Richard S. Crawford's World
Code monkey by day, word monkey by night...
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Dear friends and family,
Well, here we are at the end of yet another year. 2010 was a good year for us, and we hope it was good for you as well. We both continue to be in good health, aside from the occasional cold or the painful slip on the tile in the downstairs bathroom (replacing the slippery tile is on the very long To Do list for this house, obviously).
No changes of employment to report this year, thankfully. Jennifer’s company was recently acquired by a much larger firm, while Richard’s job as a web programmer with UC Davis Extension’s Online Education Group is nice and stable. Last year at this time we were both on reduced hours with reduced salaries. This year, our full hours and salaries have been restored. We both enjoy our jobs, and have no plans to change at all.
This year we traveled little, though in April we did visit Disneyland and California Adventure with Jennifer’s sisters and their children. An exciting time was had by all. We had gotten free tickets through Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” program where you could receive free admission for a day in exchange for charity work of some sort. Jennifer has done a bit of additional travel – a trip to Monterey with Heather and Amy for the annual Sisters Only weekend, and a few short jaunts here and there for work.
Our creative endeavors are moving along well. Jennifer had a pattern for a baby blanket published by KnitPicks, an online yarn distributor in January, thus taking care of her ‘one-published-pattern-a-year’ goal early. Richard’s short story, “Night of the Frozen Elf”, was reprinted in a zombie-themed Christmas anthology called The Undead that Saved Christmas, while his short story “A Most Heinous Man” was reprinted in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine‘s “Best of Horror Volume 2″ anthology. We both participated in National Novel-Writing Month this year once again, with Richard acting as co-Municipal Liaison for the Sacramento region for the fourth year in a row. Richard’s novel, Brought To Life, concerned the tribulations of an artificial man, a modern Frankenstein’s monster, trying to forge an identity for himself in the world. Jennifer has yet to reveal what her novel is about (and probably never will). We had fun raising money for the Office of Letters and Light’s Young Writers program, and this year both met our 50,000 word goal at the Night of Writing Dangerously, an annual festive gathering of several hundred aspiring Nanowrimo writers in San Francisco.
We continued expanding our garden this year, and even hired a professional to lay out drip hoses and beds for us. As always, we grew massive amounts of tomatoes (not as many as we grew in years past), as well as vast quantities of kale, bell peppers, and some of the sweetest cantaloupe we’ve ever tasted. Despite the fact that we both should know better, we made the mistake of putting in three squash plants this summer (zucchini, yellow crookneck, and zephyr). Luckily Jennifer’s knitting buddies have been happy to take as much squash off our hands as we were willing to part with (hint – we were willing to part with a lot), and Jennifer turned the rest into all manner of delicious creations (although perhaps the mock apple pie made from zucchini was taking things a bit too far).
This summer Jennifer spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen putting up vast quantities of tomato sauce, pickles, and jams and jellies with fresh produce either picked straight out of the garden, or acquired at the local farmers market. We also laid our hands on over 100 pomegranates, and have made plenty of pomegranate jelly and syrup and even some grenadine. The blackberry bushes are starting to take over the back fence and the strawberries are staking a serious claim in one of the raised beds, so we are hopeful there might be some berry jams or pies in the future (if Richard doesn’t eat them all). This year we also put in a tiny little red grape plant, so are looking forward to being able to harvest our own grapes a few years down the road.
The cats continue to be healthy and active, although Checkers, our younger tortoiseshell cat, currently has an eye infection that we are treating with antibiotic drops. Ingrid and Rupert are a year older, but are still energetic and enthusiastic members of our household. Ingrid (pictured above) has perfected her pathetic whine and enjoys flopping on her back to show off her fluffy tummy. Rupert is perhaps the most…er….’exuberant’ cat we have ever known (we joke that Rupert’s middle name is “NO!”) and has made it his life’s work to get into anything and everything. Rosemary continues to rearrange her collection of stuffed critters around the house, when she isn’t dashing around with the younger cats. Azzie still is not the biggest fan of the new additions but even he has been caught in the occasional romp.And Zucchini, well…we see him every once in a while, and a trip to the vet this summer for a regular check-up indicates he’s still in good health, so we expect he’ll be lurking in corners just out of sight for a few years to come.
So all in all, 2010 was a good year for the Crawfords. Here’s hoping that 2011 will be prosperous and joyful for all of you.
