Everyday Augmented Reality

Futuristic smart glasses

One of the issues with running a general blog like this is that is has no real focus. It serves as a catch-all for whatever I feel like writing about or talking about, but it has no real direction to it. That’s one of the things that’s made it hard to write for on a regular basis- when you can write about anything, you tend to write about nothing.

However, something I’ve always been fascinated by is the power of Augmented Reality, and with the recent release of Microsoft’s new Hololens system, I’ve come to believe that we’re on the cusp of seeing this technology literally transform our lives and the world around us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this:

As a result, I’ve decided to start a new blog centered around Augmented Reality and how it’s both developing and transforming people’s lives. If you ask any of my media studies students, AR is something I won’t shut up about, and have been talking about for years, so I thought “why should just my students suffer?”

Everyday Augmented Reality will basically be me collecting news about Augmented Reality and things related to it and occasionally commenting and sharing my own thoughts and ideas on this next stage of media evolution. Everything the Smartphone did to society will be nothing compared to what AR will do, and Everyday AR will be where I watch it all happen.

Come join me and watch the show. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll definitely wonder why!


P.S. This blog isn’t going anywhere, and will still be updated from time to time. I need to talk about non-AR things sometimes too!

Reading for Better Writing

Occasionally, I get asked by students who want to write fiction what they should read to become better writers. My immediate answer to this question is always the same- On Writing by Stephen King. It’s THE book by one of the greatest literary craftsmen of the last hundred years, and in itself almost functions as a perfect introduction to the art of writing fiction.

However, what about once you’re ready for something a little more advanced than King’s essential starter?

Until recently, my answer was to recommend people read Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, it’s a book on scriptwriting, but much of what’s in that book applies to writers of fiction just as well. Snyder’s unique Genres are a great tool for focusing your story, and his master plot outline can bring a story into clear (if formulaic) shape. However, it’s a book of structure and tips, not so much about the nuts and bolts of writing fiction, and that always left a bit of a gap.

Well, now I have something to fill that gap- advice that will take an author’s writing to the next level, or at least give them piles of tips from the hands of another master writer.

36 Writing Essays by Chuck Palahniuk

As the name suggests, this is a collection of writing essays by Chuck Palahniuk originally done for the writing site Litreactor.com. They were done between 2005 and 2007 on a monthly basis. Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, is the writing teacher you wish you had, and the advice he gives as he pulls back the curtain in those essays is invaluable to anyone who wants to write fiction. He’s the graduate class to Stephen King’s undergraduate class, and I cannot overstate what an effect reading those essays had on my own approach to writing.

I highly recommend anyone who has started writing, and perhaps finished a few stories, to go and find a copy of that essay collection. The official collection is only available on Litreactor.com as part of a paid membership, which I recommend you go for, however if you’re lacking in cash there are a number of bootleg collections floating around if you do a simple search. These essays will be most helpful to people who have written a bit already, and are meant for people who are serious about writing, but if you are they’re worth every second you spend reading them.

Palahniuk also starting writing occasional new essays for Litreactor.com, such as this gem about thought verbs, and it will give you an idea of what to expect. It was the reason I sought out more of his writing advice in the first place.

Happy Writing!



Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess New Release Sale!

Crocodile Princess  Front-med

Little Gou’s first novel-length adventure is now available on Kindle for just 99 cents for the month of September. Grab it now while you can!

The story:

“Every last member of the Mao family will die by the Hour of the Rat a fortnight from now.” 

With these words begins a race against time, as the roguish martial artist called Little Gou hunts across the back roads and waterways of Old China to find a young bride-to-be who has become a pawn of the mysterious Lady Moonlight. He must outwit friends and foes alike, all of whom are dancing to the Lady’s song, and unravel a scheme that could see thousands dead or enslaved and the Middle Kingdom aflame with rebellion if he fails. But, worst of all, he has to face the woman who abandoned him in the name of family duty- the love he can never be with, or forget. 

Influenced by Legendary Wuxia novel writers Gu Long and Jin Yong; and in the spirit of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess is a martial arts action & adventure thriller set in the Jianghu martial underworld of Old China. Through a combination of wits, swordplay and kung fu, the martial artist Little Gou, and his companion the warrior nun Sister Cat, must uncover the truth behind a deadly plot to bring the martial underworld to its knees, or die trying.


Everybody was Star Wars Fighting! Moves for Jedi Combat.

Comic artist Pere Pérez took it upon himself to design actual combat moves for jedi, and the results are awesome. Below is two of the eight very logical fighting moves he came up with to make use of both the special qualities of The Force and the Lightsabre’s ability to turn on and off at will.


You can find the rest here.


The Stories of Ken Liu

One of the hottest names in Science Fiction today is Ken Liu, a Chinese-American programmer, lawyer and writer who seems to jump into everything he does with heart and amazing dedication. He has won the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy awards more than once for his short fiction, and recently announced he’s going into Epic Fantasy with his debut novel The Grace of Kings due out next year from Simon and Schuster’s new genre fiction imprint Saga Press. He’s a rising star who blends both Asian and Western sensibilities into his work, taking advantage of both to produce unique works.

I first encountered Ken’s work when the sci-fi and fantasy blog Io9 shared one of his stories, The Perfect Match, that was published in Lightspeed in 2012. While not a perfect story, it extrapolated the idea behind Apple’s Siri to its logical and disturbing conclusion with the personal assistant Tilly in a way that really caught my attention. I have since recommended his work to many of my media students to read as a glimpse into the future, because I think he’s captured it all too well.

