Saturday, July 31, 2010

On Loneliness

No, don’t worry. You won’t need your emo-shielding to read this post. I’m not going to talk about how horribly lonely I feel or anything dumb like that. I just decided to post a few observations I’ve made of society recently.

It occurred to me one day that our perception of loneliness has changed from what it probably was in the past. Where people normally spent long stretches of time unable to communicate with people who lived twenty or thirty miles away with any kind of ease, let alone someone half a continent away, we are able to pick up a phone or a computer and contact anyone we want, regardless of distance. While people in older times were isolated by travel time and technology, we have the advantage of satellites, optical cables and engines to shrink the gaps between us and those we consider our friends and families. In place of letters, messengers, and the odd carrier pigeon, we have emails, Facebook, and texting at our literal fingertips. There are very few places that remain outside our reach, even as we simply sit at home.

Yet at the same time, there is the sense that we are more isolated and lonely than we ever have been before. We live in cities full of millions of people, yet many of us barely know the names of our closest neighbors unless we make an unusual effort or meet them elsewhere. All sense of community has seemed to vanish, so that even when we are surrounded by people we don’t feel their company. Where we would consider ourselves lonely, our ancestors might look askance at us and point at the nearest person. Or they would simply mention the fact that it would only take us a half hour to cover the distance they traveled to see their friends when it used to take them a full day. Maybe they would just shrug.

I can’t quite figure out what has happened to create this situation in our culture. It could be that as it has become easier to see people and communicate, we have allowed that to cheapen the value of our relationships. Or maybe what we term as ‘loneliness’ was just a feeling that our forefathers simply endured without complaint. It might even be that in earlier times people simply were more comfortable when they were left to themselves, or that they stayed close enough to their family and friends that they never felt cut off the way we do. It’s strange, and I can’t seem to settle on a simple reason for it. Oh well. I guess it is one more thing to ponder about as life continues to change. See ya around!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Immunolgy

Lately I’ve started looking up scientific articles online, and it has reminded me of something. Although molecular biology in general is an interesting subject, it has really only been immunology that has attracted my interest during my experiences in the field.

Immunology is the study of the immune system, how it works, how it develops, and how it can be manipulated for the benefit of mankind. The immune system is a fascinating part of our bodies, and the way it reacts to disease, parasites and allergens is incredible. It can change, adapt and evolve in a surprisingly effective manner, to the point where half the time it eliminates a problem before we are even aware that it is there. Each part of the system is so complex and the interactions so complicated that we are still trying to figure most of it out, and the potential power behind it means that we are looking for the most promising anticancer cures, solutions for genetic diseases, and other treatments by attempting to challenge it. The fact that the immune system is so effective can be dangerous as well, which is where a lot of autoimmune diseases, transplant rejections and the majority of symptoms associated with common illnesses come from. The entire field is like a treasure trove of possibilities.

I just wish I had more of an opportunity to research it. Unfortunately, with my current situation, I will continue to be limited to what articles I can find online. Still, it is fun to explore the subject, and that is encouraging. Even with the passage of time, my interest hasn’t been dulled, which I guess means if I get into grad school for it I’ll be just as interested as I was in college. Here’s hoping for that then. See you around!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On Apartments

Recently we have been looking for a new place to live. I have not been enjoying it.

Part of the problem is the fact that both Emily and I are very hesitant about making a decision. When we moved to Texas, we made a somewhat hasty decision on where we were going to live, and that came back to haunt us as we struggled to adjust to Houston. We would very much like to make a better decision this time around, and hopefully end up with a better home because of it.

The other part is that our options are kind of limited. While we would love to have a two bedroom apartment at last, we can’t seem to find one in the complexes we’ve been looking at. At the same time, we want a much safer area than where we have been living, preferably in a neighborhood that doesn’t have break-ins all year round. Minimizing my commute would also be preferable, given that the area we are moving to will have me driving about an hour both ways. Combining all those factors makes for a situation that would give anyone a headache.

