365 Days of History …

December 31, 2010

I set myself several projects this year. Some came to fruition – sometimes expensively. Some did not.

But one of the smaller, more enjoyable projects that did come through was reading a chapter a night of 365: Your Date With History, by W.B. Marsh and Bruce Carrick. (I discovered that this book is also known in a compact edition as 365: Great Stories from History for Every Day of the Year).

On December 31, 2009, I began this year learning that Samuel Pepys started his famous diary on January 1, “Lord’s Day,” in 1660. I also read that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law in 1863.

With the exception of a few lapsed weeks in late summer that I quickly caught up on at the beginning of September, I managed to read a bit of history each night — how American Marines landed at Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, for example, or about the Spartans defying Xerxes’s Persians on August 20 in 480 BC at Thermopylae, or Mozart dying on the 5th of December, 1791.

I read the last entry in the book last night, about today, December 31, New Year’s Eve.

Bonnie Prince Charlie was born on this day in 1720. Determined to restore the Scottish Stuarts to the British throne, but losing a thousand Highlanders and the battle at Culloden, he slipped away from Scotland dressed as a serving maid. For the next several decades he wandered Europe, self-indulgent, drunk, and unapproachable. His wife, 33 years younger than he, said he “rarely missed being drunk twice a day,” and was “the most insupportable man who ever lived, a man who combined the faults and failings of all classes.” Promise, dashed.

Also on this day in 1793, the duc de Biron lost his head to the guillotine in Paris. As he cheerily placed himself below the blade, this enemy of the French Revolution said, “I shall arrive in the other world in time to wish my friends a Happy New Year!”

I’ll miss this little project, although I do have something similar in mind for 2012, the next leap year. I will read a book by the same authors, 366: A Leap Year of Great Stories from History.

At bedtime for the coming year I’ll have in my hand Edwin Way Teale’s A Walk Through the Year, containing a year’s worth of reflections and observations on nature in diary form. It may not be as much pure fun for me, a history buff, but I think I will enjoy it.

I would suggest this project to any history buff — or anyone, really. The hard part isn’t keeping pace every day though. The hard part is only reading a chapter a night, and stopping.

End of the year ….

December 29, 2010

I have been reading, writing, working elsewhere.

Right now I’m enjoying the posthumous release of Robert Parker’s latest Spenser book, Painted Ladies, my mind candy.

I had a story published in November in an online magazine, a pleasant surprise for an old story that finally found a home.  I have several projects in mind for the coming year that I’m actually kind of excited about, and I hope that excitement lasts.

Posts continue on the Annex (now simply called, coincidentally, Simple Space), that has over 1800 followers and over 11,000 posts.

I’ve heard from a few old friends via email, Christmas card, and Facebook. It was nice to hear from them. One was a bit more melancholy connection than the other, but I’ll accept that, knowing that they are doing well.

kayleigh and I continue our life together.  Life with her is the best thing, truly.  I can’t imagine anything without her, and don’t want to.

I hope everyone has had a nice holiday, and the new year brings good things.

Carried in the heart …

November 26, 2010

A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I was really struck when I read the above today. Holidays are so melancholy and sometimes it’s very difficult to get through them. I know it’s that way for tens of thousands of people, and misery loves company, but that doesn’t really make things better. Problems are unique to situation and individuals. Especially to one as seemingly self-centered as I am.

There are two parts of the holidays that depress me these days. Stress can be upped by holiday shopping and finances, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about good old fashioned funk.

The first has to do with family – my aging parents, mainly — and the very basic precept that nothing remains the same. This past year has been difficult for both of them, and to a far lesser degree, me, because of them. I see their decline, and see my future related to that decline, and neither is pleasant.

And yet there is another piece, larger in many ways, a piece that has to do with kayleigh, and our future. This is the future I hold onto. There is no doubt of what I want for our future, and I think she and I have the same destination in mind. But there are so many variables, so many side roads in getting from point A to B that it gets so very difficult to navigate. The twists and turns of the road, the heavy fog that covers the valleys and peaks, and the delays and detours along the way are sometimes almost overpowering.

I am a melancholy person. I know this. It’s carried in my heart almost all the time to some degree. That’s a sad enough statement right there, I guess.

Holidays just tend to throw more debris on the road and focus on the lack of arrival.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

SF author John Scalzi comments on some writers complaining about how National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time, sets a bad example, dilutes quality writing, blah blah blah.

1. Dude, a program that encourages thousands of people annually to celebrate the act of creating words — of creating their own words — and you want to piss all over that? If you look to the right, I have some kittens you canset on fire while you’re at it.

2. Even if you think it’s a waste of time, it’s not a waste of of your time, so why do you care?

3. Alternately, even if something like NaNoWriMo doesn’t match your own writing process, there are a lot of writing processes out there. So if this one works for some aspiring writers, don’t crap on them for it.


Entire post here at his site, Whatever.

As noted previously, I’m not participating this year,  but periodically I’ve felt some guilt and disappointment this month that I am not.

Noted science fiction and fantasy author Walter Jon Williams has a wonderful tirade post about Rep. John Shimkus stating that we shouldn’t worry about global warming because God told Noah he wouldn’t destroy the world.

Rep. Shimkus, it should be remarked, is running for chairman of the House Energy Committee.  So if he wins, I guess we can expect Biblical justifications for more billions in subsidies to the oil companies.

Not only is Shimkus a useless, witless, dunderhead cretin attempting to cram brainless superstition into a scientific debate, he clearly doesn’t know how to read and understand his own Bible.  Because all God promises (you moron) is that he won’t destroy the world by water.  And nowhere does it say he won’t letpeople destroy the world.  And not only that, nobody’s claiming that climate change will destroy the world.  It’ll just make it really uncomfortable for people to live here.

Go read! It will either make you laugh or cry or both!

Invisible Man …

October 31, 2010

kayleigh and I have returned from the World Fantasy Convention. We had a nice time, nothing exceptional. In fact it was kind of boring at times. This convention was for fans but was even more so for professionals to talk shop, have drinks, and talk shop, and meet with editors.

The convention was limited to a thousand attendees, I heard, which would explain the empty hallways at 8 pm. Most people ended up in the bar, the lobby, or the atrium watching yakking or watching other people or yakking. One of the floors was given to several room parties Saturday night as well. There was an expensive art show where one could bid thousands on original artwork, and a dealers room that, with the exception of one jewelry booth, I think, was nothing but booksellers.

The few panels at WFC were far and away some of the better panels we’ve seen in recent years though, with award-winning and insightful panelists. Some names: Eric Flint, David Drake, Joe Haldeman, Gene Wolfe, Peter Straub, Nancy Kress, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, Ted Chiang, Guy Gavriel Kay, S.M Stirling, and this year’s Nebula & Hugo winner, Paolo Bacigalupi. Roaming the halls were several of the Ohio Cabal, including SFWA president John Scalzi periodically gracing minions with his presence and black and white checkerboard shoes.

The best part was practicing invisibility and spending time with kayleigh.

The winners of the 2010 World Fantasy Awards are here.