Geek Time

I’ve been a lot of different types of geek over the years, S.C.A. SF Nerd,  The class History or Literature Maven, Gamer, a lot of others. One thing I have noted consistently across the board is a lack of timing. My D&D group has been together for over three decades, I don’t think any of us are sure exactly when start time is.

When I was a geek in Elementary and High School it didn’t really show because the schools ran to a schedule whether individuals did or not. My geek creds do run back that far, I was even the audio-visual nerd, running the filmstrip projectors and splicing the broken films.  

As a side note, for any younger readers, the term Nerd didn’t come into common usage until the 70’s. Geek was much older than that, but the current meaning didn’t come in until the latter part of the twentieth century. The original meaning of geek was a sideshow performer who did something fascinating but horrific to the average person, such as biting the heads off live chickens.

Which leads to another side note. A side show was a part of a carnival or circus that was separate from the main event. Some times it was a geek show, sometimes a freak show with the bearded lady or whatever. Most commonly a side show was “hootchy-kootchy” dancers. Hootchy-kootchy dancers basically got up on stage and strutted their stuff for a male audience wearing whatever the manager thought would push the local morals without getting the show arrested or run out of town by the law. They almost never included clothing that covered less than a bikini would. The Cher song Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves referenced a hootchy-kootch show without the name.

Digressions aside, the first time I was really exposed to geek time was in the S.C.A. I didn’t know it was geek time then.  I thought it was “Toni Time” one of our friends was notoriously late for everything. This of course put everything off schedule because we wound up waiting for Toni. As i grew older and expanded my experiences in geekdom i realized that it wasn’t “Toni Time” it was geek time. This does not mean that I think all geeks are always late, half of them are always early. Punctuality is apparently something geeks are not capable of grasping.

I see the same things at every con I attend and everything geek oriented and run that I am exposed to. I sometimes wonder if the reason for the success of the more professional geek things such as the various comic con incarnations isn’t that they aren’t run by geeks so much as business people. Lets face it, making the con run on time has to be one of the greatest gifts a con organizer could have.

So I live on geek time, so do most of you. One of my greatest gifts in my work life is flexible start time. My boss doesn’t sweat a few minutes late, he knows I’ll be there long enough at the end of the day to make up for it. I have noted that engineers are consistently late as well, not surprising as engineers are damned near geeks by definition.

All of this is a way of explaining why this post is late. After all, another geek characteristic is falling backl on the old truism: If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance baffle them with bullshit.  steampunk_victorian_nixie_clock_screenlet_icon_by_pendragon1966-d64yo1a

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The Mad Scientist’s Apprentice: Tips for Studying

In honor of my physics exam today, here are ten  helpful tips and tricks to study by. As I am a non-traditional student – read that as: Old and sludgy-brained – I have learned some things by experience that I have been able to pass on to classmates, and now to you.

  1. Don’t procrastinate: cramming does not actually help you retain material. Very few people in this world have an eidetic memory, where they can see something once and remember it.
  2. Frequent repetition: Looking at the material daily, even for a brief time, will make the memory stronger than once, right before the exam.
  3. Kinetic learning: work the problems. I use a big whiteboard on my office wall to make the process of working through equations feel real, and I can step back and try to visualize how they need to flow – or where I screwed up.
  4. Group Study: and I mean study, not making out or getting falling-down drunk. Especially if you are all working on the same problem, having someone to look at your paper and say ‘hey, you added the wrong columns, there’ is really helpful.
  5. Don’t memorize: yes, sometimes that is what you must do, and for those occasions, flashcards. But most of the time it is so much better to learn why something works that way, focusing on the foundation knowledge of what fuels the Krebs cycle, for instance. This allows you to work out problems rather than cold-memorizing static answers.
  6. Make it sticky: personally, I’m not fond of mnemonics. But I know they work for a lot of people. I prefer to attach my trivial data to more data, or to jokes. Laughter is a great way to make data sticky*.
  7. Get some rest: don’t stay up until 2 am, crash for three hours, and go to the exam hopped up on energy drinks and, um, protein bars (yes, yes, they are an essential part of college life, but…)
  8. Eat well: have a full breakfast, not a cup of yogurt. Protein, fats, all these goodies fuel your brain, and you’re going to be working out, just mental rather than physical. Ever wonder why you feel like you’ve been beaten with a stick when you walk out of an exam? It’s still a stressful event, prepare your body for it.
  9. Stop studying: right before the test, give yourself a break. Don’t cram up until the professor asks for clear desks. If it’s possible, get outside and get some fresh air. Listen to a song. Take deep breaths.
  10. Don’t Quit: all too often, I’ve lost a few points on a test by getting to the end, getting up, handing it in and walking out. Instead, I’ve learned to force myself to put my pencil down, take a deep breath, and go over the test again from beginning to end. Especially on a scantron form, missing one question early on can throw off the whole exam.
  11. Don’t second-guess yourself: if it looked right to begin with, go for it.