Today, after hearing about Ken’s new novel, I wandered to his personal website for more information and was delighted to discover that he has placed 14 of his published and award-winning short stories (and more!) up for anyone to read for free on his website. So check them out, and learn why the name Ken Liu is on lips of both many a fan and publisher alike.


Surprise! Taking notes with pen and paper proven to be more effective.

From: For More Effective Studying, Take Notes With Pen and Paper

According to a new study, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University and UCLA Los Angeles respectively, students who write out their notes by hand actually learn more than those to type their notes on laptops. Over the course of several experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer tested students’ memories for factual detail, conceptual comprehension, and synthesizing capabilities after half of them took notes by hands and the other half took notes by way of computer. Students who used laptops cranked out more words than hand-writers did, but the hand-writers ended up with a stronger conceptual understanding across the board.


Why? You can read the article, but the short version is that when we write by hand we have to process the material more, and thereby learn it better. Makes sense.

Of course, the converse would also be true. If you just want to dump your unedited ideas in text form (for say, brainstorming) then a computer would be a better tool because it has less steps between you and the data output. Something to think about.

Now if could only convince my students that their laptops aren’t helping them study!


Urban Exploring in Taiwan- The Renoir Resort Club

Taiwan seems to be a real hotbed of abandoned places. I think it’s because they had a huge financial boom at one time, so people went crazy building thing, and then later just abandoned them when they didn’t work out. I love reading about these reports, so I’ll share what I come across from time to time.

Renoir resort club 雷諾瓦俱樂部 is a surprising find in Guanziling 關子嶺, the most famous and well-developed hot springs town in Tainan 台南. I went to stay there one night in the spring of 2014 to have a look—but I didn’t expect to find an abandoned club next door to where I was staying. I should have known—this is Taiwan 台灣, an urban exploration utopia. There are abandoned buildings absolutely everywhere. Sometimes you will get lucky and discover someplace cool without even trying.



Read the full report and see the pictures here. He even found creatures lurking in there!


Daikaiju Sushi

As many may know, I’m a huge Giant Monster fan, and today I discovered that one of my favorite blogs, Giant Monsters Attack!, has been reborn on Tumblr as Daikaiju Sushi after being dormant for a while. Check it out for all sorts of new and fun giant monster goodness!


Becoming a better writer through purging “thought” verbs.

Chuck Palahniuck (writer of Fight Club, the book) had this great advice up on Lit Reactor that I thought I’d share. His argument is an old one (“show, don’t tell”) that every writer learns towards the beginning of their career, but he explains it very well in a way I haven’t seen before. The whole article is worth a read, but this first excerpt has the core of his argument.

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.

But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.

From this point forward – at least for the next half year – you may not use “thought” verbs.  These include:  Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

The list should also include:  Loves and Hates.

And it should include:  Is and Has, but we’ll get to those, later.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write:  Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like:  “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave.  Never his.”

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them.  Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.

Instead of saying:  “Adam knew Gwen liked him.”

You’ll have to say:  “Between classes, Gwen was always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it.  She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume.  The combination lock would still be warm from her ass.  And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”

In short, no more short-cuts.  Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph  (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later)  In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph.  And what follows, illustrates them.

via Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs | LitReactor.

Boys and Reading – Is There Any Hope?

Boys and Reading – Is There Any Hope? – NYTimes.com is a great article about the issue of getting boys reading in an industry dominated by women from top to bottom. I recall in high school where one of our English teachers (a middle-aged woman going through menopause) made us all read The Stone Angel by Margaret Lawrence (about a middle-aged woman going through menopause reflecting back on her life) which as you can expect all we 15 year old boys completely related to. We related to it so well that it (and being forced to read books like it) literally drove me and many of my classmates from reading novels for years, and I didn’t get back into it again until University. (And this was before the Internet was there to distract us!)

Also from the article:

But I think it’s also about the books being published. Michael Cart, a past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, agrees. “We need more good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or ­offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become,” he told me. “In a commercially driven publishing environment, the emphasis is currently on young women.” And then some. At the 2007 A.L.A. conference, a Harper executive said at least three-­quarters of her target audience were girls, and they wanted to read about mean girls, gossip girls, frenemies and vampires.

Naturally, authors are writing for this ready group. The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from M.F.A. programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers. It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.

He makes it almost sound like a conspiracy, which of course it isn’t, it’s simply how the industry has shaken out, since they’re making most of their money from a female audience. On the educational side, male teachers and librarians are sadly uncommon at the elementary and middle-school levels these days, so there is a gap there in connecting with boys as well. (Ironically, during the most critical time for making that connection!) So the boys get shortchanged and don’t always get directed to the stories that they will connect with the most. (Which isn’t helped by school book collections that are woefully ancient in their topics and selections.)

This is especially sad when you consider the high divorce rates and nature of modern families often mean there aren’t fathers around to direct young boys and show them that reading is something for men as well. They see their sisters reading, and reach the decision that reading is something girls do, and decide to shun it in favor of X-Box and sports. (Well, those boys who actually play sports, anymore…) Only the more nerdly of boys seem to gravitate towards reading, instead of a general audience who would benefit from it.

A sad state of affairs all around.