2013: A resolution or two

Merry second day of Christmas! As you know, Christmas is a twelve-day holiday, starting on December 25 and running through Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, which is on January 6.

Now for a couple of notes about Doctor Who:

  • First, I mostly enjoyed this year’s Christmas special, “The Snowmen”, though I was a bit disappointed with the resolution of the main storyline. On the other hand, I’m very impressed and intrigued by the new companion, Clara. I think she’ll make a fine addition to the show.
  • Second, I really want someone in the UK to send me a letter in March, primarily because the Royal Mail is beginning to issue these. Sure we in the US got classic movie monster stamps and Marvel superhero stamps, but Doctor Who!

Yes, I’m a fan. Yes, I’m aware that Doctor Who is a children’s show. Don’t judge me.

I don’t normally make New Years’ resolution. Why set myself up for failure? Last year I tried with a mere couple of resolutions, and while I did well with the second one, I didn’t do so well on the first. But I think I’m going to try again, just in case I’m able to refocus properly this coming year. After all, I’m turning 45 on my birthday (which just happens to be New Years Eve, so you have less than a week to buy me presents), which, being a nice multiple of five, seems like the perfect time to refocus.

So here are my two resolutions for 2013:

  1. Take better care of myself. Meaning, of course, eating better, exercising, all that stuff. I figure this means taking care of myself emotionally and spiritually as well as physically.
  2. Go easy on myself. That is to say, be forgiving of myself when I screw up. And screw up I will. I’m human, after all. Plus, I tend to have high expectations for myself, and when I don’t meet those expectations, the kobolds start knocking on my door. This resolution means not paying attention to them when they come calling.

I figure I’ll also take the opportunity this year to set some new goals and challenges for myself. I’ve already set a couple of writing goals: to complete the second and perhaps third drafts of Code Monkey!, and to finish up and publish The Winds of Patwin County, a novel in the form of several interwoven short stories, by November. I have other plans in mind. We’ll see if I get to them.

So those are my resolutions and goals for this year. I put them out there in public for the sake of accountability. If some of you will take note of them and help me remember them, I’d be mighty grateful.

One last bit of Doctor Who: Here’s the trailer for the upcoming second half of Series 7:

My first thought when I saw the Cybermen in this trailer was, “Oh Lord, not the Cybermen again.” Then I remembered that this coming year’s Cybermen episode is written by Neil Gaiman. So it will be really interesting to see what he does with them.



‘Tis the season for Holidailies


Guns, God, and beer

Here are some thoughts I’ve been having recently. They’re not necessarily coherent. They’ve just been on my mind.

Guns. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, a lot of people have been considering their position on gun control (though Gawker reports that gun sales have reached unprecedented numbers, especially assault rifles, since the shooting, which makes no sense to me). While the gun control discussion will probably lead nowhere, one of the predictable cries is “GUN CONTROL! NO OMG THAT MEANS THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE OUR GUNS AWAY!” which is, of course, just BS. Gun control does not equate with taking away guns; it means massacre prevention.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the Second Amendment. I think it’s archaic and has long passed its usefulness (the ratio of innocents killed by guns to tyrants overthrown in the US is pretty high). When the Founders passed it, guns were unreliable, took ninety seconds to reload (if you were practiced at it), and were just as likely to blow up in your face as they were to fire accurately. The Founders did not anticipate the existence of assault weapons, nor that such weapons would be used to murder two dozen children. Then there’s that whole “well-regulated militia” thing; a lone gunman in a school or a shopping mall do not a well-regulated militia make, and neither does the NRA. Of course, the Second Amendment will never be repealed and the NRA will always be a potent political force, so the whole question is moot; but, in summary, I believe that gun ownership ought to be considered an earned privilege, like driving, rather than an inalienable right.

However, the biggest issue related to the Sandy Hook massacre is, of course, access to mental health care. It’s hard for poor people to get access to affordable mental health care in our country, of course. It just seems that it’s easier to get guns. I disapprove.

God. On Sunday I attended the Christmas Cantata performance at the Dixon United Methodist Church. The Cantata was entitled “A Night of Rejoicing”, and the title was appropriate. The music was joyful, full of good cheer, and really brought home the message that Christmas is a time of jubilation, and not materialistic commercialism. And this made me think: Christianity really ought to be a religion (and not a “philosophy”, as Bill O’Reilly put it; and in spite of my background in philosophy, I feel this statement really sucks the spirit out of the faith) of rejoicing and cheer, gladness in the presence of a God who came down to Earth to become one of us, just for awhile, and who weeps with us when tragedy strikes.

Unfortunately, it seems that Christianity, as it is most loudly practiced in the United States these days, is a game of “Us Vs. Them.” When faith goes from being an expression of one’s spirituality to a weapon to be used against people who disagree with you or live in ways or do things that you disapprove of, you end up diminishing your relationship with God, not enhancing it. As they say, God loves everyone, even those you don’t like. Remember Jonah, and how his story ended*; Jonah desperately wanted to see the people of Ninevah smited, but God ended up not doing so, much to Jonah’s irritation. I suspect that sort of thing goes on all the time.

