Remembering Spock

Like most nerds of a certain age, I grew up watching Star Trek. And, of course, the character I most identified with was Spock (I had a huge crush on Lieutenant Uhura, but that just goes without saying).

I admired Spock. Practically worshiped him. I wanted to emulate him. I tried suppressing my emotions (not very successfully at times); I practiced for hours to raise a single eyebrow like Spock did whenever he was interested in something; and, of course, I trained my fingers to do with the traditional Vulcan salute. I tried combing my hair the same way he did, but that never worked out. In recent years, I’ve even tried to develop a viable worldview based on logic and reason –o’thia — that would pretty much solve the world’s problems (like Surak did in Diane Duane’s novel Spock’s World). I never succeeded, obviously.

Much has been written about why the character of Spock appeals to nerds everywhere. Even President Obama wrote, “Before nerdery was cool, there was Spock”. His appeal is due to his status as an outsider who still an important player. His ability to employ reason and logic over emotion, while still occasionally falling victim to his half-human emotional side, certainly is attractive.

And Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock pretty much his entire life, and whose credentials as an actor, director, and poet are beyond dispute, was, by all accounts, a kind and generous man who gave of his time and self to others. He served in the Army, fought against the Vietnam War, championed equal pay for equal work for Nichelle Nichols, and so on. He was definitely someone that we can all respect and admire, and rightly so.

His last post to Twitter was poignant. He had been suffering from COPD for over a year, and I have no doubt that he knew his time was nigh.

He lived long. He prospered. May we all do likewise.

A Wee Whine

I need to update my website.

I need to rebuild the Holidailies.org website from scratch.

I need to rebuild the Stonegoose wishlist server from scratch.

I need to complete my advanced PHP/SQL course

I need to learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails

I need to learn all about Amazon Web Hosting services

I need to write a blurb for “The Winds of Patwin County”

I need to finish up my Swords Vs. Cthulhu story

I need to write a synposis of “Code Monkey”.

I need to learn Drupal.

I need to import all of the old Daikaijuzine.com (WordPress) articles into the new Daikaijuzine.net (Drupal) website.

I think I’ll go read some comic books.

The Elegant Cephalopod

This past weekend, in spite of my bronchitis, we went down to Monterey for a few days. Well, technically, Castroville (which was where the vacation house was). We left after Jennifer got off work (I had called in sick because of the aforementioned bronchitis), and drove down that night. We arrived at about 9:30 at the house where our friends were already waiting for us.

That first night, we really didn’t do much. We sat around and chatted, then I used my nebulizer (again: bronchitis), and then we went to be.

The next day, we went into Monterey itself. We had breakfast at a place called Caffe Trieste downtown, and I highly recommend this place. I only had a couple of eggs and some coffee while the others had large breakfasts.

Then, because we’re all a bunch of nerds, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of my favorite places in the world. This time there was a special exhibit that really attracted me: Tentacles. I love octopuses, cuttlefish, nautiluses, and other critters like that, so I really wanted to see this. It did not disappoint, though I wished for more — or any, rather — nods to H. P. Lovecraft.

Also, I love penguins. So here’s a picture of some penguins that I took at the Aquarium (click to embiggen):

penguins

It’s nesting season for the penguins, so here’s a too-brief and not-too-high-quality video of penguins moving around. What I wanted to show was a penguin grabbing a pebble in its beak and carrying it up to one of the nesting boxes. We saw several penguins doing that, and, of course, I found it fascinating and adorable.

I took a few other videos at the aquarium, particularly in the jellyfish exhibit (jellyfish are also awesome), but none of them turned out very well, so I won’t share them here. Suffice to say, moon jellies are my favorite jellyfish, and I just love the way a swarm of them move through the water (though I understand blooms of moon jellies can indicate a bloom of algae in the water due to warmth, or even pollution). Sea nettles are also cool.

The sea otter exhibit was fun, of course. Sea otters are the cats of the seas, though they can be vicious little brutes. I also enjoyed the kelp forest exhibit, and was fascinated by the shining swirls of anchovies (or maybe they were sardines — I never figured that one out for sure).

