story.  I’m far more stubborn than the day is long, but even I can have difficulty staying motivated.  It’s not that I don’t like the story.  I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite ever story idea, but it’s also far from my least favorite, and no other story that I have waiting in the wings seems eager to push it aside.

Some of my apathy is probably due to the diminishing day length, which leads to worsening of my dysthymia—which has itself been persistent, more or less, in this iteration, for at least a dozen years and probably more.  In fact, the last time I can remember being truly free from it must be from roughly 1996 or 1997 through sometime in 2002 or 2003.  I was well-nigh unstoppable then, though I was in late med school then residency then the beginning of medical practice, and moved states, and became a father to two children.

After that time, especially after my back injury, I’ve been under the pall of depression/dysthymia, overlaid with personal catastrophes of several kinds.  The external stuff is comparably tolerable, however, though that might be hard to believe, since it includes injury, chronic pain, illness, loss of career, imprisonment, loss of family, isolation, etc.  But it’s true.

I liken it very much and quite seriously to being undead, and not in a cool, darkly sexy, Anne Rice vampire chronicles way.  One of the best literary quotes that describes, for me, what dysthymia is like is when Gandalf speaks of the Rings of Power to Frodo, describing what happens to someone (such as Bilbo or the Nazgul) who keeps one of the Great Rings:

“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.”

I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t intend this to be a metaphor for dysthymia, but it really resonates with me.  Interestingly, as I looked up the specific quote above, I realized that I had subtly altered it in my head to read:  “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps a Great Ring does not die, but neither does he grow or obtain new life.  He merely continues, until at last each breath is a weariness.”  The gist is the same, and I don’t know how to account for the differences.  Do those two wordings strike any of you differently, or are they basically indistinguishable?  I would honestly be fascinated to know.

Writing new stories has often been a source of some relief from depression; I’m not the only author to have noted this fact.  But rather like the notion that exercise is good for depression, it doesn’t do you much good if your depression keeps you from doing the thing that helps.  I’ve often wondered whether the causality was misconstrued in the studies of exercise and depression; perhaps the people who were able to do the exercising were already experiencing improvement in their depression, and so they were able to participate fully.  I’m pretty sure that the various study designers thought of that issue, and randomized as best they could to counter it, but it’s not always completely doable.

Anyway, that’s a summary of my status.  Maybe I’ll review all my old story ideas and see if any of them really grabs me and makes me want to write more than Outlaw’s Mind does.  I have this weekend off (after having worked the last two Saturdays), so perhaps the extra rest will help.

I hope all of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone else just had a lovely week and a nice Thursday.  Christmas approaches for those who celebrate it, and even those who don’t can’t avoid its presence in the West.  Best wishes of the solstice season to all of you out there, no matter which one you’re approaching.

TTFN

Thankschristmassy


*Though they’ve started with “Black Friday” sales right after Halloween, frankly, so they’ve rather spoiled the whole mystique of the Day After Thanksgiving being the biggest Christmas shopping day.  There’s no good and interesting phenomenon that we in America—and probably the rest of the world—can’t squeeze and overuse until it’s lost all sense of fun and use that it previously had.

Give me to drink mandragora…that I might sleep out this great blog of time

Goodo and hell morning.  It’s not Thursday—it’s Friday, November 19th, 2021—but this is an edition of my weekly blog post.  I did not write anything at all yesterday, neither blog post nor new fiction nor letters nor emails nor notes to self nor any other kind of writing.  I was lying in bed pretty much all day (getting up to obtain meals and to use the bathroom—which, interestingly, doesn’t have a bathtub, just a shower, a sink, and a euphemism, yet we call it a bathroom).  Despite having gotten nicely into a walking routine over the last several weeks—which seemed to be doing good for my back and other joints—somehow, at the beginning of this week, or the end of the last, something triggered a significant exacerbation.  I’ve had pain and stiffness not just in my back but markedly so in my hips and shoulders, wrists and hands, ankles, knees, and so on.  I wondered if I’d started to develop polymyalgia rheumatica, frankly, given the symptoms.

It’s interesting to note that something called polymyalgia* entails such prominent arthralgia**.  But nomenclature isn’t always accurate, even in medicine; it’s often riddled with historical artifacts.  Take the source of the word “vaccination”, for instance.  How many people know that its origin comes from exposing people to Vaccinia (related to smallpox and formerly thought to be cowpox but apparently more like horsepox***) to engender immunologic protection against Variola, aka Smallpox?

So, anyway, I didn’t write my usual weekly blog post on Thursday this week, and I suppose I could’ve just given the whole thing a miss, but I figured I’d try to be better late than never if I could.  I’m more motivated to write this blog than I am to write my new fiction, anyway, which is a bit sad to me, though I doubt I shall hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth from the general public.  Also, it’s just barely possible that I won’t be writing a blog post next week (though I think I usually do) on Thanksgiving.  It will probably be shorter than usual, anyway.  So, it would be a shame to leave this space blank, intentionally or otherwise.

This is not to say that I haven’t been working on Outlaw’s Mind.  I have.  Even when I’ve had trouble getting going in the morning, and I putter around rereading and—this week at least—spending about twenty minutes each morning lying on the floor to try to ease my back a bit, I still have written eight hundred to fourteen hundred words each on the days I’ve written, which is to say Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I’m just not feeling the same drive and motivation for writing that I normally feel.

I wonder if that ambivalence is because this story has been interrupted more than once.  Part of me wants to put it back on the back burner and just start to write something new that I haven’t started before.  But then, of course, that would mean that there would be yet another interruption in Outlaw’s Mind, and it might never get written.  This is not exactly an epic tragedy, obviously—there are many stories waiting in my head that have not yet been, and may never be, written.  But it would be a minor shame.  Had I but world enough and time—or particularly, had I but a time unmarred by chronic pain with exacerbations and free from chronic depression, or at least with all those things under reasonable control—I could write more and faster even than I already do.

