It’s SCIENCE!

ImageI still remember the time I first got in an argument with a teacher. It was in a science class in middle school and the teacher was explaining how some simple physics would work in some rockets we were making (2 liter coke bottles with water and compressed air). Things went pretty well in the class until I asked a question about why the water worked better than just the air.

I know now that water has higher mass, that the compressed air pushed the water out and imparted a greater initial thrust. That’s not the answer the teacher gave me, that’s one I figured out later on. My teacher just said ‘because it works.’

My response, in typical twelve-year-old fashion, could have been more tactful. I said, “That means you don’t know.” Cornering your teacher with the fact that they don’t understand how something works is not a way to endear them to you.

What I didn’t really grasp then (and the teacher, who had a teaching degree rather than a physics or engineering degree, didn’t get either), is that science is about asking those questions. Knowing how things work is the key to science… and something our education system does its best to program out of students at a young age. I don’t have a degree in teaching, but it seems to me that telling someone to read the text book is not a way to encourage kids to ask questions. Nor is, oddly enough, having them take rote tests designed to ‘check on learning.’

Teaching science, as in teaching most things, requires interaction and participation. I’ve had a few teachers who understood this, but only one in High School who taught science. My chemistry teacher was so good at the time that I retook her class as a senior as an AP class, both for the college credit and to do some of the crazy experiments she’d put together. Creating methane bubbles in a classroom and lighting them on fire might not seem like an educational process. Doing that while discussing the properties of soap films and the exothermic reaction of methane and oxygen both gets the students to pay attention and to actually think a little bit. This was a teacher who wasn’t afraid to admit that sometimes she didn’t have the answer… but that we could work on it.

The scientific method, trial and error, these things are essential to learning and developing science. That’s something that we, especially as fans of Science Fiction, should always remember.

 

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How the…

So, more from curiosity than anything else, how did various visitors find my blog? Also, for those of you out there, I’d love some feedback and comments about what kind of content you would like to see. Samples of my work, short fiction, more pictures of Dragon*Con or various cons, the seven winning numbers to tomorrow’s lotto… well no guarantees on the last one, but I’ll see what I can do. The floor is open to you all.

Of Dragons and Cons

I’ve just returned from my fourth Dragon*Con. As always, it’s been an experience. Dragon*Con is, in my opinion, a very unique genre convention. One thing that always hits me is the size. Five years ago, it was around twenty thousand people and spread over four hotels. This year they had five hotels and a convention center, and while numbers aren’t yet completed, I’d estimate over fifty thousand people, much like last year. They have a number of big events that occur throughout the time, to include musical concerts, film stars and directors, and of course, massive costume contests.Image

 

All the same, Dragon*Con has a very small feel to it, in some aspects. The writing panels are typically in small side rooms away from the main corridors. The is the same for the reading panels and other similar subgenre ‘tracks’. More popular events might require long lines and a bit of a wait to get in (and you’re not allowed to form a line prior to one hour before an event), but depending on your interests, someone might spend the entire time in small rooms away from the crowds.

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I have to admit, I have a certain level of nostalgia about Dragon*Con. It was my first convention, and I went there by myself, not really knowing anyone. I spent most of those four days wandering around in something of a daze and feeling a bit like a lonely ping-pong ball that needed a break. I’ve since developed some connections and have met a few people. Would I recommend Dragon*Con to others as their first? Not really, especially if they’re going it alone. It’s very easy to be quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of events to attend. I’ve seen plenty of people who looked like zombies by day three, burned out from trying to see everything. Also, there are easier ways to see the same things in other cons. Local conventions can be talked down on, but they often offer the same things, if smaller in scale. The important thing, in my opinion, is going with some kind of idea of what you want to see and pacing yourself. You won’t see much of Dragon*Con from the hospital if you collapse from exhaustion.

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Still, I like Dragon*Con. It’s big, it’s loud, and there’s always something to do. Unlike events such as Comic Con, it’s not commercialized and is still mostly fan driven and organized. Will I attend next year? I plan on it. There’s nothing quite like it.Image

News Update

Just a quick news update and some admin-type stuff to start the day.

