My November

It’s been almost a month since I posted, so I thought I’d give a brief update on what I’ve been up to. I guess in no particular order, recently I’ve:

  1. Read the Quran
  2. “Finished” Hoffnungslose Ziele III: Sympathy for the Fallen
  3. Written about half of my new novel, a Science Fiction story about Artificial Intelligence titled A.I.M.E.E.
  4. Made some progress getting 10 USC § 1414 amended so (hopefully) 100% disabled military retirees like myself will finally be able to receive both our military pensions and VA disability compensation without offset
  5. Did a lot of work in my online class, CSCI E-3, Introduction to Web Programming Using JavaScript

So, yeah, I’ve been busy, after a fashion. That’s why I haven’t been blogging, and I’ve been quieter on Twitter lately. Limited energy due to my Gulf War Illness, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome + Fibromyalgia, depending on which doctor/claims administrator you ask, coupled with a pretty full plate. I have a limited number of “productive” hours every day (or at least on “good” days), so I can’t do nearly as much as I’d like to. It’s interesting how chronic pain and limited energy force me to evaluate how I’m going to spend my limited “productive” time each day when I can maintain focus and mental clarity, and sit up straight/type. It’s a good way to find out what’s important. I still wouldn’t wish this on anyone though!

1. Reading the Quran. That was actually something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree back in prehistoric times (2002), in the oh-so-marketable field of Theology and Religious Studies (with an equally marketable English minor!), so religion is a topic I’ve been fascinated with for pretty much my entire adult life. I could easily write a blog post just on this topic, so I’ll keep this paragraph short. My impression after reading the Quran is that it’s divinely inspired just like the Tanakh and the Bible, so I guess that means I accept Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a prophet. Which, holy cow, has a huge range of implications for a Roman Catholic Christian guy like me. I suspect it will take a long time to unpack and process just what it means, but in the short term, I’ll defend Islam against anyone who claims it’s a “bad” or “violent” religion or that it’s incompatible with “democratic values.” The Quran is filled with love, compassion, and exhortations to be kind to others and treat them with dignity and respect. And, there’s no mistaking that Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians. And there’s soooooooooooo much in the Quran that is in complete agreement with the Bible, so…yeah. I think we should take a long hard look at just how much of our beliefs and values we share in common, rather than focusing on a small number of (mainly dogmatic) differences. That’s not to gloss over those difference–I realize from a theologian’s perspective that all 3 religions have major differences. But, I don’t think humans are all that great at interpreting divine revelations and I’m very willing to accept that all these prophets (peace be upon them) were legit and speaking about the same God. We’re just not the best listeners, and some people even like to twist Scripture to suit their own personal or political inclinations. Yeah.

2. The third and final installment in my Hoffnungslose Ziele dark fantasy series is done. It’s roughly 160,000 words long, which is actually a few thousand words longer than my first published novel, Hoffnungslose Ziele: A Dark Journey of Lost Causes. The third book takes a deep dive across time and space, and (hopefully) fills in the gaps and answers most of those nagging questions readers might have had after reading the first 2 books. I think it certainly lays out the “laws” of the Hoffnungslose Ziele universe, and completes the story arcs of the main characters. Sure, there are plenty of spinoffs and side stories that could be written about more minor characters, but this closes out the series as far as I’m concerned. I’ve gotten back all my artwork (including cover art!) for the book, so it’s just a matter of editing, incorporating the artwork, and self-publishing. I’m hoping to do that in late December or early January, during the break between the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 academic semesters.

3. Which brings me to my new novel, A.I.M.E.E. I teased it a bit in an earlier blog post, but I’ve made a fair amount of progress writing the book. The current word count is at around 88,000 words, and plot-wise I believe it’s at about the halfway point. I know where I want the story to go, but I don’t believe in outlining too rigidly–my stories tend to take on lives of their own, and the characters sometimes demand I take things in a different direction than I had planned, because they have lives of their own and I have to be true to them rather than forcing them to act in artificial ways for the sake of the plot. If the characters aren’t real, what’s the point? This book is a departure from my 3 Fantasy novels, and my first serious attempt at writing Science Fiction. In a lot of ways I find the genre more limiting than Fantasy, and frustratingly, I have to say, a lot of the “good stuff” technology-wise in most Science Fiction stories, at least the ones that involve interstellar space travel, actually amount to Fantasy and “magic” wrapped up with scientific-sounding technobabble. Trying to actually be “scientific” (to a point) and write about plausible technologies, and include plausible space travel times…tends to drag things out in terms of the years that sometimes need to pass just for the characters to get from Point A to Point B. And there is interstellar space travel, and I hope it’s exciting, but at its heart the book is about Artificial Intelligence and the question of sentience/consciousness/personhood. Oh, and belief in God in a reasonably distant (~ 600 years) future in a predominantly atheist society. Because I’m interested in religion. I’m also hoping to finish, or mostly finish, writing A.I.M.E.E., during the break between Fall and Spring classes. Hopefully I’ll get close to my goal.

4. I’ve had some encouraging discussions regarding my effort to get 10 USC § 1414 amended. I won’t reiterate the issue here because I’ve blogged about it, have a page about it on my website, and also have a Petition with plentiful updates explaining the issues with the current law and my proposed amendments in detail. In a nutshell, I’ve found a veterans organization that’s speaking with a Congressional Representative in the near future about the issue and shared my thoughts with them, and I’ve also had a very good discussion with a Senator’s staff on the topic. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe next year, we will see some legislative action that is life changing in a very good way for disabled military retirees.

5. I’ve been working/studying hard in my JavaScript programming class. My biggest preoccupation right now is with my final project, due 19 December. I’m working on a web-based tool for managing genetic genealogy data in a visually appealing (and useful) manner, hopefully creating a replacement for DNA Spreadsheets. Here are a couple screenshots from my in-progress web app:



So, basically, it’s a web-based database where users can enter information about genetic relatives per the major commercial testing companies, including matching chromosomes and segment starting/ending positions. Then it’ll “draw” those segments on the map of the user’s pairs of chromosomes, allowing one to keep track of which relatives they share DNA with and where. And identify a known ancestor or ancestral pair (husband and wife) associated with a given relative or segment, and have that entire region of the chromosome shaded and associated with that particular ancestor(s). It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together, with the goal being for the genetic genealogist to be able to create a visual “map” of where his/her DNA came from (and more easily triangulate how s/he is related to new “matches” that show up through those popular commercial genetic testing services).

I’ve got a lot of work left to do on it, although I think the form is pretty much done, as are the chromosome drawings in their starting format. I still have to refine the data objects and arrays I’ll be storing the form data in, and write the functions that’ll draw the mapped segments to the appropriate points on the right chromosomes. And write additional functionality such as mouseover on a segment to display the data about that relative, or onclick on a segment to reopen the form and edit any fields about that genetic relative the user wishes to.

Next semester, which starts in late January, I’m planning to take CSCI E-31, Web Application Development using Node.JS, and CSCI E-33A, Web Programming with Python and JavaScript. Taking 2 classes instead of 1 will be challenging, and I doubt I’ll have any time to write, but I’m hoping to launch a new career as a web developer and I don’t have forever (unless Congress changes 10 USC § 1414. Then I won’t have to worry so much about money, and can take my time with my studies, which I plan to continue either way because I really find it interesting).

OK, that’s what I’ve been up to, and it’s now after dinner and my mind is turning to mush. I have no more productivity left, so I’d best get this post out and then unplug. Such is life with a chronic illness and limited cognitive resources! (And as an aside, I just spent 30 minutes “proofreading” all the above, and my mind is really mush now, so I’m definitely signing off! Goodnight world!!)

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