Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Authors: Why do you write? My answer.

Authors: Why do you write? My answer.

On January 5, 2017, I saw the movie, “Hidden Figures.” It’s a great movie. I encourage you to see it. People were applauding during the film and there was a standing ovation by many in the audience at the end.
What does seeing a movie have to do with why authors write?

I’m glad you asked.

When watching a movie, one tends to forget the process that spawned that audio-visual experience. At least that’s what the producers hope it does!

That was my experience while watching “Hidden Figures.”
It was after the movie ended that two thoughts struck me.
        1.   Someone wrote that script.
        2.   I’ll bet it’s based on a book.

Both book writing and script writing are forms of writing. While there are similarities, there are significant differences between those types of media.
Scriptwriters focus on dialog. They include some stage direction and set design, but they rely heavily on the directors and actors to provide setting, pace, and tone.
Book writers have to create their entire world inside the mind of a reader. Hopefully, not just one reader but many, many readers. That type of writing requires more written detail in setting, pace, and tone of the story.

It is safe to assume that most writers of a published story of any kind would like to have a lot of people read it . . . after buying it!
The five reasons for writing I provide below are not in a conscious order of importance to me. They are in the order I thought of them.

One reason I write is financial. I’d like to make some money.
I’d like to make at least enough money to cover my expenses of writing, editing, promoting, and publishing every story.
Another reason I write is that I like to write. To be honest, this is the number one reason. There’s something about engaging in the process of developing a story around characters that become real to me—and hopefully to my readers—that is highly motivational.

A third reason I write is the therapeutic value of the writing process.
Writing allows me to express ideas and complain. I don’t do this often, but when I do, I feel relieved of a burden. When I’m writing fiction, not a single character has ever done anything I didn’t want her/him to do. I never wrote a student off. In fact, I never had a lot of discipline issues when I taught. I know that this reason I write is something that helped me hone my ability to focus on the good of teaching and deflect the “outside influences” that are ever-present in that field.

Fourth reason: I also do reflective writing. While I’ve listed it as a separate reason, the therapeutic value of reflection to me cannot be overstated. I feel strongly about that difference. I find myself remembering valuable lessons when I am engaged in the reflective process.
The two areas I reflect upon with regularity are my teaching career and my faith in God. I have four continuing blog post categories.
       1.   The focus of A Science Guy’s Almanac is my teaching career. I reflect on the incredible good fortune I’ve had in working with the best colleagues and students I can imagine—and I’ve got a good imagination.
       2.   The Timeless Truths series is a reprise and restructuring of over twenty years of sermon notes I have. I am awestruck by the insight into Scripture that I’ve been allowed to experience.
       3.   Expressions of Faith is my personal reflection on a verse or a few verses of Scripture. These short homilies are formulated in my devotions.
       4.   A Day in the Life of a Science Fiction Writer concentrates on the writing process. This post is in this category and is a combination of reflection and the next reason.

The fifth reason I write is to inform. I suppose this post qualifies for inclusion in this reason. I hope you, Reader, find some tidbit of information you can bite into and savor. I lump many topics into this category: writing tips, teaching tips, science concepts are the front-runners. Although there is overlap with other reasons, I’m lumping all my science-teaching products here, too.

I’m stopping at five reasons. There are other reasons that I write. They are hard for me to describe in a way that conveys my definition to my satisfaction.

Without a transition of any type, other than this sentence informing you, Reader, that I’m not including a formal transition, I’m going to keep my promise of closing the loop on the reference to the movie, “Hidden Figures.” [BTW: My Hemingway app marked this a “very hard to read” sentence. That’s true. I blame that on the lack of transition.]

As I stood with the others in the audience watching the credits of “Hidden Figures,” I wondered
        ·      if the author of the book was aware of the influence of the book on American society.
        ·      how the now-deceased characters portrayed in the film might feel about the story of their struggle finally being given a voice.

It was then that I realized the fundamental reason I love reading and writing stories.
Good writing moves minds and hearts.
 Write on.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Expressions of Faith: Cast Your Care

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. [Ps. 55:22.]
(1 Peter 5:7 AMP)

Cast Your Care

I went with the Amplified Bible’s translation because the others just seem to miss the depth of this verse.


We are admonished to turn ALL our "issues" over to Christ . . .

Imagine what that might do for you and/or those you know and love.

I don't think I have a big problem in this area. Some would argue I’m more of a “Typhoid Mary” for worry spreading it rather than experiencing it.

Regardless of that, God still cares about me enough to watch over me.

He’s caring for you watchfully, too.

Next Friday's Expression of Faith Series: Avoiding Lions

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Timeless Truths: Got Mustard?

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32 (NIV)

Mustard is a condiment to most -- an ingredient in other areas of cuisine to some.

It’s Noticeable
Unique, powerful taste
One of the oldest condiments

It’s Strong
It can burn the palate.
It can inflame the nasal passages.

Whether you’re considering giving up
A friend
Fighting addiction
Even . . .
God . . .
Think about mustard when you are ready to give up.

In the parable above, mustard represents a seed of faith.

1.             No issue is too big for God—no faith is too small.
a.    Don’t give up when you feel small. Remember: Faith = Mustard seed = POWER
b.   Mustard seeds becomes mighty when planted.
2.            Don’t give up on God.
a.    God wants to help you.
b.   A tiny seedàBIG plant. This shows the power of God.
c.    Trust God with as much faith as you have!
3.            When we grow, we become a blessing for others.
a.    Big mustard plants give shade.

People who trust God, even with only the faith of a mustard seed have opportunities to help others.
Don’t dismiss difficult times now. Use them as growth opportunities—allow them to prepare you to be blessings to others

Special thanks to Pastor Guy, Chaplain at APU’s Murrieta Regional Center, for the primary teachings used in this post.

