Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Vol 21

I swear I didn’t mean to have this many references to blood and horror!

1.       Been a while since I’ve done this. Of course, blogging in general has fallen off. Actually, a lot of things have; I’m becoming more reclusive by the day. Reclusion is like tasting human blood; once you get the hunger

2.       You know, of all the posts you read on today’s 7 Quick Takes Lists (hosted by Conversion Diary, of course), that last one’s probably gonna be the creepiest. Sorry, my mind comes up with weird analogies. Let me clarify; I’m temporarily letting my reclusive nature run away with me due to a number of factors, including an increase in allotted writing time. I do not, as of yet, have a taste for human blood.

3.       Remember a couple weeks ago when I said my external hard-drive, will all my video files broke? Well, turns out it’s a ‘Level 3’ damage, meaning that it’d cost over $1,300 to possibly recover anything, in addition to the $250 I already put down. So, that’s it; it’s gone. I’m not emptying my bank account for the possibility of recovering some files. Good bye every single one of my video files! Or, not quite; I remembered I still have an old, smaller external hard-drive, which included a goodly chunk of my video files (I can’t just use it permanently because 1. It’s too small for my purposes and 2. It’s formatted for a PC and I’m on Mac now). Not all by any stretch, but at least I didn’t actually have to start from scratch. Thank God for small miracles!

4.       I’ve been doing a lot of my writing recently at a small coffee shop not far from my apartment. It’s small, fairly quiet (occasionally it’s more, ahem, ‘cozy’ than I would like. Being the recluse that I am, I prefer at all times to maintain at least ten-feet of space between me and anyone whom I have not given express permission to approach), and has really good coffee and cookies. Very conducive to working, and I tend to get a lot more done there than at my apartment.

5.       Speaking of writing, some of you may have seen the report of what I’m working on the other day. For those who missed it, it’s basically “1st Samuel with dinosaurs.” Of course, I’ve also got ideas coming out of my ears; more stuff for the Gods and Monsters universe, a dream-based story that’s existed in one form or another for years, my ‘Teddy Roosevelt vs. the Jersey Devil’ historical fiction series, and a Se7en-style Batman fan-fiction, to name the most prominent pieces at the moment. So much to write, so little time!

6.       I’ve been reading H.P. Lovecraft for the first time. My first story was Dagon, which was something of a disappointment: falling asleep in the middle of the ocean and waking up in the middle of a desert covered in dead fish has it’s creepiness, but on the whole the story just didn’t convince me of the narrators insanity. I was thinking “okay, so you discovered a lost race of fishmen; get over it. Julie Adams got abducted by one of those things, and you don’t see her going all emo about it.” My second story was Pickman’s Model, which was refreshingly and delightfully creepy. “No, no, trust me; it’s just the rats. They keep trying to get out of that old well…”

7.       When it comes to music, recently I’ve mostly been incessantly playing songs from Newsies (yes, the Disney movie from the early 90’s starring a very young Christian Bale). See, I like musicals, and when I discover a new one I have the habit of fixating on a few songs and playing them repeatedly for a couple weeks. Seize the day!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On Writing

Back when I was still blogging, I occassionally made reference to my 'current writing project with a very marketable premise.' Since November is writing month (not really doing Nanowrimo, but I'm trying to set a goal of finishing the first draft during the month), I figure I might let you in on a few things:

The title is (tentatively)  Lost City of the Dimetrodons. The premise is an epic-fantasy book-to-series set in a world where humans live alongside dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. The dinosaurs aren't the sentient beings of the Dinotopia books, but just animals of varying degrees of intelligence, savagery, and domestication. I'm taking it as a challenge to make them as accurate as I can. So, for instance, the theropods are almost all covered in feathers, most pterosaurs are much too small to carry a human, and the big predators don't come running for the great taste of people. Of course, telling a good story and making it fun is more important, so if it ever becomes a toss up between science and storytelling, storytelling wins (for instance, I think my pteranodon is slightly bigger than it really was; six-feet tall standing instead of about four-to-five, depending on who you ask).

So, I've got the premise. I've got the core cast of characters (they fit rather neatly into the 'five man band' model, though I don't think they're stock fantasy figures by any stretch. At least, if anyone else has, say, a 3 1/2 foot, pteranodon-riding version of Cyrano de Bergerac, I'm not aware of it). I kind of have the plot, though it could use some streamlining. I just need to work on shaping it into a coherent whole. More on that as it develops.

Meanwhile, Hendricks continues its posting, and I just realized I need to edit/finish a particularly large chapter before it is scheduled to go up on Friday!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Monster's Back

The few of you who have read this blog for a while may remember that my first blog was called 'Monstrus Dei.' I abandoned it after deciding I wanted to write in a different style, and because I couldn't really think of much else to say.

