FORE!arm

Golfer's Elbow Happens Here
This diagram shows EXACTLY where my arm pain is! Astounding!

A couple of days ago I mentioned that pain in my right arm. Today I went to the doctor to have it looked at. My regular physician is on maternity leave, so I saw one of her colleagues, a new member of the practice. He was about an hour and a quarter late to the appointment, because everyone else in the practice was late and traffic in Sacramento was weird because water was falling from the sky and when that happens everyone freaks out. Nurses came in at twenty minute intervals to reassure me that I hadn’t been forgotten and when the doctor finally showed up he apologized profusely and frequently for his tardiness.

He looked over my chart, saw that I’m losing weight, that I’m exercising more, that my blood pressure is down and that my resting heart rate is down, made the appropriate “good job” noises, and then got to talking about my arm. The first thing he asked was whether I’d noticed any shortness of breath or chest pains or heart palpitations in addition to the arm pain. I told him I hadn’t noticed any, and that since this was my right arm and not my left I wasn’t particularly worried (until he mentioned it). He listened my heart, more to reassure me I think than himself.

After several tests which involved squeezing my arm with his gloved hand, rotating my wrists, and even a little arm-wrestling (I won) he was baffled. Until he saw the way I was sitting on the end of the bed.

“You’re double-jointed, aren’t you?” he said.

“Why yes,” I said. It hadn’t occurred to me to mention that detail. I keep forgetting about it because it’s not something that comes up in conversation that often.

Eventually after some more investigation he concluded that I have “golfer’s elbow”. It’s like tennis elbow, but on the inside instead of the outside, and you don’t have to golf to get it any more than you need to play tennis to get tennis elbow. I used to play golf when I was a teen, though, so it made sense to me.

Anyway. No new drugs, except to take some ibuprofen when it gets really bad, and some exercises including stretches and some resistance exercises. So my arm and I should be just fine.

Side note: Of course I avoided checking up on Google and WebMD for my symptoms. I’m under standing orders from my wife, my physician and my mother to never look up symptoms on those sites. That never ends well for anyone.

That’s all I have for today. Tonight we shall be putting up our Christmas tree with decorations planned to amuse the cats and ourselves. That’ll be fun. Pictures will follow.


Holidailies doesn’t hurt as much as my elbow

Time for some politics!

I promise, this one will be brief.

I used to describe myself as a “generally appalled liberal”, but now that the word “liberal” is disliked on the left just as surely as it is on the right, I have to figure out what to call myself next.

That existential issue aside, I have to wonder a bit about Joe Manchin. Why doesn’t he just swap allegiances from the Democrats to the Trumpist Death Cult that is shambling zombie remains of the GOP? He’s already demonstrated that he does not care about his voters or the welfare of the country. Plus, I bet right-wing lobbyist payouts are better than he’s getting as a Democrat. He’d simply make more money.

Some other things that bug me:

  • Anti-science politicians. Did you know that the climate is changing? You didn’t? WELL IT IS. The changing climate is driving more and bigger storms, it’s contributing to the drought in the western United States, and more. It’s driven by carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, and the vast majority of those gases come from the oil industry. Many municipalities and counties throughout the nation have divested entirely from the oil industry, and so as the Episcopal Church. Now, in some states, no one cares, and in some this divestment is applauded. In Florida and Texas, however, it’s illegal. You can be hit with a fine in Florida if you are a business or a city and you divest from fossil fuels. The problem is that science, not political opinions, drives our understanding of global warming, which is agnostic of politics. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you’re still in danger when the new and stronger hurricanes hit in an ever-expanding hurricane season.
  • Speaking of anti-science, I’m also bugged by anti-vaxxers and covid-19 conspiracy theory mongers slithering their way into the national discourse and positions of responsibility within the US government.
  • Anti-education forces. For example: Did you know that Critical Race Theory is a real, existential, horrific, evil, terrifying, awful thing that exists? That it’s teaching white children to hate themselves and worship their Black classmates? Etc.? No? That’s because it’s not true. CRT is not taught in elementary schools, junior high schools, or even high schools. You can pass all the laws  you want against teaching CRT, it just won’t change reality.
  • That applies to library censorship too. Anti-democratic and enti-education..
  • Anti-health forces. Sure, antivaxxers fall into this category, but so do politicians who think outlawing abortion will stop abortion from happening. It won’t, of course, it will just stop safe abortions for poor people. Now, I’m not a big fan of abortion — I believe in preventing abortions by providing comprehensive sex education at an early age and handing out prophylatic measures like candy — but I do believe that a woman’s reproductive choices are her own. Plus, once you outlaw one medical procedure, you’re well on your way to outlawing others, and that’s no good.

