And now, to close out the Reader Request week, short thoughts on a bunch of topics:
Bruce: “I never see you write about sports. Are there any out there that interest you?”
I very occasionally write about sports, but I have to admit that as a general rule I don’t care much about them; they’re just not where my interests lie. That said, I frequently enjoy reading sports journalism, which I think is often livelier than most other sorts, and more fun to read. I also, interestingly, wrote a sports newsletter for AOL that went out to hundreds of thousands of readers weekly, and it deeply amused me to do it. My highlight with that was the time I called the winners all but one of the college bowls. I should have run a pool. All of this means that I am well-informed about sports, even if I don’t care about it. This comes in handy when meeting people outside my usual circles.
Nagol99: “I’d like your thoughts on Taxidermy & if you’d ever have a “stuffed” woodland creature hanging above your fireplace mantle. If so, then what would you have mounted?”
It’s not my thing, really, and I can’t think of a dead animal I’d want hanging about my house. I don’t find it morally repugnant, however, and I can appreciate when someone does a good job of it. It simply isn’t of interest to me in a general sense.
Anon: “Your thoughts on following in your parents footsteps. How many people do you know who are in the same careers as their parents? Did you ever consider it. Would you want your kid to consider it?”
My parents had jobs, not careers, and in any event I knew very early on that I wanted to be a writer, which neither of them were, so that solved that. I know several people who have the same job/career as at least one of their parents — mostly writers, but some doctors and a couple of lawyers. The amount of concern/pride/worry they have in doing what their parents did varies from person to person; the one advantage I can see is that you have someone close to you who can give you unique insight into the gig. My own daughter happens to be a very good writer, and I would be happy to see her try her hand at it for a career. But what I would rather see is for her to do the things that interest her. If that’s writing, great. If not, great.
Rafe Brox: “We all know of (and celebrate/mock) your love of Coke Zero as caffeine delivery system of choice. How did this come about? Did you experiment in college? Was there something you preferred, back in the day, that went off the market, and this was your next-best thing? Do you occasionally peruse other beverages out of curiosity or a sense of novelty?”
It’s not nearly that interesting. When I was younger I preferred the taste of Coke over Pepsi or other colas, and as I got older I switched over to no sugar versions because the sugared version was making me fat because I drank too much of it. I drink Coke Zero because it’s the actual Coke formula (Diet Coke is the New Coke formula). Soda is my preferred caffeine intake vehicle because I don’t like the taste of coffee and tea doesn’t do much for me either. While Coke Zero is my preferred soda, I’m not horribly dogmatic about it; I’ll drink a Diet Pepsi if I’m at a restaurant that only serves that, and I do drink other (mostly no-calorie) sodas. Currently in my fridge I have Diet Cherry Doctor Pepper, Diet Barq’s Root Beer, and Sprite Zero.
ProfMel: “As a parent of a teen, do you see the generation that’s growing up now approaching the world differently than we did? (Lo, these many years ago) If so, what do you see as positive or negative about it?”
Anecdotally speaking I don’t really notice too much of a difference. The trappings of adolescence are different — my daughter texts her friends constantly rather than doing what I did, which was to talk aimlessly on the phone for hours at a time — and new technologies and changes in the culture have fiddled with the dynamic a bit. But, you know, the basic template of adolescence is the same because the human animal hasn’t changed all that much in the three decades since I was a teen. I don’t see a huge philosophical difference between today’s teens and yesterday’s, either. Teenagers continue to be self-centered (which is not always a bad thing in a developing human, to be clear), highly-sensitive and status-observant, and absolutely certain that today, things are different in a way no one else not in their cohort could possibly understand. In short, yeah, I think they’re a lot like us.
Matthew: “I remember the cool video you showed of Athena seeing a record for the first time. What was she like as a kid growing up in rural Ohio and seeing the Ocean for the first time.”