Now, though, I think that I've both developed my voice enough and have enough angry, sarcastic rants bottled up inside me that I'm reviving it. Or rather, I deleted all the old posts and am beginning it over again. It's no great loss: I don't think any of the old posts were that great anyway.

So, if you've got a fairly high tolerance for bluntness and sarcasm, go take a look.

Friday, October 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 20: First Aid and Online Dating

1.     Today was our annual first responders training at work, and since I’m a first responder that means I spent most of my day watching a video on First Aid. My main takeaways were A. that if I ever need CPR I really, really hope the person administering it doesn’t take time to put on latex-free gloves or fiddle with a mask to avoid catching some infectious disease from my spittle or vomit while my brain cells die by the thousand due to a lack of oxygen and B. that according to the CDC, the human race should never have made it out of the caves, since apparently any spilling of blood is a biohazard outbreak only just shy of unleashing the T-virus. I know blood-borne diseases are a real thing, but seriously people? In the video they showed us, people were putting up caution tape because a woman got a mild cut on her arm. Meanwhile I’m imagining Ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, or even the 19th century and wondering why they didn’t all end in mass extinctions.  

2.     On that note, the video goes on to talk about how companies are required by law to offer Hep B shots to employees who might get cut on the job, and that if employees refuse, they’re required to offer it again if they do in fact get cut, along with a complete medical exam, preventative shots, and counseling. The last bit made me laugh: “after we’ve filled your head with horror stories about what might happen if you touch blood, we’ll pay to help you through the trauma if that actually happens.” I’m all for companies taking care of their employees, but this struck me as a bit much. I mean, good Lord! At this rate a broken glass in the break room could send a company into Chapter 11!
“Well, we were going to bring on two new guys this month, but Ted had a nosebleed, so hiring’s been suspended another year.”
 “Way to go, Ted.”

3.     I know I promised a piece about my retreat the weekend before last, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Instead, I’ve spent my time writing posts about online dating that morph half-way through into Friday the 13th jokes. I’ll get to it sometime soon.

4.     Speaking of which, my stabbing hasn’t yielded much fruit yet, though I admit that I haven’t really started in earnest. The girl I was going to take a stab at didn’t come to anything, so now I’m searching for another girl who looks interesting enough to stab at. Stab, stab, stab.
      Just keep stabbing, just keep stabbing la! lalalala! I love to STAB!

       (hm, I hope none of my prospective matches see this).

5.     Thoughts while browsing Catholic Match: “Nice, but lives in California and doesn’t do long distance;” “Seems really insistent on ‘outgoing’ as a quality in a match, so much for that one;” “Her profile pic makes it look like she wants to bite my throat out;” “Perfect! But I already tried her and didn’t get a response;” “…This one’s entire ‘about me’ is a Bible quote. Thanks, that helps a lot;” “…And this one spent half her introduction talking about her dog!” “I already tried this one…but that was a really long time ago and she’s got a ton of common interests, so I’m gonna give it another shot.”

6.     On a happier note, I discovered that some generous soul uploaded a host of classic film serials. I love classic serials! I’ve been enjoying Federal Operator 99 all this week, which was actually a lot better than I was expecting. I mean, I love serials, but they’re often not what you’d call good. This one, though, is one of the better one’s I’ve seen; it has a worthwhile hero, a nicely oily villain, and an atypically gutsy and involved heroine. Usually in these things the girl doesn’t really do much except get kidnapped and imperiled (which I like, don’t get me wrong), but this one actually plays an active role in foiling the bad guys. She even rescues the hero at one point!  

7.     You know, it’s funny; when I’m at work, all I want to do is write. When I’m at home, I have to really force myself to sit down and get to it. Maybe it’s because there’re fewer distractions at work, or maybe I’m just in a ‘work mode.’

 Wherefore art thou, Conversion Diary?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Whims of Writing

So, I was supposed to be buckling down to work on my Epic Fantasy series. Either that or doing editing work on Hendricks. Instead, I hit upon an idea which has been percolating unseriously for a while and which I pretty much just started on a whim. Now I find it's just too much fun not to play around with. It's just a quick, fairly short book about a teenage girl who takes up a hobby as a cat-burglar.

The premise is fun enough, but what really makes it a blast to write is that it's in the first person perspective of a rather bubbly and easily-distracted teenage girl, who is reporting in semi-present tense. In the opening scene, for instance, she has trouble remembering which character from The Iliad the ancient mask she's stealing is supposed to be connected to, then complains that the method for beating motion detectors doesn't work as well as it did on Mythbusters ("Jaime and Adam lied to me"). It's frankly just too much fun to put down.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More Online Dating Stuff!

So, my online dating experience has been pretty lackluster so far. I keep finding beautiful, interesting-seeming women with a lot of common interests who don't so much as glance at my profile when I messege them. Or they glance at the profile, but don't reply.

