Get up get over and turn the tape off

Well, it’s a shitty, shitty day today already.  I realize that’s redundant, of course.  I could simply say that it’s a day today.  They’re all pretty shitty a lot of the time, which is a phrase, at least, that sort of rhymes.  Pretty shitty is kind of pretty; one could use it in a ditty.

That’s enough of that nonsense.

I awoke very early, even for me, with worsening pain than usual in my right lower back and hip, radiating down into my foot and calf, with spasm and tenderness in most of the muscles.  I’d had a decent pain day the day before—which I guess would be yesterday, duh—partly because I took larger than normal doses of naproxen, in addition to aspirin and acetaminophen, and as always I was trying some behavioral interventions such as those with which I constantly experiment.

But I think I was lured into a false sense of security; probably the relative decrease in pain was as much a random fluctuation as anything else.  Also, I realized by the end of the day that I had started to develop edema—accumulation of fluid, that is—in my legs, especially the right one.  I suspect that’s partly due to the effects of the high-dose NSAIDs and other meds on my kidneys’ clearance functions.  So, last night I held off on the naproxen.

While trying to massage out some of my pain, I noted that my son, to whom I had sent an email a few weeks ago, had replied at last to that apologetic note.  But though his email was polite and kind, he basically said that he didn’t want to pursue any relationship with me, at least for the time being, and that he hoped I would respect that.  I can do so, of course; if I didn’t have to have a relationship with me, I wouldn’t do it, either.  He even said he didn’t hold what had happened, what with my arrest and time in prison, against me, which is nice, and that he had fond memories of me and of his childhood with me.  He’s a good person, he works hard and is smart, and all that, like his sister.  I want him to be happy, and I would never try to force my presence on him.  I’m just not built that way.  So, that’s that.  Not a great thing for me, but probably the wise choice for him.

I did record the video I mentioned yesterday, and I already started editing it, which is basically just removing long pauses and umms and coughs and the like.  If I finish and upload it today, I’ll share it as part of the post for tomorrow—I’m scheduled to work—and you’ll be able to see and watch it if you wish.  In case you do, I’ll add now the request that most YouTubers give (which I neglected to do during the recording) which is please, if you’re so inclined, like the video, share it if you’re willing, subscribe if you’re interested, and do please feel free to comment.  All those requests apply here as well, though I guess most of my readers are already subscribed, now that I think about it.

And here I am, at the office already and writing this, quite a bit earlier than I usually arrive, because there was no point just lying around in my room and watching random YouTube videos, some about science, some of British comedy panel shows, and occasionally some about autism/Asperger’s.

It’s the last day of September in 2022, and tomorrow begins the month of October—the month of my birthday, and of Halloween (my favorite holiday), though honestly, right now, I couldn’t give a shit about either one.  Next week is both Yom Kippur and my father’s birthday (I think they’re both on the same day this year, though I may be off on that).

I wish I could see my father, and my mother, but of course, they have both “passed on” as the euphemism goes.  I’m afraid I was probably a very disappointing son for them, not least because I had seemed so promising.  I’ve basically let down all the people who are most important to me in life, regularly and consistently.  Consistency is good, I guess, as far as it goes.  I just wish I had a drug or alcohol problem to hang it all on, so that I could have hope of conquering the problem and receiving minor accolades for the success, a la the famous Christian parable of the prodigal son*, or just succumb to an overdose or something if not.

Unfortunately, my problems are basically internal and inherent.  I’m just not very good at humaning, it turns out, if you’ll pardon me for using the au courant contrivance of turning a noun into a seeming gerund of a verb, as in the expression “adulting”.  Adulting, by the way, does not get a red squiggly underline in MS Word, but humaning does.  I guess that means I really did just make it up.

I’ve been trying to do it all my life, of course, and I have put a lot of effort into it.  But my return on investment has gone deeply in the negative, I’m afraid, though that’s only if you discount the fact of my two children.  Anything I went through up until they were born was repaid at an unimaginable rate, so I can’t complain about that.  But that’s all past, now, and they are alive and well, and they’re doing their thing and living their lives and that’s good, that’s outstanding.

I wish I could have been there to witness more of it.  But if wishes were horses, we’d all be waist-deep in horseshit.  Which we may be in a metaphorical sense—more than waist-deep, I would say—but obviously that’s not literal.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today, and it’s nearly all I’ve got, period, full stop.  I don’t see how I can possibly go on much longer.  I hate the world, I hate my life, but most of all, I hate myself.  I’ve got to find a way to escape.

Which word makes me think of the Radiohead song, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.  Here, I’ll embed some version of it in “video” form below, so those of you who are interested can listen.  It’s a beautiful song.


*Which I’ve always hated as a clear case of injustice and even cruelty.

Just Another Tuesday

It’s Tuesday morning again.  Another Tuesday.  This one is the 20th of September, in case anyone in the future is reading and wants to know what day this post was on, and is not reading this on the site proper, where the date is—I think—displayed above the post.  I’ll assume that anyone who cares about the date and is reading it today already knows what the date is, as well as the year.

There’s nothing really new to report, obviously.  As has been the case for a while now, I haven’t written any new fiction, haven’t done more than pick up a guitar, strum at it, and think about how shitty my playing sounds before putting it back down again.  Standard issue things to do, you know?

It continues to be dreary and rainy around here, though we have it easier than Puerto Rico, where the hurricane has knocked out power for the whole island.  That hurricane is not expected to head toward us at all, though it did just now really start to rain rather heavily.  The train stations are all covered though, so the rain doesn’t matter much unless it becomes quite windy, and right now there’s essentially no wind.

I thought it might rain as I was headed toward the train station—not just because this is south Florida and it’s been raining every day, so why should it stop, but because I could see tall, pillar-like clouds looming, even in the night sky, lit by reflected urban lights below.  They look nifty, but the shape of them, and the updrafts that no doubt exist within them, cooling all that airborne water, make it all but inevitable that rain will fall.

And now, as if conjured, the wind arrives, and speckles of rain are appearing on the screen of my laptop.  At least it’s somewhat refreshing.  If it becomes too prominent, I may have to pause and put the computer away to protect it.  But if that happens, none of you will be able to tell unless I tell you about it.  Weird, huh?  Well, no, not really I guess.  I think that’s just me—I’m the weird thing here.

Anyway, the rain is already slacking off some, and there’s only the tiniest of breezes remaining.  Further bulletins as events warrant.

