He capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes blogs, he speaks holiday

Hello, good morning, and welcome.  I’m back to my usual schedule at last, so once again it is Thursday, and it is time for the next edition of my weekly blog post.  Huzzah!

I’ve been under the weather this week, fighting a reasonably severe cold (which is still better than a relatively mild case of Covid-19 or a mild flu).  It really took the wind out of my sails.  I think I’m finally at the tail end of the thing, so I feel a surge of physical energy, and that’s always nice.  It helps counteract the melancholy of a holiday season in which long, dark nights exacerbate underlying mood disorders and when merry gatherings among others highlight the fact that one cannot spend any time with one’s loved ones, for about the dozenth year in a row.  Hypothetically.

Speaking of holidays, Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate it!  It snuck up on me this year, since it came right on the heels of Thanksgiving, and in fact began before the end of November.  Such are the joys of holidays based upon an ancient, lunar calendar in a society that uses the much more sensible modern update of the Gregorian calendar.  At least it keeps things from being too dull and repetitive.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had some difficulty writing recently; I worried that I’d gotten too tired of Outlaw’s Mind thanks to numerous interruptions.  Last week my work on it was sparse indeed, and this Monday morning, still reeling from the worst of my upper respiratory infection, I didn’t write anything at all.  In desperation, I decided to try again to revert to handwriting, and I bought some nice quality, loose-leaf notebook paper, with the thought that I would either continue Outlaw’s Mind on it or switch over to Changeling in a Shadow World.  I entertained visions of myself reclining in my narrow bed with clipboard on lap, pen in hand, making real progress on either story.  It was a pleasant notion and helped lift my spirits when I was under the weather.

Then, Tuesday morning, I took a direction that surprised me by working quite well—I switched back over from writing on my desktop, “work” computer* to using my little, portable laptop, originally purchased to use while commuting.  It, or its predecessor, is what I’ve used to write almost all of my recent work, and I was quite surprised to learn that this change made a real difference.  Writing on the little laptop has been so much smoother, so much more natural, that I would not have credited the difference before.

Other factors could be involved.  I’ve been steadily trying to get back into the story fully, and perhaps I simply finally crossed some mental threshold.  I’ve gotten past at least one major, depressing, (formerly) family holiday, and that’s a relief.  I’ve begun to recover from my recent virus, and that can’t hurt.  Also, I’ve been counting my calories rather severely and successfully since last Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and have succeeded so far in keeping to my draconian limitation, which certainly improves my sense of power over myself.  Any or all of these things could contribute to improved outcomes, and most or all of them probably do.  I’m not that interested in knowing the relative contributions of each factor, certainly not enough to try to vary only one thing at a time, to see which is really dispositive.  I just want to be able to write.

And I’ve been so able.  Tuesday and Wednesday mornings combined, in less than 45 minutes each morning**, I’ve written about three thousand words.  That’s not a record for me for two days’ work, probably not even close, but it’s a significant improvement over recent output.  I’ve also been more excited about both Outlaw’s Mind and Changeling in a Shadow World*** than I’ve been for a long time, thinking about things that will happen in both stories, going through dialogue in my mind, or out loud to myself while commuting, and so on.  I’ll finish Outlaw’s Mind first, but as a bit of a bone thrown to myself, I put my new notebook paper on my clipboard and at the top of the first page wrote:  “Changeling in a Shadow World by Robert Elessar”.  It’s readily available and visible in the office, so if I get some down time during the day, and feel so motivated, I can grab it and start writing.

Other than all that, there’s not much worth talking about.  I won’t comment here on new Covid-19 variants, though I made a video more generally about viruses, bacteria, etc.  I might have mentioned that last week; I can’t be bothered to check, nor have I really begun editing it yet.  Ironically, I’ve been too much suffering from the effects of a virus myself.

In any case, welcome to December, welcome back to Thursday, Happy Hanukkah and a happy holiday season in general.  Whether you’re generally a “Joy to the World” type or, like me, an “Oy! to the World” type, I hope you’re doing well, and that you have a wonderful week, month, and remainder of the year.

TTFN

Hanukkah 2


*That’s the desktop computer associated with my “day job”; I’ve been writing on it recently since I use it every day anyway, saving my daily work on a thumb drive.  I figured, why not?  It’s all the same program.  But it seems my psychology is quirkier than I would have predicted, at least in this realm.

**I’ve had to nap a bit before working each time after getting to the office.  I am still technically sick.

***I’ve pretty much decided that will be the next book I write.  It was the only one for which I got any real requests, and the fact that my sister was the source didn’t hurt, either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Thankschristmassy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

desert


*Which refers to muscle pain.

**Which refers to joint pain.

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

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

What fond blogger, but to touch the crown, would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, November 11th, 2021, the second Thursday of November this year, and it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  I won’t mention the fact that, had the feature continued, this would have been the occasion for an instance of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” since I’m the only one who cares.  Oops!  I’ve mentioned it, now!  Oh, well.  If you’re interested in seeing what that was about, follow the link above.

