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.

How strange or odd some’er I blog myself, as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on.

Hello, everyone!  Good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and therefore, to another of my weekly blog posts.  I felt tempted to begin with, “Hey, Vsauce!  Robert here,” since I’ve been watching rather a larger number of YouTube videos than usual, including many Vsauce videos that I haven’t seen in a while.  I’ve shared a few of them, which you may know if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend (I don’t tend to share videos on my Facebook author page.  Maybe I should).

Of course, the above is related to the fact that this is my second Thursday working from home, and thus writing this blog from home.  It’s not that I don’t go into the office at all, since I am responsible for records and payroll, not all of which can be done remotely*.  But we’ve moved such operations as we’re able out of the office.  It’s been surprisingly successful, on some days more than others, but certainly not ideal.

Also, let’s be honest, apart from going to the office, this blog is the most social thing I do, so I’m tending to involute a bit more even than usual, which is probably not a good thing.  I won’t say that, like Melkor, after wandering in the Void too often I start wanting to take over Middle-earth, but like him, my time spent alone (albeit reading and listening to books and watching mostly educational YouTube videos) does lead me to have thoughts unlike those of my brethren.

Then again, I’ve always had those.

Oh, by the way, a Happy Passover to those of you who celebrate it!  I don’t know if anyone’s having seders or not—I suppose they might as well do them with the people with whom they’re living, anyway—but still, hopefully you have a nice holiday that’s not too disrupted from the normal flow.

And of course, the fact that Passover has started probably means that Easter is coming.  Let’s take a look…

…yep.  It’s this Sunday (unless you’re Eastern Orthodox or similar, in which case you’ll celebrate the following Sunday.  I’m never quite sure why the difference, and I guess I don’t care enough to look it up).  So, for those of you who celebrate that holiday, do your very, very best to have a Happy Easter!  As far as I know, chocolate bunnies aren’t sources of contagion, as long as they were in packages that were wiped down before being opened.  Ditto with Cadbury Creme Eggs**!  Of course, I know that none of the chocolate or egg things have anything to do with the religious aspects of the Easter holiday, but they’re fun, and I doubt Jesus would mind people celebrating with chocolate***.

Anyway.

Of course, given my time at home, Unanimity is continuing well, though ironically, not quite as speedily as when I go to the office.  That latter fact is just a matter of transition, adjustment, and adaptation; I’m somewhat overindulging in the fact that I don’t have to commute, and using it as an excuse for a relative lie-in.  I sometimes sleep as late as seven in the morning (!), though admittedly I still experience my usual inevitable awakening sometime between three and four, and do a bit of grumbling and fumbling before I’m able to go back to sleep, if I can at all.  This latter habit has nothing to do with my prostate—I’ve been that way almost for as long as I can remember, and it seems to be related to dysthymia/depression, with its whole lovely early morning awakening.

If I developed the ability to see people’s auras and go higher up the levels of the “tower”, as in Stephen King’s Insomnia, I wouldn’t mind it so much.

I still haven’t released my latest/last version of my song Schrodinger’s Head, nor have I released the audio blog I did off the cuff last week, though they’re both ready for public consumption.  It’s probably partly due to the general topsy-turvy nature of the current weirdness that I’ve been so lackadaisical.  I really must try to get those out soon.

With that, I suppose I have little more to add.  I hope you all stay as safe and healthy as you’re able, while remembering (tacitly, at least) that perfect safety and permanent health are impossible.  Everything involves trade-offs, and no one lives forever****.  But certainly, there is no excuse for endangering others unnecessarily, so take precautions, and if you’re ill, stay away from other people as much as possible.  Hopefully the far end of this thing will come sooner than we think…but of course—and rather by definition—I don’t think it will.  Oh, well.  The world’s a hard place with many sharp corners and uneven surfaces.  That needn’t stop us from making the most of it.

TTFN


*Including giving people their paychecks.

**Mmmmmmm, creme eggs…so yummy!

***“Hey, did you hear?” “What?” “Jesus came back from the dead!” “Wow! That calls for a celebration!  Let’s have some chocolate!” “Sounds good to me!  Oh, by the way, do you know who spilled food coloring on all the eggs and then tried to hide them all over the place?”

****Except Michael Menelvagor and the vampire, Morgan.  To know who those people are, read my books Son of Man and Mark Red.  Go ahead, you probably have some spare time.

