Archive for category Non-writing

State of the Writer: October 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.

I’m starting with those words only because I promised, at the beginning of the year, that I would start every State of the Writer post this year with those words, to remind me that was my goal for the year. At this point it’s now the second of October, and we’re not even to beta readers, so I can say it will not happen. Does that make me regret the goal? Not in the least. It’s been a fire under my ass all year to keep working on the novel. But…life gets in the way sometimes.

I didn’t write this blog post yesterday. I had the Add New Post page open, ready to go, but I didn’t write it. Because I knew what it would say. That’s cheating. The entire reason I started these monthly posts back in February 2011 was to not only trumpet my accomplishments, but to keep myself honest as a writer. During September of 2012 my only writerly activity was to accept the edits on my story for the upcoming Old Weird South anthology. For which I was immediately paid, making this simultaneous one of my least and most productive months ever as a writer, depending on the criterion you want to use.

Writing with a baby has proven to be difficult. It’s hard to write when you’re not getting as much sleep (though I’m getting less not sleep than my wife, who is busy being the awesomest mom ever, sorry my mom). I was going to kick back into writing yesterday, but we had an opportunity for a date night with my wife to have sushi and go see a movie. When you’ve got a baby, those are the nights you cannot pass up, no matter how much you want to get back into writing. We saw Looper, and last night is one of the few nights I don’t regret not writing in the last month. Tonight, it’s back to the grind. My goals at first are going to be modest. 500 words of writing or 30 minutes of editing. Every week night. Morning writing has ended for now, it may return with the new year as I learn what my new morning schedule is. It may not if the new schedule will not accommodate it. If it doesn’t, I will find another 15 minute chunk of time daily that is exclusively for first drafting. One of my first goals will be prepping Vampires of Mars for circulation among some pro-rate markets. I hope to have it out to the first stop (wherever that ends up being) by the end of the week.

I have the best possible excuse in the world for not writing, not just a baby, but a fantastic baby. Going forward, I will likely refer to her as Little Bird in this blog and on Twitter, following the habits of Tee Morris, Chuck Wendig, and others of not referring to their children by name online. It’s ultimately up to her to craft an identity connect with her name on the internet, which she won’t be doing for a good long while (more on that later in the week, likely). I’d been planning to give her an online nickname for awhile. Little Bird is one my wife started using, and I rather liked.

State of the Authors Beer: Hoping to bottle π Stout this weekend, especially since I promised some bottles to coworkers yesterday.

State of the Authors Bees: It’s been a rough summer for nectar in Northern Virginia, not just for my bees but across the region. That’s probably why my one hive was robbed. To prepare the bees for winter, we are feeding them 2-to-1 sugar syrup so we’ll hopefully not lose both hives our first year.

October also features Capclave, which I’m still determining how I’ll approach, and Flashathon, which I’m doing a poor job talking about.

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National Days

Today, as I write this blog post, it is September 25th. According to…I don’t know who, just people who are asserting it on the internet, today is National Comic Book Day. Which is odd, because I would think that Free Comic Book day would be a better choice for that, but the internet claims otherwise. And who am I to argue with the internet? I don’t read many comic books. Watchmen (but not the Before stuff), Locke and Key, Fall of Cthulhu, maybe the occasional one-shot with a premise that interests me. But I fully support comic books, and comic book days, and recognizing that comic books are awesome. In part because I love comic book movies, and without the books, the movies wouldn’t come out.

So there’s that. But there’s something more important being honored today. No, not National One-Hit Wonder Day. Today is National Voter Registration Day, and unlike National Comic Book Day, this actually has a website. And this is absolutely and critically important. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican thing, this is an American thing. There is a presidential election approaching, thirty-three senatorial elections, and four hundred thirty-five house of representatives elections happening this year. No matter where you are, if you are over 18 you get to participate in at least two of those, and likely all three. Not to mention down ticket races and local issues that will be part of that November 6th ballot.

But only if you are registered to vote.