First off, my first entry to epublishing is now live.  Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption is now available from Amazon and Smashwords (links below).   Renegades is a serial of novellas that follow a band of misfits on their journey through space.  The series will have multiple stories from different characters, some long, and some quite short.  The overall setting is several hundred years in the future when humanity lies on the verge of catastrophe, attacked by not just one, but two alien races.  To make things worse, the various nations and factions of humanity are at odds.   Deserter’s Redemption is the first of these stories and Mike and his new ‘friends’ will have to struggle to escape a prison station where survival is measured in hours.

http://www.amazon.com/Renegades-Deserters-Redemption-ebook/dp/B00ETTND0C/

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/351853

The other topic I’d like to address are blog posts.  Everyone likes to have a little regularity in their lives.  I’m not talking about dietary fiber; I’m talking about when a reader might want to check in to see if I’ve posted anything.  I plan to post blog entries three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Monday posts will discuss me, as an author, and my writing, and maybe some samples or sections from works in progress.  Wednesday posts I’ll discuss books, authors, movies and other entertainment stuff.  Friday posts I’ll blog about current events, cool things in science, and generally interesting information.

One more thing, I’m headed to Dragon*Con this weekend, so expect a few posts about the event and probably some pictures as well.

Introductions

The most important questions anyone should ask when deciding to read something are who is the writer and why should you care enough to read what they’ve written. Or at least, that’s the assumption I’m going with. Time is short, and most people don’t want to read everything on the internet. Knowing the author, knowing they have something worth saying gives a reader the sense that what they write is worth reading. That’s an important distinction, because no one likes to start an article or blog posting, get halfway through, and realize what they’re reading is total rubbish and stop. Hopefully, if you’ve come this far, you think what I’ve got to say might be worth reading. If not, well, knowing a bit more about me might make it seem that way to you. Or you might run away screaming, but that’s between you and your pharmacologist really.

 

As for who I am and why you should read what I write, that’s no easy pitch to sell. There are countless writers out there, many quite good, no few quite terrible. They tell us when we are children that we are all unique and special, but they also tell you that the Tooth Fairy takes your teeth and gives you cash. Let’s face it, I’m not special or unique, but I do think I’ve got an irreverent humor, an introspective approach, and a wide and varied experience to base my writing on.

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and try to profile my audience a bit. If you’re reading this, you probably scale more to the ‘nerd’ side than not. You probably have at least some interest in space, science or just good stories that take place a long time ago or somewhere far far away. What that means to me is… well, you’re probably a little like me. You might go to work at a normal day job, but in your free time, you like to escape to other worlds. Like me, you’ve probably lived vicariously through movies, books and even games in countless adventures, journeys and battles.

 

Frankly, that’s what stories are all about, for me. The stories that grip you by the throat and don’t let go until you turn the last page. The stories that make you laugh, or cry, or just giggle a little maniacally. In real life we can’t be an eight-limbed alien who tries to live by a moral code not his own or a psychic who bends people to her will, or even a bioengineered assassin who cooks like a gourmet chef. But we can stand in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. Sometimes all we need is to live like that for a few moments in our own minds; to go to a distant place and be someone else for a few moments.

 

This is why I write. I can go those places in my own (sometimes twisted) imagination and (hopefully) share them with dozens or hundreds of people. I can take things I seen and people I know in my own life, mix and mash them with bits of science or news I’ve read, and spit out settings and characters that feel real; ordinary yet drawn to the extraordinary. And yeah, at a certain point, I end up laying my heart, mind and soul bare for strangers I’ll never meet… because, well, it’s just amazing to have an entire universe inside my head and I want to share it with you.

 

What do I offer? I write stories to be entertaining, maybe a little educational, and even to give a little inspiration. I love the stories of the underdog, the born loser who fights back against the unbeatable foe. I value vivid storytelling, detailed settings, strong characterization and elaborate plots. That’s what I offer from my writing and I think that’s what people want to read: a good story that has awesome characters in an exciting world where life and events aren’t always simple.

 

So, step into my world, and let me know what you think.