Category Archives: This Random Thing Called Life

Life is pretty random sometimes.

So…. Here’s what’s been happening

Since last we saw our hero:

Suffered a major crisis at work. Yes, our server went down. Totally down. As in, nothing there. No backups after July 2017, and thank God that was there. The other programmer and I managed to recover just about everything we lost, and I’ve taken Measures to make sure it never happens again, but you know that feeling when you look at your server status and see “Terminated”? Yeah, that sucks.

Lost weight. I’m down thirty pounds from my heaviest ever. In another pound or two I’ll reward myself with another classic Universal monster movie. Not Frankenstein. I’m saving that one. No, it’s probably going to be WolfmanCreature from the Black Lagoon was a neat movie. The sequels, not so much.

Written. Okay, not so much. I’m stuck in one particular scene in The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster and have decided to move on and write a different scene, but I’ll have to come back to the problematic one at some point. And while I haven’t done much of anything on “Sauromancy” for some time, at least I’ve created a playlist for it that has been inspiring me. I blame Michael Crichton, though. That bastard had my idea before me, and now I’m stuck.

Fostered. Jennifer and I are fostering two cats right now: a mama cat and her kitten. For awhile, Mama was in heat, and that was… annoying. More to Jennifer than to me, since Mama yowled mostly at night and while I can sleep pretty much through anything Jennifer can’t. She (the cat) has been spayed now, and the nighttime yowl has stopped. The kitten, Fern, is awfully cute, with her big ears and paws, and has already been spoken for.

In other news, I’m thinking about starting up a Patreon account. I still have asthma, but that’s doing well these days. I also still have Bipolar II, but that’s leaving me alone right now. I’m pondering signing up for an MFA program.

And that’s about it.

The Elegant Cephalopod

This past weekend, in spite of my bronchitis, we went down to Monterey for a few days. Well, technically, Castroville (which was where the vacation house was). We left after Jennifer got off work (I had called in sick because of the aforementioned bronchitis), and drove down that night. We arrived at about 9:30 at the house where our friends were already waiting for us.

That first night, we really didn’t do much. We sat around and chatted, then I used my nebulizer (again: bronchitis), and then we went to be.

The next day, we went into Monterey itself. We had breakfast at a place called Caffe Trieste downtown, and I highly recommend this place. I only had a couple of eggs and some coffee while the others had large breakfasts.

Then, because we’re all a bunch of nerds, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of my favorite places in the world. This time there was a special exhibit that really attracted me: Tentacles. I love octopuses, cuttlefish, nautiluses, and other critters like that, so I really wanted to see this. It did not disappoint, though I wished for more — or any, rather — nods to H. P. Lovecraft.

Also, I love penguins. So here’s a picture of some penguins that I took at the Aquarium (click to embiggen):

penguins

It’s nesting season for the penguins, so here’s a too-brief and not-too-high-quality video of penguins moving around. What I wanted to show was a penguin grabbing a pebble in its beak and carrying it up to one of the nesting boxes. We saw several penguins doing that, and, of course, I found it fascinating and adorable.

I took a few other videos at the aquarium, particularly in the jellyfish exhibit (jellyfish are also awesome), but none of them turned out very well, so I won’t share them here. Suffice to say, moon jellies are my favorite jellyfish, and I just love the way a swarm of them move through the water (though I understand blooms of moon jellies can indicate a bloom of algae in the water due to warmth, or even pollution). Sea nettles are also cool.

The sea otter exhibit was fun, of course. Sea otters are the cats of the seas, though they can be vicious little brutes. I also enjoyed the kelp forest exhibit, and was fascinated by the shining swirls of anchovies (or maybe they were sardines — I never figured that one out for sure).

After the aquarium, we went back to the rental house, I nebulized once more while the others went to the beach and wandered around, then we watched Terminator 3. I hate this movie, and none of the others really liked it either, so we had great fun mocking it (she’s got a plasma jet weapon in her hand and she uses a GUN to shoot her targets?!!?). That night, we played two games of Pandemic, a cooperative game where the players attempt to cure diseases before they destroy humanity; I’ve played this game before, but I’ve never played won; this time, we cured all the epidemic diseases, and winning the game was just astounding. Then we played something called Love Letter, and finished the night off with a wonderful — or horrific, depending on your estimation of the game — round of Cards Against Humanity. I nebulized again, the went to bed.

Sunday, we had to be out of the rental house by ten, so we woke up early, showered, packed, and rolled out. We had breakfast at Caffe Trieste again, then wandered a bit around downtown Monterey. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf, ignoring the tourist traps and little shops, and found a place where sea lions were hanging out.