For fear lest day should look their shames upon, they willfully exile themselves from light, and must for aye consort with black blog’d night.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly.  “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.”

Hello there and good morning, so to speak.  It’s another Thursday, and therefore, it’s time for another of my blog posts.  QED.

Much seems to be going on in the world outside, though I suspect it’s not that there’s more going on than usual, just that there’s a more unified nature to what’s most being talked about in the news and in rumor and in office chitchat (for those whose offices are still open) and online.  But honestly, there’s not much real information being shared, as far as I can see.  Most of what I’m reading and seeing has more to do with pigeons in skinner cages developing stereotyped behaviors because they think those behaviors lead to food being dispensed than with real, thinking people taking real, considered action.

Not that I should hold this against people.  Humans are primates, and we react to stress the way primates do, only more so.  There are exceptions, of course; a modest percentage of people really do make a difference.  And certainly, a few of the actions many people take are beneficial.  I’ve spoken of them before, and they haven’t really changed.  But much of what people are doing beyond basic, consistent recommendations is as effective as hanging horseshoes and flicking the sign of the evil eye.  And as with such things, if people come out well on the other end of events, they’ll consciously or tacitly attribute their success to having performed their arcane actions instead of mainly to luck coupled with the few reasonable things they do and to the general work of the medical community and the various support people and services who truly do make a difference.

The toilet paper manufacturers, at least, are surely doing very well out of all this, as are the makers of various “wipes” and related items.  It would be nice—as I think I’ve noted before—if people took from this situation an increased tendency to wash their hands more frequently and more thoroughly, to cough and sneeze into appropriate places, and so on.  And, of course, it would be nice if people took forethought into what they made their governments do regarding ongoing healthcare, scientific research, social safety nets in place for disasters, and so on.  But I strongly suspect that this will not happen.  Nature has not shaped us to be good at rational prioritization.  We are much better at following our whims and then performing amazing feats of sophistry to justify our actions after the fact.  We’re very good at telling those stories.

It’s may seem unfair of me to complain about storytelling, but at least I openly admit that my stories are fiction.

One ironic thing about this all is, of course, that my workplace is still functioning, since it is a small office of only a few people that doesn’t interact physically with the general public.  I do our records and payroll, so I’d be working in any case.  Conveniently, at my office, we have an actual doctor (me) to give coworkers recommendations and advice, which they promptly—sometimes instantaneously—ignore to instead do the equivalent of rubbing their crystals.  Meanwhile, I’m not allowed to do the work for which I trained, and at which I was really quite good, in providing actual healthcare to some of the many people who need it.

It’s a bit of an irony, and one I bemoan, that people with loved ones with whom they share their daily lives, and to whom they are important on a daily basis, and with whom they interact, and on whom they mutually depend, are at significantly increased risk of infection, and thus of a small but nonzero chance of acute mortality.  Meanwhile, extraterrestrial weirdos such as I, who could be plucked from the surface of the world any time, with nary a momentary ripple to show that I’d ever existed, are relatively protected.  I suppose I could feel irritated that people are horning in on my act with all their talk of social isolation, but it’s not an act and I don’t recommend it except when it’s a necessity.

This is, oddly, a case where I feel something akin to jealousy of the people who suffer and die from this virus.  It’s not the first such situation.  And it is jealousy, rather than simple envy, because I really would like to deprive others of their illnesses, if that’s the proper word, and would happily take them all upon myself to do so.  It would be an excellent exchange, to great mutual, net benefit—I can only suffer and die once, after all, not millions of times over. And it would be so nice to be so useful, and at the same time get what I want. Regrettably, this kind of sympathetic magic does not work in the real world.  Physics is an implacable, intransigent bastard.

It would be nice to be more generally inspired by people’s reactions to global events, to feel moved by heroic individuals who rise to the occasion to help change things for the better.  I’m certain that those people are out there.  But they are a woefully small minority, and sometimes I think they’re doing a disservice by helping everyone else to survive when they really have no good excuse for doing so, beyond the inherent biological drive that nearly all living creatures have to stay alive.  Very few humans have ever thought seriously and critically about whether life is truly worth living.

