A3Writer: 2014
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Even of the New Year

            According to the Chinese Zodiac, certain years are better than others for certain people, and while I have had my good years and bad years, I think I need to stop viewing time in that fashion. People do compartmentalize by year very easily. Anniversaries, birthdays, and taxes help reinforce these ideas, but I think I want to reevaluate and take it on a smaller scale, and make sure I try to make my days, weeks, and months better, and perform more self-evaluation to figure out how to improve them.
            So, here’s to day one of 2015. I’m going to make it a good one.
           


Monday, December 29, 2014

Teaching Future

            I go back and forth on this. I have a deep core in me that really loves to teach, especially mythology, but I’m not sure it’s really for me anymore. I have to adopt a wait and see attitude. I keep pondering a question: If I had the chance to be financially well-off without teaching, would I continue to do it? And I don’t’ know the answer. If I’m not financially bound, then there’s an aspect of leisure to teaching, so I can approach it differently. I can get an increased sense of satisfaction from the endeavor when it’s leisure.
            But that’s largely speculation. I think I’ll have to try it out empirically.
           


Friday, December 26, 2014

F3 Coupon Book

            As a kid I had gotten, and given, coupon books as gifts during Christmas. I never really cared for them, but sometimes there was no way to actually come up with any kind of gift, or funds were limited. Ma especially loved them because I put such things as “room cleaning without complaint” or other chores. My brother Paul would give me ones that said “no beating for a day,” which I hated, or “borrow my car for a night,” which I really needed when my car died or I wanted to take a girl out. Paul as the older brother was able to afford a better car quicker.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mellow Holiday

            Back when I worked for Target (many, many moons ago, now) I worked in the toy department. During Christmas. That was the year I hated Christmas. I was bitter towards everyone. I hated seeing toys on TV. I nearly developed a twitch on seeing commercials. I promised myself I would never let myself hate Christmas again.
And I don’t hate it. I still really like it, but I don’t’ need it to be a big production. I like the idea that it’s a low stress day. So, I will have a mellow Christmas filled with some good music, pleasant films, good food, and a little family.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Short Vacation

            I’m giving myself a short, stay-at-home vacation (I refuse to use the new compound form of the words stay and vacation). Now usually I have a few weeks between semesters, but I almost always end up filling the entire time with various projects. There’s nothing wrong with that. And the projects are worthwhile, but I feel an increasing need to draw definite lines in my life where I can say I’m not working.
            So, I’ll rejoin the working world next week. 

             

Friday, December 19, 2014

F3 Empire Builder

            “You are a man of small vision, Mr. Allen,” Balam shouted down to me from upslope. Flashes of lightning lit him up, framed against the red, angry clouds in the sky.
            I was still hundreds of yards away in the trees, but still he saw me. I pulled out my nine mil, but quickly put it down. There was no way I could make that shot on a clear, wind-free day, much less in the middle of a storm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The. End.

            Another semester over. Yes, there’s a little bit of grading to do, yet, but it’s inconsequential. The pressure has fully lifted. Time for a brief respite, and then a longer one from all things school related.
           


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Season of Illness

            This is when it starts. Actually, it probably started a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to writing this until now. The flus and colds are flying hot and heavy, and I work in an environment prone to exposure.
            Last year I felt fine, then woke up on Christmas day sick as the proverbial dog. I could barely focus, barely eat, and don’t remember much of the day. There was a lot of sleeping involved. Actually, I don’t remember much until a week into January.
            This year I’m making sure to up my vitamin intake and limit exposure to students as much as possible. Oh, and to avoid stress. A compromised immune system from stress can be devastating.
           


Friday, December 12, 2014

F3 Hide and Seek

            Ann pulled the ship around sharply as the planet occluded them.
            “The B ring is thickest. Aim for it,” Flynn ordered.
            “Right,” Ann said, giving the helm her full attention. Despite their pursuers being at least an hour away, they didn’t have much time if they wanted to disappear. “I’m going to come up underneath into the B ring, then we’ll push our way gently into a better position.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Plotting

            I’ve heard this among writers before, but I didn’t think it would happen to me. I’m a Pantser who is gradually becoming more of a Plotter. I think the seeds began with a failed NaNo manuscript. I finished out the 50k, sure, but I realized that the plot really hadn’t gone anywhere, and in fact the concept was more or less doomed.
            It moved on to a prohibition-era story I started and got stalled in. I eventually tossed that one in the drawer. It continued on to my science fiction book, where I got very far along, but couldn’t completely figure out how to end it. It got tossed in a drawer. Even the ending to the second Storm Rider book got a touch of it towards the end.
            I could lay all of this at the feet of stress and writer’s block, but I think it was because I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a brainstorm to fall back on to take me forward. I’ve always kept a little Moleskine with notes in it, the bare outline of a story that takes me along, but I’m beginning to think I need to do a little bit more. Make sure that I have at least a few chapters worked out ahead of time, and maybe I don’t need the specifics of the ending, but I need to have a rough idea of how it will all turn out.
           


Monday, December 8, 2014

Nervous Energy

            This close to the end of the semester, and I start getting a nervous energy. I want it to end. And with all of the major grading out of the way, I don’t have a lot to concern myself with, just run out the clock. Of course, I start considering what went well, what didn’t, what to improve, etc. Sometimes I can get a jump on the next semester by carrying out little tweaks in advance.
            Despite telling myself I don’t need to worry about it right now, I’ll probably do it, anyway. It’s something to do, after all.
           


Friday, December 5, 2014

F3 The Spy

            Flynn studied the man in the closet, who had metal bindings on his wrists. Eltie had also taken advantage of the servos in her armor to hang him from a hook in the closet. The binders cut into the man's wrists with his entire weight on them. Despite the injury, the man looked nonplused. He had a few years on Flynn, looking to be in his early fifties with iron grey hair and eyes that matched. He had a shaggy beard peppered with the black of his original hair color. In the small hole in his beard, he had on a casual, easy smile. As if we were old friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NaNo Lifespan

            I think it’s because NaNo is over after the thirty days. A large number of people finish out their time at NaNo and never look back, never move forward. Those of us serious about writing know that manuscript not only has to be drafted (which is never done in 50,000 words), but then revised, proofed, revised again, etc.
            It’s a much bigger commitment than 30 days, and those of us who spend time writing all year long don’t’ have time for the games and artifice of NaNo’s structure.
            I remember reading on NaNo forums people who spent months in preparation, creating profiles of their characters, of detailing their settings and plot points, all so that they could begin writing on the stroke of midnight, and all I can think of now is that instead of doing nothing but preparing to write, you should write.
           


Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNo Over

            Another NaNo is over. Every year I think to myself that I’m not going to do it, and every year I end up making at least the attempt. The last couple of years have been less formal, and I haven’t interacted with anyone in my local rea with the event. I simply quietly plug along with my own progress, unconcerned about anyone else.
            I guess this is because, at least in my mind, it’s changed. It’s no longer a community event to see if I can do it. I already know I can do it. It’s a question of whether or not I will do it. And I don’t need the cheerleading aspect of NaNo in order to write. I don’t need word drills and hanging out in coffee shops with a crowd of people that are, at best, only semi-serious about writing.
            In a highly informal poll of writer friends, most of them end up moving away from Nano as well. Oh, they still write. In fact they outpace NaNo writers. The last four years I’ve done NaNo I’ve haven’t felt any real pressure that I was behind and couldn’t get it done. Even with attending Crime Bake, which eats up a good three days of writing I could still get it done without difficulty. Yes, some of it was down to the wire, but it still got done.
            But it is interesting to see the more serious, and especially the professionally paid, writers move away from NaNo.
           