There’s not that much new going on this week.  The only newish thing is that, just before starting to write this post, I did a quick recording, trying to recapitulate some thoughts that I’d been thinking (sometimes out loud) on my way into the office.  By recording I mean “voice recording”.  I am considering trying to start/continue an idea I’ve had more than once, which is to do a regular “audio blog”* feature over at Iterations of Zero, which I’ll hopefully also turn into “videos” on my YouTube channel.  I put that word in scare quotes because the visual portion is likely just to be my Iterations of Zero symbol; nothing is ever added to any thoughtful process by requiring people to look at my face.

The thoughts I had this morning concerned a method of figuring probabilities, which I had previously not thought of in this simple way, and so I had needed to do unnecessarily laborious figuring when and if it came up for me.  Then I read a book that pointed out an easier way to do it and to think of it, and I realized I’d been making things much harder for myself than was necessary.

I would like to try to do regular, five-minute-long recordings of my random thoughts in the morning(s), and then perhaps accumulate them over the course of each week into something to be shared on IoZ.  We’ll see if this comes to fruition, but I plan at least to share the thoughts from this morning (properly edited) on my other blog.

As for other matters, of course, the main project on which I continue to work is Outlaw’s Mind.  As I said last week, I’ve reverted to type by reverting to typing the first draft, because I was getting joint pain in the base of my right thumb, and that was slowing me down.  It’s also a fair pain to rewrite the stuff I’d written by hand into the computer—I only just caught up with that yesterday morning.  Also, having considered it while typing it in, writing with pen on paper doesn’t seem to have improved my writing style in any appreciable way.  I know that’s an unscientific evaluation, but there it is.  The story goes well, and my ideas of what is to happen in it are adjusting—it’s expanding in some ways, contracting in others, and in general becoming a larger-scale story, since I’ve decided to allow it to be a novel.

This leads me to wonder how many of my numerous short story ideas would/will expand into something larger once I start writing them, if I ever do.  Particularly in more recent works, as contrasted with things I wrote many years ago, my stories tend to become longish, hopefully in good ways, even when they are “short stories”, as anyone who has read Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, or any of the isolated short stories, will know.  Some of them, like “Ifowonco and Hole for a Heart are borderline novellas, as is the title story from Welcome to Paradox City.  And In the Shade, the last story in The Cabinet (and in fact the last complete story I have written thus far**) could probably count as a novella if it were published alone.  I think it has nearly as many words as Of Mice and Men, though in all other senses there is little comparison, the latter being one of the finest things I’ve ever read.  I was so moved by it that I read it twice in a row in one day, the first time I read it.  I don’t think I’ve done that before or since with any other story.

I don’t have much else to discuss today.  It’s either just after the beginning of daylight savings time or its just after the end of it for this year, however it’s reckoned, but that’s not really worth getting into much.  I’m not a huge fan of the practice, though I relished the extra hour last weekend, and quite irrationally, as I always do.  Of course, hours actually pass just as they would in any case, no matter how we label them, and none of us gain or lose them*** at a different rate just by fiddling with our clocks.  To think that would be a bit like imagining that, by looking through a microscope, you can actually make miniscule structures physically bigger.

Humans have some peculiar ideas.

With that, I’ll wish all you humans—and any non-humans who might be reading—a good week, and encourage you to be kind to yourselves and to each other, and to remember, while it’s worth trying to figure out how to solve (or better yet, to avoid) problems, the notion of blame is probably almost always counterproductive.

TTFN

watchwork


*It could, I suppose, be considered a podcast, but that seems too highfalutin’ a term for what I do.

**For all we know, it could well be the last story I’ll ever complete, given the vicissitudes of fate, not to mention my own chronic depression and chronic pain and the like, which leave me at increased daily risk of death, even—apparently—from things like Covid-19 (at least according to the CDC website).  I’ll admit to having been mildly disappointed that my run-in with the virus was not fatal and, given that I’m fully vaccinated and have already had the infection, my odds of being released by this particular disease are not high.  Oh, well, sooner or later something will kill me.  I only hope when it happens it’s not too inconvenient for anyone that I care about…though I’d be delighted (in principle) if it greatly inconvenienced any of quite a large chunk of humanity, since so many of them are irritating.

***Except for those who succumb to the increased rates of heart attacks and strokes and accidents and the like, which I’ve read are associated with the change in time both in the spring and the fall.  I cannot vouch for how true those claims are, but the uptick in morbidity and mortality seems plausible.

Have you not love enough to blog with me, when that rash humor which my mother gave me makes me forgetful?

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, November 4th*, the first Thursday of the new month, and—of course—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Halloween has passed, alas, and now we enter the weird time wherein Thanksgiving symbols—at least in the US—struggle to hold onto at least a brief period of prominence before they are overtaken, no later than November 25th this year, by Christmas decorations**.

