Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On my New Blog

So far I am having an absolute blast with my new blog, The Catholic Nerd. For one thing, it feels like this is the kind of writing I've always wanted to do, but haven't had the opportunity to (been too wrapped up in trying to sound professional and serious). For another, I get to do things like equate the atheistic version of God to a cross between Superman and Jason Voorhees, complete with picture.

Speaking of pictures, the only real problem I've run into so far is the fact that I keep having to delay posts until I can find and/or make the right illustrations. This has necessitated my re-installing Photoshop on my old laptop and spending a little too much time messing around in Garry's Mod. It also means that I generally have to wait until I get home to publish them, since I can't make the pictures at work. Like I could have posted my recent piece on atheism today, but I decided that I really needed a Time's Square ad from an uptight spinster to illustrate my point properly, and so I must delay.

I've got big plans for this blog. I'm hoping to make something really unique and wonderful out of it. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Work Complaints

I've come to the conclusion that I don't much like my job. The pay's good, and all (though I confess I have an irrational dislike for benefits packages brought on by three years of dying a little inside everytime I hear the word 'healthcare'), and the environment is generally pretty quiet, and as long as I get my work done no one minds if I write or blog at work.

Okay, put like that, I have pretty much nothing to complain about, job-wise. Except for the insane uselessness of the accounts payable people. I mean, do they ever even read my e-mails? Cause if they do, they certainly don't act like it. One day I'm going to test them by writing the most incredibly insulting e-mail my twisted mind can create, and then when they complain I'll just say "Oh, so you do read my e-mails! So why do you never pay the phone bill like I ask you to, you..."

But I digress.

I suppose my real problem with my job is that I honestly don't care about it much. I have no interest in cars except as a means of transportation, and even less in car parts like wipers and lighting. I have even less in...whatever it is I actually work with. Numbers, and papers and that bloody SAP program and vendors who somehow keep managing to lose the numbers off of the purchase orders that they'd like to get paid for now. Then they start furiously complaining that they aren't getting paid soon enough when I tell them the PO is marked for payment next month and they yell at me for that, then I have to inform them that the company only pays twice a month, so it'll be another week and then the payment date falls on a weekend so...

There I go again.

It's not the fact of the problems; I know there'll be problems everywhere I work. It's the fact that these are such ridiculous and dull problems. They're the kind of problems that makes one think "what am I doing with my life?!" and then return to that fantasy of going down south and opening up a rattlesnake sanctuary (yes, I have seriously considered that. Rattlesnakes need protection too, you know!).

In any case, I am now firmly convinced that my future does not lie in the corporate world (or at least, not in administration). I will probably work here for at least another year or two, but I'll be looking for a way out. In the meantime, I thank God I have a good, steady job that isn't actively odious and that gives me time to write things like this.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 7: Manhood Pt. 2

"What men in my life exemplify the qualities listed in Day 6?"

I've been fortunate enough to know a number of great exemplars of manliness in my own life. In the interest in space, however, I'm going to confine myself to three who particularly stand out:

My Father: The best example of manhood I know is my father, who exemplifies the qualities of strength channeled through duty. My father has always been there for us all while we were growing up. He never failed to tell us that he loved us, or to make it known that he would always support us.

My College Latin/Honors Teacher, Prof. Smith: Probably the finest scholar I ever knew, Prof. Smith was a large, white-bearded man who could control a class effortlessly while simultaneously dropping a classical philosophy of education as the uncovering of reality. I'd say I learned more from him in two years than in my entire prior education.

My Brother-in-Law, Seth: My brother-in-law  is an excellent example of Catholic manhood. He works as a mason (the job, not the secret society), plays guitar, and farms with my sister, their beautiful daughter, their dog, and a dozen or so chickens. Together they comprise the best example I know of a truly Catholic lifestyle.

P.S. I'm sorry this one took so long; I'm generally not very comfortable talking about people I know so directly online. I'll try to blog more regularly in the future.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Google Brain Teasers:

Today I stumbled across a very interesting list of brain-teasers that Google used to force its potential employees to answer. So, just for fun, I decided to list my responses below:

Google Questions and my Answers:
How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?

Answer: Enough. More if you don’t want it to go anywhere.

How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?

Answer: Twelve first-born sons, six first-born daughters, two immortal souls, and the cost of water and equipment.

In a country in which people only want boys every family continues to have children until they have a boy. If they have a girl, they have another child. If they have a boy, they stop. What is the proportion of boys to girls in the country?

Answer: Non sustainable. Hello, China!

Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco

Answer: Quietly and calmly exit the city before anyone realizes something’s wrong (who's gonna miss San Francisco?).

Why are manhole covers round?

Answer: So dumb-bells can be used in a pinch. Alternatively, so they can be more easily transported and replaced.

