Bear with my weakness. My old blog is troubled.

Okay, well…hello and good morning and all that usual stuff.  It’s Thursday morning, the second day of September in 2021, and of course it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I don’t have much new to report, frankly.  I wrote an impromptu blog post on Iterations of Zero yesterday morning*, the title of which is a truncated version of the title of a Stephen King story that I thought was very moving.  Writing the post was pretty much a waste of time, which I guessed it would be as I wrote it.  I don’t know if anyone has read it; it certainly hasn’t received any “likes” as of the time of this writing, let alone responses in the comments or whatever.

I can’t blame people for that.  It’s quite a depressing blog post, though I’m reasonably proud of some of the writing in it, including my tongue-in-cheek statement, “There is true equity only in death.”  Of course, it’s not surprising—to me at least—that it’s a depressing blog post, since I was depressed when I wrote it, and my life has been dominated more and more by my already chronic depression in recent weeks to months.

Earlier this week, I did something I’ve often been known to do when particularly angry and depressed, which was to tear up and throw away a lot of drawings and the like, and other meaningful-turned-meaningless belongings at work in the office in the morning, while straightening out my area and generally getting rid of things that make it a personal space.  When I’m feeling very depressed and stressed, and angry both outwardly and inwardly, I have to harm myself in some figurative or literal way—often both—and so I did.

I’m honestly feeling very pointless and discouraged, which I guess would come across quite clearly to any imaginary person who reads my IoZ post, but apparently not to anyone in my “real” life, which I guess isn’t so surprising, if there even is such a person.  It’s not as though I have any non-imaginary friends or anything.

This is no one’s fault but mine.  I think you can all tell that I’m not a pleasant person to be around for any length of time; this has been a universal review/rating that I’ve received from all manner of people.  God knows that I don’t like to be around me**, so I can hardly blame anyone else.  Having a conversation with another person, other than about some specific and useful, work-oriented matter, feels to me like I’m committing a minor, or not-so-minor, crime.

I’ve been toying with the notion of just posting House Guest here on my blog, and then once it’s done posting In the Shade here as well, rather than going to all the trouble of making a collection of my stories and publishing it for no one to read.  I’d have to post In the Shade serially, I guess, since it’s too long a story to stand as one blog post, but I think House Guest could tolerate standing alone.  After that, I don’t know, maybe just take down the shingle and stop.  It’s hard even to contemplate finishing Outlaw’s Mind and publishing it, let alone going on to write anything else.

Speaking of which, I’m not sure what else to write here for this week’s blog post.  I wish I had something useful to say, but given the incredible degree of idiocy out there, I’m not sure that any useful message would be received, even if I could find something useful to write, which seems unlikely.  Were humans always this stupid, and the existence of the internet and the web and social media have merely let that come to light and flourish?  Or have those electronic entities, which should have allowed people overall to become smarter, instead caused stupidity to grow and spread like the most dreadful and malignant of tumors?  I feared it might be the case, right from the beginning.  Maybe I’m being unkind*** or biased, or am suffering from a delusional evaluation of human nature and society—to say nothing of the nature of the universe itself—that’s colored by my longstanding and worsening mood disorder?  How would I know?

Anyway, that’s about it for now.  If any of you have any suggestions or reactions regarding my potential change of plans for publishing my stories here on the blog, let me know.  It’s just a random thought in my head, like everything else.  I don’t know what I’ll do, or where.  I frankly don’t know how I’ll find the will to keep moving through today and on into tomorrow…except that not to do my usual stuff would raise more inconvenience than just to keep doing it, no matter how utterly without reward it feels.  It seems at least as hard to stop moving as to keep moving; there’s no course of action (or inaction) that promises anything other than continuing weariness.  Call me a nazgûl I guess.  But I’m a little less scary, maybe, and I don’t work for Sauron****.  And I don’t wear a ring.  Not anymore.

TTFN

Writer-at-work


*Instead of working on editing In the Shade, which is what I “should” have been doing.