And if wishes were horses, we’d all be neck deep in horseshit.

Anyway, that’s nearly it for this week, I’m afraid.  I apologize for the lateness and for the less-than-optimal post that this is.  It’s a day late and, though not a dollar short, I feel it’s not up to my usual standards.  I’m back at the office, but I am still far from physically comfortable, and that takes its toll.  I hope you’ll all understand.

In the meantime, though, in America we have Thanksgiving coming up next week, and I hope most of you are looking forward to a nice meal with family if you’re able.  Though, of course, be careful if you travel, and do your best not to contribute to a new wave of Covid-19, as well as flu and other respiratory viruses—they all tend to have significant upticks here in the US after Thanksgiving, since it’s the biggest travel holiday of the year.

Please, everyone, have a good time with those you love.  And do something, if you’re able, for people who are alone.  Even if it seems that’s the way they want to be, it’s worth checking if they need anything.

But for goodness’ sake, don’t tell them that they ought to be thankful and appreciative and not feel too bad, perhaps because other people have it “worse”.  That doesn’t help anybody; it’s just self-serving crap designed to absolve the speaker of any need to be compassionate.  There’s presumably only one person on Earth at any given time about whom it couldn’t be said that there are those who have it worse****.  What good does it do anyone to be told that, at this moment, they aren’t that person, by someone else who also isn’t that person and isn’t doing anything to make a difference for that person or for anyone else?  If you can’t say anything useful and/or nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.  Silence is preferable to insulting, counterproductive stupidity.

TTFN

desert


*Which refers to muscle pain.

**Which refers to joint pain.

***So many farm animal poxes!  Chicken pox, by the way, is Varicella.  Imagine if our inoculation process had started with chicken pox.  We might refer to the process as varicellation.

****I think we can safely assume that the title changes hands rapidly and often, since such a person probably has a foreshortened lifespan.

So quick bright blogs come to confusion

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for it on tenterhooks.

It’s the first day of July, and in the U.S., we’ll have our founding holiday this weekend—Independence Day, popularly referred to merely by its date, The Fourth of July.  I prefer the more formal term, myself, since it reminds us of what we’re supposedly celebrating.  It’s a nice day to reread the Declaration of Independence, if you’ve not read it in a while, or have never read it.  It’s not very long, and it’s okay to skip the list of grievances if you want.  Actually, it’s okay if you skip the whole thing and just spend the day with your family (if that’s an option for you) and maybe watch and/or set off some fireworks.  It’s not as though any of it really matters.

Of course, if you’re outside of the United States, you probably will just have an ordinary Sunday.

I’ve continued to edit In the Shade, being fairly draconian in my word trimming, and I think it’s having a good effect.  Of course, I don’t know how others will perceive the outcome.  For one thing, no one is going to be able to read it in its first draft form and then compare it to the final draft to see which they like better.  Then again, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read it but me, anyway.  And if they do, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any feedback about it.  So, again, it’s not as though any of it really matters.

A rather peculiar, or disturbing, or enlightening sequence of events happened to me over the course of this last week, some of the details of which I’m not quite ready to get into, but the general shape of which I’m prepared to share.

As happens sometimes, the YouTube algorithm—drawing from its vast, mindless database of patterns of videos people have watched and “liked” after watching others—presented me with a video on a subject that I’d not seen before.  Not to say I wasn’t aware of the subject, I’d just never watched or sought out any such videos, nor read any but very general information about it.  It’s one I was aware of, as a medical doctor (by training and degree, though no longer in practice), but I was far from an expert in the subject.  Something about the video’s thumbnail intrigued me, so I watched it, and one or two others by the same person.  I was truly flabbergasted by how familiar many of the things this person was saying were to me.

So, I decided to take an online test (it’s created and provided by a legitimate scientific source, not some click-bait website), and I got a surprisingly high result.  Higher than this video-maker had scored when he took the test, and higher than that of some other people who do videos on the same subject.

I assumed that I must have been exaggerating, overestimating, and misinterpreting the test questions, and so the next day I took it again, trying to control for such overstatement.  It came back with a higher score.  So, being me, I watched more videos and bought a book or two* and looked up some research papers and less formal writings, and I’m sneaking myself toward the suspicion that this test may actually be correct.  I’ve even retaken it again since, trying harder not to be melodramatic, and my score went up more.

(I only once took a related, subsequent test, created by the same scientist/group that had created the first; on this one the lower the score is, the more “positive”, and my score was so surprisingly, remarkably low that I think it has to be an error or a fluke of the way I took the test, or a product of my bias, or something like that.  I haven’t taken that one again.  I’m frankly afraid of the result.)

I know I’m being terribly vague about all this, but please try to bear with me.  I don’t like jumping to conclusions, and I’m quite hesitant about my ability to be objective about myself.  I’ve only told one person (my employer) about the results with full information about what it was, partly because of the understanding way he’s always responded to my weirdness.  He was only generally familiar with the subject but seemed almost congratulatory about the result, which caught me by surprise.  I don’t quite know what to make of that.

I also don’t know what to do about all this; at first it seemed like a possible boon, a useful discovery, but now I fear that it really doesn’t change anything or, again, really matter at all.  There are links provided, after one takes the test and gets a high score, to possible people to “speak” to, to find out more, or get “help”, or whatever, but frankly, the thought of interacting with such people, or even of seeking out others who have scored highly on such tests is about as pleasant as being told that, to achieve some moderately desirable result, I need to eat a large bowl of fried eggplant.  That may not sound bad to many of you—you may happen to like eggplant—but even the smell of cooking eggplant makes me physically prone to throw up**.