How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
Answer: A comfortable surplus.
How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?

Answer: Depends on whether the clock has a second hand. If it doesn’t, 24 times (Once every hour). If it does, then the second hand overlaps with the other two 2880 times a piece and overlaps with both at the same time 24 times.

Explain the significance of "dead beef"

Answer: Either a redundant phrase or the product of someone misusing his words. Or both.

A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
Answer: He was coming to the hotel to collect his lottery winnings. He was late, so they donated it to the UN. Now no one will ever see that money again.
You need to check that your friend, Bob, has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write the question on a card which and give it to Eve who will take the card to Bob and return the answer to you. What must you write on the card, besides the question, to ensure Bob can encode the message so that Eve cannot read your phone number?
Answer: Write the message in Latin telling him to write the number in Braille. Alternatively, entrust this mission to someone I don’t mind reading my phone number.

You're the captain of a pirate ship and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive.

Answer: Suggest that slightly more than half of the pirates join me in killing the rest and dividing up their shares.

You have 8 identical balls, 7 of them weigh the same, and one of them weighs slightly more. How can you find the ball that is heavier by using a balance and only two weighings?

Answer: For the first weighing, you put three balls on each side of the balance. If one side is heavier, it contains the heavier ball. If they balance, one of the two remaining balls is the heavier. In the former case, remove all the balls from the lighter end and set them aside. Then remove one ball from the heavier end, move the other to the other side, and weigh. If they balance, the removed ball is the heavier. If they don’t, the heavier side will be revealed. In the latter case, simply weigh the two remaining balls.  

You are given 2 eggs. You have access to a 100-story building. Eggs can be very hard or very fragile means it may break if dropped from the first floor or may not even break if dropped from 100th floor. Both eggs are identical. You need to figure out the highest floor of a 100-story building an egg can be dropped without breaking. The question is how many drops you need to make. You are allowed to break 2 eggs in the process

Answer: I decide that this test can have no practical use so I go home and scramble the eggs instead. Alternatively, I simply start at floor one, drop the egg, and retrieve it each time to drop it again.

Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew.
Answer: It’s a place where people store information so they can find it later. It’s on computers. Making it is a very boring job.

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

Answer: Hop into the middle and unscrew the blades with my belt-buckle. Then use the blades to cut my way out and get revenge. 

Any different answers? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Disappointing Halloween

There are a number of families in my apartment complex, so I naturally assumed there woudl be trick-or-treaters.

I was fairly excited about it; I boought a bunch of large candy bars to overflow my largest bowl, then I went out and bought a few more just to be safe. I bought a pumpkin, threw together a quick 'Death' costume, and even came up with a few macabre jokes to play on the kids ("Your fate involves eating too much candy"). Switched on the light, settled in, and waited.

Turns out I may have overestimated the number of children in my apartment complex.

No trick-or-treaters: not one. I was disappointed, even a little sad. I had been looking forward to handing out candy to the cute little ghoulies and ghosties and pop-culture beasties. Now I'm stuck with a large bowl of candy-bars that I have to finish myself.

At least I got some writing done. And my costume was pretty cool for all it's simplicity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 6: Manhood

     Day Six: Describe your image of the ideal man (Jesus excepted).

       This was a complex question that required a good deal of thought and reflection. Here’s what I have come up with.
            The chief duty of a man is to provide and protect. In the most basic family unit the mother bears and raises the child while the man provides food, shelter, and defense for her while she does so. Therefore the key virtue of man could be said to be strength; strength channeled through devotion. I believe that every quality a man can posses will ultimately boil down to this formula: strength channeled through devotion.
            The ideal man, therefore, will have a very specific purpose to his life, one which will direct his energies in a particular direction. In addition, he’ll have or seek to develop the ability to fulfill his purpose.
            Now, the purpose that drives the man’s devotion must be a worthwhile one; if it is too limited or insignificant it won’t allow him to develop his strength and he will atrophy. If it is impractical or utterly unattainable he won’t be able to properly pursue it (since you can’t use an illusion to guide yourself). If it’s an unworthy or morally deficient goal, it will warp his strength or turn it into ruthlessness and cruelty (the image I have is of a cannon; if it’s pointed at the correct target, it’s effective. If it’s mishandled, it’s just destructive).
            So the ideal man will devote himself to a worthwhile purpose, which will nurture his strength and cause it to increase, bringing him closer and closer to achieving his purpose.
            That’s in the abstract. Dialing down a bit closer to earth, the ideal man would look something like this:
            He is a professional; whatever his particular occupation is, he is an expert at it. In the face of opposition he holds his ground firmly, yet calmly; he accepts no insult, nor does he insult anyone. He is supremely sure of who he is and what he believes and is comfortable with himself. If he has a family, they are his first priority. He never lies, he never cheats, he never compromises his principles.
            If you met him, you would find him a pleasant, engaging acquaintance. He would strike you as someone who is at peace with himself and who knows his place in life. There would be no bitterness about him, whatever his current situation. If things were going badly for him, he probably wouldn’t mention it, or if he did it would be in an off-the-cuff, disinterested manner. If things were going well, he might tell you how grateful he was. He might be talkative and friendly, or he might be taciturn and reserved, but he would always be polite and never give offense.
            You would come away with the impression that this was someone you could depend on; someone who seems to have figured out something you haven’t. You would certainly consider him a friend worth having, and you would pity the man that made him an enemy. For you would sense that, however polite and friendly the man might be, here was someone who could never be bullied or intimidated into submission. Here were great reserves of strength that could be directed on any obstacle with devastating force, and woe to the one who tried to be an obstacle to this man’s purpose.
            There’s a quality about the ideal man that is hard to capture in words: a sense of solidity, the slightly intimidating impression that this is someone you could never move or manipulate. At the same time, though, you enjoy spending time with him because of his engagingly good nature. The ideal man inspires not only liking, but respect in those who meet him. It’s a similar effect to when we encounter, say, a waterfall, or a thunderstorm, or a beautiful piece of music. It’s the sense that here is something that is closer than most things to how it ought to be: a clearer-than-usual image of God.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Random Updates