I suspect that nearly all the noteworthy events in my life have already passed, though.  There’s very little else to say, though that doesn’t seem to stop me from saying it.  I “talk” to all of you, because I seem incapable of talking to anyone else.  That’s my fault, not anyone else’s.  I’m a faulty mechanism, what can I say?  I’m faultier than San Andreas.  I’m buggier than the Amazon rainforest*.  I’m not a very good device.  Not to say that I don’t have some remarkable design features, but none of them are really specific to me; they’re standard in the model.  The ways in which I am not standard seem to be associated with problems, which I guess is often the case.

Or maybe that’s all just egotistical in its own way, even though it’s fundamentally a case of self-loathing.  It’s probably just as arrogant to think that one is exceptionally bad or imperfect as to think that one is exceptionally perfect or good.  But there are more ways to be imperfect than to be perfect.  At least, it seems like that would be the case, though frankly, I’m not even sure what it would mean for a person to be perfect, and I’m not sure that anyone else knows what it means when they say it, either.  People use the word without really thinking about it, though to be fair, I don’t hear people referring to other people as perfect very often, and good on them that they don’t, since I don’t think anyone is perfect by whatever standard you might choose**.

Well, the train just arrived, but like yesterday (which I didn’t mention then) whoever is driving it today stopped way “sooner” than any of the other drivers do, and so I had to follow the other people who hadn’t gotten up off their asses early to wait for it to arrive, as I had, because I try to plan ahead.  Also, someone is sitting in my usual seat, which makes me unreasonably frustrated.  I know I have no claim on any particular seat or anything, but I try to do my stuff consistently so there are fewer surprises with which to deal, but that doesn’t seem to work.

Here’s an aside, though.  This is one of the trains that’s running the automated PA announcement system, which tells you which station you’re approaching and reminds you to check for your belongings before you get up and leave.  Then it says, “Please watch your step while you’re exiting the doors.”

Am I the only person who finds that last sentence irritatingly a-sensical?  “Exiting the doors” seems to imply that you were, until that point, inside the doors!  But no one is inside the doors.  The doors are barely three-dimensional; no ordinary, human-scale organism could actually be inside the doors.  Passengers are inside the train cars, they exit through the doorways, they don’t exit the doors!

If the person who wrote and recorded that announcement—which has annoyed me since the first time I heard it—is out there, can you please just come and kill me?  You’re one of the things that makes this planet so intolerable, and it would be just as well if you could help me leave it, since I’m looking to do that anyway.

I want to say that I feel like I’m losing my mind, but the problem, if anything, is that my grasp of reality is too persistent and consistent.  My weakness, if you will, is my relative inability to delude myself.  I can see the chaos (in the mathematical and poetic senses) for what it is, as well as the infinite stupidity*** of everything out there.

It sometimes seems that I can literally feel the yawning emptiness of the cosmos, but I know that’s an illusion.  I’m no more capable of truly conceiving of the infinite than is any other finite being.  But it does sometimes seem that I can feel it, just vaguely, looming above me and above everything, as well as beneath me, since “above” is a relative measure, and we are surrounded in all directions by mostly empty space.  Sometimes that’s even comforting.  You know, like the song says, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

I don’t know what point I’m trying to make.  I don’t think there is a point, either to this post, or to anything else.  It’s just another post, just another Tuesday, just another meaningless instantiation of “atoms and the void”, to quote Democritus.

I wonder if that was his real name, “Democritus”?  It seems too coincidental to be what his parents named him.  I know “Plato” was a nickname; I’m not sure about Aristotle.

Oh, well, what does it matter?  He’s dead, and he’s been dead for a couple of thousand years.  I always knew he was smart****.


*Which I like better than the Microsoft rainforest or the Google rainforest.  Ha ha.

**Unless you choose some cheesy standard such as “perfect at being who you are”, but in that case, everyone is perfect, which is just another way of saying that no one is, so it adds nothing.

***No matter how large an intelligence is, as long as it’s not infinite, then its stupidity, or at least its ignorance, is always infinite.  I know, that’s probably an unreasonable standard against which to measure any intelligence or anything else, really, but I never claimed to be trying to be fair, just that I can recognize the endless abyss of lack that lies beyond the realms of anything finite that exists.

****Well, no I didn’t.  I haven’t existed always, for one thing; I’ve only been around for just shy of 53 years, though sometimes it feels like it’s been millennia.  Also, I hadn’t even heard of Democritus for the first ten years or so of my life, not until Carl Sagan talked about him in Cosmos.  So “I always knew” is just flagrantly inaccurate.  It’s a bit like how people say things like, “that email never came”.  I always want to say, “Never?  You waited until the end of time itself, and the email still hadn’t arrived?  I mean, never is a really long time.  If you wait an infinite amount of time, anything possible that can happen will have happened, so it seems truly impossible that the email never arrived.  EVERY email should have arrived if you waited long enough to legitimately use the word ‘never’.”  But I hold my tongue…usually.  It gets my fingers wet, though.

Surprisingly (for me) positive thoughts on a Saturday morning

[Note:  At the bottom of the post, below the footnotes, I’m including a thought that occurred to me between the initial writing and the final editing of this post, but which doesn’t directly relate to the post itself.]

Well, it’s Saturday morning (the 17th of September, a nice prime number), and I’m waiting at the station for the first train of the day, because I woke up before my alarm again and there was no point trying to go back to sleep.  I’m working again today, and I may be working again next Saturday as well, since I don’t know how long the coworker with whom I split Saturdays will be out with his recovery from surgery.

I can’t begrudge him the time off—surgery is no small thing, even if it was “minimally invasive”, to say nothing of the problem that required surgery.  I’ve had major surgery myself, open-heart when I was 18 and back surgery when I was about 35 (hopefully I won’t have another when I’m 53!).  I don’t remember how long my own laminectomy and fusion left me hobbled, because at the time I was already on temporary disability because of the injury, but it wasn’t a minor inconvenience.

That whole process contributed to the eventual catastrophic collapse of the life I had built, partly because I technically have “failed back surgery syndrome”, which means that, despite my back surgery, I still have chronic pain.  I think the term “failed” is a bit uncharitable, though, because my pain was reduced, it just didn’t come close to going away completely.  It’s there every day, and it has been for about 20 years (for those of you doing the math, I had the pain a good three years or so before I had the surgery, and I am currently 52).

Speaking of the collapse of my previous life, and the loss of so many things that were important to me, I sent an email to my son not long ago—I might have mentioned this previously—to the email address he had used the thank me for his last birthday present.  It was basically a long apology for all the things I screwed up with him (and his sister), and a reminder that I love him and always will, and of course that I miss him.  I didn’t know if he even regularly checks that email, so I asked his sister to let him know I had sent it.  He apparently does, and he’s seen it.

