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In Their Natural Habitat

After a day of open-mall shopping, my girlfriend and I returned to our vehicle in the parking lot, behind which was a gaggle of seagulls embroiled in a noisy grand melee over a paper bag full of discarded food.

“Seagulls in their natural habitat,” she noted.

Seagulls in their natural habitat.  on Twitpic

In further conversation, we agreed that they probably couldn’t catch a fish if their life depended on it, seeing as–thanks to human influence–the diet of an average seagull now consists of equal parts french fries and cheesy puffs.

The manner in which I spent the day made me think deeper on what I was seeing.  Despite the ability of humans to change our habits and our lifestyles, we’ve done ourselves no favors: are we so different from seagulls, given our fluttering about, loud complaining about anything and everything, and our focus on getting our share of the fries?

Cold Weather

It’s seventy degrees outside now, up from where it dropped last night, possibly the last chilly hurrah before summer latches on to us for good. I had the windows open last night despite the chill–or perhaps because of it.  It’s like free air conditioning, after all.

I love cold weather.  Love it for the way it makes me feel and the things of which it reminds me.  I’ve never been much for the heat.  In fact, I wilt in humidity.  Cue an image of salad greens and ovens or some such.

Cold weather means cozy sweatshirts and pajama pants.  It means blankets, curled up on the couch with movies and hot chocolate, holding coffee mugs with both hands in order to warm them up, soups and stews, sitting outside on the porch in a beam of sunlight to warm up.

Cold weather means fall, when the temperature drops and the leaves begin to turn orange and yellow, and it means cold, wet, rainy, and overcast days, where the leaves and water and dirt mix into a gritty grime that covers sidewalks, crunches under my shoes, and reminds me just how nice it is to stay inside.  On the tail of the first fall weather means October isn’t far away, and that Halloween–my favorite holiday–will be here soon, so it’s time to get a costume ready.

The cold also reminds me of books and stories. Maybe it’s because I write stories, and so many things remind me so, but maybe it’s also because the cold weather keeps us inside, glued to a book or Harry Potter DVDs, and encourages us to retreat deeper into our imaginations to defeat or escape the grey outside.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the cool while it lasts.  Summer will be long and warm, a relentless mix of humidity and misery that won’t let up for months.  But for now, the windows are open, there’s a chill on the breeze, goosebumps on my skin; and it is amazing.

Quote on Boldness and Actually Starting Something

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'”

W. H. Murray. The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London 1951.

About Me (2012)

Note: this is the latest text for my About page.

When it comes to things I do, I write fiction and am a musician and beginning composer, among other things.

My general interests in no particular order are:

  • myth and folklore;
  • writing and storytelling;
  • health and medicine (both physical and mental);
  • thinking, organizing information, and making connections between ideas.

I avoid taking on new hobbies whenever possible.

The limit, you see, is time and energy.  I’ve been an English major, pre-med with emphasis on neurobiology, a middle school science teacher, a programmer.  They’re all interests of mine that I would pursue if only I had the time.  But there are (at minimum) two true things about the world and life in it:

* We have to make decisions
* Life and time will move on whether we make decisions or not

I can either float along, paralyzed with indecision and a fear of deciding, thus accepting by default whatever comes my way and kicks down the door, or I can make the effort to pursue something more.  Greatness and happiness are not passive affairs.

In the past, I wondered and worried about making the “right” decision, but now that I’m on the other side of about ten years of worry, I don’t think there’s a right decision at all.  Instead, what I’m left with is the responsibility to choose what I feel is best for me right now.

I’m working on accepting that I’m not limited to doing one thing ad nauseum for the rest of my life.  Not only is the workplace changing and people are turning over through companies and careers at an ever-increasing pace, but I’ve found that the “one thing” approach isn’t a fit for my personality.  The core of this new idea is that I can devote time to a passion, and then move on to another passion, without feeling like I can’t commit to anything or have failed or “wasn’t serious”.  Or I can work on two or more things simultaneously, and, given enough work, reach a level of happiness in each.

In this new world of mine, there is no more guilt about not sticking with something or “killing my darlings”, said darlings being all those projects I want to do, things I want to learn, and careers I want to pursue that will suffer when my attention turns elsewhere.  Moving in a new direction does not mean I don’t care about what has come before or that I can never return to it.  After all, each “right thing” felt like the right one at the time, and each contributes to “me” as a whole and hopefully helps me become a better person along the way.

When I started this blog, I intended on writing a new “about” page for each new year–and fell short of my goal in spectacular fashion.  This update is another attempt to start a habit that I tried to form a few years ago.

When I wrote my update in 2010, I was set in a creative space (as my many updates about writing will attest).  2012 will be a year of change and new directions.  I’m still working on what that “right for me right now” decision will be and where it will take me.

Lesson From Star Trek: Don’t Cheat Your Characters

Another thing I’ve noticed during my romp through the episodes: they spent all sorts of time building up their characters, and then sometimes cheat them in their core characteristics for the sake of drama.

The biggest example of this is Worf.  In Worf, we have a trained warrior, from a warrior culture, whose body also apparently has backup organs to act as fail-safes. He’s tough and mindful, both of his duties and his environment.

Why, then, do people get the jump on him time and time again?   Why do his instincts and training inexplicably fail?  in the episode “Man of the People,” Worf and the captain have beamed down to stop something nefarious.  They’re confronted, and then the camera cuts to show Worf under phaser guard and being disarmed by two on-planet guards.  How did that even happen? Why didn’t he see them coming?

Even if someone did get the jump on him, he should be able to take more than one hit.  Why does he get knocked out with one blow to the back over and over?  The Klingon pain ceremony in the episode “The Icarus Factor” proved his endurance beyond any doubt.

These instances are frustrating as a viewer because I know, based on what I’ve seen before (based on characterizations over many episodes), that these things would never happen normally.  Instead, they’re just used to scoot the episode along to where the writers wanted it to go, and in the process, cheat both the viewer and the character.

Good storytelling renders a character’s strength meaningless or temporarily ineffective.  Don’t just chump-shot the warrior: give me a situation where he has to face an army, an enemy he can’t fight, a situation where he has to go against his instincts and surrender to save someone else.