Remembering Stephen Hawking

This blog post won’t be a long one–it is just a short remembrance of Stephen Hawking who passed away earlier this week.  My interest in Hawking’s work came because I’m interested–no, fascinated–by Black Holes.  Even before I saw the Disney movie Black Hole, I had encountered them in children’s astronomy books that I’d checked out from the library–and a popular science paperback that I bought from the library’s book-sale.

Every so often, I would see the name Stephen Hawking appear/pop-up in relation to something Black Hole related.  So, in the pre-Internet days of my childhood (Internet existed, but not something that consumers could access), I didn’t really know who he was.  However, in the mid-80s, his popularity grew from Academics into Popular Culture and I started seeing him on PBS shows related to science like Nova (this is where I saw him the most), Sixty Minutes, and even on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I got to see him and understand his importance to science.

I have his book, A Brief History of Time, but while I’ve gotten to Chapter 2 or 3, I have to admit, it starts off with a discussion of Newtonian Physics and the history of cosmology (as I recall), but what I was after was the information on, you guessed it, Black Holes, so I stopped reading.  I will pick it back up–I’m going to try to make finishing it this year a goal.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, that I while I did not ever get a chance to see, meet, or hear Stephen Hawking in person, he did touch my life tangentially through our shared fascination with Black Holes and their inherent properties, and thanks to the power of television, both PBS shows like Nova and more popular fare like Star Trek the Next Generation, I really got to feel like I knew Mr. Hawking quite well.

You will be missed!



The Trouble with Villains

Each week, a YouTube channel that I subscribe to called Digital Trends puts out a couple of different podcasts.  They are a tech-based show, covering Home Entertainment, Home Theater, Laptops, HDTVs, Smart Home/Smart Speakers, etc., so their content, including podcasts are mostly tech-focused.  However, one of their podcasts, Between the Streams is a fun, “end-of-the-week” look at the happenings in movies, entertainment, etc.  As someone whose 2nd Academic speciality is probably going to be Popular Culture, I find myself tuning in more often than not.  In the latest episode, BTS 093, they mentioned villains and how they “love” a good villain.

Generation Shift

Okay, so this is probably where the generations have diverged in culture.  Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers (like myself), tend to prefer heroes (John McClain, Han Solo/Luke Skywalker, MacGyver, Hercule Poirot, etc).  We like villains, but only in so much as we want things to be challenging to the hero.  For instance, Alan Rickman‘s performance as the villain in Die Hard was so tense because he was the smart enough to go toe-to-toe with Bruce Willis’ tough, no-nonsense cop John McClain, who had grit and determination.  However, in the past ten years or so, I’ve heard a shift where a cool villain seems to be the only requirement now for good entertainment.  They were discussing various incarnations of the The Joker, but they make no mention of various actors or incarnations of The Batman.  Batman is a non-entity in his own movies.  For them, it is all about the villains and the Rogue’s Gallery and that makes me sad.

“A More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy”–Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope

Let’s take Star Wars as a quick example.  There are people giddy with joy over Kylo Ren and the fact that the Last Jedi has a scene (no spoilers) where he and Rey meet.  They’ve even fashioned a name for the pair, “Reylo” in hopes that they will become a couple.  Really?  You want your hero character to become an item with someone who has murdered other people in cold blood?  And let’s say that happens, then what does that say about your main character/hero?  Are they then complicit in the act?  Rey knew about it and knew that the character escaped justice/consequences, so would she now be tainted with the same “blood” as her murderous “boyfriend” (again, assuming the producers follow up on the “Reylo” idea).  Luke is a “whiny kid” up until a turning point in his later into Star Wars and that’s all anyone ever cares to remember about him (esp. in relation to the cooler Han Solo character), but Luke’s arc is critical the successful revelation to the story because he has to deny evil in order for the story to work.  If he were anything like Kylo (whom the new SW) movies seem to dote on, the whole universe would be under the power of the malevolent Emperor now, with Luke standing by the Emperor’s side dealing out murder and injustice and bathed in blood like his father before him.