I don’t know what he thinks about it, since he hasn’t replied so far.  I don’t know if he ever will.  That’s up to him, which I guess is obvious.  What I mean is, that it wouldn’t be fair or right for me to expect, let alone demand, a reply from him.  I at least know that, if he wants to know what his father has been thinking and doing for the last quite some time, he can always come to this blog and read it.  I don’t know what he would think if he did that, but it is whatever it is.

I’ve always felt—at least, for as long as I’ve seriously thought about such things—that it’s important to remember that children don’t belong to their parents.  Parents belong to their children.  This is so for good, sound, biological reasons, and also for deep moral ones.  A parent can make the decision to have a child—or well, two parents can make that decision.  The child literally has no say in the matter, for the child does not even exist when the decision is made.  They cannot be held morally accountable for anything to do with that decision, and they cannot incur any obligation because of it.  Of course, good parenting and good socialization can mean that a child will be naturally grateful to the parents, and that’s nice when it happens, but it isn’t required.  It cannot, ethically, be required.  It cannot, in good conscience, be demanded.

That reminds me tangentially of the concept creep problem our culture has with the terms, “respect” and with “self-esteem”.  People cannot demand respect.  Respect is in the eye of the beholder.  Courtesy is presumptively expectable, since simple politeness is the lubricant of civilization, but respect can only be freely given if it is to be of any value at all.

Likewise with self-esteem.  It doesn’t make sense to encourage people to have just a general, free-form, positive self-image based on nothing; that leads to narcissism and all the problems it entails.  One should not feel “proud” merely of the fact that one exists.

A student who cannot seem to master math well should not necessarily feel proud of his or her math skills, though if that student has worked hard to learn as much as they can learn, they should feel proud about that!  And that person almost certainly has other strengths and abilities that they can feel good about, and of which they should feel proud.

Hard work is worthy of esteem, and thus of self-esteem.  But I don’t need to esteem my own ability to play basketball, for instance, and I shouldn’t, because I’m terrible at basketball.  On the other hand, I write reasonably well, and I write a lot.  I also have good skills at general mathematics and science, and I am deeply curious about the way the universe works, and have learned a lot about what people know about how it works, and how that knowledge has been gained.  I should feel good about that, at least.  I certainly enjoy it.

“Pride” in general is a tricky concept.  Its legitimacy depends on how one uses it, and what one means by it.  None of us made ourselves, obviously; we operate according to the laws of nature*, and we are shaped by our nature—our genes and other physical factors—and our experience, our background, our society, our upbringing, our education, and so on.  And in a sense, all of these things are also part of “our” nature.

A person may have the tenacity to work hard and improve themselves from an otherwise unpromising-seeming background, but even then, they did not create that tenacity—it was their luck, or their blessing, however you want to characterize it, that they had it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Use the assets you have to their best effect.

You can’t use assets you don’t have, after all.  It would be much easier, for instance, for me to get to work in the morning if I could teleport, or even if I could fly.  But I cannot, and there are no reasonable technological solutions to that lack right now, so I just don’t have that ability.  It would be the height of silliness for me to feel proud of myself for my ability to fly, since I cannot.  But I’m glad of my ability to learn and use the public transportation system in south Florida, and I’m grateful that it exists; I admire the people who put it into place, and I esteem the people who keep it running every day.

Maybe gratitude is a better notion and virtue than pride or self-esteem.  I know some religious systems place an emphasis on it, and I think that’s far from a bad thing.  It’s good to be grateful for the inherent and learned abilities that you have, and it makes sense to instantiate that gratitude by using those gifts to the best of your ability.  Otherwise, it’s not very impressive gratitude.

It’s the converse** of the situation in which a person apologizes for something, but keeps up the behavior that led to the apology.  That’s not much of an apology.  I often find myself saying to people, “I don’t need your apology, I want you not to do the thing you’re apologizing for.  If you apologize but keep doing the same thing, the apology is useless, and even insulting.”

Okay, I use words to that effect, adjusted to match the situation.  I hope you get the idea.

These are my thoughts for this Saturday morning, such as they are.  I hope most of you are looking forward to an enjoyable weekend, hopefully with some time spent with family and/or friends.  Be grateful for them, certainly, if you have them around.  No one is guaranteed to have them, and even if there were such a guarantee, with whom would you lodge the complaint if the guarantee were not met?  Feel good about the things you are good at, and feel grateful for the good things you have in the world, and show your esteem and gratitude by doing the best you can with both.

Those are good words, I think, and I’m astonished that I am the one who actually just wrote them.  The trick will be to live up to them!


*And of Nature’s God, if you believe in God, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence.

**Or maybe the obverse—I’ve never yet been able to get those concepts clearly differentiated in my head.  Neither term may actually be the correct one, come to think of it.

[As noted above, here is my thought below the footnotes:  Is it ever possible for any kind of mind, whether natural or artificial, instantiated in hardware or software or both, to be complex enough to accurately model its own workings in detail?  As it becomes more complex, modeling its own function will also become more complex.  I suspect that this complexity will increase more quickly than the ability of the increasingly complex mind to parse it.]

How many rhetorical questions can one man ask?

Well, it’s Monday again, the start of another work week.  I think it’s a bit unfair that we’ve made the day that we named after the moon—arguably our most unique and interesting and certainly among the most important of nearby astronomical bodies—into a day that’s associated with the return to drudgery after a minor respite.

But that’s not what I mean to write about today.  I’ve been thinking recently about a list I saw of “Greatest Songs of All Time”.  I think it was one of those “WatchMojo” or “WhatCulture” lists, but that doesn’t matter much.  What matters to me is, what had this list declared to be the greatest song of all time?  Well, the answer, my friend, was Blowin’ in the Wind.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the song.  It’s a simple folk tune, pleasant and catchy enough for what it is.  But the greatest?  Musically, it’s not terribly interesting.  It has only three chords, which change in not terribly imaginative or impressive ways, and the tune itself is also not especially beautiful or catchy.  It just repeats its structure 3 times in a row.  That’s all fine, don’t get me wrong, but…surely it can’t be because of the tune and the chords that they think it’s the greatest song of all time.

It must be the words.  After all, the person who wrote this song was recently given a Nobel Prize for his words (all of them, not just this song), so they must be the reason some people consider this the greatest song of all time.  Presumably the Nobel Committee doesn’t give those awards out just for any old lyric writing.  They haven’t given one to Paul McCartney or Bernie Taupin or (God forbid) Tim Rice.

So, Mr. Dylan—if that is your real name*—let’s examine the lyrics of this supposedly greatest not just of your songs, but of all songs.