Richard and Jennifer
Just a reminder that I’m letting my mossroot.com domain expire at the end of the year. If you want to know more about All Things Richard, you should go to http://www.underpope.com. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Just for fun, I’ve uploaded a PDF of the entire text of my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, Iron Horse Apocalypse. No giant squid, but there’s Cthulhu. To download it, click on the picture of the train:
High level critiques are welcome! It may be full of anachronisms and cliches (not to mention a contradiction or two), but this novel was a blast to write, and I hope it’s just as fun to read.
(Remember, I’m migrating this blog over to http://www.underpope.com/bloginomicon. Go there if you want to leave a comment.)
EPIC FANTASY! WITH COWBOYS!
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be writing for National Novel Writing Month this year. I have an idea that I want to write an epic fantasy (with cowboys) this year, which is very different from the sort of thing that I usually write. Last year I wrote Code Monkey: A Love Story with Occasional Monsters, which proved to be a big hit, and which I’ve been revising since December with the intention of actually bringing it to publication.
And last year Jennifer and I attended a great event called the Night of Writing Dangerously, an event where writers from all over the world (literally the world: I met people from Canada and Australia last year) get together in San Francisco for a night of epic writing and socializing. It was tremendous fun, but, more importantly, it raised nearly $50,000 for the Office of Letters and Light and its Young Writers Program. With this money, the Young Writers Program provided materials and inspiration to schoolchildren throughout the world to engage in their own works of creative abandon.
So once again we’re raising money for the Office of Letters and Light and their Young Writers Program. Our goal is $300, so that we can attend the Night of Writing Dangerously again. If you donate to my fund, in any amount, I’ll name a character in my novel after you (or someone else you might like to have honored in this way), and perhaps even incorporate a magical device of your choosing. It’s a fun challenge for me, and a great way to earn yourself a few milliseconds of fame in a web-accessible novel of dubious quality. Plus, I’ll be posting the novel online as I write it, so you can see your scene as it is written (I’ll be sure to drop you a line when it comes up).
But that’s not all!
This year, we’re offering SPECIAL GIFTS for donors! Just like NPR! How cool are we? Here’s what you can get:
These aren’t cumulative. We’re not THAT cool.
So what do you say?
Help us out? And in doing so, help out the Office of Letters and Light and the great work that they do.
To donate, click here, then click on the button that says “Sponsor Us”.
(Reminder: I’m slowly migrating my website over to http://www.underpope.com. To comment on this entry, go there.)
Apparently I write like Margaret Atwood. Here’s my proof:
It’s kind of peculiar. Not that I don’t like Margaret Atwood (though of her novels I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale), but… Well, it just seems like all of these “what is your writing style” tests, based on my blog entries or on my stories, guess that my writing is by a woman. And there are several tests out there (most of them rather dubious, of course) that purport to guess your gender based on a series of questions that you answer; and almost all of these quizzes guess that I’m a woman. This is weird because I’ve frequently been told that when I try to write from a woman’s point of view, I just don’t succeed.
I wonder if this is something I should explore more, or some weirdness I should just chalk up to the Internet?
(Reminder: I’m switching my domain over to http://www.underpope.com. Comments on this entry are closed. If you want to comment, go to http://underpope.com/bloginomicon/2010/07/you-write-like-a-girl/. Be sure to update your bookmarks and feed readers.)
I keep forgetting that I have this blog. Well, no, it’s not that I forget about it; it’s more like, in this world of Twitter and Facebook, it’s much easier to just post 140 characters and forget about it. Blogging seems like so much more work.
So here’s some updates.
First, before I get to the writing updates, here’s an important one: I’m changing domains. I’ve had mossroot.com for over ten years and I’ll feel sad to leave it behind, but underpope.com seems so much more appropriate since I’m “Underpope” everywhere else on the Intertubes. A domain that reflects that just seemed natural. It’s all about growing the brand, you know? So go and change your links, your bookmarks, your feedreaders, etc.
Plus, this clever old-time photograph of the monkey at the typewriter seemed very appropriate for me. After all, it’s a monkey! And it’s typing! How friggin’ cute is that! And since my very own personal slogan is “Code monkey by day, word monkey by night”, the image could not be more fitting.
And now for some writing updates:
Code Monkey! Originally I had planned for this novel to just be a throwaway project for National Novel Writing Month. I had fun writing it, and fun putting it on line, chapter by chapter, for my friends to read. But then enough people (that is, more than one) suggested I actually push forward with it because it apparently has some potential. So I’m in the process of heavily editing it for possible submission to somewhere in the future. And I’m talking some serious edits. I swear, on some pages there is more red ink than black. (This is the reason I took down the original novel online. I could no longer stand the thought of people reading the original crap version.)
For now, that’s about it. In the future, I plan to actually post more actual content. But, then, I always say that, don’t I?
