Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Favorite Science Podcasts

I'm getting behind on my podcast listening, but I just can't bring myself to cut back on any of my favorite shows. They are all so awesome. Science is another subject I follow a lot of podcasts about, so here are the ones that have earned their place in my podcast feed.

Are We Alone - The weekly podcast from the SETI Institute. They sped much less time talking about aliens than you might imagine. Each episode has a theme, where they examine some aspect of life on Earth, often looking at human psychology, or culture, and how that may (or may not) give us insight into life elsewhere in the universe. There is usually a good dose oh humor mixed in.

NOVA Science Now - These are very short podcasts, usually between 1 and 6 min long. They are often teasers for NOVA shows, but I always take away an interesting tidbit of information.

Science Talk - The podcast from Scientific American. Need I say more? Well, I will. These are about 30 min long, and again sometimes act as teasers for articles in the magazine. Even so, they spend enough time on each topic to really do it justice, and I never feel like I need to run out and buy the magazine if I want to understand what they were talking about.

Skeptoid - More of a critical thinking podcast than a pure science one, but I'm still putting it into this category since the creator and host, Brian Dunning, applies the scientific method to his analysis of the topics he covers. These are generally under 15 min long, which is nice, but I'm amazed at the amount of research that mush have gone into them. He often covers topics about mythical monster sightings and UFOs and such. I've begun to skip those since I'm not all that interested. My favorites so far is his series on logical fallacies. Sometimes I hear an argument that sounds off to me but I can't put my finger on why. Now I know why, and don't get sucked into nonsense as easily.

TED talks - Only a subset of these could really be called science podcasts, they also cover topics about world affairs, culture, music, etc. I just listened to one today with young homeschool kid talking about sustainable farming practices. How cool is that? Apparently the video version is even better, but I'm usually doing something else while I listen to podcasts, so I stick to the audio. Even with just that, these are almost always powerful, moving speakers.

WNYC's Radiolab - If I had to pick a favorite off this list, this is the one I'd pick. These are so well produced, so entertaining, I have trouble turning them off when I finish my workout or drive before the episode is finished. Just the other day I listened to "Lost and Found". It was amazing, partly because I have a horrible sense of direction, and it made me feel a little better about that. There is a place in Australia I might need to visit. But the closing segment, which is not about someone physically lost, but more metaphorically lost, gave me goosebumps and I got misty eyes it was so wonderful. Here it is if you want to check it out:


60 Second Earth, 60 Second Mind, 60 Second Science -these are also all produced by Scientific American, and as the titles suggest, they are one minute podcasts about the environment, psychology, and science respectively. Always fun snip-its of information here. As I was linking to them just now, I see that there is also a 60 Second Health, and 60 Second Space. So I'm off to iTunes to get those!

If you have a favorite science podcast I didn't mention, please tell me about it in the comment section. (I really shouldn't ask you to do that as I don't know where I'll find the time to listen to any more than I already do, but I just can't help myself.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Blog Award



Thank You Amanda for the award. If I haven't mentioned it enough yet, you can enjoy Amanda's blog over at A Fortnight of Mustard.

So, there are rules associated with this particular award I understand. And they are:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 8 deserving blog buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

So I shall do my best to play along. Number one, check. On to number two:

1. For two weeks my job was to guard butterflies. I fell asleep once. (It isn't a very exciting job)
2. I've been bitten by, a ball python, a rhesus macaque, several parrots, two or three cats and dogs, a black vulture, and I still like animals.
3. Sometimes I miss Ohio winters, like when it's 102 degrees in California.
4. I'd like a pet sheep one day.
5. I wish I liked to cook.
6. In high school, in a speech and debate competition for dramatic performances in which we had to play all the parts ourselves, I won using "The Kamakasi Sketch" by Douglas Adams.
7. I don't usually follow all the rules for these blog things.

As for rule 3, I can't think of 8 other people to award (see #7 of the things about me.) I think I need to explore more blogs. I will however award it to a friend, Donna over at Allergy Kid Mom. Don't let the name fool you, there's a lot more there than allergies (but that's there too if you're interested.) She does a ton of great book reviews.