With the first line, I already have problems:  “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”

It’s internally contradictory.  If a man is walking down any road at all, as the lyric says, you’re already calling him a man.  If the starting point is “a man walking down a road” then he doesn’t need to be a man walking down a road at all before you call him a man.  For a man to walk down a road, he has to be already a man.

Then comes the line “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”

This one just doesn’t make sense.  Do white doves sail?  Aren’t doves land birds?  Does any bird, other than a pirate’s parrot or similar, actually “sail” at all?  Do white doves tend to sleep in the sand?  I thought most dove species nested well above the ground.  Or is this “sleep” a reference to dying?  In which case, maybe a white dove will die if it tries to sail—since they aren’t sea birds—and so it will die at once, and the answer is “one or fewer”.

Next comes “How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?”

Well, I don’t think you need to ban cannonballs.  They’re a long-since obsolete form of military projectile.  What good would “banning” them “forever” do?  Cannonballs are easy enough to make, but again, they are obsolete.

Well, this one I’m willing to accept as a catch-all term referring to all military weapons, but surely banning will not be the way war is ended, since “banning” something requires an implicit threat of force in and of itself.  Surely only by advancing as a civilization to the point where war is no longer in any sense desirable by anyone is the way things will go, if it goes that way at all.

Next comes the title verse, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Now this is clearly just an evocative image (so to speak) showing that the answer is not something that can be grasped, calling to mind poetic queries such as “Who has seen the wind?”  But ever since I were a wee lad, I’ve heard this and thought, “So, maybe the answer is ‘a leaf’.”  Which doesn’t quite make sense, but a leaf is the sort of thing that can be found blowing in the wind.  Or we could go “meta” or whatever, and say, “The answer is, ‘dust’.  Dust in the Wind is the answer.”  And for my money, it’s a much deeper, more evocative, more haunting, and far more beautiful song.

But that’s a digression.

Now, the first lyric of the second verse is one I frequently forget, because it’s partly banal and partly misses any point.  The whole “How many years can a mountain exist before it’s washed to the sea?” is a bit of trivia, and it would differ for every mountain.  Also, I would think that not every mountain is, in the end, washed to the sea.  I don’t really think that’s how geology and plate tectonics work.

As for the third line of the verse, “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he just doesn’t see?” it’s basically an empirical and uninteresting question***; I suppose one could run a test on a statistically significant number of men and have them turn their heads over and over again, pretending not to see, until they get fed up with the process, or fall asleep, or develop some form of repetitive stress injury, then publish the result with error bars and significance estimates, but why would anyone do such a thing?

The middle line sticks in my craw in a worse way, for moral philosophical reasons:  “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”

Well, if freedom is something that people are “allowed” then they aren’t free at all.  They are being given a privilege, not claiming a right.  Freedom is something that is demanded, that is seized, that is declared.  It is not given nor taken away—ethically, anyway—at the whim of other people.

It is certainly questionable, as a matter of physics, whether anything like “freedom” actually exists, but from a civilizational point of view, if you think you have a right to “freedom”, you don’t ask to be allowed to be free, you insist upon it, and—if it’s important enough to you—you put your life on the line to seize it.

Then comes the little chorus again.

Now for the last verse, which starts, “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?”

Well, honestly, we don’t have enough information to answer that question.  If the man is in a closed, windowless room, then it doesn’t matter how many times he looks up.  He’s not going to see the sky.  On the other hand, if he’s in the basket of a high-flying balloon, for instance, or in a plane, he may not need to look up at all to see the sky.  But if he is outdoors, and it’s not cloudy (unless clouds count as “the sky”) then he only has to look up once to see the sky.

The next line is “How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?”

The most straightforward answer is, “At least one.”  I would be willing to include in this definition of “ear” anything that transduces sound into decipherable neural impulses reaching the appropriate brain centers for interpretation, including those amazing new devices that have allowed previously deaf people to hear for the first time.  When those are turned on, and you see the recipients’ reactions, anyone with half a soul can’t help but cry.  That’s poetry in real life.

But it’s orthogonal to my point.

Next comes perhaps the silliest line, to me:  “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

There are a lot of assumptions made in asking this question, such as the notion that death is inherently bad in and of itself.  If that’s so, then we’re all hosed, because as far as we know, every human born will die someday, somehow.  As far as we can tell, the universe itself will eventually reach some stage of “heat death” with the development of maximal entropy and no free energy, where there will no longer be any arrow of time.  But in any case, every human will die eventually, that much is effectively certain.

So, how many is too many?  I suppose if the last mating pair of humans alive in the world die, leaving the human race extinct, then “too many” people would have died…from the human point of view, anyway.  Maybe to other creatures on the planet this would entail “just the right number of deaths”.

This line is part of a general attitude toward which I have antipathy.  It is not death per se that is the evil.  It is premature death, and death that causes or entails unnecessary suffering.  Suffering is the real tragedy, not death.  Everyone who is born will die.  If not—far worse—they’re eventually going to find themselves floating in a featureless, timeless haze at just-above-absolute-zero, and they’re going to be alone there until the next Poincaré recurrence, estimated to be on the order of 10120 billion years, if such a thing even happens at all.

That doesn’t sound fun.  Why not just be content to die and then come back whenever the laws of physics accidentally recreate you, somewhere****, which is going to be more likely to happen sooner than the whole universe recurring, not that you’ll experience the intervening time.  That’s all assuming that the laws of physics don’t contain bigger surprises than anyone expects, which they probably do.

This should all be enough to show my irritation with the notion that Blowin’ In the Wind might be the best song ever.  It’s obviously memorable, of course, and it made me think—but only in the sense of thinking of the ways that it’s awkwardly worded or ham-handedly metaphorical.  All Along the Watchtower is a better song, in my opinion.  Even The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a little better.  Or The Man in the Long Black Coat!

Then again, I’ve written a lot of words picking apart this one, simple song, with a simple chord and verse structure, with many lines that could be considered what Dan Dennett calls “deepities”—words that sound profound, but which are fairly banal and even trivial or nonsensical when you look at them closely.

But I did stop and look at them and pick them apart and think about what they could mean if they were slightly better worded, and they made me think about possibly better questions to be asked.

Maybe it’s a pretty great song after all.  Who would’ve thought it?


*That’s a joke.  I know it’s not his real name.  His real name is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov**.

**That’s a joke within a joke.  It’s not actually Bob Dylan’s real name.  Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Dylan is Dylan, just as Muhammed Ali—another famous poet—was Muhammed Ali.

***Though I know it’s really a rhetorical question referring to people’s ability to ignore injustice, and I don’t actually have any issues with it as such.  So I apologize for being picky about this line.

****Possibly as a so-called Boltzmann Brain, which frankly doesn’t sound appealing.

Is it really?