Voting registration deadlines are rapidly approaching. The earliest deadlines are next Saturday, October 6th. By the 10th it will be too late to register in 21 states. The full list of registration deadlines can be found here.

That’s my little call for civic awesomeness, go register, then remember to go out and vote. I’m not going to say who for. Educate yourself, come to your own decisions, search your feelings, you know it’s true. Wait, wrong cliche. But this is my further call for a little synergy.

Today is not Free Comic Book Day. That happens next on May 4th (see, more Star Wars). However, if today is going to be both National Comic Book Day and National Voter Registration Day, why not Free Comic Book For Registered Voters Day? Alright, yeah, that’s clearly unfair to kids under 18. Know what? In this instance, I don’t care. It could also be argued that we shouldn’t have to bribe people into registering to vote, and questions could come up about whether apolitical people might register just for the comic book. To the former, I agree. To the latter…if it pushed anyone to voting who might not before, I think that’s a net positive to the nation.

So register.

If you’re registered, go find someone else who isn’t, and get them to register.

And if all your friends are registered…go enjoy some comic books. Job well done.


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Those Who Don’t Study History…

…are doomed to repeat it. At least, such is the classic trope. We are warned to remember the mistakes of the past so we do not make them again in the future. Which is all well and good when it comes to a broad societal level. However, as a writer recently caught up in relearning world history, may I instead say that those who study history are blessed to repeat it.

My education into world history (which currently involves the 180-someodd part The History of Rome podcast and the University of Houston Youtube course on the Crusades) has taught me things I didn’t know, reminded me of things I’d forgotten, and filled me in on details of events I thought I understood. Above all else, it’s given me story concepts. These largely fall into two broad categories, but I’m certain others will arrive.

Prester John as included on 1588 Portuguese map of Africa.

Reliving history. I first learned about Prester John during the Crash Course World History episode on 15th Century maritime exploration. For those not aware of the story, he is a mythic Christian king cut off from Christendom (by which people typically meant European Catholicism) but still keeping the faith. One day he would rejoin with the devout and help kick the asses of any non-believers in the way. At times his kingdom was meant to be in India, at times in Africa, always just beyond where Europeans were comfortable with the geography. At one point in history, Prester John even rose up and led his armies out of the far east to tackle the nascent Muslim threat spreading through the Arab world and knocking on Europe’s door.

Only…yeah, it wasn’t so much Prester John as it was Genghis Khan. Easy mistake to make, I’m sure.

Prester John shows up, or rather fails to show up, for several centuries, especially during the Crusades. The story naturally brings to mind a plotline I came across both in Earthman, Go Home and Delusion World in my Ace Double readings. It’s the story of humanity spreading so quickly among the stars that planets get lost or forgotten in the process. Take this trope, sprinkle in some Prester John, and now there’s a space opera spinning around in my head.

Rewriting history. Anyone who is looking to write alternate history must first be comfortable with the real history. Largely because not everything will change. But this isn’t even about that aspect of alternate history. This is learning about points in history that I now want to change. Especially in connection with the Nickajack world, asking questions about what is different about this earth not just in the 1860s, but in the 1760s or even 1060s. Yeah…maybe I’m thinking about writing a Steampunk story set during the Crusades. I’m still trying to figure out what the story even is there, but you can bet Baldwin of Boulogne, aka Baldwin I will show up.

So get out there, learn a little history. The stories of the past are fantastic fodder for genre fiction, and are sometimes just fun to learn.


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One Week of Fatherhood

Two thoughts after one week.

Thought the first: Baby has a lot of hiccups. This is apparently very common among babies, and not a problem unless the hiccups bring up stomach contents, at which point it’s a baby version of the condition I suffered through a few years back. In researching this, however, I came across a discussion of baby hiccups, and what doesn’t work to cure them. Long and short, like human hiccups there are few known causes or cures, but plenty of folk remedies. Here were the “cures” that the site specifically pointed out don’t work:

Don’t try to cure hiccups by startling your baby, pressing on her eyeballs, pushing on her fontanel, or pulling her tongue, which are common folk remedies in some cultures.

