Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 20-26, 2015

Here’s to having a Thoughty New Year!

Cameron Diaz sums up the meaning of happiness. The Huffington Post.

Lauren Alix Brown: In your 30s, you’ll discover that happiness is just persistence and sheer will. Quartz.

Yvette Cooper says that online sexism is so out of control we can no longer control it. The Guardian.

It was the winter solstice last week, and Newgrange is one of the most magical places in the world to experience it. Irish Central.

Phil Plait got in on the solstice action, too. Slate.

Is your brain a computer, or is it a quantum orchestra, tuned to the universe? Interalia Magazine

So, Space-X launched its latest Falcon 9 rocket last Sunday night. And guess what? They stuck the landing 🙂 Both events were reported by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, for Slate.

No, this asteroid that passed by Earth on Christmas Eve did not cause earthquakes . . . Slate.

Pluto’s moon in near-perfect alignment. Space.com.

These are cool: sky wolves. I don’t care if they’re Photoshopped. They’re awesome. The White Wolf Pack.

Take a visual tour of New York’s most beautiful subway station, abandoned since 1945. Hyperallergic.

China’s ghost cities: the largest urbanization movement in the world. CBC’s The Current.

This 800 year old Icelandic hymn is pretty damned special. Pulptastic.

I haz a want. Samurai hoodies 🙂 Rocket News 24.

More evidence of the cleverness of crows from Phys.org.

So they built this hotel over an elephant migration route . . . Mental Floss.

David Wong shares the real meaning of Christmas that everyone forgets. Cracked.

Have a great time tonight and celebrate with the ones you love.

The future is yours to make. Make the most of it!

Thoughty Thursday

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 20-26, 2015

Here’s a little Writerly Goodness for you 🙂 Looks like I really did take a holiday last week. Yay me!

K.M. Weiland talks about coincidences in your fiction and what mistake in means you might be making.

C.S. Lakin calls these stylistic devices. I call them rhetorical figures. I lurves me some rhetoric. I blame the politicians for rhetoric’s pejorative connotation 😦 However you choose to look at them, they’re a lot of fun and can add something special to your writing.

Dan Blank says that creative work is performance. Writer Unboxed.

Why writers need human connection. Jamie Raintree guests on Writers in the Storm.

Chris Winkle shares lessons learned from the awkward writing of The Sword of Truth. Mythcreants.

George R.R. Martin uses it. So does Robert J. Sawyer. Find out why Wordstar is the preferred word processor for these authors.

And speaking of nifty writer tech, here’s Jamie Raintree’s new writing and revision tracker*. This is the spreadsheet that revolutionized my attitude toward my writing. I hope it will do the same for you 🙂

*This year, Jamie’s made the spreadsheet fairly foolproof. You can only enter data into certain cells. So much easier. I’ll still do a little post on how to set it up, but it won’t be as extensive as I thought based on past years.

Before you launch a Patreon for your writing, read this. Nicole Dieker for The Write Life.

Madeleine Monson-Rosen recounts the twelve happy accidents that helped save science fiction. i09.

Now this is my idea of a happy Christmas: Jolabokaflod. NPR.

Hope you had a wondrous holiday.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

CanCon 2015 day 2: Asteroids

I can’t believe it. I actually had the time between Boxing Day shopping and family dinner this evening to put my post up. I love it when a plan comes together 😉

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

Panellists: Andrew Barton, Eric Choi, Wolfram Lunscher

AsteroidsPanel

AB: Let me just say this: Armageddon is not a documentary.

WL: Asteroids pass Earth all the time. There’s an asteroid that will pass us on the far side of the moon, about 15,000 miles. The Hallowe’en asteroid. Mining asteroids is feasible, but we’d need rockets bigger than the Saturn 5. Space-X is developing the Falcon Heavy, which could be used for the purpose. Our planetary resource needs could be met by mining four asteroids. There is a parallel between the exploration of space and the exploration of the new world. Spice used to be as expensive as gold until the Spice Islands were discovered. It will be expensive to mine asteroids until we have sufficient access to the resources we need to make it reasonable.