That makes me wonder whether I'm going about this the wrong way; am I supposed to open with an "I like this, this, and this about you and would like to get to know you better" message, or should I just dive right in with a chat invite? Anyway, that's what I've decided to try next. There's a very lovely young lady I've got my eye on whom I'm going to take a stab at...okay, I took a stab last night, but I'm not sure whether she was online or not, so I'll take another one. And I'll just keep stabbing until something happens!

Wait, that sounds wrong...

"Stab, stab, stabbity,, are you into horror movies at all?"

Friday, October 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 19

Still hosted by Conversion Diary!

1.       I went on my long-weekend personal retreat last week. I’ve been meaning to write a dedicated post about it, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Consider this a foretaste. In any case, I had a wonderful time; I read and wrote and played my violin and walked around the woods hacking tree branches with my machete to use in a fire and just sat outside looking at Lake Michigan and reflecting.

2.       I loved the quiet of the UP (though I wasn’t as isolated as I had hoped; there being cabins on either side of me and Escanaba right across the bay). I could just sit and breathe and think for long periods without an distractions, and I loved it. Speaking of no distractions, there wasn’t any wi fi, so I got a lovely four-day break from the internet, reinforcing my previous suspicions that I use it way too much.

3.       As part of the reflection part I read (partly) through two excellent books: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller. I’d read both before, but enjoyed the chance to review them and re-absorb the powerful messages therewithin. They both helped me do some diagnosis and planning for making a better life for myself. I’ll probably talk more about that in the future when I’ve had more opportunity to digest my reflections.

4.       I also read some Plato, which was delightful, and it inspired me to do some work on a very casual book on Ethics I’ve been fiddling with. Ethics is sort of my passion philosophically; I love parsing and fiddling with it and coaxing out all sorts of lovely little rules and axioms. Most of my writing, though, was dedicated to the new book series I’m working on, about which I don’t want to say too much except that I’m aiming at the young adult market and it has an extremely marketable premise. J  

5.       So, I recently got a new desk-top computer to supplement my over-taxed laptop. This means that, for the first time in ages, I’ve been able to indulge in my hobby of making music videos. At least, I managed to make one before my external hard-drive, which contains all my video files, broke down, necessitating my sending it out to try to get the data recovered, which will take a few weeks and cost a considerable amount of dough. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.

6.       Of course, everyone in the Catholic blogsphere has been struggling mightily to come to terms with Pope Francis’s recently revealed penchant for giving off-the-cuff interviews in which he says things that are easily misconstrued, which in the process means that a lot of his less-confusing and lovely statements get missed. For my part, I rather wish he’d be a bit more careful, but I also wish everyone reading him would calm down and listen a little more carefully. I still love Francis, though he certainly isn’t my style of Pope (I’m more like Benedict; bookish, quiet, and not really a fan of being with a lot of people). Speaking of which, we’ve been hearing from Pope Emeritus Benedict a lot more than I had expected, which is all to the good! If you haven’t read the released sections of his letter to the atheist mathematician regarding the latter’s review of his book, go find it now!

7.       I was shocked to hear that Tom Clancy – whom I haven’t read nearly enough but consider myself a fan of – died at the much-too young age of 66. Clancy was a conservative and at least in some way a Catholic, both of which are sadly rare things among bestselling authors. But what we’ll remember him for is his excellent thrillers like The Hunt for Red October and (the only book of his I’ve read and one of my favorites) Rainbow Six. Requiescat in pacem, magister.

Friday, September 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 18

1.       So, here’s a question: do I have a bad attitude if I honestly don’t care about my job except insofar as it pays the bills? I mean, I work at a place where people basically spend their time re-inventing the light bulb. I really wasn’t aware of any great defect in my car’s head lamps, nor of any need for novelty mood-lighting in the interior. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to get excited about endlessly refining something that pretty much has worked fine for at least half a century.

Cars in general just don’t interest me much; they’re just tools, and not even particularly fun tools (like shotguns). My ‘dream car,’ as far as it goes, is one of those pick-up trucks that keeps running for decades and only gets sold when they stop making parts for it. In short; I honestly don’t think we’re doing anything particularly important, and even if we were, I wouldn’t have much interest in it. Is that bad? Should I try to make myself care about my job? What do you think?

(I really hope my boss doesn’t see this.)

2.       A series of recent internet articles/discoveries from disparate sources has helped me really make peace with my introvertedness. I seriously could have used this kind of advice a little earlier, when everyone was trying to get me to go out and ‘socialize’ with people and acting like there was something wrong because I didn’t find much common ground with my fellow high schoolers. Better late than never, though.

3.       I’m still breaking from the online dating scene. I have the idea that I really need to settle on a career/vocational path and make a little progress in that field before I search for a mate.