Friday, November 28, 2014

F3 Among the Stars

            Thanksgiving in deep space and on a ship is always different from being on a planet, especially a core planet. On board Fleet ships, Flynn always had to endure what Suppo—the ship’s Supply Officer—could get, and while it almost always included some form of turkey, it was barely edible and not recognizable as belonging to fowl.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

            I could list all the many great things I’ve been blessed with, but I won’t. Instead, I’m actually thankful for the challenges and hardships. They push me to make more of myself, and I certainly don’t enjoy going through them at the time, I know that I become a better me by facing the challenges and hardship, and those bring opportunities. And I’m thankful for the help of family, friends, and—most of all—God, to help me get through it all.
           


Monday, November 24, 2014

Lull

            It’s the semester lull. All major class projects are in, and we’re largely on autopilot, which is good for me. I can get back to other projects. I’m glad I always plan for these parts of the semester. The semesters are easier on me and easier on the students when these lulls come.

            Now, back to other, more pressing work.

Friday, November 21, 2014

F3 The Pilot

            Flynn eased Calypso into the asteroid mining facility feeling more than a little uneasy. Small mining vessels flitted about cutting into the rock with lasers. They would slice off a section, grapple it, then haul it to a collection ship, which used a gravnet siphon to put the pieces in a holding area. While the flight path Flynn was on was supposed to be reserved for traffic into and out of the mine, miners zipped around Flynn’s ship from all sides. They had to in order to make their quotas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Release

            Stress does funny things. The mental/emotional pressure from stress should qualify as a force like electromagnetic or gravitational, but physicists are hung up on things that affect the physical world. Still, stress is something that we can’t measure, can only gauge by feel, and it affects everyone differently. There have been times in my life where I’ve succumbed to illness because of stress. When I was younger I found myself regularly ill whenever the stress was too high.
            As I’ve gotten older, that’s happened less and less. Either I’ve gotten better at coping with the stress, or I’ve built up a tolerance to it. Probably a little bit of both. I do know that I’m consciously trying to reduce stress in my life, and a big part of that is simply releasing it.
            I’m not talking about letting go, though that can be part of it. I’m talking about not keeping it bottled in. It’s amazing what talking about stress can do, but that’s not the only avenue. Hobbies and other activities take stress away from us, and I find myself using a variety of means to make sure I keep my stress under control.
            And as odd as it sounds, learning and research relieves some of my stress—if the subjects are ones I choose. So in that regard my writing ends up doing double duty so I can research climate patterns, bizarre weather phenomenon (like volcanic smoke rings), dark matter nebulae, sailing vessels, Central Asian mythology, and more to get rid of stress. I get to indulge my curiosity and wonder at how awesome the world, the universe, is.
            And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than doctors.
           


Monday, November 17, 2014

The Hill

            Well, it’s official, now. I’m middle-aged. The big four zero. And I’ve endured some merciless messages from friends, to which I’ve reminded most of them that they passed this barrier years before me. But I am older.
            Thing is, while I do feel older in some respects, I’m still very much a kid at heart. And I don’t intend to let a number related to how long I’ve been on the planet change that. I won’t talk about young kids being whipper snappers or how it used to be back in the good old days.
            And of course comes the rumination and self-evaluation of where I’m at in my life. Am I where I thought I’d be? No. Am I where I’d like to be? That’s more complicated. Yes and no. I think, though, the big step is to just keep moving forward, to make sure I am truly living life instead of being along for the ride.
           


Friday, November 14, 2014

F3 The Engineer

            For three months, Flynn and Eltie did short runs from Pallas Station to Genoa, a new agricultural colony near Vela. The colony constantly needed parts, equipment, and medicine, while Flynn brought back textiles. Unfortunately, Flynn noticed an increasing tendency for Calypso to need repairs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Everything in a Book

            This is another cliché I have trouble with. Mostly because I’ve been in academia and I know what types of books are out there. You will not find ancient tomes with descriptions of demons and a crucial piece of information that explains exactly how to resolve a supernatural situation.
            For this one I blame the Buffy show (though I’m sure it wasn’t the first to abuse such an idea, merely the one that sticks in my mind). And why, why do these supernatural villains allow for the existence of these books in the first place. You would think that a demon who gets banished to hell would make a note the first time it happens and make a to-do list. “First thing I do when I get out in five thousand years is find that fricking book and burn it.”
Or maybe after getting banished the last time, spread the word? “Hey, Mort, yeah, I just got banished back here. Listen, if you get out, make sure the first thing you do is to destroy this book the Slayer has in her library. Yeah, do that and they won’t be able to send you back. Pass it on.”



Monday, November 10, 2014

Mental Health

            Usually I’d be going into a post Crime Bake discussion, but that’s not the case. One of the reasons I enjoy Crime Bake (any writing conference, really) is the people. And it’s a generic sort of thing. Yes, I highly value the friends I’ve met (hi guys!), but really it’s because I can turn off teaching. I get to be a writer during that weekend, and nothing else. Let me emphasize that. I get to be a writer.
            This may not seem like a big thing, but it’s vital for my mental health. Writing is something that energizes and revitalizes. I can be my characters on their adventures, which takes me out of the drudgery of everyday life, and to go to a conference filled with other people that all feel the same way, and to be able to talk about such things without getting weird stares (all the writers know what I’m talking about), is also rejuvenating.
            So it’s my intention to make sure I get that rejuvenation from an extra dose of writing this week. Now, if you’ll excuse me (or even if you won’t).
           


Friday, November 7, 2014

F3 The Ship

            Pallas Station, as was the case with most stations in the Alliance Core, boasted a large size. Over fifty thousand people called the station home. Everything that could be offered by the system was, in fact, offered. Pallas orbited a Neptunian ice giant at the lagrangian point for its largest moon, Antioch, which also happened to be outside the scattered ring system.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No Crime Bake for Me

            Sadly, I could not attend Crime Bake this year, but I hope to return, conditions permitting. I’ve made too many good friends and had too much fun in Boston. So, in the words of Ahnold, “Ah’ll be bahck.”
           


Monday, November 3, 2014

Einstein Sue

            I watched a Sylvester Stallone movie called Escape Plan a few months back that utilized a character type I’ve come to hate, which is a type of Mary Sue. This particular brand of Mary Sue, regardless of gender, annoys me because there is a certain body of knowledge people come with and tend to specialize in.
Can Sly be a prison architect? Sure. Can he literally write the book on prison architecture? Sure (even if it’s over the top). Can he know the habits of prisoners and analyze prisons for escape routes? Yes. Can he know how to use a sextant? Erm, maybe if he spent a lot of time sailing growing up. Can he MacGyver one into existence with materials he got from prison. No. Just no. Can he, using only a vague reading given to him by another prisoner who had no view of the horizon determine his latitude? No. Absolutely not.
This type of thing is becoming increasingly common in storytelling. Characters with expertise in every body of knowledge come forward to save the day with facts that only they could possibly possess.
To me the prototype for this kind of character is actually a historical and modern day favorite: Sherlock Holmes. His encyclopedic knowledge of everything removes most of the humanity from the character. No one can expect to know everything. Even Gregory House looked on with skepticism when a med student “expected [him] to know the kind of snake by the shape of the puncture.”
When characters like Sly enter the picture, with too much innate knowledge, I’m drawn out of the story. I can almost never get back into it, either. It’s why I can’t read Holmes any more, simply because of how preposterous it is that Holmes has this level of knowledge.
Data. Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation can have this level of knowledge. That’s appropriate. That makes sense. But even data has to stop and learn something new. Even if it only takes him a few seconds to do so.



