First of all, I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s album 1989 pretty much constantly over the past day. Not sure why. I like many of the songs on the album, and I make no apologies for my musical tastes. Judge me if you will, I won’t care.
Second, I’m sure you’re aware that California is basically on fire right now. It has nothing to do with forest management; it has to do with several years of drought, unfortunate wind patterns, and an increasingly warming planet. Yes, climate change is a big factor here. When northern California is under assault from the worst fire in history, and southern California is also in flames, it’s hard not to think that climate change might be a factor.
Paradise, California, is pretty much gone at this point. I don’t have much to do with Paradise, having only driven through it once, and having once had a college roommate who came from there. Other towns have been wiped off the map because of these fires. Chico is in danger, and I do have family there.
Donations are welcome. From what I hear, material donations are overflowing right now and what disaster relief groups and survivors really need is money, so please bear that in mind.
The smoke from the Camp Fire is spreading through northern California as well. The Bay Area is smoked out. In my neighborhood, according to SpareTheAir.com and purpleair.com, the air quality index went up to the 400s yesterday, which means the air is hazardous. Today is slightly better. The air is no longer hazardous, just “very unhealthy”. What does that mean for people with asthma, like me? It means stay indoors as much as possible. And wear a mask if you absolutely MUST go outside. Which you should not really do.
So yeah. I’m wheezing a lot, coughing a lot, and drinking lots of water, taking Mucinex, and so on, all to discourage my lungs from taking the opportunity to inflict me with bronchitis or worse.
It’s bad out there, folks.
If you’ve been affected by the fires in any way, my heart is with you. My asthma may be flaring up, but that’s nothing compared to losing your home, your family, your pets, everything. I can’t imagine what that would be like.
I really have nothing to say that I haven’t said already before. But that won’t stop me from saying it.
I’m on a social media hiatus for now. I’ve had a rough couple of days, and I found that the more I hung out on Twitter and Facebook, the worse my mood got. Especially Twitter, which is now mostly a cesspool of right-wing propaganda and left-wing reactionarianism to that propaganda.
Is reactionarianism a word? Sure it is. I declare it so.
Now, I consider myself a good liberal, but there’s only so much outrage I can sustain before it affects my overall mood. I’d rather not spent my day swinging between seething rage and hopelessness; if I’m going to have hopelessness at one end of my emotional spectrum, I’d rather have the other end be something a wee bit more positive, thank you very much. Hence, my social media hiatus. I expect it to last only a couple of weeks.
On another note, I’ve decided that I really like the music of Janelle Monáe (see pic above; if she looks familiar, it’s because she played Mary Jackson in the movie Hidden Figures). Her song “Django Jane” is pretty incredible, even if I’m not necessarily the target audience. Check it out (but beware the explicit language):
At the moment I’m listening to her album The ArchAndroid, which is a neat concept album along the lines of Styx’s Kilroy Was Here: it’s basically a love story about an android and a human. This core conceit may seem trite, but Monáe makes it special, and the whole album ranges from swing to classical to hip hop, all with pop overtones. It streams for free on Amazon Prime, so I suggest you check it out.
The writing is going well. Haven’t sold anything, but I’m doing pretty well on both Padma and The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. I’ve finished my short story “How the Old Ones Saved Christmas” and I’ve made good progress on revising a couple of other stories, and have begun the process of researching the background of a new one.
I’ve pondered setting up a Patreon. It seems like a lot of work, though, depending on what rewards I decide to offer my patrons. If I set one up, would you contribute? That may influence my decision. We shall see.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading.
Since I posted on the 29th, where I weighed in at over 300 pounds, I’ve lost six. I’ve also undergone the first of three Bronchial Thermoplasty procedures. Five days on, I’m still wheezing and short of breath, although the physician who performed the procedure tells me I’m actually doing quite well. It’s still a chore to walk around the block, but each day I’m getting better at it. Saturday, I was wheezing and gasping for breath and desperately reaching for my nebulizer after my walk; today I was pretty good afterwards, and while I still used my nebulizer, I was not gasping. Keep this up, I tell myself.
I’ll talk more about the procedure in my next blog post. It was pretty interesting, I think.
On Twitter tonight, I asked the following question:
Tell me more about yourselves. What are some of the things you know? What are some of the things you wish you knew better? #fb
— Richard S. Crawford (@underpope) October 5, 2016
It’s only fair that I start, I suppose. So here are some of my answers:
Things I Know:
- How to write compelling fiction;
- Writing craft and method;
- How to program in PHP;
- Linux; and
- How to create and maintain a website.
