Sunday, 13 September 2015

Scifi, Shiftings and Syria

The word of the week is perfidy.

September 7 – Refuge

What a world we live in; I say that with mixed feelings.

The plight of Syrian noncombatants has been known for several years now, ever since there country was plunged into civil war. Yet only the recent photos of a small ground Syrian refugee boy galvanize the world unity into paying attention to this huge crisis that too few people know the story behind.

I myself was unaware of exactly why so many Syrians were fleeing their country, people who had jobs and stability no longer. War’s a complicated thing and it's no less the case in Syria, so I was grateful to find this eloquent webcomic that explained the situation simply:

Neil Gaiman has given much of his time in the last year to making the plight of the Syrian refugees known to the world. While I have seen many countries treat the refugees with distain and fear, Gaiman rises above this to show us that such attitudes are selfish in the face of such suffering on a massive scale as it taking place right now:

Fear will always be with us, as it’s natural to the human condition. Not every refugee is a terrorist in disguise; far from it. Millions of people have been driven from their homes, the scale of refugee movement not seen since the Second World War. The world today seems indifferent to suffering, much more inclined to bury their heads in Facebook or Instagram or whatever else makes their world a rosy-tinted color. I have to ask myself as well, knowing my own limitations and finances: what can I do?

Better yet: what will I do?

September 8 – Night Lights!

Talk about all-day anticipation!

After work( and dinner, I might add )today, I prepped our gear for later on this evening, because: Tonight was the night to test our creations: buoys, that is, and we would end up spending about an hour on the water overall tonight.

There was a surprising amount of gear to bring, in addition to the boat, remote control and buoys. Flashlights, the comfy porta-couch, a lantern, bug spray, washcloth for drying the buoys after their immersion, digital camera plus various other odds and ends. We packed all into the back of my lady's car and drove down to the yacht pond at 8:30 PM, well after the sun had set and full dark had settled on the shoreline.

As expected, we were the only ones there and as the pond is unlit, we had to watch our step as we made our way down the slight slope to the water’s edge, which is bordered by an asphalt walkway. Unpacking everything, we laid out the buoys, clipping them to the line and ensuring the lights were lit. We immersed them one by one while ensuring the line wasn't tangled and that each floated properly in the water.

The problem of getting the line across the pond in the dark was quickly solved by my girlfriend, who suggested the Haulin’ Trawler live up to its name by towing the bobbing line of buoys across to the other side. Brilliant – this is how it looked:

Once the line of buoys was secured, we had a grand old time sailing the fully-lit Trawler around in the dark, as it looked magnificent. We had about a half an hour of smooth sailing, then the winds off the ocean picked up, cooling temperatures considerably.

Still, it all worked wonderfully well - here's a brief video of the action:

I should mention that for the last half-hour we had an unforeseen companion: a young  wayward duck! He followed our boat around, quacking, likely unsure as to what exactly the shiny apparition of light was, wandering around on his pond after hours. It was amusing in that we couldn't see him at all and I had to flash the occasional light onto the pond in order to locate the duck so as not to run the boat into him. Silly bird!

All in all, it was a very successful evening. My girlfriend and I had a ton of fun and although we were somewhat chilled once everything was all packed up the car - which by then was covered in dew - it's deftly something that were going to do again, weather permitting.

I've no idea if the duck will be there next time, though.

September 9 – Shiftings

Perfectionism? Not my style – at least, not any more.

It’s a form of ‘Perfectionist Poison’ to want to be in control of everything in your life. While I’m not technically a control freak, I am more like such than I care to admit, sometimes. Knowing what's going on in my life, what I need to do in the short-term versus long-term, how I'm doing on my personal goals, small things like grocery lists… all those and hundred other things are always on my mind, for better or worse.

I realize that I can't being in control of every single detail of my life; that's not how it works. We do what we can with what comes our way, handling it with grace were with heavy-handedness: whatever method suits our style at the time were seems best for the situation.