Friday, October 31, 2014

F3 Unfair Logic

            Another Halloween. Jen and Jessie loved it because I closed the office at lunch. There was something about this particular Halloween that didn’t sit right with me. The sun didn’t shine as bright, the air held an otherworldly chill that cut to my bones, and I didn’t want to be anywhere other than home, secure behind the consecration.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vindictive towards Characters

            The line to “kill your darlings” really applies to words and sentences (except in the case of George R.R. Martin). So I don’t go on a killing spree in my books, but I have become vindictive and started torturing some of them.
            I’ve always adopted a noir attitude with regards to my endings. There are no true happy endings, more like surviving to try again tomorrow. Oh yeah, and there’s an extra weight around your neck, making it that much harder to keep your head above water.
            My torture also isn’t physical. I’m messing with my characters’ heads, pondering ethical dilemmas, blurring lines of right and wrong, giving them choices doing the right thing and doing a different right thing as well as dropping other changes that seem innocuous at the time, but will germinate (or maybe fester) as time goes on.
            It’s a wonder my characters don’t hate me. They might prefer Martin to what I’m doing.
           


Monday, October 27, 2014

First Blush

            I watched “The Saint” recently. the Val Kilmer film, not the Roger Moore series. Get over it. And there’s a scene where a Russian scientist is trying to make a formula for cold fusion work, but can’t, and he says something to the effect that “the formula appears revolutionary at first blush.” This is exactly how new curriculum is. We come up with an idea, develop it for the whole semester, and then implement it.
From the moment we conceive it and throughout the semester, we’re hopeful. We can even experience great successes during the semester, but the first blush impression is not the whole story. Only when the semester has ended can we determine if the curriculum was a success.
We’ve all been burned by the final projects of the semester where the students simply give up. I can’t blame them (at least not entirely) because I remember my days as an undergrad and the need to simply finish a course. But when the numbers are stacked against us that the majority of students didn’t get it, it’s back to the drawing board.



Friday, October 24, 2014

F3 Old School

            “Fascinating, isn’t it, Captain?” Reese asked.
            “What is?” Flynn replied. They sat at a small café on Hugo station. Flynn occupied himself with reviewing the list of supplies they needed to repair Calypso.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Student Exploration


            Before the semester began, I helped a friend develop her curriculum for a composition class. After throwing out several ideas because of the massive work involved and the unlikelihood of getting a positive student response, we finally hit upon an idea of personal exploration. It revolves around three questions, each one to become the heart of an essay: Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going?
            We’re hopeful that this will elicit the correct response and critical inquiry from the students, but, like any curriculum, it’s a gamble, one we won’t know if it worked until after it’s all over, when those final essays and grades are tallied.

            Oh, and I realize now that I kind of cribbed the personal exploration theme from Crusade, hence the video. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

More Text with Video, Please

            I see a growing trend with the sites where I go for news. More and more the articles are replaced by links to videos, or the news itself is relegated to video form. While I am certainly guilty of whiling away a good deal of time on Youtube watching videos, I find I prefer the written articles. I can read an article far faster than a video can present the information to me. Time is already precious, so I don’t need to sit and wait for a video to load up and then go at a glacial pace to get to the specific information I wanted.
            I can’t change this trend, I know, but I find myself clicking on fewer news stories that interest me because they rely solely on video.
           


Friday, October 17, 2014

F3 The Marine

            Flynn took a step away from the court offices, ready to enact his plan, such as it was, when someone called his name. The name itself probably would have caught him, but he received a full address.
            “Captain Flynn, sir!”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Burned

            I really like the show “Burn Notice.” I was a fan from the pilot episode, and thought the concept was interesting. But recently I’ve begun to notice things, and when I pair those with ideas from the classic Goffman essay “On Cooling the Mark Out” http://www.tau.ac.il/~algazi/mat/Goffman--Cooling.htm, I come up with some disturbing conclusions. I think more and more employers are going this route. There are no explanations, no discussions, merely a preemptive termination of employment.
I think it’s not even that formal, especially with regards to adjunct faculty. They aren’t terminated, they’re simply not hired back. And I think it’s a tactic that more employers would like to use.
A friend recently had this happen to her. She was anticipating returning to teach, and willing to make a long commute, but the department chair at the school simply refused to hire her back. No explanation, no conversation, not even the courtesy of informing her in any way. All communications went unheeded, as if they had become lost in a digital sea.
            This passive form of firing may cut down on confrontations. It may be more efficient, but it’s still a lousy move.
            And what now? With such passive termination, doesn’t it also carry with it a radioactivity. After all, Michael Westen couldn’t walk up to the FBI or NSA and apply for a job.
           


Monday, October 13, 2014

Embracing the New

            Change is hard. It’s outside the comfortable. It’s different. It’s unknown. That isn’t to discount its good qualities. Change is also exciting, brings opportunity, and allows for discovery. But it’s still hard. Change is hard enough when it’s thrust upon us, but at least then can fall into reflexive action, do what is necessary to ride out the new circumstances.
            It’s harder to consciously make a change, especially when the stakes are high. It’s romantic to think about chucking everything and taking the plunge. Self-preservation instincts scream not to do it because of all the unknowns.
            And no matter how many times we take and embrace little change, taking and embracing big change is hard. It takes the conscious override of instincts and place yourself at risk.
            I think that’s why Cortez set fire to his ships. When there’s no choice but to embrace change, you will find the way forward.
            I really don’t want to set fire to my ship, but maybe I should.
           


Friday, October 10, 2014

F3 A New Course

            Peter Flynn stood outside the court offices. Unlike courts planetside, there were no steps, no gentle breeze to console him. He did have sunlight, filtered in through station’s viewports in small snatches, but the light from the orange star brought him no comfort.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creative Process

            Like I said before, I love to brainstorm. In fact, there’s not much about the creative process I don’t like. After brainstorming to get that initial idea, it’s time to process and distill that idea down. Strip away the impurities. Shape it. Temper it. Polish it until it shines. When that’s done, it’s ready to grow.
            The best part? I don’t know what it will grow into. I have an impression, but I don’t know for sure. I get to discover that along with everyone else.
           


Monday, October 6, 2014

Brainstorms with a Chance of Showers

            I love brainstorming. That doesn’t quite paint the picture it needs to. When I brainstorm, my mind bubbles, swells, and tingle; I ride a wave of euphoria that to go into further detail would become pornographic. This is mostly because when I brainstorm, I come through the storm with an idea. Often not fully realized, but the birth of one. And all it needs is a little TLC to grow and become something great.
            All of the books and stories I’ve written have started off with a simple, single idea. Nurturing that idea became something more, something great, but it always, always starts with an initial burst of inspiration.
            And how cool is it that we have a process for stimulating inspiration. Everyone should take a little time every day to brainstorm.
           