Things I Wish I Knew Better:
- The natural world around us;
- How to write compelling narrative non-fiction;
- How to brew beer;
- How to program in other languages besides PHP; and
- Hiking, backpacking, and engaging with the natural world.
Pretty decent, though short, lists, I think. What about you?
I was inspired by Wil Wheaton’s post, “Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life“. Not that my life needs rebooting, really. I’m married to my best friend, someone I really love and who makes me happy. I have a steady job which I enjoy and which challenges me. I have a home. My depression is under control for the most part. And so on. My life is mostly working, fully operational. So why on Earth would I need to consider rebooting anything?
Well, why not? There are some things I’d like to do more of. There are some things I’d like to do less of. Things I’d like to do better. Things I’d like to stop doing altogether.
So I’ve made a list of qualities, values, or attributes — adjectives — that I’d like to use to describe myself. Things I would like to be. They are:
- Be Curious. Explore the world around me, examine things more closely, be curious in public, and learn more. Keep learning new things. Read more (and Facebook and Twitter don’t count). Watch more documentaries.
- Be Healthy. Natch. I need to exercise more, and eat healthier. Who doesn’t? But if we’re to go to New Zealand (tentatively planned for 2020), I need to physically prepare for a lot of walking.
- Be Creative. I like to write, and I like to think that I’m pretty good at it. I’d like to improve, of course. I’d also like to start exploring creativity in other areas. Not sure what though. Poetry maybe? I don’t think I have the patience to paint or sculpt, that’s for sure.
- Be Kind. A lot of people in the world have it rough. Everyone’s fighting some sort of battle. Why make it worse? Why not make it better for them? If a telemarketer calls, remember that they’re just doing their job, which they probably hate, so be kind to them, even as you explain that you’re not interested in their product and that you’re hanging up now.
- Be Humble. By which I mean remember that I’m certainly not the best or smartest or whatever person in the room. Being humble opens me up to listening to other people and learning their stories, because everyone has one.
- Be Playful. Play games. Play with toys, such as the Raspberry Pi mini-computer my wife gave me for Christmas. Just have fun with life. No one gets out of it alive.
- Be Joyful. The universe is amazing and full of wonder. Yes, there is plenty of suffering and pain. Take joy in helping to relieve them.
Many of these values are based in and informed by my faith (remember, I’m an Episcopalian). The overall theme, I think, is to simply appreciate myself and the world I’m in and the people who inhabit it. The motto of the Episcopal Church is, “Love God. Love your Neighbor. Change the World.”
I recognize, of course, that I’ll have problems with some of these from time to time. Sometimes I’ll slip back into depression, sometimes I just won’t have the energy to learn something new, sometimes my temper will get in the way of being kind to anyone. I will try to be okay with that, and when it happens, I will try to refocus.
Spring is almost here. It’s warm outside, and we’ve got the windows open, which makes the cats happy. Birds are singing. Overall, things are pretty cool.
It was good dal, made with more or less fresh lentils, organic onions and sweet potatoes, and plenty of spices. We’d made it the other night for dinner, and the recipe made a large amount of it. We had it for dinner on Sunday night and lunch yesterday. And the menu plan we’d made for ourselves for the week called for us to us to have it for dinner tonight.
Tonight, though, we were pretty much finished with the dal, even though we still had something like six servings left. But a menu plan is a menu plan. And after a brief flirtation with the idea of going to IHOP — today being International Pancake Day, after all — we decided to have the dal anyway. And lemon muffins for dessert. We watched an old episode of Face Off while we ate, and wished for pancakes.
And that’s the thing about being an adult. Sometimes, you have to pass on the pancakes so you can eat the healthy thing. Except that, as an adult, there aren’t other adults telling you that it’s good for you. You have to tell yourself.
First things first: There’s a First Friday write-in at my house this Friday at 7:00 pm this Friday, January 3, 2014. Hope to see you there! If you want to come, send me an email or something and I’ll tell you how to get here.
Anyway, today’s my birthday, and I turn 46 years old. I’m quite all right with that. I freaked out a little bit about turning 40, as is traditional, and I suspect I will do so a bit when I turn 50, because I think you’re supposed to. But 46? Meh.
