Category Archives: This Random Thing Called Life

Life is pretty random sometimes.

My Favorite Sandwich

One heck of a giant burger

This topic was suggested by Chris Fairborn. Hi Chris!

First things first. Sorry I did not post yesterday; I had the best of intentions, but I wasn’t feeling well. If you followed the link on Saturday’s post to the Weird Al video, you know that I have a bad hernia, and sometimes it hurts like a bear. A big bear with sharp teeth. I’ve had it for awhile, and my doctor says there’s really nothing that can be done about it unless I lose a significant amount of weight.

Ahem. I may have a stern conversation with her at my next physical.

Anyway, on to the topic!

My favorite type of sandwich? Gotta be turkey. I love turkey sandwiches, even though my stomach has issues if I eat too much turkey in one sitting (let’s not go there). I especially love turkey sandwiches on sourdough rolls with plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Maybe pickles. But plenty of turkey. My favorite purveyor of turkey sandwiches right now is Mr. Pickles, which I know is silly; it’s a chain restaurant, after all. But why not? The bread is fresh, the turkey is oven roasted, and so on.

I’m also fond of the vegetarian burgers they serve at Fox and Goose, so I’m not totally irredeemable.

But the best sandwich I’ve ever had was actually a hamburger. I get salivatey every time I think about it.

In 1995 or so, my girlfriend and I along with a mutual friend of ours journeyed to South Dakota in my girlfriend’s Toyota 4 X 4 pickup. We got into an accident just outside of a campsite near Yellowstone (aye, thereby hangs a tale, which I’ll tell some other time) which damaged the truck’s axle, leaving the truck pretty much undrivable for very long. A makeshift temporary repair later, we were able to make it to Cody, Wyoming, where the insurance company of the guy who hit us paid for our hotel stay and food and all that. We stayed in Cody for a few days while the replacement axle was shipped up from Denver, Colorado.

And that burger I mentioned?

I don’t recall the name of the hotel we stayed in, and I have no idea if it’s even still there, but it was across the street from a little restaurant whose name I can’t recall either. That restaurant served a HUGE burger. Half a pound of Angus beef, dripping with condiments, loaded with veggies, perfectly cooked to medium rare and seasoned with all kinds of just the right seasonings, and served up on a delicious Kaiser roll.

As I said: salivatey. Is that a word? It is now.

If I could go back to Cody and that restaurant and back in time to 1995, I would have another of those magnificent burgers. It may be more delicious in my memory than it actually was, but I’m not going to think about that. It was truly a transcendent sandwich.

There were other things that happened on that trip; it was the summer Jerry Garcia died, and it was the summer that saw the first airing of the infamous “Cornholio” episode of Beavis and Butthead. But the burger.

Excuse me, I’ve got to wipe the drool off my keyboard now.

Today’s book recommendation is The Drowning Empire trilogy: The Bone Shard Daughter, The Bone Shard Emperor, and The Bone Shard War, all by Andrea Stewart. And I won’t hesitate to drop names and say that Andrea is a friend of mine, and we go back years and years. I plan on riding her coattails when I finish my novel. Anyway. Go read these books. They’re fantastic!

The Drowning Empire trilogy

Trees are Jerks

This topic was suggested by Leigh Dragoon. Hi Leigh!

One of the reasons we fell in love with our neighborhood when we were fixing to leave Dixon was the huge elm trees lining the streets of the area. In particular, the trees in front of the house we bought were particularly lovely.

Over the past couple of years though, since February 2021, I have determined that our trees are jerks.

Take, for example, the incident in February 2021, when this happened:

Fallen tree branch on two cars
This tree killed our cars

Here’s a daytime image:

Daytime image of a fallen tree branch that totaled two cars
Daytime image of the tree branch that totaled both our cars!

Yes, that huge branch fell off the elm tree to the right of our house, and totaled two cars! Bastard! And we had just gotten the red Prius to replace the old Honda Accord that we had donated to the SPCA. We had to buy a new car; fortunately we are in a position where could afford one, and the car insurance paid for it.

Now look at this jerk:

A big ol’ elm tree in front of our house

This isn’t the tree that dropped a branch on our cars. No, this is a different tree, but it is one of the two in front of our house. And while I was at BayCon over fourth of July weekend, Jennifer sent me these pictures:

Huge branch across the street
Another branch that fell over the street


Look at this asshole. The tree, not the neighbor.