4.       Our esteemed hostess at Conversion Diary mentioned an argument with her husband about the possibility of mixing rap and country. I loathe rap and love country, but I have to come down in the “it CAN be done” camp, based on the song Answer to No One. How many songs involve someone boasting about being a ‘Republican voter’? For that line alone, the song rocks hard.

5.       I just took the Meirs-Briggs Personality thingy again, and this time I came up as ‘INTJ.’ I’m not entirely convinced that’s accurate (I’m not aware of much ‘unrelenting self confidence’ at the moment), but it’s kinda cool. Well, except that, according to the website, INTJs are “likely to be completely clueless when it comes to attracting a partner.” Yeah, tell me something I don’t know. Apparently, I’m the same personality type as Vladimir Putin, Augustus Caesar, and both Hannibals (the general and the cannibal). Suddenly, my dreams of world-domination don’t seem quite so fanciful.

6.       As part of this week’s 7 Quick Takes, we were also asked to come up with the song that best expresses our personality type. Me? I picked The Impossible Dream; idealistic, defiant, magnanimous, and devoted to higher ideals to the exclusion of conventions. That sounds about right.

7.       I plan to use my upcoming vacation to do some serious discernment and come up with a good blueprint for some short and long term goals. Time, I think, to buckle down and get serious about, as the subheading says, crafting the life I want.

Friday, September 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 17

Conversion Diary again. 

1.        Missed last couple weeks for one reason or another. Actually, have falling off blogging almost entirely, for one reason or another. I’ll try to remedy that soon.

2.       So, Chronicles is now on its fourth week, and I’ve gotta admit, I was expecting a bit more response. I don’t know; maybe people aren’t aware that it’s up? Maybe they just don’t really care? One of my friends said she wasn’t sure whether she was supposed to comment. For the record, if you’re reading it, that’s pretty much the whole point! Anyway, the little response I’ve gotten has been positive so far, so that’s good.

3.       So, I’ve been fairly successful at the buckling down thing I’ve been mentioning: not very consistent, but have managed to put in a good amount of time drawing, exercising, praying, violining, and even dusted off my Italian Rosetta Stone. Regarding the violin, I’ve got a surplus of new sheet music (including a 300+ page book of Irish Folksongs I got cheap from Amazon), so that should keep me busy for a while. Recently I’ve been mostly working on Fields of Athenry, Men of Harlech, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I also got a version of Modern Major General, but it’s a bit out of my league at this point.   

4.       Drawing wise, I think I’m actually beginning to improve a little; I actually produced at least one (1) copy that I think doesn’t suck!  I don’t have any scanning technology, so I can’t show it to you, but it actually came out (I think) pretty well. Go me!

5.       I’m taking a break from the online dating scene. Partly because I want to focus on other things at the moment, partly because I was getting very tired of finding attractive women who share a lot of my interests and who then never respond when I try to get in touch with them. I’m taking this as a sign that God doesn’t really want me dating at the moment, and I plan to put the extra time and effort to good use.

6.       Problems of a Fantasy Writer:
·         Could I get away with calling something “the Forbidden Zone”?
·         My Romanized Hebrew dictionary doesn’t have all the words I’m looking for
·         I’ve got someone fencing with a rapier and dagger in what’s supposed to be based on Ancient Israel.
·         Would it be worth it trying to find a reference/dictionary for Ancient Punic?
·          Should this world have crude firearms or not? I don’t really want it to, but if not, how do they fight off the allosaurs?

For the record, I didn't make any of those up: those are all real issues I'm working on at the moment.

7.       Well, I’m all set for my vacation up north; I’ve rented a cabin, I’ve got time off, and it’s coming up fast. Whew!  I plan to spend about four days relaxing, doing serious writing, and playing my violin. Maybe go for a hike in the woods. I’m really looking forward to it!

Friday, August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 16

1.       Today is the day! I’ve finally started posting The Chronicles of Hendricks!  Kind of nervous, but also excited to see what the initial reaction is going to be.

2.       My sickness continues to linger, but it’s getting better slowly. I might be ready to start running again soon.

3.       Meanwhile, I’m still working on buckling down, even as I take a brief break from writing (except some notes for future stories, of course). Violin everyday (right now I’m focusing on the Jurassic Park theme, which is good because it really works out my pinky finger), drawing most days (right now I’m trying to copy drawings from DeviantArt that interest me. My copies largely suck so far), and working on reading at least a chapter of the Bible every night (less successful, but maybe posting this will help me be more consistent).