Okay.  Um…it’s Friday now, which tends to happen on the day that follows Thursday, and since yesterday was Thursday, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anyone, let alone me, that today is Friday.

I suspect there are plenty of people for whom Friday is a good thing in and of itself.  Or, well, not really “in and of itself”, now that I think about it.  In and of itself, it’s just another day, with nothing to set it apart from the 1.6 trillion or more others since the Earth first coalesced and cooled and the similar number that will pass in the future, until the sun’s expanding surface envelopes Earth and reduces it to cinders and dust in the eventual ring nebula that our solar system will become.  But within our current social system, Friday is the end of the “work week” and the “school week”, and so for many people it is a harbinger of pleasant—albeit brief—times to come.

This will be my weekend off, meaning I won’t be working tomorrow (the office is never open on Sundays), so I don’t expect to be writing anything tomorrow.  I also don’t think I’m going to be making and uploading any videos, but that’s not unusual.  Eventually, I expect I’m going to do a bit of the latter for a while, though it probably won’t last for long.  If I do end up successfully following that plan, I will no doubt share/embed such videos here, for posterity and for the ease of my regular readers.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling discouraged that there are so few regular readers out there in the world.  Has it been this way my whole life?  I feel that when I was younger there were more readers around, as a percentage, than there are now, but perhaps that’s a misperception on my part.  I lived in a family that embraced and celebrated reading; both of my parents read to me when I was young (as did my sister), and certainly my sister was (and is) at least as avid a reader as I am.  My brother is not as big a reader of fiction as I or our sister, but still, he read quite often when I was young.

I think my Dad didn’t read as much as he wanted to, because he worked a full time job, but his father was a big reader, and my Mom read quite a lot.  I remember she liked those Harlequin romance novels, but she also always loved mysteries.  And my family got three daily newspapers, at least for a while, and quite a few magazines.

Nowadays, even people who have good imaginations and who will want to tell stories and be creative in doing so are going to have a higher chance of being distracted by all the video media that abounds, and very few people will read, let alone write, long stories in the printed word.  Even things like Harry Potter became movies even before the whole series of books had come out, so though the books did bring many young people to the wonderful world of reading magical stories, I can’t help thinking that there’s someone out there who would have started reading the books and loved them, and maybe from there would have gone on to read more and other books, but didn’t because, thanks to the films, they didn’t need to do it.

Oh, well.  There is no gravity; the universe is just warped.

In front of me now, one the wall of the train, there is a (very nice) poster advertising* the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and related services.  It’s good that they promote it, and that they do it in such a way, trying to show a group of people from various walks of life, all of whom look glum, and above whom are symbols of things like heartbreak, confusion, pain, etc.  “Lonely?  Depressed?  Anxious?” it asks.  Then below, it tells us, “It’s OK to not be OK”. I have two minor and really pointless quibbles about this line, and I can’t help having them, despite the fact that it makes me hate myself even more than I already did.

The first quibble is with the split infinitive.  I don’t like split infinitives partly because, in many languages, it’s not even possible to split an infinitive**, and this includes the most broadly spoken language in the western hemisphere***, Spanish.  It’s not a terribly big deal, I guess, but I feel that in many ways writing “It’s OK not to be OK” would be at least as good, and in a certain emphatic, rhetorical sense, it might be better yet to write “It’s OK to be not OK”.  That last one makes “not OK” the state you’re in, as one phrase, and I think it really works for emphasis.

Never mind that.  The point that really got into my idiotic, dysfunctional nervous system was to note that, well…it had better be OK not to be OK, because it’s not like people get to choose.  If people could choose, no one would choose to be “not OK”.  Why would they?  It makes no sense.  Surely, if people could choose, everyone would choose to feel good and energetic and motivated and enthusiastic every day.

If people could choose, there would be no self-help books.  Who would say, “Hmm…today, I think I’ll dial myself toward the ‘depressed’ and ‘suicidal’ settings, just to change things up and keep from getting bored”?  If they could do that, why not just adjust the “boredom” dial downward and not be depressed and suicidal?

It’s a bit like saying “It’s OK not to be able to go the speed of light”.  Well, it had better be OK, because you don’t have any choice about it.  And though it’s more complex, you don’t have any simple choice in the previous matter, either.  It’s like I always want to say when I hear the Rush lyric, “I will choose free will”—No.  You won’t.  You either have free will or you don’t have free will, but you don’t have any choice in the matter.  It’s not up to you.

Of course, ultimately, I’m quite sure that the whole point of this most welcome poster on the wall is to say, in a concise and relatable way, that they know that people don’t have a simple choice about not feeling OK, and that people shouldn’t feel guilty or bad about the fact that they do.  It’s not a sign of weakness, or a fault, and even if it could be called such things, it’s not your fault in the sense of being a mistake or failure on your part.  It’s something that happened to you, not something you did.  And it’s OK to ask for help if you’re able to do that…though many of us are not…it’s one part of that thing that makes us not OK.

If you had designed and built the world and yourself, you might be personally to blame, but you didn’t and you aren’t.  Neither did any of the people around you.  So, try not to take at least that bit of blame and shame upon yourself, if you can help it.

Of course, when you’re depressed and suicidal, that’s a state of mind that can be hard to achieve.  Goodness knows I can’t seem to do it.


*Is that the correct term?  I guess it works.  I wish I had taken a picture of the poster; I tried to look for it online but have been unsuccessful…which doesn’t really help my self-esteem much.

**To do so in Spanish would be to split the word in a bizarre kind of tmesis.  “To not be” would roughly equate to “ha-no-cer”, but even that doesn’t quite capture the trouble.

***Based on number of countries, at least, in which it is the primary language.  I think one also cannot split infinitives in Portuguese, the primary language of Brazil.

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.

TTFN

pene-blog1


*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.

Who is this Frigga person, and why is a day and a minced oath named after her?

Well, it’s Friday once again, despite all the odds against that happening*.  I’ve now been writing these quasi-daily posts for almost two weeks.  Really, I suppose, it’s closer to being a week and a half, but that’s a difficult measure to use, because half a week, of necessity, involves half a day in the middle, since weeks have an odd number of days, but days, and daily things, are whole numbers.

I’m told that the number of days in the week was originally related to the number of “non-fixed” celestial bodies that are visible to the naked eye:  the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Of course, our modern. English names for the days don’t completely match up with the names of the planets/moon/sun, but we do have a Sunday, a Moon Day, and a Saturn Day**.  That’s almost half a week worth of days…but, of course, since weeks are made up of an odd number of days, we can’t have a whole number of days equate to half a week, anyway, as I said before.