Then again, at the very least life will be looking up. In a short while, we will have a better home, and a better situation for ourselves. I suppose that although it is annoying to have to work this stuff out, it is better to be agonizing over two or three good choices than a packet of horrible options. Life could definitely be worse. :)

So, on another note, I’ve started to wonder if a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule just fits the natural rhythm of my week better than Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Let me know if you have any particular preference for seeing my mopey updates go up, and I will try to be accommodating. I hope all is going well for you guys, and I will see you around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On Revising

So this week has been a bad one in terms of writing. Part of the reason for that is the fact that I just finished a miserably long book that I was not excited about. (That’s right, I’m talking about you again, New Realm. *shakes fist*) I typically want to take a mental break from writing after such an experience, and this week I kind of fell prey to that desire.

The second reason is a bit more of a concern, however. It has been too long since I last rewrote something. Due to my job and other issues, I stopped rewrites on my other stories while I worked on New Realm’s first draft several weeks ago. I’ve gotten so used to working on new material that I am kind of weirded out by the process of revision, especially since when I write new material, I purposely avoid revisions in the process because I would take forever to get the first draft done.

I guess a big part of the problem is the major difference in mindset between first draft writing and revising. Writing a first draft is like running a marathon. No matter how much you might trip up or get tired, you keep plugging along because your goal is to stagger across the finish line at the end of the story. You’re not really concerned about finesse or how pretty it looks, you just have to get through it. Revising is more like a shopping trip. You have to take a lot more time to consider what you are doing and think about things more. Part of the process of revision involves trying things out, and discarding them if they don’t fit or don’t seem to be as good as your original choice. Rather than just slogging along, you have to experiment and reconsider when you get the results.

It’s been a challenge to change perspectives after slogging through my last book, but hopefully I will get the hang of it again. At least, I hope I manage it before something else goes wrong….

Yeah, my chances aren’t good on that last bit. :) See ya round!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Expectations

You know, over the past few days, I’ve had several different expectations fall through for me. It’s been a disappointing week in a lot of ways. Medical school looks like a bust, Wolfhound will be harder to revise than I previously thought, and the future looks a lot less ideal and a lot more uncertain than I was hoping to find it in the final parts of July. As I was thinking over those events today, my thoughts sort of dovetailed with some other things I was pondering.

These days it seems like there are very few people who have real dreams for themselves. When you ask people what they want most, they respond with a cookie cutter picture out of the fifties. They just want a big house, maybe kids, and a lot of money maybe. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of drive in society to find a dream and see it through. Lots of people seem to want to fit into a niche and settle there rather than setting high goals.

So even as a lot of my goals are falling through and I find myself discouraged by my failures, I can at least console myself with the fact that I had the will to try it. My expectations might have needed to be a bit more realistic, and the road might be difficult as I try to reach those goals, but at least I am still setting them and working towards them. One bright spot in a pit of crap, right? Hahaha.

And on that downer note, I’ll see you around, guys. Have a great week (at least, better than mine has been) and I’ll try to come up with something a bit more cheery for Saturday. See ya.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Endings

It’s finished! Mwahahahahahaha! Done! Complete! No longer sitting on my shoulders like some sort of warped monkey-demon!

So on Saturday I typed up the last part of the New Realm book. It has been a frustrating experience to watch this story meander its way to a conclusion. The thing is monstrously long, horribly inconsistent, and will likely require several rewrites in order to be readable. In short, it’s the kind of novel that I will likely not be working on any time soon, and will not be excited to start again when I finally drag myself to the task.

By contrast, I am really starting to get excited about working with Wolfhound again. In fact, I already seem to be moving beyond the original story and have started planning out the sequel. It’s odd how different my reaction has been between the two stories, and that has made me take a look at myself as an author, and examine a little why I write and how I write.

