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Tech Q&A

Bart Farkas

Describe your latest project.
In the last decade I've made a lot of my living writing official strategy guides for games. In the two months after the completion of the podcasting book, I did three more books for BradyGames (a publisher of such strategy books). Currently I'm finishing a romance novel (the serial supermarket type) and I'm working on a suspense novel as well. I am also working as a creative consultant for a game developer in China, which has me traveling to Beijing every few months!

What inspires you to sit down and write?
I write fiction as well as technical books. In fact, writing fiction is the reason that I got into this job in the first place; it's just harder to make a living writing fiction. That said, when I am writing fiction the progression of the story drives me to write. When I'm writing a technical book such as Secrets of Podcasting, the drive to do the work is the subject matter itself. In the case of podcasting the landscape is changing almost daily, making the job of tracking down what's new in the realm of podcasting an interesting challenge. I don't know if I've ever seen something move at the breakneck pace that podcasting has — it's a fascinating subject.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
Interesting question. I'd have to say that my electronics teacher in high school influenced me a great deal. His name was Mr. Code, and he taught me a great deal about technology that I still use today. His classes ultimately became the most useful for me in life. I also had an English teacher in Grade 12 that had an influence on me. He was a very eccentric man with some crazy ideas, but he indirectly challenged me to think in ways I otherwise wouldn't have when it came to the written word.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
OK, I just took the test (if I knew it was going to be that long I wouldn't have taken it). I ranked just over 20% (on the low end of the scale).

What do you do for relaxation?
I am a football referee and I occasionally engage in some geocaching. I play various sports including football, basketball, softball, and tennis. I also enjoy writing fiction. Most importantly, however, I have three children aged seven (boy), five (boy) and two (girl) that I spend a ton of time with.

Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Douglas Adams, for various reasons. I have communicated with both of them, and let me tell you, it's definitely Douglas (rest in peace).

What was your favorite book as a kid?
As a younger kid it was probably A Wrinkle in Time.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
Technologies that make it easier to get useful information and improve education are the most likely to improve people's lives over the long haul. I think that creating smart children ultimately leads to the next generation of people that are going to develop new and useful technologies. Unfortunately television sucks away many kids' chances of becoming truly exceptional. The passive and addictive nature of television hurt my generation to some degree, but with every subsequent generation the damage is getting worse because of the proliferation of TV channels, on-demand programming, DVRs, etc.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
I wasn't a good student generally speaking. I'd have to say that my worst subject was math, and my best was probably music/band (I should note that I was also on the football team so I wasn't what you might call a "band geek").

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Highly accurate speech recognition would be nice, and the ability to burn hundreds of gigs of data onto a single disc would be even nicer.

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
Oh, probably the British Museum of Natural History. It's pretty impressive. I haven't been there since I was a kid, but I remember being blown away by it.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Well, since I used to work in the medical field I'd have to say that by the end of my life (assuming I live into my 70s+) life expectancy in the first world will likely be up over the age of 90. Life won't be extended so much as the ability to treat the maladies of aging will have improved. In terms of science I have to believe (or maybe I hope to believe) that we will have solved some of the problems relating to the energy needed to power our cars, our industry, and heat our homes.

Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
You're tempting me to get political here... I think the US is falling behind quickly. Any country that has a political system in place that actively tinkers with science (see what the Bush Administration is doing with the FDA in regard to the morning after pill, or what's happening with the "Intelligent Design" cases, or even in stem cell research) in order to forward a political or religious ideology rather than looking at scientific facts is going to drive good scientists out of the country. I believe this is already happening in the stem cell field. For this reason, I think countries like China are ultimately going to surpass the US in these fields. Keep in mind that I am not an American, so my opinions are pretty much unbiased by patriotism.

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