That’s all that’s got my ire up right now (though I could also go on about how much I hate laws that affect LGBT+ folks). Have a good day.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that brief.

Cute Cat Picture Alert!

I’m not much of a photographer, even with the plethora of tools and equipment available to us these days (e.g., a phone with a camera in it), but today I snapped this picture of our foster fails Timmie and Guffaw snuggling together on our loveseat in our living room:

Timmie and Guffaw
Timmie and Guffaw, both foster fails in our home, snuggle together on our loveseat.

I showed it to Jennifer and she said it was ridiculously cute, so I have to post it. So here it is, on my blog.

Timmie is the first of our foster fails. She was found in a water feature in a park in Sacramento, and brought to Happy Tails, the organization we foster through. Because she was found “in a well” she was dubbed Timmie (as in, “What’s that Lassie? Timmy fell down the well again?” and if you don’t understand that reference, that’s okay, I just need to wait until the pain in my back goes away). She has some mild movement issues, but on the whole she is a very healthy and friendly and chonky cat. Guffaw is a more recent foster fail that we adopted because he seems to have chosen me as his person, a rarity. Almost all of our foster kitties glom on to Jennifer, and I haven’t had a cat glom on to me since Tangerine, so this makes my heart warm.

In other news, the contracts have all been signed, so I can officially spread the word that my short story “Arkham House Rules” will be published in an upcoming issue of Sci-Fi Lampoon. I don’t know what the details are, but I’m pleased with this turn of events.

Also, I have developed a pain in my tendon in my right arm, descending from my elbow to my wrist. No injuries occurred. It just sort of started about five days ago. Whee. I’m going to go to the doctor in a couple of days to have it checked out. Fun times.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today.


And a very Happy Holidailies to you!

Random Sampling

Christmas is coming! Huzzah! Hooray! Etc.! I don’t know. I don’t really get as excited about the holidays as I used to when I was a kid. The spiritual meaning of Christmas is not lost on me, of course, but the rampant consumerism and cultural baggage tend to leave me cold, and the right-wing talking points about a so-called “war on Christmas” make me cynical about the whole thing. The latest craze is to blame President Joe Biden for the supply chain problems the world has been having instead of the pandemic and the fiasco with the Ever Given in the Suez Canal earlier this year (yes, that was this year). Christmas is threatened because toys and other material goods might not make it into the stores? I suspect the true meaning of Christmas really is getting lost, but the right-wing folks are the ones who are losing it.

Of course, if you DO want to buy me a present, you can find my wishlist here on Giftster. It’s a wish list sharing site that my family uses instead of the ancient home-brewed one that I wrote in 2001 and never updated since.


Last night I wrote 500 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, and also jotted down some ideas for two short stories. This is the most productive I’ve been in weeks. Well, aside from stuff around the house and at work, of course. And even though I feel like the novel is basically stagnating right now, I’m excited to be moving forward on it again. And those two stories —  one is straight science fiction while the other is a mystery with a science fiction twist — are going to be BLAMMO when I finish them

BLAMMO. It’s a word now.


I don’t really have much to say that’s blog-worthy these days. In years past, I see, I used to complain a lot on this blog. Not so much these days, or at least I don’t think so. I mean, I have some complaints — like, new cat Guffaw gets excitable and jumps up on the kitchen counter too often —but it’s no longer a permanent state of mind. See, I’m growing as a person. Jennifer says I should post a picture a day as my blogging process, and maybe I’ll do that. Starting tomorrow, assuming I get my rear in gear and start taking pictures.

