Cleanse the stuffed blog of that perilous stuff which weighs upon its heart

Okay.  Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus to another blog post.  It’s Thursday the 14th, which feels like it ought to be some inverted, retroactive, complex-time-based lucky or unlucky day, but as far as I know, no one takes it as such.  Of course, there’s no reason to think that the arbitrary dating system we humans use should have any effect on any given day’s intrinsic “luck”, but it can be fun to think about and play with such notions.  Now, at an individual level, there are indeed lucky and unlucky days, but these designations are applied after the fact, since luck is just a description of specific outcomes of events governed by probability and statistics.

I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief, today, which is unlikely to break anyone’s heart.  There’s not much going on in my personal life (though the world, as always, continues to produce new and exciting brands of chaos).  I haven’t even done an Iterations of Zero post this week, though there are plenty of older posts to read if you’re so inclined.  I continue to struggle to work regular IoZ entries into my schedule, even though my lack of “a life” would seem to imply that there would be ample space (or, rather, time) to do so.  There are, however, simply too many empty distractions, and the ever-present problem of “will” or “drive” to accomplish things.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, willpower is very much a neurological function (interacting with other bodily states), and it is subject both to exercise and to fatigue.  It is certainly not constant, any more than physical vigor is.

That being said, my will to work on The Vagabond has seen no significant faltering.  The editing process goes well; the book is subtly improving with each run-through, which is gratifying, at least for me.  It continues to be a good horror story, in my biased estimation, and I’m pleased with my past self for having written it.  I can’t go back and give him a pat on the back directly, but I can at least thank his memory, though most other things associated with that memory trigger sadness and regret.  I suppose that’s the nature of recollections of things past, whether they are triggered by the smell of madeleines or by editing a horror novel*.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion, my mental health doesn’t tend to be very good, specifically with respect to dysthymia and depression, when I’m not writing new fiction, but I also know that I am too prone to diversion if I interrupt one writing project—such as editing The Vagabond—with another.  That was one factor that led the original writing of The Vagabond to take so long, and also ensured that I rarely completed any long projects prior to the period when I was an invited guest of the Florida DOC.  If I allow myself to be distracted by a new creative writing idea, I will continue to be distracted, and enterprises of great pith and moment will with this respect their courses run awry and lose the name of action.

Not that I never completed anything in the past; quite the contrary.  I wrote a longish fantasy/sci-fi novel** in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom, the cosmology of which lurks still in the background of many of my other universes, though that original novel is long since lost in time like Roy Baty’s tears in the rain.  One day, perhaps (it’s a very big perhaps) I might rewrite it.  But I’m not getting my hopes up.

I also wrote at least one complete screenplay in high school (a lot of it done in idle time at my after-school job at GM, where I usually finished my official work rather quickly).  It was a deliberately cheap horror movie, which I intended to produce, with my friends playing the parts.  Some of them were good actors.  Unfortunately, the technology available to me then made it unworkable, though if I had modern video technology, I probably could have pulled it off.  It’s just as well that I didn’t, I suspect, since even one of my best friends, who was to play a major part in the movie, said that the story was unworthy of the title (Night Vision).

Well, I said I’d keep things short this week, so that’s enough recherche du temps perdu for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work in an IoZ entry this week, on some random, walk-in science or other.  In the meantime, I’ll wish you all the best I can realistically wish you.  Try not to let the chaos get you down, and especially, try not to let the absurd, tragi-comic antics of many of your fellow humans make you demonize and revile them or consider them inherently your enemies or beyond redemption.

That’s my job.

TTFN

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*I’ve never read any Proust.  Most of what I know of his work is from other people’s descriptions, first and foremost from the Monty Python “All-England Summarize Proust Competition”.

**It was all hand-written on very narrow-ruled notebook paper, with many digressions into the margins throughout, and was over five hundred pages long.  It would have been much longer than The Vagabond, and if I were to rewrite it now, I’m sure that I would make it longer still, because there were interesting ideas that could have been explored further than I did at the time.

For here, I hope, begins our lasting blog.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the first Thursday of an already rather tumultuous 2021, and thus—“Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!”—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  We thus continue the regular pattern from yesteryear.  Hopefully, some other patterns will be less persistent.

At the beginning of last year, I posted (on Facebook, I think) that I hoped that 2020 would be “the year of seeing clearly,” since it sounded like the usual pronunciation of the (American at least) description of normal vision.  Alas, as is often the case when I attempt to be optimistic, I was disappointed.  I’m also likely to be disappointed in my less serious wish that the year following 2021 should be 2223, but at least that’s just silliness, while the former was a legitimate hope.  Maybe I should stick with silliness.

