Month: September 2015

I’m Not Saying It Was Aliens, But…

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.” – Stephen Hawking

I believe there are many influences we have at a young age, particularly some books and movies that might be too much for our young minds to comprehend much less fully rationalize yet I wouldn’t discourage the practice provided they are discussed with an adult. Through my parent eyes, I do have some exceptions to this thought process that would include certain books and movies. There is an age appropriate criteria that should be set for some content or subject matter. That’s my job as a parent.

When I was young, I read two series of books that I was probably too young to read. One was a series of books by Carlos Castaneda in which he wrote about his training in shamanism under the tutelage of a Yaqui man named Don Juan. Some of this training introduced Castaneda to the use of psychotropic plants such as mushrooms and peyote in order for Castaneda to enter a reality in which he could better understand Don Juan’s teachings. My mother had been reading these books for a college class and talked openly about the books. She was convinced that Don Juan lived somewhere along the Mexican border where we lived (the Mexican state of Sonora having many border towns adjacent to small towns in Arizona). I didn’t find out until years later that much of what Castaneda wrote was questionable and disputed in some scholarly circles but by then, I had long forgotten much of what I had read. I would like to re-read the books as an adult and see if I feel differently.

Nasca - Parrot

Nasca – Parrot

The other series of books I read were by Erick von Däniken suggesting alien influences on earlier cultures. These books fascinated me then, and admittedly fueled an interest in ancient cultures. Had it not been for these books, I might not have been introduced to some of the amazing feats of construction that are prevalent in both Central and South America. Sure, we were all taught about the Great Pyramid of Giza and other wonders in Europe and Asia in grade school but not much was taught about many of the same wonders that existed directly south of us. I was twelve years old when I read Chariots of Gods? and thirteen when I read Gods from Outer Space.  Erick von Däniken tried to connect it all in his books and for a young reader, the theory was plausible. Did I believe aliens influenced or supervised these cultures, allowing them to accomplish things that were supposedly not possible with the technology and tools of that time? Absolutely.  Do I believe this now? Read on…

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During my later teens, I camped out in the desert near my house. While on a peyote induced trip to find my spirit animal, I had the chance to seek answers to many of the questions the books I had read a few years earlier had left me with. While flying, and I’m not sure what type of bird I was, I was abducted by a passing aerial craft of some sort. To my surprise, it was manned by aliens. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to have my questions answered, I asked them if they had anything to do with all the great mysteries I had read about only a few years earlier and they said they hadn’t but did admit to crashing at Roswell. So there I had it, firsthand knowledge directly from my abductors.  Alright, before you think I’ve completely lost it, yes I am just kidding. Actually, they couldn’t understand my question because I was bird and couldn’t speak (yes, maybe I was too young to read Castaneda or von Däniken).

Enough funny business and I will get back to the question: do I believe this now? I do believe that in a universe as vast as the one we are in, or other universes that exist, both known and unknown,  we would be very vain and naive to think we are the only intelligent life form. It comes down to numbers as Hawkins suggested in the quote I shared at the beginning of this post. Having said that, do I believe aliens influenced or helped the cultures of the past. No, I don’t. Not because it isn’t possible but because there is no proof. That doesn’t diminish my fascination with the possibility that it could have happened but the technical side of me demands proof and to my knowledge, there is none. The technical side of me knows enough to understand that many of these mysteries exploited in such books or television shows are easily disputed by an understanding of math, which we now know many earlier cultures were very proficient in.  A basic understanding of geometry for example, allows the construction of very detailed and exact shapes. Take a crop circle, or some other seemingly perfect geometrical shape, that supposedly could only be done with access to an aerial view. A group of people with a few stakes, long ropes to construct lines, and an understanding of right angles and arcs, could theoretically create most any shape. This has been proven numerous times by hoaxers. Toss in an understanding of astronomy and agriculture and it should be no surprise that ancient civilizations were able to accomplish many of the engineering feats we are fascinated with today.

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What I love about books that make us question things, both fictional and non-fiction, is the fact that they should spark interest in learning more. I can honestly say I am fascinated with ancient civilizations and the engineering feats they accomplished.  I believe I can attribute that fascination to a few of the more controversial books I read as a kid along with the not so controversial follow up reading found in other more scholarly books or magazines such as National Geographic. Thankfully, my mom encouraged both.

It’s all good.