*Sticky Data is the stuff you remember. Keep in mind your brain is bombarded with data every single second. Just the skin alone sends input of hot/cold, there’s a draft, and then the stomach chimes in with ‘feed me’ and the professor is droning on and it’s a miracle you remember your own name, really. But if you can think of your brain as a sieve, it’s very efficient at sorting through the data you need, and the stuff you don’t need. You don’t need to know the room you are in is a comfortable temperature. But if it suddenly becomes very cold, you’ll notice. The trick to memory is making the data you need sticky, so it catches in that sieve long enough to access it later. One way to do this is by accessing that memory often, like how to spell sieve. I spell it often enough in this paragraph and maybe next time I need it, I’ll remember to spell it with the i before the e. Other ways to make data sticky are to set it to music, or to make it funny. Or both!


Ask A Geek Anything, Volume 23

lionshart 042old salt

Good morning, and welcome to Ask a Geek Anything volume 23

The spot on the internet where, as old as we are, we won’t tell you to “get off our lawn”, nor will we sick the old security system above on you.  Periodically instead of having a couple of our staff answer a couple different questions, we pose one question to the entire staff… This is one of those times.

Dan Bridgwater asked us: Hey Geeks! I’ve loved Godzilla movies as long as I can remember and have vague memories of seeing my first Godzilla movie (Saturday night Creature Double Feature) at about age 5 or so. What is you oldest memory of SciFi/Fantasy on TV or the big screen?  And I’ve asked the entire staff to take a crack at answering it.

Our daring master of the printed word Declan Finn took first crack at it, with: My oldest memory of TV SF is the original Star Trek on in the late afternoon / early evening, ever weekday, with The Next Generation on at night (first-run episodes). And every holiday there seemed to be a Twilight Zone Marathon, with “It’s a Cook Book!” and “Time enough at last!” and other heart-rending final stingers. This, of course, did not include the cartoon Silver Hawks, on television. 

I remember the Twilight Zone episode he referenced, I believe it was called “To Serve Man”

The fine Amanda Fuesting weighed in with: My oldest memory of media sci-fi has to be re-runs of Star Trek. I was a much bigger reader than anything, and my parents weren’t geeks, so I didn’t get into media sci-fi until I was a teen.

The Beard that writes,Joseph Capdepon II sends:The oldest memory I have of anything SciFi/Fantasy related on television or the big screen would have to be Godzilla or The Thing from Another World, if you discount any episodes of Woody Woodpecker or the Looney Tunes. I can’t really be sure on which I saw first.

Now my fondest memory is of when I was in elementary school. I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, but I was sick and missed about a week of school.

I stayed with my Granny during that week during the day because my parents worked. I remember laying on her couch in the living room and watching the giant insect/monster movies of the 50’s that were anti-atomic weapon propaganda. Them! is the one that has stuck with me the most and is one that I still watch today. Beginning of the End is also one that I remember watching, where giant grasshoppers attack Chicago.

That memory sticks with me, because I can still remember the smell of my Granny’s house, and of the food she would cook me.

The Thing from Another World: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044121/?ref_=nv_sr_4

Godzilla: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047034/?ref_=nv_sr_4

Them!: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047573/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Beginning of the End: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050177/

our irrepressible Connie Elliott comments: Watching Star Trek reruns while sitting in my dad’s lap.
 the Great Keith Glass sends: Oldest ? 1966. Conning my parents to let me stay up to see the first episode of “Star Trek”, aka the Incredible Salt Vampire, “because we were studying space in school, and the show is in space”.
Followed shortly thereafter by getting my first SF book, out of one of those Scholastic monthly sales flyers they used to hand out regularly in schools.  Cannot recall the title, but was about the kid of a family of asteroid miners, and a space critter that looked like a rock, but spun steely webs between asteroids….
Finally, my own earliest memory is probably watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or 20,000 leagues under the sea… Though it may also have been Star Trek (OG)… In either case it was in the mid to late 60s, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been the Twilight Zone Shows or any of the similar series that came out, as my parents and grandmother thought those were not exactly appropriate for a 5 year old  (and they were right).  I do know that the very earliest memory I have is from TV… I was sitting on the living room floor of my Grandmother’s house, watching this big old console (pretty sure it was black and white)  There was a guy up to his thighs in what I thought was grass (I later learned it was a rice patty) with a mike in his hand.  In the background you could hear small arms fire, and that most identifiable sound (for someone that grew up in that era) of a Huey HU-1 taking off, and he was saying “this is Charles Karault, from somewhere in Vietnam.”
My parents where not exactly rich, so Movies were just not a thing growing up, although I went on my own to see Starwars. (there was only one, and no one understood the bit about “episode 7” or what-ever it was. I lived far enough out in the sticks that the Geeks that knew what was going on with that weren’t anywhere to be found)  I remember Space 1999, and UFO, The Project Blue Book files, The Outer Limits, and the Bond films (YES the Bond films were Science Fiction… Come on, Moonraker?) and I’m sure there were others that I’m spacing right now.  Primarily though I was a reader: Norton, Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, Pournelle,  Niven, Anderson… These guys and more where my constant companions along with the old Tom Swifts etc…(hey I was young, give me a break, if it was cheep, and Science fiction, or if it was in the town library, it had my eye tracks on it)

OK, that’s all we have for this week, remember, you can e-mail us questions at askageekanythingowg@gmail.com or contact us through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/askageekanythingowg . We have all the old articles there and will update it every week with new ones, as well as take questions from posts. If you’re so inclined, we’d appreciate it if you could like and share the page, because we’re running really low on questions to answer!  If you don’t ask it, we can’t answer!Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week.