After months of no reviews, I went ahead and posted five in a row at 'Catholicity of Taste.' They were old ones from last year's 'Halloween Movies' project, which I'm attempting to repeat this year. The only trouble is that I've been sick for the past few days and whether it's from that or the medicine I'm taking (sweet nyquil! No one understands me like you do...) my mind feels sluggish and uncreative and my writing is coming out lame and rambling. Hopefully I'll have this year's first Halloween film posted around the middle of this week so that the second one will go up over the weekend (what are my picks this year? Wait and see...).

I also feel bad about not posting Day 6 sooner. The problem with that one is that it required a good deal of thought and my thoughts kept getting interrupted. Let's comit to posting it sometime this week.

I discovered that I like canned chicken-noodle soup last weekend. Or at least, I like it until it runs out of chicken and all that's left are soggy noodles (which takes a disturbingly short amount of time). As a bonus, I finally have some cans to collect my bacon grease (yes, I'm fairly excited about that). I'm also a little disturbed that I now can track the phases of my bi-annual illnesses fairly closely now.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I'm making a conscious effort to slow down and limit my time on the computer. Right now it eats up way too much of my time and there are far too many half-finished projects lying around, waiting for me to return to them. For instance, I'm finally trying to finish Ronald Reagan's autobiography, which I started...wow, I think even before I moved into my apartment! (about five-hundred-plus pages in: lot's of talk about relations with the Soviet Union).

I'm returning to guitar after yet another week-plus hiatus, and once my new (used-good condition) Italian phrasebook comes in, I'll be able to step up my sadly neglected language studies. I'm rediscovering my love for books, which has been rather forgotten in my love for sitting at the computer pretending to write while I actually read political and fitness blogs.

Another thing I'm doing is trying to make time for silent meditation and prayer. In particular, I like to sit/kneel silently in front of my crucifx for five minutes or so, taking it in and letting my thoughts dwell on the inconceivable sacrifice of Christ. It's a good way to fortify myself for the day and clear my head for the night.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 5: Pets

Day Five: "Why might you want a pet? What kind of pet would best suit your personality and lifestyle? Why?"

First of all, sorry for the extremely long delay between Day 3 and...er, Day 5. I was hung up on Day 4 ("What is your favorite William Carlos Williams poem from your Christmas present last year?"), partially because I needed to review some of the poems, partially because, honestly, WCM isn't really my favorite poet. But more on that later.

Perhaps it's because I've always had at least one pet growing up, but they've always jsut seemed a part of life. The few petless periods have generally been understood as transitory stages; getting over the loss of a previous pet or getting settled in before acquiring a new one.

I love having pets. I love animals in general, and having one around permanently is even better. Pets are like little extra outlets of love; they're less rewarding than people, but they're also easier. You get to love and delight in them without fearing that they'll take offense or abandon you, and you get the satisfaction of caring for someone.

As for what kind of pet I would like, well I love dogs, but I don't think one would suit my present lifestyle very well since I'm away from home for most of the day. I think at the moment the pet that would best fit my personality and lifestyle would be a snake. I love snakes and I've been considering getting one as a pet for a while now. Probably either a Royal Python or a California King would be about right (I'm leaning towards the python at the moment).

My only concern with getting a snake is the feeding. I don't think I'd mind so much, but I do wonder whether heating frozen mice might render my apartment olfactorily uninviting to guests.