It’s also New Year’s Eve. The picture above shows what Jennifer and I have done so far. We inflated the Dalek that my parents had given me for Christmas, and then it invaded the kitchen. Fortunately I had my sonic screwdriver ready, and successfully fought it off. Go us! Now it’s up to the cats to deflate it with their claws. I’m sure that won’t be difficult for them.
Typically, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them when I was younger but I usually didn’t keep them for very long. Then, in a bout of rebelliousness, I decided that instead of New Year’s resolutions, I would make March 25 resolutions — the thought being that March 25 was just as arbitrary as January 1 for that sort of thing.
Nowadays I use my birthday and the end of the year to consider the areas of my life that I like to focus on, and consider where I’m at in those areas of focus. Those areas of focus are, summarized:
Health. Physically, I’m not very good at this, but with the mindful eating I’ve been practicing I’ve been getting better. Emotionally and mentally, though, I’m pretty happy with where I am, though there’s definitely room for improvement.
Relationships. I’m still working on some basics, like returning phone calls in a timely manner. For some reason, I suck at that. But I have good relationships with my wife, my family and with my friends, both online and off-, and I’m looking for ways to make those relationships better and stronger.
Geekery. By which I basically mean learning and fun. Learning IS fun, of course, but in the “fun” column I also put gaming, reading, entertainment, and so on. It’s all geekery because I’m a geek. This coming year, I do intend to do some more learning. A lot more.
Writing. Always. This year I plan to focus on it a bit more. Maybe start submitting short stories again.
And that’s all. As I said, I don’t really make resolutions. Instead, I just like to refocus on what’s important to me.
‘Tis nearly the end of Holidailies
As you know, my birthday was this past Monday, December 31, which also just happens to be New Year’s Eve. Jennifer and I threw a nice party, with about a dozen and a half people, most of them friends from my writers’ groups. It was during this party that Jennifer gave me the best gift I’ve ever received, and quite likely the best gift that anyone has ever gotten (not including new babies, kittens, or other mundane things like that, I suppose). That gift was the book you see pictured above, Return of the Kings.
It’s difficult to explain exactly what this book is. It’s a short novel, about 100 pages long, collaboratively written by thirteen people, and edited by Jennifer. The novel is about… Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. However, I will say that it includes settings, characters, and themes that I’ve written about in my own stories and novels. San Augustin. Hastur. The National Weather Service Black Ops Agency. They’re all in there. Each author wrote a chapter, adding to the chapters that had gone before. Each chapter has a distinct voice (because each author has a distinct style of their own), but somehow the novel manages to remain coherent. And the cover art, featuring Cthulhu with a pair of rubber duckies, is brilliant. I read the novel on Tuesday, and it is seriously the most awesome thing I’ve ever read. Here’s Jennifer’s account of how the novel came to be.
I was very moved when I got this gift at the party; and I’m not too manly to admit that when I saw that my late friend Leonard Pung was one of the contributors, I got something in my eye. Not every author who contributed was at the party, but I had everyone who was there sign my copy.
You can’t buy Return of the Kings yet, but once Jennifer makes a few last edits, she’ll put it up for sale on Amazon and other places. Proceeds from the sales will go to the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship Fund, which helps pay for students over 40 who attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I’ll post here, as well as to the Twitters and elsewhere, when it becomes available for purchase.
Update: The people involved in the project were:
B. E. Johnson
A. K. Cotham
And the cover was designed by Leigh Dragoon.
I am indeed truly blessed to have such wonderful friends.
The other day, on Twitter, author A. Lee Martinez, who has written some of my favorite books (including Gil’s All Fright Diner, Divine Misfortune, and Chasing the Moon), called me “history’s greatest monster”:
@underpope You, sir, are history's greatest monster!
— A. Lee Martinez (@ALeeMartinez) December 26, 2012
Mind you, he wasn’t referring to my writing. I doubt he’s read anything of mine, aside from Tweets I’ve sent to him and the occasional email; rather, he was responding to my insistence on using the semicolon in my writing. He had said that his general advice to writers was to avoid the semicolon and to always use the Oxford comma. I responded, “You can have my semicolons when you pry them from my cold, dead, properly punctuated hands.” And it was in response to that that he uttered the epithet.
I was, of course, thrilled. The quote is now on the front page of my website. And I couldn’t help but post it to Facebook and everywhere else I could think of.
History’s greatest monster, indeed. My work here is done.
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:
- 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.
- 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.