2013 in Retrospect

I usually keep this blog strictly as a platform for fiction.

Being as this Tuesday (the day I normally post new content) also happens to be New Year’s Eve, however, I’ve decided to take a moment and pay respects to the passing of one hell of a year. To assure that my readers get their weekly dose of Richard’s fiction, I’ve got something set up to post on Thursday. So, worry not!

2013 was a year to remember. Personally, it was a very big year, full of many wonderful, horrible, and enlightening things, many of which found their way into the “life altering” category. I’m just going to talk here about the things that affect me personally, because otherwise it would just be too much.

Let’s start out with why it was a hard year.

I lost my cousin to a tornado at the end of May. He was a bright and excessively thoughtful human being that was out there trying to develop better early warning systems for tornadoes to save lives, he and several colleagues lost their lives in the process. He was a truly great human being. Another indicator that the best among us suffer from the same limits on existence as the rest. Seven months later, the notion of his death is still shocking to me every time that it comes to mind. I take solace in the thought that he didn’t waste a single second of his bright, and all too short life.

I lost my paternal grandfather this March to cancer. We weren’t particularly close, but he was my grandfather, and now the possibility that we ever could become close is gone forever. He was the last surviving grand parent who I was actually related to, and I’m terrified by the thought that if I go back only two steps in my family history, the step is now empty. He did great things, he did some not so great things, but regardless of the caliber of the things, the fact that he does no more is a shame.

I almost lost another cousin to drugs. The word “almost” in the previous sentence is one of those words that remind me that all words are not created equally. I am very thankful for being able to write that “almost.” I’ll leave this one here, without further details for obvious reasons.

My brother had a close call in a motorcycle accident in June and is still in physical therapy, but is doing much better. His leg is still hurting him some, but I can think of hundreds of ways in which the accident could have been worse. In fact sometimes I still replay them in my nightmares. He, however, also has a pretty rad car now and the exercise of his therapy has given his life a turn in a healthier direction.

One of my favorite dogs in the entire universe was put down on Christmas this year. Animal was a big goofy Pit Bull with a heart of gold that belonged to my sister and her husband. He was getting up there in age, but it is still sad, and worth mentioning the passing of one of the sweetest critters I’ve ever met. It’s also hard to watch pain on the faces of people I care about so deeply as my sister and brother in law.


Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, anyone that found their way through all that above gets rewarded with news as to some of the things that made it a great year.

It was the first year after graduating college, so it was different, for a lot of reasons. My special lady friend and I have been together for almost two years now, and her company and affection are two things that made the year survivable. Without her, 2013 very well might have broken me.

We were fortunate enough to work for a few months in the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains at a place called AstroCamp in Idyllwild, Ca. I got to play every day in some of the most beautiful surroundings a man could wish for. I met a whole slew of new people, some of which I can see as being friends for life.

Aforementioned lady friend and I moved to San Diego to start the Physics Masters program at San Diego State University. We also moved into our first place together. After seven months, we can’t wait to move, but only because of the apartment and the part of town. Living together has brought us closer together, rather than driving us apart, as it does with some couples.

My sister also started her PhD in crazy brain stuff. She is going to beat me to being able to tack Dr. on the front of her name, assuming I go that rout once I finish my Masters. I’m okay with her winning that one.

My Dad, after many years, changed careers, and I’m proud of him. It was a bold move into physically harder work, but he enjoys his new job more and thus has gained all the perks that come from liking what you do, including a healthier, happier life style (as well as the big bushy beard he always wanted but the old job wouldn’t let him grow).


It has also been a big year for my writing.

This year I finished two novels. One is mostly edited down and ready to go, the other is still as rough as can be. I’ve written most of another novel, almost near the end of the first draft. This last one promises to be the largest writing project I have taken on to date. It sits, unfinished at 86,000 words, 60,000 of which I wrote during NaNoWriMo this year, which I thought was a pretty solid first year doing NaNo.

I, of course, also finally started my Blog this year! This one, in fact!

Posting new content once a week has been a tight deadline that has forced my creativity to not get shoved to the backseat when it would otherwise. I love the community that I have become a part of, through WordPress. Full of support, interesting people, and wonderful stories.


For those that have been lost, and to those that survived, I say Happy New Year, don’t let the past bring you down, enjoy the present, and make the most of the future.

Thank you to everyone that has contributed to making the year what it was. I’m ready for the next one.

May you not forget too many times that the year now ends in a four.

Dino Fumble

131212_162521Nobody could understand why the paleontologist was laughing as the crew stood on the deck of the ship, peering over the side. Small bubbles still rose to the surface where the priceless piece of stone had disappeared into the depths. The rock had been cut away to expose the fossilized bones of the small dinosaur, while its shape suggested natural curves.

It had been slated for a display in the San Diego Museum of Natural History, but now it sank “like a stone” to the bottom of the ocean off the California coast because one of the two men moving it across the deck tripped and fumbled it over the side.

Someone finally broke out of their shock and asked, “Drake, what’s so funny?”

The paleontologist was doubled over with laughter, and looked up through teary eyes, pointing over the side, barely able to form words through his hysterics. “-isn’t indigenous to anywhere within a thousand miles,” he struggled through the laughter. “Gonna confuse the crap out of someone someday!”

Mistakenly Matlabed


I sat in front of the two large displays for my computer thinking about what I had just written in the MatLab script. It was a simple enough typo, just a single letter, easy to fix. I was curious though, I wondered if what I had written would work. I had learned most of what I knew about Matlab from experimenting with it, usually not afraid to just try stuff. I held down Control and let my finger hover over the Enter key. “It won’t work anyway,” I said to myself, “There is no way Matlab can do something like THAT.”

Echoing in my head, I could hear the words Dr. Galen, who we all called Dr. Doug. He had taught our MatLab class several years before. The man had been very fond of saying “Just try stuff, you’d be surprised at some of the things MatLab can do…”

That was both an encouragement and a counter argument to let my finger push down on the large key with the crooked arrow on it. It probably wouldn’t work, I mean, how could it? But if it did, the effects could be catastrophic. It was killing me to know if it would work, though.

I sat like that, staring at that one word, transformed in meaning and intent so greatly by that one wrong letter, I wasn’t even sure how it happened, the “N” and the “S” keys being so far apart.

“What if it just applies to the figures I have open,” I wondered, that would be nice, a tricky little tool to file away for some future project. That would make the most sense if it DID work, I had been trying to write “Close all” which, of course closes all the open figures, but what if, in this case, it applied to everything? What if it applied to what the word “all” usually meant?

I couldn’t take that chance, I couldn’t fathom the unspeakable things I would have to deal with if I suddenly cloned everything. I changed the “n” back to an “s”, my sense of adventure no longer what it used to be, then repressed the control and pushed the enter button, evaluating the cell.

It didn’t work, the Matlab command line told me in angry red letters that I had an unbalanced or unexpected parenthesis somewhere.