Looking over the first couple of paragraphs of this entry again, though, I do see some complaining going on. Ah, well. I’m not complaining constantly about my job these days, and that’s nice.


No more story acceptances since the last time I wrote about my story submission process, but I got a fresh rejection. I still have eight stories on submission right now, some with markets that can take nearly a full year to respond, so we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months. I think that I will try again in 2022 for one hundred submissions, but I do need to get some new stories written first.


I haven’t been reading as much as I should be; you can see what I’m currently reading in the handy-dandy widget from Library Thing to the right of this entry. It shows that currently I’m reading a couple of novels that my friends Andrea Stewart and Megan O’Keefe have written, as well as a couple of books about the craft of writing and a book about pirates. But I’m also reading a couple of books for my novel-writing critique group, so I need to concentrate on those as well.

The Bone Shard Daughter was an excellent book by an excellent writer. I’m only one chapter in to the sequel, The Bone Shard Emperor, and it’s just as well-written. Andrea Stewart did not win the Hugo Award for these novels (wasn’t even nominated, from what I can tell). She was robbed. And Megan’s Protectorate Trilogy didn’t make it either. She was robbed too.


I leave you with my favorite Christmas song, which I post every year to my blog and to Facebook and Twitter, but what the heck, it’s a great song: “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Boston-based Irish punk band.

Merry Christmas to you all, and in case I don’t blog again, Happy New Year as well! May 2022 be a better one for us all.


Happy Holidailies to us all!

School Stuff

School this past semester wasn’t too bad, actually. As usual, I only took one class (financial and dayjob reasons), and for fall semester I took Reference and Information Services. This is the class that teaches librarians how to be reference librarians. There were readings in the text book each week, of course, and some assignments. There were search assignments, which called for us students to search out specific topics in different sorts of reference materials, including biographical sources, encyclopedias, medical journals, and so on. Exciting stuff!

There were also discussion posts each week that had us examine some deeper aspect of reference librarianship: the ethics of librarianship, for example, or the dangers of censorship, or the problem of the digital divide (a topic I am growing more and more interested in).

And for the Big Project, we had to do something… well, big. Some students took on the task of developing reference services for incarcerated persons, some did videos about some aspect of the field, and some did research guides for a specific topic. I chose to do a research guide for parents of children with asthma (you can see the final result here). It’s not that exciting, but I got 29/30 on it (one point deducted because I did not put my name on it). If I’d had more time, I would have created an actual LibGuide for the topic. Unfortunately, I misread the due date of the project; I had thought it was due on December 7, but it was actually due November 7. I did that research guide in two weeks, so I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, and pleased with the grade I got.

All in all, library school is going really well. I feel… competent. Do  you know how good a feeling that is? Feeling that you can master the material, and work well with instructors and other students to present a product that is well-written, well-organized, and well put together? Yeah, it’s a pretty good feeling.

However, it’s going to get tougher as it goes on. There will be internships to consider. Resumes to put together. Side projects. A big honkin’ spreadsheet with all my school accomplishments and evidences of competencies understood. And then, of course, there will come the process of actually finding a job in the library field. For now, that seems like it’s very far away. But the day is coming, and it’s looming ahead of me. There are plenty of different types of jobs that people with MLIS degrees can get besides just being reference librarians in public libraries. There are academic librarian jobs, special libraries (law, medicine, business, and so forth), not to mention technical jobs. I’m a wee bit petrified by all this; I’m going to graduate closer to retirement age than not, and that may impact my job hunt. Like it or not, ageism is a thing, even in this progressive field.

But still… I’m definitely looking forward to learning more, and to facing the challenges up ahead.


Holidailies Ahoy!

Almost missed November

Apparently, it’s been November for awhile as well.