I’ve been doing my best to continue with my usual processes over the course of the dismal holiday season, and thus I can happily report that The Vagabond has now entered its penultimate editorial run-through, and I’ve even begun formatting it for eventual publication.

I think horror aficionados will appreciate it, as will even some who may not be true horror fans, but who enjoy fantastic adventures interposed into seemingly ordinary reality.  Based on my own experience of popular fiction in one form or another, I suspect that a great many people do enjoy such stories.  It’s just kind of fun to think about the usual, mundane* rules of ordinary life being suspended or infringed upon by epic, paranormal events.

Yesterday I posted a new “audio blog” on Iterations of Zero.  It’s a meandering soliloquy about, among other things, the biological source of the human tendency not to appreciate what we have but only to bemoan its loss or impairment.  I did an audio blog because I had trouble writing another post using my smartphone, partly because of the continuing musculotendinous pain in my left hand and forearm.  Also, I just felt too glum to summon the will to do it.  It can be hard to find the motivation to put one’s words out into the aether.  If a voice cries out in the wilderness and no one hears it**, did it really say anything?

I gave myself the freedom not to edit out background sounds and whatnot too much for that post, to make it easier and more likely that I really would upload the recording—which I did, so I guess that worked.  I don’t know whether the audio has so many such artifacts as to be irritating, but at least I put it out there.  If anyone listens and has comments, feel free to leave them in the appropriate section on IoZ or here.

I continue to have trouble getting interested in new fiction (new to me, anyway) of any kind, whether movie, TV show, book, or even comic or manga.  This distresses me greatly, because fiction, especially novels and short stories, but also movies and TV shows, has always been one of my greatest joys.  That’s one of the main reasons I write fiction.  I bought a new tablet, of decent size, so that I could read manga and some of my old favorite comic books from my youth on it.  That pursuit ran out of steam after about one and a half days.

I still do enjoy some nonfiction—science, particularly—but I’m running out of new material that interests me even there.  I’ve read so many of the science books that interest me, and I’ve watched most of the hundreds of YouTube videos on science-based channels that I like, such as PBS Spacetime, Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, Veritasium, and so on.  I even have (in the office at work, where I’m given a fair amount of leeway, which is nice) a collection of harder science books, like Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, Thorne el al’s Gravitation, Sean Carrol’s Spacetime and Geometry, and Hawking and Gibbons’ Euclidean Quantum Gravity, but it’s hard to be surreptitious when perusing a big-ass textbook during moments of downtime, and let’s face it, those books require some real attention.  I’m interested in the last one because I was quite taken with Stephen Hawking’s notion of complex time as eliminating the singularity problem of black holes and the Big Bang, making the nature of such boundaries no more unreasonable than the fact that one can’t go further north than the north pole while on the surface of the Earth***.  But this material is…well, it’s complex, obviously, and to understand it deeply would take some real concentration.

That’s what I seem to have trouble with, perhaps.  Real enjoyment, I think, requires concentration, and that requires the will and discipline to concentrate.  I’m not the sort of person who can come and go while a movie is playing, for instance, and I get irritated when other people do it.  But it’s getting harder and harder to be interested in anything enough even to care to watch or listen to or read it, and I certainly have no one with whom I’m able to share or interested in sharing any of these experiences…not anyone who wants to share them with me, anyway.  (Can you blame them?)

Sorry, I don’t know why I got off on that tangent so much, but it is bothering me tremendously, and it makes everything else in the world seem progressively, increasingly gray, muddy, and faintly noxious.  Maybe I’m hoping that someone reading this will recognize the issue and know of some hitherto unimagined solution.  But I don’t think that will happen.  As with Moriarty and Holmes, I suspect that everything people might have to say has already gone through my mind and has been found insufficient.

I could be wrong, though.  I’d be quite satisfied to be wrong on this matter.  I don’t mind being proven wrong, myself, because what I really want it to become more right as time goes by, if that’s possible.  Maybe that goal simply isn’t conducive to satisfaction and enjoyment; I don’t know.  But if ignorance is necessary for bliss, then I guess I’d rather be uncomfortable.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.  Welcome to the new year.  I’d like to be optimistic about it, but at least if I’m not, I will only tend to be pleasantly surprised.  Stay well, and stay reasonably safe, and do your best to stay (or become) sane.

