Archive for category Personal
A co-worker said some things the other day that have been bouncing around in the back of my head since then. To paraphrase, he asked why so much time, talent, and money was going to a manned Mars mission when there were so many problems here on Earth to solve.
As a supporter of manned Mars missions I didn’t do well in addressing the concerns broached. This post is my attempt to do a better job.
Though many people refused to read it because my title caused them to assume I was anti-NASA, I have already addressed the larger money issue with This Post. With regard to today’s topic I would like to add that Mars is only a small portion of NASA’s overall budget. Far more money goes toward projects that have a direct effect on problems we do face right here on Earth.
As for the assertion that too much time and talent is being directed toward Mars missions, I now wish I had countered with: Prove it. Prove that the best and brightest minds human kind has to offer are all dedicated to Mars.
In reality, the number of people dedicating their lives to Mars is a tiny subset of the intellect at work on this planet right now.
My co-worker went on to talk about the so called giant plastic island in the North Pacific. I agreed that this is a big problem. Were I differ is in his assumption that no one is working on the problem in any reasonable way. He’d seen one of those documentaries where to give you the worst case scenarios (or as I am likely to say, mockumentaries) and taken them at there word without doing any followup research. He even suggested we use giant nets to scoop up all the plastic even though the first website I visited on the subject had a big section on why this wasn’t a viable solution. A website supported by great talent dedicating their lives to solving this kind of environmental problem. Talent that had even turned to NASA and their global network of satellites monitoring environmental changes for support.
All of the above said, I guess my real rant is against the all too common practice of arguing that A must negate B in order to deflect from having to address what B means without regard to the larger context in which both should be interpreted.
The fact that a group of people are working on sending men to Mars does not mean an equally talented group of people can’t be working on the problem of a how to deal with a plastic in the North Pacific. And that’s before we address the idea that developments in one arena might actually help solve problems in the other.
A while back I wrote a post discussing my plunge into the world of listening to podcasts.
Some of the podcasts I list there are no longer on my to-hear list while others have been added.
Along the way, though, I have begun to wonder if it isn’t time to cull the size of my list. Hard to do when I have little to fill that time with during my commutes.
My main complaint falls into two general categories:
- Multiple podcasts all carrying the same guest in a short period of time. One guest may appear in my rotation discussing the same subject 4, 5, or more times within a given month.
- Hyper-driven guests that can’t not get things done.
The second category of guest is the one that’s getting to me the most. There are times I wonder if I’m exaggerating by describing them as:
- Waking up with the thought, it’s time to write a book.
- Having that book written by 9am.
- Published by noon.
- Number 1 on Amazon by 6.
How can a person who faces his own personal entropy every day hope to ever have anything in common with such dynamos? Much less get anywhere in my writing life when such people dominate the charts?
I want to hear more about people who struggled to get started. Struggled to get traction. Struggle to keep going.
I want to hear more about how those people are making it in the hopes of gleaming ideas that will help me to continue forward.
Until then I am finding this constant exposure to the Hyper-driven exhausting. Thinking that cutting them out of my listening schedule may help me to maintain the progress I am capable of making based upon where I am now.
I’m sure the Hyper-driven would have long since made their decision and moved on. I just don’t work that fast.
Intro comments in a recent episode of the Wordslinger Podcast struck a cord with me. I know there are a variety of subjects about which we must tread carefully, especially when it comes to the very public mediums available to us over the internet. Politics, religion, and barbecue spring to mind as potential land mines in any exchange . The question raised by what I heard is this:
Have we crossed the line when it comes to the need to practice self-censorship?
Back to that Wordslinger Podcast episode I opened with. If you’ve ever had a chance to hear the host, Kevin Tumlinson, on this and other podcasts he co-hosts, I’m sure you would agree with me that he presents himself in an open and reasoned manner that should earn him the benefit of the doubt when he touches on a potential land mine subject. You’d take what you know about him, factor on the immediate context, and realise he’s not singling out any specific individuals unless that is exactly what he’s done.
To be fair, I am not privy to the actual material in question, but only Kevin’s apology as presented on the podcast episode. It’s episode 107 near the beginning if you care to have a listen yourself. Of course, now that you’ve listened that far I encourage you to take in the entire show while you’re at it.
The gist of what set me off centres around a Facebook post he has since removed. As he describes it, he made a statement about some members of a certain political leaning. Apparently a few of his followers who adhere to that leaning read this as meaning they were among the accused. This is who Kevin has now apologised to.
Now, I will admit it’s hard not to take a general statement about some members of a group I associate with personally. But does that mean we should never make a statement that some people might have a problem with, or jump straight to an immediate recant when it does? Are we now bound to practice self-censorship to a level where there is no chance someone might personalise, misinterpret, or otherwise have a problem with what you say regardless of the context in which it was said?
This gets into what I like to call Broomstick Theology. Why go to the trouble of using all those fiddly little paint brushes and associated techniques when one swipe of a broom will cover the entire canvas. Why go to the effort to take a reasoned position when you know someone in your audience will latch onto a specific word or phrase and interpret everything else accordingly? How can we dialogue about anything the least bit off the straight and narrow when we know it will produce some level of a firestorm somewhere?