For me, I'm a planner. I look at facts, add data accumulated over years, things I've accomplished and skills I've developed to help me deal with whatever gets thrown my way. This can be both a blessing and a curse, in that carefully assembled plans can be scattered to the winds when something completely unexpected comes your way - often the case with life. As I've mentioned before, I'm the sort of person who deals well with the big crises that come along but it's bogged down in the details that consequently drive me bonkers week to week. Not to mention it being a big part of my psyche, where I need to be highly knowledgeable about both subjects that I talk of and conversant even in those I don't regularly think about – my self-image is strange that way, but at least I recognize that about myself and have worked to ensure that it's not a pillar of my persona anymore.

I'm getting better at balancing things, however. Having more points of stability in my life now, I can better judge what's important in the short term or the long and adjust accordingly. It sounds simple but you really have to look at the attitude with which you deal with whatever gets tossed out you. Mine, for the most part in the last year, has been positive and progressive towards the goals that I want to achieve.

On a similar note, I realized this week that I still had a recurring daily event on my Google Calendar that has been redundant for nearly a year now: my work-shift for my day job. I’d originally put it into the calendar to remind myself of when I’d be working when there was lots of overtime early in 2015, but now that I’m out of Invoices, it’s no longer necessary.

It’s the first time in my working that I’ve ever had a weekly calendar that didn’t list my work shifts on it… and it’s profoundly pleasing to me. At long last, I’ve realized that I no longer have to check the calendar to plan my week, wondering where I can fit things in depending on what I’m working each day – I know what I’ll be working now, until I decide to change things up.

It’s a wonderful feeling, that.

September 10 – SciFi and Me

After work today, I gave a presentation on science fiction for my writing group.

It’s nights like this that make me glad I’m able to do what I do, writing-wise. I was excited to give the presentation tonight, having prepared all week for it, editing and revising my handout after giving a fair amount of thought as to what I wanted to talk about.

By that, I mean that I can give a presentation to a group of like-minded people( writers! )who not only want to hear what I have to say, but add to the conversation as we go along.

Also, tonight’s topic is near and dear to my heart, so that helped.

In putting together the research for the presentation tonight, I came across a curious discovery: nobody can agree on what exactly science fiction is, not even acknowledged Masters of the genre. Here's a few of the quotations I used from famous sci-fi authors:

It's a curious thing, trying to define something that by its nature is so flexible and often times deliberately obscure in its tenets. Science fiction is to me the genre with the broadest canvas to work with, allowing authors to write practically anything they wish in terms of fiction without any hue and cry being raised by readers as to a story solidity in belonging to the genre.

In any case, it was a splendid night, where I was able to present great amounts of information, relevantly assembled, to a group of attentive writers. Quite a few people expressed their gratitude to me afterwards for putting together such a solid evening and I went home smiling, happy that once again I had not only increase my own knowledge but that of others as well.

September 11 – Thrice Dazed

A few problems reared their head today and well, it kinda made the day off move from pleasant to problematic and stinky. Unexpected expenses tend to do that to me, especially when they throw my carefully-tended hopes of short-term financial solvency all askew.


Still, how one deals with problems is really the key to solving them. I did various tasks all day in a frowning funk, then pulled myself out of it to meet a co-worker for beers after work for a few hours. It’s strange how problems can be: some are better for being shared, and others shrink to their proper, not-so-bad-after-all size when you’re faced with either being a grumpy jerk over beers or just letting things go after a proper day-long think-up.

For the most part, I was over what was eating me by late afternoon. I did so by reminding myself that what had to be done was necessary and that in the current scheme of things, I wasn't any worse off.

That sort of thinking is really what it takes. I was surprised, thinking about things later in the evening, to realize that the one big unexpected problem had attracted all sorts of other negativity along with it - all unintentional. The phrase “misery loves company” applies to one's thoughts and feelings as readily as any other situation and when I was feeling down today, all the other little problems and failures in my life crowded in to keep the new problem company without being asked.

Once I realized that, I could look at things objectively and from there I could see that while I wasn't exactly happy with how my finances would be over the next few months, they were disastrous by any means. So I could get back to enjoying my first-ever 3-day EDO weekend.

It’s also important noting that 14 years ago today, the Twin Towers fell. Nobody alive and aware of the event at the time will ever forget it.

Yet now, almost a decade and a half later, this massive act of terrorism( despite the conspiracy theorists, I’m going with Occam’s Razor on this one )remains a scar on North American psyche. A reminder that the Western World is vulnerable, that there are monsters in the world who will stop at nothing to ensure their ideology prevails, as I mentioned last week with IS and the destruction of world cultural heritage sites.