The only other one that jumps to mind is Amanda, and I don't think it's good blog etiquette to give the award right back to her. Although, if I did, so you think we could squeeze 7 new things out of her? Well, instead, do what I'm going to do, and check out the blogs of the eight folks she picked.

Rule number four. . .hang on. . . okay, done.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Conflict

I was frustrated that a story I'm working on wasn't. . . working. This is when it's great to have writer friends. My buddy Amanda, author of Syzygy listened to me rant and whine about how awful I thought my story was, and then with rays of wisdom shining all around her said, "You need conflict."

Yes! I need conflict! That's what's wrong with my sweet story in which everyone gets along, and agrees with one another, and even the invading aliens are only kind and helpful. That's why it's a boring piece of drivel! I don't know why I didn't see it before.

What's more, I think this may be a problem I have in general. Most of my other stories have more conflict than this happy, nice aliens story, I'm thinking my conflicts should be stronger. What I thought was a weakness in plotting, I now see as weak conflicts.

I have a book I read years ago, "Immediate Fiction" that I remember had a lot to say about conflict. I was super new to fiction writing then, and I don't think that part of the book stuck with me very well. So I'm going to re-read it tonight. Then tomorrow, look out. I'm adding a bad guy to the story, make the alien's grumpier, and who knows what else. There may be a fist fight. Ya never know.

But I'm still a nice person.


Shop Indie Bookstores

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bad Influence

“Come on kiddo, lets go meet up with Mom.” I said, reaching a hand out to little Kenny. Who would have thought a day at the fair would be so exhausting. I felt like I could fall asleep where I stood. Kenny, as usual had a bottomless supply of energy like only small children possess. A day of eating funnel cakes and cotton candy probably didn’t help the situation.

He hollered, “Let’s get ice cream!” Bouncing and tugging my arm in the direction of the ice cream stand.

“No.” My own stomach turned at the thought of more junk. “You’ve had enough, and we told Mom we’d meet her outside the flower building now.” I resisted his pull and plowed onward.

“Billy wants ice cream!” Kenny insisted, trying to pull his hand away. When I tightened my grip, he began to whine and fuss. Looked like the long day was taking its toll after all. “There he goes. We have to follow Billy.” He pulled wildly on my arm; man he was strong for a little guy.

“I don’t care about Billy,” I said, and I didn’t. That imaginary friend of his was becoming an increasingly bad influence. He loved to encourage an awful lot of naughtiness. Too many carpet stains and broken knick-knacks were being blamed on Billy. I was in no mood. Time for a talk. I squatted down to look my son in the eye.

“Kenny, " I sighed, searching for the words to get through to him when I saw something over his shoulder that dropped any coherent ideas away. A green and yellow dragon the size of a German Shepard was bounding toward the ice cream stand. I couldn’t be seeing this. Squinting, I tried to get a clearer look; it must be a kid in a costume or something.

“Daddy, plleeease?” Another tug on my hand, and I blinked. When I looked again, it was gone. Definitely time to go.

I decided to let my wife drive home.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rocket Launch - a mini memoir



Hovering nearby, I watched Daddy set my rocket on the plywood launchpad in the deserted schoolyard. Once ready, we ran to a safe distance.

"Three, two. . ."

The package said to use and 'A' engine, but Daddy said a 'D' would be better. He always said that.

"One. Blast off!"

He pressed the button and the rocket roared up trailing smoke. It climbed out of sight. Necks stretched upward, our eyes strained not to blink watching the bright sky. Then Daddy spotted the speck of the open parachute. We cheered, then anxiously watched where it fell. Not in the street this time; it landed on the school roof and I dashed off to find the janitor, again.
______________________________________________

The above photo is from the NASA website. It's the launch of Apollo 4 (not my toy rocket - in case there was any confusion.)

This is a little story I wrote many years ago, but I still like it. It makes me want to spend some time this summer building rockets with my girls and going to Grandpa's house to launch them.