Life Happens

Zen and the Art of Car Maintenance

I missed posting yesterday because I spent five hours driving and five hours waiting in a Honda dealership service department.

The backstory: our 2016 Honda Fit’s check engine light came on several weeks ago. Since we live so far away from a dealership, I took it to my local mechanic to have it checked. It was a non-specific code, so they did the easiest of the many repair options.

Minutes after leaving the mechanic with this fix, the light was back on. I took the car back and had another repair done.

Guess what?

The light came back on before I got home.

At that point, my local mechanic said the next repair would be expensive. I opted to take it to the dealership to see if the repairs were under warranty. (Admittedly, my first instinct was to trade the car in, or blow it up.)

The dealership determined that the fuel injectors were bad. This would be a $2,000 repair. Luckily, the majority of the cost was covered under warranty.

Yesterday, I sat in the dealership and waited for the warranty work to be done. We also needed new tires, an oil change, and a state inspection. I decided to just get all of this done while I was already waiting, rather than making myself spend another day in the future waiting at a mechanic’s shop.

Low and behold, the service manager comes out to tell me the car isn’t inspectable. Apparently, between the time I was in their shop for diagnosis (two and a half weeks ago) and yesterday, one of the shock absorbers on the car… Exploded?

Needless to say, that one isn’t covered under warranty and would cost me $600 or so.

So  now, I set at home with an uninspectable car, wondering why I don’t live in a city where I wouldn’t need a car (spoiler: agoraphobia is why).

That was my day yesterday. Now I have to go call a mechanic and find out what a non-dealership cost would be for these shocks.

Pet Peeves

Dialogue-less Books

Here’s a pet peeve of mine: dialogue-less books.

What triggered this post is the novel Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. However, a popular example of this is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The Road is science fiction dressed up in literary snobbery (another pet peeve for later), but it eschews the traditional dialogue format.

Here’s an example:

Note at the end of the paragraph, there’s a “he said.” There’s a least a gender assigned to the speaker, though it isn’t unique. There’s a “he” and “the boy.” Given the paragraph, I would assume father and son, or at least adult male and young boy.

Then a paragraph break and (apparently?) more dialogue. But no indicators of the speaker. It is easy to assume this is a back-and-forth, and in this very short snapshot, it becomes obvious which person is speaking when.

However, for me (and remember this is a pet peeve, a personal vexation), I’ve already spent too much time trying to ensure I understand who is speaking that I’m bounced out of the story’s reality and into my own. Which is not where I want to be when I read; I want to be in the story’s world, not mine.

To me, this is lazy writing. It leaves the characters as stiff, cardboard cutouts, rather than real, living beings. I don’t understand what this brings to a story, other than tripe snobbery, an attempt to take what should be an excellent, post-apocalypse story and “dress it up” for the literary, “genre-writing isn’t real writing” snobs.

Reviews, TV

Thoughts On Netflix’s “Black Summer”

I’d like to talk about Netflix’s latest zombie show, Black Summer. Here’s a quick plot summary:

Black Summer stars Jaime King (Hart of Dixie) as a mother who is torn from her daughter and embarks upon a harrowing journey, stopping at nothing to find her. Thrust alongside a small group of American refugees, she must brave a hostile new world and make brutal decisions during the most-deadly summer of a zombie apocalypse. 

via Hollywood Reporter

Here be spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

Continue reading “Thoughts On Netflix’s “Black Summer””
Health, Physical & Mental

Feeling Better

About three weeks ago, I had another medication change. This is probably the latest in a dozen or more over the last two years. Up until now, my medical professionals have been trying to directly treat bipolar type two disorder.

Three weeks ago, we started trying to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, with a focus on the obsessive aspect. (I don’t really have compulsions in the Hollywood-style.)

This change has been incredible. Usually, we change a medication and I have, roughly, a two week period where I feel better. Then things go back to my “normal.” Normal for me is very, very depressed with no motivation.

The last three weeks or so have seen me without depression. When I say without, I mean near zero. I get a depression questionnaire whenever I go to the doctor (called a PHQ-9 questionnaire). This week is the first time in over three years that I’ve been able to say “Not At All” on most of the questions. Even the ones I can’t say “Not At All” on have been dramatically reduced.