**So many times, in literature, fiction, and religious speech, one hears of the sin or failing or danger of “self-love”.  That’s never made much visceral sense to me.  Do people really love themselves?  I mean, the way they might love their children, say—in an accepting and supportive, but disciplining way that wants what’s best for the person?  I grasp the drive to survive, annoying as it can be, and to reproduce, and to seek momentary pleasure and all that.  But I’m skeptical of the notion of self-love.  How could any human, knowing all the many flaws and faults of the species, and knowing himself or herself better than anyone else does and better than they know anyone else, ever really love herself or himself?  It’s so comical that it’s tragic.  Or perhaps it’s so tragic that it’s hilarious.

***Who, me?

****Or any other dark entity of any kind.  I have a job, so to speak, but that’s a mutual exchange to mutual benefit, not any kind of master/servant thing.

Hold hard the breath and blog up every spirit to his full height.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to the first Thursday of August in 2021.  As is self-evident, it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

I’ll start with the writing-related material this time, which I’ve tended lately to push to near the end of my posts, since—unfortunately—during the editing process, not much of substance changes from week to week.  In the Shade is proceeding well, however.  I’ve already passed my initial goal for story compression, i.e., the reduction in total word count, which hopefully is a good proxy for tight writing and quick reading, and thus a more pleasurable, gripping story.  I hope to do significantly more trimming as I go along, but I don’t know that I’ll reach my secondary “goal” of twice as much reduction.  Since I’m more than halfway through my editing iterations, it seems unlikely.  Still, setting a lofty goal, so to speak, usually means that even if one falls somewhat short, at least one will have achieved more than if one had set a low goal.  Only those who attempt the “impossible” can achieve the unbelievable.

I don’t know how I’ll learn whether I’ve achieved the desired overall improvement of my writing.  It’s difficult to tell from my own experience, since I always enjoy my stories when I reread them (so far, anyway).  It would be amusingly ironic if future generations of literary scientists analyzed my drafts compared to the final products and found, in some objective sense, that they were uniformly better in their longer, original forms.  I don’t know how that could possibly happen, but I can’t rule it out.  I take comfort in the fact that, should such analysis ever be done, I will likely be long since dead when it occurs.

I came within a hare’s breadth* of writing a post for Iterations of Zero this last Sunday.  I even loaded up Word for the first time on my newish laptop at home, but I unfortunately failed to clear the mental hurdle of putting the device on my lap in my bed (which is where I spend almost my entire time on weekends) and actually starting to write.

This fact is particularly frustrating because I so often come up with ideas that I would like to explore either in writing or verbally.  I often toy with the idea of keeping my phone handy—it is always handy, now that I think of it—and using it to record myself rambling about these thoughts.  They often occur in traffic, unfortunately, especially when my Bluetooth is acting up and I can’t listen to music as I go, which is my preference.  I sing along for the most part; I tend to get quite absorbed in it.  For instance, earlier this week when I just missed colliding with the very large vertical remnant of a semi-truck tire just over the top of a slight rise on I-95**, I didn’t even break the phrase of the song I was singing—even as I narrowly avoided going head over heels at nearly seventy miles an hour.

It’s weird; I tend to be stressed, confused, and sometimes almost panicky or enraged, in purely social situations, or when my daily routines or interests are interrupted.  But real, serious physical danger—to me or to others, as when I was in medical practice—just tends to focus my concentration.  I didn’t even need to stop to calm down after my recent “brush with death”, though I was very annoyed by the possibility there might be functional damage to my vehicle that I would need to address.  Thankfully, there wasn’t, so I can continue my daily routine as before without disruption.

Still, I really want to work into that routine a pattern of writing down or otherwise recording the various weird thoughts that meander through my head, on subjects from physics and mathematics to psychology, philosophy, sociology/politics/economics, technology, energy, climate, the nature of complexity, etc.  Also, I could use it as a kind of “therapy”.  I definitely “need” that, in the sense that my mental health is far from good and is probably worsening.