I can’t even bring myself to seek out a new therapist regarding my dysthymia/depression, which is a confirmed and often dangerous problem for me; I’ve been through it all so often and in so many ways, and I have actual, clinical, expert level understanding of the problem—I’ve literally helped treat people for it, as a medical doctor.

It’s not out of arrogance that I avoid getting the therapy (though I think I am arrogant sometimes); I’m quite sure there are many people out there who could provide useful feedback and input for me, even if there’s no greater explanatory insight involved.  I’ve had therapists I liked, and who helped me, and if I could go to one of them again, I probably would, but none of those is close enough and I have no interest in trying to meet and develop a relationship with a new one.  The prospect is such a huge and daunting chore as to make me feel more depressed (see above about the eggplant).

So, anyway, for right now, I’m caught in a conundrum, with all the force vectors pushing against each other and holding me, pierced like a dissection specimen, in the center of their arrows.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychologist (not about me, this was in a professional context) who said that in family therapy, in a severely dysfunctional setting, sometimes the only thing they could do would be the equivalent of setting off a stick of dynamite in the family dynamic, and hoping that after the explosion, things would settle back into at least a less dysfunctional pattern.  It sounded awful.  But sometimes I fear that it will require similar metaphorical dynamite for anything to change for me.  I’ve been through such explosions, more than once, and I don’t think the new patterns are better.  I don’t like my odds.

So, anyway, I’m knowingly being nonspecific, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of honest confusion about what, if anything, to do.  I guess it might be nice to find a kindred spirit of some sort, but I honestly doubt whether such a person exists, and the notion of hoping they might be possible and then finding they are not, or failing in some other fashion, is worse than not knowing.  Tennyson was an idiot, frankly, and similarly, Sisyphus would have been far better served just to stop pushing that stupid boulder.  He wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, no matter what he did.  He’d have been better served just to use it as a chair or a back rest and go to sleep.

That’s enough of all that for now.  I hope you’re all well, and that you have a terrific month of July, holidays or not.

TTFN

indecision


*Academic in character—the “personal” ones seemed entirely too subjective and anecdotal, which is probably unfair of me, especially given the nature of this blog post, but I’m trying to learn objective things, as much as possible, and most stories of and by real people, in written form, tend just to spin my head around, or bore me, and aren’t useful for insights.

**I’m not exaggerating.  It’s worse than mildew, worse than the smell of a dead skunk on the highway, and far more nauseating than walking into a camp latrine that hasn’t been cleaned in years.  It’s a physical response, not a value judgement.  I’m honestly envious of people who like eggplant, as with other foods I find intolerable.  They get so much pleasure from them, and it’s pleasure I can never have.

These are blogged in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a particularly auspicious week for me, as those of you who follow my blog regularly will know, for this last weekend I finally published The Vagabond, a book I first began when I was in college, more than thirty years ago.  It’s amazing for me to see it out there; I received my own copy yesterday afternoon, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.  I’m always at least a bit nervous before I see the physical form of any book, and this one was more nerve-wracking than most, because it’s a book of such importance and provenance for me.  It’s only the second full novel I ever wrote—the first is truly lost in time, and I can’t imagine any way it could be found, since it was hand-written on notebook paper, and is gone with everything else I owned before 2013.  I wish I had protected it better, or done more with it, but I had no idea that my life could take the turn it did, and I can’t change the past in any case.

That book would have needed a lot of fixing up.  I wrote it in high school, and it was quite a mess, physically, and certainly it would have required extensive editing as well.  As I might have said before, I occasionally entertain the notion of someday recreating it—I certainly remember the story, and most of the names of the key characters.  But it would take a lot of work, and I’m just not sure I’m motivated to do it, or indeed that I’ll ever really have the opportunity to do so.

Speaking of things written in high school, though, I am happy also to tell you that my short story, House Guest, which contributed to me winning an NCTE award in 1986*, has now been retyped into the computer (saved and then backed up in two places!), and I’m beginning to edit it for eventual addition to my planned collection, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I may also add to that collection a short story I started writing in about 2012 but didn’t finish, called In the Shade.  Of course, that would mean that I’ll have to finish it now, but that’s not a big problem.  It was most of the way done already, and I know how it will end.  With those two stories, there will be at least two “previously unpublished” tales in the collection, which seems only fair to those who will buy it.

House Guest is, possibly to the relief of some readers, much shorter than many of my more recent “short stories” which are not quite long enough to be novellas but often tend to be about sixty pages long.  I wonder what’s led to me writing such longer stories than I used to write.  Some of it is no doubt just age-increased patience and practice, but I also sometimes wonder if the fact that I can write so fast on a computer leads me to run off at the keyboard and get carried away.  I may have said it before, but I can type (with a word processor) almost as fast as I can speak, and more coherently.  On the other hand, I wrote Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and my “short story” Paradox City all by hand on notebook paper propped on a “photo album”, under less-than-ideal circumstances, and they aren’t especially short.

So perhaps it’s just me, or that I’ve grown to want more detail and conversation in my stories than others might even like.  I don’t know.  I have received at least one review of my short story Penal Colony that said that they thought the conversation between the two main characters dragged on too long.  It’s a reasonable criticism, and I appreciate it very much—though, to be fair, real conversations do tend to drag on.  And I tried to use the interaction to reveal the quite unusual background of one of the characters in a natural way.  But it’s possible that I got carried away with just pleasing myself.

Of course, if I can’t please myself, I don’t know that it matters if I please anyone else.  But that’s a philosophical question not worth addressing here.

