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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


            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


            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.

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