23 May 2012

Reaching the Frontier

I'm sure you've all heard the glorious news already that Space X has successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying their Dragon capsule yesterday, after an abort on the 19th. If you haven't, you can read about it HERE.

Are you excited? Are you? Because I AM! I. AM. STOKED. This is a great leap toward broader private space exploration and travel.

Even cooler is Space X joining forces with Bigelow Aerospace to launch their BA 330 habitats to create private space stations for research and for commercial travel/vacations, as reported HERE. How cool is that? Science fiction is quickly transforming into science fact. And let's not forget to mention that Planetary Resources is working to make mining asteroids a viable industry.

Honestly, I'm squeeing a bit right now.

That's right. I said squee. What, you wanna fight about it?

I think that, realistically, I've accepted I won't be the first human being on Mars. (I can still dream, though...) I have zero advanced math or science education, zero engineering education, no mechanical ability, and with contacts correcting my vision I can't be a pilot. NASA, Space X, Bigelow Aerospace, and Planetary Resources have very little use for me, even with my background in logistics and supply management. And good looks only get a body so far. (hyuk hyuk hyuk)

But private space travel and exploration offers the average mongoloid-neanderthal schmuck - namely me - an opportunity to go into space, to experience it, and to support the operations in space...asteroid mining will require supply management - contracts and purchase orders will be issued, a supply chain will develop, and all those workers will want their McDonalds burgers, Starbucks coffees, and Apple products.

Maybe not all hope is lost?

Or I could win the lottery, quit my job, and enroll to get a mechanical engineering degree. *shrug* Like I said, I can dream.

Until next time. . .

09 May 2012

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Love Dinosaurs

Chuck Wendig, writer of such titles as MOCKINGBIRD, BLACKBIRDS, and CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY (a personal favorite that you MUST read...read it!), posts a weekly Flash Fiction Challenge on his blog. This week, in celebration of the debut of his Kickstarter-backed book DINOCALYPSE NOW! Chuck's challenge involved Dinosaurs.

I LOVE Dinosaurs.

So here is my entrance into Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Love Dinosaurs, titled: THE HUNTED.



