Thursday, November 16, 2017

In Fits and (re-)Starts

Here--once again--I go, dusting off this blog and pretending like I'm going to make this a somewhat regular endeavor. After all, it's only been two years plus a month since my last entry...

Why now? Since we're in the middle of November, I'm in the middle of my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you're nasty) and let me tell you: it is going well. Not. It is not going well at all. Some might even call it "unwell".

I'd like to think I have something creative to hurl out into the Internet, and I'd like that to be both in art and in writing. Musically, I peaked somewhere in high school. And since that was with a trombone, it was not at all impressive. But artistically--I feel that I have some small amount of talent, regardless of how horribly I've nurtured that part of myself (ref: the sad amount and quality of art I began to publish on this site).

And writeringly--well, I've always fancied myself as able to turn a phrase. How hard could it be to write a short story? Or even a novel?

So hard. So, so very hard.

Even though I've accepted I won't "win" NaNoWriMo this year (if I couldn't keep up any kind of pace in the first half of the month, I sure ain't gonna be able to double that for the second half) I'm still going to keep plugging away and see how far I get. Some of it may even find its way here, in serialized story form.

Either that, or two years from now I'm composing a new blog entry about how I'm really REALLY going to keep writing a little bit at least a few times a week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Color Me Embarrassed

There's a show on Cartoon Network called Steven Universe. My kids love it, and my daughter even likes to make up new characters for it. She created a new Crystal Gem named Aquamarine.

She wanted me to draw Aquamarine for her, based on her MS-Paint design. I did, and then I brought it to work so I could scan it into a file she could color and edit at home. At home that afternoon, I realized I had LEFT MY CARTOON DRAWING IN THE SCANNER/COPIER. Oh, well--I supposed there would be a few puzzled people who saw it on the counter of the printer room.

The next morning I checked the counter and the copier, but it wasn't in either place. I guessed that I actually did bring it home; I just forgot about it.

Late in the day, I found it tacked on the bulletin board right next to the kitchen. So EVERYBODY saw it. At least nobody saw me take it down and sneak it into my bag, and it never had my name on it. But COME ON, co-workers--anytime anything else is left in the copier, it's always put on the counter. WHY NOT THIS TIME?

Anyway, that's how I died of mortification.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Magic is a drug. Careful how you use it."

You can't judge a book by its cover--granted. However, a really great cover did entice me to pick up Dirty Magic from the shelf of my local bookstore. Once I read the back of the book and flipped through a few random pages to get a sense of the writing style, I knew I'd be taking the book home with me. After reading a few chapters, I knew I'd be picking up the rest of the series (however long it went) and also adding the author's name to my list of "always keep on the radar; buy anything written by".

Jaye Wells has created a world (continued in Cursed Moon and Deadly Spells) with a tremendous amount of depth and a wealth of enticing characters. Magic exists, but unfortunately can be as addictive and detrimental as drugs. The lead character is Kate Prospero, a magic adept and police officer. As the trilogy is named "Prospero's War", you know you'll be delving into her life for at least the duration of the series, and you won't be disappointed. However, even the supporting characters are so well fleshed out that it's difficult to think of them as "supporting". I wanted to learn so much more about Kate's colleagues, and I think there's at least a novel's worth of exploration for each and every character Wells devised. And that's only if the author gets bored of the world of Babylon, Ohio. She could do a series featuring any one of the members of the Magical Enforcement Agency task force and I'd be all in, each and every time!

Both the author and the main character are women. The only reason this is noteworthy is because it appears that women are still given short shrift in the world of fantasy/science fiction literature, even after so many strong female characters and so many incredibly talented female authors.It is my hope that the works created by brilliant authors such as Jaye Wells help to dissolve this issue once and for all. Personally, I didn't consider NOT purchasing Dirty Magic because of the gender of the author nor of the hero. It was an intriguing premise set in a fascinating world--that's why I bought it. I have no reservations about recommending these novels to anyone interested in supernatural fiction, urban fantasy, or crime stories, simply because the writing is "too feminine"--whatever that might mean. It is flat out a great series written by an incredible author.