First off, I’ve discovered that it takes more than an interest in the setting to keep me going. I love Realm’s setting, and it is an interesting concept to go by, but in order for me to get really going on the story I need a plot. Wolfhound was built around the events of the story, and the character and setting fit the plot more than the other way around. While I liked Jacob’s character and enjoyed coming up with the backstory of his setting a lot, it was the plot that drove my interest in writing it. That interest was something I just didn’t have while writing Realm, and the story suffered for the lack.

Second, I’ve started wondering if I should focus more on science fiction stories. While I will always enjoy fantasy, sci fi has always had its own kind of appeal to me, and the setting will often allow me to explore scientific concepts like alternative energy creation and medical techniques that the more logical side of me is already wondering about. At the same time, sci fi doesn’t necessarily have the same sense of magic and wonder that fantasy often has. It will have to be something I think about more as I proceed.

Third, I’ve decided that I need to outline a story more before I write it out. Part of why Realm did not work and Wolfhound did was the fact that when I started Wolfhound, I had a pretty good idea where the story would go. That fed into a solid story structure that held the book together even through rougher patches of the first draft. When I wrote Realm, I just started and tried to let the story go on its own, which may have let it get away from me. Probably not the best strategy. Oh well.

In any case, a project is done for now, and I am moving on with other plans. So goes life. See you around!

Friday, July 16, 2010

On the Sims

So this week my crazy brain decided to try and figure out the Sims. I’ve mentioned before how I occasionally try to figure out gaming systems and the like, but the Sims has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I could never understand the appeal of basically living a fake life through a videogame. There just didn’t seem to be anything exciting about it. No competition, no ultimate goals, just boring everyday life. There’s not even any science fiction or fantasy elements to make things interesting. I just don’t understand why it would hold people’s attention for so long. In an attempt to understand it better, I spent some time studying the game and came to some conclusions. They can be summed up in one sentence.

I still don’t get why the Sims is supposed to be fun.

No really. The best thing I can compare it to is a role playing game where you pretend to be normal, everyday people. Your character may level up a lot in Sitting on A Couch Eating Pizza, but that’s not really exciting. I mean, come on, sometimes you just sit and watch some guy watching TV, or watch them playe a fake match of chess. It’s not interesting at all to me, and I still can’t figure out why it would be interesting to someone else. If anybody can explain it to me, feel free. Otherwise, I’m just giving up on the whole concept, and assigning it to the same realm as soap operas and fashion sense. Oh well…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Five Signs Your Book Needs a Severe Rewrite

1. You get to the end and think ‘Hey, that’s a much better way to write the first half!’
2. Your wife suggests you listen to a podcast that gives suggestions for how to rewrite ruined books.
3. You decide to change the POV that you’ve been using so far, as you write the last fifty pages of the novel.
4. The only thing the same about your main character in the beginning and the main character in the end is the name.
5. You are excited to finish the book, not because it is an awesome story, but because it is over.

As you can tell, I’ve had a rough time with Realm this past couple of weeks. Sigh. Just a few more words to go… Grg.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Wandering

I’ve decided that I don’t like books that wander too much. Stories that don’t seem to have a centralized plot, or ones that seem to jump randomly between events rather than following a logical plot, just fail to hold my attention and admiration for long.

That fact has been tormenting me lately. It seems like of the past four books I’ve read, only one of them has had a clear, definite sense of progression instead of a jumbled bunch of random happenings. While there may be a lot of folks that enjoy and even relish in the exploration these novels present, they just don’t appeal to me at all, and it has been frustrating to read them. Especially since, to my narrow view of things, I should get published if they can! Hahaha. Well, they must be doing something right that I’m not. I shall have to figure that out.

Have a good week, everyone, and I’ll see you around.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On Time Flying

This past week has seemed to just fly by. Between working on the last parts of New Realm, working full time at the emergency room, and just trying to keep up with everything else, it seems like it was Monday just a day ago, rather than a whole week.