TTFN

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*Of course, they’re only mundane because we’ve become inured to their familiarity.  If you stop and read (or watch or listen to) some works on cosmology and physics or on natural history, biology, ecology, or similar things, you will encounter forces interacting at scales both vast and minute with character that the greatest mythologizers of the past could never have imagined—or would never have had the audacity to share.

**Not even the chair.

***I even used some highly bastardized related notions in Son of Man to describe the workings of the “Assembly Chamber”.

The beauty of the world! The paragon of blogs! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and thus it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I have no idea what I’m going to write about today—I have no agenda in mind other than to carry out the weekly ritual, which is a good thing in and of itself, I guess—so I’m just going to start writing and see what happens.

I suppose this is what we all do whenever we’re in a situation in which we converse with other people; we just say whatever we say, without thinking very much about it ahead of time.  Indeed, it may be that most of our real thinking, most of our logical, linear, rational thought, happens in the form of conversation, either between people or in our heads.  We often don’t seem to know what’s going to come out of our own mouths—or out of our minds, so to speak—until it comes out.  Of course, we could probably make some broad predictions about what sorts of things are likely to come out, based on our own experience with ourselves.  I, for instance, am unlikely to start discussing the latest events in the lives of the hottest new pop stars, or the surprising happenings on some reality TV show.  But what exactly is going to come out, I discover in much the same way that someone reading my writing or hearing my speech will.  I just may be less surprised.

It’s not too difficult to predict, of course, that I’m going to write about how The Vagabond is going.  It’s going well.  I’m almost halfway through my latest iteration of editing/rewriting, and I’m happy to say that—in my opinion, at least—it’s improving as I go along, and I still like the story, and very much like the characters.

These latter facts are more reassuring to me than might be obvious because it means that I can enjoy at least some fiction still—at least my own, up to a point.  I emphasize this because of an ongoing problem that I think I’ve mentioned before.  For some time, now, I’ve had increasing trouble getting interested in any new fiction of any kind, even in rereading (or rewatching) stories and authors (or directors or actors or subjects) to which I’ve always been able to turn in the past.  I’m even getting lassitudinous* about much of the music that I usually enjoy, including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and so on.  If I go to my Spotify “Main Playlist”, into which I’ve stuffed almost all the songs I can find that I would have been happy to hear if they came on the radio (back in the old days), and I hit “shuffle play”, I can skip through entry after entry that comes up, saying, “Nah.  Nah.  Not right now.  Nah.  Meh.  Never mind.”  Off goes Spotify.

Hitherto, I’ve been able to maintain interest in the various nonfiction books (and YouTube channels) that engage me, often ones about science or math, but even that is beginning to peter out.  I have to scroll madly through my Kindle library to find a book that will catch my slightest interest**, and even the various science books mostly seem banal.  Yes, even Brian Greene and David Deutsch, Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark, even Richard Dawkins and Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan for crying out loud can’t draw my attention.  Jonathan Haidt has at least been able to provide some engagement for the moment, but his stuff is pretty quick reading.  This is a compliment to him, but unfortunately, I’ve only got three books of his, and am on the second reading of the second of the three already.

Despite the oodles of quality shows being made by the likes of Netflix and Disney and Amazon and the various more traditional sources, I can’t seem to find any will to watch any of them.  I ought to be thrilled by the prospect of watching The Mandalorian, but I haven’t even started the first episode.  I cannot conjure any desire to do so.  Ditto for various animes and dark sci-fi programs that have come out, as well as movies, and so on.

It feels as if I’ve somehow been stranded in the south Pacific, where I’m just treading water in the middle of a very large expanse of ocean.  The water’s warm enough, so I’m not in danger of hypothermia, and there don’t seem to be any sharks about to add a bit of excitement.  The weather is basically calm.  And I know that I can keep treading water indefinitely, and I even seem to have enough food and water with me, somehow, to last a lifetime if need be***.  But man, it’s so boring.  The biological organism, the deeper, older parts of my behaviors and drives—what Haidt would call the elephant—is built to keep treading water, and it seems to want to keep doing that, whether or not there’s any good reason, so I have to keep doing it.  But even it seems to be getting bored.  There’s no land in sight, and in fact, I know there’s none for hundreds or thousands of miles.  And the only ships known to frequent these waters are pirate vessels and smugglers.

Okay, I’m getting carried away with the metaphor.  Sorry about that.  But I did say that I didn’t know what I was going to write about, so whatever came out came out.

I hope you all have a wonderful week, anyway.  Seriously, I do.  And I hope you stay healthy and safe, and that you enjoy the various holidays as best you can.