Q: Can a solar mirror be used to melt asteroids?

WL: For resource processing in situ, a solar mirror could be used to smelt minerals. If we can figure out a cost-effective way to mine asteroids, we could become a true space-faring species.

EC: Terrestrial mining is a huge part of the Canadian economy. Can we transfer these skills to the mining of asteroids?

WL: The short answer is, yes. There’s a lot of enthusiasm within the industry for making the leap. Deep mining drills are taking place in Sudbury and a paper is being prepared, a feasibility study.

EC: Back to you Andrew. You said before that Armageddon was science fiction.

AB: I’m not the expert. I’m just and author who likes to write about asteroids. My research tells me that asteroid settlement is possible. James S.A. Corey (actually two co-authors) writes about the Belters, who make a living mining the asteroid belt for water to supply settlements on Mars and Jupiter’s moons. Asteroids are actually spinning rubble piles.

Q: Diverting asteroids away from Earth is supposed to be more effective than trying to blow the up. Are there any practical experiments or is this all fiction?

AB: We could use a kind of gravity tractor to divert asteroids. There’s not a lot of drama in the process, though, so people don’t write about that.

WL: If the asteroid impact is immanent, we would have to try blowing it up. If we can spot the asteroid at least ten years out, we would have the time to mount a mission to divert it.

EC: The budgets for the films Armageddon and Deep Impact were both orders of magnitude greater than the budget astronomers have for asteroid detection.

AB: There’s a probe that has been sent to the inner solar system, to Venus and closer to the sun. It’s intended to detect asteroids orbiting in the inner solar system. There’s danger from that direction, too.

Q: What complications does the spinning of the asteroid pose to landing on it?

AB: It’s problematic because there are voids in the asteroid a probe or landing vehicle could be lost.

And that was time.

Next weekend, I’m going to take a break from CanCon do write my year-end Next Chapter update, and, if I have time, I want to put together a post on how to set up Jamie Raintree’s new writing and revision tracking spreadsheet. I was asked to do this back in the spring by some writer friends who aren’t Excel-savvy, but realized that doing it when the spreadsheet is fresh off the presses would be better. Sorry for the delay, ladies!

We’ll see how it goes 🙂

In the meantime, I hope everyone is safe and cozy with their loved ones and if anyone dared Boxing Day madness, that they’re all home and none the worse for wear (if a little poorer in their bank accounts).

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, December 13-19, 2015

And here we are on Christmas Eve. Got some presies for ya 🙂

Try vayaan mudra to empower your nervous system. Yoganonymous.

Last week, I shared spoken word poet’s take on depression. This week, Upworthy shares another great spoken word poet who uses a haunted house as a metaphor for her anxiety.

Here’s an important message from the universal daughter. #deardaddy

 

What happened when the UN sent three foreign women to assess gender equality in the United States. The Huffington Post.

Dave Sandford wades into Lake Eerie to take these amazing pictures. Buzzfeed.

Watch the northern lights over Murmansk, Russia.

 

A drone captures images of underwater petroglyphs in Lake St. Nelson, BC (I’ve been told it’s a fair distance from Vancouver). Ancient Colony.

Science Alert reports that this stem cell treatment halts MS progression in 91% of patients.

Week before last, I transcribed my notes of Nina Munteanu’s workshop on ecology and story, including extremophiles and quasi-extremophiles like tardigrades. So when I came across this Buzzfeed post, I thought: Strange, but totally amusing. The Disney Princesses as tardigrades.

It’s official! Voyager I is now in interstellar space. Universe Today.

Phil Plait shares a gorgeous photo of Earthrise. Slate.

How December 25th became the day we celebrate Christmas. Bible History Daily.

Have a happy holiday, whatever you celebrate.

Peace and love unto you and yours.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, December 13-19, 2015

Here’s your Writerly Goodness for the first day of winter, 2015.

K.M. Weiland offers four ways to reignite your sense of wonder in your writing.

