Weekend Assignment: Strange New Worlds, New Civilizations…

It’s that time again.  You know what time I mean, class.  That’s right.  Weekend Assignment time.

In case you hadn’t been following the news on all things astronomical, Astronomers did something cool last week.  They found a planet in another solar system in the sweet-spot (not too hot, not too cold) to maintain liquid water, and thus to probably support life.  They call it Gliese 581-g, a “Goldilocks” planet.  Now, if only we had interstellar, physics-breaking FTL drives, we’d be in business. And that gets us to the Weekend Assignment:

Even as astronomers discover planets that may be capable of supporting life, such destinations remain out of reach of would-be human colonists, even if the world is “only” twenty light years away. But if some science fictional technology were discovered in the next year or two (warp drive, matter transmission or whatever) that made it possible to leave Earth behind and go live on another planet, would you be tempted to do so? If you choose not to relocate, would you be interested in just visiting the place instead?

Extra Credit: If you did go, whether on vacation or as a colonist, and you were only allowed to bring one small suitcase with you, what would be in it?

Would I move to another, habitable planet, were it technically feasible and possible?  Well, in a word: no.

Yeah, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, and I’m a huge proponent of actual space exploration and all that jazz.  But I’m also terribly, personally, risk-averse.  And I like being alive.  I figure, the chances of survival for those first few colonists on this brave new world are… somewhat less than my chances of survival on my native rock.

Plus, there’s so much to see and do right here that I won’t even be able to see and do in this lifetime… why would I shove off, permanently for the great unknown when there’s plenty of unknown (to me, at least) right here?

But would I visit – if the trip were temporary, and a return trip were also feasible?  Sure!  The chance to say I’ve been to another world (and lived to return and tell about it) would be pretty priceless.  That would be, without question, the trip of a lifetime.

Weekend Assignment: Lone Wolf, Pack Animal

The latest Weekend Assignment poses an interesting question:

Some people are happiest when they’re part of a group. They may be leader of the pack, or actively contribute to the group’s efforts, or simply hang out with the others for companionship, and any scraps they may get. Other people are more the lone wolf type: the explorers, the loners, given to solitary effort and independent thought. Where do you prefer to function in human society: as part of a group, or your own, or in some combination of the two?

Extra Credit: Is there a group with which you’re currently affiliated that is especially important to you? What is your relationship with that group?

Growing up, I was often the odd man out.  I had few close friends.  I was always the last picked for any sports team.  I was relatively unpopular, because the things I was good at – studying and doing well in school and trying to expand my knowledge of the world – were not things that made the list on “how to win friends and influence people“.  Add to that a relatively uneven self-image (I was a scrawny kid, lacking in physical prowess, and I wasn’t what I would consider photogenic; albeit, I didn’t really care about those things, either).  Consequently, I was frequently a loner.  I’d spend time in books, or making up my own stories, or drawing, or otherwise engaging my imagination. Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: Magic Button

I’m a little late to the party this week… but here’s my response to this Weekend’s Assignment

If you could have a magic button that would do one particular thing for you, up to once a day, what would that function be?

Extra Credit: Would your answer to the above change if it were a person doing the task (for free and without complaint, using ordinary human abilities) rather than a magic button?

That would be an easy one to answer.  There’s one ability that I always come back to, time and time again, one function that I always wish I had access to. Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: History

Since I’ve cut back to one or two posts a week, currently, I’ve been pretty choosy about what I post… That means for the past couple weeks, I didn’t join in on the Weekend Assignment, because the topics didn’t quite catch my imagination.  This week I’m going to make a try for it.

We don’t all live near the site of a battlefield or other world-famous event, but any place has its own history: political, cultural, even natural history. How aware are you of the past of the town, city or state where you live now? Share with us a story of local history. 
Extra Credit: Have you ever participated personally in an historic event? (This doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering.)

The city I live in bears on its seal the motto “Resurgens” and the emblem of a phoenix rising from the flames.  This seal and motto is a reminder of certain historical events.  No, I don’t live in Arizona.  I live in Georgia.  And the events in question were chronicled in a certain classic old movie, that being “Gone With the Wind”. 

In Atlanta, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a sign for a historical marker declaring the site of “so-and-so’s last stand” or “the charge of somesuch brigade”.  It’s part of the fabric here.  Heck, this is largely true of much of the American Southeast.  In the rest of the U.S. the Civil War is an important historical event.  It’s something that happened.  It’s important but it’s over.  The good guys won, the bad guys lost, Honest Abe freed the slaves and everyone lived happily ever after, the end.  Except, in the South, it’s not over yet.  It’s a living part of the culture and personality of this part of the world.