The bad part is that I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. I have a lot of decisions to make, both on where to apply for grad schools, med schools and the like as well as finding a new place for us to live come August. We’re still technically waiting on decisions from med schools, and it’s not like work is ever going to be less hectic. I might as well resolve myself to living life at a sprint for the next few months. Looking back at how lethargic my life was before, it is kind of a big shift to make.

Have any of you had this experience as well? I’m trying to figure out how to accomplish everything I had planned to do without running myself into the ground. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. In any case, I hope life is going well for you all, and that you are succeeding in your own trials. See ya!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Late Changes

So I’m about to finish off my New Realm book. I’m currently heavily dissatisfied with how it has turned out. Usually my first drafts need a lot of revision, but this time the story will need to nearly be entirely rewritten. Over the course of this draft, character backgrounds and personalities have changed, story elements were added or removed, and even the style of the book will shift wildly. To give you some idea, the most recent change I made was to start looking at other perspectives besides that of the main character. When the entire rest of the book is written from a single POV. Which means I’m going to have to rewrite the entire rest of the book to accommodate that change. Grg.

Oh well, at the very least I haven’t given up on it yet. It’ll take a long time to get done—the fact that it is much longer than either Wolfhound or Brellan doesn’t help—but the original story still interests me. Now I just need to finish the first draft and let my ideas stew a bit.

So how is everyone else’s writing going? Are you stuck in a mire, writing well like Joe, or somewhere in between? Have a great week, and I will see you around!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Awkwardness

Occasionally I run into other Mormons while I am working. This fact is very, very awkward.

There are a few reasons for that. First off, I work in an emergency room. The typical, happy-to-meet-another-Mormon mood isn’t exactly what people are expecting. They are there because their leg hurts, they are about to throw up, that kind of thing. It’s not very likely that they are going to want to chat about what ward they are in and where they are from.

Second off, in all likelihood after I realize they are Mormon, I’m going to have to ask them for money. That part of the job is awkward enough, thanks to my bumbling social skills and the constrictions placed on us in the emergency room. It only gets worse if I try to make friends with them or get to know them first. What am I going to say? ‘Hi, I’m LDS too, from such and such ward, which one are you from? Hey that’s cool, small world right? Now about that copay…’ See, just awkward.

Still, it’s pretty much ingrained in Mormons to greet each other this way, especially when we’re outside of Utah, and Mormons aren’t the most common people we meet. So every time I ask the question about their religious preference for our registration process (meant to help the hospital contact clergy members of appropriate faiths when the situation warrants it) and hear ‘Mormon’ I experience this aborted, knee-jerk reaction that I don’t know what to do with.

Oh well. I guess I should just put it down to my own peculiar awkwardness and bear with it. One among many, believe me. :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Floods and Freezes

So yesterday and today, the Houston area has been hit by a few storms. There was a hurricane that passed very close by us on its way to Mexico, and the result has been waves of heavy rain that leave chaos in its wake. Highway overpasses have been flooding, and some of the low lying areas of the city have had some water related troubles as well.

What has surprised me is how calmly everyone here seems to handle things. Most of the mass transit like the light rail and the bus routes are running fairly normally, and the only precaution the hospital I work at had to take was to close down the basement levels. I guess lots of rain is common enough here that people just take it in stride. Not that we didn’t have the occasional rumors that the hospital was going to keep us overnight, or that the trains had been shut down, but even those were fairly short lived.

This reaction, of course, is the exact opposite of the hysteria we saw in the winter, when it dipped below freezing for a couple of days. By ‘dipped’ I mean around thirty degrees Farenheit. You would have thought a second Ice Age had come to the South. I heard everything from the threat of frozen water pipes to frozen car engines. We had a ‘snowfall’ that pretty much melted on contact, and everything from schools to hospitals closed down. The whole time I was remembering being snowed in my house in Connecticut, and laughing.

It’s just funny the different ways people can react to weather so differently, I guess. For anyone reading who was worried, we’re fine though, and I don’t think our area is at any risk. I hope all is going well for you guys, and I’ll see you around.