I am a Geek

There’s a Venn Diagram that’s been going around on the Internet for quite some time now, so I’m sure you’ve all seen it:

Intelligence, social ineptitude, and obsession are the prerequisites for a nerd.  Until university, I was a nerd.  I did very well in school, I was quite shy, and I was a big Star Trek fan.  Now, I’m not socially inept, as I teach for a living, and have had a decent social life.  That leaves me with geek.  I am a geek!  And I’m proud of it!

Nerds and geeks are very important people in the world, especially in the fields of science and engineering.  Many of the electronics and devices that you use everyday were developed by intelligent people who were most likely obsessed with the very things that they worked on.  You know Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001?  Not only was he a science fiction author, but he was also the inventor of the communications satellite.  Not bad!

I mentioned that I was obsessed with Star Trek.  I still am, though not as much as I used to be.  I’ve branched out a bit.  However, I do have a goal of owning every episode and movie on DVD or Blu-ray, as well as wanting to read many of the novels.  But that’s not my only obsession.  I’m also obsessed about fantasy novels.  It’s my favourite genre at the moment.  I also love science fiction, which was my first literary love.  I’m even writing science fiction.

Back in my childhood, I was obsessed with knowledge in general.  I enjoyed reading encyclopedias, and I couldn’t get enough of dinosaurs and astronomy.  Soon after, my obsession with Star Trek started.  Around the mid-80s, I played around with BASIC programming on my Apple IIe computer, which resulted in my obsession with computers.  I breezed through my computer classes in junior high school and high school, as I’d already known all about the topics we studied.  For a while, I was very interested in cars, and much to the surprise of my classmates in high school, I even took an automotives class.  The auto class was basically a kind of applied science, or engineering.  It really shouldn’t be surprising that I was interested in it.

But these days, my obsessions include more than just the classic geeky things.  I also really enjoy nature, history, and architecture.  I like to take pictures of buildings, old and new.  Living in Japan makes this easy for me, as Japan has some amazing modern buildings, as well as a huge number of historical sites.  I love walking long distance, though I haven’t had a chance to do much of that recently.  I walked 35 km in one day two years ago.  I discovered Instagram last year, and have taken more than 500 pictures with it.

On the more brainy side of things, I love maps and geography.  I can picture them in my mind quite easily, and I usually know exactly where I am and how to get somewhere.  I also love statistics.  I’m always watching how many views my blogs get, where the people live, which pages are popular, and so on.  I read all about sports stats, especially for hockey and sumo.  How’s that for an odd pairing?  Population of countries and cities is  a very interesting topic for me, as well.  I’ve used both geography and statistics to develop the world I’m basing my writing on.  Obsessions can be very useful!

I’m very happy to be a geek.  Life is more interesting this way.  There’s something interesting everywhere I look.

Just a little edit:

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Pondering Star Trek novels

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the 1980s when The Next Generation was on TV. I have watched every Star Trek series and movie (although I did miss some of the last couple seasons of DS9, which I have on DVD).  However, I have never read a Star Trek novel.

I often wonder how good they are.  I prefer to read books that don’t tamper with canon.  But I’ve read that the first TNG novel was written before the first episode even showed on TV, and that the author was given a description of the characters to base her book on.  Not exactly giving me much confidence in that book.  But I’m very curious about Star Trek novels. Eventually, I’d like to read a large number of them.

So, my question to you is: Do you have any suggestions about which Star Trek novels would be the best place to start?

And just a reminder to answer my other book question.  Please vote on my sequel poll!

Introducing my world with short stories

My world has been in development for years, yet I haven’t completed any stories for it.  Well, now is the time to change it all.  I am ready.  I have a story, I have the characters, and it’s all been in my head for 12 years.  And what will it be?  A short story.

While writing a novel is my goal, I think it’s best to start small.  I plan to write a series of short stories based in my created world, and the first one I am writing will set up the entire premise of the my universe.  It will give a beginning to the story, and it doesn’t require a novel.  It will be a short story, or possibly a novella.  I will introduce you to my world and the characters that live in it.  It hasn’t had an official name, but I have one in mind.  You see, this world is a planet orbiting a real star, one that is similar to our sun and has been a target for a search for exoplanets.  None have been discovered so far, but that doesn’t stop me from writing science fiction about it.  That’s what’s wonderful about speculative fiction.

I’m getting my creative juices going now. I’ll be writing whenever I can.  I hope you’ll enjoy the final product!

Poll: the Sequel

Maybe this is a bit early, but I’m making another “what should I read?” poll.  This time, all of the books are sequels.  I need to read some sequels.  It’ll be a mix of fantasy and science fiction, and I’ll read them in order of popularity from this poll.  So, please vote!

Blog updates

I’m doing a little tweaking here and there on this blog this weekend, so don’t be surprised if you see something new or a completely different look.