Dining out

Dining out! That has always been a thing for people. To be able to go somewhere the wife doesn’t have to do the cooking. Or the husband, depending on the household. It is supposed to be a treat, these days too many people see it as the only way to eat. I know people whose stove is broken for months before they even notice it. That is a literal fact about one couple I know. The husband noticed it when he was trying to heat a thermostat on his car to make sure it was functioning. The stove wasn’t, his wife didn’t notice for another three months. They might be an extreme example, but I doubt it. So the question in my mind is, with everyone eating out, what happened to local restaurants?

I was rereading a novel from the 60s the other day and the hero, a private detective, was looking for one of his contacts. He finally ran him down at  the local place stuffing his face with corned beef and cabbage. Can you imagine finding a place that served corned beef and cabbage today? You won’t find that at Mickey Ds, or your favorite chain anything. You won’t find meatloaf either.

This is going to sound like another of those “I’m a grumpy old man, get off my lawn” posts, it really isn’t. It is a look at changing social mores and attitudes. You see, back in the days of the dinosaur, when I was a lad, every town had at least one local restaurant. These places varied in menu and quality. This was because they were all started for different reasons and run and staffed by locals, who would never have considered the benefits of homogenizing the menu to appeal to broader tastes. In fact, most of the people starting and running them had no idea what homogenizing meant. They got their starts because mom was the best cook in town, or at least her family thought so, and dad thought they might make a living at it.

Many of these places had an ethnic background, O’Malley’s had good Irish meals because Ma O’Malley was Irish, while Pasquale’s was Italian themed for similar reasons. Both places thought they were American places because they considered themselves Americans. The fact that they had ethnic foods was because everyone had ethnic foods, without ever realizing it. It made for amazing variety while all the places had some basic similarities. You got cakes and eggs with your morning coffee, and could get a burger for lunch.

Somewhere after the advent of McDonald’s the chains began chipping away at the local places. This was not entirely bad. While most chain restaurants are not particularly good, very few of them are particularly bad. Yes, yes, I know, you are going to point out that Mickey D’s which I just used as an example is a travesty on food yadda yadda. Any of the fast food chains are basically lowest common denominator providers. The food may not be good, but it is tolerable and cheap. The more well thought of chains are a bit more expensive, but just as bland.

Why did these changes occur? I think that might be a doctoral level dissertation, still some things are obvious. We move more in our society today and chains are reliable: comfort food if you will. It used to be that restaurants advertised “home cooking”, now there are product lines in grocery stores pushing themselves as real “restaurant style” products. a rather odd inversion to me.

The wife and I have discovered that we are foodies, a surprise to both of us.  We search for out-of-the-way restaurants with menus that are not the standard burger/steak/chicken sameness of modern restaurants. We sometimes review them over at Cedarwrites . The thing that I most noticed is that 90% of the places we really like are ethnic, and odd ethnic as well. Lebanese or Korean or Turkish places. I wondered why for a bit, since we cook at home and can cover a wide variety of cuisines between us. Then I realized it was because chain restaurants are boring. Applebees is like TGIF is like  Max and Ermas is like… We want something different and good. Right now we are looking at trying a Congolese restaurant we have heard of in Cincinnati. We are still looking for a good Greek or German restaurant in our area.

What we would really like is a return to the days when every town actually had restaurants that were truly local and unique. I want to stop at Pasquale’s for his Italianized version of meatloaf, sit at the local “liar’s table” (Liar’s table is the area where the locals who have time sit and gab, it used to be a social clearinghouse for every small town) and know that I can drive five miles to the next town and have O’Malley’s Irish Stew for dinner.



Mad Scientist’s Apprentice: The Ig Nobels

As a science student I make mistakes. In labs, I worry about acids, and following directions so I don’t blow anyone up, and sterilizing well enough to kill all the little microbes I’m trying to grow in my petrie dish but not on my lab coat. Right now, I just play by the rules and color inside the box. But what happens when they let us students out into the real world and we’re the ones telling the grad students and lowly apprentices like myself what to do? Oh, and when some of us evade the ceremony where they switch off the sense of humor?

Well, it might look a little like the Ig Nobels.

Tomorrow, the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded, and it’s their 25th anniversary. A bizarre collection of the weird, wacky, and just plain gross scientific achievements of the year, I highly recommend that you go take a look at the winners of the past year’s prizes. I’m including the 2014 winners below to whet your appetites. And remember to check out this year’s awards live on their webcast!

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, September 18th, 2014 at the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony waswebcast live.

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

REFERENCE: “Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin,” Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151.


NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, andKang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.


PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [UK, FINLAND, AUSTRALIA, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, andMinna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

REFERENCE: “Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits,” Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.


PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.

REFERENCE: “Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?” Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan

BIOLOGY PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, ZAMBIA]: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

REFERENCE: “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 27, 2013.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Veronika Němcová, Hynek Burda

ART PRIZE [ITALY]: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.

REFERENCE: “Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds,” Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.


ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010“, ISTAT, 2014.

REFERENCE: “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010),” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

REFERENCE: “Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia,” Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.


ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY, USA, CANADA]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.