Anyway, I have tentative plans to try an experiment.  Once I’ve finished the stories for the collection, and have then finished Outlaw’s Mind (which is already being written on the computer, and became too long to be any kind of short story but will probably end up as a novella or a short novel) I plan to write whatever I write next—assuming that I’m still around—by hand, on notebook paper, though I’ll use a clipboard this time instead of a photo album sold, for some reason, in the prison canteen**.  It’s not set in stone, but that’s my tentative plan.  At least paper on a clipboard isn’t subject to power outages.

As far as being still around, yesterday I took at least one step toward making that more likely:  I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.  It’s the Pfizer one, and I’ll go back for my second dose in three or so weeks.  Between the vaccine and having had the actual virus, I should be reasonably protected going forward, assuming the protection is shown to last for a decent time.  Since this deed protects me and, more to the point, those around me, it seemed like the thing to do.  No protection is perfect, of course, and no one is ever completely safe.  “No one here gets out alive,” after all.

That’s a sentiment that the title character of The Vagabond might celebrate, though he tends to think that ordinary death is too quick and easy, preferring to terrify and torment the poor mortals he encounters.  If you like stories about such beings, and about the attempts of accidental heroes to fight against them, then please do pick up (or download for Kindle), a copy; I think you’ll enjoy it.

And while you’re waiting for this or my next works to arrive and/or be available, do please take care of yourselves and each other—for instance, by getting vaccinated, if you’re able, an act which works toward both of these aims.  Stay healthy and safe as much as you can and do your best to be happy at least part of the time.

TTFN

Vagabond pose pic on highway 3 posterized


*So that story is thirty-five years old, but it has in a sense been “published” or at least evaluated before, unlike The Vagabond.

**I guess the idea was that prisoners might have family members sending them photos to remind them of home, which is nice, though it can also be tormenting.  I’d be mildly interested in what the thought processes were behind the choice to make that available.  I’m glad it was, though!

Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee, and for my blog no quiet find.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m still comparatively “out of it”, so I had to double-check that, yes, today really is Thursday.  I woke up yesterday feeling that it was Friday, though that might have been wishful thinking; I thought not only that it was Friday, but that I didn’t need to work on Saturday.  Both of these turn out to be wrong.  (Sigh.  Life is so tiring.)

Despite still obviously being reduced from my peak abilities by the aftereffects of Covid, I’ve had a relatively productive week.  First, I recorded and posted an “audio blog” which I guess counts as a sort of mini podcast, on Iterations of Zero.  It was triggered—weirdly enough—when I woke up the other day with the old Genesis song Land of Confusion going through my head, particularly the line about how “my generation will get it right, we’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep”.  I find such utterances terribly irritating, even in what could be considered poetry, and I replied in my head that, well, you might not be making promises that you know you’ll never keep, but you are making promises that you’ll never keep.  And indeed, they have not kept them.

Promising, after all, is easy.  Actually doing something takes work, usually a lot of it.

And of course, the remarks in the song about superman, men of steel, men of power, always set me off; there are no supermen, there are no “men of steel”, there are no “men of power”, and there never have been.  There are just other flesh and blood humans, just other bees in the hive or ants in the hill.

Anyway, I went off on those ideas for about seventeen minutes, since I was still fuming when I arrived at the office, and I then edited it (a bit) and posted it.

I did something a little more upbeat also, finally releasing my cover of the Radiohead song Nude, which is on IoZ and on YouTube:

I really like that song, but the process of having to correct for recording issues in the edit and mixing process finally drove me to buy a somewhat better microphone (closing the proverbial barn door after the equine had exited).  Just in playing with that microphone, I realized how much easier it makes things to have a good USB condenser mic.  I was able to record a draft of a cover of the Beatles song Julia in just one morning, which I embed here in present form.

Of course, I mixed it and did some reverb after the recording and whatnot, and it is a simpler song, but still, that’s a total of maybe an hour’s work or so (not counting learning and practicing the guitar part, of course).  And the microphone I used only cost about thirty-five dollars, so it’s definitely not a big expense.  I probably spend more than that every week on bubbly water.

Of course, I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, but there’s not much new to say other than that I’m one week closer to being finished.  I still enjoy the story, and I look forward to seeing it published and then going on to finish Outlaw’s Mind and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and all that stuff.  After all that, I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next.  I’m going to write something, though, since it turns out the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed me*, and as long as I’m alive, I mean to keep writing.  I’ll also probably (to a lesser extent) keep doing music—especially now that I have my new microphone(s)—and I’ll probably keep doing little mini-podcasts that I’ll upload, though I don’t know if anyone likes them or wants to listen to them.  I’d actually appreciate feedback on that question, but I don’t think I’ve ever received any despite asking for it, so I’m not going to hold my breath.

With that, I guess I’m done with my weekly summary of events and thoughts, though I’m sure I could have written more**.  I hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you stay well and, if you can, even get weller.

TTFN

Picture1


*I have mixed and varying feelings about this.  In all honesty, life often does not seem worth the effort to me, which is probably part of why I love Hamlet so much.  And yet, even though people throughout the ages have noted that life is often not a net gain, particularly after a certain point, our culture allows, and even encourages, other people to hold us accountable for staying alive so that they don’t have to feel the pain of our death…even if they are not putting any effort into helping make our life worth living.  I’m not saying that other people should be responsible for making my (or anyone else’s) life pleasant or positive or whatever, but if they aren’t, they sure as fuck shouldn’t then arrogate to themselves the right to try to manipulate and coerce someone into enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune just because their deaths would cause that other person pain.  It’s logically inconsistent if nothing else.  It’s also selfishness and cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism.