by Christopher Meyer

Turin slid through the thick undergrowth of the verdant forest without a sound. His feet passed plants and twigs in slow, steady arcs as he prowled forward. Around him the denizens of the forest called and roared.
There was a rush of leathery wings above as an avian creature shot by.
Turin remained calm and continued on, but his grip on the spear in his right hand tightened.
There was the slightest scrape of a plant behind him and Turin froze. Turin’s lean, muscular form didn’t move an inch as he waited and listened. It was a long few moments before he began to move again.
Turin had to be careful, lest he ceased to be the hunter and became the hunted.
From the position of the sun to his left Turin could tell he was making good time. It was still morning. There was plenty of daylight left to find his prey, kill it, and return to the village. A small smile crept across his tanned, scarred face.
Suddenly a plant behind Turin shivered and cracked.
Turin spun, keeping low, and jabbed his spear in front of him. His heart raced and sweat sprang from his brow. He had been so careful. How had they snuck up behind him?
There was a flurry movement, then two feathered reptiles leapt into the air, pecking at one another before flying off.
False alarm.
Turin waited a moment as his heart slowed and the adrenaline drained from his veins. His whipchord muscles, coiled and ready for a fight, relaxed. Turin waited another moment in case the commotion had covered the noise of someone – or something – else.
When Turin did finally move it was slow. Each individual body part moved while the rest of his body remained. First his leg swung around in a ponderous arc, followed by the lower part of his torso. As the rest of his body turned his head scanned the area around him and his eyes scrutinized every detail. The spear clasped firmly in his hands followed his turn.
When Turin was absolutely sure that nothing was following him he moved forward once more.
After what seemed like an eternity of cautious movement Turin came upon a downed tree. The massive trunk blocked his direct path, and going around would take longer. He looked up to see the sun through the dense canopy. The giant yellow orb was almost directly overhead.
Turin couldn’t be delayed.
Turin hoisted himself up on the fallen tee, ensuring to keep his body close to the trunk so as to not expose himself as much. He led with his right side, his spear forward in case there was danger on the other side. Little by little Turin worked his way over the tree.
Turin was almost to the other side when his foot made contact with something soft and wet. A moment later his foot slipped, and Turin toppled to the ground on the far side of the downed tree. He landed with a loud thump, his spear thrown from his hand.
He cursed himself as he jumped to retrieve his weapon and backed against the tree trunk in a defensive posture. He should have been more careful, Turin told himself. He had made a child’s mistake in his rush to reach his bounty. As he scanned the area he looked up to the tree to see what had fowled his footing. A disturbed patch of moss met his gaze.
Stupid, he told himself.
Another few tense moments and Turin set off again. He moved slightly faster now, wary of the sun creeping across the sky above him. It seemed that every moment the shadows become a little longer. Sweat began to pour down Turin’s face. He tried to keep focused as perspiration stung his eyes.
Several times Turin stopped to listen when he thought he heard movement.
Each time Turin had a growing feeling of being watched, but each time there was nothing but the forest.
Turin came to the edge of a small clearing and stopped. Finally he was there. Before him sat three small craters, each piled up with soil and dead vegetation. Within these depressions were eggs the size of Turin’s fist. Returning with just one would solidify his place within village elite. Two would propel him to greater heights.
Turin’s goal sat atop the eggs.
The female Velociraptor was hunkered down over the nest nearest where Turin crouched. Her long head twitched back and forth, scanning the area around her for scavengers or larger predators. Every once in a while the female raptor would tilt her head to the side and listen.
Killing her would make him a king amongst his people.
The trick was pulling it off and returning to the village – alive.
Turin crouched lower, building energy in his powerful legs in preparation to spring forward and spear his prize. Every muscle in his body coiled in anticipation of the attack.
Turin was focused.
His spear was ready.
Everything was silent.
Suddenly the forest around Turin came alive.
Turin jumped in surprise and turned to see what was happening.
Five lean forms materialized from the dense vegetation. Rows of razor sharp teeth glared at Turin as the pack hunters closed in.
Turin’s heart sank. He had been the prey all along. When the raptors had picked up his trail, Turin didn’t know. His whole endeavor had been pointless.
Turin swore he would die honorably as the raptors pounced.
He didn’t get the chance to raise his spear. Turin didn’t even have time to scream.
One of the raptors, a young male, lifted its head from its prey and sounded a victory roar.
Then the forest was silence once again...

05 May 2012

Adam Baldwin and OMUG Comics

Today was a glorious day! I went to Krypton Comics here in Omaha, Nebraska and got to meet Adam Baldwin, as seen here in this picture:

It was pretty cool! He was very personable, and noted that I was military. Great guy, and got his autograph on my special edition copy of Serenity.

I also met a couple of amazing local artists from Omaha Underground Comics, creators of the very cool  THE CULLING series. Great bunch of guys, I really enjoyed meeting them and discussing our self-publishing experiences. Their project has been two years in the making and I purchased Issue #1 from them while I was there talking indy-shop (I still need to get Issue #0). Their website can be seen at http://www.omugcomics.com/. Check them out and buy their comics, you won't be disappointed with their high-intensity action comic THE CULLING.

Went and saw the Avengers Movie afterwards with my brother and a friend. It was worth it! Lots of action, great comedy, and actually had a well developed storyline for a superhero action movie. Very little cheesiness. Joss Whedon did well...but he killed Agent Coulson. DAMMIT JOSS!

Good little day all around.

Until next time. . .

03 May 2012

Get ALL the Free Online Education!

If you read my Twitters, you'll know that today I have my phone call meeting with my editor to go over the short story OLD HABITS and get it ready for the next (and hopefully final) rewrite. OLD HABITS (no link to page yet) will go on sale the week of May 15th, so keep an eye out for it on the RENEGADE DATA CORE website.

While that's in the works, I would like to draw everyone's attention to a new phenomenom I find really cool: FREE ONLINE EDUCATION.