Who's a pretty boy then?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Work Thoughts

Today is my first full day sitting out in the lobby.

See, we've done some re-arranging where I work, and as part of that process my desk got moved out to the lobby. This means that I'm rather isolated from the rest of the building, but also that I get a door, a lot of space, and big windows to look of (it also means that people are less likely to notice if I'm updating my blog at work).


8:15 AM You know, the constantly-looping TV isn't as annoying as I thought it would be; I can pretty much tune it out whenever I want.

9:30 AM  My boss seems to worry about whether I mind being out here.

10:49 AM Receiving a few calls, dealing with invoices, doodling a few cartoons...feel like a genuine receptionist!

11:30 AM Someone just received a 60-lbs package and he's not at his desk!

11:40 AM Lunch time!

12:40 PM Back from lunch!

1:12 PM Always so tired after lunch: why can't the day end with lunch?

2:16 PM I really like Alfred Edward Housman!

2:40 PM An interesting effect: there's a hallway that runs pretty much the length of the building which begins right outside the frosted-glass door to the lobby. That means I can see someone's shadow on the glass as they walk all the way down the hall. The effect is kind of creepy: like they're just walking and walking, but not going anywhere.

3:08 PM Writing pithy political jokes...

3:48 PM Time to start packing up...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Momento Mori

Every so often, I will remember the fact that every day could be my last and that I need to seize the moment and get busy living.

The trouble with these moments is that there seem to be a lot of things on my "try to do before you die" list. The result tends to be a rather overwhelming set of tasks that I suddenly remember I need to get to work on (write another chapter, no a blog post, no say a Rosary, no try to meet up with a friend, no write another e-mail to *redacted*, no practice Italian, no...).

I tend to over think things, especially 'hypothetical' or theoretical (or whatever '-etical' you would call it) propositions. If someone says "imagine this is your last day on Earth..." it doesn't really motivate me because I think of what I would do if I literally knew this was my last day on Earth, and those things definitely wouldn't include going to work or writing another chapter of a book I'd never finish.

More useful is the simple awareness that there is no gaurantee of tomorrow...or, heck, even another hour. Though, again, this tends to put me into panic mode where I try to think of all the things I want to do and it's like they get stuck trying to get through the door of my mind ("The three-stooges syndrome").

Momento Mori is like the nuclear option of motivation: the tricky part is channelling the energy productively, rather than letting it just spread out in confusion and eventually dissipate.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On my lack of blogging

I tend to blog in fits and starts. When I'm feeling good or energetic, I blog more. When I'm depressed or unhappy, I blog less.

That conclusion you're drawing about the last week or so? Probably correct.

The thing is, blogging and writing in general is therapeutic, but it requires a good deal of effort. When I'm depressed, I don't feel like making any kind of effort, even when I know it'll help.

Why, no, now that you mention it, that isn't a very sensible attitude.

So why don't I make the bloody effort and start blogging again if I know it'll perk me up? Well, honestly gentle reader, what do you think the point of this post is?

To conclude, here are some quotes currently floating around in my head (because I love quotes!)

"Sadness is just another word for 'not enough coffee'"
-Wally, Dilbert

"Had I such a wife, I would not willingly bring a tear to her beautiful eye!"
-Andrew Jackson, after seeing Lewis Robards yelling at Robards then-wife, Rachel, later Jackson's wife.

"A page of history is worth a volume of logic."
-Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

-Calvin and Hobbes

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thoughts at Work

9:37 AM
Oh, good! Another company has split one purchase order between two invoices, requiring me to create two distinct receipt numbers! I'm going to go read some politics to cheer me up...yep, Obama's still incompetant and possibly evil. Still, at least he makes more sense than SAP.

10:05 AM
Italian Wikipedia doesn't have an article on Solanus Casey...though it does have a fairly elaborate one on Padre Pio. 'E Stato' apparently means 'was:' it shows up all the time in wikipedia articles...

10:25 AM
Most people are in meetings, and since I need their information that means I can't do any work right now...

10:43 AM
Work, work, listen to co-workers chatting, work...

10:55 AM
Morrison Industrial! "I am the lizard king!"

11:36 AM
As a side note, you can tell the Democrats are feeling confident about this election since it's not like they're doing anything really childish like comparing Romney to a Batman villain or anything pathetic like that...oh, wait.

11:41 AM
I think I'm gonna go to lunch...

12:45 PM
Mmm, good lunch!

12:50 PM
Blogging about the whole 'Bain=Bane' thing...

1:51 PM
Just went and got the mail. Reading about the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest on Wikipedia. Two more hours...

2:10 PM
Did Pyrrhus do anything right?

2:39 PM
Starting to get to the 'I think I drank too much coffee' phase of the day.