Here’s a picture I took of some sea lions hanging out off Fisherman’s Wharf on Monterey (click to ensealionate):

sealions

After Monterey, we went to Pacific Grove, explored among the rocks, then headed toward home.

That was all this past weekend. Today it’s Monday, and I’m full of thoughts. My bronchitis has improved dramatically (thanks to antibiotics and huge doses of Prednisone), and I had the day off work because of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. So I spent much of the day working on a short story for an upcoming “Swords V. Cthulhu” anthology, then deleting much of what I wrote because I didn’t like it.

I also spent much of the day pondering past interests. I’ve done this before, when I blogged about The Neverending Symphony, only this time I thought about how when I was in high school, I desperately wanted to go into marine biology, and then later in college, into oceanography. College chemistry classes killed these dreams, of course, but a man can ponder them anyway. So now I’m left thinking about the way the Monterey Bay Aquarium and time near the ocean gets me sad about the horrific things we have done and continue to do to the life-sustaining ecology that keeps us alive. Sometime soon I will blog about this as well.

Long story short: I had a blast with my friends in Monterey, and highly recommend taking time away to do this sort of thing. And the Aquarium, of course, is always worth visiting.

It’s that time of year again…

…where I decide it’s time to refocus, recenter, and generally resolve to be a better person for the new year. Except this time, I’ve decided to do it a little bit earlier. For reasons. I don’t know. If you enjoy reading other people’s New Years resolutions, even if they’re actually December 22 resolutions, read on. If not… then click here to read my story “Night of the Frozen Elf” on Book Country, where it’s a featured manuscript for December, and has a rating of 4 out of 5.

So. I’ve decided that the three keywords for the coming year are (in no particular order) EngagementLearning, and Creativity. All of which, I’m pretty sure, are intertwined with each other.

  • Engagement. By which I mean that I will connect and interact more actively with others, as well as with the world around me. I tend to be a bit of a homebound solitary hermit. I want to make a change.
  • Learning. I enjoy learning new things, but I rarely take the time to actually do so, because I am so busy consuming stuff and vegging out in front of my computer or the television. So I’m going to start looking for new opportunities to learn new things and try to follow up on them.
  • Creativity. I like to think that this one speaks for itself. But in case it doesn’t, I’m going to look for new ways to be creative this year, solving problems and in my writing.

And, as always, I don’t really make resolutions, I just decide to refocus on new and existing areas of my life. And this time around, I want to apply the three principles above to each area of focus.

  • Writing. Write more, finish more, submit more, publish more. Engage with other writers and writing communities such as Book Country. Actively work to learn more about the craft. And participate in some classes or workshops.
  • Friends/Family. Actively engage more with them. I have a lot of friends, both online and off, that I love and would like to engage with more.
  • Geekery. There are activities and what-not that I love and that I like to take part in. So I’m going to take a more active part in these activities, and engage with other people. Among other things, this means simply learning more about the world around me, and engaging with others who are doing the same.
  • Church/Community. This one’s easy: simply get more involved with both. There’s a part of me that thinks I should aim toward becoming a Deacon in my local church, but I’m not sure that’s feasible. But participating in Safe Ground (where my church feeds and shelters poor and homeless people in our community) is definitely doable.
  • Health/Wellness. My asthma has been pretty much out of control over the past few months. I don’t like this. In the past year, I’ve had to take Prednisone three or four times, which is, in my opinion, pretty much unacceptable. I’ve got some new drugs, I’m on allergy shots again, and I’m participating in a clinical trial that tests the effects of dietary L-Arginine, an anti-inflammatory agent, on asthma. So pretty much the only way to improve my asthma is to focus on my overall health, which, at least in part, means losing weight and exercising more. So in addition to all of the above, I’ll be working on this as well.

All in all, I am of the opinion that I’ve done a pretty good job of being Richard over the past year, with some ups and downs. One thing I’m learning is to take those “downs” in stride, and simply ride them out, as it were, rather than let them drag me down completely. I’m getting better at that as well.

In conclusion, allow me to share with you my favorite Christmas song, which I discovered last year. It’s “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Irish punk band (even though they’re based in Boston). Enjoy!


‘Tis the season for (repetitive) Holidailies!

December and other things

It’s December again, approximately the two thousand thirteenth since someone started keeping track of these things. Maybe. I dunno. I’m not sure about the history of the calendar, actually. I did once read Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers which covered this topic, but that was so long ago I’ve completely forgotten it.