I have at least taken some baby steps in seeking help, using an unexpected disappointment that at least presented an opportunity:  When I clicked an offered link for help after repeatedly taking the online AQ test and getting consistently quite high results, it didn’t take me to any Asperger’s resources, but brought me instead to the “Better Help” site, which is a resource for online therapy.  After much hemming and hawing and false starting on my part, I’m trying to make arrangements for such therapy, but it’s been difficult because of my schedule, my innate aversion to doing anything to help myself***, and my discomfort interacting with new people, even over video or text.  I’ve finally got something moving, but it looks like it’s going to be only every other week or so; I work long hours, and I’m not going to do online therapy while other people are in the office, even if it’s during lunch.  It’s almost inconceivable that I could manage “in-person” therapy, though I’ve done it in the past.

Well, life is complicated.  I frequently doubt whether it’s worth the effort, but since we can’t test the alternative and then change our minds, we keep putting our shoulders to our Sisyphean boulders and hope that maybe, at the very least, this time we might get a tiny bit of rest at the top of the hill.  Though, honestly, I don’t know what I would even do with such a break.

Still, I have Outlaw’s Mind to look forward to finishing once I’m done with In the Shade and thence with Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  Writing new fiction—and usually even new nonfiction—is always a boost.  I’m not sure why, but it is.

TTFN

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*Which is larger than a hair’s breadth, of course, but hares do tend to be svelte, so it’s still pretty close.

**A smaller bit of debris to the right ripped a panel loose on the side of my bike, but I have a cool head in times of stress.  Though I wobbled back and forth for a few subsequent seconds, I never came very close to going over.  Sometimes I honestly regret such “coolness”, but a motorcycle accident on the interstate is not how I would prefer to die, especially since it might not kill but merely maim me.  That would be such a pain both literally and figuratively.

***Who among us would not have mixed feelings at the prospect of giving aid to his greatest enemy?

O God, your only blog-maker. What should a man do but be merry?

Okay, well…hello and good morning and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have anything quite as momentous as last week to talk about today, but I’m making progress on good things, nevertheless.

For instance, I’m almost done editing my short story House Guest, which is even older than The Vagabond…I wrote it when I was in high school; I think I was sixteen at the time.  Editing this story is a much faster process than editing The Vagabond was, and it’s about eighty times faster than editing Unanimity was.  House Guest is a true short story, only about six thousand words long; even going through it repeatedly doesn’t take much time.  I haven’t needed to change much, except to update some of the medical trivia based on my far more advanced present knowledge.  There’s only a little bit of it; it’s not crucial to the story, but it does enhance it a bit.

It’s nice to be able to go back and see that I didn’t write much worse then than I do now.  I might have written better occasionally.  Certainly, I didn’t tend to write as long a story.  Or, well, maybe that might not actually be true, now that I think about it.  House Guest is just a short story, after all, and is simply no longer than it needs to be.  My hand-written Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel Ends of the Maelstrom from around the same time was well over five hundred hand-written, single-spaced pages long, on very narrow-ruled paper*, and was almost certainly longer than The VagabondMaybe I worry about story length too much.

Oh, by the way, happy April Fool’s Day!  I only realized the auspicious date—if that’s really the best term—when I saved this file just now.  Despite the usual form of celebration—again, if that’s the right term—associated with this day, I’m pulling no pranks and telling no lies in the writing of this post, unless my forced cheerfulness counts as a lie.  But if that’s a lie, it’s one that I, and I think most other people, tell frequently, probably many times a day.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I encounter a lot of upbeat, “power of positive thinking” type statements and quotes and tweets and posts and whatnot all around cyberspace, but they often give me the sense conveyed by Queen Gertrude when she says, “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”  It’s a rather desperate, almost panicky, quasi-hysterical positivity and cheerfulness…because, after all, no one will like you if you’re not cheerful, right?

And if you do admit to feeling poorly, especially emotionally, then you’ll often get responses full of platitudes and homilies and you-think-you’ve-got-it-bads, sometimes verging toward the tone of a slap in the face from Cher and a shout of, “Snap out of it!”

Of course, to be fair, you also tend to find sincere sympathy and concern.  Even the other stuff often plainly comes from a well-meaning place, so to speak.  I don’t want to impugn the motivations of those responding to things for which our culture gives us very few tools.  I think almost all such people really do mean well.