4.       Last weekend, while helping my brother move down to Philadelphia, the two of us started listening to an audiobook. There were warning signs that it wasn’t going to be very good, including the fact that the mystery series it was a part of is named for the main character’s cat, and the fact that the author’s cat has a co-authorship credit (though some of the turns of phrase in the book led us to believe it). I tried to be optimistic, but about the time the description included a ‘large, polished, mahogany desk’ (because the composition and shine of the desk is so vital to the scene) I gave up and we riffed on it for the rest of the CD. The fact that the leads were all incredibly self-righteous abortion-supporters (as a plot point) certainly played a factor in my enjoyment of ripping the book apart, but even apart from that it was poorly-written, with lots of unnecessary descriptions (“they climbed into the squat golf-cart” as opposed to the roomy stretch golf-cart, I guess), bad turns of phrase, and, again, self-righteous leads (I’m not just saying that because they all support abortion; they’re the kind of people who are constantly talking about other people and usually about how ‘awful’ they are, very rarely with any kind of context. Seriously, that seemed to make up roughly half the dialogue, and from what I gather we were supposed to agree with them). The ‘large, polished, mahogany desk’ became a running gag, and we identified it as the chief suspect, along with the titular cat. It was a lot of fun.

5.       It also helped me note down some of the things not to do in writing, including “don’t give your pet co-authorship” and “make sure the descriptions are A). necessary for the scene and B). don’t involve adjectives already included in the very concept of the object described.” Calling a golf-cart ‘squat’ is basically the same as saying that’s it’s a golf-cart. A necessary description for a golf-cart would be “their tricked-out golf-car with the streamers and tie-dye color scheme.” That is, it’s something that doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you say ‘golf-cart;’ something that separates this golf-cart from every other golf-cart in existence.

6.        I’m making plans for a long-weekend getaway at the end of September; to rent a cabin in the UP and just spend a few days alone; reading, writing, hiking, and what have you (probably bring the violin as well). I’ve felt the need to go off and be alone for a while now, and after spending a day or so in Philadelphia it’s become even more urgent. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I don’t really like cities, except perhaps to visit, and I felt stifled and constrained every minute we were there. I’m really looking forward to it! And during that time I plan to get a good start on my next book.

7.       The more I think about it, the more I want to put off pursuing my teaching degree. Not that I don’t intend to teach: I still do, but I find that I want to chase something else first, and I seem to be in the best position I’ll ever be to do so; I have no wife, children, or other dependents, I’ve got a job, money in the bank, and some free time. What I would really like to do is to save up some more, then leave my job and set out to write/study/practice full time for a few months or year. I’m going to keep thinking and praying about this and let you know what I decide.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On Being Alone

I like to be alone. I love isolation, space, and freedom. I feel chaffed and constrained even in my present apartment, not because it's small (the size doesn't really matter), but because there are a lot of other apartments around it. Even my sister's yurt in Maine woods seems too constrained for my tastes, as there are neighbors fairly nearby on both sides.

Last weekend we moved my brother down to Philadelphia, and I found that I hated being in the city. It felt suffocating to have so many cars and people around. I don't suppose I mind visiting, but I couldn't stand living there. I need space and quiet and isolation; the sense that no one's going to notice, let alone complain about, what I do on my own property. The way I like to put it is that I want to live somewhere where I can go shooting in my backyard and not have anyone call the police (or, you know, get shot).

Right now I'm looking into renting a cabin in the Upper Peninsula to get away for a long weekend. The very thought of being alone, out in the woods fills me with excitement. Of course, it all depends on whether I can find a suitably isolated cabin available for a reasonable price, but I'm hopeful (especially since I'll be going in late September/October, passed the summer season).

My ultimate goal is to be able to work from anywhere, so that I can live in a nice, quiet spot surrounded by nature and nothing but nature. Wide open spaces and my own land and water as far as I can see; that's the life for me.

So now you know what I'll do if I ever get a big advance on a book.

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol.15

1.       So, blogging has fallen off, as you’ve noticed. Partly that’s because I’ve been focusing on other writing, partly because of laziness, and partly because the network at work has a problem where I can’t post anything on blogger from my work computer (I know, I shouldn’t be blogging at work anyway, but it’s just so much easier, and my boss doesn’t care what I do as long as I get my work done).

2.       Regarding writing, I’m a little behind in what I was hoping to accomplish. I still expect Chronicles to be ready for its big reveal next week (yikes!), but I’ll have to buckle down a little more to make sure of it. The last big set-piece I had is done, but I still need to put in some important connecting tissue and do some re-writes on the first chapter. Oh, and I need to find more epigraphs, though fortunately that can wait, since the first few chapters are set in that regard. Long car-rides + laptop = work!

3.       With Chronicles nearing completion, I’ve been considering my next writing project. And I’ve decided. In addition to doing work in the Gods and Monsters universe where Chronicles is set (informally known as the Tomiverse), I’m also working on a very exciting epic fantasy idea. I won’t say too much here, except that the basic plot is structured around the two Books of Samuel, only with…well, you’ll see.