Friday, October 3, 2014

F3 Shake on It

            “It was nothing like the movies, y’know?” Cameron Hodge wrung his hands together and stared at my desk.
            “I expected, y’know, a contract. Like one written in blood. Or like this giant thing a thousand pages long that’s impossible to read through.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hectic



            It was May, the end of the spring semester, and I blinked, and now it’s October. I remember everything that happened in between, but it still seems as if it went unbelievably fast. Mostly due to how much I’ve been keeping on my plate. Still, I better find time to heed Ferris Bueller’s advice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Deadly Debut

            It’s not my usual thing on my blog, but I had the opportunity to review a mystery anthology, and I jumped at it, and I’m glad I did.  Deadly Debut is a mystery anthology put out by the New York/Tri State Chapter of Sisters in Crime with all of the stories taking place in that area.
The real strength of this anthology lies in its eclectic nature. There are stories for lovers of every kind of mystery from amateur sleuth to professional to the bystander who is trying to understand the reasons for a dead body in the closet and the beat cop investigating a shakedown.
I immersed myself in these stories so much they took my mind off the pain and discomfort of a root canal (Seriously! Any break in the drilling and I took to reading these stories). I won’t go over all the stories, but here are some (spoiler-free) thoughts about some of my favorites.
“Death Will Clean Your Closet” is a cautionary tale about partying to the point of memory loss. Explaining the dead body in the closet (which subsequently disappears) is difficult when you can’t remember the night before. This is a fun story with shades of the movie The Hangover but with more realistic overtones and concerns.
“Murder in the Aladdin’s Cave.” First, full confession, I am crazy for Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. Throw in live music and belly dancing and I’m a truly happy camper. So when I began to read a story in a restaurant with belly dancing, I got a little giddy (FYI, I was wrong about a kebab skewer as the murder weapon). Best of all, I could tell how authentic the experience was. The writer had either really done her research or had done some belly dancing herself to capture the full flavor of the experience. She also highlights what crazy places restaurants can be with their constant bustle, where people barely know what’s going on and can only keep track of their current task, so it’s quite understandable that no one was truly able to know what happened when one of the dancers winds up dead.
“The Lie.” Ah, childhood sins. It’s the little ones, you know, breaking curfew, sneaking out while grounded, going where you’re not supposed to be, and even the little white lie to an adult to keep yourself out of trouble. In a sitcom the little sin would turn out to be something funny and work as a great teaching moment before everyone goes out for ice cream. But this is a mystery story. There are real—long term—consequences to even the childhood sins.
“NYPD Daughter” A beat cop and a shakedown. It might sound like the beginning of a joke, but it’s a recipe for a well-done story that deals with the ramifications of generational police legacy. I would certainly be scared witless at the thought of my daughter joining the police.
Deadly Debut is a great anthology with sharp prose, weighty characters, and a story for all flavors of mystery lovers. Start off with one of the easy-going fun stories or jump into the deep-end with brooding, deadly ramifications, and a hard-boiled world.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Bureaucracies

            I’ve always found bureaucracy distasteful, as have most people. The machine exists, as one of my political science professors put it, to ensure its own survival. What is ostensibly there to serve the people, to manage what, on an individual level is unmanageable, morphs into its own entity that will do whatever it takes to perpetuate itself, even at the expense of its original purpose.
            I’ve struggled in dealing with bureaucracies, and never managed to find a path that truly worked well. The courses they insist upon are largely unnavigable, and littered with rocks and shoals that trip up even experienced navigators.
            I think, too, the longer a person works at a particular place, the more they see inside the bureaucracy, and it’s never really pretty.
           


Friday, September 26, 2014

F3 Red Tape

            Flynn struggled with the customs forms for Gemini Station. Gemini was a large, Alliance hub just shy of the Core worlds, which meant it funneled in travelers and trade from all over the Alliance. As such, they had a lot of rules and regulations, and at least four forms for everything, none of them equal and each required under a specific set of circumstances. But only a clerk could inform you as to which one to use.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tools

            The details are where things matter most, and I’ve found that having the correct tools makes the detail work easier. Unfortunately, there are an abundance of tools available, not all of them equal. Trying to find the right ones to fit your particular needs is a daunting task. Also, there’s a budget to consider.
            In preparation for my Kickstarter campaign, I had to look at tools to help make my video, both on the physical side and the digital side. A tripod, mount, microphone, lighting, and more had to be considered for the video. I needed to enlist a friend as a camera man (and co-director since I was in front of the camera). And then on the digital side, I needed a computer with enough processing power and the correct software to edit the raw footage into something presentable.
            I don’t have professional film school hardware or software. I don’t claim that my film is anywhere near that quality. I wish it was. Not because I think that makes a video better, but because the right tools make a job and the finished product better.
            I reach for my tools whenever I have need. The best tool in the world is no good unless it is used. Moreover, there’s no shame in using tools. That’s what they’re for.
           


Monday, September 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle

            Over the summer I managed to rediscover writing, and how satisfying it is to create a story with characters I can get caught up in. I willingly set it aside to work on my Kickstarter campaign, but now that it has ended, I wonder if I’m going to be able to get back to the writing. I’ve got a lot of other things to take care of, and time is now at more of a premium than ever. And while money is a necessity, especially for a growing business, and teaching is still paying the bills, rejuvenation comes from writing. I will need to get back in the writing saddle because, ultimately, that is what gets me through all of the other work.


Friday, September 19, 2014

F3 Museum Tour

            My old partner, Max Stein, would have wanted to skin me alive for what I had done. Myself, I thought I was creative. Among the items Max had collected and stashed were books. Some of them were in recognizable languages, but a few were completely indecipherable, written in a dead language that even scholars at DeGradi University couldn’t speculate on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Campaign Ended

            Well, the Kickstarter is now over. It was a wild ride. Now I have to deal with the aftermath. I will say I’ve learned a lot from this experience, especially with how much work goes into all of this. I thank everyone who took part in the campaign. Your support means more than words can succinctly express (and I’m a writer, so I know).

Now it’s time to move forward.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Devil's Work

            The Devil is in the details. Truer words have never been spoken. With so many projects, the broad strokes are easy, but true execution requires a massive amount of adherence to minutiae to daunt the most stalwart. I haven’t found any projects that are simple and easy to pull off. My latest, in the Kickstarter, is a piece of software. My coding skills are nothing to brag about, but coding is easy for me.
            The rest of it, though, to make it into something viable: marketing, certificates, copy protection, pricing, marketing, legal issues, customer service, and did I mention marketing?
            There’s always work to be done. There’s no real chance to sit back and rest on laurels. I have to keep ticking off those details so the devil doesn’t get my due.


Friday, September 12, 2014

F3 Mourn the Fallen

            Peter Flynn pulled out the bottle of Antares Whiskey and a couple of shot glasses from his private stash and headed out of his cabin. He joined Lt. Kimball in the common area of the ship. She already had a bottle of Ember Spirits on the table cracked open. The spicy spirits already started to perfume the room. No doubt the bottle had already warmed itself up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not a Phone

            I’m a weird guy (anyone reading this knows this by now). And I’m into technology. But it has to be on my own terms. I tend to get a device and use it the way that it fits into my life. I don’t adapt my life for the sake of a technology, which is probably why I still have trouble with Twitter and Facebook. I’ve never had a particular need to share bits and pieces of my life that frequently.
            I was late coming to the smartphone party, and, to me, it’s less a phone and more of a portable computer. It just happens to have the ability to make phone calls and send text messages built into it. My most used apps: calendar, Wiktionary (because I don’t have a data plan), a note taking app (I’m still trying to find the right one), Audible, and Poweramp. I don’t surf the web on my phone if I can help it. I don’t type messages. I don’t skype or use social networking. I will check email, but almost never reply or send from the phone.
            So with the debut of these new smartwatches, I begin to wonder how they will fit into my use of smartphones. Most of the apps are geared towards texting, email, and social networking. I might be fine with reading email on the watch, or at least knowing who just emailed me because my pocket buzzed, but what else is there? For a device that nearly costs as much as a smartphone, what else can it do for me?
            I do have to admit that I like the looks of the Moto 360. Of course Pebble has a wonderful simplicity and pragmatic approach. And do I really need a smartwatch?
            Probably not.