But our society is drenched in the myths of the rugged individualist and The Secret, and the power of positive thinking and “Think and Grow Rich”, and “quantum healing” nonsense.  If you find yourself tempted by the sugary, empty-calorie bait in those intellectual traps, remember, you only ever hear about the good outcomes, the lucky ones…the failures don’t publish their tales, and the marketing people certainly don’t promote them.  If ever there was an inbuilt and all-but-inescapable confirmation bias, it’s in attitudes about the power of positive thinking.

Not that being reasonably, cautiously optimistic and positive is a bad thing—it’s not, if you can do it, and if you are so constituted that it doesn’t require you to browbeat yourself when you feel down, as you will sometimes, no matter who you are.  Even the Donald gets down in the doldrums de vez en cuando, I’d stake my left kidney on it.  But there’s no evidence whatsoever that the state of the present or future universe is affected by human thoughts and attitudes other than by dint of prosaic methods:  hard work, discipline, planning, thought, careful evaluation and analysis, proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and—almost always—many failures along the way.

I wish some people would positively think themselves able to defy gravity by the power of their minds and would hurl themselves from the nearest equivalent of the observation deck of the Empire State Building to prove it.  That would be putting their money where they mouths are.  When Deepak Chopra talks about the power of the mind to heal and to resist aging (and the like) through some kind of pseudo-quantum nonsense, make sure to compare photos of him now with photos taken twenty or thirty years ago (they are, unfortunately, readily available).  He’s aged conspicuously.  Also, remember that people like Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Einstein, Wheeler, and the like—all of whom understood quantum mechanics far better than your favorite local or international or celebrity purveyor of quantum woo, to say the least—are currently and conspicuously dead.  At least in this branch of the Everettian** multiverse.

Wow.  That was a hell of a tangent, wasn’t it?  No April Fools, though.  I was speaking from the heart—which is to say, conveying my honest thoughts and feelings by means of a computer keyboard.  Nevertheless, the good things I shared at the beginning of this post are true and unsullied, and The Vagabond is out there to be read by any who enjoy horror novels.  I’m getting good feedback on it, as well as on Son of Man, which a coworker of mine recently finished.  She said she loved the twists and surprises, and really enjoyed the book, which can’t help but make even a curmudgeon like me feel happy.  Also, I recently reread The Chasm and the Collision, and the ending of my own book brought minor tears of joy to my eyes.  That’s pretty cheesy, I guess, but I’ll take my little bits of satisfaction where I can get them, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed.

And though you might not think it, I would take great and honest satisfaction in knowing that all of those who read this, and their loved ones—and everyone else for that matter—were healthy, and comfortable, and as safe as they can be, and as happy as often and for as long as they can be without using inappropriate and/or detrimental substances***.  So, if you could do me a favor, please see if you can achieve those results.

TTFN

Some people even go


*I haven’t been able to find such narrow-ruled paper again since that time, though I’ve often looked for it.  Apparently, that super-tight ruling of notebook paper has fallen out of fashion.  It’s too bad, really, because I loved the convenience of having to use fewer pages, though it made editing a bit of a mess.  There were added sentences running into the tattered margins on almost every page, and even I had trouble reading what I had written.  Maybe there’s a good reason that paper fell out of fashion…but it did look beautiful when blank.  So many lines available to fill!

**Hugh Everett is also, lamentably, dead.  He died at age fifty-one, my current age, after having left physics at least partly because of the animosity he experienced against his “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which may nevertheless be correct.

***I might think otherwise if such substances were reliable, or if they didn’t tend to end up causing a subsequent rapid, severe, and painfully ironic downturn in the happiness curve of life, but that’s just not the way things are.

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

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*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.

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

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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

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*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…

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year’s gift

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

fireworks


*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.

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.

When shall we three blog again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Hello and good morning—so to speak—and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I suspect that this week’s writing will be affected by the fact that I got thoroughly soaked on my way into work today and am thus rather uncomfortable.  So much for weather reports of “light rain”.  I won’t be able to get a change of clothes until I go home this evening, so I’m likely to be damp and sticky for most of the day.  I guess it could be much worse.  I guess it could always be much worse.  That’s one of the wonderful things about reality; it has no bottom level—it’s basements all the way down.