Not that much to report, though, except that in the middle of this month I reached my goal of one hundred manuscript submissions for the year. That’s more than I’ve done any year ever! My previous record was sixty-nine submissions in the year 2017. Here are my stats for the year:

Submissions: 100

Acceptances: 1

Withdrawals: 2

Form rejections: 74

Personal rejections: 10

Outstanding submissions: 13

One story I withdrew from a market because it had apparently died but no one knew. No confirmation from the market that I had withdrawn it, but that’s irrelevant. I withdrew another story because I had a crisis of confidence and wanted to rework it. I did, submitted it to another market, and it was promptly rejected.

I had one story accepted, but until the contracts are signed by both parties, I can’t reveal the details. That’s annoying, but standard practice.

To be honest I was hoping for more acceptances, especially to pro markets, but I guess my skill isn’t there yet. Or those markets are not ready for me yet. Who knows.

Anyway, now that I’ve reached one hundred submissions, what’s next? I’m going to take a break from submitting until 2022 and work on some new stories. I have a couple that I’m revising, and a solid idea for a third.

But what of National Novel Writing Month? I hear you cry.

Well, I sort of participated this year. For a bit. I worked on The Afghan Code, but got (at this point) no farther than 3,471 words. Which is a bummer, but it is what it is. Work, school, and life got in the way. I’ll continue to work on this one, though, because it’s a fun story and I hope to share it with all of you when it’s done. And after that (or while I’m working on it) I plan to dive back into And the Devil Will Drag You Under.

I’m also going to try to commit to Holidailies, a month of daily blogging starting December 1. Why don’t you sign up for it as well? Ought to be fun.

That’s it for now. Be excellent to each other. And party on!

Here it is… October… Again…

National Novel Writing Month 2021 LogoAs my professor this semester put it, “How did it get to be October? And can you believe the semester is already half over?” I’m having a hard time believing it myself, even given the Halloween decorations that are springing up around the neighborhood. I will try to get some pictures of some of the more elaborate displays, such as the River Styx setup in the yard of a house around the corner from us.

Meanwhile, let’s look at how I did in September writing-wise…

I ended up putting And the Devil Will Drag You Under aside, with a restart date of December 6. I did this because I was having troubles with the characterizations and the plot, but mostly the characterizations because of couple of them are decidedly problematic, falling into harmful tropes that I need to figure out how to avoid. I’m giving myself space to think about this some. I have some ideas already, which I’m happy about. But since I’m not under any contractual obligations with this novel, I can set it aside for a bit and work on something else.

And work on something else I did. I am currently revising “Zombie Processes” (it’s a slow, meandering process), and outlining my next novel, The X of Doom. It’s the pirate novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for a few years now. I’m happy about the concepts, but the outline is not quite coming together. I have time to work on it though, so I’m not feeling all that rushed.

And I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time in a few years! (Strangely, I had a dream the other night about participating, in which I was the Municipal Liaison for Sacramento again, and we held our kickoff meeting in a grocery store.)

Strange dreams aside, I’m going to be writing a novel tentatively titled The Afghan Code, about a group of “murder grannies” (old women who murder — it’s a thing!) involved in a centuries-old global conspiracy. I don’t know what the nature of the conspiracy is, or who it involves, but I’m looking forward to finding out. It’s inspired by The Da Vinci Code, of course, but it will be better. My wife also provided the initial germ of the idea, and will be consulting on this novel since it will involve lots of knitting. However, it was writer Mur Lafferty who found the idea delightful enough to task me to write it.

A prototype of the novel’s prologue can be found here.

That’s all for now. Enjoy this month-long celebration of all things macabre and morbid, but stay safe and healthy as you do so. And some day I will have something more interesting to post here on my blog.

September Goals and an Update

Trinity College Library, Dublin
Future workplace, maybe?

Well, September is here, the year is 2/3 through, so here are my publication stats for the year so far:

Submissions: 77

Acceptances: 1

Withdrawals: 1

Rejections: 63

Pending: 12

So… I know that there are writers who have been much more prolific than I have this past year (I know one person who has logged over 300 submissions so far this year). Some writers have a 100% acceptance rate (one submission; one publication). Me, I’m nowhere near that. As for that one acceptance, I’ll make sure I post details about it here when the contract is finalized.