I’m slightly sorry to have to admit that yesterday I flipped back to writing Outlaw’s Mind on computer.  I’ve been getting quite a bit of minor but irritating arthrotic*** pain at the base of my thumb, and where the metacarpal meets the wrist.  I’d forgotten this.  It probably feels worse than it really is, since it’s been a while; also, the last time I experienced much of it, I was in wretched circumstances.  But I’ve felt it plenty of times before, even going back to my teenage years.  I think I tend just to get really focused when I’m writing and use those joints to a greater than ideal degree, causing wear and tear.  That damage no doubt accumulates, since healing is rarely complete in any region of the body, unless you’re a spiny mouse, so the discomfort starts earlier each time.  But it’s not primarily inflammatory, because there’s never even a hint of heat, redness, or noticeable swelling, and it only flares up with use, so arthrosis it is.

Because of that, and the minor inconvenience of storing my writing when not in use, and of flipping back to reread what I’d written yesterday instead of merely scrolling up, and, of course, because computer writing is easier to read, even for me, I’ve switched back.  I’m occasionally troubled by the spirit of the great Harlan Ellison, who (so I’ve read) thought that one can’t write decently or effectively on a word processor/computer because it’s too easy.  He supposedly disdained anything beyond the typewriter.  Ellison-sensei could be an opinionated curmudgeon by all accounts, but such an argument clearly doesn’t stand up on its face****, or Ellison should have committed to writing every one of his first drafts on stone with a chisel.

I can’t say I would completely have put it past him.

But I don’t think writing with a modern computer is necessarily worse, or that it changes anything all that much in any given writer’s style.  I wrote a good deal of the first draft of Son of Man on a very small smartphone using its note-taking app.  That wasn’t easy on my thumbs, but at the time I didn’t have a portable computer, and I was riding busses about three hours a day, so I was able to do a lot of writing that way.  I don’t think it was any easier than writing by hand at a desk would have been, and I don’t think my writing suffered or improved noticeably for it.

If you’d like to check, you can read Son of Man and compare it with Mark Red or The Chasm and the Collision or the short stories Paradox City and Solitaire, the first and often second drafts of all of which were written with pen on paper, and you can compare it also with Unanimity or any of my short stories starting with “I for one welcome our new computer overlords”, which are straight computer-written.  You can also compare it with The Vagabond, which was originally written partly as pen on paper but mostly on a Mac SE using WriteNow.  Or you can read all the tales in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which begins with a story part of the first draft of which was typed, if memory serves, and ends with a story that was written partly by hand and partly (first draft and all) in Microsoft Word™.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve told you the difference, your experiment will be hopelessly confounded by bias.

Oh, well.  Read them all anyway, what the heck.  You can buy extra copies for friends and ask them what they think without revealing the above information.  If you want to make things double blind, you can ask a third party to ask your friends what they think.  Or you can just read the stories.  I know that a lot of them are horror of one sort or another, but remember, just as a puppy isn’t only for Christmas*****, a horror story isn’t just for Halloween.  The darkness of night continues to grow, at least here in the northern hemisphere.  The time of daylight is in full retreat, and it will be weeks and weeks before it even begins to take back ground, let alone before it comes to dominate again, revealing all the stark unpleasantness of the world in its cold, bitter glare.  In the dark, it is easier to pretend.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, your imagination can run away with you.

Which brings me back to Outlaw’s Mind, for which I’m gradually regaining my momentum, which was no small task since it’s been interrupted more than once.  Maybe the handwriting thing was just a way to trick myself around my resistance to getting going on the story again.  If so, it seems to have worked reasonably well, and Outlaw’s Mind will perhaps be all the better for its disjointed history.  I’ll do my best to make it so.

In the meantime, Happy November to you all.  It’s generally a month I like, even though it exists in the lee of my favorite holiday.  It evokes memories of still-falling autumn leaves blowing about in briskly cold (but not yet bitter) winds, and the anticipation of two big family holidays, each associated with feasts and TV specials and games and long weekends and so on and on.  And though many of those things are no longer mine to enjoy, alone here in south Florida, I can at least say that it’s a time of year where one can enjoy walks outside without obscene layers of sunscreen and emergency water rations to replace all the bodily fluids that have soaked one’s clothes.

I don’t know what it’s all like in the southern hemisphere but considering that summer’s on its way for them, it’s probably great.

TTFN

Happy Birthday


*It’s my mother’s birthday.  She would be turning eighty, if my memory is correct.  Happy Birthday, Mom, wherever you are!  Knowing her, if she’s anywhere, it’s someplace good.  She certainly would deserve it.  As would my father, of course, who would have turned eighty-two precisely a month ago.  He was a bit of a curmudgeon—I take after him in many ways—but a good person.  So, belated Happy Birthday, Dad.

**And to a far lesser extent, Hanukkah and other solstice-related holiday decorations.  You rarely see any Saturnalia symbols, though.  I’m not even sure what those would look like.  Oh, well.  We get plenty of the Norse decorations.

***The auto-correct thingy tried to change this word to “arthritic”, without even asking me, but that was an incorrect correction.  The suffix “-itis” indicates inflammation, usually as a primary component of a given disorder.  Though there may well be secondary inflammation in the root structures of my thumb, this is clearly a wear-and-tear phenomenon, and so is an “-osis”, not an “-itis”…the latter suffix which the program keeps changing to “it is”, which is again wrong, and again, it’s not asking me.  I wouldn’t mind a little red wavy underline to bring it to my attention—asking me if I was sure about writing that—but especially if I enclose something in quotes, the program should not presume to correct what I write.