Anyway, just to conclude this footnote with a request: if you are worried about someone who’s depressed or has some other disorder and you don’t want them to die, don’t wheedle or berate or manipulate or cajole them not to die just because it would make you upset if they did.  What right do you have to insist upon their continued suffering just so you don’t have to deal with their death?  If you really want them to stay alive, then make it your business to help them have good reasons to want to stay alive.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up!

**I can almost always write more.  In fact, an early pseudonym suggestion for me by my father was “Franklin L. Ritemoore”.  It took me about five minutes to get the joke, but I was only in junior high at the time, so I was less advanced at wordplay than I am now.

Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again—the last Thursday of January already, which means that 2021 is almost a twelfth of the way over—and therefore it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  For those who find such regularities in the world comforting, I’m only too happy to provide one such for you.

I’m back at work physically now, as well as just actively, and I can tell you, even though I’m past the acute phase of Covid, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  I’m still pretty beat up just from the after-effects of the virus, getting tired in the middle of the day when I don’t normally have that problem, finding it hard to concentrate, and so on.  And I’m pretty durable with respect to illnesses in general, having been exposed to many of them professionally, and weathering most of them nicely.  I really feel badly for people who have chronic health difficulties who then get this illness, and I’m glad that vaccines are being distributed and used.

One good thing that came of my convalescence was that, as I started to feel a bit better and the weekend came around, I decided to take another look to try to find an old picture I’d drawn of the Vagabond, and which captured his essence very nicely.  I think I’ve mentioned here previously that I hoped to use that picture as the basis for the eventual cover of the novel.  Well, I went through all my email and social media accounts to find any occasion on which I’d uploaded or attached that drawing, but I had no luck, even on my old MySpace page.  So, I decided to dig methodically through some material my sister had sent me from when she was moving out of, and cleaning up, our parents’ former house.

Well, I didn’t find the drawing anywhere in there, unfortunately, and I didn’t really expect to find it.  But I did find two editions of the Acorn, which was a xeroxed compilation of writings that had won gold medals in what our school system called the Pop Olympics.  In the earlier one, there was an excerpt of a story I wrote in either ninth or tenth grade.  I knew all about that one, and I’ve never felt any urge to recreate the story.  It was just a cheesy little thing without much depth.  But then I found a copy of the Acorn from my junior year, and I discovered that it included the full text of my short story House Guest, which I’ve mentioned here before as being the story that won me the National Council of Teachers of English award in high school!

That was a story I’ve definitely wanted to recreate if I can, and of which I had previously only had the first page or two remaining.  Now, mirabile dictu, I have the whole thing again!  It will need sprucing up, of course; I was only 16 or 17 when I wrote it, and though it won an award (two awards, I guess), it’s still not as good as I would want it to be if I were writing it now.  Nevertheless, now I can include it in my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as a “new” story, which is good, because I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit Outlaw’s Mind into that collection.  It’s just going to be too long and will probably need to be released as a stand-alone short novel.

I also found the handwritten beginning of a short story I might have mentioned before, called In the Shade.  It’s a pretty grim horror story—grim in the sense that it involves a supernatural force that, to begin the tale, has sort of bitten off the fingers of a nine-year-old boy.  I may try to finish that story and put it in the collection, since it was almost done when I stopped writing it initially, and it’s not bad.  It just feels particularly harsh because the first victim of the story is a kid.  I worried that maybe I was being a bit too brutal.  Still, the kid turns out…well, I won’t say “all right”, but he does survive the story.  The same can’t be said about everyone in it.

We’ll see.

Of course, being back in the office as I am, I’m back to work on editing/rewriting/laying out of The Vagabond, of which I’m on the penultimate run-through.  It’s going well, and I look forward to its publication, but I might be forced just to try to recreate my old picture for the cover.  Then, I think, once The Vagabond is done and I’ve finished Outlaw’s Mind and Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I’m going to flip back over to broader fantasy/sci-fi rather than writing more horror.  Of course, nearly all of my writing ends of having dark/horror-esque aspects, since that just seems to be the way my mind works.  But something a bit more light-hearted and adventurish might be a welcome break.  Perhaps I’ll work on Dark Fairy and the Desperado or Changeling in a Shadow World after I’m through with these*, assuming nothing kills me first.

Of course, I always have lots of short story ideas jotted down, some of which have already come to fruition, and others of which might follow.  It would be nice, in the fullness of time, to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom**, the first novel I ever wrote, and some aspects of which underlie many of the cosmologies in others of my story universes, including The Chasm and the Collision.

So, there are many tales to tell still, and there probably always will be.  Sometimes that feels like a wondrous opportunity; at other times it feels like a broad, forbidding wilderness with an endlessly receding horizon.  Mostly, both aspects are true at once, and I guess that tension can be a useful thing.

TTFN

Book in the grass


*I think I’ll put off Neko/Neneko for the time being.  I’m no longer in contact with the artist I wanted to do the cover for it, anyway, and that was the strongest impetus for me to write that as my next project.

**I actually found a few printed-out pages which included about the first chapter of that story as I had typed it into a word processor…on old, perforated, continuous-feed printer paper, of all things!  So at least I have a starting point, and of course, I know how the story goes.

It warms the very sickness in my heart that I shall live and blog him to his teeth “Thus didst thou.”

Picture2

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday, and that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m afraid I’m a bit behind schedule today, but then again, I’m behind on quite a number of things this week because I have been, as Disturbed might say, “down with the sickness.”

Yes, that sickness—the dread Covid-19 sickness.

A fairly goofy (but loveable) coworker came in last Wednesday feeling ill, without telling anyone, and he is not very careful with his mask protocol so to speak.  We basically ran him out of the office once we found out that he was ill (especially when he told us he had lost his sense of taste and smell!), and he got tested and was positive for Covid.  He too is currently down with the sickness, of course.