Yep, the tree dropped a huge branch that extended across the street. Fortunately, no humans, houses or cars were harmed in this incident, but still. Jerk.

The city — because the trees technically belong to the city, not to us, thank God — came by and determined that the tree had to be cut down. Our neighbor was dubious and had an independent arborist come out and double check; and yep, the tree definitely had to come down.

To which I say, Ha!

Because once again, trees are jerks.

Here’s the stump of that tree:

The stump of a huge ol' tree

Look at that heart rot! The rot at the tree’s heart! No wonder it hated us. I mean… Look at it.

In spite of the tree’s generally jerky behavior, we were sad to see it go. Its leaves spread all over the front of our house and provided valuable shade during the diabolically hot Sacramento summers. Now our AC runs more often and we end up closing the thick curtains over the living room window in the late afternoon.

I just hope the other trees in our neighborhood don’t get any ideas.

Today’s book recommendation is Little Witches: Magic in Concord, by my friend Leigh Dragoon. It’s a fun retelling of the old Little Women book by that badass Louisa May Alcott, but with magic! It’s not my usual fare, but I enjoyed my signed copy, and I recommend it to you.


I announced publicly on Facebook that I was going to post here on this blog daily in August, just as my friend Brian did in July, and I solicited topics. I don’t think I got 31 of them, so I’ll be soliciting more later on, but here are a few of them, mostly for my reference and not in any particular order. They are:

  1. Compelling fiction with non-violent plots
  2. My zucchini is conspiring with my tomato army to take over the neighborhood
  3. Dreams that find their way into your story telling
  4. ChatGPT and the delulu world
  5. Why grey cats are trouble
  6. Why black cats are special if not being troublesome
  7. Accepting life’s limitations
  8. The adventure with your tree!
  9. Why do you write? Approach philosophically or personally or some other way I’m not thinking of
  10. How awesome is Brian C. E. Buhl?
  11. Best Writing Advice I’ve Received
  12. The Future of Publishing
  13. How Gaming Can Influence Writing
  14. What Makes a Good Character Great?
  15. Maybe something about how raising cats is like writing stories
  16. Your favourite type of sandwich and what makes it delicious
  17. AI and science fiction
  18. The Barbie movie
  19. Art as a reflection of culture and society
  20. Self acceptance
  21. Harmful impacts of the Library of Congress classification system on historically marginalized peoples
  22. Your favorite teachers

Okay, that’s twenty-two. I’m gonna need nine more. I’ll think of something. If you come up with something, please post in a comment here or on Facebook! Thanks!


Writing: A 1st-Quarter o’ 2023 Update

Three-headed dragon at a typewriter
A three-headed dragon tapping away at a typewriter

I know you’re all about my writing, oh ye who come regularly to my blog, so here’s an update:

First, since January, I’ve submitted twenty-six manuscripts to various markets; my goal for 2023, as it has been since 2021, is 100 submissions per year. I’ve gotten plenty of rejections, some personal with actionable feedback, some personal without actionable feedback, and some form rejections. Mostly form rejections. Editors are a busy lot, so they don’t tend to send personal rejections unless they are really impressed by the story, so I’m pleased with the ones I got.

Right now, I have eight outstanding submissions. I haven’t sold any stories to any pro markets, but I have high hopes for the rest of the year.

BUT! My sale to LOLCraft last year was enough to qualify me for membership in both Codex, an online writers’ group, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA). Getting into both of these organizations has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and I honestly had gotten to the point where I didn’t think I’d ever get into them. But lo and behold, I did! Yay me!


Work continues apace on revisions to my novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under, which I hope to have done by the end of June. After that I am planning to revise The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, that bane of my existence since 2005. After that, I have an idea for a novel called Witness to the Scourge, an urban fantasy novel that has grown out of my short story of the same title (earlier titled “The BIM” for reasons which I can no longer recall). That’ll be fun. I’m enjoying all these projects, but the vastness of revising a novel is… well, it’s intimidating, even if I’ve taken a class from Cat Rambo on novel revision and read a couple of articles and a book about the process.

Ah, well. The words continue to spew forth.

