The Only One in Charge of Your Beliefs is You.

Originally posted on Medium.com

A thousand years ago, people seriously debated whether the Earth was round or flat.

A hundred and fifty years ago, people seriously debated whether slaves were human beings or not.

A hundred years ago, people seriously debated whether women should have the right to vote.

These debates sound silly to most of us now, but at the time, they were vital discussions with two clearly opposed points of view that were held in equal esteem by the parties involved.

What debates are we having today that will seem frivolous to future generations?

From the Black History Collection (https://blackhistorycollection.org/2014/08/02/crayola-crayon-flesh-crayon/)

I’m old enough to remember when you could find a box of crayons containing a color labeled “flesh.” As a Caucasian child, living in a predominantly Caucasian community, I thought nothing of it. Now, I wonder what a child of a different ethnic background might have felt about that innocent wax stick. Wikipedia tells us the color was renamed “peach” in 1962, yet I used one with the outdated label over ten years later. My parents would have considered it perfectly normal to have a “flesh” color within their box to choose from. What once was normal now seems insensitive and even racist to many of us.

How did that change occur? It didn’t happen suddenly, in spite of a decision by Crayola to alter the name one day in 1962. It came about over time because, one by one, people chose to adjust their beliefs about the color of one’s skin and what it meant to them. Not everyone made an adjustment — as we clearly see in the world today — but enough did to slowly create a new normal that children grew up with. That new normal, however, would never have blossomed without the internal examinations of thousands of individuals and their belief systems.

We each have a responsibility to constantly question our beliefs — whatever they may be. Many choose to ignore that responsibility and surround themselves with voices that only confirm what they already think. Social media too often serves as an insulator to the world, rather than the open forum it was intended to be. We block or ignore people and sites that say things contrary to our held opinions, then favorite and like ones that agree with our comfortable world view. This practice shunts our ability to think critically and quiets the voice inside us that questions our reality — to the point where we will do and say things we would have once considered ridiculous.

Pay attention to your actions and behavior while online. Ask yourself why you liked that post, or blocked that site from your feed. Was the source questionable, even though it confirmed something you believe? Did the content make you uncomfortable because it conflicted with something you hold true?

Willingly blinding yourself to the world only serves to hinder your growth as an individual and our society as a whole.

In the end, you are the only one in charge of what you believe.

SFF Book Bonanza

I’m guest posting over on the SFF Book Bonanza blog! Come have a look and tell me about your favorite genre-mashing stories!

http://sffbookbonanza.com/2017/04/24/genre-blending-mashing-bending/

Time Travel Stories Never Account for This One Thing

Don’t be surprised to see flashing lights behind you and hear a police siren while you read this blog post. And it’s not because that slightly illegal prank you pulled in your youth has finally caught up with you.

You’re speeding.

Yep. Sitting in your chair, sipping your coffee or munching on your favorite snack, you are moving at a pretty ridiculous clip.

We experience day and night because the Earth rotates. Being an inhabitant of the Earth and subject to its gravity, that means we are spinning along with it. Standing at the equator, you would be moving at the rate of just over 1,000 miles per hour. In the middle latitudes, where most of the human population resides, it’s roughly two-thirds of that, or six-t0-seven hundred miles an hour.

And your mom always complained about you being so slow to get ready for school in the morning!

We can’t stop there, though. We all know the Earth revolves around the sun. How fast does it have to move to do so? Pretty damn fast, as it turns out. In order for the Earth to make a complete trip around the sun in the span of a year, at a distance of ninety-three million miles away from the burning ball of hydrogen, it has to move approximately 66,000 miles per hour.

You’re really booking it! No wonder the cops are after you!

But, back to the headline of this post: time travel. Why is this movement through space important?

Let’s look at one of the most famous examples of time travel from popular culture: Doc Brown’s first experiment with Einstein the dog in Back to the Future.Bf1firetrails In the movie, Doc sends his pooch, strapped into the famous DeLorean, one minute into the future to arrive at the exact same spot. Yet, in order to do that, he would not only have to travel through time, but space as well. Consider how far you move, sitting in your chair, in the span of a minute.

Rotationally, spinning along with the Earth, you travel ten or eleven miles in that single minute. In addition, you’ve moved about 1,100 miles with the Earth following its orbit around the sun!

“All right then,” you say. “Maybe we can travel through time in exact-year increments.”

Interesting thought, but we’re not done calculating your speeding violation.

In addition to the Earth rotating and revolving around the sun, the sun is also moving at a pretty astounding pace, and dragging all of us with it in the general direction of the star Vega, within the constellation Lyra. That motion is calculated at roughly 43,000 miles per hour. Yet, even that isn’t all. The sun and our solar system also orbit within our Milky Way galaxy as it spins. Our speed as we waltz around the mysteries at the center of our galaxy? Merely 483,000 miles per hour.