4.       One of the reasons I’m behind on Chronicles is that I came down with one of my seasonal colds this week. They work by hitting me hard for a couple days (Thursday was an absolute nightmare), then lingering until they’re satisfied that any fitness routines or milestones I’ve built up over the past few months have been eliminated. Well, this time I don’t intend to let that happen; come next week, I’m going right back into my exercise routine, whether I cough myself to death or not. Suck it, cold virus!

5.       Managed to get out to Mass for Mary’s Assumption, which served to confirm that my decision not to go to work on Thursday was very much the correct choice, as Mass was spent in a dreamy, stuffed-up, head-ached haze. I’m sure the Blessed Mother will forgive my lack of attentiveness and guzzling cough-drops (not to mention other things that day: it’s hard to stay faithful to pious resolutions when you feel like your sinuses are about to pop out of your skull).

6.       Wallowing in self-pity and so on has also led me to decide to make another attempt at organizing my life and building good habits/routines. Working out some ideas/goals right now, so stay tuned for updates on that score. This blog is supposed to be about that sort of thing, after all.

7.       Ummm…yeah, not much else. The last week has just been a haze of work, Nyquil, Lewis, Minecraft, Chesterton, cough-drops, Order of the Stick, and God-knows what else. SICK! 

See Conversion Diary for more and better posts.

Friday, August 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 14

1.       Well, for those of you who follow my other blog (the one I actually write on), you might have noticed that I’ve been growing more casual and sarcastic (or do I repeat myself?). That’s a feature, not a bug. I’ve decided to embrace my some-what abrasive, introverted personality and just kinda run with it. There are a number of reasons why, most revolving around the fact that trying to hide or subsume it doesn’t actually seem to have helped much in the ol’ socialization department, so why bother?

2.       One of the nice things I’ve been noticing about Online Dating is that it’s kinda forcing me to put myself forward, whether because it’s really hard to get in touch with anyone (I confess; I tried with one girl three times without getting a peep in response. Might have been rude, but I had to consider: possibility of someone I’ll never meet having a low opinion of me that she’ll quickly forget all about versus…well, let’s just say it wasn’t even close), or just because I’ve been hanging out on the forums and having people laugh at my wry comments. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

3.       By the way, sometimes I wonder whether I’m being too picky with the dating thing. Then I think; ‘well, what the heck should I be picky about if not this?’ So, yeah, I’m going in with high standards; not so much anything specific (beyond religious/political agreement) as that I’m looking for someone who stands out to me somehow as being particularly unique or smart or quirky. And if she happens to also be a petite brunette with glasses, well so much the better.

4.       So, I’m getting down to the wire with Chronicles of Hendricks. Let me explain how I’m working: I pretty much just write whatever scene I feel like, but there’s a ‘main thrust’ of the story, which means a more-or-less complete block of text starting from the beginning. At the moment, the whole book largely consists of three big chunks; the main thrust, another from slightly later on, and the ending. In other words, it’s actually coalescing into a single, solid whole. Do you remember when the T-1000 got shattered at the end of T2, and then the droplets all came together until it reformed itself? That’s kind of what my writing technique looks like. Right now, it is finally assuming a more or less human form.

5.       Okay, the heck with analogies. The point is that I have set myself a final deadline to have the whole thing done (or at least, in a presentable form) by the 23rd of August, at which point I will begin posting it in serial form at a private blog that I will set up for the purpose. More information on that as we get closer.

6.       After having deleted Minecraft for the third time (the thing soaks up time like a vacuum cleaner), I decided last weekend to reinstall it, though with strict limitations (honestly, writing and Online Dating are usually more fun anyway, but sometimes you just need to turn off the brain). Mostly it’s because I’ve found that it’s a great way to listen to audio books when you’re not driving; you just turn off the background music and it gives you something to do during the long, long hours of Nicholas Nickelby. It’s surprisingly easy to pay attention to both at the same time, and it makes you feel like you’ve actually done something worthwhile while you were lost underground hunting for diamonds.

7.       On Tuesday of this week I walked to and from work (roughly three miles one way), something I’ve been meaning to do all summer. On the way there I worked out a number of troublesome plotting problems and came up with a lot of great ideas. On the way back I was mostly saying Army cadences to myself (they really do work, by the way). I don’t know whether that was because I was tired after a long day at work or because the route I took back (I took different routes to and from to see which works better) was a lot longer, less direct, and hence tiring. Incidentally, my legs were incredibly stiff and sore all evening after that. Can’t wait to try it again next week!