Has the call to Self-censorship reached the point where it is no longer possible to have real conversations between people who have divergent views on a subject?
I will end with one final thought that may be the flip side of this post: Freedom of Speech is not a guarantee of a receptive audience. We must all expect push back from things we say. No level of Self-censorship is going to stop that.
In closing, I won’t be the least bit surprised if this very post draws heat because it suggests we should be allowed to make statements that may upset some people.
Creative Ink Festival is upon us in a month. As usual I have not purchased my membership until I can confirm I have time off to attend. This year is different.
For some background, the place where I work has a 7 day schedule. My co-worker does 10 hours days Monday to Wednesday and I do 10 hours each Thursday and Friday plus 9 hours each Saturday and Sunday. We are the only people qualified to handle the day shift, which means if one of us can’t make it the other has to fill in. Over the course of the average year this in not generally a problem as time off for each of us tends to balance out.
This year is different. I took extra time off over Christmas for what would likely be the last time I would see my dad, then more time in January to attend his funeral.
Now I feel as if I’d be pushing it too far to ask for yet another Friday to Sunday so soon after all that.
This will be the third year they have run Creative Ink Festival and I have been looking forward to attending since last April. It has become the 2nd biggest fan con of my year, not some auxiliary I’d like to attend if I can event. Letting it go would be a big let down. It just feels so unfair to my co-worker.
All I can do now is have a talk with him to see what he thinks.
It stinks to find myself caught in such a position.
Last year I wrote two questioning posts about my experience at VCON 40. VCON 40 and VCON 40 Revisited. Now that I have had a chance to digest my experience at VCON 41 it is time to put what I saw into words.
For starters, I must say I enjoyed myself. It was a good con consisting of an eclectic mixture of panels that made deciding what to attend next a real challenge.
In a similar vein my wife’s craft table produced a nicer profit than seen for a couple of years.
Attendance was still down. Whether less than last year I can’t say for sure. For the first time since I noticed the trend I even came upon a group of regulars discussing this very issue between panels.
I must also say that the volunteer they had in charge of social media did the best job of getting the word out before and during the con I have yet to see.
All in all, VCON remains my goto Fan con of the year and we already have our Dead Dog tickets for 42.
Last week I posted a list of the podcasts I presently listen to on a weekly basis. One area of the modern reading experience referred to on a increasingly regular basis is the whole world of audiobooks.
As a writer I admit to having the thought of eventually releasing my works in audiobook format but production and distribution is a large subject best left for another day. This post is about my thoughts on the reading by audiobook experience.
To start, I have listened to a handful of audiobooks during extended road trips. This includes using regular CDs, MP3 CDs, and via the Audible app on my phone. Just enough for me to have a foundation from which to postulate.
Roadtrips are a good place to listen to an audiobook with one caveat. If you are not alone in the car you are signalling to everyone else that conversation is not welcome while the book is playing. During my day to day routine things get a lot trickier. Right now the majority of the time I have for listening is taken up by the podcast rotation mentioned on my last post. To make room for audiobooks I’d have to give some of them up.
A quick estimate based upon the three podcasts that push audiobooks the most suggest I could free up two hours a week by no longer listening to Functional Nerds, Writing Excuses, and Wordslinger. I’m sure they won’t mind losing my listener support to follow their ongoing advice.
Two hours a week equals eight to ten hours a month. About the length of your average audio version of a full length novel.
I further estimate I may be able to carve out another two hours each week by adjusting my daily priorities. This is where things get tricky since this cuts into time I presently use to do things like think about where my writing/editing endeavours are headed. Another danger, listening to audiobooks is far more passive than reading, making easier to listen on when I should be getting to other things.
I am now capable of listening to two audiobooks a month.
One good thing about listening via Audible is the ability to accelerate playback speed. If a little experimentation shows I can handle a book at 1.5 speed I can hear six hours of story per week. In the unlikely event that I can remain sane at 2.0 speed that becomes eight times, or almost a book a week.
Audiobooks tend to be for more expensive than either print or e. I could go the library route though this will almost certainly limit me to CD or MP3 CD at this time. No acceleration. It would also limit me to older books for the most part. Audible.com does have a monthly subscription option but that would only get me one average length novel each month. At this moment I can’t see how that would work for me.
All in all it looks to me like audiobooks just don’t fit into my reading experience at this time, except on road trips.
I have a moderately long commute to and from my bread and butter job each day. About two years ago I decided to try maximising that and other driving times by exploring to growing world of podcasts. What once was a handful of listens has now become a stable to fill my entire week.
Over this time specific podcasts have come and gone. Some because the stopped making new ones, some because they didn’t speak to me, and some due to technical reasons around my present sound system. That is simply the nature of the beast.
I thought it might be interesting to post a list of my present listens, so in the order they appear in my podcast app here are the shows I presently listen to on a regular basis:
In closing I should note that not all these podcasts are released on a regular basis but most do come out at weekly.