That’s over 8,000 miles per minute. And we’re still not done.

The Milky Way itself is also moving, hurtling away from a universal central region we associate with the Big Bang. That speed? 1.3 Million miles per hour, or over 21,500 miles per minute.

So, in a single year— one trip around our sun— the Earth is displaced several billion miles through space from its starting point across a number of vectors of direction.

In order to travel through time to visit our own past or future, we must travel vast distances through space as well. I turned 50 years old this past year. If I wished to witness my own birth, I’d have to not only pass through those years of time, but also half a trillion miles of space!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore time travel stories— I’ve written a few! And Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorites, but it’s also fun to think about the bigger picture of time travel and what it entails. Our universe is an incredibly complex mechanism that we’ve only barely begun to understand. Maybe one day we’ll crack the code that will allow us to bounce around willy-nilly through space and time. Until then, we’ll just have to let our imaginations wander the reaches and laugh at the exploits of Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

“I’m sorry, Officer. I had no idea I was going that fast.”

Playlist for The Devil You Know

tdykcover_finalPopular music is an integral part of my newest book, The Devil You Know. A large number of songs, both old and new, are referred to in the novel, so I thought I’d create a playlist of sorts for people who’d like to inject an additional element into the story as they read: audio! Below is a YouTube link to each song, queued up to the referenced portion, if applicable, listed by Episode and Chapter. Enjoy!

Episode One:
Chapter 1:
Destiny’s Child, Say My Name https://youtu.be/sQgd6MccwZc
The Doors, Light My Fire https://youtu.be/LY1l8T2Lcl0

Episode Two:
Chapter 9:
Celine Dion, All By Myself https://youtu.be/NGrLb6W5YOM

Episode Four:
Chapter 17:
Maroon 5, Animals https://youtu.be/qpgTC9MDx1o
Jimi Hendrix, Foxy Lady https://youtu.be/lp0sUGlam6c
Robert Palmer, Simply Irresistible https://youtu.be/UrGw_cOgwa8

Episode Five:
Chapter 26:
The Commodores, Lady https://youtu.be/phNLASyPsUU

Episode Six:
Chapter 32:
Queen, Another One Bites the Dust https://youtu.be/rY0WxgSXdEE

Episode Eight:
Chapter 46:
Adele, Hello https://youtu.be/YQHsXMglC9A

Episode Nine:
Billy Joel, We Didn’t Start the Fire https://youtu.be/eFTLKWw542g
Chapter 58:
The Hooters, All You Zombies https://youtu.be/2LE0KpcP05I

Episode Ten:
Chapter 68:
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I Won’t Back Down https://youtu.be/nvlTJrNJ5lA

We Must Educate, Not Censure

Choices are important.

Learning how to made them is even more so.

Like many Americans, I was shocked and dismayed at the outcome of our recent election. I’ve been further saddened by the events which have followed in the days since: expressions of hate and intolerance, protests which turned violent, the President-Elect’s selection of outspoken white supremacists to his senior staff— and now, news that many of the hate and fake news group sites and social media accounts are being banned or deleted.

Wait. I should be happy about that last entry, right? No. And neither should you.

This is Helicopter Parenting 101. I see something I believe will be a bad influence, or dangerous, to my children so I try to erase it from their lives. Eliminate it from existence. Yet, all this does is serve to ease my own mind, like eating comfort foods when I’m upset. The problem doesn’t go away. It only hides in the shadows, growing larger and more powerful the longer I pretend it doesn’t exist.

Censuring these people and their caustic, hateful ideology, won’t eradicate them. In fact, it may serve to garner sympathy and cause them to become more resolute in their mission. This doesn’t help to solve the problem, it only exacerbates it.

Education— showing people why these viewpoints are divisive, destructive, and unhealthy for humanity as a whole is what is needed.

Let’s look at some numbers from this past election to illustrate my point.

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These percentages come from Pew Research and, from the article…

This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980.

The sites and social media accounts which are being targeted are notorious for posing as news organizations while posting erroneous or completely false information. That practice is unquestionably bad and needs to be exposed for the damage it causes. I do not believe, however, that censure is the way to go about tackling this problem.

People can’t make good decisions if they aren’t presented with facts, but even further, they can’t make good decisions if they don’t have the ability to discern fact from fiction. If we don’t nurture and encourage active, informed decision-making in our children by not hiding what we perceive as bad in the world, how can we expect them to make good decisions when we’re not there to guide them anymore?

This problem is not just about hate speech, lies, and bigotry. It is about getting people to think for themselves and not being satisfied with having information spoon-fed to them. If we don’t educate why these ideologies are harmful or teach and encourage critical thinking, the hole we’re currently in will only get deeper.