Later in the week, Katie shared three smart tips for structuring powerful scenes.

Roz Morris wonders how much you talk about your work in progress?

I’m fond of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and similar assessments. Jami Gold shares some MBTI resources in her exploration of personality and how it affects writing process.

Janice Hardy offers some strategies for describing your first person narrator. Fiction University.

Angela Ackerman discusses how to use weather to create mood, not clichés on Writers in the Storm.

Carly Watters explains why we need time, fear, and talent to make it as writers.

Amy Craft explores the science behind the best way to read for CBS News.

Kids should read whatever they want, whenever they want. Rachel Cordasco for Book Riot.

Tech Insider shares six websites that let you download ebooks for free. You may not know about all of them.

Steven Pinker reveals some of the most misused word in the English language. Business Insider.

Scrabble’s Anagram Christmas turns negatives into positives 🙂

 

X-rays reveal the secrets of medieval books. Medieval Books.

Mansplaining Lolita. Rebecca Solnit for LitHub.

Buzzfeed shares 38 literary quotes that may help you when you’re feeling down. ‘Tis the seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Blastr shares Arthur C. Clarke’s top 12 science fiction movies.

Den of Geek celebrates the dogs of speculative fiction.

Molly Templeton reviews the first episode on SyFy’s The Magicians (based on Lev Grossman’s novels) for Tor.com. Phil and I caught it and were very impressed. Looking forward.

Leah Schnelbach liked the SyFy adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End well enough, but Phil and I weren’t impressed. Now Phil is a scientist and a SF purist, so his reaction was understandable. My disappointment? Not so much. I’m still working it through, but I think it has something to do with the storytelling decisions made. The critical error in my estimation (so far)? Whose story is it? What character is there from beginning to (almost) end? Karellan. That’s who. Now that’s a story I would have liked to see. It would have been a bigger departure from the book than what SyFy gave us, but I think it would have been better. That’s just my opinion, though.

Because the costume makes the period drama part of Outlander shine, Frock Flicks is giving us droughtlander sufferers a sneak peek at the season two wardrobe.

Good words to you, my friends. The light is returning! Or maybe it’s just the Earth turning/tilting? Meh. Precession and all that.

See you in two days for some Thoughty on Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

CanCon 2015 day 1: How to pitch

Panellists: Hayden Trenholm, Gabrielle Harbowy, Robert Runte, Elizabeth Hirst, Marie Bilodeau

PitchPanel

Q: What do you want to see/hear in a pitch?

EH: Enthusiasm. If the author loves their book and believes in it, that’s a good sign. Make sure the book you pitch is finished.

HT: Don’t lie. If the book isn’t finished, be up front about it. If the finished book comes in nine months later, that ship has sailed, though.

GH: First impressions count. Don’t ignore the guidelines. One guy wiped his nose before he shook my hand. It didn’t matter what he did after that.

EH: Presentation is key.

HT: I have to know I can send you to a high-end book store. Publishers don’t buy books. We buy authors.

RR: Different editors look for different things. You want to get rejected as quickly as possible. If you’re not a fit for the editor, you have to feel good about that and move on. You’ll find the editor who’s as passionate about your work as you are. I polled my SF Canada colleagues and asked them, ‘what’s the longest you’ve waited for a response?’ Eight years was the longest. That’s a huge chunk of your life.

HT: Pitching is like a job interview. Treat it like that.

EH: I wish the authors well. If it’s not for me, I might suggest someone else.

GH: Don’t argue. All decisions are final.

HT: Some people try to tell me why I’m wrong. It’s like asking for a second date after a failed first one.

EH: You should ask as many questions as they ask you.

HT: You have to make sure it’s the right fit.

EH: I might recommend self-publishing to some pitchers.

GH: But I can’t take a book that’s already been published.

RR: You have to make sure you match your capabilities. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.

HT: We don’t know everything. We all do what we can. Self-published books are a tough sell. 55% of Americans won’t read an ebook. Think about what you want. Your expectations should be clear. A bestseller in Canada is about 5000 books. When you choose a small publisher, you have a personal relationship. Our goal is to make the best book we can. If that’s what you want, pitch to a small press.

