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Friday, March 29, 2013

F3 Sign of Self-Defense

            “I think I’m starting to get the hang of this?” I told Jack.
            “Hang of what?”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


            In my last post I talked about my drive to answer questions. It’s why I write, it’s why I read literature, it’s what causes me hundreds of work hours when I decide to tackle a new project I have no background in and have to—say—teach myself how to program. Even though this drive causes me to put forth a lot of work, I love it. Not only do I learn something, I conquer the idea. Sometimes, more often of late, I look back and say “don’t do that again.” We don’t get wisdom unless we try.
            But I’ve been noticing more and more of late that my students don’t have this same desire. They don’t want to discover. They don’t want to venture out on their own to answer a question. They want someone to give them exacting directions, micromanaged to the nth degree.
            Where I hated professors handing down exact topics with in-the-box parameters, my students seem to revel in them. They would prefer someone tell them the answer then to seek it out for themselves.
            I find myself frustrated as I don’t see them able to learn as much under such restrictions, and it’s disturbing because they’re quite content where they are.
            I’m reminded of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. I’ve come into the cave to free them, to take them out into the wide world, but they want their shadows. I’m coming to believe that they have chained themselves to the wall.
            And I don’t know how to bring them out.

Monday, March 25, 2013

All in the Question

            Story ideas for me don’t come in sweeping arcs of setting and events. They come in the form of a question, usually begin with “what if . . .” and it snowballs from there. The question becomes the impetus for the story. The story is the answer to the question. Sometimes the answer is a short piece of flash fiction. Other times it’s a sweeping novel. I’ve even got questions that will refuse to be answered in just one novel, which, frankly, scares me at the moment, but also is very exciting.
            Regardless, I’m driven to answer the question. I’ve always been that way. What makes this work? Why does this happen? What does this mean? I’ve always been looking for the answers to these questions. It’s part of who I am, and writing allows me to find most creative answers to equally creative questions.
            Some people would replace creative with crazy. I’m fine with that, too. My head is a very interesting place.

Friday, March 22, 2013

F3 History Lesson

            The sound of a horn rang across the quad, followed by the bellows of students who surged forward into the Student Union, Viking Helmets prominent on their heads as they brandished plastic swords and axes. Other students quickly jumped out of the way, only to be symbolically cut down by the plastic weapons.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Research Attitudes

            Research is a double- many-edged sword. When I sit down to research, I can run up against a stone wall for what I’m trying to look for. I can approach it with dread knowing that this isn’t going to be pleasant. I might not be interested in what I’m going to research. I might fear the answers to my research. I might fear the time lost (even wasted) in research. I frequently fear the time lost (due to excessive interest) in research.
            But through all that, there’s one constant: research needs to be done. It’s not always pleasant, but it must be done, and it should be done the right way. I want to do my best to understand the material I’m looking at, whether it’s forensic ballistics, scarf-weaving, cooking, or dark matter physics. I need a level of proficiency, and so I go at it.
            One thing I never do is give up. When it comes to research, I find an answer. It may not always be the answer I wanted or expected, but I find an answer.
            Of late I’m noticing among students that there’s an attitude of not trying. Of being unable to figure out a way to research. I’m trying to understand this, but it’s difficult. Technology has made research easier than ever, so it’s mind-bending to think that students can’t conceive of a starting point for research.
            I remember the card catalog and primitive electronic databases with half a dozen keywords. It was hard then. But now with the sheer number of databases, cross-listed keywords, and Google’s vast search empire, it seems ridiculous that students can’t find a starting point to their research.
            Am I being unreasonable? Is it really that hard to do research?

Monday, March 18, 2013


            Newton had it absolutely right. Things want to be at rest. Trying to get students moving and doing is problematic at best, debilitating at worst. I find that more and more students are less interested in putting forth an effort. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from their own particular mindsets to outside influences (work, family, etc.) to total apathy. Trying to find ways to motivate and get responses out of students occupies a lot of my time.
            Stories have their own inertia. They are slow to start and get moving, though generally easier to get moving than students. They have their own particular problem, though. Stories will retain their inertia at speed (as according to Newton) and so it becomes a matter of trying to slow the story down. Stories, as any writer knows, soon take on a life of their own, and can be quite stubborn when the reins are hauled back.
            Fortunately, stories can be edited. I think I would get in trouble for trying to edit a student. I’d need a bigger pen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