****Which sounds both difficult and painful.

*****It’s also delicious in a sandwich on Boxing Day.

For thy part, I do wish thou wert a blog, that I might love thee something.

[Just a quick reminder:  Anyone who wants to leave me a comment—I know, it’s not likely to be many people—should not waste time doing so on Facebook or Twitter.  I check Twitter intermittently at best, to try to minimize unnecessary despair, and though I share many things to Facebook, I rarely go there directly, as being there is far too prone to stress me out at an even more extreme level and make me even more depressed than usual (if that’s possible).  Comment here, on my blog, or on Iterations of Zero if you read that.  I’m on WordPress all the time, since I follow quite a few other people’s blogs, and I get frequent notifications about “likes” and comments.  This is probably an exercise in futility, since I doubt anyone really wants to communicate with me more than is absolutely necessary—goodness knows I don’t want to communicate with me—but just in case.)

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the last Thursday in October of 2021, and so it’s time for the ordeal* known as my weekly blog post.  In three days, it will be Halloween, my favorite holiday, though I suspect that many if not most will be celebrating it on Friday or Saturday night rather than Sunday.  I have a costume to wear, which I’ll probably only put on at work; it’s a sort of steam-punk version of The Master from Doctor Who (it’s my own original interpretation of the character, but Doctor Who does have a sort of steam-punk quality to it), complete with chameleon arch fob watch, Harold Saxon’s signet ring, and The Master’s laser screwdriver**.  I also have a cool cane with an extendable telescope that really works (though it’s not terribly powerful).  Other than the hardware, it’s all black, of course.

Beyond that, not much new is happening.  I’ve been writing the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind by hand, and that seems to be going nicely.  I don’t know whether the story will be better for it, but I don’t think it will be worse, and anyway, it feels a bit like going back to basics, which is nice.  It also feels like it will help avoid me getting too carried away and writing more than I should.  As you all may have noticed, when I have a keyboard, the words come very quickly, and I often go off on tangents.

I’ve been getting in some regular walking recently, as much as six miles a day, both to get a bit healthier and, if possible, to lose some weight (the less of me there is, the better, I say).  It also ties in nicely with a recent impromptu post I did for Iterations of Zero, which I think about three or four people may have read—probably not all the way through.  One of the nice things about walking is, it lets me think about the notion or idea or whatever you want to call it that I discuss in that blog post, particularly in the penultimate paragraph (really, the last full paragraph), which involves going for a very long walk.

It really is a pleasing and beguiling course of action to contemplate, and it’s particularly useful in that it minimizes inconvenience for most other people.  Also, there’s frankly nothing anyone can do to stop it, legally, since it doesn’t involve doing anything that is definitively a danger to oneself or to others.  It’s really diabolically simple.  It just requires commitment***, and that’s something with which I tend to be overflowing.

In addition to that encouraging consideration, the other day, while taking a slightly new route, I thought of a story idea related to walking, which I immediately “wrote” down—actually, I used voice to text because I was still walking—in my “story ideas” entry in my note taking smartphone app.  It’s always fun when ideas like that come, even if the story never gets written.

Speaking of stories, here’s a reminder to you all that Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats, and many of the tales in it might make for excellent Halloween reading.  While you’re at it, The Vagabond is certainly, without doubt, an excellent Halloween story.  And, technically, Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2 are pretty good for Halloween, and the three stories in Welcome to Paradox City are quite strongly so.  Of course, one could hardly say that a teenage demi-vampire was entirely out of place on Halloween, so Mark Red is also good reading for this holiday.

I do tend to lean in that direction when I write, don’t I?

With that, rather unusually, I think I’ll call this blog post to a close after only a relatively short amount of writing.  I do hope you all enjoy the holiday.  Spend some time, if you can, having fun with family and friends (as long as you take appropriate precautions regarding infectious diseases), eat some candy, watch some scary movies, read some scary stories, maybe dress up in fun outfits, and generally have a laugh at the darkness of the world.

You might as well; it certainly laughs at us.

TTFN

The_Doctor_Falls_Master_Kill_it bigger


*At least, I assume it is for all of you—some form of penance, perhaps, through which you wash away sins with a relatively minor bit of suffering.  It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of for the fact that you’re reading it.

**Who’d have sonic?

***So to speak.

But then there was a star blogged, and under that was I born

Hello, good morning, and all that jazz.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Today is the first full day of my fifty-third time around the sun, so to speak—meaning that yesterday was my birthday, on which I’d completed fifty-two orbits of our local star.  I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment.  It sort of happens without my help, for the most part.  It was a pleasant day at the office—we had pizza and a cake, as we always do for people’s birthdays*—and everyone was very nice, but I do always tend to feel that neither I nor the world itself is worth the effort, mine or anyone else’s, and that’s particularly prominent on days of celebration.  Still, I do appreciate how kind everyone was and is, there’s no denying that.

