Olga Werby

Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. She conceived, designed, and illustrated the award-winning "Field Trips" series of programs distributed by Sunburst Communications. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. Olga currently teaches interaction design and cognitive theory at the American University in Paris and the University of California at Berkeley Extension Program. She was part of the faculty of San Francisco State University's Multimedia Studies Program, the Bay Area Video Coalition, and the campus of Apple Computers. Olga is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. She also holds a California teaching credential and is part of the San Francisco Unified School District where she often tests science-related curriculum materials in public elementary and middle schools.

Of Marshmallows and Masks

Marshmallow Test

Most everyone in my family, most of our friends, and a lot of our neighbors have received at least one COVID vaccination shot! It is starting to feel like this year-long nightmare is winding down. And we are lucky to live in the right country and in the right state and in the right city where things are likely to get back to normal sooner rather than later. No one can deny that this had been a very difficult year. But part of the difficulty had been our own behavior. It is quite possible that if we heeded the science and recommendations from the doctors (not the politicians), we would have been here sooner with fewer lives lost and less devastation to our economy. So why didn’t we do all we could to arrest the progress of this devastating disease? Why did we take stupid risks? Why did some people refuse to wear masks and self-isolate? Well, consider the Marshmallow Test. In brief, a Marshmallow Test is an experiment that tries to measure the delayed gratification quotient. A child is given a marshmallow (or any other small but highly desired reward) and asked to wait alone in the room with…

Spring Back, an American Gothic

Spring in Goscieradz by Leon Wyczółkowski 1933

It’s spring. It’s the anniversary of our collective isolation. And for the first time, it feels like things might be looking better, like we might be able to put this whole year behind us…spring back to normal. We are reaching towards a resolution point of this gothic horror narrative. Gothic Fiction To survive, I’ve read and written a lot this year (I haven’t published much, but that takes a different sort of energy of which I apparently don’t have any). The subject matter of my readings has varied widely — science fiction, science, horror, collected stories, Japanese literature, old fiction and contemporary writings (I will make a few recommendations below). My writing has been quite different too. I wrote a bunch of short stories that were more horror than sci-fi. I wrote a middle-grade novel about demon godparents (and Christopher, my life and writing partner, is in the process of rewriting it — our stories are better when we write together). I’ve written a novel about alternate histories (many different possible timelines that allow the main character to escape one fate in preference for another). I’m about two-thirds into writing the origin story of Baba Yaga — a one-legged daughter…

Thoughts on Love

dog adopts kittens ABC 15 Arizona

What’s the main difference between humans and other animal mothers? It’s a strange question, I know. But give it some thought. We all watch videos of cute baby animals and their mothers online. We have all seen cross-species “adoptions” — ducks and that raise kittens; dogs that nurture bunnies; even lions that take in baby antelopes to rear. Humans obviously do that too — we love kittens and puppies and other baby animals and routinely raise them and talk about our pets as if they are our children. But there is a difference. And no, it’s not that other animals don’t tend to take on pets — the luxury of sharing food and shelter in the wild is just that — a luxury. There is something else. We have two grown sons, both in graduate schools. Clearly adults, right? But my emotions towards them are the same as when they were but babies. I don’t see adult men, I see the entire history of their lives before me. I hear the cries they made when they fell and got hurt or when they were sick and not feeling well. I remember their outrageous fibs and reasons why they can’t eat…

Schrodinger Moments

schrodinger moments

Schrodinger Moments: During these very difficult (emotionally) times, I just wanted to point out that we all live in-between potentialities, surfing along waves of possibilities and probabilities. And as humans, we really really suck at this.

Jolabokaflod

Aurora Borealis

Jolabokaflod is Icelandic for “Christmas Book Flood” and it is a very old and wonderful Icelandic holiday tradition. Basically, in Iceland, books are considered the perfect gifts for the holidays. In this small northern country full of Aurora Borealis winter skies, there are five books published each year for every thousand Icelanders! There are only 319,000 people who live on this far north island (about one-third of the population of San Francisco), so that makes 1,595 new books per year. Hardback books are given as presents and are read through the night of Christmas. Reading is the national sport of Iceland. As a reader, I can’t imagine a more wonderful tradition! As a writer, I want my books in the hands of all those voracious readers. (Did I ever mention that one of my stories partly takes place in Iceland? “Pigeon”, check it out.) Due to the COVID pandemic, most of us will be pretty isolated these holidays. There is a strong chance that those who socialized heavily for Thanksgiving will be paying the price for that this Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, and New Year. CDC issued an advisory that those who spent eating turkey outside of their “pandemic bubble” should…

Post Election Syndrome

Lord Nox and Erret

What Now? Someone joked: “What will Rachael Maddow talk about now that Biden won?” It’s both funny and not, and I don’t even know if that was a commentary from the Blue or the Red side of the political spectrum. As divided as we are as a country, the amount of trauma we have all suffered through in these last few years won’t simply be erased. We are all suffering from politics induced PTSD. Despite the advice from fearful writers, I express my strongly-held political opinions freely — art is always political. To deny that is to create sugar-coated nothings. If some of my readers get turned off by my observations, so be it. My books are about politics because they are about ideas, science, history, psychology, and human interactions. As primates, we view everything through the lens of politics. So I don’t shy away from revealing that I wanted a blue tsunami to sweep this country clean. Didn’t happen exactly how I wanted it, but I’m hopeful we can somehow steer ourselves back to “normal.” Ultimately, most people just want to go back to living their lives in peace. One of the problems I had with the Bush-era was…

When do we get our lives back?

Prehistoric Cave Art in France

It is less than 600 hours until the 2020 elections. The last four years (longer, really, due to all of the campaigning for the 2016 elections) have been exhausting. If ever the world needed a lesson about the curse of “may you live in interesting times,” we got it these past years. The pandemic, the economy, the ugly politics all combined to make it so difficult to actually do the things we love to do. The outside world takes so much emotional, intellectual, and physical energy, that there is very little left for creative life, not to mention family and friends (whom we don’t get to see in person until next summer if we are lucky). But it’s important to stay productive. It is important to follow one’s passions, whatever they are. For humans, mere survival has never been enough. We’ve been crawling into the deepest caves to leave imprints of our imagination for posterity for many many thousands of years. Humans are born to create wonders. Here’s an example from almost 30,000 years ago and a mile deep into a French mountain: Clearly, people told stories to each other for millennia and found imaginative ways of saving them for…