There are precious few inspiring humans in the world, and humans are more inspiring than any other creatures on this planet.  The Earth’s history really is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Speaking of tales told by idiots, Unanimity continues to go well.  I’m nicely into the penultimate editing run-through, and it continues to be fun to read, for me at least.  If civilization survives—and/or if I do—then the book should be coming out sometime this year.  I’m not sure if those contingencies are ones to which to look forward or to dread for all of you.  I have a personal bias, and I’m betting that you can guess what it is, if you’ve been paying attention.  But it’s not for me to decide such things for you.

I more or less completed the final mix of my song Schrodinger’s Head by last weekend, and it does sound better and clearer than the original.  I just haven’t felt the urge to share it yet.  I suppose I probably will at some point.  I’ve been having more and more difficulty finding enjoyment in things that used to engage me, even my old fail safes.  I’m losing my patience even for nonfiction, science and math reading, let alone for fiction, and even audiobooks are hard to bear.  The blogs I used to enjoy are all so tediously overwhelmed with politics and pandemics in recent months and years, that I can’t bring myself to sit through a single whole episode.  Even music is mostly just an irritant.  I envy those who are able simply to sleep in their spare time.  Perchance, to dream.

I encourage all of you to keep being careful, if your value your lives and health and those of the people around you, but you don’t need to panic or otherwise go nuts.  Just follow the simple rules of handwashing, appropriate cleanliness, appropriate respiratory hygiene, and “social distancing”.  If you want help with the latter, I’m more or less an involuntary expert, so I can give you some thoughts on it.

It helps to cultivate a conviction that you are not only inherently valueless on any serious scale of being, but that you are actually a burden and a chore to the people around you, a detriment and an unfair load on the shoulders of anyone kind but foolish and deluded enough to care what happens to you.  If you’re able to do this, then trying to interact with others will soon become actually painful—even if you wish to do it—since it will make you feel guilty, anxious, and ashamed.  Because these feelings will be aroused by the presence of and each interaction with others, you will come more and more to dread such interactions, and even to hate them, however much you wish it were otherwise.  If you can arrange for those whom you love to despise you, or at least to find you unpleasant and uncomfortable and not to want you around, that can be very useful.

You can probably see how easy that is.  Familiarity breeds contempt, for we humans are prone to recall and dwell on the noxious far more readily than the soothing…for good, sound, biological reasons which all but guarantee that each life will have more subjective suffering than joy.  Creatures that are content and joyous and readily satisfied do not tend to survive to leave nearly as many offspring as those driven by the internal prods of anxiety, pain, longing, and insecurity.  Obviously, too much of these things can be debilitating, and can impair biological success.  Biology has to leave just enough of a carrot out front to make an organism decide that it’s worth moving forward at all, but short-term thinking combined tiny and transitory rewards accomplish that nicely.  We overestimate the size of those often-illusory gains, while responding only too well to the many blows of the stick, and ensuring that the area under the curve of suffering is maximized across all life.

It’s rather akin to the dynamics of a viral contagion.  A virus that kills too high a proportion of its hosts kills itself off before it can spread very far.  A virus that spreads easily, producing symptoms that encourage its spread, like coughing and sneezing, and which only kills a modest few of its hosts, can maximize itself.  Of course, host immunity in those that survive may suppress it before long, especially if those hosts can take active measures.  But a good virus—like the flu, for instance—mutates often enough and is varied enough that developing lasting resistance to it is extremely difficult.  It’s not a sprint, after all, it’s a marathon.

Wait, am I talking about viral epidemiology or about the nature of suffering in general?  I suppose it’s a bit of both.  They certainly overlap each other.

TTFN

As who should say, I am sir Oracle, And when I ope my lips, let no blog bark!

Meaning

Hello and good morning, as usual.  It’s Thursday (the second Thursday of the decade, or at least of the year), and thus, as usual again, it’s time for another blog post!

So far the new decade has been…well, reasonably interesting, I suppose, but more or less on a par with all other beginnings of years and of decades, and with Thursdays in general, for that matter.  I’ve been continuing to try to feel my way toward the best thing to do with Iterations of Zero, and to that end, yesterday I posted the edited audio of two different recordings, one made on the morning of January 7th, and the other made on the morning of the 8th.  [I also did a bit of a recording on the 6th, but that was almost like one of my old therapy sessions…it was very glum and dark and dreary, and I don’t think I’m going to be sharing it with anyone, at least not for now.]  Anyway, the first of the two, both of which I posted yesterday, was about both the necessity of suffering and the desire for a sort of “political scientism”, as well as a more parochial attitude toward the importance of political ideas…in the sense that I want to encourage people to stop getting so caught up in the importance of their current political bugaboos, and recognize how transitory most of these concerns are.  I’m not sure if I made my case effectively or not.