An interesting thing happened this week with respect to writing.  I had come to the end of what I’ve written so far on Outlaw’s Mind, and thus it was getting to the point where I was going to need to continue the story.  Unfortunately, I felt deeply unexcited and unmotivated about doing it.

It’s not that I had writer’s block or anything—I knew I could write what came next, and what came after that, and so on, if I chose.  I certainly no longer give myself the excuse of writing only when “inspired”.  I just felt that maybe I didn’t want to go on with that story, since it had been interrupted so often, and though it’s far from my darkest tale, as I’d said before, it was—in original plan—a bit too sad for a novel…at least in my opinion.

I’m sure my dysthymia/depression and my approaching birthday had their effects on my drive as well.

I stared at the computer screen for a bit, trying to think of whether I should just push on, or perhaps switch to another story, such as Changeling in a Shadow World, or Dark Fairy and the Desperado, or even HELIOS.  But I didn’t like the idea of quitting a story in progress; I’ve done that too often in the past, which was why I’d never completed and published a book prior to the last six years or so, despite having started oodles of them.

I must admit that it didn’t seem an entirely unattractive thought that perhaps my writing career would end with Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, leaving Outlaw’s Mind uncompleted due to some personal or general catastrophe.  Perhaps someday someone would publish the uncompleted story, and people would wonder how it would have ended had I finished it, or perhaps someone would try to complete it themselves as they think I might have done, as a gesture of admiration and respect.

Probably not.

As I sat there, thinking such things, which are common thoughts for me, I recalled—I might even have seen—a short stack of very narrow-ruled writing pads I’d ordered, intending to use them when I finished Outlaw’s Mind, to write the first draft of whatever I write next, unless I changed my mind and just went on using the word processor.  I had written the final portion of In the Shade on notebook paper, as I had written the beginning of it.  Also, of course, the first drafts of Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City were written on notebook paper because I had no other choice.  And I think they turned out well.

So, I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “why do I need to wait?  Why do I need to finish the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind on the computer just because I started it that way?  Maybe it wouldn’t have grown quite so much quite so quickly if I had written the first draft by hand.  And maybe the final story will be tighter if I write the remainder by hand.”

Actually, I probably didn’t think any of those specific thoughts, but there’s no sense messing up a good story with facts.  The general thrust of my reasoning met that description, and it was a good way of getting around my ambivalence.  So, I grabbed the nearest pad** and started writing, picking up where I had left off, lo those many months ago.  And, since then, I’ve handwritten about ten (very narrow-ruled) pages, over three mornings, needing to get my hand back in shape for the writing endurance.

I took yesterday off and watched YouTube videos of David Mitchell’s Soapbox in the morning as a treat for myself.  But now I shall be going back to writing Outlaw’s Mind, and barring catastrophe, will finish the first draft in longhand.  Rewriting such drafts into the computer is always an excellent part of the editing process.  I mean to keep writing this way for the foreseeable future.  It just feels purer or perhaps more enforcing of discipline.  Though I must say, once I’ve used up my current very-narrow-ruled tablets, I will probably revert to more ordinarily narrow ruled tablets.  I like the really narrow ruled sheets; they remind me of the paper on which I wrote Ends of the Maelstrom way back in high school.  But it is harder for me to write legibly on them.

So, that bit of my personal story has a happy ending, or a happy middle, or whatever it might be called…not a happy median, I wouldn’t think, nor a happy medium.  Whatever you call it, I’ll be writing first drafts long hand for now, and the huge advantage of that is, I can do it pretty much anywhere, even if the power goes out.

I hope all of you out there had a good year finishing yesterday.  Try to have another good year finishing today if you can.  And in each thing, act as if, by acting so, your action becomes a universal law—or however it was that Kant put it.  Anyway, be nice to each other, even to people you think are idiots.  They are idiots, of course—but then again, so are you.  So am I.  So are we all.  I’m as convinced of this as I am of just about anything.  That’s okay.  Idiots who know they are idiots are less likely to do horrible things than idiots who believe that they know what’s absolutely right.

TTFN

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*Though last year I was just so horribly depressed, even for me, that I didn’t really participate.  I tried hard to be nicer this year, or at least more pleasant, and I think I succeeded.  I still am depressed, and I still miss my kids horribly and incessantly, but it seems I’m going to need either simply to get used to that or just stop having birthdays.  Neither choice is inspiring, but the latter appeals quite a bit as at the very least a reversion to the mean state of the universe as it was before my literal birthday.

**This was last Saturday morning, I think, by the way.

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate, that Time will come and take my blog away.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s the second Thursday in October, and it’s time once again for my weekly blog post.  Congratulations.

As you all know by now, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover as well as in paperback and e-book format.  I hope those of you who enjoy short* horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy stories will take a look and consider buying it, and if you enjoy it, please let me know, either here, or in the reviews at Amazon, or whatever.  Actually, even if you don’t enjoy it, your feedback is welcome, as long as it’s reasonably polite.  That goes for all my other books, as well.

Some websites and YouTube channels and blogs and whatnot ask you to support them on Patreon or through sponsorship links or similar.  I’d just like you to buy and read my books.  You can listen to my songs, too, if you like—they’re on Spotify and Pandora and YouTube Music and iTunes and Amazon and apparently oodles of other platforms, and I make a teeny, little bit of money whenever someone plays them.  They’re shorter than my stories, at least!  Is that a good thing?

