Archive for category Personal

Mars Has Not Taken The Best And The Brightest Of Us All

By NOAA [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

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More Thoughts On Podcast Mania

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. Waking up with the thought, it’s time to write a book.
  2. Having that book written by 9am.
  3. Published by noon.
  4. 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.

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The Spectre of Self-censorship

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.

photo credit: hey skinny X and scott, camping via photopin (license)

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Scheduling Conundrum

img_6351Creative 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.

 

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My Impression Of VCON 41, 2016

vcon-imageLast 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.

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Wither the Audiobook

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.

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Podcast Mania

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:

Beyond The Trope

Bleeding Ink

Book Promotion Podcast

Coactive Dreams

Helping Writers Become Authors

I Should Be Writing

Novel Marketing

Reading and Writing Podcast

Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing

Self Publishing Answers

Self Publishing Roundtable

Author Hangout

Book Editor Show

Creative Penn

Creative Writers Toolbelt

Functional Nerds

Joined Up Writing

Portfolio Life

Rocking Self Publishing

Sell More Books Show

Sword and Laser

Worried Writer

This Creative Life

Unemployable

Upgrade Your Story

Wordslinger

Write Now

Writing Excuses

Introvert Entrepreneur

Writership

In closing I should note that not all these podcasts are released on a regular basis but most do come out at weekly.

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