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 13

It’s the Online Dating Edition of 7 Quick Takes! Some background; I started an online-dating account at Catholic about a month or so ago, and I’ve come to the following conclusions:

1.       First, let me say that Catholic Match has this thing were there’s both a paid account (which let’s actually communicate with the other users) and an unpaid account (which doesn’t). I guess I can understand the thinking behind this (it's exactly the same policy behind porn sites: lure them in with pretty girls and then GRAB ‘EM!). What I can’t understand is why THERE’S NO WAY TO TELL IF A GIVEN PERSON HAS A PAID ACCOUNT OR NOT! Meaning that it’s entirely possible to find what appears to be a great girl and not only not be able to get in touch with her, but to have no way of knowing whether you even can get in touch with her! I hate, hate, HATE that policy!  

2.       A lot of people need to put more thought into their ‘about me’ profiles. I swear, at least three-quarters of them start with some variation of “I love my family and I’m passionate about my faith!” Yeah, I kind of assumed that you’re into your faith, seeing as how you’re on a Catholic dating site and you checked off the “I accept all Church teachings” option. And I’m glad you love your family, but as far as relationships go, that’s…frankly not the first question I would ask. ‘What are you passionate about? How would you describe your personality? What do you want out of life?’ Those would be the questions to deal with upfront, not confirming that, yes, you came to a Catholic dating site because you are indeed Catholic.

3.       And while we’re on the subject, I realize fifty words (usually the above “I’m Catholic and I love my family” line) ending with “message me if you want to know more!” sounds all humble and enticing and stuff, but from my perspective it’s just annoying. The idea of these ‘about me’ things is to give a broad overview so that people can see whether or not you have similar personalities or interests. If I have no idea what you’re into, or what you might like to talk about, I’m probably not going to message you with basic questions like that. There’s enough drama and frustrations in the dating world without having to spend a week of e-mailing/chatting back and forth only to discover that we have nothing in common, which you could have let me know right away by filling out your bloody profile a bit more! Seriously, how hard is it to say “I’m into horses, literature, and my hobby is making pipe-bombs”?  (incidentally, if your hobby is pipe-bombs, that’s an automatic 'message that person!’ for me). Not only does it help me to judge whether I want to get in touch with you, but having a unique, interesting hobby (i.e. pipe-bombs) makes you all the more attractive. Don’t be shy! Fill out everything you can!

4.       Girls, don’t let your profile pic sell you short. I’ve seen tons and tons of dark, fuzzy, red-eyed, and just-plain-bad profile photos. The thing is, about half the time if I do click on their profile, I find a half-a-dozen other, much better pictures. Why wouldn’t you use one of the ones that actually make you look pretty, instead of the one that makes you look like it was taken when you had been up for forty-eight hours straight and/or had been recently possessed?
Two more things: one, make sure that at lest one photo on your profile actually shows your undistorted face (framed in shadows or a hundred feet from the camera doesn't count). I'm not going to be asking that bridge you're posing on for a date; I want to see what you look like. Two, for goodness sakes, smile! Do you really think you’ll attract a guy to check out your profile by glaring sullenly into the camera? “Wow, she looks like she hasn’t laughed since the Clinton administration: be still my heart!” 

5.       On a related note, some advice for guys interested in trying this sort of thing: don’t necessarily judge how attractive the girl is just by her profile pic. Sometimes it gives you a good idea of her appearance, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve had the following happen a number of times when I go to view a profile: *search page* “okay, she’s not bad looking…” *click* “AI CHIHUAHUA!”

6.       If you think it might be less frustrating than normal dating (as I foolishly did), you’re in for a very rude awakening. Here are some typical interactions:

Me: “Hey, I like your profile; I’m into that sort of thing too! Want to talk sometime?”
Her: *No response*

Me: “Wow, you’re really pretty and funny! Let me know if you want to chat or email!”
Her: *No response*

Me: “Judging from your profile, you’re exactly what I’ve been hoping to find! I think you’re fascinating, gorgeous, and funny and I’d love to try to get to know you better.”
Her: *No response*

Her: *No response*

7.       Despite the above, it’s actually easier to keep a hopeful attitude in this sort of thing. As you peruse, you get to thinking “wow, there are a lot of beautiful women out there who share at least some of my interests!” It’s an encouraging thought.

Friday, July 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 12

Still hosted by Conversion Diary

1.     So, one of my favorite blogs is Monster Hunter Nation, run by a sci-fi/horror author/gun-nut named Larry Correia. See, it’s great because it features nerdy sci-fi/horror/fantasy, Conservative politics, guns, and writing tips. If you threw in Catholic Theology and musical theater it’d be my one-stop internet shop. Anyway, the other day he posted a great article on writing professionally, which basically compressed everything I’ve been trying to get through my head over the past week into one handy 4000+ word article. Highly recommended!

2.     My mind has been full of controversial topics lately. I’ve been holding off publishing them because I want to make sure I get them right and decide how conciliatory vs. blunt I want to be.