The fontanel, for those keeping score at home, is also known as the soft spot, a place where the skull hasn’t yet fully fused. I was surprised that some parents may need to be told, hey, maybe don’t poke the soft spot.

Thought the second: Today is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It’s impossible not to look at things in terms of my now one week old daughter.  She was born not just after the attacks, but after the 10th anniversary of the attacks. This is an event that so defined lives of multiple generations that will only ever be a history lesson for her. I was trying to put that in some personal perspective, so I checked out the year-in-history pages on Wikipedia for 11 years before both my wife and I were born.

For my wife, the 11 years ago event was Apollo 13. For myself, it was the assassinations of RFK and MLK Jr. It’s stunning to think that she will be as removed from 9/11 as we are from those events. The world keeps going, and the present very quickly becomes the past.

This blog will probably return to normal next week.

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Robber Barons

“What the hell?”

We’ve had bees for a summer now, so I’m used to seeing them in the yard. Even a lot of them in the yard. End of the night when they’re all coming home. After their hives were toppled by a branch during the derecho. This was different. The sun was setting, right at a perfect angle to illuminate the entire yard with nearly sideways beams of light, catching each bee and turning them into golden streaks. So many golden streaks. They filled the back like a galaxy.

Something was very wrong.

The right hive, the domain of Queen Victoria, had two full bee beards, one around the entrance, and one clinging to the out cover. Bees would occasionally drop off, straight to the ground. We thought at first they may be swarming, dissatisfied with the hive, the amount of space they had, the queen herself, there’s any number of reasons why a hive of bees will split and become two, an odd reproduction. Mitosis on a massive scale. Suited up, we examined a few clumps of bees, carefully looking for the old queen ready to take her faithful retinue off to form a new colony, leaving her successor behind.

The bees weren’t swarming. They were fighting. Each little battle was one-on-one combat as bee grappled with bee. The whole of the hive was at war, and there was only one reason for that sort of whole scale combat. The hive was under attack.

Bees will rob bees. If one hive comes across another and perceives weakness, decides that it’s easier to fight off other bees than to collect their own pollen and nectar, then the process will begin. We’d taken every listed precaution against the possibility. Wire screens across entrances which made it harder to fly in and right back out with honey. Keeping the bees fed so they’ll be healthy. Sometimes it still happens. We opened up the hive, and it was heartbreaking. Frame after frame of drawn out comb, all completely empty. By the time the robbing started, by the time we saw bees flying everywhere and fighting it out, it was already too late for anyone to do anything. Us, the hive, it was all over.

Soon we’ll have one hive. The robbed hive won’t make it through the winter, there’s no way it can store enough honey and pollen between now and then. The process is easy enough. Lay down a sheet of newspaper across the top of the healthy hive, cut a tiny slit so pheromones can pass back and forth, then stack on the supers of the robbed hive. Give it a week, and the bees will acclimate to each other, chew through the paper, and two hives will be one.

The only problem is Queen Victoria. A hive can only have one queen. She either has to be segregated with a few workers, or disposed of. I was glib about regicide while learning about beekeeping, but we’ve hit the first time where that’s an option. It feels silly actually giving a damn about an insect. Not bees in general, not our hives, but one specific bee who we’ve seen perhaps three times total.

So who robbed the hive? It’s impossible to know. I actually hope it was our other hive. First because it means they now have all the resources of both hives, and that’s not lost honey and pollen. Second because the alternative is an aggressor robbing hive somewhere in a three-mile radius of our house that could come back for our other hive. It’ll be bad enough losing one, losing both would be a real blow to our beekeeping spirits.

We always prepared ourselves to lose a hive, perhaps even both. Beekeeping isn’t easy, and even our mentors who have been in the hobby for years don’t have a 100% success rate on their hives. But it was a little brutal to actually witness, if not the actual death of the hive, at least the fatal blow being struck. Hopefully the combined hive will be healthy enough to overwinter, and come spring we’ll have all the wood ware to start a second hive, whether swarmed off the surviving hive or a newly created package or nuc.