Monday, September 8, 2014

When Everything Stops Working

            What do you do when teaching methods fail you? When methodologies that used to work no longer do? What do you do when the bag of teaching tricks is empty? What do you do to try and remain effective? What do you do when every new trick you come up with flops?

            What do you do when you no longer care to try finding new tricks?

Friday, September 5, 2014

F3 The Black

            Flynn, restless, relieved Ann at the helm, more for his own sake than to let her rest. He didn’t want her to go on about her books or the latest debauchery she wanted to get into at their next port. This was a night where Flynn wanted quiet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Going Gradeless

            I read a blogpost by a high school English teacher on this novel idea of not assigning grades to student writing throughout the semester. It’s a novel idea, but I don’t think it’s one that can actually translate to the college level, mostly because of time.
The high schools have 18 week semesters with class 5 days a week (most of them, anyways), making for roughly 85 days of class (depending on the holidays). The colleges, typically, have sixteen week semesters with class occurring 2 or 3 times a week, making for between 30-43 days of class, again depending on holidays.
            With so much extra time, it’s easy to see how this teacher could afford to spend many days in conference with students about their writing, but colleges expect students to shoulder the majority of work outside the classroom.

            So I’m not sure I could justify attempting a gradeless system such as is described, but I am intrigued.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rest

            The concept of rest, of setting aside a day when we should set aside our labors is interesting, and I think becoming increasingly futile as time goes on. Most of us now take our work with us wherever and whenever we go. I have friends who are, literally, on-call for their jobs. No, they’re not doctors.

            As for myself, I seem to always have a project going on that needs my attention. And there’s always writing. Though that is more of a passion than a labor. Still, it’s been a while since I truly set my labors aside, more like delayed them for a short period of time, but never truly set them aside.

Friday, August 29, 2014

F3 The First Signal

            The mood in ground control had gone from placid to frenetic in a matter of minutes. Carl Jensen had been the first one to notice the signal, and after double-checking it, began to wake up every engineer and supervisor in JPL. Of course, the word spread far beyond those people like wildfire.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Higher Education Paradigm Shift

            I wrote earlier about de-specialization, and I think that is the key to saving higher education. The first two years of any college experience should revolve around showing students how subjects relate to one another, and how to view subjects with a critical eye towards making still more connections. English, math, psychology, history, and art are not separate subjects, but rather pieces of a whole education that is the very baseline of higher thinking. It is for this reason that colleges and universities require subjects in what is termed general education, but the term and lists of classes are as far as anyone has taken it.
            The fact of the matter is that various departments segregate these general education courses from one another. Each department concerns itself only with its internal business and the competition to make it rise above its peers.
            Complicating this structure is that the general education courses within a given department are disdained. They are not real courses that the department cares about. The courses are relegated to teaching assistants and adjuncts as full professors feel such subjects are beneath them.

            It’s time to pull these courses away from their departments to form a new collective group purely for general education. It would take all of these courses from the various departments and coordinate them, teach them in such a way that the connections between subjects are emphasized. Let the individual departments worry about further specializing the students.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Next Semester

            It begins today. I’ve got a couple of more tricks up my sleeve. So I’m optimistic on those fronts. I hope it pays off. Teaching’s harder this time around as my excitement has bled off into other areas, especially my kickstarter. Maybe after that’s over I’ll be more renewed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

F3 Smoke Rings

            They couldn’t see me, or at least, they gave no indication they saw me. I lay prone on a low-hanging cloud over the volcano using a pair of binoculars to stare inside. It had circular caldera, but small, maybe thirty feet across. I had come up here because I never had a chance to stare into a volcano before. I had come far too close to one in Iceland, but that was an emergency.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Next Generation eBookstore

            It doesn’t exist (yet?). But, this is what I would like to see in terms of a physical, electronic bookstore. I think it’s important that a physical place exists where readers can come together to look over books. Perhaps this will be the future of libraries as well. Instead of rows of shelves of physical books, there would be rows of shelves holding digital displays for each author. The display would flash through the book cover of each author’s work, cycling its way around with interactivity to allow for searching or faster cycling.

            Patrons could wander through and see the books on the shelves, able to browse authors nearby, and still preserve the feeling of a bookstore, even if the books themselves are ephemeral files on an electronic device.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kickstart

            Tomorrow I Kickstart another project I’ve been working on. I’m very excited as well as nervous about the prospect. I believe in my project, and hope I am doing everything I can to promote it and make it successful. So, please, check it out.

Friday, August 15, 2014

F3 Gavel

            The gavel hit with finality, a sound that resonated through the courtroom, and made Flynn wince. He still stood with his counsel, but he felt numb, watching detachedly as the judge and members filed out of the courtroom.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

De-specialization

            I’ve been listening to Lost Enlightenment, which suggests something interesting that I had remembered before and assimilated into my own life, but now I think it needs to be incorporated into higher education.
            The ancient and Renaissance thinkers did not specialize. They didn’t exclude disciplines of thought in favor of one area, or even a sub-area of an existing area. Da Vinci, Newton, Aristotle, Socrates, and others wrote and thought about everything from mathematics to art to philosophy, treating the interactions of what we think of as disparate areas of thought as simply pieces of a larger whole.
            It’s understandable that specialization, or even hyper-specialization in fields of knowledge would become necessary in order to advance even further, but we’ve gotten away from crucial truths that areas of academic interest are all related when it comes to their general spheres of information.

            Why, then, do we treat these areas as specialized at these general levels? I believe that extending the boundaries of subjects and realizing how they incorporate and touch upon these other spheres leads to a greater understanding forces the mind to grow in ways reminiscent of what these great thinkers experienced.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Solace in Books

            I don’t have as much time to read any more. I’ve said this before, and I’m sure my writer friends would be horrified by the very concept. And I can launch into various explanations why, the majority of the reason falling upon grading. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Even with so little time and concentration to spend on reading, I still find solace in books. I still enjoy their presence.
            One of the greatest feelings in the world is to walk around shelves of books, picking one up, and perusing it. The feel of the paper, the weight in the hand, and even the art on the covers and a bold title speak to me. I used to pull out a small pile of books, sit down on the floor next to the shelve, and skim through the words, fully content. To amble around so many of them brings tranquility to me. That’s something that digital vendors aren’t replicating.

            Hmmm.

Friday, August 8, 2014

F3 Brawl

            Ensign Peter Flynn didn’t know who threw the first punch. He only knew that the marine that had half a meter on him and at least fifteen kilos was set to pound him into the bar. Seeing as he was fresh out of Officer Training and had plenty of classes on tactics, he could have opted to employ those now, except his temper had gotten the better of him when one of the marines had quite literally spit beer in his face.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stretched Thin

            I’ve been feeling stretched thin this summer with personal responsibilities and projects I hope will become professional. Everything has been coming together in a shoestring net I’m weaving on-the-fly. I’m sure things are getting overlooked because I’m only one person, but I think I’m managing.