The second was a bit of thinking about the quantum wave function, Everettian “many worlds” quantum mechanics and the ideas of Fourier analysis.  It’s a bit more esoteric, I guess, than the previous one (but to me a bit more interesting…the other is just a subject that’s irritating, mostly).  Anyway, I posted both of those on IoZ, and then later in the day put them on my YouTube channel.  If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to go listen.  The longest of them is less than fifteen minutes.  If anyone has any feedback, I’d love to get that as well, as always, but I often feel that’s a bit of a pipe dream.  I often feel that when I’m doing these sorts of things, I’m very much talking—and writing, I suppose—to myself.  Now, of course, that’s literally true, when I’m doing it, but I feel that even in the general, broad sense of interaction with the outside world.  Oh, well.

I continue, as usual, to work on Unanimity, which is coming along, and getting pared down slowly and steadily.  I’ve cut over thirty thousand words off already, but it’s still got a ways to go before it reaches where I want it to be, following the general advice Stephen King received from an editor many years ago: that your final version should be your first draft minus ten percent (or words to that effect).  I still sometimes wonder whether I’ll live to see it finished and published or not.

I’m trying very hard to make use of the New Year as a means to drive myself to improve my habits, and I’ve already made some headway on a few fronts (I won’t go into specifics to spare you the potentially dangerous boredom), but I always come up against the barrier of motivation.  It’s not really a matter of willpower, or at least not in the traditional sense.  I have a tremendous supply of stubbornness, and more than a little willpower.  The real question is more of a “why bother?” or “what’s the point?” question, sort of the converse, or obverse, or transverse, or whatever, of Victor Frankl notions put forth in Man’s Search for Meaning (an excellent, but harrowing, book).  His point in general, as I took it, is that if one has a meaning and a purpose, then one can endure almost anything*.  Potentially implicit in that argument, however, is the possible notion that, if one does not have any real meaning or purpose, then almost nothing seems worth enduring at all.  We can certainly see possible evidence of this all around us, perhaps most glaringly and poignantly realized in the drug use and overdose crisis, and the glaring examples of suicides among the highly accomplished and successful (which are only the most obvious examples of such cases throughout our culture…the number of suicides in America is roughly equal to the number of traffic fatalities annually, and the number of attempts is more than ten times as high).

I guess maybe this sort of stuff is more appropriate for discussion in Iterations of Zero.  After all, despite the fact that I glean my weekly blog post titles from Shakespearean quotes, and Shakespeare certainly dealt well with the darker aspects of the human psyche, I do try to keep this blog upbeat.

Of course, I’ve also struggled back and forth in my head with whether I should continue to keep my blogs separate or if I should just consolidate them into one blog (it would be this one, obviously…it would be silly indeed to discontinue an eponymous webpage).  I’ll have to see.  I’d actually love your feedback on this.  Would you like to see the material that I tend to put up on Iterations of Zero just put up here as a greater number of posts of various types? Or do you like keeping the two blogs separate? Which form would lead to greater readership? Does anyone actually care at all which way I do it?

It’s hard to expect an answer to that last question, because surely any negative answer at least would be self-contradictory…though I guess a positive reply would be valid.

Okay, that’s it for today.  I’m not actually feeling all that well, physically, so I think I’m going to post this without quite my usual editing.  I apologize if the means to quality of the content is not as refined as usual.  And if it’s not noticeably worse, I don’t know whether to feel glad or sad about that.

TTFN


*And as a concentration camp survivor, he had the credentials to make that claim.

Art thou not, fatal Vision, sensible to feeling as to sight? Or art thou but a blogger of the mind…

2020

Hello, good morning, happy Thursday, and—of course—Happy New Year!

It’s 2020 (AD or CE), a year that I’ve personally dubbed #TheYearofSeeingClearly*.  My book giveaway is now officially over, sad though that may be.  For those of you who took advantage, I hope you’re enjoying or will soon be enjoying your chosen books or stories.