As you may be aware, I finished my “bad cover” of the Beatles’ You Never Give Me Your Money and posted a link to it here and directly shared it on Iterations of Zero.  Have a listen if you’re at all interested.  I have to apologize for the opening piano part, which—despite recording and rerecording five times, and trying to adjust in many ways using the sound-editing software, I couldn’t get to sound quite right without either a real piano or a much more expensive electronic one than I have available.  I finally got frustrated and just gave up and left it with the best I had so far.  The rest of the song isn’t too bad, though, and the guitar parts were played on my very good Strat, which was built by my house-mate—who is a much better guitarist than I am—and is also very good at putting a guitar together and improving it.

I have now returned more or less fully to working on The Vagabond, the title of which contains a definite article that is still going to take me a long time to internalize.  I’m on the second run-through, and I’ve found that I need to alter or clarify a few things to get rid of some time-continuity issues that I never noticed when originally writing it.  This is pretty typical, though.  I’ve found it useful literally to keep a running tab of what the day and date is in my stories—at least the ones where such a thing is pertinent—to make sure I don’t create too many embarrassing accidental contradictions.

It’s peculiar that the time of year in this story is almost the same as that in Unanimity.  I guess I implicitly think that horror in a university setting should start in the fall, early in the academic year.  Those who have been to university might think it would be more appropriate to put the real horror at the time of final exams, but somehow, I have yet to do so.  Maybe I feel that it’s too unfair to interrupt students who are studying and cramming, since that can be stressful enough.

I have to say—referring to the above-mentioned soaking—I’m getting sick of the weather here in Florida.  It’s been raining almost nonstop for a period of, oh, let’s see…forever, I think.  This is not an unusual pattern.  This tendency, in addition to the fact that there are no changing leaves in autumn—which I miss sorely, as I even miss wintertime*— is something without which I could do.  The meteorological patterns aren’t the only things wonky about Florida, though.  The politics here is/are frankly idiotic, as anyone who has followed the news since at least the year 2000 should know.  I don’t think that I would have spent three years as an invited guest of the DOC in any other state in which I’ve lived**; perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, as well as being too generous with myself***.

The natural beauty in Florida is, of course, stunning and remarkable, with much wildlife one doesn’t tend to see anywhere else in the US—including introduced species like the Burmese python and some very large iguanas, as well as numerous more indigenous reptiles and oodles of beautiful and amazing birds, insects, and arachnids.  But these and other natural wonders are all but driven into unnoticeability by that most problematic of introduced species:  The Naked House Ape, which is a terrible pest here.

I’m not in the best of moods, even for me, I’m afraid.  Apologies.

I still enjoy writing, at least (and the editing/rewriting process as well, though not quite as much as the initial composition), and that’s a very good thing, since it’s pretty much all I have****.  I really need to get back to posting on Iterations of Zero, so I can keep the relatively dark stuff (other than dark fiction) out of this blog.

But, of course, as I’ve said many times in many ways, there is a reason that a lot of what I write is dark and that most of my short stories are horror stories.  Even The Chasm and the Collision has its quite dark moments, being a fantasy adventure.  And I just finished rereading Son of Man, my science fiction novel, which has as one of its central points the previous, deliberate destruction of most of the human race in an event of “biblical” proportions, called the Conflagration.  Weirdly enough, my demi-vampire story, Mark Red, may be less dark than most of my other writings.

Ah, well, it is what it is.  Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge likes it.  It must be cheap; ninety five percent of the universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, after all.  The ironically-named “ordinary matter”, such as what comprises us and everything we can actually see in any wavelength of light, constitutes a mere rounding error among the matter and energy of the cosmos—a very brief candle indeed.

On that cheery note, I’ll call it done for today.  Despite my gloomy demeanor, I wish all of you the best of all possible days and weeks and months and years.  Try to stay safe and healthy, please.

TTFN


*I grew up in Michigan, then did my undergraduate work in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before going to New York City for medical school—it was the warmest place I’d lived up until that point.  I’m okay with winter, though of course, it has its own issues.

**There’s a local saying that goes, “Florida:  Come on vacation, stay on probation!”

***Those who know me are probably aware that such is not my general habit or character, however.  If anything, I tend to treat myself far more harshly than I do anyone else.

