East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The Longevity Dividend

I just finished an online course about the strategies for a successful aging.
I’m over fifty, after all, and without a hope in hell for a pension and a healthy retirement, I will have to keep myself in working order until the day I die.
Better start early.


The course was an absolute wonder – lots of ideas, lots of suggestion,m some great interactions with my fellow students, and at least one concept I’ll take away and keep close at hand: the longevity dividend. Continue reading

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Studying archaeology for fun and profit

I often write about the joys of doing research for what we are writing.
In general, I tend to do a lot of research “on the fly” when writing short fiction – like using Google to find out what’s the most popular brand of beer in Arkansas or the timetables of trains to and from Paris.

514215So, when I am writing short fiction – or when I get major doubts while cleaning up a first draft – my first stops are, unsurprisingly, Google and Wikipedia, with Pinterest (now that I can access it again) as the go-to place for visual references, and YouTube for action-related info.

For longer works, I still rely on books, and as far as online resources are concerned, I go for a MOOC whenever possible.
I think it was Mary Gentle (wonderful writer – her Rats and Gargoyles is highly recommended) that said that university courses are the best way to do all the research you need on a subject with the minimum of fuss. Continue reading

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My first night on Mars

Yesterday night, despite the dismal internet connection I have here in the sticks, I followed the first lesson of the Monash University MOOC How to Survive on Mars, offered for free through the FutureLearn platform.


It is a good way to spend an hour, it is far better than television, and it’s helping me to brush up my basic physics and chemistry.
Then it’s about Mars, and that’s part of the fun.
And indeed it gave me a few ideas for stories, which is nice.
Still three weeks to go: all this is very promising.

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Another online course

Thank goodness I’m not watching TV anymore.
I’ve moved my work station from my room back into the library room where it was supposed to be from the start.
Which means that either I’m at the PC writing or doing stuff, or in the kitchen cooking lunch or dinner, or out walking or doing some shopping.
The TV remains in my bedroom – where I’m either sleeping, or reading books.
I prefer books.

But cutting on the TV and living chained to the PC means I’ve got time and means to follow MOOCs – of which I’m a sort of addict. Continue reading

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Back to school (but did I ever leave?)

what_is_moocYes, I know, I already told you about MOOCs, and I’m probably boring you to death.
Fact is, my own MOOC curriculum is expanding fast, and I’m currently as busy as I was when I was studying for my degree – with two substantial differences.

First – I’m not paying a fortune in taxes.
Second – I’m studying quietly at home, basically improving my culture instead of watching old movies or silly TV shows on the telly.

And I can see a pattern emerging. Continue reading