Evil is out there, waiting for chances to strut its stuff, and it makes my own problems dust in the wind by comparison.

September 12 – Un-a-Musing Visits

After a pleasant patio breakfast with my lady, we parted ways to go about our day. I managed to get a few things done that I hadn’t yesterday, due to my frustrated state.

In the afternoon, I got out of the house. I was determined to enjoy the fantastic weather in some manner that didn’t involve me sweating like crazy or being among a noisy crowd.

So I chose to be in a park.

As it happens, I still lugged a chair, laptop, jacket, water bottle and other minor gear with me on a twenty-minute stroll to Beacon Hill Park. Shorts and sandals were the order of the day, since it was so nice out, with hints of a cool breeze from the ocean drifting now and then through the trees.

I picked a perfect spot by the duck pond, out of the way of most people, right next to the stream and shaded by a tree from the sun.

Nothing came to mind. Nada.

You can’t force the Muse to visit, if it’s not ready.

Once I was back home, I spent a while looking deeper into how to use my copy of Scrivener to plot out the second half of my book. It’s a flexible, capable program, but it’s not for novice users; one has to work at eking the most out of its powerful tools, step by step.

I think that’s got to be the key to making progress on Book 2: using Scrivener’s plot tools. My book’s too complex to properly juggle it all in my head at this point, and I think that’s what’s confusing my Muse, why I get so frustrated trying to set down scene summaries of late.

September 13 – Visits Of Other Sorts

Today was a double-header of fun!

My girlfriend's parents were visiting the Island this weekend, so we met up with them for breakfast this morning over at Willie’s Bakery – somewhat of a misnomer, as the place is a fantastic restaurant with a small bakery inside.

It turned out to be a lovely day today after all, with warnings of rain turning out to be nothing more than that. We enjoyed our breakfast on the patio at Willie's immensely, the food as always more than satisfying and quick to the table.

After that, we walked only a block down the street to see the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival, in its third year here. Government Street was closed for two blocks so that the artists could ply their chalky trade, some of them having been up since the very early hours of the morning at work on the cordoned-off roadway. Here's a few sample pictures:

You can find the rest here - some really good art this year I have to say!

Towards noon, we decided to go and visit Oak Bay, possibly to drive around and see the gardens. We actually ended up just walking around under the sunny blue skies, poking our heads into the shops and seeing what we discovered. I ended up with a boardgame that I hadn't known existed. It’s simple, 2-player and involves castles – sweet! Here it is:

Lunch was a lovely low-key affair at the Penny Farthing Pub, on the back patio that has quickly become one of my favorite spots in Victoria. While the wind blew leaves all around outside, my girlfriend, her parents and I were happily ensconced in the protected( yet still outdoors )patio, enjoying our lunch. Her parents are wonderful people and I enjoy chatting with them whenever we see each other.

Then it was home and blog writing time, with various household tasks interspersed as per usual for Sunday evenings.

Except for the fact that last-minute I was invited out to meet up with my sister’s group of friends at the Beagle, which I hadn't done in probably six months or more. Seeing as I hadn't had dinner yet, it made sense and so after another hour of writing my blog, I headed out down the road for a quick 10-minute walk down Cook St.

It was good to just get out and relax with people I only know someone well, though they're all really nice folks. As it turns out, one of them is a writer who is determined to create her own fantasy trilogy, so we ended up chatting about that for good part of my time there.

Once I was back home after a pleasant few hours, I dove right into the blog and finished it off in record time, well before my now rather-early 11pm bedtime – that being the time when my eyes start drooping and I can’t do much more than read a bit before dozing off.

It's been an odd week, I have to say. Periods of stress interspersed among much longer periods of contentment and bliss: that about sums it up. My shoulders and neck are far tenser than they've been in some time and while I know it's an anomaly, it still uncomfortable to think that it's pure stress that has done that to them so easily. This coming week, I'll be focusing every day on things I can accomplish and not dwelling on those factors that I can't do anything about in the short term. I think that's a pretty healthy mode of thinking to take on for myself this fall.