After the aquarium, we went back to the rental house, I nebulized once more while the others went to the beach and wandered around, then we watched Terminator 3. I hate this movie, and none of the others really liked it either, so we had great fun mocking it (she’s got a plasma jet weapon in her hand and she uses a GUN to shoot her targets?!!?). That night, we played two games of Pandemic, a cooperative game where the players attempt to cure diseases before they destroy humanity; I’ve played this game before, but I’ve never played won; this time, we cured all the epidemic diseases, and winning the game was just astounding. Then we played something called Love Letter, and finished the night off with a wonderful — or horrific, depending on your estimation of the game — round of Cards Against Humanity. I nebulized again, the went to bed.

Sunday, we had to be out of the rental house by ten, so we woke up early, showered, packed, and rolled out. We had breakfast at Caffe Trieste again, then wandered a bit around downtown Monterey. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf, ignoring the tourist traps and little shops, and found a place where sea lions were hanging out.

Here’s a picture I took of some sea lions hanging out off Fisherman’s Wharf on Monterey (click to ensealionate):

sealions

After Monterey, we went to Pacific Grove, explored among the rocks, then headed toward home.

That was all this past weekend. Today it’s Monday, and I’m full of thoughts. My bronchitis has improved dramatically (thanks to antibiotics and huge doses of Prednisone), and I had the day off work because of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. So I spent much of the day working on a short story for an upcoming “Swords V. Cthulhu” anthology, then deleting much of what I wrote because I didn’t like it.

I also spent much of the day pondering past interests. I’ve done this before, when I blogged about The Neverending Symphony, only this time I thought about how when I was in high school, I desperately wanted to go into marine biology, and then later in college, into oceanography. College chemistry classes killed these dreams, of course, but a man can ponder them anyway. So now I’m left thinking about the way the Monterey Bay Aquarium and time near the ocean gets me sad about the horrific things we have done and continue to do to the life-sustaining ecology that keeps us alive. Sometime soon I will blog about this as well.

Long story short: I had a blast with my friends in Monterey, and highly recommend taking time away to do this sort of thing. And the Aquarium, of course, is always worth visiting.

It’s that time of year again…

…where I decide it’s time to refocus, recenter, and generally resolve to be a better person for the new year. Except this time, I’ve decided to do it a little bit earlier. For reasons. I don’t know. If you enjoy reading other people’s New Years resolutions, even if they’re actually December 22 resolutions, read on. If not… then click here to read my story “Night of the Frozen Elf” on Book Country, where it’s a featured manuscript for December, and has a rating of 4 out of 5.

So. I’ve decided that the three keywords for the coming year are (in no particular order) EngagementLearning, and Creativity. All of which, I’m pretty sure, are intertwined with each other.

  • Engagement. By which I mean that I will connect and interact more actively with others, as well as with the world around me. I tend to be a bit of a homebound solitary hermit. I want to make a change.
  • Learning. I enjoy learning new things, but I rarely take the time to actually do so, because I am so busy consuming stuff and vegging out in front of my computer or the television. So I’m going to start looking for new opportunities to learn new things and try to follow up on them.
  • Creativity. I like to think that this one speaks for itself. But in case it doesn’t, I’m going to look for new ways to be creative this year, solving problems and in my writing.

And, as always, I don’t really make resolutions, I just decide to refocus on new and existing areas of my life. And this time around, I want to apply the three principles above to each area of focus.

