Category Archives: Administrivia

Entries where I talk about the technical and administrative aspects of my website and blog.

What My Lungs Have Been Up To (Etc.)

They told me I would probably grow out of my asthma.

They were wrong.

It’s true that my asthma is much better now than it was when I was an adolescent. Far gone are the days when I was swinging by the emergency room once or twice or three times a year to get a shot of epinephrine or a nebulizer treatment, but I’m still under the care of a pulmonologist, and my asthma is still a thing.

Almost a year ago, my asthma was acting up so severely and frequently that my pulmonologist and I decided to try a treatment called “bronchial thermoplasty“. I’ll go into the details of bronchial thermoplasty (BT) in another post; suffice to say, heat is applied directly to the lung tissues in order to reduce the bronchial inflammation that causes asthma.

I count the BT as a success. Although my peak flow rate hasn’t really changed that much, nor have my spirometry results, I’ve had a lot fewer flare-ups, and I haven’t had to go on Prednisone since the treatment concluded back in November.

Recently, though, I have been experiencing a flare-up. I’m chalking it up to the heat and the air quality (the air in Sacramento has been pretty chunky of late). I’ve increased the dosage of my Advair, and that has helped. But if this doesn’t clear up significantly by next week, I’ll start taking the Prednisone.

To be clear, the BT is not a “cure” for asthma, and was never advertised as such. In cases like mine, the asthma is basically a permanent state of affairs, although it can be well-managed. And what with improvements in drugs and so on (including the advent of treatments like BT), that management is getting much better. All that’s left to do are to make the lifestyle changes that my pulmonologist has been pushing on me for years now. Turns out I’m lousy at that.


In other news…

I’m still on my social media hiatus. I poked into Twitter today just to see what was going on, and I couldn’t make it past a few posts without getting anxious. Turns out Trump is still awful, and Twitter is still a tool for amplifying and echoing his awfulness, even among his opponents. Trump Tweets something foul, and gets retweeted, with pugnacious commentary, by everyone. Trump makes me anxious, and Twitter, therefore, makes me anxious as well. So I think I’m going to stay off Twitter for awhile longer.

Facebook is less problematic. I have logged in there a couple of times to check out what’s happening with my family and a few close friends, all while avoiding the politics. I don’t mind pictures of food or baby stories; on the contrary, I like those posts. Life is full of mundanities. Shouldn’t they be acknowledged, if not celebrated? Still, Facebook can be a time sink, and right now I need that time to work on my writing.

I did start up an Instagram account, but that is almost exclusively to keep up with my wife’s cat pictures. So far I haven’t posted anything myself.

Also, I’ve switched my blog back to its former theme. At some point I will sit down and customize my site and WordPress installation entirely. But, again, that will take time. So for now, enjoy the default theme from 2014.

 

You Are Now Entering…

I’ve been watching the original Twilight Zone series on Netflix, and loving it. I’m currently halfway through season 2, and last night I saw the episode entitled “Night of the Meek”. In this episode, Henry Corwin, a department store Santa, gets drunk and is fired from his job. He informs the store manager that the reason he gets drunk all the time, and especially at Christmas, is that he can’t bear to see all the suffering and sadness in the world, especially in the faces of children, and especially at Christmastime,and know that there’s nothing he can do about it. Look at this picture of him. Doesn’t he look sad?

But the night he’s fired, Henry stumbles across a magical burlap sack that seems, at first, to be full of nothing but garbage. But he soon finds that it’s full of gifts, and not just any gifts: the heart’s desire of anyone he encounters. He gives gifts to the downtrodden at a Salvation Army soup kitchen, to the manager of the department store he was just fired from, and to the neighborhood kids.

Finally the bag is empty, and he lets it drop to the ground and goes on his way… only to encounter a sleigh, some reindeer, and an elf who says to him, “We’ve been waiting for you!” Henry’s own wish — that he could be the real life Santa Claus to give gifts for everyone — has come true.

I personally think that “Night of the Meek” is one of the better episodes that Serling himself (who was born on Christmas Day) wrote, and it actually made me a little bit sniffly. When I read a book in 2003 called The American Fantasy Tradition, I was more than a little surprised to see that Rod Serling was not mentioned at all.

