Category Archives: Holidailies

On Project Abandonment

This is the album I’m currently listening to:


It’s The Music of Cosmos, the soundtrack for Carl Sagan’s masterful PBS series from the early 80s. It’s got music by Vangelis, J. S. Bach, Leopold Stokowski, and so on. It’s tremendously meditative, and back when I was in high school I listened to this album obsessively, over and over again, frequently while sitting in the dark or out walking at night.

Back then, inspired by Sagan, I was going to be a scientist of some sort. I wasn’t quite sure what sort, though, because Cosmos covered just about everything there was to cover, from the evolution of humanity to the distant reaches of the Universe, and the idea of focusing on just one field felt a little confining. I decided, when it was time to go to college, that I would stick with the field I was good at, which was biology.

All this time I was writing, as well. I wrote some science fiction, some fantasy, and some stories about a detective named Fizziwinker (no, I have no idea where that name came from, what it means, or whether or not Fizziwinker had any other name besides Fizziwinker). But I was a big fan of Cosmos, and of science in general, and I had this idea round about my senior year of high school that I would write a book about science. Not just about science, you see, but Science (with a capital S). It was going to be all about the history and philosophy of science, and more: an exploration not just of those topics, but also of what it means to be human, and our place in the Universe. It was going to be called The Neverending Symphony, which I thought at the time was a grand title (it is now the title of a series of video games, I believe).

In college, I put away this idea, figuring (a) I was too busy studying biology and then philosophy to get anything like this written, or (b) I was too busy playing Dungeons and Dragons to get anything like this written. But in the 90s, after I graduated college, I resurrected the idea. Briefly. I couldn’t be a scientist — as a guy who graduated from college with a Philosophy degree and a GPA just below 3.0, that road seemed closed to me. But I could still write about science, and I could still inject that book about science with all the philosophy I had just learned. I could still write my Neverending Symphony.

But I didn’t. In fact, I never really got anywhere with that project beyond putting together a mix tape of music that sort of put me in the same mood as the Cosmos soundtrack. I also had no idea how to go about writing such a grand project.

There’s still a part of me, though, that thinks that perhaps I could pull this off. After all, if linguist/funny writer Bill Bryson could write A Short History of Nearly Everything, then perhaps I can write The Neverending Symphony. It would take a LOT of research, basically a second liberal arts education, in the arts, humanities, and sciences, to make it happen.

How would I even start? I have no idea.

Should I even try?

A Christmas Wishlist

It was easy when I was a kid. I’d go through the toy sections of my mom’s Sears or J. C. Penney catalogs and circle the items I wanted. New Micronauts! New firetrucks! New Legos! And so on. I’d get all excited and eagerly await Christmas Eve when I could open my presents and see the wonders. I’d get some of the toys I’d circled, which was cool, and some books, which was also cool, and some socks and underwear (long story), and some sweaters. Once, my grandpa gave me a gift certificate to Books, Inc. (I don’t know if that chain still exists or not, and I’m too lazy right now to Google it). That was back before gift certificates were really a Thing, and I loved it.

Now that I’m a grown up, though, it’s a lot harder. I have pretty much all the toys I want: my smartphone, my Android tablet, my Kindle. My car, which is twelve years old but still runs and which I know very well (I tend to run my cars into the ground). My computer. I could use a new laptop, but that’s not urgent. Oh, and my jellyfish desktop mood lamp thing has died, and I don’t think ThinkGeek sells them anymore. Oh, and I saw a couple of Pacific Rim toys that I think would look neat on my desk at work, but that’s about it.

Mostly I want books. And mostly reference books, too, though there are a few novels I’ve resisted buying myself because Christmas and my birthday are coming up. And my Amazon wishlist is public, in case you feel like looking it up.

So I’m going to go with some classics that I’d really like to see this year. I may come across as clichéd and a bit sappy, but here goes.

  • An end to slavery. Otherwise known as human trafficking. Although I can’t think of a single country on Earth where slavery is legal, there are still plenty of people in captivity; according to World Vision, there are something like 115 million children in the world who are kept in slave conditions. This is unacceptable. There are plenty of charities that work to help victims of human trafficking throughout the world. Find one and donate to it.
  • Respect for the planet. I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump was trolling when he said on Twitter that the concept of global warming was invented by the Chinese to cripple American manufacturing; I mean, no one could be that deluded, right? But global warming is happening. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies which confirm that not only is it real, it’s largely human-driven, compared to the tens of studies which say it is not. Yes, there was a major cold spell throughout the country this December, but that was driven by changes in the jet stream, which are driven by global warming. All I’m asking for is a little respect for this planet. We don’t have any others to go to. Again, there are plenty of legitimate environmental charities out there that need help.
  • An end to homelessness and hunger. I work in downtown Sacramento, and I see plenty of homeless people, some of them veterans, every day. I mean, come on, we’re the richest country on Earth, and we have this problem? Unacceptable. Find a local food bank or homeless shelter and donate or volunteer. These people need all kinds of assistance, from food and shelter to basic human companionship. I’m appalled that there are political forces in our country that are determined to cut back on government aid to these people. It seems counter-productive.
  • And, of course, the granddaddy Christmas wish that everyone asks for, world peace. I can’t think of any charities that are working specifically on this problem, but it seems to me that the root causes of conflict in the world are lack of resources, and people finding more and more ways to be generally crappy at each other. Find and contribute to charities and groups that are actively working to end human suffering throughout the world, such as Doctors without Borders, or the Red Cross. They do good work.

But really, these wishes aren’t really Christmas-specific. They’re things I’d like to see year-round. Christmas can bring out the best in people, but I’d like to see that happen every day.

So, then… I don’t know. What do you want for Christmas?

‘Tis the season for (political) Holidailies

Wheezing and Whining

As both of my regular readers probably know at this point, I have asthma, and I have it fairly bad. Not life-threateningly bad, and I don’t go to the emergency room on a regular basis (it’s been about three years since that’s been necessary), but I do get a nasty flareup every couple of months or so. Usually what triggers it is a minor cold or other bronchial infection. I seem to be prone to those. I’ve written about my asthma (and how it affects my political opinions) before, so I won’t go into detail here.

Anyway. Today I started taking the Prednisone again. Prednisone is an annoying medication. It works well and usually clears up a flareup in a few days, but I always hesitate to take it because of the side effects. For one thing, it really impacts my mood, and not in a good way. When Jennifer had to take Prednisone, it had euphoric side effects and she was full of energy. I know other people who are affected in this way. But no, not for me. Instead, Prednisone makes me cranky and irritable and depressed. My mood plummets, and I’m just not good company for the duration of the time that I’m taking it.

But the most annoying side effect of the Prednisone is that it makes me hungry. Or, rather, it interferes with that mechanism that tells me when I’m hungry and when I’m full, so that it reports to me that I’m never full. This is going to interfere with my weight loss efforts because I won’t be able to tell when I’m actually hungry or not.

So I’m going to attempt go go by visual cues this time. Instead of relying on my body to tell me when I’m hungry and when I’m not, I’m going to bear in mind that the human stomach is approximately the size of a clenched fist, and eat that much at my meals. And drinking water. Drinking lots of water. This will hopefully take the edge off the hunger. And perhaps bringing veggies to work with me. If I can’t control the amount I take in, at least I can control exactly what foods I take in. I hope.

Got ideas for how to deal with this? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


‘Tis the season for (wheezy) Holidailies