I don't pre-order many books these days, simply because the "to be read" stack on my bookshelf has grown so large that it is now spawning little offspring stacks. But in this case, I bought Cursed Moon and pre-ordered Deadly Spells at the same time, because I knew I'd be anxious to read the third installment ASAP after finishing the second. Jaye published the novella Fire Water between books two and three as an e-book. I purchased that one as well; it was a nice diversion while waiting for the third book's release date (but it made the wait for a longer adventure that much more difficult!)

I'm now making my way through some of the author's other series, and what I've read so far is as engrossing as this one. However, "Prospero's War" will always be the series that introduced Jaye Wells to my bookshelves, and so I'll always feel a special affinity for the gritty world of Babylon, Ohio.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How I've Been

This is that blog entry. This is the one that I've known for a long time that I wanted to write next, but that I found difficult to do. And because it was perpetually "next", I've let my blog lapse--once again--into oblivion. The lag this time has been 4 months. I'm not the kind of blogger people read, but I still like the idea of having a blog that is somewhat up-to-date, if only for myself.

I'll just put it out there: I've been diagnosed with chronic depression. "Dysthymia", if I try to mask in in medical terms. I've probably had it for quite some time, possibly decades. Am I embarrassed to admit this? Not really. Worried that putting this out on the Internet will affect my current or future career opportunities? Not particularly. It's just this thing about me, this thing I'm addressing, and it almost feels like I'm more ashamed about it if I don't talk about it.

I was a little concerned about my first visits with a therapist, almost a year ago. The word "depression" came up early in our conversations (and therefore in my thoughts with increasing frequency), but I really felt that couldn't apply to me. I was wary of claiming depression because I had heard that people who were depressed, clinically depressed, were almost unable to function. Hours or days were spent on the couch or in bed, because they couldn't escape the greyness of their own thoughts. Additionally, I actually felt a little guilty for even considering the notion that I was depressed, because what did I have to be truly depressed about? What right do I have to be depressed? With only the odd bump in the road here and there, I really don't have a lot in my life to complain about (not legitimately).

My therapist explained to me that was a common perception of depression, but the can't-get-off-the-couch feeling is only one manifestation, one level of severity. The day I was actually diagnosed with chronic depression, he put it in a way that I'll never forget: "You're able to function all right, but it's as if you're always walking around in three or four feet of water. Now, three or four feet of water isn't going to kill you, but who wants to do that all the time?" I don't know if this is his analogy or a description commonly used by psychologists talking to patients, but that nailed it. Right on the head.

There was such a wave of relief at hearing a description that so crystallized how I feel. I think it almost validated my own feelings and made it seem okay to admit that I actually did need help and that what I was doing was going to be good for me. I still think that, and I hope I continue to make progress at addressing this part of me.

I'm not one hundred percent certain why I felt such a need to write this up and launch it into the infosphere, laid bare for any and all to see. What if my family reads it? What if my co-workers read it? Shrug. It's just me; it doesn't mean I'm crazy or broken or anything that I haven't been for the past twenty years. On the contrary, it might be part of the explanation for (without excusing) the fact that I've definitely become much more cynical and grouchier and, at times, meaner over the years.

The difference now is that I'm coming to terms with that and trying to fix it. And not all by myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One of Those Nerds Who Names Their Cars

When I got my Ford Sienna mini-van, I jokingly tweeted that I was unsure if I would name it the Millennium Falcon or Serenity.

Well, half-jokingly.

As I've become more comfortable driving the Sienna I've come to start thinking of it as my car. My wife seems fine with this, since she still likes driving the Prius. Since it's my car, I've added a few personalizations here and there. I never minded much when Annette put election bumper stickers on the Prius, but I think she probably takes issue (if only a bit) with my choices of flair:

I recently attempted to stick another identifying emblem on my windshield:
However, it appears too cold for that now; the first time I started the windshield defroster, the decal peeled away from the glass. Maybe next spring...