3:50 PM
My car is ready to be picked up from the service center, so I'm leaving.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On what I don't write about

I just got back from a delightful visit to my sister in Maine and her adorable daughter (who just turned one this last week! *party-favor-noise*!). While I was there we had a little while to talk about writing and blogging and the like. She mentioned that she likes reading about day-to-day life, random thoughts, and personal reflections and that sort of thing.

I don't really blog much about day-to-day life, because frankly I think my day-to-day life is pretty boring: I go to work and sit rather numbly in an office all day, doing dull administrative jobs, writing, reading politics, and occasionally chatting with my co-workers. At home I read or sit on the computer, occasionally exercising or trying to learn guitar. Not a whole lot of gist to write about.

The interesting points in my life, the things that occupy most of my non-writing-related thoughts meanwhile, tend to be too private to post online. They're things I want to keep closer to chest (so to speak) until I have a better grasp on them. I hope, in the future, to be able to write about them, but for the moment I am being delicate and cautious. Plus, I think I'm naturally a rather private person; partially from bad past experiences and partially because of a rather pathological desire not to bother anyone with my own petty grievances :).

In any case, certain topics of my concern are, for the time being, off-limits blogwise. If any become suddenly available (which, in case you are confused on the subject, would be a very good thing), I'll be sure to alert you that this is one of those 'Forbidden' subjects before launching into it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fr. Solanus and Ice Cream

I visited the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit the other day (mostly because a good friend of mine volunteers there and it was a chance to hang out with her for a while). During the tour, she recounted one of the most amusing miracle stories I've ever heard. It seems Fr. Solanus was sitting at his desk one particularly hot day enjoying a chocolate ice-cream cone when he had one of his visitors seeking his spiritual direction. For reasons best known to himself, he stuck the ice cream in his desk drawer and went out to meet the visitor. They talked for an hour or so and Fr. Solanus went back to his desk, retrieved the (miraculously still frozen) ice cream, and continued his tasty treat.

There's such a beautiful simplicity to that story, and a rather humorous indulgence on God's part. The thought seems to be "Solanus is doing My work, so he deserves that ice cream." I love casualness on display here; Fr. Solanus simply drops everything to go minister, then picks it back up again when he's finished. It's the kind of simplicity and ease that I wish I could imitate in my own relationship with God.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 3: Imagine You Are a Baby

Imagine you are a baby. Look around the room - see everything for the first time! Describe.

There’s a space…a space outside me! I wonder if there’s anything outside of it? There’s definitely an end to the space though: white borders all around. There are big blocks in front of all the borders too: some of them are very flat, others kind of stick out a little. Most of them have different colors on them, especially the ones that stick out. One of the flat ones is kind of odd; it glows a little it’s nice to look at. Then in front of that there’s a weird black thing; it doesn’t really have a shape. I don’t think I like that one very much, it's a little scary. Whatever I’m sitting on sure is comfortable, but it keeps moving whenever I move. I’m not sure I like that. There’s some grey stuff beneath me, that must be another border. And on it there’s a group of lumpy little objects; they don’t look very interesting. There’s also a curvy black thing. Maybe it’s the same sort of thing as that other black thing, the one I didn’t like? This one is much nicer looking. There’s also a curvy brown thing a little ways away from it. That looks like the most interesting thing in the place: I’d like to roll it around a little and see what happens. Oh, and there’s a green thing in front of the flat glowing block. It’s moving a little, but it looks interesting. Actually, it looks kind of tasty. I'd like to try out that curvy brown thing now...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 2: Eat an Orange in Sections

For Christmas my sister made me a small notebook with a series of day-to-day questions to think and write over. And I am now finally getting around to starting on it. I'm beginning with Day 2 (since Day 1 more involves commenting on her blog).

Day 2: Eat an orange in sections. Describe the tastes & textures!

Cool, very stringy, and soft. Smooth and with a very slight tang, but not so much that it is unpleasant. The pieces break apart very easily in the mouth and seem to slip down the throat with very little fuss or worry. The sensation is less of cutting the pieces up with your teeth and more of compressing the juices out of them, leaving them deflated and of swallowable size. The taste is quite agreeable; cool and liquid, though I’m not a huge fan of the feel of the squeezed out, stringy bits of orange that remain in my mouth after the tasty juices have been already ingested. That, and the outer rim of the pieces has a most disagreeable texture and appearance to it, like mold, making the sight of them rather unappetizing. Furthermore, as time goes on the tanginess builds up and becomes more noticeable and more of a problem. On the whole, though, I found the experience to be tasty and refreshing.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Another New Goal

Since I've been delaying and putting this off for a lot longer than I should have, I'm making it a goal to have "The Popes" sing-along recorded by the end of June. Which means getting a lot better at guitar than I have been (and it also means finally getting that editing software). Look for that in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Goal

I'm announcing a new goal (which I actually set last week, but anyway) of giving myself sixty days to finish the first draft of my next book: The Chronicles of Hendricks. This is a rather daunting task, since not only is Hendricks envisioned as a lot longer than Lepus, but I'm still working on some basic details. There's certainly a lot that I know will be going on, but the story's anchor, its theme so to speak, still eludes me at the moment. Nevertheless, I'm plugging away at it as best I can, and hopefully I'll come up with a good solid truth to wrap the story around before I get too much farther.