****Plus, some “music”, including my amateurish covers and a few mediocre original compositions that are at least temporarily distracting for me, though many people would probably be just as happy not ever to have anything to do with them.

Travellers ne’er did lie, though blogs at home condemn ’em.

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday again—just another Thursday, there’s nothing particular about this one for me to mention, except of course for the fact that it is merely a common, ordinary Thursday such as Dentarthurdent never could get the hang of—and so it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I intend to make this relatively brief today, because I’m working on a project that I want to put some time into before work.  I’m also riding the train this morning—for several reasons, not least of which is to try to force myself to get at least a bit more exercise by walking from the station to the office (and back) which is slightly less than a mile each way.  It’s good to be able to write and ride at the same time, but it is irritating when the train runs behind schedule and there’s not even any announcement about it at the station or on the website (this happened today, in case you couldn’t guess).

I haven’t gotten as much done on The Vagabond this week as I did last week, because I got sidetracked by the project I mentioned above, namely:  I’m doing another of my “bad covers”.  This time I’m doing one of one of my favorite (possibly my very favorite) Beatles songs.  I doubt you could guess what it is—it’s certainly not one of the first ones to come to most people’s minds when they think of the Beatles—but I’ve always loved it.  Even I don’t know quite why it stands out for me, but it does.

Anyway, I already had the score (I have all the Beatles scores, in a lovely, hardcover book full of them), and I’ve been practicing and learning the guitar and bass parts for the song for quite a while.  There’s some piano in it as well, but that’s easier; I’ve been playing piano since I was nine.  Not that I play it that well, mind you, but it’s not particularly challenging to learn short accompaniment piano parts for songs in which piano isn’t the main instrument.  There are mostly lots of chords, etc., though there’s a really rocking left hand part that I really love that doubles a slightly simpler bass part in the second section of the song.  I’ve only really been playing guitar for about two or three years, if that, learning by doing as it were, and these “bad covers” are one of the ways I do that.  So, that’s been taking a bit of my time this week.

Don’t worry, though.  The Vagabond is coming, I’ve just slowed down a bit this week due to distraction.  Have no fear.  Or, well, don’t have that kind of fear.  You really should fear the Vagabond; he’s not a nice guy.  He’s cruel, but at least he’s unfair.

In other news, I finished rereading The Chasm and the Collision yesterday morning, after re-starting it because my coworker’s son is reading it.  I bounced back and forth between it and a nonfiction book I’m currently enjoying.

It’s a little sappy, and it may be a little pathetic, but I was actually fighting tears when I got to the end of The Chasm and the Collision.  They were happy tears, however; it doesn’t have a sad ending (though there are some losses and tragedies along the way).  I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if I do say so myself.  Of course, you can’t judge by me.  I wrote it, after all.  But I can at least recommend it without reservation and without feeling disingenuously self-interested.  I really think it’s a good book.

I enjoyed CatC so much that I decided I’d reread another one of my “earlier” books, and I started rereading Son of Man yesterday.  This isn’t a book for young kids—it does have a few curse words in it and so on, and the ideas get a little high-falutin’—but it’s certainly not an “adult” novel either.  There’s nothing I’d feel embarrassed for my kids to read, or for my grandmothers to read (if either of my grandmothers were alive), even in my presence.  It’s a science fiction story, and as the title suggests, it plays around a little with some religious ideas.  Don’t worry, it’s nothing literal; there’s no mysticism, and certainly no spirituality in it (God forbid!).  I just enjoyed making a “real” story with parallels of religious notions, using (fictional) science instead of the supernatural.  I know, that’s vague and unclear.  I apologize.  But you can read the book if you’d like to know more.  I have no reservations about suggesting that.  It’s even on “Kindle Unlimited”, so if you’re a member, you can read it for free.  Enjoy!

And with that, my short-ish and fairly disjointed blog post is about finished for this week.  I hope you’re all doing as well as you can possibly be doing, and indeed, that you’re doing better than any mere mortals could deserve.  I still haven’t posted anything new on Iterations of Zero, but you can join me here each week for this, at least.  It’s better than being on Gilligan’s Island.

TTFN

Son of man icon

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.