REFERENCE: “Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya,” Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Eigil Reimers, Sindre Eftestøl

NUTRITION PRIZE [SPAIN]: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, andMargarita Garriga, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”

REFERENCE: “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages,” Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners were unable to attend the ceremony; they delivered their acceptance speech via video.

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Ask A Geek Anything Volume 22

3D People - Crazy with Minigunz

Good morning, and Welcome to Ask A Geek Anything Volume 22

Welcome to Volume 22 of AAGA, the spot on the internet where we Field the sorts of questions that are bound to get us sneered at by the Intelligentsia.  (It’s OK, we sneer back) Last week we answered a question on Vampires that was asked by Jacob Edward Swan… and we got mail.

Oh boy did we get mail, the last time I got this sort of rise out of people was  https://otherwheregazette.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/destroy-the-myth-destroy-the-culture/ now if I could only figure out how to upset that set of sacred cows again…

So anyway, the basic question, as answered by Declan Flin was what’s with Vampires, anyway?  Well for various reasons I was rushed, and didn’t notice that some of the better series didn’t get their moment in the spotlight. One of the best of that set is, as was mentioned, Saberhagens Dracula series. If you haven’t read them, and you like the genre at all, make sure and find them, they tell the tales from the perspective of the being MOST familiar with the activities Bram Stoker wrote of…  Then there’s the Grand Dam of them all: Anne Rice, who has made more money and entertained more readers with tales of blood suckers than anyone since Doris Kerns Goodwin http://www.biography.com/people/doris-kearns-goodwin-38566#!.  There’s the Buffy series, Oh and there’s a very underrated and quite fun Canadian show; Forever Knight, and the Necroscope series,  oh hell, there’s another whole post I could dedicate to various versions and authors visions of the Vampire genre.  Yes, I’m sure I’ve missed your favorite, sorry, I’ve only got so many electrons…  They fascinate us as a story and a myth, and they seem to transcend any one culture or society, they exist in some version from Native American, to Carpathian and everywhere in between.  Why? Well that’s something that could get you a masters thesis…

Personally, I find that to make them believable they need to have weaknesses as big as their strengths.  If you fail to give them weaknesses, the reader is left wondering “why haven’t they just taken over, and farmed us like cows?” My choice was to give them the standard sun, stakeing etc weaknesses, and a strong risk of mental instability among other things, along with making them People, not unthinking demons. There are good ones and bad ones, just like any other people.  So enough about Vamps for the day.

Two weeks ago we crowd sourced a question,  “What are the 10 most famous and classic SF stories/books that have become almost unreadable to today’s generation due to writing shifts and technological changes?”  Last week we hadn’t gotten any answers, so we went another week.  I’m pleased to say y’all didn’t let me down, I now have a sufficiency of answers, so lets take a look:

When we combine all the votes Jules Vern’s stuff comes in at number one, and sadly I must agree, while I still love 20,000 leagues (HEY I WAS A SUBMARINE SAILOR FOR 20 YEARS and still work on them, what do you expect?!)  Most of his stuff is just too bad to enjoy anymore.

John Carter’s series comes in at number two, and well I just don’t agree there.  I had never read the series growing up, and yes, the writing is stilted, and the science is horribly bad, but read it as a fantasy and it’s not horrible.  (It’s not great, but at 800 feet underwater, it’s hard to be too choosy) Still that’s the consensus of you the readers…

A close third is the Lensman series.  I wish I had read these before we learned what we now know about space the universe and everything, so many of the greats (RAH, IA etc) loved the series… Me, I think I see the attraction, but yeah they’re too stilted, wooden, and wrong to enjoy anymore.

After the top three, we get to Doc Savage, who I frankly wasn’t much into even in middle school, and Neuromancer (Gibson) about which I have no opinion, never having read the book. I was shocked to see Tolkien come up solidly in the top ten, the general opinion seeming to be that he was “too hard to read”… Uh, REALLY???  Damn, that makes me feel old.  Lord Foul’s Bane ranks even with Tolkien and on this I’m in total agreement though not for the reasons stated.  The folks that felt it was not acceptable were all concerned about the political incorrectness of having the “hero” rape someone… Hell if that was at issue, GRRM wouldn’t be wallowing in money (as well as other things)  No, my issue with the series is I just flat out HATED that whiny b*tch!  When you’re rooting for the badguys to knock off the hero, something is wrong.

Below this we get into onesies and twosies, and I’m not going to list them all, though I was surprised (Hell SHOCKED) to find Hienlien’s  Stranger in a strange land, and The Cat who walks through walls on the list (but not some of the very few of his works that I do find dated, like Door Into Summer, and the early parts of the Past Through Tomorrow series, or the juveniles set on Mars) and also to find Foundation by Azimov.   Also on the list was some stuff that I had never heard of, and one I would never have considered as S/F & F, to whit Natty Bumpkin and the Leatherstockings tales.  I’ll finish up the list with a couple that probably only rank as low on the list as they do because so few have heard of them… When (and After) Worlds collide.  If you’ve never heard of them, count yourself lucky and move on.

 I’ll add my own here too, some of the above, plus On the Beach, and most of the rest of the 50s and 60s post apocalyptic nuclear war world ending books… (Alas Babylon and the rest) Maybe it’s just because Nuclear war was a significant part of my life growing up, and a significant part of my profession from age 17 to age 38, but DAMN they got that shit wrong.