The goal is to finish the first draft by July 23rd. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Cemeteries

                Yesterday I attended Mass at the local cemetery and then took a while to wander the graves, reading the headstones. It was very moving, reading the names of people long dead, seeing the dates of their lives marked out. Some lived well into their seventies or eighties, others barely lasted a few days, but each was laid to rest here in this peaceful piece of property. Some were marked with identifications like “U.S. Army” or “SSRGT U.S. Marine Corps,” together with the war they served in, if any. Most of them had small flags stuck into the ground next to them. Many were double markers for husbands and wives, complete with the date of their marriage.
                The overwhelming idea that struck me again and again was not the fact of death, but of life. Here were people who had lived, bled, loved, and died, who had run the race and fought the fight. Here their lives were summarized in a few names and dates, and yet I could imagine or picture them as clearly as if I had read their biographies, if not quite in the details then at least in the feeling, the impression of their lives. Life in all its complexities, struggles, joys, and pains was made manifest to me in a way it seldom has. There are few places where the reality of life is made more tangible than in a cemetery. It felt to me like I could endure all the pain and suffering that is to come better for knowing that these resting souls had done so before me.   
                As I walked along, I was remembering something that Abraham Lincoln said once. He and his wife were driving through a cemetery, and he was so struck by the tranquility and beauty of the place that he had the driver pause for a while. “Mary,” he said. “You are younger than I, and you will outlast me. When I die, lay my remains in a place like this.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Epigraphs

Lepus is essentially complete, or at least ready to be sent out for its first test in the real world with unsuspecting minds. I'm eager (and a little nervous) to see how it's received, since, like most of my stories, it's kind of an odd little duck. Not to mention that this is the very first feeler of the massive 'Tomiverse' to be reached out into the world at large. Success means that more will follow. Failure...well, I'm not really sure what will happen in the event of failure, to be honest.

The only thing that's really left to do is to finish adding the epigraphs. See, I've decided that every book, chapter, and short-story that I write will be preceded by a short quotation, and right now I'm struggling to find the right ones for the two chapters of Lepus that still lack them.

I really enjoy the process of collecting epigraphs. In the first place it gives me an incentive to read more classic literature (I've read two new Shakespeare plays over the past couple weeks) and collect tons and tons of quotations. Also, I love the symbolism, the play of subtlties involved in finding just the right quotation for each chapter. I try to pick quotes that don't just allude to what will happen, but which actually lend deeper meaning to the events, or foreshadow future developments, or hint at an unexpected interpretation. When I find the perfect quote, it's like finding the right piece of a jiggsaw puzzle or the solution to some brain-teaser: a combination of delight at my own cleverness and gratitude that such a quote exists and fits my story so well.

Though it's not just classic literature: I've made it a rule that nothing is out-of-bounds or unworthy to be a source for a quote, only provided that it fits. In Lepus, for instance, I've got quotes from Confucius, Dante, Iron Man, I Was a Teenage Werewolf (seriously) and, of course, Watership Down among others. I'm going by the same rule that applies to "Catholicity of Taste:" whatever tells the truth and tells it well is acceptable.

The delay has also given me a chance to make some last minute edits and adjustments before sending it out. I'm hoping to settle on the final two quotes this weekend and send it out for critiquing either Sunday or Monday. Exciting!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm Insane

I've known this for a while, of course, what with the voices in my head, my second personality, massive mood swings, and that three-week killing spree I blackmailed the media to cover up...sorry, said too much there.

But now it's been officially confirmed: I've started a personal project for fun and education of reading and summarizing the entire Summa Theologica. I'm on Question 3 of Part One right now. Somebody stop me before it's too late...

Incidentally, I've already discovered that St. Thomas eschews racism. Prima Pars Question 3, Article 3.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life Update

I've been sick for the past couple of weeks, and while I am feeling much better now it threw off my monthly goals considerably. I have a tendency to seize excuses for not getting things done, a habit I really need to break.

In the meantime, I've reached a rather daunting decision: I need to learn how to draw. See, I have determined to illustrate my stories in addition to writing them. I tried a couple of 3D art programs (Poser, DAZ, etc), but found them disappointingly clumsy and wholly inadequate to my work. So, the only alternative is to bite the bullet and learn to actually draw the illustrations myself. As all my pencil-related-skills are woefully lacking, this is going to take a lot of work, but no alternative.

