Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

A group of three middle-aged best friends whose lives didn’t turn out as expected. A friend who spends all his time online. A ski resort that has seenbetter days. A hot tub, a squirrel, vodka, and an illegal energy drink. These are the elements that transport these four guys back to the eighties when their lives were simpler.

Hot Tub Time Machine had me laughing. It’s full of raunchy jokes. Makes tons of references to the 1980s. And plays off the idea that changing the past allows you to change the future – find a new love, learn to stand up for yourself, find your own mojo, and make sure you really do exist.

There were a couple of times when my interest waned but the concept of time travel using a hot tub, plus the changes in the future were pretty happening.

BTW, it’s going to be over most kids’ heads.

Raising Bilingual Kids is a Pain in the A**

I am raising three bilingual English-Spanish boys and I admit, it’s not easy.

I was raised bilingual, my parents are both Panamanians, and we spoke Spanish exclusively in my house. I didn’t think about this until I was 9 or 10, when I realized I was one of the few kids at my school that spoke Spanish. It was at that point that I began hating speaking Spanish. It wasn’t until I was 14 or so that I realized this was a good skill to have.

None of my cousins spoke Spanish. In fact, my mother’s sisters were all critical of her talking to us in Spanish, making us write in Spanish, teaching us. They didn’t see the utility of it.

It isn’t a skill you think about much unless you don’t have it and given that the world is shrinking and Spanish is all around us, it would be lame of me not to pass the skill to my three boys.

But raising bilingual kids isn’t easy. I’m lucky I have a wife that fully supports the effort. (They say you need one parent that speaks the second language exclusively, which is my job.)

To be successful, you have to be more than a little obsessive. You have to look for creative ways to expose your kids to the second language. You have to be willing to let your kids be unhappy with you when you tell them they’re watching TV in Spanish. And you have to take your inspiration to continue your efforts from wherever you get it.

My inspiration comes from the other parents who ask me how I do it. Especially, parents whose first language is Spanish and whose kids don’t speak. They often tell me they can’t keep their kids speaking Spanish all the time at home (which is nearly impossible but it’s not worth being dogmatic about).

My inspiration comes from watching my boys interact with kids their age when we’re traveling. But most of all, my inspiration comes from hearing my kids speak in Spanish with their grandparents.

Review: The James Tiptree Jr. Award Anthology 2

If one of the reasons to read science fiction and fantasy is to hack your mind (the way listening to a new piece of music rewires your neurons), and, as some argue, you — like all humans — are really only wired for one thing: Wouldn’t you want to make it a point to read SFF that challenges your ideas about that one thing?

Alice Sheldon wrote and published under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr. The SFF award named for her honors works that that, “explore and expand our notion of gender.” The stories in The James Tiptree Jr. Award Anthology 2 push gender beyond the narrow definitions of straight, gay, bi-, trans-, pre-op/post-op and the permutations of self-love, coupling, threesomes, “Big Love” and relationships that have been named and have yet to be named, and thus limit our definitions of gender. In other words, the stories awarded the JTJAA2 push gender in directions that only SF+F are equipped to do.

You might be tempted to think the award recipients limit their stories to the multi-tentacled, mind-controlling aliens you’d expect to find in hentai. But with the exception of the story excerpts from 2004 JTJ award-winners Joe Haldeman’s brilliant “Camoflague” and Johanna Sinisalo’s incredible “Troll,” there are no aliens in sight.

Instead, the JTJ award-winners play with gender the way the wind plays with sand: driving it hard across open spaces, forcing it through the smallest crevices and piling it high and shaping it into beautiful and unique dunes.

JTJAA2 gives a history of the Award: Conceived by writers Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy in 1991 at WisCon, the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention, the award was the result of their irritation that the major SFF awards – Nebula, Hugo, Dick – were all named after men. Now, one of the most respected awards in SFF-dom, the JTJ’s goal – as specific and at the same time nebulous as it might sound – is to “expand and explore notions of gender.”

The stories in JTJAA2 span a broad range and often, might leave you scratching your head, wondering: Was that story really about gender?

Jonathan Lethem’s “Five F#**s” follows its protagonist from the end of an affair back to its beginning, shifts point of view to someone becoming obsessed with the protagonist, then changes direction a few more times, all the while exploring the idea that desire can be so strong that it undoes the fabric of time and space.

Carol Emsmiller‘s “All of Us Can Almost…” explores power issues and role reversals among non-flying birds. When one female of this species decides she is going to launch herself off a mountain and fly, she finds herself recruiting and motivating a younger male to follow her lead while at the same time fending off an older male seeking a mate.

Ursula K. LeGuin‘s melancholy and exciting novella, “Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea,” tracks its protagonist the through his childhood off-world, where the family unit is defined as two men and two women and their children in the specific roles of morning, evening, day and night, to his adulthood as a teleportation researcher. If that isn’t confusing enough (it’s not), try wrapping your head around how light-speed travel might impact love and relationships.

The JTJAA2 also includes several non-fiction pieces: an essay from Julie Phillips’ James Tiptree Jr. A Life of Alice Sheldon; Gwenyth Jones’ “The Brains of Female Hyena Twins: On The Future of Gender” in which how Jones discusses how she extracts ideas for her fiction and summarizes the most recent research on sexuality published in The Differences Between the Sexes, the proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Comparative Physiology (a mouthful!).