Well, I tend to be the leader-by-example at the office when it comes to mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, but that protects others from me more than the converse*.  And thus, last Thursday early afternoon, I started to feel headachey and achey in general, and when I took my temperature, it had already risen to 100.2 F.  I immediately took myself home and have been here almost ever since.  Of course, I got tested, and it came back positive.

It’s good to be positive about something.

I tell you, this Covid is no joke.  I won’t say it’s the sickest I’ve ever been, but it’s the sickest I’ve been in quite a while.  And it definitely has a flavor all its own, if you don’t mind me putting it that way.  For instance, I’ve had very little congestion, but my nasal passages, my throat, and my chest have been tight and burning a bit ever since last week.  I stopped spiking fevers after about the 4th day, but my energy has been very slow to return.  In fact, going to get tested was one of the most exhausting things that I remember ever doing, and afterward I had a fever spike to 102 just from the minor exertion of driving to the testing center and back.  And the body aches have been at least as bad as any flu I can recall, and worse than most.

I’m steadily improving, as you can probably tell, but the DOH advised me to quarantine through the 24th, and I will follow that recommendation.  I’ve been trying to do at least some work from home, since I don’t deal with idleness very well, and there are only so many videos on YouTube in which I’m interested.  Ditto for Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and even Crunchyroll.  Frankly, none of them are terribly exciting.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much more energy to read than I have had to write.

I’m sorry to say that I have not worked at all on The Vagabond this week, nor have I written any kind of new fiction.  I have, only in the last 2 days, practiced guitar a little (about ½ hour each), which is probably a good sign.  I feel bad about not doing more, but unfortunately, I really do feel like crap, or at least, at peak illness I did.  I’m gradually improving now, but man, it’s a corker.  I can only imagine how hard this would hit someone who is a bit older and/or a bit less inherently healthy than I…though I don’t have to imagine, frankly, since we know how hard millions of people are hit by it, including 400,000+ deaths in the US and a couple million deaths worldwide (so far).

To those who say that they have a right to go out in public without masks and without social distancing because…I don’t know, because of some imagined Constitutional right claimed by people who have probably never read the Constitution all the way through nor indeed read anything not written in bold on some fly-by-night website, I say this:  You have no more right to expose other people to even a tiny increased risk of infection for the sake of your minor convenience and your spoiled, bratty tantrums than you have the right to drive drunk on public motorways.  If you don’t mind risking death for yourself, that’s fine with me; I’m here to help.  But you’re not just risking yourself.  You’re risking random fellow humans’ lives and health, and you have no right to do that.  If you insist on doing it, others would be morally** justified in killing you in self-defense.

Such people are not taking a stand to protect individual liberty and the American Way.  They are spoiled, bratty shitheads who whine and stamp their feet and deliberately spill their diced carrots whenever anyone tries to suggest that they ought to do anything out of social concern.  They are not adults engaged in a reasoned philosophical defense of freedom; they are intellectually and morally lazy cowards, and frankly, the world would probably be better off without them.

Maybe we should introduce a blanket ban on free-solo rock climbing for such people, with especially harsh restrictions against doing so in rain and snow.  We could get AOC to sponsor the bill just to give it that little extra likelihood of being rebelled against.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit miffed, at a personal and social level, by people being assholes about infection control.  I’m not as personally angry with the guy from work, because he’s mainly just terrible at taking care of himself, and he is strongly in favor of infection control, but his self-discipline is…underdeveloped.  He deserves better, but no one in his life ever trained him in such things.  I honestly hope he’s feeling okay, because he’s less healthy than I am at baseline.

And that’s about all I have to say about that for now.  I hope you all do your best to stay safe and healthy and not to unnecessarily endanger those around you.  And if you aren’t willing to take minor personal precautions to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic a bit and not to endanger your fellow humans, then I’ll just say, I hear that the Half Dome at Yosemite is really great climbing at this time of year, especially without ropes and harnesses.

TTFN

Picture1


*In that, at least, I have been successful.  Though I came to work last Thursday morning before I started feeling ill, no one else in the office has gotten sick.

**This would not be legal, obviously.  We cannot encourage or allow people to take such matters into their own hands; that’s a recipe for disaster.  But we do incarcerate people who insist on driving drunk, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to throw a little jail time at people who insist on becoming potential disease vectors during a pandemic.  Typhoid Mary was forced to spend the last decades of her life in quarantine because she simply would not refuse to work as a cook (!) and thus exposed numerous people to disease and death.  Of course, it would probably be only fair to put such reckless individuals in isolation cells, at least until testing showed them to be negative for Covid…

Were such things here as we do blog about? Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again—a week before Thanksgiving in the US—and thus it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Given the upcoming holiday, I probably won’t be putting out a blog post next week, but it’s possible that I will.  That will be a decision for the Robert of Thursday, November 26, 2020, and I’m not him yet.

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous week, locally at least, for me.  Business has been slow, and there’s been a relatively high degree of absenteeism at work.  I think both facts are largely due to the current chaos in the social and political climate.  Much of the chaos ought to be unnecessary, but many things in the world are not as they “ought” to be, whatever you think that “ought” entails.

At least one person in my office has come down with Covid-19, confirmed by testing and highly specific symptoms, though thankfully it was/is a mild case.  Also, my housemate appears to have come down with it.  He’s got some flu-like symptoms and whatnot, but again, it doesn’t seem to be a severe case.  I, on the other hand, despite the fact that I am a wistful admirer—and even occasionally a stalker—of my own mortality, feel pretty much fine, or at least as well as usual.  My comparative health may be due in part to the fact that I am the only person in my office who consistently wears a mask*, and as a trained physician, I tend to wash my hands frequently and thoroughly.  I am, in addition, both voluntarily and involuntarily, a dab hand at social distancing.