That's right, I said FREE ONLINE EDUCATION.

Why write about it, you may ask, when I'm a sci-fi writer? As a sci-fi writer I have a very hopeful vision for the future, and champion companies such as SpaceX and Planetary Resources that are trying to make a future in space not only possible, but cost effecitve.

Free education such as I will discuss is a huge leap into the future, providing education on numerous subjects at zero (or perhaps, in some cases, a very low) cost. The subjects our children need to be successful in the future-engineering, math, science, and technology-are available for all to participate in.

Robert A. Heinlein would be proud!

The trend setter in this realm is the Khan Academy. The founder, Sal Khan, left his hedge fund manager job to start this amazing experiment. It started with videos on subjects ranging from history to math and everything inbetween. Now there are challenges to help learning, assessments, rankings, a knowledge map, and badges individuals can earn for completing sections.

Others have joined in on free online education, citing the need for more available education to the world and the benefits it will bring. Udacity is a free education start-up that currently offers a few classes in computer science and some robots, such as remote controlled cars. Coursera is a cooperative between Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania with over two dozen free classes in numerous subjects.

In March, MIT created MITx and ran an experimental free online class. 120,000 people signed up for the class, “Circuits and Electronics." Now Harvard and MIT are joining forces to create edX, that will offer numerous free courses starting this Fall 2012. While some people may take these classes at leisure, there will be homework and exams. Those who complete everything and receive a certain grade can obtain certificates from either MIT or Harvard (depending on who supports/teaches the class). MIT will charge a small fee for certificates, and Harvard hasn't decided whether or not they'll charge for certificates.

What are the benefits, one may ask? With access to the internet becoming more widespread every day, people in developing countries that might not be able to afford school-or that don't have formal schools-can use these tools to educate themselves and their children, and badges (in the case of Khan Academy) and certificates can be used to help them get into higher education, or to help them to take the village and resources they have and change it. This free education provides "soft tools", so to speak. You can't touch the concept of math, but this tool has helped the human race advance in everything from acrchitecture to medicine to technology. These soft tools can help others the world over to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

Sorry if I sound like a bit of a hippie there...I promise, I'm not.

NOTE: I have a love-hate relationship with math. I'm not very good at it, even after studying for hours/days/weeks until I'm blue in the face. But math helped create my Apple MacBook Air, so I can't totally hate it.

My hopes for free education. While I know that EVERY single course can be free online, and they shouldn't be, I hope they offer some introductory engineering courses. Aeronautical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Architectural Engineering, even Agricultural Engineering intro classes (like sections 101 and 201, and maybe a supplemental class or two, like 102 and 202). I would take those right away. Engineering is one of the key competencies that will be needed and will bring the future to the present quicker via better technology and more efficent, cost effective ways to get into space. Engineering will also allow us to do more in space with the resources there, like colonize/mine the moon, mine asteroids, and colonize other planets/moons.

Hell, what am I saying, Engineering is needed now. It was needed more five and ten years ago.

This makes me look in hindsite at my degree (Political Science; a slacker degree, to be sure) and think, "What the hell was I thinking?" Unfortunately, unless I land several million dollars, I won't be getting an engineering degree anytime soon.

What really inspires and motivates me about this free online education phenomenon? The government had ZERO to do with it. The US Government is already ass backwards on how to effectively leverage the internet (amongst other things), and if they had tried this it would have been a resounding flop (or such is my theory being of the "don't trust big government" mindset; your theory may differ). It was private individuals and private schools. These forward thinking people took it upon themselves to do something better for others. No government mandates. No bureaucratic monstrosities. No one from Congress saying they/their party did better than everyone else/the other party. Free thinking Americans with ideas and a desire to achieve more and do good. It makes me proud to be an American when I witness these sort of things.

Unless you're already a rocket scientist (and have a leg up on me getting to Mars, you bastard!) I would recommend taking some of these free classes, if not just to refresh/expand your knowledge. I know I will.

Until next time...