Well, I’m out of space here, so I’ll end this with our standard cry:

Remember, you can e-mail us questions at askageekanythingowg@gmail.com or contact us through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/askageekanythingowg . We have all the old articles there and will update it every week with new ones, as well as take questions from posts. If you’re so inclined, we’d appreciate it if you could like and share the page, because we’re running really low on questions to answer!  If you don’t ask it, we can’t answer!

Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week when we all deal with the question: What is you oldest memory of SciFi/Fantasy on TV or the big screen?


Hugo worthy writer denied?

With all the talk about Hugo worthy books and authors I was reminded of Barry Hughart. He blamed the end of his writing career on publishers being idiots and not knowing how to sell his books. I know many people who bring him up as the perfect example of what is wrong with the Hugo process and traditional publishing. I thought I’d look into him and see what I thought.

hughart cover

His first and most well known work was Bridge Of Birds in 1984, he followed with two more by the end of the decade and then he was done. I’ve heard several versions of what happened exactly, some saying he was a victim of bad decisions, some saying he was a victim of his own mouth. I have no idea, I’m not sure anyone really does a quarter century later. After all, the principles have had plenty of time to become firmly convinced of the rightness of their positions.

This being so I decided to reread the books and see for myself how good or bad they were. My wife picked up the kindle bundle  The Chronicles Of Master Li And Number Ten OX and away I went. I remember reading Bridge Of Birds when it was new, I wasn’t sure about the others. In fact I’m still not sure.

When I read a book I don’t always remember all of it, but I usually can recognize it as I start rereading it. All I remembered about Bridge of Birds was Number Ten Ox playing Archie/Watson to his master’s Wolfe/Holmes. As I read the book I found that that, and an ancient Chinese setting were all I remembered. I found that more than mildly disturbing. I’m still not sure why more of it didn’t stick.

At any rate, I read the trilogy. I found it fairly well written for the constraints the author was working under. The constraints may be part of why I didn’t remember much. He was trying to do something different. I’m not positive whether he was writing another paean to the mystical east or a send up of same. I even wonder how much was “magic” and how much was description of events using flowery allusion and magic to describe mundane events. Some of the events had to be magical, especially in the latter two books. Other things were referred to as magical when they were science.

There are endless passages describing the exotic locales, people and customs. I personally find that much fluff and filler nauseating, but that is a matter of taste. There is also the matter of mood, and to set something in Ancient China it might be necessary to spend that much time on gods and local celebrations, customs, and color to sell the story. I don’t know.

Another thing I have no idea about is the authenticity of his legends, gods, and court protocol. Research would have been much harder back then, but he could very well be an expert on 6th century China. Equally well he could have made the setting up from popular stories about the wonderful east. I’m not sure and I’m not about to spend the hours of research to find out.

All in all I find myself forgetting the stories as I type this. While that means that I can enjoy reading the books again in a couple of years it also means that the stories are eminently forgettable. In my honest opinion he is not that great a writer. I think many of his fans are like James Dean fans, more about what he might have produced than what he actually did.

Still it comes down to taste. I dislike the adulation many westerners give to anything to do with the mystical east, therefore my enjoyment cannot be the same as one of those who do have the bug. Go read it and tell me what you think about his ability as a writer. You may like him better than I do. You may like him less. This is a good thing, differences in taste make for a lot more variety than agreement does. If everyone liked the same books I do only a handful of very wealthy writers would exist, the other would give up and stay with their day jobs.


Mad Scientist’s Apprentice: The Language of Science

Mad Scientist logoThe language of science is, of course, math. I was assigned an essay for my calculus course, asking us to reflect on our past math experiences, and what we plan to use math for in our upcoming careers.

I have long had a love-hate relationship with math. I appreciate the elegance of working a difficult problem, watching it snap into place with unerring logic and the solution revealed. But it’s a slow process for me, and arithmetic can be frustrating as I will transpose numbers or forget them as I look from chalkboard to paper to write them down. Add to this, it has been twenty years since I last encountered math in high school, and when I began college three years ago, I was very uncertain about encountering higher-level math. Calculus, I told everyone who cared, was simply unthinkable for me.

In high school, I had gone through math happily enough, topping out with Plane Trigonometry when I was told that my (very small) school simply didn’t have a teacher competent to teach me calculus. It wasn’t until I re-entered college that I realized this was going to be a challenge. In my first year, I had to take a test to place in math class, and failed to make a high enough score to be able to take College Algebra. I tried again, and missed by two points. Unwilling to waste time and money on a remedial course, and remembering that I had really enjoyed algebra in high school, I asked for and was granted a waiver. The school, I signed off, would not be responsible for my grade. I was on my own. Then again, I was always on my own when it came to grades, so I dove into the class and found that although I was rusty, it did come back. I got an A- in the class.