(Comments on this entry are closed. If you want to comment, go to Underpope.com and comment there.)
Remember that swarms of attacking kobolds is the metaphor I’m using for depression. Winston Churchill spoke of the black dog that followed him everywhere as a metaphor for his own depression (though I think he was actually bipolar — I’m sure that someone with a better knowledge of history can correct me on this), and I didn’t want to steal his thunder. So for me it’s kobolds. It’s funnier if you’re a Dungeons and Dragons geek like me and know that lone kobolds are weak and easily defeated, while a big swarm of them can be a serious threat to reckon with.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a condition called “double depression”. With double depression you get to feel constant low-grade depression — dysthymia, for those who are curious — interspersed with bouts of more serious depression. The dysthymia isn’t incapacitating or even all that serious, doesn’t have any specific cause, and can even lift for days at a time. You get used to it, sort of like that low-grade pain in your back that you don’t even notice until it’s gone for some reason. You can get good at acting as though it doesn’t exist; you can act cheerful with your co-workers, your friends, even your loved one.
But the low points — the dips, as it were, or major depressive episodes — really can be incapacitating. You wake up, having slept for eight to twelve hours, feeling exhausted and as though you have to wind yourself up, like a child’s toy, just to get out of bed. Nothing holds your interest. Even typing on your computer keyboard seems like a chore. There’s a hollowness in your chest, an emptiness in your solar plexus, that demands you just curl up and ignore the world around you. Daily maintenance chores — showering, shaving, brushing your teeth, taking medications (among which are, ironically, anti-depressants) — are skipped just because you don’t have the energy. Interacting with co-workers is okay, because it’s a distraction and because you’ve mastered the art of hiding your feelings, though it’s too easy to just call in sick and sit at home eating and watching television or surfing the web (and you probably would if you had any sick hours left and hadn’t squandered them all already). Being at work sucks because, in spite of the “attaboys” and “good job” comments you get from your boss and co-workers, you can’t help feeling like you’re screwing up and are on the verge of being fired at any moment. Above all you spend the day on the verge of tears without really knowing why.
Hope is elusive. You feel as though nothing good will happen, that nothing good will ever happen. At the same time, you also feel as though everything good that has happened has been due to undeserved good luck, or just a plain old fluke. I also have trouble writing, because of the above-mentioned chore of sitting at the keyboard and typing, and because I’m convinced nothing I write — short stories, novels, whatever — is marketable, let alone publishable. In this mood, it’s difficult to motivate myself to do any writing at all. Works in progress stay untouched for days, possibly weeks, at a time.
At least, that’s how I experience a day when the kobolds are attacking in swarms. Your mileage may vary.
Lunch hour’s just about up, so I’d better finish this up. Do you have days when the kobolds attack? How do you experience them? It’d just be nice to know that I’m not the only one.
My old friend Andrea is coming into town this Friday, March 19, and in honor of her visit I’m planning on running a Dungeons and Dragons game that night. (Actually I’ll be using Pathfinder, which is essentially D&D version 3.5). Anyone interested in playing? I pledge to make it a one-shot, and I’ve got a plot that should be pretty cool.
Let me know.
I’ve been outed as a nerd. To my coworkers, to my neighbors, and to the people I go to church with. I make no secret of my nerd inclinations, but it’s not necessarily a part of my life that I share with everyone. Not out of shame, of course; just because I know my interests aren’t shared with everyone that I know.
This “outing” happened a couple of weeks ago. My neighbors came up to me and said, “Hey, Richard! I saw you in the paper!” The next day, a co-worker said the same thing. And at church the following Sunday, yet another person came up and told me that they’d seen my picture in the paper.
These comments took me by surprise; to my knowledge my photograph hadn’t been in the paper at all. I mean, I knew that I’d been interviewed for this article in the Sacramento Bee about “Doppelganger Week” on Facebook — “Doppelganger Week”, for those who don’t keep up with Facebook memes (doesn’t everyone?) was a week or so when people replaced their Facebook profile picture with the picture of a celebrity that they were told they resembled– and I’d sent the reporter a photograph of myself and Emperor Joshua Norton (whom I’ve been told I look like and so whom I’d chosen as my doppelganger). But the online version of the article hadn’t run my picture, so I figured the print version hadn’t either. I don’t read the print edition of the newspaper, and I’d just assumed that no one else does either.
Turns out several people do, though, and in the print edition of that day’s Bee, my photograph ran alongside the photograph of Emperor Norton that I’d sent in. A high school classmate posted a photograph of the print version to Facebook, and it’s reproduced here. So yeah, people saw my photograph in the Bee, and they kept telling me about it. And I was definitely outed as a nerd. A Facebook-using, historical-figure impersonating nerd.