It’s good that the number of minutes, hours, and seconds in our standard time measurements are more sensible.  It’s my understanding that this comes from the Babylonians, who were not only good with hanging gardens*** but with highly divisible numbers, such as 24 and 60.  Just look at all the ways you can divide sixty evenly:  by 2, by 3, by 4, by 5, by 6, by 10, by 12, by 15, by 20, and by 30!  And 24 isn’t a slouch for being a smaller number; you can divide it by 2, by 3, by 4, by 6, by 8, and by 12.  Just imagine if the number of minutes in an hour, or seconds in a minute, or hours in a day, were odd numbers.  Imagine if they were prime numbers!  How cool would that be?

No, wait, I mean that would be highly inconvenient.  And it would be inconvenient.

Presumably there were other attempts to devise systems for measuring time during a day—I think I recall reading that sometime around the French Revolution and the creation of the Metric system****, there was an attempt to innovate a decimal clock of some variety.  You can sort of understand where they were coming from, if this story isn’t apocryphal.

But there appears to be a sort of natural selection with secondary inertia that applies to things like systems of time division, and it’s very difficult to knock out an entrenched one that functions reasonably well, and upon which many dependencies have evolved, without some truly catastrophic breakdown of the prior system.  Just look at the QWERTY keyboard layout!

None of the preceding was what I had “planned” on writing about this morning.  Well, I say “planned”, but it was just a vague notion, and I distracted myself right from the start with stochastic and tangential thoughts, which is almost always how these blog posts happen.  As it was written by the great Robert Burns—you know he’s great just from his first name—the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.  And my plans are rarely among the best laid; in fact, I don’t think my plans have gotten laid in more than ten years.  No, not even on Frigga’s Day, which you’d think would be good for such things.

I had thought about a post detailing a movie or story idea, about a person who wakes up one day to find, or perhaps discovers gradually, that he has become a zombie.  He’s not a philosophical zombie à la David Chalmers, but a horror-style zombie…of sorts.  He doesn’t start shambling about (much) and he certainly doesn’t have the urge to bite and/or eat living humans, except maybe when they’re being really annoying.  He’s just gradually rotting and falling apart and wearing away.  He has no vivacity, has low energy, and his face and body are steadily decaying and becoming disgusting.

But none of the people around him seem to realize what’s happening to him, even when he tries to call attention to it and see if anyone can help.  He’s gone to doctors and sought out zombie-therapy (it’s not a unique problem to him), and tried medications, and meditations, and supplements, and lifestyle changes and all that sort of stuff, but it doesn’t seem to help…or when it does, it only helps a little, or for a very short while.

I’m imagining his appearance degenerating sort of in the fashion of David’s friend, who was killed by a werewolf, then showed up more and more rotten every time while he urged David to break the bloodline of the wolf in An American Werewolf in London.

And our protagonist is unable to rest, because, well, rest doesn’t really help a zombie feel better.  It’s just immobility, after which, if anything, he’s stiffer and sorer than before.

A big part of the story would be him feeling tormented by the fact that the people around him don’t seem to realize that he’s got this problem, even when he tries to ask for help.  And he could really use some help, because—being a zombie—he’s unable to help himself.

Finally, he decides he just has to try to figure out what ways there are to destroy zombies reliably, and with reasonably little pain and mess, so he can end his torment.  Some versions of the zombie lore say its enough to “shoot them in the head” as in George Romero’s movies, but others say zombies will keep moving as long as any part of them remains intact.

He considers using fire, but that would be very difficult to force himself to use.  He still feels pain, you see.  Indeed, he feels it more than most, because his body is slowly falling apart, and his nervous system is fairly screaming at him that something is wrong, all the time.  So, if fire didn’t work, or if someone “rescued” him after he’d doused himself and lit the match, he’d be in that much more pain and his existence would be that much more horrific.  Similar issues arise with notions like walking into the depths of the ocean to be crushed or jumping from a very high cliff.  If he shot himself but didn’t aim perfectly, he’d be “alive” but with part of his brain destroyed, assuming destroying the brain even works on zombies.

And the people around him might still not realize that he had a problem.

I’m not sure how this story would end.  Is there ever going to be a way to cure this affliction?  It seems unlikely.  There are treatments that sometimes relieve symptoms (in the story world), but there is no known cure, because the cause is nebulous.  Zombie-ism is at least somewhat genetically influenced, since it tends to run in families, but no one is quite sure how, and it appears to be too thoroughly multifactorial even to conceive that there might be one single root cause.

It’s a bit ham-handed as stories-that-are-metaphors go, but if it were well done and well-acted, it could be decent.  If someone did it, I might watch it, or read it, seeing as I am a zombie myself.

Let me know, please, if someone makes that movie or writes that book.  Thanks!


*As far as I know, there was almost no chance that it wouldn’t happen, but it sounds more dramatic the other way.

**And you could sort of make the case that Wednesday, from Wotan’s Day, is a Jupiter Day, but that’s stretching things a bit.  I’m not sure that in Norse mythology Wotan or Odin was ever actually associated with the planet Jupiter.  And Friday is supposedly named after Frigg, or Frigga (played by Rene Russo in the MCU), a Norse goddess of fertility or some such, very loosely similar to Venus—and apparently, many languages (as in the Spanish “Viernes”) refer the name of this day of the week more directly to Venus.

***You’ve gotta be careful with hanging gardens, though.  If they fall, your former garden can become a dwelling place of demons, as in the line from Revelation 18.

****Which is quite a logical, internally consistent, and excellent system.

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…

It’s actually 5:03 am as I’m starting to write this, but it’s damn close to the time mentioned in the opening line of the Beatles song She’s Leaving Home, and that seemed too fine a coincidence not to note at least in the title of today’s post.

It’s not ironic, by the way, in case anyone out there thinks it is—though probably most of the readers here on WordPress know the difference between irony and coincidence.  But the public at large, unfortunately, at least in the USA, seem to think irony is simply any somewhat amusing or tragic coincidence.  Whereas (for instance) the only real irony in the Alanis Morissette song, Ironic, is that none of the examples she gives in the lyrics are really cases of irony*.  In that sense, the entire song, taken as a whole, is truly ironic…which is a rather delicious irony, if you ask me.  I sneak myself toward the suspicion that Ms. Morissette did that on purpose, and in fact, I would be delighted for her to confirm this fact.

If anyone reading knows her personally, could you ask her for me?  Thanks.

Today is July 13th, a date which has the slight fun of being a pair of prime numbers (7 and 13, in case anyone was unclear on that).  It has the added charm of being a combination of a supposedly lucky number (7) and a supposedly unlucky number (13), which combination is borderline ironic in a certain sense, but not really.  Of course, which numbers are deemed lucky, and which are deemed unlucky is deeply culturally dependent.  Apparently, for instance, the number four, in at least one of the ways it can be pronounced**, is considered unlucky in Japan, because it sounds like the word for “death”.