Fast forward a year to my next encounter, with Pre-calculus. I was worried about it, knowing that I had never encountered it in my younger years, and I certainly had not gotten any faster with my math skills. When I began the class, I knew from the beginning I would have a problem. The instructor would face the board, working very quickly, and talking to the board rather than the class. I would speed through note-taking, looking at them after class with a sinking heart, because they just didn’t make logical sense. I found the Math Lab, a peer tutor, classmates, and especially Khan Academy, a great help. Although I would fail most of my exams, due to the short time allowed to take them, I was able to make a perfect grade on my homework and that made all the difference. I thought I was done with math. Surely I couldn’t cope with Calculus, and it was not required for my primary major.

I sat down with my Forensic degree advisor and as we were talking about my struggles with pre-calculus, she pointed out that although Calculus was not required for my degree, it was a requirement if I planned to seek certification as a Forensic Scientist. I took a deep breath, and scheduled the course. Calculus does have immediate and obvious applications in my planned career. When it comes to infectious disease (my secondary major is in Microbiology) it is used to create models both predicting an epidemic’s growth curve, but also to plot where it came from. Calculus-based statistics offers the ability to take a curved-line scatterplot, such as would be produced by a quantity over time exhibiting exponential growth or decay, and understanding the data at a deeper, more precise level than afforded by College algebra. This is then applied to the growth of microbes for a clearer understanding, and prediction of, populations under given conditions. Further, genetic recombination, a common occurrence in bacteria, can be difficult to follow and predict without using the ideas of non-linear transformation. Life seldom proceeds in neat, straight lines.

In Forensics, it can be used to create computer models that can piece together the patterns of blood spatter, or gunshots. It can be used to create statistical models that will allow a pattern of crime to be detected, predicted, and ultimately stopped through the application of force in crucial places. Calculus can be used to assist with the delicate and vital determination of time of death, factoring in many variables in a complex process. In short, I will likely be using calculus constantly in my career, even if it is hidden in a computer program. This means that learning how it works is vital rather than relying on it to magically work when I plug in data to a machine. Without the ability to check, the results are worthless.

After the first two weeks of class, I am greatly reassured about taking this course in Calculus. What we have been looking at makes logical sense, and I can wrap my head around it, rather than simply plugging numbers into equations. I have found it to be an interesting and beautiful process, and although I am certain it will be more difficult by the end of the class, and I may still do badly in exams that can be no longer than an hour, I can at least be confident that I will be able to keep up on the homework and learn, really learn, which is the important part of taking this class. I want to be able to practically apply math to my future, and that is more possible with every lesson I learn.

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2nd Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale

Indie Author Sale Banner

A curated list of authors then selected works and put them on sale, just for readers like you. If you’ve been waiting for the next fun read, or for a reason to Read Indie, this is that time. All the books are priced between $2.99 and $0.99, affordable ways to explore new worlds.

You will find this a list spanning genres from Fantasy and Science Fiction to Thrillers and Romance. Something for every reader in your life, if you are looking for back-to-school gifts.


take the star road

Take the Star Road

By Peter Grant

Sale Price: $0.99


By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, Steve Maxwell earns an opportunity to escape orbit and become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

The interstellar trade routes are anything but trouble-free, with local wars and plagues of pirates. Also, the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…

Amazon Author Page

long way homeThe Long Way Home (Sequoyah book 1)

By Sabrina Chase

Promo price: $.99
Moire Cameron ran to protect her secrets — ran to the heart of an interstellar alien war. Her fellow mercenaries care only about her fighting skills, not where — or when — she got them. You’d think that would be good enough…

But a false name and fake ID can’t conceal her dangerous lack of contemporary knowledge, and they won’t help fulfill her last order, given by a dying man eighty years ago. To do that she must find a reason to live again. A cause worth fighting for, comrades to trust, and a ship to sail the stars.

Amazon Author Page
vengeance from ashesVengeance from Ashes

By Sam Schall

Price: 99 cents for the Labor Day Weekend, down from $2.99


First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.
Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Amazon Author Page

grey man changesGrey Man: Changes

By JL Curtis

Sale price $2.99


When Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin thwarts the Cartel’s plan to get paid to smuggle Muslims across the border, he becomes the target of the Cartel once again. One try fails, but the cartel isn’t about to give up. With his granddaughter, Jesse, still recovering from her last run-in with the Cartel and now far away with her Marine husband on a military base, Cronin only has to worry about the innocents around him.

One way or another, this old school law man plans to end this cat and mouse game for good. But, this time, the Cartel is playing for keeps; ending this war might just cost the old man his life.

Either way Cronin plans to go out on his feet, fighting tooth and nail.

Amazon Author Page

survival testSurvival Test

By David Burkhead

Price: I’ll set it at $2.99 for the promo.

A series of diplomatic crises precipitate a limited nuclear war on Earth. Missile defenses block access to space. Nothing goes up and nothing comes down.
The people of the various space stations, the moon base, and a space colony whose construction had just begun must find a way to survive until the war is over.
The ultimate survival test.
Amazon Author page

outcasts and godsPam Uphoff’s Wine of the Gods Universe 

99 cent Labor Day Sale!

Genetic engineering enabled psychic abilities in the test children. And the ability to control the machinery to open portals between parallel Earths. But prejudice turned into exile across the dimensions, and the escape of the most powerfully “magical” to a world of their own.

It all starts with the stand-alone Outcasts and Gods and continues with twenty (so far) loosely connected stories in the same Multiverse.

Amazon Author Page

Zoey Iver’s YA Adventures

By Pam Uphoff

99 cent Labor Day Sale!