In other news, I went to a dermatologist on Wednesday to have a suspicious growth on my leg looked at. Did you know that there are over 3,000 diagnoses that can be associated with dermal conditions? I didn’t. But that’s the kind of small talk you get into when you chat with a dermatologist while he’s injecting anesthetic into your skin, slicing off a growth, and cauterizing the wound. I also hadn’t realized that the skin on the shin is so thin that wounds there can’t be stitched closed, so cauterization is necessary. Interesting.

I’ve also been attacked by kobolds the past week… and if you haven’t been around here long, kobolds are my chosen representative of depression. Winston Churchill had his Black Dog. I have my kobolds. Nothing major happened. I’ve been sick with a cold, though that’s lessened, and that always exacerbates things.

Kobold Playing a Lute
A Kobold playing a lute. Because why not?

But I’m feeling fine now. A little bit wheezy and short of breath, but the kobolds have moved on and I’m feeling better.

I hope you’re all doing well. Until we meet again.


Thinking about bucket lists

glow-in-the-dark ghost bucket
Oh no! A ghost bucket!

I’ve been thinking about the term “Bucket List” for quite some time. I first heard it in reference to a 2007 film called The Bucket List, but I don’t think I’d heard of people using the term for their own lists of things they wanted to do before they die until about ten years ago. I’m not sure, though. Who knows.

At any rate, I figured that since I don’t really have a bucket list, I ought to put one together. Here’s some items to get me started:

  1. See Dropkick Murphys/Flogging Molly in person. I almost had a chance to do this three or four years ago, and missed it. I wanted to see David Bowie at some point before he died, but then he died in 2016 and the world went to Hell.
  2. Travel some more. There are plenty of countries I’d like to viist. New Zealand. Egypt. Plenty of places in Europe. Japan. Etc.
  3. Write more novels. Natch.
  4. Heck, just see more concerts in general. I’d love to see The Hu or Bloodywood in concert as well, but I fear I might feel… old in their audiences. I’ll check with some folks I know are the same age as me who have been to those concerts, though.
  5. Finish my novels.

That’s it. Whew. Not much, I suppose. Maybe I ought to get into some specifics. But not now.  Right now I’m just feeling lazy.

What about you? Any suggestions for my list? Do you have a list to share?


Old Enough to Drink

First of all, a revelation for you all: Soon (as in, I hope, before January), my short story “How the Old Ones Saved Christmas” will be published in the upcoming anthology LOLCraft: A Compendium of Eldritch Horror. No links to pre-order yet, but rest assured, I will let you know when it is available.

Album cover for Evil Dead the Musical
Album cover for a brilliant play!

My blog here is over twenty-two years old. Not as old as my wife’s or as John Scalzi’s, of course, but respectable. It’s old enough to vote and drink. I’m pleased with that. I started with a plain HTML template that I modified every time I wanted to post to a home-grown PHP script that I could plug entries into when I wanted, to WordPress version 1, to every version of WordPress since. Nowadays I don’t mess around with the formatting or the templates much, but once upon a time I had it set with seasonal themes: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so on. It was complicated to create and set up and maintain, so eventually I just modified a theme that came with WordPress, and that’s why my blog looks like a generic blog from 2014.

Last night, Jennifer and I and some friends of ours went to see Evil Dead: The Musical, which is exactly on brand for us and our friends who joined us. I love this play. I’m a geek for horror-comedy, as my friends and my writing will attest (for the most part). It helps to have seen the Evil Dead trilogy of movies in order to get all the jokes in the play, but it’s not necessary. But zombies! Demons! Ancient books! Mystical spells! Etc.! All singing and dancing and splashing fake blood on the audience! Seriously, there’s a “splash zone” in the audience, because the play gets awfully bloody. How can it not, when the ballad song at the end of Act One includes the lines “DIE DIE! DIE DIE!” while the actor playing Ash chops a head in half with a chainsaw?

As long-time readers of my blog know, I’m a fan of this sort of thing. I wrote previously about my exposure to a movie called Mad Monster Party at a very young age and how a kind usher helped me get over my fear of the film (sometimes I still think about that woman, and hope she’s living her best life somewhere). If I ever get the chance to act in this play, I’d love to play the character Ol’ Reliable Jake.