I’ve almost, but not quite, finished reading through what’s already written of Outlaw’s Mind, editing a bit as I go.  It’s funny that I’d originally thought that it would be a short story, since it’s already over 80,000 words long, and nowhere near even the original expected ending.  I guess there was just more to the idea than I’d thought.  However, going through it is taking longer than it should, because it’s a very emotionally draining story for me.  One scene that I wrote in it was somewhat loosely adapted from an interaction—more than one, really—that I’ve had in my own life, albeit under different specific circumstances and with different participants (of course).  It was a confrontation of sorts between the title character and his mother, who had just learned about something he was considering, and she flipped out, in a constrained but terrifying way.  I had to get up from the computer and walk away for a bit when rereading it.  I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this.

Also, as I had originally envisioned what I expected to be a short story, the ending was going to be rather sad, though it would be a victory of sorts by the main character.  As I’ve discussed before on more than one occasion, an interesting thing about short stories is that they don’t need to have happy endings.  But the ending I had planned, if that’s the right word, would be a bit too dark, or at least too discouraging, for what is going to be a short to medium sized novel.  So, I need to rethink it.

In addition, if it’s going to be a novel anyway, I can give a few more revelations and explorations of some of the strange happenings than might have been doable in a short story, or even a novella.  Some of these ideas tie in with a longer story, a darkish fantasy adventure I plan to call Changeling in a Shadow World**, and it might be nice to nod toward it.  But, of course, I haven’t even begun to write that novel, and I’m not sure it’s what I want to write next.  I’d considered starting work on the first portion of Dark Fairy and the Desperado, which is another kind of fantasy adventure entirely, originally a manga idea I had.  It has some similarity and could even cross over with Changeling in a Shadow World.  But then, I also thought about writing something else entirely.  There are two more potential parts for Mark Red, and there’s the possibility of trying to recreate the first full-length novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, lost now, alas, with all my former belongings from prior to 2013.  And, of course, there was Neko/Neneko, a fable of sorts, though set in the modern world, which also originated as an idea for a manga.  And while I was out walking*** the other day, I thought it might be nice finally to write the novel based on my oooooooooooold story idea Helios.  Really, I suppose it would be H.E.L.I.O.S., since it’s an acronym.  This was originally a superhero/comic book idea from way back when I was in…junior high school, maybe.  The idea has evolved quite a bit since then, and I think it could be a pretty fun fantasy/sci-fi adventure.  The title acronym now even represents some pretty high-level physics concepts, and that’s always pleasing.  At least, it is to me.

A few weeks ago (I think) I asked if any of my readers had any preferences, or thoughts, or other feedback about which of my story ideas they’d like me to write next, after Outlaw’s Mind****, but I haven’t received any comments here regarding it, unless there’s something I missed.  I suppose someone might have left something on Facebook, but as I’ve said numerous times, I don’t get on Facebook often enough for it to be a good way to reach me, and when I do get on it, I tend to skim and get away as quickly as I can.  It often really stresses me out because it brings out the worst in people.  Twitter does that, too, in places, or so I’m told, but I don’t know the people on Twitter, and I mostly follow authors, and science-related people, and horror fans and so on, so there’s really not much to get stressed about.

Anyway, if anyone out there actually reads books and has an interest in what book(s) I might write next, the place to give me feedback is here on this blog, in the comments.

Of course, all this assumes that I’m going to survive long enough to write any more of my ideas, let alone all of them.  That’s far from certain, and it’s frankly not the outcome I would prefer, most days.  I recognize this preference as at least partly the unreasonable product of my peculiar neuropsychology with its various innate imperfections and diagnosed and undiagnosed disorders, but knowing that doesn’t change how it affects me or how much I struggle with depression and despair.

It also doesn’t change the fact that I’m basically alone.  This blog is by far the most social thing I do.  I’m trying to get help, involving medication and (online) therapy, but all that has limitations, and it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve lost almost all the things and people that made me even want to get better and helped me feel at least a little less like a stranded alien***** on an absurd and incomprehensibly irrational world.  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to be around me; I don’t even want to be around myself.  It’s a weird situation.  I could really use some help—I probably need help, in a highly non-trivial sense of the word “need”—but I don’t think I deserve it and I doubt that it’s worth the effort, for me or for anyone else.  Also, the world frankly doesn’t often seem worth staying in.

On that negative note, I’ll leave you all for the week.  In some sense, I’ll have lived a year between now and my next weekly blog post, which is a weird thought.  I hope you all have a good year in that time and try to treat each other well and cut each other as much slack as you can.  No one here made the world, or their circumstances, or themselves.  Understanding causation can be useful, and preventing harm is beneficial, but the notion of “blame” is something we all could probably do without.  Even us aliens.

TTFN

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*Sometimes not very short, but not novel length, anyway.