TTFN

Ocean


*Is that a word?  It should be.  If not, I’ll make it up.

**Not pausing even for a moment on The Lord of the Rings, or anything by Terry Pratchett, or the Harry Potter books, or the works of David Eddings, or Isaac Asimov, or Orson Scott Card, or any others of their previously ever-thrilling ilk.

***It’s an analogy, so I guess I don’t have to be too particular about such things, but darn it, I can’t help thinking to myself, “How would that even work?  Where would I keep such food and water?  Is it in some floating pack of some kind?  Do I have a distillation apparatus in the pack, or a reverse osmosis system?  If the pack floats, why am I treading water?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to hold onto the pack, or to ride on top of it?”

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

My conscience hath a thousand several blogs, and every blog brings in a several tale

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it.  I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.

Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general.  It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.

Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined.  If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent.  Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today.  Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.

And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.

So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.

On to other, lighter matters.  I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings.  I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate.  As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought.  I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.

I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased.  It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course).  I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.

Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all.  And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews.  I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.

I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before.  It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it.  I respect that policy, as I understood it.  But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart).  Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars.  This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much.  I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up.  I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product.  Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am.  But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.

To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*.  I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer.  And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.

Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone.  My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it.  That was pretty huge.

The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity.  The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it.  At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand.  When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**.  At least, I think so.

But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter.  Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.

With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close.  I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy.  Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control.  “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them.  They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.

**I think that’s a neologism.  Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.

***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.

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.

And thus the native blog of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

Hello and good morning.  Welcome to another Thursday, and—as I always point out, rather unnecessarily—to another edition of my weekly blog.

For those of you living in countries that celebrate some equivalent or descendant of Armistice Day (in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day), I hope you had a pleasant yesterday, enjoying a holiday that was originally intended to commemorate the final resolution of World War I and a return to relative peace.  Though I have great respect for all those who have fought to protect freedom, as is sometimes ruefully necessary, and I certainly think they deserve to be treated far better than they are—at least in the US—it’s good that we celebrate the fact that these brave ones, at least, the living veterans, were able to come out of the other end of their wars alive and somewhat intact.

The weather in south Florida has continued to be abysmal, what with the recent, slow-moving tropical storm.  Unfortunately, even without such cyclonic phenomena, south Florida can be so damp and rainy that it’s almost unbearable.  I’m also suffering from the clock change that happened just a bit more than a week ago, which brings aggressively forward the months of seemingly endless night, with the sun setting yet another hour earlier in the already nocturnally dominated Fall and Winter.  I don’t look forward to the latter part of December, as I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Of course, those who know me might well wonder in what way my seasonally affected affect effect is in any way different from my usual personality.  It’s a valid question, and I can only reply that it makes my underlying dysthymic and depressive tendencies more difficult to ignore and resist.  I try.  But often I fail.

Anyway, enough of that for the moment.  Work on The Vagabond continues and is productive.  I think it’s already a better book than it was before, stylistically.  I haven’t changed the story at all, and I don’t intend to alter it in any noticeable way.  This is not to say that it’s a perfect story; I’m not even sure what would constitute such a thing.  Still, I think it’s a good supernatural horror novel.  It has action, suspense, danger, a good number of scary parts, a bit of romance, and some fun characters, including a truly malevolent villain.  This is all, of course, my own judgment, and I am inescapably biased, but I still think I’m correct.  I hope you’ll all take a chance and decide for yourselves, when the time comes.  I think it is something to which you can honestly look forward, if horror novels are your cup of tea.

I’m still running up against internal and external metaphorical walls with respect to making content for Iterations of Zero.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to take time away from fiction to do it.  Writing fiction is something I do by simply starting every day with the work—though currently that’s editing, not primary writing—as soon as I get to the office.  Coming up with a story idea is fairly easy.  I accomplish the rest by committing to write at least a page every day, when I’m not editing, and then go from there.  Almost inevitably, once I get started, I end up writing quite a lot more, and usually it’s time itself that calls a halt to the work.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish,” as Sam Gamgee’s old Gaffer always said; the converse is that, once you begin a job, it can sometimes be hard to stop.  There appears to be a kind of metaphorical inertia, which is why it’s such a good thing simply to set the schedule and commit to writing whether one happens to “feel like it” or not.  When I think of what I could have accomplished if I had taken that approach when I wrote The Vagabond, I sometimes want to weep.  That novel is only about 160,000 words long, but it took me more than ten years to finish it*.  In comparison, I completed two longer novels and a short story that was almost a novella** over the course of just under three years by working every day during the hour or so after the lights came on at FSP West.  While I don’t recommend that location and environment to anyone, it still just goes to show what you can do by saying to yourself, “To hell with inspiration, just work.”  Trust me, FSP was (and still is, I presume) not a place of inspiration, though tragically, it is sometimes a place of forced expiration.  (It could also, during “lockdowns”, sometimes be a place of barely contained urination, when we were forced to stay on our cots face-down for hours on end at times.)