I have been musing over the question of how to generate professional grade images of the ship in my stories, Konhor, for some time. It is the one element missing from my cover to Synergy Of Hopes, my blog image, and even my Author Cards.
My Konhor Board on Pinterest shows many of the diagrams and images I’ve developed to date, but none of them are clean enough to use in the manner described. I simply don’t have the artistic or graphic skills to take them to the next level .
In response I have attempted two very different tactics to acquire such an image. Method one had me contract a designer on Upwork. This got me a wonderful ship design that didn’t work for me once I’d had a chance to think it over and cost me too much money to try it again any time soon. Method two had me consider the option of creating a 3D rendition of Konhor which I could either render from various angles or 3D print an actual model. The latter has the added benefit of being able to put it out on display at Cons and other public venues.
My first intro into the world of 3D printing came through the powerful but free program Blender. It’s taken me hours of watching online videos to get a grasp on the basics of this program. My second biggest foray into 3D came after being pointed to Tinkercad. Though this online program appears primitive it only took a few short videos to give me the skills to build a first prototype of Konhor.
One thing Tinkercad doesn’t have is the ability to add a light and capture renders of my ship in that platform. Thus I turned to the idea of seeing what it would take to have a 3D model printed. This meant finding a service able to handle the job at a reasonable cost. Enter 3dhubs, a site where I could find local 3D printer services and collect quotes. Four days later I had my prototype. A model so small I could make it into a tieclip or earing as the picture above attests. Seems I still have a bit to learn about this whole 3D thing.
My next interation will be 4 times larger, which in a 3D environment actually increases its volume by a magnitude of 64. This may cost me a wee bit more than prototype #1 but is still cheaper in time and cash than the other options I have at this time.
More to come.
They also laughed when we paid $10 a bulb for CFL lighting. Those early bulbs each lasted 10 years and saved us I don’t know how many dollars in electricity. Modern CFLs are designed to fail more often and cost so much more in overall pricing. Many of our latest bulbs are even more efficient LEDs.
In a similar manner we were doing cold water washing long before it became vogue and risked the ire of our neighbours for daring to use a clothes tree when we had a dryer.
Back to the car. Once upon a time we spent a large part of our summer camping out at events hosted by the Society For Creative Anachronism. In those days much talk had turned to buying minivans or SUVs to haul ever increasing amounts of gear. After much debate I went with a relatively efficient Dodge Neon and a trailer. It was a great compromise compared to the costs our minivan choosing friends found themselves putting out.
After our involvement in the SCA slowed to a crawl the day arrived when the nice firemen turned our 4 door sedan into a 3 door convertible that we traded in for a Toyota Echo. Then a ditch monster caught the Echo in an ice web that trapped three other cars and we replaced it with the Toyota Yaris I drive now.
With the 300k mark with its promise of escalating maintenance costs fast approaching I am now looking at a Toyota Prius. Probably the C model. By my estimates, if I’d owned one for the life of our Yaris I would have saved well over 10 grand on gas.
While electic vehicles are now making a strong show in the market our personal needs remain such that they are not yet a viable alternative. Though the savings in fuel would more than make up for the higher purchase price.
But you must have power to climb steep hills, or to avoid that accident, or to enjoy the drive. I’ve heard it all from the people who inspired the title for this post so many years ago.
I have never seen the need to accelerate up hills such as those that command three out of the four routes out of the Lower Mainland into the rest of the Province of BC. All my vehicles did just fine making their way up the slow lane at a comfortable speed. In the 35 years I have been driving I can count on zero hands the number of times power would have gotten me out of an accident. It has never happened. As for enjoyment, I have loved to drive from the moment I got my driver’s licence. I have made long road trips in a gas guzzling SUV, in a 70s v8 powered land-boat, and all the economy cars mentioned above. In my mind too much power would only encourage me to drive faster and miss more of the scenery I’m looking for.
By some standard the above means I’m broken, and I’m fine with that.
I wrote a few thoughts about this year’s VCON shortly after the event had ended this year. A month has not passed, and I feel the need to revisit what I had to say then. Not about my core question of whether what I experienced at VCON indicates a trend or a blip, but about the bias I (and others?) are carrying with us when we attend.
I am a writer. Though this is a fan and not a writers convention it does have a strong writer track to its scheduling. The more I consider the way I thought about it after my last post, the more I saw how I have been limiting my experience by attending as a writer.
A closer look at the schedule revealed how many of the panels that had been presented were only writer related because I approached them with that overlay. While panels like Time Travel in Film and What Makes a Good SF Television Series can present ideas writers can use, that was not the primary aim of either.
On the flip side. Is it possible that some people have stopped attending VCON because they have come to feel it is too writer centric rather than offering more in their particular fandom?
I recognise that no con can reach out to every fandom in every medium. I also know that a new writer centric con has been added to the local calendar, and that more than a few people who attended the latter chose not to attend VCON because of the perceived overlap. Hotels and travel costs for out-of-towners aside, it does not have to be this way.
I do not want to see VCON fade away. I also do not want to see it become so narrow in its focus that people continue to stay away because it has stopped speaking to them. I for one plan to attend future VCONs with the eye to seeing it from more than my writers eye.