Author Interviews: Andrea Graham

 

Ella Font (EF): Hello! This is Ella Font of the Inter-Dimensional News Network. Today, we’re dropping in on Earth in the early 21st Century to visit with an author that so many of our modern viewers have come to love: the amazing Andrea Graham. 

Thank you for joining us here today, Andrea.

Andrea Graham (AG): Thank you for inviting me, Ms. Font.

EF: Which work are you sharing with us today?

AG: Avatars of Web Surfer, a collection of short works set in the same universe, each has a different perspective character, but all feature the same hero. I collaborated with three co-authors: Travis Perry, Cindy Koepp, and H. A. Titus

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EF: I have to say that one is one of my favorites. I just love the way Sander and Lexus come to the rescue of the different people they encounter through the Web Surfer system. For our viewers who are unfamiliar with your work, what genre does it fall into?

AG: Science Fiction, Christian allegory, some might consider it cyberpunk since AIs and virtual/simulated reality feature heavily.

EF: That’s fascinating. As I recall, some of the stories are more overtly Christian than others, but I would agree they all fit into that spectrum somewhere. Where can people find it? 

AG: On Amazon, from narrationbygeorge.com (audio book only), and Barnes&Noble.com

EF: Well, that makes it very easy to find, and an audiobook is handy for folks who travel or who listen to books while working on other tasks. Can you tell us about the main character?

AG: Alexander McGregor is just an infant when his father converts his cells into biological supercomputer components, but he may be the Messiah-figure AIs have longed for, even though on one level, he is only human. Sander is enslaved to his code as he serves a billion users worldwide, users he appears to as separate avatars of himself. Each avatar has its own personality, but all of him are linked together in a shared mind. He reigns over most of Earth’s computers in a global society where tech-dependency can kill. Freedom calls Sander like a siren. His answer could shake the Earth.

A full interview with Sander is at my author website.

EF: Wow. He sounds like an interesting guy, which is what makes each of these short stories interesting. Some people say that you must have based him on a real person. Are there any characteristics you have in common with the main character?

AG: Sander can operate well in all eight Myers Briggs functions as needed, but his core personality is closest to an ENTP. I have always been more of an ambivert than either a true introvert or true extrovert, but I functioned as an ENFJ before I started working with Sander, a bit over five years ago. In the last few years, I switched to ENFP and from there came to grips with my thinker side to the point where I sometimes test as an ENTP myself and wonder I how I got to my thirties without realizing I’m so different from my true-blue INFJ husband. So, um, we both have attention deficit disorder and tend to go off on rabbit trails that drive our more linear-thinking friend and our editors up the wall. That is the big one.

EF: [stares for a moment] I see. Well, um, let’s see if any of our viewers have sent in questions. Here’s one. Rex Karz of Infinite Roadway, Enceladus. Rex asks, “Which Muppet does your main character most resemble?”

AG: He’s a cross between Kermit and Animal.

EF: That’s quite a combination there. Sort of a frustrated, organized maniac? I’ve read all of them, though, so I can see that. He does have the intensity of Animal and the organization of Kermit. Here’s another question from Amanda Rekkonwif from Tombstone Colony on Europa. Amanda asks, “If your character actually had pockets, what would be in them?”

AG: They would be magic pockets, and he would have stuffed in them every aspect of life on Earth that he had collected and had yet to plant in the alternate universe that he hosts in cyberspace and treats like a massive terrarium. (He hosts simulated realities and some hold our own universe is a simulated reality.)

EF: Those would be some awfully large pockets. Earth-building would be an interesting hobby. Time consuming, but I guess if you’ll live indefinitely, you’d better have a hobby that will last. We have time for one more. Here’s a question from Tom Katt from Litter Pan Colony on Ganymede. Tom wants to know, “If your character existed in main life, would you be friends?”

AG: I hope so.