I've been doing a good deal of self-reflecting recently, and have found that I have a curious kind of permanant tenseness. Not quite sure where it comes from or (more importantly) how to get rid of it, but I know it must go if I'm ever to make any progress in crafting the life I want. More on this issue (let's call it 'the Knot') as it develops. I've also realized that I enter every conversation under the assumption that no one really wants to talk to me, but is putting up with me out of politeness. That's something rather

With my return to relative health, I have again embarked on the slow, painful process of crafting a daily schedule. So far I've had some success with working in prayer and exercise, but less with writing, reading, and studying.

The good news is that I did finish Lepus, so now I just need to go back and revise it a little (I'm redoing the whole opening, for instance) then I'm going to send it out to family and friends for review.

So, goals for May:

1. Learn Italian: need to imerse myself in la lingua Italiano.
2. Study drawing: already had some success practicing on my own, and now I'm looking to take a course at the local community college, so we'll see how that turns out.
3. Schedule. Same as always.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Couple Random Thoughts

If I ever become a priest (unlikely, but no unthinkable), I plan on finishing up Easter Vigil Mass by shooting off a boatload of the biggest, loudest fireworks I can find. It'll both express the joy and triumph of the Ressurection and will symbolize the Harrowing of Hell by getting sleeping people out of their beds for miles around.

The above is one of the reasons I probably shouldn't be a priest.

I never know my characters until I actually sit down and start writing them. Today they started up an inprumptu philosophical debate that concluded in linking their continuity to The Beginning of the End (or at least a version of it). Now I know what some writers mean when they say their characters take on lives of their own.

Someday I'm going to compile a complete list of all the references, shout-outs, and allusions in my books. It's going to be a massive list. I have a bit of an obsession with making obscure references in my work.

I think I'm becoming addicted to certain people's company. "Just a five minute conversation. That's all I need, I swear. Oh, God, I'm gettin' the shakes here..."

I might be writing a review of Jim Cameron's Titanic for the 100th anniversary of the sinking. The trouble is that that would mean I would actually have to watch the bloody thing again. Still, I'm gonna have post negative reviews at some point (or reviews in general: I've rather fallen off of that, haven't I?), so it might as well start with a film I have a particular hatred for. Look for that at Catholicity of Taste on the 12th, but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't show.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Goals update

I think it's time to admit I'm not very good at this goals thing:

1. Establish a daily schedule and follow it for a week.
-Nope, not yet.
2. Learn to switch between B and C, as well as A, E, and D on the guitar without stopping.
-I can pretty much switch between B and C, though I really need to practice more
3. Finish cleaning out my room at my parents' house.
-Got a start, but the job was bigger than I anticipated so I'll need to try again when I have more boxes. That's what I'm planning on doing Easter week.
4. Finish at least three chapters.
-Now this I managed easily: I finished a good five chapters from Lepus.

Well, if at first you don't succeed, etc. etc. Goals for April:

1. Establish a daily schedule.
2. Finish clearing out my room at my parent's house
3. Practice guitar a lot more and perfect the B-C transition, as well as working on A, E, and D
4. Finish Lepus.
5. Learn Italian (yes, I'm serious about that: I'm going to try to imerse myself in the language this month)

See you next month for an update!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Car Troubles

                My trusty Ford Focus, Frank, failed me for the first time the other day: he simply refused to start. Turns out his fuel pump has died, which is going to cost me a pretty penny to replace. Such is life, and considering I’ve had Frank for about five years now, driving back and forth to college multiple times in him, and this is the first serious trouble he’s ever given me, I’d say I don’t have much to complain about.
                In the meantime, I’ve been making use of alternative means of transportation: namely, buses and feet. I have found riding the bus to work to be surprisingly enjoyable: very low-stress, even relaxing. I just take a seat, pull out my Kindle, and read the Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt while enjoying the fact that this trip isn’t costing me a single gallon of gas.
                Part of what makes any experience enjoyable is the extent to which it reminds you of other experiences you may have had. Thus, for me, something like, say, being with a lot of people at once isn’t very enjoyable in part because I’ve had bad experiences with crowds and lots of people. Riding the bus, on the other hand, is something that reminds me of good experiences: of being in Europe, for instance: the bus in Rome or the subway in Paris. So I find being on the bus has a calming, soothing effect on me because it puts me in mind of good memories.
                I also have been walking more: yesterday I walked all the way home from work, a trip of a little less than an hour and a half. Those of you who saw the news will note that this meant that, for the last stage of the journey, I was walking in a storm, during which my trusty umbrella truly earned its keep: my pants and shoes were soaked, but most of my upper body stayed nice and dry (comparatively speaking). Heck, it even warded off hailstones with surprising effectiveness. So now I can add ‘walking in a tornado’ to my list of life experiences (not one I’d particularly like to repeat let me add).
                Having to walk has given me a new appreciation for it: why do I have to get in my car to drive just across the street for lunch? Why can’t I just stroll up to the mailbox outside work to drop off letters? What is an hour-and-a-half walk more or less?
                On the one hand, Frank breaking down is a major pain: it’s expensive and extends my commutes by at least a half-hour. On the other, I’m actually rather glad it happened, since it forced me to confront the fact that I use him too much: I have a perfectly functional bus system and two perfectly functional feet, I don’t need to be using so much expensive gas on short trips like that.
                I’m looking forward to getting Frank back, because I miss the independence of having a car. But I think I’ll continue to ride the bus and walk sometimes, since why spend money on what you can get for free?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vita Nova Update