On that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it good for today.  As usual, I wrote more than I thought I would—again, all it took was forcing myself to get started, and just to do it, and then matters moved forward almost on their own.

I hope you all have a good week, and month, and year, and so on.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Do it


*To be fair to myself, I was doing other things—college, post-bacc courses, teaching, medical school, residency, etc.—during that time.  Nevertheless, I could have written so much more had I just committed to doing it.  A big part of my problem was procrastination born of neurotic perfectionism, in which the perfect becomes the arch-enemy of the good, or even of the “good enough”, in a way that is far more horrible than any fictional villain ever could be.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

By way of advice, with respect to this, all I can say is that the best thing you can do is to give up completely on the idea of “perfection”, or even “greatness”.  The terms aren’t even well defined; you’ll always be able to poke holes in yourself and your work, no matter how much effort you put into it.  I feel confident that no work of fiction or nonfiction has ever been perfect.  Some have been and are considered “great”, but that judgment is reserved for their posterity, and as far as I know, it is never universally agreed upon.  Just do it, as Nike and Palpatine counsel, trying to keep improving incrementally as you go along.  Practice will tend to make you better—that’s just how nervous systems seem to work—though it will never make you “perfect”.  If you just keep growing a tiny bit all the time, and keep doing what you’re doing, before you even realize it, you can become and accomplish amazing things.

You will never be “perfect”, but in many ways that’s a blessing.  After all, if there is no highest point to reach, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to climb higher and higher without limit.  Surely that’s preferable to perfection.  It’s certainly more interesting.

**Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City.

Let us be Diana’s foresters, bloggers of the shade, minions of the moon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and another weekly edition of my blog.  Also, welcome to November of 2020, which—like other Novembers in leap years—is a time of some turbulence in the US.  I will make no further comment here about the specifics of that, however; enough, and probably far too much, has been said and is being said about it by others.

I don’t have much new to report today, so this posting may be brief…though, I often say this at the start and end up running off at the word processor nevertheless, whether or not I really have anything of substance to say.  This seems to be a common human tendency, and I am not immune to it.

Yesterday, I recorded one of my “audio blogs”, which I guess could be called a podcast of sorts*, as a follow-up to the post I wrote in Iterations of Zero a little over a week ago.  However, when I started to edit it, I soon lost interest.  It meandered too much, and there was too much required editing of breath sounds, of “ums”, of coughs, and especially of “but…”s, which I appear to use far too often to preface a new thought or tangent.

Maybe I was just not in a sound-editing mood, and if I come back to it, I’ll feel more sanguine.  I also am not sure whether anyone even listens to such things, anyway, even if I keep them short.  (Any feedback from my readers, or listeners, or whatever, would be helpful in guiding my future decisions about such things.)  For now, though, I think I’m going to put that on hold.  Unfortunately, writing new, additional posts is hard to work into my schedule, though writing is more natural to me than speaking.  I’m just pretty exhausted most days, as it is, and adding new things to my schedule feels like a herculean undertaking.

Sorry to be a downer.  I’m sure it’s a blog truism that more people will read posts that are upbeat and cheerful-seeming than otherwise, just as in real life people gravitate more to those who seem to be positive and enthusiastic.  This doesn’t of course mean that “those” people really are positive or cheerful.  Often, we force ourselves to behave (or to write) as if we were feeling positive, for the very purpose of trying to gather a surrounding batch of friends, or readers, or what-have-yous.  We’re not “allowed” to show our sadness or depression; it’s a huge taboo.  Depression is contagious, after all, and the world is already a hard-enough place without someone bringing you down.

On the other hand, pretending everything is great isn’t necessarily advisable, because the world doesn’t take your expectations or attitude into account in that vector space of forces which determine events, contrary to much popular delusion.  Not that optimism is always delusional—rational optimism and belief in possibility is fine as long as it doesn’t stray into overconfidence and unwarranted certainty.  As Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, confidence and accuracy do not correlate well.