Halfway through dinner, unfortunately, my ventral hernia began to act up. When this happens, it feels like I’m being punched in the gut repeatedly. Jennifer gave me some Ibuprofen, but it didn’t really help. It got worse as the evening went on, and I had difficulty concentrating on the play and enjoying it. I still did enjoy it, though, but it took me another huge Ibuprofen pill and two hours in bed before I could finally get to sleep.


No blathering about writing or revising today, since I did that last week and nothing has really changed. As in, I’ve made no progress on the goals I set for myself last week. But since I have today off for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I can work on revising things and outlining things as soon as I’m done procrastinating with this blog post. It’s only a matter of figuring out what to prioritize and what to work on first. Maybe I should make a list. Oooh, another way to procrastinate!

Be well, friends, and stay safe this spooky time of year.

Writing Update Number… uh…

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

I have no idea how many of these writing updates I’ve done on my blog, and I’m too lazy to count, and besides, I’ve probably embedded writing updates in other topics too, so… Well. You know.

But here’s a writing update!

Work on And the Devil Will Drag You Under continues apace. I hope to have this draft finished by September so I can do a quick polish for my writers group in October. We’ll see. I’ve been very optimistic about this draft — which is a complete, bottom-up rework of my previous draft — for some time.

I also wrote a couple of stories recently, one of which I’ve sent to a few different people for feedback, and one of which I’m letting simmer for a bit before revision. But I’m pretty happy with both of them. If you’re interested in reading them to provide feedback, please let me know!

So far, this year’s submission stats:

Stories submitted: 64

Rejections: 56

Acceptances: 2

One of the accepted stories, “Blank”, has already been published. The other one is still awaiting a contract, but once that’s signed and everything’s ready to go, I will definitely share here.

In other news, if you pay close attention to every page of my site, which I’m sure you do, always, you may have noticed that the link to my science blog, The Penguin Scientific, is gone. That’s because I’ve decided to discontinue it. I posted one last entry, a line from a Sublime song, and that’s it. I realized that my real interest in writing is in writing fiction, so I decided to focus on that instead. Maybe someday I’ll write more nonfiction pieces, but today is not today. I feel fine about this decision, and don’t regret it at all.

Also, my self-imposed exile from Twitter and Facebook continues. I’m noticing that Elon Musk and the Twitter investors are sort of playing Hot Potato with Twitter itself, indicating that no one really wants it, probably because no one’s figured out how to make money off it. If it dies, what will replace it? Personally, I pine for the days of LiveJournal, before it was bought by a Russian company; maybe an LJ clone will replace Twitter and bring back the glory days of the Internet, before it consisted of about four sites, each carrying little but screenshots of the other three (thank Cory Doctorow for that summation).

That’s what’s up for now. As always… How are you?

…And just for fun, here’s a video for “Closing Time”, that song by Sublime that I mentioned. If you lived through the 90s, you probably recognize it.

Various Dribs and Drabs

Not much to report right now.


However, I need to let you all know that my creepy short story “Blank” is now up online at Dark Recesses, and you can read it on their webzine here. This represents my second acceptance of the year! I still haven’t signed a contract for the first, so I can’t yet reveal the market that accepted the story, which I also can’t reveal at this time.

In other news, I have been continuing to work on my novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under, adding approximately 500 words per day to this particular revision. This was one of those “tear down and rebuild from the ground up” revisions. I’m hoping future revisions won’t be so drastic, but I’ll have to wait until November when my critique group gets done with it to find out.

I’ve also been working on a new short story, “Meep”. It represents a couple of themes that I’ve been obsessed with for quite awhile. Someday you’ll get to read that one, but first I have to finish it.

And I continue to submit two manuscripts per week to various markets. I admit it’s sort of a buckshot approach, which I think lots of writers employ. Lots of misses, but a few hits.


Goodness, we’ve got a veritable sickhouse of kitties right now. Our poor resident cat Ruby has an autoimmune disorder which is attacking her red blood cells. Fortunately, this can be controlled with regular cortisone doses. Right now she’s getting a pill a day, but hopefully she’ll be able to get injections every few days soon. She’s a shy little thing, so catching her to pill her can be difficult.

We have a couple of sickly foster kittens right now as well, but they’re hanging in there.


I’ll be at WesterCon in Tonopah, NV, in a couple of weeks. Will any of you be there as well?


Just Some Random Ramblings of an Earthling

Cover of Carl Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World"
Should be an all-time bestseller, but isn’t.