Most of the rejections I’ve received over the past year have been form rejection letters. I’m okay with that.  In fact, there’s a part of me that prefers form rejection letters over personal letters. With form rejections, you can take a quick look at the story, make any adjustments you may think are necessary, and move on (albeit with some existential dread). With personal rejections, you spend more time fretting over the story, trying to suss out the editor’s intent and wondering if the changes they suggest (if any — some personal rejections are very vague) will really improve the story overall or not. There’s more stress. And as an editor myself (have you visited Daikaijuzine lately?), I have to say that sending out form rejections is a lot easier on me.

Some personal rejections, of course, are delightful and inspiring. C. C. Finlay, former editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, gave me a fantastic review of one of my stories, and I rewrote that story in light of his criticisms, and it’s gone on to be one of my favorites. On the other hand, one personal rejection I got from a magazine many years ago was so disheartening I gave up writing for six months.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Anyway.

I did not meet many of my August goals. I had planned to write something like 30,000 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but instead wrote less than 3,000 total. I did complete revisions on my urban fantasy novella, and gave it to a friend for one last look before starting to send that one around to various markets. I also began revisions on my zombie love story, a short story I wrote some time ago, but which I revised and got good feedback on at the Cascade Writers Workshop.

So, my goals for September are:

  1. Write 7,500 words on Devil (that’s just 250 words per day);
  2. Finish revisions of zombie story; and
  3. Start a new science fiction short story.

IN OTHER NEWS…

School started up again a couple of weeks ago, and this semester I am taking Reference and Information Services, which is all about… well… reference and information services. Last week we focused on synchronous reference services, such as in person or on phone reference calls. Our class project will be pretty intense; I plan on doing a LibGuide for a certain topic. I’m not sure which one, though I’ve narrowed it down to three: the Republic of Pirates ca. 1790; Neanderthal culture; or childhood asthma. I’ve done research in all of those topics, though I have direct experience with the third only.

I haven’t changed my long-term ideal goals for librarianship; I still want to be a librarian and writer for a natural history museum. My dream job is doing that at the California Academy of Sciences, but I also recognize the unlikelihood of that ever happening. Maybe I’ll be a librarian at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland?

August also saw my father-in-law’s burial. He had actually passed away in June 2020, compounding an already awful year, but because of the pandemic, it was not possible to inter his cremains until over a year later. I don’t have a lot to say on this topic; my father-in-law was a kind and intelligent man who delighted in his family and in humor.

It did get me thinking about my own time here on Earth, and while I’ve spent too much time in my life thinking about that, I did decide that one song I’d like played at my funeral (which I honestly hope is a celebration and a joyful YAY FOR HIM HE LIVED! sort of affair instead of something sad and depressing) is “Turn the World Around” (alternatively called “Earth Song”) by Harry Belafonte. I’ve thoughtfully included a video below, where Harry Belafonte sings the song along with the Muppets. The song was performed at Jim Henson’s memorial, and I’ve always considered him a sort of spiritual mentor.

On that cheerful note, I will leave you for now. Have a lovely day.

(And now I have an earworm, and I hope you do too.)

On the Origin of Ideas

As a writer, one gets asked a lot of questions. What do you write? Have I read anything of yours? How much do you get paid? Will you write this novel that I have a tremendous idea for? How many homes do you have? and so on. Most writers often get asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” and that’s one that I’ve missed. No one has asked me that one. I like to think it’s because they know I have a degree in Philosophy and am liable to start pontificating on the whole notion of ideas and utter something like, “Where does anyone get anything, really?” Some writers have different answers to the question. One science fiction writer — I believe it was Harlan Ellison, but I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to look it up right now — famously responded that he got all his ideas from an idea factory in Schenectady, New York.

Since I don’t have a subscription to the Schenectady Idea Factory Box, I rely on other sources. What those sources are… well, actually I have no idea. But last night while I was sleeping, I had a doozy.

Imagine this: a science fiction epic which is a retelling of Les Misérables in space! That’s basically the dream I had last night. It started (in my dream) as an idea for a role-playing game, but, in the dream, morphed into a novel and then a movie starring Peter Capaldi. It seemed perfect in my dream.