This may put a serious delay in my dreams of fully homemade mead, however.

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History and Historiography

I’ve talked about my recent obsession with world history a few times over the last month. I’ve wrapped up the Columbia University world history to 1500CE course on YouTube, I’ve worked my way through The Great Courses offering “Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations” ($10 sale price, bought before I realized how much learning there is for free), and even as I type this I’m listening to an episode of BBC’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” I’ve recently added five podcasts to my iPod, in almost their entirety:

  • The History of Rome
  • In Our Time Archive: History
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
  • Norman Centuries
  • 12 Byzantine Rulers

In total this represents probably a week’s worth of history. Oh, not the amount of history I could listen to in a week, not a week of commutes or a 40-hour workweek. A solid non-stop week of history, in the range of 150-170 hours. It’s about learning things that I never knew before, but through it all I realize that it’s not so much history that has fascinated me. It’s historiography.

I was aware that historiography was a thing, the word laid somewhere in my brain thanks to course catalogs back in college, but it came back up while listening to the Columbia University course linked above. Taught by Dr. Richard Bulliet, one of the authors of the textbook being used in the class, it was equal parts world history and explanation of the choices made when created the text, and that fascinated me. Then the word surfaced, and I went to make sure I understood its meaning. Simplified, it’s the history of history. It’s all the questions about how we approach history, how we teach it, how we understand it.

In the first episode of the 100 Objects BBC series, presenter Neil MacGregor made it clear that the title of the show is “A History of the World” not “The History of the World.”  The latter would likely require more time than it took to make the history to begin with. Really, the notion that what I learned in school was only a world history is what brought me on this path. I learned a history of the world called Western Civilization, which generally goes Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Dark Ages, Renaissance, Columbus then sort of peters out because the semester ends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this world history, just incomplete. Yes, it’s a little provincial, but it tells a story. Something that Dr. Bulliet makes clear is difficult to craft when it comes to a more broad-based world history. In the end even his history, or the broader history of Crash Course, leaves out some core elements. Japan and the Vikings become rumors. Native groups outside Africa, Asia, and Europe only show up when contacted.

There’s a lot of world history.

History is, at its heart, a story. A narrative. Historiography asks how do we craft that narrative? Do we track Western thought through its origins through to its exportation to the New World? Do we talk about a series of great men as they mold and shape their world? Do we approach history as a clash of civilizations? I’ve taken a break from my series about world building the earth, but if we are to look at our planet as a story setting, and approach questions of “why are things they way they are?” as a world building question, then historiography is how we decide on our plot, and look at how other people have approached their plots.

And that might be where my fascination lies.

History is such a broad narrative that there are endless right answers on how to approach it. And endless wrong answers. Each of the right answers has its weaknesses, but each provides a different angle that can fill in the gaps. As a crafter of stories, it’s fascinating to see how many approaches there are to stories I once thought set in stone. Or how many other stories were going on at the same time.  Or how stories I thought unrelated to each other share some characters I’d never noticed. It turns history from a single narrative into this weird shared-universe anthology, only with considerably more disagreement between authors about the underlying canon.

Of course, the easiest way to explore historiography is exposure to multiple histories. So I continue on. Back and forth, looking at broad themes and tight focuses. What can I say? It’s actually kinda fun.

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An Open Letter

Dear NBC,

I know I’ve been doing a lot of complaining about your Olympic coverage on Twitter, so I wanted to take the opportunity to take a deep breath and compose my thoughts in a longer than 140 character chunk, and while I’m not being actively disappointed in your coverage. Oh yes, I am disappointed, do not question that. But that’s me getting ahead of myself.

I’d like to start by saying I understand the time shifting of events to prime time. I’ll go one further and say I even appreciate it. I am unable to watch streaming event videos during the day, the only events I get to see live fall in those few minutes between when I get up in the morning and when I go to work, and those last few events of the day still on when I get home. Last night, for example, the only event I could really see live was the USA/Canada women’s soccer match, and even then I turned in late in the second period of AET. This morning I got to see a little bit of the triathlon and two heats of track running.