I haven’t posted anything on Iterations of Zero since my last blog post here…the last two musical posts went out on December 25th.  However, given that the holidays have been underway, I feel it’s okay to give myself one week of a miss.  Now, however, there is no further excuse.  It’s a new year**, and even a new decade by most people’s reckoning, and while there may be nothing magical about the transition, it does serve as a good psychological milestone by which to set one’s goals for self-improvement.

I like the idea of striving to see clearly in this new year because of its coincidental numbering.  It would be nice if we could encourage people around the world to use this year to become more aware of their biases and blind spots, to work at removing the beams from their own eyes so that they can—when necessary—assist neighbors who have asked them to pluck out an occluding mote.  Of course, there’s a bit of a contradiction in trying to encourage other people the world over to be less critical of others and instead to try to look at themselves a bit more harshly with an eye to self-improvement.  Isn’t the very promulgation of such advice a violation of its own precepts?

Maybe in a small way, but it’s not advice that’s focused or targeted on any one person, but on us all, especially on me.  Goodness knows I have plenty of room for improvement, self- and otherwise.

I am, however, trying to achieve such improvements, on several fronts, though I try not to be overly ambitious on each of them, lest they get in each other’s way.  One thing I’ve learned at least to some degree by this stage in my life: you can’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the good.  I’ve long tended toward an attitude of ruthless perfectionism with respect to myself, with the additional, cruel parenthetical that I know that I can never be perfect, so I can never be good enough.  However, as I’ve pondered things throughout the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that, except regarding quite simplistic processes and ideas, the very notion of perfection is mostly vacuous.

It’s also limiting.

To say that we are shooting for perfection implies that there is some upper limit beyond which we can never go.  But as math and science seem to show us, there is no real upper limit to many processes.  We can always improve, always find ways to make ourselves, and our cultures, and our creations, better.

Einstein is reputed to have said that there are only two infinite things:  the universe and human stupidity…and he wasn’t sure about the universe.  That statement about infinite human stupidity—perhaps infinite ignorance would be a better way to think of it—implies an infinite potential for human improvement.  We can keep getting better, as individuals and as a whole, without ever reaching a stopping point, until the end of time itself, if there is such a thing.

One may never reach the peak of an infinitely high mountain, but one can climb higher and higher, and be able to see farther and farther, to ever more distant horizons, with new vistas, filled with wonders one couldn’t have expected, because to have expected them, one would have already had to know what one hadn’t yet discovered.  And obviously one can’t do that.  We cannot ever, in principle, predict the specific shape of future discoveries and knowledge before they are created, for to predict them, we would already have to know them, which we don’t.  Quantum Electro-Dynamics***.

So, it is with a guarded sense of optimism that I approach the new year and new decade, and I hope you are also able to be reasonably optimistic, while still always maintaining a habit of self-improvement, and trying to see as clearly as you’re able.

Finally, with respect to writing/authoring news, Unanimity is coming along well and should be out sometime in the early part—at least the first half—of this year, hopefully followed shortly by Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  And whither then, I cannot tell.

TTFN


*Yes, I had the temerity to give it a hashtag.  It’s probably an unjustified bit of wishful thinking, in any case.  There’s little reason to expect people to see any more clearly, metaphorically, just because the year is 2020 than we ever have before.  But maybe we will.

**Though, admittedly, as I think I’ve said before, “new year”, “new week”, “new month”, etc., are arbitrary notions.  There’s nothing special from an astronomical point of view about any particular point in our planet’s orbit around the sun.

***In other words, “QED”.  That’s my little physics/philosophy joke.

Man on top of a mountain standing contemplates the dawn

O, let my blogs be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking breast.

Antarctic

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  For those of you who are paying attention, I have not (yet) written a post on Iterations of Zero this week.  That parenthetical “yet” may yet become a superfluous “yet”, alas, because I recently suffered from a rather nasty gastroenteritis.  For the first three or so days of this week, I felt almost literally rotten, and I’m still rather washed out, if you’ll pardon the expression.  So, I may have to call this week’s IoZ post a miss, though it pains me to do so after only having done a few weeks’ worth of continuous posting.  I may need just to write a very brief entry there as an apology.