One of the most odious things that came out of the Sandy Hook massacre was Mike Huckabee’s statement that it happened because we have kicked God out of the public schools. It’s certainly true that public schools are government institutions and therefore cannot favor one religious faith over another (to do so would be a violation of the First Amendment, which I am a big fan of); but individual students are perfectly free to pray or express their own faith in ways that don’t infringe on the rights of other students to do so. As others have said, as long as there are final exams, there will always be prayer in public schools.

I don’t know for sure what God’s up to, but if the Gospels are any hint, then a lot of people are going to be surprised — and possibly even disappointed or outraged — when they get to Heaven and see who else managed to make it.

I have a lot of thoughts about religion and faith, but this seems like enough for now. But given these thoughts, is it any wonder that I’m an Episcopalian?

Beer. Not much to say here. I brewed up my first batch in fifteen years on my anniversary, and it came out pretty good. I’m going to brew another batch, possibly a vanilla stout, on Christmas Day. And that’s it.

Conclusion. As the great ones said, “Be excellent to each other.” That’s all I have to say.

* Note: I’ve been pondering for some time writing a novel that would be a retelling of the Book of Jonah. I don’t know. I just think he’s the funniest of all the prophets.

Signal boosting; plus, singing kobolds!

Now, before you do anything else, go here and read the announcement. In brief: my friend Andrea Stewart has won first place in the third quarter Writers of the Future contest, which is a really big deal. I love it when friends of mine get published or win contests or things like that. I always like to say, haughtily, “Yeah, they’re in my writers’ group. Also I went to a party at their house and it was awesome.” Also, read Andrea’s more detailed blog post here.

Kobold_Bard_by_D_MACWriting about depression is always difficult, but I’m told it’s therapeutic to do so, so here we go.

I’ve talked about kobolds as the metaphor for my depression. The metaphor is only a couple of years old, but it was inspired by my old Dungeons and Dragons days. Kobolds are easily defeated monsters, you see, when they come along in singles or in pairs. They only have half a hit die after all (meaning between 1 and 3 hit points, meaning that they are really easy to defeat). But when they show up in huge swarms, bursting down barricades and pouring into dungeon chambers, they can easily overwhelm and vanquish even the more experienced and high-level parties of player characters. Depression is kind of like those kobolds; there’s always one or two tagging along, knocking on the door, begging for attention, but generally easy to vanquish. But sometimes they show up in swarms, battalions, and then it’s easy to let the darkness overwhelm you and just… stop. For those like me who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, the kobolds sometimes go away completely, but when they swarm, they really swarm.

And for the last few days, boy have they been swarming.

My current angst seems to be centered on three things: my health, my writing, and my age. I’m about to turn 45, you see, and my beard is going gray and I’m getting gray at my temples and some of my joints ache and I get gastric reflux occasionally and so on and so on. Maybe I’m coming down with one of those midlife crisis things that I kept hearing about all my life. Is it time to buy a red sports car, track down a girlfriend who can’t legally drink yet, and get some hair plugs? (Probably not. I hate sports cars, I’m very happy with my wife, and I’m not going bald at all.)

Nah, I think it’s more that in certain areas of my life, I feel like I’m always starting over, and that’s frustrating. I weighed in at the doctor’s this morning, and discovered, to my horror, that I weigh as much now as I did five years ago. So… I feel like I’m starting over with regards to getting my act together when it comes to my health.

And when it comes to my writing, I feel like I’m a failure. I’ve been writing all my life, and eleven years ago I decided to crack down and take my writing seriously. And now at age 45 I have yet to make  a single professional sale, or even finish a single novel. I feel like I’m at the start of my writing career, and that, too is frustrating. (And to clarify, because it’s come up a couple of times in private messages on Facebook: No, Andrea’s success has not exacerbated these feelings; on the contrary, I’m very happy for her, and the news actually cheered me up quite a bit.)

But these thoughts… they’re all irrational. They’re the kobolds singing their nefarious songs to me. It’s just the depression talking, and depression lies. That’s an important truth to keep in mind when one’s depression feels overwhelming. Of course, it would be nice to stop up my ears like Ulysses’s sailors and ignore the songs of the kobold sirens, but that’s easier said than done.

And now, three days after the stupid kobolds started singing their songs, I’m still feeling captivated and enthralled. I can’t seem to figure out how to eat nutritiously, how to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, how to get started with the exercise, and so on. And I can’t seem to focus on my writing at all; it’s far easier to watch old episodes of Futurama than it is to choose a writing project and work on it.

I know that the proper approach is just to get going and start moving, but it feels overwhelming. Everything I’ve read tells me to simply choose one task, a starting point, and focus on that for the moment, but even that seems like it’s too much.

But depression lies. The kobolds deceive and obfuscate. It’s hard to remember that when I’m sitting at my desk at work, wishing I could just go home and go back to bed with my cat, but remember it I must. And keep taking the meds, and keep focusing on the small, individual tasks before me.

Sooner or later, these feelings will pass, and I can go back to normal.

On another note, this is entry 1,000 on my blog, which I’ve been keeping on and off since 1996. It’s gone through several permutations, from when each entry was simply a separate HTML page off my website, through a custom blog program that I wrote in PHP, to Moveable Type (eugh) to WordPress. So, yay.