“There are Always Men Like You”–Marvel’s Avengers

Not to get all us vs them generational divide, but it is that denial that is at the center of it all.  Too many people today seem to want to be in power/have power even if that power comes at the expense of doing what is right.  In the mind of a villain, might makes right where as in the mind of a hero doing right is a struggle to be overcome.  Like Yoda said when Luke asked him about the Dark Side of the Force–“No. No. No.  Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  That is what villainy entails–a quicker, easier route to what you want and if that means crushing the life (sometimes literally) out of whoever is in your way, then so be it.  But that doesn’t mesh with our belief that all life is unique and should be allowed to prosper in their own way.  A villain says there is only one way: my way!   And shouldn’t we (especially as a species–older generations and new alike) stand up and say, we reject this and we reject you!

And that’s the role of a true hero.


Being a More Prolific and Professional Writer

So, this will be a shorter post today, but I wanted to riff on something that I read today.  I found a writing prompt that I would like to use with my students–Simile But Different.  There is an extra box in the Pdf version that talks about being a better writer and not comparing yourself/competing with other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Being more Prolific

The advice that the article mentions is that if you want to be more prolific, you need to set aside more time for writing.  This is the change that I’ve been making for the past few weeks and this has helped immensely.  I tend to wake up early on most days, so I try to get up and just draft.  Sometimes that means working on the blog and sometimes it means working on my fiction.  I really need to find a way to shorten the time it takes to write the blog so that I can get both blog and fiction done at the same time.  I have a tendency to either 1) write long or 2) spend too much time trying to get everything just right that it also takes more time to write and I end up either giving my fiction not enough time or not working on the fiction at all.  I still have a lot of downtime where I’m waiting in lines at the store or something similar where I could whip out my phone and pop a couple of sentences/paragraphs out, so I still have some work to do.

Being more Professional

The second piece of advice that I really liked in the piece is that is argues that if you want to be more professional, you should makes sure your work is edited and revised before you send it out.  I’m going to have to work on this myself.  Here Be Monsters has had 25 submissions so far without a sale, so I decided that I should probably relook at it and I found so many issues that I could have sworn that I fixed in the original editing pass.  Since it had so many problems, I also decided to do what Rhonda Parrish had me do with Faerie Knight which was to cut essentially 1/3rd of the story.  Rhonda Parrish also had me look at the ending and essentially end it without any falling action–just climax, and one sentence of understanding/epiphany and then end the story.  While I wasn’t able to quite get there for HBM, I did rework the ending to make Rafe (the main character) more appealing than he was originally (one market didn’t like HBM because they didn’t think he was a very sympathetic/appealing character and this change was to alleviate this problem).

Anyway, that’s all for today.  Have a good one!



Web 3.0 (Hopefully)

Technically, there is no such thing as Web 3.0 (yet), but I can only hope that this will be a “thing” in the very near future.  I’ll explain why down below, but I really think that the Web is beginning to transition into a new evolution, and for me, the transition can’t come soon enough.

Web 1.0 (World Wide Web–The WWW dot era)

So, when the web first came into its own as a way organizing and surfing information, it was revolutionary.  I got my first taste of the Web on AOL (that’s America OnLine to any younger readers of the blog) and I took to it like a duck to water (to use a Southern expression).  It was a great way to organize information for me and really fed my desire for signal (information) vs noise (communication).  I tend to be a high signal (lots of information), low noise (little of others comments and opinions) type of person.  I like being given enough information about the pros and cons of a product, issue, or debate and then making up my mind for myself based on the relevant data.

Web 2.0 (The Social Network Blight)

Then came the new “hotness” of Web 2.0 and that’s where my interest in “the Internet” dampened.  MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum all popped up, became popular, and dominated the Web experience.  A few have died, a few are on life support, but most are rumbling, stumbling along cluttering the internet with opinions and such.  And yes, I know that technically blogs are a part of Web 2.0, but a blog is much like YouTube–it can be for both personal opinions AND information and I’m fine with that (one of my highest rated posts behind my ranking post of Marvel movies which is my opinion on the movies continues to be the Author’s Note for Here Be Monsters–many people seem genuinely interested in how that story came together–which is informational in nature).    My problem is with sites like Twitter (too short for REAL information, but just right for off-the-cuff opinions), or Facebook (although for families it probably is a great way to stay in touch, especially if they are flung all over the country or the world).  It just doesn’t interest me much–it isn’t that I don’t have friends, but it goes back to the signal vs noise paradigm.  Social Networking tends towards low signal (information) and high noise (communication).  I do much better with information, but I’m resistant to other people’s opinions (which are not necessarily applicable to me)