The added bonus is my physical pain has also been reduced. My wife thinks this is tension-related, as in I’m holding myself in a more relaxed manner than usual. I agree with her, as I find I’ve had fewer tension headaches and less jaw pain.

This all leads to: I’m feeling better. More motivated. I’ve been writing more, planning more, thinking of new projects to do.

I’m planning on writing here more often. I’ve been inspired by this interview with Austin Kleon. In particular, the method he uses for a pocket notebook, logbook, diary, etc. I’m going to try to start doing something similar, both to minimize how much I carry on my person day-to-day, and to increase the amount of material I have to use here.

That’s all for now.

What I've Been Reading

November/December Reads

I’m trying to find a way to track everything I read. I’ve tried paper journals, LibraryThing, GoodReads, etc. Paper journals end up getting list or forgotten, and the online services have too many features. I just want a simple list.

So, I’m going to try to start writing up an entry here every month. This post will get updated each time I read something new.

* Note: All links below lead to IndieBound.org. Please consider supporting your local independent bookstore.

Novels

  1. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
  2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  3. Contagion by Erin Bowman
  4. Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan (ARC)
  5. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Short Stories

  1. A Prayer to Berlinetta by Tobias Buckell (Patreon-only)

Essays and Non-Fiction

  1. Seventeen via Longreads
Memories

Memories on May the Fourth

It was one year ago today that we lost my father-in-law, Charlie, to lung cancer. It was fast, confusing, distressing, heartbreaking, and a whole host of things.

Charlie and I had a strange relationship. When Caroline and I first started dating, I was this hulking, quiet, bear of a guy that was suddenly in his daughter’s life. He had no idea who I was or what I was like. I barely talked. He cracked jokes, as he always did, and I barely reacted.

After a few years, though, it became clear that Caroline and I were in a serious relationship, and I also started opening up. I remember clearly the day the ice broke completely, for me, and I truly felt like I was part of the Moore family.

I’d been struggling in school; I had been for years. My academic performance had descended to the point where I was deathly afraid–literally afraid for my life–that my flesh-and-blood father would do me harm. I was put on academic probation. I was close to being put on academic suspension. The university had sent my father a letter.

Dear Lord, I thought I was going to die.

When all of this went down, Caroline and I had been visiting her parents for a long weekend. I honestly forget how the subject came up, I just remember it was late at night and Charlie finally confronted me about what was going on. He asked me one question that no one else had bluntly asked me before:

“What are you really afraid of?”

That was the moment I realized how terrified of my own father I was. I realized that it didn’t matter what my academic performance was. None of it mattered. I’d been living in fear, soul-rending fear for so long that I’d lost track of what really mattered.

That was the first time I’d cried, really cried, since I was a child. Since before my mother passed away. The last time I’d cried like that, my mother had held me in her arms.

And you know what happened next?

Charlie hugged me.

It was an unexpected gesture, but exactly what I needed at that moment. And that one gesture told me I was part of his family, he understood me, and he cared about me.

From that moment on, he and I had a much better relationship. We had our ups and downs, our spats. I definitely pissed him off a few times. But we talked a lot, we laughed and joked, and we worked together.

There’s a reason I took my wife’s name when we were married, and this is part of it.

So last year, when we lost Charlie, I lost not only my father-in-law, but a dear friend and someone who was much more a father to me than my own was.

To Charlie: Wherever in the ‘verse you are now, I hope they are treating you right.

Health, Physical & Mental, Writing Project Updates

The Ups and Downs of a Day

Down: I had therapy this morning with my new therapist. Unfortunately, this morning is the last session with this therapist. There’s something missing from the sessions and I’m convinced there’s no way to fix it.

Up: I finished a short story. Drafted it by hand and I approximate that it comes to about 1,500 words (it is eight hand-written pages).

Up: I’ve been using the iOS and Mac app Things to keep track of To Do items, iCloud’s Calendar to track appointments and school events, and IFTTT’s iOS app to set reminders for taking medications. Overall, this “outboard brain” (as Tobias Buckell refers to it) is doing much better than my previous hand-written calendar and task sheet at keeping me organized and on-target.

Up: I’m already juggling ideas for a new short story that I’ll start (and maybe finish!) writing tomorrow while the girls are in school.