EF: [Pauses several seconds] Okay. He does seem like a nice guy most of the time in these stories, and the times he isn’t aren’t his fault. He does have to obey the user’s script after all. I’ve met Sander, actually. Well, I’ve met a virtual version of him in one of the VR books being released of all the classics. He wasn’t as tall as I thought he was, and I wouldn’t say he’s a very trendy dresser, but personality wise, he seems to be a good man. Virtual reality is just beginning in your time, so perhaps you’ll still have the opportunity to meet Sander. That’s all the time we have for viewer questions today. For those who still have burning questions, where else can they find you on the web?

AG: My webpage:

www.christsglory.com or povbootcamp.com

Social media:

https://www.facebook.com/alightchild

https://twitter.com/andreajgraham

https://www.pinterest.com/alightchild

EF: All right. That’s great.Thanks for joining us today. [Looks into the camera] That’s it for today, but do stop by to visit Andrea and check out her exciting anthology Avatars of Web Surfer. This is Ella Font of the Interdimensional News Network. Back to Bob Frapples at the news desk. Bob?

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Weird Science: Bombardier Beetles

Bombardier Beetles are curious critters. They create high-speed jets of boiling hot, caustic liquid capable of being pin-point aimed through a 270-degree arc. Wow…

Because of their uniqueness, they’re a controversial critter, used by both evolutionists and creationists as proof that the other side is just being goofy. As a result, it was difficult to find information that didn’t have a heavy bias. Some day, if I’m feeling up to starting an ideological firefight on my blog, I may give you my opinion (and the reasoning for it) on that particular debate.

For now, though, check out a beetle that would blow itself up if the mechanism for creating such an exothermic reaction failed.

 

 

 

The Bird’s Word: Getting the Human’s Attention

Masika came out 2

Hello!

My name is Masika D. Greyt. I’m a Timneh African Grey. I’ve lived with several humans before my current human, so I think I have some good insights into human behavior. So, all you fine, feathered birds and human allies, here is some advice for you.

There are definitely times when a parrot needs to get the attention of their human roommate. After all, humans seem to be on a different schedule and forget when our snack times are. I don’t understand this, personally. You would think that they could keep up with the schedule’s 952-day rotation. Still, none of my humans quite figured it out, so I have devised a number of ways to get their attention to remind them that I am dying of hunger over here and could use a snack. Yes, even if there is “plenty of good food and water in my bowls.” That’s not the point. Honestly.

Screech. No, not a cute, little squeak. Really cut loose with a good, loud SCREECH! That will get the human’s attention. They might not be happy about the noise, but they might come visit and notice that you have been snack-deprived.

You can also discover new noises to make. Every apartment I’ve ever been in has had some feature that allowed me to make terrific noise. My current apartment has metal walls and roof but a plastic basement. Where the metal connects to the plastic, I can twang the metal with my beak. That gets my human’s attention. She thinks I might be trying to break my apartment. Nah. This is a pretty sturdy place. I could destroy it if I wanted to, but not yet.

Rattling the doors, depending on your apartment’s design, might also work. You’ll have to check out the sort of apartment your human bought for you. You’ll find some kind of noise to make with it.

If you’re a big enough bird, you can also smack empty food bowls around. Just grab them by the edge, slide them out a little bit, then slam them back into the side of the apartment. Guaranteed to get your human’s attention. If your food bowls are attached to to the apartment walls, you’ll have to find some other way.

There you have it. Three ways to get your human’s attention. I’ll be back from time to time to give you more avian advice.

Oops…

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
–Unknown

That quote has been attributed to an incredible number of people including Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. Who really said it first? Who knows.

Mistakes happen. A lot. Most of the time, they’re not very interesting, but sometimes you get something incredible from a mistake.

I once had a book of famous errors that turned out well. I gave the book to one of my students when I left teaching, but I do remember some notable examples.

Sticky Notes

A scientist at 3M was trying to make a super-strong adhesive. What he got was a glue that could stick to stuff then get pulled off without leaving a mark. Spread that stuff on a slip of paper, and you have sticky notes!

