Life

StarStruck: Be Careful What You Wish For

This post was inspired by one from best-selling fantasy author, Kevin J. Anderson, called ‘Dictating, Writing, Hiking’, in which he described recording drafts of his fictional novels while out hiking and having a damned good time.

Mindful of how my writing muse is busy with keyboard-channelled ‘technical marketing content’, I was attracted to the idea of liberating fictional first drafts from the blockage of piss-poor typing skills.

It felt strange to use griffintechnology’s iTalk recording app while walking in early morning rush hour Tokyo, especially when all I had to work with was the phrase, ‘star struck, be careful what you wish for.’

“What the heck, let’s give it a go”, thought I, and here’s what emerged.

A few months ago I became interested in improving my knowledge of astronomy.

Welcome to MOOC Land

There were no specialized courses taught in English that I knew of in Japan but online checks turned up news about ‘Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These appear to be growing quickly on the Net.

One company in particular, coursera.org, got my attention because they already have several hundred ‘free’ online courses taught by lecturers from well-known universities. These are mostly American colleges but the UK, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Israel and Switzerland are also present.

coursera-astronomy-astrobiology-markmcclure2

I chose the ‘Introduction to Astronomy’ course offered by Dr. Ronen Plesser, an associate professor of physics and mathematics at Duke University.

In this course, new video lectures were released weekly, containing between 1 to 2 hours of clips. (All of this multimedia content can be downloaded for offline review.)

The first week’s module was straightforward. However, week two’s homework spooked me, taking up a good part of Saturday and almost all of Sunday. Although I got through week three’s a little faster I decided, very reluctantly, that it was impossible for me to keep up with homework and go through the video clips.

I now download the materials and work through them in my own time.

In other words, I must be careful not to be starstruck by new technology.
Of course, the interest to learn is still there, but it’s important to gauge and limit the impact on work and family schedules.

Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Having said that, the next course I’m going to take, probably sans homework, is about ‘Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life.”

This one’s only 5 weeks and should allow me to acquire a sufficient grounding in the basics to help with the world building, lifeforms and possible characters that may emerge in my primordial science fiction output.