The AI war was deadly—and invisible. Until two teenagers found themselves in the middle of it.

Amazon Author Page

Eyes of OsirisEyes of Osiris

By Anita Young

Price: $2.99


Thanks to the curse of foresight, Dr. Kayara Ingham has had a vision of her husband’s death. While she desperately tries to avert the grim future, she meets a mysterious Osiris Corporation man who gives her an impossible ultimatum. When Kay is forced to choose, she learns that Osiris Corporation is not what it seems. The company is made up of a people that call themselves the Architects of Lore and, like many powerful organisations, their reach is extensive—one might say inescapable.

Amazon Author Page

acts of warActs of War

By James Young

Price: $2.99


August 1942.  Adolf Hitler is dead, Great Britain is surrendering, and the Royal Family is fleeing to Canada.  In this critically acclaimed alternative history novel, James Young details a World War II that is far different and much worse than the terrible conflict we all know.  Follow the Cobb family as they, and the nation they love, are confronted with horrible events while being swept away by war’s chaos.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, or just like a good yarn with mortal heroes, Acts of War is for you.

Amazon Author Page 

Pixie NoirPixie Noir

By Cedar Sanderson

Price: $0.99


Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

Amazon Author Page


By Lilania Begley

Price: $0.99


Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

cunning bloodThe Cunning Blood

By Jeff Duntemann

Price: $2.99


Caught violating Earth’s Zero Tolerance for Violence laws, Peter Novilio is sentenced to a one-way trip to Hell, Earth’s prison planet in the Zeta Tucanae system. Hell is forever: Two centuries earlier its ecosphere had been infected with microscopic nanomachines that destroy electrical conductors, condemning its inmates to a neo-Victorian steam-and-gaslight society without computers, spaceflight, or any hope of escape.

Amazon Author Page

Ninth Euclid’s Prince

By Dan Hoyt

Price: $3.99 (dropping to $2.99 some time this weekend, so check the price when buying.)


Welcome to New Rome!

The far-flung heirs of the empire have been called home to the capital of worlds. In these mean streets, no wife is above suspicion, and no man above assassination. With the Emperor poisoned and prince Oswald in jail, Ninth Euclid, a mathematically gifted secretary from a rural backwater, must solve the knottiest problem of all: How will he keep his liege lord safe from daggers in the back and politically scheming trollops in the night?

Here Be Dragons: A collection of short stories

By: Sarah A. Hoyt

Price:  $2.99


A collection of short stories by Award Winning Author Sarah A. Hoyt. From dark worlds ruled by vampires, to magical high schools, to future worlds where super-men have as many problems as mere mortals, this collection shows humans embattled, imperiled, in trouble, but never giving up. Angel in Flight is set in Sarah Hoyt’s popular Darkship series.

The collection contains the stories: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
First Blood, Created He Them, A Grain Of Salt, Shepherds and Wolves,
Blood Ransom,The Price Of Gold,Around the Bend,An Answer From The North,
Heart’s Fire,Whom The Gods Love,Angel In Flight,Dragons as well as an introduction by fantasy writer Cedar Sanderson.

sweeper stormThe Sweeper and the Storm

by: Alma Boykin

Price: $0.99


A storm sweeps across Kansas, driven by a pestle, tracks erased by a broom. Baba Yaga rides the storm, hunting her revenge.

Alexi Zolnerovich escaped the Sweeper once. But now her allies wait for him. And something even darker and stronger stands behind the ancient forest spirit. Can Alexi outwit the Sweeper a second time? Or will the looming storm sweep them all away?


Ask a Geek Anything Volume 21

Good Morning, and welcome to Ask A Geek Anything, Volume 21  Hey, we’re legal!

Welcome to the 21st volume of Ask A Geek Anything, the spot on the interwebs where we’ll never let you down, even if we have to do emergency computer repairs and troubleshooting to get this out on time. (Yes, my computer crapped out tonight, and I had to do some fast troubleshooting to get this in)

Our first Question is from Elisa who asks- How do I send a picture of the item I am trying to get an answer on what it is?

Fielding this one is our very own Mistress of the net: (it’s like being Mistress of the dark, only cooler) Amanda Fuesting, who answers:   I’m not entirely sure what you mean here, so I will answer what I think you are trying to ask, which is how to send a picture of an item. I will also include contact information at the bottom of this answer for Ask A Geek Anything, in case what you wanted to know was how to send a picture of something to us. This largely depends on the medium. In e-mail, you would hit the attachment button in the email and select it from the file it’s in. Click on the name of the picture you want to attach, and then click on “Open” or “Attach”. I’ve provided pictures so you can see how it is done in Gmail. It shouldn’t be that much different in other email types, so this should give you the general idea.

How to send an item-email4How to send an item-email2

How to send an item-email3How to send an item-email1

If you want to send a picture via Facebook, it depends on whether you want to upload it or send it in a message. If you want to send it via message, check out link 1 for Facebook’s help page for messenger. If you want to upload a picture to Facebook, check out link 2 for Facebook’s help page with that.

  1. https://www.facebook.com/help/messenger-app/1519450474962166
  2. https://www.facebook.com/help/118731871603814/

If you wanted to know how to send a picture to Ask A Geek Anything, you can send it to our e-mail address at askageekanythingowg@gmail.com or send it to us via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/askageekanythingowg .