And it sounds perfect now that I am mostly fully awake.

Will I write my epic Les Misérables in Space novel? Probably not. There are too many other projects demanding my attention. Or maybe I’ll retool my “epic space opera with horror overtones” or my “secret big project involving World War One”. Or maybe not. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll combine them all into one!

I wonder if Victor Hugo ever had to deal with thoughts like these?

Fellow writers: where do you get your ideas?

Daytrip Across the Universe

Apatosaurs with mask
RAWR!

Yesterday some friends of mine and I went to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite places to be in the world. I’d say the Natural History Museum in London is a close second, but I haven’t been to that particular institution in over twenty years, so I can’t really say for sure.

When I was a kid, my family took me to the Academy on a fairly regular basis, and I remember loving the earthquake room, the solar system model, the Foucault pendulum, the Africa exhibit, and Hall of Man, and more. They remodeled the Academy about thirteen(!) years ago; I went there when they reopened in 2008 and was unimpressed, since they’d moved everything around including my one-favorite exhibits. But now I’ve been twice in the past two years, and I am loving it again.

I really wanted to be a scientist of some sort when I was in high school. A marine biologist, preferably, since my high school biology teachers were so good at their jobs and inspired me so well; however, college-level chemistry and math did me in. I did poorly in my first year and a half at UC Davis until I took James Griesemer’s course in the philosophy of the biological sciences in 1988, and fell in love with philosophy. I took a number of courses in the history and philosophy of science, and could have pursued that topic on graduate school, but… I didn’t. For a long time I regretted not following up on that, but now I’m in an MLIS program at San Jose State University, and longing to become a science writer and librarian at some sort of research institution: ideally, of course, the California Academy of Sciences. I would never have survived graduate school, in either a scientific discipline or in philosophy. The idea of specializing in one topic in a single field would have brutalized my tiny little brain. Librarianship seems like the perfect place for a generalist, an intellectual vagabond like me.

And now that I’ve sort of zeroed in on that career path at the age of 53, we’ll see if I have a chance to follow through.

I took a number of photographs at the Academy, including the one above of the T. rex with a cloth mask on its face.  Here are some others:

Jellyfish

I love jellyfish! I love the way they glide through the water, flowing tentacles in their wake. I learned that some jellyfish, such as moon jellies, qualify as plankton, which surprised me since I’ve always thought of plankton as the microscopic critters that float in the ocean not doing a whole lot except consuming food and providing food for other larger organisms… exactly the way these things do.

 

Jaws of a megalodon

This cast of the jaws of a megalodon fossil impressed me. It’s 6+ feet of toothed joy, and you can really see the rows of teeth that would have grown into the jaw as older teeth fell out. It’s not the best picture, but I am pleased with it.

 

Claude the albino alligator

Finally, this is Claude, the albino alligator. It’s a much better picture when it’s scaled down rather than blown up. Some trick of lighting or some quirk of my phone’s camera sharpened and highlighted the image more than it should have. Claude’s been part of the Academy for as long as I can remember. An albino alligator would not have lasted long in its natural habitat, since its coloring would have made easy prey for a predator.

 

And this, of course, is the entrance to the Academy’s impressive rainforest exhibit. Fun fact: When I went to the Academy on my own one day in 1998, I caught a presentation on the rainforests that including the Rainforest Rap:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4bNrIIe0bk

…which, unfortunately, cannot be embedded in this post, but if you go to the YouTube video I’ve linked to, you will, I promise, be enraptured.

What did I learn in the Academy’s rainforest exhibit? Primarily that I would not enjoy being a rainforest ecologist. It was humid and hot and by the end of it I was sweating pretty heavily, which is not something I enjoy. However, I am glad that there are people studying the amazing diversity and beauty of the tropical rainforests, and working to preserve them.

Anyway, as I’ve said, the California Academy of Sciences remains one of my favorite places on Earth. I will very likely go again soon, bringing yet more friends with me.