Nonetheless, I did get myself tested yesterday morning, and I’ll have the results within a few days.  Then I’ll know whether I feel basically fine because I am one of the low-to-no symptom people with the virus, or whether it’s because I don’t have it (yet).  Whatever my attitude toward my own health and well-being, knowledge is generally preferable to ignorance.  Ignorance can only be bliss if there are no potential threats in one’s environment that knowledge could allow one to prepare against (whatever might be the nature of such threats or of that which is being threatened).  And, of course, without knowledge, one cannot know whether there are such threats…though a good starting assumption seems to be that, yes, there are.  There always are.

Existence wends a narrow path through phase space, with the infinitely high walls of reality on either side.  If you don’t do your best to steer your course in parallel with reality’s general direction, sooner or later you will collide with it.  And when you collide with reality, reality always wins.  That’s one of the ways you know that it’s reality; it doesn’t change to suit your convenience, your preference, or your beliefs.

Anyway, things in the world right now, both locally and globally, are certainly apt for a writer of horror fiction**.  Given that, it should be no surprise that The Vagabond is going well, and the editing process is achieving at least some of its goal, which is to improve the quality of the written work.  I’m still enjoying the story, and I feel more and more again that it really is my book, which at first it almost didn’t seem to be, since I had first written it so long ago.

It’s amusing to be editing a story in which the characters have to worry about missing phone calls because they’re away from their apartments, and in which they need to seek out pay phones or campus phones to call each other.  It’s likewise amusing to have characters learn of dire events in their world by reading a daily newspaper, since their TV is only inconsistently operational, and they don’t have cable.

Were such things really here as we do speak about?  Yes, it seems they were.  Reading my own story brings many memories rather vividly back to my mind.  Maybe it will do so for you if and when you get a chance to read it.  I hope so.  It feels a bit odd to think of the late-eighties/early-nineties as simpler times (they were quite chaotic for me, frankly), but as a matter of the creation and processing of information in human society, they certainly were.  The rate at which “stuff” happens has increased roughly in accord with Moore’s Law, though much of that stuff is effectively noise.  I suspect the overall signal-to-noise ratio in society has diminished significantly over time, but whether the signal has gone down enough no longer to be growing exponentially***, or even linearly, is a question about which I don’t have a strong sense of the right answer.

And with that flagrant declaration of my own ignorance, I’ll draw this meandering blog post to a close, which probably won’t disappoint you.  I hope you all do your best to stay well, both physically and mentally.  Keep reading, of course, and try to keep your spirits up.

TTFN

Narrow maze


*Because, after all, the masks do more to protect others from oneself than oneself from others, and whatever my own willingness to embrace a potentially life-threatening disease, I do not have the right to enforce that upon others.  This is a point that frustrates, disgusts, and angers me at those around me a lot of the time.  I have deep contempt for their irrational selfishness and willingness to endanger others needlessly, which they disguise as a declaration of freedom or some other political or philosophical ideal—at least to themselves—but which in fact appears to be simply the expression of laziness…and of intellectual and moral cowardice.

**Not that it’s the only thing I write, but I do tend to turn and return to it a lot.

***Even if it’s slower than Moore’s Law, it could still be growing exponentially, just with a longer doubling time.  Or it could be growing linearly, or staying constant, or decreasing linearly, or even falling off exponentially, though the latter seems unlikely.

Give to a gracious message an host of blogs, but let ill tidings tell Themselves when they be felt.

Hello.  Good morning.

You know the rest, I suspect, but I’ll go through it anyway and say, “Welcome to another Thursday.” It is, of course, self-evidently time for another edition of my weekly blog.  If it were not, or if I’d simply decided not to write a post this week, you wouldnt be reading this.  Since you are, it’s either time for that weekly post, or I’ve decided to write something extra in between…which does happen from time to time but isn’t happening now*.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense.

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can.  From a certain point of view, of course, people are always doing as well as they can, for who would choose—willingly and willfully—not to do as well as they can if they were, at bottom, able to do so?  But circumstances are unusual right now, as you know, what with the pandemic and its consequent discombobulation of the ordinary courses of most people’s lives.  So, given all that, I want to get my two cents in—for what it’s worth, which is probably much less than two cents—and send you my good thoughts and best wishes.

I’m in the office today, doing some necessary things, but there will only be a handful of us here, masked and hooded like Nazgulor so it feels.  Business has kept up pseudo-normally, but it’s not proceeding at its usual pace.  That seems to have more to do with the difficulty people have getting motivated when they’re working from home than with anything else.

I think many of us spend too much time watching or reading the news, forgetting that there isn’t that much “new” stuff happening on a regular basis that’s pertinent to our lives, but that the various “news” sources—being commercial products, not public services—do their best to keep us watching so they can sell advertising.

It’s something of a shame, and it leads to various odious phenomena, not the least of which are “click-bait” headlines which say things like, “Here are the five things you NEED to know…” about whatever.  Of course, there’s only a tiny fraction of what’s being reported that you truly need to know, by any reasonable definition of the word “need”.  The need that’s truly operant here is the purveyors’ need for you to think that they have something important to say so that you’ll patronize their website or program.

I make it a personal policy never to click on or flip to or open anything that has the temerity to tell me what I need to know.  I need food, water, air, shelter, clothing…and that’s pretty much it.  Contrary to the great John Lennon’s words**, I don’t even truly need love.  Trust me, I know.