This entry is just full of miscellaneous things. So bear with me.

 

MISCELLANY NO. 1

Last month was National Novel Writing Month. I participated for the twelfth time, and for the twelfth time I won. This year, I even wrote “The End” in my novel, and added an epilogue. It’s so rare that I actually finish my novel that I was kind of shocked that I did this year.

Here are the novels I’ve written and the years I wrote them.

  • 2001 – Unfallen
  • 2003 – The Road to Gilead
  • 2004 – The Outer Darkness
  • 2005 – Fred, Again
  • 2006 – The Return of Deacon Dread
  • 2007 – The Lord of Nightmares
  • 2008 – Iron Horse Apocalypse
  • 2009 – Code Monkey!
  • 2010 – Brought to Life
  • 2011 – Toymaker, Part One
  • 2012 – Toymaker, Part Two
  • 2013 – Love in the Time of Cthulhu

Note that I skipped 2002. I was traveling for work at the time, and didn’t really have time to concentrate on a novel. Thank God that job’s over and done with.

The last one, Love in the Time of Cthulhu, is actually online at the moment, and you can read it here if you are so inclined. It will go away at the end of January, though. Maybe. Depends on whether I actually feel like revising this one.

 

MISCELLANY NO. 2

Last night was the first day of December, and also the first day of Advent, and also the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, which is when my family observes Thanksgiving. And even though Jennifer did not accompany me this year (she’s sick, poor thing), I had a blast visiting with my parents, my sisters, and various friends. After the meal, we decorated the Christmas tree, always a long process since my parents have accumulated quite a number of ornaments over the year.

On Thanksgiving Day itself, we had dinner with a friend, her parents, her husband, and another friend. That, too, was a blast, and I’m glad we did it.

 

MISCELLANY NO. 3

For awhile there, I was writing a short story every week and sending them out to people on a mailing list. Unfortunately, I sort of fell out of the habit in October, and didn’t get back into it in November like I was hoping to. So this month I’m restarting the project. The first story will go out on Monday, December 8. If you’re interested in reading these stories (bearing in mind that they’ll be rough drafts at best), you can sign up here. Unfortunately, you do need a Yahoo account to sign up.

 

MISCELLANY NO. 4

That’s it. There is no Miscellany No. 4. Three is all you get this time around.

 

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

RIP Leonard Pung (1961-2012)

I like to think of life as chapters in a book, often defined by the circles of friends we keep within those chapters. I had a certain group of friends in high school, for example. I had a different set of friends in college, and as college came to a close and my friends began to move away while I stayed behind in Davis, I gained still more new ones. Of course, there’s been some overlap; I can count at least four friends I’ve had since my first year of college, and I’m incredibly happy to have them in my life.

The current chapter of friends includes the ones I’ve met through the WordForge writers’ group. They’re all good people, and I enjoy being around them, even if I don’t get to spend as much time with some of them as I’d like to.

One of the friends I’d made through WordForge was Leonard Pung. Leonard passed away this past weekend after a brief battle with leukemia. He’d posted to Facebook on Saturday explaining his health issues. He seemed to be in good spirits, explaining that the doctors had caught the leukemia early and were treating it aggressively. Just two days later, he was gone.

I admired Leonard. He was a good writer, and his stories — especially “Crossroads” — are among my favorites. He was a kind, generous man, known for his Hawaiian shirts and his inexhaustible supply of awful puns. He was a good friend, willing to listen and talk. He gave excellent critiques to other writers. But the main reason I admired him was that he had the courage of his convictions and the willingness to follow his dreams. He gave up a steady and secure job as a teacher to literally live in a cabin in the woods to pursue his writing, then enter the Masters of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California. That took some serious guts. He founds his passion for writing late in life, but once he did, he pursued it with courage and dedication.

When I first heard that he’d passed, I thought it was a joke. Seriously. How could someone like Leonard die? Even as the messages piled up on Facebook, I had trouble believing it, until I finally called the hospital he’d been admitted to, and they confirmed it. I still expect to see a Facebook post or an email from him saying something like, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. It’s the sort of thing he would have done.

And it’s still hard. When I first heard, I burst into tears; and even now, when I think about it, it’s hard to keep myself from weeping. Never again will we hear a horrible pun (“Warning: Incorrigible punster. Do not incorrige”). Never again will he bring wasabi peas from Trader Joes to a First Friday write-in. No more car trips to Petaluma to see Christopher Moore on tour. No more. Last night about a dozen of us gathered at a local restaurant to remember Leonard and raise a toast. It was good to do that: we shared stories and a few laughs, and it was a healing experience.

