Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 5

Hosted by Conversion Diary again at last!

1.       Reading the other ‘7 Quick Takes’ makes me realize that I’m something of an anomaly. Most of the blogs seem to be run by moms or at the very least women. Me, I’m a nerdy single guy who writes a lot about novels-in-progress and guns. Not that moms can’t write about guns; I’m very much in favor of maternal gun-ownership. A mama bear may be scary, but a mama bear backed up by a Glock is even better.  

2.       I seem to have unblocked my writer’s block; I’ve made more progress this week than I have over the past month or so. I ultimately decided to work on Chronicles of Hendricks for now, and just over the past week I’ve gone from zero to 11,472 words (as of this writing). The strategy I’m trying out for this one is to simply write whichever part I’m currently thinking of. You see, previously I would start from the beginning and plow through each chapter in turn. This time I’m keep it to a single word document and jumping all around the book as inspiration/interest strikes me. I’m still trying to work my way up from beginning to end, but I don’t hold myself to that, if you get me. This has not only proved much more profitable, but much more fun.

3.       It helps that Chronicles is pretty much exactly the type of book I want to write: it’s a manic adventure story set on a remote Caribbean island that features pretty near close to everything I like to have in stories: lots of monsters, evil villains, a beautiful and endangered heroine, an unassuming hero who triumphs over all odds, etc. It’s the kind of book where characters quote The Tempest, but also say things like “you just don’t understand science, do you?” and that includes both philosophical discussions about whether humanity is perfectible by its own merits and a fight between two giant snakes, one of which spits acid.

4.       If you haven’t read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art I highly recommend it. It’s all about the battle with ‘Resistance,’ the curious reluctance we have to doing what we really feel called to do. I’m certainly very familiar with it. But he describes how, after your power through and do what you have to do in spite of resistance, it’s an incredibly freeing feeling. Well, this week I’ve experienced some of that and I feel better than I have in a long time.

5.       On the downside, as of this writing I’m not sure who I’m going to do for Famous Catholic Friday this week, or even if I might end up skipping it and saying that my ‘G.K. Chesterton Appreciation’ fills in for it (even though I'm planning on doing one on him in the future).

6.       My sister has expressed ambivalence or dislike for Chesterton on occasion, most recently in a long post and discussion. That makes me kind of sad, since I can’t share my love of Chesterton with her. But, on the other hand, that’s life. There are a lot of artists I don’t like whom other people whose opinions I respect adore (Picasso, Mark Twain, Ezra Pound, etc). It’s part of the wonderful tapestry of the Church and the world, and I need to get better at not letting it bother me.

7.       Inspired by an article on The Art of Manliness I’ve decided to construct myself a pull-up bar out of PCV piping. In retrospect, I should have read the comments section first, as most people expressed doubts that PCV was actually strong enough for the job and wouldn’t shatter into a thousand deadly shards. However, I believe I’ve come up with a number of solutions for my own model:
·         The cross-bar is only three feet long rather than the five feet for the ‘complete gym’ version.
·         I’ll reinforce the crossbar with wooden dowels to give it some extra strength.
·         I’ll wrap the whole thing in duct tape, because DUCT TAPE FIXES EVERYTHING! That way, even if it does shatter, it won’t send shards flying into my eyeballs.
·         I’m also considering ways to reinforce the support beams, possibly by simply filling them with something (I am open to suggestions, as long as we keep in mind that 1. I need to still be able to disassemble it for storage and 2. They’re two-inch-diameter pipes).

Look for a future article about how this all worked out, possibly with pictures!

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday Vol. 4

Once again hosted by Camp Patton.

1.       First of all, in case you are wondering, yes I’m doing better than I was last week. I’ve still got fits of depression, but I’m gaining more energy and having more fits of cheerfulness as well, so that’s good.

2.       Finally finished my ‘Famous Catholics Friday’ profile of Nicolaus Copernicus, which I intended to get up last weekend, but just didn’t feel up to the research (see above, RE: Depression). Good Lord, what a man! What a genius! And it really irks me that these days he’s mostly relegated to a footnote in the stupid ‘Galileo story.’ Frankly, if anything Galileo ought to be a footnote to Copernicus, not the other way around. Of course I don’t mean to belittle Galileo’s many, many accomplishments, but his contribution to that particular issue was basically just lending support to Copernicus…and then getting himself and Copernicus banned because he was a jerk about it.