            Of course, what I think I need to make it all come back together is a little down time. I need some kind of rejuvenation period. Maybe not a huge vacation, but once a week or so I should just go somewhere peaceful, like maybe a library or a bookstore, and browse around.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Resistance to Change

            People are strange. On the one hand they will wait in line for the newest technological wonder (iPhone, Galaxy, etc.) but on the other they will staunchly refuse to budge when it comes to other things. They embrace the new and will refuse to abandon the old depending on what it is, and this is particularly true of using certain technologies.
            I like to think I’m pretty flexible. I want to see possibilities for how I can use the technology. I will admit, I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of Facebook or Twitter. Mostly because I can’t figure out a way to make it work with my style of doing things. But I’m trying, and I see certain potentials there. But when I see those potentials, when I can make them work with the way I do things, I’m all over it.
            The one thing I never do, though, is flat out refuse to even consider something. I don’t understand that way of thinking. Sure, I still use an old version of WordPerfect for my fiction writing. I like the no nonsense interface. I want a platform that puts words down, and that’s it. I can tweak formatting with Word later on. I know other writers who embrace Scrivener because of all its features with notecards and multimedia, but to me those are distractions. But I still played around with it to see if it was something I could use.
            And that’s as a writer. Artists are eccentric, so they’re supposed to have these quirky usages of tech.
            But as a teacher, I’m baffled that people obstinately refuse to try something new. Of the ones who look at something and simply say “I’m comfortable with how I do it.” This is a kind of closed mindedness that drives me up the wall. It’s one thing to evaluate and then say, “I prefer the way I’ve been doing it,” but to not even give it a chance reminds me of a five year old who has been told to eat brussel sprouts.

            I can’t wrap my head around it, and all I can think to do is quote Bradbury: “I hate a Roman named Status Quo.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

F3 Act of God

            I woke up with a start, making the cat who licked my face pause a moment, then sit down on its haunches before it proceeded to begin licking itself. I ached. Losing consciousness in the park would do that to a guy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Culture Shift

            In describing events from the past semester to a friend who has been in education far long than I, he immediately nailed down exactly what has happened at my school. The culture has shifted. The policies of primary, secondary, and even higher education have created a new kind of culture, one that rebels against any kind of challenge, and places the teacher on the lowest rung.
            He’s right. He’s experiencing it at his school in a different way, but this is absolutely what is happening at every level of education.

            I can’t help but think of the zombie apocalypse movies. This time, however, students, politicians, administrators, and even parents are becoming zombies, and they’re all out to get the teachers. And this isn’t the fun kind of zombie movie where a cure can be found or the plucky resistance can win out.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Architecture & Writing

            Architects (I imagine) begin in much the same way as writers: a blank page. From there we differ largely, I think. An architect will sketch out a drawing, adding onto it rendering a complete outside shell. From there they move on to create he insides, rendering it into blueprints that takes into account all of the structure’s needs.
            Writers—okay, I won’t generalize. I start with a blank page, but then I move onto a single idea. It’s usually a sentence. A question. Most of the time it begins with “what if. . . ?” That sentence becomes the heart of the entire book, spreading out from there, but it’s haphazard, a hairsbreadth away from random. I know about the long held debate about plotters vs. planners, but I think even the plotters have a haphazard growth to their books. It doesn’t take much for a character to end up derailing a plot, or for a scene to work in your brain but bomb on paper. We add on new growths to just stick on and hang off the novel. In no way is a novel a streamlined structure.

            Architects have it pretty easy in that regard. No one would buy a novel if they could see a complete outline of how it looked on paper.

Friday, July 25, 2014

F3 Folk Remedy

            I sneezed, then coughed, then winced as my lungs burned and my head pounded. I barely propped my head upright on the couch as I watched TV. I didn’t know what was on. I didn’t care. All I knew was the misery of a super cold in the middle of July. I had spent three days—four?—on this couch, slipping in and out of sleep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Year Ago

            Last year at this time I was hanging out in Boston with one of my best friends. It was awesome. I was able to recharge my creativity and kick start my brain for other endeavors, as well. I then moved on to have an excellent trip to DC with my brother.
            This year sees me under more financial stress so I couldn’t take another vacation, but change is on the horizon. If things work out even moderately well, I should have another vacation soon.

            That said, this summer has still been restorative. I’ve enjoyed taking my brain off the hook for certain things and made progress on so many other projects. I hope to keep up the momentum.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Looking at Self-Publishing with a New Eye

            I’ve never been disdainful of self-publishing. I know it can work for many people, but I have been more standoffish with it for a number of reasons. Foremost, I like agents. They’re good people. They’re knowledgeable. They shoulder a lot of work for writers, and they know how to navigate the potential hazards. I still want one.
            But other aspects of self-publishing are not as daunting as they used to be. The idea of self-marketing and promotion isn’t as scary as it once was, thanks in large part to a marketing book more about marketing business than books (of course, the writer is the business when it comes to self-publishing, so it still works).
            So I’m beginning to entertain the idea again, but one thing still holds me back: time. Marketing one’s self as a self-published author takes an immense amount of time, and time is ever a luxury, especially with a small business emerging.

            I think I’m going to continue networking for a little longer while polishing some of my books, and test the waters again. I’ll reassess after that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

F3 The Retreat

            Our flight from Peru to Antarctica took less than an hour because of the plentiful clouds over the Andes. Natalie and I simply chained our lightning together, zipping along Tarzan-style.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Risk

            The risks of teaching are many, mostly the unimpressive rewards present themselves as a risk, but now greater risks are emerging. Administration that supports their own ends and casts teachers aside. Students who number 80% apathetic and 15% belligerent (if you’re lucky the 5% is filled with students who truly care and will work to excel, but more often than not those are the students who care just enough to get by, barely edging out the apathetics).
            The mental and emotional stress on teachers dealing with all of these risks are simply too great. WE can’t justify remaining in a profession like this. Record numbers of teachers are making their exits at every level. Some retire early, others find new avenues.

            I hope they can get out before risk turns into trauma.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reward

            This is a basic economic principle (but like many economic principles it’s not well understood [or even defined]) that basically states people evaluate whether or not the positive outweighs the negative.
            For teachers the reward has always been pretty small. Our paychecks are unimpressive at every scale. Our benefits are likewise. Even the vaunted summer vacation that everyone points to is really nothing. Most teachers spend their summers in preparation for the next school year by developing curriculum or attending workshops and seminars. Also, since the paycheck is unimpressive, many teachers elect to do summer school in order to make ends meet.
            The reward was always stacked by one thing, students who learned. We take joy at watching students learn and excel, knowing we’ve made a difference in their lives. These students have never been the majority, either, but they were enough to keep us going.

            I sense that shifting. It’s no longer enough for many of us. It’s a dying profession, one that will not attract the types of teachers the students need, but rather the ones that make themselves popular and easy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

F3 Skyseeing

            The ride took over an hour, but going from Nebraska to Peru couldn’t be done more quickly than by hanging onto lightning. In fact we didn’t come out of the upper atmosphere the entire time, watching the sprites fly by.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beyond Our Abilities

            When does a job become intolerable? At what point is someone justified in saying it’s a lost cause? When can we walk out and not suffer guilt over the decision?
            Teaching is one of these professions where we’re supposed to suffer through because of how noble the profession is. The intrinsic rewards of teaching are supposed to offset everything else, and that we’re naturally supposed to be long-suffering and should accept all kinds of adversity in order to continue at this noble profession.
            A teacher who quits is somehow seen as a traitor to the entire profession, but the same stigma isn’t attached to other professions. If a computer programmer, manager, lawyer, chef, or other career wanted to change up and do something else, it’s a life change, and one that is generally regarded as a good idea.