I said I'd give an update on how my goals went, and here it is:

1. Establish a Daily Schedule and follow it for a week.
- Eh, I only managed a few isolated days. Still, I enjoyed them (actually, I found them to be much more enjoyable than most days), so now I'm putting this on the list for March.
2. Learn to switch between C and G on the guitar without stopping playing.
-Well, I'm a lot better at it than I was. I intend to step up my guitar practice for March.
3. Get pictures and sword hung up.
-Pictures are all hung up (or out being framed), but the sword has given me more trouble. It took me forever to find suitable hooks and now I need to somehow make them stand out form the wall a little to fit it on.
4. Finish at least two chapters.
- Done and done! Two chapters from "The Chronicles of Hendricks" and one from "Lepus" are now in at least semi-finished states.

So, a mixed bag, but on the whole not very successful. Oh, well. For March, let's see:

1. Establish a daily schedule and follow it for a week.
2. Learn to switch between B and C, as well as A, E, and D on the guitar without stopping.
3. Finish cleaning out my room at my parents' house.
4. Finish at least three chapters.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent Thoughts and Plans

“Rejoice always”
Another year, another Lent is upon us and for the first time I’ve had people helpfully pointing out that I have ink on my forehead (in past years I’ve always been at home or at an intensely Catholic college for Ash Wednesday).
I am conceiving of Lent this time around as a time of purgation: getting the bad and overemphasized parts of myself out of my system. Speaking of which, I’ve noticed that some people justify their sins or otherwise unsavory behavior by claiming that they’re “getting it out of my system” (I’ve noticed this mostly in the process of doing it myself), when actually what they’re doing is putting it into their system. When someone, say, views pornography or blows up in anger they aren’t purging something from inside themselves, they’re reinforcing the bad tendency they already have. “I’m getting it out of my system” is a pretty silly excuse when you stop to think about it: do you conceive sin as a kind of reservoir inside yourself which can only be removed by doing it?
Anyway, I’ve decided to minimize what I ‘give up’ this time around and instead work on what I’m going to ‘take up’ (that sounded cheesy and self-righteous, didn’t it? Sorry). I’m not gonna run down a list of what I’m doing for Lent, since there’s the whole ‘go into your inner room…anoint your head’ command against holding up our good works to be seen.
The one thing I will note is that I’m going to try to be more joyful. While I don’t like to admit it, the fact is that I’m a rather grouchy person a lot of the time. So, as part of my Lenten commitment, I’m going to try to stop worrying, grieving, and growling so much and try to be more relaxed, more loving, more open to the joy in my life. Lent’s the perfect time to try to be more joyful, since, in the first place, it’s the lead up to the celebration of our salvation and, in more coldly practical terms, by removing distractions and trying to draw closer to God, we ought to become more aware of the reasons we have to be joyful.
Holy and Happy Lent to all!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vita Nova

A month ago I finally moved out of my parents' house and into my first apartment. And I'm loving it!

Now, for those who don't know me, I'm of a rather solitary temperment: I don't like being with other people for too long (at least, most other people). Living on my own, therefore, has been a long-standing goal and now I finally acheived it!

But, the honeymoon's over and it's time to get down to brass tacks (what the heck are brass tacks and what does it mean to 'get down to them'?). Part of the moving out plan was that I would totally restructure my life: I would craft myself into the person I want to be living the life I want to live. So far, that's been met with only mild success. This blog, therefore, is a journal of my attempts to live the life I want.

It is now Feb. 8th: by the end of the month I want to have the following goals acheived:
1. Establish a daily schedule and follow it for at least one week.
2. Learn to switch between G and C on the guitar without stopping my playing
3. Get my pictures and sword hung up
4. Finish at least two chapters in my books (not necessarily from the same book)

Reasonably simple goals, so I really ought to be able to follow them. Next month I'll up the ante a bit.