Is my confidence in that fact a self-contradiction?  Have I caught myself by the tail?  I don’t think so**.  My confidence is provisional, my attitude deliberately modeled on the scientific method.  Let your conclusions and convictions be based as much as you can on evidence and reason, and always leave them, at least in principle, open to revision.  And, if you have the stomach for it, always try to poke holes in your own conclusions.  Ideas that survive constant criticism and prodding are more likely to be closer to truth than those that are never subject to criticism.  This is the root not merely of the scientific method, but also of the defense of freedom of speech as argued in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and in many other places.   I’ve encountered no arguments that have even slightly swayed me away from it.

I’m pretty good at self-criticism, of course.  It seems built into me at a more basic level than even my operating system; in the hardware, not the software.  I take after Hamlet more and more as time goes by, it seems, wearing dark clothing and reflecting on how stale, flat, and unprofitable are pretty much all the uses of the world (largely because I’m in it).  He was a bit of a downer, too, I guess.

My writing, though—albeit often dark—is not necessarily a downer.  For instance, I just finished the second run-through of The Vagabond, adding, adjusting, and hopefully improving it as I went along, and I think it’s a good story that ends on a positive note.  One thing I tend to do, despite my tongue-in-cheek “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, is to recognize that evil characters and things, the villains of my stories and of many others, are the most tragically self-deluded, fearful, and deeply unhappy people.  This doesn’t stop them from being dangerous.  I think that “evil” people—and certainly evil characters—tend to be the among the most alone, the most lost, the most despairing, the most deeply suffering in many ways, of all characters, and perhaps of all people.

One of the things I love about the anime Sailor Moon*** is that Usagi tends to win her battles, even against the Big Bad Guys, not by destroying her opponents—not if she can help it—but by redeeming them, and showing them that they are not alone.  Me, I’d tend more along the Sailor Saturn lines and be prone to wipe everything out and start over (I’ve even done that in some of my stories).  When Sailor Moon can’t avoid destroying someone, it breaks her heart.  But then, of course, “Our princess is such a crybaby,” as Sailor Uranus says, with affection and admiration.

That was a weird tangent, wasn’t it?  I did end up writing more than I expected (as I expected, ironically), but I’m not sure it really was about much or if it was expressed well.  ごめん ね すなお じゃなくて、 ゆめ の なか なら いえる****

I hope you’re all as well as can be, and that things go as best as possible for you, in the best of all possible lives you can lead.  Please try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Sailors Saturn and Moon


*Google seems to list such things as podcasts, if you do a search for my name, which is interesting.  I’ve never even owned an iPod, and I only briefly used an MP3 player before it was superseded by smartphones.

**But then, I wouldn’t, would I?

***I love it.  I, a fifty-one-year-old, American male, ex-convict, M.D., love Sailor Moon.  Sue me.

**** “Gomen ne sunao janakute, yume no naka nara ieru.”  Roughly translated, it says, “I’m sorry I can’t be clear/candid; I can say it in my dreams.”  It’s the opening line to “Moonlight Densetsu”, the Sailor Moon opening song (at least for the first four seasons).

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.

Bad Cover – You Never Give Me Your Money

Okay, here it is at last*, my bad cover of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which is probably my favorite Beatles song**.

I apologize for the opening keyboards; they would have sounded better with a real piano (I did them over and over again trying to get a better sound), but I no longer have or have access to one of those, and I certainly can’t afford a really good simulated one.

I had to fudge on the percussion, using an automatic drum part, since I simply don’t have any drums of my own, nor am I at all trained in drumming such as would be necessary to play Ringo’s sophisticated part.

Everything else, though, is me:  Guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals.  Obviously, it was done, as Khan says, “Not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure.”  Putting it all together is in many ways the hardest part (other than practicing the parts, etc., but that’s fun to do).  I used Audacity, which is a free sound editing/mixing program, and it is amazing.  If you get the chance to throw them some money, please do so.

Of course, as should be obvious, I own none of this, and I am making no money from it, nor should I.  It’s just my labor of love/homage.  Words and music officially are by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though the latter was the main composer of this song, and of course, the whole group and George Martin, etc. gave their creative bits to it, as with most of the Beatles works.

*It feels like it took a very long time to me, anyway, though I guess it’s only been about two weeks, not counting practice.

*I can’t quite explain why.  Maybe it’s because it opens up the long medley on the second side of Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles album, and is even reprised with a third verse in “Carry That Weight”, but that’s just speculation.  And at any given moment, of course, I may want to hear some other Beatles song more, since there are so many great and good ones, but this one always holds a special place in my faux-heart.