            Why is it that teachers are seen as traitors? Why can’t teachers become fed up and want something more from their lives?

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Instructor Who Cares

            This is something tossed about a lot, but I think that teachers and students have very different definitions of what it means.
            Student’s perspective: Teacher is available outside of class. Teacher answers all of my questions whenever I ask them. Teacher gives me good grades. Teacher praises all my efforts. Teacher makes allowances for things in my life (work, family, other classes).
            Teacher’s perspective. Teacher is available outside of class within reason (teachers do have lives outside of teaching and have to deal with other work, other classes, and family just like students). Teacher answers questions that are reasonable (many questions are answered in class and by the syllabus, so there’s no need to repeat ourselves). Teachers praise efforts that are worth praising. Other efforts receive constructive criticism in order to encourage improvement. Teacher makes reasonable allowances. Everyone has a life with ups and downs, and it’s not fair to everyone if some people can get away with not attending class or turning in assignments late (and teachers are those who also have other things in life).
            I think this fundamental disparity, and the increasing number of students who insist on their way, is having a detrimental effect on teaching as a profession.
            And I have no idea on how to fix it.

            I’m not sure I want to try.

Friday, July 4, 2014

F3 Fireworks

            “I still do not know how you talked me into this,” Nikki said.
            The waters of Badon Bay were perfect this time of year, and we sat halfway between Larson and the coast. The lights on the Fairhaven shore were easy to see, as was this year’s barge. Other boats got closer, right up to the perimeter that Belport’s Coast Guard would allow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Still Even More Tales from the Semester

            Again, I’ve been sitting on this, weighing how I feel about it. A colleague  received a scathing message from a student. This in itself is not unusual. We’ve all gotten them before. I even had a student who ripped into me because I would withdraw her from the class after the semester had ended (other teachers, however, allowed this).
            The scathing message, though, was cumulative. After all of the stress, the indignities, and incidents from the semester, it was, in my friend’s words, “the last straw.”
            In two years time she went from a completely dedicated instructor who was widely recognized for her compassion, creativity, and going well above and beyond to help her students. Before this last year, she had never had a student complain or send a scathing message to her.
            But that was then. This is now. The student population has shifted. Such complaints about instructors are now commonplace, even habitual. It seems that the only way an instructor can avoid complaints is to become a poor instructor. If an instructor makes a course ridiculously easy, never challenges students to think, never offers any kind of constructive criticism (because obviously the students are already perfect at everything) they will be regarded well by the students and be successful.

            More and more teachers are reaching the final straw. And the ones who remain? Well, I know many of us are eyeing the door, waiting and planning for the time to be free.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Annual Budgets

            It’s here. The new budgets are coming. This is my chance. I’ve been waiting for this moment, and, hopefully, it’s going to pay off in a big way. I hope to capitalize on government institutions being flush with new cash that they can dispose of, hopefully in my direction.

            Wish me luck.

Friday, June 27, 2014

F3 Lessons in Lying

            Flynn walked with Reese through crowded market, but Flynn couldn’t help but notice that Reese walked with a decided limp in his left leg, and took the opportunity to rub at his thigh any time they looked over the wares in a stall.
            “Were you injured in a battle,” an attractive young woman asked.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tramping About

            I really want to do that. I remember last year, as I wrapped up my trip to Washington DC, I was tired, but I wanted to stay on. I wanted to take some more time and relax and do little trips to see even more.
            I’m firmly convinced that if I can manage to get the financial independence to do that kind of tramping, I will. The wanderlust is building again now that summer is here, and the list of places I want to visit continues to grow.

            A lengthy road trip sounds really good again. . . .

Monday, June 23, 2014

Unrealized Ideas

            “Dream Children” by Charles Lamb is one of my all-time favorite essays. I’ve written before about the children left on the shores of the Lethe, and how I would do my best to make sure that they are rescued from there.
            Not today.
            At least not all the children. My characters and story ideas will absolutely be rescued. I’m not going to stop trying to breathe life into them.
            No, I’m talking about the other children. Other ideas. I have had a host of ideas for teaching, but over recent months I abandon them almost as soon as I have them. They’re going to stay on the Lethe. Particularly good ones I might pass on to teacher friends, but then many of them have the same idea.
            So, to those ideas, left on the shores of the Lethe, I offer a small apology. You will not come to be. At least not for me. I will do my best not to forget you completely, and I have the chance to pass you on to someone else, I shall, but I must tend to my other children.

You have already robbed life from them for too long.

Friday, June 20, 2014

F3 True Weapons of Mass Destruction

            It had been hours since ship’s sensors had registered the launch, which made the launch itself hours old by the time it had reached Flynn’s crew. As soon as he knew the projectile’s course, he had swung Calypso to exit the solar system.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Separation of Business and Business

            I’ve been struggling to get back into writing. A lot of it is other projects and time, but there’s another aspect I haven’t addressed. Space. I have been doing nearly all of my work in the same space. That means grading, coding, marketing, and other side projects have shared the same physical space as my writing area.
            Consequently, I think that my brain has tainted itself to think of other projects even when I want to focus on writing. I used to get around this by physically relocating myself to coffee shops and bookstores. I might have to resurrect that practice, and indulge in the occasional overpriced hot or iced chocolate in order to get the writing back up to speed.

            I also might resurrect an old computer with a simple word processor to create a separate physical medium used solely for writing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fun & Games

            I’m not as heavily into video games as I once was. It’s an expensive hobby, not just in terms of money, but time. I don’t have a lot of that to spare on games. In fact, none of my friends my age have that kind of time. One friend has a backlog of over 30 games, and he still buys games in the hopes of eventually catching up on that backlog.
            I’ve taken to replaying old classic games in order to stretch my relaxation buck to the max, and it’s quite enjoyable. However, I admit that the occasional new game, especially one that can be played with friends, is absolutely worthwhile.

            Now, excuse me while I load up some classic Legend of Zelda.

Friday, June 13, 2014

F3 Flags

            They exist by tradition, mostly. Flags are holdovers from ancient times before people reached the stars. In space, there really was no point to a flag. More often than not any flag seen was painted on a hull. But only high resolution optical sensors could see them from any real distance, and those were more interested in threat identification through hull design than splashes of paint.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Borg

            Students are the Borg. No, really, they are. No, they’re not a unified hive collective out to conquer.  But, like the Borg, they adapt.
            All attempts at teaching them are eventually adapted to. The techniques simply become ineffective. They no longer work in any way. Moreover, we don’t have a means to identify why these techniques fail.
            Our sleeves and hats run out of tricks. We have nothing else to try, and, to be blunt, inventing new techniques is a losing proposition for us. There’s no money in it for us. We don’t get paid to research new techniques, to spend countless hours scouring the internet and getting in discussions to develop new lessons.
            And the full-timers are immune. Their jobs are secured and they have no incentive to improve.

