Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hello Again & Reading Aloud to Each Other

I apologize for leaving off on the blog for so long. I took a much longer blog break than I had intended!

The book is still coming along. It was going very slowly there for a while, at the rate of a chapter a month. I have since picked up the pace, and now I am writing chapter 19. I have approximately 30 chapters planned in my outline, although that may change with my revisions. The first draft is clicking along again, however, and I'm mighty happy about that.

I also wanted to share something that my husband and I do together that is very special. We read aloud to each other. We've read several books this way, mostly when we're tooling about in the car, with him driving and myself reading. I don't have the greatest reading voice in the world, but it is a great way for us to read a story at the same time and discuss it. In fact, very often we'll stop in the middle of some dialog and discuss/debate/argue about it for a few minutes ... or for miles and miles if we're on our way to Florida. It's a great bonding experience and a good way to while away the time when you are stuck somewhere.

It's easy to feel self-conscious at first if you aren't used to it. But if you pick the right book, soon you will be lost in the story and find yourself reading aloud better than you ever thought you would.

We read the entire Harry Potter series this way. I made a serious attempt to do all the accents, but I just couldn't keep it up for those ten hour drives to Orlando, so eventually I stuck with my own Tennessee twang. I did have fun with the HEM-HEM's with Dolores Umbridge, though.

Some books read aloud better than others. This does not reflect the quality of the book overall; it is just one aspect of the book. For example, I love love love Dragonriders of Pern, but I have a very difficult time reading it aloud. For one thing, I guess I'm not enough of a Pernese fan that I know how to pronounce all the names. Also, the narrative is very flowery, and my delivery is just not suited for that high of a writing style. However, the more conversational tone of "The Hobbit" makes it a very fun book to read aloud.

I got the idea from one of my co-workers at my previous employer. She said that her husband and two kids would get together once a week and take turns reading a chapter or so out loud, and they really enjoyed the time together. It also builds public speaking skills. Even though you are reading someone else's words, it helps you put together your delivery and trains you to project your voice. I would expect to stumble a bit if you are reading it cold. I do; I'm not creating an audiobook. I haven't studied a script. Most of the time, I am reading the words for the first time. I do spend some time re-reading a little dialog because my tongue got tangled!

Other books that we've read that were fun:

By John Scalzi, the "Old Man's War" series, the first 3 books, "Old Man's War", "Ghost Brigades", and "The Lost Colony".

Mr. Scalzi has a style that flows across the tongue. The dialog is a lot of fun, and in this case it was easy for me to change my voice for each character. John Perry, the main character and the narrator of the first story, is a real hoot to read. There were times that I had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard that I was crying and could no longer see the page. It's not as ha-ha absurdly funny as Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, but it does have some very funny bits that made me stop for a breathing break. If you like space marine stories (my favorite!!!!!), I highly recommend this series.

In fact, with his style, you could read just about anything out loud by Scalzi and be happy with it. Some stories may not be suitable for the very youngest of readers. If you are reading with your kids, I suggest reviewing any book first if you have concerns about content.

I haven't read any Adams or Pratchett out loud, but I believe they would do quite nicely. I loved the radio dramatization of "Hitchiker's Guide". As kids, we listened to it over and over!

We just finished "Enemies & Allies" by Kevin J. Anderson, one of my favorite authors. Just about anything by Anderson will read aloud well, as he has a very smooth style that lends itself to the voice. This particular book is a book about Batman and Superman in the fifties and how they first met. It's a fun story. If you are a comic book fan and enjoy the World's Finest comic series, you will like this book, as it is written with a comic book aestethic in mind. I love reading Perry White's dialog, although it's possible I try to make him sound a bit much like Jolly Jonah Jameson.

Again, "The Hobbit" is a priceless read-aloud. Don't worry about the accents if they are difficult. Just enjoy the story.

Up next for us is the "Anne of Green Gables" series. I haven't read the books yet, but I have watched the series. I am really looking forward to reading in Marilla's voice. Colleen Dewhurst was seven shades of awesome in the show as that character.