Bill

Photos courtesy of Pixabay and Google images 

If We Were Having Coffee #12 – The Write Place

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a Kona blend. Since many of you don’t drink coffee, I also have tea. What kind of tea you ask? The kind you drop into a cup and pour steaming hot water over. I need to learn more about tea. As for me, I’ll have a dark roast with pumpkin spice creamer since it feels more like an October morning than it does a September morning.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we got to see my son last week for his birthday. We traveled to see him at his college, took him shopping, and then went out to dinner. We brought him home for the weekend since we had a three day weekend. Coming home with us was a last minute decision on his part but he wanted to get back to school on Sunday afternoon versus Monday so he’d have a day and a half to study. We also took his girlfriend with us. When he first got home and went upstairs to his bedroom, he came down and complained that his room was a mess. My wife reminded him that he left it that way but she still felt bad.

He got to spend a little time with us, time with his girlfriend, and time with some of his friends. We took him back Sunday afternoon, along with a few supplies he needed and got to see what his dorm room looked like after a few weeks on his own. His desk area looked academic, as did his dorm mate’s. The rest of the room was organized with the exception of their beds. Apparently college students don’t make beds. I helped unpack the few supplies we got him and my wife made his bed. He walked us downstairs and we played a quick game of pool, hugged goodbye and my wife and I were home by 5:30. I think that is the first time I have ever played pool with my son. I enjoyed it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Monday was a lazy day for me. I wrote a post then read a book the remainder of the day. Not so for my wife. She also had Tuesday and Wednesday off and had decided she was going to clean upstairs. We have two bedrooms upstairs, one being my son’s and the other being used as my wife’s “woman cave” for scrap-booking and crafts. There is also a small landing outside the two bedroom doors that has been filled with junk for years it seems. I seldom go up there. Her mom came over to help and I graciously stayed out of their way (hid is more like it).

Although my youngest has hinted that he wanted to move upstairs, we want to leave things the way they are. I think it’s important that my oldest has his room to come home to on breaks and summers. He’s dealing with enough change.

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, my wife was very excited to show me upstairs. My son’s room was immaculate, her scrap-booking/craft room was organized, and the landing was clear with one exception – it had my son’s desk. Really it’s my desk that I gave him a few years ago to give him an area to do homework in his room. The right place. It helped him develop good study habits.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my family has been very supportive of my writing. I haven’t had a designated writing place or an office like I’ve had in other homes we’ve had over the years. I’ve been writing while sitting in a recliner, sitting at the kitchen table, sitting at the dining room table, or sitting outside on our deck.

My wife’s gift to me Tuesday evening was a spot to write. The right place. The write place.

I freaking love it!

B

My Desk

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

Fact, Fiction, or Both?

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“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing.”  –  David McCullough

I’ve ventured down that black hole we call research.  Although I’m not much of a betting man, I would bet that both new and established writers find themselves making the same journey.  Who can blame us? Many of us are perfectionists, many of us have set the bar too high based on our own perceived view of good writing, and many of us simply enjoy research.  Yes, yes, and yes. Regardless of the reason, and there are many, research can be just as much of a time suck as social media can be. But it’s so much fun.

So why am I lost in research? Maybe it’s because I work in a world of technical exacts. Deviations from those exacts can mean the difference between failure and success.  Design changes to current products or the introduction of new products go through rigorous evaluations and testing to ensure they meet the designed intent.  I could write with a level of authority when it comes to engineering or manufacturing and comfortably blend fact and fiction. Maybe I will at some point.

Maybe it’s because I am so impressed with authors I read, and the level of factual detail they present in their writing. More importantly, the level of factual detail they include that I know was researched.  The works of James Rollins might be a good example to use here with his Sigma Force series. Rollins was a veterinarian yet writes adventure/thriller novels blending historical mysteries and cutting edge science into fictional works. He writes with such authority. Maybe it’s his fault.

Maybe it’s simply because I’m writing a mystery/thriller and I want the law enforcement procedural parts of it to be accurate. I’ve had family members, now both deceased, who were in law enforcement. I could use their help now but all I have are personal memories involving stories they would tell and our family feelings about those stories. I can still use that but it doesn’t help with the procedural aspects. For that, I’ve enlisted the help of a friend of mine who is a detective with the State Police and another friend who is a local cop. I’ve also bought a few books on homicide investigation and have explored a number of websites that offer an overwhelming amount of information. All helpful and now I’ve become too detail oriented.  Maybe it is my fault.

The reality of it all is the procedural part of what I’m writing will probably amount to a small percentage of the whole. At some point, my research needs to be enough. I think I’ve done enough research and reached the point where I can now blend both fact and fiction harmoniously, and where there is doubt, I have enough resources available that I can improvise.  Just write…

For now, that’ll do.

 

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