I love the Olympics, and I would be sad if these were the only events I could watch. And so I watch the prime time coverage to catch up on the day. I’ll even try my damnedest to go into the events unspoiled as to their outcomes. So, yes, please provide time shifted events during prime time. But please…stop being so bad at it.

The current model of the Olympics prime time broadcast has hardly changed from the Olympics I remember watching as a kid, which is a shame because so much about the rest of the world has. I appreciate that you now offer so much more coverage than just the prime time digest, I believe you when you say broadcast more hours of coverage the first weekend of the London Games than during the entirety of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But then I see little facts that disturb me. Like how the only two countries that didn’t show the final of the men’s 100m dash on live television were the United States and North Korea. I understand it’s one of the most anticipated events in the whole of the Olympics, but that’s not an excuse to sit on the coverage until the 10pm hour of the prime time broadcast. Especially when every sports, and most non-sports, news sites have the result of the race plastered on their front pages seconds after the race is over.

Oh yes, the spoilers. You don’t seem to understand that these other news organizations are downright giddy to spoil results of events you’re embargoing until prime time. And they should be, because you’re giving them such a fantastic opportunity to scoop your own coverage, and because they’re news organizations, and these results are news. I expect spoilers from them…I don’t expect them from you.

I’ve had to train myself to go directly to the TV Schedule page if I want to see what’s on when I get home, because inevitably the front page of NBCOlympics has the results of the big events you’re planning to show that night. It’s possible to provide these results online without making it so clear that you don’t care about those viewers, like me, who would like to go into the evening at least a little ignorant of what we’re about to see. We’ve also seen two examples during the games of Today Show promos running during the prime time broadcast that spoil the results of events that have yet to air in prime time. Most egregiously promising Missy Franklin’s thoughts on winning her first gold medal three minutes before she won it.

Like I said, I understand time shifting. I rely on time shifting. But why do you insist on being so bad at it? Airing the 100m final live when it happened on one of your coverage networks would not have affected my tuning in during prime time.

Oh, and one last thing about the evening broadcasts. We’re tuning in to watch sports. I understand the occasional athlete profile, but the cultural segments where we’re treated to a ten minute retrospective of James Bond (followed, surprise surprise, by a Skyfall trailer) or instructed on the history of Longitude are point in time when you are not actually broadcasting sports. I know those segments have been your stock and trade during Olympic coverage for years, especially when they let you look down your noses at how other countries live, but they are only subtractive. Teaching us about Longitude or 007 can come back just as soon as the Olympics include events in trans-oceanic sailing, or Being James Bond (which I see as some variation on the Modern Pentathlon that would involve Walther PPK marksmanship, evasive driving, and perhaps jetpack races).

I’m not even going to get into the lengthy coverage provided to the 1996 women’s gymnastics all-around final.

I hope you’ve seen the criticism of your handling of these games, and will actually consider some changes for Sochi, Rio, Pyeongchang, and wherever the 2020 games happen. Because you already own broadcast rights to those games, so we American viewers are stuck with you at least through then. Unfortunately, I don’t know what your incentive is. You’ve paid to broadcast games that don’t even have a site yet, so there’s no risk of losing the rights anytime soon. And the prime time broadcast creates a nasty feedback loop. You get great ratings broadcasting the games the way you broadcast them, because what option do we have, so that serves as feedback that people must like them that way, so it’s more of the same every two years. The same events (skating in the winter, diving and gymnastics in the summer), the same format, the same everything.

You have gotten better. I remember Olympics when the prime time broadcast was nearly it. I remember Winter Olympics where you went to no coverage for hours on end to cover NASCAR instead. Using the NBCU family of cable networks was a huge step forward, and I appreciate that there are dedicated pop-up soccer and basketball channels during these games. You’re offering so many events streamed online. I love all of this. But the flagship of the Olympic broadcast is leaking badly, and needs repairs.