I have been able to keep up with editing Unanimity, though the process was rather slower than usual.  I’m again approaching the latter part of the story, and as expected, it’s not quite as gripping as it was the first several times.  This is good, since it makes me a more ruthless editor, which is a large part of the point of doing it this way.  I’ve already trimmed more than twenty-five thousand words from the original draft, but I’m not near my goal yet, so I must be increasingly brutal as time passes.

I have to admit, at the risk of seeming narcissistic, that I tend to enjoy reading my own stories.  There’s just something about them; it’s as though the author really knows me.

On the other hand, I continue to have trouble finding other people’s tales—including television and movie fiction—engaging.  There are shows and films and books out now that should by all rights be seizing my attention and holding it without ransom, but which barely raise an eyebrow.  I can’t even seem to force myself to partake of them.  It’s not exactly ennui, but maybe that’s the closest thing to it*.  The only stories I’ve been able to focus on lately are the Japanese light novel series whose title is shortened to Oregairo.  It’s about a collection of loners (this is not a contradiction), with a narrator whos particularly misanthropic and cynical, though none of them are hateful or overly pessimistic.  Unfortunately, I’ve reached the end of the volumes that have been published in English, and though they’re good books, I’m not likely to reread them anytime soon.  This is a glaring departure from my usual pattern for books that I enjoy.  God knows how often I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, but it’s been well over thirty times, and even much more so for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.  The Harry Potter books don’t quite reach that level of repetition, but then again, I was already a working and studying adult when they came out.  I didn’t have the free reading time on my hands that I had in grade school, junior high, and high school, when I first read LotR and Thomas Covenant.

Unfortunately, I haven’t even had the will or desire in recent years to reread these great classics.  I’ve started Tolkien**, but I haven’t even gotten to the end of the first section.  Frodo hasn’t even been stabbed on Weathertop yet.  I just lost interest.  And every time I look at either the hard copy or the digital copy of this or any of the other books to consider reading them, I just kind of feel, “meh”.

I do a bit better with nonfiction, especially science books, including audio books.  This is certainly some consolation; I’ve always loved science as much as I’ve loved fiction (though, oddly, only very select science fiction).  Even this has its limits, of course, partly because Brian Greene, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins and the like can only write so many popular science books so quickly***.  I tend to devour them rapidly when they come out.  Also, unfortunately, a lot of science books in subjects I enjoy are just rehashing things I already know.  One can only so often read some new person’s attempt to explain General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics or Astrophysics or Evolutionary Biology to the layperson, especially when others have already done a better job on the subjects.

I think part of the trouble I have with enjoying new fiction—and even new nonfiction, but to a lesser extent—is that I simply don’t have the people in my life with whom I used to share that joy.  Because of that absence, even new potential happiness in reading such stories (or watching such shows, etc.) is tainted and soured.  It’s hard to take pleasure looking at photos of—or imagining—sipping cocktails on a tropical beach with one’s estranged significant other or splashing about in the surf with one’s children if one is currently wandering, lost and alone, in a frozen, Antarctic desert.

Not to be melodramatic about it or anything.

In lighter news, I’m thinking of setting up a promotional giveaway of at least electronic versions of my books and/or stories—one per customer—sometime soon…in time for the holidays, perhaps.  If I do, word of it will probably appear here, in this very blog, before it appears anywhere else.  Indeed, in a certain sense, it just has.

I wish all of you all manner of wellnesses, including ones you’ve never even imagined before, and which certainly I have never had the courage to contemplate.  May each of your personal world-lines become ever better with the passage of time.

TTFN


*It’s almost certainly dysthymia, with its attendant curse anhedonia.

**I’ve even tried rereading The Silmarillion, which I’ve read at least a dozen times in the past.  (It’s not as though I could have read it in the future, is it?)  No luck.

***Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould have been slacking off lately to an inexcusable degree, in my opinion.

A good old man, sir. He will be blogging. As they say, when the age is in, the wit is out.

Nobita crying

Hello and good morning.  It’s the first Thursday of a new month.  Back in the day, you’d have been able to look forward to next week’s episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Of course, it seems that I was the only person who ever looked forward to those episodes, which is why I stopped writing them (insert sigh here).  I guess the title, which I thought was a mildly clever play on the old Willie Nelson song title, was worrisome for most people.  Oh, well.  These things happen.

