I thought it best to start my first blog by answering this question. There must be hundreds of new blogs starting each day, and Facebook pages offer all sorts of delight and titillation from people you don't know. Today, while looking at my Facebook feeds, I saw a video of a "Ninja Cat" with a variable light-sword drawn on his right front paw. He vanquished an adversary in a fight, until it was interrupted by a dog. The special effects were clever, but did I really learn anything new about cats. A day or so earlier, I saw an underwater picture of a cormorant taken by a San Diego biologist. That attracted my attention because I have observed these aquatic birds in South Florida, but never under water. Following the links to the guy's website, I found the underwater video from which it was taken. It was amazing how fast that bird traveled, and I was pleased to be able to see how much of the propulsion was from the wings versus the legs.
As a partial answer to the first rhetorical question, I reposted the cormorant video but not the ninja cat. One can learn something new from the bird -- how it makes a living by chasing fish. Also, the video triggers thought about how the cormorant swims differently from the penguin. But one doesn't learn anything new from the cat fight. So one reason to follow my blog is that I promise to select mostly things that a guy or gal can learn from -- stuff that might turn out useful when encountering other new things.
So is this Dirk Wyle is some sort of tree-hugging, holier-than-thou education type? No, not really. I'm just a guy with a burning interest in how things work. We've all had such interest as children, but many of us lost it on the road to adulthood. Sometimes a kid's curiosity is stifled by impatient parents who get tired of answering questions. Sometimes it is stifled by school, when the memorization of unrelated facts becomes the basis of tests where an "A" is the only acceptable grade. Under the pedagogues, literature becomes a bunch of old stories that you have to read, science becomes a drag, and algebra and geometry become horrors that you get through somehow and never, ever, want to see again.
Of course the path to adulthood does take us -- most of us -- to a job and means of making a living. But it often extinguishes our natural curiosity about things that are not integral to the job or profession. The point I'm trying to make is that life -- and especially our leisure time -- can be a lot more interesting when one's natural curiosity is fed on a daily basis and is not allowed to die.
Thus the cormorant is in, but not for the sake of "education." The cormorant is chosen for the child within us, who is interested in how such critters make a living.
So is this guy's blog going to be about nature posts? Yes, but not only. Warm furry animals are attractive, but there is a host of other things that that can reawaken our childish curiosity: Giant machines, rockets that go into outer space, the mechanisms of diseases, and why people die from them. And when a guy or gal gets a handle on such things, there is still a bunch of even more exciting stuff for which modern science is developing explanations. This includes how the brain works, human psychology and the understanding of our behavior in small and large groups. What's more, a lot of this information can be useful on the job. Many jobs involve not only the management of subordinates and interaction with the boss. Many professionals can benefit from a better understanding of sociology, economics, deterministic calculations and even literature.
So is this guy's blog going to be feeding us a lot of academic stuff as some sort of self-help course or regimen?
No, I don't feel qualified to write a self-help book, and writing fiction has taught me to never assign chores to the reader. But what I am proposing is to give the reader a healthier menu to choose from. "Man ist was man isst," the German philosopher Schopenhauer wrote. "One is (or becomes) what one eats." In the same spirit, Aristotle said that we become that which we habitually do. Applying that to the Digital Age would mean that our minds tend to become what we habitually read or watch. What if blog and post material were selected to be intrinsically interesting or even subliminally instructive? That's my goal. Will my material be better than the run of the Internet mill? That will be for you to decide.
Okay, one may be thinking, he is promising to select better stuff for us. But there has to be an angle. He is trying to sell us his mystery-thriller books. Right?
Yes, I am looking to sell more books. But I am not doing it for money. I had made enough already, before taking up the pen. I began writing novels because I felt that I had novel-length stories within me that would not be told by anyone else.
Inspiration was spurred by reading the stories of great literature, mostly around bedtime. This has been a lifetime habit. Eventually, I came to realize why these timeless stories were so fascinating. They were actually worked-through examples and experiments that dealt with important things in my life. The stories dealt not only with challenge and response, or with social navigation. They dealt with fundamentals such as friendship and love. When I read a good story that treats one of these themes well, I spend some time analyzing it. After that I become less easily satisfied with a new story that is less thoughtful.
Another realization came to me in mid-career. As a professor of pharmacology, I had invented a way to make water-insoluble drugs injectable. To set my nascent technology on the path to commercialization, I had to retool as an entrepreneur. One of my ways for doing this was by subscribing to Inc. Magazine, which I read in the evenings in the living room. It had not only articles with helpful advice, but also stories by people who had made it -- or had almost made it. The stories were most enjoyable. They dealt with real people and real challenges. That was when I realized that a good story can be the best method for certain types of learning. Thinking about this more, I realized that every quest involves a story, and that every story involves a quest.
That realization was a great help in commercially developing my technology. As that quest came to fruition, I entered that sweet spot in professional life where work and play are not mutually exclusive activities. Work loses its compulsive overtones and play acquires underlying purpose. Today, research for my writing involves many playful thought experiments. It also involves much purposeful-but-leisurely travel. This is how I find new theaters of action for my protagonists, Ben Candidi (freelance scientist) and Rebecca Levis (world health physician).
To learn more about the books, I invite your visit to my author's website (www.dirk-wyle.com). And for more of my thoughts on the nexus of science and fiction, please follow this blog. And for daily nuggets of "brain candy" selected from other people's posts, please "like" my Facebook page (Dirk Wyle, Mystery-Thriller Author) or (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dirk-Wyle-Mystery-Thriller-Author/471924042839851?ref=hl). And for the professional side, I have a page at Linked-In (Duncan H. Haynes, Ph.D.).
I invite all to submit comments and suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. When writing, please indicate whether I have permission to quote you, citing name and e-mail address.