Wow, That took up a lot of space…

OK, next up is a Question from Jacob Edward Swan who asks: So, what’s the problem with vampires, anyway? Depending on who’s writing them, they can’t seem to figure out if they’re allergic to sunlight, crosses, religious anything, and then there are the ones that sparkle. Can’t these people make up their minds?

and to answer this we’ll call upon that delightful demon killer Declan Finn, who answers:

Mr. Sean,

To start with, my condolences on your name. I’d at least consider changing it to something more manly. “Chuck Norris,” maybe?

Anyway, to answer your question, the issue of vampires and their lore are a combination of things. On the one hand, there is a trend within basic media to trend towards the secular – ergo, let’s toss the religious aspects out of it. How they reconcile a supernatural creature like a vampire without having anything supernatural otherwise is beyond me. Then there’s the Blade movie vampires, which makes them either some variety of either mutants or radioactive – it’s Marvel, so I think those are the only two options.

You have more recent authors who are simply trying to be original, and actually go further back in time in order to establish their vampire lore, capitalizing on the fact that hemophagic (blood-drinking) monsters turn up in cultures that predate Christianity (see: The Lamia, or Lilith, or Middle Easter ghuls). Lynsay Sands, who specializes in vampire romances, has done this well, spinning “Immortals” (not vampires) as being a result of Atlantean nanotechnology that runs on blood, and sunlight just causes them to work harder to repair UV damage. Not much of a plot sometimes, but they’re mostly fun, and entirely harmless — starting with the one about the vampire and her psychologist (http://amzn.to/1KhUnHg). There’s also Sherrilyn Kenyon, who prefers to use Greek mythology to run her world of weird (http://amzn.to/1WYkTJj). Then there’s Kerrelyn Sparks, who can’t seem to decide on how much is science and how much is magic, and how much is sufficiently advanced biology, but she’s got some fun bits of business along the way, including a Vampire tv network with their own version of The Bachelor (http://amzn.to/1Ks4LLj).

As for the ones that sparkle … don’t even get me started. Just don’t. They’re supposedly from a Native American version of the vampire myth, but I’m wary of any tribe that wants to accept responsibility for that.

In short, the more traditional vampires have gotten quite the bad rap lately. To my knowledge, there are only four people who have gone out of their way to use some variation on them recently, keeping the basics – immolation in sunlight, harmed by religious artifacts and silver, killed by beheading or a stake to the heart.

One is the Anita Blake novels of Laurell K. Hamilton, which went from solid, serious world building to seriously smutty. Somehow, it’s the person’s personal faith that runs the cross … which is strange, since if you’re waving the cross, you at least have faith in the cross. The first few books are okay. Stop at Obsidian Butterfly, unless you’re into bisexual sextets with were-furries.

There is, of course, Joss Whedon, who had episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where holy water and crosses were surefire deterrents if not active weapons against vampires. It always made me wonder why Buffy – or anyone in her crew – didn’t stop off in church more often.

Another is Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate. His Monster Hunter books also used faith and crosses to repel vampires, though he specifies that the individual must be seriously holy in order to get away with it. If you haven’t read them, click here. You won’t regret it: http://amzn.to/1KT6kgU

#4 is a more recent novel, Honor At Stake, where the author decided he had to show off that he had a philosophy degree. For longwinded reasons, vampires are good or evil, based solely on their actions – okay, that’s fine. The more actions they commit that are good or evil move them along a scale of power. Go to the dark side, become blasted by crosses and holy water and throwing Stars of David. Go to the light side, the vampire doesn’t even need an invitation to go into a house. It’s at least internally consistent. Why, yes, the author has admitted to basing that system off of Role Playing Game alignment system. For that, you can click here: http://amzn.to/1IXbcDz  Another one who has added to this merry band of blood suckers is our very own William Lehman. Granted, the focus of his novel is a former SEAL, and current Park cop and were-cougar. But he also comes with vampires. Enjoy.  http://amzn.to/1hpfLNJ .

 And I’ll add to that, (as the aforementioned author) that my Vamps are allergic to sunlight (with the exception of a very few) susceptible to holy objects (but you have to have faith or it’s just a chunk of metal) and anything that kills instantly (beheading, complete destruction of the heart especially by silver) will kill a vamp.  Also wounds by other vamps or by weres will heal as if the recipient is human.  Has to do with the metaphysical virus that causes vampirism and the one that causes Lycanthropy.  It’s a fun ride, (book two is coming out shortly) but then I’m biased.

Well this has run long, so we’re going to stop at two answers today.  Also we haven’t gotten any responses yet to the question posted last week “What are the 10 most famous and classic SF stories/books that have become almost unreadable to today’s generation due to writing shifts and technological changes?” So we’ll leave it open for one more week before determining that there aren’t any!

Remember, you can now e-mail us questions ataskageekanythingowg@gmail.com or contact us through Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/askageekanythingowg . We have all the old articles there and will update it every week with new ones, as well as take questions from posts. If you’re so inclined, we’d appreciate it if you could like and share the page, because we’re running really low on questions to answer!  If you don’t ask it, we can’t answer!