Penicillin

Sir Alexander Fleming was hunting for a disease cure. He tossed a moldy Petri dish in the trash and then noticed that any bacteria growing near the mold croaked. He cultivated that mold independently and developed penicillin from it.

Silly Putty

During World War II, rubber became scarce, so a General Electric scientist was working on a replacement using a more common substance: silicon. He added boric acid to one of his concoctions and got a bouncy, malleable material. This was not good for truck tires or boot soles, but it was a fun toy!

My Turn?

I haven’t had any fortuitous mistakes along those lines, but I have had errors turn out for the best.

Being a scrawny chick means that finding modest clothing can be tricky. I have been known to make my own clothes. I make quilts, which means I have a pile of cloth. I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m only a couple yards short of an episode of Hoarders. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad anymore. Maybe.

One year, just before the start of a new school year, I decided I needed to update my wardrobe, but that’s hard to do when you’re cash-limited, so I rummaged through my pile of material and my available patterns.

I split my material choices into piles based on how much yardage I had. Then I sorted the patterns to the materials that had enough, made my matches, and started slicing and dicing patterns from cloth.

I must have measured one chunk of cloth incorrectly, and when I started cutting out the pattern, I reached a point where I discovered I was short about a yard. I already had the bulk of the pattern cut out, and I only lacked the few pieces that couldn’t be cut on folds: the yoke for the back of the shirt and the sleeves. This was an old piece of material, something I’d gotten from the boxes of cloth my grandmother had given me. The chances of matching that cloth to something new at the store would be somewhere between unlikely and not happening.

My solution? I went back into my material boxes and found a lovely material that contrasted nicely with the rest. There wasn’t enough of it to cut out the remaining three pieces, but there was enough for the yoke and half the sleeves. I cut out the yoke and attached the scraps from both colors to make a piece big enough for the sleeves.

That was one of my favorite shirts until it faded and wore out, and using that same design, I made a few others like that on purpose.

Clean It Up!

It was a part of the job that nobody liked, so it piled up and got progressively worse until some poor person had to deal with the entire pile at once. I was that person.

My first teaching job was in a school that had a severe overcrowding problem. There were  1200 students in a school built for half that. Classes met all over the crazy place. Any widened part of a hallway got turned into a small, impromptu classroom by putting up partitions and hanging a poster-sized whiteboard on the wall. Desks were any makeshift or ancient specimen the custodians or maintenance could find in storage. My classroom didn’t have desks. It had three 8-foot tables surrounded by a mismatched collection of stools.

As the science lab teacher, that worked fine. My room was actually split 2/3 for me and 1/3 for a special ed teacher. We worked it out so he pulled his larger classes when I was teaching computer lab down the hall or when I was on my conference time, and he made sure that his conference time was scheduled when I had my larger classes. It all worked out fine with a little juggling.

Attached to the science lab was a lockable supply closet. On my first day there, halfway through the school year, I started planning out what kinds of activities I would be able to do with the kiddos who were going to be entrusted to me for 50 minutes at a time. Naturally, I wanted to see what kind of supplies I had to work with, so I unlocked the closet and tried to open the door.

I barely got it open far enough to peek inside and flip the light switch. The room looked like someone had upended several science project kits in the room then run out the door before the resulting avalanche could bury them, but there were sturdy shelves lining the walls.

I smiled. My classes wouldn’t start until the following Monday, so I had time. I was up to that challenge, but I wasn’t half brave enough to wade in there in a skirt and sandals.

The next day, I wore slacks and closed shoes. Opening the door took a considerable effort. I’d thought about getting a running start, but a couple good shoves got the job done. I stepped inside and confirmed that the qualified disaster area extended beyond just the sliver I’d seen the afternoon before.

First, I’d need to take stock of what I had, and that meant hauling all the junk out of there and sorting it. Fortunately, I had those three tables and a long counter down the back as well as 3 mobile lab carts. Lots of horizontal space for sorting, and if I ran out of that, there was always the floor.