Reams and reams have been written about The Twilight Zone and its impact on American pop culture (especially in speculative fiction), and I won’t bother going into that here. For now, I’ll just say that the show definitely impacted my own creative sensibilities. Over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been watching this show, I find myself feeling more inspired to work on my own fiction, and giving it more subtle twists and bits than I normally would be include toward. No one has ever accused me of being a very subtle writer, so perhaps binge-watching The Twilight Zone will help change that.

If you want to buy me something for Christmas or my birthday or just for the heck of it, might I suggest Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone: A Fifth-Dimension Guide to Life by Mark Dawidziak? I heard the author interviewed on a podcast I regularly listen to and this sounds like a fun book.


A couple of administrative notes:

  1. As you know, I no longer cross-post to Livejournal. Now, I cross-post to Dreamwidth, where my username is underpope2.
  2. I’ve applied a new theme to my blog. What do you think? Is it pretty? Ugly? Pretty ugly? I think it needs some tweaks.
  3. Finally, I’ve moved some of the free stories off my writing page and onto their own page at My Monstrous Universe. Enjoy!

 

The Writing Life

This is just a brief post. Its purpose is to let you know what I’m working on, writing-wise, right now, so that you can help keep me accountable. It’s also meant to help me clarify exactly what I’m working on and my self-imposed deadlines. So here goes.

NovelsPadma. I plan on finishing up the first draft by September so that I can throw it at some beta and sensitivity readers.

Stories:

  • “The B.I.M.” This is the story I promised Jennifer for her birthday. I was planning on having it finished by her birthday, which was May 30, but I missed that deadline. So now I’m planning on finishing it by the 15th of June.
  • “A Pine Romance”. I need to make some fundamental changes to this one to clarify the main character’s emotional journey. No problem, right? Deadline is the end of July, so I can toss it around to various markets.

And that’s it!


A wee administrative note: This is the very last post that I will be cross-posting to LiveJournal. The Russian owners of that site are well within their rights to set the Terms and Conditions to whatever they want, but their homophobic stance convinces me that I just can’t anymore. I’m planning on setting up a DreamWidth account, so you’ll be able to follow me there.

 

Various Updates

I keep forgetting that I have this blog. Well, no, it’s not that I forget about it; it’s more like, in this world of Twitter and Facebook, it’s much easier to just post 140 characters and forget about it. Blogging seems like so much more work.

So here’s some updates.

First, before I get to the writing updates, here’s an important one: I’m changing domains. I’ve had mossroot.com for over ten years and I’ll feel sad to leave it behind, but underpope.com seems so much more appropriate since I’m “Underpope” everywhere else on the Intertubes. A domain that reflects that just seemed natural. It’s all about growing the brand, you know? So go and change your links, your bookmarks, your feedreaders, etc.

Plus, this clever old-time photograph of the monkey at the typewriter seemed very appropriate for me. After all, it’s a monkey! And it’s typing! How friggin’ cute is that! And since my very own personal slogan is “Code monkey by day, word monkey by night”, the image could not be more fitting.

And now for some writing updates:

Code Monkey! Originally I had planned for this novel to just be a throwaway project for National Novel Writing Month. I had fun writing it, and fun putting it on line, chapter by chapter, for my friends to read. But then enough people (that is, more than one) suggested I actually push forward with it because it apparently has some potential. So I’m in the process of heavily editing it for possible submission to somewhere in the future. And I’m talking some serious edits. I swear, on some pages there is more red ink than black. (This is the reason I took down the original novel online. I could no longer stand the thought of people reading the original crap version.)

Also, My short story, “A Most Heinous Man”, which was published in Issue 33 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, will be published in their second “Best of Horror” anthology. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but I will be sure to update here once I find out.
My short story “Night of the Frozen Elf” (available in a slightly typo-ridden version here) will be collected in a new anthology, The Undead that Saved Christmas. You can probably guess from the title that it’s a collection of Christmas-themed zombie stories. All proceeds from this anthology will go to support the Hugs Foster Family Agency. It’s a good cause, so when the book becomes available, please go and buy many, many copies.
And, finally, if you’re thinking about contributing to my speculative fiction webzine, Daikaijuzine, we’re now open for submissions again. It’s a great ‘zine, with great content, if I do say so myself. Check it out and spread the word.

For now, that’s about it. In the future, I plan to actually post more actual content. But, then, I always say that, don’t I?

Making a Mess

I took a break from wheezing and sneezing and other assorted shenanigans to mess around with my home page (http://www.mossroot.com, for those of you reading this on one feed or another).  I was inspired by my recent good fortune with my short story "A Most Heinous Man" to try for a sort of classic horror movie monster theme.  I think it’s okay.  What do you all think?  Any suggestions?  Note that the image to the left is random, so reload the page to see it change.