This is all good evidence that “lucky numbers” are not actual, natural, real things in the world, outside of human minds.  Cultures the world over figured out arrows and spears, and fire, and the fact that things fall when you drop them, and that pyramids are strong and stable structures.  The Mayans figured out the number 0 (zero) centuries before Europeans used it or came to the western hemisphere, but the people of India had figured it out, too, on the other side of the world.  When things are real and natural—at least when they’re also useful or pertinent—cultures across time and space will tend to arrive at the same conclusions about them.

Judge for yourself, based on this, whether the many and varied world religions have more in common with “the wheel” and “counting numbers” or if they are more like “lucky numbers” and local fashions of apparel.  Don’t worry about what I think; I’m not here to tell you what to decide.  I’m here to be judgmental if I disagree with you.

I’m kidding about that last sentence.

This will now be, if my figuring is correct, the eighth of my pseudo-daily blog posts since I decided to do this instead of writing fiction—which I cannot be arsed to do right now—or playing guitar—which I don’t enjoy much at the moment, and which is giving me some kind of repetitive stress inflammation in my right hand and wrist.  That soreness could be contributing to my lack of enjoyment, obviously, but I don’t think it’s the main thing.  I’ve just got rather severe (and worsening) anhedonia.

For example, I threw away a Dutch apple pie yesterday which I had accepted as an impromptu gift from someone who had it and didn’t want it, because when I began to eat a small piece, I realized I didn’t much like it.  This is very weird for me.  In my younger days, I was known to eat an entire mini-sized Dutch apple pie from the Publix bakery in a single sitting***.  It was one of my favorite things.

This is not the only one of my prior “comfort foods” or foods-of-indulgence that has lost its charm.  Almost all of them have.  You would think I would start to lose weight, since I’m not eating as much of the foods I like.  Maybe I am, but it’s too slow to notice.  Oh, well, whataya gonna do?

I don’t think I really have much more to talk about today.  It’s arguable, of course, that I haven’t had much to talk about on any of the previous days that I wrote blog posts, or when I wrote fiction for that matter, but that didn’t stop me from writing—which is fine in my view.  But today I just think I’m in the mood to peter out early, not just with writing but with everything else.  I wish I could take the day off work or something, but Wednesday is the day on which I do my most “crucial” work at the office.

Someday soon I’ve gotta just get them ready to take care of all this without me, because I really don’t know if I’m going to be around much longer.  Not because the job is bad—it’s not.  I like the people I work with well enough, and my boss is very nice, and positive, and my coworkers are for the most part good and well-meaning people****.  In fact, it’s safe and accurate to say that the only person at the office whom I really, deeply, do not like…is myself.

I need to get away from that asshole.


*If “Mr. Play-It-Safe” who was afraid to fly had refused to get on a plane but had instead taken a train, and then the train had derailed catastrophically, that would have been irony!

**“Shi” as opposed to “yon”.

***This wasn’t a good thing, per se—it’s certainly not a healthy habit, and was in its own way a desperate attempt to find some reliable source of positive feeling when I couldn’t seem to generate such things by other means.

****One of them came in late yesterday specifically because he wanted to be home to watch the revelation of the first scientific images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and I can’t argue with that decision or his priorities.  They were fine images indeed, though I’m more interested in the new science that can be learned through them.

Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust? And, blog we how we can, yet die we must.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so, whether anyone asked for it or not—whether anyone wants it or not—it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I can only apologize.

So far, this week has been marginally better than last week for me, which may not be saying very much, but at least it is better by some measures.  I got quite a bit of writing done this Monday through Wednesday on the train; I’ve been using my laptop, not my phone to do it, despite my thoughts that I just might stick with the former device.  Still, on each of those three days, I wrote roughly 2100 words in the morning, which is more than twice as many as I wrote last Friday, which was a very difficult day, continuing the pattern of the days that had preceded it.

Anyway, The Dark Fairy and the Desperado is moving along well.  Though we have not met the Dark Fairy yet, we have met the Desperado.  He is the first person we encounter, and he is soon to be sent to meet his fellow title character.  It won’t be a friendly encounter, I’m afraid, but if things all went easily, where would be the fun?  A story without the exchange of fireballs and bullets between protagonists can hardly be called a story at all.

I also remembered to post the next part of Outlaw’s Mind here this week, unlike last week, so to those of you who were pining for it, you’re welcome.  I tried to put in a “continue reading” tab, so that it wouldn’t take up as much screen space for scrolling purposes if you’re trying to go back to further entries, but I’m not sure I succeeded.  I didn’t try very hard to check, and I haven’t yet gone back to insert any in earlier posts.  Have I but world enough and time, I mean to do so.

I’ve considered perhaps interspersing some posting of parts of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado here, perhaps alternating with Outlaw’s Mind, perhaps posting them on another day of the week.  Let me know what you think, if you have any interest in the question at all.  It’s not a horror story, but is instead a trans-universal fantasy adventure, so be prepared.  I want to (and so I hereby do) remind everyone that these are stories in early draft form*, so they won’t be as polished and streamlined as something that’s been formally published would be.

In this, unfortunately, they may bear all too much resemblance to all too many of at least the online versions of publications from Scientific American to the various major newspapers, all of which seem to have fallen into the editorial hands of the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert, and many of the writers of which seem to have learned their trade via Twitter-mediated coursework.  Honestly, the state of much of the publishing industry is terribly dispiriting to note.

More than once within the last few months, in mainstream-published books about arguably serious subject matter, I’ve encountered the words “free reign” used instead of “free rein”.  That latter is an expression related to horseback riding, in which one essentially releases control of the horse to allow it to go where it will, presumably at high speed, but with outcomes that may be difficult to predict, and this is the source of the metaphor.  The former is…I don’t know, perhaps a reference to some form of particularly liberal monarchial regime**.

But, as they say, I digress.  I’m prone to do so often and grievously.  The point I meant to make was simply that I wouldn’t want you to mistake the form in which I might share parts of a story here for the way they might appear in “officially” published form, in case anyone were to consider buying one of my books.

One other thing I did at the end of last week was to record a video of me playing guitar and singing the David Bowie song, A Space Oddity.  I had downloaded the chords to the song from a site of which I am a member, and they sounded so good to me when I played them, even though they weren’t particularly difficult chords, that I couldn’t resist making a video.  I’ll embed it here, for anyone who is interested.  I make no promises regarding the quality of the playing or the singing; I just liked singing and playing the song.