GH: Bigger presses look at Dragon Moon’s catalogue. We’re happy to send authors on to bigger and better things.

RR: If you’re asked for a synopsis, it’s a blow by blow of everything that happens in the novel, including the end. I need to know the ending. You have to tell me what your book is about.

EH: The ending is not as important to me as the main conflict. What’s interesting about the book? What’s the intrigue? That’s the reason people read.

GH: Premise and plot are not the same thing, though.

HT: People think the book has to be perfect. No. The book has to be interesting. If the book is a shambles in terms of spelling and grammar, we can fix it.

RR: I have to love your book to put the four- to five hundred comments on it that I do on most books. I’ve been giving these talks forever, but I finished my first book and went to pitch it . . . and blew it.

HT: The last person who knows what the book is about is the author.

Q&A ensued.

And that’s the end of day 1. Between Nina’s workshop and this panel, the opening ceremonies took place and after this panel, I went to the Bundoran Press book launch and SF Canada party, where I got to hear GoH Ed Willett read from his latest novel and network with my writerly peeps.

So that was all I did on Friday.

Next week: Asteroids.

Note: I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post on Saturday or if it will have to be pushed to Sunday. Family shenanigans. You know the holiday drill 🙂

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, December 6-12, 2015

Here is your Thoughty for the week.

Colin Gautrey writes about women and bullying for Learn to Influence.

48 things women hear in a lifetime that men don’t:

 

The Ross Spiral Curriculum. This is kind of mind-blowing.

Emily Hill explores the world of Maori tattooing, or moko, for Wanderlust.

John Hooper unravels the history of the Etruscans for The Guardian.

Phil Plait shares his video of the moon occulting Venus on Slate. Beautiful.

Watch whales swim under the northern lights on NBC News.

Ethnobeat Irkusk percussion groups plays the Baikal Ice.

 

Story Travelers take a road trip across the UNESCO world heritage sites of Ireland.

 

Disturbed covers Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” Shivers. Rock ‘n’ Roll World Magazine.

It’s kawaii time!

Animals who think they’re puppies:

 

Hope you enjoyed your edutainment!

See you Saturday for more CanCon 2015 reportage 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, December 6-12, 2015

It’s been another great week of Writerly Goodness.

Jane Friedman offers her thoughts on privilege and luxury with respect to her productivity. This is particularly interesting in light of my The next chapter update of last week.

Here’s one of the articles Jane links in her post (above): The writing class by Jaswinder Bolina for the Poetry Foundation. I actually shared one of the others last week . . .

Jane later tries to answer the question; do men receive bigger book advances than women?

Why I choose to write publicly about my anxiety. Kameron Hurley.

K.M. Weiland returns to her most common writing mistakes series with this entry: Anticlimactic endings.

David Corbett explores shame, guilt, and hope, referencing other excellent posts by Tom Bentley and Donald Maass, in this post for Writer Unboxed: The redemptive arc.

Lisa Cron continues her exploration of backstory on Writer Unboxed: What we’ve been taught about backstory and why it’s wrong.

Tor.com offers their list of the SFF characters they couldn’t stop talking about in 2015.

Sherman Alexie: How storytelling can create social change. The Take Away.

Elizabeth Gilbert discusses not getting an MFA on The MFA Project.

Open Culture shares 48 hours of Joseph Campbell lectures for free.

Mental Floss offers Edison’s footage of Mark Twain in his home.

Charles Dickens once created an entire library of fake books. He titled them all himself. Someone was wearing his clever trousers. Open Culture.

Karin Scheper wonders whether to conserve or not to conserve on the Medieval Books blog.

Ah, another lovely entry in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Kudoclasm:

 

And with that bit of poetry, I leave you.

Until Thursday, mes cheres!