Actually she was born in Virginia and lived her first two years there, and by her second birthday had been to both oceans the US touches. We also travel regularly, so she’s had numerous opportunities to see them in her life. So I don’t think she sees them as being entirely outside her experience of things. She does like the ocean, though. In a larger sense, one of the nice things about being who we are is that we have the opportunity to show our kid lots of the world. Living in rural Ohio is not as limiting as you might imagine.
ArthurD: “What from the world of today would impress the you of twenty or twenty five years ago?”
I suspect the current state of cell phone technology. There were mobile phones in 1989, but they were bricks, and in any event, for today’s cell phones, the actual “phone” part is almost an afterthought — these days I’m always vaguely surprised when someone calls me on mine. Cell phones are (for anyone over say, 40 years of age) genuinely science fictional — a computer you fit in your pocket that can access unfathomable amounts of information, understand when you speak to it and perform the functions you request, and record any moment you choose with full sound and audio. Honestly, it’s mind-blowing — and we don’t think anything of it. Because you get used to the future very quickly. But 1989 me would probably wet himself with amazement.
Noisegeek: “Is it just me, or has the subject of gender identity gotten super complicated in the last 10-15 years (publicly at least, I realize that for people dealing with the issue personally, it’s probably been complicated for a whole lot longer)?”
Yes, it has gotten more complicated in the last several years, in part because more transfolk and folks who feel some degree of gender fluidity have decided to stand up and stop passively accepting the status quo. And I think that’s as it should be. As I’ve noted before I think it’s a good thing for people to get closer to being who they really ought to be. And personally speaking, you know, I would love to be a person with whom other people can feel they can truly be who they are, when it comes to their gender expression. That takes work on my part, because like everyone else I’ve got a raft of assumptions and prejudices and things to get over. But saying it’s work is not saying it’s an imposition. It’s really not. So yeah: More complicated. But, hopefully as we go along, better, too.
Douglas: “Should we bring back extinct animals through cloning or other scientific breakthroughs?”
I’m not opposed to it in a very general sense, but I would say in all seriousness that I think those animals would be very lonely.
iQ666: “Would you write a short story for Playboy if solicited? Or do you intend to pull someday some strings to make this happen?”
It’s been so long since I’ve read Playboy that I’m not even sure they run fiction anymore, or, really, are still in print. Generally speaking I don’t send out work — I wait to be solicited — so I won’t be contriving to get into its pages, no.
Lawrence LaPointe: “Canada. The 51st state or the next superpower? “
Probably neither. I am deeply fond of Canada, however, and seem to be becoming more so as time goes on. I’m happy to share a continent with it.
Greg: “The Drake Equation. Where the heck is everybody?”
They’re out there having fun without us. Figures.
Malkara: “What’s your opinion on so-called cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, etc)? Do you think there’s any future in them, or are they all a load of shit?”
I only vaguely understand how their value is derived, and it seems to me that trusting a store of value that has almost no regulation is a fine way to lose the value you’ve stored there. So for the near-term future, at least, I’ll stick to nation-based currencies.
Hugh57: “Do you think that anyone other than Hillary Clinton has a realistic shot at the Democratic nomination in 2016? Who do you see as the future face of the Democratic Party?”
No, and likely Cory Booker, in that order. I also strongly suspect that the next realistic shot the GOP has at the White House is 2020, and that itself will depend on how Hillary Clinton’s first term goes.
Dusty: “An issue important to me – How do you feel about the skepticism movement? And folks like James Randi, Michael Shermer, and Phil Plait?”
Phil’s a friend of mine; I like him quite a bit. I don’t know either Randi or Shermer. Philosophically I’m aligned with skepticism; as a community as far as I can see it seems to have a number of social parallels to other geek communities, which includes some very real issues with how women are treated. If my knowledge about that is correct, then hopefully that’s being addressed.
Adam: “Profanity! How the fuck does one use it effectively?”
Fuck if I know, man. I just let that shit happen.
Thanks, everyone, for another successful Reader Request Week! I hope you had as much fun with it as I have.