Unpacking the room took the rest of the day, but it was like a treasure hunt. A kid sorting through a pile of random toys might have been happier, but I doubt it.

There had indeed been science kits upended in the room in addition to the random scientific flotsam collected over time. I sorted the kits back into their boxes and found their documentation. Then I split the rest of the equipment up by what I would most likely use it for. By the time I left, the closet was empty, and every horizontal space available in the room was covered with an amusing assortment of stuff.

The next day, I cleaned up the closet itself. It looked like no one had shown it a dust rag since the Johnson administration. Forget dust bunnies. That closet was infested with dust elephants. I went through an entire roll of paper towels trying to find out what color the shelving was supposed to be then I borrowed a broom from the custodian to evict the dust elephants from the corners of the room.

When dark gray metal shelving shined, I knew I was ready to put everything back in. The reassembled science kits found their spots on the only shelf tall enough to hold them.

Then I went around the room neatly stacking stuff and clustering them by which discipline would be most likely to use them. While I did that, I took an inventory, which I attached to the door when I was finished.

Once finished, I surveyed my work and decided that it was good enough for a start. .

 

Happiness

“Most folks are only as happy as they make up their mind to be.”
— attributed to Abraham Lincoln

There is some debate about whether or not that was actually said by the former president, but it certainly does seem to be the truth.

We’ve all met those people who have a problem for every solution. These are the sorts who would rather grouch about a problem then actually do anything practical about it. Efforts to help them arrive at a solution will be rebuffed, sometimes with some gusto. They don’t want help. They want to be grumpy. I guess they like the attention.

In fact, if people spent half the energy working toward solutions as they spent complaining about the problem, there’d be a lot more progress on the issues that concern us. We’d be happier as a result.

Resolving to Be Happy

We all have bad days, the sorts of days where Murphy is paying too much attention to us and everything goes wrong. Here are some ideas you can use to restore your happiness.

Go Ahead and Grouch

Get it out of your system. Find someone you can trust and talk it out. If you’re not sure who to trust, write it out. Holler at a pillow or an empty chair. Commiserate with someone else involved.

Just don’t live there, and do be careful who you talk to. Not everyone who smiles at you is your friend.

Do Something

After you’ve had your chance to spew parts about what’s going on, do something constructive.

If it’s a problem that can be fixed, start working on the fix. Sometimes that’s a matter of figuring out what to do or securing the help you need. Sometimes it’s a matter of just doing the thing that fixes the problem, even if it’s not fun. Start doing the practical thing that will make the problem go away. When my apartment flooded a year ago, a terrific mess was left behind. We started dealing with the practical issues as soon as the water was gone.

If it can’t be fixed but requires action, do the thing. My car got squished in a major head-on collision. There was no fixing it. I got help from the nearest relatives and we started the process of chasing down insurance information to get the mess dealt with.

When there is no practical action you can take, do what you need to so you can get past the problem. When I had a bad day at work because of a twerpy colleague, there was no fix for that. After I finished grouching about the situation, I did something goofy to get my brain off it. In that case, I looked up a bunch of hokey jokes and shared them with my social media outlets. Other times, I’ve played goofy games for a while, watched a movie, or worked on crafty or writing-related projects.

Some problems are too big to ignore and too big for you to solve. For example, all the political shenanigans going on lately. Some folks are “dealing” with that by destroying property and hurting people. Instead of that, wouldn’t it be better to put practical effort into helping others? Don’t like how the government is treating a certain group of people? Do something useful. Donate your time, effort, or resources to some organization that helps those people, or go forth and help those people directly. The problem may not go away, but more good is accomplished by that than by beating up someone who disagrees.

Fake It Until You Make It

While you are doing the constructive thing, practice a little self-awareness. You may find that your brain will keep trying to dwell on what disturbed your happiness in the first place.

Be aware of what you’re thinking. Take every thought captive. Extinguish negative self-talk and actively focus on what you’re doing to fix the problem.