We’re into November, anyway.  Halloween, and October generally—which should include my two best days of the year, integrating over my whole life—is over.  It wasn’t much of an October, though.  Halloween was quite a disappointment.  I was one of three people who dressed up where I work…two, really, since one of the three just brought a mask that he put on occasionally.  And a total of only two trick-or-treaters came ‘round my neighborhood in the evening.  A separate, less universally noted occasion (which should have been a major life milestone) happened eleven days prior to Halloween and was also a thorough anticlimax.  In fact, it barely avoiding being a non-event.

And now, like many others, I’m irritated by the time change enacted last weekend.  It gets light “earlier” in the morning, which ought to be good, but this tends just to make me feel as though I must have overslept.  As someone who prefers to be early, I find this disquieting.  And, of course, the premature nightfall is irritating as well.  You wouldn’t think that someone who writes horror stories would be bothered by darkness coming sooner, but unfortunately, I tend to be rather strongly affected by the seasonal decrease in daylight.  Once October is over, I’d really prefer to sleep until the vernal equinox, and maybe longer.  By the time the winter the solstice arrives, I’m often so mired in gloom that it seems that it really could take three months of incessant bathing to wash it off.  Don’t worry, though, I’ll try not to let my blog posts become too much of a downer if I can help it.

Let’s see, what else is going on in my thoroughly exciting and captivating life?  Well, as always, I’m moving steadily along with the editing of Unanimity.  The trimming of the fat* from a novel is rather satisfying in a curious way.  It’s a little like when one carefully inks over a pencil sketch and then erases the underlying graphite once the ink is dry.  The product is so much neater and sharper…though occasionally, to my dismay, the inked drawing feels less alive and interesting than did the sketch beforehand.

I don’t know whether I’m really talking about drawing or writing here, or about something else entirely.

As for everything else, well…my life is really just too full and exciting to begin enumerating all the many events that unfold in it, but I’ll try.  First of all, I’m indulging my weakness for breathing on an almost continuous basis, despite all the air pollution to which I know I’m exposing myself.  What can I say?  I live on the edge.  I’ve also continued to go to work five or six days a week, since I’ve yet to be able to kick the habit of eating at least once a day, and that’s an expensive foible.  They say people with addictions will do insane and inexplicable things to satisfy their joneses, and I guess I’m a case in point.  Thankfully, I’ve at least been able to avoid the dangerous compulsion of socializing with other human beings.  That’s a vice that causes much trouble to many; I’m lucky not to be prone to it.

Sarcasm, now…that’s a craving I’ve not gotten under control at all.

Oh, I did write another blog post on Iterations of Zero, for those of you who haven’t followed it.  It’s basically about the joy and necessity of learning at least something of the wonders of math and science, which I wish received more respect than they do here in the U.S.  Unfortunately, their status seems only to be diminishing, though our lives are ever more dominated by technologies that are deeply dependent upon them. It’s disheartening to see a population so peculiarly averse to understanding the very things that underlie and maintain their lives and well-being (such as it is), but humans never have been particularly foresightful or insightful, have they?  Honestly, I don’t know what anyone sees in them.  Humans, I mean.

And with that, perhaps it’s a good time to call this week’s blog post to a close.  I know I haven’t really said much about much of any real substance, and one would think that such an exemplar of vacuity would be more at home in IoZ than here.  Still, the concept of iterations of zero is more than just a website title.  It’s a philosophy.  It’s a way of life.

I hope you are all as well as you can possibly be.  Though I may seem misanthropic at times, I’m really not.  I want you all to thrive and excel and succeed and grow and play your parts in an ever-improving world.

Maybe that’s just the fantasy writer in me.

TTFN


*Which sounds a little like some esoteric cultural or religious event.

The teeming Autumn blog with rich increase

flame-maple-tree-autumn-blaze-almost-at-peak-amur-pruning-florida-red

Good morning, and good Thursday.  It’s blog day, of course, and I hereby officially welcome you all to another weekly post.

My experiment with tags last week worked very well, i.e. labeling my post with the tags “sex,” “drugs,” and “rock ‘n’ roll.”  I’m not up to doing such a thing on a regular basis, though.  In fact, I doubt that I’ll do it more than once.  Of course, it may be that those inaccurate tags simply weren’t as off-putting as the ones I’d used the previous week, which upon reflection might have seemed weird and (incorrectly) New Agey.  I think one of them was something along the lines of “cosmic caring,” and that’s bound to make a discerning reader want to keep his or her astronomical distance.  I can’t blame them.  I’m too embarrassed even to go back and look at what my other tags were.