Well, time to go. Until next time -- and I hope it isn't long -- take care of yourself! READ! And be excellent to each other, as the Great Ones would say.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Astrobiology & "Whom Do I Send?"

I did not realize until today that I had neglected my blog for so long! For that, I apologize. I have some catching up to do.

My husband has published his first book, "Legacy of Dragons: Emergence". It is the first book in a planned series, "Legacy of Magic". We are very excited about its emergence into the world! Please take a look at his blog and see if it tickles your fancy: T.D. Raufson - Legacy of Magic

Astrobiology Class - For the past five weeks, I've been a student of the Coursera course "Introduction to Astrobiology". This is the last week, and I'm sad that it is over now. It was taught by Professor Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh. I have truly enjoyed this general introduction to astrobiology. The Professor and his team created some wonderful video lectures. I actually looked forward to Mondays, for once! I truly hope that there is an Advanced course offered later.

Astrobiology is a fusion of many disciplines (including biology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy). It involves the study of life. This includes life in our own backyard as well as "life out there", as our own local biology can give us at least a base to start from. The lectures were never above my head, although he did throw out a detail or two that I needed to look up on my own. Of course, having a few things to search for on one's own is never a bad thing. The class gave me a better understanding of some of the topics presented on, especially the bits about the Curiosity mission and the search for exoplanets.

In this last week, we discussed some of the social implications of first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. One point of discussion was, who would best represent Earth if we did meet somebody? If the aliens requested a delegation from Earth, whom would we choose?

I think it's an excellent question. Even if we never get the chance to make such a choice, I think it's an interesting thought experiment. I sat down and thought about it for a while.

The question was, would we send scientists? Diplomats? My opinion is, we would need a group with a variety of technical talents. However, I think the personal qualities of a representative are far more important than their technical skills. Are they adaptable? Are they used to working under extreme pressure? Do they represent a wide variety of viewpoints? Do they respect forms of life other than human? In light of these qualities, I would probably select... the Dalai Lama.

Here are my reasons: he loves and respects all people. In fact, he often speaks of "sentient beings" in general rather than just "humans", so I think he would be open to speaking with other species on an equal level. I think he would meet them with equanamity and calm. He's been trained as a leader and a speaker/debater since his childhood. He has traveled the world over and is familiar with many parts of it and many of the people in it. He may be sheltered somewhat from the average life, but I think he would have a good idea of what he was representing. The Chinese government would not approve, but you can't please everybody. I think he would still happily represent the Earth, China included. I also think he is capable of working on a global level, not just for his own nation.

Of course, I wouldn't send him alone. He would be one of two leaders. He would be my olive branch. The other would be my "big stick". I would want someone with military experience. Not a warmonger, though. Not someone whose first instinct is to go to war. I want someone who will act and speak with wisdom and determination but will also give the impression that we are not doormats. I would send someone like Colin Powell. He's been a general AND a diplomat. I think he would prefer peace, but I think he would work to defend us well if that became necessary. If the aliens are pacificsts anyway, well, no worries. If they aren't, it's possible they will have respect for a big stick, even if it isn't used. Say, if they were more like Klingons than Vulcans, they might be more willing to treat us as equals if we had a seasoned general on the team than if we didn't.

I'd have some scientists, along, of course, but ones with people skills, those used to dealing with the public. Dr. Pamela Gay is an astronomer. She hosts with Fraser Cain. I love that show! She really knows her science, and she communicates well. She is friendly, has a good sense of humor, and is well-traveled. And yes, she is a woman. I think a diversity in ability, gender, nationality, and race is important to demonstrate who we are as a planet (as long as other requirements are met).

If Carl Sagan were still among the living, I would include him for sure. I am certain there are others around the world in SETI that would be a good part of the team.

I'm sure there are others in the world that are qualified to go, but they simply aren't in my "mental address book", as it were. We have a rich, full world, with many nations of both the wise and the foolish. Do you know of any scientists/diplomats/artists/linguists/other people that are not in the mainstream English-speaking sphere that might be a good representative of a good chunk of people on this planet? Whom would YOU send?