When I was teaching, I read a study about emotions mirroring physical actions. In this study, the researchers had people who were miffed about something smile even though they didn’t feel like it. The smiles were really fake at first, but then as the time continued, the subjects genuinely felt happier.

I’m not advising anyone to stuff emotions. That’s not exactly safe, either. I am suggesting, though, that instead of dwelling on the problems, people should consider dealing with the emotional part of the problem, doing something practical about it, then resolving to be happy, or at least happier.

Probably a lot easier said than done, but worth the effort, I think.

Job Search Adventures

Last December, I became suddenly unemployed. My temp-to-perm job became temp-to-buh-bye when the company decided they could not afford to hire me full time. Disappointing, really, but not much to do for it except mobilize and hunt down a new one. That very afternoon, I polished my resume and started the job hunt. I won’t bore you with the entire 45-day saga, but some highlights might amuse.

Y’all Need an Editor

One thing that struck me funny was the number of job ads with outrageous spelling and grammatical errors.

One company was looking for a “Full-time Receptionsit.”  Yep. More comfortable that way than a “Receptionstand.”

Another redacted all spaces. Tryingtolookatajobadwithoutspacesrequiresalittleparsing,butImanaged.

A third wanted an “Adult Literacy Tecaher.” I think there’s a box of those around the corner.

The most interesting, though, was the company who did the entire job ad in texting shorthand. No thx.

Everybody makes mistakes, and few people are good editors for their own writing, but with so many ads having a job requirement of “attention to detail,” I believe someone left the irony on.

I did consider applying to some of those companies as a copy editor by correcting the job ad and sending it along with my resume, but I was concerned that would come across a little too “smart aleck” and not enough “clever” so I refrained.

You Want Me to What?

Some job ads listed strange requirements.

Some “entry level” jobs required 5-10 years of experience.  Here I thought “entry level” meant you don’t need any experience.

Other jobs required a “digital native,” which is a way of saying someone under 25, but with 10 years of experience in this skill and 5 in that skill and 8 in this other. So, what, your digital native started working when he was 2?

Lifting requirements really floored me. A remarkable assortment of jobs needed people who could frequently lift 40 pounds. That’s bad enough, but the real corker was a corporate (soft skills) trainer who needed to lift 100 pounds. O.o Really? I don’t weigh that much. The only way I’m picking up 100 pounds would be with the handy assistance of simple machine physics. A very strong friend of mine says he once had a job moving feed bags (50 pounds apiece) in a warehouse. Exhausting work, but he couldn’t imagine lifting 100 pounds on a regular basis.  Scrawny girlie people need not apply.

Perks

Some companies with a high turnover try to get people to stick around by being very trendy and cool. They list out this coolness in their job ads. On-the-clock keggers, extremely relaxed dress code, office cats, medical benefits for part-timers, and free food were just some of the perks some companies offered.

Others, apparently, are feeling the pinch. No benefits at all, even for full-timers.

Education Is the Key to Success

I was a teacher for 14 years, and I’ve heard repeatedly that a good education will get you far in life. Apparently, that’s not entirely true. On the advice of some very well-intended friends, I signed up with 4 headhunter agencies. Each one of them, to varying degrees, informed me that I would be almost impossible to place because I was too educated.

Wallpaper!

Well, it turned out that filling out 130 job applications in 45 days was not how I got a job. When the rejection emails started coming in at high speeds, I reset my resume to highlight my optical experience, printed up a couple dozen of them, and then looked up “Optical businesses” in the town where I live. This produced an extensive list. I mapped them out and across the next two days, I called or visited every optical business in the greater metro area.

Some were hits. Most were busts, but after a couple weeks, I landed a job with a local optometrist as a Visual Therapist. I started this past Monday. A Visual Therapist is sort of like physical therapy as it applies to the eyes. I’ll be helping patients, mostly kids, train the muscles in their eyes to work with their brains so they can see better. Sometimes this helps them avoid surgery. It sounds like an interesting job, and I’m grateful they’re willing to train me to do it.