Even so, I've been trying to think of a Firefly-related name for the mini-van for quite some time. I didn't want to go with the obvious "Firefly" or "Serenity". I tried the names of various crew members and settled worlds of the Firefly 'verse, but nothing really clicked. The closest I ever got was a brief flirtation with naming my ride "The Tam", since that encompasses two of the main characters who are also arguably the driving force behind the story of the Firefly crew as we know it. But that name still never felt quite right.

Sometimes, inspiration hits when you least expect it. I wasn't even thinking about my naming problem this morning as I got ready for work, but the moment I stepped out of the shower, one word entered my consciousness and took firm root there. It was, in my opinion, the perfect name for my Sienna mini-van that also pays tribute to one of my favorite TV shows.

I am now the pilot of "Siennity".

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why You're Not My Favorite

I want to take a moment to explain a certain aspect of Twitter--specifically, my method of using it: the "Favorite".

I've always been aware of a HUGE discrepancy between the amount of Favorites my tweets receive and the amount I give out. This is not in any way meant to be a brag, humble or otherwise. I don't mean to say that I get a ton of favorites, but I give out almost none. Seriously, in the six and a half years I've been using Twitter I've marked 83 tweets as Favorites.

I use the Favorite star mainly as a bookmarking function. Maybe it's something somebody linked to, and I want to look at it in more depth later. Or the link is something I want to be able to keep and quickly find as a valuable reference.

Occasionally--very occasionally--I will use the Favorite as a way of marking something that was extremely funny or profound or touched some part of my awareness in a particularly strong way.

None of this is meant to criticize the way other people use Favorites. It seems the Twitter Favorite has become the Facebook Like: a way of saying "I agree with this" or "Good one!" or "LOL" or even "I have read this." I probably don't treat it this way because I'm not Facebook-compatible.

When I first joined Facebook it was primarily as a way to stay in touch with my family, since they don't use any other social media or even e-mail--except for a few occasions a year. There were certain aspects of Facebook that seemed counter-intuitive to me, a computer programmer and fairly regular web site user. Over the years, in my opinion, they have not made it better by any stretch. In fact, I think they keep making it worse with every change they incorporate. It got to the point where I found Facebook SO counter-intuitive--even clunky--that I just couldn't use it anymore. I've since deactivated my Facebook account, which is one step away from deleting the account. (I may return at some point, but not for now.)

Anyway, any time I tried to use Twitter Favorites as a Like, it felt so forced and artificial on my part. I just couldn't do it. Since social media is a tool that everyone uses differently according to their interests and desires, I decided I wasn't going to try to force it.

However, this doesn't mean I don't want to interact with people or give kudos where appropriate. If I can think of a way to latch onto a joke to keep it going, I might reply with such. If I can't, I usually try to at least make some comment to indicate "interesting take" or even as the kids say, "laughing loudly out loud" or however that goes. If it really tickles me and I think other people might enjoy something, I'll retweet it (as long as it hasn't already been RTed a million times.)

Don't make the mistake of thinking this means I think I'm better than those that simply click the star. This just fits better into how I do things. I do enjoy seeing when people Favorite something I've tweeted, because I take that to mean that it resonated with them in some way. And often the things you write will resonate with me; I just have a different way of trying to let you know that.

I realize I'm probably putting way more thought into this than anyone who reads my Twitter feed. But now it's out there for anyone to read and discover why I might--mistakenly, I hope--appear to not give the same Twitter love I receive.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Feel Free to Stop at Any Time

Dear planet Earth,

Here is an off-the-cuff list of things I am tired of seeing in the news. It's not that I want the news to stop informing us of occurrences of these items, I want these items to not occur.

  • accidental shooting of self or family members due to improper handling of a firearm
  • missing females between the ages of 13 and 35
  • crap cops (a sensational minority) fomenting mistrust of good cops (a vast majority)
  • ISIS beheadings
  • ebola
  • ISIS anything
  • race-based violence
  • sexual orientation-based violence
  • perv teachers
  • Secret Service screw-ups