Of course, it may be that the post from two weeks ago was just too dry and dreary to be endured.  I tend to be that way when in a glum mood, and I’m sure that even hypothetical people who are really, deeply interested even in my darkest thoughts* would find my melancholier musings stultifying.  Even my humor tends to be dark, and though I do try when I can to make my darkness humorous, I know it’s still probably unpleasant.

On a lighter note:  I got my vehicle back yesterday, after almost two weeks without it.  I was so pleased that, even though I got thoroughly soaked just riding it back from the shop to work**, I was as happy as a pig in shit.  Even by the time I got home, I was still borderline giddy.  I doubt that I’ve smiled that much since, oh, maybe 2011 at the latest.

Taking the train has been good for me in some ways, though.  I’ve been forced to walk between 2.5 and 5 miles a day, and I can tell that it’s had a beneficial effect on my endurance.  My back, however, which as I noted last week has been experiencing an exacerbation of its chronic pain, has not been pleased!  Having no stegosaurus-style brain with which to be able to articulate its concerns, or with which to understand the necessity of the extra work I was giving it, it mulishly insisted upon reminding me with every breath that it was pissed at me.

Human backs are stupid.

Thankfully, the train, and my habitual early hours, continued to allow me to edit.  Unanimity is getting whittled away, as I strive to remove all the bits of it that don’t look like a good pseudo-sci-fi horror novel.  I still like the story, and I still like the characters—including the “bad guy”—so that helps a lot.  Even if I didn’t, I think I’d be able just to push myself through as a matter of stubbornness, something with which I’ve been endowed in great quantities, but I’m glad it’s not necessary.

And in other news, I can’t let the arrival of October go unheralded.  It’s generally my favorite month, because Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Once it’s over, the steady shortening of the daylight hours becomes pronounced enough the wear me out.  By the arrival of the Winter Solstice, I’m often so affected by the season (get it?) that I feel like celebrating the holidays with a game of Russian Roulette***.

October, however, is still fun, though in south Florida it’s lamentably un-autumnal.  This will be the first year in a few (I think) that I won’t have a new horror short story to release around Halloween, which is a bit disappointing, but Unanimity is such a big project that I want to make it the sole focus of my fiction work.  I hope it will be worth the wait.  It’s ambitious, at the very least, even if I can say nothing else about it without subjective bias.

I am still finding myself sidetracked here and there by music; I’m working on another new/old song and have early work done on a few fully new ones, but those really are a personal indulgence, a set of vanity projects if you will.  I have no idea whether anyone would ever willingly listen to them if they didn’t know me.  My stories, I think, can stand on their own.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I guess, ultimately, it doesn’t matter, since I’m writing them because I want to write them, just as I’m doing the songs because I want to do them, and I can only offer whatever I am for others to waste or hold as they see fit.

Speaking of wasting, that’s probably enough blogging for today.  Including the footnotes, this post is already over a thousand words long.  Once I get going, I’m hard to shut up.  It’s lucky for all of you that I have a day job, or I’d probably be doing this more often, and even the kindest of readers might lose patience.  Perhaps there are Everettian branches where that’s happened, or maybe there’s some infinitely repeated version of me that meets that description somewhere out in one of the other versions of the multiverse—if any of them exist (if you’re unfamiliar with this subject matter, you couldn’t get a better introduction to it than Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, which I recommend unreservedly).

And, really, now, I must be going.  I hope you all have a wonderful day, a wonderful remainder of the week, and a wonderful month.  In fact, why stop there?  I hope you have a wonderful future for as long as you’re able.

TTFN


*I don’t recommend it.

**My “vehicle” is a scooter…though it’s a scooter with a 600cc engine, so it’s really just a motorcycle with automatic transmission.  It provides no protection from the rain, which rather hilariously was absent right until the day when my scooter was ready to ride again.

***I did that very thing once at that time of year.  I lost that game, unfortunately, as should be obvious from the fact that I’m here and writing.  But, of course, as with all such games of chance, the odds are against you, and the house usually wins.