And I think that’s pretty much what I have to share this week.  I hope you’ve all been feeling and doing better than I have been, and I do mean “all”.  I’ve been having a truly rough time, though at least I’ve kept on writing, and I don’t want any of you to feel like I do, no matter what Peter Frampton might say.  I would seriously like you to share (in the comments here, not on Facebook or Twitter, which I tend not to spend much time on for the sake of my already alarmingly tenuous mental health) whether you would be interested in reading sections of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and if so whether you would mind if I alternated them with Outlaw’s Mind, or if you would prefer to have me share them in another slot during the week.

Otherwise, as always, please try to be kind to each other and to yourselves, because goodness knows I’m not likely to do it.

TTFN

Theoden king


*It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that they are first drafts, because I always reread what I’ve written the previous day before starting on any new writing, and I edit as I do so.  Often, I’ll have reread a portion and edited it more than once in this process, depending on how much I wrote the preceding day.

**A regime, by the way, is related to the rule of a person or dynasty over a nation, or something analogous.  A regimen is a “prescribed course of medical treatment, way of life, or diet for the promotion or restoration of health”, and related usages.  The words are obviously related, so it’s not such a big deal to conflate them***, but it is a bit sloppy, and—of course—it irritates me far beyond its level of importance.  One follows an exercise regimen, not an exercise regime, unless one is ruled over/governed by one’s workout routine in a more or less literal sense****.

*** “Reign”, on the other hand, comes from Latin via Old French and Middle English and so on, while “rein” is apparently derived from Old Norse, so though they are homophones, they are not closely related words.

****A “diet” is more complicated, since it can refer to a legislative body, thus making things ever more confusing, though I doubt that many people confuse regime with regimen for that specific reason.  There’s even a famous historical “Diet of Worms”, which had nothing to do with the eating habits of annelids, but instead referred to a body convened to address the heresy of Martin Luther.  Though I love it dearly, English is often muddled and can be confusing.  It’s both a technically “degenerate” code and also often not a very specific one.  Maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up by people mistaking a horseback metaphor for one related to monarchy and similar governmental situations.

Full fathom five thy blogger lies; of his bones are coral made

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, March 10th, 2022, the second Thursday in March, and it’s time again for my weekly blog post.

As those who follow this blog know, I posted the 4th part of Outlaw’s Mind earlier this week.  If you haven’t seen it, you can feel free to go and read it here.  If you haven’t read any of it, and you’re interested, the first part is here, and you can see the listing of all the “parts” here.

I call them “parts” because they really aren’t chapters.  As I break them up, chapters tend to be longer in most cases, but I haven’t assigned chapters yet in this story.  I often don’t do that until the story is finished, after I’ve trimmed and adjusted things.  This story is being posted in very raw form, and if it’s rough and not as good as it might be because of that, I apologize.  I do appreciate those of you who read it, and I hope you enjoy it.

I’ve done a decent amount of writing on it this week—about 6500 words—the single biggest chunk last Saturday morning, when I cranked out a ridiculous two thousand words in under an hour.  I have no idea how to explain that.  It may very well be crap because of it, I’m not sure.

I don’t honestly know whether any of my writing is anything other than crap from anyone’s point of view but mine.  I’m not fishing for compliments; nor am I fishing for insults*.  I just honestly don’t know.  I don’t know very well how people react to anything I do, frankly.  People in general are confusing to me, sometimes even people I’ve known my whole life.  I do know that, for the most part, they don’t like having me around much.  Can’t blame them; I feel the same way about myself.

I haven’t done anything new, musically, but I did re-figure out the chords and specific melodies of my song Come Back Again (which is available to listen on YouTube if anyone is interested).  I hadn’t written down the chords except the basic opening ones originally, and when I happened upon a sheet with a few of those the other day, I figured I’d write out the melodies as they are and refigure those chords—maybe even change them some from the original, though I don’t think I did.  I’ve never been completely happy with how the song turned out as I arranged and “mixed” it before, but there are things about it that I like**.  It’s maybe too slow, and it’s certainly a bit gloomy, but then again, I’m a bit gloomy…in the same sense that the Pacific Ocean is a bit damp.

I’ve been trying to get into somewhat better walking condition, trying to work through calluses and blisters to get ready for a near-epic undertaking that I have tentatively planned.  I’ve been going slightly farther each day (with a few days off to let blisters settle out), and last night I walked about three and a half miles after work.  Once I’ve gotten up to about six miles at a pop without new blisters (no pun intended) or soreness, I think I’ll be pretty much physically ready for my undertaking, though there will be other preparations needed beyond that.

I’ll be saying/writing more about it as time goes on, and when it happens, I mean to make YouTube videos and will of course share them here and via my few anti-social media channels.  I don’t know whether anyone will even notice, but I hope to make it a useful process, perhaps calling attention to some charities or other.  My favorite one so far, and the one linked to my Amazon Smile account, is Reading Is Fundamental.  I remember their public service messages from when I was kid, and I agree entirely with their title.

I’ve said it over and over again, in various places and times:  I think written language is the lifeblood of civilization.  Almost everything good that we’ve done on any kind of scale, and any durable progress we’ve made, has depended on written language in one form or another.  As Carl Sagan put it, “Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs.  Books break the shackles of time.  A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

We watch videos of people all over the internet and web, and see stories told in movies and TV shows, but with a book, we can hear the words and thoughts of other people speaking directly in our minds, even ones who lived a very long time ago, in a galaxy that was then far, far away…certainly on any human scale***.  Through writing we can store memory and experience and understanding that can endure and build over the course of millennia.  We can step outside our parochial concerns—and all of our daily concerns are, finally, parochial, as is all politics, and social movements, and fashion trends, and all else that seems to grab people’s attention so very strongly.

That’s about all I have for this week, I suppose.  It’s probably actually more than I have, frankly, since I haven’t really said anything of substance, and I’ve probably wasted your time.  Apologies for that.  I hope you’re doing well otherwise, though.

TTFN

sunken-ships-5


*Hopefully that’s obvious, at least.

**I’m fond of the lines, “Only meeting strangers; always losing friends.  Every new beginning always ends”, because it is self-evidently and logically true when you think about it.

***After all, the Earth orbits the sun, the sun orbits the center of our galaxy, and our galaxy is moving even relative to the cosmic microwave background, towards the Andromeda galaxy, and of course, the universe itself is expanding.  The Galaxy Song, by Eric Idle/Monty Python gives a nice rundown of just how much motion that is, over how great a scale.  The last bit about the expansion of the universe being limited by the speed of light isn’t quite correct, but it’s not a substantive error as far as the song goes.