Nevertheless, while I don’t literally need to do it, I feel the strong urge to tell you that Unanimity is proceeding well.  I’m enjoying the penultimate read-through and edit quite a lot, even to my own surprise.  Yesterday, at the end of my editing session, I said aloud to myself, “That’s a good story.”  You may, when the time comes, disagree, of course.  I doubt there’s any one story that’s universally loved***, or even liked, though there are probably a few that come close.  But I still enjoy it, so those of you with similar tastes to mine—and, to my frequent surprise, there seem to be a lot of you—can look forward to at least having an enjoyable time reading it.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get it out sooner, because it is long, and might make a nice diversion during the various levels of lockdown involved in slowing the progression of this pandemic.  Well, no great matter; my various other works are available for you to read if you like.  You should be able to find them here.  They’re all available for Kindle, so you don’t even have to venture out into the virus-infested wilderness to procure them—you can have them at a moment’s notice (I have to admit that I particularly like the look and feel of the “hard copy” of The Chasm and the Collision, but even that can simply be delivered to your door).

I’ve even heard tell that there are books and stories by other people that some of you might like, insane as that may seem.

With that, I’ve probably said far more than was needed for the week, but I hope I’ve at least helped you pass a bit of time.  In all seriousness, do please take care of yourselves and of those you love…and even do what you can for strangers if the circumstances present themselves.  We are all vastly more alike than unlike, after all, and to ease each other’s suffering, even if only a tiny bit, is gratifying and incredibly potent, often even more so for the one helping than for the one who is helped.  Go figure.

TTFN


*This is one of those all-too-numerous circumstances in which something “goes without saying”, and yet someone charges in and says it anyway.  I know how absurd it is, and yet I can’t seem to resist doing it.

**I don’t like to contradict him, but he wasn’t always right.

***I can understand how there might be rare souls who don’t like The Lord of the Rings, in book or movie form, or any of the various Star Wars movies…but it’s difficult for me to credit the fact that—apparently—there are those who have been legitimately exposed to his works, and who are native English readers, and yet somehow do not enjoy any of the works of Shakespeare.  These are probably the same Philistines who can listen to Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol and not be moved to tearful smiles by the end.

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud; Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lies in sweetest blog

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and thus, perforce, it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I expect I’ll be brief today; there’s really not much to say or to add.  Of course, regular readers may well point out that such a thing has never stopped me from rambling on in the past, and it may be that this is going to be another such occasion.  But I doubt it.

I haven’t been following the news too closely, except to scan headlines, because frankly, it’s even more depressing than usual.  I’m not referring to the viral pandemic per se; of course, that’s sad and worrisome, but that’s nature.  It’s not our ally in general.  It’s not our enemy either, because if it were, we’d long since have been toast.  It simply is.

No, the depressing thing is reading about what people are saying and doing, especially those who are saying the most—news people, politicians, pundits, etc.  In the brief audio podcast that I recently posted on Iterations of Zero, I spoke in passing of treating this virus as a sort of alien invasion, something that could unite humanity in solidarity against a common enemy.  I guess it would need to be a much worse virus to do that.

Instead, this being an election year in the US, the pandemic itself is politicized.  I suspect if there really were an alien invasion, in the current political climate, that too would be made into a point of contention between the parties.  Not to say that the current administration doesn’t strongly deserve criticism (in being both unreasonably critical of others and being frankly unprofessional in innumerable ways), but the opposition is just as childish, petty, spiteful, and embarrassing.  I must assume that they think they aren’t; they believe they’re inherently on the side of “right”.  This is rarely a good thing.  People do the most deplorable things when they’re certain that they’re right.

I often need to remind myself of my own words, which I’ve said to others in reassurance: “Assholes just tend to make a lot of noise, even though they’re pretty much all full of shit.”  There are a vast number of serious, positive, quiet people (I guess we could liken them to the hearts and brains* of our collective body) who work hard and get things done.  Google has been tipping a hat to many of them recently in its daily doodles, and that’s nice, for what it’s worth.  But it would be good for us all to remind themselves that it is for such people that our elected officials—who are our servants, not our leaders—should be working, not for their own self-aggrandizement, and certainly not for special interests who give them lots of campaign money.

I sometimes think it would be nice if we brought back old Roman punishments for bribery.  Not that the Romans were particularly good at keeping their elected officials in check.

Anyway, that huge show of low-quality comedy is what’s depressing to me.  Well, that’s one of the things.  Another has to do with neurotransmitters and self-reinforcing patterns of electrochemical activity in my brain, the full nature of which is beyond science’s current complete understanding and is certainly not within my own control.  But I should try to follow Mr. Rogers’s mother’s advice and look for the helpers.

Though, given my peculiar turn of mind, I sometimes can’t help but feel depressed even when I do that.  You probably don’t want to know why.

All that said, I’m at least getting work done on Unanimity, though not as quickly as by rights I ought to be, given the circumstances.  And I’m trying, very hard, to readjust my workout and diet to improve my health.  I need to lose weight badly**, and I suspect that medications for depression are, ironically, making that more difficult.  That fact, though, at least doesn’t depress me.  After all, we shouldn’t expect answers to be simple when we’re trying to adjust the most complex thing we know of in the universe.*** It doesn’t depress me that nature is difficult, because I never had any expectation that it would be otherwise.  It’s a big, old, complicated universe, and we are so small as to barely exist.

And that, weirdly enough, fills me with enough awe, wonder, and excitement—and joy—that it can overpower even the melancholy induced by human folly.  Go figure.

TTFN


*As well as all the other essential organs? Probably that’s overextending the metaphor.

**Okay, actually, it would better if I lost weight well.

***That’s not just my brain, that’s any human brain.  I’m not that egotistical.