I’m okay with that.
At least they still don’t know about the robot penguin on my desk.
In Other News…
Writing: The writing continues. Right now I’m editing one of my Stories of the Week in preparation for sending it out to the markets. I’m also working on a new novel, Brought to Life, which so far isn’t going very well. And, of course, Code Monkey!, my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel, is still available online in case you’d like to read it. If you do choose to read it — and bear in mind that the version online is the unedited, un-revised version — I hope you enjoy it.
Work: Work continues to be challenging and enjoyable. I recently characterized my job as “slapping bandages on broken code”, to which my boss responded that it was more like performing major surgery on broken code. In some ways, though, I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, especially one product that I’ve been hacking and eviscerating so heavily that what we use now barely resembles the pre-existing version at all. It’s a good job, pleasantly secure, and I fully intend to leave it boots first.
This website: At some point, I’ll be moving to a new domain: http://www.underpope.com. Right now, the only thing that the new domain does is redirect back to my current domain. It’s all about growing the brand, you see. I’m “underpope” in just about every online forum I participate in, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and so on, so I figured I may as well have the domain too. I’m going to take the opportunity to do a major redesign of my site, I think, so if anyone has any suggestions I’m open to them.
This blog: And while I’m at it, I’ll mention that this month marks the tenth anniversary of my blog. My very first entry was March 20, 2000. I’ll try to remember to post something of interest on that day.
And So On…
As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, and so it goes. Thank you and good day.
All right, I won’t be deleting Code Monkey! from my website today. The main reason I was considering it was just a matter of space on my server; but since it turns out I could clean up tons of space in other ways, Code Monkey! will be hanging around for a bit longer. At some point I probably will be taking it down, just so I can clean it up, and then make it available through CreateSpace and other venues.
Thanks to those who chimed in. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, just like a monkey.
I’m planning on deleting Code Monkey! from my website later today. Any objections?
Today, of course, was the 70th birthday of filmmaker George Romero. Romero is responsible for a number of films, such as The Dark Half, the original version of The Crazies (a remake of which is soon to be released), Martin, and plenty of others. What the world really remembers him for, and probably always will, is his Living Dead series of films: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and the upcoming Survival of the Dead. (It’s worth noting that each of these films has been remade at least once, usually with inferior results, though Zach Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead is arguably a quality film on its own merits). Night of the Living Dead was the first film to feature the modern zombie: the shuffling, moaning, flesh eating corpse that in large numbers poses a significant threat to civilization; and even though the word “zombie” did not show up in any of Romero’s Living Dead films (the creatures are more technically ghouls than zombies), they’re the perennial classics of the genre.
What’s funny, though, is that even though Romero pioneered the genre, and just about everyone, when asked to name the most influential zombie film will name Night of the Living Dead, the version of the undead zombie which has permeated pop culture is very different from Romero’s undead. The modern pop culture zombie shuffles about just like Romero’s did, but also cracks open human skulls to munch on human brains. The brain-munching seems to have its origin in The Return of the Living Dead (directed by Dan O’Bannon) and its sequels. Note that Romero had nothing to do with these films. In these films, zombies walk, munch brains (“Because,” one zombie explains, “being dead hurts”, and eating brains soothes that pain), and can even talk (“Send more cops”, says one zombie at one point). But you can’t kill them just by decapitating them as you can with Romero-style zombies; if you cut the arm off of a O’Bannon zombie, and now the zombie still comes after you as does its separated arm. Cut off its head, and the head keeps biting and the body keeps shambling. The only way to kill an O’Bannon zombie is to incinerate it completely, although the ash still contains the chemical that set it into motion in the first place.
So, anyway, the modern pop culture zombie seems to be an amalgamation of the two breeds of zombie: they shuffle (Romero), moan (Romero + O’Bannon), eat brains (O’Bannon), and can be killed by decapitation (Romero). They’re not articulate, but they can moan after “Brraaaaiiiinnnnssss”.
I’ve already shared with you my theories about the zombie apocalypse (in “It’s All About the Zombies“); now you’ve been subjected to my theory about the origin of the modern pop culture zombie. I don’t claim to be the font of all zombe lore, but I may end up getting there at some point.
How are you celebrating?
Daikaijuzine 5.0 (Anguirus) is now live! Check it out.
Last 10 EntriesHoliday Letter 2010
Passing the Hat
Just for fun…
Passing round the hat
You Write Like a Girl
A Day Full of Kobolds
Friday Night Gaming
Code Monkey! False Alarm
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