F3 Eulogy

            “This feels a little awkward, especially after the crap I gave Paul about giving a eulogy for Monica. I always thought my brother was a little whacked, and, at least in ways, more messed up than me, but I indulged in listening to the eulogy. I mean, he went on for a while about Monica’s curves and throaty growl. As if that wasn’t enough, she had a real love for going fast, and was aggressive. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I guess it’s really just about saying goodbye, and if Paul had to talk about his car as if she were alive, so be it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teaching Rat Pack

            After reading this blog on the Washington Post I’m left wondering if inspiration from Bogey (honestly, is there a better source? No, I didn’t think so) can work here, too. As teachers, it’s too easy to point a finger at administrators, parents, and even at students. It’s too easy to pass the buck to the federal government with cries of “fix it”.
            The cries aren’t unjustified, as the scale is so big it takes federal intervention, but on the small side, in the classroom, can’t more be done. Can’t instructors envision a different way to go about the material? Yes, I full know that correcting students’ writing is time consuming. There are weeks where I can’t see the end to the essay grading, and I will go through an entire pen in two weeks. The amount of work feels much like the labor of Sisyphus.
            Going about it in a solitary manner isn’t the way, either. Surely there are packs of teachers (see where I’m going here?) that can come together across all disciplines to figure out something more that can be done. While an individual teacher may not be able to be heard, and it’s too unwieldy to band all together, can’t small groups push forward and keep Sisyphus’ rock from backsliding?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sick Days

            Ever since my back and hip injury, I’ve been trying to take better care of myself. More exercise and eating better (not enough of either yet, but I’m working on it). But disease still finds its way to me as I teach. It’s the cost of doing business for a teacher. The best I can do is minimize the time I’m sick, but illness has this great way of wiping out a writer’s ability to concentrate like nothing else. Getting any significant writing or editing done while sick is next to impossible.
            On the other hand, lurid fever dreams can make for great story fodder later.

Friday, March 8, 2013

F3 Roaming Charges

            The cell phone rang. There was no number for the call. Not an area code, a prefix, or even the one for long distance calls. It didn’t come from one of my contacts either. Instead the display read “Interdimensional Call”.
            I blinked and rubbed at the screen, but I hadn’t misread.
            I answered. “H-Hello?”
            “Hey, finally. You don’t know how long I’ve been dialing. Do you have pizza there?”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rat Pack of Writing and Publishing

            After watching the video on Bogey, it occurs to me that something similar might be underway with regards to publishing. The self-publishing venues and the decline of many authors’ sentiments towards the publishing industry might make for a revolution of sorts.
            Bogey and his pack began a subtle power shift away from the studio executives, and I wonder, if to survive, publishers might have to shift more power towards authors and agents, incorporating them in more of the decisions instead of simply handing it down from above. The ease of digital self-publishing might be enough to force the industry to change its ways, which are largely unaltered for over 200 years (or more).
            I don’t know how the publishing industry will change (or maybe it won’t), but I could well see a Rat Pack emerging to contest the status quo, especially with the likes of Google, Apple, and Amazon pushing for change.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Vicious Valentine

            The stereotypical view of Cupid is one of an adorable, irresistibly cute, infant cherub winging his way towards couples to help people fall in love. He’s the poster child of St. Valentine’s Day, and I very much doubt he’s getting any royalties off of people using an image based on him.
            Of course, like so many things, the reality of Cupid is far, far different from the Hallmark version. Most of the reality has to do with understanding the Greek and Roman (since the Roman gods were basically the Greek gods adopted into Roman culture [Rome at the time didn’t care about copyright, they just sent in the legions to deal with troublemakers]).

Read the rest at Criminalelement (where it originally appeared on Valentine's Day).

Friday, March 1, 2013

F3 Trees

            I huffed and puffed my way up the slope. All the roads up Mt. Kelly had long since ended, and I was forced to rely on trails for my hike up, at least until I had to move to somewhere more remote. I finally decided on a relatively barren patch of ground on the northwestern slope. Facing the coast it was less likely to be disturbed. I could hear the mountain’s stream, ensuring plenty of water to the area, and encouraged by the number of other trees in the area.
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