3.       Obviously, this has been rough week for everyone in the country: we’ve had to endure listening to the horrors of the Gosnell trial (once the media could be shamed into actually doing their jobs); we’ve had to watch yet another act of wanton evil directed against innocent people, this one with bombs rather than guns. It doesn’t make too much difference, really. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a (probably) accidental explosion down in Texas that reads almost like an atomic bombing, with photos of mushroom clouds and descriptions of whole areas being “gone.” In the face of such evil, our first and last defense is prayer. Let’s pray for the victims, those they leave behind, the injured, the responders, and, let’s not forget, for the perpetrators. May God be merciful to them and inspire them to true repentance.

4.       Prayer may be our first and last defense, but there’s a lot in the meaty filling in between. There was at least some good news this week on that front (at least for some of us); every single one of the new gun-control measures (including a return of the worse-than-useless assault weapons ban) failed miserably in the Senate. This despite the fact that the Senate is still controlled by Democrats who might be expected to be a bit more open to the idea of gutting the Second Amendment some more. Granted another bill that would require States to honor CCW permits also failed (not sure how I feel about that one; my pro-second-amendment beliefs clash with my pro-tenth-amendment ones), but the funny thing is that it received more votes than any of the gun-control ones. Thank God for small miracles!

5.       Speaking of which, I finally purchased my carry-gun this week (they never had what I wanted in stock previously). It’s a Smith and Weston Model 60 revolver chambered for .357 Magnum or .38 Special rounds. It’s not exactly what I was looking for (it only holds five shots), but I’m very happy with my choice so far. For one thing, it has a longer barrel than most ‘snub-nosed’ revolvers, giving it better accuracy and less recoil (so I’ve heard; I haven’t had a chance to fire it yet), but it still fits comfortably and completely in the pockets of all the pants I’ve tried it in. For another, since buying it I’ve read nothing but good things about this particular model, with the only complaint being one guy who thought the trigger pull was too heavy. Maybe it was just his particular gun, but I find it pretty much perfect; it takes some effort (which is good, since I don’t want it going off in my pocket if I make a sudden movement), but it’s smooth and comfortable. Plus, if it’s really a problem you can just cock the hammer back and fire it single-action (for the record, I don’t recommend this at all). Finally, it just feels good in my hand; very secure and comforting. I foresee a very profitable working relationship with this particular firearm.

6.       Last night my parents and I went to see my brother present his thesis in Creative Writing. His was a weird, trippy combination of journal entries, stream of consciousness, script, to-do-lists, and musical (seriously). It wasn’t the kind of writing I usually like very much (for instance, the guy who presented after him I found almost unbearably grating), but this was quirky and creative enough that I thoroughly enjoyed it (a confession of murder is presented in the form of a stage-musical. How do you not love that?).

7.       Speaking of writing, I’m leaning towards doing another tear-down of Lepus. This draft isn’t working too well, and I realized that the thematic heart of the story needs to be different. That, and I’ve worked out most of the difficulties that were keeping me from taking another stab at The Chronicles of Hendricks. Whichever I decide to work on next, I’m aware that I really need to finish that book first before I do anything else. I’ve got too many partially-completed writing projects as it is.

Friday, April 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday vol. 3

Yet again, inspired by Conversion Diary, though currently guest hosted by Camp Patton due to family issues (follow the link to Conversion Diary and offer prayers).

1.       Well, first an update from last week; I’m having a bit more success in limiting my Minecraft time than I had last week. It’s just a matter of reminding yourself of all the other things you need to do and getting tough with yourself. Now I’m reflecting on blog posts I can do exploring how the appeal of games like Minecraft point to our being made in the image of God.

2.       Among those other things is a great site I found called Duolingo, which allows you to study foreign languages for free. It’s kind of like Rosetta Stone, only more laid-back and fun. They structure each lesson like a game, so you have a set number of hearts and every time you make a mistake you lose a heart. The more hearts you end with, the more points you earn, and the more points you earn, the sooner you level up. I’m at level four right now and working my way through foods in Italian (Io bevo birra). One of the things I really like about it is that it sends you an e-mail each day reminding you to put in some time, so you feel guilty if you ignore it (so far I don’t know what happens if you do; the little owl mascot probably cries or something).  

3.   I suppose I need to turn in my Catholic blogger card, since I completely missed Divine Mercy Sunday. In my defense, I’ve had a pretty rough week emotionally, and simply haven’t had much energy left for blogging. What exactly has been wrong is hard to describe in a blog post (and, honestly, I don’t really want to shout it out to the internet at large), but I’ve been exhaustingly miserable. Doing somewhat better now, but I still feel like I’m lying when someone asks me how I’m doing and I instinctively answer ‘fine.’