Tipsday

CanCon 2015, day 1: Ecology and story workshop with Nina Munteanu

It took us a little longer to drive to Ottawa than I thought, so I was late for this workshop. My apologies to Nina and to any of my readers who experience confusion as a result. If you think there’s something missing, you’re probably right 🙂

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Overlapping ecosystems are vibrant.

Ecologists ask why and how.

  • Why do species eat this food and not that one?
  • How do the environment, other species, diet, etc. limit population growth?

Adaptive traits:

  • Mimicry
  • Camouflage

Autotrophs (producers – species which produce their own food)

Phototrophs (produce food from light)

The Bracken Fern. Ubiquitous. Found on every continent except Antarctica. Very successful. Carcinogenic. Breaks down vitamin B. Reproduces by both spores and rhizomes.

Fiddleheads contain cyanide. Aggressive symbiosis. They attract ants which in turn defend it against other predators (peonies do this, too, though they don’t contain cyanide).

Nothing else will grow in a hemlock grove. It kills all potentially competitive species.

Some primates live with viruses that cause disease in other species because the monkey is the virus’s ‘ideal’ host. (Mel’s note: I think this was a digression into other forms of symbiosis–monkeys aren’t phototrophs.)

Chemotrophs (produce food from chemical processes)

Heterotrophs (consumers and decomposers, including us)

Parasites

Saprotrophs – fungi and bacteria

Detrivores – insects and earthworms

Lynn Margulis proposed the Gaia hypothesis and symbiogenesis (Google search for more information).

Endosymbiosis – cooperative adaptation.

Darwin’s theory of competition (survival of the fittest) is incomplete. It doesn’t explain altruism.

Symbiosis leads to happiness.

  • Kin selection – the choice to support the reproductive group including sacrifice for the greater good (heroism).
  • Group selection – the choice to limit population growth in favour of x (where x is more food, habitat, etc. for all).
  • Reciprocal altruism – The vampire bat, for example. All hunters may not be successful, but the successful hunters will share their food with the unsuccessful and with mothers/pups (by regurgitation) to ensure the continued strength of the community.
  • True altruism – Dolphins will help humans and other species for no apparent gain. (Mel’s note: they may also rape their own and other species for no apparent reason, but that’s another story.)
  • Communal feeding – Lions in prides.
  • Satellites – In some frog species, the small males will hang out with the big, noisy ones and ‘head off’ the eligible females attracted by their big, noisy brethren.
  • Niche partitioning – competing species that coexist in the same ecosystem by voluntarily partitioning food, habitat, etc..

Adaptation and extremophiles

The brine shrimp of Mono Lake (California) thrive in inland seas with salinity that kills potential predators. They can also survive being dried out.

There are flies that can swim and dive because they carry their own oxygen supplies in air bubbles.

There are bacteria that feed on sulphur.

The Microbes of Lake Untersee in Antarctica live in a super alkaline environment with lots of dissolved methane in the water. They create stromatolites—the largest ever found anywhere.

Bacteria in the Rio Tinto thrive in extreme acidity and high iron content in the water.

The fungi of Chernobyl feed on high levels of radioactivity.

The Atacama Salt Flats in Chile is the most arid desert in the world, yet hypolithic algae have evolved to thrive where no other plant life can.

Tardigrades (also known as water bears or moss piglets) can survive anywhere, even in space (for approximately ten days). They can be revived after a century of desiccation and endure 1000 times the lethal dose of radiation for a human. Technically, they’re not true extremophiles because they have not adapted to prefer, or thrive in these environments. They merely survive.

 

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The rest of the workshop was taken up by an exercise in which we applied ecology to the characters of our stories. How have our protagonists adapted to thrive in adverse conditions, compete against, or mimic, other characters, to become the heroes of our stories? In what ways do they show altruism, and is it true altruism, or another form? How does the unique environment of the story world affect them?

It was a very interesting workshop and I’m sorry to have missed the beginning of it.

Unfortunately, because of my late arrival, I did not get a picture of Nina or the workshop participants.

It was a good start to a great weekend of panels, though.

Come back next Saturday when the CanCon 2015 reportage continues with advice on pitching your novel.