You’d think, too, that in Atlanta this would be doubly true – that here, it’d be personal, what with General Sherman and his rather infamous dealings with the city.  But no, despite the plethora of old bronze markers glorifying the Fall of Atlanta, this is a city quite unlike the South in which it resides.  It’s modern and urban – at least by comparison –  and as such is far less conservative and lives not in the past but is far more grounded in the present than the rest of the state.  And, having lived both in the rural South of Georgia and in this city, I can tell there is a difference, something in the flavor of the place.  It’s a city that acknowledges its history only as prologue for the future.

As for this week’s Extra Credit: yes, I have, though my own role in the historical event was rather small.  The historical event in question occurred on November 4th, 2008, and I am still proud of my contribution.

Weekend Assignment: Back to School

It’s time for another edition of “Weekend Assignment“:

In just a couple weeks, students will be heading back to school. Share with us what that means in your life. Are you currently shopping for school supplies for the students in your life? Are you planning on going back to school? Maybe everyone around you is rushing to get ready for the new school year, but you can sit back and relax. Tell us what that’s like.

Extra Credit: Tell us what you liked the most and disliked the most about the first day of school!

Dear little B.T., of course, is still new to the world – he won’t be heading “back to school” for many years yet.  You know, he’s got to go to school for the first time before he can go back to school.  I sometimes try to imagine what that day will be like… but except for the fact that he’ll be older and speaking relatively coherent English, I suppose rather little will have changed.  Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: Pie Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Cake

Today’s Weekend Assignment is a bit whimsical:

Weekend Assignment #331: Cake V. Pie (A Scalzi Flashback)

Which is better — cake or pie? Explain your reasoning. Will you choose the moist sponginess and frosting-topped goodness of cake? Or will you side with those flaky crust-adoring, fruit-filling fanatics of the pie nation? You must choose one — and only one! No trying to suggest that Boston Creme Pie is really kind of like a cake, or how cheesecake is actually not unlike a pie. Take a stand! Be true to your pastry orientation!

Extra Credit: Having chosen cake or pie, now admit your favorite variety of the dessert you did not choose. So if you chose cake, tell us your favorite pie. Prefer pie? Tell us your favorite cake.

Well, I must say that I love the pies made by my Dear Wife – strawberry pie, apple pie, and so on – but if I’m forced to choose between Pie and Cake… I’m forced to choose cake.

(Thinking outside the box, though, I go with brownies and cookies.  So there 😛  You can’t beat the warm, fresh-baked gooeyness of brownies and cookies.)

But for cake – I like the fluffy texture, and I love the frosting.  But don’t slather that fake, store-bought whip-cream stuff.  I like the smooth, creamy kind – especially cream cheese frosting!

The problem with pie, meanwhile, is that the edge of crust that sticks up above the rest of the pie is usually dry, overcooked, and completely lacks any flavor.  And yet, every pie has this unappealing, unappetizing rim of whatever.  I often don’t eat it.

But as for the “Extra Credit”…

Let’s see… my favorite pie.  I like Apple Pie, sure.  Cheese Cake is wonderful in all its varieties.  But my favorite pie is anything with a creamy, chocolatey filling.  Because I love anything with a creamy, chocolatey filling.

Un-Assignment: Not An Op-Ed

This week’s Weekend Assignment asks us to write an “op-ed” and tell our opinion about something:

Weekend Assignment #330: Op-Ed

Time to flex your writing muscle again, because for this week only, the Weekend Assignment blog is being changed to The Weekend Assignment Chronicle! Now, we need some Op-Eds to make things a little more interesting around here. Your assignment is to pick a current event and write your opinion regarding it. Anything goes. Write about politics, the economy, or maybe even your opinion about an incident in pop culture. It’s all good. It’s good to exchange opinions, especially when it’s done with respect. So, feel free to speak up here!

Extra Credit: Do you read the Op-Eds? Yes? No? Tell us about it!

And, guess what?  I have opinions.  About many different things!

And… I’m going to pass.  Because, yeah, I have strong opinions about important issues of our day.  And sometimes, maybe I fear exposing those opinions because I don’t want to stir controversy, or because I fear what others will think if they know my opinions.  But I’ve done it before, publicly.  I’ve shared my opinions on big topics here and in other public fora. Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: Lost & Found

Just a short note today, in answer to the latest Weekend Assignment. This week’s prompt asks:

Have you ever lost something important (or else just really unusual), only to find it again months or even years later? Were you glad to get it back, or was it no longer worth having by then? Tell us your tale of memorable things lost and found. Alternatively, if you never, ever lost anything important, tell us how you manage this nearly superhuman accomplishment. 😉

Well, of course, I’ve lost things.  Sometimes they were just misplaced.  Once or twice I’ve had something stolen.