Web 3.0 (The Internet of things or AI/Deep Learning Convergence)

And now we come to the real reason that I wrote this post.  It seems like we’re transitioning into a post Web 2.0 phase and into what I’m calling Web 3.0–why the media isn’t calling it such, I’m not sure because that’s what it is (although I suspect everyone is still so much in love with Social Networking that they don’t want to see it go).  This era seems set to be dominated by connecting all of our various devices to the Internet (aka “Smart Appliances”) and the rise of AI/Deep Learning Systems (such as Google Assistant and Alexia, Apple’s Siri, Driverless cars, etc).  Now this is truly EXCITING tech to me. Why listen to someone natter on about X, Y, and Z on Twitter, with just a few simple commands, vocal or keyed in, you could have a machine (physical or virtual) do something for you now.  That’s exciting!  More exciting that the Natterverse that we currently have now, at least.

So, I’m back into the game.  I’m going to try to find an area where I can carve out a niche now that the balance is shifting from noise back to signal (I’ve already done arduinos which are little robots that you can program remotely via a simple command interface, but I think I’m going to investigate a little more).  Still, pretty much anything in the Web 3.0 paradigm would be preferable to me as it will require a high signal, low noise paradigm, which in my opinion–see what I did there–is what the Web needs now.


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Commodore 64 Nostalgia: Kung-Fu II: Sticks of Death (or Caveat Emptor)

Despite the long name, I really don’t have all that much to say about Kung-Fu II: Sticks of Death as I barely remember it.  To be honest, I didn’t remember it at all until I pulled out the “reference card” and looked up images online.

Cover Art Bait and Switch

I’m sure the reason that I don’t remember it is that this is one of the first games that I had that helped teach me caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware”).  If you look at the cover art of the game, it features a Bruce Lee “clone” fighting another man with a bo staff.  As I was into martial arts, having taken karate, I was always on the lookout for martial arts inspired games.  As my weapons were tonfa and the bo staff, this game seemed right up my alley.


However, it was not be as the game, in truth, had little to do with modern day karatekas and ninjas than it does as an “ancient Egyptian brawler” where you fight ancient Egyptian men and “dog”-faced enemies.  Very disappointing.

Fighting Warrior Conundrum

Okay, after researching this game for this post, I now understand why the game looks as it does–it truly was “bait and switch.”  The game itself is called “Fighting Spirit” and is based on ancient Egyptian deities and monsters.  It doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, but apparently it was renamed for the American market.  I’m assuming that the box art was attempt to cash in on the martial arts craze of the mid 80s with the popularity of movies like The Karate Kid.

As I didn’t really have the money in my allowance to subscribe to magazines per se (I just purchased them ad hoc every month and rarely the same type for variety’s sake), I wouldn’t have known that this game was not what it purported to be.

I barely remember playing it and what I do remember is that that it wasn’t very fun. And judging by the lack of buzz online (few YouTube videos, no Wikipedia entry, very few sites talking about it), it looks like I wasn’t the only one with that impression.


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Back from the 2018 TPA Conference


Tennessee Philological Association Logo, Image Source: Facebook

I’m back from the 2018 Tennessee Philological Conference and I thought it was a great conference!  There were tons of awesome presenters and I was able to present my paper as well and it seemed to go over pretty well, so, I enjoyed it very much!  The conference shifts between east, middle, and west Tennessee (we’re a wide state in the US) and it was in the (I think) the east part of the state.  I’m not sure if I can make it if it is in the western part of the state as that would be a long drive for me, but I would certainly like to do so, if at all possible.

Tennesse Tech Henderson Hall

Tennessee Tech University, Henderson Hall (where the 2018 TPA Conference was held), Image Source: Wikipedia

Tennessee Tech. University

This year, the conference was held at Tennessee Tech University (TTU) in Cookeville, TN and I have to say thanks to the students and administrators.  They were extremely nice–to the student who gave me great landmarks to get to the designated parking lot, to the secretaries for pointing me in the right direction to the conference location on–campus, they were really a nice group of people.