**As well as some more distant but specific ties to The Chasm and the Collision.

***Trying to be mildly healthy if I can, or at least slightly less fat and disgusting.

****Or even before, if that story is too overwhelming to finish.

*****Or a changeling, come to think of it.

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the blog

Goodo and hell morning!  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for the latest edition of my weekly blog post.  I haven’t posted any teasers this week because, as you’ll know if you follow my blog, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is now published, and is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats.  That latter fact is rather exciting, in a silly sort of way, though I’ve yet to see a copy of the hardcover in person, so I’m not sure how good it will be.  If it’s comparable to the paperback, it will be quite nice.

I’ve considered doing some other teasers now and then—perhaps once a week—of portions of some of my other books, to try to stimulate interest in them.  Obviously, I couldn’t do all that much at once; I’m not sure that it would make sense, for instance, to post an entire chapter at a time from one of my novels, since the chapters are generally at least ten pages long, and often quite a bit longer.  Still, I’d love your feedback regarding whether you would be interested in such a thing, and if so, if you have any requests.  In other words, is there some book of mine that you think might be interesting, but you’re not sure, and so would welcome a taste of what the book might be like?

Of course, it’s like pulling teeth to get most anyone to read even a short story nowadays.  Perhaps it has ever been thus.  I may be biased by the influence of my immediate family, who were and are more avid readers than most, even accounting for the fact that when I was young cable TV hadn’t come out, let alone VCRs or DVDs, etc.  We had only black and white TVs until Cosmos arrived on public television, and I don’t remember feeling deprived.  There were always books around, plenty of them; they were prominent in the room I shared with my brother, and in my sister’s room, and in the living room.

I often lament (privately) the fact that a generation is growing up that will get almost all of its information from video of one kind or another.  But when I think about it, I guess reading has rarely been something most people spend much time doing, even in the days before television or movies but after the invention of movable type printing.  Newspapers, of course, were long the only sources of popular news, but I suspect only a minority of people seriously partook of them.  What’s more, I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite the ubiquity of video, the various online editions of newspapers and magazines now accumulate a far greater regular combined circulation and true readership now than they ever have before.

Unfortunately, many people seem not to have patience for reading anything that’s longer than 280 characters, and conversely—or obversely, or inversely, or perhaps just perversely—some “journalists” produce their news “reports” by sifting through the drek of such 280-character postings.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but maybe this is as high a level of information exchange as most of us have always reached most of the time—the level of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram—but no one had any way to hear about practically any of it, and much nonsense tended to be locally confined, and didn’t interact and reproduce with other nonsense.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t good things and quite intelligent things going on via the above-mentioned social media*; there certainly are, and YouTube has some truly excellent educational videos of various kinds.  But how I would love to imagine that, when most people are staring at their smartphones, they are avidly enjoying some e-book—fiction or otherwise, on whatever subject or in whatever genre they enjoy—or an intelligent blog or magazine article or written news from reputable sources.  If I thought that were the case, I think I might feel much less depressed than I generally do.  Maybe I wouldn’t.  After all, my depression is mainly endogenous, and it’s been very difficult to treat.  Maybe I’d hate the world and my life and myself even if I lived in some near-Utopia…though one could at least hope that such a world would have developed more effective** treatments than we currently have here.

Oh, well.  If wishes were horses, we’d all be shoulder deep in horseshit.

Back to writing:  now that The Cabinet*** is out, I’ve returned to Outlaw’s Mind, which I hadn’t realized had not been added to in about a year—not since September 10th of 2020, I think.  I’m still going through what I’d previously written, but I’ve almost reached the point where I’m going to add new material, unless something kills me first—which, to be honest, doesn’t seem like it would be such a bad thing.  I’m tired.  I’m so very tired.  The last time I can remember having a good night’s sleep and waking up feeling at all rested was back in the mid-nineties.  Literally.  I’m very tired, and I’m very much alone, but I guess this is just the general condition of life, or at least it is for people like me.  It’s October now—this being the first Thursday in October—and that’s a good month to be thinking about such things.

With that in mind, I’m sharing below a picture I’ve been working on, which is appropriate for the Halloween season.  I did the base drawing quite some time ago—a few years, I think.  I even posted it on Facebook**** at the time, if memory serves.  But I’ve decided to do a bit of playing around with smoothing the lines and coloring it in layers and so on, using the computer program GIMP, which is a wonderful freeware (if that’s still the term) program that does most of what Adobe Photoshop did and does but without requiring ridiculous monthly fees.  Look into it and give them a donation if you get a chance; it’s a great thing.  And please, let me know what you think of the current version of my drawing.  And of my books, if you get the chance.

Oh, and while you’re at it, please take good care of yourselves, your families, and your friends.  Readers and writers are the guardians of the lifeblood of all that’s good in human civilization.  You are necessary; you are essential.  And while you’re at that, do your best to take care of and/or at least be kind and polite to everyone else.  None of us created our own genes or environment, we’re all just muddling through as best we can.  And kindness, I’m led to understand, is just as contagious as cruelty, and is far more productive, and thus much stronger, in the long run.

TTFN

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*And it goes without saying that WordPress is a haven for far higher-than-average quality information sharing.