The most prominent example of when I’ve lost something, only to find it again later, is when I lost my copy of the “Jurassic Park” soundtrack.  I’m very protective of (and fond of) my music, and especially of soundtracks from great fantasy and science fiction films, so it was a pretty traumatic loss to me at the time.  It was while I was still in High School that it happened.  My family had gone on vacation – we used to go camping as often as we were able – and I took along this CD and my boombox (does that date me?) for a little musical entertainment on the camping trip.  I love camping.  But communing with the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to do it in silence!

Anyway, when we got back home, the CD was nowhere to be found.  I was devastated.  It was pretty much my favorite piece of music at the time (and my first movie soundtrack).  And I was thereafter denied such listening pleasure.  A year or two later, I got a new copy of the CD as a birthday present.  In a twist of cruel irony, within a month, I rediscovered my original “lost” copy.  From then on, I had two copies of the soundtrack.  I never told anyone this but my wife, because I was too embarrassed that I had merely temporarily misplaced my CD – and worse, that it had been in the very bag I had packed with my clothes during that years-past camping trip the whole time – and had so pined for it miserably when I should’ve just looked harder.

Having that second copy turned out to be fortuitous, as it happens.  Because I more recently (in the past couple years) lost a whole case of some ten or twenty CDs – one of my copies of that “Jurassic Park” soundtrack inclusive.  By this point, however, my musical preferences had moved on to the entire “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack – and all three of those CDs were also lost.  I suspect I left the case in my old car when I sold it a little over a year ago (even though said car had no CD player) but I can’t really be sure.  I’ve replaced most of those lost CDs, however, and I am now primed to rediscover the lost CD case in some embarrassingly obvious place.

Now, the story of when I had something stolen is altogether another story, entirely – and as a writer, a sadder one by far.  I may have relayed that tale somewhere here the blog pages already, but if not, it remains a story for another time.

Stephen likes Weekend Assignment

This week, our assignment asks us about writing “fan” letters.  (The title, in case you missed the joke, is a riff on Facebook’s “like” button and fan pages – the modern and sophisticated way to express your fanaticism.)  Here’s the Weekend Assignment:

How about a lighter topic this week? Let’s talk about FAN LETTERS. I have never personally written one, because the one time I attempted to, it came off, well, sounding kinda weird! LOL. Apparently I have NO talent for them at all! Nope. Nope. Nope. But how about you? Have you ever written a successful FAN LETTER? If so, tell us about your experience. Did you hear back from the celebrity? Was it a positive experience? Tell us all about it.

I almost didn’t answer this one.  Because to answer it truthfully is to expose to the world a deep, dark secret that I buried in past.  I thought I could escape what I did that day.  I thought I could move on with my life.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: What’s Hot? What’s Cool?

Yes, we’re knee deep in Summer, and the Northeast (not where I live)  is now like a well-done burger left on a Fourth of July Barbecue for too long.  And the grass is always greener on the other side, as they say, so our thoughts turn to how to stay cool in our warmer climes.  And here comes this week’s Weekend Assignemt to ask:

Summer is well underway now. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the days are long and the sun is on its way to being about as hot as it gets in your particular climate. How do you stay cool when the weather gets hot?

Well, of course, I stay cool by being cool.  Because I’m cool.

But enough about me.

You’re here because you want to know about all of the cool stuff I say and do here.  Like, how cool is my writing?  And how cool is Fantasy and Sci Fi?  Oh… wait… that’s not what this Weekend Assignment is about at all, is it?

Maybe this is supposed to be about how I hit the beach every summer, or go the pool each week.  Well… I’m a desk-jockey and evening MBA student.  No beach for me!  (Perhaps more’s the pitty.)  And, I can’t swim.  (Dear Wife has threatened on numerous occassions to make me take swimming lessons after I finish my MBA, if for no other reason that to equip me to rescue drowning children.)

Is it about how I use AC?  I use AC.

Bam!  Instant cool.

(Thanks to B.T., we actually have to keep it cooler in our house than we normally would, because we don’t want the poor tyke to overheat.)

Or maybe this post should be about how Dear Wife and I like to take weekend trips – when time permits (which it usually doesn’t) – up to the mountains, where it’s cooler (and where the views are much cooler) to get away from it all. 

Well, to be honest with myself… I’m quite frankly not sure what to make of this topic.  Mostly, I’m stretching, here.

But you know what is cool, these days?  Steampunk.  So… tomorrow I’m gonna drop some Steampunkery on y’all.  Stay tuned.