I’ve already added a review listing page, which you can go to from the menu above.  I have listed most of the books that I own according to author’s name, though I will add a couple more ways of listing the reviews.  I’ll also be reviewing a limited number of TV series and movies, mainly science fiction.

I’m getting a bit tired of the design of this blog, so I’ll be changing the theme this weekend.  I want some more colour and an additional side bar.  In the future, I’ll be adding more menu options at the top to list some of the series/themes I write about.

Hope you enjoy the new design once I change it.

Book Review – Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card is the first of several novels that follow the life of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. The war with the Buggers has been going on for decades, and while Earth had defeated their massive fleets in the past, Earth needs a commander who can lead them to victory once and for all.  They do this by selecting genetically engineered children for battle school, and they have to endure intense training to become the best soldiers possible.  This book follows Ender’s training.

The above premise is quite simple, but there are facets to this story that were somewhat unexpected, making it much deeper than I’d thought.  It’s a very quick read, and at the pace I read books, this was the fastest book I’d read all year.  It is very easy to read, as it is very direct and to the point, with brief descriptions and quick action.  It’s not particularly detailed in the narrative, but the dialogue drives much of this book.  We hear Ender’s thoughts and everything he says.  Although it spans several years, the book is only 324 pages.

There are several central characters, including Ender, his older brother Peter, older sister Valentine, the head of the battle school Colonel Graff, and several other students of the battle school, particularly Alai, Bean, Petra, Bonzo, and Bernard.  Ender starts off as a 6 year old boy, and his character is compassionate, intelligent, and sometimes lacking in confidence.  He’s a mix of Peter’s aggression and Valentine’s pacifism.  Although much of the story involves Ender and the people at battle school, Peter and Valentine do play an important part in this story back on Earth.  I particularly like the characters of Alai and Petra, as they have a lot of integrity and are good kids.  Sometimes Ender’s attitude bothered me, so I couldn’t completely empathise with him.  Although I was rooting for him, he often seemed to do some things too perfectly.  Colonel Graff was an infuriating character.  He was supportive, yet too harsh.

The story took place almost exclusively on the battle school space station, though occasionally back on Earth.  The setting wasn’t described in detail, but I could imagine it well enough.

The plot seemed straightforward in the beginning.  For much of the book, I could read without many surprises.  However, it was quite interesting.  The battle tactics were very detailed and the psychology of living in a space station and using zero gravity were quite good.  I enjoyed reading when they were getting used to the battle room’s zero gravity.  Later in the story, things started becoming more intense and the motivations were more mysterious.  It had me guessing what was going to happen.  By the end, I was very surprised.  It was a very good ending that provides many possibilities for further books, which of course there were several.

I had a hard time thinking about how to rate this book.  I wasn’t feeling the story as much as I would have liked.  I couldn’t identify with the characters as much as I wanted.  It was almost excellent.  However, it was very, very good and an easy book to read.

4.5/5 stars.  It’s too good for a 4, but didn’t impress me enough for a 5.  But it’s very highly recommended.

Learning English? Remember this!

As an English teacher in Japan, I’ve heard many mistakes by students studying English.  The mistakes vary from the simplest, most mundane to the hilarious.  Japanese grammar is the opposite of English grammar.  It’s actually similar to the way Yoda speaks, leaving the verb at the end of the sentence.  So, it can be a challenge to adjust to a completely different set of grammar rules.

I understand that English can be a challenge to native English speakers, as well.  I’ve heard many people in Canada who don’t seem to have a very good grasp of their first language, and with the popularity of the Internet and text messaging on cell phones, there’s been a reduction in linguistic ability lately.  Native speakers have trouble with “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”  Also, “to” and “too” give people difficulties.  And then there are those who use “could of” instead of “could have.”  But I want to talk about some of the common mistakes that Japanese speakers have while learning English.

Articles

The most insidious class of words in the English language are the articles.  Japanese people usually don’t know how to use “a/an” or “the.” My usual advice is when introducing something, use “a.” When you mention it again, as a main topic, use “the.”  That may be a very simple way to think about it, but it often does work.  But these are very simple words, and they don’t result in misunderstandings, usually.  Although misusing them can have some unintended results.  What could possibly happen?  This is what I’ve heard.

“I ate a chicken for dinner.”

“You ate a whole chicken?”

So, be careful, English learners, you may unintentionally eat an entire animal for dinner!

Most/almost

This pair of words confuses so many students, it seems almost everyone gets it wrong.  When they want to use “most,” they almost always use “almost.”  For example,

“Almost Japanese eat rice everyday.”

“Who?  Are you telling me that people who are trying to be completely Japanese, but not quite making it, eat rice everyday?  What about full Japanese people?  Do they eat rice everyday?”

“????”

“At least these not quite 100% Japanese people like rice.”