The trouble with saying how you actually feel is that the person expects you to explain when you say “rotten” or “horrible,” and a lot of time you don’t really want to pour out your troubles on the guy you work down the hall from. So, we lie.  

4.       On a happier note, I found some new pieces for the violin that I’m excited about trying out; namely, Still Alive from Portal and Want You Gone from Portal 2. Okay, they’re not actually scored for the violin (both are for piano and voice), but who cares? As long as it’s in tenor cleft, right? Anyway, on my first run through of them I actually found them to be fairly easy pieces, for all their many quarter notes; the fingering is intuitive, and I know the tunes so well that I know exactly when I’m going wrong. I had such a good time that I’m considering trying to talk my violin teacher into letting me play one of them for a solo recital coming up.

5.       Unfortunately, I just learned why you’re supposed to loosen your violin bow when you put it away; the tension goes out of it if you leave it tight for too long. Now I’ve got to take it in and get it fixed/replaced. Darn.

6.       Regarding liberal reactions to Margaret Thatcher’s death, all I can say is “Classy" (those are heavy sarcasm quotes, in case you don’t read the news).

7.       I’m also considering plans to buy a bunch of land in the U.P. (seriously, check out land prices up there; I’ve seen 40 acre waterfront lots for $500 an acre! I mean, I could afford that today!) and just build my own home/compound up there. A little like what my sister and brother-in-law are doing in Maine, only with more surliness and an eye toward defensibility. That, and I plan to make it mostly out of stone to build that ‘crazy woodsman’ physique.

This might be the Minecraft talking. My idea is suspiciously similar to acting out the game, only with hopefully less exploding trees.

Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday vol. 2

Still insipired by Conversion Diary

1.       While I struggle to complete the rewrite of Lepus, I’ve also been doing preliminary work on another book, this one not set in the ‘Tomiverse’ (as I informally call the massive inter-connected world that most of my books take place in). This book is an epic tale of oppression and rebellion set in an alternate 1890s America. The working title is The Free American Army, but a more fitting name might be Teddy Roosevelt Beats Up Everybody. Other historical figures present include Thomas Edison, Nicolai Tesla, Annie Oakley, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hurst, ultra-badass Federal Marshall Bass Reeves, and the Jersey Devil (who’s one of the main villains). Yeah, I’m loving this.

2.       Ah, I just remembered that Jurassic Park is being rereleased in theaters today! I’ll have to go see it this weekend, probably post a review. Actually, I might make this ‘dinosaur weekend’ and thrown in a dinosaur-themed post for The Catholic Nerd I’ve been working on.

3.       I have a fairly addictive personality; when I find something I like, I want to keep on doing it until I finish. With that in mind, I probably shouldn’t have decided to try Minecraft last weekend. For those who don’t know, it’s a creative puzzle/adventure game aptly described by one reviewer as being less like Crack and more like having everything you need to make your own Crack. On the plus side, I’ve already decided to implement new rules to limit my time with it, so here’s a nice opportunity to practice self-control…yeah, that’s the ticket.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have go build some lava-spewing gargoyles made out of digital blocks…

4.       My parents are in Maine this week visiting my niece (and I suppose they might see my sister and brother-in-law while they’re there), which means I spent most of Easter and the following couple days at their house watching the dog. And I’m doing it again today! It’s not a problem, since I love our dog, but the drive is a rather long one and eats into my gas money pretty quick. And God help me if I forget to bring anything important (it has happened that I’ll get all the way to their house, then remember something I absolutely need and have to run back to my apartment immediately).

5.       As usual, I overindulged during Easter, with bad results (i.e. indigestion). One of the few times in the year where I can eat all the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I want, and it turns out badly! This is indeed a vale of tears.

6.       Speaking of which, I think I’ve fallen into the habit of not snacking. I bought a whole bunch of snacks to feast upon in celebration, but I’m just never hungry enough to indulge, apart from meal times. I guess that’s probably a good thing, but I haven’t even eaten my delicious-looking white-chocolate bunny yet! (I love white chocolate).

7.       Now I’m trying to memorize violin pieces and I think I might have an idea. You see, memorization generally involves translating the information you want to memorize into images or movement. Humans naturally have excellent ‘spacial’ memories; memories for places and objects. Translating a poem or a set of numbers is easy (I have my own code for numbers that has worked every time), but music…not so much. So then I thought “what if I used Minecraft to create a massive score which I could then walk along? That might work, and it’d give me an excuse to play Minecraft some more!”

Actually…that’s probably a bad idea. Never mind.