Cookeville, Tennessee, Image Source:

Cookeville was also interesting.  I’d never been before, so it was interesting to see what another college town (Murfreesboro could also be considered a college town) looked like.  It seemed smaller than Murfreesboro, but no less vibrant.  I only got to see a little of it–the campus environs and the apartment complexes close to campus, and the main “strip” of businesses devoted to serving the college students, but it really seemed like a cool place.  The drive wasn’t bad–only about an hour from Murfreesboro.  It was a Thurs evening., Friday, and Saturday morning Conference.  I could only make the Friday events, but I stayed the entire day–including for the reception and banquet Friday evening and had a great time!

Familiar Faces and New

So, I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have–that’s my one main regret.  I was so focused on getting there, listening to the speakers, presenting my own paper, and generally trying to take in the experience, that I realized that I didn’t take nearly enough pictures.  I was, however, able to get pictures with two of my favorite professors from UTC, Dr. Rehyansky and Dr. Shawen (I didn’t get explicit permission, so I won’t put them in the post), but I’m glad that I was able to do that and will be putting those pictures in my photo album.  I met several new people from the conference and hope to see them again next year if I’m able to attend.  All in all, it was a great experience that I hope I’m able to repeat next year! 🙂


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What’s On My Bookshelf? The Belgariad Volumes 1 and 2 by David Eddings


Welcome to the (hopefully) weekly: What’s on My Bookshelf? This week it is The Belgariad, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

The Belegariad series is one of, if not, my favorite Fantasy series of all time–I go back and forward on this.  It is a little dated by today’s settings, but it acts as an apotheosis to the GrimDark series that are currently popular in today’s fantasy novels.  It has a Good Guy (Protagonist) and a Ultimate Evil (Antagonist), however, even though you know  who the antagonist is, you don’t actually get direct overt conflict for a while between the two.

Yes, yes, I know in the days of GrimDark and where “everybody” is a bad guy, even the “good guys,” this seems old fashioned, but I still feel that heroes (for fiction) are much more realistic because they always have the “hardest” road to follow and GrimDark characters take the “easy” way out–hence, the popularity of GrimDark and the Anit-Hero.  Easy is better more fun while hard means you have to work and sacrifice and who wants to all that in today’s world?


Belgariad, Vol. 1 (includes Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit).

Belgariad, Vol. 1 includes the first 3 books in the Belgariad series.  Essentially, it tells the story of Garion, a simple farm boy and scullion who may be more than he seems.  The early chapters talk about his time on Faldor’s Farm and foreshadow quite a few bits of information before uprooting him from his life and plunging him into adventure.  This is a great set-up for the protagonist as we get to see him grow and develop as the experiences his various adventures.  This is high fantasy at its best–pseudo-medieval world/technology level, magic, non-human races as “monsters” and antagonists, but only different “human” races (i.e., no elves, dwarves, etc.).  The world-building is extremely well done and so too is the magic system.  I read these as individual books, but liked them so much that I bought the trade paperbacks of the books.  These two books literally helped me to get through school and I try to read them once a year whenever possible.


Belgariad, Vol. 2 (includes Enchanter’s Endgame and Castle of Wizardry)

Belgariad, Vol. 2 includes the last 2 books in the Belgariad series.  These two books tell the story of the protagonist who finally comes into his own, discovers his true heritage and sets out to meet and face the challenges of his destiny.  I like this one because it is the conclusion to the series, but it really pays off on the promises set up in the first volume.  It adds a love interest and it also adds in the “Big Bad” of the series and their ultimate confrontation.  To me, it is a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It is a good, clean read (gasp, in the days of the “Red Wedding” or “Negan Kills–both of which I only know through their infamous nature, the idea that something doesn’t have to be super violent or sexy to be fun is shocking, I know 🙂 , but it can be done and David Eddings proves it with this series).  While not written for young adults, it is also appropriate for young adults as well as adults, so this one could be for you or younger fantasy readers (not two young–I’d say Tweens and up as their quite a few double-entendres and mild (PG) thematic elements, but no explicit violence or sex scenes–its just good fantasy).  Anyway, here is a weekly peek into what’s on my Bookshelf.

As always, the links will take you to and if you purchase through these links, I get a small commission which will help me, so thanks in advance!  See you next week, hopefully!


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