            So the Borg, relentless, continue on.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Sans School

            I’ve drastically cut back on my school preparations. I deserve what I can get of my summer vacation, but mostly it’s because I’ve shifted my focus away from school. This is both from necessity and by choice. Necessity because of my own project, but choice simply because putting time and effort in on school yields no benefit.

            So I’ll put my time and effort in on that which does yield benefit, even if it’s taking time off.

Friday, June 6, 2014

F3 Wish Fulfillment

            “Matt, you’ve got a client?” Jen said.
            “You don’t sound too sure,” I said.
            “I’m not. He slipped me this note, and he’s covered head-to-toe: coat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses, and ball cap.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Further Incidents from the Past Semester

            Honestly, I’m beginning to think I could fill a book with these. Another colleague experienced another disgruntled student. That’s nothing new. We see those all the time. What makes this special is the depth of the disgruntlement. The audacity of it still astounds.
            The student had been absent for 8 days. Typically the maximum allowed absences in the range of 3-4. This student had nearly missed 3 weeks of class with no explanation, with no prior arrangement. Only when my colleague had begun the paperwork to withdraw him did he return. Moreover, in that time he had missed an essay assignment.
            The student complained (for 3 consecutive hours) that had an absolute right to stay in the class because he paid for it. He complained that my colleague wouldn’t work with him. He complained in front of the department chair, too, and he got his way. He was even allowed to turn in the late assignment.
            Here’s the interesting twist.
            He plagiarized the entire essay.

            Like I said, audacity.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fleeing the Storm

            Animals have keen instincts and the ability to recognize disaster before it happens. When flocks of birds move away from a direction, when other animals flee, there is a good reason for it. Only people are too stupid to recognize that there is something inherently wrong.
            However, the same phenomenon has occurred in my hometown, but it’s not the animals who are fleeing, it’s the teachers.
            In my town’s school district, which I have no part of since I teach at a community college, teachers during the spring semester resigned en masse. Counting retirements and formal resignations, nearly 100 educators (teachers, principals, etc.) terminated their careers. Now the district is fairly large, but this is still a hammer blow.
            Worse still, this only represents the people who could afford to leave the career in some form or another. There must be an equal amount (though likely more) who continued their careers simply because they had no other choice.
            The point I am making with all this is that something disastrous is occurring, but the school board and the parents refuse to examine the cause of so many teachers leaving. Parents express concern, and the board attempts to assuage them, but none are treating it as the serious problem it clearly is.
            The teachers left for a reason.

            They flee the storm and the destruction that comes with it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

F3 Artillery

            Breath frosted in the frozen morning as students grunted and groaned as they pushed the onager into position. The onager had taken a month to construct by the physics students, who would operate it.
            Alex’s class had been divided equally to help the physics students with historical accuracy, right down to the correct rope to provide torsional power to the catapult. The other half of his students lay up ahead behind the snow wall that took up half the campus quad. The goal was to replicate part of Julius Caesar’s siege of Alesia. The Roman fortifications were made of snow instead of wood, but it would help the architecture students understand load bearing and exceptional stresses on structures.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Law Dog Cometh

            My nephew is, on this day (and tomorrow) graduating from Harvard Law School. This is an amazing accomplishment—one that has aged him at least 22 years over the course of his three years of education (which means he is now older than me). Soon he will relocate to the Big Apple to join a prestigious law firm, and take the legal profession by storm. He’s going to be great.

Congratulations, Blaine, you earned it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Complex Narrative

            Though I discussed waning attention spans, I find myself still drawn to complex narratives. I enjoy them. I love the trickle of information that allows for bigger pictures to be formed. A perfect case in point is the Game of Thrones series. I have a friend who has read all of the books, and I like to bounce ideas off him from what I observe in the shows, and where I postulate things will go. Even though he has the superior knowledge of the books, I manage to surprise him with ideas.

            I think it’s time I dive into the books myself and see what more I can piece together.

Friday, May 23, 2014

F3 The Lift

            Picking pockets on the street is different than it is with a specific mark. On the street, you look for what’s convenient, for where you can get the easy bucks without risk of bringing heat down on you. It’s not about size or smarts, but about where their minds are. You want people that look busy, are preoccupied. Could be they’re having a conversation, reading the paper, or they’re just staring at the same three feet of pavement in front of them. Those are the ones that won’t realize they’ve been lifted until you’re six blocks away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Attention Span

            I worry about attention spans. I have noticed over recent years that it has become more difficult for me to concentrate on a single task. The expectation of multi-tasking constantly interferes, and I find myself, especially when watching TV, reaching to the web browser to do something else simultaneously. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve often used TV as background noise, but there are times when I want to pay attention to the TV, but a few minutes lull in the show finds me reaching for something else to occupy my attention.
            I’ve witnessed similar behavior in students who constantly need to be reminded ad nauseum regarding due dates, procedures, and announcements. It becomes tiresome and tedious.
            I’m also concerned when it comes to readers. How will leisure reading further evolve because of shortened attention spans. Will we see the rise of chapters that are no more than a page long? Will full-length novels disappear in favor of novellas? Novelettes? Short stories? Flash fiction is becoming increasingly popular on the web. Will it permeate into collected fiction as well? Instead of a long, complicated narrative, will it simply be a loose collection of flash fiction vignettes?

            I wish I had answers. I wish I could get rid of the foreboding regarding this subject.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Irons in the Fire

            I wrote about the swiftness of change earlier. What I forgot (actually, I didn’t, I just thought I could get another post out of it) was that the change didn’t just happen on one front. I put multiple irons in the fire, preparing each one of them to forge into something useful. And when change came, it was with multiple irons.
            I found myself spreading out, but not in a way that made me feel like I was spread too thin, more like I could finally stretch out and fully extend my reach. It’s good to take these irons and hammer away at them, a few strokes each before returning it to the fire. The trick, obviously, is not to let one stay too long in either place or the metal will be ruined.

            Maybe when I can finally determine which iron is the real me I’ll make sure it gets most of my attention.

Friday, May 16, 2014

F3 Tools of the Trade

            “This one is all yours, Ben.” Eva said.
            “Surprised you’ll admit I’m better than you.”
            “At this. This is the only thing you’re better than me at, and you know I’m pretty fantastic at it, so don’t get so smug.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Incidents

            This semester has had quite a few incidents in it, all of which have us questioning whether or not we should follow suit with the previous example.
            A friend had a student very nearly go ballistic in class. He yelled and cursed at her, even after she kicked him out of the classroom. He did leave, but she nearly had to call campus security. And the entire dynamic of the class suddenly changed, not to mention my friend’s tolerance and patience.
            She needed to vent to her family and other teacher friends in order to calm down. Over and over she kept talking about how she had gone home and began to calculate her finances to see whether or not she could afford to give up teaching.
            She only has a few more semesters to go before she can stop entirely, but she doesn’t think she can keep teaching—all of us, really feel the same way.

            And, sadly, we all know that such incidents are only the beginning. It’s only going to get worse.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Two Months Back

            I’ve been sitting on this story, waiting for an appropriate cool down period, I guess. Not for the subject matter, but for myself. I had to know if my feelings went unchanged.
            They have.
            The previous F3 was inspired by this story.
            Two months back an instructor at my school quit. Mid-semester. She found better, more consistent employment, strolled into the department chair’s office, and resigned.
            At the time this was related to me by other friends, I smiled. I may have even chuckled.
            So did they.

            This is what has become of our jobs, where all of us feel a need to get out, to escape, and we greatly admire anyone who can manage to pull off the feat.