So long, Leonard. I’ll catch you on the flipside.

Pr0n for women

Just in case the women feel left out of our porn-for-men driven culture, here is a new book of Porn for Women.

I don’t know.  I think the men in these pictures are horrifically objectified and degraded.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check out some examples here.  I just hope my wife doesn’t get any sick and perverted ideas about forcing me to do any of these unnatural acts.

Abby… someone…

I haven’t vanished off the face of the Earth. It’s just been a bit of an insane weekend. Yesterday we went and got both of the cars thoroughly washed then went for a massive shopping trip at CostCo. Today we went to the pumpkin patch and got ourselves a couple of massive pumpkins; based on the trouble I had getting them out of the car and onto the porch, I estimate that each pumpkin weighs at least two hundred pounds; though I suppose in reality they’re probably only about fifty pounds each. No, really. For some reason, I took it into my head that I wanted a really, really big pumpkin. Next weekend we’re going to carve them, and we’ve already started hunting down saws.

The pumpkin patch we went to is one of the rare ones where they actually grow their own pumpkins instead of shipping them in from someplace else. Some of them are still on the vine, even. They may be the most sincere pumpkin patch I’ve ever been to, though the fact that they have a website — coolpatchpumpkins.com — may negate that.

The pumpkin patch also has a huge corn maze, which I love. We paid our fees, got our map, and headed in. I’ve always wanted to wander through the maze using the “always turn right” rule the entire time (you can solve every maze in the world by turning right at every intersection), thus maximizing the time we spend wandering in the hot, dusty corn maze, and thus maximizing our fun. After about half an hour of this, though, we’d had enough fun and decided to break out the map to make our way out the old fashioned way. That’s actually kind of fun, too.

Anyway, in the spirit of the season, I present to you the following resource, which should come in useful, as well as a bit of related dialogue from a classic film.

A very important resource

“Do you mind telling me WHOSE brain I put into that body?”

“Abby… someone.”

“Abby who?”

“Abby… Normal.”

“Abby… Normal?”

“Yes, I’m quite sure that was the name.”

Numbers Stations

Spy Numbers

WikiPedia’s Entry on Numbers Stations

It’s probably something very mundane, like spies broadcasting shopping lists at each other (“Eggs, milk, cheese, global domination, bananas”), but brains like mine can’t help but conjure up all kinds of alternative explanations.

It's the ignoble things that stick

KCRA.com – News – Human Remains Found In Dixon

My wife pointed me at this article, and, of course, I think it utterly engages the imagination. You may think it’s weird that I find stories like this delightful, but there you are. Of course my sympathy goes out to the poor man and his family, but still. There have got to be better ways to die, and better places for your corpse to be left than at the bottom of a pile of composting material in the bed of a pickup truck.

Generally when mysterious corpses are found, they get some sort of neat nickname. I’ve come up with several — The Manure Man, the Crap Corpse, the S*** Skeleton, and so on — but I think that I’m going to have to refer to this poor man as the Doo Doo Dude.

There’s a story here. It’s horrific, of course, but it’s also the sort of black comedy that you just don’t see often enough in life.

Writing Update

Today: 923 words written on Terassic Cycle outline. Essential questions linking Unfallen to The Road to Gilead have been answered.

Also about 50 words added to “Hollow”.

And about 100 words written on a new short called “Tristan Among the Fishes”. Written in crayon on construction paper because I needed a change of venue. I would have written more and possibly finished the story but I got caught up in an episode of Nova about the sinking of the battleship Yamato at the end of the Second World War.

And, see, this is why I had such a hard time focusing in college. I’d see a show like that and think, “Whoa! Now I want to be a military historian!” and give up all of my previous plans to be a veterinarian.

Worked at home again today because my lungs blow. Or, rather, they don’t. Asthma bites. Anyway, so I continued the process of reworking the fundamental architecture of our content delivery software. I also messed around some with my personal website, fixing up some stylesheet issues and adding a “Reading” section because I know that everyone in the world wants to know what I’m reading and what I’ve read. Everyone. It occurred to me to test my site in Internet Explorer today — I’m a diehard Firefox user and won’t touch IE with a ten-foot IDE bus if I can avoid it — and I discovered it looks pretty shabby in IE. The fonts just don’t translate well. Well, it’s not my fault if IE can’t render cascading style sheets properly.

Oh, and then I had supper. Yummy.