  • Writing. Write more, finish more, submit more, publish more. Engage with other writers and writing communities such as Book Country. Actively work to learn more about the craft. And participate in some classes or workshops.
  • Friends/Family. Actively engage more with them. I have a lot of friends, both online and off, that I love and would like to engage with more.
  • Geekery. There are activities and what-not that I love and that I like to take part in. So I’m going to take a more active part in these activities, and engage with other people. Among other things, this means simply learning more about the world around me, and engaging with others who are doing the same.
  • Church/Community. This one’s easy: simply get more involved with both. There’s a part of me that thinks I should aim toward becoming a Deacon in my local church, but I’m not sure that’s feasible. But participating in Safe Ground (where my church feeds and shelters poor and homeless people in our community) is definitely doable.
  • Health/Wellness. My asthma has been pretty much out of control over the past few months. I don’t like this. In the past year, I’ve had to take Prednisone three or four times, which is, in my opinion, pretty much unacceptable. I’ve got some new drugs, I’m on allergy shots again, and I’m participating in a clinical trial that tests the effects of dietary L-Arginine, an anti-inflammatory agent, on asthma. So pretty much the only way to improve my asthma is to focus on my overall health, which, at least in part, means losing weight and exercising more. So in addition to all of the above, I’ll be working on this as well.

All in all, I am of the opinion that I’ve done a pretty good job of being Richard over the past year, with some ups and downs. One thing I’m learning is to take those “downs” in stride, and simply ride them out, as it were, rather than let them drag me down completely. I’m getting better at that as well.

In conclusion, allow me to share with you my favorite Christmas song, which I discovered last year. It’s “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Irish punk band (even though they’re based in Boston). Enjoy!


‘Tis the season for (repetitive) Holidailies!

Slay Ride

When I was a kid, we had this Christmas tradition where my mom would bake a bunch of sugar cookies, and then my sisters and I would decorate them with frosting paint. Occasional we’d attach accessories such as glitter or marshmallows or chocolate chips. It was a grand time, and a neat tradition, and we’d serve the painted cookies at Christmas Eve, along with all the other goodies.

I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point, this tradition took on a macabre turn. Instead of a cheerful Christmas stocking, we ended up with a bloody severed foot. Instead of a jolly reindeer with a shiny red nose, we ended up with a zombie reindeer. And so on.

And I’m not sure what it was that ended the tradition; perhaps it was the beach bunny elf with the strategically placed chocolate chips, or the swarm of zombie snowmen. Or maybe it was just that my sisters and I moved away and ended up with grown-up responsibilities such as jobs and no longer could make it to my mom’s house to paint the cookies.

But the spirit of the tradition lives on! At Thanksgiving this year, my mom gifted both my sisters and I with this:

The Walking GingerdeadYes, a kit for making zombie gingerbread men! How cool is that? How cool is my mom?

Naturally, Jennifer and I were thrilled and couldn’t wait to make these cookies. Last night was the first night that we both had free, so we decided it was time.

So we looked on the back of the box for the instructions. The first thing we noticed was this:

WGD-back-panel

We figure it’s pretty generic text, and probably shows up on the back of each of the different gingerbread kits that the company produces. On the back of this particular kit, though, we thought it was particularly funny.

Anyway. We put together the dough, mixed up the white frosting, baked the cookies (during this part I Tweeted, “The house is full of the smell of baking gingerbread and the screams of the damned’), and decorated them. This is what we ended up with:

WGD-doneNeither Jennifer nor I will be transitioning to a career in decorative baking anytime soon. But I think they turned out quite spiffy anyway. And horrifying. And truly in the spirit of my family’s holiday tradition.

(And you can’t quite tell in this picture, but the three gingerbread men in the middle are normal ones, made with a normal gingerbread man cutter, screaming, because they’re surrounded by zombie hordes.)


‘Tis the season for (undead) Holidailies!

Supplement: My story, “Night of the Frozen Elf”, was selected as an Editor’s Pick at Book Country yesterday. Read it here!

Musical Interlude

Because you need this on a Monday, here is a picture of a Scottish bagpiper serenading a penguin in the Antarctic in 1904 (click to embiggen):

Serenading a penguinThat is all.

 

The Squirrel Wars: An Update

Squirrel with a gun

I’ve written about the squirrel wars twice before, though not since 2007. I see no reason to assume that they have backed off. In fact, the above picture, taken just in my neighborhood, shows quite the opposite. They are, if anything, even more dangerous. Just the other day, in fact, a squirrel in Oregon caused a power outage that affected thousands of people!

Keep an eye out, citizens. The world is full of squirrels, and it is a dangerous place because of them.