Just for kicks, I’m re-reading Carl Sagan’s wonderful book, The Demon-Haunted World. I’m loving it, as I always have every time I’ve read it, which has been every couple of years or so.

One thing that struck me this time around is how much time and space he spends debunking alien abduction stories by putting them into a larger cultural/mythological context. I side with him on the issue: while hundreds of thousands people have reported being abducted by aliens, there is no physical, undeniable proof that it has actually happened. No mysterious “implants” have been analyzed by MIT or other reputable university and found to be made of alien metal, memory is fallible, and so on. But the alien abduction/UFO culture were tied up with conspiracy theories in the 90s involving the government; such conspiracy theories have fallen to the wayside in favor of modern antisemitism, racism, and the bonkers “Q” conspiracy theory, which encompasses them all. If Carl Sagan were around today, he’d be sickened, I’m sure, by what passes for the modern conservative movement.


So this year, for Earth Day, I committed myself to spending a year learning everything I can about this amazing, beautiful, endangered planet that we live on. I haven’t really started that yet because I’m still taking my MLIS degree seriously and thus taking classes for that, and it’s eating my time. But I am reading Sagan’s book, so I’m counting that as a step in the right direction. I’ll keep you all updated on what I learn, and I plan on updating my blog, The Penguin Scientific, with various facts and things.

In other news, my depression and anxiety have been kicking my butt recently, and have convinced me that I’m never going to get anywhere with my writing. I’ve talked back to it but it refuses to listen. Stupid brain. My brain and I are supposed to be on the same side, I don’t know why it won’t cooperate.

But I continue to persist with the writing and submitting anyway. I’m on track to submit 100 manuscripts for the second year in a row. Stats so far:

Submissions: 32

Rejections: 29

Waiting on: 8

I haven’t quite worked out how those numbers work out, but I’m not worrying about that.

That’s all for now. What are you learning?

The State of the Richard

The palm of a hand painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag
I stand with Ukraine

Boy, ain’t the world something these days? Between the pandemic and the war in Europe, the world’s pretty messed up right now. The Russia/Ukraine conflict has the potential to spread further, and despite wishful thinking among politicians (especially on the Republican side of the aisle), the pandemic really isn’t over. In both arenas, there’s a long way to go to achieve a peaceful and appropriate outcome.

In my own little world, I’m stressing about school and work and writing. While I’m learning about Information Literacy Instruction in school and producing videos and critiques of other students’ videos, in addition to reading and writing discussion posts, I’m also trying to complete 508-compliance training for work. 508-compliance, in case you don’t know, is making sure that all documents prepared for public consumption are fully accessible to people with visual, hearing, and learning disabilities, as well as to people with limited fine mobility. There is actually some overlap here, because the videos we make for school need to have captions and need to be accessible to people with visual impairments.

Writing-wise, I haven’t been able to get much done. I set a goal of 500 words per day on The Devil will Drag You Under, but over the past week, I’ve written less than 500 words total. This doesn’t bode well for completing that revision by May 12 as I’d hoped.

I have, however, been able to keep up on my target of submitting two manuscripts to various markets per week, which is a relief. Here are the stats for the year so far:

  • Submissions: 18
  • Rejections, form: 15
  • Rejections, personal: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Pending submissions: 8

Some of those rejections were for stories that I’d submitted last year. One of those rejections was for a story that I thought was a sure thing, but alas, was not meant to be. I have hopes that this will be the year I make my first professional sale, but I’m not optimistic about ever achieving that goal.

I’m also far behind on my reading. While for fun I’m reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan (as well as a couple of others), I also am reading two novels for my writers’ group, which is meeting this coming Thursday. I’m looking forward to the meeting — I always do, because my fellow writers are a jolly bunch — but going in without having read the works under consideration is not a good look.

On the other hand, though, my blood pressure is averaging lower than it has in years, and my resting heart rate is lowering as well. This is probably, in part, due to the fact that Jennifer and I are both participating in the Outbreak challenge, a silly virtual game where you walk a given number of steps per week to outrun a zombie horde. The game syncs with our FitBits, so we don’t even have to track our steps manually. This week, we’re aiming for 10,500 steps per day. That’s a lot, and trying to squeeze those steps in while working on everything else is a big challenge.

All in all, I’m doing pretty well, given everything. I hope you’re doing well too.