Next Thursday's Timeless Truths Series: Hope. A Light in the Darkness

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Monday, January 23, 2017

A Science Guy's Almanac: How to break your ankle without really trying

How to break your ankle without really trying

Twice each week the soccer team started practice with a run of about two miles on the streets around Monte Vista. In a post about coaching track and field, I described how we used the significantly inclined slope that ran down to the right of the school’s entrance. These soccer runs went left.

I ran with the team. Not because I like to run distances. The best part of every long distance run is the end. I ran for two reasons.
1.            It was good for me.
2.            It kept some of the less dedicated troops from cheating by cutting the course.
I had only one rule.
You had to beat me, or you had to run again.

 On this particular day, three of the ne’er-do-wells were 30-yards behind me after about 400-yards of the run. I knew what they were planning. Stay behind coach until the last minute and sprint past him to obey the letter of the law.  For some reason—probably our W/L record—that strategy did not sit well with me that day    .

The street was at the tipping point where the downhill slope increased dramatically. Without stopping, I turned around enough to see the laggers.
“This isn’t what I meant by beating me,” I hollered. “If you don’t keep in front of me the whole way, you will run again anyway!”

An aside. My youngest son would run with me on occasion. On this particular run, we had our dachshund along and were running laps of the middle school’s oversized athletic fields. We also had one of his buddies with him.
We took off. Well, they took off. I did what I always do, I started jogging. Within seconds, I overheard the following brief conversation.
“What’s up with your dad’s pace?” the friend asked.
“That's his starting, middle, and ending pace. It won’t change.”
My son was right.
Fast-forward, actually, it’s fast-backward, because the event I’m describing in this blog happened at least 12-years before the brief dialog just reported.

The recalcitrant soccer players looked shocked. I swung back around to continue my run. I never quite made it 100% back around.
Spring Valley, the unincorporated area of San Diego County in which Monte Vista is located has paved streets. With no municipal government to oversee such details, the maintenance of those streets can best be described as spotty.
My left foot found one spot on the street that needed attention but didn’t get it. A chunk of asphalt had broken loose and was lying on top of the pavement. My foot hit the chunk. It rocked to the right. I rolled my ankle and crashed to the ground.
Not the same hole, but an admirable representation of the infamous spot on Sweetwater Springs Blvd.
I was more worried about my hip and back than any other body part as I hit the ground. I’d had spinal fusion twelve years earlier, and I did not want that damaged. Besides my hip aching, my left forearm and elbow were bruised and scraped.
The slow-running soccer players sped up and clustered around me.
“Are you okay, Coach?” I’m not sure whether the motivation for that question was altruism or fear.
“Keep running,” I managed through tightly clenched teeth as the pain from my ankle finally registered in my brain.
The trio ran off down the slope.

I sat for a couple of minutes contemplating the stab of pain that flashed through my brain as the arteries in my outer ankle contracted and relaxed with each beat of my heart.
When all the soccer players were out of sight, I struggled to my feet.
I took one step.
It really hurt.
I limped slowly for about 75-yards.
When the street leveled off, I decided to give slow jogging a try.
That worked pretty well until my left foot hit the ground.
I limped the last 300 yards to the steps leading down to the football/soccer field. There are 45 steps in the stairway. Holding on to the handrail with my right hand, I managed to make it to field level. By then, the first of my cross-country runner/soccer players had arrived back at the field.
I started them on a passing drill, limped over to the bench, sat down, pulled up the left pant leg of my sweats . . .
And saw that someone had stuffed a softball into my sock.
Okay, so it was really my swollen ankle.
I knew better than to take off the shoe, so I went ahead with practice. After all: no pain, no gain. Right?
Practice lasted all of about 25-minutes. That’s when I couldn’t stand the pain any longer.

The coaches’ office at Monte Vista is one level of  steps—at least 25 risers—above the 45-step staircase. It took some time, but I made it.
Once inside, I grabbed a five-gallon bucket, tossed in a generous amount of ice from the ice machine, and added some water. I limped over to a chair and sat the bucket down. Then I sat down and removed my left shoe and pulled my sock down to expose the ankle.
My leg immediately achieved the same circumference from mid-calf to my toes. The skin now stretched tightly over my ankle area was multiple shades of purple.
I pulled the sock back up and stuck the foot into the ice bath.
I sat in a state of oscillating pain from the injury and pain from the icy water for about ten minutes. The door to the coaches’ office opened. The girls’ varsity basketball coach entered.
“Whatcha doin’?” he asked.
“I rolled my ankle. I’m icing it.”
“Looks painful,” he said.
“It is,” I answered.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
I started to answer when he continued.
“You not going to get any sympathy here. You should go home.”
With that, he went into the coaches’ locker area to change.
It took me maybe 5-seconds to make a decision. I dumped the ice water into the deep sink. I limped into the locker area, got my “biology teacher” clothes, and limped out the door heading for my car.

My biology room was about one of the furthest-distanced rooms from the PE area. I parked in the faculty lot closest to my classroom. I limped quite a long time/distance in one shoe and one cold, soggy sock.
At the time, I drove a 1968 VW Bug. It was yellow with red Naugahyde interior to mimic Monte Vista’s crimson/gold motif. It had a 4-speed manual transmission. [That sentence is italicized for a reason.]
I opened the driver’s door and tossed my clothes onto the passenger seat.
I climbed in.
I shut the door and put the key in the ignition.
I pushed in the clutch.
. . .
The next thing I remember is snapping my head back while awakening after passing out from the pain from my left ankle while pushing in the clutch.

There’s more.
But not until another post. Click the title below.

Next Almanac: Confirmation of ankle damage and just plain weirdness

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