NaNo.*Mo

Okay, so I’ve decided that this year I’m going to officially sign up for NaNoEdMo, and use the time to finish up this current draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  This isn’t quite what I had in mind for the year; I was planning on finishing up this draft in January, using February to write Part Two of The Return of Deacon Dread, and then use NaNoEdMo to begin the revisions on the finished first draft of Solitude.  But what the heck.  As long as I’m getting it done, that’s all that matters..

The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster has really taken over my life.  A few weeks ago, when I tried to do the weekend novel thing, characters from Solitude kept popping in and demanding scenes.  When I try writing short stories lately, all I can think about is the current scene in the novel.  I’ve got a couple of stories that are supposed to distract my inner editor with when it starts popping up its ugly head, but that little bugger has been pretty quiet these past few weeks.  I’m about 55,000 words into my rewrite, and I think I’ve got about 30,000 words to go.

Uh oh.  I wonder if a rewrite counts as part of the editing process for NaNoEdMo?

Meh.  Who cares?

My muse, Berthold, has been pretty talkative lately, which is annoying.  I’ve been reading a book about Genghis Khan lately, and Berthold is of the opinion that I could write some sort of story involving Khan, and possibly Christmas trees.  The book is fascinating so far; I had spent my life just thinking of Khan as a random barbarian leader, never considering the level of tactical and strategic brilliance the man had to possess in order to achieve what he did.

But Genghis Khan and Christmas trees?  You can see why I have a love/hate relationship with my muse.

In other news, I’ve continued messing around on my website, mostly learning how to better incorporate data objects with portable code, which helps me a lot with my job.  I’ve upgraded my blog software to WordPress 2.1.1, and cleaned up a bunch of code in the different libraries and stylesheets.  I think it looks very nice now; and I believe I’ve even finally fixed the bug that was causing it to crash in Internet Explorer (being a Linux/Open Source kind of guy, I use Firefox almost exclusively, and never even though to test it in IE).  I’ve also added a very simple forum; I don’t expect a lot of traffic to be flowing through my site, so the forum is mostly another exercise in code integration and customization.  Feel free to take a look and poke at it, though, if you like.

Last Friday, Jennifer and I and a member of my RL writers’ group went to Petaluma to see Christopher Moore, one of my top four favorite writers, talk and do a signing.  The man’s as hilarious in person as he is in his books.  At the end of his little talk, all three of us had sore bellies and faces from laughing so hard.  I’ve got a picture of Jennifer and me and him somewhere around here; I’ll post it when I get a chance.

He signed all the books we brought; six of his, and one science fiction novel by someone else entirely.  I’d heard he’d sign any book at all, even if he hadn’t written it; I’d brought along my copy of The Zombies that Ate Pittsburg (a non fiction book about the films of George Romero), but I left it in the car.

Before the event, we went to eat dinner at a little Irish style pub in downtown Petaluma.  The owners did a pretty decent job of making the place feel very Irish, though it was much brighter (it had windows, and it wasn’t raining outside), and seemed cleaner.  But the Guinness was great.

And in the final bit of daily news, we had Terminix come out to do another termite inspection, to follow up on the one that Clarke did a couple of weeks ago.  Terminix found no sign whatsoever of termite activity.  Now I’m thinking about having Orkin come out; best two out of three.

More Messing Around

I’ve made quite a few changes and updates to my blog.  Aside from importing all of my old blog entries from its entire history, dating back to March 2007, I’ve also made a bunch of changes to how comments are handled.  There’s now a "Captcha" image for comments, one of those nifty images that you enter when you post a comment to prove that you’re not a spambot.  This way, though, I no longer have to approve every single comment that comes through, so they’ll show up as soon as you post them.  I’ve also installed a "threaded comments" feature, and a feature which allows people to subscribe to comments on any particular post.

So, assuming I ever get any traffic on my blog, I’m all set for the wild and woolly discussions!

And just for fun, here’s my favorite song by Jonathan Coulton, "A Talk with George".  Just click on the Play button.  It should work fine in Bloglines too.  Apparently it doesn’t work in Bloglines.  You’ll just have to click through to my actual blog to hear the audio.

[audio:http://www.mossroot.com/worlds/audio/ATalkWithGeorge.mp3]