When dealing with numbers of people and things, and it’s not quite 100%, please use “most.” If you want to talk about something that is not quite finished, or it’s not quite at a certain time, use “almost.”

Naive/Sensitive

Japanese people confuse these words, as well.  They don’t seem to realise that “naive” doesn’t mean sensitive.  Once it’s explained to them that “naive” has a more negative meaning, similar to being stupid due to lack of experience or ignorance, they get that they’re using it wrong.

Mansion

“I live in a mansion.”

“Wow!  You must be rich!”

“No, it’s very small.  Only a 2 room mansion.”

The Japanese use the word “mansion” when they’re talking about a modern concrete and steel apartment building.  It does not mean they are rich or live in a large house.  The English “mansion” is a large house, of course.

Embarrassed/ashamed

“I saw so many girls in swimsuits at the beach.  I’m so ashamed.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain that these two words have different meanings, yet they both translate as “hazukashii” in Japanese.  The connotations are totally different.  “Ashamed” is much more negative, as if they have made a big mistake that they feel sorry for. The results may have unintended consequences for others.  “Embarrassed” is nothing to be so worried about, as it’s just an uncomfortable situation.  Other people are not affected.

Too/very

Japanese people often use “too” when they really should be using “very.”

“That game was too fun!”

“It should be less fun then?”

“No, I enjoyed it too much!”

“Well, maybe we’ll make it more boring next time.”

“No, I don’t want it to be boring.  I want it too fun!”

I could keep going and going.  My point is, “too” should only be used if the following adjective (or adverb) is affecting you negatively.  Otherwise, if you just want it to be strong, use “very.”

Adjectives ending with -ed and -ing

Once again, students, ending an adjective with -ed describes your feeling.  Ending it with -ing describes things.  Take “boring” and “bored” for example.

“I am so boring.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you think you’re boring.  Why don’t you try to be a more interesting person?”

“No, there’s nothing to do.  I’m so boring!”

They don’t seem to realise that they’re insulting themselves.

“That game is bored.”

“Then give it a new player if you think you make it bored.”

See/watch/look at

“I watched an amazing painting yesterday.”

“That sounds boring.  Paintings don’t do anything.”

“????”

All three of these words have the same word in Japanese.  It is difficult to distinguish them for a Japanese speaker, unless they learn how to use them properly.  “See” is quite general, you don’t really concentrate on anything specific.  “Watch” is used when you concentrate on something that moves or changes over time. You’re observing its behaviour. “Look at” is similar, but you’re concentrating on the appearance of that object.

It’s similar for “listen” and “hear,” which use the same word in Japanese. “Listen” is when you concentrate on the sound, while “hear” is general, and you don’t pay attention.

Blue/green

Japanese has different words for “blue” and “green,” but there is a case when “blue” is used for something that is actually “green.”

“When the light turns blue, then you can go.”

“Okay, now it’s green.  When will it turn blue?”

“Now!  It’s blue!”

“No, it’s green.”

Yeah, traffic lights are apparently blue in Japan.  Last I checked, they appeared green to me.

Black eyes

“Can you describe him to me?”

“He has black hair and black eyes.”

“What?! He got into a fight?!”

“A fight?  No, he didn’t.”

When you ask a Japanese person what colour their eyes are, they will likely answer “black.”  Of course, if you look at their eyes, they’re really dark brown.  But many Japanese people say they have black eyes.  It should be brown or dark eyes, not black.  It’s only black if you have a bruise around your eye.

Winnie the Pooh

“What’s your favourite character?”

“I like poo!”

“What??”

Japanese people tend to refer to Winnie the Pooh as “Pooh.”  I don’t think they should say that to an English speaker.  It’s a totally different and unintended meaning!  Unless they mean Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, of course.

Local

“What kind of place is your hometown?”

“It’s very local.”

“Oh, really?  How long does it take to get there from here?”

“6 hours by car.”

“?????”

Japanese people seem to think that “local” means a small or countryside location.  It really means that it’s nearby.  I have to explain this to so many people, including high level students.

Curly hair

“What does your friend look like?”

“She has a long afro.”

“That’s an odd hairstyle for a Japanese woman.”

I hope that they will understand that an afro is very tight curls that you find in African hair. Curly hair does not mean afro!  I’ve heard of loose curls being referred to as an afro in Japan.

Handle

“When you’re ready to go left, turn the handle.”

“You want me to open the car door while driving?”

“What?  No!”

This is quite simple.  In Japan, the steering wheel is called the handle.

Six

I will finish off with this big mistake.  This always happens with kids classes, when they’re learning to spell and do phonics.  In one lesson, they have to spell the word “six” based on the CD.  Half of the time, they write “sex.”  And I’m pretty sure most of them know what it means, because they snicker when I ask them about it.

Well, that is all for now.  If you’re a native English speaker, I hope you enjoyed this.  If you’re Japanese and learning English, I hope you learned something new.

 

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.