3.     Combining the last two items, I really need to blog more. So, I’m declaring here that I will blog something – even if it’s just a video or meme – every day this coming week. So, keep an eye on my other two blogs!

4.     Does anyone know about Macbooks? Because mine keeps giving me trouble; it runs sluggishly a lot of the time, especially when I start programs up, but even at just odd times. It’s a fairly new machine, and I’m not over-taxing the memory at all (there’s over half of it left), nor can I find any background programs causing problems. So what gives?

5.     Had a very nice dinner earlier this week with a friend of mine. We tend to discuss theology a lot, since he’s a Protestant and I’m Catholic, and we got into it fairly good this time (though we spent so long on other topics we didn’t get too far) I don’t think I did a very good job of defending Marian devotion (I’m still something of an amateur on the subject), but I do think I managed to explain the big problem with Sola Scriptura well enough. In any case, a good time was had by all.

6.     So, I’m kind of excited because I found an AR-15 model for just under eight-hundred. Very no-frills (not even sights!) so I’m not so sure about it, but it is encouraging to know that it can be had for under a thousand. I figured twelve-hundred was the bare minimum price. That doesn’t mean I’ll get it; for one thing, I need to save up a lot more before I even consider making a big purchase, for another even then I’m leaning away from the gun to something a little more immediately practical. In any case, when I do get my AR, it’ll probably be a little higher end. Nothing too fancy (since I am a beginner), but at least one that includes iron sights and a dust-cover. I mean, we must behave like civilized people!

7.     In addition to Witness, I’ve also picked up The Last Lion again (the epic biography of Winston Churchill). Might have been a mistake, since I’m being sucked into the life of Churchill and leaving poor Mr. Chambers just as he was about to tell of his tragic upbringing. Of course, Churchill had it rough too. It’s really hard to find a historical figure without a tragic childhood, isn’t it? Oh, I suppose Roosevelt counts, since his big tragedies didn’t happen until his adult years.

Well, that one went kind of off topic, didn’t it?

Friday, July 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 11

Still hosted by Conversion Diary

1.     I haven’t been blogging for a while. That’s partly intentional, partly just because I haven’t had the interest or energy for it lately. But, while visiting my sister in Maine she was very insistent that I take it up again, so here we are.

2.     Regardless, I’m putting a hold to Famous Catholics and other series, just because I’m a little tired of them and I want to flesh out the blog a little bit more.

3.     My current task in life is learning to accept drudgery. I don’t mean useless drudgery (but I have to accept that sometimes as well), but the small, persistent effort required to acquire new skills and knowledge. See, I’ve usually been the type of person who tries to snatch at things all at once in one great effort, and since that usually fails, I get discouraged fairly easily. I’ve known for a long time that this is a bad idea, but now I’m working on reforming my attitude into a healthier, steadier method of attack. It’s too soon to tell how successful I’m being, but I’ll keep you informed.

4.     Speaking of Maine, we were up there for my niece’s second birthday. She’s cute beyond words and extraordinarily independent. “No, I’ll do it!” was her typical response to offers of help, whether for opening coolers, walking uphill, playing on the swings, or pretty much anything that she put her mind to doing.

5.     It took me over a year to do it (mostly because I was reading in fits and starts), but I finally finished Luigi Giussani’s great theological trilogy: The Religious Sense, On the Origin of the Christian Claim, and Why the Church. It’s an incredibly dense, complete explanation of the Catholic faith which sets things out in a frank, sensible, and fairly easy-to-follow way. If I had to summarize his main point, it would be the importance of focusing on the essential questions involved in such matters and trying to understand and answer them rather than more superficial, secondary questions. An essential question would be, say, “what is unique about the Christian claim,” and a non-essential question would be “how does Genesis square with Darwin?” Of course, he says it a lot better than I do. Giussani has had a huge influence on my own philosophical and religious views, so he’s highly recommended.

6.     With Giussani finished, I’m now tackling Whittaker Chambers’s Witness about his experience in and break from the Communist Party. I started reading it while I was in college, abandoned it when I left, and have made one or two aborted attempts to resume in the meantime. Now I’m pretty well set on reading the whole monstrous thing (seriously; it’s huge). Chambers is an excellent writer, and his real-life account is as riveting and moving as any spy novel, and considerably more depressing. He makes no bones about his predictions for the future, and none of them are very cheerful.

7.     In weighing my next big purchase, I’m not sure whether it should be A). an ‘assault-rifle’ (Not sure whether I want an AR-15 or a Kalashnikov; the former has more American spirit, but the latter is insanely durable) B). a desktop computer so I can start learning 3D art and animation or C). a pickup truck to replace my aging Ford Focus and further my plans to live out of a camper for a while. In the meantime I’m enjoying the fact that I’m the kind of person for whom those are the options.