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.


Adventures into High Strangeness Header

Humans are builders. We are all given different talents and resources in life that we use to try to construct happiness for ourselves and for those we love. This continuous process of creation is not only quintessentially human but also the most common thing all animals do. All animals build, humans just take it to another level. We write and read books, make and play games, create and watch movies, paint and sculpt stories, weave musical ballads and landscapes. We are able to envision other lives and share those visions with others. I think that’s an amazing facility. We believe that we’re unique, as humans, for building by using our prodigious imagination. We don’t only build in physical and social realms, we craft fully imaginary worlds populated with people and other creatures. Perhaps whales, apes, or even other animals — the octopus? a colony of termites? — also dream up stories. It’s hard to know. I have always lived in my imagination. As a child, I made elaborate sets and toys to act out stories for myself and my friends. Our apartment gradually filled with paper and fabric cities, castles, and little animals made from scraps; I used to make…

We Own Nothing

Yap Stone Money

We are living through an interesting transition as we change our relationship with physical possessions. Physical ownership is giving way to a preference for virtual goods and services. For millennia, societies operated on a “favor bank” system, where performing favors for friends and members of the community built goodwill. This mutual support was crucial during hard times. Money and trade goods came later. Personal wealth evolved from physically holding valuables to entrusting them to banks. Today, banks themselves are a web of promissory notes, not physical reserves. Caption: Not all money was easily carried about. Rai stones for instance, remained stationary. Their ownership was determined through community consensus in the societies where they were valued. We store our financial assets in the cloud. Money, stocks, property titles, and insurance policies exist mostly in digital realms. Who actually holds physical stock certificates now? While we physically possess homes and cars (and even that might change), our ownership rights are digitally recorded. Our educational achievements and professional credentials are traded electronically. Our libraries of books, music, or games have transitioned from physical shelves to digital storage. Memories, once preserved in photo albums, calendars, and diaries, are now captured in digital formats and…

Fog of War

Faces of war

Once again, we find ourselves bearing witness to yet another war with a non-stop spectrum of horrific stories and images that make our souls shudder and our hearts break. It is easy to get drawn into a narrative of good guys versus bad guys. It is easy to find ourselves in a heated screaming fight over why one side or the other are the evil ones. But wars at ground level are not really about good versus evil; they are about survival. Regular people get swept up in evil and find themselves doing things that they never would have thought possible. War turns normal people into monsters. Robert Sapolsky wrote: “We judge ourselves by our internal motives, but others by their external actions. … When Thems do something wrong, it’s because they’re simply rotten. When Us-es do it, it’s because of an extenuating circumstance”. Imagine the great harm you might inflict on another to protect a child you love. Because our motives are “pure” they mitigate our actions — allowing ourselves not to think of ourselves as monsters — even when we do objectively terrible things. We are all good at rationalizing our own behavior. To overcome our natural instincts…

The Self Published Science Fiction Competition 2023

2023 SPSFC books Collage

So it is the end of another summer, and that means it is the start of another writing competition — SPSFC or The Self Published Science Fiction Competition. This is 3rd year this competition is being held and it is my third year participating (with 3 different books). I got to quarter finals the first year, but last year, my story was completely overlooked. I think it makes sense — I don’t write easy to characterize books. My books defy genres. They are strange, twisted, and hard to pin down. What book shelf does one assign to a story about environmental collapse that uses demons as personification of nature? If a judge is expecting a space opera, they are in for a disappointment. That said, there are really amazing stories that are submitted into this competition, stories that deserve a wide readership and because of the label “self published” don’t get it. So consider reading a few and always leave a review for those that you liked. A kind word is what indie authors live for (it’s certainly not the money). Here is this year’s book covers in all their glory! See if you can spot mine… And if you…

Neanderthal in The Back Yard


I was around ten when I had a recurrent dream. Back then, I was good at lucid dreaming — I could make myself dream the same story for weeks on end and remember all of it. It was similar to writing in that it was like watching a story unfold in my imagination. I dreamt many stories this way; although most are lost, there was one that stuck with me about a Neanderthal buried in the permafrost next to the mini merry-go-round in our apartment building’s back yard. We lived in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was cold and snowy in the winter even if there was no actual permafrost in the courtyard. I must have read something about the marvelous preservation of mammoths, and that gave me the idea. I figured that if those ancient pachyderms could be found in permafrost, so too could early humans. In my dream, I dig under the snow, in the bushes located a few feet from the merry-go-round, and discover a bit of old animal skin. Brushing away a few more layers of snow and dirt, I find what looks like a mummified arm, dressed in clothing made of fur. I know right away…

The Eliminati

Secret Society

We live in a society where people acquire vast amounts of stuff and then run out of space to store it all. Some respond by adopting minimalism; true believers embrace the clean aesthetics of clear floors, empty shelves, and bare closets. Of course, in our disposable consumer culture, these same people can buy replacements for what they have discarded. The zen state of declutter is but a momentary illusion. Marie Kondo, apostle The Gospel of Decluttering and an advocate for minimalism, built her career encouraging people to discard items that failed to “spark joy.” Upon having her third child, however, she came to the conclusion that minimalism and kids were not compatible and confesses to now having a messy home. Apostate! The urge to acquire stuff is probably pre-programmed into us by evolution, just like the extra layers of fat we accumulate when food is plenty. Because good times don’t last, humans hoard resources for a rainy day; those with a cushion fare better during a downturn. But, as with many traits driven by evolution, the accumulation of stuff can become pathological. Hoarding can be a detriment to survival, and the line between prepping and hoarding is thin. Some manage…