In “Looking for Clues” (her guest of honor speech at WisCon 2002), Nalo Hopkinson talks about growing up as a black child in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and reading comics, watching television and finally finding SFF. Throughout her readings, she realizes, she was searching for people like her in the “approved” media. When she finally sees a picture of Samuel Delaney, she began crying and wept.

Her conclusion, which I share in reading the JTJAA2, is:

I treasure the works by writers who make me dare to think beyond straight and gay, male and female, and to see that the spectra are much broader than that.

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

This would be the cover of Smekday
What is Smekday? Read and find out.

Here’s Gratuity “Tip” Tucci and the invading alien Boov, J.Lo, traveling from Pennsylvania to Florida then Arizona in a floating hatchback called “Slushious” with a cat named “Pig.”

Wait. That’s a lot of information. What’s Smekday?

The True Meaning of Smekday is a 400-page tour de hilarious force aimed at middle grade readers (9 to 12). I would call Smekday, the 21st Century’s first fitting tribute to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Wise beyond her years, Gratuity is a fantastic narrator, cracking wise throughout the book, and explaining mysteries along the way. For example, Why do cats love the aliens? What really happened in Roswell? Should we really trust the powers-that-be? And why do those abducted by aliens come back sporting weird moles?

This would be the picture of Slushious
One hatchback + Slushy machine Parts + Boov engineering = Slushious

Adam Rex did a tremendous job with this book and I would recommend it not only to middle-schoolers with an interest in science fiction, but anyone who wants to read a very, very funny story about aliens that takes several amazing turns.

While my son Alejandro was reading it, he pointed out the word “asphyxiation” was used repeatedly. He wasn’t sure what it meant, so I sent him to the dictionary, and then he laughed at the tale of the Boov moving from the sea to land.

This would be types of Boov, duh.
What does a Boov look like? Kinda like a garbage can with arms.

Oh yeah, so what exactly is Smekday? It’s the day (previously known as Christmas) the aliens land on Earth and named their discovery after Captain Smek.

Want to learn more about Smekday, why not surf on over to the Smekday web site where you will learn:

In 2013, the Boov invaded and life on Earth changed. It is the goal of the National Time Capsule Project to provide a record of this time in America’s history forever.

 Shout out to author E.C. Meyers for forever changing my life by introducing me to this book.

Get The True Meaning of Smekday at Amazon.

Summer Reading 2010

Here’s a list of the fictional books we’ve been reading this summer:


The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex


Carlos is Gonna Get It by Kevin Emmerson (assigned to Alejandro for 6th grade summer reading)


Stargirl and Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (the former assigned to Alejandro for 6th grade summer reading)


Norwegian Wood by Hiruki Murakami



The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi


The Bone Series by Jeff Smith

The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz


The Complete Adventures of Tintin – Volume 2 – Herge

Arthur (multiple books)


First Graders from Mars

Non-fiction-wise, here’s what I’ve been reading:

freeprizeinsidesethgodin159_f51iq9d0ukl-_sx310_bo1204203200_Free Prize Inside and Tribes by Seth Godin

What’s Your Favorite Writing Subject?

Every writer has a subject they love writing about. Something they’re passionate about and turns up in their work over and over again.

For me, it’s always been two things:

The first is telling a story about a scientific development pushing our limits of knowledge. I love interviewing scientists who are passionate about their work. I enjoy helping them translate their science work into an easy-to-understand, conversational story.

The second is a fictional story about a kid – usually a preteen or young teenager – who finds himself in a complicated situation and needs to complete a quest.

What’s your favorite writing subject?

Observation: This is Wall Street

On the train two women trade verbal insults.

“…You people don’t even know how to act on the train!”

“It took you ten fuckin’ minutes to get your fat fuckin’ ass off the train but I’m fine. I’m relaxed. You got issues.”

“I don’t have issues.”

“You’re the big fat ass. I’d beat that fuckin’ ass all night.”

“You should be glad you’re not like me.”

“I’m relaxed. I’m fine. I’m OK. You’ve got issues…”

Just another day in NYC.

Y! The Last Man – Volume 6

Here’s Yorick, Dr. Mann and 355 on their way to Australia, a side trip as they cross the ocean in search of Ampersand, who was kidnapped in San Francisco. Ampersand, Yorick’s capuchin helper monkey, holds the key to Yorick’s immunity from the plague that killed all Y-chromosome containing mammals.

More than a few people in Girl on Girl get some action.
More than a few people in Girl on Girl get some action.

There’s a fair amount of drama on the ship: Dr. Mann and 355 have a romantic rendez-vous. Yorick and the ship’s captain come close. And the Australian Navy adds to the tension since The Whale may be smuggling elicit goods.

Highly recommended as the middle of the series.

Why I Started Writing This Site

I’ve been writing professionally for 12 years, writing fiction and screenplays on-off for 18, and keeping a journal for 22 years.

I love writing and started writing this blog for three reasons:

1. I wanted to collect the writing I publish elsewhere.

2. I want to comment on developments in biotechnology and the emerging field of synthetic biology.

3. I would like to help scientists tell their stories.

I am a huge believer in storytelling and the written word’s power to translate big ideas.

I want to connect with you and show you how I write and help my clients tell their science stories.

So please read, share, contact me and come back soon.