A loyal, disappointed viewer.

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State of the Writer: August 2012

SPQR, Baby

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. We’re on a similar pace as I mentioned this time last month, with a hope that we’ll be ready to step away and let alpha readers at the project by this time next month. Things are not going as quickly as they could, but that’s entirely because we’ve had other things on our mind, what with the baby now due in a little over four weeks. We’ve been working on both for roughly the same length of time, but one is going to be far more insistent on when it makes its debut to the world, so the shifting of priorities is unavoidable.

This morning I reached the end of Act Two in the novella I’ve been writing on the side, mostly during the mornings. I forgot to grab my morning writing total for the month before working on this blog post, but I know it’s lower than last month as I lost the first week of July to power outages and some vacation time. Still, July did see me push past 10,000 morning-written words, and tomorrow should see me cresting 15,000. I’ve averaged around 300 words a morning across all mornings, averaging in several zeroes, and closer to 350 on the mornings I’ve actually written. In the last few days I’ve also surmounted a block I discussed on Unleaded wherein I was only working in the morning. The evenings have seen me working on the novella, and even starting the outline of a new project of currently unknown length.

I am, if I am honest with myself, not being quite so productive a writer as I would like, nor nearly so slothful of a writer as I have at times been. The summer tends to do that to me.

State of the Author’s Beer. I should arrive home today to a shipment from Austin Homebrew featuring their oatmeal stout, which I will combine with Boysenberries to make the infamous Pi Stout. It’s irrationally good. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to set up the small television in the kitchen and brew while watching the Olympics.

State of the Author’s Bees. After the scare at the beginning of the month, the hives look happy and healthy. They’ve nearly stocked up enough honey for the winter, though a little more certainly wouldn’t hurt. We’re going to thoroughly inspect them this weekend, make sure everything is a hunky dory as it appears. If it is, each might get a new super.

State of the Author’s Education into World History. This isn’t quite enough for its own post, but I’m quite thrilled with the amount of online material I’ve found in my quest to learn a little more about World History. I’m currently working through Richard Bulliet’s Columbia course “History of the World to 1500 CE,” watching Crash Course World History as it updates, and listening to A History of the World in 100 Objects while commuting. In the wings I’ve got Open Yale’s “Early Middle Ages,” and University of Houston’s “The Vikings.” That should keep me going for quite some time. If I still want more, I’ve been looking at another Open Yale course on the American Revolution, and UHouston’s course on the Normans. Big help was finding this page, which compiles free online classes offered by several universities. Phew, that was a lot of links.

That’s me. I hope to finish the first draft of Ghosts of Venus this month, do some good outlining and get started on a project currently called “Untitled of the Fourth Planet,” and see Nickajack through to a point that it’s ready for alpha readers. That’s an ambitious month, but I think we can do it. This week or next I owe my next Ace Double review. Spoiler: it didn’t contain my favorite individual story, but it was probably my favorite combined double.

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Geek Dad-To-Be: T-minus One Month

…give or take. And with the date rapidly approaching, I’ve hit a rather major dilemma. The realization that I would likely be kicked out of the hospital if, while my wife is recovering, I start knocking on other doors in the maternity overnight stay part of the hospital and say “I’ve been sent from the future to stop your child.” Is it weird that having that actually happen has worked its way into my list of irrational soon-to-be-a-dad concerns? Yes, I know this anxiety both is and isn’t the plot of The Terminator, but I blame the Vlogbrothers and their Evil Baby Orphanage, a sanctuary set up deep in the Himalayas where babies who are going to grow up to be evil are sequestered and raised in a more loving environment. It nicely ties up both the nature and the nurture halves of the argument.

It also needs to be an anthology. I already have my story outlined in my head. Are you listening, Vlogbrothers?