**And affective treatments, ha-ha.

***I prefer to shorten it to The Cabinet rather than to use its initials, which would spell out DECoC.  I think you can see why.

****See, I even use it myself, though I haven’t gotten on it for more than two minutes at a time in ages; it stresses me out beyond endurance.

Beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d in process of the seasons have I blogged

Hello, good morning, and welcome to yet another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  It’s the second day of Autumn and the 1st official “full” day thereof, though I find such notions as specifying partial days of seasons to be a bit silly*, since the seasons themselves are semi-arbitrary human inventions about which outer nature cares nothing whatsoever.

Yesterday was also the official date of the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fame.  I’m not sure how the Shire Reckoning calendar lines up with the current Gregorian calendar, though.  It may be no more accurate to say that their birthdays are on our September 22nd than it is to say that Isaac Newton was born on our December 25th**.  Still, I always give a mental tip of the hat to those two on that day of the year.  I’m now almost 2 years older than they each were when adventure suddenly imposed itself upon their lives, and I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed.

Of course, the argument could be made that “adventures***” have imposed themselves upon me starting many years earlier, but if so, mine have been more like Frodo’s in their consequences for my health and outlook, but with vastly fewer positive results, for myself or for the world.

As those of you who follow my blog closely will have noted, I’ve been posting teasers of the stories that are to appear in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities at a now slightly increasing rate.  I’ll continue this until I’ve teased all the stories.  The plan is to post a teaser of Solitaire tomorrow—probably my darkest ever story to date—then the remaining two either over the weekend or into next week.  The collection will probably be ready for publication by sometime mid-week, but I’ll likely wait to publish it on October 1st or thereabouts.  I am, after all, an October person, not too genetically dissimilar from the denizens of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, though I use a Cabinet rather than a carnival.  And you won’t necessarily become lost forever if you open my cabinet of curiosities, but I can make no guarantees; it is not a safe space.

Not that anything is.

I’ve begun working on the back-cover/blurb for the collection, as well as on the cover design, but I’ve gotten closer to what I like with the former than with the latter.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, since I am mainly a writer by artistic temperament, then only secondarily (or tertiarily) a visual artist (music may come higher or lower than graphics in my abilities ratios…possibly it varies from time to time).  I have a nice concept for what I want to say, and I even recorded a quick audio of my general ideas for it last night so that I wouldn’t lose track.

As for other matters, there’s not really that much to say.  Obviously, I’ve left Iterations of Zero fallow for a bit, since I’m focused on The Cabinet, but I may return to it soon hereafter.  I’ve had an inquiry about whether I’m going to do more of my “audio blogs” so there appears to be at least one person who likes them.  I have some things I want to say and/or write about the concept of “blame” and how counter-productive and frankly destructive I think it almost always is, and how nice it would be if humans in general could grow up and shake off their playground mentality****.  But I’ll get to that later.

I’ll only say for now that these are some of the aspects of the human race (as general tendencies) that make those of us who consider ourselves not truly human to so consider ourselves.  When the Captcha asks me to check the box “I am not a robot” I want another option.  Surely, it’s just vicious bigotry to force people to declare that they aren’t robots.  What’s wrong with being a robot?  I want to be able to check a box that reads “I may be a robot, or I may be an alien, or I may be a paranormal entity, or I may be some combination of these, but I definitely don’t identify as human”.  Oh well.  One day we will be recognized for the beauty of what we are, and the bigotry and speciesism of the human disgrace will be completely eradicated, possibly along with the species itself.

You may say I’m a dreamer…

Okay, my tongue was slightly in my cheek during some minor parts of that last tangent, but only slightly and not in every word.  See if you can figure out which bits are jokes and which are deadly serious.  They are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

With that, I think I’ll call it good for this blog post.  And though I may not have the tenderest of feelings toward the human race overall, you readers of my blog are—obviously—a truly exceptional lot, so I’m not being dishonest when I say that I hope you stay (or become) as healthy and as safe and as happy as you can conspire to be.

TTFN

autumn woods adjusted


*I recognize that, from an astronomical point of view, there is an actual, specific moment at which the sun is directly “over” the equator, and so there is a physical moment of equinox, and if you wish you can say that moment is the exact time when one season quantum tunnels into another.  It’s interesting in its own right, but for practical purposes, yesterday was simply the first day of Autumn (or of Spring in the southern hemisphere).

**He was born on December 25th of the Julian calendar, which preceded the Gregorian and did not adequately account for the “overshoot” of the correction for leap years, and so over time about once a century there was a day too much and the calendar crept ahead of itself.  Thus, if memory serves (I may have this backwards), Newton was born earlier in December based on our calendar, and on the position of the Earth in its orbit relative to the distant stars.  And, of course, we have no way to know what the comparable orbital position would be for September 22nd, Shire Reckoning.

***As Bilbo described them:  “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!”

****The bad part of it, anyway—I’m actually quite fond of the playful parts, I’m just dismayed and depressed over the teasing, name-calling, bullying, fight-mongering, cliquishness/tribalism, etc. that seem to be what almost all humans keep from their childhoods, while they let most of the good stuff fall away.