My dad and I had lunch yesterday while my wife and mom were off at the baby shower. Discussion got onto child raising advice. We appear to be in the post-For-Dummies era when it comes to advice, as a generation that grew up self identifying as nerds and geeks suddenly discover they’re going to be parents. And so while we have the classic “What To Expect…” trilogy, I’ve taken to pouring over The Baby Owners Manual which takes the approach of child raising couched in the terminology of the owner’s manual. I’m reading other books while preparing, but it’s nice to have something to fall back on that reinforces the information, but has a little more fun with it.

I still have phases of disbelief and moments that reality overwhelms me all at once. I expect these may last for a few more months. Who knows, maybe a few more years. I have this odd fear that it’ll never feel entirely real.

And that’s one of my other anxieties, living right alongside the kidnappers-from-the-future one. In a way, it’s nice to have a silly anxiety to fall back on.

We’ve been through classes on what to do when my wife says “it’s time,” which will probably involve me panicking and making at least two wrong turns even though the drive to the hospital is a subset of my daily commute to work. We’ve toured the hospital, where I learned that the chair provided for the dads in the recovery room reclines “a little” which is to say you can slump down in it. We’ve had classes about what to do after we bring our newborn home, because for some reason they’re going to trust us with a newborn that they’ll just let us take home from the hospital what the fuck?

Though on the bright side, my mom did get us a bib very similar to this one. Because she’s my mom and she rocks. And she probably doesn’t work for the time traveling kidnappers.

I don’t think.

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Things I Know I Don’t Know

I went to a university with a wide spread of divisional requirements classes. These included a requirement for two courses of History, Philosophy, or Religion. I picked philosophy and religion.

In high school my social studies course senior year was AP US Government, junior year was AP US History (alternative option was Virginia Government and Virginia History).

All of this is to say that the last time I’ve taken any formal classes in world history was my sophomore year in high school, which ended just over 17 years ago (shut up, I know I’m young and/or old). That was World History II focusing on 1500 to the present. Tack on another year since I received any formal education in something that happened anywhere on the planet before the year 1500, and even that was the standard western civilization approach to history. Babylon, Egypt, Greece, then stay in Europe with maybe a day spent on “oh, yes, and there were things going on in Asia and Africa too, I guess.”

I’m trying to correct this. This is where you will come in.

This is all because I found Crash Course: World History on YouTube. As the name implies, it’s a rapid overview of the world from the Agricultural Revolution through, as of this writing, the Seven Years War. The end goal of the series is 40 episodes of 10 minutes each. 400 minutes of world history. It’s enjoyable as hell, but since it can only scratch the surface, it’s left me wanting more.

Thus far the more has been the BBC podcast series A History of the World in 100 Objects. It was a limited run podcast created in 2010, 100 episodes of 14 minutes each. 1400 minutes of world history. I also have waiting on my iPod an iTunes U course on the Early Middle Ages. 22 episodes with a focus on the years 400-1000, running about 50 minutes an episode. 1100 minutes of world history.

Add it all up, and that’s 2900 minutes. Just over two days if played end-to-end. Perhaps I’ll get to the end of it all and feel that my push for a better understanding of world history has been satiated, but right now I doubt that. So, as I do occasionally, I’m looking for recommendations. Largely, I’m looking for the kind of thing I can put on my iPod. So even though a picture says a thousand words…I’d probably prefer the words. Which makes things a little more complicated. World history isn’t something that people tend to podcast about. Most of the ones I found only ended up producing three or four episodes. Sampling my way through iTunes U has felt hit-and-miss in terms of listenability (hard to listen to a guy with a monotone voice recorded from the back of an echoy lecture hall while driving). YouTube suggestions are also welcome, this did start with a webshow afterall.

Oh, and I wouldn’t say I’m cheap, but I do have a baby on the way so shelling out for things like The Great Courses isn’t quite in the pocketbook, so free is an ideal price point.

Given all that, I put it to you, my readers. Do you have personal experiences with something that might scratch this weird itch I have?

Update: In some searching while putting this post together, I did find Columbia University’s inaugural World History course was filmed and put online at YouTube. If you’re interested in the whole series, that’s the link in the last sentence, but I found this fascinating. It’s the opening course, and the first 45 minutes is a history of world history.


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